How To Start A Successful Blog : Step #2 – Build Your Website : 3. WordPress Customization

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    WordPress Customization

    Login to WordPress by going to (obviously replacing “” with your actual site URL). Now that you’re logged in you’re looking at your WordPress admin control panel. From here you can change just about everything about your new site! You can change the overall look and structure with free themes (there are also paid “premium” themes available). You can change the structure within a specific theme with widgets.

    You can change the color of some themes in the theme settings. You can change the color of ALL themes within the stylesheet file (this is a little more technical than we will be getting into though). You can publish, modify and delete content (blog posts, images, videos, links etc.). You can modify your password and the name that displays as the author on all of your posts. You can add plugins that will do just about anything you can think of. You can change absolutely everything with your new site within this control panel.

    The order in which you customize your new site really doesn’t matter for the most part. But the following process will do the trick:

    1. Set Permalinks

    This affects  how the URL structure ( is set. So, for example, the following URL’s represent two different permalink structures:

    Both URL’s point to the same page, but the URL that is displayed in the website visitor’s browser address bar is different. The only significant reason to choose any one particular structure over another (aside from any personal preference you might have) is that search engines look at the permalink structure and it does play a part in search algorithms that determine where a particular page will rank in the search engine result pages (SERPS).

    To set the permalink structure, within the WordPress admin panel, go to “settings” then “permalinks.” I recommend any structure that does NOT include the post name. Any blog I own now with it setup that way, is like that either because I’m not trying to get it ranked in Google or I just haven’t changed it to a better structure yet. A good custom structure that helps in avoiding an “over-optimization” penalty from Google is a custom structure using this string: /%category%/%post_id%/

    To set your own permalink structure in this way, just select the “Custom Structure” option and then paste the following into that field:


    Once you’ve set your permalink structure, click “Save Changes” and that step is done.

    2. Install a Theme

    The theme you select can literally change the type of site you have. For instance, there are standard blogging themes if you want a blog. There are product review themes if you want to have a product review affiliate site. There are small business themes if you have a small business. The list goes on and on. For our purposes we’ll be installing a basic blog theme. To do this, click “Appearance” in the sidebar within your WordPress admin panel and then click “Themes.” Click “Add New” and you will see several free themes that you can choose from. You can also search for more themes. See the “Search themes…” bar? In WordPress 4.0 they don’t make it real clear. They want you to choose one of the themes that they have featured. But you don’t have to. You can stick a keyword win that “Search themes” field and you’ll be presented with hundreds more!

    Or you can click “Feature filter” to filter by color, layout, features and subject. None of this is incredibility important, so just select what you want and choose a template that you like. Once you find one you like click “Install” and then “Activate.” Once you do that, your new theme is live! However, if the theme does not look as it did in the preview, that’s probably because there are widgets and other settings that need modified, so don’t worry… we’ll get to that.

    3. Modifying Widgets

    Just about every modern WordPress theme is “widgetized.” Each important section (or, rather, each section the theme developer chose) can be changed with widgets. So, for example, just about all widgetized themes have a widgetized sidebar. That means that you can drag one or more “widgets” into your sidebar (from within the “appearance/widgets” menu) and whatever that widget displays, will be displayed in your sidebar.

    You can also change the display order of things in your sidebar by moving widgets up and down on the widget menu page. So if you want a search bar at the top of your right sidebar, the category list below that and recent posts below that, you would simply go to “Appearance” then “Widgets” and pull the “Search” widget into the “right sidebar” area (at the top), then you would pull the “Categories” widget over, directly below the “Search” widget, then you would drop the “Recent Posts” widget below that. Once you do that, those three things will display in that order on the site.

    Once you’ve dropped a widget where you want it, you can click on that widget to see any options that are associated with it (if there are any).

    WordPress Customization

    You can do this for any area that is widgetized in the theme that you selected. You will see what areas are widgetized on the Widgets page. For example, the theme used on the site in the screenshot below has twowidgetized sidebars and a widgetized footer area.

    WordPress Customization

    Each theme will have different areas that you can use widgets in and each theme will have slightly different names for those areas. Some themes will provide new widgets that can be used for that theme and some plugins also add new widgets to the “Available Widgets” area.

    For the sidebar widget (which your theme SHOULD have) I like to have the following widgets (in this order):

    – Search
    – Facebook Like Box (Is is added once you install the Jetpack plugin which is mentioned below)
    – Categories
    – Text (with a text widget you can add any code you want. I use a text widget here to add a affiliate banner or any other kind of ad for monetization)
    – Recent Posts
    – Text (with this text widget I like to add a relevant, useful YouTube video. You will need to adjust the height and width in the code that you get from Youtube so that it fits correctly in the sidebar.

    You do not HAVE to use these specific widgets, nor do they HAVE to be in this order, but if you’re not sure, then this is a good suggestion.

    As for any other widgets your theme may have, you will just need to decide on your own or if you’re not sure, create a thread here at the forum asking for advice on your particular theme, since they are all different.

    4. Adding Plugins

    Plugins are third-party “tweaks” that any coder can create and then offer (either free or paid) to anyone who uses WordPress. Plugins can do anything in WordPress. There are plugins that create popups to build an email list. There are plugins that change the way WordPress comments work. There are plugins that increase security of your site so it’s harder for people to hack into it. There are plugins to increase the performance and load time of your site. There are plugins to translate your site into different languages. There are plugins that can do just about anything you can think of with your WordPress site!

    To add/manage plugins, just be sure you’re logged into your WordPress admin panel, then click “Plugins” from the sidebar  menu. Here you will see a list of plugins already installed. WordPress, by default, adds a plugin called “Hello Dolly” which is completely worthless and can be deleted (or it can stay… it doesn’t matter). They also add a plugin called “Akismet,” which is a comment spam prevention plugin. I recommend you activate and use this.

    There are MANY plugins that may be useful to you. But there are a few that I highly recommend. This is not an extensive list. These are just a few plugins that I install on just about all of my WordPress sites.

    To install a plugin, you have two options. You can either get the plugin from a third-party source, like the plugin developer’s website, and manually install it. Or you can install it directly from WordPress.

    Manual Plugin Installation: If you’ve found a plugin from a third-party site and you want to install it on your blog, just go to the plugins page within WordPress admin and click “Add New” then click “Upload Plugin.” Now click the “Choose file” button and locate the plugin file that you downloaded form the third-party provider. Once you’ve done that, click “Install Now.” Now click “activate.” The plugin should now be installed and activated. From here, you will just want to go into the settings of the plugin if there are any that need to be adjusted.

    Plugin Installation from within WordPress: You can also search for plugins and install them directly from within your site’s WordPress admin panel. To do so, just go to the plugins page and then click “Add New.” Now, just as with the themes page (finding themes) you’ll see a page with featured plugins, popular plugins and favorite plugins. To the right of those options you will find a search bar. The search bar is not real easy to see due to the color scheme that WordPress uses, but it’s there. You can use that to search for plugins that do a specific function. For example, you may want to installed a Google Analytics plugin, so you search for “Analytics.” Or, if you know the name of the plugin that you want to install, you can just search for that particular plugin. Once you’ve found a plugin that you want to use, click “Install Now.” Now click “activate.” The plugin should now be installed and activated. From here, you will just want to go into the settings of the plugin if there are any that need to be adjusted.

    The location of the settings of any particular plugin varies depending on where the plugin developer chose to put them. Some plugins create a completely new main link in the WordPress admin sidebar menu. Others add the plugin options under “Settings” in the sidebar menu. Others don’t even have any settings. Many plugins also add new widgets to the “available widgets” area on the widgets page. So be sure to look there if you are expecting a widget from the plugin. If you’re not sure where the plugin settings are (if there are any) after looking in those places, you will need to refer to the plugin documentation (if provided) or contact the plugin vendor for help.

    The following plugins are plugins that we install on just about all of our WordPress sites. I recommend you install them as well. Again, this is not an exhaustive list and there are MANY more very useful plugins out there that you may want to install as well. To install these plugins, just do a search for them just as I described above.

    Jetpack by – This is an excellent “multi-tool” plugin that was developed by the actual WordPress developers. It does a bunch of different things, but I specifically use the contact form, facebook like box widget and Stats.

    Facebook Comments by Fat Panda – This adds a comment form below every post where readers can comment via Facebook. This is beneficial because most people these days who are online, are logged into Facebook and when they comment on your blog post, a link to your blog post along with their comment is added to their Facebook wall, giving your blog post more exposure to their friends!

    Limit Login Attempts – WordPress sites are known to get hacked. There are alot of hackers out there that target WordPress sites. They have software that will run millions of username and PW combinations through your login page. With this plugin installed and activated, it makes it virtually impossible for them to get into your blog.

    W3 Total Cache – This speeds up the loading time of your site, which is great for the user and for Google!

    Related Posts via Taxonomies This, again, is good for both the user and Google. It is good for the user because they see a list of related posts after they’ve read any particular post, which often causes them to view more of your content than they would have if those links did not exist. It is good for Google because it helps distribute the authority your site has throughout the entire site… it improves the internal linking structure (that’s a good thing).

    Read More, Copy Link – This adds the text of your choice (along with a link to your site) below all content that is copied and pasted anywhere. This can add a link to your site (good for SEO purposes and for general attribution) and a copyright statement to the page where your content is being illegally published to.

    5. Adding Legitimacy Pages

    Just about any legitimate website you visit is going to have some standard pages. Pages like contact, about and legal/privacy are standard on any legitimate website. So it only makes sense that your site should have them too. Not only because visitors will expect to see that, but also because Google will expect to see that and whether you’re focusing on traffic from Google or not, it’s good to at least set your site up to have a chance to rank and get that free traffic.

    Click “Pages” in the left sidebar of your WordPress admin panel. Here you will see all of your published pages. Delete the default page that WordPress adds and add a “Contact” page, a “About” page and a “Legal” page (and you can add more if you have others in mind. The content of the contact and about pages are self explanatory. For the contact page, if you’ve installed and activated the Jetpack plugin mentioned above, you an add a simple contact form. All info submitted through that form will be sent to your email address. To add a contact form to your contact page, just click the “Add Contact Form” button that appears above the content area on your contact page.

    For the about page just add some info about the purpose of your site etc. For the legal page it’s best to have an attorney add this info, but obviously not everyone is in the position to have an attorney draft the legal page for all of their sites (I don’t do that either). We use a paid plugin for ours called “WP Legal Pages”, but we cannot guarantee that it will be perfect for your site. The only way to know for SURE is to have an attorney check out your site and your policy.

    Once you’ve created and published these pages they should be linked to in a menu on your site. Most themes have a menu built in that displays these pages on every page/post of the site.




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