The technical aspects of starting a blog
This Chapter is all about the technical aspects of starting a blog. Of course, no matter how much of an expert you are in your niche, you might not be an expert to deal with the technical aspects of starting a blog.
And, that’s totally OK.
In this Chapter I will guide you through the process of starting a blog – from start to finish – so you simply follow the steps and end up having a blog that’s ready for you to publish a post right away!
Let’s get started.
Choose your blogging platform
This is the #1 thing that you need to decide once you have made the decisions I talked about in Chapter 1. You need to choose your blogging platform.
And I am not going to overwhelm you with options here. Normally bloggers go with two options – a free blog, on a popular blogging platform like Blogger (Google owned) or WordPress(.com).
Otherwise, go for a self-hosted WordPress(.org) blog. You might want to do your research and read web-hosting reviews to pick the best self-hosted hosting service for yourself.
The first case is where you obviously don’t have to spend money on hosting and even domain. Your blog’s URL will look something like http://www.yourblogname.blogger.com or http://www.yourblogname.wordpress.com.
In both cases, you can opt for your own domain name. But still your blog will be on a third party platform/space. You do not own your blog and this is serious.
I’ve learnt my lesson when I started out like this. I had two blogs on Blogger and one fine day, they got deleted just like that.
Yes, just like that.
And till today, I don’t know what is the reason!
So planning to run your business website, which is your crucial business asset, on a third party space is pure suicide.
Apart from the fact that you don’t own that space, you also have a lot of constraints – when it comes to monetising your website, inserting ads, customising the design to your taste – your hands are tied.
And I certainly don’t think its a good thing. You should be able to do whatever you want with your website – because after all it is your website.
When you go for the self-hosted WordPress option, you pay for hosting. And you host your website on your own space.
And you rule it!
How does that sound?
Plus if you are going to have your blog as a serious business asset and outlet, which I assume you surely do, investing some money to make it yours is a must.
Choose the name of your blog (and hence the domain name)
Here comes the fun bit – naming your baby.
As fun as it may sound, it is not actually all that funny – but involves a serious proportion too, because it is your business. It is your online identity.
So you gotta name it right.
Some prefer to have the site named after their own name. Marie Forleo, Nathalie Lussier, Neil Patel are a few examples.
Others name their website based on what it is about. Savvy Blogging Tips, Slick Wellness, Tech Buzz Online are a few examples (of my own sites by the way).
There are pros and cons to both the approach. So I’ll probably leave that to you.
You can name it after your own name. This can be very helpful if your business is based on you. And if you are the face of your business.
But there can also be a few downsides. People won’t exactly know what your website or business is about just by looking at the name.
And if you are into selling your website for any reason (say change of profession, change of passion etc.) in the future, it might be hard to do so because your website is attached to your name.
On the other hand, having a descriptive or explanatory name has its own pros. You can easily let people know what your business is about.
You can include potential keywords in your domain name for added benefit.
In future if you want to flip the website/business, you can freely do so.
But if you want to tie your business to your name by branding it so, you’ll miss that.
So it is totally up to you to decide!
Once you decide on your site’s name you have to register the domain. I recommend Godaddy for domain registrations.
Choose a design for your blog
This is also a highly crucial aspect, though mostly overlooked by many bloggers!
Most beginner bloggers consider a brand name, niche, and SEO to be very important and neglect the look of a blog.
While it is true that SEO, your brand, the niche and the actual content you publish are the actual stuff that matters to the end reader, if you fail to present all these in a visually engaging manner, you will fail.
I am not saying that you should go for an eye-catching theme and forget about content or SEO. But you should give equal weight to the look.
As the popular saying goes, people still do judge a book by its cover.
So, ya, looks matter.
But the tricky bit with getting the right look for a website is this – unlike a book or a shirt or a dress, a website’s look doesn’t come with just the “look”.
It is bundled with more stuff like SEO, features, user-friendliness, device-friendliness and much more.
So you have to be very careful with how you choose a theme for your website.
You should concentrate on all the aspects mentioned above and hit a balance.
If you are too much into the looks/design, you might fail to look at the SEO aspects of a theme, or vice versa. Similarly for any other feature or functionality of the theme.
I’ve had extensive experience using various themes from these two folks and I’m impressed.
I use their themes on a variety of my websites, and as well as my client websites.
On the other hand, if you are into having a custom theme designed to make your website look unique, you can get one designed by us!
The essential WordPress plugins you’ll need
When it comes to WordPress, plugins are always a blessing. You can extend the features and functionality of a website just by adding a plugin.
And there are numerous plugins in the WordPress plugin repository for all the purposes you can think of! I mean, you can never run out of options.
Apart from the free plugins, you also have tons of premium WordPress plugins that can get any job done for you.
So here are my recommendations when it comes to plugins for your WordPress website.
Before giving out the list, let me tell you this – it is not good to load your website with plugins.
Even though you have a variety of them and even though you might be tempted to try them all out, keep in mind that any additional plugin you install on your WordPress website will add its own share of load to it.
You need to watch the loading speed of your site buddy, else you will have trouble pleasing your readers as well as search engines.
Having said that, it is nearly impossible to go without additional plugins. So here you go… you don’t need to install all of them. Only choose the ones you really need!
1. WordPress SEO
This is hands down the best plugin (for free) so far to set up your WordPress blog the right-SEO way.
The plugin suits both beginner and advanced bloggers. For a full set up tutorial of the plugin I’ll simply direct you to this blog post where I’ve explained all the details fully.
2. W3 Total Cache
This is a great caching plugin. You need a caching plugin to help boost the loading speed of your website.
3. Social Warfare
You will need to incorporate social sharing buttons in your blog posts; as well as your social profile links on your website to increase your following.
Social Warfare is a great plugin that I use on all my sites that helps boost shares.
It is a neat, light plugin that doesn’t unnecessarily load your website.
Apart from Social Warfare, here is a list of social sharing plugins that you might want to consider.
4. Contact Form
I’m sure you’ll need to put up a contact page on your website so your prospects and readers will be able to contact you.
Contact Form 7 is the simple and free plugin that you can use for this purpose. It does the job pretty neatly.
The only downside is that the plugin might look a bit difficult to start working with for some bloggers.
If you think so, here is a list of contact form plugins that you might try out!
If you want to put up tables for any reason – like reviews of products comparing features, or anything that requires a table – this plugin is a cool choice!
6. Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
Making your readers stick on your site for a long time is a good thing! You must do all you can to make them stick.
For one, if readers leave your site in a very short period of time that’ll contribute to the bounce rate – which is not good.
Having a high bounce rate will signal the search engines that your site is not welcomed very well by your readers.
By displaying related posts after your blog posts will give your readers a chance to stay on your site and explore more content.
This plugin will make doing that pretty easy.
7. WordPress Popular Posts
If you have a sidebar, it is a great idea to showcase your popular posts in the sidebar. For this, you can use this plugin which does the job pretty neatly.
8. Broken Link Checker
This plugin runs in the background and automatically checks and reports broken links on your site. You can deal with those links by either unlinking them or marking them as fixed).
9. Thirsty Affiliates
A neat plugin that helps you manage, cloak and track affiliate links. You can have all your affiliate links in one place, add them easily to your content without leaving your WordPress dashboard, and track them.
10. WP Smush – Image Optimization
This plugin helps you with resizing your images. No matter what the size of the image you use, this plugin will compress the image as well as set a max width and height for the image.
Having huge images on your site, especially if you use a lot of them, will affect the site’s loading speed. So this plugin is a must!
Once you have your website up and running, spam will surely become a problem.
Comment spam is one such thing which not only turns out to be annoying but can also make it challenging for you and your readers to identify genuine comments from the spammy ones.
Also with a lot of spam, it will be highly daunting to have to moderate the comments.
Anti-spam plugin will help you block comment spam automatically. This is a life saver!
This plugin helps you with cleaning up and optimizing your WordPress database, without having to have knowledge about PhpMyAdmin or anything techy.
It also has a lot of other features to keep your database in shape – check those out here.
That’s pretty much it.
Now I assume you have chosen the WordPress(.org) route of having a self hosted WordPress blog.
In the coming Chapters, I will discuss how to set your blog up right and how to work with WordPress.