! I have had a lot of trouble, including the notorious “white screen of death” since installing the Advanced Automatic Updates plugin. Be careful with it!
This site is to share my experiences creating and managing WordPress websites — what worked and what didn’t for me. I’ve created many of them, but I’m not an expert.
I have created so many WordPress sites, it seems a good idea to share some of my experiences and list the steps I take. These are exactly the steps which I take myself. You may or may not find them useful. Some of the reasons I do it this way are listed elsewhere.
I use a self-hosted site, which costs me a couple of hundred dollars a year. That’s because I have a lot of external content, which can be managed by WordPress without being really part of it. If you have no external content and still want to have a website, WordPress.com will host one for you, free of charge.
Much of what follows still applies if you have a free installation on WordPress.com, but I use a hosted site on A2 Hosting, which I can personally recommend based on my own experiences. They may not be good for some people, and may change for the worse, but right now they seem pretty good to me. I use one of their premium plans, so my sites will load faster. My hosting plan comes with an interface called cPanel. It takes some getting used to, but is quite powerful. The first few steps depend on it.
- I put each if my WordPress websites on a separate subdomain. It is easy to create one after finding the subdomains icon and clicking on it. All you need to do is provide a subdomain name. I have created this subdomain, contentmanagement, which is therefore accessed by http://contentmanagement.socialtechnology.ca/ — though you won’t get anything until you have installed a website on the subdomain.
- The cPanel control panel provides the Softaculous software installer. It will install WordPress on the subdomain chosen. I choose a name for the site, which may be similar to the subdomain name but doesn’t have to be. These can be changed later. The rest of the installation form is fairly straightforward, mostly involving a name and password. It is important to provide an administration name that is easy to remember and not too obvious. Don’t use admin or your own name. I use the same one for each of my sites, and have a password pattern that produces a unique memorable password. I is important to provide an administration e-mail address. The default is no good. I just use my own personal one. Make sure you use your own address for the very last line on the form, which asks where to mail details of the installation.
- The reply from the Softaculous installer includes the administration URL for the new site. It is the full site URL plus a randomly generated set of letters. I click on that URL and it takes me immediately to the “dashboard”, from which the website is controlled. I immediately add two pages and a post. By default, the first page I create is called About and includes a few sentences about the new site. This allows me to remove the idiotic sample page. The second page I create has only a title, no actual content. I use the word Posts as a page title, but you may prefer Blog. Next I create new post, which simply records the creation of the site, with perhaps a word about its purpose. This allows me to delete the idiotic sample post. I go the All Pages and remove the offending sample page, and All Posts, to remove the offending sample post. Now there is a website which is not an embarrassment. Someone stumbling across it will not think it a joke.
- The next step is to go through the settings. Under general settings, I click the “anybody may subscribe” box, then choose Vancouver as a city in my timezone. That’s all for the General settings. I ignore Writing for now, and move on to reading. You may want the Posts or Blog to display when someone reaches your site. That’s the default. I choose the option to display a static page. In my case, About is the one I temporarily select as a Front page, and Posts the one I permanently select for my blog posts. Someone wanting to see those will click on the Posts menu item.
- The next step is to come up with a theme. To see what WordPress installs as a default, look at the top left hand corner of you dashboard, and if you hover your cursor over the site name, you will be given the opportunity to visit the site. What you see is even more plain-vanilla than I like. Back on the dashboard, I go down to the word Appearance, and within it the Themes choice. WordPress will have installed at least two themes, probably four of them. You may select one, but I prefer something simple which I know well. I always chose Add New and install Twenty Ten. Boring.
- Almost all themes have a image associated with them. Many expect an image of a fixed size, while others permit a variety of sizes. Twenty Ten expects a header image which is 198 pixels high and 940 pixels wide. I create a simple header quickly by using an image editor to create a 940 by 198 blank image, then pasting in a small picture. Often those are 198 pixels square, but for this site I grabbed a snapshot of one my other websites. After pasting in the image, I use the same image editor to add a website title, which may or may not be the name WordPress knows the site as.
- Back on the dashboard, the next step is to look at plugins. Some come pre-installed. Let me focus on the ones I want. Most of these I add, but some come are already there. Here’s a list of the one’s I want:
- Wordfence Security — I have to turn off Live Traffic View to use with A2 Optimized Hosting
- Fantastic Copyright Free — not available on WordPress.com, has to be download from publisher’s site
- W3 Total Cache — installed by A2, can be used on any host
- EWWW Image Optimizer — installed by A2, can be used on any host
- A2 Optimized WordPress — I don’t know if this works with other hosts, but I don’t see why not. I’ve never had a chance to try that.
- Having added WP-realtime-sitemap, I create a page called Sitemap and add (only) the shortcode wp-realtime-sitemap (in square bracket) to it. When I first wrote this entry, I specified the shortcode itself rather than just saying to put it in square brackets, and so, of course, instead of displaying the shortcode for your inspection, it inserted the sitemap here, right in the middle of this page. Oops.
- The next steps involve the use of the Yoast plugin.
- The first of them is for the Google Search Console, which is a useful way of making sure Google knows about my sites and will report crawl errors. The first step is to use this search console, click Add Property, and enter the URL of the site. You will be immediately asked to verify your ownership of it. Under Alternative Methods, choose meta-tag and save the code Google generates.
- Selecting Webmaster Tools from the Yoast dashboard, I copy that code, save the entry, then go back to the Google Search Console and hit Verify.
- If that works (it does if I got the sites URL right) then the search console will accept an XML sitemap, which Yoast will generate. I seem to have to disable sitemaps, save that setting, then re-enable them and save, before the sitemap is generated.
- Next, the Yoast dashboard will suggest connecting with the Google Search Console as an improvement. No error message is produced, but note that this accomplished nothing unless the site has been verified.
- One last thing to do with Yoast. They have a Social setting, in which one can enter social media addresses. I only do Twitter, because my Twitter and Facebook accounts are already interconnected and the rest don’t seem worth the trouble, but a social media fanatic might want to use the half-dozen or so others as well. Don’t do this if you are using the Sharing option in Jetpack to share posts to the same media, or you will get two copies!
- Now comes the hard part, adding content. Lots of content, regularly. That’s where I have always fallen down in the past, but WordPress.com is making it easier. One should always have a WordPress.com account and connect your site to it through Jetpack. If you do this, and select the option to manage multiple sites through WordPress.com — which you can do even if you only have one, then you can easily write posts by simply going to a single editing page at WordPress.com and that makes it much easier, especially if you stay logged on to that site.
That’s a lot of steps. I can’t always find the energy to go through them all at once, but the ones which create a site with no sample pages or posts, add the plugins, and use Yoast are three separate steps which are not hard to manage at one sitting. I often find myself doing or updating the plugins on pre-existing sites, and doing the Yoast stuff on sites I neglected to do earlier. It is taking a long, long time to make sure I’ve done it all for the many sites I have going.
I have so many sites that updating them with overall progress reports is a real problem. To that end, I am adding the Include Me plugin, which can fetch external material from files hosted at A2 Hosting. For now, I am including the following text box only, which is actually an image file. When I change that one file, the newly changed text will show up on all pages I’ve put the Include Me shortcode on.