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Initial Setup of WordPress

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We have now installed WordPress and the very next thing to do here is to get it set up. I want you to ignore everything that’s here on this screen.

Remove Junk Ware

Instead the very first thing to do is to get rid of junk ware. There is a bunch of junk ware that is automatically installed and it is designed to do one thing and one thing only – sell you stuff.

So I want you to come over here to plugins. Scroll past all this junk, close all these and I want you to select Hello Dolly. I know it’s already deactivated. Those plugins that are turned on are the darker ones. So we select Jetpack, MOJO Marketplace and OptinMonster. Choose bulk actions down and deactivate them. Now check Hello Dolly, Jetpack, MOJO Marketplace and OptinMonster and under bulk actions, choose delete.

Why Remove Jetpack

Jetpack is a huge and very slow program. It is many times the size of WordPress itself. It does many, many things but the thing it does best is slow your website down. There are some times when jetpack might be a good thing but that’s for another session. For most people in the real world Jetpack is simply a way to slow your website down and I strongly suggest you delete it.

What Akismet Does

Notice that I didn’t delete Akismet. I’ll leave un-activated right now because it won’t do anything for you at the moment but Akismet is really the best plug-in and web service around for stopping spam. But it does cost you money. For typical website owners, it’s like five bucks a month or something like that.

If you get thousands of spam a month it’s great to use it to kill spam but that’s a value judgment that you’ll make in some other context. We’re not going to activate that today but I’m not going to delete it either. If you know you’re not going to use Akismet you can delete it too.

Don’t Keep Plugins You Aren’t Using

You should never keep plugins on your site that you are not using or that you know you’re not going to use. If you’ve got a plugin on your site that you’re not using, delete it. You can always install it again later.

Every plugin, whether it’s active or not, slows your site down a little bit and slightly increases your chance of being hacked. This is especially the case with plugins you’re not using because if you’ve got it deactivated you may not update it.

Before you know it you’ve got a two-year-old plug-in sitting on your site. You don’t remember why you had it there. Often there’s been a vulnerability that’s been discovered and exploited that that plugin author has solved and given you an update to fix but you didn’t know because you didn’t update it.

So I strongly recommend you to delete all plugins you aren’t using because there’s a potential material adverse effect from having plugins that you aren’t using.

Cathy asks if I can suggest a video discussing the pros and cons of Jetpack? That’s a good suggestion and I will put that on my list to consider because it’s not all bad but for the time being it’s all bad.

General Settings

Now that we’ve gotten rid of the junk ware we’re going to go through our basic settings. We’re going to start off here under settings in general.

Site Title and Tag Line

We’ve got our site title and our site tag line. The tag line is used by some SEO plugins and by some themes to add to the SEO meta description. So you don’t want to leave it just another WordPress website. You want to change it to something that will help you with SEO. It should be a sentence or phrase that has descriptive words of what your website is or does.

You want that phrase to help people searching the internet find you. This may end up being not useful to you ultimately but you don’t want to leave “just another WordPress website” sitting there because Google won’t take you seriously if they see it. We’re going to say “Learn how to use WordPress 4.7”.

Email Address

This is the email address that we filled in at the beginning. If you want to change the admin email address you can. When emails are sent from WordPress to the admin, they are sent to this email address.

Under membership, you should leave that unchecked, except in very specialized situations. New user default role as subscriber even though you’re leaving this unchecked.

Time Zone

Then you want to pick your time zone because WordPress will send you emails and it will mark a time and it will use the time zone of the site to tell you what time it sent it so you may as well use your own time zone. I know that I am UTC-8 for the Pacific Standard Time. So choose your date format and choose your time format. Obviously Europeans do this differently than Americans so choose the format that you want. Choose week starts on because that affects the way calendar display on the site. I’m not sure that it matters that much whether the week starts on Monday or Sunday.

Site Language

Then choose the site language. There are lots of languages to choose from and as I discovered recently, English UK is different from English US in one respect at least. In English US there’s a button that says send to trash in English UK the button says send to bin, so there’s a sort of linguistic nuance associated with the various versions of English. You want to choose this right away then once you’ve done it, you can forget it.

Writing

The next setting is writing and at the moment there is no action required of you. You can just leave this alone entirely and it’ll be fine. There’ll be specialized circumstances in which you will consider working on this but none of those things have anything to do with what we’re doing today. I’ve almost never changed writing settings in the thousands of WordPress sites I’ve put up so it’s something that you can comfortably ignore for the time being.

Reading – Search Engine Visibility

The next one is reading. We’re going to come back to reading because it is important but thing that is essential is this Search Engine Visibility. It’s essential because if you put a check here and say discourage search engines from indexing the site, you’ve got to remember to come back once you want them to index the site and check the box. That’s the essential part.

I know lots of people don’t want search engines to find their site until they’re proud of it, ‘till they’re happy with it and so they keep that checked for a long time. I myself never check that box unless it’s a testing site, a duplicate site or development site that I’ve set up which is a copy of some other site.

Otherwise, I never check that box even if I’m starting from scratch. As far as I’m concerned the quicker the search engine finds me the better. So that’s the one critical thing in reading at the moment. We’ll come back to this after we start talking about setting up and configuring WordPress.

Discussion – Comments and Pingbacks

The next thing is discussion. Different people have different philosophies about discussion. If you are not going to allow comments on anything, then you would just uncheck all three of these things and there will no longer be any comments. You don’t have to worry about it at all.

If you want to allow comments, then you can check this box here that says allow people to post comments on a new article. If you think there is value in pingbacks in discussion, then you can check these. However, I personally believe that pingbacks hurt discussion because they are inserted in the flow of a discussion.

A pingback is when somebody else links to an article on your site. When somebody else links to it then you are notified of that link and then a little thing shows up in discussion about such and such an article, okay?

People are tempted in to think, oh this is a conversation, but it’s not a conversation. It’s just a link. So if you actually have discussions and you had a long discussion going and in the middle you got a bunch of pingbacks, I think it hurts the discussion. So I turn them off. I don’t think there’s any benefit whatsoever except I suppose bragging rights to say I got this many pingbacks.

You have a choice between whether or not the author has to fill some information out or whether they should be registered. I’m perfectly happy to let people make comments but they do have to fill out their name and email address. If you don’t do this you’re just going to get spam comments up the wazoo and you don’t want that.

You can set an automatic time in which to close comments so if you have the sort of site where your content is really only good for 28 days then this might be a good idea. If you have the kind of sight whose content is good for quite a while, it may make sense just to turn that off.

You can enable threaded comments and you can decide its levels. I don’t think that really matters. The same thing is true for comment pages, how many comments per page. Just leave that stuff alone.

I absolutely would put a checkbox in both of these – when anyone posts a comment and whenever a comment is held for moderation. You have a choice here about whether or not every comment has to be manually approved by you or whether the comment author has to have a previously approved comment. That means if I comment on your site the first time it sits in there for manual approval. The second time, it gets automatically put on not waiting for manual approval.

There are some additional options here. Rules for blacklisting IP addresses, rules for when stuff is going to moderation automatically.

Avatars

And you have a choice of Avatars. You want to use Avatars carefully because if you’re not using an avatar caching plugin, avatars will slow your site way down especially on a post with a bunch of comments. Every single avatar is another HTTP request.

It’s the reason why I removed Avatars from my comments because even with caching it slowed my site way down. It’s a choice that you can make but if you’re going to show Avatars you can choose sort of which default avatar you want people to use and then once you’ve made up your mind about that, save your changes.

Media Settings

The next setting is media settings and we’re going to come back to media settings in the next session. At the moment you don’t have enough information to set media settings yet.

Permalinks

And then finally, permalinks. I’m going to tell you that I believe there is only one right way to do permalinks. By right way I mean only one way that follows Google’s structured URL recommendations, okay? And none of these are it.

Now, plain is at the absolute worst. There’s no structure here at all which means that nobody can tell from the URL what your site’s about or what the page is about.

The date or month name or numeric or any of those do not provide useful information in a URL. If somebody’s looking for some specific information on your site, the fact that you publish it on 12/16/09 is generally speaking irrelevant and wouldn’t actually help you in a search result.

Follow Google’s Recommendations

My opinion is the only reason to be concerned about permalinks at all is because you want those permalinks to meet Google’s recommendations. So here is the only right way to do it and that is using a custom structure where you have this condition. This will create a hierarchical structure for your posts that include the name of the category in the URL and which therefore uses the category as a fundamental element of your SEO.

So anytime I ever talk about SEO or categories or permalinks, I’m always going to say this category% postname%. Because, in my opinion, that’s the only right answer and everything else is wasting an important SEO tool. A tool that Google very specifically, very clearly tells you to use.

They don’t like any of these other kinds of URLs. A lot of so called gurus who are trying to sell you secrets suggest that you should just use post name. The problem with post name is it provides no structure and Google specifically recommends structured URLs. Just using your post name pretends like your entire site is flat and every post, every page, everything is one level down from the homepage which is the opposite of structure. So they’re wrong when they say that you should do this.

There are some specialized instances in which perhaps your most important content should be on the first level of your permalink structure but those are limited specific instances and those do not apply to sort of the general post or page.

Changing Your Site’s Permalink Structure

Kathy asks, is it smart to change the permalink structure if you been blogging on the same site for over 10 years? No, it’s not. There is a way that you could do it which I’ll talk about that later. There is a way that you could do it with a system of 301 redirects so that you could switch to structured URLs and that would provide you with an SEO benefit.

On the other hand, Google knows your site really well from the past 10 years and so there may be a marginal SEO benefit to it but what you don’t want to do is break the linking structure to your site. If you changed your permalinks now then all of your pages have new addresses and everybody out there in the world who has linked to something that you wrote will have broken links, including the Google search and indexing results.

So the only time you want to really change your URL structure is when you set it up at the beginning. If you feel like you’re not getting the search engine oomph that you need, you’re not getting sufficient search traffic for your content then if you’re going to change your structure, you need to use 301 redirects to redirect the old posts or pages to the new structure.

Now the one way in which that’s not true is for plain. This plain where your url?p=123. This p equals really post ID equals 123. This will always work no matter what your URL structure is. So if you have been using this system forever, you can comfortably change your URL structure and not have any problem because when somebody uses this link on another site or Google search brings it up, clicking on that link will still work. This again, this is the only right way to do it but don’t do it on an old site until you’ve considered how to handle 301 redirects.

When to Use Coming Soon Plugins

Another thing I see all the time is somebody’s got a website and say the website has been up for a couple years but they’ve decided they want to change it so they install a coming soon plugin which hides their website from people. The problem with that is that hide your website from Google and it destroys any SEO you’ve ever built up.

So all of a sudden it’s like your brand new site again, every link Google knows about your site crashes, you have a ton of 404 errors constantly and it is a horrible, horrible practice. If you are tempted to use a coming soon plugin, you must only do that on a brand new site. You must never do that on established site. That was a digression.

Users

The last set of settings I want look at is users. You can go to all users or you can go to your profile. You want to finish setting up your profile. They asked my first and last name but they didn’t put it in here so now I’m going to add that information. And you can put your own URL in there if you want. None of this is actually important except this first name and last name and then display publicly named publicly as Rick Anderson.

I think there’s no reason for you to display your name publicly as your admin username. There’s no benefit to anybody in that. So I would display your name publicly as your name. If you don’t want to show your name and use pseudonyms up here just know that people value real name information.

Your profile picture will show up if you’ve got a Gravatar account your profile picture. It will show up here. If you don’t have a Gravatar account, you can set one up by clicking on this link and you’ll be good to go.

Those are the settings that you need to complete as soon as you install WordPress. Once you’ve done that then you’re ready to go on to something else. Actually, now that I am here you can see that I have one update… oh look at that, it didn’t install 4.6 but rather 4.7 even though it said it was going to install 4.6. Excellent. I’ve got a normal WordPress 4.7, update is going to install 4.7 and the 2017 theme as your default.

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