Creating a blog is pretty straightforward and there are plenty of ways to do it. Thanks to all manner of online tools and services you can put together the bare bones of one in mere minutes. However, if you’re looking to craft something with a little more pizazz, it’s a good idea to use the power of WordPress.
WordPress is one of the best blogging tools you can use, with lots of features and functions. Best of all though, WordPress is intuitive and very easy to use. With a little bit of effort, your blogging results can look stunning. Before you start though, it’s a good idea to put together a plan of action in much the same way as building a website.
Crucially, you’ll want to have an idea of the things you’ll cover although such is the ease with which you can create pages in WordPress, you can change your plan as the blog evolves. No problem. With a creative vision in place, you’ll then need to look for web hosting, which will be home to your WordPress blogging activities.
The bonus with signing up for a web hosting package is that many Internet service providers, or ISPs, provide WordPress for you to use. It can be deployed quickly and easily within most packages, even if you’re not much of a whizz when it comes to the technical stuff.
Easy to start blogging
In fact, if you’re not too keen on the building side of blogging and want to get stuck into the writing side of things, WordPress is a rapid-fire solution. Once you’ve got it installed, it’s pretty much a case of creating blog posts as and when you want and you can even use WordPress in a basic, no-frills guise if you can’t be bothered to tailor it to match your blogging topics.
However, in even better news, WordPress makes it really easy to produce quite elaborate blogs, with custom styling, cool-looking graphics and lots of interactive features. Central to this is to employ a WordPress ‘Theme’, of which there are many to choose from. These can be used ‘stock’ or as they come designed, or you can customize one to produce a truly unique blog.
Need extra functionality within your shiny new blog? Well, WordPress has a solution for that too. The software can be given a boost by using ‘plug-ins’, which are basically snippets of third-party code that can be installed within the WordPress framework. These allow you to add an amazing amount of extra features and functions. Many are free to use, as are some of the basic themes.
Those with more advanced features might come with a small cost and you can get an idea of pricing from our handy related guide. But, if you’re looking to blow people away with your WordPress blog, spending a little bit of money to get the right look and feel might be a good way to go.
Getting started with WordPress
Creating a blog using WordPress is easy enough, but before you do that you’ll want to get yourself a web address, or domain name, along with web hosting where everything will be contained. To get started, you’ll need to carry out a web domain search to see if your idea is available.
Remember that even if you preferred name has been taken you can often get around that by choosing a different domain extension. So, instead of .com, you might be able to use .net, or .tv or any one of many other options that are available nowadays. Once you’ve got your domain name you’ll want to get web hosting, so that you’ll have a home for your domain.
If you want to take the easy route, it’s a good idea to get your domain name and web hosting in one go and from a single ISP. There are plenty of ISPs to choose from and it’s a very competitive marketplace. That means there are always deals to be had, with free domains occasionally thrown in for good measure if you sign up for a web hosting package. Deals come and go all the time, however and be sure to check any special offer meets your needs and budget. It is certainly wise to shop around though.
Setting up WordPress
Spend a little bit of time comparing web hosting packages and you’ll find that many if not all of your options will include the ability to install WordPress. ISPs have done a lot of the hard work for you too, and much of the time, installing and configuring WordPress can be done within your web hosting package and often using a simple ‘Wizard’ tool.
However, the extra bonus with WordPress is that it is also possible to tinker with it if you fancy yourself as a little bit of a web developer or site designer. The easy route to begin with is simply to get it launched within your hosting package and take things from there. While WordPress isn’t especially complicated it does, as with any software package, require you to get familiarized with the various component parts.
Initial setup of WordPress is very straightforward though, so once it has been launched on your web server you’ll just need to pick your way through the steps, which will give you a basic edition of WordPress. Even in its simplest form though, WordPress does the trick and quickly lets you get to grips with its intuitive interface and powerful tools for producing blogs.
Once you’ve got WordPress installed and configured using the basic step-by-step actions to produce a named blog, you’ve got the shell of something great emerging. However, you’ll now need to take a deep dive inside the WordPress interface, in order to understand where all the tools live that will help you produce effective blog pages.
The standard WordPress interface is basically the same, no matter what kind of blog you’re creating for the front facing, world wide web. The other good news on this front is that many ISPs will automatically update to the latest version of WordPress when it arrives. If not, you’ll invariably get some kind of prompt recommending that you update, so that all of its best features and functions continue to work.
The main area of WordPress is the Dashboard, which presents you with an interface that features a menu down the left-hand side of the page. Listed here are all of the tool options, which you’ll need to dip into when you’re building and publishing blog posts. A lot of this is very self-explanatory, with options that include ‘Posts’, ‘Media’, ‘Pages’ and ‘Comments.
The latter is one example of the interactive nature of WordPress blogs, with visitors to your blog posts being able to submit comments – this is a great way to quickly engage with your readers and build a community-type of vibe. In fact, having lively debate going on is one easy way of making sure your WordPress blog is alive and kicking, rather than having lots of static posts with little in the way of excitement happening.
Writing a blog post
To get your first blog post on WordPress you simply go to Posts in the main menu and select Add New. After you’ve done this you’re presented with a WordPress Editor, which is very similar to working with any regular word processing software. There’s a lot more potential for creating dynamic blog posts though, with tools that let you insert all sorts of content in the form of blocks.
It’s very much a ‘What you see is what you get’ type of workflow too. It’s also possible to preview your work on the fly, just to make sure everything looks as it should. Added to that, you can publish your blog posts quickly but, equally, you can take them down again if there’s something you’d like to edit, or perhaps remove entirely. The interface lets you insert images, video clips and, indeed, anything else you fancy for a more complete visitor experience.
Create an even better blog
Once you’ve got to grips with the basic tools, features and functions within the default WordPress interface, you’ll want to start expanding your blog. Doing this makes total sense as it'll make the blog look and feel more entertaining, with more sophisticated features helping to give it an extra air of refinement and professionalism.
There’s an easy way to boost the appeal of your WordPress blog too. First up, it’s well worth investigating the many and varied WordPress themes that are out there. These are created by third-party designers and allow you to create a truly bespoke blog, either by choosing a stock theme or by using it and then customizing the way it looks and feels. Spend a little money on the right theme and it can help to transform your blogging experience for visitors. That should result in more traffic too, so some added outlay may soon pay for itself.
At the same time, if you’ve got a blog with added functionality it will encourage visitors to come back. The best way to do this is by investing in some of the many different plug-ins that come available for WordPress. These are chunks of software code that are installed in ready-to-use bundles and can be found online, often developed by third-party suppliers to work in tandem with WordPress.
Installing and using a plug-in is very easy too, and they're all stored in one easy to find location in WordPress. This means that they can be updated when they need to be, adapted to suit your own needs or, in fact, removed altogether if they don’t really fit the bill or are no longer required. Plug-ins offer a brilliant way to boost the power and potential of your site though and there are variations that let you do, well, just about anything on a website.
Better yet, you can get up and running without any programming or web development skills, which makes the humble plug-in even more appealing to less tech-savvy blog builders. Plug-ins frequently need updating, but the good news on that front is that you’ll get an indication of this within the WordPress interface. The same goes for themes from time to time, as they are perhaps improved or tweaked to meet the latest web standards.
Gauge feedback for your blog
Once you’ve created your blog on WordPress and added in all of the features and functions that work with your overall idea, you should have a dynamic presence on the web that can grow as your audience levels build. The brilliant thing about a WordPress blog is just how powerful and professional it’ll look with very little effort required on your part. And, as your confidence and experience grows, your blog should go from strength to strength.
Spend a little time checking out all of the WordPress tools outlined above and you’ll quickly be able to build up a vibrant blogging location. However, the best way to gauge just how vibrant your work is and if it’s striking the right chord with your audience, is to set up Google Analytics for your site.
Google Analytics is straightforward enough to configure for your site and can be done using a plug-in or by dropping some code into your blog. From there, it will help you track how your audience interacts with your blog and supply lots of practical data about which bits of the content work and which bits, perhaps, aren't quite as engaging.
Added to that, if you’re looking to monetize your blog then Google Analytics can provide you with all of the facts and figures you need to work out the best next steps for boosting income from your pages. Remember to keep tabs on your statistics and ensure that you’re using the latest incarnation of Google Analytics too, in order to enjoy all of its best features and functions.
Now read our handy explainer on the difference between Web Hosting and WordPress hosting