I recently helped a new Carolina Blogging member switch from WordPress.com over to WordPress.org and got to experience the feel of a new website setup from scratch. It is like that “new car” smell for a blogger when you get a new theme or setup a new site. It was a pleasure to help a friend and a refresher for me. In setting up her site I took note of the 5 things I setup first to make sure she would hit the ground running.
Here are the 5 things I recommend doing when setting up a new website.
Our first step was to pick a good hosting plan that would be cost-effective while offering good hosting options and room for website growth.
New Blogger Setup – Both my friend and I were able to setup hosting with SiteGround in about 10 minutes and I guided her from step to step. The longest part was confirming the domain name and making sure it was what she wanted. She recalled a few points that I had mentioned in the first post, Things To Consider Before Starting A Blog [ The Basics ] . We both knew landing the perfect domain name was important and her final choice of domain names turned out to be both functional and personal. My experience with new site setup in the past was to wait anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for the website to propagate. She literally got an email within 5 minutes of finishing her setup that confirmed we were ready to log in to the WordPress dashboard. SiteGround really made it easy for her to get started as a new blogger and the wait time was considerably less than what I had when I started blogging a few years ago!
My Transfer and Setup – Keep in mind my 2018 goal was to switch so I went ahead and switched my sites today also. I had done some research on this topic in the past and have mixed opinions for different hosting companies. In 2013 I had Host Gator because it was inexpensive and went along with a site setup tutorial that I found online. The vlogger had a discount code to use within his tutorial video so I just went with it and started with the recommended host. Requirements were not as specific back in 2013 as SSL certificates were optional and only needed if collecting user login data and taking payments.
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer and is an added layer of security for your site. It is what separates an HTTP site from a HTTPS site. HTTPS is more secure.
Today, things have changed. After using Host Gator for a while on my primary site the opportunity to take over Carolina Blogging came up. At that time I needed a hosting plan that would support more than one site at a time and I needed better customer service. Any calls in to Host Gator ended with my frustration and a link to a help article that read like space manual instructions to a new blogger. On to GoDaddy.
I had GoDaddy from 2015 until recently and honestly they were not bad but just expensive. Calling in to customer service comes with higher expectations as that is what I do for a living in my day job. GoDaddy customer service reps were up to par on every call but their service comes with a price tag. Last year (2017), Google changed the way websites are evaluated and any non SSL websites were frowned upon with a nasty “not secure” website warning that readers have to click-through. GoDaddy wanted $70 per site to add a one year SSL certificate and that was not in my budget. I got back on the web, researched what I needed and landed with SiteGround. The first call was answered by someone who listened to what I wanted, asked questions and then confirmed my needs. She then reconfirmed what I wanted and made a few suggestions to make the switch easier. After getting things started a ticket was submitted with the status of my site transfer from GoDaddy to SiteGround. One technical support ticket after payment was all that was needed to move over my sites. My ticket was answered within 30 minutes which is almost unheard of in support turn around time. Needless to say, I am sold on both their level of expertise and support.
Here are a few things we did on the new site just after gaining access to her dashboard settings. These are things I would recommend that you do for a new site also.
- do NOT use any form or spelling of the word administrator as your user name
- bookmark the login page URL
- take down user name and password
- confirm your email address for hosting alerts
- setup any secondary administrators under new users making sure they too use authentic user names
A permalink is the format of the URL address for your website and post. I made the mistake of including the date along with my post title in my earlier blog days. That made for extra long URLs for readers to type in. My post would look something like yourdomainname.com/datehere/postnamehere. A better option I have found is to eliminate the date all together and just leave it as domain name / post title.
Here are the options you will get in your default setttings of your WordPress dashboard. You go to Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks.
You can choose from plain, day and name, month and name, numeric, post name and custom structure.
Here is an example using this post of what that looks like in real-time.
What a dated permalink would look like:
https://www.carolinablogging.com/2018/01/13/5-things-to-setup-first-on-a-new-website (super long with the date in there)
We then setup a way for readers to subscribe and follow her site. Being this site was brand new for the blogger gave us the option to build from scratch. While it is nice to set up from scratch, this part involves a bit more work. You will need to also choose a newsletter provider to send through. We went with Mailchimp Powered by MailChimp because it is easy to set up and free to use up to a certain number of email subscribers. MailChimp also offers paid options as your list grows. I had the blogger setup a Mailchimp account and we created a list that would work for any subscribers to her site. I explained that as she wrote and published more content, she would be able to customize content specific lists.
Mailchimp Powered by MailChimp is easy for a new blogger because they can create the landing pages for you. The landing page is what your reader will see and includes the form to enter their email information and then instructions for confirming their subscription. When you reference your newsletter website you can either reference by linking words within your post to the subscribe URL or you can embed a signup form like this. PS – this link works and will subscribe you to my Blogger Tips, Tricks and Tutorials newsletter where you will get links to more posts like these as I publish them!
Embedding is honestly a better format as it integrates the forms and boxes for you and is less clicks for your readers. You need to make it easy for your readers to subscribe so the less steps the better.
Another point I want to cover here is why setup a newsletter so soon when literally no one is following her yet. This is because you need to take every opportunity possible to collect and build your lists. Having someone share their email address with you is the digital equivalent of getting their personal phone number. They will only give it out if truly interested and this is your opportunity to become laser focused in the content you send to them. In other words, send them the really, really good stuff!
This one is a big one and the only reason I didn’t put it at the top of the list is because most hosting companies will have their own security options. SiteGround has a service that you can pay a small about for and they will monitor your site for malicious links or changes that you did not authorize. You pay once a year and they continue to monitor your site.
Outside of hosting options are plugins that you can add to your WordPress.org site within the dashboard. A plugin is like an app you put in your smart phone. It was not there by default but adding it in some way adds benefit to your site. A word of caution is that not all plugins are created equally and I have downloaded a few that literally crashed my site. Thank goodness for hosting or plugin backup options to restore my site to a point before it crashed!
Remember that tip I shared earlier about NOT using any form of the word administrator as your login user name. The plugin I use to monitor dashboard logins once caught a 4 day long attack on my site with the “admin” username. Every 5 minutes I got emails about the blocks being made to malicious IP addresses that were trying to log in to my site for who knows what. While the emails quickly filled my inbox in the most annoying manner, I rested peacefully knowing I had that kind of monitoring on my site even while I slept. You can NEVER be too careful.
Outside of eagerly publishing your first post, here are my recommended first pages to set up. Some are required by law and others are nice to have for a new reader.
- About page – This tells your readers a bit about you and what they can expect with a return visit to your site.
- Contact page – this tells readers and potential companies wanting to work with you how to contact you.
- Privacy & Disclosures page – Required. Enough said. You HAVE to tell people about internet cookies and how you plan to use their information as they visit and enter data on your site. YOU. HAVE. TO. DO. IT. There are plenty of free policy and disclosure generators out there that you can use but I trust the one I found from WP Beginner.
- Newsletter & Newsletter Confirm page – We already went over this briefly in the above bullet points. Build your list early!
Some additional things I would recommend doing upon a new site setup are:
- Establish and link social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
- Google search “theme documentation for (your theme name here)” so you can get the step by step instructions on setting up a theme from the publisher. Theme documentation will give tips on setting up pages, posts and widgets and will also include information on image sizes for blog posts and categories.
- Logging out, clearing browser cache and logging back in to make sure all of your bookmarks and logins work.
- Setup a menu for your theme that includes basic links around your site. These links are like bread crumbs that lead your reader to different areas of your content.
Did I miss anything? Would you do anything differently in your new site setup? Leave us a comment below if you found this post valuable or have a tip to add and don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter for bloggers.
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