Let’s start at the beginning and discuss hosting options and domain names.
Decide what platform you are going to use.
Are you going to use a platform that hosts the site for you or do you want to host it yourself? Drilling down to details: Are you going to go for a free site to get started like WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace, Blogger or Weebly? Are you going to host your site yourself and have full control?
What is hosting?
Think of a website like a home in a neighborhood. In order to build a home, you need a plot of land. In the website neighborhood, you cannot purchase your plot. You can rent it from year to year. That is the hosting. In order to have a home, you need services like water and electricity. The hosting company provides the services that you need to build and make your website visible as part of your plan.
A web host, or web hosting service provider, is a business that provides the technologies and services needed for the website or webpage to be viewed on the Internet. The software is stored on special computers called servers.
Hybrid – hosted with extra functionality.
Hosted Hosted platforms provide a package deal where they take care of the heavy lifting and more complicated technical details such as software updates, hosting payments or web server management so that you can focus on building your site and content. Examples are WordPress.com, WIX, Weebly, SquareSpace, and Blogger. Many offer free trials to test the software.
The advantage is that if you have your content ready you can quickly build a website. I built a travel blog on WordPress.com in 20 minutes that would normally take about 10 hours on a self-hosted platform. Usually these platforms are free.The drawback is that functionality is limited. I call these micro-sites. They are similar to a Facebook page. That means that your website is a page on their larger site and includes their domain name. For example https://mywebsite.wordpress.com, or https://mywebsite.wix.com, etc. If you want to move your site to a different service or the company goes out of business, you will lose everything since you do not have access to the files or code.
The rules regarding content are very strict. If someone reports your blog, your site may be suspended without any notification and you can lose your content.
Building a self-hosted site gives your greater flexibility. You can choose the content management system (CMS) you like for your website. Hosting usually includes domain registration services and you can auto-install your CMS, like WordPress, Shopify etc. Many include tutorials on how to navigate the CMS in the Help section. WordPress is free. You do not need to pay to use it and can download it directly from https://wordpress.org/download/
The advantage is that the website is in the files and database on the hosting platform. You have access to that so you or your developer can easily pack that up and move it elsewhere if you are unhappy. There are no restrictions to the functionality of your website. Extra functionality on WordPress sites is provided by software plug-ins. For example, do you need a contact form? There are plug-ins for that. Do you need an online store, or merely want to provide a way for clients to pay you online? Plugins provide that functionality. Many of them are free. In addition, you can have someone customize a plugin for you specifically only if you are on a self-hosted site.
This is actually a version of a hosted platform. You pay a fee and gain extra functionality such as a domain name that does not include their domain name ( https://mywebsite.com), options to accept payments via the site, run ads and upload videos. The functionality changes from platform to platform.
Comparison of Hosted vs Self Hosted Websites
WordPress.com is a hosted service where you can set up a website or blog that runs on WordPress.
WordPress.org is free software that you can download and use on your hosted account.
Free up to 3GB space Pay for extra functionality
Free Hosting costs about $4-$10/month
Requires you to sign up
Requires a web hosting account
Enables you to have a website within minutes
Most hosts offer one click installation of the software.
Upload your plugins
No code access
Access all code
Limited theme options (look and feel)
Upload your theme or build one yourself.
Your host may run ads on your site
Make money by running ads on and selling goods from your site.
You can track activity using Google Analytics and Facebook Pixel
Subdomain of wordpress.com https://mywebsite.wordpress.com
Use your custom domain name https://mywebsite.com
Can I switch from Hosted to self-hosted?
It depends on the platform.
WordPress.com, Tumblr, Movable Type and Blogger users can move their content, i.e. posts, pages, comments and associated images to a self-hosted account. However, the structure of the site will not be transferred.
As far as I know on other platforms there is no automated way to transfer content.
Which one should I choose? Choose the one that is right for your situation and budget.
Think of Lemon cake.
When I want lemon cake I go to Starbucks and buy a slice.
The problem is that I like my lemon cake to have pecan pieces inside and I don’t know of a company that provides that.
That is why I often just bake my own.
The hybrid option is to purchase lemon cake mix from the grocery store and add pecan pieces to that and bake it.
Which one do you prefer?
If you need a website that is scalable, definitely choose self-hosted.
You can have someone help you to set up your site.
What is a domain name?
The domain name is the name that your website will use in order for your audience to find you. For example https://blockbusters.com. It is actually a translation of the IP address used by computers to find the location of your website and translate the numbers into something that is user friendly for humans.
Where can you get a domain name?
Most hosting providers will provide domain registration for free for the first year. If you are anxious to get yours immediately, try GoDaddy.com or namecheap.com. If you are not in a hurry wait for deals on major US holidays. If you purchase domain registration for 3 years it may indicate to search engines that you are invested in your business and are not a pop-up site.
Domain registration needs to be renewed every year. If you forget, you will lose your domain.
If you do not purchase domain registration from your hosting company you will need to point the site to the hosting account.
If you are on a hosted platform, you do not need to purchase domain name registration since it will be provided by the company mywebsite.weebly.com
Think carefully about the relevance of the domain name and how it relates to your business or interest. If you are selling shoes then it is less likely for clients to find you if you call your site themagnoliatree.com unless they are familiar with your brand.
I believe in keeping it short, sweet and easy to pronounce so that users can remember it.
Numbers confuse people. If you include numbers the visitors will not know whether to spell out the number or type the numeral. They will never find you.
Steps for self-hosted WordPress sites:
Choose a Theme
Install Content and Pages
The last step is one that is often forgotten and can endanger your site.
A good site provides new content regularly via the blog and always keeps software up to date.
The rigors of life often cause us to forget our website. Ignoring the software updates can make the site vulnerable to hackers.
New content can be loaded onto the site a few weeks in advance and released on pre-determined days. Search Engines boost sites that have new content and demote the “Halloween sites”.
If you are unable to commit to updating and maintaining your site, you may like to have someone take care of that for you.
Having a website is like printing a business card. The card cannot help you if it’s sitting in your drawer. The site needs to be promoted. When people visit the site, they will notice that your last post was from 2 years ago. If you have posts that are still relevant from some time ago, consider editing, adding something new and giving them a new date to freshen up the site.
Leaving some older content is helpful since potential clients will realize that you have been in business for some time.
I help people who are interested in building self-hosted sites using WordPress. I help them choose a hosting provider, register their domain names, install WordPress and build their website according to their specifications. Once the site is complete if they are interested, I show them how to make small edits and load blog posts onto the site. This can be performed from a mobile device whilst waiting in line at the MVA…
In the coming weeks, I will be expanding on some typical questions that clients have asked in our coaching sessions.
Blogging is a great way to grow your audience and attract people to your website. No matter if you are marketing a product or blogging for personal interest, you don’t want to have a “Halloween site” that people see once and never again. The question is how to attract people to your site? If you are waiting for Google to tell them, you are veryoptimistic. Blogging is one of the ways to tell the search engines that you have new content on a static site.
Most of us are not natural born bloggers. It is something that starts out with trepidation and evolves over time. Writing an effective post requires not only motivation and creativity, but also strategy. Documenting your strategy will help you become an effective blogger and save your valuable time.
Recently I was reading an article on Content Marketing. Content Marketing strategies often overlap with blogging. This is what it said:
Most of the time, the content creation process it pretty simple. It looks like this:
Pour a cup of coffee.
Sit down at your computer.
Think about a topic to write about.
Go back to what you were doing before creating content.
Repeat next week.
What happens when the coffee is finished and the page is empty?
It’s easy to read about the steps.
Finding a topic is often a challenge.
A blog is meant to educate and excite your audience. The question is what do they want to know?
There are a few ways of finding out.
In this post, we will explore options to come up with good topics for our blog, discuss effective strategies and the structure of a blog post.
Finding a topic
I often feel a sense of despair when looking for a topic. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
1. Talk to people
In the course of your conversation listen to see what questions people have and what information they are looking for. What answers did you provide in your conversation? What should people ask you, but don’t ask?
2. Share your learning journey
Think about topics you want to learn about or wanted to learn about in your journey. Never assume that your audience are experts. They may know less that you do.
3. Controversial topics
Write down controversial opinions that excite you.
4. Use Social Media
Some bloggers look at Quora for questions that people ask. I like Reddit. The question is where are your audience spending time on social media? What questions are they asking there? Look at the threads with lots of comments.
Take notes. Keep a journal of ideas that inspire you.
A great source of topics is questions that my clients ask me.
In fact that is what led to this post.
Writing your blog post
Let us assume that you have found a topic.
The next challenge is how to begin writing your blog post?
I like to do a brain dump of ideas on my topic, then go and see what others have said or check Wikipedia in order to make sure that I haven’t left out important details that would help them.
A blog is a way of developing a relationship with your audience. Do you use academic style writing language when you talk to people? Write the way that you speak! In fact, once you know what you want to write about, create a Google Doc (free with a Google Account), press the microphone icon and just talk into the Google Doc. Your voice will be transcribed into text.
What happens if you did all of that, and your page is still empty?
You can read something that someone else wrote and write your own take on the topic. If you find something valuable, first make a note of the link so that you can refer back to it. If there is a question that you can expand upon, write about it in your own voice.
99.9% of bloggers are not awesome on day 1. Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value they create over time.
– Darren Rowse
There is one way of become a great blogger. Write. A LOT. Writing may be compared to other creative processes: the more you do it, the better you become. Inspiration and finding your own style are only part of the equation. The other part is technique.
Abandon the critics
Starting a blog or writing process can be a little nerve wracking. We are each our own worst critic. Then, there are the external critics that comment on our posts… the ones that are not selling performance enhancing drugs…Hey, but guess what? You can approve and disapprove your comments. There is a delete button on your comments. If you don’t like them, delete. Just don’t stop what you set out to do! Don’t hide under the table! Carry on writing…
Your unique voice
The only way that your blog post can differ from a million other posts on the web on the same topic is if you find your own inner voice where you are not afraid to express your opinion. People will connect with you on a personal level and might even feel like they know you because they read your posts.
But wait! We are not ready to hit the publish button yet! We are writing in order for people to read our stuff. In order for them to find it easy to follow, we need to take care of some technical housekeeping first….
Planning Content – reader’s journey
Who are your audience?
What do they want to know?
What options do they have?
How can they evaluate their options?
Recommend a solution.
This may be called the reader’s journey.
Who are your audience?
This is a topic that many bloggers skip and can be critical to your writing style. We don’t talk to grandma in the same way that we talk to our colleagues. In the same way that we differentiate in our daily conversation, it is important to apply the same strategy in our blog. It is important to be very specific in defining your audience persona in order to reach the right people.
What do they want to know?
Understand the Problem and Gather Information
Think about something significant that you want to purchase. Like a bike. How do you go about that? First you do some research on bikes to check what’s on the market. Then you decide what features you want for your bike. Then you look at prices and try to match the features with the budget that you have. Read up about the quality of the product that you are interested in. Learn how to judge if it is good for you. Finally you make a choice and buy the bike.
When you structure your content, think about your audience’s journey so that they can easily follow the information that you are sharing with them. Where is your audience in this journey?
Write down some headlines, sub headings and topics that you want to address in order to provide a logical solution to your audience. If you are offering a product, attempt to explain what your approach is and how it is beneficial.
Keep to a structure in your writing
Write a captivating introduction.
You have only a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention. You can tell a joke, be empathetic or surprise them with an interesting fact of statistic.
You then explain how the post will address the problem and inform the reader. Give your audience a reason to stop scrolling and read on.
Write engaging headlines
Most people skim an article before they read it. Many people only ever read headlines, lists and look at images. They never read the text of a post.
Use a tool like aminstitute to check the emotional appeal of your headline.
Headings, subheadings (h2, h3 tags), lists, images/personal photos, bold, italicize, short paragraphs, and other formatting can help with the overall reading experience.
End with key take aways or some kind of summary.
Some people skip to the end and read that first.
CTA – Call to Action
What do you want your audience to do after they have read your post? Like? Share on Social Media? Comment?
Remember to ask them to do that. You are more likely to get a response.
Add Categories and Tags
Remember that if you publish a post without a category, it will show up as uncategorized.
I think of categories like chapters in a book, and tags may be compared to the index at the back of the book. If someone was searching your website, how would they search for your post? Help them out!
Read over your post again.
If you are posting on your website, remember to review and approve the comments that you like, and delete the unsuitable comments. Remember to close the comments on the site after a specific amount of time.
Whether you are posting on your personal blog/website or social media, please remember to respond when people post. If it is on Facebook, respond or “like” comments. On your blog, thank people for responding. It will encourage them to interact with you in the future.
Additional Content Types
Blogging is not the only way to connect with your audience. There may be additional techniques that work for as well or better for you, such as:
How to/ Tutorials
Vlogs – video blog
Webinars or Podcasts
Common Best Practices
# Be Helpful First
If you motivate and educate the reader, they will want to connect and come back for more.
# Be Authentic
Write to a specific audience in your own voice.
# Create Easily Consumed Content
People are busy. If you can make it easier to understand with a video, diagram or audio file you will make it easier for them to follow you.
Don’t write a blog post with thousands of words because it will rank better if you can write the same thing in a hundred words. People will respect you for your brevity and clarity.
# Make Your Post Easy to Consume
Use Document Structure and formatting. Add images, diagrams, videos and other forms of media to keep it interesting and simple.
The purpose of this post was to offer you tips on how to start writing your blog posts, some strategies that will help you shorten the blogging process and reach a wider audience. Strategy is key to differentiating yourself from a brain-dump writer.
One of the topics that have come up for me frequently in the past few days has been the spam on comments in WordPress. People sometimes try to use other people’s blogs to create back links to their sites that are not related. There are ways around this like using a plugin such as Disqus and making people register to comment.
Sometimes we simply don’t have time to deal with the comments and sift through the genuine comments as opposed to the spam or we want to have some comments.
There are 4 options:
Disable all comments on your WordPress site
Automatically close comments after a certain number of days
Disable comments on a page by page or post by post basis.
Bulk Edit from the List of Pages or Posts
1. Disable All Comments on New Pages or Posts
Log into the WordPress Dashboard
Under Settings, select Discussion
Uncheck “Allow People to post comments on new articles” in the Default Settings section
2. Automatically close comments after a certain number of days
Log into the WordPress Dashboard
Under Settings, select Discussion
Check “Allow People to post comments on new articles”
Under “Other comment settings”, Check “Automatically close comments on articles older than”
Enter the number of days
Save Changes at the bottom of the screen
3. Disable comments on a page by page or post by post basis.
There are 2 options:
A. Within the Page or Post
Navigate to the Page or Post where you want to disable the comments.
At the top right hand corner click on the “Screen Options” drop down button.
Check the Discussion box
Scroll down underneath the text section of the page
Uncheck “Allow comments”
On the right hand sidebar of the page, remember to Update.
B. From the Page or Post List:
From the WordPress Dashboard, navigate to the list of Pages or Posts.
Hover over the name of the page or post that you want to edit.
A menu will appear underneath. Choose Quick Edit.
Uncheck “Allow Comments”.
4. Bulk Edit from the List of Pages or Posts
From the WordPress Dashboard, Select Pages / All Pages
Check the Pages or Posts that you want to Edit.
At the top of the list change the drop down menu from Bulk Actions to Edit
You can change several settings here. Change the comments to “Do not allow”.
“A WordPress Theme is a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. A Theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software. A WordPress theme provides all of the front end styling of your WordPress site.”
The list of options is so vast that it is difficult to know what to choose.
– Make a list of Essential features or functions that you need.
This may include columns, layouts, sidebars, footers, and navigation bars.
– Consider purchasing a Premium Theme
There are many free themes available for people that are on a budget. Automattic (the makers of WordPress) offer several options. If you pay for the theme, then you can get support from the developers and there is more of a chance of it being properly updated. In some cases the developer will abandon the theme completely. Sometimes free themes contain malicious code when downloaded outside of the WordPress repository.
If I consider purchasing a premium theme vs hiring someone to build something for me, the cost is minuscule. Great Value!
Some themes like Genesis provide a very basic layout and in order to gain the effect that you want, you will need to purchase an additional Child Theme also known as a framework ( for example Genesis by Studiopress).
– Avoid Bloated Themes
A theme that is cluttered with features that you don’t use will slow down your website.
– Pick a Responsive Theme
In search engine optimization (SEO) we build for mobile first since many people will never view your site on a desktop. As we know, Google rolled out a mobile-first update that prioritizes sites that are mobile friendly. Check that your theme looks good on mobile devices. Google even offers a free mobile-friendly testing tool to check whether the theme is mobile-friendly.
– Pick a Theme with Clear Legible Fonts
Some themes come with very small light fonts. Is that something that you can change or will people have to squint to read your site?
– Easy Customization
Is the theme user friendly? The customization options vary from theme to theme and by changing a few features, you should be able to create diverse layouts without any knowledge of coding.
– Pick a Theme that loads quickly
Website speed today is one of the most significant factors affecting conversion rate. Most people abandon a site that takes more than a few seconds to load.
Here’s what I look for:
How long has the company/developer that built the theme been established?
Does the theme have reviews? How many reviews?
How many people have installed the theme?
What does it look like on mobile?
Does it work on all browsers?
View the support forum. Are there responses for the tickets/questions?
Do a preview of the theme if it is available. If not try to figure out which websites are using it.(The support forum might help.)
Check if the theme has a preloader – that is something in lieu of the hour glass that you see on the screen while the rest of the page’s content is still loading. If the theme has one, the site will be slow.
Do a speed test on the theme demo and if possible on websites that use it. If the Home page is extremely long, it may not be the best page to pick.
If you have a copy of the theme, you can download a plugin that will help you test it – called Theme Check
If you need the theme for a specific purpose like a realtor site, either pick a theme that specifically targets your needs or a basic theme that can be adapted to many purposes. (I like Beaver Builder and Divi.) If you have a multipurpose theme also known as a bloated theme, it will take time to load all the elements available on your website that are not being used. For example, if you are not doing ecommerce, do not load Woocommerce.
Translation & Multilingual Ready
NOTE! The basic WordPress installation is free of charge and comes in multiple languages. You can select the language you want to use for your installation.
All the WordPress default themes include all the languages and are free. These themes are Twentyseventeen, Twentysixteen, etc.
If you need a theme in a language that is not English, look for the language that you need. If you need a language that is read and written from right to left look for RTL in the theme documentation. Make sure that you look at an example of a site with the theme in an RTL language. You can check
.mo files for translation: That means the theme is translated and you have control over the terminology used – you can change it.
WPML: That means that you can do the translation.
Some themes don’t have the language in the description, however when you check the support forum, you may find that someone has used it successfully.
A page builder is a plugin or a built in feature of a theme that enables you to quickly and easily set up the page elements or modules without knowing how to code.
Except for Beaver Builder, most page builders leave short codes in the front end of your website if you delete the page builder plugin. There are ways to strip the short codes, and it may be easier to rebuild the pages from scratch depending on the size of the website.
If you own the license to the page builder, you can use the same page builder for multiple themes.
Some themes from companies like Theme Forest come with a group license for their page builder. Everything seems great until the page builder runs an update that is not rolled out by the makers of the theme. I had a site that I could not update for a month because of that. The option is to purchase the page builder plugin separately and install it yourself. It is helpful to budget for that option before you begin and not overly expensive.
Conclusion: Use a page builder!
The theme should have user friendly customization features, particularly with regards to colors, fonts and page layouts.
Sometimes we are looking for customization that is not included, such as emphasizing the Donate navigation tab on a non-profit site.
If the level of customization needed is more than CSS markup, it is necessary to install a Child Theme.
We never make changes to the core WordPress or Theme files on a site. If it is necessary to change PHP coding language for example, we would only do that with a child theme. The reason is because if the files are updated, all the changes will be lost. The child theme is only ever updated by you or your WordPress developer.
Themes that include frameworks cannot support child themes since the framework is the child theme. An option is to not install a framework or use a plugin that will support the changes needed.
I hope this article helped you select the perfect theme for your WordPress site. If you liked this article, then please subscribe.
Jennifer Moore offers professional Virtual Assisting Services both remotely and on site in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. As a creative person, Jennifer can easily handle assignments such as:
Writing and posting blog entries,
Web data entry,
Short form articles,
Line editing, and
Traditional administrative tasks.
The aim is to free up her client’s time for more important tasks. She is always willing to expand her skill set and take on new challenges. (more…)