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Getting Started With WordPress

If you’ve wanted to have a blog – personal or business – the 9 steps below should help you to decide which WordPress platform to use as well as guide you through the process of setting up your blog.

Step 1 – Personal or Commercial

Before you begin, you need to decide how you plan to use your blog. If you are going to have your blog for strictly personal use, then you can get a free account from http://www.wordpress.com  or www.blogspot.com. However, If you want to use your blog for business or think you might want to use it for generating income at some time in the future… then you should consider using either www.wordpress.org  or  www.blogspot.com as they have  limited commercial use (read the terms before signing up).  Better yet – register your own domain (.com, .net, .info, .org, etc) with GoDaddy and get hosting provided through a stand-alone provider like HostGator.  You’ll find doing this will give you unlimited capabilities – now and down the line.

For those wanting to use a free account through one of the free blog services, you’ll find that most of the following set-up steps will still apply.

Step 2 – Choosing a Theme

The theme is the lay-out and look of your blog. You decide how you want your blog to look based on layout, i.e., number of columns, where columns display, colors used, images, etc.

There are both free and paid themes available. However, it is our opinion that you can find just about anything to fit your needs using free themes offered by WordPress. Look for themes through WordPress at http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/.

There are a lot of  other sites offering free themes.  However, if you plan on using something other than those offered by WP you should perform your due diligence first. See how often their themes are updated? do they offer free help if you run into a problem? are they responsive to your questions? do they have a forum? is there negative feedback from previous users? is the theme you’ve selected compatible with the current version of WP? It goes without saying that when using a WP theme, you should ask these same questions.

Step 3 – Installing WordPress (Your own domain/hosting)

If you are using a free WP account you can skip Step 3.

You will need to install WP into your domain’s root directory if you have your own .com, .net, etc. This is very easy to accomplish through the cPanel.

  1. Log-in to your HostGator Dashboard
  2. From Software/Services click on ‘Fantastico’
  3. In the left column click on ‘WordPress’
  4. Click on ‘New Installation’ and follow the prompts

Note: Be sure to print out the screens with the email/log-in information as you move through the process, and put the link to the WordPress Admin Lo-gin into your ‘Favorites‘.

Step 4 – Setting Up WordPress (Dashboard)

Once you have access to your WordPress dashboard you will want to configure the settings. This includes everything associated with…

  • General
  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Discussion
  • Media
  • Privacy
  • Permalinks
  • Miscellaneous

You will need to visit each category and fill in the appropriate information. Read more about WordPress Settings  in our Post of Jan. 19

Step 5 – Akismet

Akismet is a plug-in that allows you to block spam. To get your Akismet key, you will need to sign up for a User account  from WordPress.com. Read more about how to get and use your Akismet Key   in our post of Oct. 28.

Step 6 – Permalinks

If you plan on using your blog for personal or fun, you may not want to take time to configure the permalinks. However, if you are using it for business, you really should take the time to make these changes.

The permalinks determine how your post is viewed by the search engines. If you do not configure the permalinks, your posts may be seen as a series of numbers. However, if you re-configure the settings you can use keywords or words relevant to your post topic and/or business to get your posts into the search engine rankings. (Permalinks will be covered in the next post)

Step 7 – Plug-ins

You will want to use certain plug-ins to make your blog more interesting and user-friendly. Some plug-ins address Search Engine Optimization – so don’t overlook those.

These plug-ins can be found by going to your WordPress Dashboard —> Plug-ins —> Add New. You can then search for plug-ins by name or function. You can also edit plug-ins from the Dashboard Plug-in section. This includes activation, de-activation, updating, etc.

When searching for plug-ins, in most cases you will find more than 1 plug-in for each function. Again, read what other users have to say. Look for plug-ins that have 4+ stars. These are typically the best ones out there. Some of the primary plug-ins you may want to consider are:

  • Akismet
  • AddToAny: Share/Bookmark/Email Button
  • All in One SEO Pack
  • Dagon Design Sitemap Generator
  • Google XML Sitemaps
  • iRobots.txt SEO
  • Secure WordPress

If you are using your blog to generate monies and have an AdSense account you may also want to use the Easy AdSense plug-in.

Once you have your plug-ins downloaded and installed, you will need to go back to the WordPress Dashboard —> Plug-ins  page to activate them.

Step 8 – Widgets

Widgets can be found in the Dashboard under the ‘Appearance’ Tag.

There is a difference in the functions of plug-ins and widgets and you will want to use certain widgets in your blog (You can read about the differences here).

Some widgets are configured to allow you to put categories, date or blog archives into the sidebars on your page, while others, ie., text widgets are ‘blank‘ and let you put in your own text, HTML tables, images, etc.

Widgets offer a lot of flexibility – particularly if you are in business and want to advertise yourself, others, AdSense units, or maybe an email sign- up form to build your list.  (Start building your email list with an  Aweber  trial account for only  $1.00  and get a special bonus when you sign up!)

Step 9 – Posting

Once you have everything set up you can start posting to your blog.

Note: You do not need to have all of the above plug-ins/widgets installed to use your blog. They just help particularly if you plan on using your blog for your business.

To add a new post go to WordPress Dashboard —> Posts —> Add New.

 You will be presented with a page where you can type in your post or copy/past from a text document.   The ‘picture’ menu above the text area will also allow you to input images, video, make changes to text, perform a spell check, etc.

Once you have finished with the post you can select keywords (tags) and category. If you don’t have any categories you can add a new category (or subcategory) from the categories section. Select ‘Add New Category’, type in name and ‘add’. If you want the new category name to be a sub-category, then you would select the parent category for it before ‘adding’.

Once finished you can publish your post (make it visible to the public) or save a draft if you want to continue working on it at a later time.

Conclusion

These are the basics needed to set-up a WP blog and get it going. For more information and help with WordPress visit Section X of our Index – where you’ll find more detailed information.

Check back next time when we’ll cover how to configure permalinks and how to use the ‘picture’ panel . . . including the difference between ‘Visual’ and ‘HTML’.


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