This post answers a frequent question –
“How do I get started blogging?”
I’m going to assume a few things:
- You don’t have a blog
- You aren’t “technical” but can follow instructions
- You aren’t a designer but know a decent looking page when you see one
- Your blog needs to make money if running it is going to spend money
My only caveat is that it’s difficult to provide a comprehensive tutorial that addresses every question and contingency. I’m not going to even try. This post is an overview of the big stuff that you have to get right.
I estimate that you can do everything in this post in about 5–6 hours or in a weekend. Of course, timing will depend on your comfort level with writing and doing some light-technical lifting.
Steps for Setting Up Your Blogging
Select a Domain Name
Your readers will be typing the domain name into their browser to visit your website. Make it easy for them. Keep your domain name short and easy to remember. I prefer .com names but .biz .io .co .net and .tv are great choices as well.
Your domain name will likely be your blog title as well. I have a simple rule for blog titles, they should hint at the #1 benefit the reader will get from your blog. At Pushing Social – we offer unconventional social media and blogging information – hence PUSHING Social.
Godaddy is the most popular service for purchasing a domain name. They have a tool to help find available domain names and will get you started quickly. I recommend purchasing domains for one year with auto-renewal.
You can get this done in: 10 minutes
Get a Web Host
A web host is the physical home of your blog. It contains your blog software, files, plugins and a lot more. Web hosts these days are cheap and reliable. A new blog can get hosted for $10 – 25 a month.
You will need an Apache Server, with MySql, PHP (version 5+), with cPanel. Make sure your host can install WordPress for you via a service like Fantastico or something comparable. These services will handle all of the technical details for installing WordPress on your hosting server. This is an awesome timesaver.
Your web host will ask for your domain name during the set-up process to connect your recently purchased domain name to your web host.
You can get this done in: 20 minutes
Install WordPress (Self-hosted)
There are two flavors of WordPress:
WordPress.org offers a self-hosted version of WordPress, meaning that you can download WordPress, install it on your host, and blog like a boss.
If you followed my web host advice, you should have access to cPanel, and there is a option to install your WordPress blog with one click. Click the WordPress or Fantastico option and follow the WordPress install directions.
At the end of the process you should have two links: The link to your blog and administrative dashboard.
You can get this done in: 10 minutes – seriously or get help
Install a Premium WordPress Theme
A WordPress Theme is a great looking ready to install and use design. The top theme designers are:
- Studiopress: Great templates for businesses and consultants
- Woothemes: Excellent options for web app and ecommerce businesses
- Elegant Themes: Beautiful themes for photographers, artists, and any one who can draw a perfect freehand circle.
- Thesis: A powerful theme solution with a slightly steeper learning curve.
- ThemeForest: A directory of the WordPress themes designed by independent designers. The directory is filled with great designs that work as advertised and utter garbage. Do your homework and remember you get what you pay for.
The clever theme designers package their themes with a “framework”, basically a user-friendly tool for customizing your theme. The best frameworks are point-and-click easy for beginners and customizable for pros.
I’m partial to Genesis, the framework for Studiopress. Genesis is well supported, well designed, and simple to use.
Woothemes does an excellent job as well especially if you plan on offering an online store. Of course, Thesis popularized the notion of frameworks and must be mentioned in any Framework conversation.
Once you’ve purchased and downloaded a theme, install it via your WordPress dashboard.
The process is usually:
- Navigate to your WordPress dashboard
- Navigate Appearance -> Themes -> Install Themes
- Find the .zip file delivered by your theme designer
- Install and Activate
After activating you will get a few more options in your WordPress dashboard for customizing your theme. Use these options to tweak your blog’s design to match your brand and personality.
Tips for Picking the Best Theme Design
You can spend hours picking and re-picking your theme. I suggest:
- Pick the design that is closest to your final vision for your blog. A few minor tweaks should get you to your goal
- Find a design that offers a color scheme that you can live with. Changing the dominant colors can be a little tricky so pick a theme that has good options out of the box.
- Select a design that has a good-looking “home page”. Most businesses have non-blog pages (i.e. About Us, Services, Contact, Etc) that should be visible to new visitors. A template with a home page option allows you to create a website/blog hybrid that will be useful over the long-term.
- Make sure the designer is actively supporting the theme you’ve chosen. You will have questions and the designer should offer a help desk, forum, and FAQ/Documentation to answer your questions.
Customizing Your WordPress Theme
Your graphic design and CSS skills will determine your options for customizing your theme. Most themes will give you point-and-click tools for:
- Customizing the header (the top) of your blog. You can add your logo or simply change the title.
- Changing Colors: Change the background color and dominant/accent colors used by the design
- Change Fonts: You may want to change the headline and body text fonts to fit your brand and personality
- Layouts: Many themes allow you to change the position of your sidebar from right to left or add another column for a secondary sidebar.
- Adding “Bells and Whistles”: Add Sliders, Banners, Twitter Activity Feeds, and other eye-candy to your blog. Don’t go overboard. Only add features that clarify and enhance your content.
I suggest starting out with simple tweaks. Your goal is to start writing and publishing blog posts not fiddle with color schemes. Refine your creative and layout when your blog gains readers and earns cash, justifying the time and cost for more advanced customizations.
You can get this done in: 2 hours | Get Help
Installing and Configure Plugins
Plugin turn your blog from a zero into a hero. The directory for WordPress plugins has over 28,400 plugins that handle almost every task you can imagine.
Before you start blogging download and install the following basic plugins:
- WordPress SEO – Search Engine Optimization tool
- Comment Redirect by Yoast – Invite new commenters to sign-up for your blog updates
- Digg Digg – Place your social share icons under your headline, floating in a toolbar, or at the bottom of your post.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – Jetpack adds useful features and tools like simple blogging stats, infinite scroll, and custom css. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what these tools do, just activate Jetpack and get up-to-speed on each solution using the included documentation.
- LeadPlayer – A premium plugin that turns your YouTube hosted videos into email list building machines
- SEO Friendly Images – This plugin fills the alt and title tag of your blog post image with the title of your post. A quick SEO timesaver.
- Google Analytics for WordPress – Adds Google Analytics to your blog.
There are more advanced plugins for SEO, eCommerce, and Membership site content but use the list I provided to get you started. Bookmark this post because I plan on expanding this list over time.
Most plugins can be installed with a simple three-step process:
- Search for the plugin on WordPress
- Download the plugin to your computer
- Navigate to your WordPress dashboard then Plugins -> Add New
You can get this done in: 1 hour
Create Your Blog Menus
WordPress makes it easy to create menus for your blog. You can find menu options logging into your WordPress dashboard and navigating to Appearance -> Menus.
I recommend keeping your menus simple. Start with:
- About: Tell your story and how your blog solves reader problems
- Contact: The best way to talk to a human being
- New? Start Here: A cheat sheet for finding the good stuff on your blog
- Home: A simple link to the “front” of your blog.
If you are building a hybrid website/blog then it’s ok to add:
- Services: Explain what you do, why it rocks, and how much it costs
- Store: Use the WooCommerce plugin to create a professional, easy to use, store
The easiest way to create menu links is to build the pages within WordPress (“Pages” link in the Dashboard) and then create your menus.
You can get this done in: 30 minutes to set-up menus, an hour or so to outline your pages
Build Your Sidebar
Imagine that each position on your sidebar starting from the top is numbered. I recommend:
Position #1: An optin form to subscribe people wanting blog updates via email. Optin forms are tricky. You will need to pay close attention to the documentation provided by email service provider (i.e. Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact) to set-up a customized form.
Position #2: A promotion for your primary money-making product or service
Position #3: Recent Posts or Links to ‘Category Pages’. Your goal is to get readers to stick around and explore the rest of your comment.
Position #1-#3 is prime real estate. Be very picky about what you place in these spots. For me, if the widget doesn’t subscriber or sell it doesn’t get a top position.
Anything after position 3 won’t get noticed.
You can get this done in: 1 hours
You are done with the hard stuff. Time to –
The best way to break in a blog is to publish posts. Take a week to set up your blog, then move into that puppy with a dynamite blog posting schedule that delivers the good stuff.