Blogging Help

Blogging Help

SYWTBABB? Part 2 – Setting Up the Blog

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through my links, I will receive a small commission or free services from the sale.

I know, I know, I said at the end of Part 1 that this post would be about themes and recommended plugins, but I fibbed. I forgot, you’ll need to set that blog up first!

Blogger

To set up your blog on Blogger, you’ll need to go to blogger.com and sign in using your Google/Gmail account. If you don’t have a Google/Gmail account yet, you can create one. Don’t worry, your blog URL/Title won’t be what your email address is, so if you did something funny or weird for your Gmail address, it’s OK.

A screen shot of what Blogger might look like for you when you log in.

Now my Blogger dashboard might look a bit different because I have some blogs saved in the reading list and it defaults to my reading list, because I don’t have any blogs. But if you look in the upper left corner, you’ll see a link that says “Create Blog” – you’re going to click there to create a blog.

The title creation screen on Blogger.

This little popup window will show up, asking you to choose a name for your blog. Just put the name you chose in the previous step here and click “Next”.

Choose your URL screen.

On the next popup, you just type in the URL you want for your blog. This can be whatever you want, although something at least close to your blog title is preferable. If the URL you want is taken, try changing the spelling a bit or adding something to it to make it unique to you. I changed keep on booking to keep it booking for the URL for this one. Click “Save” and you’re done. Your blog is created!

Your shiny new blog dashboard.

We’ll talk about adding a theme other than the default one in next week’s post. But for now, you’ve done it! You’ve created your blog! Congrats!

WordPress.com

So if you’ve chosen free hosted WordPress, you’ll go to WordPress.com, and either sign in (if you’ve got an account so you can comment) or you’ll create an account. Once you’ve created your account, you’ll get the following screen:

The domain selection screen.

Type in what you want your URL to be – like for me, I typed keepitbooking and it gave me options to choose from. You can choose to purchase a domain through WordPress.com, but be aware that you’ll have to purchase an upgraded plan – you can’t use a domain via WordPress.com with a free plan.

If you just want the free plan, scroll down and you’ll eventually see available blog URLs – one of them should be a free wordpress.com URL – so for me, keepitbooking.wordpress.com. Select that one if you want the free plan and you’ll get the following screen:

The plan selection screen.

Here you’ll select your plan – you can start with the free plan (you can upgrade whenever you want) or choose one of the paid plans. I suggest starting with the free plan since you can upgrade whenever you feel ready. They do require you to pay for your plan annually, so be prepared to pay by the year for your plan. When I paid for a WordPress.com plan, I did Personal – it allowed me to use a domain name and have a few of the paid features of WordPress.com. However, the free plan is fine as well for those just starting out and wanting to see if they can gain a following – trust me, there are plenty of people on free plans who have popular blogs.

Once you choose your plan and provide payment (if you chose a domain name/paid plan), WordPress.com will build your blog for you. You’ll get some extra steps that are part of a checklist, shown in the following image:

Site Setup Screen

Once you go through these steps, your site is ready to go. You don’t have to launch your site yet, you also don’t have to get the WordPress app if you don’t want to. But your blog is ready at this point. I’ll show you how to change your theme and customize it in another part of the series, most likely Part 4.

Self-Hosted WordPress/ClassicPress

I’m going to combine the instructions for setting up WordPress and ClassicPress because ClassicPress is an off-shoot of WordPress and the way you’d install them is pretty much the same.

First, you’ll need a hosting account with a reliable server, as well as a domain name. I use Namecheap (affiliate) for my domain registration and my hosting. However, you can use GoDaddy, SiteGround, Site5, Bluehost, HostGator, or whoever you like, as long as they support using WordPress or ClassicPress.1Note that some hosts may have different types of servers, and some of their servers may support WordPress/ClassicPress while others do not. Please make sure the hosting account you sign up for can use PHP scripting and that WordPress is supported on their servers.

Once you’ve acquired your hosting and domain name, you’ll log into your cPanel and find the software installer. Namecheap uses Softaculous, but there are others and while not all of them have ClassicPress, most of them should have WordPress. On my cPanel, I find the Softaculous software installer toward the bottom of the page.

This is what Softaculous looks like in my cPanel, yours may look different.

If yours doesn’t look like this, try just clicking on the words or icon for Softaculous. You should end up on a screen that looks similar to this:

Softaculous Home Screen

If you’re going to install WordPress, you’ll click where it says WordPress. If you want to install ClassicPress, look on the left side and find the CMS heading, then click in and look for ClassicPress.

The installation screens look very similar, so I’m going to show the one for WordPress, and that’s it.

Installation Screen

You’ll choose which version of WordPress/ClassicPress to install (the default version will always be the latest version Softaculous has available), then choose what URL you want to install it to. It defaults to the domain attached to your hosting – mine is thespookybookshelf.com, so that’s what it defaults to. If you only have one domain, that will be the only option. You can choose to install your blog to a directory, such as thespookybookshelf.com/blog if you like, but I find it easier to just have it be hosted in the main directory.

Add your site name and description. The description is like a tagline – mine is “The Life & Times of a Bibliophile”. It won’t let you leave it blank, but you can just say “Book Reviews & More” if nothing else strikes your fancy.

Scroll down a bit and it will ask what your admin name is going to be – default is admin and it is highly recommended you change it for security reasons. This is your username to log in to the WordPress/ClassicPress dashboard – pick something you’ll remember, but others might not guess because knowing your username is half the battle to hacking into your blog.

It will then ask you for the admin password. Softaculous will suggest a secure password, but you can create your own instead – just make sure that bar under it shows green so you know your password is secure.

The admin email is the email address you want any WordPress emails to go to – this is the email address that will control your Gravatar (that will be explained later) and where a lost password request will be sent if you lose your password.

You can choose the language you want your blog and dashboard to be in – the default is English, but that may be different where you live – if the default language isn’t the language you want to use, change it to the appropriate language.

On my Softaculous I can choose to install the Limit Login Attempts plugin, which limits how many times a person can attempt to log in with the incorrect password before it stops them, and the Classic Editor plugin. The Classic Editor plugin is going to stop being developed or supported at the end of 2021, so I wouldn’t install that one unless you are just dead set against using the block editor. However, if you’re concerned that someone might try hacking into your blog, the Limit Login Attempts plugin is a good idea.

Ignore Advanced Options, there’s nothing you need to mess with in there unless you’re really interested in naming the database table and table prefixes yourself.

If yours shows it like mine does and you want to, you can go through the carousel of themes and choose one that will the theme your blog installs and uses. If you don’t want to pick one, the default theme, Twenty Twenty will be installed instead.

Scroll down and click Install. It will install WordPress/ClassicPress for you and if it gives you an error, it will generally tell you what you need to fix to make it work correctly. When you finish installing, it will give you a screen that gives you the URL to your WordPress dashboard – save that URL, you’ll need it to log in to the dashboard to create posts, pages, etc.

So there you have it – that’s how you set up your blogs on Blogger, WordPress.com, and Self-Hosted WordPress/ClassicPress. I know, I didn’t do a tutorial on LiveJournal and that’s mostly because I don’t use it and don’t think it’s particularly conducive to book blogging. But if you want to use it, their setup is pretty straightforward and user-friendly last I knew.

Next week, we’ll go over picking a theme for your Blogger blog. These theme/customizing posts will probably be long, so I’ll go over them individually.

Blogging Help

SYWTBABB? Part 1 – Names & Platforms

Being a book blogger is fun, exciting, and gives you a sense of community among other readers. However, it is a lot of work and can be frustrating at times. Today I’m going to start a new series called So You Want to Be a Book Blogger, which will detail various aspects of being a book blogger. In this first installment, I’ll go over the various options you have for setting up your blog.

Choosing a Name

The first thing you want to do is choose your blog’s name. This can be as simple as “Your Name’s Blog” or “Your Name’s Corner” or something with more pizzazz or flair like “Keep on Booking” or “The Spooky Bookshelf”. Take a bit of time and decide what you want to name your blog. Do some checking around to see if anyone else has named their blog the same as yours – if they have, or if you find a company uses that name, you’ll want to change your blog’s name to something that won’t get confused with someone else.

Another thing you might want to do is check to see if the blog name you’ve chosen can be registered as a domain name. Unfortunately, it seems someone with no interest in actually developing a website with it has registered keeponbooking.com, so I ended up with keeponbooking.net. There are plenty of domain extensions, but I’d steer clear of any domains that have the .com, .net, or .org taken and actually have a website set up – it’s likely someone will get confused about who you are. Think of a different name – the last thing you want to happen is someone starting a trademark war over your blog name.

Also of note: you may find yourself wanting to choose a platform based on your blog name being available as the URL or choose a name based on what’s available on the platform. You can do this if you want, but it isn’t necessary, especially if you plan to attach a domain to the blog sooner rather than later.

Choosing a Platform

So you have a name for the blog, but now you need somewhere to write it. Well, you have a few options, some good, some not-so-good. We’ll start with hosted options first, then talk about self-hosted options.

Blogger

Blogger is a fairly popular, easy to use blogging service provided by Google. It’s pretty straightforward, but lacks some of the finesse of other blogging platforms. You can create multiple blogs on one account, so if you decide you want to have a second blog for another passion, you can do it. You can style your posts pretty much any way you want to using the HTML editor portion of the post editor, but you will need to know HTML and CSS to do so. You can also use a domain name for free on Blogger, so if you choose to purchase a domain, you can use it there without paying. You also have the option of creating a Google AdSense account and once your blog qualifies, monetizing your blog with Google AdSense.

Blogger is great for beginners, but it’s pretty limited. The selection of premade themes that comes with Blogger are very limited and although they can be customized, it isn’t always the easiest thing to do. You can Google for free Blogger Templates and there are a few Etsy sellers who sell Blogger Templates, so you might be able to find something you like better that way.

Many people start off on Blogger but then decide they are too limited and move to one of the self-hosted options you’ll learn about later on. A big drawback to Blogger is that Google can decide at any time to shut down Blogger or just delete your blog for no reason.

WordPress.com

Yes, I put a .com behind WordPress because there are two version. Hosted which is WordPress.com and self-hosted which is WordPress.org.

WordPress.com is a great way to dip your toes into the world of working and blogging with WordPress without having to shell out money for hosting. Unfortunately, you are very limited as to what you can do on a free WordPress.com account, but you can create multiple blogs on the same account as with Blogger.

WordPress.com comes with certain features built in for helping your blog get traffic that Blogger just doesn’t have. On WordPress.com, you can set your blog to automatically share your posts to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and LinkedIn as well as adding share buttons to each post, where Blogger only lets you add share buttons to each post and you’d have to manually share your posts to your chosen social networks.

WordPress.com also has a bigger theme selection and it’s a bit easier to customize your themes, although you can’t add your own code to the theme unless you choose to pay for an upgrade to your account.

The biggest drawbacks for WordPress.com for most people are the block editor and the limitations put on you unless you spring for the business (highest upgrade level) package. The block editor is shared with WordPress.org blogs and trust me, it’s a matter of you love it or you hate it. If you haven’t used it, it’s hard to describe why it’s so bad to those who hate it and if you use it and love it, you’ll never understand why others hate it so much.

As for the limitations, you can remove them in varying degrees by upgrading to personal, professional, or business plans that will allow you more control over your blog. However, since you are hosted on WordPress.com’s servers, your blog will always be subject to WordPress.com deciding it should be deleted. Another thing to note – unless you upgrade to one of the paid plans, your blog will show ads that make WordPress.com money, but don’t make you any money.

LiveJournal

Yes, LiveJournal is still around, and although I’m not entirely sure it’s a good fit for book bloggers, I have seen a few there before. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used LiveJournal and the last time I was there, the blogs were riddled with ads unless you paid for your blog, but that may have changed. Honestly, unless you just really like LiveJournal, I wouldn’t use them.

WordPress.org

So here we are in the self-hosted section, starting off with WordPress.org. To use WordPress.org, you will need a hosting account. You can get one through many different places including Namecheap, GoDaddy, SiteGround, DreamHost, BlueHost, HostGator, and more. WordPress.org recommends SiteGround, BlueHost, and DreamHost, but I use Namecheap myself and I love it.

Anyway, WordPress.org requires hosting but not a domain name – although your hosting company will likely require you to register a domain to use with your hosting. You can use your host’s software installer to install WordPress.org in the “blogs” section. The process is fairly painless and in a few moments, you’ll have your very own self-hosted WordPress blog!

WordPress.org gives you so much more control over your blog because you have the option to add any theme you want out of the theme repository, third party sites that sell themes, or even create your own theme if you’re a developer. You also have the option to integrate various things into your blog using plugins. Both custom themes and plugins are options only available to business plan users on WordPress.com, but honestly, you’ll likely pay far less per year on a hosting plan and have way more control.

WordPress.org does use the block editor, but if it’s the only thing you’ve ever used, it’s not too terrible because it works the same way.

One great thing is there is an importer plugin that you can use to move your blog from WordPress.com, Blogger, and a few other sites, to WordPress.org.

Just know that you’ll have a monthly or yearly hosting fee to pay plus a fee for the domain name.

I use the Stellar Plus package from Namecheap and it costs me $4.88/month plus the fee for my domain each year, which is about $13 – so I pay roughly $73/year to run my blog as far as Namecheap goes.

On WordPress.org, if you want some of the functions of WordPress.com like the social media sharing, you’ll need to install Jetpack – which is a pretty easy thing to do. Jetpack offers free and paid plans1I use the $9/month paid plan and get to use WordAds from WordPress.com, the sharing features, backups, and more. which you can utilize to help your blog be the best it can be… and you only need to pay for Jetpack, not both Jetpack and Akismet spam protection!

ClassicPress

The final platform I’m going to detail is ClassicPress. ClassicPress, like WordPress.org, requires a hosting account. The beauty of ClassicPress is that it is WordPress.org but a bit simpler.

ClassicPress removes the block editor and gives you the old-time WordPress feel, great for people who moved from WordPress.com because of the block editor or who are used to the visua/HTML editor interface type of Blogger.

Most plugins and themes for WordPress.org will work great on ClassicPress, but there are some exceptions – Jetpack doesn’t really work with ClassicPress unless you can get a much older version. The new versions don’t work with ClassicPress.

You can install ClassicPress through many software installers like Softaculous by looking under CMS for ClassicPress.

Conclusion

So there you have the first two steps in creating your book blog – figuring out a name and picking a platform. We’ll detail the next steps next week, which are finding a theme and recommended plugins.