The Essential WordPress Settings

When you first get a new WordPress site, the very first thing you should do is run through the main Settings screens and ensure you’ve got the basics set up right from the start.

Log in

The WordPress admin section is where we manage our WordPress sites. To log in, just add /wp-admin to the end of your site’s URL.

For example, Shoestring Hustle’s URL is https://shoestringhustle.com, so the admin is at https://shoestringhustle.com/wp-admin. Usually with a brand new WordPress site, there will be a link on front end pages for you to log in to the admin section.

If you go to the main admin URL and you aren’t logged in, you will be redirected to the log in screen. After logging in, by default you won’t need to log in again for 48 hours, unless you check the Remember Me checkbox which keeps you logged in for two weeks.

When you first log in to your WordPress site, you should work your way through some key screens in the Settings menu to ensure the basics are set up.

I’m not going to cover everything in depth, just highlight some important aspects.

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General Settings

Your first stop should be the General screen.

In here, ensure the Site Title is set correctly. In most cases this should be your business name.

Below that fill in the Tagline with a short description of your business or site. Some themes display the Tagline on the site, but it’s important to fill this in as with most themes it forms part of the title tag in the HTML code of the pages. This is visible to search engines and may be a factor in how the pages are ranked.

I’d also set the Timezone control to match your locale. You can also change the way the date is displayed, but I would leave this set to the default as some of the other options are ambiguous depending on where visitors are from. For example, 01/12/2020 is read as January 12 in the USA, but December 1 in the UK.

If you make any changes, click the Save Changes button.

Reading Settings

On this screen you can specify the page that should appear as the homepage of your site. By default, this an archive page that displays the latest blog posts.

When you add a homepage, on this screen set the Your homepage displays control to Static page and then select the homepage from the Homepage dropdown control.

You can also create a blog page and then select that from the Posts page dropdown. This page will then act as an archive page displaying the sites blog posts. Note you don’t need to specify a Posts page if you don’t want to include a blog on your site.

Discussion Settings

Now click the Discussion submenu link.

Uncheck the Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the post and Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts checkboxes.

The first one of those sets whether your site should automatically post a comment on any pages that you link to in your blog posts. That comment will only appear on the linked pages if the sites in question allow pingbacks. Many site owners turn off pingbacks (that is the second checkbox that I’ve advised you to turn off) because they are used to deliver comment spam. That’s why I advise you to turn the feature off on your site.

The idea behind pingbacks is great, but I believe that you’ll make much valuable connections if you manually reach out to site owners you link to to let them know.

The third checkbox, Allow people to submit comments on new posts sets whether a comments form will be displayed on your blog posts. That’s really a personal choice whether you allow comments. Either way, be aware that any change you make to this setting will not affect existing posts. That’s why it makes sense to make a decision on this before you start to save having to go back through old posts changing the setting on each one.

Most of the rest of this page is self-explanatory and I’d leave the settings as they are, but you can find some more detail at https://wordpress.org/support/article/settings-discussion-screen/.

Remember to click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the page.

Permalink Settings

Permalinks are the URLs of individual pages, the address that someone types into the browser to view a page.

WordPress still defaults to using permalinks that use numerical ids to recognize pages. This isn’t very user friendly and also can hurt SEO as the permalink can be one of many indicators to search engines of what the page is about.

If your site is going to be very content heavy, particularly if you’re likely to be writing posts that cover similar content or have the same title, such as a weekly roundup, I suggest selecting either the Day and name or Month and name options. Otherwise Post name is probably the best choice.