How to Start a Successful WordPress Blog – Part 2

In my previous blog post (Part 1, obviously, read it here) I spoke about how to start right at the beginning when creating your own blog. You’ve chosen your niche, domain name and what platform you are going to use and if you’ve gone with a self-hosted site and WordPress.org (wise choice!), in this blog post I will cover how to start that WordPress blog.

how to start a successful blog with wordpress

I absolutely love writing my blog. Being able to talk about interiors and sharing it on my blog and on Instagram has changed my life. It is now my full-time job, I can work from anywhere in the world (a little bit difficult in 2021, but the potential to work whilst sat by a pool sipping a Pina colada is very appealing) and I am not confined to the traditional 9 – 5.

If you like Pina Coladas….

When I was creating my blog, I found the niche and naming the easy bit. Getting your head around WordPress, not so much.

I come from an IT background, I was an IT technician in the Royal Air Force for 8 years and then worked in London for 4 years in IT support and project management but even I found it hard to get my head around how to start a WordPress.org website from scratch.

In this blog post I will give you some easy to follow, step-by-step guides on how to get you from scratching your head and throwing your mouse down in disgust (the plastic variety, I am not encouraging animal cruelty here ) to posting your first blog post! Sounds good? Let’s get on with it…

Choose your Web Host

I described in my last blog post, how to start a successful blog – Part 1, the differences between choosing a hosted website or a self-hosted website. In this blog post I will assume you went for the self-hosted version so I will talk you through setting up your web host and then creating a WordPress account.

I used Bluehost for my besocialwithmedia.com website so I will show you how I did it. There are other hosting websites like SiteGround or HostGator, but they all pretty much follow the same procedures.

Go to Bluehost.com and you will find the first screen prompting you to Get Started. 

Click on Get Started and it will give you a choice of plans and how long you want to the plan to last. This is really down to you. I went for the Basic to begin with as I was only creating one website and didn’t need all the extra add-ons.

Once you’ve selected your plan, it will ask you to either create a new domain or use an existing one. Again, this depends on whether you have already paid for a domain name through websites like godaddy.com or you haven’t got to that stage yet. If you haven’t already bought a domain name, you can check for available domains in the create a new domain box. It also gives you the option to skip the domain name and create it later. 

Fill out your account details and check that all the information is correct in the package information box and click the “Next” button to complete your purchase. You will then be prompted to set a password for your account (make sure you use a strong and secure password).

And that’s it. You will then need to log into your Bluehost account and start installing WordPress.

Installing WordPress

Once you have logged into Bluehost, select Marketplace from the left-hand panel, scroll down to the Featured Products section and select One-Click Installs and WordPress should appear. 

Select Install and enter your Site Name and Site Tagline (for example my Site Name is Melanie Jade Design and my Site Tagline is Designs for the Home, Travel and Life).

Click on the Advanced tab and enter your email address, the username you want to use in WordPress and the Admin Password. Make sure you make note of these as this is what you will use to log into WordPress. Press Next and enter your domain name (your URL) and I would keep the helpful Free Plugins ticked. Click Next and it will take a minute or two to install.

You’re ready to log into your new WordPress account!

If you have previously bought your domain name from somewhere else, you need to point the domain to your Bluehost account. Depending on where you bought it will depend on how  you do it and how long it takes (it’s normally anything from 24 – 72 hours). To find out how, you will have to go to the website where you registered your domain name. You will not be able to log into your WordPress dashboard until this is done. 

However, if you registered your domain with Bluehost (or any other hosting service), you should be able to log into WordPress straight away. 

Type in https://www.YOURDOMAINNAME/wp-admin into your browser and enter the username and password you used in the previous step.

Install a theme

A WordPress theme will determine what the layout of your blog will look like. I’ll be honest, when I was first setting up my blog, this was the part that took me the longest! I just couldn’t decide as there are SO many amazing themes to choose from. Themes are a powerful tool that can change the layout and design of your website and customise the appearance of your site, typography and colour to name but a few design elements.

You can get free and paid for themes and again it is up to you what you decide to go with. If you are unsure as to where your blog journey will take you and are not really looking to make it profitable or run a business from it, there are plenty of fabulous free themes to choose from, with Astra being one of the best.

One of the most popular themes on WordPress is Astra. Built with SEO in mind

Go to Appearance > Themes > Add New Themes and find something that you think will work for your blog. Like I said, I spent weeks trying to find the right one but it doesn’t really matter at this stage because you can always change it at a later date.

When I first started blogging, I used a free theme but found them to be clunky and not very intuitive. If you can afford to spend a bit of money on a theme, then I highly recommend you do so. Not only do they look more unique and professional, they can be faster to load and perform better on search engines.

You can buy themes from places like themeforest.com, pipdig.co and restored316designs.com. I went with Divi from Elegant Themes as it comes with a visual editor so instead of creating your blog via the back end of WordPress, you can create your web design with ease by dragging and dropping elements on the blog page itself (a bit like SquareSpace).

Plugins

Once you have chosen your theme, you need to think about installing plugins. Plugins are a piece of software that can extend the functionality of your blog and add new features. The best way to understand it is; think of WordPress as your iPhone, the theme as the iPhone Operating System (IOS) and plugins as the apps. They help you to use your phone with added functions.

Here are some Plugins that I recommend –

  1. WPForms – this is a contact form which will help your readers get in touch with you. You can create any type of contact form from order forms, subscription and payment forms.
  2. Simple Social Icons – this plugin allows you to insert your social icons in any widget area on WordPress
  3. Akismet Anti-Spam – this is the best way to protect your blog from spam. You can configure it so that you have to approve any new comment and once you have approved a user, they can comment again without approval. You will find that you get a LOT of comments from people who are only there to leave a website link on your page, providing back links to their website.
  4. Rank Math SEO – I absolutely love this plugin and can’t recommend it enough. This hugely impressive plugin helps you optimise your pages and blog posts so that they will do well in SEO. It is extremely easy to use and I credit this plugin for my pageviews increasing by up to 10 times in the last 6 months.
  5. UpdraftPlus – this plugin is the most popular WordPress backup plugin. It allows you to set up automatic backups and safely store them on a remote location like Google Drive. If, god forbid, anything was to happen to your website, UpdraftPlus makes it easy to restore your backup from the most recent update.
  6. All In One WP Security & Firewall – this is a user-friendly, all in one WordPress security and firewall plugin for your site to prevent any attack or hack on your website.
  7. GDPR Cookie Consent – for your blog to be legal, you must have a cookie plugin popup to inform your readers that your blog uses cookies.

It’s very simple to install plugins and a lot like installing themes. Go to the Plugins section on the left-hand side menu, choose ADD NEW and you’ll see the below screen. You can then search for the plugin that you need.  

Once you have found the plugin you need, you will have to install it and activate it like a theme. Most plugins will have instructions on how to install and use it but I would say pretty much all the plugins I have installed have just been a simple install and activate.

Plugins are an essential and powerful part of your website but always make sure you only have plugins installed that you need and use. Also make sure you download ones that come highly recommended, you could potentially install a plugin that may cause security issues for your blog and can slow it down. Make sure you keep on top of your plugins and delete ones that are inactive.

Upload your Logo

Every website needs a logo! Again, you don’t have to spend too much time on this. It is worth thinking about our blog and brand colour palette and what fonts you will use throughout your blog as it really helps to have consistency. You can create your logo in programmes like Canva or Photoshop (I do all my graphics and Canva and would highly recommend it).

READ – How to become a brand on social media and why it’s important

You will need to upload your logo onto your blog. Depending on which theme you are using will depend on how you do this. But most logo’s can be uploaded by going to Appearance > Customise > choosing Header Options > Upload a header image.

I have created a blog idea board for Be Social With Media in Canva. This will help to keep my website and subsequent social media posts consistent.

Create your pages

You’re good to go! The next important step is to create your WordPress pages. For now, you will probably only need a Home page, Contact, About and Privacy policy. As you write more blog posts, you can start creating category pages but I wouldn’t worry about that until you have more posts on your blog.

Home Page

This is the main page of your website. By default, WordPress will show your latest posts on your home page in reverse chronological order but most people choose to use a static page as their home page. This will make your website look more professional as you can edit several different sections in the home page including social media links and different categories with images.

To do this, you need to go to Settings in your dashboard left hand panel > Reading > Your homepage displays as A static page.

Contact Page

Keep it simple. People will want to get in contact with you so you need to create a page so they know how to! It needs to include different ways they can contact you (either by your social media messaging systems, email or address) or you can include a contact form. If you have uploaded the WP Forms plugin (as mentioned above), you can easily add the form into your Contact page and configure it to suit you.

About Me Page

Another page that is very important when you are creating a blog or website. This lets readers know who you are, who and what your blog is for and some information on yourself.

It’s like your blog CV and the more you include on this page, the more people will get to know you and want to subscribe to and read your blogs. Your About Me page is also extremely important for SEO as you are letting Google know that you mean business!

Privacy Policy

This is another important page as it looks after all the legal bits of owning a website. It lets your readers know that you use cookies and that you will keep all readers and customers information safe.

There are loads of tutorials online showing you how to create a privacy policy, or just take a look at mine. 

Setup your Permalink Structure

The URL of each of your blog posts and pages is extremely important for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation, what gets your blog to the top of those all-important Google Searches!) The best way to set your permalink structure is your blog URL, followed by the title of your blog post. And that’s it. Don’t include the date, or numbers or any random letters.

To permanently set it up is really simple. Go to your settings in the left-hand panel, Permalinks and choose Post name.

Menus

You’ve created some pages and set up your Permalink structure, you now need to create some menus so your readers can easily navigate around your page. To create a menu, go to Appearance > Menus and create a new menu highlighted in blue.

I only have one menu and have called it… Main menu! Once you have created this menu, you can then add menu items on the left-hand side. This will show all the Pages, Posts and Categories that you have created in your blog, so you will need to select these and add to the menu.

I haven’t got a category named “Interiors” but I wanted somewhere to put all my interior related items in so I created a custom link and then added all my Interior design categories under this custom link.

You can move everything around until you’re happy with the layout. This is how your menu will appear along the top of your website, in the order you select here, with anything included under a category or page turning up in a drop-down menu on your site.

Finally, in the menu settings at the bottom, select which navigation menu you want this to be. Most themes will allow you to have two menus, one that will appear at the top of your website and another secondary menu which can appear below your header. This is useful if you want to direct people to more specific pages.

It’s time to write your first WordPress blog post!

Now all that faffing with behind-the-scenes stuff is done and your blog is looking more like a professional website, you can get on with the fun stuff! Writing your blog posts.

It’s really simple to do, go to Posts > Add New and a blank page will pop up. Give it a title and then write! You can add images by going to Add Media but I will cover how to write blog posts in a separate blog post.

Once you are happy with the blog, select Publish (or you can schedule, again I will cover this in a separate blog post). You are now a fully-fledged blogger!

I find that setting yourself a schedule is the best way to be consistent with blogging. I publish a blog post every Sunday at 8.30am and I find this has really helped with my SEO, monthly views and my own commitment! 

Once you have published your first WordPress blog post, you need to think about promoting it on your social media accounts and I will also cover this in a separate blog post.

Most of you will probably have all your social accounts set up, so really get into the habit of promoting your blog in your Instagram feed posts and stories, on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

If you don’t promote your posts, who is going to know that you published one in the first place?  

If you have any questions, please ask me in the comments or you can contact me via my Social media sites. I found it quite difficult to set up a blog in the beginning and not many people would answer my questions so I’m always happy to help.  

Mel x

how to start a successful wordpress blog

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