I remember setting up my first WordPress Blog. I was quite young and didn’t know much about CMS. I had used Blogger previously but did not find it powerful enough.
My host made things easier for me when setting up. There are still some things that I wish I had known when setting up my first blog.
If you are about to set up your first blog with WordPress, don’t be in dark. Here are 7 tips from WordPress Experts:
1. Change Your Table Prefix
During first time setup, WordPress sets up tables like wp_users, wp_posts etc. in database. “wp_” is the default prefix. Most WordPress sites do not change this. As a result, there is a lot of malware around that take advantage and steals or modifies your posts.
Changing your table prefix is a good security measure. Security people are still debating about this. But then it is their job.
It will not stop any experienced hackers. But script kiddies and malware will surely have a hard time bypassing it.
You can do it either during setup or after setup.
Changing Table Prefix During Setup
When you start the 5 minute setup, first step is to enter your database info. Here, you can just set “Table Prefix” to something other than wp_ and you are done. Yes, it is that easy!
Changing After Setup
If you have an established blog and need to change it, it is not going to be so easy. First, take a database backup. This will ensure that nothing goes wrong.
You can use Change Table Prefix or Better WP Security to do this. I recommend Better WP Security as reviews of Change Table Prefix are not that good. Also, we have used Better WP Security and it works well. Related Post: How To Keep Your WordPress Site Secure.
If you don’t want to do it via plugin, then there’s another way to do it manually.
Go to cPanel and open phpMyAdmin. This is a handy tool that allows you to administer SQL over internet.
Once you are logged in, choose the blog database. List is in left sidebar. Here’s a screenshot:
Select the database. I want to change the prefix of database “play”. Left click the database name.
You will see a list of all the tables. Here is what I see:
Now, click “Check All” link just below table list.
Next, click drop-down menu saying “With selected:” and select “Replace Table Prefix”. Refer to screenshot:
You will get this page:
Just enter wp_ in “from” and a new random prefix like mywebsite_ in “to”.
Now, table names have changed. However, we need to tell WordPress about the change. For this, you need to edit your “wp-config.php” file. Use cPanel file manager or FTP into your site and edit the file.
Scroll down a bit(line 60-70), you will see following:
Change the ‘wp_’ to ‘mysite_’ .
Last change is to replace database references of ‘wp_’ to your new prefix. I am assuming that you are using ‘mysite_’ as your new prefix.
Run this query in phpMyAdmin:
SELECT * FROM `mysite_options` WHERE `option_name` LIKE '%wp_%'
You will get the values where wp_ was used. Replace wp_ with mysite_ and you are done.
After this, another query that you need to run:
SELECT * FROM `mysite_usermeta` WHERE `meta_key` LIKE '%wp_%'
And again change the references from wp_ to mysite_.
That’s all you need to do. There were no plugins involved and you have a different prefix!
2. Be Cautious When Installing Plugins
Installing plugins is not only a security risk but also a potential performance bottleneck. You should always go for tried and tested plugins.
Here are some key things to look for when selecting a plugin on WordPress.org:
- Rating: Always check how the plugin is rated. Good plugins have 3.5-5 star ratings. Do not go by rating alone though. Take a look at how many people have rated it. For example, let us say you have to get a SEO plugin. Three popular plugins here are WordPress SEO by Yoast, SEO Ultimate and All in One SEO. Yoast has 4.7 stars and 2479 people have given it 5 star rating and only 153 have gone for 1 star. All in One SEO has 773 5 stars and 317 1 star ratings. Based on this, it is best to go with Yoast plugin.
- Downloads: Next, check how many downloads the plugin has. More downloads means more popularity. However, also factor in the age of plugin. An old plugin may have lot of downloads but may have been abandoned.
- Last Updated: This shows when the plugin was updated last. If you have to choose between two plugins, where one has been updated in last 2 weeks and another has been updated 6 months back, choose the new one. Newer plugins that are in active development get better support for authors.
3. Choose a Good Host
I can’t emphasize the need for choosing a right host. I have seen many people falling for marketing and selecting hosts based on price or ads only.
A popular example is GoDaddy. They have been criticized a lot for their custom panel and I second everything said about this. They use custom software instead of cPanel and their software is out of date at times.
Here are some recommendations for good WordPress hosts:
- HostGator: We use HostGator and they have good support and prices. We haven’t encountered any problems with them till now. They are good if you are going for a shared server. Good, responsive and cost effective.
- Synthesis: This is a new offering by CopyBlogger media. We haven’t tried it yet. But from what we have heard, it is quite good.
- Digital Ocean: Digital Ocean provides SSD VPS servers. These are quite fast and start at $5. If you have previous experience with VPS, you may want to go with them.
4. Set Up Image Sizes According To Your Theme
Most of the themes cover this pretty well but if your theme uses featured images or thumbnails and does not resize them, it may cost you visitors.
A slow website repels visitors.
So take 5 minutes and set up your media settings appropriately.
5. Secure your .htaccess File
.htaccess is one of the most important files on your server. While default WordPress settings are quite good, you may want to add a few things.
Here’s a good tutorial: WordPress Security Through .htaccess.
6. Setup These Essential Plugins
Here are a few essential plugins that you should set up with every WordPress install:
W3 Total Cache
When someone visits your site, WordPress takes the relevant page template and then talks to database to fill the content, widgets and other stuffs in this template. This take a little bit of time.
For small amount of visitors, this works well. However, when you have hundreds of visitors coming to your site, it will slow down. W3 Total Cache saves the pages as static HTML which does not require as much database talk and serves these to visitors. It also lets you add a CDN to WordPress quickly.
This plugin will plug in a lot of security holes in WordPress. It also protects from common attacks.
There’s only a little bit of configuration needed, after which you can forget about it. It also provides more tweaks like changing database prefix etc. to make your WordPress installation more secure.
It allows you to automatically backup WordPress Database at set intervals or do it manually. It can also optimize or repair your database.
And if you know SQL, it will also allow you to execute SQL queries without going to phpMyAdmin.
7. Stay Away From “Overloaded” Themes
This happened with a client recently. They bought a theme from Themeforest(which has some good themes for sure) and after installing, it brought down the back end almost completely.
Admin pages were taking 10-20 seconds to load while front end was fine. We switched to another theme later and it was fixed.
The lesson to take away is that while it is tempting to go for all the features of these themes, they have a lot of performance overhead. And in marketplaces, it is a hit or miss scenario.
Better go with a theme framework like Genesis and then add a child theme on top of it. This will ensure that your site stays fast and you can edit the code without losing it in an upgrade.
These were 7 tips that we have learned over years. Do you have anything to add? Do mention in comments.