It’s official!! You have a live blog! Woot!
But now what?
In this part, we’re going to discuss creating your first pages, your first post, categories, and filling out your sidebar and footer.
But first I’ll ask you to sign up for my newsletter. Not only will you be notified of the next part in this series, but you’ll learn more about the way I run my own blog plus get access to my free blog design library.
How to Start a Blog
This is part of a series on how to start a lovely blog on the cheap. Here are the 5 parts we’ll cover:
You’re probably wondering, what about my blog theme and the look and feel? Don’t worry, we’ll get to that in part five. If we start getting distracted by the design now, it’ll be more difficult to concentrate on the content. Plus it’s better to design our blogs with content in them.
So for now we’ll be using the default theme that comes with WordPress just to get us started. Let’s outline the steps we’ll go through in part two:
- Create Your First Pages
- Fill Out Your Sidebar
- Fill Out Your Footer
- Create Keystone Content
- Add a Navigation Menu (or Two)
STEP ONE: Create Your First Pages
In WordPress, Pages are used for static content, meaning they are the timeless pages on your site, as opposed to Posts which are blog posts that are usually dated and categorized.
To Create a New Page
- In your dashboard, go to Pages > Add New.
- Enter a Title for your page.
- Add a little content in the Text Editor below.
- On the right of the screen, in the Publish area, click Save Draft.
- Under Page Attributes you can select a parent page if the page will be nested under another page, but for our first pages, you’ll just leave it as (no parent). You can always change this later.
- For Template, you can choose Default which usually includes a sidebar or Full screen if you don’t want a sidebar.
- You can ignore the Order because we’ll be worrying about our menu bar order later.
- You can Preview the page to check on it before you Publish.
- When everything looks good, hit Publish.
You will probably end up with many more pages than this, but to start, every blog should have at least these four pages listed below. Don’t worry about getting them perfect right away. Just get something up there because you can go back and edit them later. Remember, you’ll be building an audience so not many people will be seeing your blog right away.
1. About Page
Your About page will be one of the most visited pages on your blog. When people land on your blog for the first time, they usually go to the About page pretty quickly. There are several reasons for this:
- They want to know what the blog is about and how it can help them.
- They want to know more about the person behind the blog to see if they relate to you because people naturally like to make connections with others.
Oh and whatever you do: DON’T write your about page in the third person. Yuck! Make it personable and totally you!
The contact page is a must have. If there’s no way to contact you, people may wonder whether or not you’re legit.
Unless you have a brick and mortar shop, I wouldn’t list your address, phone and/or email address. Add a contact form that sends you an email directly, but doesn’t reveal your email address to everyone. Here are some options for contact forms:
If your theme doesn’t come pre-built with a contact form, you can easily add one by enabling Contact Form in JetPack (click on Jetpack at the top of your Dashboard menu).
If you don’t wish to have a form that sends you an email each time someone fills it out, the contact page is a good place to give people alternate ways to contact you like your social media accounts. I do both. Here’s my contact page.
By the way, if you start to receive emails from your contact form that kind of seem spammy, it’s perfectly ok to delete them without responding. A legitimate inquiry will undoubtedly look legitimate.
- If you make any income (or plan to) from your blog, whether it be from affiliate links or ads.
- If you accept products for free in exchange for a review.
- If you sell any products from your blog.
- If you intend to collect personal information, such as email addresses (even through comments)!
ARE YOU DISCLOSING PROPERLY IN YOUR POSTS? by Amy Lynn Andrews
5 Tips on Creating an Effective and Fun Disclosure Policy by John Saddington
Free Disclosure Policy Generator
4. Blog and/or Home Page
A static home page is usually one that contains information such as an intro and links to products or features. A blog home page shows your latest posts usually in reverse order by date. The decision of whether to display a static home page vs. your latest blog posts depends on the goals of your blog.
Here are some reasons to use a static page:
- Your primary goal is to sell a product/service or grow your email list.
- You can use specific, targeted content, an intro, products, calls-to-action (buttons to do something), and/or email list opt-in forms.
- If you cover lots of different topics, you can give people an overview by showing buttons or links to the different topics.
Here are reasons to display latest posts on your home page:
- Your primary goal is to share your content.
- Your topics are all closely related.
- You can show new visitors exactly the type of content you offer.
Reasons to use both:
Can’t decide? You can totally mix up your homepage with both static content and your latest blog posts. There are themes out there that allow for this. My own home page shows both, but I have chosen to display posts by category as opposed to by date.
How to Display a Static Home Page
Showing latest posts is usually the default setting in WordPress but you can easily change it should you decide to:
- First you have to create a new page and call it Home. You can add some dummy text in here for now just so you know it’s the home page. Save it.
- Next create another new page and call it Blog. Leave the content on this page completely blank and then save it.
- Then in your dashboard, go to Settings > Reading and at the top where it says “Front page displays,” select A Static Page and then below that you’ll point the Front page to Home and Posts page to Blog.
- Now you can go back to your home page and add whatever content you’d like to it. You may consider removing the sidebar by selecting Full Width under Template in the Page Attributes box shown on the right of the Edit Page screen.
5. Products or Services Page (optional)
If you’ve already got services you offer or products to sell, you may want to create this additional page and fill it with any relevant information.
STEP TWO: Fill Out Your Sidebar
If you decide to have a sidebar in your layout, you’ll want to purposefully select what to put in it as well as carefully design it. We spent last May discussing sidebars in the DYOB Facebook community and here on the DYOB blog. The following posts are the result of those discussions in addition to my own research and experience. Definitely take some time to read these posts before deciding what to put into your sidebar.
There’s more valuable information on sidebars and everything related to DIY blog design in my eBook, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow.
STEP THREE: Fill Out Your Footer
The blog footer is an oft-forgotten part of many blogs, which is a shame because it’s such a great spot to put some really useful information that you may not want to clutter your sidebar with. It’s the last point of contact on a page and it’s a great place to put a call-to-action.
There are 2 primary purposes of a footer:
- Prompt readers to perform a specific call-to-action (such as signing up through an opt-in form).
- Make important information such as contact info, location, hours, etc. easy to find.
For more suggestions on how to best use your blog’s footer (as well as everything blog-design-related), you should download my eBook, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow.
STEP FOUR: Create Keystone Content
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before: CONTENT IS KING.
What that means is that you’ve got to have really good content in order to keep people coming back to your blog so you can make your blogging goals come true, whether those are to make money, connections, credibility, whatever.
The best way to start out creating some epic content is to create some “keystone” content. Keystone content is basically an epic post for each category you identify for your blog. It should be evergreen, meaning that it’s not time sensitive and will be just as relevant a year or two from now as it is today. A good number of keystone posts to start with is 4 posts.
Let’s identify a few topics to begin writing your key posts.
Note: Don’t worry that your blog is new and no one will be reading these at first. Part of blogging is continually sharing old posts as your audience grows. That’s why it’s important to make your keystone content evergreen.
Before we create any posts, let’s create some categories for your blog. I’m assuming you’ve already identified your target market. If you haven’t, you should check out the first section of my eBook, Blog Beautiful: 50 Tips + Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow where I have some worksheets for you to figure this out.
You can also download this free and quick guide on Defining Your Audience* from the brilliant guys at Fizzle.
Ok Back to Categories…
According to Regina of byRegina.com, 3-7 categories is best. Any more than that and your content will start to get watered down. Less categories will help you to keep your blog more focused.
Regina has a great exercise from her Stellar Content eBook where you take notecards or post it notes and write down one idea for a post on one card. You do this for about 20 minutes. Afterwards, you lay your cards out on the floor and try to categorize them into categories that you feel would hold your audience’s attention.
If you’d like to go through the whole exercise and learn more about creating stellar content, I highly recommend buying her eBook.
BLOGKEEPING // CLEAN UP YOUR CATEGORIES by Lisa Butler at Elembee.com.
Add Categories to Your Blog
In your Dashboard, go to Posts > Categories. Here is where you’ll enter the categories you just came up with.
- Create a Name. Try to keep this short and obvious. It’s best not to get too clever with category names because we want people to understand what they are at a glance. Using clever word-play makes it too difficult for people to decipher and it assumes they know the subject well enough to know what you are trying to say. We also want categories to be SEO-friendly so using keywords in your category names is best.
- Slug. The slug is what will appear in the URL of your category pages. So for example, if you go to www.designyourownblog.com/category/blog-design/typography, all posts related to typography within blog design will appear here. This is great if you want to direct people to posts related to a single topic. The slug should be the same words as your category, but with dashes in between words.
- Parent. You’ll only use this if you wish to create subcategories. If your theme supports drop down menus, this is how they will usually appear. Let’s keep things simple for now and skip subcategories/parents.
- Description. WordPress says it’s not usually prominent but I think it’s a good idea to fill this out with helpful text and keywords. It can’t hurt your SEO!
Here’s How to Create a New Post
- In your dashboard, go to Posts > Add New.
- Enter a Title for your post.
- After a few seconds, a Permalink will appear below the Title. This is the potential URL of the post. If you have set up your permalinks to show post titles, then it will take every word from your title and add dashes in between. You should edit this “slug” by removing extraneous words like “to” “and” “the” etc. and make sure it includes keywords and/or the main words from the title. It’s ok if the title and slug do not match.
- Let’s look at the right column real quick:
- In the Publish area:
- Click Save Draft.
- In this area, you can change the post’s visibility once it’s Published, you can also choose a date and time for the post to automatically publish if you write it in advance.
- Ignore the Publish button for now 😉
- In the Categories area, select the category or categories you’d like the post to fall under. I wouldn’t pick more than two.
- In the Tags area, you may want to add some tags. Tags are basically keywords in the post that people may use to search for your content. Elembee.com has a great post on the difference between categories and tags.
- Featured Image area. Ok this one’s a big hard to nail down because it just depends on what theme you’re using, but basically the featured image is an image that represents your post. BobWP explains featured images fairly well in this post. We’ll go more into images for our posts in Part 5, but in the meantime you can check out this post on creating attention-grabbing images.
- In the Publish area:
- You can Preview the page to check on it before you Publish.
- When everything looks good, hit Publish.
“Write Epic Sh*t”
Now that you know how to create a post, let’s write some Epic Sh*t!
Pardon my language, it’s a fabulous quote that Corbett Barr of Fizzle* uses to stress the importance of this type of content. Epic stuff is what keeps people coming back over and over.
Now that you have your categories, pick one post idea from 3 or 4 of the categories you’ve created. You’ll want to choose the topics that have potential to be “ultimate” or “epic” guides. These will be your Pillar posts.
For example, when I started my blog, I knew typography and color would be two of my categories. So I created a 3 part series on Typography for Your Blog and the Ultimate Guide to Choosing Colors for Your Blog.
Pillar posts should be extremely useful to readers, well-written and include at least one large, beautiful image if possible.
The Anatomy of the Perfect Blog Post
Since there are plenty of wonderful posts already written on this subject, I won’t regurgitate it in this post. Here are the resources I recommend reading before you publish your first post:
Anatomy of an Effective Blog Post by Michael Hyatt
The Anatomy of a Perfect Blog Post by Kevan Lee on the Buffer blog
And of course Regina’s Stellar Content Plan Workbook. I don’t get anything for recommending this and it’s so worth the $12!
STEP FIVE: Add a Navigation Menu (or Two)
Our last step here is to add menus to our blogs to give people easy access to our content. You’ll want to think about how to break up your content. Again this is something you can change later (I have) but consider how people will be using your site.
Everyone organizes their page links and category links differently. The most common approach is to have one menu for Pages and another for Categories. That’s how my old blog was structured.
After blogging for a while, it made sense to organize things differently and if you look at my two navigation menus today, there is a mix between the two. In the top menu I put links that I knew people might look for: Home, About, Contact. In the lower menu, I link to things I want to show more prominently like Start Here, Shop, Library and Blog. Instead of placing my categories in the top level of the second menu, I moved them all to a drop down sub-menu under Blog.
How you decide to organize your links is up to you, you’ll have to assess and balance where you want to lead people to with what you think people will be looking for.
I suggest you look at some of your favorite blogs as well as blogs in your niche and see how they organize theirs. Take some time to really think about how you’d like to present your information.
Some themes allow you to have two menus. Usually one is placed above the header and the other one below. If your theme only allows for one menu, you can create a second menu in the sidebar. Many blogs put their top level categories in the sidebar as buttons or graphics. Take a look at some of these sidebar category menus for inspiration.
A few things to keep in mind:
It’s best to keep our menus as condensed as possible as too many top level options can confuse visitors. I’ve seen blogs with 10-15 links wrapping to two or three lines below the header and not only does that look terrible, it’s terribly confusing and offers the user no guidance.
No more than one level of drop down items. Drop down menus are very popular in navigation menus, but sometimes they can get carried away. Try to keep yours to only one level of sub-items if possible.
How to Create Menus in WordPress
I think a video is more appropriate here so I’m sharing one from iThemes that I think explains this pretty well. And if you’re not into watching videos, you can follow the step by step below it.
Ok so that’s it for Part 3. You’ve got a lot of homework to do but it’s important stuff! And don’t get too hung up on anything, remember you’re just getting started. You’ve got a lot to learn and your blog will evolve with you over time. There is no getting it perfect, EVER! A blog is an ever-changing thing, the most important step is just getting started. So go!
Parts 4 and 5 are coming soon! Click here to be notified.
So tell me, what’s the first step you’ll be taking today to get your blog ready for the world? Have any questions? Let’s chat in the comments below!
And if you found this helpful, won’t you help me out by sharing this post with your friends? I’ve got some handy sharing buttons below too.
Hey friend, want free DIY design stuff?
I've got an entire library of FREE goods just for you! Join the 7000+ others and get instant access now!