How to kickstart your WordPress blog: Starter guide

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I know a lot has been written about WordPress. A lot. And maybe this is nothing new to you as a WordPress guru, but it might be for starters. If you want to know how to kickstart your blogging adventure with WordPress and a few of its finest plugins, then keep on reading. I’ll focus on how I got this blog up and running within only a few hours, and got it completely indexed in Google within 24 hours. I assume you have registered a domain and got some fine hosting coming along with it. Make sure you have an empty database and are able connect to it, and the hosting server supports PHP.

Download WordPress

First of all, get over to WordPress.org and download the newest version of WordPress. If you want the backend of WordPress to be in your own language, make sure to check out this page to see if WordPress isn’t already translated for you. Download it, and unzip it to a location you are able to locate again. It truly is unbelievable how many people unzip something into nomansland.

Install WordPress

First of all, rename the wp_config_sample.php. Then edit the file and fill in your own database and user credentials. Then upload all files. Use a FTP program like FileZilla to upload the unzipped contents to your hosting platform. Upload all files into the root directory of your website. In most cases this directory is called httpdocs, or www.

When all files are uploaded, open up your website in your favorite browser. I assume you have switched to Google Chrome by now. If not, try to reconsider. When you open your website, you’ll see the first step in the WordPress configuring process. If you see the following text though, you need to make sure you renamed and setup you wp_config.php file in the root of your domain:

WordPress - Make sure the config file wp_config.php is present

You can either push the button and continue to create a configuration file, or you can manually edit the sample config file and get it into place. If you have configured the database config-file correctly, you will see the welcoming-screen of WordPress, looking like this:

WordPress - Setup Welcome Screen - Step 1

I think (or hope) that this step in the installation process doesn’t need any explanation. Name your blog, fill in your (own) e-mail-address and if you want search engines to crawl and index your pages in their search engines, make sure you check the last option. Don’t know why you should? Well, are you going to create killer content that everybody on this planet should read? Then hit that checkbox.

When you’re ready to go, press the “Install WordPress” button. And bam! If you’re lucky, you’ve got yourself a blog installed. WordPress will now give you your administrator user credentials, which you need to login. So, note it down, in case you made an error in the e-mail-address you had to fill in earlier. The screen with the user credentials will looks something like this:

WordPress - Successful installation of wordpress screen.

Now hit the login button and login with the admin user credentials. Make sure you change that administrator password immediately. Although it is not necessary, you probably will not be able to remember the password WordPress has generated for you, so choose one that is easy to remember for you, but hard to guess for others. When you login, you will see the dashboard from where it all happens. This is your blogging cockpit. It should look like this:

WordPress - admin page - blogging cockpit

I’m not going to explain in this article how the back-end of WordPress works. On the left side you find the menu, which should be easy enough to understand.

Customize your WordPress theme

Although it is not quite that hard to create and implement your own designed WordPress theme, I will only focus on downloading and installing a free custom WordPress theme for your blog. Remember, this post is about how to kick-start your WordPress blog.

There are enough beautiful designs available for free on the internet, starting with the themes collection WordPress is sharing on their website. But if you can’t find anything over there that meets up with your demands or desire, you can also check out the following websites:

  1. Top WordPress Themes
  2. WordPress Themes Base
  3. Top 50 Free WordPress Themes
  4. 100 Excellent Free WordPress Themes

How to activate a new WordPress theme

Download the theme you like most or suits your needs best. It probably is a zipfile, so you first have to unzip its contents. Then upload the entire theme directory into the directory ‘themes’, which you will find in ‘wp-content’. When the files are uploaded, all you have to do is to activate your new theme.

  • login in on your WordPress blog
  • click on the ‘appearance’ tab
  • select the desired theme
  • activate it, and boom, you’re there.

Go check out your new theme!

Installation of popular WordPress plugins

Now that your blog is installed and a custom theme is applied, it is time to get some crucial plugins up and running. The installation of WordPress plugins might sound like a quite difficult job, but actually it is as easy as installing a new theme. We are kick-starting your blog, remember? So, I won’t make you do anything time-consuming. Basically, it comes down to installing only 7 great plugins. With these plugins, you make sure you optimize and share your blog and postings the most easy way, and are able to measure it all! Start by downloading the plugins below, and unzip them all on your pc:

  1. All in one SEO pack plugin
  2. Robots Meta plugin
  3. Google XML Sitemaps plugin
  4. Google Analytics plugin
  5. FD Feedburner plugin
  6. Sociable plugin
  7. Contactform 7 plugin

Of course, WordPress comes with many, many more beautiful plugins. Go to the plugins section over at WordPress if you need some more customization of your blog, or if you just want to have a glimpse of what is out there.

How to install a WordPress plugin

As I said, installing a plugin is easy. When you got your plugins downloaded and unzipped, again open your FTP client and connect to your domain. Now upload all the complete plugin directories to the plugins directory online, which is located under ‘wp-content’. When all of the above plugins are uploaded correctly, you must see something like this:

WordPress - Plugin directory

When all plugins are in place, you can activate them in your WordPress Dashboard. Login and click on the plugins tab to see all the newly uploaded plugins. You can activate the plugins, and, whenever you feel like it, deactivate them right here.

In the following paragraphs, I will shortly introduce you to the plugins mentioned in this article. I won’t go into detail about all the possibilities you have with them, but tell you why they are important to have.

All in one SEO pack plugin

One small downside of the regular WordPress system is that you can’t define all the important SEO elements on a page of post level in a simple way. That is where this plugin comes in handy. With this plugin you are able to globally fine-tune titles of pages, categories, tags, posts etc. You can choose to use so called canonicals URLs, and let the plugin auto generate some general stuff. Next to that, you can define the title, meta description and meta keywords for every single page or post yourself.

So, if you want to SEO your own blog, make sure you install this plugin.

Robots Meta plugin

Next to the SEO pack, you want to install this Robots Meta plugin. With this plugin you can control the search engine robots. You can tell them what links to follow or to ignore, what pages to index or to leave out of the index, and a few more things. Next to that, you can also setup your  Google Webmaster Central verification with this plugin.

If you don’t know anything about the Google Webmaster Central, than I strongly suggest you take a look over here. What it comes down to is that Google can give you important information about your website, like crawling problems, performance issues, etc. The only thing you need to do is to add your site to their system and verify that you are the owner.

Google XML Sitemaps plugin

To make sure Google finds and indexes your pages, they need to know where they can find your pages. With the XML sitemap you can easily tell Google what pages you have. Whenever you release a new post or edit an existing one, the XML sitemap will be updated. Google downloads the sitemap on a regular basis, and will notice that your blog is updated and their spider needs to revisit your blog. The XML sitemap will be created in the root of your domain, i.e. www.domain.tld/sitemap.xml

If you want to make use of this plugin, you need to add and verify your website over at the Google Webmaster Central. When your website is verified, you can add the URL of the sitemap. And thats it. Whenever you write, edit and publish a new post or page, the sitemap will be automatically updated and report the changes to Google.

Google Analytics WordPress plugin

When you want the whole world to read you articles, you surely want to check if you are reaching that goal. Although the whole world might seem a little bit too ambitious, you do want to know how your blog is doing and if things are getting better or worse. To prevent you from hacking custom analytics code into the .php files from WordPress, instead install, activate and configure this plugin and it will do the trick for you. All pages will automatically be tagged with the analytics code, and better, you can also track downloads and outgoing clicks within only 1 minute of work.

To activate and use this plugin, you need a Google Analytics account. Go over to Google Analytics, create an account for your website. Copy your “Account ID” (with UA in it) and enter it in the plugin activation page. Thats it. You now got some serious Google Analytics tracking set up on your WordPress blog.

Feedburner plugin

When you publish information on a regular basis, people who like your posts will start to return on a regular basis too. To keep track on updates, people use RSS feeds. WordPress comes with a built-in RSS feed. The only problem is that you will never know how many people are subscribed to your feed. With feedburner you can. Create a feedburner account and add the RSS feed of your blog (probably domain.tld/feed/). Now your feeds are available at feedburner.com. The only thing left is to tell WordPress that it needs to use your Feedburner RSS feed instead of the WordPress RSS feed. Open the FD Feedburner plugin page in your WordPress dashboard, and fill in your Feedburner address in the first column.

Thats it. Now your RSS feed is handled by Feedburner. You can view your RSS statistics over at Feedburner!

Sociable plugin

To help spread your posts around the world, you want readers to share them with others, to publish them via other networks or blogging-platforms across the world. For this, we have the incredible powerful sociable plugin. When activated, you can automatically let WordPress add the sociable bar to your posts and pages. The sociable bar is well known, you problably have seen it too:

WordPress - Sociable plugin

You can manually select which social media networks you want to show on your pages. Go to the plugin page in your WordPress Dashboard and setup the sociable plugin just the way you like it. Choose wisely.

Oh, and don’t forget to share this post when it’s helpful to you, I would appreciate it!

Contactform 7

Last but not least, you want people to be able to contact you. I use Contactform 7 for that. With this plugin, you can easily create custom forms and import them into the pages or posts you want them to appear in. Why a form? Because people don’t want to use their own e-mail client to contact you. Make sure you don’t use to many (required) fields in your form. Visitors don’t want to leave too much information when first contacting you. As a matter of fact, people are lazy. The less work they have to do to contact you, the better.

Final step: now write that killer first post

When your blog is setup, it is time to create that first post that will introduce yourself to your audience. Make sure it is worthwhile to read, so people will talk about it, spread it and subscribe to your feed because they don’t want to miss out on future posts. Write about something new, something you found out, created or think is important enough to discuss. And don’t just copy, make it your own.

Once your done writing your first post, don’t just release it. Wait till the good moment arrives, so that you’ll  reach most of your target audience. Don’t release an article in the middle of the night for instance, when everyone is asleep. The buzz will  be gone before everyone wakes up.

When launching your post (in general), don’t only publish it on your blog. Twitter about it, use facebook, linkedin, use any network that suits you and is used by your audience. Make sure you spread the word and let your readers follow your lead.

More talking, more indexing

The more people write about or share your information, the more important your page or post gets. And the more important it gets, more likely is it that search engines will soon follow them and visit your blog. And short after their first visit, you will get indexed in their search engine. That is how it works.

Thats how you kick-start your WordPress blog.

4 Comments

  1. Great stuff Dennis, very helpful for blogging newbies. 🙂 Any tips on categorization/tagging of blog posts? Personally I use only categories and no tags on my blogs, but that may not be the best approach.

  2. Thanks Barry.

    I only use categories at this moment, just to keep things tied together. I haven’t got much posts yet, so there is nothing hidden in the deep archives of my blog. Next to that, I only write about online marketing stuff 🙂

    But when you tend to write about very diverse topics, it might be a good idea to use tags instead of categorization, to keep a solid popularity flow within your website, and to make sure your posts can be easily found.

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