15 essential tasks to complete after installing WordPress

wordpress logo

WordPress is a blog publishing platform that can be used to run many different types of website. Every time I install WordPress I run through the same geeky routine to ensure that it is well-functioning and easily discovered.

So, aside from the theme (the way the website looks) and the content (what the website says) these are my next steps after installing WordPress…


1. Create a Favicon

A favicon is a 16×16 pixel icon associated with the website that usually sits in the address bar of your browser. There are many online favicon creators and a plugin you can download for Photoshop. No self-respecting website is seen without one. Once saved upload to the route of your website and call in the <head> of every page like so.

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="http://robcubbon.robcubbonltd.netdna-cdn.com/favicon.ico"/>

Learn more about favicons here.

http www

2. Put keywords in your URLs

One of the most important things you can do to your WordPress site in terms of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is to get your permalinks looking pretty!

By default WordPress uses web URLs like this: www.your-site.com/?p=N. In the WordPress admin panel go Settings > Permalinks, choose Custom Structure and enter /%postname%/. Now your URLs will look like this: www.your-site.com/keyword-rich-post/.

If you are getting an error message when trying to do this or it doesn’t work, put this in your .htaccess file on your site’s route.

# BEGIN WordPress
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /index.php [L]
# END WordPress


3. Create an XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that lists the pages of your site and gives search engines other important information, for example, how often you add content, which is helpful in getting new pages crawled quickly.

Creating an XML sitemap on a WordPress site is incredibly easy. You just need to install Google XML Sitemaps plugin and follow the instructions.

Once you have created your sitemap you should submit it to Google and other search engines, see below.


4. Register your site with Google Webmaster Tools

This is something that will take 5 minutes and will tell you how many of your pages are indexed by Google, how fast your site loads in comparison to others, alert you to errors, enable you to pick a geographical location, submit your sitemap… really, the Google Webmaster Tools is a pretty awesome free service.

In order to register you have to upload a file to the route of your server so that Google knows you are indeed the webmaster.


5. Create a Robots.txt file

After you’ve submitted your XML sitemap to Google you need to tell other search engines out there of it’s existence by creating a “robot.txt” text file and putting in the route of your server. Here’s mine:

Sitemap: http://robcubbon.com/sitemap.xml

You can also ward search engine robots off certain areas of your site that aren’t for public consumption. So, for example, by adding Disallow: /dev/ to the file you can make sure the search engines don’t crawl or index any page inside the “dev” directory of your website.

telephone box

6. Make a contact page

99% of websites require a noticeable link to a contact page which includes details of how to get hold of the website’s owner(s) as well as a contact form. There are various WordPress plugins that will help you with the contact form but the one I always use is Contact Form 7. It has an excellent default form ready to plug in and play or you can set up more complicated forms with extra fields and dropdown menus. It can also send an acknowledgment emails.


7. Install a spam filtering plugin

“Kismet” sometimes means a predetermined course of events – so take comment spam out of your destiny by installing the Akismet plugin that comes with WordPress. There are other comment spam plugins by I find this one usually does the trick. You will need a WordPress API key. You can use the same one for multiple sites. Just search your email client for “WordPress API” and you should find it if you’ve done this before.


8. Install a database backup plugin

There are two things you need to do in order to back up your WordPress website successfully: one is to back up the files on the server; the second is to back up the database. I use this WordPress Database Backup plugin to make copies of my MySQL database – you can get it emailed to you every week!


9. Install Google Analytics

Another Google service. The pro is cool website visitor stats that are absolutely free. The con is that Google gets to look at your bounce rates but that’s never bothered me. Again, registering takes five minutes, all you have to do it paste a bit of code given to you on the Analytics site into the footer.php of your theme.
google logo

10. Ensure good page titles with an SEO plugin

Search engines attach more importance to the title than anything else on a page so, for this reason, it’s necessary to get them right. A good SEO plugin like HeadSpace2 SEO, All in One SEO Pack or Yoast WordPress SEO will enable you to get the important keywords of a page at the beginning of the title as well as set the page meta information both globally and individually.

related posts

11. Install a related posts plugin

If you are using your WordPress site as a blog, one of the most essential plugins that will increase your site’s “stickiness” is the WordPress Related Posts plugin which creates a list of other articles with connected subject matter. I use a textual list here but there are other plugins that can show related posts with thumbnails like the nrelate Related Content plugin.

subscribe to comments

12. Add Subscribe to Comments plugin

Another great way to get visitors to stay – and return to – your site is adding the Subscribe to Comments plugin. This plugin enables commenters to sign up for e-mail notification of subsequent entries.

social bookmarking icons

13. Add social networking and bookmarking buttons

And, staying with bloggy-type plugins for the moment, another great idea is to enable visitors to easily vote for your blog posts on various social bookmarking and networking sites. You may want a Twitter, Digg or Facebook button. Or you may want a plugin that displays multiple voting sites. It depends entirely on the type of blog and which type of social media it is drawn to. But without these buttons there is much less chance of traffic from social media.


14. Install a cache plugin

These plugins cache pages and deliver them without accessing the database making the site much faster. And, as speed is now a contributory factor in search engine results, it’s a good idea to install one of these. I use W3 Total Cache.


15. Make it responsive

Everyone’s talking about the mobile internet revolution so you’d better get onboard. A normal blog or website may be difficult to view on many smart phones. I used to use plugins to format the site with a mobile theme for mobile visitors. However, now I start with a mobile responsive theme from Genesis so I know the site will look great on whatever device (phone, tablet, laptop).


It’s a bit difficult to know where to stop here as there are other things I do but they depend on the type of site (for example registering the site on Google Places).

What about you? Is there anything else you see as essential to creating a WordPress site aside from content and design?

Did this help you? If so, please share!

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  1. says

    Wonderful post, I have this to-do list imprinted in my brain as well as a few more things I do programatically.

    We do 99% WordPress sites because it’s so flexible and with the last few years of plugin innovation specifically BuddyPress and PodsCMS you can virtually anything with WordPress at lightening speed.

  2. says

    Thank you, Jean-Patrick. This is not meant to be a definitive to-do list but I’m sure many people will go through a similar routine. I’m really interested in what other people do. There must be some other tasks to add to the list…

  3. says

    This is a nice list!

    I was looking for “nrelate Related Content” plugin and here it is. I want to test it out on my blog. I like the look. Thanks

    When it comes to Google Analytics I use “WP Google Analytics” plugin by Arron Campbell

    I also like to add “TweetMeme Retweet Button”

  4. says

    Some things I usually do:
    – Install Smart Archives Reloaded and create a custom page template for your archives.
    – Create a custom page archive depending on the site for a Sitemap page
    – Create custom page templates for 404 and search features
    – Install the Yoast Breadcrumbs plugin with extra conditionals for 404 and custom post types
    – And if you’re using custom post types there’s a few more things

  5. says

    Thank you, Sheila, that Google Analytics plugin must give you a greater understanding of the stats. And Tweetmeme is a favorite with a lot of people. I thought about putting one it many times.

    Jean-Patrick, you’ve really added a few there that I should have included. Doing a custom 404 is really important I think. I should check out that breadcrumbs plugin. And doing archives pages and a sitemap page can both be really important. Thanks.

  6. says

    I usually open new text document, than start typing some tags, than I start adding some content inside particular tags… before that, I usually fire up wamp server, then, I simply save that document with proper extension… usually .html or .php.. After that, I create one more text document and than I add some numbers and classes and id’s inside, than I save that document as .css.. And so on and on. WHat I have noticed is that too many people today, are using click-and publish solutions. Where that leads? That leads to the lack of improvements, to less and less innovations and new ideas. Which is not good at all. However, this article is decent.

  7. says

    Thanks, Paul, that plugin is premium, but thanks.

    Thanks, spooky, good to hear you create sites from scratch like I do although we use different methods.

    Thanks, Susa, I’m not techie either, really!

    Thanks, Ayman, there are many things you can do but these are my preferred steps!

  8. says

    Great resource Rob, there are lots of things on there that I need to address. Quick question do you filter out pingbacks or just ignore them? I notice there aren’t many on your site. I’ve read differing opinions about them and their usefulness.

    Thanks again I’ll have to take a good look at all of these.

  9. says

    Hello Rob, I hope you find some of the points in the article interesting. By “pingbacks” do you mean the links to other blog posts that link to yours in the comments section?There are some here, above and this is something I’ve been thinking about. I’m not sure if they add any value to the post and they are confusing in amongst the comments.So I was wondering whether to separate them from the comments or to get rid of them entirely.

  10. says

    Hi Rob, yeah that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking. To be honest I’ve only just recently started to get comments on my site but noticed a tonne of pingbacks. Some of the sources were ridiculous while others were genuine design related sites that had featured my article. However like you not sure what they add to any conversation or if they are like Kryptonite for seo.

  11. says

    Nice list you have there. Only thing I don’t like is google analytics. I prefer Piwik, because the data is stored on my server. I don’t like sharing my statistics with google.

    • says

      Cheers, Klaus, I know a lot of people are suspicious about Google Analytics. I’m gonna stick with them for now, but now I know an alternative if I ever decide to change. Thank you.

  12. says

    Hi Rob,

    Excelent post. about the favicon. Why not use a plugin instead of tinkering with your templates. It’s much easier and much more portable. When you change the template you don’t have to add the custom code again. There are many favicon plugins out there.

  13. says

    Thank you Andrea, Tammy and McBart for your comments. McBart, it’s always better to code things cleanly rather than rely on plug-ins as they slow down your site. Favicons are just one line of code in the header. If I changed a theme I would probably change the favicon as well as they tend of be of the same design and color scheme.

  14. says

    Thanks Rob, but I don’t agree with you, that it’s always better to code things yourself in the template. If I have a client that likes to change templates things break. If I use a plugin for this, the favicon still keeps working. I think this one plugin extra has a minimum impact on the site performance, specially when you use a caching plugin as you advised.

    In my opinion it’s much better to keep the template clean, when you can work with a small plugin.

  15. says

    Thanks for clarifying that, McBart, I like to keep my theme files clean as well but I never have clients who want to edit the theme files themselves so I can see why you have different priorities.

  16. says

    Great list of tips that I found very useful. I’ve installed the related articles plugin and the mobile plugin on my blog based on your recommendation.

  17. says

    Thanks for this post (found it on stumble)…I’ve seen many posts like this but this one is very direct…I’m going to implement many of these…I would like to see more detail on how to do each step…


  18. says

    Hi Mike, both are excellent plug-ins. Glad you found the list useful.

    Hi Richard, thank you. For the plug-ins, just go to Plug-ins in the WordPress administration panel, click “Add New” and search for the particular plug-in, when you locate the one you want, simply follow the prompts to install and activate it. But I guess the other tasks require more detail, as well, I hear you on that one. All the best!

  19. says

    Pretty comprehensive post. I do most of these with the help of plugins in a few key areas:

    Point #5: There is a plugin called Robots Meta that can do this for you: http://yoast.com/wordpress/meta-robots-wordpress-plugin/

    Point #9: Instead of the Google Analytics plugin, I use: All-in-one Webmaster which has many more functionalities http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-webmaster/

    Finally, for related posts, these 2 are pretty good:

  20. says

    Thanks KoolDots

    Thank you, Stephanie, thanks for your plugin recommendations. I will shortly be using one of the related posts plugins you mention as I love recommended posts with thumbnails! Cheers!

  21. says

    Thanks for the great info, I have already did all of them.. :)
    I will suggest for SEO plugin I will suggest to use “Yoast WordPress SEO plugin” they have great option for SEO.. Even I used to use All In One but moved to Yoast WordPress SEO..

  22. says

    Good advice Saket, I’ve amended the text to include this plugin. I’ve been using Yoast WordPress SEO on a few sites and, although I haven’t quite worked out how to enter meta keywords, it’s a great plugin.

  23. Greg says

    Why not make it simple for yourself by having one installation with all/most of those in place already? You duplicate this installation and setup custom template and you are done. Why do same repetitive tasks for every website?

    • says

      When you building websites for clients you don’t always host them on your own server, most of the things above are dependent on the needs of the particular website – in fact the only thing that’s constant is Akismet so, no, that wouldn’t save me anytime, thanks.

      • Greg says

        If it doesn’t work for you then it’s fine. It does for me.
        I think updating and tweaking customer specific preferences is much faster than installing everything every time from a list.
        For example having a custom robots.txt which I can base on and customize if I have to or leave as it is if I don’t.

        I never host websites for my clients on my servers. But I do develop them there so duplicating installation and database is fast enough.

        It took away 1-2 hours of setup time for every installation for me.

        • says

          I’m still not with as to how that saves 2 hours but that would probably be a whole blog post to explain properly. Thanks for your input, Greg.

  24. says

    Hey Rob! I’m lucky! I have done all of the things in the list. My blog just went mobile with Mobile Pack and I’m still learning how that works. Great blog! Dave

    • says

      Hello Dave, I use Mobile Pack on some sites and WP Touch on others and both have their advantages/disadvantages. It’s good to activate the stats package on Mobile Pack.

      • says

        Yep! I am using the stats pack and signed up for the analytics. I also enabled adsense via the mobile site. Is that a good idea? I haven’t heard of WP touch. Which one do you like more?

  25. says

    I’d add putting a .htaccess in /wp-admin/ denying all IP’s except your own for enhanced security. Apart from that, great list.

  26. says

    This is going to be a resource for me when I teach people about installing WordPress. Excellent info thanks for putting it up.

    • says

      Thank you, Calvyn. Personally, I’ve found WP Touch is the way to go, whereas WP Mobile Pack can display the mobile version on desktop devices :( !

  27. says

    This is a great list that explains the essential steps that people should take after installing their first website.

    I would only add that an ‘About Us’ page can be very useful. I find that it is one of my sites most viewed pages!

  28. says

    Very good information. Always nice to get a proven to-do list after wordpress installation.

    Thanks for the efforts.

  29. Enursa says

    Absolutely agree with you.

    There are the main factors to get success with your blogs. Thanks in advance.

  30. says

    Good and concise checklist!, I would only add a section on improving security of the installation. btw. there is one backup plugin that I found extremely useful: BackWPup does not only save the database, but saves the entire file directory to the cloud (i.e. sugarSync, Azure, iCloud, etc.) or another server. Ever since I installed this plugin, I don’t worry about Cronjobs or even manual FTP backups any longer, and I don’t have the databases cluttering my inbox :-)

    • says

      Thank you, Tim. You are certainly right about security concerns, I should have added something about that. Thanks for the heads-up about BackWPup – backing up directly to a cloud account is an excellent idea!

  31. says

    That’s a fantastic list of TO DOs for any site (wordpress or not) to do well…But wordpress is simply awesome and awesomer when it comes to SEO. Cheers!

  32. Jason says

    These are some great tips, WordPress is fantastic! Thank you for these amazing tips Rob! WordPress really is a great blogging tools and its not just a case of installing it and then thats it, its not over as your awesome post shows, there is much more, to get the best out of your blog you must follow these tips! Thanks

    • says

      Thanks for this comment, Jason, and I’m so sorry that I didn’t see it and reply to it earlier. Yes, there’s still lots to do after installing WordPress.

  33. Rusty says

    Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?
    I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours

  34. says

    Top Tip:”Plugin Central” plugin first.

    This will allow you to install multiple other plugins at one time simply by pasting the names of all the plugins you want into one box. This is a huuuuuge time saver as installing all these plugins one at a time can take forever.

  35. says

    Thanks, Rob, another great article. I just went through your 15 steps and found I was already doing some of them via the theme I usually use, weaver II pro. The favicon, SEO, scial media buttons etc. The google webmaster stuff, related posts and subscribe to comments info though was really useful. Cheers.