Blogging 101 – How to Setup an Amazing WordPress Blog in Just a Few Hours
In these step-by-step instructions and video tutorials, you’ll learn how to setup a WordPress blog in just a few hours – from buying a domain name (URL), setting up a hosting server, email forwards, WordPress installation and configuration, installing important plugins, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and a few additional tutorials on how to be an amazing blogger.
Before we start this step-by-step ‘HowTo’ guide, here’s a little clip called ‘Blogs in Plain English’ (courtesy of commoncraft.com) to help you understand why you might want to set up your own blog:
Ready to start?
1. Purchasing a domain name + hosting service:
Domain name is simply the URL you’ll be using (like YAHOO.com or CNN.com). When you buy a domain name you’re really buying the rights to use that name for a limited time. Hosting, on the other hand, means a physical space on someone’s hard-drive (server) where your blog’s/website’s files will be stored. To have a website or a blog you’ll need both. When visitors type your domain URL into their browser, they are being redirected to the files stored on your hosting service. You can purchase the domain name separately from the hosting but it’s not recommended since some hosting services (like 1&1) will give you 1, 2 or even 3 free domains with your hosting service (GoDaddy, for example, do no give free domain with their hosting so you’ll have to pay for both if you want a domain as well).
My personal choice is 1&1 (click here for their current deals). I’m sure you’ve heard of GoDaddy but I find 1&1 to be cheaper, with better customer support, and a few extra features GoDaddy charge more for (like free domains with your hosting). Here’s a detailed comparison between the two.
With 1&1, you only get the free domain with their ‘Unlimited’ or ‘Business’ packages, but NOT with the ‘Starter’ package. If you choose to go with the ‘Starter’ package (month-to-month), you’ll have to ADD a domain name and pay extra AFTER you got the hosting, and WHILE you’re still logged in to your hosting account (so the domain is not being purchased under a different account).
Before choosing a domain name, think about YOU as a BRAND. What would you like people to know about you? How would you like others to perceive you? To identify your self-branding goals, you can use these tools:
USEFUL: 1&1’s Hosting | Customer / Tech Support: 1-866-991-2631
IMPORTANT: You want the Linux hosting (default) and not the Windows hosting, even if you have a Windows operating system.
NOTE: The hosting packages shown in this video may have changed. Visit 1and1 for current packages & pricing.
2. Before Installing Your Blog (Setting up FTP and MySQP and FileZilla):
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. It’s the way your computer communicates with the hosting service you just purchased. To be able to transfer the blog files, you will need to download and install an FTP software. I recommend FileZilla (click here to download). It’s free, fast, easy to install & use, and works well on both Windows and Mac OS. If you use Firefox as a browser, another good option is FireFTP (Firefox addon).
The next step will be to create an FTP account (via your 1&1 control panel):
Whichever username/password you choose, write them down on a piece of paper – we’ll need them both later on.
USEFUL: If you need further assistance, call 1&1’s Tech Support: 1-866-991-2631
MySQL is a database management system which is used (in our case) to store your blog’s content (posts, pages, links, etc). Before you can setup your blog, you will need to create a MySQL databse in your 1&1 Control Panel:
In the ‘Description’ you can write ‘BLOG’. Whichever password you choose, write it down on a piece of paper – we’ll need it later on.
On a piece of paper, write down your (1) Database Name, (2) Host Name, (3) Username, and (4) Password. You’ll need these four later on when installing WordPress.
USEFUL: If you need further assistance, call 1&1’s Tech Support: 1-866-991-2631
3. Downloading WordPress with extra plugin:
WordPress is currently the leading blogging software out there. You may have heard of, or used, other platforms (such are Blogger, Tumbler, Drupal, TypePad, LiveJournal, Movable Type, etc) but there’s a general consensus among bloggers that WordPress is relatively easy to install, very easy to use and offers lots of features that other platforms do not.
Download the latest version of WordPress HERE. This version is packed with a number of useful plugins already installed. Save the ZIP file on your hard-drive and unzip it. It will create a folder called ‘WordPress’.
NOTE: If your computer can’t open/unzip zip files, download free 7Zip here.
4. Uploading WordPress to your 1&1 hosting space with FileZilla:
In step 2, you’ve created an FTP account, downloaded and installed an FTP client called FileZilla. Run FileZilla and transfer the WordPress files to your hosting server. You will need you FTP username and password for this step (you should have written them down in step 2). Your FTP server/address is your domail URL (the domain name you bought) with the “.com” but without the “http://”. For example, if you own the domain “http://www.cnn.com”, your FTP server/address will be: “cnn.com”.
NOTE: the video below (courtesy of slackermarketing.com) will show you how to transfer your files. In the video, they recommend creating a /blog folder on your hosting server side. If your intension, is for your domain to host your blog alone (no other website), I recommend transferring the files directly to the root (main) folder:
IMPORTANT: If you followed the video above and decided to transfer the files into a “/blog” folder within your main hosting area (less recommended unless you know what you’re doing), you will now have to:
Option #1 (RECOMMENDED): Let 1and1 redirect all visitors to the /blog folder automatically:
– Log into https://admin.1and1.com
– Once logged in to the admin area, click on “Domains” to see a list of your domain names
– Check the check-box next to your domain and click on “Destination” and “Edit Destination” on the top-menu
– Under “Home Directory” forward the domain to the /Blog folder
GETTING RID OF index.html: By default, 1and1 leave a file called index.html in your main FTP folder. This file is there so 1and1 can advertise their services while your site is still under constructions. You will need to delete this file before you can start WordPress for the first time. IMPORTANT: WordPress has a similar file called index.php. DO NOT DELETE the index.php file, you need it. On the bottom-right box of FileZilla (the server side), right click the index.html (not the php!) and choose delete.
5. Activating / Setting up WordPress for the first time:
- Once all the files are uploaded to your hosting server, visit: http://YourDomnainName.com (or .org, net, etc, whichever one you bought).
- This should start the setup process. During the process, you will be asked to enter the database name, database host, username and password. This information was given to you during step #2 of this guide and you can always go back to the MySQL page on your 1and1 admin page and look it up.
- during setup, you will be asked to pick a username and password for your blog (not the MySQL or the FTP), by default, the username is “admin”. It’s recommended to change it to something else.
Here’s a little clip that explains how to Log In to your admin dashboard:
TIP: adding /wp-admin at the end of your url is exactly the same as adding /wp-login (both will take you to your blog’s dashboard).
About your blog’s Dashboard (courtesy of learntospeakgeek.com):
6. Configuring WordPress:
At this point, WordPress is installed on your domain. If you visit http://YourDomainName.com you should see your blog. It should looks something like this:
Now you’ll need to configure the basic settings for your blog. To do so, visit your admin page (also called Dashboard): http://YourDomainName.com/wp-admin
The following SETTINGS (left menu) are shown in the video above:
To add the ‘www‘ prefix to your URL, go to:
Settings / GENERAL / For both WordPress address (URL) and Blog address (URL) add ‘www‘ / Save.
Settings / GENERAL / Timezone – pick your city (and hit Save Changes)
Settings / WRITING / Size of the post box – I recommend changing from 20 to 40 so your post editing box is bigger.
Settings / WRITING / Update Services (copy/paste this instead of whatever is in the box):
Settings / READING / I recommend changing both the “Blog pages show at most” and the “Syndication feeds show the most recent” from 10 to 15
Settings / DISCUSSION / Comment Moderation
Click here and copy this list into the Comment Moderation box.
Settings / PERMALINKS / Common Settings - Check ‘Custom Structure’ and copy/paste this:
7. Activating Plugins:
On the left menu, under Plugins / click Installed
For Inactive Plugins / click ACTIVATE under each plugin to activate them one by one. Alternatively, you can check the ‘Plugin‘ box below ‘Bulk Action‘ / Change Bulk Action to Activate and hit Apply. This will activate all of the plugins at once.
If you’ve tried to activate all the plugins at once, and got an “ERROR 500 – Internal Server Error” message (which basically means you are using too much of 1and1’s allocated memory) this means you can no longer access your blog’s Dashboard, follow these steps to fix this:
a. Using FileZilla – rename the “plugins” folder on the server side (right side) to a different name (doesn’t matter what). The plugin folder is under the /wp-content/plugins
b. Login to YourDomain.com/wp-admin – that will reset your blog with no active plugins.
c. Using FileZilla or any other FTP client, rename the plugin folder back to – plugins
d. Login to your YourDomain.com/wp-admin again and this time, activate the plugins one by one (or go back to make sure you follow steps #3 & #6 of this guide).
Note: Depending on the plugins you installed, upon activation, you may receive a number of red, pink, yellow, etc error messages, that might look like this:
FYI, these are not error messages but rather, plugins settings that may require your attention. In step #10 we will set up all of these plugins, which will take care of these messages.
8. Plugin Setup:
Some of the plugins you installed require initial setup or configuration. In this section we will go over some of these. On the left menu, under:
SETTINGS / All-in-one SEO Pack (Search Engine Optimization):
Here’s why SEO:
Typically, this is how google presents search results:
In our example, all-in-one-SEO settings are:
Home Title: “The Advertising class” (even though our URL is TheADClass.com, we wanted the word “Advertising” to appear on the title since we assume people are more likely to search for it). Keep it short and relevant. While the format of the home-title shouldn’t be just keywords but a real title, the words you use for your home-title should be relevant to the google keywords you want to be found by.
Home Description: “The best resource page for advertising students, professors and professionals. Art Directors, Copywrites, Account Planners, Media Planners, AdAge, AdWeek, Ads of the World, ADDY, Clio, I Have an Idea.” Notice that in the example I gave here, the description in all-in-one is longer than what Google actually shows. Google only shows 150 characters (with spaces) so you want to limit your description to 150 characters.
Home Keywords: No more than 30. Use the most important keywords you’d like to be found by. All lowercase.
Check ALL check-boxes EXCEPT the last one (“Log important events”). This will prevent Google from lowering your PageRank due to duplicate content.
Until you setup and enable the All-in-one-SEO plugin, you might see this annoying message but once you enable it, it will go away:
SETTINGS / Bad Behavior
This plug will prevent a lot of spam comments on your blog. You want to un-check “Display statistics in blog footer“.
SETTINGS / cbnet Favicon
CBNET Favicon adds a cool favicon to your blog. Favicon (short for favorites icon), also known as a website icon or bookmark icon is a 16×16, 32×32 or 64×64 pixel square icon associated with a particular website or webpage.
Here are some favicons inspiration:
SETTINGS / Google Analyticator
This plugin Shows cool stats about your visitors. First, you’ll need to setup an account and get a UA code from Google Analytics. If your blog URL ends with /blog/ or /wordpress/ include that in the URL during the setup:
Here’s a short clips on how to set it up (courtesy of OnlineCashflowGuru.com). Note that only the first 3 minutes of this clip are relevant (since we’re using the Google Analyticator plugin, we don’t need to copy/paste any code other than the UA number).
Setting up Google Analyticator with your UA code:
TIP: I would actually not recommend enabling the Footer Tracking Code by default, since it’s not compatible with every WordPress theme.
SETTINGS / Photo Dropper
Use this plugin to grab interesting photos as you blog along, to add to your posts (icon will appear above the post’s editing-box). To optimize it for best usage:
- Remove the check from “Use Classic Interface“
– Increase “Images per page” to 25
– Remove the check from “Show only…“
– Check “Sort Photos by…”
– Save Settings
SETTINGS / Reveal IDs for WP Admin
This plugin is for advance users who might need to figure out post/page IDs. No special setup, just hit SAVE once if you’re still getting an announcement about it on the top of your dashboard. If you do not hit save, you might keep getting this note:
SETTINGS / Robots Meta
This plugin improves SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by modifying the robots meta tags.
- Check ALL check-boxes for this plugin.
NOTE: If you’ve uploaded the .htaccess file as described in step #6 of this guide, you don’t need to touch anything else here other than checking all check-boxes.
SETTINGS / External Links
This plugin sets up links to be opened in a new window or tab, allowing your visitors to stay with your blog open. It can also add a cute little icon next to any external link on your blog (which personally I don’t like):
- If you’re like me, and do not like this little link icon, I recommend removing the check mark from the second option (Add Icon).
– Add a check mark to both “Add No Follow” and “Open in New Windows” / Save Changes
SETTINGS / TinyMCE Advanced
This plugin allows you to change the post editing window (kinda like when you write a MS Word document). If you find this to be confusing, you can skip this step. For more info on this plugin, search YouTube for “TinyMCE Advanced”:
SETTINGS / SEO Post Link
This plugin makes your post link short and SEO friendly (Search Engine Optimization). It removes common words that are unnecessary for search engine optimization off your blog’s post link.
- After registering / verifying, if there isn’t already a list of “Unnecessary Words” than click here and copy/paste this list.
NOTE: while this is a great plugin, the author of this plugin will send you marketing material after registration. When registering, I’d recommend using an alternative email that you can still check (in order to activate) rather than your main email address. When transfered to another website to sign up, pick “no thanks”.
SexyBookmarks AKA Shareaholic
The settings for this plugin are NOT under the SETTINGS tab, but rather, they have added their own tab toward the bottom of the left-menu, called “Shareaholic“. You can also click the “Plugin Options Page” on this red error message that will appear on your screen if this is the first time you’re setting it up:
Select your preferred social bookmarking sites, preferred settings and hit ‘Save Changes‘. Once you saved your options, the above red error message will go away…
SETTINGS / Ajax Edit Comments
Under ‘Spam Protection‘ (middle of the page) / check Defensio
SETTINGS / Defensio
Defensio is one of the best anti-spam plugins. Sign up and get the Defensio API Key (sign up for PERSONAL, not professional) here:
(the video above is a great one but I’d recommend to sign up as personal rather than a professional, that way, it’s free…)
Use the API code you got at signup and save settings. Once you save your settings, the yellow error message below will disappear:
SETTINGS / XML-Sitemap
This plugin will help Google index your blog.
- Click where it says: “The sitemap wasn’t built yet. Click here to build it the first time“.
9. Installing a theme for your blog
Before you install a new theme on your WordPress blog, a few things to consider:
- Find a theme that you like – consider the overall look, the number of columns, the size of different elements on the page (logo, images, widgets, etc).
- More important than finding a theme you like, is finding a theme that supports your branding statement. Is the theme helping you brand yourself / your business the way you want it to? What does it communicate about you visually? Is it too busy? Does it look professional?
To install a theme, on the left menu of your dashboard, under APPEARANCE, click Themes. On the top bar, click INSTALL THEMES and brows for the right theme using the Search, Featured, Newest, etc tabs.
A nicer alternative to WordPress’ built-in theme catalog is to search for a more recent, SEO optimized, beautifully designed theme on the web. Below is a list of great links to start your search. When you find the theme you like, download it as a ZIP file and use the UPLOAD tab to upload the theme:
You can also manually install any theme using your FTP client (FileZilla). Here’s a little video tutorial on how to install your theme manually (courtesy of mattladwig):
11. Howto Blog:
Understanding Blogs – Blogs in Plain English (courtesy of commoncraft.com)
Understanding Pages, Posts, Categories, Tags, Slug and Permalinks:
Adding/writing a new post (courtesy of learntospeakgeek.com):
Adding/writing a new page (vs. post) (courtesy of learntospeakgeek.com):
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