Set up your FREE WordPress blog in 4 easy steps
This article on setting up a free WordPress blog originally appeared in the Mar/Apr 2016 edition of northerly, the official magazine of Byron Writers Festival (previously the Northern Rivers Writers Centre). It is published here with permission. Click here to read the magazine PDF version.
WordPress.com is a well-established and highly popular blogging and website hosting platform that is great for personal blogs and for those wanting to test the blogging waters. You don’t have to worry about technical and coding know-how, how to manage spam and updates, or creating regular backups of settings and content. WordPress.com looks after those areas for you. Better still, WordPress.com is totally free and signing up is quick and easy.
Compared to its bigger, more powerful sister, WordPress.org, WordPress.com has some limitations that include adverts displaying on your blog (unless you pay an annual fee for them to be removed). The ability to make money through your blog is also diminished, but if your key motivation is to use your blog as a platform to share writing and images and quickly connect with a community of other bloggers, WordPress.com is ideal.
1. Choose a niche so that readers know to choose you
A small step, but an important one: decide whom you are trying to target and what it is you want to say. Being too broad – say, talking about motherhood per se – makes it difficult for readers to predict whether what you’re likely to publish in the future is of any relevance to them and their experience, and so they will be less likely to sign up to your blog. Writing about new motherhood in an isolated, rural town or photo-journaling your RV adventures as a retiree, for example, serve a niche readership and will make it easier for people to find out about your musings.
That said, if you’re not interested in connecting with an audience and just want an outlet to express thoughts, stories and ideas, then go ahead and ignore this advice.
2. Define, design, style
The next step is to style your site to suit your personality and blog topic. Start by choosing a theme. If you’re a serious writer then maybe a predominantly text-based layout will work best; if you’re a visual artist or photographer then a grid theme could better suit your presentation needs.
Next, define your blog with a title and tagline to help people easily find your site, and change colours, backgrounds, header images and fonts to give your blog some personality.
Want your blog to be part of a larger site? Create pages and add them to a navigational menu, and decide which page you want your visitors to arrive at. Will it be a static page with some links to key areas, or a feed of your latest blog posts?
And then add some widgets. Widgets are little snippets of information added to footers and sidebars and can pretty much be whatever you want them to be. This includes images, copyright notices, social media feeds, top posts, blog roll, author information, archives and category clouds.
3. Create content that is uniquely you
The bit you’ve been waiting for: creating and publishing content. This part is so uniquely up to you that it’s unwise to make too many recommendations.
General rules are that images help to engage audiences and that shorter paragraphs written in a conversational rhythm help with readability (see the Flesch Reading Ease Test for further details), but if your writing is academic or your intention is to be purely text-based, go with that.
Ultimately, you define how you want your posts and pages to present. Be you. There will always be an audience for authentic content.
4. Publicise, connect and grow your blog
One of the real benefits of creating a blog on WordPress.com is that it gives you immediate access to a large network of bloggers, accessed through topic filters and via ‘Recommendations’ and ‘Discover’. By reading, following and commenting on other people’s blogs, you can quickly find yourself connected with likeminded people and feeling inspired to write future posts for your own blog.
And if you want to encourage readers to spread the word about your blog, one final consideration is to encourage sharing via social media sharing buttons and in-text Call To Action (CTA).
NOTE: While WordPress.com allows you to create a free WordPress blog or website, if you decide to add features and require more advanced customisation, they start to charge you. It may well be more cost effective to buy your own domain, pay for hosting and get some help setting WordPress up on your own privately hosted site.
There are plenty of providers who promote a ‘one-click-install’ for those of you who are comfortable doing this process yourself (although you’ll then need to be comfortable selecting and installing appropriate themes, plugins and other bits manually too), but if you’re wanting something a bit more advanced or uniquely styled – or just need some technical support getting set up so you can start blogging on your own site – then Kaboo Media offers various options to help make this happen. Get in touch and we can chat.