You just got done installing WordPress and have a clean slate to work with. Before you start, there are a few WordPress settings you will want to change. Here are 10 quick things I like to do after every WordPress install before I get started.

1. Delete the Sample Page

Login to your WordPress dashboard and click on Pages and you will see the “Sample Page”. The url for this page /sample-page is prone to spam, and the page itself has dummy content. Instead of deleting the content and changing the url slug, just delete the page entirely and create new Pages. Once you hit delete, it is not yet gone for good, go into the Pages/Trash and delete it there permanently.

2. Delete the Sample Post

In the Posts section of the dashboard you will see the default “Hello world!” post. Delete this post, which will then also delete the sample comment “Mr WordPress” in the Comments section. Same as above, once you delete it go into the Pages/Trash and delete it there too.

Keeping your database tidy is a key component to website performance. Items such as stored revisions and trashed pages and posts, are meta data you want to remove. There are free plugins such as WP-Optimize and premium plugins like WP Rocket have these features built in.

3. Pre-Installed Plugins

A new install of WordPress comes with two pre-installed plugins. The first is Hello Dolly, which serves no purpose, unless you would like the lyrics from Louis Armstrong’s Hello Dolly to appear on your dashboard. The reasoning for it being installed is some what of a mystery to me, but Hello Dolly was the first WordPress plugin created by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. I am guessing it is still installed for sentimental purposes, so if you do not want to offend Matt, leave it there.

The second plugin pre-installed is Akismet. If you plan to use your site as a blog, and accept comments from users this will help filter out the spam. For Akismet to filter your spam comments you will first need to sign up for an Akismet Key. Keys are free for personal blogs, but if you are a business or a commercial website you will need to choose from one of the paid plans.

4. Update Your Site Title and Tagline

Under the Settings tab your default Site Title and Tagline will be listed. If you did not customize it when installing WordPress your website will default to My Blog | My WordPress Blog. If you simply plan to use WordPress as a blog you can edit this to whatever you like, but if you are building a commercial website you will not want to use these default titles on every page. Installing a plugin like Yoast SEO allows you to customize the page title and description for every individual page, you can then customize them to focus on each pages content for SEO purposes.

5. Check Your URL Settings

On the same Settings tab the next options below Site Title and Tagline are your WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL). For most scenarios these should be identical and be set to the url of your website. A scenario where these would be different is if you're installing WordPress in a subdirectory, but want the homepage to be accessible from your website’s URL.

The next thing to check is that your preferred (canonical) domain name is set here. By this I mean whether or not your preferred domain name has a www or not. Defining your canonical domain is very important, and having your website reside at both a www. version and a non www. version in Google’s eyes is having duplicate websites, which is bad.

The best way to make sure you website has a preferred domain is to have it set the same way here in the WordPress settings, confirm it through Google Search Console (formerly webmaster tools) as your preferred domain, and then set a redirect in your .htaccess file to cover all your bases. This way when a user types in your website url with or without the www they will be directed to the preferred domain name.

To see if your website has a canonical domain use SEO SiteCheckups URL Canonicalization Test

6. Managing Comments

Under Settings > Discussion there are various options for controlling how and when a user can comment on a blog post and how you want to handle the comments. I suggest manually approving all comments to avoid having something show up in your comments feed you do not want. There is an option at the top under Default article settings to “Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new articles.“ I suggest turning this off if you are concerned with site speed as this has been known to cause lags in page speed.

7. Search Engine Visibility During Development

If you are building your website or blog on a live development server you can request that Google does not index your website pages until you are ready to go live. In the Settings tab select Reading, and then check the box next to Search Engine Visibility “Discourage during development”. Just make sure to uncheck this once your website is live or you will stay hidden from search engines.

8. Customize Your Permalinks

Head to the last section of the Settings tab, Permalinks. The default WordPress “Plain” permalink structure is mydomain.com/p=123. It is not very pretty, and not very friendly for search engines. For SEO purposes as well as easier url’s to promote, choose the “Post name” setting for Permalinks. This will set your permalink to be a custom url you can set which will let you add key words in your page or posts url structure.

For example if my page mydomain.com/p=123 was a page about my cupcake store in Orlando, with the “Post name” Permalink structure I could rename it mydomain.com/orlando-cupcakes. For the record I do not own a cupcake store, although I am sure my kids would love that.

9. Edit Categories

WordPress comes with a default category of “Uncategorized”, you can’t delete this, but you should change it. Under the Posts tab, click on Categories and go ahead and edit the name Uncategorized to a category you will actually be using for your blog posts. You can add all of your future categories in this section now, or add them on the fly as you create new posts.

10. Delete Unused Themes

The last tip is to remove any unused themes that were installed that you do not plan to be using. Under the Appearance tab you will see your current Active theme, as well as any other themes that were installed with WordPress. If you plan to use the latest WordPress theme Twenty Seventeen, feel free to delete Twenty Sixteen and Twenty Fifteen by mousing over the preview, click Theme Details, and on the next window in the bottom right corner click Delete.

Now that you have fine tuned your new WordPress install, you can start building out your new website or blog. To save time on your next project, do a backup of this installation after you are done setting it up the way you like. This way you can start your next website with all of your custom settings ready to go.

If you have any questions regarding these steps feel free to ask below or send us an email. If you are interested in ways you can speed up your WordPress site, be sure to check out my Beginner’s Guide to WordPress Speed.

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