As far as blogging platforms go, WordPress is by far one of the best and most flexible – and when used properly can be used as a casual “blog” or even a more corporate website and product sales site. However, before we get onto that – you’ll need to know the basics, because all beginners have to start somewhere! I’ve tried to put together here, the beginning stages of setting up and structuring a functioning, and successful WordPress blog. There is more to it than simply registering – so keep reading.
It’s also worth noting at this point, that setting up a WordPress blog will require a little investment of time and money. Things such as hosting, themes and domain names all cost money unfortunately – but I’ve tried to include recommendations on how you save cash where possible.
1. Find somewhere to host your blog
First thing’s first you’ll need to find somewhere to host your blog, because to have full control over the website (when it gets going) you’ll want to be in control of where it’s hosted. WordPress.com offers free hosting – but you lack a lot of control when you host with them, as I once found out. Whilst for very basic sites – this might be an option, for anyone wanting to design their own layout, design and content – you’ll most likely want to set the blog up on an external hosting agent.
For more suggestions on WordPress website hosting check out Kevin’s great article.
2. Set up your domain name
Your next stop is to purchase a domain name and attach it to the WordPress site you’ve set up, you could always opt for the original domain name WordPress allocate you (which is usually: example.wordpress.com) but I’d probably recommend registering an original domain name as it looks more professional. Once you’ve got your hosting server set up, you’ll be able to appoint it there, through whichever system you’re using.
Go for a domain name that has key words in it, or perhaps your brand or business name – as this will help in terms of SEO later on when you’re marketing your blog. In terms of what domain to choose, it all depends on where you’re located and what country your audience are residing in. A “Dot Com” is always desirable (but may cost more) so if you’re on a budget opt for a regional domain instead, such as example.co.uk.
For beginners, I’d often recommend buying the domain for 2-3 years, as this gives you a flexible amount of time to work on your site and it means you won’t get caught out after a year or so when the domain expires.
3. Download a theme
A theme is what determines the appearance of your WordPress site, and the are plenty of themes out there to choose from. Never stick with the simple theme that comes with the website – because (quite frankly) it’s boring and it shows little effort on your part as the owner of the blog.
Uploading a theme is quite simple; you simply download it as a zip folder (paid or unpaid) and then upload it to the WordPress site in the same format. From there you’ll be able to organise and personalise aspects of the theme (such as the header and footer, background design, etc) to your liking. Use your theme as an expression of personality, and choose one that suits the content you’ll be publishing.
For example if you’re going to be blogging about photography – you want a nice wide theme that allows you to show off your images in HQ. If you’re making more of a magazine style blog – choose a magazine style theme.
From personal experience, I’ve always found that paid themes work better, as they’ve been done by high quality professionals, and often allow far more flexibility in terms of design. Theme Forest is a pretty good place to start looking – but a quick Google around will throw up lots of other free and paid results too.
4. Get savvy
It took me a while when I first started using WordPress to realise the extent of flexibility there actually is on this platform. Widgets and Plug-Ins are a great way to add an extra bit of design to your site, and to make it more user friendly too. Some Plug-Ins I’ve found hugely helpful are listed bellow:
- Akismet Security (will stop spam comments coming through)
- Google Analytics (shows you in-depth analysis of audience and demographics)
- Related Post (suggests further reading for your audience)
- Contact Form 7 (a contact form to protect against spam)
- Digg Diig (social floater on article to encourage sharing)
- Disqus (Comment system that’s easy to manage)
- Hello Bar (little extra information strip above your header)
- Broken Link Checker (stop your site having old, or broken links on it – which can look unprofessional)
To download a plug-in, you simply need to go into the plug-in section on your dashboard, and then search for the title or keyword of the plug-in your on the look-out for. It’s then just a case of downloading and activating it.
5. Don’t overload your side-bar
A lot of WordPress and blogging beginners take it upon themselves to almost spam their own site, by adding as many plug-ins and widgets to their blog as possible in the hopes it’ll make it look more established. This isn’t the case though, and especially in reference to your side bar, you should really be keeping it to the absolute minimal.
Only have on there what you need and what will genuinely help and assists visitors to your site – anything too cluttered will just make the site harder to load on slow connections, which isn’t great for anyone impatient out there who wants to access your content.
6. Keep your dashboard updated
Finally, and most importantly, try and keep your WordPress updated with the latest developments and improvements. It not only improves the running time of your site, but it means you can continue improving the blog as you develop it. Having up to-date software will also improve your security too. So it’s of the upmost importance. Usually, updates will be emailed to you, or they’ll pop in your dashboard when you log in, so keep an eye out!
About the Author
Kevin Leary is a web developer in Boston, MA specializing in enterprise website design and development, online marketing, and conversion optimization.