When I first started blogging I thought it would be as easy as writing a post, inserting pictures, pressing that publish button then magic – you have a blog! Hah, if only it was that easy. There is so much more work behind the scenes – learning how to set up and optimise your website, coding, understanding and utilising social media to promote your blog, marketing and monetising with ads. All of this is on top of honing your skills in photography and writing – not gonna lie, it’s a lot of work for my one woman team. I know what it is like to start out on your own knowing absolutely nothing so I made this post for a few tips on the technical side of blogging. Hope this will be helpful :)
WordPress Blogging Platform + Self-Hosting
WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org (they are NOT the same)
I know there are other blogging platforms like Blogger and Tumblr but I have only used WordPress so this section will be on it. If you are starting out I would recommend you use WordPress.com first to give yourself a few months or a year to see if this is really for you – we don’t want to just throw money down the drain.
WordPress.com (free version with no add-ons) gives you a taste for blogging but you are really limited – they display the whole post on your home page, you can’t install plugins, you can’t modify your theme’s code, they put their own ads onto your blog (no you don’t any revenue) and most importantly your URL will be something like: xxx.wordpress.com.
The benefit for me was that WordPress.com gave me a taste for blogging but I started feeling stifled with all the handicaps. Everything you can’t do on WordPress.com you can do on WordPress.org – here’s a handy guide that I had used to migrate:
You will need to find a web hosting company and purchase a domain name for your blog i.e. you won’t have the wordpress.com attached to the end of your URL.
I currently use BlueHost which includes a cost for the domain name. They are okay and I haven’t had a problem with them so far – they also offer online 24/7 support and I had a guy who was really awesome in helping me out with all my coding issues.
Update 17/10/15: I now use a SA company called NetVirtue as it’s just so much cheaper ($2/month) and the support is amazing. Not a regret changing web hosting company.
Everything I ‘code’ has been done by Googling and copying and pasting code until it works. When in doubt just Google ;) Just a beginning thing of where to find things: Appearance>Editor (this is where you modify your code). When you edit your themes and you update it, you will lose all the code so remember to backup. I read somewhere that you need to create a childs theme to prevent this but I have no idea how to do this yet (on the to learn list!)
Do not go crazy installing plugins like a certain someone did (yes it was me) as this slows down your website heaps. Choose the ones you feel are the most useful and code the simpler plugins e.g. Google Analytics, Google Authorship, Favicons etc. The ones I have found useful are:
- Akismet – prevents spam
- WordPress Editorial Calender – helps me schedule my posts
- WordPress Security – something with Anti-virus, Firewall and High Speed Cache. I like how they lock out people who are trying to hack into your account.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin – the bottom part of each posts that has related posts suggestions.
If you are a big nerd like me and like to analyse your traffic, set up Google Analytics to track it. It is amazing that you can see real time data of people viewing and leaving your blog, know whether they are using a mobile, tablet or a computer to even what internet browser they are using. Use this useful guide from Buffer for the inner workings on how to use Google Analytics. It’s so weird to see that 60% of my traffic comes from Google and my next biggest traffic source is through Urbanspoon. Facebook, Instagram and all my other social media sites don’t really help at all with driving traffic to my blog.
I have a lot of social media accounts but I mainly use Facebook and Instagram to have a way for readers to connect to me. I’ve found that Instagram is the place where I get the most interaction with people actually putting a comment and starting a convo. Facebook pages are forcing owners to pay for their posts to be seen – basically 10% of the people who have liked your page will see your post unless you pay to promote them. Here’s an interesting post on how the Facebook algorithm works here. I’m not even going to start with Twitter as this is mainly big in the US and I find it hard to get interaction here. Pinterest actually worked well for me – I didn’t get any traffic from it but by posting photos and linking my URL to them somehow improved my SEO and I got more traffic from Google search engines.
Remember to resize your photos to less than 100kb so that it speeds up the load time on your website. Also, give your image a name and not leave it as IMG12345.JPG as this does not help Google find you. Rename it to something like chocolate chip (alt part) in the title part.
I’ve got a few comments about how regular and consistent I am with posting my blog posts. It takes a lot of work to be consistent. There are days when the words just pour out and I can smash out 3 draft posts in a day but these days are rare. I actually have a backlog with enough content lined up for the coming month. When I was in Europe I was using 2 months of backlog that I had prepared before I left. The editorial calender plugin helps to schedule posts and lets me plan my month out easily :)
Despite all these things you need to consider this is second priority to your content – always always put your content as number one because no matter how much you optimise your social media and your website, if your content sucks no one’s going to come back for more. Don’t be too bogged down with all this technical stuff because that time could be used to write content. I’m still trying to pull the reigns in myself but I have a very stubborn personality :P