Ten Top Tips for blogging (mainly with Self-Hosted WordPress) – Guest Post by, Jemima Pett…

It came as quite a surprise to discover I’ve been blogging with WordPress for eight years.

The starting point was my bird club, who wanted help. The average age of the rest of the committee was around 70. I’d learned about websites at work, but discovered their website was setup on software called WordPress. A whole new world of easy websites opened up for me.

I redesigned my then business website, and started a blog under a username I used for lots of forums. I haven’t posted on it since 2015.

In 2010 I started my author blog. When I published books, I realised I needed both ‘book’ sites and my author blog. I also wanted to do these clever rafflecopter things and have fancy active links, so I took my free WordPress sites and put them on my purchased webhosting package, which means I have to look after the whole shebang. You can read about the trials and tribulations at my blog if you like.

Pictures above: a selection of my blog pages

Five years on, I have my blog, three book sites, a free WP guinea pig blog, and my more or less redundant free blogs. And a Blogger blog for my publisher to learn how those work. I thought I must be able to find ten top tips for you!

  1. Use the free version to start with. You need to learn how blogging works, what makes an interesting blog, and what YOU want to say to the world. Learn the difference between posts and pages. See what categories can do for you, and how they differ from tags. Discover what widgets are. Explore themes and see how they look.

  2. Look at other people’s blogs. Learn from them. What makes them attractive/what turns you off? If you see something you like and can’t work out how they do it, don’t be afraid to ask them! If they tell you they have a special code they designed and it’s yours for $20, right away. They might, like the Ape here, tell you about a useful plug-in, which you can then explore.

  3. Decide what your blog is really about. It took me a long time to work out that my blog is about me, and although I want people to buy my books, just telling them about my books all the time isn’t attractive. Showing them who I am, talking about my interests, my writing, my characters, and letting them sample my flash fiction – that’s how I think I attract followers. I hope it encourages them to try my books as well.

  4. Post regularly. I post three times a week, Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays, but I nearly always do Wednesdays as well. One of my friends posts just once a month, but it’s a long post. I reckon she has more followers than me, because it’s easy to go just once a month, and her posts are fascinating.

  5. Know your audience. Who do you want to be your audience and how will you attract them? Look at other people’s sites from a design and colour point of view. What would your audience like? This helps you decide on your Theme – a pre-formatted set of templates for your posts and pages, with options, layouts and links.

  6. Pick the right Theme. There is not a good match if you choose a baseball theme when you want to talk cookery. The crossover isn’t huge if you want to focus on cooks – unless you blog about easy meals for sports players…. But specific themes tend to do specific things well – a baseball one has team colour schemes, manages team lists well etc. A cookery one may be great for photography and index ingredients, etc. Book themes usually default to ‘portrait’ images so that book covers don’t get cropped or distorted. Many themes are fine for multiple uses – that’s about the style you prefer, and what it says about you to your audience.

  7. Don’t be afraid to do makeovers. WordPress default themes change annually; new themes come out daily. Explore occasionally, especially if you read something that makes you want to tweak your blog. I read a great post a few months ago (probably here) about book sites needing book landing pages, i.e. anyone visiting should land on a page with the book foremost. Some time earlier I’d read about websites looking as if they come from the same stable. After a while I found a theme I liked, that I could adapt to suit each of my book sites and I also liked for my blog. The more I did the makeovers for each, the more I realised the possibilities within the presentation options. I went back and tweaked the other sites based on what I learnt in one.

  8. News is new, and should grow old. You put news in a post. Posts are what make it a blog, rather than a website. If you want it to stay around for a long time, you should consider making it a page. Pages need updating, but the topic is always there. If you’ve read the last few posts I’ve done for the Ape, you know I like Challenges. So when I start a Challenge, that’s news, and I probably do a post for it. But I do pages for my Challenges, where I update them. Anyone who is interested can look there.

  9. Static front page, or a blog summary? What do you want visitors to see when they first arrive at your blog? Most themes give you an option. If you want them to see your news (your blog posts), then take them straight to a blog summary, not a static page. Many people put their ‘About Me’ page as the Home page, as the static page. Think about a visitor’s first sight of you. If you went to a party, would you prefer to talk to the person who says ‘hi, I’m Marty, I’ve been to three postgrad courses and have a family including three Yale graduates and two German shepherds…” or the one who says “hi, I’m Marty – how did you get to know our host?” My theme gets me to lay out both, I suppose – here is what it’s about but here is the news – a ‘call to action’.

  10. Let people ‘Like’ you. WordPress keeps moving their ‘Share’ and ‘Like’ settings, but you need to enable them, unless you want your blog to be kept a secret. I only enabled Share buttons for the services I use until I had a lightbulb moment. I found a blog that hadn’t enabled Pinterest – and I couldn’t add them to my list of people to revisit. OH! What if people would visit me again if only they could have shared it on their Reddit or Tumblr? I’d better enable those options too. And you know, I really like letting people know I liked them, even if I didn’t have time to comment. ‘Like’ buttons are for your visitors, not you!

  11. Bonus tip. Check out how your blog looks on other media. If your theme doesn’t have the little icons that let you switch between desktop, tablet and phone views, get one that does. They should show at the bottom of the ‘Customise’ panel if not other places.

I hope that helps. There’s a lot of power in WordPress, and there are still odd wrinkles. Maybe I’ll do ‘common problems and whether I’ve found an answer’ in a month or two. If you have a problem for me to check out, pop it in the comments.

Jemima Pett

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10 thoughts on “Ten Top Tips for blogging (mainly with Self-Hosted WordPress) – Guest Post by, Jemima Pett…

  1. Great guidance and I am nearly ready to jump but think I will stay with WP and not self-host. If I upgrade I can do what I want to do and if that transpires not to be enough then ..tiny steps for me.. I think self-hosting would be the death of me..lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think that unless you have particular reasons to move, stay on the main host. It’s worth paying the small amount they charge for a smarter blog address, though. Or buy your own; it’s simple enough to direct it through their plan. And it sounds like you’re looking at the upgrade. It’s fine if you only have one blog!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, this has a lot of great tips. I have tried adding additional sites, but then get frustrated that all additional sites connect back to the primary blog. WP says you can’t have multiple blogs completely independent of one another. Any thoughts on what to do if you don’t want all blogs linking to Primary?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m not sure I should let WordPress know, but I have multiple identities with them. 🙂 You need a unique email address for each, but you just sign up as a new user with a new email. But you can get confused with who you are signed up as, especially for commenting, as that goes through to other WP blogs.

      Liked by 1 person

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