Managed WordPress hosting frequently asked questions
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Blogging is enticing because there are almost no barriers to entry: if you can write, have access to the internet, and have basic computer literacy, you can start blogging. While there’s something to be said for just jumping in and getting started as soon as the urge hits, it’s worth taking some time to ask yourself some serious questions first, like these ones from the first article in this series.
Once you’ve decided blogging is for you, start the way you mean to continue! Here are our seven steps to getting started for blogging success.
You’ve probably already got an idea in mind, but make sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Your enthusiasm will show in your writing — and lack of interest is just as clear! Narrow down your topic until it’s sharply focused: traveling for solo women who like fashion, perhaps, or vegan recipes on a budget.
Then consider your ideal reader: who will be reading your blog? Create a detailed profile of your perfect audience member, give him/her a name (Sarah? Peter? Persephone?) and when you write, imagine you’re talking straight to this person. This will help give you focus and make it easier to choose (and eliminate) topics for blog posts.
Ah, this can be a challenge. You want a name that expresses exactly what you do, is memorable but not cheesy, reflects your personality, is easy to spell, and is relatively short. Plus, ideally you want to be able to buy the dotcom domain name of your chosen moniker. So, not difficult at all, right?
I suggest you brainstorm a whole bunch of ideas related to your niche. Use a thesaurus to come up with synonyms, switch key words back and forth. Write everything down and make a list of five or six concepts. Then head to namecheap.com to see if any of the names are available. If you find one that’s available for purchase and you’re happy for that to be your blog’s name for the foreseeable future, buy it! Remember that you’ll have to pay the domain registration fee every year.
Although it’s another expense, it’s worth considering buying common variations on your domain name, which you can then redirect to your main site. For example, a board game company in New Zealand called Seriously Board use seriouslyboard.co.nz as their primary URL, but also picked up seriouslyboard.nz. Travel site Traveling Islanders spell their name with just the one L, but you’ll get to their site even if you choose the British form of “travelling”. If you’re on a tight budget, leave this for now, but keep it in mind for later on.
Don’t put off picking up your social media handles, though! As soon as you’ve bought your domain name, sign up for ALL (all right, lots) of the social media platforms and register your name. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest should be the first ones on your list, followed by Snapchat, Google+, YouTube, and any other platforms that are popular among your target audience or have sprung up since I wrote this article. Even if you don’t plan to use all of these platforms, it’s worth spending the time to register your name, so nobody else can have it!
Just like you need a place to park your car, your blog needs a place to live on the internet. Actually, it lives in big black boxes (servers), but picturing it as real estate is much more picturesque, right?
Now, whatever you do, DON’T use a service like Blogger, Blogspot, or WordPress.com. It’s tempting to start with one of these platforms, because they are easy to set up and free free free, but as your blog grows you’ll find their limitations constraining. It’s very hard to make money from your blog while using one of these services.
Instead, you want to be self-hosted. Despite the name, you don’t actually have to host your own site —that’s a ridiculous amount of work! Performance Foundry offers an excellent Managed WordPress Hosting service that combines hosting and maintenance, but if you’re starting on a shoestring there are many budget options out there. Many hosting providers include domain registration free for the first year, but it’s best if you keep your domain registration separate from your host for security reasons. It costs a little more, but think of it as insurance in case something goes wrong.
WordPress is free, opensource software that is the most popular blogging tool out there. It is one of the best things in the world — the internet world, at least — as it makes blogging so easy! It’s not just for blogs, either — many large sites are built on WordPress, such as the New York Times.
WordPress is similar to a word processing tool like Microsoft Word in that it’s where you’ll write and format your blog posts. You can save drafts, publish your posts to your site, or schedule them for the future, among many many other functions. (This is enough to be going on with, though.)
A theme is basically the skeleton of your site, which determines where the elements will go and how they will appear. Choose something simple rather than complex, and make sure the basic structure is what you’re after. Head to https://wordpress.org/themes/ for a whole range of free themes, or choose a fancier (and pricier) one from Studiopress or Woothemes.
We recommend you avoid themes from Themeforest due to the ongoing issues we’ve had with them; several of Elegant Themes’ options are also more trouble than they are worth. Unfortunately, among the list of those we think you should stay away from are the very popular Avada, Divi, and X-theme. Sorry.
Once you’ve chosen your theme, you can modify it to your heart’s content, but don’t publish it just yet.
Most websites receive a high proportion of their traffic from search engines like Google, so it’s important to help those search engines find your site. You’ll also want know how many people are coming to your site, and Google is great for that too. The three most important things to do are to install an SEO tool, submit your sitemap to Google, and set up Google Analytics tracking.
The next article in this series will focus on what to write in more detail, but as a general overview:
If you’re starting a new blog and need some help, we’re here for you. We love seeing small businesses succeed online, and we created our managed WordPress hosting and maintenance package to make things easier for small business owners and bloggers — check it out to see if it’s for you.