How to blog with WordPress: Best practices for success
Are you considering getting into blogging but don’t know how to start a successful blog? This comprehensive how-to guide will walk you through the basics of one of today’s most powerful blogging platforms: WordPress. By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to blog with WordPress. Whether you’re looking to start a blogging career or just pursuing a hobby, the information and resources below will get you up to speed.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is what’s known as a content management system (CMS). Users with a domain and hosting can install WordPress on their database and build out their websites using WordPress themes, plugins and direct source code.
WordPress is an easy-to-use framework that gives you complete control of your site’s appearance and functionality. In its simplest form, WordPress helps bloggers create and publish content on their websites without any coding experience or previous knowledge of development.
Why use WordPress?
Because WordPress is such a dynamic and powerful blogging platform, it is the recommended interface for new bloggers. With thousands of website templates, plugins and a dedicated community of developers, WordPress is hands down one of the best blogging platforms in the world.
Besides the incredible amount of resources on WordPress, another added benefit is the fact that it is free to use. WordPress is an open-source technology that gives its users complete control and customization of their CMS. What’s more, some of the best tech companies out their are developing awesome technology — like WordPress Hosting from GoDaddy— that ensures you never are left wondering how to blog with WordPress.
The ease, affordability and options for WordPress users make it the CMS of choice for most blogs. In fact, The New Yorker, Variety and MTV News all use WordPress. While there are other CMS options for bloggers, WordPress is certainly the most popular.
How to blog with WordPress — Getting started
As is with any new technology, there will be a learning curve. WordPress is easy to navigate, but it will take you time before you figure out how to blog with WordPress to seamlessly begin posting articles, images or videos on your new blog. The best place to start with understanding WordPress is to understand the terms associated with blogging on this platform.
The term “blog” was once thought of as an online diary, but has evolved into a content-driven website. Businesses, news entities and individuals can all have blogs which serve as communication platforms for reaching an audience.
Frontend and backend
These terms refer to different areas of the website. The frontend is what users see when they visit your blog. The backend of the website is the area where you can manipulate the code, add content, and make adjustments to what is displayed on the frontend. When you log in to WordPress, your admin panel is the backend.
WordPress must be installed on your domain’s database before you can access it. If you’re experienced and tech-savvy, you can download the latest version of WordPress, unpackage and install it directly on your domain’s database. If you want to avoid that hassle, many hosting providers — GoDaddy, for instance — have one-click installation for WordPress.
Username and password
When you install WordPress, you’ll be prompted to create an admin username and password. This information will be needed to log in. You can also create new users and passwords once you are inside your WordPress. From Dashboard, go to Users, and then select Add New.
With WordPress, you can install additional software that adds different features and functionality to your blog. These additional features are called plugins, and there are hundreds of thousands of free and paid plugins for you to choose from. You can access your plugins and install new ones in WordPress. From Dashboard, click Plugins.
A WordPress theme is a pre-packaged website template that alters the appearance of your blog. Once you install and activate a theme, your blog will change its style based on the theme. Like plugins, there are several free and paid themes. You can install or activate your theme in WordPress. From Dashboard go to Appearance, and then select Themes.
With a WordPress website, there are small areas that serve specific actions or functions. These areas are known as widgets, and they’re used to easily add features to different areas, like the sidebar, for instance. You can access and modify your widget areas in WordPress. From Dashboard, go to Appearance, and then select Widgets.
Some themes or plugins are coded to make it easier to use their functions on your blog. A shortcode basically allows you to add some predetermined text to your page by executing predetermined programming. For instance, you might add the shortcode [contact_form] to the backend of a page to show users a contact form on the website.
Permalink and slug
A permalink is the exact URL that directs a person to a specific page on your blog. When you create a page or post, you can modify the slug of your permalink — or the element of the link after your domain. For example, the URL www.website.com/article-title is the permalink, and article-title is the slug. You can manipulate your permalinks in WordPress. From Dashboard, go to Settings, and then select Permalinks.
Posts vs. pages
With WordPress, posts are like pages of your site, but comprising the blog. Posts can be tied to your RSS content and are seen as expiring pages. That means they are less evergreen and not static. Pages, on the other hand, are seen as the more static pages of your website — like About, Contact or Home. These are not expiring and remain important regardless of the date. Structurally, posts and pages are similar. Both have titles, body text, images and more.
How to set up WordPress
WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for building and maintaining a blog, in part because it is so easy to set up — especially if you go with GoDaddy’s WordPress Websites solution. You can set up a WordPress site in less than 10 minutes using their one-click installation and their Quick Start Wizard.
If you’re hosting your blog with another provider, they might have an installation process that enables you to easily install and launch a boilerplate WordPress site.
When you first launch a WordPress site, there will be a few quick changes you’ll want to make to your blog before you start figuring out how to blog with WordPress.
Change your site title and tagline
When you install WordPress, it comes packed with a lot of filler data and content. To see the best results in search engines and for user experience, you’ll want to update all the preset content, such as your blog’s title and tagline. Think of search terms that relate to your audience and niche, while also matching your brand. This is a key step in learning how to start a successful blog, as you want to properly identify yourself to your readers.
Make sure your site is indexed
The general settings of a newly installed WordPress site hides itself from search engines. Search engines, like Google, index websites and rank them according to their relevancy and value to users. If your site is not being indexed, your traffic will drop severely. You can allow search engines to index your site. From Dashboard, go to Settings, and then select Reading. Make sure Search Engine Visibility is unchecked.
Create your evergreen pages
To help you get comfortable maneuvering the WordPress backend, you should start by creating some of the most important pages of your blog, like About, Contact and Home. These will be focal pages on your site. Depending on your theme, you might have different features and steps for customizing your homepage. However, the About and Contact pages should be straightforward — a great place to start building your blog.
Finding and adding a theme
One of the best features of WordPress is the boundless opportunities for appearance and customization. WordPress themes are the easiest ways to build a website, and then customize its style and functionality. In fact, there are more than 4,000 free WordPress themes for you to choose for your blog.
If you are looking for theme that offers a little more functionality and pizazz, consider buying a premium WordPress themes.
Fortunately, you can find many high-quality, stylish blog themes for less than $100 on sites like ThemeForest and TemplateMonster.
If you want even more customization, find and hire a WordPress developer to build you a custom theme from scratch. Because WordPress is an open-source platform, the code is made available to everyone. As a result, the WordPress developer community is massive, and you should have no trouble finding a talented and affordable WordPress developer to build your theme.
How to start a successful blog — content strategy
With your blog up and running, the next step in how to start a successful blog with WordPress is planning and executing a blog strategy. It’s important that we emphasize strategy, because that is the ingredient that separates your blog from another run-of-the-mill blog in your industry. There are a few key questions to answer before you ever start writing your first blog article.
Who are you and why should someone care what you say?
To put it bluntly, what qualifies you to speak to the topic of your blog? Think critically about your experience, knowledge and perspective. If you have credibility or are otherwise a thought leader in a subject, strive to make that the focal point of your blog. If you lack credibility but are still passionate on a subject, you can still earn trust (but it will be more difficult).
What sort of commitment are you making to your blog?
One of the key points of how to blog with WordPress is creating and publishing content on a regular and consistent basis. If you are unwilling to create and publish content on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, you’re unlikely to see results. If you commit to blogging, the next question is, “How often do you want to publish content?” Develop a publishing calendar, and be honest with yourself about how often you can create content.
What type of content do you want to create?
The typical blog is written content, which is probably the easiest to get started when you’re still figuring out how to blog with WordPress. However, WordPress enables you to publish dynamic content that extends well beyond your typical text-based article.
You can create and publish videos, infographics, HTML5 interactives, quizzes, GIFS, images, illustrations or any combination of digital content imaginable.
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to publish interactive or dynamic content on a consistent basis, but diversifying the type of content you publish can keep your audience engaged and coming back.
What is your brand voice and blog identity?
On a macro level, consider creating a blog style guide that encompasses the most important characteristics of your blog and the content that you plan to publish. A style guide should provide a clear identity for your blog and include elements like:
- General themes to include and ones to avoid
- Styles like linking, length of content and image attributes
- Branding elements like logo, colors and typeface
Remember, stay true to your brand voice. Creating a consistent image helps build recognition and trust.
Writing your first blog post
Now that we have the blog up and running, the theme picked out and customized, and a blog strategy outlined, you have just about figured out how to blog with WordPress. Navigate to the area of your WordPress where you write and publish blog articles. In the dashboard, go to Post, and then select Add New. When you’re on this page, you’ll see a few key features:
- Title — Where you’ll add the title of your blog article
- Post content — Where you’ll add the actual content whether it’s text-based, HTML, images or videos
- Publish attributes — Where you dictate the status of your blog article: hidden or visible to the public, and whether you want to publish it immediately or schedule it for later
- Categories — Under the publish attributes are categories, which are the most important channels of your site that arrange your content into specific and relevant silos
- Tags — Categorical attributes that help segment related content together. Tags are deemed less frequent categories, and if you find yourself using a tag frequently, you might want to consider turning it into a category
- Featured image — Most WordPress themes have a featured image on blog posts. This is where you add an additional element to your content that helps engage your audience and frame content
Before you start writing your blog article, try researching topics that engage your audience. Consider using a tool like Buzzsumo to see what content is generating the most user engagement via social shares, comments and backlinks. You can also look at your competitors and other blogs in your space to see what articles they are writing and which posts generate the most activity. Based on this information, you can create an article that has the best potential to succeed.
After you write an article
Before you hit Publish, take a few minutes to proofread and edit your article. Double check your content against your style guide and run it through editing tools, like Grammarly or CopyScape, to make sure it’s unique and grammatically correct. Taking these small steps can mitigate the risk of turning readers off because of poor grammar or regurgitated content or ideas.
Don’t just publish content and then expect people to discover your site. Share your content on social channels, email your posts to your contacts, and reach out to influencers in your space to share articles or syndicate your posts on their website. The more active you are promoting content, the more visibility it will get and the larger your audience will become.
WordPress is an incredible tool for bloggers. It’s intuitive, dynamic and simple. Not only is it easy and flexible, but it’s free. If you want to try blogging as a career or simply as a pastime, teach yourself how to blog with WordPress. The guide above walks you through the basics of WordPress as a blogging platform and how to start a successful blog, but if you’re looking for more information on best practices with WordPress, consider reviewing some of the resources below:
- How to secure your WordPress website
- Pro SEO tips for driving traffic to your WordPress blog
- How to integrate Google Search Console with your WordPress site
- How to get ads on your blog
- Working with images in WordPress
- Managing comment spam in WordPress
Once you’re comfortable with the cadence of your posts and the functionality of your blog, you can look into growing your audience with tactics like guest posting, SEO and more.
Image by: Rain Love AMR via Visual hunt / CC BY
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