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Setting up a WordPress Blog

***Please note that there is an updated version of this article  as of 3/25/10 posted here: https://www.lunarlog.com/setting-wordpress-blog-part-ii/ – you may want to read this article still but keep in mind that many plugins and techniques have changed.***

I spent the last few days working on this blog – basically rebuilding it from scratch sans previous articles. I also wanted to document some basic steps and the plugins I used for this installation as it may come in handy for other people thinking about revising or creating a blog on their own. I’ve also learned some very useful tips and techniques over the years, and it might even help the most seasoned of website owners and bloggers.

Now if you want, there’s plenty of other free resources out there which will allow you to host your own blog. You can go with something like WordPress.com (different from the .org – they actually will set up and host your blog for a cost as well) or Google Blogger. I personally choose my own website because I like having my own domain name, and secondly it gives me full control over templates, what is posted, and which plugins I choose to install and use.

While I used to like playing around and experimenting, I find that I don’t have as much time as I used to. Running eight websites and actually doing ‘real’ work can do that to somebody. So lately I’ve been of the opinion that I like to keep a blog as simple as possible. Not only does it make life easier to maintain things, but when there’s a major engine update, things are less likely to break. That and a simple and clean looking blog is less likely to turn readers away and may even keep people coming back. Plus, keeping it “simple” can also lead to higher search engine returns.

I would also like to mention that it is a good idea to employ these practices at a start of creating a new blog. Changing a blog that has already been around and spidered for a long time may have unintended consequences such as a temporary drop in rankings for various keywords and phrases. But in the long run, you will most likely see much great returns in readership by employing these techniques (one of my blogs saw a traffic increase by over 1000% when I followed these steps.)

I’ve tried to outline my ‘simple’ steps below and cover as much ground as possible with what I use and what I don’t use:

Website Hosting:

  1. I use Total Choice Hosting for all of my websites as well as my friends. The uptime on most of their servers is pretty good. Their technical support is excellent. They also use Cpanel which makes checking your web logs and setting up websites a breeze through Fantastico. And for roughly $4/month, you get very good hosting package. Keep in mind that I’m not receiving any advertising royalties for mentioning their service here – it’s simply what I choose to use.
  2. I also buy my domains through Total Choice Hosting. It probably costs a dollar or two more than most other providers, but the extra dollar you spend per year makes life that much easier as the sites sync nicely. I never sign up for their additional packages and promotions. All I get is a “basic” domain name.

Basic WordPress Blog Installation and Steps:

  1. Once you have the host and domain name, navigate to Cpanel.
  2. Set up an email address there.
  3. Click Fantastico afterwards and click WordPress.
  4. Set up a username, enter my email address, and password.
  5. Your default WordPress blog has been created.

Additional WordPress Configuration:

  1. Enter the administration panel through: //yourdomain.com/wp-admin
  2. You’re going to want to add your email address in your General WordPress Settings.
  3. You also want to change your default WordPress install under ‘General WordPress Settings’ for ‘WordPress address (URL)’ and ‘Blog address’ to read: https://www.yourdomain.com – adding the ‘www.’  portion is very important for search engine ranking. If you use both ‘//www.yourdomain.com’ and ‘//yourdomain.com’, search engines such as Google actually read your website as two different websites and duplicate content, and penalize your ranking by splitting your rank in half. This is one of the most common optimization mistakes for webmasters.
  4. Set up your ‘Users’ account by ‘Adding New’ and adding additional details under ‘Your Profile.’
  5. Go through the ‘Settings’, and add additional information as necessary. Most of the settings are pretty standard and you really won’t have to change much of anything.
  6. You may see that an update to WordPress is available at the top of your screen. Sometimes this contains improved functionality, or improved security. I like to keep my engine as up-to-date as possible. Click and follow the link in order to update your blog installation to the latest version. Just a warning – sometimes this can get a little messy, and you will need to update this manually through a free FTP program such as Filezilla.
  7. On the right-hand side of this website, you will see several tabs. These currently include ‘Topics, Recent Posts, Links, Tag Cloud, and Meta.’ You can add additional ones or delete these ones at will. They’re called ‘Widgets’ and fall under the ‘Appearance’ category. To activate them, simply drag them from left-side of your Widgets administration scree, and vice-versa. You can find additional Widgets by clicking ‘Plugins’, ‘Add New’, and searching for ‘widgets’ in the search field. Keep in mind that not all themes you install play nicely with widgets.
  8. Please note: I recommend this ‘last’ step as an optional one. If your new to WordPress, skip this for now and just playing with your blog’s default template until you get the hang of things. You can change your blogs appearance easily by clicking ‘Appearance’ and ‘Add New Themes.’ Generally, I don’t click anything other than the ‘Find Themes’ button at the bottom of the screen. Then I browse until I find a theme that I like and click ‘Install’ followed by ‘Activate.’ Often, I’ll install a theme that matches the approximate look and feel of what I’m going for. Then through advance coding, hacking, and redesign – I modify it to meet my design needs. However, recently I haven’t had much time to play around with doing that. Just keep in mind that when adding themes, you should test out each them as some of them are older and portions may be incompatible with your WordPress engine. To be on the safe side if your coding skills are non-existent, you may want to check ‘Featured’, ‘Newest’, or ‘Recently Updated’ when browsing themes. Most of these should be fully compatible with your WordPress installation.

Basic WordPress Posting and Editing:

  1. ‘Pages’ on the left-hand side will appear as navigation tabs (or buttons) along the top of your blog. You might choose to have a navigation bar which reads, ‘Home, About Us, Contact, Directions.’ That’s your choice. I try to keep things as simple as possible in order to avoid confusion and improve a user’s experience. For this blog, I currently have ‘Home’ and ‘About’ buttons. I don’t need anything more than that… In order to add a new page, simply click ‘Add Page’ and fill out the information.
  2. ‘Posts’ on the left-hand side is basically where you will want to post your main blog articles. It’s pretty straightforward on how to use that.
  3. ‘Links’ on the left-hand side is additional links that appears on the main page of your blog if you have the ‘Links’ Widget enabled. By default, this is called a ‘Blogroll’ which can be a little confusing, however you can change it to read ‘links’ on the Widgets setup page. On this blog, I list a few favorite websites as well as my own on the right-hand side of this page under ‘Links.’
  4. ‘Comments’ is pretty straight-forward. You can see other people’s comments here and moderate these by editing, deleting, marking as spam, etc…

Adding Functionality to WordPress through Plugins:

Once you have a decent working knowledge of your blog, you can start to add to its functionality. WordPress by default is like buying a standard card with manual everything, except the ‘car’ was free. There’s so many things you can do (and will want to do) in order to make life easier through less steps, as well improving your websites visibility in search engines. Besides writing plenty of good content, the last part is important in order to be a successful blogger. Most people are never found on the web, simply because they skip out a few additional steps.

Here’s a list of the plugins I installed and use for all of my WordPress (version 2.8.4 as of 8/27/09) blogs and installations. Please keep in that mind most of these plugins are directly available and free from with the WordPress ‘Plugins’ ‘Add New’ tab. Some of them might say that they’ve been untested and may not work for your current version, but I’ve installed these and as far as I can tell most of these are working just fine. I’ve also installed these based on user-experience as well as overall ratings and downloads as you can’t completely trust the WordPress rating system (something may have 5 stars and only 1 rating, while another plugin might be 4 stars and have 1,000+ ratings):

Some Additional, Useful Blogging Information:

First and foremost, Google is your friend. Before you write asking questions, I recommend Googling any potential problems you have encountered. Also use the WordPress.org forums as they can occasionally provide help. It can be difficult to troubleshoot something locally, let alone having to do it on someone else’s computer remotely. Whenever I encounter a problem, I generally turn to Google for answers.

Secondly, if you don’t have a Google account, I would really recommend getting one and signing up for their Webmaster’s Tools, Analytics, and Feedburner programs.

Finally, this is just a nice little added touch – sign up for a Gravatar at gravatar.com. Gravatar is known as a ‘Globally Recognized Avatar.’ A Gravatar is a small photo that appears to a lot of your blog comments throughout the web. It syncs up with your email address, so whenever you fill out a comment form, the blog you are writing on hits the gravatar website and automatically serves up the photo of your choosing.

Current WordPress Wishes:

At the moment, my biggest wish is the ability to automatically turn all of my internal post links into a target=”_blank” tag automatically. target=”_blank” tells each link to open in a new window instead of taking a user away from your page or post. I’ve hunted around for a plugin that would do this and haven’t found one yet that alters the WordPress Editor default behavior. If someone comes across anything, please let me know.

I would also like to find an alter­na­tive to Socia­ble — the book­mark­ing plu­gin that puts these “Share The Posts” tagline under­neath every one of my arti­cles. I’m all about stream­lin­ing and sim­pli­fy­ing the way a web­site appears. As much as I like the plu­gin, I feel that it adds “clut­ter” to a design. I came across the “addthis” plu­gin to Word­press — it’s more in the direc­tion I’d like Socia­ble to be but yet I’m not too crazy about the look and feel of it. I’m sure it provides some configuration options and I could spend some time hacking it – but I really want the least amount of hassle possible.

And Last but Not Least:

Please let me know if this post helps you. Thanks!