Blogs are considered a living and breathing part of the web; a source of content in a particular niche often providing opinion, advice or experiential data from a personal perspective. Everyone is looking for something, be it a tutorial on how to design something specific with Photoshop, or a recipe for a meal you want to cook for dinner tonight. Blogging can be a terrific source of content for readers as well as a cathartic release for the blogger. Let’s assume you are knowledgeable and passionate about that area and you’d love to write about it, but you don’t know how to get started. And for whatever reason (a friend recommended, ease-of-use, features, etc), you have chosen WordPress as your blogging platform (nearly 15% of the top million websites use WordPress). Getting your own blog up and running may sound like a hard task to achieve, but really, it’s pretty simple with WordPress. These steps will help you think through the process of starting a blog with WordPress.
- Before Starting a Blog
- What’s your Blog About?
- Do you have the time to write?
- Where is the Content Going to Come From?
- How Much Money are you going to Invest?
- Planning the Launch
- Hosted WordPress vs. Free WordPress
- WordPress.org and WordPress.com Advantages and Disadvantages
- What Kind of Hosting do I need?
- Web Host Servers: Which one is right for you? (MS vs LAMP)
- cPanel Control Panel
Before Starting a Blog
Stop! Sit back for a few minutes and picture yourself as a blogger one year from now. You have poured your heart into your blog and created something you’re truly proud of. You have a great design, numerous blog posts and a growing group of subscribers who sometimes even leave comments. You’ve earned the title of “Blogger.” Are you happy?
One of the biggest downfalls of starting a blog is the task of updating it frequently. If you feel you don’t have time to commit to it properly and you just blurt out a post every other month then you shouldn’t bother getting started. Hundreds of blogs are created daily, however a large percentage of those blogs end up failing. If you don’t have any expertise or an active opinion, then don’t bother starting a blog. You may be able to keep it going for a few months, but what happens when you’ve run out of things to write? Some blogs can only stray a small distance from the starting point.
The most important aspect of starting a blog is the planning stage. You need to have a plan, and I can’t stress how important planning is and how it can benefit the creation of a blog. Let’s assume you’ve found a relevant niche in which you have plenty of knowledge in, you will need to begin planning out pre-written content, setting up social media accounts, secure domain names, make sure your web hosting provider can handle your potential traffic; the list goes on and on. Create a plan and spend a lot of time tweaking it until everything looks perfect. Blog launches can go terribly wrong without a well-structured plan, so before you start doing anything at all, write out the plan first.
The Goal of your Blog
We’re talking specifically about starting a blog but please understand that WordPress can be used for many types of websites including online shops, galleries, and forums. In fact, according to a survey mentioned by Matt Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, 92% of developers responded that they use WordPress as a CMS (content management system). This means that when someone asks them to build a website of any sort, developers most often turn to WordPress. So, you might say that WordPress has transcended blogging.
What do you want your blog to achieve? If you want your blog to succeed, make sure it sticks to the goals you’ve set. Be it a part-time or full-time endeavor, the reasons people start blogs are very diverse. Let’s have a look at a few popular ones:
- Making Money Online – Do you want to earn money from your blog? It’s not too terribly difficult; however it isn’t a walk in the park either. There are many ways to earn revenue including sponsored posts, advertising and affiliate marketing and so on. You must understand all available routes that will help you achieve your goal and make sure you know everything about them. If you don’t do this, you are at major risk of losing revenue. Darren Rowse, one of the early “MMO” bloggers remains candid about how he makes money online with his blogs.
- Impressing Potential Employers – Many freelancers want to showcase their skills to their potential employers, thus create a blog. This allows them to display all their previous work and write about the career they are involved in. What does this help them achieve? It helps them gain exposure to potential employers. Starting a blog as an online résumé puts you a level up from everyone.
- Business Blogging – Simply put, many companies set up blogs on their website as a way to commutate with their customers. It also allows them to inform their customers of anything important happening from within the company, such as announcements. It’s also a good way to showcase promotional offers to potential clients and display testimonials from satisfied customers. It can also act as a medium for receiving feedback so companies can improve their services. Check out some examples of top business blogs and why they are successful.
- Expert Blogging – Some people blog to proclaim themselves as experts in their profession. Let’s take this from a perspective of a web designer. Let’s say a web designer earns his fair share of clients, has a stable monthly income and has an enormous amount of knowledge in design. This would be the perfect opportunity to create a blog to teach others what you know. Not only will it help you gain your status as a career expert, it will potentially help your business too. If you start a blog that is magnetic enough to attract large numbers of subscribers, you will be taken seriously as an expert by new visitors.
- Blog for Fun – Enough about the commercial side of blogging; a lot of people want to blog just because they enjoy it. Some people may work a regular 9 till 5 job and want a little freedom outside of the workplace. Starting a blog is a great way to ensure you don’t get burnt out and stressed on your day to day life. Blogging gives you the freedom to write about whatever you’d like to write about, which many people see as an enjoyable hobby.
What’s your Blog About?
Most people have certain topics that they are deeply interested in. Readers will be able to tell quickly if you have a passion that inspires them. Think of several niche areas that you would enjoy writing about and learning more about as you go along. Next, try and get a sense of their popularity. If you were looking to set up a technology blog, the competition would be fierce as there are hundreds of technology blogs out there. On the other hand, a blog about arctic vacations will have a smaller potential audience to attract. Google AdWords has a pretty handy tool that lets you see the potential competition you have for your relevant niche and the amount of global monthly searches it receives.
If you choose a topic that is already covered by major publishers, then there is a chance that your blog won’t generate much traffic as there are many other authoritative resources available. Your style must be unique and shine through in each blog post you make. If you want to gain traffic for a blog relating to a popular niche, think outside the blogging box.
Do you have Time to Write?
Will you be able to set aside time each day to write an article? Time is dependent on your niche. For example, if you were to start a technology blog, you would most likely need to update your blog daily; however these updates won’t necessarily be lengthy articles. If you were to start a design blog, you could create an blog post once a week, as the article could be a lengthy and detailed tutorial. If you currently work a full-time job and don’t have enough time to commit to a blog, then this isn’t for you.
Where is the Content Going to Come From?
The amount of content you post is crucial. Quality over quantity is a major aspect in blogging. Are you capable of writing daily or weekly articles yourself that people will want to read? Determine how frequently you want to post and how long you want each post to be. Some bloggers like Darren Rowse schedule new posts to go live on certain days weeks or months out. WordPress makes scheduling blog posts super easy.
There are other ways to generate content for your blog such as getting experts or guests to post content on your blog. Having an expert publish a guest post on your blog could potentially help you receive more traffic, keep your blog active and ultimately make more money for you. Sometimes, a panel of experts may be invited to weigh in on pre-determined questions as in this post about social media tricks at the DDIY blog.
Free guest blog services such as My Blog Guest offer an “articles gallery” to their community of bloggers who can connect directly with publishers to post unique articles that include a link credit. For some, this may be a real time-saver, yet for others, they may feel that their blog is an expression of their freedom. They love what they put into their content, therefore would only feel comfortable with like-minded people posting guest content on their blog. This matter mostly comes down to personal opinion.
Another example would be to interview others in your niche. Interviews are a very informative source of information and readers love to know more about their favorite bloggers. Often, a well known interviewee will promote their interview on your blog to get more publicity for themselves.
How Much Money are you going to Invest?
Funding can play an important role in blogging as well. Yes, you can earn money through blogging, but you have to spend money as well. Well established bloggers can make some extra money through advertising, however new bloggers are often on a shoestring budget. At first, your blog won’t likely generate much traffic so spending a little cash on to get your name out is absolutely necessary. Several blogs allocate advertising space to showcase services, products and other bloggers. Next to this space, there is normally an “advertise with us” link sitting next to it. Bloggers will advertise your blog if you pay them a set amount of money per month. The cost is dependent on how popular the advertising blog is.
Planning the Launch
Lastly, upon launching your blog, you will need pre-written content. No-one will be interested in a new blog if it only has only a couple of posts. Create at least a month or two of content so you can easily update your blog when its time. Readers will assume you are serious about what you write. This will also give you the time to advertise your blog through all available mediums. Allocate time for writing posts, responding to comments, doing some minor WordPress updates and maintenance and promoting your blog elsewhere.
Hosted WordPress vs. Free WordPress
The vast majority of bloggers install WordPress onto their own domains via their web hosting provider. This is sometimes referred to as the WordPress.org option. We want you to know that there is a free WordPress that you can set up on the WordPress.com domain itself. Your blog address would look like this: yourblog.wordpress.com. This is a great no-risk way for WordPress newbies to test drive WordPress before getting serious.
Let’s break this down in to very simple terms to help everybody understand the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress itself is simply online blogging software that allows you to publish content. It is the most popular content publishing platform out there today. WordPress allows you to create any kind of website tailored to your needs, from a simple blog to a a company website.
Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.org is where you can download the platform and upload it manually to a website and host it yourself through a service like ClickHOST. This requires some intermediate knowledge about web hosting, domain names and online file management (FTP).
WordPress.com simply allows you to register a blog within the WordPress.com website. You don’t have to download anything, or worry about hosting. They host your blog for you. WordPress.com is in place for users who have very little knowledge about web hosting and essentially how to run a website or blog manually.
WordPress.org and WordPress.com Advantages and Disadvantages
Let’s start with WordPress.org.
- Complete control of your blog. You can edit it any way you like.
- Ability to upload as many themes/plugins as you desire.
- The website has a very helpful community who can usually help you with any issue you may face.
- You need to pay for your own web hosting and domain name. This could be expensive if you run a high traffic website.
- Requires some intermediate knowledge about web hosts and WordPress.
- You have to dispose of spam and create all of your backups yourself.
- You must update all your plugins, themes and WordPress upgrades yourself.
- High traffic spikes can cause potential downtime
Now, let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of WordPress.com:
- It’s free.
- It’s extremely easy to set-up your blog as you don’t have to upload any files or create any databases, etc.
- Updates, spam, backups and other important aspects are all taken care of for you.
- It uses SSL for secure log-ins
- It is very unlikely your website will receive downtime on their servers.
- You can’t use your own domain (at least not for free)
- You can’t use custom themes.
- You can’t upload your own plugins.
- You can’t edit any of the PHP files behind the blog if you wanted to.
- All of your content can be removed and your blog disabled without notice if you are perceived to have violated the terms of service. Spammers most often get taken down but sometimes legitimate bloggers become victims.
If you want more control over your blog without any limitations of any kind, then downloading the WordPress software itself from WordPress.org would be the way to go (many hosts such as ClickHOST allow automatic installation or will even offer to install it for you). However, if you’re really stumped on this and would feel much more comfortable having WordPress.com host your blog and aren’t that fussed about custom themes or plugins, then they would be a better fit.
What Kind of Hosting do I need?
WordPress requires two important technologies: MySQL for the database and PHP for the programming language. The good news is that you don’t need to worry about these server technologies. ClickHOST and most any web hosting service you choose already has this installed and running for you.
Web Host Servers: Which one is right for you? (MS vs Linux)
If you are looking for a WordPress hosting service for your blog, keep in mind that there are typically two hosting solutions you can choose from: a Windows server or a Linux server. You don’t really have to worry about this unless you’re at the stage where you’re looking for a web host.
The creators of WordPress generally recommend hosting on a Linux server, but why is this?
- Linux is an open source system therefore is cheaper to run than Windows.
- Linux is known to be more stable and crash less often.
- It is a lot faster at executing processes, as opposed to Windows servers.
- Linux also runs the popular, open source Apache server software.
Wondering now why some people choose to be hosted on a Windows server? The reason for this is that they can run certain software such as MS databases and Access. It also offers adequate programming environments such as ASP (Active Server Pages) and VBS (Visual Basic Scripts).
cPanel Control Panel
You may have heard of a control panel several web hosts use to allow their customers to easily customize their websites, among other things. This control panel is called cPanel. It one of the most used web hosting control panels and used by ClickHOST for all customers.
cPanel can allow you to do a very wide array of tasks, which include but are not limited to: file management, the creation and management of databases, e-mail accounts, FTP accounts, domain names, sub-domains and add-on domains, the ability to set-up external e-mail services, creating custom error pages, installing specific online software and much, much more.
Guess what else you can do with cPanel? You can literally click a few buttons and type in a bit of info to install the WordPress software on your domain! cPanel allows you to install content management systems, shopping carts and of course, blogging platforms as well.
cPanel has a software installer by the name of Fantastico or Softaculous. Click on either of these installers, and there should be a Blog or CMS category. Click on the relevant category, and you should see WordPress as an available option. The installer will then guide you on installing the software. You will most likely only have to enter basic information such as your e-mail address, username and password and the title and description of your blog.
Your blog should now be set-up and available to use. Now, you can start posting away!
I have a WordPress blog and some great content to post, but my design isn’t great…Help! There are millions of Free WordPress themes available on the Internet intended for both personal and commercial use. If you have a budget set aside to have a custom theme built, then there are several talented designers ready to accept your dream theme project. All you need to do is find the right one for you and make sure they meet your specifications. Many hosting companies provide such services. In face ClickHOST is a WordPress friendly host that loves to help customers choose a suitable theme and select plugins to fit their needs.
If you have a little money to spend on a Premium WordPress theme, then your best bet is purchasing one from the many premium theme marketplaces. A few popular marketplaces include iThemes, WooThemes and ElegantThemes.
If you’ve heard of WordPress, you’ve likely heard of WordPress plugins. They are adored by many; without them bloggers might be lost. Plugins are essentially PHP scripts that allow your blog to do specific tasks. They are super easy to install on your blog and are usually very easy to configure as well. There is a section on the WordPress website where you can browse and download any plugins of your choosing. Warning: you can spend literally hours there browsing and testing all the nifty plugins (there are more than 15,000 listed).
What types of plugins are there? Well, there are plugins that can block spam, optimize your blog for search engines, add galleries and slideshows add contact forms, create sitemaps; the possibilities are literally endless.
However, too many plugins can be a bad thing. For example, the activation of several plugins many slow down your website significantly, and may even cause your website to crash. Some may also pose as a security risk on your blog. Old, or poorly written plugins can be damaging to your blog, and often can conflict with one another, so remember to be weary when installing new plugins onto your blog.
With the right tools, expenses and knowledge, setting up a blog is a very simple task. It will certainly take time to get your blog up and running, and even more time to generate traffic. Being patient is extremely important. Launching your WordPress blog without any hitches shouldn’t be difficult. Make sure you have content ready, make sure you have a great design, make sure social media tools are set-up and that your website is optimized for search engines. Create a to-do list and make sure you have gotten absolutely everything down before launching.
Starting a blog is a fun and unique experience as it gives you the freedom to write about whatever you want. You have the ability to share unique content and thoughts with the world so take advantage of what blogging can give you and make sure you do it to the best of your ability.
References or Further Reading
If you would like to know more about WordPress, blogging, themes and plugins, web hosting and anything else we’ve mentioned, then please feel free to view the following resources. They may better your understanding of things you may be unsure of or don’t understand.
- Basic Blog Tips – Ileane’s inspiring blog for WordPress beginners
- Problogger.net – Darren Rowse and fellow bloggers’ tips
- Copy Blogger – Excellent source for blog content marketing