Setting up a blog using WordPress for the first time can seem overwhelming. If you are new to the blogging world, chances are you are looking for some help on getting things started.
I am no computer nerd, by any means! My brother got those genes. And despite being born in 1989, I do not consider myself a hip millennial that is up to date on the newest snapchat filter or Instagram story (Did I say that right?).
So what business do I have to give you advice on setting up a blog?
Well, I am here to show you that you can start your blog with zero technical experience. My goal is to simplify the process as much as possible. Because that is what I needed when I first started my blog.
So take my proverbial hand, and let me help you get started on setting up a blog using WordPress.
This article may contain affiliate links, which means I may make a commission if a purchase is made through a link provided. See disclosures for more information.
Setting Up a Blog Using WordPress
Once you have all of that settled, and you are logged into WordPress, you are ready to move on with this tutorial.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
What is a blog theme?
A blog theme is the style and layout you choose for your blog. WordPress offers thousands of free options. And no worries if you choose a theme initially but end up not liking it after a few days. It is easy to change.
How to Choose a Theme
Once you are logged into WordPress, you will be on what is called the “dashboard”. On the left hand side of your dashboard you will see a column full of options.
Hover over the option: Appearance
And click on: Themes
Once you open that menu, you will come to a similar screen as seen below. But your screen will be empty because you haven’t chosen any themes yet.
So, next click on the Add New button
And go through the options until you find one you like.
They are sorted in the tabs seen below: Featured, Popular, Latest, or Favorites. You can also use the “Feature Filter” to narrow down your search results if you are looking for something specific.
And again, don’t worry too much about finding the theme of your dreams in the beginning. Chances are, you will change this a few times once you become more familiar with blogging and learn what you want.
Setting Up a Blog Menu
Have you decided on a theme? Awesome! Now let’s figure out how to set up the framework for your blog: your blog menu.
Setting up a blog menu is REALLY important. And equally as confusing in the beginning.
Great, right? No pressure here. But you need to figure out the main topics you plan to have on your blog. These main topics are going to make up your menu.
The challenge here is you may not know exactly what you want to have on your blog. That is understandable. So here is what you will want to do.
Start basic and broad
Start with a basic menu layout and broad topics. This way you will be able to narrow your topics down later on with different categories (which we will talk about next).
Take for example, this blog, Mind of Mom. It is primarily a blog about motherhood. So I started my menu with this:
- Disclosures & Privacy
- Mom Life
- Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Baby & Toddler
- Free Printables
What you choose for your menu is going to be completely dependent on what you want to blog about. And it is important to define that in the beginning.
Building a Blog is like Building a House
Think of building your blog like building a house. First you lay the foundation. Then you build the frame. And then you put up the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. Lastly, you fill it all in with furniture, appliances, and people. Right?
The menu for your blog is the foundation. And then you fill it up with amazing content (aka the furniture etc.) Are you still with me here?
Write down your menu on paper. This will help give you a mental picture of your plan. And also make it less confusing to put into the computer.
Making the Menu
Go back to your main WordPress dashboard where we started in the beginning. In the left hand side column you are going to choose: Appearance > Customize
You will then get a screen that somewhat resembles this below. However, depending on that theme you chose, you will see different options.
The option we are going to start with is, menus.
When you start your menu you will have a blank slate. This is where you will add your foundation of your blog.
There are endless ways to format your menu, FYI. And for the beginning blogger that has never done this before it can get confusing and/or overwhelming. So I am going to show you one way to do this and make it as simple as possible.
If there is not already a default menu, click create new menu.
You will want to make this your primary menu. So check the box, and give your menu a name. I call my main menu: menu. Clever, right?
Next, click add items.
Now you will see this screen. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet? I hope not!
This is step by step, and I want to make this super simple. If you have any questions thus far, let me know and I will clarify anything for you.
Once you are to this point, you need to get that piece of paper with your outline on it. I want you to start with your pages.
Pages are fixed and concrete. They are a landing zone. Think of a home page for example. When you visit a homepage of a website what do you see? Lots of links to other pages, right?
Or what about when you go to a contact page? You will find information on location, phone numbers, email, etc.
This is what you are going to create first.
The pages to create may be:
- Other Landing Pages
There is not a way for me to tell you exactly what to make as your pages because every website is different. Without knowing your exact plan for your blog, I cannot know what you will want as your menu topics.
The pages I have for Mind of Mom are:
- Disclosures and Privacy
- Guest Post
- Free Printables
- To Do Lists
- Toddler Learning
Everything else you see on the menu is a category, which I will talk about next.
This is also the time when most people get really confused and either give up, or hire someone to do it for them.
But with a lot of trial and error. (and a whole lot of YouTube) I was able to figure it out on my own. So, I bet you can too! Keep going!
Take a look at the outline you made for your blog. What are the main topics you are going to write about? These are your categories.
Each time you write an article, you will assign it to a category. This is how it will be filed on your website. And how people will be able to find it.
Putting the main categories into your menu give people an idea of what type of articles they will find when they click on that topic.
For example, the categories I have for Mind of Mom are:
- Mom Life
- Breastfeeding and Pumping
- Blogging Tips
- Baby and Toddler
It can be confusing to understand how pages differ from categories until you get going. But basically, pages are landing zones. Pages hold links to different places. Categories are where you want your articles to go.
Still need help? Contact me in the comments below.
To add a Category
Go back to the WordPress dashboard and look at the left hand column again. Under the POSTS tab, there is an option for categories. Click that.
Posts > Categories
This screen is pretty self explanatory I think.
Name: The name if your category as it will appear on your site. (For example: Breastfeeding Tips)
Slug: The URL friendly version of the category name. This is all lowercase and only has letters, numbers and hyphens. (For example: breastfeeding-tips)
Parent Category: This is to create a hierarchy of categories. (For example: Breastfeeding Tips may have a parent category of Mom Life)… p.s. this is an example from this blog!
Once you add each new category, it will go into the box on the right hand side of the screen.
Now, when you write an article you will choose a category for it be filed under. Your categories will show up on the right hand side of your draft. See Below
If you don’t choose a category, it will default to uncategorized. Which you don’t want.
Privacy & Disclosures Page
Being completely transparent with your readers is important.
I suggest having a page specific to your disclosures and privacy statement.
Important Plugins to Use
What are plugins?
The way I describe a plugin is by saying, “there’s an app for that”.
Much like our cell phones, if there is something you want done you can more than likely find an app that can do it. Same goes for plugins.
If there is something you want your website to have or be able to do, you need to insert code and tell the computer to do it.
But I don’t know how to write code?
Right, me either. And that’s where plugins come into play. You don’t need to spend hours upon hours learning how to write code because there are genius people that write it for you. And they make plugins.
What plugins should I have?
As you become more familiar with blogging, you will come to learn different things you may want to add to your blog. But worry less about having a ton of fancy things in the beginning. And focus more on getting the basics down.
With that being said, there are a few plugins you can start with.
- Jetpack * Update 3/1/19: I no longer recommend keeping Jetpack as a plugin. It takes up way too much space and slows your site down way too much.
- WP Forms
- Social Warfare
- jQuery Pin it Button
Start with these plugins. Having too many plugins on your site slows your site down. So be sure to only have what you need.
Writing Your First Article
Are you ready to write? This is exciting!
You finished the basic formatting of your site and you are now ready to start adding amazing content. Here are some important things to consider when writing your articles.
The title of your articles should be engaging and to the point. It is the first thing a potential reader will see, and decide whether or not they will spend time reading your article.
Contrary to what we learned in school, you want your paragraphs to be no more than 2-3 sentences each. This helps the reader stay engaged because they don’t get swallowed by a sea of words.
This may be dependent on your type of blog, but generally speaking, aim for 1800 words in an article.
There is a lot of talk out there about what ranks in Google, and the general consensus seems to be to have at least this number of words.
And that means quality content as well. Don’t just add words to meet that length. That’s called fluff. No, no. Focus on quality before quantity.
Search Engine Optimization
Oh dear, SEO. I am no expert on this by any means. So I will defer you to the actual experts on this one.
When you first start your blog, you are just starting to create your Google footprint. So you won’t find your site come up in search engines. It takes time to do that.
But you can start optimizing your blog from the beginning. This is why Yoast is such a useful plugin to have.
Yoast helps you format your articles with SEO as a focus.
Now That You Have Set Up Your Blog Using WordPress
Setting up a blog for the first time can be overwhelming because there is so much to figure out! But once you get going, it gets easier!
There will always be new things you are learning with blogging. So try to take it one step at a time.
I hope this step by step tutorial was helpful for you in setting up a blog! Let me know what you think or if you have any questions in the comments below!