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How to build a blog: Northern Ideas launched

It’s more than a month since Caroline O’Doherty and I wrote about her blogging project. We’ve been busy building a blog, and learning along the way.

In April Caroline asked me for recommendations for sources of information to help her start a blog. We agreed that it would make a great project, and a topic for a series of blog posts.

Here’s what we’ve covered so far.

#1 Starting out in blogging
#2 Choosing a topic and a name for a blog
#3 Overcoming ‘the fear’ with help from friends
#4 Technology choices

In this post we look at the process of building a so called self-hosted blog and creating the first blog post.

header

Technology and a name

Caroline has committed to blogging as a long term initiative. She wants complete control over her blog, and is keen to learn, and so has opted for a self-hosted WordPress.org blog.

She also decided that her blog would celebrate everything that is unique, inspired and different about the north-east England.

Caroline’s blog will feature posts relating to lifestyle and business, celebrating some of the cool, unique ideas that are born and developed in the north-east.

She decided to call it Northern Ideas. The dot com domain was taken but dot co dot uk was available.

Domain and web server

Web hosts recognise that increasing numbers of people want to follow Caroline’s route and so offer bespoke web packages that include a domain and simplify the installation process.

There’s any number of vendors. Recommendation is a good place to start. I’ve used UK2 in the past for similar projects. I always found their help and support excellence.

WebHostingBuzz is another web host that comes highly recommended by numerous professional bloggers in my network.

Buying a domain and web server is straightforward. Web hosts have an interest in making it so. To start you’ll need a small amount of web space. You can always upgrade.

The cost of a domain and web space is around £60 per year. Make sure that you opt for auto-renewal for continuity of service.

WordPress installation

Point your domain address at your web space using your web host’s control panel. You then need to be patient as it’ll take up to 48 hours for the domain record to permeate around the internet.

The next job is to load the WordPress application onto your web space.

Many web hosts such as UK2 make this easy by automating the process otherwise you’ll need to download the application from WordPress, and upload it to your website.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that organises blog content into a database and renders it to visitors to your website depending on the theme that you install. Content can be catogorised and tagged to present it in different views.

WordPress themes

The application is preloaded with a basic theme. Changing the theme enables you to personalise your blog. There are millions of themes to choose from the huge open source community of developers.

I’d suggest spending time surfing the web to find a theme you like: user Google, explore the WordPress community, or simply browse blogs.

Caroline spent an evening or so reviewing themes on Pinterest before settling on Au Revoir. Many themes are free. In this case the designer was selling the theme via Etsy for around £20.

au-revoir

We purchased the theme and installed it on the site, along the way seeking help from the developer in tweaking the header, buttons and the sidebar.

I’ve always found that developers provide good documentation and are eager to help out with a blog installation where they can. The motivation is seeing their template used on a site.

Plug-ins

The final piece of technical work is to install plugins. These are apps, developed by the open source community, that add specific features to your blog. We added the following.

  • Akismet – Akismet checks comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s comments admin screen.
  • AuthorSure – AuthorSure adds Google+ verification to your blog and ensures that your Google+ gravatar appears alongside search results.
  • Google Analytics – This plugin adds the required code for Google analytics. We also created a Google Analytics account so that we can evaluate how visitors engage with the blog.
  • Shareaholic – Adds a social book marketing menu for sharing to networks including Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
  • UpdraftPlus – manual or scheduled backups to Dropbox, FTP or Google Drive.

Northern Ideas is launched

And so we reach a key milestone in the project. Caroline has drafted a page about her blog, and a first blog post. Whoop, cheer, clap, and take a look for yourself at Northern Ideas.

northern-ideas

The hard work starts now. Wish Caroline luck!

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Stephen and Caroline:
    Congratulations on launching Northern Ideas. I wonder why you refer to it as a blog. It’s a website. It could have a blog category, but that doesn’t change it’s status as a wwwdotcom site. Is the site responsive? If Caroline is anticipating a smart phone/ tablet/other device audience, she needs a responsive theme. Interestingly, I’ve just gone through the same thing myself, but I didn’t have you Stephen for support. Pity :) and well done both of you.

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