WORDPRESS GENERAL SETTINGS WALKTHROUGH
After you install WordPress, you need to configure the general settings. There is a lot of information to set up; with some settings affecting SEO. Follow this guide to effectively set up your WordPress general settings without missing a single tool, while also completing some initial SEO optimization. You’ll also have a much better understanding of what each setting does and how changing the settings will affect the functionality of your website.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
You’ve picked self-hosted WordPress as your CMS; found a host that has free SSL certificates; and you’ve installed WordPress with the easy installer. Now, it’s time to set up your site’s settings. This tutorial will be image-heavy.
Log In to WordPress
Your login page can be found at two locations: https://yoursite.com/wp-admin and https://yoursite.com/wp-login.php (where “yoursite.com” is your site’s URL).
Once you’ve logged your site’s dashboard, find the “Settings” menu in the left menu and click it:
You will now see six sub-menus: General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media, Permalinks. We will go through each menu, starting with where you land after clicking settings: General Settings.
WordPress General Settings
WordPress General Settings Part 1: Site Title
This is your business’ name. In the above example, we didn’t change the site title when installing the demo with Softaculous. You can change this at any time. On Skookum Monkey’s website, the site title reads: Skookum Monkey Hosting and Design.
If your website is more personal in nature, say a portfolio site or blog, then your site title could be your name which will make it easy to find in SERP (Search Engine Results Page) when people search your name.
WordPress General Settings Part 2: Tagline
As the WordPress prompt says, it’s a few words about your site. To expand on that, you want something that is also SEO-friendly. Some people still do the old keyword stuffing thing (i.e.: KEYWORD | KEYWORD | KEYWORD). You don’t want to do that.
You want it to be both descriptive and informative and contain a keyword. If you can figure out a way to insert a longtail keyword (a string of words people use when searching a topic) into the description, that would be good but it must be in a way that is natural. As an example from one of our clients, their site description is: “Proudly Serving Victoria’s Locksmith Needs.” The longtail keywords in that description is “Victoria Locksmith”.
WordPress General Settings Part 3: WordPress Address (URL)
This is the location of your WordPress installation. The reason why the URL looks funny in the above image is because you’re looking at the settings of a development installation we installed so that we could write this tutorial without revealing any sensitive site data and you can see the default settings. In your installation, it should be: http(s)://yoursite.com. If you see something else, like http(s)://yoursite.com/wp, that means you installed WordPress outside of your root directory and the next setting is an important one.
WordPress General Settings Part 4: Site Address (URL)
This is the URL people use to visit your website. If you installed WordPress in your root directory, then it should be: http(s)://yoursite.com. In some situations, people will install WordPress into a subdirectory or folder, such as the case with this demo. That is why you see /wp in both URLs. Except for some very few exceptions, you want people to find your site by simply visiting http(s)://yoursite.com.
So, if you’ve installed it in a subdirectory, you need to make some code changes to your core WordPress files. You can either do so via the file manager in cPanel or via FTP and a text editor. WordPress Codex has a guide on how to do this. Unless you are comfortable with changing code files and FTP, I do not recommend installing WordPress outside of the root directory unless you are tying WordPress into an existing non-WordPress site.
If you installed WordPress in the root directory, the only time you’ll have to change 3 and 4 is if your site didn’t have an SSL certificate when you installed WordPress but now has one. You would change both fields to https://yoursite.com. You’ll also have to install a plugin called Really Simple SSL, activate it, and then click the “Go ahead, activate SSL!” button.
WordPress General Setting Part 5: Email Address
The address you enter in this field is where you’ll get notifications about comments left on your posts, pingbacks, updated notices, if someone creates a profile on your site (more on that in a bit), and more. Make sure it’s an email you use regularly.
WordPress General Settings Part 6: Membership
Under most circumstances, you want to leave this unchecked. Even if you are running a store through a plugin like WooCommerce, you want to leave this unchecked. If you want to have forums on your site and use something like BuddyPress, you’ll have to check this box but you’ll want to install a plugin that allows you to manually approve new members.
If you check this box, you risk not only your site being overridden by spam (hundreds of bots will signs up for your site) but you also leave it open to a zero-day security vulnerability where a “Subscriber” could get access to things they should not have access to. While this rarely happens, it does happen so it’s best to err on the side of caution and leave that box unchecked. You can always change it later is circumstances change.
WordPress General Settings Part 7: New User Default Role
If you check the membership box, then you have to pick a role for new members. There are five roles, each with different levels of access to your site: Subscriber, Contributor, Author, Editor, and Administrator. You want to keep this at “Subscriber”. The WordPress’ Codex as a summary of what permissions each role has.
WordPress General Settings Part 8: Timezone
Where do you live? You want to set this. This will affect the timestamp on posts and pages, and your ability to schedule posts without having to do math to adjust for timezone differences. To select your timezone, just start typing the closest major city in your timezone. In B.C., you’d set it to Vancouver. West Coast United States would set it to Los Angeles. Or you could click the drop-down menu and scroll the long list to find the appropriate city in your area.
WordPress General Settings Part 9: Date Format
This is pretty straightforward. This will control how the date appears on your posts. It includes the most common formats, but also allows for you to choose your own. Example: If you wanted to have your dates as 2017-24-02 (to really confuse people), then you’d enter Y-d-m in the custom field.
WordPress General Settings Part 10: Time Format
Just like Date Format, this controls how the published time will appear on your posts.
As you can see, WordPress also has a handy dandy link that will give you more information about the two above options.
WordPress General Settings Part 11: Week Starts On
You can change this to any day of the week. Most people leave it as-is. The odd time people do change this, they change it to Sunday to match the calendar.
WordPress General Settings Part 12: Site Language
This is a relatively new addition to WordPress and it’s great. In the before times, you’d have to change your wp-config.php file in order to change your site’s language and it was a pain. Especially for people without coding experience. Misplacing the line of code that had to be entered could blow up your website.
Not only does it have non-English languages, but it also has five English language choices, including English (Canada). If you’re website will be in English and you’re not American, you’ll want to change it to the appropriate type of English for two reasons: 1) It will help Google know where you are; and 2) When you use the spellcheck feature when creating a new post or page, you won’t get the red squiggly line of death when you spell metre, or colour, or defence, as examples.
Finally, click the “Save Changes” button. Then click “Writing”.
WordPress General Settings: Writing Settings
You’ll not want to change too many settings here, if any, but let’s go over them anyway so you know what they do.
WordPress Writing Settings Part 1: Default Post Category
This is the only setting on this page that you may want to change. When you start a new post, one of the things you do is pick a category or categories. If you click the save draft button or publish your post before choosing a category (or categories), it will be put in the default category. The default category can never be deleted. It’s a safety feature so that you don’t accidentally break your website.
“Uncategorized” is such an ugly name, no? Maybe you plan to have one big parent category called “News”. This would be a great thing to have as your default category since all posts will go into that parent category anyway. To change the default category, you first have to create that category. Using the “News” example, hover over “Posts” and click “Categories”. You’ll see the following:
In the Name box, you’d enter News. Then simply click “Add New Category”. It will automatically create the slug for you. Now, go back to Settings -> Writing. You should now see “News” in the dropdown menu in the “Default Post Category” area. Select it.
WordPress Writing Settings Part 2: Default Post Format
You have a whole bunch of options here: Standard, Aside, Chat, Gallery, Link, Image, Quote, Status, Video, and Audio. You want to keep it at Standard. The other formats are really cool, but you want to use them on a per-post-basis. We’ll cover these post types in the Intermediate series.
WordPress Writing Settings Part 3: Post via email
As you can see, there is a big warning there. You won’t want to set this up unless you ever plan to use email to send and publish posts to WordPress. We’ll cover this in an Advanced WordPress series.
WordPress Writing Settings Part 4: Update Services
Again, you don’t need to do anything here. The WordPress Codex has a long list of other services that you can add. However, if your host is running a firewall on their server, there is a good change those services will be blocked because these services can be used as vectors of attack to insert malicious code into your site.
Adding any services doesn’t really do anything to help the visibility of your website and a lot of them exist from the before times when you had to do a lot of hoop jumping to get your site listed in certain aggregators, so this option is kept there for those legacy users
So, the only thing you may have changes up to this point on this screen is your default category. If you did that, click “Save Changes”. Now, click “Reading”.
WordPress General Settings: Reading Settings
This section may only have five settings, but they are powerful settings.
WordPress Reading Settings Part 1. Front Page Displays
By default “Your latest posts” is selected. When this is selected, your site will just look like a regular blog, with an index that displays a specific number of posts.
Now, if you want your post to have unique look — which can be accomplished via a variety of themes that allow for things like magazine styles or through designing your front page with a variety of tools — and you want to have a “News” or “Blog” section that displays an index that displays a specific number of posts, you’ll want to select the next option. But first, you need to create a “Home” page and a “News” page. Doing so is very easy.
- Go to Posts -> Add New.
- Enter “Home” into the title area.
- Click “Publish”.
- Go back to Posts -> Add New.
- Enter “News” (or whatever you want this page to be called) into the title area.
- Click “Publish.”
- Go back to Settings -> Reading.
Now, click the button beside “A static page” and then in the “Front page” dropdown, select “Home,” and in the “Posts page” dropdown, select “News.”
WordPress’ default Twenty Seventeen theme allows for a lot of nice Front page styling options.
WordPress Reading Settings Part 2: Blog Pages Show at Most
This controls how many posts will show up in indexes. These indexes include category and tag archives, your home page if you kept the default “Your latest posts” option, and how many posts show up on your “Posts page” if you selected that option. It will also control how many products show up on your Shop page and various shop archives if you are settings up a storefront with something like WooCommerce.
WordPress Reading Settings Part 3. Syndicated Feeds Show the Most Recent
This controls how many posts show up when someone subscribes to your RSS feed. Not only that, if you want to do a podcast, this will also control how many podcast episodes show up on iTunes and Google Play. You don’t want to change this to more than 30, otherwise people may get angry with you when they add your site to their RSS reader and are suddenly swamped with posts. It does pose a problem when it comes to podcasting, which will be covered in an upcoming knowledge base addition.
WordPress Reading Settings Part 4: For Each Article in a Feed, Show
This is a “use at your own discretion” type of thing, and there are two very distinct schools of thought on this. By default, “Full text” is selected. That means, if someone subscribes to your site via RSS, they’ll see the entire post in their feed, only having to visit your site if things like audio or video are embedded. People argue this takes away from valuable page views since there is no way for Google Analytics to measure posts that are read via RSS.
As a result, some people say, “Switch this to ‘Summary’ and force people to visit your site to read the full posts.” Also, there could some monetization things to consider as well, like if you have an advertiser that pays per impression.
When you switch this to Summary, all the subscriber sees is whatever excerpt you crafted when you created your post. This forces people to visit your site and getting those lost page views. There are many counter-arguments to this:
- People want to have control over how they consume their media. If they can’t control that, they’ll remove you from their feed because it’s too much hassle to click-through. Just be happy they are reading.
- You have to be an extremely good copywriter if you’re going to convince them to click that link to read the full posts. If you can’t capture them in less than 200 characters (just a little bit more than a tweet), then trying to force clicks won’t work. You can make your excerpt longer if you wish, but SERP is just going to cut them off after 160 characters, so make those first 160 characters count.
- It will drive up your bounce rate which isn’t good. People will only be coming to read that one article and then leaving the site. It’s better to let them come organically and write content that compels them to read more than just the one post.
The TL;DR argument for switching to summary is to drive engagement. But the reality is, it has a larger potential to do the exact opposite. Personally, we prefer to drive engagement in other ways, such as writing content that is engaging and SEO-friendly, with CTAs and links to other posts, plus using things like social media. If done correctly, organic search traffic will be your number one source of traffic, so keep that in mind when setting up your website and writing posts.
But in the end, it’s up to you to decide.
WordPress Reading Setting Part 5: Search Engine Visibility
When you’re setting up your website, you’ll want to check this box so that search engines don’t index your site until you are ready to reveal it to the world. The problem: You have to remember to uncheck it later. If you want to avoid the issue of having to remember and your website host uses cPanel, then follow our tutorial on how to setup a development environment, similar to what we are using for this tutorial.
Once you’ve made any changes you want to make, click “Save Changes” and then click “Discussion”.
WordPress General Settings Discussion Settings
This section has a lot of options and they can be overwhelming.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 1: Default Article Settings
These three settings are selected by default. When it comes to the first two settings, people often ask, “What does this even mean?!”
1. Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the article:
If someone is using WordPress and you link to them, if they have the second option in this section checked, they will get an email saying, “A new pingback on the post “[POST TITLE]” is waiting for your approval.” The comment will be the text that surrounds the link, not just the linked text. An example from a recent pingback to one of our posts:
[…] has been talking about penalizing unencrypted websites since 2014, but they just made SSL mandatory for all websites in January of […]
Some SEO people will say sending out these notifications can help to build backlinks because the person being notified will check out the website that linked and it can start relationship building. But, outside of that, it doesn’t help SEO because if you approve that pingback comments, the link is nofollow.
In the before times, these were regular links and people would use the pingback system to game SEO by artificially building backlinks through comments, hoping the pingback would be moved from “Pending” to “Approved” comment.
As a thank-you, you could always approve the comment anyway to drive traffic back to the post that linked to you so people can see how your information was expanded upon.
But this is all conditional on the following:
2. Allow link notification from other blogs (pingback and trackbacks) on new articles:
You’ll want to keep this on if you want to be notified when another site links to one of your articles. The notification email will go the email you entered in the General Settings. It’s nice to know and then you can read that post, perhaps even send them a thank-you email, and build that relationship.
You don’t have to approve it as a comment. You can just keep it on for notification purposes to gauge how well your content is doing.
Now, if the person linking to your article has the first option turned off, you won’t know. You’ll have to rely on Analytics for that. Also, when you link to your own content, you’ll also get a pingback and it will appear in the comments on the post to which you’re linking. An example:
[…] we’ve made it clear to customers following our Softaculaous WordPress installation tutorial to always choose SSL […]
The above text appears in the comment on a tutorial we wrote: 22 Things To Do When Installing WordPress via Softaculous. The post linking to the tutorial is: Chrome 56 Is Here Which Means ‘Not Secure’ Warnings on WordPress Login Pages for Sites Without SSL. We wanted the Chrome 56 post link to appear in the comments of the Softaculous tutorial to let people know, “Hey! Thanks for making it all the way down to the comments! We have more information about this if you want to click this handy link in the comments! Thanks, again!”
Those are just a couple scenarios for keeping both 1 and 2 checked. There really is no benefit outside of notifications and easy CTAs, if all parties involved have both those two options checked.
3. Allow people to post comments on new articles:
Except for some very limited circumstances, like you never want comments on your website, you’ll want to keep this checked. Comments are dying in the age of social media, but it’s still a really nice way to get feedback when you solicit it in a post. It’s also a place to allow people to ask questions.
As you can see with this section, you can turn these options off on individual posts. You may write about a sensitive topic where you don’t want to have to worry about trolls. In that case, you’d just turn off the ability to comment on that post before you publish it. Same thing for sending and receiving pingbacks.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 2: Other Comment Settings
This section gives you a lot of control over your comments. Also, there are a number of things you will want to change in this era of mobile dominating website traffic (business-to-business traffic being the exception).
1. Comment authors must fill out name and email:
You will want to keep this checked. It will not only help cut down on spam comments, but it will allow you to easily block trolls. (More on that in settings to come).
2. Users must be registered and logged in to comment:
You will want to keep this unchecked especially if you kept the subscribers boxed unchecked in General Settings. Otherwise, people won’t be able to comment. If you are running a forum, like BuddyPress, then you’ll want to check this because you’ll also have that General Settings box checked.
3. Automatically close comments on articles older than:
This is unchecked by default. If you check it, then the default number of days is 14 and you can change it to whatever you want. Some personal bloggers will turn on this setting because it makes moderating comments easier. Especially if a post from years ago suddenly makes the rounds again and it’s way beyond its “best by” date. But, if you are writing evergreen content, then comments will always be timely.
4. Enable threaded (nested) comments  levels deep:
Nested comments are great because it allows for easy following of any conversations that may take place. That said, 5 levels deep is way too many. On most themes, each level is indented. By the time you reach the comment 5 in the thread, the space the comment takes up becomes tiny. On mobile phones, it’s even worse, with one word per line, if you are lucky. So, you’ll want to change this to no more than 2 levels deep.
5. Break comments into pages of  top level comments per page and the [last] page displayed by default:
This is unchecked by default, but it should be checked and the settings changed. A problem happens on posts that may go viral that get a lot of engagement (this happens regularly for one of our clients). Once the post reaches over 100 comments, there is so much data that has to be sent to the visitor that the site stops rendering and people can’t see the post. The result: All they see is a blank page. So, you’ll want to turn this on, just to be prepared in the event you have a post that goes viral and gets a lot of engagements.
6. Comments should be displayed with the [older] comments at the top of each page:
You’ll want to keep this as is so people have to read the comments in the order in which they were posted before commenting.
WordPress Discussion Settings 3: Email Me Whenever
- Anyone posts and comment; and
- A comment is held for moderation.
You’ll probably want to keep these both selected to help you with comment moderation. If your site has multiple authors, it will also let those authors know when there is a new comment on their posts.
You’ll receive the notifications to the email you used in General Settings. Other user levels will receive the notifications at the email address that was used when setting up their user account. These can be changed in user profiles.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 4: Before a Comment Appears
This will help control how tightly you want to moderate comments. Only one of the following two options must be select, and you cannot have them both unselected unless you turn off comments.
1. Comment must be manually approved:
If you select this, then you will unselect the next option. Every single comment will be held for moderation, except comments from people who have user accounts on your site (like admins and authors) and are logged in at the time of commenting. If you have people who comment regularly, this may dissuade them from continuing to engage with your posts since they have no idea when their comments will be approved and thus, visible.
2. Comment author must have a previously approved comment:
This is selected by default and it’s a good option. The first time someone comments, it will be held for moderation. That allows you to vet them. Once you approve them, that signal to WordPress filters that you trust them and they’ll always be pre-approved to comments, unless the do something that breaks the rules below this rule.
WordPress Discussion Settings 5: Comment Moderation
This area is great because it allows you to flag things for moderation based on a couple of few factors:
The default setting is two links in comments. If someone includes more, even previously approved comment authors, the post is held. Lots of links is a sign of spam. Two is a good number before you want something flagged and held for moderation.
2. Content, name, URL, email, or IP:
This is a great multipurpose area. You may want to flag certain words for moderation just to make sure the comment author isn’t spammy. A great example is the word “informative.” “Informative” is heavily used by spam bots and they are getting so good, these comments also get past extra spam filter plugins. Once you start receiving spam that gets past Akismet spam filters (it’s a plugin that gets installed when you install WordPress), you can start looking for common words that look legitimate, like “informative” and just keep adding them to the list.
If you want to flag links to certain sites in the comments, you can do that, too. Flagging an IP and email address is good if you previously approved a comment author, but have decided you’d rather manually approve their comments each time because while they are not blacklist worthy, they are getting close to it.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 6: Comment Blacklist
This area works similar to the above box, however, instead of holding the comment for moderation, it sends it straight to trash. You’ll be able to see the comment in the “Trash” tab of the Comments area.
You can blacklist abusive people by the email address they use (reason for the recommendation in 1). Also, add the IP associated with the comment in case they try commenting with a different email address. You will see people’s IP addresses and email addresses in the Comments area of WordPress. You can also blacklist swear words, and spammy websites.
For both Comment Moderation and Comment Blacklist, each entry has to be on its own line. So, email address, hit enter, IP address, hit enter, [SWEAR 1], hit enter, etc.
The final section in Discussion Settings controls avatars and avatar ratings.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 7: Avatar Display
Some people like avatars showing up in comments. By default, this is turned on. Avatars are pulled from Gravatar. There is a downside to having this option on: It’s loading resources from outside of your website so it can slow down site load speed. Having a site that takes more than one second or two to load will hurt your SERP placement.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 8: Avatar Maximum Rating
When you upload an avatar to Gravatar, you have to assign it a rating. This setting let’s you decide which types of avatars can appear on your site based on how people rated their avatars on upload. It’s supposed to prevent inappropriate images from appearing in the comments on your site. But since people rate their own avatars when they upload them, there are ways to game this. You should just keep this setting at G and hope for the best. If an avatar appears on your site that is rated R or X, you can blacklist this person in section 6.
WordPress Discussion Settings Part 9: Default Avatar
This section is self-explanatory. You get to choose the default avatar for people who don’t have Gravatar accounts.
Time to click “Save Changes” and click “Media”.
WordPress General Settings: Media Settings
When you upload an image to WordPress, it creates a bunch of different sized images and stores them in the media folder on your server. This area tells WordPress what those dimensions should be.
Before changing these settings, you’ll need to find out how big your post content area is. This part can be tricky if your theme’s documentation doesn’t tell you and you don’t know how to read CSS. You’ll probably never use Thumbnails or Medium size images anyway (it’s best practice to use full-width landscape images with no alignment in the day and age of mobile).
For now, leave the “Thumbnail size”, “Medium size” and “Large size” as is. You can always change it at a later time if you’re not happy.
WordPress Media Settings: Uploading Files
You may want to uncheck this box. It depends on how often you plan to replace images via FTP. Leave this setting alone if you think you’ll never use FTP to easily replace images. Uncheck this box if you think that sometime in the future you will use WordPress beyond the basic functionality.
If you’ve made any changes to this section, click “Save Changes” and then click the last Settings menu: Permalinks.
WordPress General Settings: Permalink Settings
WordPress Permalink Settings Part 1: Common Settings
Once upon a time, in the before times that have been referenced throughout this walk-through, the default permalink settings was “Plain” which is an SEO killer. After installing WordPress, people would have to go into these settings, choose a different link structure, known as “Pretty Links,” and then add a bunch of code to their .htaccess file so that clicking links wouldn’t return a “Page not Found”, also known as 404.
Then the time came when the developers of WordPress realised this was counter to their goals of a “User-Friendly CMS” and changed the default permalink structure to “Day and name”.
Unless you plan to post several posts a day, then the recommendation is to change these settings. To what depends on how often you think you’ll be updating the News/Blog section of your website. Each /YEAR/MONTH/DAY/ section in the URL allows readers to quickly look at other posts published during those units of time by removing everything that comes after it in the URL.
Permalink Structure Examples:
- A single post = https://skookummonkey.com/2017/03/10/wordpress-basics/
- An archive index for all posts published on March 10, 2017 = https://skookummonkey.com/2017/03/10/
- All posts published in March 2017 = https://skookumonkey.com/2017/03/
- Finally, an archive index for all posts published in 2017 = https://skookummonkey.com/2017/
The most common setting used is: Month and name.
The only settings you should not choose are: Plain and Numeric. Both are bad for SEO.
If you setup a Front Page and Posts Page in the Reading Settings, then the name of that posts page will also appear in the link, example: https://skookummonkey.com/blog/2017/02/26/wordpress-basics/
WordPress Permalink Settings 2: Optional
Sometimes, changing these settings can hurt the readers ability to easily find things on your website. If someone knows what categories are on your website, they can easily find all the posts in that category by typing the following in their browser: https://yoursite.com/category/wordpress. “WordPress” is the category.
They can do the same with tags they see on your posts, like: https://yoursite.com/tag/visual-editor. “Visual Editor” is the tag.
However, if the reader wants to put in a little extra effort, they can click on a category or tag link in a post to see to what you’ve changed the base structure.
After you’ve changed the permalink structure, click “Save Changes”.
Congratulations! You have just successfully configured WordPress’ general settings!
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