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Get Started Blogging The Right Way In 2020
Hello again lovely lady
If you’re a newbie to starting a website, I’ll walk you through it. It’s not difficult, but there are some new terms for you to learn first.
Niche – This is what you intend to blog about…your chosen topic
Domain Name – this is the address of your blog (and yes, you do need one)
Website Platform – the framework your blog sits on
Hosting Company – the administrator of your site, its Server – the ‘home’ of your domain Think of it like you are renting space for your domain to live.
Theme – Think of it as the window dressing that makes your site look and function how you want it to.
Plugins – are pieces of software containing coded functions that can add new features and enhance the performance of your WordPress site.
SSL – This setting makes the connection between the browser your reader is using and the server ‘safe’. It’s important and some people choose to ignore it BUT I recommend that you don’t. When. you see a little lock symbol in front of a URL, it means the site is secure. e.g. https:// (secure) http:// (not secure)
1. Choosing Your Niche
Pick a topic (niche) that you are genuinely interested in as you will be writing about it A LOT! This may shift sideways as you get to know what your readers are really interested in, and that’s perfectly normal.
Most bloggers change the focus of their blog after a while. As your audience grows you will start to get a feel for what is most important to them particularly if you encourage comments on your site, and ask questions in your emails…(you can also run surveys, readers respond well to these)
You don’t necessarily have to be super-passionate about your niche as long as it interests you…although super-passionate is definitely a bonus. Plus, you will need to do research on any niche…we all do. This is how you will continue to find topics within your niche to write posts about.
By the way, all niches can be profitable BUT, you will need to learn how to market your blog to get people to find your posts. In other words, which social media platforms to use, how best to use them, which strategies to use, how consistent you are with posting, and how much value to stack into your posts for your readers.
2. Choosing Your Domain Name
Your blog name and domain should be the same. It can reflect your niche, but it doesn’t have to. You can use your own name, or something completely random. Some of the best blogs have unlikely names:
- Neil Patel.com
- Melyssa Griffin.com
Pick something easy to spell. No strange versions of the words as people won’t find it easily when they search. No slang…same deal. Nothing kitsch or clever and no hyphens. AND always try to get a dot com (.com) as it’s the most widely respected and recognized.
3. Get The Same Social Media Names As Well.
This is important. You want to have a consistent presence on the web…even if you’re planning on a ‘hobby’ blog. But definitely, if your blog is going to be a business.
You can check your choices (yes, make sure you have more than one choice in case it’s not available) on this website namevine.com which will also tell you if the same social media handles are available.
Focus on the main ones, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest (a must for bloggers), and definitely Instagram (a must)…maybe LinkedIn depending on your niche (not as much for bloggers)
TIP: Don’t buy through Namevine. Purchase your domain through your hosting company – more on that later.
For example, my ‘domain’ is: womanbeyou.com and my SM accounts are the same.
When you find a domain you like, check Google to see if a similar domain but with a different spelling has a significant web presence. If so, choose another name. You don’t want confusion with your audience…they may end up on the wrong site.
4. You Need A Website Platform.
This is the framework your website sits on. There is only one that serious bloggers use and that is wordpress.org
This is a self-hosted platform and comes with plenty of options. You will not own your domain unless you self-host.
DO NOT choose WordPress.com. This is not self-hosted and no serious blogger would choose it as you don’t have enough control over your blog and, also you will have much less flexibility. Trust me on this!
The same goes for these…they are NOT self-hosted.
Sorry to be so adamant but…with self-hosting, you’re the boss of your business. You need to have complete control.
Also, WordPress.org has plenty of tutorials to help you learn more about the technical side of the platform…and has many super-useful plugins (more about these later) to help you achieve certain things with your business.
An added bonus: WordPress automatically optimizes your blog making it easier for Google to find it and you want Google to find your site…You Really Do!
5. You Need A Self-Hosting Company.
Although there are several companies to choose from, the only one I use and recommend is SiteGround. I have tried others but this one gives the best customer service and site speed.
When you have checked that your chosen domain and social media handles are available, purchase your domain through SiteGround. It’s much easier.
They always have a cheaper package for the year. I strongly suggest investing in the ‘Grow Big’ option paid annually if you can stretch your budget to it. This will give you extra features giving your site more security and speed and will grow with you as your blog grows.
But if not, it’s no biggie…there’s no issue with the ‘StartUp’ plan as you can upgrade at any time as your blog grows.
6. Here’s How To Sign Up For SiteGround.
It’s not difficult…I’ll walk you through it now.
Go to SiteGround
Choose Your Plan – StartUp or GrowBig
Once you choose your plan, you will be prompted to pick your Primary Domain.
Choose the ‘Register a New Domain’ option. Follow the instructions.
NOTE: If you already own a domain with another company, I strongly suggest you move it across to SiteGround. (I’ll show you how to do that later)
Choose Domain Privacy Protection. (You don’t need anything else at this stage)
Domain Privacy costs a little more BUT, it stops anyone from being able to access your personal information (spammers, hackers, etc) and, without it I guarantee you’ll get countless emails (and maybe phone calls) from people all over the world offering you their services…that you don’t need!
Then, make sure you review the screen and then choose the PAY NOW button.
7. Install WordPress
After you sign up for SiteGround hosting, you’ll be sent all the info you need to log into your new account.
When you log in for the first time you will be prompted to set up a new website. Choose “Set Up Site“
Select “Start New Site” and make sure “WordPress” is selected
Then set up your “Login Credentials” and click “Continue“
To deter potential Hackers, choose your Admin Username carefully.
DON’T choose ‘admin’ or your blog’s name. (These will be the first they will try) Choose something completely random but one that you can easily remember.
Choose a really strong password (this is the time to not use one you’ve used elsewhere. Also, make sure the email you put in is one you check often as it is how WordPress will contact you for administration purposes. (Note: it can be your usual Gmail account…just your standard account you use all the time.)
Now you will be taken to your WordPress dashboard page. Bookmark this as you will be spending a large part of your life on it!
If you want to just type into the browser the access for your WordPress site admin use: yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ and hit enter. (Obviously, use YOUR domain name)
TIP: WordPress sometimes has some plugins installed that may not suit your purposes. So delete most of them as we will be using some new ones.
However, one great plugin that is pre-installed is SiteGround Optimizer. Keep this plugin as it’s function is to take care of caching and some other performance-enhancing issues on your site.
8. Install SSL On Your Site.
Now, I know you’re all excited and want to get started customizing your new WordPress site but It’s important to do things the correct way.
So, before we go any further, let’s install your SSL (URL security) meaning: https:// (instead of http://)
This is securing the connection between the server and the browser that people use. It gives the little Lock symbol next to your domain name in their browser search bar which instills confidence with your visitors that your site is legitimate and secure.
Go into your SiteGround account and click on “Websites“. Then “Available Extras“. Choose “SSL“
On the next screen choose “Let’s Encrypt SSL” (ignore the other two options…you don’t need them)
Add your domain name. Click “Go To CPanel“. Then you will see a box to add your domain name. Then click “Install“
One last step, go to your WordPress dashboard and look down the toolbar on the left side for SG Optimizer. Click on “Environment Optimization” and toggle the HTTPS button to on.
Give it a few minutes to configure and then refresh the page. Then you will see the little lock symbol next to your site URL.
DONE!…congratulations. Your site is secure!
9. Now The Fun Begins – Choosing Your Theme.
This is the look and feel of your blog. It’s the design…how it appears to your readers. A good well-coded theme also determines how well your site performs. There are plenty of themes to choose from. Make sure they are WordPress compatible…most themes are.
My recommendation? ALWAYS choose a paid theme. These are updated regularly by the theme designer and are usually well coded. It’s tempting to choose a free theme to keep to your budget but please don’t do it. A paid theme doesn’t have to be very expensive…maybe $40…BUT, the benefits will far outweigh the cost.
(Note: If you choose a free theme and your blog grows or you decide you really want to have a blogging business, changing all your content over to a Paid theme will probably be a HUGE hassle as they’re often incompatible).
Here you can show your personality, reflect your niche, and be creative. Just keep in mind that the ‘cleaner’ the look the better. Not too many garish colors unless your niche and yourself are super funky!
It’s best to stick to 2-3 theme colors and have plenty of white space in your pages…it’s easier on the eyes of your reader. Also, a white or pale-colored page background with dark grey text rather than black text is less straining to your reader’s eyes. So have fun choosing your theme, but keep these basic suggestions in mind.
Tip: Be Realistic About Your Theme Expectations.
All themes come with a learning curve…just like blogging. Don’t worry, you can handle it! There is NO theme that does it all and will be ‘Perfect’ right out of the gate. Keep things simple at first…for a few months at least.
NOTE: Just about all themes are customizable without you needing to know any coding…that’s the whole point…Phew!
They all have a section called ‘Customize‘. This is where you can change the fonts, colors, menus, add menu items, add your logo, add a header image, and plenty of other things. Also a Favicon (the tiny image that appears next to your site URL in the search bar)…mine is the little ‘W’
So PLEASE try to control your ‘Perfectionist’ tendencies…I know it’s hard because I’m one too! Don’t waste precious writing-time by spending hours, days, or even weeks messing around with your site trying to get it JUST PERFECT! – trust me, we’ve all been there.
A common trap we ALL fall into is seeing something on another blogger’s site that we want. Chances are because their theme is different from yours, you probably can’t achieve it.
If you want something on your site that isn’t available via the ‘customizer’ tab, you may need to pay for some coding to get what you want. Don’t worry about this initially. As you get more experienced as a blogger, you will start to understand what/if you need anything extra.
One thing to keep in mind. At the end of the day, how your site looks, and even your site name won’t be as important to your audience as your content. It’s really all about your writing and how well you address your reader’s issues and solve their pain-points.
10. Possible Theme Choices For You
A great theme option for a beginner blogger is a site builder like divi.com from Elegant Themes which is very customizable These are known as ‘drag and drop’ builders. they’re a lot of fun and there are tutorials and great online customer service if you need it. Also, heaps of youtube tutorials as it’s a popular builder.
My blog uses a pre-built Divi theme from a designer because I loved the look of her design…and then I customized it using the inbuilt ‘customizer’ tab which all themes have…and I also used divi.com to change and add some other things.
My designer’s company is: coffeemondays.com
Divi.com has ‘Yearly’ access or ‘Lifetime’ access (which as always, works out cheaper). However, If you just want to try out Divi for a year then go with that. You can always upgrade to Lifetime once you realize the fantastic Divi builder flexibility.
However, if you don’t want to play around with your site more than just the usual Customizer option then have a look at choosing a theme from studiopress.com They have some great themes.
Some are Genesis and some aren’t. Genesis themes have a Parent/Child theme relationship. It’s not complicated and all themes include clear installation and customization instructions…plus good customer service if you get need help.
11. So, Now To Install Your Theme
When you purchase your chosen theme, you will be sent the file in a Zip format. A good theme will include clear and specific instructions on how to install it and in what order. Read the instructions carefully and follow them. There is always a ‘contact’ if you get stuck.
Go to your WordPress dashboard to install and activate your theme. Look for ‘Appearance‘ on the side toolbar > Themes > you’ll see the default one that always comes with a WordPress site installation. Often it’s called the same as the year eg. 2020.
Leave it as a backup as it’s good to always have an inactive theme on your site besides your active one. Remove any others. To do this, click on the theme image you want to remove, then click ‘delete’ in the bottom right corner.
***Congrats…you’re now officially a blog owner!***
12. Next, Install Some Plugins.
As explained earlier in the post, plugins are pieces of software containing coded functions that can add new features and enhance the performance of your WordPress site.
There are many plugins to choose from, but as with anything, some are better coded than others and some are kept up-to-date more than others.
I’m going to recommend the ones that I and many other bloggers choose to enhance the performance and flexibility of their WordPress site. If you choose others, always look at the ‘Star’ rating and how often it’s updated.
To install a plugin, click on the Plugins tab on the left side of your WP dashboard. Select ‘Add New‘ and you will see a search box appear. This is where you can type in the name of any plugin you want. Then you will be given the option to ‘Install‘ and then ‘Activate‘
Recommended Essential Plugins
1. Yoast SEO This is a free plugin that optimizes your SEO to help your website rank higher in search engines like Google.
2. UpdraftPlus This plugin is also free. It automatically backs up your database and content into the cloud. That way if there’s ever an issue and you lose your content you can restore it with one click.
3. WP Rocket This is a caching and site performance-enhancing plugin that really helps your site load faster – super important these days with your web-users have really short tolerance for slow-loading sites. This is a Paid plugin…but well worth it!
NOTE: You can choose to stick with the SiteGround Optimizer which does the same thing…although it’s not quite as robust…but it’s free
4. WordFence Security This is a super popular plugin designed to protect your website from Malware and attacks from Malicious attempts to get into your site by Brute Force. This is free and has an upgraded option.
5. Anti Spam Bee This is a one-stop solution for unwanted spam comments. It also keeps track of previous attempts to spam you and blocks them permanently. It’s a free plugin.
6. Short Pixel Image Optimizer This is easy to use, install-and-forget image optimizer to resize and compress all new images, and also past images that are already loaded on your site ‘media section’. This helps to keep your site loading fast without getting bogged down from the size of large image files. This plugin is free for up to 100 credits and it’s cheap to buy credits if you start loading heaps of images.
7. Sassy Social Share This is a social media sharing tool that you can customize to suit the colors of your theme. There are plenty around to choose from and it’s worth doing some research..but this is simple to set up and use, so it will get you started and it’s free.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial about starting your website and becoming a blogger.
There is more info that you need to know and that will really help you with your new business. But I don’t want to overload you. So, take your time and have fun starting your website, and installing your theme and plugins.
In the next post, we’ll discuss a couple more important plugins, and learn how to start an email list. This is critical, even if you’re only having a hobby blog, as you want a way to get your readers into your list so you can stay in touch with them and build a strong relationship…which is what blogging is really all about.
See you there…