So as I mentioned in my first post starting a blog and doing a better job of professional development is one of my New Year’s resolutions. This has been quite an adventure getting the blog to the point that it is now. Hours of research, installation, and decision making later I think the blog is close to being in a shape that I’m satisfied. I’ve been creating and monitoring blogs for the college for the last year and a half so I’ve fairly familiar with blogs and how they work. I guess it was in launching all the blogs this fall that I really got into SEO, RSS, and all the other ways to truly make your blog stand out from the rest. So needless to say I’m not a rookie at this blog thing just a rookie at creating a personal one. Although this is the first time I’ve tried to setup a blog using WordPress I feel like I have learned enough through this process to put together a thorough explanation about the choices I’ve made and why it’s the correct way to setup a blog. If you disagree with something or have any questions I’d love to hear them! Seriously… I would.
- Decide on a name first. The very first thing that has to be done when setting up a blog is to decide what the name of the blog will be. How do you want to brand it? What is it that you want to write about, decide on your niche, and choose an appropriate name? You have to do this first because you can’t register a domain name unless you decide what the domain name that you want to use and if it’s available. Try to keep it short and catchy. InternetMarketing4HigherEducation.com well that’s just not going to work… who wants to type all that? Although it’s most likely going to be available it’s just ridiculous. Keep it short, I’d say no more than 12 characters before your domain type. Personally I believe sticking with .com is best as this is the most recognized. Buying a .info or .net might be a little cheaper on GoDaddy might be a little cheaper, but that’s just it… it makes you look a little cheaper. Also in most browsers you can type the domain name (example doteduguru) and hit ctrl + enter and it will wrap the https://www. + .com around your query. Just a little tip, but it is another way to get people quickly to your site.
- What blogging software to use. From everything I’ve seen there are three big blogging platforms that seem to dominate, Blogger, WordPress, and Typepad. According to Alexa Blogger.com is the 12th ranked site in the world so it is by far the biggest blogging hosting system. Wofford uses Typepad to host all their blogs so I was fairly familiar with their system. WordPress was the wildcard. I have heard lots of wonderful things about how customizable the system was and I knew that I was going to want to customize the mess out of the system so this looked good. I also knew that WordPress was Open Source Freeware so I could download it for free and install it on my web server and do whatever I wanted with it. I also read quite a few excellent reviews about WordPress. WordPress it is so I downloaded the software.
- Choose a hosting company. I use ixwebhosting, but I’ve been using them for years and already had a plan with them that I’ve used for side projects that I do for people. For a WordPress blog BlueHost seems to be a well regarded and highly publicized host. BlueHost is $6.95/month and they say that that includes your free domain name forever so you don’t have to go anywhere else to buy it. I HAVE NOT used this service so I’m not recommending it just point it out.
- Installing WordPress. (If you use a host that installs WordPress for you then you can skip this step) Actually installing WordPress isn’t too difficult. You can read all about it or look on YouTube for a video about how to install. Once it’s installed and you have all the initial setup it’s time to customize time!
- Decide on a Permalink structure. The VERY FIRST thing to do is decide on a Permalink structure. There are many discussions about the best way to do this. You can read about it here, here, here, and finally this one has a few tips from the infamous Matt Cutts. I’ll let you decide for yourself how you want to setup permalinks, but it’s best to make this decision early and STICK WITH IT. For completeness I choose to go with /id%post_id%-%postname%.html. For me this follows the best of the SEO practices that I read and keeps the ID at the beginning so if by chance you have two posts named the same they are each unique.
- Customizing WordPress with plug-ins. Now it’s time to dig into the real power of WordPress: PLUG-INS! There is literally hundreds of plug-ins, but I’m going to get into the vital ones that I chose were valuable. Plug-ins are super easy to install and after reading the README on the first one you will quickly figure out how to install these things.
- FeedSmith – FeedBurner is the de facto standard for RSS and this is the easiest way to setup FeedBurner on a WordPress blog. FeedBurner is one of the few reliable way to track RSS feed data. Go setup a FeedBurner account and tweak the settings to your liking. I’d recommend setting up E-mail alerts though this also so users can keep up with your post through that means if they choose.
- Google Analytics for WordPress – Of course your going to want to track traffic on your blog and the price of Google Analytics is right, it’s FREE! Set it up early so you can track traffic from the beginning. This plug-in doesn’t use the latest ga.js script but I’ve read that the programmer is plan on updating it with this.
- Google XML Sitemaps– if you want to inform the search engines about your site and your priority of content then a sitemap is a must. I actually had some issues and had to create the sitemap.xml and sitemap.xml.gz files by hand and upload them to the server. Also had to deactivate and activate the plug-in and wait a few minutes but everything went fairly smoothly at that point. Set this puppy up and setup Webmaster tools on Google, Yahoo, and Live/MSN to submit your website so people will easily be able to find it on search engines. Also as part of this install this plug-ins will create a robots.txt file for you. Don’t know what this is you can find out more at robotstxt.org.
This is also important and I would recommend adding the below to the file because you really don’t need or want a bot searching these folders eating up your bandwidth and it’s just pointless.
- WordPress.com Stats – Google analytics are great, but it doesn’t hurt setting up this free plug-ins to easily track stats. One thing I’ve learned is that you really don’t want to dig into a Google Analytics account but once a month, but maybe you want to daily see how your stats are doing? Well with this plug-in you can do that from the admin panel.
Well that’s enough for now. With the above your blog will have the best chance of being found using solid SEO practices and your readers will easily be able to keep up with it through RSS and even e-mail subscriptions. There is much more customizing you can do with Plug-ins and Themes, but this is the bare minimum to build an excellent blog. The rest is more preference than anything. I do plan on writing a follow-up post to explore some of the better WordPress plug-ins, where to find themes, and a little social networking advice. I hope this tutorial has been helpful and thank you for taking the time to actually read it all the way through.