first thing you notice after wandering around the internet for probably a few hours is that there are tons of websites and blogs that sprawls petabytes of bandwidth. But what exactly is a blog and how does it differ from a website?
Theoretically, the basic difference between a blog and a website is in how data is formatted and presented to a reader.
In this how to start a blog guide:
Blogging and website Defined – What is a Blog?What is WordPress?What you need to get started – Step by step guideCustomizing your blogMaking your first blog post
- What is a Blog?
- What is WordPress?
- What you need to get started
- Step by step guide
- Customizing your blog
- Making your first blog post
1. What is a blog?
A blog can be a website or a section of a website that consists of regularly updated entries – in the form of informational articles or even news. These entries are often displayed on the blog page within the site with an aim of entertaining readers, sharing stories with them, promoting the sale of products and/or services as well as educating.
Blogs often thrive on new contents and the more updated the content it has, the more attention it will get. The contents on a blog have the potential of offering something new and exciting each day, week, month or year depending on the operator’s publishing schedule. This is true except, in the case a blog with the chronological listing of tons of scraps.
So, how do you identify a blog? Basic identification of a blog includes:
- Chronological listing of posts
- Comment system to allow readers participate in discussions
- Archiving of posts using set criteria (for instance by date, time, month, year, etc.) and,
- Really simple syndication (RSS) feeds for feed-readers.
What is a website?
A website, on the other hand, can be anything presented and displayed using HTML and/or CSS. From a visitor’s perspective, the content on a website may not change dramatically, as in the case of a blog, from one visit to the next unless the owner of the website decides to do so.
Why websites need blogs?
Adding a blog section to you website can be of great significance as realized by most website owners. With new contents being discovered by the visitors on each visit, the visitors have a reason to subscribe to your feeds in order to receive updates when new posts are published.
The promise of new and updated content is one of the major reasons maintaining a blog is essential, even for business or niche websites. Take for instance, if a visitor visits a website but has no need for the products or information found on the site, chances are that he or she will have no reason to return. But if a visitor sees the promise of new content through new blog posts, he or she will have a reason to return and, therefore, leading to future product sales and information consumption.
Often, building a fully functional and eye-catchy website from the base up is time and cost consuming as it involves a lot of designing and coding. However, platforms and services such as WordPress have eased this for you. Making your own blog or website has become as simple as reciting 1, 2, 3.
2. What is WordPress?
As of today, there are platforms or Content Management Systems (CMS) that have been developed to make the process of creating websites easier and accessible to you and me. WordPress is one such user-friendly platform for building and managing your own online contents such as blog posts or website without knowing HTML code or using a bunch of loose HTML pages for this.
WordPress in the past used to be regarded as just a blogging platform but it has since evolved, over the years, into a versatile CMS that can be used to create not only blogs but fully functional website as well as mobile applications. Its robust features, ease of use and flexibility, which is enough for just about anything, has contributed greatly to its popularity.
A survey done by BuiltWith revealed that nearly half of the website available on the internet run on the WordPress platform. This does not, however, mean that other available platforms such as Joomla and Drupal are not popular.
WordPress, as a versatile and super-friendly content management system, is used by over 7.5 million sites of all sizes and niches as well as fortune 500 company websites such as Google, Time Magazine, Sony, Facebook, Disney, eBay, The New York Times, LinkedIn, CNN and more.
Why is it then popular?
1. Ease of use
Millions use WordPress daily and new users join the WordPress community by creating their maiden WordPress powered websites. What enhances their quick adaptation to this platform is its ease of use.
If you have ever worked with complex Content Management Systems or even hand–coded a website from scratch, you will definitely appreciate the fact that working with WordPress is an easy learning curve. In just under ten seconds, WordPress allows you to switch themes quickly and use quick edit options to reorganize and style you page or even link an existing content to a drop down menu. Your basic knowledge in working with and using Microsoft word is sufficient to enable you work with WordPress.
2. It is Free!
A great thing about using WordPress is that it is completely open source and free, meaning the source code is openly available to the public and you can modify it to suit your needs or even customize WordPress further. This may not be necessary but allows for plugins as well as themes created for the platform to be open source.
3. It is supported by a worldwide community
With a large number of people using the platform and lots of free resources you can dig into available, finding help when you are in dire need is easy.
Any developer can work on a wordpress powered site to make changes, update it regularly, add new functionalities, and fix bugs and security. This is made possible by the existence of a large community of developers surrounding wordpress. In return, no single developer or designer can hold you ransom when it comes to wordpress.
4. Availability of stable and autonomous plugins and themes that extends wordpress
Most people who use wordpress today are neither programmers nor web designers and therefore have no prior in websites design. The reason why wordpress seems ideal for them is due to the fact that there exists thousands and thousands of free themes and plugins designed by other developers to choose from to make an eye-catchy website. Whether you are in the field of photography, Magazine, eCommerce or just need a theme for your portfolio, wordpress readily provides themes which are perfect for any kind of site. WordPress themes often come with their own options panel allowing you to customize it depending on what you need, without even writing a single code.
The plugins add extra functionally to the WordPress-powered site.
3. What do you need to get started?
The entire process of getting your blog setup and running should take about half an hour after which you’ll be ready to start blogging. But before that, there are three steps to get started running your own WordPress-powered blog:
STEP 1: Choosing a platform
After learning about the available Content Management Systems, it is wise that you choose the most favorable, depending on how conversant you are with the web programming language.
WordPress is flexible enough to and, therefore, suitable to everyone from small businesses to bloggers and creative artists. And as such, beginners are advised to stick with WordPress. Other platforms such as drupal and Joomla, though powerful and popular with web developers and experienced coders, have a steep learning curve that may not be favorable to beginners.
STEP 2: Buy Domain Name and Hosting
The second thing to do after choosing a platform is purchase a domain name. This is the URL people will navigate to when visit your website. In order to have your own website, you need to choose a domain name and hosting service. WordPress is free, yes it is, but domain name and hosting is not.
Professionalism comes as an advantage of owning your own domain name rather than having your website on someone else domain name, for instance yourname.wordpress.com. The same goes for having your own hosting where your website won’t have a down time from time to time.
How to buy a domain name
Before going any further, you will need the following which will save you time down the road.
- Ideas for the domain name – you can go with a topic, your name, brand or any other thing provided it is relevant to you blog.
- Credit or debit card details for payment of domain name or hosting. – It may not cost tones of money but this is important to get you started.
- Half an hour or your precious time – this should be uninterrupted to enable you focus and get everything taken care of as it should.
There are numerous companies that offer Cheap and affordable domain names online and these include companies such as www.godaddy.com, www.Namemsesh.com or even www.bluehost.com and goes for about $10 a year. Domain name can be purchased through during the hosting registration process.
If not, you can opt to buy one from GoDaddy.com, who at times gives discount on domains bought for a period of over a year. The idea is to pick a domain name that is descriptive and unique. This is to enable you audience know what your blog entails. Another option is simply using your name, for instance, www.johndoe.com, provided your name is not taken by someone else.
Many bloggers use their own names as the domain names, therefore preventing someone from registering a similar name. In return, they secure what can be referred to as real virtual estate’.
Once you have come up with the domain name you’d wish to use, you need to choose a domain name extension that best suits you. The most common extensions are .com, .net, .org, .co, .info, .me, .us, .biz among others but the standard extension is .com. Other extensions that many people are not familiar with may not be of any advantages and therefore, I suggest you do not stick to such.
Tips for Buying a Domain
- Domains with shorter length are not only easier to remember, they are also easier to type especially in mobile devices.
- The .com domain extensions go well with the global audience and are easier to remember.
- If you are not sure which domain to go for, use your name as it is easy to remember, it is unlikely to change and it is likely to be unique.
- Funky spellings in a domain name may be easily misspelled and, therefore, lead the visitors to other sites. However, simple domain names are easy to type, remember and hard to misspell.
Daily, hundreds of new domains are registered and you may find that the domain you intend to use is already taken.
This happens most of the time so you may need to modify the domain name. For instance, if www.johndoe.com is already taken, try modifying the domain to www.thejohndoe.com. Chances are that this may not be taken and therefore, you get to secure the domain name.
How to choose a good hosting
A webhost is like a supplier who is responsible for keeping the online part of your business running. Here is a checklist that should assist you in choosing the perfect webhost.
- Technical support
- Backup strategies
- Server speed
- Affordability – it should be relatively inexpensive. Often, web hosts have packages that get cheaper as you commit to their services longer.
- Reliability – the hosting servers should have an uptime average of 99.99%
For relatively large and complicated websites, you would opt for dedicated servers rather than shared hosting. However, bloggers find that shared servers suit them best since they do not handle large amounts of data.
Once you have your domain name ready, the next important thing you will need to do is register for a hosting account with any web hosting company. In this case, we will recommend Bluehost. Bluehost offers 24/7 support through chat, email, and phone.
On their page, click get started where you be taken to a page with listed hosting packages that they offer. For first timers, I recommend that you go for the starter package which provides a lot of options which goes for about $4 a month.
The major difference between starter and plus package is that the latter allows hosting of multiple sites. Therefore, if you have at least two domains or websites, then the plus package is your best choice. For your site’s loading speed, the content delivery network (CDN) may not be that huge a deal, especially if you decide to optimize your images and use a caching plugin.
Upon deciding which hosting package best serves your needs, continue by clicking select.
You’ll be taken to a domain registration and or transfer page where you will either register a new domain or transfer an existing domain.
Enter the domain in the appropriate box and click next to continue.
Now that you have chosen a domain and hosting package, you’ll be prompted to enter your account and contact information. Ensure the details entered here are accurate you might receive a verification request from Bluehost.
You may be prompted to subscribe for some additional services which may not be necessary at the moment. Such includes Domain WhoIs privacy, which hides your address if anyone searches your domain.
Once done, it is time to add your billing info.
Accept the terms and conditions then click next to continue.
You should see the “Welcome to Bluehost” screen with a “Congratulations” message.
Proceed to your mailbox and check for an email from Bluehost. The email contains account information, nameserver address, login username and password, and other information which you may need later. If, however, you purchased the domain name from other registrars, you’ll only need the name server to forward the domain to your hosting account. Simple right?
To login once your account is set up, click the login tab at the top on the Bluehost homepage. You’ll be required to enter your domain name and the password you chose during registration.
This will take you to the control panel, otherwise known as cPanel.
How to set up DNS Service in cPanel
To set up DNS Service in Bluehost’s cPanel, you need to access the DNS zone editor. Once logged into your account, navigate to domains link at the top of the account, and click the Zone Editor’ link.
In the Zone Editor’ section, you can either add, modify or delete a DNS record.
Add a DNS Record
Once you have accessed the Zone Editor, the following steps will help you in setting up a New DNS record:
- Scroll to “Add DNS Record”
- Enter the desired record name in the “Host Record” field
- Leave the “TTL” field unchanged
- Select the appropriate entry type for your application in the drop down.
- Enter the address the record should resolve to in the “Points To” field.
- Depending on the record being created, another field could appear.
- Click “Add Record”
Modify an existing DNS Record
At the Zone Editor, perform the following:
- Select the domain to be modified.
- Find the records of the domain under Zone File Records’
- Click “Edit”.
- Make the necessary changes.
Deleting a DNS Record
- Select the domain.
- Find the records of the domain under Zone File Records’
- Click “Delete”.
STEP THREE: Set Up your website
Once everything, from buying a domain and hosting packages to setting up DNS, is set, it is time to get your website up and running. Yes, it is time to install WordPress, which is the platform your blog will be running on.
Installing WordPress on cPanel
While logged into your hosting account, go to cPanel and location the section called website builders’. Find and click the Install WordPress’ icon.
You’ll be automatically redirected to and logged into Mojo Market place and taken to the WordPress install page. You may be offered upgrades but this may not be necessary. Click on install’ button
During installation, you will be prompted to select and check your domain to ensure WordPress is installed on the right one. This is important, especially if you have multiple domains.
Check the show advanced options’ field to enable you to edit the title of your site, your username and password. It is important to note that the username, unlike the others, cannot be changed later. You’ll use the username and password you create at this level to login into your WordPress site, on the backend. Agree to the terms and conditions and click install’.
WordPress installation should take a few minutes and once complete, click on the view credentials’ atop the page to see your login information. Apparently, this information will only be available for 12 hours, so it is important that you either memorize them or write them down.
And with that, you are done. Congratulations! Your WordPress website on your domain should be fully working and ready to edit.
Customizing your blog
After successfully installing WordPress on your site, navigate the admin page by typing www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin/. This should redirect you to the login page that looks like this:
Login using the login information you created during installation of WordPress. Upon successful login, you should be taken to the WordPress admin area. This is what the dashboard looks like:
It is important that you understand most of, if not all, the components of WordPress.
The main WordPress components
The WordPress menu is located on the left-hand side section on the page. It has tabs which can be used to navigate to sections such as Dashboard, Settings, Tools, Users, Plugins, Appearance, Posts, Pages, Media and Comments.
These are optional additional tools from third party developers that you can add to your blog.
A plugin can be defined in simple terms as a small program, or even a combination of programs, that adds extra features to your site to enable it to do more than it could when first installed. Take for instance a car, buying and installing a mp3 player to it means you have added an extra functionality to it.
There are hundreds of paid and free plugins that can do just about anything on your blog.
Plugins for adding social media buttons, creating contact forms or even enhancing your site’s visibility in various such engines exists. As a new blogger, I’d recommend that you start with JetPack plugin that adds tons of easy to use features such as the ability to add images to your side bar, see your visitors’ stats, and even publish your posts to Facebook. Cool, right?
Pages can be used to manage and organize contents in your website or blog. To manage your pages in WordPress, just click on the “pages” section on your left-hand side.
To create new pages, login into your WordPress admin section with administrator privileges and navigate to pages -> add new. Publish when ready.
These are entries listed in chronological order, reversed or not, on the blog’s home page or on the posts page.
It is possible to create sticky posts that will often appear before all the other posts. Also, it is possible to control the number of posts that can be read or display at time – all this through the Reading Settings.
The URL for a post is formatted to include functions such as the date the post was published, for instance, http://yoursite.com/2008/11/30/post-title/
A WordPress theme or skin is a set of files that determine the look and feel of the wordpress site. It creates the general layout of the site pages and adds different widgets that you can use.
In simple terms, themes contain page contents such as logos, graphics, headers and footers that define the general look of a site.
The color schemes and modifications used in themes makes a website look completely different. It is worth noting that themes can be of specific niche and can be used to define who you are.
There are several companies that create generic themes, others that create specific niches and others that create both. The creators may offer these themes either for free or require you to purchase (premium).
Choosing a WordPress theme: Free Vs Premium theme
One of the most striking features of WordPress is the availability of tons of themes, unlike other CMSs that do not have readily available themes.
WordPress has numerous available free themes as well as premium themes. So, what are free and premium themes?
These are themes that come at a price which is paid to the theme provider.
When it comes to the positives, premium themes have more advantage:
- Premium themes come with support from the developers, something missing from the free themes. This is because developers of such themes build them for livelihood.
- These themes are upgraded regularly and often come with documentation and hence are reliable.
- Premium themes are rich in features that often lack in free themes.
- These themes have better tweak for settings e.g. SEO and thus, pay attention to details
- Premium themes are not as common as the free theme and thus gives your site a unique feel.
Below the well-known Envato market to find great themes and plugins
On the negatives:
- Unlike free themes, premium themes are not generally added to the official WordPress repository and as such, they often undergo the thorough review to ensure they comply with the standards in the terms of licensing.
- Due to the cost, not everybody would want to spend a dime on a theme.
From the word Free’, these themes are not paid for. They are available Free!
Often, developers of free themes do so to build their portfolio or just for fun.
There are several merits of free themes:
- There is no cost involved.
- You can get support from forums that are not necessarily associated with the developer
- Numerous plugins are available for a free theme, with support from the WordPress repository.
The downside include:
- Have no guarantee of working perfectly
- No personalized support
- Update may not be frequent and of quality like in premium themes
- Are quite common and hence often kill uniqueness.
So, how then do you choose an ideal theme?
Irrespective of it being premium of free, a theme should be able to serve its purpose quite well. Based on your needs, here are points to look for:
- Never compromise features and functionality over design. A good theme should provide these without any compromises.
- If you are conversant with coding, look for a theme that you can able to modify.
- Opt for a theme that is in line with the niche of your site.
- Ensure there’s active support from the developers.
How to install a theme
Once you have found and settled on a theme, installing it is not a problem.
For free theme installation, navigate to the appearance tab on the menu in WordPress and select a theme. Click install’ followed by activating’ and that is it.
For premium themes, once you have downloaded the theme to your desktop in .zip, location the appearance tab on the menu and select themes. Select Add New’ and use the Upload’ tab to locate the theme on your desktop then click Install Now’ to upload the theme. Once you have successfully installed your premium theme, activate it.
That’s it! You can now start customizing your theme.
Creating your first blog post
- Navigate to the Posts tab and click the Add New option on menu section.
- A New Post screen should appear.
- Enter the title of your post.
Next, use the field directly below the title to write your first post. This can be anything, from the reason why you are starting your blog to what you plan writing about or even how often you’ll be posting contents.
Once done, click the Publish button. Your post is now live and anyone can see.
Congratulations! You have made and published your first post on your very own WordPress blog.