Demystifying Blog Creation and Maintenance

by Ed Cabellon on June 17, 2010 · 12 comments

Picture of Blog

Over the last month few years, many of you have express interest in starting your own blog, either for yourself and/or your department.  In either case, today’s post will go through, step by step, how I would recommend starting it and subsequently maintaining it.  The goal is to get your blog up, designed, and optimized with great posts to share with your audience.  I will be using WordPress in this tutorial, since that is what I use and have the most knowledge base on.

STEP 1:  DECIDE ON YOUR DOMAIN NAME
In the world of blogs, there are many ways to go.  I use WordPress exclusively, which gives you your own domain name, but formatted like this:  http://bsucampuscenter.wordpress.com.  With its latest version (WordPress 4.0), its more powerful and easier to use than ever!  If you decide you want to go this route, go ahead and sign up! (Move on to Step 4)

If you want to have your own personalized domain name (e.g. http://edcabellon.com or http://bsulife.com) to build your brand, then I would recommend going to NameCheap.com (affiliate link), and purchasing your domain name there ($10).  I like NameCheap because they give you free private domain registration where other sides like GoDaddy.com charges an extra $9 for it

STEP 2: SETUP HOSTING
Now that you’ve got your personalized domain name, it’s time to figure out where you will host your site from.  I recommend using HostGator.com (affiliate link) as they have been nothing short of fantastic in helping me get my blog up and maintaining the back end of things.  Their prices are fantastic and start as low as $4.95/mo.  It also helps that they are active on Twitter and respond to Tweets in a very timely fashion!  Make sure you bookmark your Hostgator CPanel link… it will be your gateway to access the back end of your blog!

As a special offer, if you order their URL’s above in Step 1 AND leave a comment below, you can have your new sites hosted on my server for FREE for one year!

STEP 3:  Installing WordPress on HostGator
Assuming you went with my recommendation on using HostGator, the next step will be to install WordPress on your server.  I’m not the expert on these steps having done them a few times but this site has lots of good details to help you out.

If you went with another host service, Google their service name along with the keywords “WordPress Install” (e.g. godaddy.com wordpress install) and follow the instructions listed.

STEP 4: THEMES
Now that you have a WordPress blog (either for free or installed on your new domain name), it’s time to decorate and dress it up a bit!  The easiest way to do this is through built in WordPress Themes.  Login to your WordPress dashboard, usually your domain name with “wp-admin” right after it (e.g. http://rccblog.com/wp-admin).  Once you are inside, on the left hand navigation bar, click on “Appearance” and browse all the free themes that are there and customizable.   Once you pick one, play around with it and see what types of colors, fonts, headers, footers, and widgets work best for you.

The most powerful theme I’ve seen is the “Thesis Theme” (affiliate link).  It makes creating your blog format a lot simpler and more intuitive for even the most novice blogger/web designer.  I’ve learned a lot over the past year and that is in part to the huge Thesis Theme community out there, ready and willing to help you with your design for free or for hire.  If you decide to purchase Thesis, you’ll have access to the forums where your all your questions can be answered.

There are many bloggers out there who do an amazing job teaching about WordPress and Thesis design.  I recommend “How to Make My Blog” and “Copy Blogger” as a good start to read and learn from.

STEP 5: DESIGN
Now that you are getting the hang of WordPress and your desired theme, you need the right tools to actualize your design ideas.  The best way to do this is to look at other blogs and see what you like and don’t like about their design.  I must have looked at hundreds of different blogs (and still I find things I really like that I wished I added).  Things to consider:  How many columns? Large Header/Footer? Fonts? Color Schemes? Lots of Widgets?  Whatever you do, start out simple and grow from there.

My friend Shannon Albert referred these tools to me when I was starting up my blog:

  • Photoshop or Photoshop Elements
    Definitely need to use the tools the pros use. I happen to have Photoshop but you can also use Photoshop Elements. A fully functional 30 day free trial is available here.
  • Establish a color palette
    Use the VisiBone Webmasters Color Lab to play around with colors and decide on a color palette. (I love this!)
  • Dafont.com
    Tons of free fonts at Dafont.com.
  • SmashingMagazine.com
    SmashingMagazine.com has amazing sets of icons and graphics FREE and they are really high quality.
  • Photoshop brushes
    There are many places to find free Photoshop brushes but I’m going to recommend deviantART to search for many great ones that are beautifully done.

STEP 6: LITTLE THINGS = BIG DIFFERENCE
Once you have your site designed, there are few things you’ll want to do to maximize your traffic and reach in the busy world wide web.
a.  Create Your RSS Feed:  Use Feedburner to create your RSS feed to your blog so your readers have the option of receiving your blogposts via e-reader or email.  If you need a tutorial in this, google it! (Update: Since Google’s announcement to shut down Feedburner in October of 2012, you will have to find another service to push your RSS feed.  Here is a great blog post on some recommendations.)
b.  Add your Blog to your Social Networks: Share your blog address on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even your email signatures.  If you are creating a department blog, add it to your existing website and any future advertising!
c.  Search Engine Optimization Tips: This topic requires a whole other blog post, but for now, the quick tips include creating:
1. Post Tags: using strong descriptive words to illustrate what the post is about.
2.  Custom Title Tag:  This should be the title of your post plus the name of your blog (e.g. “Demystifying Blog Creation and Maintenance | On The Go With Ed Cabellon”).
3.  Meta Description: This should be a brief 200 character description of your post.  I flip this around to reflect the question that this post would answer (e.g. How do I start my blog? or How do I create my student affairs blog?)
4.  Meta Keywords:  These  should reflect what you used in your Post Tags (e.g. Blog Creation, Blog Maintenance, Hosting, Domain Name, etc.)
All of these will boost your blog’s SEO and it’s posts when people search your topics on Google.
d.  Point All External Links to “Open In a New Window”:  You want people to be on your page(s) for as long as possible.  It’s good to include links to other pieces of information, but not the expense of people leaving your site.  Site visit time is HUGE. After listening more intently to my friend Rachel Luna about the importance of Accessibility in web design, I have stopped pointing all links to open new windows.

STEP 7: CONTENT RULES
Once all the above is set, you’re now ready to write your posts.  Everyone’s approach to writing will be different, but overall:
1.  Create a writing schedule that you’re comfortable with.  Whether it’s once a week, twice a month, etc. just stick to it.
2.  Write about things people ask you questions about.  Share your passions, tips, ideas and the things that you’re interested in and watch your readership grow.
3.  Add photos/videos when appropriate, but don’t overwhelm people when you don’t have to!
4.  Look for guest bloggers who may draw their crowd’s traffic to your site and return the favor if ever asked!
5.  Always end your blog posts with a closing question to start conversations in your comments.
6.  Try keeping you posts averaging 750 words or less. (Don’t use this post as an example :) )

What other advice would you give first time blog creators?

Krista Benson June 18, 2010 at 4:50 am

Pre-write some basic filler content – at least 2 months worth for your blog. You can always add in your “just had a great idea” or timely content, but some foundational entries will give you the comfort of knowing that your posting schedule will work. If you get off schedule, nobody will trust your timing, which leads to distrust of content.

Reply

Ed Cabellon June 18, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Thanks Krista, I appreciate your comment! It makes sense to always have content ready to go so that your “timing” on posts can be right on depending on what is “hot” at the time. I have a list of “topics” that I want to write about, but not necessarily all the research and content. Thanks again!

Reply

john silveria June 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Ed- nice work here, have you ever looked at the WP templates that are a little more extensive and can be purchased and put over a WP blog? any thoughts?
Always felt the WP templates were a little limiting.
I will happily take you up on your offer soon

Reply

Ed Cabellon June 18, 2010 at 6:41 pm

Thanks for your comment John! I’ve only ever built in WP Themes or Thesis, so I can’t really speak to WP Templates. I’ll post it on Twitter to see what the community has to say! Best wishes on starting your blog!

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Stephanie Wintling June 19, 2010 at 1:37 am

Thanks Ed!! Perfect timing of the posting since I’ve been tinkering with my blog all week and hope to “reveal” it on Monday! I just purchased stephwint.com looks like Ed will be letting me on his server :)

Reply

Ed Cabellon June 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Yes you will Steph, so exciting! Email me when we can chat over the phone or skype to set it all up for you :-) Thanks for commenting and reading!

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Sean Fahey August 28, 2010 at 9:13 pm

Thanks for posting this Ed. It is perfect since I really need to get on setting up the blog. I have owned the domain for over a month now and it is high time that I get on actually putting it together. Thanks for all your help Ed on all the topics you post about.

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