It’s time to select a theme and install some plugins! This is the part where you take your blank-slate WordPress install and add the colors, fonts, and logo you created to start building your website. We love this part of the creation process. Picking a theme and installing plugins gets you much closer to your polished blog destination.
Install a Theme
You shouldn’t hire a designer to make you a fancy blog right away but you should spring for a premium theme. Spending around $100 on a theme will make your blog look — and feel — more professional.
Once you select and purchase a theme, download it and log in to your WordPress dashboard. At no point in this process should you unzip the theme file! Leave it zipped up tight. Click on Appearance, then Themes. Follow the steps to upload your new theme. For Genesis themes, upload both the Genesis Framework zip file and the Genesis theme you selected.
Install Your First Plugins
Plugins expand the capabilities of your website. Plugins are another place where you could easily spend an afternoon finding the things you think you need. But the more plugins you have, the slower your site will be.
We recommend the following plugins to start:
Spam filter for comments.
Convert Plug (link)
Easy to use (and endlessly integratable) popup form.
Enable “protect” and “site stats” so you can protect your site and see your views at-a-glance. Take care not to enable everything Jetpack offers because it’ll slow down your site speed by a lot.
Limit Login Attempts (Link)
This locks out anyone — including you — who tries to login three times. (Make sure you have a backup login in case you lock yourself out!).
Ninja Forms (Link)
Allows people to easily contact you anywhere on your site.
Pretty Link Lite (Link)
Masks your affiliate links so they look like regular links from your site, while gaining the ability to track clicks.
Simple Social Icons (Link)
Puts social icons in your sidebar.
Social Warfare (Link)
Helps increase shares by asking you to add a different image for Facebook/Twitter and Pinterest.
Yoast SEO (Link)
Helps get your posts found by Google — after writing a post, select your keyword and it’ll tell you whether you’re likely to be found in search results.
How to Install a Plugin
Often, you’ll get your plugins directly from the plugin library in your dashboard. To install a plugin from the library, follow these steps:
- From your dashboard, go to Plugins -> Add New
- Use the search box on the right hand side to find the plugin you’d like
- Click Install Now
- Click Activate
- Congratulations - you’ve installed a plugin!
Sometimes however, you’ll download a plugin from another site. For example, Social Warfare costs money (worth it, though). When you buy it, you download it from their site. And if you’ve only ever browsed for plugins from within WordPress, figuring out how to do this can be mystifying.
But it’s easy. Follow these steps:
- Get a plugin from a website, like Social Warfare
- Download the plugin
- DO NOT UNZIP IT
- Head over to WordPress (the wp-admin area of your site)
- Go to Plugins –> Add New
- Click Upload. It’s right next to the Add Plugins area
- Avoid the temptation to click Browse, because you’ll go back to the last screen. In this case, you want to click Choose File.
- Upload the zipped file. You didn’t unzip it when we weren’t looking, did you?
- Follow the directions to activate the plugin. Each plugin is a little different.
- You’re done! Now you know how to install a third-party plugin without having to search for it twice. Go you!
Using the WordPress Customizer
After you’ve installed your theme, the WordPress customizer will appear, asking you to tweak various parts to make the theme work for you.
This can also be accessed through the front of your site when you’re logged in. Whenever you need to change something, log in then go to your home page, and click the Customize button along the top. There, you can navigate around most of your site.
Here’s where you add or edit your site title and tagline and upload your site icon (which is used in a variety of previews). Upload a 512x512 image here.
Take a look at the tabs you have open in your browser right now. The tiny icons are known as favicons, or site icons. This image should be a simple version of your logo, or the initials for your site. Visit For-Profit Blogging if you want a detailed tutorial on creating a site icon.
Add the logo you created in the branding section here. You may have to edit your logo’s dimensions to fit the theme. Incorporate your logo and site tagline and stick to the colors and fonts from your brand style guide.
Most sites offer two menus, called the Primary and Secondary menus. We’ll get into this in further detail in the blog organization section, but make sure you have an about page, at minimum.
Widgets control a large portion of the appearance of your website. Your theme has a variety of widget areas (on your homepage, in various sidebars, in your header, in your footer, etc.) and you can add bits of code to each widget area.
Consider the following:
- Profile picture & short bio with link to your “about” page
- Social follow icons
- Links to your post categories, using images or text links
- Search bar
- Affiliate links
- Latest pins
There are a number of different ways to lay out your blog. They’re listed here in a dropdown menu.
Content, Primary Sidebar works better than Primary Sidebar, Content because our eyes are naturally drawn to the upper left. You want people reading your blog posts instead of your intro text on every page.
A breadcrumb shows a path to a particular page on your site. When looking at a web page with breadcrumbs turned on, it will show little text links at the top, telling you where you are in the site. Keep these unchecked.
Comments and Trackbacks
Enable comments if you want, but only on posts, not on pages. Enable trackbacks on either.
Here, you can select what your posts look like when they’re not on your home page.
Leave this section blank unless you know CSS.
Depending on your theme, you may have some additional options available to you in the Customizer.
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