We need to take several things into account while setting up a WordPress blog but understanding everything at this point is not recommended, only a few things which I’ll suggest in this article is good to get started. I don’t think someone who just started a blog needs to understand all these concepts at this stage, it will add nothing but leave you scratching your head to understand the terms.
It requires certain level of knowledge before you understand all these concepts which you’ll gain overtime. Once you have already spent sufficient time with blogging, It will be a good time to dive into more complex concepts of blogosphere. This article is more for the newbie who just started and want recommendations and suggestions from experienced blogger for setting up a blog that satisfies all the basic minimum requirements. I’ll discuss 6 most important and necessary requirements of a blog. To give glimpse of what all I’ll discuss in this article, I’ve listed down items below:
- Selecting SEO optimised WordPress theme
- Installation of 4 must have plugins
- Setting up Google Analytics
- Setting up Google webmaster tools
- Setting up opt-in form.
- Social sharing button
1) Selecting SEO optimised WordPress theme
The first thing you need to do when you start a new blog is to choose good theme. There are plenty of free themes available at wordpress.org and other websites but you need to chose the one which is SEO optimised, loads faster and offers basic customisation facility based on your requirement. Choose the one which is responsive to fit well on any screen size (including mobile phones). It is discussed in my previous article that mobile friendliness and page load speed are a deciding factors for Google to rank any website.
All the themes at wordpress.org are free to use and customise provided you keep the footer links intact however if you want to get rid of these links, you will have to purchase the theme from respective developers. In most of the free WordPress themes, several good options are available for pro version and if you want to use them, you will have to purchase the theme. I know being a beginner, people are afraid of investing but theme doesn’t cost much money. One can have a good theme for a price under $50. Below are some recommended free and paid themes which are SEO optimised and good to use.
- Point theme by mythemeshop- Preview & Download free
- Bloggie theme by mythemeshop – Preview & Download free
- Portal – Preview & Download free
- Playbook – Preview & Download free
- Sparkling – Preview & Download free
- Responsive by cyberchimp –Preview & Download free
- Sitebox by theme-junkie – Preview | Buy now
- Postboard – Preview | Buy now
- Smartzine – Preview |Buy now
2) Installation of 4 must have plugins
Although plugins requirement vary from blog to blog but these 4 plugins are the necessary requirement without which it will not be possible to run a successful blog.
- Contact Form 7 – The Contact Form 7 helps you create a beautiful contact form by which the users could interact with you. Blog without a contact form can not succeed as once you launch the blog, people will start approaching you (in sometime) with questions and for seeking recommendations. You can create contact form based on your preference as to what all information you want to collect from the users contacting you. Its pretty simple to setup and use. Once the form is setup, you can place the form on any page, sidebar or in the footer with a small short code.
- All in one SEO pack – Blog without Search Engine Optimisation can not survive longer as search engine is the major source of driving quality traffic. SEO is divided into two sub categories, on-page SEO and off-page SEO. All in one SEO takes care of on-page SEO factors and helps you optimise the blog for search engine.
- Google XML Sitemap – Sitemap plays a critical role in making search engine understand the structure of a blog. Google XML Sitemap plugin lists all the pages and compiles a sitemap that can be submitted via Google webmaster tools (I’ll discuss about Google webmaster tool in this article).
- WPtouch Mobile plugin – It is important that your blog renders well on the mobile devices as according to the studies, about 50% of websites are being accessed on the mobile. WPtouch Mobile plugin helps with creating mobile version of your blog within seconds.
3) Setting up Google Analytics
When you work towards achieving some target, you have to monitor the progress continuously and in case of a blog, it can be done by Google Analytics. The bloggers should configure Google Analytics from day one to monitor how much users are coming on the blog, which country the maximum users are coming from, how users are finding your blog- weather through search engine, social media, direct or by referral. This is just an overview, Google Analytics can be used for much deeper analysis. I’ll write a separate post explaining all the major features of Google Analytics.
How to setup Google Analytics
Step-1 Go to www.analytics.google.com and sign in with your gmail username and password.
Step-2 Once you logged in to Google Analytics, click Admin (1)> drop down menu (2) and then “Create new account” (3).
Step-3 Enter the account Name (1) of your choice, Can be abbreviation of your website name, for example in my case, I might use BAA (Blogging An Art). Enter website name (2) and then website URL (3). Select category best suits your blog from drop down menu (4) and then the time zone (5). Hit “Get tracking ID” blue button at the bottom (6).
Step-4 On clicking “Get Tracking ID” button, it will ask you to accept or not accepting T & C. Click accept
Step-5 Now there are two things, you can either use whole bunch of code (highlighted by circle 2) or just Tracking ID (highlighted by circle 1) to configure Google analytics for your blog. If you’ve installed “All in one seo pack” plugin, you can use just the ID to configure. Go to All in one SEO pack settings >Google Settings >Google Analytics ID. Enter the ID and you are all set to track every single details of each visitor.
In case you do not have this plugin installed, it will require you to copy whole bunch of code indicated by circle 2 in above figure and paste it either in header or footer section of your blog. It is recommended to paste the code in header or footer only because these two pages are common.
4) Setting up Google Webmaster Tools
The other important thing you can’t afford to ignore is to configure Google Webmaster Tools. Either you have to submit the blog in Google Search engine or have to submit the sitemap or need to allow/ disallow pages to be crawled by the search engine, all these things can be controlled by Google webmaster tools. Let’s see why Google webmaster tool is essential to configure for a blog.
- Submit the blog in Google Search Engine.
- Submit sitemap
- Check crawl errors
- Search Analysis such as Queries, Clicks, CTR, Position, Impression etc.
- Check number of links pointing to your website
- Google index status
- URL removal
- Allow or disallow selected pages to be crawl through robot.txt and much more !
Setup Google Webmaster Tools
Step 1– Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools and sign in with username and password.
Step 2– Click “ADD A PROPERTY” button on the top right corner and enter the URL.
Step 3– Once you add the property, its time to verify owner of the property.
There are several method you can verify ownership through but in case you have installed “All in one SEO pack” it will become lot easier. Go to Alternative Methods tab (1) and select HTML tag. Copy the code which is highlighted (2) by in below image. Now go to all in one seo pack settings > webmaster verification. Paste the code which you have copied in Google Webmaster Tools text box. Save the settings by clicking save button at the bottom.
Step 4– Go back to Search Console and hit VERIFY button. If you receive the message saying that you have successfully verified the ownership, you are good to go. Allow couple of days for data to appear in search console.
The other method which is recommended by Google itself requires you to download the text file and upload in the root directory and verify it. For the newbie, it would be little difficult to verify the domain through recommended method hence I suggest to have “All in one SEO pack” plugin installed for the blog.
5) Setting up opt-in form
If you want to capitalise on the visitors coming to your website, you should start building subscribers list since day one. In order to build a list, you need to setup a subscribe form where the visitor can enter their emails in order to receive latest updates from your blog. Go to plugins, Search for Subscribe form and install any plugin of your choice. I use plugin by Sumome.
You can build a list with Feedburner, the service offered by Google or other leading paid service providers such as Mailchimp, Getresponse, Aweber etc. Feedburner is a good choice but there are several restrictions such as you can’t send customise emails to the subscribers, only the blog feeds will be sent and that too automatically by Google itself. I recommend MailChimp as they allow service free till first 2000 subscribers.
Once the subscribe form (plugin) is installed, configure it for mailchimp by following the instructions given by the plugin developers. In case you find difficulty in setting things up, you can always reach out to me for free help through contact us page or direct email.
6) Social sharing button
In today’s time when social media is among the topic sources of driving traffic to a blog, you can’t afford to lose any single opportunity to take advantage of social media traffic. Social sharing buttons allow visitors to share the content published on your blog directly from blog to their social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google plus etc.
There are several good plugins to serve this purpose such as AdToAny Share Buttons, Shareholic, Simple Share Buttons Adder, Social Media Feather but the one which I use and recommend is Share buttons by AddThis.
Install share buttons by AddThis plugin and configure based on your preference whether you want buttons to appear before or after the content. I found placing buttons above the post and on the sides of the page work pretty well.
With all these things setup, your blog is ready to be promoted.
I hope you find this article helpful, if you do, share it on Facebook, Twitter and other social channels