Since this is a brand new blog, why not start off with tips for the new blogger? I’m not new to blogging (see about page), however Blog Bestie is just starting out, and these tips come straight from the list of things I’ve done while getting ready to launch. Because I am a new blogger, when it comes to blogging about blogging. 😉
When you’re new to blogging, it can be tricky to figure out where to start and what’s most important. It’s really easy to get stuck on details & not do the most important thing: share your content! And being able to ignore the urge to tweak your site forever, instead of posting, is one great thing about blogs. You can change your blog anytime you want. What you start with on day one almost certainly won’t be what you have on day 100, and that’s not only okay, it’s fantastic.It's easy to get stuck on details & not do the most important thing: share your content!Click To Tweet
Whether you’re a new blogger or not, consider the five following suggestions to help your blog level up.
Register a Custom Domain
Instead of using a free site address with wordpress.com, blogspot.com, or similar in the URL, register your own custom domain name. It’s easier to start off with your longterm, custom URL, instead of switching later (and having your links change).
Domains are a small investment and a great first step. (And you can still host your site at WordPress.com or on Blogger, if you want.) The key is: No matter where you host your site, or how you create it (with WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger, etc.) your readers will always be able to find you, because they’ll access your site using your custom domain name.
If you’ve got a Google account, I like registering domains with them from here: domains.google.com. (They’re affordable, easy to control, and include privacy — a must have!)
Edit Your Permalink Structure
If your site runs on a self-hosted WordPress install, your permalinks will start out like this: yourdomain.com/?p=123. It works, but it’s not great for describing your post to readers at-a-glance or your SEO. Instead, consider changing your permalinks to: yourdomain.com/post-title. Or if your content is time-specific, you could include the date: yourdomain.com/date/post-title.
To change your permalinks in self-hosted WordPress (not WordPress.com), go to Settings > Permalinks, then choose a new structure or create your own (just make sure it ends with /%postname%/).
For this blog, since the content is more evergreen and not very date-specific, I chose to use the post title only, so I’ve set it to the “Post name” option shown above.
Next, edit the post slug.
Wait. What’s a post slug, you ask? It’s “a few lowercase words separated by dashes, describing a post and usually derived from the post title to create a user-friendly permalink.” (Thanks, WordPress Glossary!)
Super-long slugs, like the one I automatically got with this post, are unwieldy and annoy search engines, so once you’ve got your title in place and your post is written, shorten the slug. Remove words like a, an, the, as, and if, and leave only a few keywords as your entire post slug.
For this post, I started out with this post URL:
And after editing the slug, I ended up with this post URL:
If you can get it down to two or three words, even better! I just really wanted “easy” to be in there, in case there’s a newbie out there looking for simple ways to get started on their blog. 😉
Upload Your Own Favicon
The favicon is that little tiny icon that shows up on the tab of your browser next to a site title. Until you add your own, it’s probably blank or, worse, displaying the icon for your site’s host. Customize it!
Since WordPress 4.3, you can add a favicon (called a “site icon”) right in your WordPress dashboard. Go to Appearance > Customize, then click Site Identity (or Site Title, Tagline, and Logo) in the Customizer. Upload your (512px square) site icon and save, then it’ll appear in your browser tab when you refresh.
If your site is hosted on WordPress.com, first to go your wp-admin dash, by adding /wp-admin after your site’s URL. Then click Settings > General and save an image at the top right in the Blog Picture/Icon area.
If your site is hosted on Blogger, Google has directions to add a favicon here. You’ll need a tiny 16x16px image to upload.
Use Plugins and Widgets Carefully
There are a zillion plugins and widgets out there, so it’s easy to go totally overboard on both. However, don’t!
For plugins, specifically, you should only add the ones you need and remove any that you’re no longer using. (Don’t just deactivate. Uninstall.) Each plugin is a potential security hole into your site, so it’s best to limit them and use the ones that are well-reviewed, recently updated, and frequently installed. You can find all of that information (and more!) to help you decide, by checking out plugins in the WordPress.org Plugin Directory. It’s not a guarantee that a plugin is 100% secure, but it’s a good way to minimize your chances of using a bad one. (I’ll share my favorites in an upcoming post.)
Widgets are less of an issue in the security sense, but they can quickly clutter up your site and distract people from your most important content. When choosing your widgets, think about what you like to find in a sidebar or other widget area when you visit a site. Consider adding some of this information using widgets:
- a photo of you
- an about blurb to welcome readers to your site
- social media icons and/or embeds of your timelines/feeds
- a search bar
- your most popular posts or links to your top categories
And on the flipside, consider not adding: a stats counter, a list of recent posts (that are already showing in full on your front blog page anyway), that social media timeline for the account you don’t really use or adds nothing to your blog’s focus, and ads (or limit them a lot).
Add Formatting To Your Posts
First, be sure to avoid overly long blocks of text. As a new blogger, you’ve probably got a lot to say (since you started a blog!), but split it up. A paragraph should usually be between 3-8 sentences, with 5 being a good sweet spot. On the web, it’s important to consider the number of characters on a line, too. Try making your lines 50-80 characters in length, and your paragraphs about 3-5 lines.
Why? Because longer line length and more lines in a paragraph can make it difficult for a reader to move from line to line or to skim your post. And they will skim your post. So…
Make Your Posts Skimmable
Add headings, bolded text, italicized text, lists, images, infographics, links, and other variations in your formatting to break up big ol’ blocks of text. Use a large enough font in a dark enough color that it’s easy to quickly read. (The number one font problem I see happening lately? Small, light gray text on a white background.) And don’t forget the white space! Posts are easier to read when your words have some breathing room.Publish skimmable posts! Add headings, bold text, lists, & more for easier reading.Click To Tweet
New Blogger? Not anymore!
Questions? Comment below or reach out via Twitter and I’ll be happy to chat. Be sure to share if you’ve got a favorite tip for a brand new blogger. 🙂
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