I’m going to get a bit technical here and start talking about software and technical tools that you should be using if you want to make setting up and running a blog as easy and simple as possible. Having the right platforms and technology at your disposal will make the process of managing your blog so much easier and much less of a hassle day to day.
Whether it’s the physical make up of your site or online gadgets that will streamline your site, there are plenty of things that can enhance both the back end and the visitor view of any blog or website. There are plenty of differing opinions on this, but these are the things that I have tried and tested and I stand by. There are new developments all the time, so keep checking back on this page as it will be getting updated very frequently!
It’s also a really good idea to be active and present on blogging forums and digital marketing websites to stay ahead of the game and make the most of rapid advancements in the online world.
We all know by now that social media is the platform you absolutely need to be present and active on, always. There’s not a person in the world who doesn’t know about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube etc and a large majority of the world participates in social media streams and feeds so you need to take advantage of this.
Spend some time making sure all your profiles are as up to scratch as possible. Give it a high-quality profile picture, a brief bio and all your contact information and links to your blog. Then, make sure you always have new posts and content going out all the time. You also need to have your feeds integrated into your actual website so that people can see that you’re active and engaging with visitors who come to your blog and your social as an extension.
The channels that you decided to pursue socially will be determined by the type of blog you run and the niche that you’re in. The big three should always be utilised: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but sometimes, you need to branch out to the likes of Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and maybe even Google+. Do an analysis of your audience and do research into their social trends and behaviour so you can utilise that.
Content Management Systems
A content management system is a complicated way of saying an easy to use software for managing a website. It’s used to describe the user interface that helps you publish and manage content on any site, not just blogs. Websites are made up of databases, which are like big spreadsheets of information that form what the end user sees, if you were to use these databases to modify your website, it would be very time consuming to change anything on your site as you’d have to go into the exact field and change the code that makes something appear on the site.
This is where CMS’ come in. They have been created to make it easier to communicate tot he database that stores all the information about your website. These are managed by third-party companies and are often updated as the web evolved. There are six main types of CMS, all with their own pros and cons and it really depends on what your website does which will determine which CMS you use to communicate with your database.
Open-Source is the name used for CMS’ that are free to use and are open to the public to contribute to aid the development. The primary example of this is WordPress, which I use on any and all blogs I create and work on. It’s really simple to use and is the most popular CMS on the internet, with good reason. There are thousands of themes and plugins to make your site look and work great. It’s also built with blogging in mind, which makes it perfect for creating a blog.
Images are vital for making your blog look great and high quality photos give any blog a better look and feel. What’s content without images? To avoid the dicey world of copyright, it’s always best to use your own photos, but try and make them good – which is easier said than done! Chances are, if you’re delving into the world of blogging, you’re going to have a smartphone or access to some form of picture taking equipment. Spend a little time learning about camera angles and how to use these devices properly to make your images look good.
If you don’t have the time or the resource or the funding to get your own camera or take your own photos, then I recommend using a free, royalty-free image service like Pexels or Unsplash to get photos to use that aren’t under copyright law. Wikimedia Commons is also a good place to look, but these tend to be more editorial images, and you have to follow the copyright instructions closely.
If you have a bit of spare money, consider investing in a stock image account with Shutterstock or Alamy Photos. These are often very high quality images and the range is unparalleled. However, these can get pretty pricey, depending on your subcription, so maybe look into other options first.
I’m only going to speak about WordPress plugins here, as it’s the platform I’m most well-versed in and the one I have the authority to speak on. Plugins on WordPress are great, they can make designing and maintaining your website so much easier and there are literally thousands to choose from that will do pretty much anything you want to. When you’re looking for one, try and use a plugin that has plenty of active installs and lots of good reviews, this minimises the chances of the plugin being an entrance to the back end of your site.
The plugins which you should always have on your site are Wordfence, Yoast and Contact Form 7. Wordfence is a security plugin that provides and all in one solution to keeping your site safe. You can adjust all the settings to be perfect for what you need and I’ve never had any problems with it.
Many of you will know Yoast for its SEO benefits and the plugin is really great for helping with this. It has a traffic light indicator for posts to make sure the on-page optimisation is on point and the ability to generate an XML sitemap for submitting to Google search console.
Contact Form 7 is my favourite contact form to use as it’s nice looking with no frills. It does what it needs to do and that’s all you need from a contact form.