Now that we’ve looked at how to install WordPress (including how to Install WordPress Locally with WAMP by Bitnami), it’s important to consider the best practices and things to do after installing WordPress. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, however I have included everything that I found particularly relevant. It is not intended to be in the perfect order, but I did attempt to put the steps into an order that would make sense after installing WordPress.
Note that you do not necessarily need to follow all of these steps with every single WordPress installation you create. Different types of websites will require different specifications, however this list is meant to be a good base to start from. Regardless of whether you’re starting a simple blog or a complex ecommerce store, you should probably observe at least twenty of these twenty-five recommendations.
I’ll do my best to demonstrate many of the steps with images and videos, however some are long enough processes that they will require their own tutorials. Look for them in the future, and feel free to let me know which you’d prefer first!
25 Things To Do After Installing WordPress
Technically it’s more than 25 because some of them are bunched together, but I wanted to provide as much value here as possible!
Update server to the latest version of PHP
Checking on your server settings is always a good idea before getting started with website development. If you’re not in an environment you set up yourself such as a self-managed VPS, this will mean doing some exploring and reading. Making sure you are up to date with the latest version of PHP is a best practice for both security and site speed reasons. The sooner you update it, the less likely you are to run into incompatibilities or problems with your site, so it makes sense to get this out of the way early.
There are a number of ways to check which version of PHP you’re running. If you’re using the WAMP by Bitnami stack, or Cpanel, or another tool which uses PHPMyAdmin, that is an easy place to check the current PHP verison. Simply login to PHPMyAdmin and check the section to the right side of the main screen.
As you can see in the box directly above, this server is running PHP version 7.3.7, which at this time is the latest.
If your hosting does not include PHPMyAdmin and you can’t figure out how to check the version number, consult your hosting provider or their documentation. If you need to update to the latest version of PHP, consult the documentation first, and backup your website just in case something goes wrong.
Install an SSL Certificate (Let’s Encrypt is FREE!)
Let’s get one thing straight; free Let’s Encrypt certificates should be available for all your websites through your hosting provider. If they aren’t, I strongly suggest moving your hosting to a more reputable provider.
An SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate encrypts any data transferred in between your website and its users, including you. Many people only think about things like credit card transactions, and some still consider SSL certificates unnecessary for non-ecommerce sites. I disagree with this completely, and so does Google; although it is not a major determining factor, Google has stated that sites bearing an SSL certificate will rank better than those without. Since Let’s Encrypt provides free SSL certificates, there’s really no reason not to have one, and many reasons to take the time to install one and keep it updated.
The steps for installing an SSL certificate will vary depending on your host, so check their documentation before attempting to complete the installation.
Modify the WordPress General Settings
This is where you set up your site’s title, tagline, and time zone, as well as where you can change the default URL from http:// to https:// and change your administrative email. Setting the site title and tagline will ensure that anyone who happens to visit the site will understand what’s going on. The site title is the information that appears in the tab bar at the top of your browser. For SEO purposes, it usually includes (or ideally, starts with) the page’s main target keyword phrase. The tagline appears in search engine results after the title, so it can be almost as important. These values will be overwritten later when you install a much-needed SEO plugin, but the site title you input here will always be the title you see in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, so it’s good to set it to something representative of the site anyway.
To access the General Settings page, simply click on Settings in the navigation bar on the left of your WordPress dashboard, as seen at the bottom of this image. The following page will load; make your desired changes and then click Save Changes at the bottom of the page.
You will be taken to the General Settings page, where you can make your desired changes. The most important modification I recommend is to set your timezone, which you can do simply by clicking on the dropdown menu and then beginning to type the name of the nearest major city.
Once you have completed all of your desired changes, click on Save Changes and your modification to the WordPress general settings will be enforced.
Add Categories and Child Categories
This step is only relevant if you’re using a blog, but since WordPress is primarily a blogging platform I decided to include it. Planning your content ahead of time is a wise move in any blogging strategy, so it’s good to know what categories you will need and create them ahead of time.
To create a new category, simply click on the Categories tab in the left navigation bar of your WordPress dashboard.
You’ll be taken to a page displaying the screen shown above. Input a name and category slug (URL) as well as a description if desired and click Add New Category. Once you have a category, you can create child categories of it, and even children of child categories if you so desire. The categories you add will appear in the listing to the right of the same screen, as shown below.
Delete Default WordPress Content
New installations of WordPress come equipped with a sample post, page, and comment for display puposes. I recommend deleting all of these right away in order to give yourself a fresh, empty environment to work in.
To delete the sample page, click on Pages in the left navigation bar. You can either mouse over the sample page and click on Trash, or select it, select Move to Trash in the dropdown menu, and then click apply, as shown below.
In order to delete the sample post and comment, click on posts in the side navigation. You can follow the same steps for deleting a page to delete a post, and the attached comment will be deleted with it.
Create Front and/or Blog Pages
Whether you’re building a website, a blog, or a combination of the two, you’re going to need at least one page to work with. Because of this it makes sense to create a dummy page or two immediately after installing WordPress. These pages could become actual pages that you use in your website, or they could later be deleted and replaced by new ones.
To add a new page, click or mouse over Pages in the left sidebar, and then click on add new. You’ll be taken to the new page creation screen, as shown below.
In the image above, I’ve titled this page as “Home”. The title is the only information you are required to enter before clicking on publish in the upper right corner to create the page. You can also create a new page quickly by mousing over + New in the top admin bar as shown below, and then clicking on Page. This would take you to the same page creation screen, and you simply repeat the process to create as many pages as needed.
Modify WordPress Writing and Reading Settings
This is one of the most important steps after installing WordPress, and could easily be broken down into two or three separate steps. However, since these options are close together and can be altered quickly, I decided to condense them into one point.
To modify the WordPress writing settings, click or mouse over Settings in the left sidebar. Click on Writing Settings, and you will be shown the following screen:
Here you can select a default category from the categories you created earlier, and also set up posting by email if desire. When you’re finished configuring the settings, click on Save Changes.
In order to modify the WordPress reading settings, click on Reading Settings in the left sidebar. The following screen will display:
In the reading settings, you can choose whether you want your homepage (aka your root domain) to display a static page, or your latest posts. I almost always go with a static homepage, but if you’re creating a blog-focused site, you may want to select latest posts.
Here you can also select some blog display settings, and discourage search engine visibility. I recommend discouraging search engine visibility while you work on a site if you’re building it on a live server. When you’re finished, click on Save Changes.
Delete Default WordPress Plugins
WordPress currently comes with two default plugins preinstalled; Akismet Anti-Spam and Hello Dolly. Hello Dolly is really just a test plugin which can insert quotes from the musical production “Hello, Dolly!” in the admin area. Akismet on the other hand is a highly rated anti-spam plugin. However personally I find that most of the top security plugins include sufficient anti-spam features, so I always delete both of these plugins right away.
To navigate to your plugins page, click on plugins in the left navigation bar.
To delete both WordPress plugins, ensure the boxes next to both are checked and then select Delete from the dropdown menu. Click on apply, and the plugins will be removed. To remove plugins individually more quickly, simply mouse over them and then click on the red Delete that appears.
Install Coming Soon Plugin or Set Up Landing Page
If you’re building your WordPress site on a live server, it’s always possible that someone may visit it, even if you have search engine indexing turned off. Because of this it’s often a good idea to install a “coming soon” plugin, or else set up a quick one-page website. Most coming soon plugins will just display an image or two along with a message, but they can be deployed in a few clicks. Creating a landing page or a one-page website will take longer, but it may be more suitable in some cases.
To install a new plugin, click on “Add New” on the plugins page. You’ll be shown the following page:
From here you can search for plugins in the WordPress repository using the search bar to the screen’s upper right, or you can upload a plugin from your computer using the Upload Plugin button to the upper left. Try searching for the term “coming soon” and see what results you get.
Here are a few examples of highly rated Coming Soon WordPress plugins. Installing these after installing WordPress is a quick way to get something that looks good up on your site while you work on the actual pages. Most of these plugins will also feature a “maintenance mode” which you can enable in the future if you find something wrong with your site that needs to be fixed behind closed doors.
Install and Configure a Security Plugin
Being open-source does great things for WordPress, but it also makes the code more vulnerable to attack. Combine that with the fact that many people still use insecure passwords, and it’s probably a good idea to add a security plugin soon after installing WordPress. From the add new plugin page, run a search for the word “security” and see what you find.
While there are many good security plugins out there, it’s probably safest to stick with one of the top 5 shown above; Wordfence, All-in-one-WP Security, Cerber Security, and iThemes Security are all highly rated plugins with free versions used by many WordPress developers. I recommend reading detailed reviews of each in order to determine which will be best for your unique website.
Install and Configure SEO Plugin
SEO plugins make it much easier to adjust important elements such as site and page titles, meta descriptions, and more. Because of this it’s ideal to set up your Search Engine Optimization plugin shortly after installing WordPress. Try running a search in the plugin repository for “SEO” and see what it turns up.
As you can see, Yoast is still the most popular SEO plugin by a landslide, and it does present an excellent, user friendly set of options in its free version. However, it is far from the only good option. Many developers in the groups I frequent are making the switch to Rank Math, All in One, or SEO framework, and finding that these slightly ligher plugins work just as well for them. As with security plugins, I recommend doing your research and choosing wisely.
Update Admin User Profile
When you make a post or a comment on your blog, your username is displayed. Because hackers may use this to discover your admin username, it’s a good idea to modify your admin profile and change your display name to a nickname. To do this, first mouse over “Howdy, Adminname” in the upper right of the admin bar, and then click on Edit My Profile.
You’ll be taken to a page where you can modify a number of things, including change your admin email and password and upload a display picture. The most important, however, is pictured below:
Type your desired display name into the Nickname field, and then select it in the dropdown menu. When you’re finished, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Save Changes.
Install Your WordPress Theme and Create a Child Theme
While installing your theme of choice is an obvious and necessary step, creating a child theme is optional and a subject of dispute among the developer community. Some designers swear by child themes and will not work on a new installation of WordPress without one. Others consider them unnecessary and merely an extra chore.
By my own analysis, it seems as though developers who use a lot of custom code prefer child themes, whereas those who rely more on templates and page builders do not require them.
To install your theme click on Appearance in the lefthand navigation menu. You’ll be taken to the following page, whre you’ll see several default themes:
To get started, click on the Add New button near the top left corner of the screen. From there you can choose to either select a theme from the WordPress repository, or upload a theme that you may have purchased. Simply select your desired theme, install it, and then click on Activate. It will then be time to return to the main themes page.
Delete Default WordPress Themes
Keeping unused default themes on your site will not only take up space, it also creates potential security holes when those themes go out of date, and extra work to keep them updated. As a best practice, the only themes on your site should be your main theme and your child theme if you’re using one.
In order to delete a theme, first click on it. You’ll be shown the following screen:
To delete the theme, simply click the red Delete button in the lower right corner.
Upload Logo and Site Icon
Even if you’re just using a coming soon plugin or a simple landing page, you’ll want to upload your logo and site icon soon after installing wordpress to give your site a professional look and feel.
To modify the site logo and icon, mouse over or click on Appearance in the left navigation bar and then click on Customize. You’ll be taken to a new screen that looks something like this:
Click on site identity, and you’ll move to a new area where you can upload the site icon and logo. Make sure you click on Publish after uploading the images, and make sure to use appropriate file sizes. WordPress recommends 512x512 pixels for the icon, whereas the logo should also be square and preferably as small as possible without losing resolution.
After publishing your changes, click on the X in the upper left corner of the customization menu.
Choose Your Permalink Configuration
If you mouse over or click on Settings in the left navigation bar, and then click on Permalinks, you’ll be taken to a page where you have several options to choose from. While some people have their own preferences, there is really one option that is better for SEO purposes than any other, and that is the Post Name structure. This will allow you to put the name of your post (or a close abreviation) in as the extended URL, giving the post a considerable SEO bump.
Change Default Widgets on Sidebar
While you’re modifying the widgets you can also set up widgets in your footer, but I personally prefer to construct custom footer menus. Because of this I just recommend setting up the sidebar widgets, which is important especially if you’re operating a blog.
The main change I recommend making is to remove the “Meta” block which appears by default in the sidebar. This gives anyone viewing the post a quick link to the admin login page, which is like sprinkling rose petals along a hacker’s path. For this reason, I suggest removing the Meta widget in addition to any other changes you may want to make here.
Install Google Analytics
Whether you’re building a blog for yourself or a website for a client, it will be impossible to measure it’s success without some form of analytics. Google Analytics is fairly easy to work with and does an excellent job of showing you where your traffic is coming from.
Some themes will have easy integration options which allow you to seamlessly use the Google Analytics code. If your theme does not have this, I recommend using a Google Tag Manager plugin or Google Site Kit to insert the code. Otherwise, you will have to manually insert it in the head of every single page and post you want to track. When you install analytics, remember to also connect the search console! It will contain vital information about how users are finding your content.
Install and Configure Speed and/or Caching Plugins
Many WordPress websites will run faster with a speed and/or caching plugin installed, so this is a good option to consider after installing WordPress. Personally I find that as long as server caching is properly set up, caching plugins are unnecessary. However, many people swear by W3 Total Cache. Of the speed plugins, autoptimize is probably the most popular, but Swift and Hummingbird are also good options to experiment with. Depending on your theme, the best plugin may vary.
Establish Backup Protocols
A solid backup system is an important part of any WordPress website’s infrastructure. A quick search of the plugin repository will reveal that there are many free and premium plugins which can automate this process for you. Updraft Plus is undoubtedly the most popular.
That said, I personally prefer and recommend doing manual backups of the database and site files seperately as often as possible. While this is much more time consuming, the failure rate is also much lower. Despite Updrat Plus’ excellent rating, I have seen many forum posts from people raving about information they lost as a result of relying too heavily on its simple automation.
Setup Spam Protection
If the security plugin you selected does not include spam protection, it may be a wise move to install an anti-spam plugin such as Akismet after installing wordpress. In particular if you will have a popular blog, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the flow of spammy comments. Having a plugin do the heavy lifting will save you a lot of time and frustration manually deleting comments.
Add Other User Accounts
If you are building the site for a client, or intend to have guest bloggers, freelancers, or anyone else work on your website, it may be a good idea to add addtional user accounts after you’ve completed the initial WordPress installation.
To get started, click on Users in the left navigation bar. You’ll be taken to a page that looks like this:
To add a new user, simply click on the Add New button at the top left of the screen. You’ll be taken to a screen that will ask for some user information and give you a dropdown list with a selection of user roles. I recommend researching all of these before assigning them to anyone, no matter how much you trust them. Anyone assigned an adiministrative role, for example, could easily break your website by accident.
The truth is, installing a security plugin is just the beginning of keeping your new installation of WordPress safe. There are a number of additional steps and best practices that should be observed, and they are outlined in the WordPress codex’s Guide to Hardening WordPress. I recommend dedicating significant time and energy to understanding each step in this process, as it may save you untold headaches in the future.
Remove or Modify Footer Content
Depending on the theme you’re using, your footer may say “Proudly powered by WordPress”, or it may say something else. Most themes have a unique way of customizing the footer, but it is usually found under “footer” in the customization menu accessible under Appearance in the lefthand navigation menu.
Connect a CDN
This step is of course optional; there are many good reasons to use a CDN such as Cloudflare to deliver your website’s static assets… but for small local business websites, there may also be reasons not to use one. As usual, I recommend doing your research and making an informed decision.
Was that 25 Things To Do After Installing WordPress?
Probably. If we’re being realistic, it’s probably more like 30.
I hope you found this content useful! What do you typically do after installing WordPress before you start building? If I missed anything, please let me know in the comments.
If this was particularly helpful to you, I hope you’ll give it a share using the social buttons below! Until next time, thanks for spending time with PressYourWords, and be well.