The Complete Idiots’s Guide to Starting Your Blog with WordPress

***This post may contain affiliate links. I do not recommend products that I have not personally vetted and love myself.***

Are you thinking of starting a blog?

Getting started is easy. I started Atypical Life back in January 2017 and have Mrs. Atypical with our other blog since 2015. In the past years working with blogs, I have learned a thing or 2 about how to get them set up and ready to go.

But the true question is, are you ready?

Yes, so let’s get started.

First, we have to understand what a blog really is and how does it work. Without this understanding and just blindly following every other Plain-Jane tutorial, you will get set up, but then will never be able to fix the problems that arise. And let me assure you, there will be problems.

I am here to help.

This is a behemoth post, so here is a quick Table of Contents so you can jump to the part you need most:


  1. What is a blog?
  2. Bluehost Setup
  3. Why WordPress
  4. Installing WordPress
  5. Getting Started with Blogging
  6. Billionaire Blog Club
  7. Get acquainted with the WordPress Admin Panel
  8. Check out themes.
  9. Required plugins to augment WordPress functionality
  10. Write your first post.
  11. Content Marketing 101 with Pinterest
  12. Google Analytics
  13. Making Money Blogging

Completely updated and improved: June 23, 2018


What is a blog?

A blog/website is simply a named connection (domain name) to another computer that houses the files you are looking at. Every computer is given an IP address (your address on the internet), and a DNS or domain name server, correlates a URL address (easy to remember) to the IP address (hard to remember). This allows you to type an easy to remember URL into the browser and the internet magically can find the correct computer to connect to.

So the first step in setting up a blog is to get a computer or server to host your website. In theory, you can buy your own server, set it up in your office, connect it to the internet and run it from home. However, this doesn’t make much sense. Companies like Bluehost and Digital Ocean are experts in running servers and will make it cheaper than hosting it yourself.

Bluehost is a web hosting company that hosts websites and blogs. They make the process of a self-hosted blog very, very easy.

Bluehost provides all of the hardware you need and also provides the initial software configuration needed to run your new blog. In the 2 years, we have been with Bluehost, we have had less than 1 day of downtime from server issues. Over 99.9% availability on a website is outstanding.

The best part is if you sign up with this link, you will get a special rate of $2.95 per month for shared hosting.

Reasons to sign up with Bluehost:

  • Free domain name with hosting purchase
  • 99.9+% server availability
  • Spectacular customer support available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week
  • Custom-built servers to create a stable environment for your blog
  • Bluehost is easily upgradable when and can grow with you
  • Super easy one-press WordPress install
  • No contracts, remaining money back anytime if you don’t like it (I’m sure you will like it)

So now that we know we are going to go with Bluehost, what is next?

First, you should think of what you would like your domain name to be.

This is very important because this is how people remember your blog and can tell their friends about it. A name like thisisjustanotherboringblog.com is probably not a good one. Think about what you want to write about and brainstorm names that are meaningful.

It is worthwhile to spend the time upfront to decide on a good name. You can always change later, but it there are costs in time and money.

After you have decided on a name, head over to Bluehost and sign up for an account on Bluehost. They have various levels of accounts with added services for increased costs.

  • Shared Hosting – This is a server environment for your website that is shared on a single operating system. This is suitable until you have high traffic.
  • VPS Hosting – Virtual Private Server Hosting – This gives you the ability to have your own operating system for your server. You are given your own virtual server to use and have the ability to configure it to your needs. VPS Hosting is also good for very high traffic or high computing requirements for rendering your blog. You still share a physical server with other users, but you run in a completely isolated environment.
  • Dedicated Hosting – This is the ultimate hosting solution, where Bluehost provides you with a dedicated server, which includes its own hardware. There are no other users on your server and it is dedicated for your use only. This provides the highest speeds and processing power for extremely high trafficked websites and blogs. This is also the super high-priced option, so until you know you need it, you definitely don’t need it.

Start with Shared Hosting. Bluehost offers the ability to scale with you and move your plan to VPS Hosting and Dedicated Hosting for you as your blog grows.

Setting up Bluehost Shared Hosting

To start, head over to Bluehost and click “get started now”.

Next, you have a choice between the levels of service Bluehost will give to you. We have been very happy with the basic plan so far. Because Bluehost allows us to upgrade as our needs grow, it makes sense to start out with the Basic Plan for 3 years and grow from there.

Now you get the chance to choose your domain name. Since you have already thought about your domain name choice, this should be a fast step. Chances are, your preferred domain name is already taken, so be prepared to keep trying different names until you find one you are happy with and that represents what you want to write about.

If you did not decide on a domain name and are pulling your hair out agonizing over this decision, you are in luck. There is an exit-intent pop-up that allows you to skip the domain name for now and move on to registration.

The final step to your Bluehost account is to input your financial details to allow payment for your new hosting environment. $2.95 per month is an awesome deal for hosting, but if you want even further savings, move your cursor off the website again to trigger the exit-intent pop-up and get a further $0.30 in savings and get Site Backup Pro for free.

You have the choice to purchase add-ons at this point and you can purchase what you feel you need. There are privacy add-ons to shield your personal details from the domain name servers and others.

The Site Backup Pro for free is an awesome service if still available. It allows you to restore single files to your site without having to restore the entire file system. Inevitably, you will need a backup of your system. You can let Site Backup Pro do it automatically or you can perform your own backups.

Congratulations, you now have a hosting environment!

I just bought Shared Hosting on Bluehost, now what do I do?

At this point, you need to install some software to allow you to run your blog or website. First, though, let’s explore what your new shared hosting really is.

Your shared hosting environment gives you access to a virtual computer over the internet. You now have access to a computer that resides on the Bluehost servers.

Inside the files on the destination computer are:

  • files for content
  • files for media (pictures, videos, audio, etc.)
  • files and scripts to tell the web browser how to display things
  • a MySQL database to correlate them all together
  • an Email Server
  • and many, many more

With all of these files on a computer, you may wonder how it all comes together to be displayed logically for us mere mortals.

Sure you can read the code that makes the internet work in theory, but the true beauty of the internet comes out from the graphical display of all of the information.

In order to correlate all of the information together, you are going to want a content management system or CMS. There are various content management systems out there to choose from, but the most common for blogging is WordPress.

Of course, you could always learn to custom code a website and write it all from scratch. But that is an exercise in futility for most.

The vast majority of blogs nowadays run on WordPress software.

Beware: There are 2 versions of WordPress out there, so be wary when you just hear WordPress. WordPress.com is a one-stop hosting and CMS solution, but because WordPress, the company, owns your website, you never have true freedom of expression.

It can also get very, very expensive, and since you are here at Atypical Life, I know you do not want expensive. We are striving to be thrifty while starting up our newest side hustle. We have already setup hosting with Bluehost, so now we need to get WordPress for our new server.

WordPress.org is the website for the WordPress content management system software. It gets installed on a Linux server/operating system, and gives you a user-friendly interface for editing and building your blog.

Installing WordPress

Bluehost offers Mojo Marketplace which has a one-click install of WordPress. This makes it almost too easy to get up and running on your new website.

Navigate to “one-click installs” on your Bluehost C-Panel and here you will find WordPress as the first option for installing. Click on WordPress and follow the prompts on through to successfully install WordPress on your website.

WordPress is the first on the list for one-click installs because it is the most popular website content management system (CMS).

Tips for the install:

  • Since this is a new install, you can overwrite anything that is there (if it’s not a new install make sure that your installation location is not going to overwrite anything important).
  • Choose your new domain name to install. This will install to the file location /public_html/
  • Everything that is inside your public_html folder is available on the internet. Everything outside public_html is not.
  • Click show advanced options so you can input your preferred username and password. You should probably not use admin, admin ūüėČ
  • Once the installation is complete, your new WordPress website will be accessible from your domain name.
  • The WordPress admin panel is yourdomain.com/wp-admin, just add “/wp-admin” to the end of your domain name.

Congratulations, you now have a website… with nothing on it!

So we have to setup our server and this is where most tutorials end.

Do you know why?

It’s because all the blogger’s money is made with those links to Bluehost called affiliate links. When you click on one and order something, the blogger makes a little bit of money too.

Nevermind, though.

Let me walk you through the rest of getting up and running your blog.

What You Need To Know

There is a huge list of things to get acquainted with, but let’s start here:

This is just a short list of the things to follow in this post, but let me first say that I do only a very brief job as an introduction to these topics.

If you really want to understand and have a MONEY-MAKING blog, then you need the Billionaire Blog Club.

The Billionaire Blog Club

In the Billionaire Blog Club, BBC for short, Paul Scrivs has built a thriving community. You can find everything you could possibly want to know and more there, and it is constantly updated with more features and more pertinent information. You can find:

  • 30+ video Pinterest Course
  • 100+ page Pinterest Strategy book
  • SEO Course
  • Affiliate Marketing Course
  • Content Making Course
  • Huge Slack Community (1000+ members and growing)
  • And much, much more!

Basically, the Billionaire Blog Club has become the one-stop shop for everything needed to start and grow a new money-making blog.

BBC

What are you waiting for, get started today!

Getting acquainted with the WordPress Admin Panel

WordPress is confusing when you first get started, but the designers have tried their best to make it as intuitive as possible.

First off, the URL to get to the admin panel: http://example.com/wp-admin

All you have to do is add “/wp-admin” to the end of your URL and you will be able to access the administration.

You fill in the username and password that you filled out during installation. If you want to add new users, it is an easy process. Just click on Users and Add New.

When you first come to the admin panel you will see the below Dashboard view.

dashboard

      1. Dashboard: This is your basic dashboard with general information about your blog. It is the location that you will end up any time you type in the admin URL.
      2. Posts: Use this to look through posts you have written and to add new posts.
      3. Quick Draft: If you have a quick idea, maybe just a title, or a title and blurb, you can quickly get it down and in WordPress using the quick draft.
      4. Appearance > Themes: Themes are what your site looks like and how it is laid out. There are 1000s of free and paid themes out there to choose from. We will go through them a bit later.
      5. Plugins: Plugins extend the functions of the core WordPress installation so that the core program does not have excess that is not used and slows it down.

The WordPress admin panel is pretty simple and intuitive. Dive through the menus here and you will learn where everything is. They have gone to great lengths to make it usable and it is shown by the fact that 25% of the internet is powered by WordPress.

Choosing a Great Theme

Themes are the backbone of how your website is displayed. When you write a post you are creating the content, but think about the rest of a page.

You have:

      • Header
      • Menus
      • Sidebar full of widgets
      • Footer
      • Other elements

All of these elements are laid out and controlled by the theme. The theme describes where these elements lie, how big or small they are, and there interfaces.

So now we know what a theme does, which one is the best?

I’ll let you in a little secret.

It really doesn’t matter which theme you use!

When you first start out, the content and the marketing is much more important than the layout of your blog. Most people will argue until they go blue over this point, but it really is true. You drive visitors to the blog via content marketing and they stay because of the content.

What truly matters in a theme is that the content is legible, as in the text is large enough and it doesn’t spill off the page.

In this day and age, websites need to be “mobile responsive” which means it must change based on the screen that is laid out on. Think about it. That cool sidebar you designed on the computer, disappears when viewed on a phone.

I guess I at least have to give you a starter theme that will let you get started. You are in luck. WordPress comes with several starter themes that are perfect for getting your blog up and running with no investment on a theme.

Twenty Sixteen from WordPress is a fine theme to get started with. I could tout others, and make more money, but what you truly need to get started is just one that looks good with no extra work and Twenty Sixteen is that.

You can spend $100s on themes if you so desire, but do yourself a favor and start off simple.

That said the most popular themes are those built on the Genesis Framework. Basically, it is a theme starter that other developers then build layouts on top of. It works well and is quite fast and eefficient but you can expect to pay ~$200 total for themes built using the Genesis Framework.

Required Plugins to Augment Functionality

Plugins give you more functionality in WordPress. They are authored by many different people and come in various qualities. Many are bloated and slow your site down, but the right ones will give you the extra functionality that you need while not adding more than is necessary.

With that, here are the ones you need and why:

      1. Yoast SEO: This is the first required plugin because if you want to do well on Google and drive traffic from search engines you need to add keywords. Yoast was the first and is still the best in this arena. It will also analyze your posts to make sure you are on target for best practices when it comes to searchability.
      2. Social Warfare: In order to do well you also need to make it easy to share your content on Social Media. These days you can’t escape social media, and we want to make it as easy as possible to share. There are other plugins out there that provide social media sharing, and I have tried the most popular ones. They all slowed down the site except Social Warfare. It is simply the best.
      3. Akismet: This is an anti-spam plugin that watches your comments and auto-trashes comments from known spammers. You will start to get spam as soon as your site is up, so do yourself a favor and fight back with Akismet.
      4. WP Super Cache: This is the simplest to setup and most effective caching plugin. This helps to make your site faster. The faster it loads the more people will stay on it. If you have a site that takes 4-5 seconds to load you are probably going to leave for somewhere else, right? So let’s make it fast. Google will thank you.
      5. CAOS: You need a plugin to allow insertion of the Google Analytics tracking pixel. This allows you to link your site to Google and watch page views, click rates, among others. CAOS is the lightest one I have found and works great. They have even updated to stay compliant with the new GDPR regulations in Europe.

That’s it to get started. There are 1000s of other plugins out there, but these 5 will get you moving in the right direction.

Write Your First Post

You have done a lot of work so far, but now it is time for why you are here. You are here to write great content.

As everyone says:

Content is King!

And it is true. So what to write about?

Fist, we need a niche.

This can be anything from making money to travel, fashion to gardening, etc, etc, etc. If you want to make money fast, though, you should choose a profitable niche. One in which has been a proven success. Check out Paul’s spectacular post on niche selection and then head back on over here.

Now that we have a niche, the best thing to do is to do some market research and write about what is popular in your chosen niche. Take topics that have done well for others and write your own better version.

This is the proven Skyscraper Technique that Paul details in the Billionaire Blog Club. link link

I ignored the advice for over a year and saw very little progress. When I finally broke down and followed his simple advice, Atypical Life grew 400%!

Writing That Post

In the image below you can see the various parts of the page.

post editor

The basics are this:

      1. Title
      2. Content or actual post. Should be 800+ words, but preferably in the 1000-3000 word range.
      3. Categories for organization
      4. Tags also for organization
      5. Featured Image: This is used on the post list page and also shown at the top of the post by many themes.
      6. Publish!

There are lots of ideas out there that say you should have X number of posts written before you launch your blog. However, none of it really matters. If you launch with 1 then it will take longer to build traffic. But if you launch with 50 then it took you weeks or likely months to write all of it that you could have been getting and building traffic during.

So really, there is no best way. Just write an awesome post and get it up for the world to see.

Pinterest

Now that we have some content written we need to promote this content.

Currently, the best way to promote content and to quickly build traffic is through Pinterest. So let me outline the process briefly. For an extremely thorough and always up-to-date guide head over to the Billionaire Blog Club.

First, you need to set up a Pinterest Business account and enable Rich Pins.

pinterest business

Second, you need to make some boards on different topics that you will talk about. You will need a “Best of [insert your blog name]” board along with boards for pretty much every category you expect to write about. These boards each need titles and keyword-rich descriptions. Pinterest is essentially a giant visual search engine, so make sure it can find your content by providing quality, relevant descriptions.

Next, you need to start populating your boards. This used to be best done with Board Booster since it can read other boards and start to fill your boards automatically. However, recently (mid-June 2018) Pinterest is warning that they may start banning/shutting down accounts of those users that use BoardBooster. Therefore, you should use Tailwind to try and up your Pinterest game and automate it for ease.

Tailwind logo

After you have your boards beginning to populate, it is time to reach out to lots and lots of fellow Pinteresters and apply to join their group boards. Most group boards, indicated by the multi-person icon will have their application requirements in the board description. If not, you can always reach out to them via their blog/website.

Pinterest group boards will be the backbone of your success.

Don’t be discouraged when applying to group boards. Many of them won’t get back to you, and many others simply won’t accept you. The going rate these days is about 33% acceptance rate. So if you want 33 group boards, you need to apply to 100.

Finally, you need to post your own images to your boards and group boards that you are a part of. This is very important. This is when you begin to make huge traffic gains.

Wait! You skipped how to make the images!!!

I know, I was saving that for last.

Making Pinterest Images

There are lots of ways to make Pinterest images and as many opinions of what works as there are people. My advice? Experiment.

To make images with text overlays there are a couple of online tools that are free and very awesome to use. These are:

I personally, use Adobe Spark in combination with Inkscape on the Desktop and sometimes PowerPoint. The point is the tool is not important, it is the end product.

Your images need to be appealing to the eye and the text must be legible. If you cannot read it, no one will click on it. Check out the below image for where I started. These were horrible.

expat package, extreme savings

Today, my image quality is much better than it used to be.

Once you have the images made, you need to get them up on your blog and then on to Pinterest. In order to drive traffic to your blog, the images need to be linked to your specific posts.

The easiest way to achieve this is to include the image in your blog post (the recommended size currently is 600px x 900px) and then to use the Pinterest button from Social Warfare or the Pinterest Browser button to get it on Pinterest. The image will require the “alt-text” filled out. The Alt-Text is pulled by Pinterest as the pin description.

Pro Tip: In order to add multiple images, you can set a CSS class to “display: hidden” and then include that class in the <img> tag for your Pinterest image. It would look like this:

<img src="image source link" class="hidden-pinterest">

The CSS would be:
.hidden-pinterest {display: none;}

Also, do you remember the Yoast SEO plugin I mentioned? Fill out the Post description and it will also be pulled by Pinterest and added as part of your pin. These 2 locations will help you get as many relevant keywords in as possible and raise the possibility of people finding and clicking on your pin.

The goal is to drive traffic to your site.

Pin regularly, and pin multiple pins per post and you will be well on your way to blogging success.

Google Analytics

Now that we are driving traffic to our new blog, we really want to see how many people are coming by. But how do we do that?

We need to sign up for Google Analytics and then add their tracking code to each page. You could do this manually, but using a plugin to insert your tracking code to each page is much more convenient and takes out the human error factor.

Google Analytics

There are hundreds of plugins that can insert your tracking code, but the best one I have found to keep your site running quickly is CAOS. CAOS stands for Complete Analytics Optimization Suite. It loads the Google Analytics tracking code to your server as opposed to finding it online and loading it remotely. This makes it faster than most other implementations.

With the plugin installed, all you have to do is copy and paste your tracking code into the plugin and it will take care of the rest.

The analytics code, labeled as Tracking ID, can be found in the “property settings” of your Google Analytics settings.

google analytics settings

The code is then pasted in the settings for the CAOS plugin which can be found under Settings > Optimize Analytics

CAOS

After that, you are all done. Just wait and visit your Google Analytics page every few days and see how you are doing.

There is a lot of new terminologies here. What’s the difference between Sessions, Pageviews, Users, Active Users, etc?

Sessions are essentially whenever one device visits your site but does not count changes of pages. Pageviews is what most people track and is the total number of times your pages are viewed together. CAOS helps us out here as newbie bloggers and removes “logged in” views which means you editing or viewing your own pages won’t count.

I will point you towards the Billionaire Blog Club once again as your one-stop shop for all things blogging. Paul Scrivs answers all of your questions and if not him, then any number of people in the Slack Community will help you out.

One word of advice: If you check Google Analytics too often you will likely be disappointed with the results. Give yourself time for your traffic to build.

Make Money Blogging

The last part, and likely the part you have been waiting for is how to make money blogging!

We all want to have a life where we control what we do and when we get to do it. Blogging can make that happen, but only if we make money with it.

There is a myriad of ways to make money blogging, but the most common are:

      • Ads
      • Affiliate Links
      • Products
      • Consulting

The idea behind making money on a blog is for it to be passive. Just from having traffic you should be having money coming in. All of the methods above will help you to generate passive income.

Ads

Ads require a high level of traffic to generate a decent income, but it can definitely be a method to create additional income to your income streams. How and where to place ads is both an art and a science and takes a long time to get the best return on investment.

Your best bet when it comes to ads is to work with an ad placement service that places the ads on your pages for you as opposed to you placing them yourself.

The best services are:

      • Mediavine (requires 25,000 sessions per month to apply)
      • Ad Thrive (requires 100,000 pageviews per month to apply)

These may seem unattainable when you first start out, but once you get to these levels you can expect to see $1000 per month or more from their services. Needless to say, it’s a great service that can help you along your path to freedom.

Affiliate Income

Affiliate income can generate a good income from the start.

So what is an affiliate you ask?

Most companies need to advertise their services to get more customers. Your job as a blogger is to help those companies that you like and use yourself, and promote them to your audience. For your services advertising, you are then paid a specified amount per person that visits, signs up, or fulfills whatever requirements are there for the affiliate deal.

All you have to do is sign up for the affiliate program and then start putting links to those products in your post. Hopefully, your audience will click on those links and sign up which results in you getting paid.

There are a lot of tactics to increase your conversion rate to get paid more which include:

      • How-To Posts
      • Recommendation Lists
      • Recommended Resources
      • Don’t be Spammy
      • Include links in multiple places within a post
      • Create posts specifically targeting the affiliate program

There are many other tactics detailed in the Billionaire Blog Club if you are interested.

BBC

To find affiliate programs you can use any number of affiliate portals as well as going directly to a companies site and searching affiliate. Portals include:

Products

The way to make the most money possible is to come out with your own product. You do not have to be an expert to create a course. You just have to be one step ahead of your audience and willing to do the research to put all the information in an easily bundle-able package.

You can create:

      • e-courses
      • books
      • e-books
      • etc

However, to make the most of the product it must solve a problem for your audience. Once you get to know your audience you will begin to understand their problems and can then come out with a product that they will buy.

The worst thing you could do is to make a product that solves no problem. It may be the greatest thing ever built, but if it doesn’t solve a problem of those it is marketed to, it will not sell.

Paul Scrivs is working on a course right now on how to make and market products.

Consulting

You can also sell your services via your blog. Whether you are a freelance author or a bookkeeper. You can also sell your knowledge via Skype sessions with customers to share your knowledge with them.

Conclusion

Let the fun begin! Let me know in the comments about your new blog. I look forward to reading your new blog.

And remember, the best one-stop resource for starting your new blog is the Billionaire Blog Club. Paul Scrivs, the designer of BBC, has started over 20 different blogs to test and improve on the process of getting a successful blog up and off the ground. He has proven successful over and over again and can help you too. So what are you waiting for?

BBC

Give Billionaire Blog Club a try today!

bluehost

Remember, signing up for Bluehost and setting up WordPress is very easy and cheap at $2.95 per month or less, and is the beginning to a long and fulfilling journey of telling your story to the world.

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