February 1, 2016

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

Step 12: Add Plugins To Your Blog

Before you even start blogging, there are a few plugins that you are going to want to add. Plugins are bits of code that give you more power and function with your blog. They can help you manipulate the way your theme looks, save you time, get better results out of your efforts, and speed up your website, among many other things.

How To Install A Plugin

In your dashboard, click on ‘Plugins’. You will see a list of your current plugins, which should include things like ‘Welcome to WordPress’ and ‘Akismet’. You can create an Akismet account by clicking on ‘Activate’ below it and following the instructions. This plugin can help you to fight spam comments, which is something you will want when your blog starts to get traffic.

If you want, you can delete the other plugins. Or, keep them, activate them, and see what they are all about.

To find a new plugin, click on the ‘Add New’ button at the top of your screen beside the word Plugins, and you will be taken to a page with a bunch of different plugin options. You can learn about each plugin by clicking on ‘More Details’, and if you ever see a plugin you want, you can click on ‘Install Now’ to add it to your personal plugin collection.

Caution: The more plugins you add, the slower your site can get as it has to load up the stuff needed for that plugin, so make sure you really need it first. Also, check out how many installs it has received and the reviews before you install. I’ve had new plugins crash my whole site where I was unable to get into my dashboard at all. I had to go in the backend, through GoDaddy, and delete the plugin that I added to fix my site. Hopefully that won’t happen to you, but remember that your files are all being held on GoDaddy in your hosting account, including the files for the blog posts, pictures, and plugins that you add, so you can always go there and delete something that messes up your blog.

6 Crucial Plugins To Add To Your WordPress Blog

I’ve found that the following plugins are always ones that I’ve needed and seen other bloggers recommend, so I highly recommend them on how to start a blog that contains some recommended functions. To find and install these plugins, type their name into the ‘search plugins’ search area and hit enter, click on ‘Install Now’ when you find the plugin, and then click on ‘Activate Plugin’ when it has been successfully installed.

1. Yoast SEO

Optimizing your site can help you get ranked higher in the search engines, which essentially means free traffic! It’s what you should be aiming for, and while there are many different aspects that help make your site search engine friendly, on-page optimization is important.

This plugin does the hard work for you. At the bottom of every draft post you create, this plugin allows you to type in the focus keyword your article is based around and then gives you an analysis of what you should do to tweak your page for better search engine optimization.

You can also edit what title and post description you want to show up in the search engine results. Go to Google and search for your blog’s topic, and you will see what other people are using in their description. You can create more interesting titles and descriptions by using this plugin.

Lastly, you can type in what title, description, and picture you want to show up on Facebook, which further allows you to make your content attractive to people on Facebook. That’s important! The more interesting it is, the more likely people will click through when you or someone else shares your article on Facebook.

After you install this plugin, you will see a ‘Y SEO’ in your dashboard. Click on it and you will see that there is a general, titles & metas, social, XML sitemaps, advanced, tools, and search console.

Besides using the plugin inside your posts, the most important things to do include:

– Go into the ‘Titles & Metas’ and then ‘Homepage’ tab, and create a description for your homepage (what your site is about).

– Get familiar with the ‘Social’ area so that when you create a social profile, you can just come back and plug it in.

– Click on XML sitemaps so you know where to find your sitemap.

– Go into Advanced and check off ‘Enable Breadcrumbs’.

2. Compress JPEG & PNG Images

If you are going to blog, then adding images will be something you do. It helps the posts stand out and breaks up the text for easier reading. But, the more pictures you add, the slower your site can become. And the bigger the picture, the slower the post will load.

In short, pictures take up a lot of room and can affect your storage and bandwidth. While this is not something you need to worry about right now, tackling your pictures right now will help you avoid having to worry about it later!

This plugin automatically compresses images as you upload them without sacrificing how they look. According to the plugin developer, your imagines are compressed by 40-80%.

Note: If you already have some pictures on your blog, go to ‘Media’ in the dashboard and then click on ‘Compress All Images’.

3. Ultimate TinyMCE

I love this plugin! What it does is give you more options in your editor for post style when you write a post. For instance, instead of just the standard options, such as adding links, using bullets, bolding, or italicizing, it gives you shortcuts to do a ton of other things, like change your font size, change the font color, add emoticons, and other fun things that can spruce up your post.

Once you activate it, find it in your plugin list and click on ‘Settings’. Then just choose what you want to be able to use by putting a checkmark in ‘Enable’ for a function you want, and then picking a row you want it to be in on your editor. Make sure you choose an even amount for each row, such as 5 options for row 1, 5 options for row 2, and 5 options for row 3. This will help keep everything neat and easy to find.

4. Google Analytics by Yoast

You are going to need this plugin once you start tracking the statistics on your site. It gives you an easy way to add the Google Analytics code to your blog, which we will talk about soon. For now, just find it and install it.

5. Broken Link Checker

Because you will be putting links in your posts for SEO purposes and for your readers, you should add the ‘Broken Link Checker’ plugin. It will not only check your in-post links, but it will check comments and other content for broken links and then notify if it finds any. This plugin is easy to set up. You don’t really need to tweak anything in the settings as it is set up for your blog already.

6. W3 Total Cache

This plugin will speed up your blog, however, I didn’t need this plugin until a few years after starting one of my blogs, so you probably won’t need it right away. What it does is increase the time it takes your page to load by displaying a cached version of your site, which speeds up every area of your site in a big way.

You might as well just add it now so you have it. After you install and activate the plugin, in your dashboard, go to ‘Performance’ and click on it. Some things are already done as far as optimization of this plugin. So don’t uncheck anything. However, you can do the following things.

– In ‘General Settings’, make sure you have a checkmark in ‘Enable’ for Page, Minify, Database Cache, Object Cache, and Browser Cache.

– In ‘General Settings’, under ‘Miscellaneous’, make sure you have a checkmark for ‘Verify rewrite rules’.

– In ‘Page Cache’, make sure you have a checkmark for ‘Cache front page’, ‘Cache feeds…’, ‘Cache SSL requests’, ‘Cache 404 pages’, and ‘Don’t Cache Pages…’ for ‘Administrator’.

– In ‘Page Cache’, make sure you have a checkmark for ‘Automatically prime the page cache’.

– In ‘Minify’, make sure you have a checkmark for ‘Rewrite URL structure’.

– In ‘Minify’, make sure you have a checkmark for ‘HTML minify settings’ in ‘Enable’, ‘Inline CSS minification’, ‘Inline JS minification’, and ‘Don’t minify feeds’.

– In ‘Minify’, make sure you have a checkmark under ‘CSS’ for ‘Enable’, ‘Combine only’, and ‘Line break removal’, and choose ‘Process’ for @important handling.

– In ‘Browser Cache’, make sure you have a checkmark under ‘CSS & JS’ for ‘Set expires header’, ‘Set cache control header’, ‘Set entity tag’, and ‘Set W3 total cache header’.

That is how I have my plugin set up and it works well for some of my busiest blogs. Each time you change a plugin, you will get a message at the top of your dashboard that asks you if you want to empty the page cache. Do that! Otherwise, readers won’t see the changes you have made to your site.

You don’t need to clear out the cache after publishing posts, though. Only when you make changes to your blog’s appearance.

Step 13: Branding And Logo

This is a guide on how to start a blog, so you may think that a logo isn’t necessary yet. But, establishing a logo from the beginning will help you stand out in your reader’s minds. Every successful company has a logo that helps it stand out. Coke’s logo, Pepsi’s logo, Nike’s logo, McDonald’s logo, and many more are all easy to recall when we think about the company. It can also showcase what your blog is about and help people relate to it better. You can put your logo in the header section of your blog or include it in any marketing campaign you create.

A logo can be as simple as your website name with a fancy font, your website name inside a circle, or you can include a symbol that people might remember and your website name around it. It’s totally up to you.

If you can’t think of an idea, go check out logo sites. Logo123.com has some examples that might get your creative juices flowing. You can also go to Fiverr.com and look for people who are designing logos. They often showcase some of their better designs.

And once you get an idea, you can either try to create it yourself in Photoshop or hire someone to do it for you. Often just giving some on Fiverr your website name, topic, colors, and more will help them create something that you really like, and if you don’t like what you get, you can keep playing around with ideas.

Step 14: Create A Content Strategy

Now, you can simply write your first post, or you can create a quick content strategy to ensure that you have an idea of what you want to do for at least a month. When you create a content strategy, you base your content around keywords and interesting topics, which helps you to keep putting relevant content out.

If you don’t have a strategy for your content, then you will find that posts can get missed when the ideas just won’t come or articles may not turn out that good because you feel pressured to put out something that you haven’t given much thought to.

How Often Should You Post?

This is a HUGE debate; however, I think that most people would agree, the more the better. If people like your posts, then regular posting will keep them coming back. But, if there is nothing for them to read, they will find other blogs that offer more consistency than you do.

If you only have a certain amount of time, then that may not be possible. You may only be able to post one article a week. But, from Step 3 in this guide, you’ve already figured out how much time you have to devote to your blog, so use that as a guideline.

Put together your first post, see how long it takes you, and then estimate how many posts you will be able to publish a week. Then, schedule those posts into a calendar and plan out what content you want to include for each post.

How To Decide What To Write About

Following are some tips to help you come up with ideas for your articles. Plug each idea into your calendar beside a scheduled post and you have a plan for as long as your calendar is filled up.

Research What Readers Want To Read

In step 2 you defined your audience, so you should know where they are hanging out. Get onto relevant forums or social media where they are talking about their issues and find out what questions they are asking. You will often find that you can come up with the next 30 posts (or more) simply by doing this. When something is talked about a lot, you know it is going to be something that future people are looking for, so creating content around it is a win-win for you and the people looking for it.

Answer The Questions You Ask

If you are asking questions around your topic, then it’s guaranteed other people are too. If you can’t find any good answers, create an article around the question that answers it very well. Moreover, if you find an article that does an alright, but not a great job at answering the question, create a longer and better article that people will find more useful.

Write Reviews On Hot Products

There are products (eBooks, courses, gadgets, etc.) that are going to come up in your niche. People are searching for reviews on those products. Unfortunately, there are a lot of crappy reviews out there that are meant to make money, but not actually give an honest detail of the product. Fortunately, you have the ability to stand out and write some amazing reviews.

If you can, buy the product or ask for a copy to review (it works better the more popular your blog is), and then write a real review with real pros and cons and experiences. You will find that even if some aspects are negative, people are just looking for that one thing to sell them on the product, so some really good pros will help you convince your readers that they should give it a try. Then, you can include affiliate links to the product and make a commission off the sale.

Search For Keywords

Create a Google AdWords account and go the keyword planner tool. There you can plug in the topic of your blog and get some keyword ideas to work with. When you have some keywords that you want to work with, you can create posts around them. For instance, if your topic is vegan cooking, and you find a keyword ‘easy vegan recipes’, you can create an article called 10 Easy Vegan Recipes.

The trick is to make sure there are a lot of monthly searches around the keyword before you use it. If there are only 20 searches, for example, it may not be worth your time writing the post because there is not a lot of interest in it.

Search Google

You should have enough ideas for content by now, but if not, type the topic of your blog into Google and the scroll down for ‘Searches related to…’ This will give you an idea of more keywords that you can write around, and should inspire some more post ideas out of you.

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

How To Start A Blog: A Step-By-Step Guide – Part 5

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