Starting a blog can be a little daunting. I’m sure there are hundreds of questions running through your mind surrounding the ins and outs of the process – but in truth, there is really not that much to know. Like with most things in life, it isn’t always about knowing the answer. It’s about knowing where to find it, which is what I hope to address in this post.
Below, we’re going to run through 10 resources which I wish I had knowledge of when I first got started blogging. Admittedly most of them didn’t even exist, but let’s not worry about that.
First and foremost I’m going to assume you have your domain name and web hosting account setup. If you don’t, hey, you’re on HostPresto. You can purchase a domain name here and check out our hosting plans here.
So let’s get started.
If you’re looking for a blogging platform then look no further than WordPress. Especially if you’re a first time blogger. Whilst there are other fantastic alternatives out there such as Ghost and Drupal, for first timers, WordPress is the answer.
You can download WordPress via the link above and upload it to your FTP space. Or if you have a web hosting account with HostPresto you can use the one click install service via your cPanel account which will perform all the leg work for you.
Some of you may well want to try a manual install as it is a great way to see how it all works and such but if you just want to get it done so you can get started on your site then use the one click installer.
I am including this simply because it’s such a massive resource and covers every aspect of WordPress imaginable. From tutorials on performing the absolute basic tasks from through to complex WordPress theme development – it has it all.
It also features listings of themes, plugins and detailed walk throughs on dealing with popular issues such as WordPress security and the marketing of your blog. Some of the WordPress SEO tutorials are the best around and for a single, one off resource discussing everything WordPress, you won’t go far wrong with WPBeginner.com
If you really want to make your blog post content pop you’ll need a featured image assigned to your post. The featured image is the one that typically appears at the top of your blog post content or in the various thumbnails dotted around your site.
Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re not an artist, you can’t use Photoshop. So what can you do? Well, that is where Canva.com comes in.
In short, it is a free online interface (with a premium/paid option for greater features) that allows you to create various imagery for use around the web.
It comes with lots of templates in various dimensions to suit common uses such as the previously mentioned featured image as well as images for Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and so on. You can also use it to create infographics and posters.
The interface itself is easy to use and you can drag and drop images, shapes and text onto your canvas with ease. It also has a great choice of fonts and a repository of shapes and icons to use as you see fit.
If you want your blog to stand out, you’re doing to need a premium WordPress theme. But don’t be put off by the word premium. Most “premium” themes costs less than £40 so far cheaper than hiring a web designer to create one for you.
The most popular place to buy wordpress themes at the moment is ThemeForest. They feature pretty much every theme imaginable and allow you to specifically find what you need based on search criteria such as price, popularity and intended usage such as ecommerce store or blog/magazine etc.
Using ThemeForest you can quickly and easily find themes that suit your needs and view important information about what features each theme has, how to install it and most importantly view a live preview of how the theme itself will look once installed.
Another popular theme market is MojoMarketplace.com. Like with ThemeForest, you can browse themes by category and sales figures but you can also quickly and easily see which themes are doing good numbers at any particular time.
Mojo also features lots of themes for other platforms such as PrestaShop and OpenCart.
I recently added an article showcasing what I feel are the top 10 wordpress themes around at the moment so if you’re stuck for ideas that might be a good place to start.
SEMRush is the go to resource should you want to monitor the off site marketing metrics of your blog. It will allow you to monitor your traffic, your backlinks and where you rank on popular search engines for given keywords. It also allows you to view such information by country.
SEMRush can also be used in the same way to monitor your competitors. You can see what keywords they’re ranking for, which posts are popular (so you can follow suit) and how they’ve performed over time thus enabling you to spot trends and opportunities.
You can also produce fantastic reports to show your employer should you be operating a commercial blog and also delve into information rich analytic reports that will show you where your traffic is coming from (and going).
Majestic has similar features to that of SEMRush but I am including it as the database of active links is just so much larger than SEMRush. You will be able to spot around 50% more links with Majestic due to its hyper active crawlers so if you do generate a backlink you’re going to find out about it extremely quickly if using Majestic.
The only downside is that it is quite expensive on a month to month basis so is probably only really worth looking into if you’re more of an established blogger.
Sometimes you’ll want more content for your blog but simply don’t have the time (or desire) to produce something yourself. That’s fine. Every blogger employs third party writers at some stage in their blogging journey.
Using a service like TextBroker.co.uk you can quickly crowdsource writers to produce content on any subject you see fit. The price you pay will be dependent on word count and the quality of the article you’d like produced.
All TextBroker writers go through an initiation where they’re asked to write documents in order to gauge quality so if you’re intending to hire a high quality writer you can be sure you’re getting your monies worth.
Whilst there are a lot of mailing list manager applications on the market, here at HostPresto we favour Mailchimp.
The interface itself is easy to use and when coupled with plugins such as Mailchimp for WP and Boxzilla you can easily generate newsletter subscribers from various forms around your site. Even existing forms from existing plugins such as Ninja Forms or the ever popular Contact Form 7.
The drag and drop interface of Mailchimp itself allows you to design your newsletter as you see fit and will render perfectly on receipt across all popular e-mail clients. The actual list management features are also second to none.
Most of us want to make an income from our blogs – at some point. So once you’re at that stage you’ll need to find a trustworthy network you can rely on. That network is Media.net.
Once you’re approved, you’ll be able to download cut and paste advertisement code to place around your blog. The code will serve banner adverts and keyword/text blocks based on the content of your page which in turn leads to highly relevant advertisements and click through rates.
You’ll be paid a variable amount each time someone clicks an advert depending on the product being advertised and you’ll be paid the total amount of income generate for the previous month at the end of the current month. All you need to do is sign up, paste the code and start earning.
The above should cover enough to get you started. We’ve covered everything from the setup of the CMS (WordPress) itself, right through to text, images, marketing, promotion, making money and even customisation of WordPress. There is really not much more to it.
Combining the usage of all the tools above will give your blog the best chance of success, from all standpoints. But as helpful as they all are, there is no short cut. If you want to be a successful blogger you’ll need to put the time in across the board.
I may well expand upon this list at a later date and create somewhat of a more advanced guide for the seasoned bloggers and WordPress developers amongst us but for now, if you’re new to blogging, you won’t go far wrong with the above.