In this 2-part series I will show you how to set up a website with WordPress, the most used and easiest to manage and administer CMS platform today. I have also included here the plugins and tools that you need to better optimize your site. This easy-to-follow guide is great for both beginners who are creating their websites for the first time and even non-beginners who need a guide they can refer to.
Before setting up WordPress on your site
Before installing WordPress, you will have to get a domain name and hosting services.
You can get your domain name from the many domain name and hosting services available like Namecheap , Godaddy , Hostgator or Bluehost.
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Choose Your Theme
I remember years ago, good quality themes would come with a stiff price tag and the available free themes were not worth a second look. But today things have changed. There are thousands of free themes available that are well coded, well-designed, and may be good alternatives to paid or premium themes , spcecially for those working on a tight budget.
Premium themes will usually have good support and typically should offer more features than free themes. Free themes are usually created by independent designers who, unlike developers of premium themes lack the backend support that premium theme developers have, thus, customization can be a bit of a problem.
Although free themes are not as feature-rich as premium themes, their having minimal features makes them lighter, thus, faster to load which is a good thing for your site.
Free themes typically do not come with documentation although free themes offered by big developers (usually offered as a come-on to their premium themes) nowadays come with basic documentation.
If you are working within a budget, specially if you are just starting out, the free themes available will be able to give you the functionality that you need, thus, would be a good option to consider.
Just make sure that when downloading free themes, do this through your WordPress dashboard or from the wordpress.org site because those themes usually have undergone review by WordPress.
To download and install themes
Click “Appearance” then “Themes” on your WordPress dashboard.
This will take you to the themes available for download. Just choose a theme of if you have a theme in mind just enter the name of that theme in the space provided for at the upper right corner.
Install plugins and set up tools
Plugins are software that can add features and functionality to your WordPress website. These pieces of software make it easy for website owners to add functions to their site without developing any code. You just have to download, install and activate the plugin and in an instant the plugin takes effect. There are thousands of plugins you can download for free that can address your needs for more functionality.
To download a plugin, click on “Plugins” then click“Add New”on your WordPress menu.
You will be shown all the plugins available for download.
Because most plugins are free, they usually do not come with technical support or documentation. That is why I suggest you practice care in choosing plugins that you install on your site.
In choosing your plugins be sure to take note of the following:
Rating. Typically a star rating is shown. Make sure you choose plugins with a high rating
Active Installs. Choose plugins that have been downloaded and installed by a lot of users.
Last Updated. Make sure the plugin has not remained stale and is being updated regularly.
Compatibility. Choose plugins that are compatible with your version of WordPress to avoid any problems.
Something to think about.
Another thing to remember is this. Whenever you add a plugin, this is just like adding a code to your site. Particularly if the plugins are not coded properly, they place a heavy burden on your site, requiring a longer time to load, thus slowing down your site. That is why it is important that you choose your plugins carefully.
As much as possible install only the plugins that your site really needs so that you minimize your site’s chances of slowing down. Using plugins may not always be the best solution to your site’s additional needs, and if you know how to code, adding a code manually has been proven to be a better way to do it.
As in anything in life, excessive use is not good and using too many plugins give a negative effect on your website, thus, I would suggest you go slow and install only those that are necessary.
Whenever a user loads your website, each of the plugins that you have installed on your site sends a request to the server. Thus, if you have 50 or 100 plugins installed , just think of the load that places on your site.
Try to limit your plugins to the essential ones, those that will manage your site’s security, SEO, and performance. There is no magic number when it comes to the plugins. I personally try to limit my plugins to 10 essential ones and it has worked for me just fine.
(I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this. How many plugins works for you? Just leave a comment below).
Following are some of the plugins that are essential and that I suggest you install in order to help optimize your site:
WordPress is by default already optimized for SEO but there are other settings that you need to do to optimize your websites further. All-In-One-SEO is the most used WordPress plugin that will help you maximize your site’s on-page optimization and consequently make search engines love your site more.
It has become the standard in site optimization. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the tools that will help your site rank in the search engines and the All-In-One-SEO plugin will help you achieve this. The plugin can help you do on-page SEO like adding title tags, description tags etc. through a user friendly interface located in your dashboard.
(All-In-One-SEO is free to download and install but it also comes in a pro paid version).
To install click “Plugins” then “New” on your WordPress menu.
Then enter “all in one seo” in the space provided at the upper right corner of the screen.
“Install” and “Activate” the All in One SEO pack.
To configure All-in-one SEO click “All in One SEO > General Settings” in your WordPress dashboard.
The All-in-one SEO plugin works very well when you leave the default settings as is, but there are a few fields which you have to customize to better optimize your site, particularly the following:
In the Home Page Settings area add the following details:
Home Title. Enter your blog or website name and your tagline. Limit your title to 60 characters as Google will display only the first 60 characters. If you leave this blank, All-in-one SEO will automatically use your site’s title and tagline which you defined in your “Settings-General Settings” when you set up your WordPress website.
Home Description. Enter a good description of your site or blog as this will be seen by users when your site appears in the search results. Try to enter a description that will aptly let users know what your site is about. Also try to include your most important keywords in the description. A maximum of 160 characters is displayed so try to limit your description to this.
You can either Enable or Disable the “Use static front page instead” depending on whether or not you plan to use a static page.
Other than these you can just leave the other fields as is.