A layman’s guide to setting up a blog.

A quick disclaimer before we get going, I am no I.T. guru nor am I any kind of social media wizard.  I’m just a mum who set-up a blog.

Since I set up a blog I have been asked on numerous occasions about how I did it by friends who would like to do the same.  I’m going to discuss the simple mechanics of getting a blog out there on the web, not about content and writing as that is something a bit more personal and needs to come from you.

1. Domain Name – to own or not to own?
The very first thing on my ‘to do’ list so to speak was get my ‘domain name’ registered.  I knew I wanted a specific domain name and so I thought best to buy the rights to that domain. For those that don’t know, a domain name (domain) is an identity/address for your website – my domain is Mrs Magovern (https://mrsmagovern.com) and cost about £8.99 for a year.  I purchased my domain along with a hosting package, which ‘hosts’ my website, from TSO Host.  I’ll take about this a little bit more further down.

Of course you don’t need to buy a domain to start a blog.  Websites such as Blogger and WordPress offer free blog domains and hosting and your website address would look something like www.mrsmagovern.blogspot.co.uk.  The functionality of the services provided may be limited but is probably sufficient if you want a simple blog and do not intend to earn money from your blog.  PR companies and other companies looking to work with bloggers for promotional reasons will often ask that you have your own domain.

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Searching for a domain name

2. Hosting
So you might have your domain, but you need somewhere to put it.  You’ve essentially bought a web address with nothing attached to it.  This is where your hosting comes in.  You will need a web host company to provide you with a space on their server which will make your web page available on the world wide web.  As mentioned previously I use TSO Host and would recommend them.  They provide me with a subscription package which not only hosts my site but also provides mailboxes where I can have a ‘mydomainname’ email address, support, applications to help build my site and more.  I have a standard type package which seems to be plenty more then what I need and only costs a couple of pounds a month – just as much as a coffee from Starbucks would set me back.  I think of blogging as a hobby so if I only spend a few pounds on my hobby each month then that’s pretty good in my eyes.

When you sign up for a hosting package TSO Host immediately send details to you of how to log into your account and get everything up and running.  Their support is fantastic (and no I haven’t been paid to say that), they always answer emails or tweets within minutes.  You will have a control panel for your website so you can set up your emails and the like.

The control panel provided by my web host

The control panel provided by my web host

3. WordPress
As I said, you don’t have to use WordPress, or even Blogger but WordPress is what I have chosen to create my blog with.  I have used on websites in the past and it’s what I am familiar with.  I have noticed many of the blogs I read are actually created in Blogger.  I find WordPress user friendly and reliable.  So the first job once signed into your account is to choose a theme.  So the basic appearance of your blog/website.  There a hundreds out there and they all have different features.  For example, you might want a theme with a large image on the front page, a navigation bar down the side and a very minimal colour scheme.  Use the search bar to find words which might bring up this type of theme i.e. simple, minimalist, monochrome.  Keep looking until you find what you want.

You will have the option to preview each theme to see if you like the style, fonts etc.  If you do, choose install and the activate and the theme will be there ready for you to populate with content.

Choose a theme to suit your style or the functionality you wish your blog to have

Choose a theme to suit your style or the functionality you wish your blog to have

4. Plugins
A plugin is techy speak for a piece of software you can install onto your site.  There are many plugins available and many which do the same thing.  They are generally free but some are better then others.  There are many articles around the web detailing good plugins for blogs.  The ones I would recommend you install/activate are Yoast, Jet Pack and Askimet, these are the more ‘serious’ plugins which help your site run efficiently and improve the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  You can also add plugins to allow readers to share your content or display related posts from you at the end of each new post.  The possibilities are endless really and the same goes for…..

Do your research before installing plugins

Do your research before installing plugins

5. Widgets
Widgets, in my mind, are basically mini plugins.  Short pieces of code which tell your website what piece of information to display.  They generally make the website/blog more fun and user friendly.  You would need to add a widget to display your twitter feed or add a picture to your sidebar.  Have a look at my site, the right bar is pretty much wholly made up of widgets.  But don’t worry – you don’t need to know the code or find it out.  WordPress has all these widgets available to you – all you would have to do is enter your twitter username.  If you install Jetpack you will get a load of great widgets made available to you through that.

Add widgets to make your site more fun and interesting for your readers

Add widgets to make your site more fun and interesting for your readers

I could go one but here ends this first little tutorial, perhaps next time I’ll talk about social media.  I’d love to know what you thought about this short guide.

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