February 1, 2016

How To Start A Blog: A Step-By-Step Guide – Part 3

Step 8: Setting Up The Basics In Your WordPress Site

Now that you have WordPress installed, it’s time to set it up to work for you. In case you haven’t already, sign in. Your sign in page will be your domain name followed by wp-login. For example, bythebook.com/wp-login.

You are going to do everything from your dashboard, so you will get familiar with it before too long. In addition, there are some helpful guides inside of your dashboard that will teach you how to do things on your WordPress site, but there are some things that I always do first that make a difference.

First, navigate down to ‘Settings’ and click on it. You will see the ‘General’ aspect of the settings brought up first. Fill all that information in, including your site title (name of your blog) and a tagline (what your blog is going to be about).

All the rest of the general section is pretty self-explanatory, however, you don’t need to let other people register for your site. For now, you are just blogging on it. You may want to allow registration later on, if you were to allow people to contribute their own articles or help you edit your articles, but for now, just leave that checkbox blank. Click on ‘Save Changes’ when you are done.

Next, go into the ‘Reading’ section of your settings. This is where you can tailor what your site looks like a bit.

For instance, you can choose to have your latest posts as your homepage, or you can choose to create a page that will act as your homepage. Blog pages are going to be determined by the categories and tags you choose, so make sure that you include at least 10 posts to show, and about the same for syndication feeds.

Also, choose to show a summary of each article, not the full text. You can change that later, but I find it looks better. And, make sure you leave the ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’ blank! You want to be found, especially if you are trying to make money.

Next, go into the ‘Discussion’ section under your settings. The most important thing to do is go down to ‘Comment Moderation’ and make sure that in the section ‘Hold a comment in the queue if it contains…’ and put a 1 in the box. Spam and links go together. So, this will help you avoid getting a bunch of spam comments approved on your site, which is not good for your site.

You may also want to go to ‘Email me whenever’ and uncheck those two boxes. You don’t want your email filling up with notifications, and if you are going to be blogging a lot, you will see those comments anyway. Make sure you click on ‘Save Changes’ before you move on.

Lastly, go into ‘Permalinks’ section under ‘Settings’ and choose the ‘Post Name’ setting for your posts. This will ensure that when you write a post, the post will be something like ‘bythebooks.com/how-to-start-a-blog’ as opposed to ‘bythebooks.com/p-22’. It just gives more meaning to the post for readers.

Next, click on ‘Users’ and then click on ‘Your Profile’. Here you can set up the color scheme of your dashboard and fill out your profile information.

The nickname you choose will appear as the author name in your posts. So, pick something that you want people to see.

Also, when you fill out the ‘biographical info’, that information will show up under your posts on themes that include a bio, so make sure it sounds good!

You should also pick a profile picture. That way, when you comment on other blogs with the email your blog is associated with, your picture will show up and make your comments look more valid. It’s easy to set up on Gravatar, just follow the sign-up process and use the same email you have on your new blog. Click on ‘Save Changes’ before you leave this page.

Next, click on posts. You will see there is a ‘Hello World!’ post. You can click on it to check it out, but I suggest just hovering over it and clicking on ‘trash’. You’ll start blogging later, so you don’t need to save this.

Lastly, click on comments and delete the comment that is there from ‘Mr WordPress’. It is just there to show you what a comment in your dashboard looks like and how to manage it, and currently it is approved, which you don’t want. So, hover your mouse over the comment and click on ‘Trash’ or select the comment with the checkbox and then click on the dropdown box ‘Bulk Actions’ and select ‘Move To Trash’.

Step 9: Choosing A Theme

When it comes to how to start a blog, this step can take days and weeks for some people, while for others it takes minutes. Your theme is the framework for what your blog will look like. It gives your blog the style that you want and helps you add elements that want. In other words, your theme is important, and once you start searching through themes, you’ll see how hard it is to pick one!

Right now you have the standard theme for WordPress. It’s a default theme. You can keep it, but you can change it also. There is so much you can do with a theme that will give you more control over your colors, widgets, and other options.

Picking A Free Theme

If you click on the ‘Appearance’ tab in your dashboard, you will see the theme you have installed as it will say ‘Active’ on it. There may be a few other themes from WordPress in your theme section too.

You can browse through a ton of different free WordPress themes by clicking on ‘Add New’. You can browse through ‘featured’ or ‘popular’ or whatever you want. You can search with the filter option and look for a color and layout that you want.

You will notice that when you hover over a theme choice, you can choose to preview what the theme would look like. Do that! If you don’t like it, click on the X in the top left and look for another one. If you like it, click ‘Install’ and it will be moved into your current theme section. Then, if you want to make it your theme, click on ‘Activate’ and it will be done! Otherwise, just return to the theme installer and keep searching.

It is totally up to you what them to use, however, I have a few important suggestions.

First, make sure your theme is relatively light with darker text. Some people use a really dark theme with light text, and while a few people might like it, the light text on a dark background can be hard to read for a lot of people. If you want to appeal to as many people as possible, stick with what has been proven to please their eyes – dark text on a light background.

Second, always include a ‘responsive layout’ for your blog. It’s a must! Responsive means that your blog will automatically adapt to mobile devices, and because so many people use mobile devices, you want your blog to be easily read on them. Just this past year, Google has cracked down on blogs that are not responsive. They don’t like them because it is not a user-friendly experience for the reader, and Google is all about being user-friendly. That means you will have an easier time getting ranked and shown in search engine results if you have a responsive theme.

Third, you can also search ‘free WordPress theme’ in Google and find some places that are offering free themes. These often have more functionality than the ones inside of WordPress. They are created by people who offer both paid and free themes, with the free themes having fewer options. But, they give you a good idea about what kind of options are out there.

Free Versus Paid Themes

I’ve seen some awesome blogs on free themes. They have no problem gaining popularity and doing what they were meant to do. However, free themes have some drawbacks.

They have a link to the developer in the footer area of the theme. This isn’t a huge deal, but if you don’t want to have that link, you can’t take it out.

They also have less functionality than paid themes. You don’t always have the option to change the header, colors, widgets, ad placements, font, sidebars, post look, social buttons, footer style, or logo.

Paid themes, on the other hand, come with lots of different options. You can manipulate your blog to look exactly the way you want, which will help you make it look unique. And you don’t need to link back to the person who created your theme, so it is more fluid in the sense of being your blog.

Lastly, when you pay for a theme, you get knowledgeable support with it. The people who created the theme are there to help, and they can often be reached quickly. Free themes require you to get online and ask for help in forums, such as wordpress.org/support, and some of those people are nasty, especially if you have a simple question that they feel is beneath them. Moreover, you have to wait until someone responds to fix whatever is wrong (and sometimes you don’t get a helpful answer), and if you’ve done something to make your blog disappear from public view, that is going to be frustrating!

If you buy a paid theme, just make sure that you buy from a site that is popular, such as https://mythemeshop.com or https://www.woothemes.com. They both have decent priced themes and lots of functionality.

Step 10: Create Your Important Pages

There are two pages that you should create right from the start. These pages will help you seem more reputable and help people understand what your site is all about. You’re going to create them eventually, so do it now and get it over with.

First, create a contact page. A contact page allows interested readers to ask you questions and other bloggers connect with you easier. You will find you will get all sorts of opportunities sent to you through this page, such as requests to guest post and requests for ad placement. Plus, if someone notices something that is not working on your blog, they may send you an email, which can help you fix things quickly.

To do this, hover over ‘Pages’ in your dashboard, and click on ‘Add New’. Enter the title as ‘Contact’ and then fill in the body with a standard contact message. For instance:

Welcome to the blog! If you have any questions or concerns, or just want to express something to me, feel free to contact me! Send an email to [email address] and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If you would rather talk to me through Twitter, you can find me here [Twitter address].

People aren’t looking for your life story on this page, so keep it simple. They just want to know how to contact you, and by giving them a few options, you are ensuring that they can quickly do so. Click on ‘Preview’ to the right of your page, and you can check out what your page looks like in a new tab. If you like it, go back and make sure the permalink looks something like this http://bythebooks.com/contact. If not, click on ‘Edit’ and change the permalink to reflect your contact page. Then ‘click on ‘Publish’.

Next, create an about page. An about page is simply a place to give insight into who you are and what your blog is about. You can write as much or as little as you want here. You can include pictures, quotes, videos, or anything else to showcase why you are creating this blog. You don’t have to give your name if you don’t want to, but a name will help it feel more personable. Again, preview your page as you go along and when you are happy click on ‘Publish’.

Depending on your theme, these two pages may automatically show up on your site now. If not, go into ‘Menus’ in your Dashboard, enter a menu name, such as ‘Main Menu’, and then click on ‘Create Menu’. From there, you can choose which pages and posts you want to add to the menu. For now, keep it simple and expand the ‘pages’ option, check off your about and contact page, click ‘Add to Menu’, make sure you’ve chosen a theme location for your menu (usually primary menu) and then click on ‘Save Menu’. Now when you preview your site, your about and contact page should be accessible on the top of your blog!

Step 11: Fix Your Widgets

The last part of getting your blog ready for blogging is fixing your widgets. Right now, you have some blank widgets on there, and it can look a little awkward.

Go into your dashboard and click on ‘Appearance’ and then on ‘Widgets’. Depending on what theme you have chosen, you can see widget areas for your header, sidebar, after post, or footer. Click on the dropdown button for the first widget area and then click on the dropdown button for each separate widget added in that area. You can delete the widget, which will take it completely off your site’s appearance, or you can edit it by adding a title and configuring how you want it to look.

Depending on what theme you have, you will have some available widgets to add if you want. You can simply click on them and drag them in the widget area you want them. For now, though, I suggest only having a few widgets, such as recent posts or categories to help showcase your first posts on the blog. It will look neater, and until you start adding plugins, it’s really all you need!

Open up a new tab in your browser and put in your website address to see what it looks like. Every time you save something, refresh the page to see how the changes make your site look. This will be a little time consuming at first, but it is worth it.

You may even want to check out how your blog looks in different browsers. I’ve had my website be almost unreadable in Firefox while it looked just fine in Chrome. It’s not a bad idea to make sure your site’s appearance works in different browsers as well as on mobile phones or tablets before you start blogging.

Read the fourth part of How to Start A Blog below:

How To Start A Blog: A Step-By-Step Guide – Part 4

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