12 Must-Do Tasks for the New
WordPress Site Owner

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You know you’re sitting on a gold mine, don’t you?

That freshly-installed WordPress site of yours is poised to be a source of income, prospects and possibilities for your business. It has the potential to be a powerhouse resource, but there are a few things you’ll need to get in order first.

This post shares the top 12 power sources you can plug into with your brand-new WordPress site.

It may seem like a lot to do, but they’re listed in order of importance. Work on the top of the list first. Once you’ve got those things set up, move on to the rest of it.

Before you know it, you’ll have a WordPress website that’s fully charged and ready to power your business.

1. Make a decision: homepage or blog page?

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is about how to structure your site.

When visitors type in your domain name, will they see a home page, or a blog page? With a WordPress site, either one is easy to create. The question is, what are the advantages of each?

Homepages with some general information about your site and an opt-in form are a great way to welcome new visitors.

But suppose you have a blog — won’t it get lost if it’s not on your home page?

Not necessarily. When you talk about your blog posts — either on social media, in an email or on another site — you’ll share a link that goes directly to them.

People can find your blog using your navigation menu, too.

On the other hand, if your blog is the star of the show, you may want it to be the first thing people engage with.

There’s no right or wrong answer here. It’s a strategic decision that should be part of your overall site planning. And it’s easy enough to change later, so don’t over think it: just choose one and test it out.

2. Build connection with an email list

To build a genuine, ongoing connection with your readers, nothing beats email.

The email inbox is an intimate space, and a privileged place to inhabit. You’re there by invitation only, and because of that, you’re apt to get the attention you want.

Not sure what to include in your emails? There’s good information here on Copyblogger about creating emails people will look forward to and why you should treat your readers like dogs (really). Start with the ideas in these posts, and build from there.

3. Give us a reason to share our email address

That intimate, privileged inbox space is also pretty cluttered for most of us. We don’t want any more email than we already have, so you’ve got to give us a compelling reason to invite you into our inbox.

Unless your site is already well-known and an established authority, it’s not enough to promise “updates.” Give us something we can hold in our hands, listen to, watch, or look forward to.

  • Create an ebook that solves a sticky problem, and give it away in exchange for an email address.
  • Record a downloadable audio interview, conversation or presentation.
  • Make a video or tutorial that shows us a technique you’ve learned.
  • Create a short course you deliver by autoresponder, like Internet Marketing for Smart People.

Whatever you decide to create, make sure it’s so desirable that your visitors will be willing to share their email address to get their hands on it.

4. Track your progress

Knowledge is power, and to understand exactly how your site is performing, you need Google Analytics.

Once installed, you can look under the hood of your site and see which pages get the most traffic, where it comes from, and how people are traveling through your pages.

Armed with this information, you can respond by creating more of what’s obviously popular, and adding offers to pages that are visited frequently.

5. Put the power of SEO to work for you

Search engine optimization may seem like One More Thing on your to-do list. The easy fix? Install Scribe, Copyblogger Media’s SEO and content optimization software.

Scribe analyzes the copy on your site. It suggests easy tweaks you can make to bring in more traffic.

It helps your site rise to the top of the search engine results based on the merits of strong content, to get you past the reaches of Panda, Penguin, Platypus, Potato-Bug, or whatever new Google update comes our way next.

And, in the near future, Scribe is going to be doing even more, so stay tuned.

6. Create a brand experience

To make your site memorable, you’ll want to brand it with a combination of fonts, colors and images that are unique to your business.

Start by using a premium theme. Why not try one you can customize, like the Prose child theme?

Choose a color palette that you use consistently throughout your pages. Select fonts that represent your business. And spend some time and effort creating a unique website header to brand your site from the top down.

Use this visual branding style consistently over time so people recognize and remember your site.

7. Supercharge your site with one single plugin

WordPress.com now offers the Mother of All Plugins for your WordPress.org site installations: the Jetpack plugin.

The Jetpack plugin is like a Swiss Army Knife: it’s full of tools and gadgets that make quick work of lots of website-related tasks:

  • Review your site traffic
  • Allow users to subscribe to comments
  • Share your posts and pages on social networks
  • Insert a basic contact form on your site
  • Check your spelling and grammar before you hit “Publish”
  • Add images to your sidebar
  • Create short links for your pages and posts
  • Embed videos using short codes

Install this one single plugin, and get all these features. And it’s free!

8. Make spammers work for a living

If you have a blog, you’ll want to activate Akismet in your WordPress Dashboard.

Akismet helps to filter out spam comments on your blog, and will save countless hours you’d otherwise spend looking at comments that says things like, “Hey! This post contains the most astonishing information I’ve ever read!” and trying to decide if they’re written by a real person.

Activating Akismet only takes a few minutes to set up, and directions can be found on the Plugins dashboard in your WordPress site.

9. Thank first-time commenters

If you write a blog, you know those minutes, hours or days that go by with no comments on a post can be agonizing.

Commenting for the first time on a new blog can be nerve-wracking, too.

Thank commenters for taking the leap right after they leave their first comment on your blog. Create a page with your thank you message, then use a plugin like Comment Redirect by Yoast to send first-time commenters to that page.

They’ll be impressed, and will want to return and comment again.

10. Plan your posts

Your content will work best if you’re writing with a broad vision for where you want your business to be in six months, a year, and five years. To make sure you consistently touch on your most important themes, install the Editorial Calendar plugin.

This plugin allows you to plan posts and easily move them from one day to another. You can keep your writing on track easily, and make sure  you’re touching on the most important themes consistently over time.

11. Bring commerce into the picture

Once your site is ready, you can bring e-commerce into the picture. You may want to sell an ebook, or offer consulting services. Or maybe you want to have a protected “members-only” section of your site.

In order to offer something for sale, you’ll need a sales page — a pared-down version of the page style on your site, with no navigation, sidebars or other distractions.

And in order to deliver your product or invite people to a private section of your site, you’ll need protected pages that you can offer access to only after a transaction has happened.

Luckily, the Premise plugin can do all this.

Once it’s installed on your site, you’ll be able to easily create sales pages, protect your content, and wall off parts of your site for paid members only.

12. Keep it safe and sound

All this hard work will go down the drain if you don’t have some kind of backup system in place. Daily database backups, and full backups every week are essential.

Your web host may provide backups, but it’s a good idea to keep your own, too. Look into backup plugins like the paid BackupBuddy plugin and free WordPress Backup to Dropbox plugin to ensure your information is safe.

Charge up your site for business

If this list overwhelms you, just take it from the top, and work your way down. Before you know it, you’ll have a fully-charged WordPress site that will power up your business.

How about you?

What are your favorite ways to add power to your WordPress website? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Reader Comments (87)

  1. says

    Thanks for really useful list, and particularly for mentioning the backup buddy plugin. I wish I’d known about it several weeks ago as I lost all of my posts and details from my wordpress blog. It’s a real kick in the teeth to lose months of hard work, so I highly recommend everyone has some form of data.

    • says

      Yikes, Carolyn: so sorry to hear that! Nothing like learning things the hard way. :-(
      I hope you can recover quickly and get back at it. Good luck.

      • says

        Hi Pamela,

        Do you have a quick how-to on installing WP locally? Sort of off-topic, but Sonia suggested you have a great one I could use, but can’t seem to find it on the site. Thanks in advance!

        • says

          Hi Angela,

          The easy websites free course shares how to install WordPress on your web host, but not locally. Maybe you could find info on the web for that?

          • says

            Shoot. Have been trying to find one, but certain elements remain mysterious 😉 Where can I find “easy websites free course?” Is this on the Copy Blogger site. Or do you have a more spec term I could search? I can’t seem to find anything related to this when I search. Thank you!

  2. says

    Really helpful list–my site isn’t really new, launched last November, but there are a number of things on the list that I need to take care of. I’ve been a little unclear as to priorities, this clarifies that.

    One follow-up question–for sites that number in the hundreds of subscribers (hopefully building to the thousands), what do you suggest for email / list building?. I’m currently using Subscdribe2, which sends out my blog posts to subscribers and gathers a list but not much else, as best I can tell. Plus the emails aren’t very pretty. Wondering about MailChimp? Something else? AWeber is likely to pricey/elaborate for my current purposes, right? (The site has yet to be monetized so for the time being, I’m doing my best to keep costs as low as possible but also want to have a foundation to build in upcoming months.) Again, thanks so much!

    • says

      I’m going to weigh in with my opinion here, but I’d love to hear what others say.

      I think your email marketing provider is so important, it’s worth spending a little money on. AWeber (which I use) is a solid service that scales its pricing by the size of your list. As your list gets larger, you pay more. Theoretically, as your list gets larger, you should be earning more, so it’s one of those good problems to have … kind of like having to pay more taxes because you earned more money one year.

      AWeber has a new visual email creator that holds promise, and they have a lot of tracking, testing and segmenting tools that (once you know how to use them) make it pretty powerful.

      I recommend it, but as I said, I’d love to hear what others say.

      • says

        Aweber is also business-friendly. If your intention is to make money, that matters quite a lot.

        And if the cost is holding you back, take that as encouragement to create a small product (perhaps an ebook or a couple of coaching calls a month) to offset that cost.

        Businesses need the infrastructure to do things like communicate with customers, etc.

      • says

        Thanks to both of you for weighing in. I’ll take a look at Aweber–I read somewhere recently that there’s a new WordPress plug-in for it? Not sure how/why that matters, but will look into it in any case.

        • says

          Aweber also offer a one month trial for just $1. It is definitely worth trying out, I much prefer Aweber to Mailchimp.

  3. says

    Great list post. I am just starting my blog and there seems to be exaclty 1,000,275 things to think about. I appreciate the help prioritizing.

    • says

      I does seem like there are a bazillion little details at first, doesn’t it? Luckily a lot of them only have to be set up once, so after they’re done you don’t have to think about them again.

  4. says

    Great tips!

    Backing up is essential. If you use a plugin like BackupBuddy, make sure it’s COMPATIBLE with your website’s theme (template) and whatever version of WordPress you’re using. I updated one of my websites to WordPress 3.4 and it was a disaster. I spent this past weekend trying to figure out what went wrong. I didn’t have any issue updating my other websites. Anyway…I do believe it had to do with the ‘theme’ I was using. My “gut instinct” told me to switch my theme to one of the WordPress themes, but I didn’t listen myself. I had to manually upgrade to WordPress 3.4. I ended up purchasing a theme from StudioPress, but I still receive an error message about the plugins. I’m waiting to hear back from the folks in the forum. :)

    I’m temporarily using WordPress’s Twenty Eleven theme so I’m able to login — I don’t receive an error message about my plugins.

  5. says

    Can anyone recommend a WordPress-for-dummies type tutorial? I would like to install but an not sure what components I need to have in place. I purchased my address through GoDaddy, but I get confused with vocabulary, ie what does hosting mean? If my web addy is reg’d with GoDaddy, and I use that address for my WP site (www.tinkerly.com as opposed to http://www.wordpress.tinkerly.com), is that hosted by WP? Do I need to purchase hosting through GoDaddy if I want to install WP on my computer? If I have WP installed on my computer, is that self-hosted?

    I have been trying to figure this out for months, but get so overwhelmed because I don’t know what means what! Any suggestions are appreciated (but please, not the super-amazing WP.org 5-min install… 😉

  6. says

    Thanks! The researcher/reporter in my wants to know “why” my personal development website will only work with a WordPress theme. It doesn’t make sense. ;/

  7. says

    This list could easily be the framework for a best practices guide for a rockin’ WordPress installation for newbies and veterans alike.

    I would add another item to the list which is a solid website hoster. Sure, there are tons of $1.95/month hosting deals out there, but what about their customer service? Can they guarantee at least a 99% uptime? Can you backup your website through the hoster’s control panel in addition to going through WordPress (Marlene – I feel your pain)? Saving a tiny amount of money on the front end can cost you a whole bunch of money and pain in the long run.

    • says

      You’re right: a solid web host helps you sleep better at night. When you think about it, a web-based business is pretty inexpensive to run: you don’t have to own a storefront or invest in expensive machinery (one computer will do). Paying a little extra for a good web host is a smart investment.

  8. says

    Pamela,

    Great Post!
    An email list is the greatest asset a blogger could have. So in my opinion, #2 is really #1.

    No Google update or buyout will ever affect you email list and relationship with your subscribers. It’s also the most responsive and reliable traffic source.

  9. says

    And if you’re building an email list remember to create a privacy policy page that spells out what you’ll do with the email addresses.

    Also remember to promote your blog. Find other blogs with readers that will be interested in your content, leave thoughtful comments, an interact with other bloggers.

  10. says

    Fantastic Post Pamela!

    In a world of information overload, it helps a great to have a comprehensive (and prioritised), easy to implement list.

    Without a list such as this, one can spend long, frustrating hours trying to figure out where to start with their WordPress site.

  11. says

    I remember when I just got my website up (still working on it). I was paralyzed by two things:

    1) To go with my own name or a creative name

    and

    2) Page or Blog on front page.

    My first decision to use my own name came down to me branding myself, as I’m a UI designer and app developer. I have no plans on expanding it into a studio or anything, so I’m fine with that. I chose a page for my frontpage, because my blog is a portion of my website and ultimately I’m selling a service. So that should be the focal point on the front page.

  12. Doaa says

    It’s all great thanks so much, I’m about to take blogging into serious
    Level for non profit instead of just hobby, and that helps so much

    • says

      Oh, I find that hard to believe. You must not have looked hard enough. This is the internet. There’s lots of better sucking up out there.

  13. says

    Great plugins! Some others I’d recommend:

    – Google XML Sitemaps (builds sitemaps for your blog that help Google and other search engines)
    – Thank Me Later (a “thank commenters” plugin that sends them an email automatically after a time period you can customize.
    – Platinum SEO Pack or All in One SEO
    – What Would Seth Godin Do (WWSGD) a Plugin that reminds new visitors to subscribe to your RSS feed. Returning visitors get a Welcome Back message and are also encouraged to subscribe if they haven’t already.

    Hope this helps :)

  14. says

    Oh! And I almost forgot to add… Permalinks! Setting these to be more search engine friendly is usually the first step I take with any WordPress site. You can click the Custom button and set them to either %category%/%postname% or just %postname% to include valuable keywords in your URL.

  15. says

    That Backup for Dropbox plugin is mint! Thanks for the heads up Pamela. It sure beats the DB backup plugin I’ve been using so far, which is cool (it automatically emails the backup weekly) but not as streamlined as this one.

    An addition that folks might want to look into for the tracking is a plugin called Ultimate Analytics. It automatically puts your Google Analytics code on your blog’s pages, and all you have to do is put in your account number. Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

  16. says

    Thanks for a great article. I have just started using backup buddy and can highly recommend it – schedule your back-ups and have peace of mind. I am going to check out a couple of the others your have mentioned.

  17. says

    I just wanted to express my appreciation for yet another valuable post.
    I grabbed some great plugins that will undoubtedly make life a little easier for me – I can already tell editorial calendar is going to be a game changer.

    Thanks Pamela and others!

  18. says

    I host a local Meetup group The Piedmont Bloggers (meetup.com/piedmontBloggers) in Northern VA and we have several people struggling to get started. I’ll be sending this article out to the group because it summarizes nicely some of the things we cover each month for new bloggers.
    Thanks,
    Jamie

  19. says

    Thanks so much for the awesome tips I am definitely going to incorporate all those plugins you mentioned! I was just looking for a good backup plugin too.

  20. says

    This is a really good list. Unfortunately for a lot of us, when starting our first site, we start out without any knowledge of how to get things done, and it can be a really daunting and overwhelming task to try and figure everything out on our own. This post does a pretty good job at covering the basics. Nicely done! I only wish I’d had a checklist like this to go over when I was first starting out. I will definitely recommend this site and this post to anyone seeking info on starting their own blog or website.

  21. says

    Pamela, thanks for the post. I agree using Google analytics is a great way to track your progress and visitors but Google Webmaster tools is often forgotten but it is very helpful as well. You can link up the webmaster tools to your analytics account to help you see the specific search phrases that are generating traffic to your site and your websites average ranking position for those search phrases.

    • says

      That’s a great addition, Alice. It’s always hard to know what to leave out in posts like this! I didn’t want it to overwhelm people with too many tasks.

      Hmm … maybe that’s the intermediate level advice. It might be time to write another post. :-)

  22. says

    Again, more useful information. Not only for those just setting up a WP blog but as a great check list for setting up additional sites.

  23. says

    Pamela – Thank you for the nifty tools!

    I’ve been using Editorial Calendar for awhile and it is great. I like to set “placeholders” by getting my titles and a few notes and then planning the date of the post. I’m visual, so it’s great to see a calendar.

    I’m going to check out Comment Redirect and Jetpack – sounds super cool (and helpful too).

    Thank you again – Theresa :)

  24. says

    Hi Pamela!

    Thanks for sharing great points and love the jetpack plugin it seems a very nice plugin and I never used it before but after reading this article I am thinking to give a chance to see how it goes.

  25. says

    Pamela, TOTALLY a big fan of #3!

    I’ve seen so many new blogs throw up a sign up section on their website, and lament when they go zero traction on it.

    Creating that thing that will get people to give up their e-mail is often one of the toughest hurdles for new bloggers to get over. The best advice I always give is to look them in the eye and say, “If I went to you as a complete beginner in your niche and asked you out for coffee, what would be the 10 things you absolutely would tell me to hit the ground running?”

    After that, I tell them to answer those questions as a small ebook and use that to kickstart their opt in list.

    So simple, but I’ve seen it build mailing lists quickly time and time again. Once people realize that they are indeed authorities in some small way, they will be happy to do this. People need to be reminded that there will always be newcomers to your space, and they need someone there to welcome them at the gate with some kick ass info from day 1. If you’re that person, your site will always have dedicated readers.

    Right?

    • says

      Agreed, Jeff. And those answers can be delivered in a variety of formats within the constraints of an ebook. It could be a buyer’s guide, checklist, a series of mini posters, a quiz …

      I encourage people to think creatively about how they deliver the information: it doesn’t have to be thousands of words long.

      As a matter of fact, I’m going to run a free webinar on this very topic next month with Kelly Kingman, my eBook Evolution co-creator. If your peeps need ideas, they can sign up here: http://bigbrandsystem.com/brown-bag-webinars

  26. says

    Hi,

    I really liked this post. As a new blogger myself there was a few things on there that I think I should maybe do! So Thanks! I really like the comment redirect plugin – must install that…….

  27. says

    #1 Backup your data.
    #2 Backup your data
    #3 Socialize with fellow bloggers
    #4 Major networks connectivity (Twitter/Facebook/Google+)
    #5 XML sitemaps
    #6 Use Google webmaster tools

    Liked the post. I’ve been blogging for little over a year now and switched to self hosted WordPress 3 months ago. I’ve never regretted that

  28. says

    Perfect post for me right now! I really like the Editorial Calendar plugin.
    Do you have an example handy for #9? I’m not sure how you’d create a thank you page like that without seeming spammy.
    I tweeted the question to @copyblogger, then realized that I should really leave a comment for you!

      • says

        I like the page that Comment Redirect links to as well (http://outspokenmedia.com/thanks-for-commenting/). Taking a look at these pages, they look great. Thanks for the example!

        I think that it must be especially useful for moderating comments. Do you find that having the “I moderate first comments” message lets you avoid some of the downsides of moderated posts, i.e., user frustration with the non-immediate conversation?

        • says

          So far no one has complained when their comment hasn’t appeared immediately, so I think it’s working. I only moderate the first comment, so once they’re approved they can chat freely. :-)

  29. says

    These are perhaps the best tips for a blog. I never realised about redirecting the first time commenter to a welcome page, I have seen it on many sites but wondered how they do it. Now I know.

  30. says

    Great, as usual, Pamela.

    I’ll add: make your site secure.

    I got hacked last Saturday. My password had been changed so I was locked out of the WordPress admin panel. I ended up rebuilding my site because I didn’t trust doing a straight restore from my last backup.

    Anyway, I did some research about what I could do to better protect my site. There’s loads of tips and tricks out there. I came across this fantastic resource which explains what steps to take, why and how: http://www.wpsecuritychecklist.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/WPSC.pdf

  31. says

    Also, I always start with Automatic Updater — and set to automatically update wordpress site and plugins as soon as they are released. WordPress sites are constantly getting attacked and one of the reasons is out of date wp updates. This install it and forget it plugin is one we always start with.


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