10 Steps to Getting Started on WordPress

Ready to talk about WordPress some more?  I promised I would get into some more detail about all this WordPress stuff, not  just the why and how of my move.  So where do you start now that you’re on WP?  What Plug-ins should you get?  What is a Plug-In?  What’s all this stuff on my “write a post” page?  Ah!


Getting Started on WP


It’s all going to be okay.  Take a deep breath.  Let’s take this one step at a time.  These aren’t in any kind of right or wrong order.  These are the basics to get help you take your WordPress training wheels off.  I’m not a WordPress expert by any means.  I’m still learning, a lot.  But this is a good place to start and help you get a grip on your new blog world.


These are the basic steps you can set up and get going while you’re WordPress “test site” is up and running.  This site is seen at the temporary URL your host server will give you when you or your WP guru installs the WordPress frame onto your new site.  Find out more about the very first steps to move to WordPress HERE.  If you’re starting your blog on WordPress, you’ll have your regular site URL from the get go, and that’s cool too.


If at any point in these steps, you would like a visual WordPress dashboard reference  please click over to THIS POST from The Flourishing Abode.

They have screen shots with labels of what everything is.  It’ll help a lot.


Step #1: Settings and Security

I’m not going to guarantee any of these step will 100% secure your site, but with the rash of hacks that happened last month, these are the security steps I took.  I highly suggest reading Blogging with Amy for tips and WordPress updates.  Her article is why I made the changes I did.

  • In your WP dashboard, on the left side menu (where all your admin options are), click on Users.  If you see an “admin” user still listed, delete it.
  • Make sure the “Anyone Can Register” box is not checked.
  • Make sure you’re using a strong password (letters, numbers, upper and lower case, and maybe a symbol too).  You can update your password by clicking on your hyper-linked user name from the Users list.
  • Install a plug-in that will limit the number of incorrect password attempts in a 24 hour period.  I use Limit Login Attempts.  You can decide how many wrong attempts you want to allow.  If you don’t get it right, you’re locked out from even trying for 24 hours.


Okay, now that you’re a little safer, let’s talk basic settings you need to decide on.  The Settings on your WP dashboard is home to your basic blog settings and plug-in specific settings as well.  We’re looking at the basics.

  •  General: Site name and tagline – if you’re not using a custom header, this is what will appear in your theme’s out-of-box font and colors.  You can set your timezone, date format, and what day your blog week starts on.
  • Writing: Settings I never really use, but you can set your default post category (in case you forget to set it while you’re writing).  Uncategorized is the default category.  if make the default “recipes” or something else, you’ll be able to delete “uncategorized” for the list!
  • Reading: THIS ONE’S IMPORTANT!  Decide if you home page will show your latest posts or if it will have a custom home page.
    If using latest posts, decide how many recent blog posts to show on your home page – this is also the number of posts that will appear per page if someone looks at your posts by category (AKA your indexes).  As in, I open Halloween from the category drop on down list on my sidebar – I will see nine thumbnails to Halloween posts and then a link to “older posts” just like 9 posts show on the home page.  You can choose to share full text or a summary in feed too.
  • Discussion: You can send pingbacks to other bloggers.  (see more about pingbacks below) Manage your comment settings, decide if you want comment emails, decide if you want to approve every comment or just approve an author once and then there comments will always show.  You can also manager your avatar and what unregistered commenter’s avatars will look like.

*A pingback is a notification WordPress sends out and receives.   It tells you when another site links to your blog and tells other WordPress bloggers when you link to them.  I LOVE THIS about WP.  I never have to wonder who is linking to me. WP tells me when it happens, like 95% of the time…I think.


Step #2: Jetpack and SEO

One way to track where traffic is coming from and going to on your site is to install the JetPack plug-in.  It will track your visits, post views, traffic sources (with URL links to the referring source), let you break down your traffic into weekly, monthly, yearly, all time periods, and something I think is pretty cool – you can see what your readers are clicking on.  You have sponsor buttons or links to other blogs in your posts, JetPack will tell you what links/linked pictures are getting clicked.


Jetpack also comes with some additional plug-ins and widgets that let you add popular posts to your side bar, share your recent tweets, have the option to use a contact form, and publish your posts automatically to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks.  Some people say Jetpack slows down your site, and others just plain don’t like it.  That’s fine.  I’ve never had a Jetpack issue and it helps me make sure Google Analytics isn’t having an off day, find my traffic sources more easily, and see where people are clicking to from my site.

**UPDATE: I’ve stopped using Jetpack and have switched to Google Analytics only for information about my site traffic. Jetpack is still fine to use when you’re starting out and learning Google Analytics. It’s also a good way to compare traffic between the two to make sure GA is installed correctly.

To help manage my SEO, I use the WordPress SEO plug-in.  I can set focus keywords and get a visual indicator if my post is SEO optimized.  Green is best, yellow is better, orange is okay, and red is poor.  It’s not all about those colors, but it gives you an idea.  And I can set a meta description.  This is a snippet that appears about the post when people Google you.  Just um up a post in 156 characters and make sure Google is showing the info you want to searchers – instead of the first line or two of text from your post.


Step #3: Google Analytics

Go to your Google Analytics account, and set up your site’s account with them.  Click on “admin” at the top of the page.  In the middle column will be your website’s name  and under it an option for “Tracking Info” – click that.  The first option under Tracking Info will be Tracking code, click that.  Copy and past the HTML code in the top box of the code page into you site.  You don’t need a plugin for this!  Hard coding is better, because if you GA plugin ever freaks out, you’ll be SOL.

You can place it in the header or footer, it doesn’t matter.  In your WP dashboard, hover on Genesis, and then click on theme settings.  At the bottom of that page are the Header and Footer Scripts boxes.  Paste your analytics code in either box and save.  BAM!  You have analytics now.

Step #4: Pages

Kayleen said she would set up my pages for me, but I wanted to have them ready to go before the actual move over.  I use pages for a text recipe index, text post archives, my link party list, about page, and more.  Pages are also one of the options to choose when you create your navigation menus, so they’re kind of important.


On the left sidebar of your WP Dashboard, click on Pages.  At the top, click the “Add New” option.  You write you page almost like writing a blog post.  Once you enter the page title, a URL will appear below the title.  This is your chance to adjust the page URL if you want it to say something else.  Once you publish the page (or post for that matter) you don’t want to change the URL.  You can also set a “Parent” page if you like.  I don’t use this option, but it let’s you group like pages together – ie. recipes > dinners.  You can also set your SEO options of the page.


If you’re doing a custom homepage layout, but still want to have a “regular blog feed” section, create a page (call it what you like), and on the right under templates select “blog” and then publish the page.  This will show your posts in order with the post recent post first along with a featured image.

Step #5: Categories

Categories are like labels in Blogger.  They let you have searchable categories to group posts together.  I have a main dishes recipe index for dinners, but I then have sub-categories for beef, chicken, etc. under that heading as well.  I may also have a bacon category.  Cause it’s the right thing to do.  

Categories are another option you can have for your navigation menu and are great to have when linking to yourself in posts.  Let’s say I’m talking about Get Your Chef On.  I can say, “check out all the past GYCO posts HERE,” and link the word HERE to my Get Your Chef On category.  Readers will see this when they click the link:

category view


The default thumbnail size is 150 x 150 pixels.  I changed mine for the home page (and consequently the category pages) to be rectangular.  Whatever view you like is fine.  Categories give you a decidedly visual option for indexing.  This is under Settings > Media.

If you have a custom home page layout you’ll choose how many posts to show on your own.  But for the category pages, whatever number your set in Settings > Reading will be the number your readers see.  This will also be the number of posts they see if you have a blog feed page.


Step #6: Menus and Navigation

 Okay, so pages and categories are what you use to build your navigation menus.  You can find your menus under the Appearance option on your dashboard sidebar.  Here’s how to set things up.

  • Click the plus sign/new menu button at the top of the page.  Name your menu.  I’m calling mine “Primary Nav” so I know this is the menu that I want to put in the primdary nav placement area on my blog.  S-M-R-T huh?  Click the create menu button.

Menu 1

  • On the left side of the screen all your pages and categories will appear.  (I’m switching to shots of the menu I already created and having on my blog now – just so we’re clear.)  There is also a spot to add a custom URL to your menu as well, in case you’re linking to your Etsy shop or something like that.  Choose the view all option, then check the boxes next to any and all pages and categories you want in your menu – click the Add to Menu button.  We’ll organize them in a minute.

Menu 3

  • Now all your pages and categories are in the main menu window.  All you have to do is drag and drop the category/page title bar in the order you want them.  If you want a category/title to be a sub-menu (like how when you hover over “About on my page and drop down menu appears), place the title bar under the main heading and then move the title bar to the right.  The title bar will look indented which means it’s a sub-menu.  Your theme does have to be drop down menu capable to have things set up like (as far as I know).  It’s something you want to consider when choosing your child theme.  When things are how you like them, click the Save Menu button.

Menu 2

  • On the left side of your menu screen, at the bottom are your menu placement options.  Mobile Nav is for, you guessed it, mobile devices – tablets, phones, etc.  Pick your most content directional menu for this one.  You want your site to be searchable in mobile view.  My child theme has a primary and secondary nav menu option.  Primary nav shows above my header and secondary shows below.  I only use the secondary nav placement, I don’t like my menu split up or above my header.  Pick the menu you want in each placement space from the drop down menu.  Click save.

Nav Bars


  • One you tell your blog where you want your menu to appear, check out your home page and see your beautiful menu!  The menu will be in the order you arranged your title bars.  Top title bar appears on the far left and sub-menus show in the same top to bottom order.  Then nav bar links that have sub-menus are noted with a plus sign on my theme – different child themes have different or no icons.  Your nav bar titles are active links.  Make sure you don’t leave those pages blank!  If you click on savory, there is a visual index that I’ve linked to my sub-menu pages.  It can be just that simple.

Drop Down Menu


That’s menus.  Drag and drop, really easy.  You just have to do the work with your categories and pages first.


Step #7: Basic Plug-Ins

Let’s talk plug-ins.  Plug-ins are for Genesis framework, not Thesis.  Thesis has their own thing called hooks, or something like that.  Plug-ins are like widgets on Blogger.  The plug-in is the program/code you download to use that specific widget.  Some plug-ins are for behind the scenes dashboard stuff, others appear on your blog when you all the plug-in to your blog under widgets.  This is weird sounding I know.  Have a visual.

Plug-in Page

This is the Plug-Ins Page.  I can see all the plug-ins I’ve installed.  This list has active (I’m using them and they are fully functional) and deactivated (they’re just hanging out, not being used and not functional) plug-ins.  I can search for new plug-ins from this page too.  There’s no reason to really keep deactivated plug-ins, if you’re not using them why keep them?


Now that we’re on the same page about plug-ins, let’s move on.  Here are the base plug-ins I use.  They’re not for showy stuff, they’re for function.  Showy stuff is next.  All the plug-ins are spelled and spaced exactly as they are listed, don’t change it when you search.


  • Akismet – Comes pre-installed with Genesis.  It filters comment and trackback spam.  Pretty much all my spam was from trackbacks.  Now I have like no spam.  The registration website will ask you about paying, just say you would pay $0 and it’s free.
  • Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin by Andy Bailey – Puts a little check box that says “comfirm you are NOT a spammer” by your comment box.  Just another way to stop spam.
    **UPDATE** I’m no longing using this plug-in as some readers were having difficulty commenting with it on.
  • Hide Trackbacks by Sander van Dragt – I don’t like a big list of all the sites that have linked to a given blog post above the comments on a post – even if they’re not spam.  This plug-in keeps track backs from showing.  LOVE THIS!
  • Gensis Simple Hooks – Lets you insert text or HTML code pretty much anywhere on your site.  in the content, header footer, the list goes on and on.  I used this plug in for my header since it was image mapped and to place my very top banner ad.  Totally LOVE this plugin for so many other things I can use it for as well.
  • Jetpack by WordPress.com – Comes pre-installed.  We talked about this plug-in above.
  • Limit Login Attempts by Johan Eenfeldt – Does just what it says.  This is a security measure we talked about.
  • NoFollow Link by Alex Jose (Spikes) – Have you ever need to make a hyperlink “no follow” – you know like for a sponsored post or something along those lines?  I have having to read through all the HTML code for a post to add the no follow HTML.  With this plug-in, I highlight the link while I’m writing a post, click the nofollow stop sign on my post dashboard (like 100 times because it makes me feel better) and voila!  No follow.
  • Permalink Finder by Keith P. Graham – My WP guru installed this one, so I’m assuming I needed it.  The description says this plug-in will find the right page or post every time, even if you’ve restructured or moved your blog.  Nifty.  **UPDATE** I recently used this plugin to help a friend who’s site was not connecting any of her blog posts before the move.  This plugin totally fixed the issue.
  • Redirection by John Godley – Another plug-in installed by my WP guru.  The description says it manages all your 301 redirects and monitors 404 errors.
  • WordPress SEO by Namith Jawahar – let’s you enter SEO info for your posts and pages.  This is the one I talked about above.


If you noticed, I didn’t list a social media plug-in.  I made my own social media buttons and image mapped them.  There are plugins that will give you social media buttons.  You can just search.  If you want to make your own social media buttons, check out Ashton’s how to post.


Step #8: Extras Plug-Ins

Let’s have a little fun now.  These are extra plug-ins that give your WP site a little something special.  I’m not actively using all of these plug-ins, but I do have them installed for when I get around to figuring out my footer widget area.

  • Instagram Feed by Smash Balloon – This plugin is amazing! You can install it in various sizes around my site (if you want to). It shows your Instagram header area, IG profile pic, and readers can choose to load more of your feed directly on your site.
  • Captain Favicon or All-in-One Favicon – let’s you add your custom favicon to your blog, without having to go into your cPanel and install the image to your site’s files.  Love the ease of use.
  • CommentLuv by Andy Bailey – Let’s your commenters leave a link back to their last blog post.  It helps spread the love since other readers might click over to check out their post too.
  • Easy Recipe Plus by EasyRecipe – I had the regular Easy Recipe plugin before.  I liked it fine, but I like to have links back to the source of my recipe built into the recipe itself.  SO I paid the $25, one time charge, and got the plus version.  I like it.  And readers can rate a recipe which is cool.  Be sure to save your access code thing.  That way if you ever install the plug-in to a secodn site or something happens, you don’t have to repurchase it.
  • Related Posts by Zemanta – Ads links to other related posts at the bottom of each blog post.  It does a really good job of matching content types, and you have the option to monetize it you’d like.
  • Simple Share Buttons Plus by Simple Share Buttons – I like that these buttons come with a few different options from color to black and white, and you have to option to float them to the left or bottom of your site. These share buttons will also give you the option to display individual social network counters or a total share count number. Bonus – it comes with the YUM button for food bloggers.
  • Swiftype Search – This plugin works in conjunction with the default WP search bar your site has.  Once you install the plugin and follow the developers steps to step up your post archive, whenever someone types into your search bar – the keyword will generate a drop down list of actual post titles with that word is in.  (Ex.  Search popcorn > drop down shows Maple Bacon Popcorn, White Chocolate Pumpkin Popcorn, etc.)  The search still works normally if readers click search.  LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS ONE!
  • Widget Logic – Lets you suppress sidebar content/ads on your any where you use widgets to display that content.  Great for disabling sidebar ads if needed.
  • WordPress Protection Lite by eDaran.com – I do not have this plugin active, but I have it in case.  This plugin allows you to disable right-clicking, text selection, and keyboard copy, cut, and paste options so no one can jack your content.  My friend Paula has used it, and it worked great.
  • Category Thumbnail List by Jonk – This plugin creates a gallery style index on your site.  You set up a page for each category you want to display this way. You pop in this code [categorythumbnaillist #]  on the page and publish.  Switch out the # for the category ID number.  You can find this by hover over the category name (under Posts > Categories), and looking at the URL in the bottom left of your browser screen – there will be a cat id #.  Follow the plugin instructions for resizing the space allotted for the image/title, and that’s it.  Fair warning though, if your post doesn’t have a featured image set it won’t show on the list.


Step #9: Layout, Sidebars, and Widgets

 This is the Widgets page, it’s like the Layout page in Blogger.  


Widgets page




You can drag and drop widgets (from your Genesis framework or from plug-ins) where you want them on your blog.  Some widgets need extra info, and they’ll tell you – there will either be a small paragraph says to configure the plug-in settings or a drop down box that you fill out.  Plug-in settings can appear under Genesis, Settings, or have their own listing on your dashboard sidebar.  You can easily move around widgets how you like.


I only use the Primary Sidebar area.  I have yet to make friends with the Genesis slider plug-in (you can see what it looks like when it works on Ashton’s blog).  But here’s kind of the big deal with adding widgets to different areas of your blog.  They take over.  This is something I’m still learning about.  Let’s break it down by area.

  • Header Right – If you upload your own header, using the Appearance option in your dashboard not with image map like I did, this puts a box in your header area.  You can put your social media buttons there, or your email subscription box, whatever you want.
  • Primary Sidebar – Just what it says.  If you are using a layout with only 1 sidebar, you want to place your widgets in this area.
  • Secondary Sidebar – If you use a layout with 2 sidebars, this will be one of them.
  • Home Top , Home Left, Home Right, Home Bottom – Just where they say they are.  This let’s you format your home page differently and sort of have featured areas.



  • Footer 1, 2, 3, and 4 – I’m still trying to figure these out.  They don’t all really work for me, I don’t know what the deal is.


So let’s say you put your Genesis Slider in Home Top.  This will wipe out all your blog posts on your home page.  You would need to insert another widget to list your posts in Home Bottom (or where ever you like).  I don’t mess with this stuff.  I have my posts listed on my home page and that’s good enough for now.  When I pay to have someone overhaul and redesign my blog, I’ll change things then.


Step #10: Writing a Post

 I get that you probably know how to write a blog post.  But I wanted to show you the little do-dads around your post dashboard so you don’t run screaming for the hills.


First, you have one font, whatever comes with your child theme.  You can change the size using the drop down box to choose header sizes, which may affect the color.  Otherwise you’ll have to tweak the HTML code – as far as I know.  Let’s get visual now.





You set categories right from your posting page.  If you need a need a new category, click the blue “Add New Category” link and add it.  You want to make sure you set your featured image for the post.  This will be the picture that shows to Facebook if you have JetPack to auto publish for you, and this will also be the picture used for your home page post thumbnail.  Make it a good picture.  :)


Clicking the little guy with the chef’s hat will bring up the Easy Recipe formatting box.  It looks like this…


Easy Recipe



Fill out the form, click save, and Easy Recipe does the rest.  Love it!  The NoFollow stop sign is right next to the Easy Recipe button.  Simply highlight the link in your post, click the stop sign and you’re good.  There’s no visual indication it’s done, but if you switch to TEXT editing (at the top right corner of your writing box) you’ll see the no follow code around the link.


The rest are the basics.  Scheduling your post time, adjusting your URL if needed, adding an SEO keyword.  One of the nice things about the post screen is that you can drag and drop the modules around.  So if you always forget the set your featured image because it’s too low on the screen, pick up the box and move it right under your publish button.  You can rearrange your tools to fit your needs.  Groovy, huh?


I think that just about covers what you need to get going on WordPress.  It’s a lot to think about, but these were some of the big questions I had going in and I felt like such a n00b.  I Googled most of this information to learn it.  Other lessons were trial and error.  I hope this gives you a nudge in the right direction.  Next time we’ll be talking about {really} basic WP design tweaks.  Happy Blogging!!


  1. says

    Great tips, Julie! These will definitely help bloggers pondering the move.
    I’m still trying to figure out some things with my theme. I really haven’t put much time into it but there are a few features that I think I would eventually like to try out.

    I like the features of your theme. When/if you try them out, I will be interested to find out what you think of them!

  2. says

    WOW…that is a lot of information! I have been searching for that Confirm you are NOT a spammer button for months. So far, it will not download, but I will keep trying. Thank you so much for all of this information Julie

  3. says

    Hello! You gave me this link via G+ and I am sooooo thankful! I did the index page today and it was hard work but it works now! I just have to figure out how to make my images into thumbnail size so they are not ginormous on the page! Thank you again!

  4. says

    Ok. Thank you so much for linking this up to the party! I am switching to wordpress in a few weeks and I am having MAJOR anxiety attacks over it!! It scares me! I have bookmarked this page and I can’t wait to read all of your great tips!

    • Julie says

      You’ll love it! Let me know if you have questions. I’ll do my best to help, and I have lots of friends to ask if needed too. :)

  5. says

    Your tips and visuals are great. I’ve been self-navigating the WP world and there’s quite a learning curve. Basically, one needs to learn how to not just survive but THRIVE in the WordPress Jungle. I appreciate your support.

  6. says

    Hi Julie!
    This post is fabulous! I have been using wordpress for 2.5 years and I learned some great info- so it is not just for beginners! Great job detailing this helpful info! Happy to pin to my “Top Blogging Advice” Pinterest Board!

  7. says

    If i wasn’t overwhelmed before I am now. I mean that in a very good way. I’m thinking about switching from blogger to wordpress and I find it so overwhelming. Just today I wanted to check it out and attempted to download to my computer but I had to unzip something and it didn’t work. I’m still confused is the software downloaded on our personal computer or do you access it through the hosts site?

    • says

      I’ve not done the transition of blog files from Blogger to WordPress myself. I used Kaylee from Booyah Creative for my move. I would definitely recommend contacting her with any questions you have about your move. :)

  8. says

    Thanks for the article. I found it on Pinterest, and it has been helpful as I’ve been trying to take my blog to the next level. I’ve just moved to a self-hosted WordPress, and there are so many things to set up! I’m still getting used to the controls, but I love having so many options. Thanks for helping me navigate them. :)

  9. says

    Hi! I love this resource, I hope you don’t mind but I am adding it into a post of mine [giving you credit]. If that is an issue you can totally let me know and I will take it down, but I loved this and I figured it would be helpful to others as well. Thank you for sharing!

    Love and Blessings,

  10. says

    Thank you for these tips! I had been messing around with my site on and off for a few months, never getting it “just right” until I found your tips and it made it so much easier. So glad I found on Pinterest!

  11. says

    This is a great read! Very helpful with so much information. It actually answered some questions I had about several WP features, and I wish that I had seen this post before I started blogging about a year ago. For example, I’ve now unchecked the ‘anyone can register’ box thanks to this post! I couldn’t help but pin this post to one of my Pinterest boards because it is simply so helpful! Thanks again! :)

  12. says

    Thanks so much for your article. It helped me alot. However, I am still a little confused and can’t seem to get any for sure answers. Do I need a host to have a WP website? I want to brand my blog, business, and eventually a ranch. Would I sign up for a blog or website? Thanks so much for your help!

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