How do I set up a blog? – Part 5 in Introduction to Cause Blogging
This post is part 5 of the Introduction to Cause Blogging Series.
Last time I talked about setting goals and how to get both short and long term results with blogging. Today I’ll cover some of the technical details of setting up a blog using the WordPress platform.
I think WordPress is the easiest to use, and still offers a professional image. Blogger is okay and that is how I started years ago, but it is severely limited in many areas. Other great blogging platforms besides WordPress include Typepad and Expression Engine. Some of these steps, like getting a domain name, apply not matter which blogging system you use. (Even on Blogger you can publish to your own name instead of blogspot.com)
7 Steps to Setting Up a WordPress Blog
1. Choose a website name (domain)
So the first thing you need to do if you haven’t already, is to choose a name for your website. These days there are so many names already registered sometimes you have to be a bit creative. When I’m choosing a new domain name I usually use the tool at Network Solutions. I think it’s the easiest tool to use, to search to see if you name(s) you want are available.
Look for a name that is:
- Short, preferably a 1-3 word phrase
- Directly related to your organization or topic
- Preferably a .com or .org if you are a nonprofit
- Easy to remember
A few things to avoid:
- Sound-alike words
- Keyword phrases that create new words when strung together
I normally use GoDaddy.comsince I own quite a few names and they are the least expensive. However if you only need one domain name, you can just register it through your webhost. Some, like Hostgator, give you the domain for free.
2. Get a webhost
I’ve used several webhosts over the years… and experienced some horror stories. Downtime, terrible customer service, tough to use administration panels. To add insult to injury, then I had to move the website to another host which is another hassle.
After all this time, the one host that I have found to be the best is Hostgator. I’ve been with them for over 3 years and have no intention of leaving!
- Reliable, fast servers with 99.9% uptime
- cPanel (the easiest way to administer the backend technical website stuff)
- One click WordPress blog install with Fantastico
- Customer service that can’t be beat
- Affordable – for one website, plans start at just $4.95 a month if you sign up for 3 years in advance or $6.95 if you just want to commit to one year.
To repeat, their customer service is amazing. Every time I’ve emailed or called, they made sure my questions were answered or issues were resolved fast. The company and customer service are based in Houston so I’m also glad to support my fellow Texans!
Click here to see all the Hostgator features & benefits and/or sign-up
3. One click WordPress installation
Hostgator (and any webhost that offers cPanel) has an easy one-click installation for WordPress. You simply login to your hosting account, go to the cpanel page, scroll down until you see the Fantastico button.
4. Creating a visual design & layout (theme)
WordPress greatly simplifies the webdesign process. In fact you can start with a simple theme or even (gasp!) default and then update the design later.
When you change themes it impacts the layout, colors, text and overall look and some of the functionality, but your text stays in place so you don’t have to re-write anything. You can try out a new theme with the click of a button and if you don’t like it, choose another one!
To get some ideas you can look at other blogs. Here are 40 WordPress-Powered Websites With Awesome Designs.
I’ve used a lot of different themes from various providers, including free themes and premium themes. In general I prefer themes that you do have to pay for – as I’ve found fewer problems with them. Free = you often have to fix a lot of stuff. If you don’t know the code or don’t want to take the time (can be considerable and frustrating) go with a theme with a small fee.
Here are some of the premium themes that I have used and recommend. (Several of them have at least one free theme, so you can get an idea of how good their products are before you buy.)
After you download the theme from the website that offers it, upload the theme folder to the wp-content folder. Then go back to your wordpress login (it looks like http://yourblog.com/wp-admin). Click on Appearance on the left hand side, then Themes. Choose the theme you wish to install and confirm.
You can see how this theme looks by opening a new browser window or tab and going to your domain (i.e. http://yourblog.com). Keep in mind you’ll still have to do some tweaking like adding sidebar content and logos. So what you see when you first choose the theme may not be what it looks like when you are done. This is especially true if you have not added any posts or pages to your blog yet.
5. Create basic pages
Pages are timeless, items like the about page, donations and contact. Blog posts are time bound. John Haydon sums this up pretty well:
Posts are published in reverse chronological order on your Home Page or Blog Index Page, depending upon how you’ve configured your blog (Sticky posts will remain above your latest posts). This allows visitors to see your most recent content first, and digg for related posts within the archives. Pages have no date and time associated with them.
For further explanation see: WordPress posts vs. pages
Login to wordpress and create these basic pages. Click on Pages, then Edit. The software has already created an About page for you, so you can just edit that one. To add more just click Add New.
6. Set preferences
There are a few tweaks left for you to do in setting up your blog.
- Go to Settings > General. Fill out the blanks – these are self explanatory
- Settings > Permalinks. I recommend a name only URL rather than date based. Choose custom and only enter this: /%postname%/
- Install Plugins. Upload these to the plugin folder, then activate from your WordPress Admin. Here are the ones I recommend:
- Subscribe to comments – Adds a simple checkbox so when people leave a comment they can get updated by email.
- Spam Karma – Even though the designer is no longer maintaining it, it still works great for my blogs. Catching most of the spam.
- WordPress database backup – Makes backing up the datbase easy.
- You need a contact form such as Contact form 7.
- You can find other plugins at WordPress.org
Keep in mind there are a lot of little details that I’m leaving out here for simplicity’s sake. There are other tweaks and plugins that will greatly improve your blog. These are just the basics.
7. Start posting
Now you can start posting! Simply go to Posts > Add New and start writing. WordPress comes with a built in editor that is pretty easy to use (the Visual tab.) There are many tutorials and books that you can get if you need more help. But for the most part you will learn just by doing.
By following the steps above you are on your way to a great blogging experience.