WordPress is not only free, it is also an open source blogging tool, meaning there are thousands of free themes, plugins and widgets developed by individuals all over the world. There are two distinct paths that can be taken with a WordPress blog; hosted and non-hosted. A hosted WordPress blog is housed on the WordPress domain, meaning the URL will look something like this www.thesocialshindig.wordpress.com, rather than just containing the name of your site. In this post I will focus on the hosted option which is free, very easy to use and a great place to start your blogging journey! (a post will follow on the non-hosted variety shortly!)
Getting a WordPress account is a straightforward process, simply requiring a username, password, URL and blog title (don’t worry too much about these, they can be changed later). You will receive an email asking you to verify your email address and when you have done this you are ready to get started.
Using Your WordPress Blog
When you begin your blog set up, you will be asked whether you would like to select a theme, which determines the look and feel of your blog – your colour scheme, font, spacing etc… Your theme can be changed at any time so do not feel too pressured into the selection straight away! Many of the themes available for you WordPress blog are free, yet there are some premium options available that will charge you to use. The price is clearly illustrated when this is the case. With the vast array of themes available, there will definitely be one to compliment the character of your blog.
When you have selected your theme, you will be taken to the home page of your blog. This section has several options to enable you to immerse yourself in the WordPress community and monitor your blog’s success as well as posting your opinions, work and interesting content.
Home Page Options
- A quick way to post content on your blog
- Find and follow blogs about your interests or written by your friends on other WordPress sites.
- Any comments, follows or likes will be brought to your attention here.
- See how many people have viewed your blog, which posts are more popular, what time your posts receive the most views, how many clicks your posts receive and in which countries you are popular.
- On WordPress, you can have as many different blogs as you want on your username, so you can monitor stats and access the Dashboard of all you different blogs here.
- Where WordPress collate the best of the blog posted that day on WordPress
The dashboard of your WordPress blog is essentially the nerve centre, allowing you to gain an overview of your blog and then delve deeper in to the sections you want to monitor or amend. Your dashboard can also be rearranged to suit your needs and preferences. The bar on the right hand side of your dashboard allows you to navigate further into the settings,plugins and posts of your blog.
- Monitor and amend all posts, be they scheduled, drafts or live. In this area you can view the html of you posts (something you cannot do in the quick post tool on the homepage) and add and amend your blogging categories and add new posts.
- Keep track of the videos, images, audio files etc that you have used in various posts and across your blog and upload new media.
- This is where you can add and moderate which links to include in your blogroll
- Pages are a more permanent feature of your blog than posts, you can link to them from your home page and include such things as an ‘about us’ or ‘CV’ page; information that you would like to be more easily accessible to your readers than a post that they may have to trail through your blog archives to find.
- See comments on your posts, approve useful and interesting comments and deny any spammy or offensive ones.
- See and monitor feedback to your blog.
- WordPress has a sister site PollDaddy which enables bloggers to have polls their blogs, so on this section monitor responses to your polls.
- Enable readers to rate your posts and pages and make these ratings visible to other users.
- Personalise the look and feel of your blog. You can change your theme from the vast selection available, add and activate your widgets, modify the menus you have available (this is dependent upon the theme you choose) and ensure you theme is optimised for mobile and iPad usage. There is also an option to custom design your blog, in this area you can even alter the CSS therefore making your theme truely individual. However, you do have to pay for an upgrade to use this feature.
- Modify who can access and post on your blog and limit the access that each user can have. You can also modify your personal information in this section, including a bio section in which you can showcase a little bit about yourself.
Tools and Settings also allow you to simply make sure the blog is personalised to your requirements. It is not essential to go through all of these settings when first setting up your blog, it is simply usefu to have an idea of where everything is and as you grow in confidence with your blogging you may see where you want to make changes and tweaks.
Posting On WordPress
Posting on WordPress is a simple process and the platform is geared up to accept long posts. You can insert ‘lines’ into the text so not all of your post will appear on the home page and entice readers to click into your posts to read more. This is also useful in enabling you to monitor which posts are drawing in more readers from the onset.
When posting from the dashboard, you have more options available to you than when posting from you home page. You can check and edit your html and insert a variety of media into your posts, including contact forms and polls; including media like this will make your blog come alive. Having images, videos, polls and music will make any text seem more interesting…
WordPress has thousands of plugins available to users, which enable you to extend the functionality and features offered on your blog. Again, due to the open source nature of the site, the amount of plugins available is vast and encapsulates anything you could possible need to make your blog a success.
Pick plugins that will add use to your site. Here are a few of our favourites:
- DiggDigg- Encourage your readers to share your articles by having all your social media buttons right in front of them.
- Zemanta- Find related blogs and images to your article as you write it, enabling you to share relevant and interesting content with your readers more easily.
- WP Mobile- Ensure your blog formats your site with a mobile theme for vistors using smartphones.
WordPress Community and Interaction
WordPress has a very active community of users, yet interacting with this community is not as much of a feature of the site as it is on other blogging platforms (for example Tumblr). It is possible to follow other WordPress blogs, comment on and share their content and develop relationships in this way, yet WorPress is generally viewed as a place to host your content and share it with everybody rather than somewhere to just get involved with the commmunity of that site.
Looking at this post and the wealth of information that is available about WordPress as a platform, it can seem quite overwhelming and intimidating; where do you begin?! WordPress is so simple to get started on, and you do not need to delve deep into the site until you feel a bit more confident about your blog. To begin, simply:
- Set up your blog
- Choose a theme – remember, this can be changed at any time!
- Customise your theme – do as much or little customisation as you want.
- Write your first blog post!
- Write you second blog post!
- Write your third blog post…..
As WordPress has evolved such a huge platform, there are hundreds of widgets, plugins and features that will all enhance your site but also may be slightly overwhelming! Here are a few of my favourite resources to use when any WordPress problems do occur!
WP For Beginners- This site has great, straightforward advice to get you started on the platform.
WordPress TV- There are loads of videos giving advice on loads of different features of the site.
This post is part of the Personal Branding Series, helping you develop a successful online presence.