Get started with your WordPress blog
In the previous session, we had a long day, and I showed you exactly how you can create your blog from scratch. We got the WordPress installation right from WordPress.org and then uploaded it into your server – no shortcuts, no wildly scripts to help you. You did it!
Now before we start blogging, there are some settings to get done with in WordPress.
Let me bring you through them.
1. Permalink Structure
The first thing you want to set is your permalink structure. What is a permalink structure? Let me explain.
As we have learnt previously, every post you do in your blog will eventually become a permanent page in your blog, called the permalink. The thing is, the default installation of WordPress comes with the URL of pages that goes something like this: http://www.bloggingessentials.com/?p=123, where “123? is your post id (a unique number for each post).
This URL, as you will notice, is not very friendly – there is no way for the search engine or a human visitor to find out what the content of the post is, based on the URL.
We are going to change it into something more descriptive, like http://www.bloggingessentials.com/2007/01/07/5-blogging-tips/. In this structure, the permalink is determined by the date of the post and the title of the post. In this example, one can probably make out that the post is about one that talks about five blogging tips.
This permalink structure would also have a good advantage in search engines, since your keywords will be in the URL.
So, how then do you change your permalink structure? Here’s how.
Log in to your WordPress admin console. The password can be found in the email that you have received when you installed WordPress. In the top navigation menus, click options->permalinks.
You will see that the default setting is the first option where it says http://www.bloggingessentials.com/?p=123. Simply click on the second option and click “Update permalink structure” and you are done!
(If you get a status message that says something like “You should update your .htaccess file now”, then you must have missed out the step on changing the permissions of your .htaccess file in the previous session.)
Trust me, spam is a big issue. It might not seem so at the beginning, but when your blog gets more regular traffic, it will. You need to get yourself prepared for spam.
The good news is that WordPress comes shipped with a plugin called Akismet. Through my own experience, although Akismet still have some loopholes here and there, it does help you A LOT in filtering spam.
In order to activate Akismet, though, you need a API key, and to get an API key, you need to register a WordPress.com account. So open up a new browser tab or window and head on to WordPress.com and signup for a free account. If you want a blog on WordPress.com, you could also get one here, but remember it is always better to be promoting your own domain.
WordPress.com will give you an API key. It should be a long string of letters and numbers. When you’ve got that, just select the key and copy it to your clipboard (Ctrl-C).
Head on back to your blog. Click on Plugins at your navigation bar.
You will see the default three plugins for WordPress. Activate Akismet.
This status message will be shown.
Click on the link in the message, and it will bring you to a page where you can key in your API key. Now, remember you have your API key already copied in your clipboard, so all you have to do now is to select the textbox and press Ctrl-V to paste it in. Click “Update API Key”
Now, you’ve those shields up against those bloody spammers!
The third thing you want to change is the name of the default category. Before that, consider – what will you be writing about most in your blog? Is it about golf, parrots, books, cars or computers? What would be a good category name for these posts?
For example, I’m totally into blogging and blog marketing, so I’ve chosen “Blog Marketing Tips”.
Got a good category name? Good!
Now head over to Manage->Categories.
You will see that there is one category called “Uncategorized”. We are going to change that, so click Edit.
You will see the screen above. Update your category name, and leave your category slug blank. Remember it is very important to remove the “uncategorized” from the category slug when you update your category.
WordPress helps you to create category archives. So each category archive has a page, determined by your category slug. So for example, my blog marketing tips category archive is at http://www.blogopreneur.com/category/blog-marketing-tips/.
What you need to not is that this is not because my category name is “Blog Marketing Tips”, but because my category slug is “blog-marketing-tips”. Get it? If you have a category name “Blog Marketing Tips” and a category slug “uncategorized”, your category archive page would be http://www.blogopreneur.com/category/uncategorized/!
The good thing is that if you update your category name and leave your category slug blank, WordPress will create the category slug based on your category name for you.
It is very important – this category slug thing, and it is important to establish your category slugs well at first, and not change them after! Why? Because the search engines will pick up your category archive URLs, and these URLs will be what the search engine will direct the traffic to. If you change your category slugs, traffic coming in from search engines will find themselves lost in your blog! This is VERY VERY important to note!
Okay! Now you are ready to write your first post!
Writing your first post
Head on to “Write” in your navigation bar. You will get to a page which looks like this:
So go ahead and type your hearts out. For a start, you can just fill in the Title and Post boxes with your own welcome message, and hit publish. Your post will appear immediately on your blog!
Fiddling with WordPress
WordPress 2 Visual Quickstart GuideIt will take you some time to get used to the admin console behind WordPress, but the navigation bar and the labels for every item there is pretty descriptive, so in your spare time after this session today, be sure to click around and play with the settings. I’m not going to go into detail for each of the settings – that would take a course by itself, but if you are really interested knowing exactly what each item does, I would recommend this book called the WordPress 2 Visual Quickstart Guide.
Here are some things I would recommend you do or explore first, though:
1. Change your WordPress admin password, and disable the visual rich editor (Users -> Your Profile)
2. Delete the default blogs from your blogroll, and add your friend’s, or related blogs (Links->Manage Links)
3. Delete the default comment (Manage->Comments)
4. Delete the default post (Manage->Posts)
5. Delete the default page (Manage->Pages)
6. Explore the different tabs in options – General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Permalinks and Miscellaneous
Let’s move on. I still have a lot of things to say today! We are not done yet! I’m very naggy, you know.
One of the biggest challenges that bloggers – even professional bloggers – face everyday is… “Where the fish do I find so much stuff to write about everyday?”
Hah! Hit the nail right on the head? I’ll answer that in one sentence… or even in three words – Read a lot!
Come on, let’s face it, the Internet is FILLED with information. Granted, not all the information is useful… but there are people out there who publish great information. Most successful bloggers read a lot!
So the process is simple. Read-A-Lot -> Know-A-Lot -> Blog-A-Lot. No secrets.
I know I know, its tough. You don’t have the time, you are a busy person I know. Guess what? So am I! Nobody said maintaining a good blog was easy, right?
Come along, I’ll show you where you can get started, so you can save some time instead of bum around like I did when I first started.
Here are 8 great places where you can search and find great ideas for your content.
1. Blog Search Engines (Technorati / BlogPulse / Google Blog Search) – Search these engines for your topic everyday. These search engine list the hottest news in the blogosphere with the latest entry first, so you are sure to find different content for the same search everyday
2. Social Bookmarking Sites (Digg / Reddit / Stumble Upon) – Again, search these sites for top articles on the net to read.
3. The Big Three Search Engines (Google / Yahoo / MSN) – You may find the same websites almost everyday for the same keywords, but these websites will bring you to more sites that talk about your niche.
4. Article Directories (EzineArticles / ArticleCity / iSnare) – Article directories like this allow you to republish their articles for free, as long as you do not edit the articles and you publish the resource box with your post. However, my recommendation is please reword the whole article, and add in your comments and critique. I repeat, DO NOT publish the articles as is, because this will result in your post labelled at duplicated content. Reword it enough and make them your own articles. Hard work, I know. I guarantee you it is worthwhile.
5. Local Newspapers – Many of us think we must find content from the net to post on the net. Dead wrong. In fact, other readers will be raring to hear the interesting articles in your local news. These are articles they don’t have access to. Got it?
6. Alert Services like Google Alerts – Alert services are services that… well… uhmmm.. Alert you. Duh! Basically, this is how it works. You create an alert for your niche, like “Fathering” or “Fatherhood”. As Google finds new content that matches your alert phrase, they send you an email, with a link to that article. Neat hur!
7. Blogroll Surfing – First, find some blogs related to your niche from Technorati (Point number 1). Start from them. Find out who they quote, check their blogroll, check who comments on their blogs. You will never find an end to the line.
8. Everyday Experiences – Of course, unless you are doing your niche as a profession, it would be pretty tough to have everyday experiences. But since you have chosen the niche, you must be involved in it in some way or another right, write about it then!
The secret is that there is no secret! Professional bloggers read a lot, and that is exactly why they can write a lot. What I would recommend you to do is to get started with a RSS reader like NewsGator or Google Reader or Bloglines (they are FREE by the way), and get subscribed to every blog you find interesting.
Like I said, not everybody will post an interesting article to read everyday, so you have to read a lot.
That’s it for Today!
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