After you have set up your self-hosted blog, it’s time to take steps to configure and customize it. This is where it starts to get fun, because you can truly make your blog your own. Part of doing this is choosing a theme to customize the look of your blog. There are also several plug-ins you may want to consider installing.
Go ahead and browse for some WordPress themes at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/. Think about the look you want for your blog. What is its niche topic? Choose a theme that matches the topic for the best results. Most WordPress themes are free, but there are some that are paid, and many that are highly customizable; examples include the Thesis theme, WP Flex, and Headway.
After you have chosen your theme, you’ll find it is very easy to install. You can even do it right in the backend of your WordPress admin area these days! Simply go to “Appearance,” “Themes,” and browse for the available options. You can easily install the one you want, and even change the look of your blog at any time if you decide to go another way in the future.
You’ll also want to take the time to look through the plugins. Select the “plugins” option in the sidebar of your admin panel and browse for ones that make the most sense to use for your blog (everyone has different preferences). A must-have plug-in is the Platinum SEO plugin. This plugin will help you optimize your blog for the search engines.
You’ll also want to install Google XML sitemaps, Google Analyticator (if you plan on using Google Analytics to evaluate your site’s stats), Akismet (this plugin comes standard with your WP installation and blocks spam comments), and others that you think will fit your blog and your niche.
Keep in mind that while many plugins are helpful, you can potentially overload your blog and open yourself up to problems with hacking if you have too many of them.
In addition to selecting a theme and plugins, you’ll want to make sure of a few things in your blog’s configuration. First, select “settings” and then “privacy.” Make sure that the option for everyone to be able to see your blog (including visitors and search engines like Google and Technorati) is selected.
Then, select “permalinks.” The Permalink structure that comes standard with WordPress install is not the best for SEO. You’ll want to select the “custom” radio button and change it to %postname%.
Another thing you will want to do is go into your “posts” area in your wp-admin and delete the standard “hello world” post that is there. You may also want to go into your “pages” area and delete the “about” page that is there. These are not needed, and you will want to add your own content instead of these standard content (it is just there for demonstration purposes).
When you do these things, you’ll be starting your blog off the right way for optimal results!
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