How do you set up a blog?
What is the step by step process to set up a blog and do you create it within your website or can it/is it better to maintain it independently? What sort of content should be on your blog and how much do you link to your business? I hear of a 80/20 rule where only 20% should be direct plug to your business and the 80% informative, industry related. What do you think?
It depends what platform your site is built on, some can be easier than others to implement a blog.
To be honest I run off maybe 90-95% information for my readers and possible 5-10% promotion of my services, you can run a banner on the site and have a services page linked via the blog.
If you are building a standalone blog make it on WordPress in terms of how easy and simple the set up and maitence is.
As James says,
If you are building a standalone blog make it on WordPress.
Great information Peter. Thanks. I'm sure we could all learn a LOT from your very considerable skills!
I've heard many people say your blog should be the 'center of your universe" - so to speak...and everything else feeds off it. The Blog is your Hub...and Linked In, Facebook, You Tube etc.....drive people to your blog where they can get useful information and enter your follow up system...assuming you have one.
For my business I operate two blogs, a main blog and a summary blog. My main blog is a WordPress site, self hosted and uses a different domain name from my main business. I was forced into this rather than choice as I operate an eCommerce site and back when my blog started I knew I would be changing eCommerce software in the near future. I changed from self hosted eCommerce to Shopify, so they host for me. Moving a blog across is do-able but seemed to add more grief than I needed moving product across. Having a seperate domain has worked well for me, there are lots of thoughts on blog within main and blog outside, I'm happy with the way mine work.
My self hosted main WordPress blog does have links to my store but I don't over do it, only one or two links are enough plus I also link to other relevant sites. e.g. I sell Olympus gear so I often link to the Olympus sites in AU/UK/US.
My second, summary blog is purely for SEO purposes. It's a blogger.com blog (owned by Google) and has a short summary of any article I write. I link from blogger.com to the main article and have found that doing this instantly gets my posts indexed.
My content relates to the things I sell, none of it is salesy but is informative. I write about common issues and questions that people have things related to my business and this works well. Blogging shouldn't be a chore, should be fun and something you enjoy doing. Giving away knowledge can be quite fulfilling.
Blogging is what people mostly do to kill boredom. Look at this now to discover more ways to kill boredom online.
Step 1: Decide – Create Free Blog or Self-Hosted Blog?
So yes, you can start your blog for nothing. However, as with most things in life, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
Let me explain…
Yes, you can create a blog for free on many different platforms, such as:
But before you go smashing the above links and clicking “sign up”, read the rest of this section!
Sure, these platforms are great for testing the waters and solidifying some of the ideas you might have regarding content and design.
However, if you are serious about starting a profitable and successful blog, you should avoid these platforms at all costs.
These “free” blogging platforms have crippling limitations and totalitarian authority over your content.
They are, first and foremost, businesses. Their main only purpose is to turn a profit by using your website to sell ad space while placing limitations on your account, so you are eventually forced into a “premium” or “unlimited” blog plan.
So if you post something that one of your friendly neighborhood website moderators doesn’t like, your entire site (and all of your data) can be deleted in an instant.
Think about that for a second.
You spend months hustling and grinding to grow your blog. Slowly but surely, you acquire a decent number of loyal visitors and subscribers. Then the money starts to roll in from sponsored posts, paid ads, or your own products.
Things are going great.
Then you accidentally violate your free web provider’s Terms of Service (see all limitations for Blogger.com and WordPress.com) and your entire online business is irrevocably lost to the trash bin of the interwebs.
Blogger the blog has been removed
WordPress.com blog has been removed
Do you really want to deal with this?
I hope not.
This is why all of the most successful bloggers started their own self-hosted blog.
It’s cheap, grants you access to your own personal domain name (e.g. myepicsite.com vs. myepicsite.blogging-platform.com), and you’ll have no limitations.
Oh, and you’ll also have access to premium website templates and design plugins to ensure that your new site looks like something created by a pro.
The bottom line?
Bite the bullet and fork over a little cash to get your blog started the right way.
A few months from now, you’ll be glad that you did.
Step 2: Get a Domain Name, Web Hosting & Setup Your Blog
With all of the anti-free-blog preamble out of the way, it’s time to get down to the good stuff and go through the exact steps you need to follow to build and launch your self-hosted blog today.
To get started, you’ll only need two things:
A Domain name – The web address of your blog (mine is www.websitesetup.org)
Web hosting – A server to store your blog files and keep it online for others to browse and read at all times.
And with a few quick clicks you can purchase and setup both of these things as easy as 1-2-3.
1. Sign up with Web Hosting
Full disclosure: To keep my site up and running, I use affiliate links for some of the products mentioned in this guide. This means that I earn a small commission (at no extra expense to you) anytime you make a purchase using one of my links. Thank you for your continued support!
Of the countless web hosts on the market, only a small handful are even worth considering.
Of those, only 3-4 offer truly exceptional services for the price.
2. Choose a Domain Name
Unlike many of the more profit-centric web hosts who charge upwards of $14.99/year for a new domain, BlueHost gives new customers a free domain name for the entire first year of their web hosting service.
choose a domain name
If you’re serious about building a strong online presence and visitors from all over the world, you’ll want to get a domain name with a .com, .net, or .org, extension (here’s a guide for choosing a domain name).
For those of you who are unable to claim your first choice of domain name, spend a few hours brainstorming ideas with friends and family. Think out loud and experiment with different words and variations to find the most brandable domain name for your new site.
3. Choose a Web Hosting Plan and Finish Your Registration
Now that you’ve decided on your domain name, it’s time to select your web hosting plan, finish your registration, and begin your forays into the wonderful world of blogging.
As a general rule of thumb, I recommend that you opt for the BlueHost “Prime” plan, since it comes with a free SSL certificate from “Let’s Encrypt”.
This will keep your visitor’s information secure, improve your engagement (no one wants to spend time on a website plagued by a giant “Not Secure” warning), and earn you a few extra brownie points with Google.
Choose your web hosting plan
Once you’ve chosen the plan that best suits your needs you can finish off your registration and checkout using a credit card or PayPal.
And there you have it! You are now ready to launch your blog instantly (instead of waiting 2-3 days for activation like you would with many of their competitors).
4. Setup and Launch Your Blog
Once you’ve completed the registration process, it’s time to setup an admin panel (or cPanel) password–make sure it’s as strong as possible to keep hackers at bay–and login to your Bluehost admin panel via my.bluehost.com.
Once you are there, you should be able to see this screen:
welcome to WordPress
Congratulations! If you see this, it means that your blog is already setup.
However, there are a few things that I’d recommend you do to ensure that it’s visible as soon as possible…
Go to Settings > General (left sidebar)
Add Site Title and Tagline (your blog name and tagline)
Change your site address to your domain name. In my case, I’m using websitesetup-start-blog.com
Add your email address (so you can reset your password later)
WordPress General settings
Once you’ve completed this, launch your blog by clicking “Coming Soon Active” at the top of WordPress dashboard and then “Launch Your Site”:
Now that you’ve launched your blog, you’ll be able to see what can only be described as a skeleton of a website.
This is where it gets fun.
With your domain name, web hosting, and blog setup, it’s time to get down and dirty and start customizing the aesthetic of your website.
Step 3: Design Your Blog and Make it Look Awesome!
The fastest and easiest way to customize your blog and make it look absolutely awesome is to use the free themes provided by the WordPress theme library.
1. Choose a Theme and Layout You Like
To install a new theme, go to your website’s dashboard, then go to Appearance > Themes, then click Add New from the top.
From the search results you can test out each theme to see how you like it by clicking on “Live Preview”.
Once you find the perfect theme for your new blog, you can activate it from either the Live Preview (just click “Activate the Theme”) or from the main search area by clicking the “Activate” button.
As soon as the theme is activated, it will be installed on your site. You’re now ready to start posting viral content and generating raving fans.
2. Manage Your Blog’s Content (Blog Posts & Pages)
When you’re first getting started your site will be adorned with little more than the default “Hello World” post.
To add your first post navigate to Dashboard > Posts > Add New.
From here, you can add the title and start writing amazing content for your new blog.
WordPress add new post
With the new Gutenberg editor, you can add different types of content blocks into the editor by clicking on the “Add Block” icon.
Since I don’t have the time to cover every type of block included in the new editor (there are quite a few of them), I implore you to try it for yourself as most–if not all–of them are self explanatory.
Next, you’ll want to add a featured image to spruce up your post and add some visual flair for your readers. To do this, simply click the “Featured Image” box on the right hand side of your screen, upload your image, and click “Save”.
Once you’re satisfied with the quality and layout of your post, hit the publish button, sit back, and prepare to take the blogging world by storm.
You have officially published your first post!
If you want to add a welcome page on the homepage of your site instead of a list of recent blog posts, all you need to do is go to Pages > Add New and then add the title and content.
Then rinse and repeat this process to create another page for your blog list. Choose an appropriate title (like “blog” for example), and then hit publish.
With both pages created, go to Dashboard > Settings > Reading, then in the “Your Homepage Displays” option, check “A static page”, select your welcome page in the “Homepage” setting and your blog page in the “Posts page” setting, then hit save.
Your welcome page will now be published and ready to greet your new visitors as they arrive.
3. Create a Menu
One of the most important aspects of good user experience on any new blog is navigability, a.k.a. the ease with which your new viewers can find the content for which they’re searching.
And the most important part of navigability is a well designed and up to date menu.
Luckily, creating a menu inside of WordPress is pretty straightforward.
To get started, simply go to Dashboard > Appearance > Menu.
From here, create and add a new title for your main menu and then, in the left pane of the menu editor, check the pages you want to appear on your new menu. Click “Add Menu”.
The checked pages should appear on the right pane of the editor and you can now rearrange their order by dragging the labels up and down.
Once you’re happy with your menu’s structure, you can display it on your website’s main header by checking the “Primary” location checkbox (the name depends on the theme you previously selected) in the menu settings and hit save.
4. Install Plugins (They’re Free)
Plugins are one of the simplest (and cheapest) ways to extend your website’s functionality and increase the traffic and profits you generate each month.
Luckily, there are (quite literally) thousands of free plugins and libraries inside of WordPress and countless more on other external sites.
Let me give you a quick example with one of the most important plugins that you can download for your new site… A contact form.
First, you’re going to go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add new and search for “Contact Form 7.” Then, click “Install” and activate the plugin from the search results.
Once the new plugin is activated, it will create a new menu called “Contact” in the dashboard. Click it to access the contact forms generated by the plugin and then click “Contact Form 1” from the list to edit the new form.
At this point, the contact form is effectively up and running, however, you’ll want to make sure that the mail template is properly functioning so that you actually receive emails sent from the form.
To do this, go to the “Mail” tab and change the “To” value to the address where the email should be sent.
Next, you’ll need to copy the “shortcode” found just under the contact form’s name… It should look something like [contactform-7 id=”25″ title=”Contact form 1″].
After you have copied the shortcode, create a new page called “Contact Us,” and simply paste the shortcode in the content.
Then click “Publish”, sit back, relax, and check out your new content form in all of its glory:
If you are looking for more plugins that will improve the use and functionality of your blog, here’s a list of best plugins.
5. Customize Your Blog
To really add another level of flair and personalization, you’ll want to download another plugin that will allow you to change your website’s fonts.
Repeat the same steps listed above for the plugin “Easy Google Fonts” and then go to the theme customizer.
The customizer gives you the ability to customize your theme and preview it in real time.
Whether you want to change your site identity, colors, menus, widgets, homepage settings, or additional CSS, the customizer gives you almost total control over your website’s design.
With Easy Google Fonts installed, you’ll notice that there is a new option in the Customizer: Typography.
This setting allows you to change the fonts on your site to your liking and grants you a greater level of authority over your site’s aesthetic.
I encourage you to spend some time playing around with the Customizer until you have a strong grasp of the options available to you. Then, once you’re happy with the new look of your site, click “Publish,” and double check the changes in a new tab.
WordPress site customizer
To make it easier for your readers to share your articles on their favorite social media channels, you’ll also want to install a social sharing plugin that will allow your viewers to seamlessly promote your new content from your posts and pages.
Just do a quick search in the plugins page with the keyword “social share” and you’ll be presented with hundreds of results. Install any plugin that strikes your fancy and set it up by going to its settings in your dashboard.
I'll leave the tactical and business advantages of blogging to others better equipped to answer, but I would offer a word of caution on using Wordpress as a platform, especially on shared hosting.
Wordpress has achieved almost cult like status amongst it's user's, some of it deserved, but often the downside is glazed over.
Because it's easy to install and use by non technical users it's possibly the most popular blog engine come CMS out there (being free open source software helps too).
This popularity makes it a prime target for a multitude of malicious attacks, usually by automated bots and crawlers looking for "low fruit", if the site has not been "hardened" from a security point of view, as well as spotlessly maintained and upgraded, you may find your data and content evaporating into cyberspace.
Even with good security practice on the site itself, poorly run shared hosting (surprisingly common) can easily leave holes in the web server security. Once an experienced hacker gets in via the web server, anything you've done for security will be almost a waste of time.
I've personally had several Wordpress sites (well maintained and secured) taken down repeatedly by malicious attacks, where the attackers gained access via poorly secured shared hosting servers.
Wordpress at it's core is an excellent blog engine, but it achieves a lot of it's functionality beyond that using "plugins" written by third parties. There's nothing wrong with plugins or templates per se, but they are the most likely cause of a security holes (not just in Wordpress).
If you are looking for a "plug and play" solution and don't want to get your hands dirty in the back end maintenance stuff (or don't have the skill or time), I'd be looking at a Cloud hosted solution where all server side security and application maintenance is abstracted away from the publishing interface and managed by experts.
Platforms like Squarespace do this well ... there's others. I just happen to use and like Squarespace. I've had several sites running there for quite a while ... never done any maintenance, never managed a security patch, never had any down time, and never been hacked ... average cost per site $8 pcm.