So, you want to get started in blogging? Awesome. If your intended audience is over the age of 18 you are going to want to use WordPress. (Under 18? Use Tumblr.) Also, if you are just getting started I’d recommend spending the first 12 months of blogging on a WordPress.com blog. You’ll have way less flexibility but spend way more time actually writing than fiddling with your site settings. Don’t spend money until you know you like blogging.
It starts with a foundation: If you are going the self-hosted route, I am currently recommending Hostgator’s baby plan. I put all my non-commerce clients there and have never had a problem with uptime or customer service. 100% recommend them.
Now, assuming you have your site all set-up. Here are the first 5 things I do with a brand new site.
- Get rid of stuff. In the upper right hand corner you’ll see a tab called “Screen Options.” Play with that on the dashboard and the post page. That will get lots of distracting, confusing options out of the way. If my client is a total newbie, I also install a plugin which actually disables everything they’ll never need called Selfish Fresh Start.
- Buy a theme. Yeah, I could spend hours looking for a free theme that will work. But I’m kind of over that. These days I’m buying very nice themes at Themeforest. Pick a popular one, one with lots of sales, you won’t go wrong.
- Get your free Google juice. Google juice is a weird term which implies that if you do things right, Google will bring search traffic to you. Set your site up on Google Webmaster tools so you can tell Google your new site is there and how frequently you update posts. It’ll look intimidating when you go there, but all you really need to do are the basic settings. Next, set up Feedburner to handle your RSS feed. It’s takes a couple of minutes but will pay dividends down the road. (Don’t worry about the other search engines. Google is 90%+ of all of my sites search referrals.)
- Add some plugins. Here’s what I add to all of my sites. I actually have these in a folder on my computer and just upload them all in bulk when setting up a new site. Google XML Sitemaps, (You’ll need this for #3) Jetpack, Askimet, (Comes installed automatically) Login Logo, Password Protected, and Gravity Forms. (Premium – Contact Form 7 is a decent, free alternative)
- Set-up 2 basic pages. Every blog should have these 2 pages. A Contact page (see the 2 form plugins above) and an About page. Why? Because as people come to your blog they might want to know more about you and / or might want to contact you. I look at a lot of blogs and you’d be surprised how hard it is to figure out how to contact the blogger or even to find a full name or where a person lives. Why write if people can’t connect with you? I don’t get it.