In this episode, we’re going to start off with perhaps the most common project for small business or individuals who want to start writing online. This is the creator toolkit you need to start your own, Self-hosted blog.
- Hosting Guide
- Recommended Hosting: SiteGround
- How to Sign Up for SiteGround Hosting
- Yoast SEO’s Readability Feature
- Recommended Theme: Astra | Astra Pro
- Anders Noren
- StudioPress Themes
- Recommended Plugins:
Lots of Hosted Solutions
In starting a blog, there are tons of hosted solutions. As a matter of fact, my blog, circa 2002, was the first project where I wrested with the hosted/self-hosted question (Yahoo! Geocities vs. Blogger). Some examples are:
- WordPress.com (perhaps the most popular solution)
- Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly to a lesser extent
A blog is also the perfect opportunity for you to start on a hosted solution and move to a self-hosted one when you’re ready. For example, you can seamlessly more from WordPress.com to self-hosted WordPress. There’s also a Medium plugin for WordPress that let’s you share posts in both places.
Let’s Start with Hosting
If you’re going to the self-hosted route, there are tons of options hosting options to choose from, and it can get overwhelming. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to tell you the one you should use: SiteGround. This is where I host most of my websites. If you want to do a little price shopping, there is a hosting guide in the show notes for this episode, at creatortoolkit.com/002/.
Also in the show notes is a video on how to sign up for SiteGround and install WordPress. The process goes like this:
- Sign up for an account
- Purchase your domain (we’ll do a whole episode about domains later)
- Use SiteGround’s on-boarding process to install WordPress
Once you have a hosting, domain, and WordPress installed, it’s time to pick some tools of the trade. You’ll need content, a theme, and plugins. Content is totally up to you, though there are some good tools to help with content planning.
Choosing themes is one of the hardest things you can do when setting up a new WordPress site. There are literally thousands to choose from, so you’ll need to come up with a list of features and “looks” you like. This could be based on columns, topic focus, menu location, etc.
Luckily, I have a few flexible suggestions for you. I really like Astra, which is free and super flexible. It also works with other popular plugins like Beaver Builder and LearnDash. The team behind the theme is top notch. And if you need more features, you’re in luck. They have a premium theme too.
Some other fantastic free themes are Hemingway and Lovecraft, both by Anders Noren are beautiful and totally focused on blogging. Best part about these is their available on WordPress.com too.
Choosing the right plugins can also be a tough task, but luckily most have a direct feature match, so you can look for “plugins that do X” and test a few out. While there aren’t necessarily focused features for blogs, there are a few I always recommend.
- Jetpack: I know it’s a big plugin, but it has lots of features in one place. It offers stats, forms, security, and sharing. It’s usually a good add, especially just starting out.
- YoastSEO: This is the best search engine optimization plugin on the market. It will help you write and focus your content better. Plus their readability feature will make sure your posts are easy to understand. I’ve linked a video I made in the show notes on how to use that particular feature.
- Some Form Plugin: Jetpack comes with a simple one, but you’ll need something better for anything more than “very simple.” I recommend Ninja Forms. It’s free and had paid add-ons when you’re ready to upgrade.
- Compact Archives: I just love how nice this works. It gives you a shortcode to spit out a nice block of archives, by month and year. This is great when your blog gets to be a few years old.
- Antispam Bee: This is a free plugin focused on eliminating comment spam. It’s an Akismet competitor, but I think it’s better
- Compress JPEG and PNG Images: This last plugin focuses on performance. It will optimize your images to help your blog load faster.
And that’s my blog toolkit. I hope it helps you on your journey to starting your own blog. If you want a little extra help, you can go to this episode’s show notes (creatortoolkit.com/002/) and download my free ebook on setting up a WordPress blog. It will take you step-by-step through the configuration process and goes a lot more in-depth.
For that and all the show notes, again, go to creatortoolkit.com/002/. If you liked this episode be sure to leave a rating and review in apple podcasts. And if you have any questions or want me to put together a specific toolkit, email me, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter, jcasabona. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.