When you first install WordPress, the default settings make it easy to create content. Many of these settings don’t need to change before you launch your site, but changing a few will improve your SEO and encourage reader interaction. Thus, they deserve your attention.
Here are my recommendations for the site settings you should review before promoting your site and the blog posts you publish.
Blog Post Permalinks
A permalink is a full URL for any given post, page, or piece of content on your site, and each one is unique. Depending on the theme you’re using, the default WordPress setting will use a blog post ID number or the post name and a date.
Day and name http://www.yourwebsite.com/2020/12/31/post-name/
Historically, blogs were used as online journals, and the date was an integral part of the post name, but this is no longer the case. If you’re publishing content with long-term prospects or that you plan on updating periodically, you don’t want to anchor it down to a specific date with your URL.
The other naming convention is a post ID number. When these are displayed on social media or on a website that links to you, they don’t inspire a reader to click on them. Just as importantly, these post ID URLs have no SEO value. A descriptive URL gives your reader a brief understanding of the post before they click it and includes keywords.
The simplest and most reader-friendly permalink stems from the blog post name.
WordPress pulls the post title into your URL by default when you set your permalink to the Post Name option. You should edit your URL to shorten it and take out any filler words but leave in the keywords.
You can change this URL as much as you want before you publish your post. But once you’ve published and shared your content across social media sites, changing a permalink creates problems. When someone clicks on the link, they will likely get a 404 error. This error indicates that the server was not able to retrieve the requested page.
Therefore, you should only change a permalink if you’re using a 301 Redirects plugin. This plugin fixes broken links by redirecting from an old URL to a new one.
Path: Appearance>Customize>Theme Option>Site Identity
Your WordPress site will have a default site title of Welcome and a tagline of Just another WordPress site. If you’re not using a site header image with your branding, you may choose to display the site title and tagline.
On my site set-up, I uncheck the site identity option because it’s a duplicate of my site header. But if you want to display this information, make sure to go in and edit the title and tagline before you publish your site.
The use of site identity is a personal choice but essential if your theme doesn’t allow a site header image.
While we’re on the topic of branding, in the same Site Identity section, you have an option of adding a site icon, which is used in browser tabs. So while you’re there, you can add an icon to brand your site.
The first indication that you’re publishing discoverable content is the arrival of your first spam comment. At the beginning of our blogging journey, these aren’t too annoying to manage manually. Eventually, though, your blog will start attracting more spam comments than you can handle.
You don’t want spam comments to appear on your site. If web crawlers index your site and find a high level of spam comments, your blog can be dropped from search rankings.
The good news is that there are free spam blocker plugins to monitor your comments and make suggestions on whether a comment is, indeed, spam or not. A variety of spam blockers can be found, but two popular ones are Akismet and Stop Spammers. I use the Akismet plugin.
Sign up for a free Akismet account. You will receive an API key via email to activate your account. Then, when you load the plugin onto your site, use that API key.
Neither of these spam blockers is foolproof. They mark some comments as spam that obviously aren’t and let some spam comments through that are. It’s an automated process, so this is understandable.
What that means for you is that you still need to exercise some oversight. This can be done with a quick manual review of the plugin’s suggestions and correction of any incorrect classifications.
Path: Settings>Discussion>Other Comments Settings
The whole intent of having a blog is to encourage comments and feedback, so the last thing you want to do is block a reader’s ability to leave a comment. Yet, when you set up your blog, the default setting stops comments on posts after 30 days.
Uncheck this option—Automatically close comments on posts older than __ days, which closes comments on older posts. And don’t forget to review this setting any time you upgrade your WordPress software. It often reverts to the original setting.
Path: Appearance>Customize>Theme Option>Social Links
Before you publish your site, you should tour it as if you are a site visitor and test all the clickable links and icons. One of the most common problems I see on newly launched websites is that the social links are visible, but the URL hasn’t been set. Therefore, the links don’t lead anywhere.
It’s not advisable to be on every social network because you won’t be able to maintain a consistent presence on them all. So it’s best to pick a few social networks you enjoy using and just add those links.
The four major networks are Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, but you can add links to any other listed sites where you maintain a presence. These social links will take your site visitor to your social profiles. You will still need to install a social sharing plugin to allow your readers to share your content on their social networks.
You also can add a link to your RSS feed, so subscribers get notified each time you publish a new post. Or add a link to your email, which makes it easy for site visitors to contact you.
You can change many more site settings, but don’t let these decisions overwhelm you and get in your way of publishing content. The majority of these settings are a personal choice, and you can adjust them later. The ones mentioned in this post, however, are ones that will have the most significant impact on your bogging success. Be sure to address them before your site goes live or you publish your first post.
Are there any site settings that have caused you confusion or problems? Share them in the comments below, and we’ll provide feedback with our recommendations.
About the Author
Jay Artale abandoned her corporate career to become a digital nomad and full-time writer. She’s an avid blogger and a nonfiction author helping travel writers and travel bloggers achieve their self-publishing goals. Join her at Birds of a Feather Press where she shares tips, advice, and inspiration to writers with an independent spirit.
Photo courtesy of OpenClipart-Vectors