Alternatively, parts of this post could be called “tips for switching your site or blog from WordPress to your own domain” because that’s when I discovered some these!
I struggled a lot with whether to post this or not. I’m definitely not an expert yet, and there are a lot of blog tips out there from some pretty experienced bloggers. Eventually, though, the thought of possibly being able to help someone else out won me over.
Since I just purchased my own domain and did a WordPress install on my own host (I highly recommend Bluehost’s 3.95/year deal for 3 years – it will be cheaper than your renewal rate if you do less than 3 years!), I have a pretty fresh insight, and there are a lot of things I wish I’d known before I started. I also have a bit of a leg up because I’ve previously blogged and I work in communications and marketing for a living, so I (hopefully) know a bit about good content and marketing already.
I wanted to share some of the most important tips for new bloggers I’ve discovered so far, along with some forward-thinking tips should find yourself in a position where you’re switching your blog from a free host such as WordPress.com to a paid host with your own domain.
1. Choose your name wisely.
A lot is in a name. Your blog name is the first impression your readers will have of you. I have avoided a lot of blogs before because the names sounded too pretty, too dainty, or too boring for my tastes.
Think about what you want your blog focus to be; if it’s a particular topic, think of something catchy and short. Brainstorm a bunch of words related to your focus or interests and see if anything clicks. If you have a lifestyle blog, you can definitely use a name-related title, but it still needs to be engaging.
Some of my favorites (and why):
- Stupid Easy Paleo – Stupid Easy. Paleo. Need I say more?
- Oak + Oats – This name was so catchy and earthy, it just spoke to me. Once I clicked, I couldn’t get over how well the site name and branding just go together. She has it down.
- dooce.com – I’ve been following this blog forever for no apparent reason (other than we have a similar sense of humor and she’s a great writer) and have always found the title simple, kinda funny, and super easy to remember.
- Becoming Minimalist – Just hearing this blog name and looking at this page make me feel relaxed.
2. Decide what level of identity and disclosure you’re comfortable with.
This isn’t always talked about and it’s kind of a big deal. Some bloggers have no problem having their name out there, using their personal accounts and email addresses, and sharing personal details. I made the decision right away that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my last name at this point. Maybe that will change and I’ll use later, but I don’t think it makes a big difference for me right now.
Do you want people to know your full name? Do you want them to know where you work? Do you want them to know about your kids? Are you in a position where you can openly talk about your job? These are all important things to think about when setting up guidelines for your blog.
3. Streamline and connect your social media accounts.
This is about more than just having social media icons in a sidebar. It’s about developing an online identity for yourself that spans across all your accounts.
Use a consistent username across the board so it’s easy for people to find and identify you. If you can’t get the exact same name, use something similar. Use the same photo of yourself, your logo, or a consistent image you want to represent yourself and your blog across your social media accounts.
Decide which accounts you want to remain personal vs. connected to your blog. I keep my Facebook private for family and friends, but I’ve linked my Twitter and Instagram accounts. I’ve created a blog Pinterest account, but keep going back and forth about how much to keep separate. The people following my blog probably have similar interests to me and might like to see the more personable side of me in my pins, but there are definite promotional advantages to having a business Pinterest. In the future, I may create a Facebook page for my blog.
4. Find your niche.
Whether your blog is about yoga, marketing, or food, the better you know yourself and your audience, the more you can focus on becoming an expert blogger in that field and connecting with others. You can also better tailor your about page and optimize your site for search engines so that when people are trying to find people just like you, they find you!
Lifestyle blogs can also be incredibly successful if you connect with people with multiple shared interests, or simply if you blog about consistent enough topics that people want to follow your story.
5. Follow other bloggers and join the same platforms, communities, and groups they are a part of.
This is the best way to network and get your name (and blog!) out there. Blogging communities are incredibly supportive and can help you learn from the best of the best while also allowing you to network. Melyssa over at The Nectar Collective has a great post about the best Facebook groups to join.
Groups and communities can also lead to partnerships such as guest posts, follow suggestions, sidebar ads, sponsorships, and more.
6. Use featured images
With my previous design, featured images didn’t matter too much – or so I thought. I always started out with an image, but my whole post showed rather than just part of my post, so people saw images no matter what. And I didn’t have any sort of feed aggregating featured images, so it didn’t seem to matter.
When I made the move to my own domain on a paid host, chose a new, better template, decided to start sharing my posts around, and claimed my blog through Bloglovin’, however, I realized just how important featured images were. Even though my previous theme didn’t visually need featured images, my new one did, and all my previews of posts that I’d exported over looked bland and boring without the images. If I’d used featured images to begin with, I would have saved myself a ton of time going back through my posts to add them.
Featured images also aggregate in various feeds where you’re sharing your blog. Case in point: Bloglovin’.
7. Use images that are the same size (I’m still working on this!)
Your design is going to look a whole lot more clean and polished if your images are the same size. It will also make looking over a feed, like on Bloglovin’, or pins of your posts a lot more pleasant and organized. I so wish I had done this from the beginning!
8. Use “pretty” permalinks
Permalinks are the permanent link your blog post lives at. If you do a WordPress install onto your new host, your default will likely be the first option below: “ugly” permalinks.
By using the option I have selected, or “day and name” or “post name,” your posts are more organized and easy to find. If someone searches your blog for a topic, they’ll be able to find it a lot easier if you have the post title as your link – and, even more importantly, if someone searches Google or another search engine for your post topic, links are a big part of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). By using a link with an title that matches the title and topic of your blog, you’re increasing the chances of someone finding it.
9. Use an anti-spam plugin – and make sure to activate it and sign up.
This is so crucial. Between the time it took me to set up my domain and tinkering with a few things in my admin panel, I’d already received 4 spam comments. I activated Akismet (it’s free, by the way!) right away (under Plugins), but then I was still getting them and couldn’t figure out why. When I clicked on my Plugins, I realized it was because you also have to sign up for Akismet, too.
After you activate it, sign up for an Akismet plan to get an API key. Then, go to your Akismet configuration page, and save your API key.
10. Support other bloggers.
We’re all in this together, and blogging really does become a community. The more you blogs you comment on and follow, the more opportunity there is to network and learn from other people.
In addition, when you support other people and comment on their posts, it gets your name out there. You never know what sort of friendship/partnership/sponsorship may evolve just from following and commenting on someone else’s blog.
What are your top tips for new bloggers?