Setting Up A Blog

21 Reasons Why Self Hosting WordPress Will Improve Your Blog [with InfoGraphic]

Whether you opt to use WordPress.com (“Hosted”) or WordPress.org (“Self Hosted”) is entirely a choice of your own preference, but I genuinely believe that Self Hosting is always better and as such I always self host. Here’s a list of 21 top reasons why based on lists from 17 other websites.

21reasons

Please feel free to include this infographic on your website  by using the code below:
<a href=”http://www.13weekchallenge.co.uk/21reasonshosted”><img src=”http://www.13weekchallenge.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/21reasons.png” alt=”21 reasons to use WordPress.com” width=”100%” />

1. Thousands of free and paid themes.
When you use the hosted version you are limited to a relative handful of themes. With the self hosted version you have thousands of themes and if you, or someone you know, is handy with HTML / CSS then you can write your own. Almost all of the sites surveyed mentioned this as an advantage.

2. Your Own Advertising
If you want to display adverts then you can (you can’t display most with the hosted version). You can choose where to take them from – whether that be Google Adsense or advertising your own connections. Three quarters of the sites mentioned this.

3. Plugins to extend the site
Over half the sites surveyed liked the fact that with the self hosted version you can install a huge variety of plugins, including security, social networking, stats and many more!

4.Customisation
Being able to make your own changes to the source code was also mentioned by over half the sites. Whether that’s a major rewrite or just a simple tweak to remove something from the theme that you aren’t happy with, you are in control.

5. Own domain name
This is possible, but as an “extra” on the hosted version. But with wordpress.org you always use whatever domain name you want to use. You register it, you won it and you control it fully! A third of the sites suggested this.

6. Total freedom
It is possible to trip up on the hosted version by accidentally crossing a line and not sticking to a T&C. When you host it yourself, as long as you are legal you can do whatever you want.

7. Analytics
Because you can install plugins (or if you prefer you can do it through the code itself) you can install any type of analytics tool you want, including Google Analytics. You can monitor anything and everything about the traffic on your blog.  4 sites including janefriedman.com gave this as a good reason.

8. Reputation
Using your own domain name rather than a subdomain and being on obviously free hosting makes your blog look better. A different 4 sites to the previous suggestion recommended this, including blogging.org like this

9. Can’t be closed
As long as it’s all legal and above board you won’t find one day that your blog has vanished and everything been deleted without there being anything you can do about it just because you didn’t appreciate something in the terms, such as no advertising. This was raised by wpfreesetup.com, seedpod.com and boostblogtraffic.com.

10. No hidden fees
Free isn’t always free, but when you pay for your hosting you have an agreement as to what is provided. You avoid suddenly being hit with the prospect of paying for more bandwidth, more space, ability to upload media, removing adverts… boostblogtraffic.com and tsohost.com pointed this out.

11. SEO advantages
Because you can customise the code and use plugins you get the chance to search engine optimise your site better. You can also choose from themes that are written for search engines etc. shoutmeloud.com and tsohost.com liked this feature.

12. Scaleability
If your blog grows that so can your hosting, very easily. Both wpmudev.com and tsohost.com came up with this as a valid reason for self hosting.

13. Emails
If you own and manage your domain name then you can create email addresses within that domain name, brilliant for newsletters, contact addresses, setting up social media accounts, contacting other bloggers etc. boostblogtraffic.com and tsohost.com pointed this advantage out,

14. Unlimited space
No emails telling you you are 95% full and then having to work out what you can delete. You just buy the space that you need and go for it. Both wpfreesetup.com and bloggingbasics101.com came up with this suggestion.

15. No unwanted ads
Free isn’t free without something in return and here it normally means third party advertising. And it’s advertising in which you get no revenue! Plus you don’t have to pay to get rid of these adverts. This was suggested by both inkthemes.com and and diythemes.com

16. Web store
If you want to sell a product you can do so. Either use a plugin to create a site that’s a web store, or just have odd items for sale (e.g. an Ebook) throughout the site. Two sites suggested this – slbloggersupport.com and michaelhyatt,com

17. Your own data
You own it all, everything that you create whether it’s media or text. No-one else decides it’s not suitable and it’s up to you if you ever want to move or delete it. wpbeginner.com were the only site to mention this.

18. Affiliate links
No affiliate links allowed when you are hosted, but go for it if you are self hosted and see if you can make a living through your blog if you wish. Both inkthemes.com and boostblogtraffic.com suggested this reason.

19. Extra features
There are loads of extra features that are only available to self hosted bloggers, some of which might be relevant to you. Both yoexpert.com and wpinterns.com recommended this.

20. Free / cheap
Ironically, given all of the extras you might end up paying for on the hosted version the self hosted version could be cheaper when paired with a domain for a few pounds / dollars and basic hosting. wpbeginner.com & yoexpert.com suggested this.

21. Sell your blog
Not many will do this but if the site really takes off someone might want to buy the blog – url & content – from you. I have done this myself and it can be very profitable. But it’s only possible when you are self hosting. However, only shoutmeloud.com suggested this reason.

Sites referenced:

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What Is The Best Blogging Platform?

The best blog platform...If you are wanting to set up a brand new blog then what is the best blogging platform to get started with? In most cases there is only one answer and almost 75,000,000 sites agree!

Look At The Statistics

With almost 75,000,000 users around the world WordPress certainly has a lot of users. And because of the way that it works these sites aren’t all just basic blogs.

Whilst that is a lot, other sites are also prolific. You could try Tumblr or even Twitter, but these are micro blogging rather than full blogging. Google’s Blogger does have a lot of users, however they don’t reveal any statistics.

Hosted or Self Hosted?

Here are two words that you will come across when setting up a blog and they are important to understand. Both are quite different.

Hosted – this is the simplest for of blogging, where the blog provider “hosts” the site for you. Usually they provide a domain name, although there is also the ability to use your own, along with all of the storage space that you will require. Software updates to the core of the blog are also usually handled by them.

Self Hosted – this is where you are responsible for providing the hosting. You will buy space and a domain name and install the blog. A lot of providers make this a lot easier than it once was with “one click” installs, thus avoiding the need for you to get into the realms of databases and FTP.

Which Is The Best Hosting Type?

So, out of these 2 options, which is the best? In my view Self Hosted is best. I like to be in control and to have a domain name that matches what I am blogging about.

However, if you are new to blogging the maybe the Hosted version is easier for you to set up with. However, how about a platform that allows you to move from one method to the other?

How Does WordPress Fit Into This?

To me, and about 75 million blogs, WordPress is undoubtedly the best blogging platform.you can select. You can use it either as Hosted or Self Hosted, with a roughly even split between the 2 for WordPress sites.

Both versions are totally free and there are thousands of add ons that you can employ, which is what adds loads of value to the system. Excellent free designs, which are also mobile friendly, can be installed with just a few clicks and extras, called Plugins, are available for almost any extra features you might need.

The Exception That Makes The Rule

Any good rule has its exceptions and this is true here. In a few circumstances there are specialist platforms that are even better. For example, if you are a runner training for an event, then networks such as Real Buzz have the huge advantage of sharing your blog with other runners. Instant built in readers!

And for many other specialist niches there are also relevant tools to use there.But at the end of the day I think that the self hosted version of WordPress wins the day for me.

 

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Protecting Outgoing Links

Sometimes with your website you want to protect your links a little. I’ve previously written about how paid links destroyed my blogs and with this blog I want to prevent that from happening.

Careful Linking

A little background

The common way of looking at links from your site to another site is that search engines such as Google see these as “votes” for the other site. The more votes you receive from sites which themselves have more votes (and that keeps on going) then the higher up the search engine rankings you move.

However, people cottoned on to this and created spam links. There is also a theory that search engines don’t like affiliate links. Another theory is how bad “site wide” links are whereby every page links out to a given site.

Prevent any damage

So there’s a risk of damaging your site if you are using these site wide links, both for you and the site the links are pointing at. So I’m employing a simple 2-stage process to make sure that the search engines know that I want them to ignore most outgoing links.

rel=”nofollow”

The first is simply to add the above to any and every link that you don’t want the search engines to follow. It’s written quite easily as follows:

<a href=”http://www.13weekchallenge.co.uk” rel=”nofollow”>13 Week Challenge</a>

Simple. Search engines see that and should then ignore the link.

Redirect and ROBOTS.TXT file.

The next one is a bit more complicated to set up, but also gives other benefits. I created a folder simply called /redirects. I then use a special file called “robots.txt” to again tell search engines to ignore this folder. The content of this folder then becomes:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /redirects/

Just drop those lines into a file called “robots.txt” and upload it to your root directory (the same one in which your main index.php is stored).

Test the robots.txt file

It’s well worth testing this file. Get it wrong and you could actually block the entire website from Google and all other search engines! If you haven’t already done so, sign up to the free Google Webmaster Tools and add your site.

Then go to crawl, robots.txt Tester. Paste in your code (assuming you are testing new code and not the one it’s found) and then type in a few URLs. your index.php file should be allowed, whereas when you type in a blocked directory (and remember to include the trailing ‘/’) it should be blocked.

A bonus point here

Whilst you are editing the robots.txt file it’s well worth adding the wp-admin file – you don’t want search engines listing that:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /redirects/
Disallow: /wp-admin/

Redirect from that redirects folder

And finally a bit of coding that holds this all together. It’s very easy. Just open up notepad, drop in and amend the following code and then save it as [name].php:

<?php
header(“Location: http://www.13weekchallenge.co.uk”);
?>

Apply the redirect

Now it’s very easy to link this all together. The link out in your blog post changes from what I had above to:

<a href=”http://www.13weekchallenge.co.uk/redirects/[name].php” rel=”nofollow”>13 Week Challenge</a>

Belt and braces – tell search engines not to follow the link and tell them not to look at the file that you are linking to.

Another quick bonus

There’s now also another quick win bonus. If you have linked to an affiliate site, e.g. XYZ Widgets and created a redirect called xyzwidgets.php you have all of the above working. But if you later on mention them in a blog post you can now link straight to your redirect page. You don’t need to dig out their latest affiliate link – the information is already saved in the code and you just link to the standard page.

Also, should that merchant end their affiliate scheme or move it to another provider, then you only need to change the link in the one file.

Yet another bonus is available

How many times are people clicking on your links? Well if you have server logs you will see or if you want to be really clever and have simple mysql knowledge then it’s not difficult to add to the redirect script a simple counter so that you can see how many times it has been clicked on.

And, guess what…

On top of this we get yet another bonus. If you use this for all of your outgoing links you get a lot of control over them. Search engines hate sites which link to 404 (Not found) pages. So if you are linking to a third party and they remove the page you put yourself at risk of pointing to a 404 page.

This way you are pointing to a page that you maintain. The redirect handles the jump to the third party page so there’s less to check, less to maintain and if you do miss one then search engines shouldn’t notice and therefore won’t punish you.

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How To Start A Blog For Free

I’ve already recently written about How Do You Start A Blog, but what if, instead, you want to start a blog for free?

How to start a blog for free!You can start a blog for absolutely nothing if you prefer!

Blogging doesn’t have to cost you a penny if you don’t want to. You can set up your first blog for absolutely nothing if you want to and it’s neither difficult nor frowned upon.

You have choices

You have two main choices for creating your new blog. Either head over to blogger.com (owned by google) or WordPress.com. My preferred option, having tried both myself when I first started out, is WordPress as it has far more support as far as extras is concerned.

Choose your name

Keeping to the theme of starting the blog for free, you will be using a name within the WordPress.com website, so whatever name you chose will become part of your domain name. e.g. choose “myfreeblog” and your domain name would be myfreeblog.wordpress.com

For this reason it’s worthwhile spending a bit of time thinking of something that is short and snappy, yet describes what you are blogging about. Make it too long and it’s going to be horrendous for people to type into their browser.

Get your startup blog a free theme

Just because your blog is free doesn’t stop you from having a fantastic looking blog. Once you have got it setup and got going over on WordPress.com, have  a look through the choice of themes that are available to you. This is an easily overlooked step, but an essential one. Don’t just use the basic theme that is installed when you create the blog, take a couple of hours to make sure that you have found one that makes your site look great.

Some plugins

Next look through the list of plugins that are available to you. There are a wide range to choose from and they are easy to use. I’ve already talked about the one I use for Adsense, plus you can install some to backup your data, protect your site from spam and loads more. Have a look at my Useful Plugins category for a whole set of ideas. I’ll be reviewing a lot more very shortly to get a comprehensive list up and running.

The problems with a free site

Just be aware that you read the latest Terms and Conditions on the site carefully, especially if you wish to carry out any income raising opportunities. Certain activities, such as paid to post (in which someone pays you to write bout them and include a link or two to their website).

Adding Adsense blocks and affiliate links should be fine and you’ll be able to earn an income from such activities.

A free Ebook

If you want to know more about setting up your first blog, then why not get the Ebook I recently reviewed from Amazon? It’s available to download immediately for free!

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The Next 3 Weeks (Weeks 4 to 6)

I’ve already talked about the plan for the first three weeks of this blog, so what’s going to happen in the next 3 weeks?

apple-iphone-smartphone-deskLooking back to the start of this project

Well the first 3 weeks have felt very lonely.  A few visitors have arrived and a few days ago I was hit by loads of spam, but so far only 1 genuine comment have been left.

However, we’ve got plenty of posts indexed on Google and there’s been a tentative effort to try to start teasing in the search engine traffic, so that’s where we go now.

 

Search Engine Traffic

I started late in week 3 to target a couple of posts towards obvious keywords. They are probably a little too obvious as far as keywords are concerned, but if I suddenly see traffic from them then I really will know that the site is doing well.

So the plan over week 4 is to research and write a couple of posts for some “long tail” keywords. These are phrases that are quite long and specific and as such won’t get many searches. But because they are so long not many people have optimised for them, if any.

Slow link building

Once these are in place and Google has them indexed then I’ll start the next part of the optimisation – a few links back to them. I want to make sure that Google has them index first as that way it is more ‘natural’ for links to start to appear. Hence this will be a weeks 5 & 6 activity

I’ll use a couple of different techniques to build low quality links for now. (High quality links to a new site would look suspicious) They are:

  1. SEO Friendly article directories
  2. SEO Friendly comments on other blogs

Hopefully, by dropping in a few links to the posts along with choosing very low competition keywords and writing the posts naturally, we might just see some movement on these chosen keywords.

How to decide these keywords?

Well that’s going to be a whole post in itself next week! Come back here then for more details, screen prints and more!

As well as that?

Continuing writing as many times as I can per week. The target is 4 to 6 new posts (each on different days) per week. This is about the point where bloggers agree the best benefit is seen to traffic.

I will also submit a load of articles to high traffic article directories and see if that draws any readers across to the blog. But from a tentative experiment and past experience I don’t think I’ll see a huge number of people arriving that way.

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How Do You Start A Blog?

An important question, especially on this blog, so just how do you start a blog?

How do you start a blog?What will your blog be about?
Well, the first step is deciding on a theme that you can write a lot about! It could be that you know a lot about fashion, technology, celebrities or whatever. But step 1 is to decide what your blog is going to be about.

Name your blog
What are you going to call your blog? It’s a lot harder decision than you might expect? For instance, if you get your blog going nicely and then in a few months start running out of ideas, or are generally talking about something slightly different, does the blog name still fit?

But then too general a name might also put people off a little from your site! Noddy’s blog might not quite do the job when it’s a serious site, although many marketing types do use such generic names.

Host your site
Now we come to the fun bit. Hosting (or creating) your brand new blog. WordPress is used by millions of people around the world and a worthy place to start. But you can either use the hosted solution (go to wordpress.com) and they will host the site, or you can create it on your own paid hosting (“self hosted”).

I always prefer to self host. There are no restrictions as to what you do (certain fund raising activities aren’t allowed on the hosted solution) and you can buy a domain name to suit your need. For more details on setting up your site, see Setting up the site.

Brand your site
This is the start of making it look good. Browse through the list of WordPress themes and install a few that appeal to you. Don’t be afraid to try several out. In fact the more you try the better because you get to see more opportunities as to what you can do.

Start writing
Now the really important part – start to write! For the first few weeks try to post on at least 4 days per week. That’s enough so that the search engines see that the site is being maintained. After a couple of months it is “safe” to then reduce this frequency of writing to three days a week most weeks, with odd weeks missed.

However, you must make your writing interesting. Remember that people are going to be using mobiles some of the time and make the posts easy to read by only using  couple of sentences per paragraph. Writing paragraphs that are thousands of words long will put off potential readers.

For more pitfalls to avoid, have a look at avoiding the mistakes of the new blogger.

 

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Something I Will NOT Be Doing On This Blog

Or, to put it another way, the lessons learned the hard way on previous blogs!

Paid Posting

One of the biggest mistakes I made on a whole set of blogs a few years ago was to get heavily involved with paid blogging. Call it what you like (sponsored posts, paid blogging, paid links) it was the death of my blogs.

It seemed a good idea at the time and for a short time it was. But as with many aspects of life if it’s too good to be true it probably is. For the effort of writing a 50 word or 100 word “post” (and this post is by this point well over 100 words) I could earn $5 and all that I then needed to do was to link out to another website.

Why Did I Do It?

I was lured in by the income and the promise that I could select the niches and the topics would be close to the themes of the blogs. At first I could just about weave some of the adverts into the blog themes, but it quickly became very difficult.

As some of these “paid opportunities” became more obscure so did my blogs. Sandwiched between well written (well I thought they were!) posts of 400, 500 or even more words were these random short posts. A mortgage site might suddenly be advising you how to choose wedding rings.

This quickly destroyed any readership and my search engine ranking took a dive too. It must have been very obvious to Google et al that my blogs were linking out to hundreds of other sites – sites which themselves had thousands of links in from very short random posts.

But Then, It Got Worse!

Worse was to come. A new system appeared offering even larger payments, but that did insist on 200 word write-ups and a blog, of at least 200 words, either side of the paid blog, which carried no external links. It sounded like the quality control was there and many of the subjects fitted in nicely to my themes (with a stretch of the imagination) so I got writing. And got writing. And got writing.

Eventually I called it a day when the site in question owed me hundreds of dollars and the “assignments” were still pouring in.

The End Was Nigh!

Shortly afterward, with blogs full of short spammy posts that held a couple of links to sites that were no doubt by then associated as link farming the Page Rank of these fell and so did the last little search engine traffic. I tried to recover these blogs, and in some cases the advertisers even paid me to remove the links (to disassociate from link farming) but in the end I called it a day on many of them having had my fingers burnt.

Going Forward

I’ve had a look around and some of these sites still exist. One has, until a few weeks ago, still been emailing me “opportunities”. However, I’ve learned that looking after the outgoing links on a website is as important, if not maybe even more important, than looking after the incoming links. It was probably an income that I needed back then, but it did destroy the blogs.

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Installing Google Analytics To A WordPress Blog

After stumbling across what seemed to be a very easy way to set up Google Adsense in WordPress I was hoping for equal success with Analytics. However, that’s a touch more complicated.

First, Sign Up To Analytics

This really is surprisingly hard. Signing up isn’t too bad but I always think the feature to add a new “property” as it is known is well hidden. On a very old version of Analytics it was easy. Then the new version came out and Google hid the function. Doesn’t seem quite so bad these days. You go to your list of properties and somewhere in the drop down box there it is.

Provide your website name, it’s URL and generate the tracking link. Maybe Google was having bad day but this crashed a couple of times. But finally, I had hold of the UA number.

Add to Your WordPress Installation

You could, if you wanted, simply add the tracking code that Google provide to the theme’s footer. Been there and done it in the past. Also learnt that when the theme gets an update or you decide to change themes that it’s easily forgotten that you need to drop in the tracking code. The first thing you know is that you check the website stats and you’ve had no visitors all week. In a cloud of panic you realise your mistake.

It is far easier to use a plugin that stores the details, creates the tracking code and does everything for you. After trying out a few different plugins the one I went for is simply called “Google Analytics“, by Kevin Sylvestre.

Find, install and activate that plugin and then copy your UA id from when you created the Property over on the Google Analytics site. Within your WordPress settings menu, there is now a Google Analytics link. Simply click on this link and into the relevant box (Web Property ID) paste the UA id.

Job Done

Now, when you want to see if you are getting any hits you can wander over to the Google Analytics website and take a look there. Easy!

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The First 3 Weeks

The 13 Week Challenge

I already talked about what the 13 Week Challenge is about in high level – using modern techniques that are all above board, search engine friendly (not going to get a site dropped or even banned) and yet taking a newly registered site from zero to a comfortable level of traffic within 90 days.

This challenge runs for 13 weeks – 20 September (the day that the URL was registered and WordPress installed) until 20 December, when I will look back over the previous 90 days to judge whether the challenge has been a success or not (more tomorrow on that).

The Plan

A lot of what will take place in the blog can’t be planned in detail right from the start. A lot of what happens towards the end of the challenge, for instance, will, if all goes to plan, be mainly reacting to events such as comments and maintaining a level of quality posts. More than anything preparing the blog for what will happen after the challenge is over (it will still be running, just discussing the techniques in hindsight, new techniques etc).

Week 1

However, as I wrote last week I intend to lay careful foundations to this blog. Rushing in and trying to get interested traffic and teasing in the search engines to a site that only has a couple of pages won’t be beneficial. If, by magic, the search engines stumble over the site then that’s fine

But week 1 isn’t about making the site look good or about getting in hundreds of visitors, it’s about introducing the site to the world. Week 1 will, therefore, be a lot of talking to myself. I’ll be writing posts that introduce the site so that search engines that start to see the posts notice that the site is being added to most days.

Week 2

A lot of writing will be taking place in week 1. With probably little spare time to write daily posts (I have a full time job, plus family commitments most evenings) I will struggle. However, with a bit of time to spare over the weekend I was able to prepare in advance a few posts – a good technique for when you get stuck. This week is also when I’ll start to make the site look “pretty”.

And then for the rest of the week continue with much more writing to start to build a reasonable amount of content on the site. None of the articles for the first 2 weeks are going to be aimed specifically at search engines. They won’t be heavily search engine optimised and will be just general musings. This is intentional. For a brand new site we don’t want to “frighten” off the search engines in the early days by obviously being targeted at them.

Week 3

Now’s the time that the project will really start to take effect and we’ll start trying to get people visiting the site, search engines listing the site and so on. But it starts with implementing a load of useful tools to the site. Tools that make commenting more useful and appealing to other bloggers. Tools that help you see what is going on with your traffic and so on.

This is the week in which we’ll first start to try to tease people over from other websites onto the challenge website. At last, we’ll hopefully start to get some readers. But probably not that many yet!

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