Publishing a blog is a very effective way of building and maintaining an online business. Unlike a website, which tends to be static, a blog is dynamic because new posts are constantly being added.
This means that blogs rank well in search engines because they have fresh, updated content.
A blog also allows your readers to comment on your blog posts and that creates communication between you and your audience.
Communication builds trust and trust is something that’s in very short supply on the Internet.
In short, a blog is a perfect platform for building an online following of people who like you, trust you, and regard you as an authority.
And those are exactly the kind of people that any business needs because they easily convert to customers.
Setting up your Blog is easier than you might think – you can literally have it up and running in 35 minutes.
But there are a few steps involved so I’ve divided this Tutorial into sections:
1. Setting Up Your Webhost
2. Configuring WordPress and Installing Plugins
3. Choosing a WordPress theme
4. Creating Your First Post
1. Choosing a Webhost
The first thing to do is choose a webhost and sign up for a webhosting plan.
The following demo is based on BlueHost because that's the webhost I use. BlueHost are very affordable and they’ve made setting up WordPress an absolute breeze.
Head over to BlueHost and click ‘Get Started Now’:
Next, choose the Basic Plan:
Then, if you already have a domain name, enter it in the right-side box:
Click ‘Next’ and on the next screen fill in your personal information:
One the next screen, choose which plan you want (the lowest monthly rate comes with the 36 month plan):
Click here to download the 'Start Your Own Blog' Checklist
Then enter your payment details
Once payment has been completed you’ll be given a username and you’ll be asked to choose a password.
This next step is a breeze and its why I use BlueHost. In your C panel go down to the section titled ‘Mojo Marketplace’ and choose the ‘One Click Installs’ button.
You’ll be taken to a page that looks like this. Just click on the ‘WordPress’ icon in the top row.
You’ll now be taken to the WordPress Installation window. Click on ‘Start’
In Step 1 you’ll be asked to provide your domain:
In Step 2 you’ll be able to create your own username and password. The default username is ‘admin’ but you should create your own unique username. Also, create a strong password, preferably containing upper and lower case letters, numbers, and a symbol.
Step 3 – read and accept the Terms & Conditions and then click ‘Install Now’ and your WordPress installation will begin.
Installation will take a few minutes and you’ll see a screen like this while you’re waiting:
Once installation is complete you’ll see a screen with the following info:
Your site URL: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Your login URL: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Your username: xxxxxxxx
Your password: xxxxxxxxxx
A copy of this information will be sent to the email address you gave when you signed up for your BlueHost account.
Now you’re all set to start configuring WordPress!
But there’s one last thing that we’ll do on BlueHost before heading over to your WordPress Dashboard: we need to create an email address based on your domain.
In your C panel go the ‘Email Manager’
Then click on ‘Create An Email Account’
On the next screen enter the name you want for your email address (ex: email@example.com) and create a password for your domain email.
2. Configuring WordPress and Installing Plugins
Now head over to your new WordPress dashboard, using this URL (replace mydomain with your actual domain): www.mydomain.com/wp-admin/
In the WP Dashboard go to ‘Settings’ and then ‘Permalinks':
In the next screen check the radio button for ‘Custom Structure’ and enter this code in the empty field: /%category%/%postname%/
You now need to download the following 6 free Plugins that I use for all new websites:
AWeber Web Forms
Contact Form 7
Page Builder by SiteOrigin
SiteOrigin Widgets Bundle
Pretty Link Lite
You can download these free Plugins here:
To install these 6 plugins, simply follow this procedure for each Plugin:
Go to ‘Plugins’, and ‘Add New’:
Click ‘Upload Plugin’.
Then use the ‘Choose File’ button to navigate to the folder on your computer that contains the Plugin.
Select the plugin you want to install and click ‘Open’.
Then click ‘Install Now’.
Once the plugin has installed, click Activate Plugin:
Rinse and repeat for all remaining 5 plugins.
2.1 Pretty Link Plugin
There are various business models for monetizing a blog. One of the most popular is affiliate marketing.
Put simply, in affiliate marketing you send some of your traffic to the sales page of someone else’s product and in return you get a percentage of the sale, usually somewhere between 10% and 50%.
This business model is particularly well suited to people starting out on the Internet who don’t yet have their own product to market. The main advantage of affiliate marketing is that you don’t have to spend any time or resources developing a product. What’s more, you can choose affiliate products that not only fit your niche but which are proven to sell well (or convert well).
When you sign up as an affiliate for a product, the vendor will give you an ‘affiliate link’ which is your own unique tracking devise. Any sales resulting from someone clicking on that link will result in a commission payable to you.
It’s a good idea to mask your affiliate link, for a number of reasons:
- Affiliate links are often long and look ugly
- In the eyes of some potential customers you’ll lose credibility when they see your affiliate link because they will realize you are writing for profit (by the way, there’s absolutely nothing wrong in writing for profit - Samuel Johnson (1709 -1784), regarded as the greatest man of letters in English history, wrote: “only a fool writes for anything but money”).
- Some people will strip the affiliate ID from your link and then make their purchase
- Other people may swap their affiliate ID for yours and then make the purchase.
- Having affiliate links on your website that are not marked up with the ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute can result in a Google penalty to your site
- Many social media platforms have rules against posting with affiliate links
If the original affiliate link looks like this:
your masked affiliate link might look like this:
Pretty Link is a great affiliate link masker, it’s free, and it’s the plugin I use.
Configuring Pretty Link
Go to Pretty Link and then Options:
On the next screen, expand the Link Options button by clicking on the + sign:
Under Link Defaults check the box for Track Link and for Add nofollow to Link and set the Default Link Redirection Type to Permanent (301):
Once you’ve made those changes click the Update Options button:
Adding a New Affiliate Link
Now click on ‘Add New Link’:
On the next screen, set the Redirection Type to 301 Permanent
In the Target URL field, enter the URL for your affiliate link
In the Pretty Link field, give your link a name (this what your visitors will see)
And then for your own purposes (no one will see this) give your Affiliate Link a title
Then scroll down and check the box for 'Nofollow this link' and the box for ‘Track Hits on this Link’.
And then click the ‘Create’ button at the bottom of the page.
You’ll now see that Pretty Link has created a new link for you:
Now, when anyone clicks on this link, it will redirect through Pretty Link to your Hostgator Affiliate Link (in this case my Hostgator Affiliate Link):
Let’s say you're writing a post about Hostgator and you want to include your Hostgator affiliate link in the post, you would just select the link on the right side of the screen, copy it and paste it into your post (of course, you will need to set the link as a hyperlink, but we will cover this in a later tutorial):
2.2 AWeber for WordPress
Authenticate AWeber for WP by entering Authentication Code into plugin
Under the Settings heading in the WP Dashboard Menu, click on ‘AWeber Web Form’:
Before using the AWeber plugin you need to authenticate with the AWeber website
Click on the ‘Step 1’ link
On the next screen click Allow Access:
You’ll then be given an Authorisation Code:
Copy this code and paste it into the Step 2 field and click Make Connection:
You’ll then see a message saying that you have successfully connected to an AWeber account:
In the Select A List field, choose the list that you have set up in AWeber and then hit Save.
Now go to ‘Appearance’ in the WP Dashboard Menu and click on ‘Widgets’
On the next screen drag the AWeber Form widget into the Sidebar just below the Search widget:
The Weber Web Form widget has 2 steps:
Step 1 – choose your List (this assumes you have already created a list in your AWeber account, if not go and do that now).
Step 2 – choosing the design for your Web Form (likewise, this assumes you have already chosen a Web Form design in your AWeber account, if not go and do that now).
Once you have completed Step 1 and Step 2 hit 'Save':
Now if you go back to the post we created earlier, you’ll see you now have a fully functioning Newsletter Sign-up Form immediately underneath the Search Box.
This Sign-up Form will appear on every page of your blog or website. And that’s a great way to maximize new subscribers.
3. Choosing a WordPress Theme
I have to confess that I’ve spent an incredible amount of time agonizing over the appearance of my various websites, time that would have been better spent writing content or promoting my articles.
I read recently that the appearance of your website is not nearly as important as you think. After all, people come to your website looking for information, that’s what they’re focused on.
Having said that, first impressions are important and you definitely want a reasonably smart, uncluttered web design.
There are plenty of free WordPress themes but I strongly recommend you get a Premium theme, for a number of reasons:
1. Standing Out From the Crowd
If you use a free theme there will be thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of other blogs using exactly the same theme – it makes it that bit harder to stand out from the crowd.
2. Responsive Design
With a Premium theme you’re much more likely to get a responsive design, one that looks good on both desktop and mobile browsers.
Most Premium themes come with a number of different layout options and designs. If you want to change the look of a free theme you’ll have to spend a lot of time writing code and messing around with PHP and CSS.
This is probably the most important factor. Sooner or later, I can promise you, you are going to need some help with some aspect of your theme. With a Premium theme you will usually get 6 months to a year of free support included in the price. Obviously, there is no support for a free theme.
So, how to choose a theme?
This is another task that can quickly become a sinkhole of valuable time.
There are so many Premium themes out there and they all seem to do pretty much the same. This is another activity I have spent hours on, time that could have been better spent running my business.
I use Magazine Pro, a Genesis Child Theme by StudioPress. It’s a very clean design, easy to use, the documentation is very good, and the support is excellent. There are over 60 Child Themes to choose from within the StudioPress collection.
StudioPress is the most popular and widely used framework in the WordPress universe and many leading bloggers use it (such as Brian Clark of Copyblogger, Neil Patel of QuickSprout, and Darren Rowse of Problogger.
4. Creating Your First Post
Now its time to create your first post!
In the left-side Dashboard Menu go to Posts and then Add New:
Give your new post a title and enter some text. Then click on the ‘Page Builder’ tab:
On the next screen click on the ‘Insert Row’ Tab and you’ll be presented with a default option of a two-column row, each column occupying 50% of the row:
Click ‘Insert’ in the bottom right corner and you’ll see that your post now has two side-by-side columns
Select the left side column – it’ll go dark blue when selected.
With the left-hand column still selected, click the 'Add Widget' button.
On the next screen choose the Text widget:
Your left column now has a text area in it. Hover your mouse within the text box and then click on the ‘Edit’ button:
In the next screen enter a few lines of text and check the box in the lower left corner that says ‘Automatically add paragraphs’. Then click ‘Done’ in the lower right corner.
Now select the right side column and click Add Widget again.
This time we’re going to add the Image widget.
Your Post Layout will now look like this:
Now hover your mouse over the right side column and click 'Edit':
On the next screen set the Image Size to Thumbnail 150x150 and set the Image Alignment to Right, then click Choose Media.
On the next screen choose Upload Media and navigate to a folder on your computer where you have a profile picture of yourself and click Open, in the bottom right corner. On the next screen click 'Done' in the bottom right corner.
Now click on the ‘Add Row’ button again:
But this time set the Row Layout to one column. Then click ‘Insert’ in the lower right corner.
On the next screen, click within the bottom row (the one you just added) so that it turns dark blue.
With the bottom row dark blue (ie still selected) click on the Add Widget button.
On the next screen click on the 'Shortcodes Ultimate' widget.
Now hover your cursor over the bottom row until the 'Edit' button becomes visible. Then click on the 'Edit' button.
On the next screen click on 'Insert Shortcode':
On the next screen click on the 'Gallery' filter and then on the 'Gallery' item:
In the next window click in the field that says 'Select Images Source':
Then click on 'Media Library':
Next, click on the Add Images button:
With ‘Media Library’ selected as the source, click ‘Add Images’. Then click ‘Upload Files’ and then click ‘Select Files’ and browse to the folder where you have your images saved.
Select three images (on a Mac, hold down SHIFT while clicking your mouse on the filenames) and then click 'Open':
Once the images have been uploaded they will appear in your Image Library. Select the three images you want to insert and click 'Add Selected Images':
On the next screen you'll see the three images waiting to be inserted:
Now scroll down to the bottom of the screen and click 'Insert Shortcode':
On the next screen click ‘Done’ in the bottom right corner.
Next, you'll see the shortcode for your gallery of images. Scroll down to the bottom right of the screen and click 'Done':
You’ll now be taken back to the ‘Edit Post’ page. Click on the blue button that says ‘Update’ (or ‘Publish’):
Now click on the ‘View Post’ button at the top of the screen:
You should now see your first Post, something like this:
It looks quite nice, but as you can see, there are a few things we need to fix.
First, we need to get rid of the default 'Ultimate Shortcodes' title. Second, the profile picture needs to to be moved left and down.
That’s what we’ll do next.
Click 'Edit Post' at the top of the screen:
On the next screen click on the ‘Edit' button within the bottom row (the row containing the ‘Shortcodes Ultimate’ widget).
Select the text that says ‘Shortcodes Ultimate’ and delete it. Then click ‘Done’ in the bottom right corner.
Next, click on the top right column (the one that contains the ‘SiteOriginImage’ widget).
On the next screen, go to the right side panel and in the field marked ‘Top’, set the Top Padding to 55 px.
In the field marked 'Right' set the Right Padding to 110 px:
Make sure that the other two fields (Bottom and Left) are set to zero, and then scroll down and click 'Done'.
On the next screen click the blue 'Update' button:
Click the ‘View Post’ button at the top of the screen and you should find that the portrait has moved down and to the left:
And that's it!
Congratulations, you now have a live blog and you're ready to go!
Once your blog is up and running, there are many things you can do that will improve your blog. Jerry Low has put together a comprehensive guide 15 Practical Ways to Improve Your Blog.
His guide includes tips on how to build an awesome About Page, On-Page search engine optimization, and how to network with your comptetitors: