Creating a blog is simple. Visit Blogger, WordPress.com, or the short and sweet Tumblr, follow the easy instructions, and you are ready to publish your first post.
However, when it comes to creating a blog that you want to host on your own space, or promoting your blogs during the initial few months, most people tend to get confused. Worry not. It happens to most of us.
At least that’s what I mentioned to a good colleague of mine, who wanted to start blogging, when I wrote her a detailed mail recently. Soon there were other colleagues who were asking me the same thing, and I forwarded that mail to them. Then I though why not just post the mail online and maybe it might help someone else as well. So here it is – though a bit modified.
Before you go ahead, remember there are many blog CMS, web hosting companies, blog designs, and a number of blog promotion advice you can get easily searching on the web. What I am writing is based on what I have used and learnt. Nothing more.
Booking a domain, webspace, and creating your blog
1. Check for a free domain name (like Bella.com) – Type the domain name you want in the search box in this site – Domainsbot and wait. It will tell you which domains are free and which are not. You have to use other domain checking tools in case you want check for the country specific domains like the .in and .co.in variety. Or you can go for unconventional domain names.
2. Once you found your desired and free domain name, you need to register it and buy some space on the web for your domain. There are many domain registrars available. I used 1and1 for this site and others because I find it better and cheaper. On 1and1, go to the Linux hosting from the left hand side and choose the Beginner package. (Or choose any other package or web host if you prefer.)
3. Once you have done the payment and you are ready to roll, and the 1and1 site or your web host admin dashboard is showing your domain name and how to edit details and stuff, set up your MySQL database, this is how you can do it in 1and1. Copy the MySQL set up details on a notepad and keep it safe.
4. After this, you need to copy your ftp username and password from your webhost and also copy it in a notepad and keep it safe. On 1and1, this is how you can get your ftp details.
3. Download the WordPress CMS on your system (remember this is from WordPress.org, not WordPress.com) (dare I say WordPress is the most advanced of the lot, has one of the largest communities and is the most popular blogging software today.)
4. Extract the WordPress files from the zipped folder and follow the instructions. For those who used 1and1 as their web host, here is the FAQ. Don’t get scared if it gets too technical. Read it slowly and you will come out fine. Remember the only thing that needs to be done is to open the file called ‘wp-config-sample.php’ using a notepad and fill in your database details that you have saved earlier. Then, save and rename the file as ‘wp-config.php’. You are done editing it. Simple.
5. Download a ftp client like Filezilla and install it on your system. Once done, open it and fill in your your host (like bella.com), username and password (the ftp details you copied earlier) in the QuickConnect bar on top and click the QuickConnect button. Filezilla will then connect to your webspace. The left hand window of the client shows the files on your system and once connected, the right hand window will show the files on your webspace. Navigate to your WordPress folder in your system in the left-hand window (lower one), select all the files in the WordPress folder, right-click, and use the upload link. That’s all. It will take a while to upload all the files to your webspace depending on your connection speed. You might as well have a cup of tea in the meantime.
6. Once all the files are uploaded, type ‘http://example.com/wp-admin/install.php’ in your browser address bar and follow the installation instructions that follow. (Remember to replace example.com with your domain name) The installation should go smooth and you can now log in to your dashboard.
Designing your blog
1. Now that your blog is up, you might need to design it better and choose a different look than the default theme. For this, you need to either look for some good free themes or buy one.
You can start looking at the links below. Choose one according to what you are going to post in your blog. For example, if you are going to post pictures most of the time, you might want a theme with a wide post area. If you are going to write business stuff, you might do better choosing a theme with less colors and jazz.
- Mashable: Top 12 Stunning WordPress Themes
- Mashable: Unusual WordPress Themes
- Mashable: WordPress 2 Column Themes
- Mashable: WordPress 1 Column Themes
- Mashable: WordPress 3 Column Themes
- Mashable: 4 Column WordPress Themes
- Performancing WordPress Themes
- Smashing Magazine: 100 Excellent Free and High Quality WordPress Themes
- Smashing Magazine: 83 Beautiful WordPress Themes You Probably Haven’t Seen
- The Official WordPress Themes Directory
2. The next important thing is adding some useful plugins (third party tools that give you extra features). You can go to the WordPress plugins directory or even check out my collection of WordPress plugins you can’t just miss. Here is a huge list of 300 WordPress tools you can check out as well.
3. Of course, you can already start posting.
Promoting your blog
1. Add a way for your readers to subscribe to your blog. But you might want to add a email subscription box as well.
a. Feedblitz (for email updates)
b. Feedburner (for RSS)
2. A little bit of search engine optimization so that you blog starts appearing in search engines and eventually rank well is necessary. There is no shortcut here nor it is easy but not impossible to do it alone.
In short, there are two type of optimization you can do:
a. Onsite optimization: Make sure you have the meta tags in your site html proper, put good alt tags for images, include relevant keywords in your post without overdoing it. Try the website grader to check how your site scores. Check if the theme you are using is designed properly. Is it W3C compliant? Even if it is not, can you fix some major errors? Here is a basic starter to learn html.
b. Offsite optimization: Google will rank your blog primarily on how many and what type of sites are linking to it. Try to get as many as quality sites and blog as you can to link to your blog. Some people buy links, some request and beg, some exchange links, you decide what you need to do. How you can start is by submitting your sites to directories, bookmarking on (do follow) bookmarking sites, commenting on do follow blogs, and most importantly connecting with other bloggers and writing good content. You will see the phrase ‘content is king’ many times over as you start researching more online.
Submit your site to search engine and directories. Refer the main ones below to start with:
You can use Submit Express’s Free Submission as well to submit it other smaller search engines.
Also, use these tools to analyze your site better:
a. Google Sitemaps: It helps Google index your site better, tells you which page is being indexed by Google, and where are the problem areas.
b. Google Analytics: It tells you details about the site traffic.
c. Yahoo Site Explorer: Webmasters traffic analytics tool by Yahoo.
What about blog directories:
Here is a giant list of blog directories.
3. Network with other bloggers: The blogosphere is a huge network and it’s fun to be connected and it’s beneficial as well. The usual (and correct) advice is read other blogs, comment on their posts, reply to comments on your blog, and send emails once in a while to established bloggers in your niche sharing an interesting post you have written. In short, let other people know you and that your blog exists. Everything doesn’t happen automatically on the blogosphere, even though we would love to think of it like that. The underground blogosphere, which is described as a complex network of bloggers communicating and networking among one another through emails, phones, IMs, etc. to promote and help one another out, is much prevalent.
Some of the best blogging tips are at Problogger, Copyblogger, and Daily Blog Tips. There are more good ones. Check out this directory of bloggers writing on blogging here. There are other directories at Alltop categorized by subject. Choose your niche.
4. Create social networking profiles and promote your blog there. Yes, the social networking sites, where you already so familiar/ or tired of.
Facebook: The biggest social networking site can give you ways to publish your blog’s RSS feed on your profile page, exposing your posts to your friends. You can join groups where you can occasionally share your best posts.
Flickr: Do you plan to use pictures on your posts? You can try creating a Flickr account and uploading your picture there and embedding it to your blog posts. It will save you web space and create an opportunity to network with people there.
YouTube: Similarly, you can post your videos on YouTube and embed them on your blog. It can give good exposure to your blog through your videos and friends there.
Twitter: Nowadays, a lot of traffic to my blogs come from Twitter. Twitter is today the cool thing everyone is talking about and the sooner you try it out, the better. You can feed you blog RSS to Twitter using Twitterfeed. There are a number of Twitter WordPress plugins to do the job as well. My Twitter profiles are here (@palinn and @indiaprblog) and hey I post interesting links often.
Linkedin: You can showcase your blog posts, and share it to groups. I put my other blog, India PR Blog, as a company I am engaged with. So I come out like Founder and Writer, India PR Blog as one of the current job description.
Remember all these sites have their own communities and different ways of engaging within those communities. Learn and adhere to those. If you are not spamming your blog url and are nice to most people, it should be fine.
5. Other methods: You can put your blog url on your email signatures, talk about it to friends, clients, colleagues, pitch to the traditional media, etc. Run a contest on your blog. The possibilities are endless.
This post is intended for those who are new to blogging. Experienced bloggers are also requested to leave their advice and tips in the comments.
Image credit: How to Make a Badass WordPress Logo