If you are new to self hosted WordPress, you have probably bought a hosting package, selected a domain name, and done a one click install to get WordPress up and running. (If you haven’t done this yet, be sure to check out an easy to follow screencast tutorial from Michael Hyatt.)
Now comes the fun part. There are literally hundreds of WordPress themes to choose from, along with a huge number of plugins to make WordPress do what you want. This total overload can be real confusing. How do you choose the right template? How do you know what plugins to install? While the answers may be different for different situations, I do have some general advice.
I would suggest that you start with a professional template from a reputable company that has the look and feel that you want along with the features you require. There are quite a few companies out there that offer these. For this post, I’ll use StudioPress as an example. I have used them for my blogs over the years with great success. Their customer service is very good and their templates are highly customizable.
Here are three steps to take to get your new blog setup.
1. Template Selection:
Getting started it’s a good idea to look at a selection of templates and find one that meets your needs. StudioPress offers ones that are mobile responsive in design. This means they will conform to different screen sizes for a multitude of mobile devices. If your audience will include people using cell phones, tablets, or netbooks, a responsive theme is the way to go.
Here is an example of how a mobile responsive design looks across different devices
To get started I would suggest you choose a professional template that offers a good selection of features and a good support team. This will allow you flexibility in design for all of your devices.
StudioPress offers numerous responsive themes that you can demo here.
Three of my favorites are
If StudioPress doesn’t have what you are looking for, be sure to check out the great themes from other popular designers…
- Standard Theme: Fast-Fast-Fast
- Thesis: Used by Many Popular Bloggers. Very Customizable
- Woo Themes: Great Variety and E-Commerce Options
- Elegant Themes: Beautiful Designs, Unique Control Panel
2. WordPress Plugins:
Once you have your template chosen, you’ll need to select and install some helpful WordPress plugins. While there are literally hundreds to choose from, the following three are a good place to start.
1. Akismet: This popular plugin will protect your blog from comment spam. It requires a signup and an API number to install, but it learns as it goes, fighting even the toughest spammers. The install is quick and there is literally no setup. Just activate and go. The best thing is … it’s free for personal use. Find out more at akismet.com
2. Jetpack: This is a collection of popular plugins all rolled into one. It adds some of the cool functionality and cloud features of WordPress.com. Here are the modules that it contains… all included in one basic Jetpack setup.
- WordPress Stats
- E-mail subscriptions for blog posts
- Social networking enabled comment system
- Hovercard popups for your commenters
- Video embedding
- Recent Tweet display
- Social media share buttons
- Carousel photo galleries
- URL Shortener
- Contact Forms that are spam protected
Check out the extended functionality on their product page. Jetpack does require a WordPress.com account for setup. Installation is quick and easy.
3. WordPress SEO by Yoast:
This simple to install plugin will help you rank better in the search engines. With its simple traffic signal style interface, you’ll know at a glance if your blog post is fully optimized.
You just select the “keyword” that you want to rank for, and the plugin will tell you if it finds the keyword in the different locations. Once you have used it for a few days, the process becomes very intuitive. The plugin also create a sitemap for Google and other search engines. The Yoast site offers helpful advice for setting up SEO on your blog.
3. WordPress Planning Sheet:
To setup the rest of your blog initially, it’s a good idea to plan out what keywords you want to rank for, what categories you’ll use, what widgets you’ll place, what ads you’ll run (if any) and to list out 5 to 10 initial post titles. To help with this task I’ve created a simple WordPress Planning Sheet. Just download the PDF planner and take a few minutes to fill out the different sections.
To fill in the different sections, I’ve listed some tutorials from John Saddington over at Tentblogger that may help.
Overall: This post is a basic guide to help you get started with WordPress. For many people, this will help you get up and running. I realize this process can be daunting. If you don’t feel comfortable with the workflow you can hire a designer to help you or download an extensive step-by-step tutorial.
Here are three tutorials that can help…
- Blogging Starter Kit by Tentblogger
- Site Setup Kit by Pamela and Wendy
- Beginner’s Guide to WordPress by WPbeginner
Question: Have you tried setting up WordPress before?