You’re finally ready to take the plunge into the world of blogging. You have pieces written and you’re ready to go live – but first you need an attractive website.
You might have the writing chops but you’re not a web developer, and the thought of building a website sends you into a “I’m not techy though!” tailspin.
Never fear, anyone can build a website nowadays – and it’s really easy. Here are 6 steps to get you started on WordPress.
1. Choose the right WordPress site – .com or .org?
The biggest mistake I made as an early blogger was that I had no idea at the time there was a wordpress.com and a wordpress.org or what the difference was between them. I just typed wordpress into Google and blithely signed up.
Typically, I chose the wrong one.
I can already hear people saying that there is no wrong choice, personally I disagree.
Sign up on wordpress.org NOT wordpress.com if you want any chance of monetising your site.
Why choose .org?
WordPress.com is a hosted site whereas wordpress.org isn’t. Simply explained, this means that wordpress.com handles a lot of the functionality for you, gives you certain features readily available but does not allow you to make code changes or add plugins which provide analytical evidence and greater functionality. It also makes monetising your blog ten times harder.
This is important because as a blogger there are certain tools and plugins, you’ll definitely want to utilise to get the most from your platform and give it the best chance of ranking.
WordPress.org is what’s called a self-hosted site – meaning it gives you access to the above and more, allowing you to alter code and add information that will increase your rankings. It also allows you to add Google Adsense code to your blog – meaning Google places targeted ads on your page and gives you revenue from them. This is crucial as it’s how a lot of first-time bloggers get started making money.
Overall, wordpress.org creates great user independence, but it does mean you can make a lot more of a mess if you don’t know what you’re doing -so make sure you have a back-up!
Of course, you don’t want to start spending lots of money on things like plugins straight away, but there are some great free ones that will help you get your blog going.
Yoast SEO will guide you on your keywords and give you suggestions for improving your SEO and thus your ranking.
You’ll want the ability to add code to your header which you can do via a free header and footer plugin available here. This will allow you to put in tracking information like a Google Analytics ID to help you understand your metrics and allows Google to verify you and confirm your site is legit.
Google Search Console is also part of this, but this is one of the few things you can add to wordpress .org and .com
For the first time blogger looking for the most flexibility and functionality, and who is willing to invest a bit more off the bat in purchasing hosting and a domain name then wordpress.org is the way to go.
2. Choose your domain name (URL)
If you’ve chosen to get started on wordpress.com and subsequently not pay for hosting then you might want to hold off on purchasing a domain – that’s normal for a lot of bloggers who will originally go for a free domain that will have wordpress.com attached on the end.
If you do choose to purchase a domain then it might be worth considering the bigger picture for what you’re looking to do with your blog in the next 12 months. For example, if you want to move to self-hosting, then, rather than purchase your domain separately, you will want to look at self-hosting packages which usually include a free domain name.
If you are just looking for now to purchase a domain, you can check the availability once you’ve created a WordPress account by going to ‘Manage’ and then ‘Domains’ in the menu. Put in your desired address and it will give you the different options and pricing. The cost varies by domain but on average for your first URL you won’t spend more than £20 for the year.
3. Choose your WordPress theme
One of my favourite things about WordPress is the abundance of free themes available. Don’t just look at the recommended for you – there are hundreds to choose from and its definitely worth taking your time, looking through, thinking about all page aspects and what you think would work best for you.
If you want to change your theme you can do so at any time under ‘Appearance’ in WP settings. You can check out how a theme will look before you activate it too.
If you decide to switch theme later then be careful, some themes just have your personalised coding attached to them and it doesn’t switch with the new theme – make sure it either switches over or you’ve noted all personalisation to re-add onto your new theme.
Now you’ve got your theme, it’s time to make it your own. A great way to make personalised images, logos and branding is via the website Canva. I am not an affiliate, and this isn’t a plug, just a personal recommendation.
It can make even the least arty person (like me) look professional. It helps you create templates, has tons of free images and offers you design suggestions that will make your branding unique to you.
WordPress works on a new visual editor that even the most computer illiterate person can manage. If you’re familiar with wordpress and/or html 5 you can switch to text or classic editor from the top of the page if you’re more comfortable. But for the newbie builder, WordPress’ block visual editor is a godsend; setting up your pages and working out the layout for you and letting you add text, headings and images in easy “blocks”.
Drag and drop is your new best friend.
5. Add your widgets
The site is set up and pages are added, now you want to make sure Google actually knows who you are. This is when you start looking at things such as verifying your website via Google Search Console and (if you’re able) add the code for Google Analytics and Google Adsense. This helps Google to index you and start monetising your website via suggested ads.
Download some easy tools to help you get started. The free version of Yoast will help you understand SEO and provide you with tips to fully optimise your site.
Don’t forget to add social share and follow buttons wherever appropriate and look into the best way to add subscribers and comments to your blog. This can be done via a plugin or a built-in widget on wordpress.com
6. Go live!
You’re ready to go! You’ve chosen your theme, built your website, planned your content and made it all your own through personalisation. Now it’s time to get out there and start seeing your views and impressions roll in.