Starting a blog is not hard. People do it all the time, by the millions. But if you’re not technically inclined it can be intimidating. We often talk to people who want to get a simple website and blog up and running. Sometimes we work with them, other times it’s enough to point them in the right direction and give a little advice. Today I’d like to share a bit of that advice.
Step 1: Hosting
Web hosting is both simple in concept and complicated to get right. There are a ton of hosting companies out there.
You can sign up for a couple of dollars per month at Blue Host* in a few minutes and host your own blog. They will take care of the servers and provide support when you need it and you can focus just on your blog. Choose the plus or starter plan for now, you can always upgrade in the future if you need to.
Why not use a fully hosted platform like Tumblr, WordPress.com or Blogger? You can, and many people do, and that may be what you want. However I prefer to the control of hosting and running your own site, there are a lot of reasons, but the idea is that it’s good to control your own data. WordPress’s automatic updates make it easy to keep the platform up to date with no technical knowledge and this way all the content you write and create is under your control. You can always migrate WordPress to another web host, but it’ll still all be under your control.
Step 2: WordPress
WordPress is a Content Management System (CMS) that is really good for running small informational websites and blogs. It has a simple basic interface for writing and you can add new features using plugins that are really easy to install and update. Some hosting companies take things a step further and create a simple way to install WordPress. Blue Host has done this for you and has instructions on their site. After you sign up for a hosting account just login and follow those instructions to setup WordPress.
WordPress has thousands of plugins that you can use to change the way your site works. Some are large, some are small, some free, some cost money. There are a few that we install on just about every site that you can use to get started.
- Contact Form 7 – used to easily add a contact form on a page on your site that lets people email you. You’ll generally want to give people a way to contact you and this is a nice simple one.
- Wordfence – This is a security plugin that helps to lock down your site and notify you when people login or attempt to login. You don’t want your site getting hacked and this helps prevent it. I like to set it up to prevent too many attempts at logging into the site to keep people from guessing your password.
Step 3: Design
WordPress comes with a few basic themes, but they are nothing that will wow anyone and are just to get you started. However, there are a ton of available themes that you can install from WordPress automatically. Just click on Appearance > Themes in the main WordPress navigation once you’ve logged into your site and then click on the Add New button to search and browse for a theme you like. You can preview a theme by click on it and then use the install button to download it to your server and add it to WordPress to use. You can activate and deactivate themes over and over to try them out. You can pick one that looks and feels right for the topic of your blog. This will be different for everyone since a blog about home decor will generally look very different from a blog about industrial design.
Step 4: Writing
Here’s where the fun begins. You start writing and publishing and letting the world know what you think. Often there will be little to no response when you start and that is okay. It takes time for search engines and people to find you. While they do start writing about the topic or topics you are passionate about. Whether that is web design, cooking, home improvement, writing compilers, bird watching, Scrabble, or tying knots it doesn’t matter. Write well, write often, and write about what you care about and other people who care about that will eventually read it.
You don’t need to know HTML to write blog posts or pages in WordPress, you simply go to Posts > Add New and start writing. There is a toolbar that lets you quickly format what you are writing. This will let you easily add links to other webpages, add bulleted lists of bold text. You can also easily upload photos (like the one of the toolbar below), create a photo gallery, or upload audio files (WordPress will show a nice audio player to listen to them) using the Add Media button.
Step 5: Growth
As you get more popular you may find that you need help with your blog. Whether it’s setting up complicated new features or a custom design at some point you may exceed your technical know how or run out of time to do it yourself. That’s when you may want to call us or another company to help you do what you can’t or don’t want to do.
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