The WordPress blogging platform has many strengths, and this is why it is by far the easiest platform to use, and the best. If you are new to WordPress, there are many options to explore, and after a little use will leave you nodding your head in admiration.
To get the best out of WordPress, it is essential that you learn about plugins, widgets, and themes. These will enhance your blog both from an aesthetic perspective, and help bring your blog to a wider audience. This way, you will hopefully attract a wider readership.
This being the case, this article deals with the essentials of what you should do to make the blog the best it can be from the beginning.
We have dedicated whole articles to this very topic, but in essence is about creating a mood. Try and think of it as a feeling rather than an appearance, and obviously the theme should be related to your blog. A music blog for example, may want a theme of a venue or club. One that rotates around music learning, may want to give the feeling of learning scales in a studio. Try and think about what you are after and apply your theme accordingly. Try not to get to entangled in specifics of columns, and sidebars. Just try and recreate online, what you would like to experience offline.
Plugins and widgets.
Plugins, are for me one of the best inventions known to humanity. It must rank number three after the flushing toilet and the wheel? Anyway, plugins add features to your blog, and either work in the background, and handle functions such as search engine optimization, and statistical data collection, or they enhance the appearance of the blog, often creating sidebar widgets. The beauty of plugins is they are largely created by WordPress users to address limitations of the basic WordPress platform, and in doing so improve WordPress overall. Many are free, though a donation to the creator is polite, and they all are very easy to install. When finding plugins, only use ones that are compatible to your version of WordPress. Ideally, your current version of WordPress should be the most recent.
Widgets are elements that sit in the sidebar and generally make it easier for your readers to do, or access something. Some are used solely for display purposes, and some are just for fun. There are all kinds of widgets that have practical functions too. The general rule is less is more, but rules are meant to be broken. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
Personally, I just drop in the ones I like, and don’t worry too much about anything else.
The essential WordPress plugins you should be thinking about installing for that first blog are:
Platinum SEO plugin. All things SEO related are contained in this plugin, as spreading the word of your blog is just as essential as writing one.
Google Analyicator plugin. This plugin makes your WordPress pages visible on your Google Analytics account. This way you can see what posts and pages are popular, and which ones are not. Other data from Analytics is also visible such as the sources of your blogs traffic, and how many visitors the site is receiving.
XML Sitemap plugin. This plugin is another must, as it creates an XML sitemap of your blog which is food and drink to Google’s webmaster tools. Here you can see how many sites have linked to yours, what keywords conjure impressions on search engines, and gauge the healthiness of your blog.
WP Captcha Free. This plugin puts a captcha on your comment posting but only if the poster is non human. This clever plugin works on timing, and is indeed a work of genius.
Other Plugins you should consider are ones that go to promote the mood of the theme. If your blog is about cookery, then a plugin that lists menus from different restaurants could be a great one for your site.
My own site is all about my freelance writing endeavours, so I have opted for an intimate theme that gives the feel of reading long into the night. The plugins and widgets I have opted for either go to promote story telling, or have a functional use such as social networking.
Once these have been installed, and are working you are then ready to write your first blog. Whatever the subject matter, the content has to be vibrant, relevant, and compelling, no matter how small the niche. The themes, the plugins, the widgets are great, but none can override stale content. Content is King, all the rest of it are members at court.
When writing the blog, think about what is the most important and most interesting elements to it are, and concentrate on bringing these to the foreground. Try and imagine what you would want from your blog if you were a reader, and strive to bring that to life.
Other factors which make blogs more popular are:
Pictures – A picture grabs a readers attention and can break up large passages of text, which can be off putting to many web readers.
Content – As mentioned before keep it compelling, vibrant and relevant. You may want to consider short paragraphs if possible. One thing to remember about a blog is that titles catch the eye, so a more creative one will probably get more readers.
Posting regularly – It is better to post regularly than erratically. So the key is to stick to a schedule. A post here and a post there, does not aid your quest to retain readership.
Many new bloggers are tempted to post all the time, which is great if you can do it, but if the content is not hitting the right chords, then this will make little if not no difference to attracting and retaining readers. Remember that content is truly King, so if you are going to post make sure that the content is as described above. Two good posts are easily worth five average ones.
Promote discussion – Discussions always go well with blogging, so it is a good idea to try and get people to join in with the post. As long as you’re not deliberately controversial, you will find more interest from your readers if they can put forward their view on a post.
After your blog has been written the next stage is to get people to read it. You could be the next Shakespeare, and not a soul would know because your words are read by no one else. WordPress and blogging is all part of the web 2.0 phenomenon, like social media. Therefore social media is a good tool to get visitors to the blog.
The following provide good foundation for social media exposure.
Twitter, write a blog, tell your followers
Digg, write a blog, get digg to show it
Delicious. Same as above just slightly different
Facebook. Creating a page for your blog and link it to twitter is always a good idea.
My Space. Tell the world about your space.
There are hundreds of other social media out there, that can be utilized to bring you exposure. Some are more appropriate than others. Many social media sites can be linked to each other, which saves you time in getting the message out there.
It can be a daunting prospect when you first start blogging. New worlds and new methods will open up before you, but you will have fun exploring them, and soon it will feel like you have been blogging for years.