In our last post of the series ‘How to Start Blogging – A Guide for Small Businesses’, we answered the most common questions you might have in your mind about kick-starting your blog. After reading today’s blog post, we expect you to finish these basic steps:
|Finalize a Name for your blog.
|Get a domain, and hosting.
|Install WP, and Set up a theme.
|Install and Activate all the important plugins.
Comprende? Okay, let us get started:
Choosing a CMS
With various open source CMSs at the business owner’s disposal, setting up a blog is easier that a beginner might imagine. Like majority of other bloggers, our favorite is WordPress, I will tell you why!
1) It is easy to use
2) Built for hosting blogs
3) It is free
4) There is an enormous community of developers, enabling rich features on your blog.
Setting up WordPress.org
1. Finding yourself a host
You have a lot of options to host your WordPress based blog. You can choose:
|Free plans from WordPress.com
|Low cost options from hosting companies like HostGator, BlueHost
|Premium Options from WP Engine
Here is a comparison of WP.com free plans and self-hosted WP.org.
1) Themes: With a self-hosted WP, you have full control over the themes. You have many free and paid themes at your disposal, whereas with a free WP, you are limited to just the themes that WP provides. WP.org wins this.
2) Plugins/Widgets: Wordpress.com does not allow you to add any plugins or widgets except the default ones provided by WordPress; whereas self-hosted WordPress gives you the control to upload as many free/paid plugins as you like. WP.org wins this.
3) Cost: On a casual glance, WordPress.com (WP hosted) wins this one, however a careful observation would make it clear that self-hosted WP is a better choice. Agreed, there are a few obvious costs associated with WordPress.org, like domain registration and web hosting provider fees, and WP.com is free.
However, if you want better control over the WP.com theme options, widgets etc. you would have to purchase certain add-ons (the cost would eventually be higher than a self-hosted WP).
4) Maintenance: This is the only one, where WP.com has an actual advantage over WP.org. With a self-hosted version, you will have to take care of keeping your site spam free. Though there are many free plugins that would help you take care of that without much hassle.
Our choice is WordPress.org; because the endless possibilities that it allows you far surpass the costs involved. Here is an awesome infograph, explaining the difference more clearly.
2. Choosing the Domain Name:
You can register the domain at the hosting site you choose. If you are setting up your website for the first time, I would suggest having it completely on the WordPress system. This way the website and the blog would not be two separate entities.
If you already have a website, you have the option of choosing a completely new domain independent of your website. If you are not going with the standard yourwebsite.com/blog, as the blog name, and want an independent domain, you can look at using a keyword rich domain. This has SEO benefits, and might help your blog rank easily for the relevant keywords. For instance, greatevents.com for an Event Management company.
3. Installing WordPress
You can check out the complete procedure of Registering a Domain and Host, and Installing WordPress here.
4. Setting up a theme
Using a blog theme appropriate to your website content is very important. There are a number of themes to choose from, both paid and free in case of self-hosted WordPress.org.
Not just this, there is a plethora of themes available at nominal prices to spoil you thoroughly. Various sites like https://themeforest.net/ and http://www.premiumwp.com/ allow you to buy themes of your choice, with prices ranging from $35 to $75 per theme.
5. Installing and Setting up Basic Plugins
This is a very important part of the blog setup. You would choose wordpress.org over wordpress.com mainly because of the amount of free plugins available. Following is a basic list of plugins you cannot do without –
- An SEO Plugin: The primary motive of setting up a blog is to have a better online presence. A good SEO plugin would help you adopt better SEO practices in the whole blog setup. It can help you rank better in Google. We prefer using WordPress SEO by Yoast.
- An XML sitemap Plugin: If you decide to use Yoast, there is an XML Option there; if not, Google XML plugin would help. This is once again important for better SEO, and a better overall blog navigation. The search engine crawlers tend to rank a blog higher if there is a clear navigation through the blog; an XML plugin would help you achieve that.
- An Editor Plugin: Though there are many options available in the WP default editor, it is just not enough for a few advanced options. An Editor Plugin like ‘WP-Super Edit’ would give you the freedom to add many more options in the editor itself.
- A Contact Form Plugin: A well-set blog and good blog posts would definitely be rewarded with quality traffic. However, once the traffic starts coming in, you need to make sure that you do not miss out an opportunity to turn those visitors into leads. You can use a free plugin like Contact Form 7 or a paid one like Gravity Forms to start with.
- An Analytics Plugin – As you would have understood by now, blogging is not a standalone activity. It comes with a host of other tag-along tasks, that though often overlooked are very important in making sure you are writing what people want. Analyzing your blog’s performance is one such activity, and I would say the most one. You have to measure parameters like what are the keywords people are using to come to your website, what is the average time on a visitor on the website etc. Here is a list of parameters an Analytics Plugin must monitor.
Google Analytics would do for beginners.
- A Social Sharing Buttons Plugin: Social is the new word of mouth, and therefore has the power to help you influence people. No matter how good is the content that you write, if it isn’t being shared on social platforms it is not getting nearly as much exposure that it deserves. Adding a social sharing plugin would make it easier for people to share. IMHO, a floating plugin like ShareBar works the best. However, as Sharebar hasn’t been upgraded for the new WP versions, you can look at other plugins like Socialize, AA’s Digg Digg Alternative etc.
- Social Profiles Plugins: This would make sure that your visitors have an opportunity to connect with you on different social platforms.
- Facebook Like Box
- A Comments Plugin: Without a response from the listeners (readers in this case) end, a conversation is not complete. They can converse by sharing your posts on different platforms, or by actually commenting. Make it easy for them.
Even though there are many more plugins, you would want in your blog, before you can call the blog well equipped, but these would definitely help you get started. Alright, over to you folks. Get started now, and start setting up your blog. Let us know how it goes! Happy Blogging!