Blogging is a great way to express yourself and train that really important ‘focus muscle’. The creation part – especially of the written content – is the most important. However, to create a successful and good looking blog there are many other things that need your attention. Things like design, security, search engine optimization and all sorts of technical website issues. In this blog I share my personal blogging setup with you.
There are a lot of tools out there that can help beginner bloggers. But is is easy to get lost in all the different platforms, websites and plugins. Sometimes I feel like I have tried them all since I started blogging professionally back in 2011. That is why I want to help you by sharing my current ‘personal blogging setup’. Keep in mind that the technology landscape is constantly changing. That is why it is important to stay curious and keep trying out new tools all the time!
Inspiration for beginner bloggers
Since you (hopefully) blog about something you are passionate about you will never be short on topics for your blogs. But sometimes it is nice to be inspired by something you read to get some new, fresh ideas.
Medium is a good place to pick up some inspiration. For me it is also a welcome change from all the news sites I follow. Medium is full of inspiring content for you to read about many different subjects. There is also a handy app for your tablet and smartphone.
There are approximately 500 million blogs on the internet. Blogs about all possible subjects that people write passionately about. In there is a lot of knowledge and inspiration. Find a few that you like and keep following them. Start on WordPress.
WordPress plugins for beginner bloggers
When you have created a WordPress blog – which most of us have – you automatically have access to an enormous amount of different (free) WordPress plugins. However, you must be careful not to use too many. Because a lot of plugins will slow down your site significantly. Below are the most important plugins I currently use.
Really Simple SSL
When you have your own domain and use HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (https) for your site you can use this plugin to make sure that all the images, content etc. use the ‘secure’ https protocol. That way visitors of your site will see that important green checkmark in their browsers, reminding them they are visiting a safe website. Really Simple SSL is a plugin that does that for you.
WP Super Cache
Caching is important for the loading speed of your website. Fast websites are more user friendly and will also end up higher in the Google search results. WP Super Cache helps you configure caching for your website.
A contact form on your website is a good way to communicate with your readers. Ninja Forms is the best one out there. It looks nice, is simple to setup and easy to customize.
From the moment your website is launched you will have bots crawling your site looking for a way in. They will also try to send you all kinds of spam, for instance in the comments section of your blog. A free Akismet account and plugin keeps most of these unwanted visitors out.
Easy WP Meta description
In the past I tried some tools, like Yoast to improve my Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They worked quite well but I also had the feeling I had to surrender my whole website to these tools. Since I don’t like to be that dependent on one tool I deleted it.
One of the very useful things these SEO tools do is that they allow you to add meta tags and descriptions to your posts. That is important for SEO and the way your blogposts will appear in Google. With Easy WP Meta description I don’t need to add a tool that takes control of my website and I can still add the important meta descriptions to my websiteposts and pages.
Media for beginner bloggers
Pexels and Unsplash
Visuals are very important for the look and feel of your website and blogposts. Of course you can use your own photos but you have to make them look professional which can be quite hard. You can also download a lot of photos from the web but you have to make sure you have permission to use them. Thankfully there are also a lot of beautiful images out there that are free to use. I find them on Pexels and Unsplash.
It can be hard to change the size and format of your image to make them fit for social media purposes. Canva is a great online tool with which you can edit your images and change the size and format. You can automatically scale them for using on facebook, instagram, twitter etc.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
When you want your blog to be picked up by Google you have to work on your SEO. These are the things I use most.
Google Search Console
The place to start for beginner bloggers is the Google Search Console. Make an account, add your site and play with the options and settings. This way you open the door for Google to start crawling your site. When it is crawled it can be found when people search Google.
When you setup a Google Analytics account and add the analytics code to your site you can monitor your site’s analytics. Especially when you have a lot of visitors you can monitor their behaviour and adjust your blogging strategy.
When you have set up the Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts you should visit Seositecheckup. That is a website which scans your site giving it a SEO score and telling you what things to optimize to improve your score.
When you write content and you want your website to rank higher in Google you must pay attention to the keywords and meta tags you are using. Are people actually searching for the things you write about? In Google Trends you can find what the most used keywords are people are using on that particular day. You can also see them per week, year etc. When you write a blogpost you can keep them in mind. Also, Google Trends, can be a great place to get inspiration for beginner bloggers.