If you are blogging for a while like me, you learn a lot about starting a blog and maintaining it. You will al
so get a lot of questions from readers about blogging. To answer those questions I decided to share the things I learned about blogging, with you. Because blogging for me is all about sharing thoughts, inspiration and information. I thought I could do it in just one post, or maybe a few but once I started I realized that there was just to much information. And so I ended up with this ‘Ultimate Free WordPress Blogging Course’.
Let’s get started with the Ultimate Free WordPress Blogging Course!
- Step 1: Finding a great (domain) name for your blog
- Step 2: Registering your domain with Bluehost and adding a hosting package
- Step 3: Installing a WordPress blog on your domain
- Step 4: Setting up your email
- Step 5: Finding a theme for your WordPress site
- Step 6: Create or buy a great logo (on a budget)
- Step 7: The 7 must have WordPress plugins (and how to track blog traffic)
- Step 8: Register your social media accounts
- Step 9: How to keep up with social media (the easy way)
- Step 10: The two pages your blog should have from the start
- Step 11: How to come up with (and plan) blog posts
- Step 12: How to make awesome blog photo's (with your phone)
- Step 13: Where to get free (but amazing) stock pictures
- Step 14: 6 ways to promote your blog
- Step 15: how to make money with your blog
Many ‘first time bloggers’ start with a free platform like Blogger.com or Tumblr. And of course this can be a great way to see if blogging is something you love to do. But if you are serious about blogging, you really need your own domain. This will give you so much more freedom and having your own domain makes your blog look way more professional. Setting up your own good looking blog, on your own domain may sound like a daunting task. But it really isn’t that hard. And it also doesn’t have to break the bank.
In this WordPress blogging course you will learn a lot about how to run a blog. You will learn how to:
- Start a WordPress blog with a great theme and logo on your own domain (via Bluehost)
- Track traffic for your blog
- Find WordPress plugins you can’t (and shouldn’t) live without
- Handle social media the easy way
- Promote your blog
- Find things to write about
- Make great pictures (and how to edit those pictures)
- Earn money with your blog
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send me an email!
Step 1: Finding a great (domain) name for your blog
It can be hard to find a great domain name these days. Many names are already taken. And if you type in the domain names you would love to get, you can get frustrated fast when you see the crap that is on most of these domains. So finding a name can be a challenge. You want something that is easy to remember and really captures what you are about.
Here are some brainstorming tips:
- Make a list of things that represent or define you. On that list you add things like your name, your hobby’s, where you live, your believes, your characteristics, details about your appearance, how you dress, what you are enthusiastic about etc.
- Now try and combine those words into a name for your blog. Write down all the combinations you like, don’t stop with just one. Maybe you’ll find a name you like even more! For this blog (By Wilma) I just used my name and because the things on this blog are made or written by me I added the ‘by’. Of course you can get way more creative than this, It’s all up to you!
- You can also create new words by combining words. I did this for my temporary tattoo business. I combined the words ‘tattoo’ and ‘temporary’ to create the name ‘Tattoorary‘. The possibilities are endless!
- Find out if your desired domain name is available. You can do that by going to Bluehost, choose a package (for now it doesn’t really matter which package) and type in your desired domain name. A lot of times you will find that the domain name you want has been taken. Don’t despair: just try the next one on your list! (that’s why you should come up with more than one name) You might wonder that when the .com isn’t available, is it OK for you to get the .net or .org. Well, you can of course, but for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) it isn’t the best option. So I recommend to stick with .com domains.
Tip: What’s also great about Bluehost is that it gives you options if your desired domain name isn’t available. Sometimes those options aren’t that good, but there can also be a great option available. For example if I look for ByWilma.com that option is (obviously) taken, but the suggestions Bluehost makes are pretty good.
For this blogging course I created the domain name ‘Jungeloor.com‘. It’s a combination of ‘Jungle’ and ‘Indoor’ with a twist.
Step 2: Registering your domain with Bluehost and adding a hosting package
I love Bluehost because it’s great for WordPress and very reliable. If you are just starting out with blogging you could buy the cheapest hosting package for just one year. If it turns out that blogging is something you love doing you can always upgrade your hosting. But if you don’t like it, you can stop after a year.
If you are sure about blogging I recommend to buy the Prime package. What I love most about this package over the cheapest one is the unmetered website space and the SiteBackup Pro option. There will be a moment that 50 Gig just isn’t enough, and believe me: a good backup option for your site is super important.
After you choose your package and your domain name you can register your site. This is super easy. Just fill in the form and you’re done. The only thing left to do now is choosing a pasword.
Step 3: Installing a WordPress blog on your domain
Click on ‘Continue Installation’ on the next page.
Here you read what WordPress is all about. You just gotta love it. Just click ‘Get Started’ to move to the next page.
Choose the domain name without the www as the domain for installation and click on ‘Next’.
Bluehost now comes with the announcement that your “Install directory exists and is not empty. Please confirm that it is safe to overwrite any content in this directory.”. Just check the ‘I confirm’ checkbox and click on ‘Next’.
Give your site a name and fill in the rest of the form. Click ‘Next’.
Congratulations your WordPress blog is now installed!
To visit the backend of your site add /wp-admin to your domain name (like this: yourdomain.com/wp-admin) and log in with the username and password you just created.
Step 4: Setting up your email
Now that you have a pretty domain name, you also want a pretty email address. Go to your cpanel in your Bluehost account and scroll down until you see ‘Email’ and click on ‘Email Manager’.
Click on ‘Create an Email Account’.
Fill in your desired email address. I usually use ‘info’ or my first name. Fill in a password and click on ‘Create’.
Your email address is ready! If you are already using Gmail you can add this account to Gmail. I found this super convenient because I now have all my email in the same place. You can see how to do that here. If you use Outlook you can find a tutorial on how to add your new email address here.
Step 5: Finding a theme for your WordPress site
Of course you want your blog to look amazing and to do so you need a great theme. Finding a theme for your WordPress blog can be very hard. There are so many to choose from! I scrolled trough hundreds of themes before I found what I was looking for, but here are some tips to find the right one for you.
The first option is a free option. If you click in your WordPress dashboard menu on ‘Appearance’ followed by ‘Themes’ you will find your theme folder. Now click on ‘WordPress.org Themes’. You will see a page full of themes that are free to use. You can choose one and just click on Install. Easy peasy.
Tip: These free themes are often free versions of a premium theme. That means that there aren’t too many options in the free version. They’re OK if you’re just getting started, but if you are serious about blogging you might want to check out the premium themes, because from experience I can tell you that the limitations of these free themes can become a frustration very fast!
These are my favorite free themes from WordPress.org:
The second option is Themeforest. I use this for most of my websites. I love there designs and most designs for sale here are way better than the free ones and come with a lot more options. They also come with support. So if you run into a problem you can get help from the designer of the theme. Of course these themes aren’t free, but you get a lot in return. This is my favorite option for blog themes.
These are my favorite themes from Themeforest:
The last option I want to share with you is Etsy. A lot of the designs sold here don’t have as many options or are as user friendly as the ones on Theme Forest, but you might like the design style. A lot of the blog designs here are created with a creative, fashion or food blogger in mind. Most of the designs on Etsy are made in the traditional blog format, which is perfect for a personal blog.
These are my favorite themes from Etsy:
If you buy a theme from Themeforest or from Etsy you get a .zip file that you can upload in your wordpress website. Just click on ‘Appearance’ – ‘Themes’ and click on ‘Add new’. Now click on ‘Upload Theme’ and upload the .zip file. Most of these themes come with documentation on how to install and customize the themes. WordPress might look scary when you see it for the first time, but it’s actually pretty easy to work with when you get familiar with it. Just play with the theme until it looks just the way you want it to look. Now it’s time to add a logo!
For the Jungeloor sample site that I created for this blogging course I used the Kale theme. There is a premium version with lots of options for sale here or you can get the stripped down free version here.
Step 6: Create or buy a great logo (on a budget)
Creating a logo for your new blog can be a difficult task and if you aren’t familiar with illustrator and photoshop you might not want to do it yourself. A mistake a lot of people make is a logo that is too busy with a (also way too) busy font. Luckily there are alternatives for the not so creative.
If you like a free option (who doesn’t) Dafont can be a great option. This website offers so many different fonts to choose from and you can see how your name looks in the font before downloading it. A simple logo with only the name of your blog in a great font can be just as pretty as a fancy (read expensive) logo. If you want a more unique font you can take a look at MyFonts. These fonts aren’t free but they are more exclusive and often super pretty!
Tip: When you look for a font to use make sure you click on ‘more options’ and choose ‘100% Free’ because not all fonts on Dafont are free for commercial use!
One of my favorite options is Fiverr. I absolutely love Fiverr for logo’s. The logo from this blog (By Wilma) is made with a custom calligraphy I ordered from this platform. But there are so many more options you can choose from. And the best thing? They’re cheap! You can get a logo for as little as $5. OK, for a more unique logo you might have to pay a little bit more, but even those logo’s aren’t that expensive.
The last option I want to share with you is Etsy. I love Etsy (you can find my shop here). There are a lot of sellers there who sell custom logo’s and you will find some amazing artists there too! The designers on Etsy are used to making logo’s for bloggers and small businesses, so you might like their esthetics more than from those on Fiverr.
Tip: What’s great about Etsy is that you can find a lot of pre made logo’s and branding kits here. They are cheap (starting around $10) and look absolutely amazing!
If you are a little bit familiar with Illustrator than Graphicriver is a great option for cheap logo’s. You can get many different logo’s here, but they are non-exclusive. Of course you can always make small changes say for example the color scheme. If the exclusiveness is not a problem Graphicriver is a great source for logo’s, especially vintage styled ones like the one in the picture above.
Step 7: The 7 must have WordPress plugins (and how to track blog traffic)
Plugins in WordPress are a great way to get even more out of your blog. It enables you to add functions to your blog that WordPress doesn’t have out of the box. There are a lot of amazing plugins out there and although I wouldn’t recommend to install too much of them (your site can get slow), there are a few plugins I believe no blogger can live without.
If you installed your WordPress blog with the one click installer from Bluehost, Jetpack is already installed on your WordPress account. The free version is already an amazing tool that makes your site faster by improving the image speed and it is actively blocking malicious login attempts. I also love the statistics that Jetpack provides.
The paid versions of this tool have even more features, but if you are just getting started the free version is good enough.
Akismet is automatically installed when you install WordPress. It’s an amazing spam protector. Even a small blog can get a lot of spammy comments. I promise you: there is a good reason they automatically install this plugin with WordPress. Don’t wait to long with activating this one because if spammers find your blog you won’t be happy. I was lazy once and I soon got hundreds of shitty comments full of unreadable words and links a day. Not fun.
I don’t like this tool but it’s necessary (read: required by law) in Europe. Cookie Law Info is a simple way to show how your website complies with the EU Cookie Law. You can style the banner to match your blog.
The best way to track your visitors is Google Analytics. You can sign up for an account with your Google account here. To make it all super convenient you should install the Google Analytics Plugin. With this plugin you can use Google Analytics on your WordPress site without touching any code, and view visitor reports right in your WordPress admin dashboard.
Although this plugin hasn’t been updated for quite some time it still works like a charm. The Limit Login Attempts plugin does exactly what it says: it limits login attempt on your WordPress blog. Out of the box WordPress doesn’t have a limitation on login attempts and you really want to secure your blog the best way possible. So I highly recommend that you install this plugin!
I couldn’t live (OK blog) without the Editoral Calendar plugin. It makes it so much easier to plan your blog posts. If you schedule a lot of posts in advance you really need this tool. It’s also great for planning blogposts!
With Editoral Calendar you see exactly when which blogpost comes online in a calendar format. You can drag and drop posts to change the schedule and add drafts right on the planner. I love to use those drafts as a way of planning my posts. I then later come in and write the entire article. Super handy!
If you want your page to be visible in Google you need to have good SEO. The best tool out there for WordPress search engine optimization is the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles, and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere. This way your blog will get found a lot easier in search engines!
Step 10: The 2 pages your blog should have from the start
There are a two pages every blog should have. Now it’s time to create those pages for your blog. The pages you need to create are:
On this page you tell a little story about yourself and about your blog. Tell people who you are, what you do, what you love and why you blog. If your blog is a little older you can also add information about statistics and the times you where featured in magazines or on other websites.
Every blog needs a contact form. It’s important for people to be able to contact you. Most premium themes have a build in contact form feature but if your theme doesn’t have one you can add the Pirate Forms plugin for free.
Step 11: How to come up with (and plan) blog posts
When you just got started with blogging you might have a million ideas on what you want to blog about. But there will come a moment where you get a writers block. There are some tricks to overcome a writers block (more on that later) but it’s way better to avoid having one all together. And the secret to that is planning.
Create a schedule for your blog
The first step to creating a schedule for your blog is deciding what you want to write about. Are you a DIY blogger, a fashion blogger, a food blogger, a lifestyle blogger, or …? What are the subjects you want to write about? Write everything down you can think about but don’t be too specific. So if you have a food blog you can make a list with things like: sweet recipes, savory recipes, restaurant reviews, cooking basics, product reviews, etc. But things like ‘chocolate chip cookie recipe’ or ‘how to ice a cake’ are to specific. Write down categories for blogposts, not the title of one blogpost. The more unique and creative the better!
Now that you have a list of things you want to write about, you can make a schedule that repeats itself every week or month. Do you want to write for 7 days a week, or do you want to start with just 2 or 3 posts every week? Make a schedule you can work with. Blogging can be very time consuming so make sure you can keep up with the schedule you make. If you can’t, your schedule can become a big frustration instead of a helpful tool. You can download a pdf file with an empty week schedule here and month schedule here.
Keep track of blog post ideas
For some reason a lot of great blog post ideas come when you don’t have a computer or laptop nearby. Make sure you write those ideas down, so you can’t forget them. A notebook or phone app is super handy to write down your ideas. If you get stuck or have no inspiration you just take your notebook or app and use those blog post ideas.
A great way to track your ideas on your phone is Wunderlist. You can make sub categories with the different blog post categories that you established when you made your schedule. You can do the same thing with a notebook. Add tabs for every category to make it more convenient.
Get inspired (again)
If you get stuck with a writers block you need inspiration. There are a lot of ways to get inspired but I want to give you a few that I found really effective.
- Browse trough Instagram and Pinterest. Don’t copy the things you find but use them as an inspiration.
- Go window shopping. I always get inspired when I go shopping. You can get inspired by the products themselves but also the styling of the shop itself can be inspiring.
- Read magazines and books.
- Visit a new city. Doing things and seeing things you haven’t done or seen before often helps with a writers block.
Plan your blog post ideas
As I stated before: I love the Editoral Calendar plugin for planning my blog posts. If you have installed the plugin you can find the calendar in your menu under ‘posts’. To plan my post ideas I make Drafts right into the Calendar. If I don’t like the order of the post you can drag and drop them until your happy. After that you can open the drafts to write the articles.
Step 12: How to make awesome blog photo’s (with your phone)
If you have the money I strongly recommend to buy a good DSLR camera like this one, but if you just started blogging you might not want to invest a lot of money. Can you spot the difference between a picture of a DSLR camera and a phone camera? Unfortunately, yes you can. But to start out you can make decent photo’s with your phone too. Of course the quality won’t be the same as a DSLR camera, but they are of acceptable quality if you know what you are doing. So here are some tips on how to take better photo’s with your phone.
This one might sound like a no brainer, but I found that many people aren’t using this function of their phones camera. In order to get a sharp picture you have to focus on the subject you are photographing. Doing this is simple: just click on the subject to focus on it before you take the photo.
Tip: if you focus on a small object close to your phones camera you can get a really nice picture with a sharp subject and a blurry background.
Rule of thirds
Most phones have the option to turn on the grid for your camera. This tool is super handy when you want to apply the ‘rule of thirds’.
With the ‘rule of thirds’ you place the objects or person you want to photograph along the intersections or along the lines of the grid. The picture will be more balanced and allows viewers to interact with it more naturally.
Avoid zooming in
Zooming in on your phone camera is never a good idea. Your phone uses a digital zoom what means that you just enlarge the pixels. Your photo will look grainy, pixelated or blurry. Not a good look! If you want your subject to be closer, just walk towards it.
Tip: you can always crop the photo afterwards. This makes the photo smaller, but because blog images are usually a maximum of a 1000 pixels in width you don’t really have to worry about this.
Use natural light
Your phone camera works best in natural light. If you have ever taken a picture with the flash function of your phone, you know what I mean. It’s just not a pretty look. Take advantage of natural light and the shadow it creates and your photo’s will be so much better! If the photo’s are too dark to start with you can always turn up the exposure in a photo editing app.
Clip on a lens
If you want to take your photo’s to the next level than buying a cheap clip on lens set for your phone is a great idea! For just a few bucks these lenses can really change your photo’s for the better. Most sets come with a macro lens, a fisheye lens and a wide angle lens. The macro lens is perfect for closeup pictures or for example food, jewelry or DIY projects and the wide angle lens works great for interior pictures.
Use a great photo editing app
When it comes to photo editing there are a many apps you can choose from. But they are not all from the same quality. Keep in mind that over editing pictures is not a pretty look. Start with a good picture and enhance it to bring out the best. Play with the contrast, the curves and maybe add a great filter. Just don’t overdo it.
I usually use two photo editing apps. They are both paid apps, but they’re worth every penny! Of course I could give you a very long list of possibilities, but these apps are my favorites and they do a really great job in enhancing your pictures. Plus the filters these two apps come with are really pretty!
Step 13: Where to get free (but amazing) stock pictures
Sometimes you need a great picture to make your post more interesting. Don’t just grab something from the internet and use it for your post. That’s copyright infringement and it can cost you a lot of money if you are caught. But don’t worry: there are many great free stock websites with absolutely amazing images that you can use for free!
Step 14: 5 ways to promote your blog
Now that you’ve created a blog and you created some posts with awesome pictures it’s time to start promoting. This wouldn’t be a complete blogging course if I didn’t tell you anything about promotion, would it? Promotion isn’t the most fun part of blogging and it’s very time consuming. But if you want to make your blog a succes, it has to be done. Here are 6 ways to promote your blog.
Social media sharing
Sharing your articles on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest is very important. It’s also easy and free. I get a lot of my traffic from Pinterest, so that’s my favorite channel. If you post your article online you can manually add a link with a small message and a picture to your social media channels or you can use a service like Hootsuite, Viraltag or Schedugram.
Now, you want to make it easy for your followers to share your posts to their social media accounts. Most WordPress themes have this function already built in, but if your theme doesn’t have sharing buttons you can add them with a free plugin. The Pinterest pin it button on image hover plugin creates a pin it button for your images on hover. For social media sharing buttons I like the Social Media Feather plugin.
Comment on other blogs
Commenting on other blogs doesn’t only help if you want to start a relationship with the blogger, it’s also good for traffic. Most blogs have the option for the readers to leave their web address in the comment. If you write genuine and interesting comments people might click on your link.
Writing guest posts
Some websites and blogs are accepting guest posts. If you have a great idea for a post and you want to promote your blog you might consider keeping this idea as a guest post for a different (more popular) blog than your own. This way you can get more traffic to your blog and you are building back links at the same time(which are great for SEO).
Pitch your post idea to the blogger of your choice. If you don’t get a reaction at first you can follow up within a week. Most bloggers are super busy so a reminder is always a good idea. Still no reaction after you send the reminder? Or did you get a ‘no’? Just move on and pitch your idea somewhere else.
Connect and collaborate with other bloggers
Reach out to other bloggers who are equal in size or just slightly bigger than you. You might be able to help each other with collaborations. You can also promote each other on social media and by commenting on each others posts you can stimulate engagement of other readers. But there are many more possibilities. Just reach out to someone who’s blog you love and start from there. There are many great blogger friendships that started of with a simple email!
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization is very important when it comes to promoting your blog. It may sound like something that’s really hard to accomplice and it can be if you don’t have the right tools. Luckily there is a free plugin called Yoast SEO. This plugin makes search engine optimization so much easier. Under each post or page you will now find an analysis of your article. This analysis helps you to optimize your articles for the keyword of your choice.
Step 15: How to make money with your blog
A dream for many bloggers is to generate an income with their blog. This might sound like a really difficult thing to do and to be honest: When you just start out with your blog you probably will not make a lot of money from it. It will likely cost more than it will generate. But if your blog grows your income can grow too.
Although you might not earn a lot in the beginning I do believe that it’s a good idea to apply some of the tactics written down below, from the beginning. You might not earn that much, but if your blog attracts more visitors you will already have the things in place to start making money.
Google Adsense is a great way to make money with your blog. It’s the advertising network from Google and it places related advertisements on your website. You can find those advertisements on almost every website. If your want to sign up you can go to the Adsense website. To get approved you need to have a website with a decent amount of content. So don’t try to sign up before you have at least 20 posts on your blog.
When you are approved you can create codes for different types of advertisements that you can manually add to posts. A better way to do this is to use a plugin like WP Simple Adsense Insertion. This plugin automatically places the advertisements where you want them to be.
Another great way to earn some money with your blog is affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing means that you place links on your website to certain products and if someone buy’s that product trough your link, you earn money. For most blogs this is their largest income stream. Every time you talk about a product you can add a link to where you can buy it. It might not work for every post, but for many post types is does work. For example posts about: fashion looks, interior decorating, diy projects, favorites and many more.
These are some great affiliate programs to sign up for:
Create and sell courses or ebooks
A good way to earn some extra cash is by selling courses or ebooks on your site. When you start to get a nice following you can create a course or ebook to sell on your blog. Choose a subject that matches with the subjects you write about on your blog. Your visitors are already interested in those subjects. That’s why they came to your blog in the first place!
Collaborate with brands
If your blog starts to grow you might want to consider collaborations with brands. Don’t wait for brands to come to you but actively search for brands you think are a good match for your blog and pitch them a collaboration proposal. You will get a lot of ‘no’, but keep trying. Eventually there will be a brand who wants to work with you!
Start a shop
Another great way to earn money with your blog is to add a shop. You can do this by using a WooCommerce plugin or by linking to your Etsy store. Sell something that’s related to your blog. That way your readers have more affinity with the things you are selling.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blogging course. I could go more into detail on each and every subject of this blogging course, but I chose to tell you just the basics of what you need to know. If you want to know more about certain specific subjects please let me know, I might write an article about it in the near future.
You can visit the Jungeloor.com sample blog that I created for this blogging course here. It’s a basic blog, without any real articles. It’s just there to give you an idea of how your blog could look when you follow this blogging course.