Are you thinking of blogging for fun, not profit?
Have you done a Google search on “How to start a blog” and been overwhelmed by the huge volume of results? ( Over 5 billion as at today’s date! )
Are you bewildered by the assumption that you are looking to turn your blog into a money-making endeavour?
Don’t worry. I’ll run through exactly what you need.
Before we move on, let me tell you why there is so much focus on this area:
Show Me The Money!
There are a number of ways in which a blog can be used to make money. The two main ones are:
- Selling online products (like courses or e-books)
- Affiliate marketing
The latter entails the blog providing a link to a product or service whereby if a purchase is made the blog owner receives a small commission. The cost to the purchaser is unchanged – the commission comes out of the reseller’s profit.
Any blog that is making use of affiliate marketing should have an Affiliate Disclaimer page. It should also have a brief paragraph on each page containing affiliate links making it clear to the reader that this is the case.
One of the biggest providers of Web Hosting is a company called Bluehost. They have a reputation for poor site speed, poor service to customers, and high commissions to affiliates.
So, can you guess which company is most commonly recommended to new bloggers?
There is nothing wrong with affiliate marketing but I would urge you to be a little cynical.
Is the blog owner’s objective to use their own experience of the product to make a legitimate recommendation?… or is it solely driven by a desire to earn a commission?
In fact, I use some affiliate links in my posts. They are never going to make me a fortune but they make a contribution towards the cost of running this blog.
The products and services that I provide affiliate links to are ones that I use and that I believe would be good choices for you. I would still recommend them to you even without the affiliate connection.
In fact, if you have any reservations, just search for the item in Google and use that link instead of mine.
A Question of Priorities
Now, wanting to make money from your blog is perfectly fine.
It’s just a question of priorities. Do you want to blog for fun? Or do you want to blog because you want to make money?
I’m blogging because I enjoy helping people. If I earned nothing from doing it then I would still do it. It’s a hobby. A source of enjoyment.
If your focus is on making money then that is likely to suck the fun out of the actual blogging aspect. It can start to become more of a chore or even, dare I say it, a job!
Fear not, potential blogger. In this post, I’ll run through what you need to know in order to start a blog for fun.
As always, when you start to learn something new, there is a certain amount of terminology that you need to become familiar with.
Since we are considering the topic of blogging for fun, not profit, we should make sure that we actually understand what blogging is.
a regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read:
* She writes a food blog in which she shares recipes, tips, and restaurant reviews.
* I read about it in/on a blog.Cambridge Dictionary
Another way to think of blogging is like this:
The blog posts that you publish on your website are akin to an electronic version of you providing books to a library. They both provide information so that others can read it.
1.2 Content Management System
So, having established what a blog is, how does it actually work?
Well, the online content of your blog is maintained by software known as a Content Management System (“CMS”). The CMS allows the user, or multiple users if desired, to create, edit, and publish content without the need for any specialist coding knowledge.
The content (the text and images that form the basis of your blog) is stored in a database.
By far the most popular CMS is WordPress. Others include: Wix, Squarespace, and Joomla.
1.3 Domain Name
A domain name is basically your website’s online address. It’s what people type into the URL address bar to visit your website.
If you imagine a giant, global network of computers connected together through a network of cables – that is the internet. In order to identify individual computers each one is given a unique address.
This is known as the IP address. The IP address is a fairly meaningless (to us humans) set of four numbers. Each number ranges between 0 and 255.
We find numbers quite difficult to remember. Therefore, domain names are given to the IP addresses to make them easier to remember.
When you search for the domain name, for example https://richiesroom.com, a network of servers (the Domain Name System or DNS servers) look up that name to where it is registered and forward the request there.
It will be registered with your host company. They will access the information needed (your website information) and return this to the user performing the search.
Hosting providers make their servers available to store your blog’s various files and to make these visible online for people to see.
A server is simply a computer that enables content to be stored and made available to other internet users.
Now, just as cars come in many different specifications to match the tasks they will be required to do, and, of course, user preferences, so too do hosting services. Hosting providers cater to all needs from small blogs to massive businesses.
You will, therefore, need to assess what your requirements and wishes are for the services to be provided and how much you are prepared to pay for those services. You’ll find that the various hosting providers will provide a range of hosting plans for you to choose from.
Let’s look at some related terminology that you may come across when making your choice:
As the name suggests, in this scenario you are sharing a single server with multiple other websites. Each user will have a limit on how much of the server’s resources they can utilise. And a limit to what modifications, if any, they may make.
If one user experiences a huge spike in traffic then any resultant decline in server performance will impact on all of the other users too.
Shared hosting is usually the cheapest of the options offered by a hosting provider.
Going back to the car analogy, shared hosting is like a basic family saloon car. It doesn’t accelerate as fast as high-performance cars, nor have maximum speeds that are as high, but it gets you from A to B.
And, as long as you have good support (an experienced mechanic, for example) this car will serve you well. In fact, you may never feel the need to upgrade your car.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
VPS hosting uses some fancy technology to create a number of virtual servers on one real server.
This means that you have your own dedicated resources that you don’t have to share with others. This allows you to, for example, install your own software on the VPS.
And, any traffic spikes for other users will not now have a detrimental impact on your site.
In car terms, we’re looking at a high-performance version of a normal saloon car. You know, the ones where the engine has been modified to produce more power, a turbo-charger has been fitted, the suspension has been stiffened, and it has low-profile tyres.
With dedicated hosting, as you might imagine, you have a server dedicated solely to serving your website. You have complete control over resources and can customise things to your heart’s content.
We’re now looking at high-performance sports cars!
And a price-tag to match!
If you need, or just want, the best then this is the hosting for you.
How to pick web hosting
- Cost. There’s no getting away from it, this is the major consideration for many people. With each host provider, the services listed above will be in ascending order of cost – the better the service, the higher the cost.
If your objective is blogging for fun, not profit, then it’s quite possible that a shared hosting plan will be sufficient for your needs. You can always upgrade later if you outgrow it.
- Technical Support. If things go wrong (it’s rare, but it happens) then it’s nice to be able to contact your hosting provider’s support team and get a fast and reliable response.
The first web host I used was very cheap. And their customer support was very poor.
I’d contact them about a technical issue and get a reply along the lines of:
“Thank you for your message. This is a known issue. Our technical department is working on it and it will be fixed within 3-5 hours. Please rate my help as 10/10.”
And, naively, I did rate them 10/10 the first time.
A week or so later the issue still persisted. I contacted support again and got exactly the same response. When I mentioned this, the adviser extended the fix time to 2-4 days. And still wanted a 10/10 rating.
This time I did not provide a 10!
This followed the same pattern for several months (imagine if it were a business site rather than just a hobby blog!).
Eventually, I gave up and moved host!
- Features. In addition to the two key criteria listed above, you may also wish to consider:
Reliability. How is the host rated by the people that use it? Look for customer reviews on things like Trust Pilot.
Backups. Does the host backup your data on a regular basis?
Control Panel. This is an application provided by hosts. It allows you to manage various aspects of your website. For example, if there is a new version of PHP then you could choose to update it through the ‘cPanel’ rather than asking support to do it.
Email. Does the host allow you to have email addresses linked to your chosen domain?
Number of sites. Does the plan you are considering allow for more than one website should you wish to add another (or multiple) at a later date?
2 Choosing Your Blogging Platform
There are plenty of options here. However, I’m going to recommend that you choose WordPress.
- It’s what I use. Having first-hand experience of how brilliantly capable it is at being a CMS for a blog I can whole-heartedly recommend it.
- It is hugely popular. According to WordPress “38% of the web uses WordPress, from hobby blogs to the biggest news sites online”. And over 90% of all blogs use it. As a result, if you do have any issues then you have a high probability of being able to find some help online.
- It is very easy to use, even for beginners.
- It has a fantastic price – FREE.
- Plugins. These are little add-ons to enhance WordPress. There are plugins for pretty much anything you can think of in relation to WordPress – caching to improve site speed, firewalls for site security, backups, image optimisation, SEO, and on and on and on.
Note that it is possible to use dedicated blogging platforms. Things like Blogger, Medium, Tumblr. And also WordPress.com – note that this is very different to WordPress.org (aka “the real WordPress”), which is what we are referring to above.
While these platforms are useable they do have disadvantages. You will be limited in terms of your blog’s appearance (no themes to allow customisation and limits applied to how many images that you are permitted), your blog is not really yours – the platform can shut it down, or even delete, if they wish, and you are stuck with a weird-looking domain name.
3 Choosing Your Blog’s Domain Name
Choosing your blog’s domain name is an important step. This is how your blog is going to be referred to from this point forward.
Picking something that is witty or topical now may not be so in the future.
Here are some things that you may want to consider:
- Choose a name that is simple to remember. Make it easy for people to find you!
- Don’t use special characters ( # , – , _ , @ , ! , £ , $ , & )
- Avoid weird-looking spellings ( NO: russsshoes.com , YES: shoesfromruss.com ).
- Picking a .com address is likely to be the best option ( easier to remember ).
Also, think about what you will be blogging about.
If you are planning to blog on a number of topics then you can go for something generic. If, however, you are confident that you will just be blogging on one subject alone then try to include it in the name (like shoes in the examples above).
The annual cost of a .com domain name registration is usually between £10-£15.
Don’t buy your domain name just yet though – you can buy it at the time as your hosting.
4 Purchasing Hosting
So, we now know some basic terminology, including what hosting is, and we know what domain name we want to use. The next step is to actually buy the hosting that we want.
You remember the factors to consider when buying hosting, right? OK.
I’ll confess, when I picked my first host I did exactly what I’ve told you not to do. I failed to do my research – which would have warned me about the poor standard of support from the host. Learn from my mistake, don’t repeat it!
Just keep this in mind:
The host that I use is Krystal.
I have been extremely happy with the hosting service provided by this company and would wholeheartedly recommend them.
Factors that appeal to me are:
- I’d done my research this time (once bitten and all that!) and had identified Krystal as a potential provider. I contacted them by Web Chat to discuss signing-up and they were quick to respond and very helpful. A good first impression.
- This high level of support continued after I signed-up. The support team is UK-based and is focused on helping you resolve your issues (not on internal scoring systems!).
- Reliability. I’ve never experienced any downtime. They guarantee 99.99% uptime!
- Easy WordPress installation.
- Even the most basic package enables you to have 2 unique websites (just in case 1 isn’t enough to start with!). The higher-level packages provide for unlimited websites.
- Generous disk space allowance. I’m not a frequent poster compared to many bloggers. But my posts are usually quite detailed and often contain multiple pictures and videos (it’s all about making it a pleasant read for my visitors). I’ve been blogging for a little over 12 months and I’ve only used 8% of my allowance.
- Regular backups. If things go wrong, you’ll be glad to have a backup.
- Highly rated. In the 2018 ISPA awards, they won “Best Host”. And they include Cadbury, NHS, and Nike among their clients.
Do you remember when we discussed hosting in the Terminology section? And how you should consider the reliability of your host provider by looking at things like TrustPilot?
Well, consider these TrustPilot reviews:
The Bluehost review gives a rating of 1.6 / 5.0, with a staggering 83% considering the service to be ‘bad‘ (the lowest option).
The Krystal review, on the other hand, is 5.0 / 5.0, with an impressive 97% rating the service as ‘excellent‘ (the highest option).
In my opinion, Krystal would be an excellent choice for your web hosting. Give them a try – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
The links contained in this section are affiliate links. If you have any reservations about using the links I would urge you to Google “Krystal Hosting” and follow those links instead. ( Obviously, I’d rather that you used my links. But my objective is for you to get a good host – which Krystal is. )
During the signing-up process you will be given the option to (and should):
- Add your chosen Domain Name
- Install WordPress
Don’t worry if you miss the WordPress install. You can always add it later through the cPanel or ask support to do it for you.
5 Choosing a Blog Theme
You could, at this stage, just start producing content in WordPress.
However, one of the great things about WordPress is the ability to customise it. This is done, in large part, by the use of Themes.
Now, I need to caution you here. Try not to get too carried away with the customisation process. The more stuff that you add to your blog, the greater the likelihood that it will become slower.
And slower is bad.
It’s primarily bad because it provides a poorer experience for people visiting your blog. However, it’s also bad because search engines take account of speed when ranking your posts – if your site is slow it will be further down the search results than a comparable site that is fast.
There is an enormous range of themes available for WordPress. At the time of writing this article there are 7,729!
Some are free, some are commercial.
Some focus on bells and whistles, others focus on speed.
Initially, at least, I would urge you to focus on speed and simplicity.
I’ve tried a few different themes and, in my view, the one that best fits the bill for this focus is GeneratePress. It’s the theme that I use for my blog and I’ve been very impressed with it.
As with my choice of hosting company, what has really impressed me is the technical support provided. Tom Usborne (the developer of GeneratePress) and his team are incredibly knowledgeable, friendly, and prompt in answering queries.
And it’s not just me. On WordPress.org it has over a thousand 5-star reviews.
And if you find that there are things that you would like to tweak you can do this by using a little bit of code (HTML and CSS – see later). And, again, if you get stuck with this Tom and his team will help you out!
6 The Importance of Site Speed
We humans are an impatient species.
How long do you think a web user on their mobile ‘phone will wait for a page to load?
Well, research by Google indicates that 53% of users will leave if a page fails to load within 3 seconds.
Are our lives really so hectic that a few seconds longer makes that much difference? What would we do with those extra few seconds that we’ve decided we can’t spare? Nothing probably. But this is what you are up against if you want people to read your blog posts.
So, before we move on to looking at how you actually start creating your blog, let’s take a minute or two to consider what you can do, as a complete beginner, to ensure that your site loads quickly (or, at the very least, doesn’t load slowly!).
Start as you mean to go on – it’ll be easier than trying to fix things later!
6.1 Faster Hosting
We’ve already discussed the importance of choosing a good host.
Well, here’s another good reason – it will have an impact on the speed of your site.
In it’s article on optimization WordPress specifically mentions Server Load as an important factor:
The amount of traffic on your server and how it’s configured to handle the load will have a huge impact as well. For example, if you don’t use a caching solution, performance will slow to a halt as additional page requests come in and stack up, often crashing your web or database server.WordPress.org
So, two key factors: your server hosting and having a caching solution (more on this later).
I’m very pleased with the speeds I’m getting for my blog. And, in part, this is due to the hosting service with Krystal.
Take a look at the screenshot below for the speed evaluation of the Richie’s Room home-page.
Now, if you’ve looked at my home-page you’ll have noticed that it is basically just a gateway to the content in the site. It only has two pictures and a small amount of text.
So, in fairness, that’s not a true representation of the speed that you might experience while browsing the various pages and posts on the site.
Let’s have a look at this post – Why Do Dogs Bark?
This is a monster of a post. Over 9,000 words! Plus 19 pictures and 3 videos. And, currently, 46 comments.
Still pretty fast.
And this isn’t on a dedicated server. Nor even a VPS. It’s on one of Krystal’s shared hosting options.
6.2 Faster Themes
You need to think carefully about your theme choice.
In an ideal world you’d be able to have a theme with every conceivable feature that you could possible want and it would still be blazingly fast.
But this isn’t an ideal world.
And you can’t have both of those things. There must always be a compromise because it is the added features that result in the loss of speed.
I’m reminded of when I first started becoming proficient in VBA for Excel. I’d think “Hey, look I can do this.” Or “Wow, I can do that”. Before you know it, you’re stuffing the workbook with ‘this and that’ and producing code that isn’t really necessary – just because you can.
And what did I learn from this?
Similarly, when it comes to themes, don’t pick one stuffed with ‘this and that’. Pick one that is built for speed.
GeneratePress was built for speed.
This is what I use and recommend. It, too, plays it’s part in the speeds demonstrated in the previous section.
6.3 Pagebuilders – Blog Snail Creators!
WordPress is more than capable of coping with all of your needs in terms of producing the pages and posts that you want.
The trouble is, some people will tell you that it isn’t enough.
They will tell you that you need this pagebuilder or that pagebuilder.
Sure, it will provide you with more ‘this and that’. But, as we’ve already discussed, this will be to the detriment of your page speed.
Furthermore, I can assure you that many of the ‘features’ that may seem initially appealing are very often just an annoyance to your readers.
You want people to read your blog posts don’t you?
If so, rather than adding things that will annoy them (don’t even get me started on pop-ups!), focus on making it as easy and enjoyable as possible.
A final point:
It will be much easier to start right (without a pagebuilder) than to realise later and try to correct the situation at that point. I speak from experience.
Don’t be a blog snail!
6.4 Images – Size Does Matter!
So, you’d like to include some images in your blog posts would you?
Excellent. Images are a fantastic way of breaking up the text in a post, thereby making it a more pleasurable experience for your readers.
And, well, they’re nice to look at!
The trouble is, while a picture might be worth a thousand words it has a corresponding impact on the amount of resources that it consumes.
On the vast majority of sites the biggest component in the consumption of resources is images. Therefore, in terms of making your site efficient, it makes sense to devote some effort to minimising this consumption but without any loss in image quality.
Have you ever bought a (real) Christmas tree, had it wrapped in that netting that squashes all of the branches together, stuffed it into your car, driven home, and then …
… found that it’s too big for the area that you had planned to display it in!
You’re then left to hack at it with a saw, and maybe even an axe, to get it to display properly.
Well, if you have images that are not the correct size then they, too, have to be re-sized before they can be displayed in your blog post.
If you have an image that is 6400px wide and it needs to fit into an 800px wide area then it will need to be converted. And that takes time. Time you can save by scaling the image to the correct size in the first place.
“Hold on a minute!” you might be thinking “I’m new to all this blogging stuff. How on earth do I do this scaling thing?”
Fortunately, there are many programs available that will do this for you. One of the better ones is the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP for short but don’t let the name put you off!).
This is a hugely impressive program. It’s basically a free alternative to Photoshop.
Download it and install it. Then, to re-scale an image follow the following procedure:
- Click on the File menu item and then select Open
- Navigate to the directory containing your chosen image, select it, and click on Open
- Click on the Image menu item and then select Scale Image
- A Scale Image window will open with options to change the Width and Height
- Click on the figure for Width and change it to the desired width
- Hit the Return key and you will see that the Height figure changes automatically
- Click on the Scale button
- Click on the File menu item and then select Export As
- Give the image a new Name if you wish and navigate to the chosen Save directory
- Click on Export
- An Export Image window will open with various options
- You can experiment with the options at a later date but for now click Export
- Done! You’ve re-scaled your image
OK, having scaled your image to the appropriate dimensions you can now upload it to WordPress.
Once uploaded, the next step, before actually incorporating the image into any blog posts, is to optimise it.
You can do this by using an appropriate WordPress plugin. The one that I use is ShortPixel. ShortPixel uses
magic clever compression algorithms that allow you to retain image quality while still reducing the image weight.
To see how impressive this is, when you go to the ShortPixel site click on the Compress menu item and drag and drop an image on to the indicated area. Then see if you can spot the difference between the ‘original’ and the ‘compressed’ image.
Once this plugin is installed in WordPress you will be able to optimise the various images in your Media library.
You can now happily use these scaled and compressed images safe in the knowledge that their impact on site speed has been minimised.
6.5 Caching – And Why You Need It
Let’s imagine that Spike wants to have a house built.
Spike approaches Tom, the contractor. Tom knows what Spike wants but doesn’t have an existing house that matches Spike’s requirements.
Tom contacts Jerry, the materials supplier, and asks for the materials for the foundations. Jerry constructs or buys these materials and then supplies them to Tom.
Tom then asks for the materials to build the structure of the house and Jerry obliges.
And the materials for electricity supply, water supply, waste disposal, doors, windows, stairs, toilets, washbasins, baths and showers. And so on and so on.
Eventually the construction of the house is finished and Tom presents the house to Spike.
Now, if Spike were to make a request for the same type of house to be built again the process would be much quicker if Jerry kept a record of all of the materials that were needed and kept them in stock ready to be supplied.
This is akin to an internet user (Spike) using a web browser (Tom) to obtain information for the construction of a web page from the various elements stored on a server (Jerry).
This is where a caching program comes in.
The caching program basically tells the server to store some files so that it can quickly duplicate the same content if it is requested again.
And the result? Much faster page loading times!
So, having established that caching is a good thing, how do we cache our blog pages? Well, as you might imagine, there is a plugin that will do it.
In fact, there are many plugins that will do it. And many advocates of these plugins, each claiming that their option is the fastest. Truth be told, this is a complex area and what works well for one user may not necessarily work well for another.
The best option is probably to try two or three and see which works best for you and then stick with that.
What’s that? How will you know which is best?
Do you remember the page speed images that I showed above for my homepage and the monster blog page? Those are produced using a speed measurement site called GTMetrix. Here is what I suggest:
- After you have produced a couple of pages and posts, measure how quickly they load
- Then install caching plugin #1 and test the speed of those pages/posts
- Test each page/post twice and record the second speed result
- Uninstall #1 and install #2 and test the speed again
- And then again with #3
Got a clear winner? Good, go for that one.
Not much in it? Then also take into account the user interface of the plugin. If you find it a hassle to use and the options unclear then perhaps discount that in favour of another.
I’ve tried a few caching plugins and the two that I would recommend are:
- LiteSpeed Cache. This only works on LiteSpeed servers (like those used by Krystal) but it is very impressive. And free!
- SWIFT Performance. There are lite (free) and full-fat (paid for) versions of this plugin. In whichever form it comes in it is widely regarded as one of the best caching plugins.
6.6 More? You Want More Speed?
To be honest, the two factors outlined above (Image size and Caching) will make a substantial difference to your site speed on their own.
Frankly, you could (and probably should!), at this point, move on to the Security section below and then get cracking on ‘blogging for fun, not profit‘.
If, however, you want to make a few more tweaks here and there to improve site speed still further then consider these:
- Upgrade your PHP version
Go to your cPanel and make sure you are up-to-date. If you aren’t confident doing this (or don’t know what your cPanel is!) then ask your host to do it for you.
- Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)
As you might imagine, if your host’s server is in London and the person looking for your site is also in London then the information will reach them quicker than it will a person in Australia that is looking.
If you want your site to be fast everywhere, rather than just where the host is located, then you may benefit from a CDN.
A CDN has servers scattered around the world and will store copies of your site’s pages/posts on these servers. This shortens the distance that the information has to travel and so makes the process faster.
If this appeals to you then the best first step is likely to be to sign-up for a free account with Cloudflare. You can always look at paid options at a later date.
- Plugin management
There are two sides to this:
1. Don’t go wild like a kid in a sweet shop. Pick only the plugins that you need.
2. Do some research to see which plugin may be best for your requirements. For example, which caching plugin is ‘best’ or which security plugin is ‘best’. You’ll find many different opinions on what is ‘best’! Your research may also help to highlight any that plugins that it is recommended to avoid – perhaps it is too slow, or has major bugs.
- Font management
Pick a font and stick with it. Having lots of different fonts means lots of requests to download these fonts, which slows down your site’s load time.
- Use a fast social sharing plugin
Do you know how those social sharing icons appear at the end of a blog post? That’s right, a plugin.
As always, there are numerous to choose from. Pick one which offers the options that you want and which is considered to be quick.
- Analyse the GTMetrix speed report and identify areas for improvement
GTMetrix provides lots of information for your consideration. If you are that way inclined, by all means, take a look at them and see whether there are any ‘easy fixes’.
7 WordPress Security
OK, first of all, the bad news:
In all likelihood, somebody will try to hack into your blog!
It’s nothing personal. Hackers are looking for ways to further their own objectives. This may be using your site as part of a denial of service attack, promoting goods or services on your site (of the type that you probably don’t want to be associated with!), or just for bragging rights (Hey! Look! I’ve hacked this site!).
And the good news?
There are plenty of steps that you can take to minimise the risk of your site being compromised.
Usernames and Passwords
DO NOT leave your user name as ‘admin’ and DO NOT pick a password that is easily guessed, like your name, ‘Password’, ‘Letmein’, or ‘123456’.
There is a useful saying for usernames and passwords – “Length is strength“. Ideally, go with something that is at least 10 characters long.
Try to avoid names, words or phrases. Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and non-alpha numeric characters.
“spike” is a poor choice.
“S)9wc£-2!z” is much better.
Don’t use the same username and password for anything else.
Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
Hackers often automate their attacks (they aren’t sat at the keyboard, furiously typing away, they have programs that do all the labour-intensive work for them).
And this provides a method of foiling their efforts.
If they were to somehow guess both your username and password, what if they still couldn’t gain access unless they had a code? A code that is only shown on your mobile ‘phone!
You can easily implement 2FA by combining a plugin in WordPress and an app on your mobile ‘phone.
Malware Scanner and Firewall
Two of the most important aspects for the protection of your site are a malware scanner and a Web Application Firewall (WAF).
The firewall is there to reduce the chances of anybody getting unauthorised access to your site. The malware scanner is there to scan for any malicious code that does somehow make it through.
The plugin that I use for these aspects is Wordfence.
As an added bonus, Wordfence also provides the 2FA feature described above.
Do you know the key feature of backups?
Peace of mind!
If, despite your best efforts, your site is successfully attacked you can go back to your most recent backup and your back in the game.
Decent hosts will provide a backup service for you (the frequency will vary, depending upon the level of service that you choose).
In addition, you might also like to consider a plugin backup. Or, perhaps, a backup backup!
The one that I use is UpdraftPlus (the free version).
You might also like to consider another two plugins on the security front.
- Block Bad Queries (BBQ). This protects against malicious url requests. Anything nasty is blocked. It’s much like a bouncer at a club!
- Limit Log In Attempts Reloaded. As the name suggests, this limits the number of attempts at logging in to WordPress.
So, the hacker with his automated system of usernames and passwords being used to gain access to your site is greatly hampered. Rather than trying thousands of combinations per hour he might just have 5 attempts and then be blocked for 24 hours!
8 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
We’ve already discussed the fact that there are millions of blogs out there. Some of them are likely to be competing with you for attention from Google and the other search engines.
For example, let’s say that your blog is primarily focused around your love of dogs (can’t imagine who this example is based on!). Dogs are very popular pets in the UK, the USA, and throughout most of the world.
Consequently, there is a strong chance of there being lots of blogs that write about dogs. If I write a blog post, what can I do to increase the chances of it being found towards the top of the search results?
Well, what you can do is to make use of SEO.
Let’s flip things on their head for a minute. Rather than starting with our post, let’s start with the internet user.
The user wants to find information on a chosen subject. To do this they use a search engine. The search engine wants the user to be successful in his search (because this will encourage him to use that search engine again and increase revenue from advertising).
So, the search engine puts a huge amount of effort into helping the user find what he is looking for:
- An answer to his question
- In a post that provides all of the detail needed
- In an easily readable format
- With images and videos
- With links out to sites that have high authority
- And links into the post from other sites
- Having shares/likes on the various social media platforms
- With blog post comments from those that have read the post
- On a site where the pages/posts load quickly
If you want your post to be found, and read, by internet users then your task is to help the search engine complete it’s task.
SEO is a huge topic. Google apparently has over 200 factors in its search algorithm. And people are constantly trying to figure out what they are in order to improve their chances of ranking highly!
If SEO is something that interests you then by all means do some further research. If you just want to cover the basics and move on to the ‘blogging for fun’ part then this is what I suggest:
8.1 SEO Plugin
Install an SEO plugin. The one that I use is The SEO Framework. This is highly regarded and very easy to use.
This will help you make sure that you get most of the basics covered – meta titles and descriptions, social media links etc.
8.2 Choice of Keywords
Consider your choice of keywords for each post.
“Consider them! I don’t even know what the hell they are!” I hear you shout.
Keywords are basically what people type into Google (other search engines are available!) when they are looking for something.
Going back to our earlier example, if somebody types “dogs” into Google, then that is a very short and broad category keyword. As a consequence, it will get a lot of results.
Try it for yourself. I just did and got over 4 BILLION results!
How the heck do you ever hope to compete with that and get your blog post found?
You use long-tail keywords. That is, you expand upon the starting keyword and make the search more specific.
So, instead of just “dogs“. What if we wrote about “dogs and fireworks“?
That brings us down to a mere 33 million.
Some more refinement is needed. What about “dogs and fireworks-induced stress“?
Bingo! We’re now down to 1 million.
So, before you start writing, give a little thought to what you want the focus of your blog post to be about.
Presentation is important.
Make your posts easy to read. Don’t have massive paragraphs running to twenty lines or more – aim for 4-5 maximum. Sometimes, just 1 line is fine. White space is good.
Pick a font that is easy to read. Not some fancy, swirly design. Not some wacky colour. And not too small. Entertain! Not eye strain!
Pick a catchy title. And use headings to clearly show how information is grouped together.
Use images. They help to break up the text and … people like pictures.
8.4 Have a Table of Contents
Have a Table of Contents.
It gives the reader an outline of what to expect. And makes the post easier to navigate if they are looking for information on a particular topic.
It also makes it easier for Google to understand the nature of your post.
You have 2 choices here:
1. You use another plugin. Like this one : Easy Table of Contents
2. You learn some HTML and CSS and write your own.
I went for the second option and I’ve really enjoyed learning a little about these languages.
If you are interested in doing the same then I’d recommend taking a look at the Interneting Is Hard site.
8.5 Use Social Media
Like it or loathe it, social media is huge these days.
And if you don’t use it to promote your blog posts then you are missing out. A simple Share, Pin, or Tweet by a reader that enjoyed your post opens it up to a whole new audience.
So, first things first, open accounts with the main social media platforms to use for promoting your blog posts. I’d say pick 4 to start with and take it form there.
Second, get yourself a social sharing plugin. This will add the little icons that allow people to use their preferred method of sharing content. I use Shared Counts.
And, whenever you make a new post, share it on your social media channels.
9 Blogging for Fun, not Profit – First Steps
OK, that took a little longer than I’d anticipated!
Let’s have a quick re-cap:
- Contrary to popular opinion, blogging for fun, not profit, is still possible! If your motivation is to share stuff with other people to help them then that’s good. Don’t feel obliged to devote all, or a majority, of your efforts to making money from your blog.
- You’ll need a CMS. The best one is WordPress.
- Your blog will require a Domain Name.
- Hosting will be needed as your blog’s ‘home’. I recommend Krystal.
- Choose a good WordPress Theme. I use GeneratePress.
- Like Maverick and Goose in Top Gun – feel the need … the need for speed!
Recommended Graphics Program: GIMP (image scaling and much more)
Recommended Plugins: ShortPixel (image optimisation), LiteSpeed Cache (caching on LiteSpeed servers only) or SWIFT Performance (caching).
- Protect your blog with some security measures.
Recommended Plugins: Wordfence (Firewall and malware scanner), UpdraftPlus (backups)
- When planning your posts, think about SEO.
Recommended Plugin: The SEO Framework (SEO optimisation)
Right, let’s actually get started in WordPress …
To start with, take a look below at the WordPress menu.
First, select the Plugins option from the menu.
Then select the “Add New” button next to the Plugins title at the top.
Now use the “Search plugins” box to find, one at a time, each of the recommended plugins above. And then Install them.
Take a little time to go through the settings on each and get them set-up.
Talking of settings, now that we have our plugins installed, let’s take a look at the WordPress Settings menu item.
Go to the General section first and add your blog details.
Next, Permalinks. These determine the url structure of your posts. It’s best to have urls that are simple and easily understandable. I would recommend the “Post name” option here.
Pages and Posts
Pages are your static content that rarely changes. Things like your “About” page, for example.
Posts, on the other hand, are what you use for your blog content.
Your First Post
Select the Post menu item and then Add New. You’ll see something similar to this:
See that bit that says “Add title“? Guess what you do there? That’s right, you add your post title.
Once you’ve done that, click on the section that says “Start writing …”. And away you go! Start crafting your first masterpiece.
See that plus sign? Click on that and you can add different types of content. Headings, Lists, Custom HTML, Images and on and on. Experiment – have fun!
When you’ve had enough for one session, click on the “Save draft” item at the top right of the screen.
Finished the post completely? OK, click on “Publish” to unleash your post on the world!
What’s that? You’ve spotted a spelling mistake after publishing the post? Don’t worry. You can still edit published posts. You’ll notice when you do this that your “Publish” option has now become “Update” – just click on that when you are finished editing.
Well done! Your blogging for fun, not profit, journey has begun.
Keep Having Fun
When blogging first started, everybody blogged for fun.
Then people started making it about money.
Then people started coming up with ‘rules‘ for what bloggers should be doing:
- You must have a niche and all of your blog posts must be about this narrow topic. You are not allowed to blog about anything else.
- You must produce regular, scheduled content. If you don’t, Google will hate you and nobody will read your posts.
- You must spend as much time promoting your post as you do creating it. Share it here, share it there, share it every feckin’ where. You must, of course, schedule your social sharing endeavours.
- You must ‘engage’ with other bloggers. Comment on their posts and expect them, in return, to comment on yours.
- You must have an email list. Not for letting people know about your latest post – but to sell stuff to them.
But do you know what? We can bring it back!
I’ve already enlisted a helper …
My helper’s suggestions are:
OK, he kinda ran out of steam after that one. But, to be honest, he’s said all that needs to be said.
It’s your blog. Have fun with it. Ignore the Blog Grinches and their rules.
These are my ‘rules’ (you can, and should, come up with your own):
- I don’t want a second job or a replacement job. If I can earn a little to help cover the running costs of the blog then that’s great, but not essential. I’m blogging for fun, not profit!
- Mis-quoting from Top Gun … I’ll post when I’m goddamn good and ready! If the other commitments on my time mean that I only post once a month then I’m fine with that. I’d rather produce one quality post once a month than a fluff post twice a week.
- I’ll post about whatever subject I want to post about. Not picking a niche area and sticking to it may well not be the recommended approach, but I don’t care. It’s like telling a child he can only play with one toy. Or a diner that he can only choose one meal. Variety is the spice of life.
- I enjoy writing blog posts. I also enjoy reading posts by other bloggers. If I have something to say, I’ll leave a comment. If they find a topic in my blog that appeals to them and they return a comment, that’s great. But they are not required to do so. Blog comments should be freely given, not demanded.
- As my helper said, HAVE FUN!
10 Frequently Asked Questions
How do You Start a Blog for Fun?
Despite appearances when you use your favourite search engine, blogging for fun, not profit, is possible. It’s a question of priorities: Don’t obsess over affiliate sales and the like. Instead, focus on posting about things that you enjoy and which will help or be of interest to others.
All you need is: a blogging platform, a domain name, hosting, and a theme. Sure, there are other bits and pieces that you can add for site speed, security, and SEO, but these will be enough to get you started.
Can You Make Money Blogging and Quit Your Job?
Many bloggers think that they’ll be the next Pat Flynn and be making $200,000 / month like he does. This is pretty unlikely. Contrary to popular opinion, blogging is not easy. Or rather, making lots of money for little effort is not easy.
Much like a job, it depends on how good you are at it and how much effort you put in. If you want to give it a go it’s probably best to start it alongside your current job and see how you get on for a few months.
How Long Should Blog Posts be?
All of your blog posts should be exactly 5,733 words long!
Seriously though, they should be as long as they need to be for you to convey to your readers the information that you are trying to impart. If you can do that in 2,500 words then that is how long the post should be. If it needs 6,000 words then you write 6,000.
Do You Have to use Social Media to Promote Your Blog?
No, you don’t have to.
However, social media provides instant access to potential readers of your blog. Rather than contacting people on an individual basis, you could reach thousands with a single message. That said, if it all seems a little daunting just pick one medium to focus on initially.
12 The End
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this post.
Feel free to navigate around the site to see if there is anything else that may be of interest to you.
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