29 May 2016

Starting Your Own Blog -- The Fundamental Basics


After a bit of a lull, I welcome everyone, once again, back to our Internet Income Course. This is lesson eighteen aimed at bringing out the ins and outs of starting and running a profitable online business in today's fluid global market by breaking down important principles using simple English. Course author, George Little, continues to reveal tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Read the 17th lesson here.

While social media may seem the most natural starting point for an online business in 2016, you should have a basic Website established first. You need your own Website as an ultimate landing page for your social media promotions. While social media is adding more and more of the tools you need to make online referrals and sales, its rules are often too restrictive to meet your needs. For example, if you wanted to put a link in your posts to your SFI Marketing Group gateway, some social media sites will not allow that type of referral linking. It is also difficult to keep up with your posts on social media. Social media will also control the amount of exposure your posts receive based upon the type of post it is. That is, someone other than you decides what is important for your friends to see and what is not. In summary, social media exercises too much control over your activities to function entirely on its own as the vehicle for your online business. It's a great place to start, but you need your own Website to back it up.

With your own Website, you can create pages that contain the links you want in the way you want them to appear. You have much more control over your own Website than you have over your postings on social media. With your own blog, you can add software, themes, and plug-ins to do all of the things you want and need to do--and do them efficiently.

Of the various types of Websites that you could create, a blog is the easiest and most effective format for a novice. Blog platforms allow you to control the content and appearance of your site without requiring extensive technical knowledge of programming code.

Once you have your blog started, you can move to social media to expand your network and drive traffic to your blog. (Links to your own blog will almost always be allowed on social media.) Your blog can then direct that traffic to wherever you like, however you like.

This lesson will provide the basics for starting a blog. (To learn about the history of blogs, see Lesson 25 of the Internet Income Course Archives.)

Types of Blogging Platforms

The two main types of blogging platforms are "hosted" and "self-hosted." A hosted blog requires only an account with the blog service and does not require a standard Website hosting account. Examples of hosted blog services are Wordpress.com and Google's Blogging.com. The blog service hosts your blog for you. A self-hosted blog, on the other hand, is one you create on your own Website by installing the blog software through the control panel of your Website. A self-hosted blog gives you more control. With the self-hosted option, you can host traditional Webpages on your hosting service alongside your blog if you desire. An example of a self-hosted platform is the (free) software from Wordpress.org that you can download and install on your site. I strongly prefer the self-hosted option myself, but it does have a higher learning curve than the hosted service and it requires more effort on your part to ensure you maintain proper security and backups.

The line between hosted and self-hosted blogs is becoming blurred by many hosting services today. Many Website hosting services now offer blog hosting services in addition to traditional Web hosting services. Thus, the distinction between them may be less important if you are dealing with a service or software other than Wordpress. Essentially, you just have to study the offering of each service you consider to see if those offerings meet your particular needs.

In making these choices, you need to be familiar with some terminology. Wordpress, and many other blog services, calls the area you use to set up and control your site the "Dashboard." Templates you can install to control the style, appearance, and functionality of your site are called "Themes." Software apps that works within the Wordpress system to add features to your site (such as automatic ad placement, spam control for your comments, and countless other features) are called "Plug-ins."

Choosing a Provider

Wordpress, whether hosted or self-hosted, is the blogging platform that I recommend. It has been around the longest, is the most widely used by successful sites, and has the most themes and plug-ins available. It is open source, which means that many different sources have been allowed to develop themes and plugins for it, resulting in a rich variety from which to choose. It is certainly not the only option, however. My second choice is Google's Blogger (www.blogger.com). Others include (in no particular order) Weebly, Wix.com, GoDaddy, Squarespace, Posthaven, Ghost, and Medium. To simplify our discussion here, though, I will discuss getting started on Wordpress as I believe it to be the best all around platform.

If you decide to go with a self-hosted option and do not already have a Website hosting service, you will need to choose one. Several Webhosting services are listed on TripleClicks.com. Among the many factors that should influence your choice are the amount of space provided, the amount of bandwidth provided, the software available for use on the service, the type of control panel offered, and, of course, the price. Many popular Webhosting services have Wordpress built in. To install it and get started on these services, you need only click a button or two on your Webhosting control panel. If you are planning on using Wordpress, this availability will be a key factor in your choice of hosting service. If Wordpress is not automatically available on a hosting service, you will need to make sure that php and mysql are available. If they are not available, you need to see if they are allowed to be installed. If these softwares cannot be installed, you will not be able to use Wordpress on that hosting service.

Choosing the Type of Hosting

To get started with Wordpress, the first choice you have to make is whether to use the hosted service at Wordpress.com or to acquire a Webhosting service account elsewhere and use the free Wordpress software. If you already have a Webhosting service, the choice is easier. If you do not already have a Webhosting service account somewhere, you may want to just start with Wordpress.com. There are other factors that may influence your choice, however. If you want to use your own domain name (yourdomain.com), you may want to go with the self-hosted option. Your Wordpress.com blog will be hosted on the Wordpress.com domain (yourblogname.wordpress.com). To use your own domain name, you would have to set up a redirect of your domain name to your subdomain on wordpress.com. With the self-hosted option, your domain name can point directly to your blog. Also, with the Wordpress.com blog hosting service, you are limited to the approximately 200 themes available on that service. If you install the software on your own hosting service, you can choose from many more themes available from a number of sources. The same is true of plug-ins. If you are not all that familiar with the technology yet and do not already have a hosting service, it may be best to start with Wordpress.com (the hosted blog) at least until you become familiar with the basics. You can later switch to a self-hosted setup and transfer your content to your own domain name.

Getting Started

To get started with Wordpress (or any other blogging service), the first thing you should do is read up on the introductory and help materials provided by the service or software. The time you spend reading will be more than compensated for with the time you save from trying to learn it all by trial and error. Wordpress offers comprehensive information to help you understand how to use the service and software.

There are different steps involved in setting up your blog based on your choice of hosted or self-hosted. For example, to use self-hosted, you will need to be familiar with ftp software, have the ftp software installed on your system, and you need to know what changes to make in your configuration file. If Wordpress is not built into your hosting service, you will need to be familiar with php and mysql and, if they are not already installed on your hosting platform, you will need to install them.

The second step is to make a plan. (See our last lesson for the importance of having a plan.) Study the requirements for setting up your blog and incorporate those steps into your overall plan.

Third, if you are going the hosted option, set up your Wordpress.com account. If you are going with the self-hosted option, get all of the software you need from Wordpress.org installed on your server.

Fourth, you need to choose the theme you want. This can be a time-consuming process as there are so many from which to choose. Allocate a reasonable amount of time to review the appearance and features of the different themes available and, when that time has expired, choose the best one you have seen thus far. You can always change themes later--and do so without losing any data. What is crucially important in 2016 and beyond, however, is to be certain the theme you choose is a "Responsive" theme. Responsive themes are compatible with all devices, especially phones and tablets. Having a non-responsive Website or blog is not the way you want to start out. One of the main reasons for using a blog instead of your own Website is to make sure that it is responsive. It takes a lot of technical coding to make a Website you build on your own responsive to all devices. A good Wordpress theme does it for you automatically when you install the theme.

Fifth, you need to choose the plug-ins needed for the functionality you want for your blog. You will definitely want to get a comment spam filter as there are countless spammers who keep track of new Wordpress sites and inundate them with spammy comments. You should also choose and install a backup plug-in to automate your backup process. Many people like to use an SEO plug-in to automate optimization of the the site for the search engines. You need to use care in choosing an SEO plug-in as some can harm your standing with the search engines (see our prior discussions of SEO in this course and the archives). A plug-in to streamline the creation of forms on your blog is also very helpful. Lead generation plug-ins that automate the opt-in process for your mailing list are available. Plug-ins can be found to help you monitor the security of your blog site. There are plug-ins that allow you to display attractive tables on your blog. There are plug-ins that help you to manage your keywords and tags. Several plug-ins are at hand to assist you with Wordpress wizards. There are plug-ins to help you manage your photo and video displays. In summary, there are plug-ins available to do everything you can imagine and then some. When starting out, just choose the basic necessary plug-ins and wait until you have some experience before adding others. You should avoid crowding your site with too many plug-ins. Plug-ins at times are not compatible with a given theme or with other plug-ins that you are using. When your plug-ins start stepping on each other, it can bog down your site and otherwise cause problems.

Finally, you need to start adding content to your blog. You blog does not have to immediately be filled with volumes of content. You can use social media to develop your network of contacts and prospects and just use your blog for the final 'point of sale.' With time and experience, you can expand your blog and it can become a powerful recruiting tool on its own.

Although social media is a great place to start, you need to have a Website as a landing point for your social media promotions. A blog is the easiest and most effective type of Website for a novice. Use social media to direct traffic to your blog. Then, use your blog to direct that traffic to your affiliate and sales links. The two main types of blogging platforms are "hosted" and "self-hosted." A self-hosted blog gives you the most control, but requires more knowledge to set up and use effectively. While I recommend Wordpress, there are several other blogging services and blogging software sources available. If you choose to go with a self-hosted blog, you will need to choose a Web hosting service to host your site. The compatibility with Wordpress is a key factor in choosing your Web hosting service.

To get started with Wordpress (or any other blogging service), the first thing you should do is read up on the introductory and help materials provided. The second step is to make a plan. Third, if you are going with the hosted option, get your Wordpress.com account set up. If you chose the self-hosted option, get all of the software you need installed on your server. Fourth, you need to choose a theme. You definitely want a responsive theme. Fifth, you need to choose the plug-ins needed to provide the functionality desired for your blog. Finally, you need to start adding content to your blog and integrating that content into your social media postings.

In our next lesson, we will begin our detailed discussion of using social media to promote your business. Read the next lesson here: Social Media in Perspective.

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see http://www.profitpropulsion.com

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