You have your new WordPress setup and now need to know what the best settings are for a new installation. There are many WordPress settings that should be changed immediately, while others should be left alone until you understand what they do. Almost all of the WordPress setup options are easily changed in the future, but there are a couple that are best set from the moment you install the system.
This is not an article about installing WordPress. You will need to already have WordPress installed to work through these options. If you have had your WordPress installed for a while and are just looking for some proper settings, these tips should be a help to you. However, there are a couple that you may not want to change after your WordPress has been setup and running for a while. This is written from the perspective of installing WordPress on your own hosting site. Most of these options will be available on WordPress.com hosted sites as well.
This is also not an article about every feature inside WordPress. There are many things you may want to eventually change and adjust, but this is a guide for initial setup with safe options that you should select.
These tips were written specifically for WordPress 3.0.4, but any version of WordPress has most of these same setup options. If your WordPress setup is older than 3.0.4, you need to upgrade to take advantage of the security improvements. Newer versions of WordPress will have similar options for many versions to come.
It is possible to install a Dashboard theme that will alter where to find these options. But if this is a new WordPress installation, everything should be in the normal places. The menu options down the left-hand side of the Dashboard is where each of these tips begin.
WordPress Setup: Settings | General
Choose Settings and then General to get to the basic blog settings for your installation. Adjust the Site Title and Tagline to fit your blog. The WordPress Address and Site Address should be the address of your main domain unless you have a special setup. The Site Address might be different if WordPress is installed in a directory other than the main URL for the site. For example, http://www.yoursite.com/blog/. Otherwise, leave these settings alone.
Unless you will require your commenters to register and have a login name and password, you should leave the Membership box unchecked. Adjust the Timezone and other settings as necessary.
Save changes at the end of the section. If you navigate to another page before hitting Save Changes you will lose all the settings you just adjusted.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Writing
Everything in the Writing options can be left alone initially. Nothing in there is critical to getting your blog up and running properly from the beginning. However, you do want to return to these options and adjust as necessary based on your needs.
Select Save Changes if you changed anything.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Reading
This is a section dealing with how the front page of your WordPress blog looks. Typically you want it to show your latest posts. Leave the Front page displays alone unless you know you want to show a static page. This can safely be altered later.
Blog pages show at most is how many posts you want displayed on your front page. The default is 10 and it is probably a safe number. If you are posting lots of content each day, you may want to move that number up so that a post stays on the page at least one day, maybe two. Or, if your installed theme works with only 8 posts on the front page, this is where you make the adjustment.
If you only want a summary of each post included in your RSS feed instead of the whole post, then you need to check the Summary radio button. If you don't have a specific reason to limit this, then do your readers a favor and leave it on Full text.
Again remember to click Save Changes if you changed anything.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Discussions
There is nothing on this page that you need to change initially. Any changes you make in the future are reversible with the exception of one. If you later choose to turn off threaded comments in the Enable threaded (nested) comments section you won't lose comments, but you will lose how they relate to one another. Turning it on in the future will leave all the un-threaded comments disconnected.
There was a time when search engine bots ignored threaded comments. From what I have been able to determine, that is not the case anymore. As long as you are using the threaded comments feature inside of WordPress and not trying to do it with a plugin, then threaded comments should be seen by search engine bots. Third party plugins may be safe, but they are unnecessary now that WorPress includes them natively.
At the bottom of the page there are settings for how avatars are displayed with comments. Adjust to your liking. Anything can be changed in the future.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Media
There is nothing in the Media section that is critical to change initially. The one exception is that if you already have plans to separate your media from your WordPress install, you can tell the system where that folder is located.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Privacy
Unless you don't want search engines to index your content, there is nothing you need to change in this section.
WordPress Setup: Settings | Permalinks
Permalinks are the addresses that are associated with your blog posts. This is the main thing you want to change from the very start of your blog. Changing this setting later will not break anything, but your addresses will be inconsistent with one another.
Search engines give preference to content that has keywords in the address of the webpage. By using one of the settings like Day and name or Month and name, all of your posts will have the post title in the URL for the post. If your post title contains the keywords that you expect people to search for to find your content, then having the keyword in the post title and the URL of the post will get you a higher search engine ranking than an identical blog without the post title in the URL.
WordPress Setup: Plugins | Akismet
Turning on Akismet in the plugins section is something you should do from the start. Akismet is a spam detection and protection plugin that is built into WordPress. There is nothing to install. You simply need to activate it and configure it. Configuration is a matter of getting an Akismet API key and pasting it into the API key box. There are instructions at the Akismet Configuration page that tells you how to get an API key. The used to be automatically issued to you if you had a WordPress.com account. I am not sure that is still the case since Akismet.com seems to have take over issuing API keys. I am using the one I was issued several years ago.
That should help you setup your new WordPress with safe options. There are many other settings that you may want to play with, but these settings are what you should adjust initially. The rest can come with time. It depends on the theme you ultimately choose as to whether there will be another large group of settings to adjust for the theme configuration.