Note: Initially written for Joomla 1.5 this article is still quite relevant for Joomla 1.6 to 3.x.x
So you finally took the plunge and decided to install Joomla on some cyberspace out there in order to launch your very own brand new website. The server you used met all the technical requirements, you followed all the steps laid out in the installation manual and you just successfully logged onto your new website administrator back-end.
Of course, you did open your favorite whiskey bottle to rightfully celebrate this accomplishment and you are now in front of your computer wondering what to do next.
Here is a list of the very first 10 things you should immediately do as soon as Joomla is installed online, even if you didn't add any content to your new website, even if the new website is not open to the public, even if it is hidden somewhere in an obscure sub sub sub directory of a yet more obscure new unknown domain, even if it has a big construction sign on it, even if whatever.
Later on you'll be thankful that you did.
1- Edit the file robots.txt
This file is used to tell search engine robots what they should or shouldn't index from your website. If you are a new Joomla user, you probably heeded Joomla suggestion during installation and you now have your website already populated with sample contents from Joomla. While this is very useful in order for you to learn by observation, the bad side is that if you do not quickly remove or modify these, you will eventually find them in search engines search return from your website. Worse yet, when you finally erase them, the dead links from the search engine will lead to 404 error pages.
It is much better to stop all indexing of your website until you decide your website is ready to be indexed, and that won't be until much later.
a- First, save the original robots.txt under another name, for example old-robot.backup
b- Then remove all lines from robot.txt and replace them all with only these two lines:
2- Change the default administrator's name
Read why and how here.
3- Enable .htaccess for better security
Read how here.
Find some security examples here.
4- Enable SEF
Whatever scheme you choose, this should be done early and you should stick to your choice afterward if you want to avoid further dead links in search engine results once your robot.txt is enabled again.
5- Purge all sample data from Joomla
Read how to remove or modify the annoying "Welcome to the Frontpage" title here.
Once you have carefully observed the ins and outs of a full content website and you feel confident to replace Joomla samples with your very own production, you can start by deleting and/or modifying the articles, categories and sections from the contents. Likewise, you will also need to purge the menus and the extensions (plugins, modules and components).
Do not empty the trash until you are certain that you won't need what you just deleted later on down the line. Likewise it is initially safer to only deactivate an extension rather then fully uninstalling it.
Although in the long run, it will be more secure to totally uninstall and remove any extension you do not need, whatever you do, never ever uninstall (or even deactivate) the 'user' plugin just because you can or else you will lose all login access to your website.
6- Ensure each article has its own title, meta data and keyword list
When you write an article, don't forget to also enter its Metadata Information. Metadata is information about the article that is not displayed but is available to Search Engines and other systems to classify the article.
The Metadata description is a short paragraph that sums up the article. It is often used as a description text by search engines in which case it appears right under the link of the article in search results.
Metadata keywords must be separated by commas and may be entered in upper or lower case. They must be taken from the content of the article or closely related to it.
7- Set a sitemap
A sitemap is a list of the pages on your website. It will not only help your website users to navigate more easily, but it will also be a way to tell search engines about pages on your site they might not otherwise discover.
There are a few joomla extensions that can create such a sitemap for you.
8- Study and conform to major search engines guidelines
9- Reactivate indexing in robots.txt
Once your website is completely ready, and it has been completed for a few days or better yet a few weeks so that you had plenty of time to polish it, finetune things and rearrange pages and menus, then it should be able to stand search engines' scrutiny.
Delete the previously modified robots.txt and rename your robots backup file to robots.txt