17 Apr

The Top 10 Must Haves For Your Shiny New WordPress Website

So you want a website...

Okay so I have been setting up a few WordPress sites for my friends and partners at large. WordPress has come a long way and is my goto answer for many solutions. Years ago, I would have considered Joomla, Drupal or thought about searching for another CMS but today – WordPress is enough. I say – let’s find the right theme and the right plugins to make it do what you need and if it still doesn’t do what you want, let’s find a developer who will build if for us – in WORDPRESS.

Installing a WordPress vanilla site is quite simple but with many hosting providers now providing 1-click installers like Softaculous, that insanely simple install is even simpler.

But after that, you will have this plain site with nothing installed and a base WordPress theme that is quite configurable and you can get started creating content right away. But before you proceed, you’ll need few things to keep your site safe, running, trackable and restorable if something goes wrong. So here’s my list of the top must haves for your WordPress site.


You’ll need a theme that suits your needs on the website and finding one may not be that easy. Most free themes are great and premium themes usually have plugins and functionality built into them that makes some of the plugins listed below redundant. You’ll probably want to try a few out before you get it right – That’s OK. It’s a lot of work – and that’s OK too. Here’s a few places you can go to find some good themes:

Finding and installing a theme is only half the battle. Then you have to go get some images and graphics for your website. If you have photos of your own or want to go click them yourself / have a photographer friend – great. If not, there are tons of stock photo websites out there that publish some amazing stock photos that you can use on your website. Based on what you’re building, you’ll have to find the right images for your site’s branding and identity. A logo and a favicon may also help along the way. You may opt to have a static frontpage and a separate blog page. You may also create other pages and the one you absolutely must have is a Contact Us page with a simple form where users can send you messages. Jetpack allows you to do this if your theme doesn’t have a similar function.

Once you’re done configuring your theme, then come the plugins. Here are some absolute must haves if your theme doesn’t already fulfill that function. And note, don’t install too many plugins and never multiple security or SEO plugins at the same time. People also recommend some performance / cache plugins but I’ve burnt my fingers in the past with them and thus don’t use or recommend them.


  • Security Plugins (Careful – not setting these up correctly can lock you out of your site)
  • Backup Plugins
    • UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore: Automated backups & restorations that can be uploaded to remote storage locations like Google Drive, Dropbox, AWS S3 buckets etc.
  • Feature Enhancement Plugins
    • Jetpack: Jetpack is my favorite one stop shop for many things WordPress, namely:
      • WordPress.com SSO
      • Fully Customizable Contact Us Forms
      • Site Stats & Analytics
      • Automatic Sharing on Facebook etc.
      • Related Posts
      • Downtime Alerting
      • High Speed CDN for Images
      • Carousels, Slideshows & Galleries (this is usually part of most themes though)
      • Simple Media Embeds
      • Twitter / Facebook page embedding on your sidebar
      • Email Subscriptions
      • Comment Login using G+, FB, Twitter
    • Akismet Anti-Spam
  • Tracking Plugins
  • SEO Plugins
  • Code Plugins / Formatting Plugins

Once you’ve got these plugins installed, you’ll need to spend a few hours configuring them. Some of the plugins require subscription to additional 3rd party services like getting an Akismet API Key, signing up for a Google Analytics account, signing up for a WordPress.com account.

After doing all that, you’ll need to do a few more things to get some visibility to your website:

  • Register your website with Google, Bing etc.
  • Setup Google Search Console (submit your XML sitemap while your here)
  • Setup Bing Webmaster Tools (submit your XML sitemap while your here)
  • Setup SSL for your website (this is a complicated topic with many easy or difficult ways to achieve it so i’ll leave it to another blog post. Psst: my host provides free auto-SSL – read below)
  • Register your business on Google My Business
  • Register your business on Bing Places
  • Setup your Facebook Page, Google+ Page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest etc. accounts – do this even if you are not going to post or manage these now or later. You don’t want a disgruntled customer or employee or ex-friend to claim these handles that have your business / blog name and start posting  stuff on it that you don’t like.
  • Test your site for errors, crawl-ability from bots, performance etc.. There are many tools to do this and most of them are free.
  • If you care about listening to the internet and what people are saying about your business, you can try Mention.com‘s free plan.


If you are in search for a domain name, I normally recommend Godaddy but since Google has entered the the domain names space, I have been slowly moving my domains over to them for one main reason – Privacy. Google Domains include privacy in the domain price which is a steady $12 for most TLDs. Privacy is usually an additional fee with Godaddy or any anyone else plus there isn’t a flat low price for domains with Godaddy. You can pay retail pricing but there’s almost always a coupon or deal that can get you a domain cheaper, sometimes cheaper than Google.


Also, this article is about self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org) and not WordPress.com websites in which I don’t have much experience. Depending on your hosting needs, you’ll have a ton of options in that as well. I’ve hosted over a few hosting companies and moved over time to my current one. And moving hosts is not easy but I’ve had to. I’ve been hosting with MDD Hosting for quite a while now. Check out their plans if it interests you – MDDHosting. Great service & support at decent prices and my sites load fast. And now they even provide free auto-SSL which means all my sites hosted on their servers automatically serve content over HTTPs – no configuration needed. How cool is that!

So as you see, buying a domain and setting up a website is just the tip of the iceberg in running a successful website for your personal blog or small business. There’s a lot of unseen effort that goes into configuring it correctly and making sure that search engines and users can find your content and also you need to make sure that it loads quickly without errors in devices of all sizes, keeps running 24×7 and doesn’t get hacked while you are enjoying a vacation on a summer beach.

If you think that the cost of running a website is simply the sum total of the price of a domain and your hosting costs, you are going to find out that your website is not really going to be very successful unless you sweat it out and make it work. If you are not going to have the kind of time to do this yourself, I recommend you to hire someone to do it for you.

Your thoughts please..