How Do I Create My Own Blog Page: Part I
I Hear This Question On So Many Forums ...
How do I make my own blog? Is it difficult to do? Can I make money doing it? All good questions. And the answers? Yes, you can make your own blog. No, it's not difficult once you know how. Yes, you can make some money doing it. And so, this article will tell you how to make your own blog, and it just might be of use to the many who already have done so.
Starting your own blog sounds like a really cool thing, but there is much to consider before doing so. The very first question you have to ask yourself is this ... do I want to make money from my blog? If not, then there are many ready-made free ones on the internet. Here's a few free blog pages I have come across in my many travels:
Well, you get the idea. You need not own your website to have a blog, but doing so does offer some advantages:
- You maintain total control over your site
- The only advertising on the site belongs to you
- All the traffic is yours and yours only
Now, if you are going to blog to express yourself or to keep a personal journal I recommend a free blogging site. However, if you are looking to make money while blogging I highly recommend paying for your own site. Ah yes, you need to invest to make money - and we all know that investments are risky business. That's why we'll look into this a bit deeper before pressing on.
How Much Does It Cost To Have My Own Blog?
Provided you are just looking to do it for kicks ... nothing ... zilch ... nada ... just as I said above. Ya didn't expect me to change my tune midcourse, did ya?
But if you are looking to profit from your writing you will definitely need a site you own yourself. Why? Because affiliate marketers like Google Adsense, Amazon, and Ebay offer a lot of great advertising devices, but they only give out the best of toys to those who own their own site. As such, if you want to make money that's what you'll need - a site of your own - and that's what we will go over here.
To start, you will need your own domain. Two great places to buy a domain are:
Yes, they look immature and gimmicky in their ads, but make no mistake, both are top-notch domain providers. As for me, I went with godaddy.com, but I could have went with hostgator just as easily. Once I explain the full path I took I think you'll understand why I chose as I did. As for the cost of a domain, I went with a package deal, which I will explain.
Godaddy.com offers wordpress hosting for as low as 4.49/mo for 24 months. This intrigued me, as websites with less than a 1 year domain license are given less respect on the search engines, as they look at you as if you are a flash in the pan, looking to get rich quick and head out of dodge. This plan also allowed me to secure a domain (the place where I place my site) for an extra $1.99/yr. Total cost for a two year site: $110. And that's where the question came in my mind ... can I feasibly make $110 of my blog in two years time? Because if the answer is no I'm better off slogging it through with a free blog and looking at limited income opportunities.
Adding up the dollars and cents, this came up to slightly less than $5/mo. And so, I thought to myself, that's two and a half large sodas at Burger King, so if it don't work out I'll drink less 72 less large sodas over the next two years, which would actually benefit me. haha!
And so, that was my initial investment, though the place you choose for your hosting and the package you chose could drastically change your own experience. Just remember ... To own your own blog you will need a domain to host it (that's the www.mysite.com part) and webspace to hold the data (10Gb should be enough for many, but others might need more). It also doesn't hurt to spend the extra for your own email address. This mailbox can then be used to help your blog readers communicate with you and to keep track of the many communications involved with setting up a blog. Ah yes, we are going to get our hands dirty up to the elbows as we get unfer the hood to set everything up - read on!
Setting Up A Wordpress Blog
As I chose Wordpress for my blogging, all of the information from here on out will be specific to Wordpress blogs. And why did I chose the Wordpress format? It's a trusted format, it's been around for a long time, and there are tons of free plugins for it!
Now, provided you signed up with godaddy.com they walked you through the setup. Of course, you might have went elsewhere and they (typically) will also walk you through the setup. Of course, if you went the free route you will need to go to wordpress.com and setup your account.
Regardless of how you do it, Wordpress is *not* difficult to install. The work is in maintaining it and making it work for you. As such, we won't go into a detailed description of how to give someone your name and other pertinent info, as such info varies anyway by how you sign up for Wordpress. Just know that there's a huge Wordpress community out there to tag for support and they will see to it that you get up and running with minimal pain, and that allows us to focus on what's really important - desinging your site!
Designing Your Wordpress Site
The first thing you will see when you log into Wordpress is the Dashboard. This is where you, the admin, become a demigod of your own little world. Learn to like this screen, as you will be seeing a lot of it over the next two years, and perhaps many more to come:
Your dashboard will differ from mine as I have added things that you haven't added yet, and because you will eventually add things that I didn't. That's okay. For now, it's important to get a feel for what you are (or will be) looking at.
What Are All Of Those Gizmos on your dashboard?
Good question! As much as I would like to go into a detailed explanation of each one, I think we need at this level to just understand what they are. As this series of articles grows (you saw that this was part I, right?) we'll go deeper through each one. For now, we will start our path down the left side and move on from there with the basic explanations:
Dashboard: This button is like a homing button to get you back to your dashboard after you have opened something else. Consider it your panic button, and expect to use it often when starting out.
There's also a down arrow that leads to other options. For my Wordpress blog it leads to several plugins, but we aren't there yet, so no need to confuse ya just yet!
Posts: This button leads you to the posting interface where you will add new posts to your blog. Something to note: Your posts are displayed on your blog in a first in - first out fashion, meaning the newest stuff stays on the front page, while the oldest works its way down and finally disappears. Of course, you can make a post stay on the front page, but you want to do this minimally, as each sticky post takes up room on the front page for another new post.
And what are posts? These are the daily updates you make to your blog. Simple, eh?
Media: I never use this button, but it's designed for you to store data locally. So, if you snapped a photo of something and wanted to display it on your site, you would go here to place it on the site and then link to it in one of your posts or pages. And why don't I use the media button? Once you understand my philosophy in my design, you'll understand the method to my madness. But alas, my young Padawan, you can only absorb so much at one time.
Links: This button is kinda useful. Here, you can store outgoing links that you want to appear on each blog page. By placing all of your important links here you can get them on every page without having ti manually reenter them 500 times. Useful? Yes. Do I use it a lot? No.
Pages: This button is one I almost snubbed, until I learned what it can do. While posts are useful for sharing info that will be forgotten in days, pages are great for creating static info you want to keep in the public eye. So, if you wanted to announce to everyone that you are hosting a contest, you would use a page to do so. However, know this ... pages appear in your margins and posts appear in-between them. By this I mean that pages typically are made to set aside of your main content, so you need to use them wisely to keep them visible.
Comments: This button allows you to hear what others are saying about your articles. Don't expect tons of get ones right away, unless you are tickled by spam (which we will tell you how to combat later on). Fact is, no one will comment until they trust you, and once you earn their trust you'll never be able to silence them ... it just takes time. And of course, this button also allows you to manage said comments, allowing you to drop those that are spam or injurious to your blog.
Rating: This button is an add-on I will explain in Part II
Polls: This is another addon I will explain in Part II
Appearance: This button allows you to pick a theme (the outward appearance of your blog) and widgets (those little doodads that make your blog (for lack of a better expression) more than just a blog.
Plugins: This button is where you go to get new plugins and manage them. As much as words determine the worth of your blog, plugins determine how well you will be able to control your blog. There's a plugin for everything imaginable, and we will go into some of the best in Part II.
Users: This button is the heartbeat to your users. Here, you can promote users, demote users, and do all of the other stuff a demigod can do on their own blog.
Tools: This is another seldom used button, but an *extremely* useful one. Here, you can export your site to your PC any time. And why would you want to do this? Because you are preparing to make a big change and your uncertain of the consequence. It might be installing a new theme, adding a new plug-in, etc. I highly recommend exporting your site before any large change, so if anything goes terribly wrong you can import the old stuff back in before the readers come at you with their pitchforks - and they will ...
Settings: This is the final button, and one you will use often. This button control many of the technical aspects of the site, allowing you to reshape the mechanisms behind how your new world works.
And what is the rest, you might ask? Well, there's my spam filter (and I highly recommend one), the quickpress for creating articles on the fly, and various items from Wordpress attempting to catch your eye. In particular, the most popular plugins section is the best. After all, things get popular for a reason - they typically do something useful and do it well. As such, they could prove popular with you as well.
Picking A Theme
There are so many themes to chose from ... You don't believe me? Click Appearance -> Themes -> Add New -> Featured.
What you are looking at are the ones considered to currently be the most popular themes on wordpress. And as said before, things get popular for a reason. You can preview each one by clicking on them, but that doesn't tell you how well they will work on your site. However, you can click install on them to your own site (by clicking install) and preview them with your own data by clicking Appearance -> Themes -> and clicking preview on the one you want to try out.
It's all a matter of taste - trust me! However, if you want to know my favorites, here they are in order:
- Atahualpa (my current theme)
- Arjuna X (a really close second place)
- Coffee Desk
Each theme has its pluses and minuses, and my reasoning for choosing Atahualpa was all of the customizations available. In fact, most themes have customizable options which allow you to modify them to fit your needs - and Atahualpa is one of the most customizable ones I know of - and it's free. :)
I Picked A Theme - What's Next?
Well, provided you are serious about your blog you will want to create categories to sort things out for readers. After all, wouldn't it be nice to write about several topics at once and give each equal weight? Well, you can - and that's why you use categories.
To get started, click Posts -> Categories then choose some unique things you want to write about. For example, I chose Computers, Science, and Technology. All very basic, but each deserving a category of its own. I also added Blog Info as a category, to allow readers to refresh on changes I post about in the blog.
And why are categories important? Well, maybe someone enjoys reading about science, but hates computers. So, if I write several blogs about computers that person might think I stopped writing about computers altogether, and might stop coming around. Plain and simple, categories create focused user groups - that's why they are so important.
Adding Posts To Your Blog
Posts can be added through the quickpress area on your dashboard or by clicking Posts -> Add New. Then you use the latter method you will find yourself on this screen:
This is the screen you will use to create most of your posts. And as you can see, there are plenty of option buttons. You can change the text to bold, italic, underlined, or strike-through; you can create lists and block quotes; you can left-justify, center, or right justify the text; you can perform a spell check; you can change your text color, size and font; you can import text from word or other programs; you can insert media (such as videos) and special characters; you can indent and outdent; you can create hyperlinks; and you can even undo and redo your changes on the fly.
Now that is what I call a text editor! There's even options above for adding pictures, video, audio, and other media - and I also have one for adding polls, which I will get into in Part II.
So, type your little fingers off and make that first post!
Done with it yet? Good! Now we need to add some tags. And what are tags you might ask? Well, tags are words and phrases used to internally link documents. Much like categories link the types of posts, tags can link them according to content.
For example, if I wrote an article about nuclear starships I might categorize it under space, with the thought that it goes along with space exploration. Next, I might write an article about new forms of nuclear energy in development (which I have, by the way). This article gets categorized under a different category, technology, as it's about new technological breakthroughs.
Now, both articles are in different categories, but a tag with the name 'nuclear' could link them both together. In doing so, every article tagged with the word 'nuclear' now has a category of its own, without ever breaking the original category structure I created for my blog. And that's the fine distinction between tags and meta keywords, as meta keywords bring in outside search traffic using phrases and tags organize the throughput of that traffic once it arrives to your site.
Never think of tags as keyword phrases ... think of them as links to other related articles, as that's what they truly are. And when you are done with your post, click the appropriate category to place it in, as this categorizes the post.
What? You can't find a proper category? Well, then add a new one, as it's obvious your thoughts have diversified elsewhere and there's no need to scrap a good post to save yourself from adding another category (which is a very simple process). Of course, you also should try to make articles fit when you can, as a blog with fifty categories is far too complex a maze for any human mind to master. I recommend no more than 10 categories, and even less if you can get away with it. Become a specialist - focus your writings as much as you can and your readers will love you for it.
That's All For Part I
Part I got you on your feet. As for Part II, I intend to show you a lot of really useful plugins. So, stay tuned for more as it's quickly on its way!
By now, you should know if you want to own your blog or get a freebie from someone else. You should also have your heart set on whether you are doing this for the money, the love - or both (and you can definitely do both by writing about what you love and monetizing it). Just remember ... This is something very new to many of you, so don't expect it to come easy - nothing worthwhile ever does.
I can give you all of the building blocks in the world, but in the end, for this to be your blog you'll need to become brave and get in there with your own hands to make it work. Trust me, there is no better feeling in the world than seeing your creation slowly come to life. Yes, there will be frustrations along the way, but those first 10 visitors will erase them all - I know this as I have experienced it myself.
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