I thought that some of our readers might benefit from the foot work that we have done in getting this blog off the ground. I will talk more about content and writing in future posts, but first I want to address the basics of getting a WordPress blog up and running. Here are ten things that I have found to be essential in the beginning stages. It isn’t a comprehensive list, but it should be enough for a beginner to get from wanting a self hosted blog to writing the first post. If you want to begin with comprehensive reading, I would suggest the WordPress documentation pages, which, either way, will be an invaluable source of information for you along the way.
1. Find a hosting service. We went with bluehost.com because it was recommended by WordPress and it had easy access to Fantastico, which I was interested in because i wanted to simplify things on the installation end. There are lots of great hosting services, some criteria for which you can find here. Doing your own installation will take a little more time and effort, but you will be better off for understanding the process in the end. If you do choose to use Fantastico, you will not have to download the WordPress installation file, just sign up for your hosting account and go to the control panel, click Fantastico in the software or services section, then choose WordPress in the “blogs” section and follow the instructions from Fantastico.
2. If you are doing a self install, you will need to download WordPress 2.3.1. You can downalod it here. You will also need an FTP client, like Smart FTP or FileZilla (you will need this program regardless of whether or not you are installing WordPress manually, so it would be a good idea to download the latest version and give it a test drive soon either way.)
3. Install the blogging software on your server. If you are looking to start a personal blog, you can have it installed for free. If you are intending to make some money, you will need to do the install on your own. The detailed instructions for that are here.
4. If you are switching from a free blogging service, things can get a little tricky. The permalinks that point to your blog content cannot be forwarded in wordpress.com blogs. You will want to do a series of posts announcing your new site, then set a date and make the switch. Do not leave the old posts sitting on the former blog if you are importing them into the new site because you can confuse the search engines and hurt your page rank. You will need to make them private or delete them so that the content on your new site will get indexed instead.
5. Download and install your wordpress plugins. This is the part where you customize your blog and create functionality for your users, your administrators, and your contributors. If you are coming from wordpress.com, you will find that much of the ease of that service comes from the pre-installed services that WordPress provides for you. If you want the same functionality, you will have to do some of the leg work yourself (although WordPress 2.3.1 is pretty dynamic.) Here are some of the more popular plugins. Some of our most used plugins are wordpress.com stats, Ultimate Google Analytics, Feedburner Feedsmith, text-only social bookmarker, In Series, Slaptigoogle PR.
6. Choose a WordPress theme. There are countless themes out there to get started with, but they will not be available until you download them and then upload them to your theme folder in the wp admin folder on your server, Check out the WordPress theme page and some of the places to download cool themes
7. Customize your sidebar and simplify your reader experience. You will want to make sure that your blog front page has good content and that your readers can find their way around easily. This is a place where, most of the time, less is more. If you choose categories as a way to index your site, make sure that you are not representing the same posts in each category. It can be frustrating to browse through a site and see the same material over and over. Plus, as you research search engine optimizing, you will find out that Google and other search bots don’t like duplicate content either.
8. You will want to take some time to make your blog more search engine friendly. WordPress is a great blogging platform, the best , in my opinion, but it leaves a few thing to be desired for optimizing search results. There are some great resources out there for doing the simple things, and most of the stuff that needs to be done can be handled by a plugin. You should read The Site Wizard for some specifics about targeting search engines, and, again, WordPress has some tips as well.
9. This list assumes that you have selected some content and have a target audience. If not, read more about writing well and honing in your writing to market to specific audiences. You are now ready to write your posts. The important thing about writing is reaching your audience. Make sure that you have some update services included in your wordpress setup. go to Admin>Options>writing and scroll down to the bottom. You should see http://rpc.pingomatic.com/ in the text box under “Update Services.” If not, add it. There are many update services, like pingoat and others, but you should be careful not to ping too many of their affiliate sites, as you can create undue strain in their web site traffic. Also, remember that the key to writing well is reading a lot, so find other blogs that you like and visit them every day. Leave a comment, other bloggers will appreciate it and readers may seek you out if your comment is on topic and clever. This might give you a chance to strike up a conversation with the webmaster and create a link sharing agreement to encourage traffic.
10. If you are intending to monetize your blog, then this would be the step for that. We use adsense because Google has, so far, taken care of most of the headaches around finding content and connecting with advertisers. If you’re blog is inherently monetized, for instance if it is a dating site and people pay to register and use it, then you have to figure out if you make more money selling memberships than selling advertisements. Most of the content related advertising out there will crawl your site and find your keywords, then display your ads based on the stuff that you write about. If you write about dating because you are trying to sell it, then adsense will pick out your keywords and likely advertise for your competitors. Google’s help forums have been a little spotty lately, so you may want to experiment with Yahoo and Adbrite to see what works best for your site and who provides you the best support. Keep in mind, though, that endurance comes from content, so write well and stay on topic, and your reader base will be loyal and consistent, and your revenues will stick around for a while, too.
Bonus tip: Have fun. Blog readers can smell an uber serious blogger and will check you out from time to time, but no one needs more stress in their life. Enjoy your blog, and others will enjoy it with you.
This list is not exhaustive, and I am interested in input form anyone that has ideas about streamlining the process. I am still learning as well, so any administration tips I can get are appreciated. Feel free ro pick apart the list and let me know what works and what doesn’t.