You just got your first WordPress.com blog. Now what do you do with it?
There are two ways to tackle your new WordPress.com blog. First, there is the typical way, then there is the practical approach.
The Typical Way of Starting a WordPress Blog
The typical method of starting to use your WordPress.com blog is:
- Find a name.
- Make it pretty.
While this isn’t a well thought out order, it is the most common. If you are more thoughtful, skip to the practical approach for a more logical and conventional approach to building your WordPress and WordPress.com blog.
Let’s break down the basics of the typical method:
1. Find a Name
There are two “names” for your blog. One is the actual blog title and the other is the name found within the domain name, also known as the URL or the address of your blog.
Pick a name for your blog. It can be your name, a variation on your name, or your subject matter. The blog title works best if it is found within the domain name, but it isn’t necessary.
2. Make it Pretty
After signing up for a WordPress.com blog and going through the naming process, your goal is typically to make it pretty.
Before choosing a WordPress Theme, write two blog posts and put them in a category and give them some tags. You can change the categories and tags later, but these will be your test posts. If you need an example of a test post, see Designing a WordPress Theme – Building a Post Sandbox.
Here are the basics to writing a blog post in WordPress:
- Click the Write tab in your WordPress Administration Panels
- Fill in the title.
- Write the post.
- Categorize and tag it.
- Click Publish
After you’ve published two posts, click Appearance and scroll down the list of WordPress Themes you have to choose from. Pick one that looks interesting and view the preview version. Move around the site through the various pageviews from the front page, category pages, about page, etc., to see all the different ways the WordPress Theme looks with your blog.
Like it, activate it, and start blogging. Don’t like it. Change it and poke around some more.
You’re done. Start blogging.
For tips on how to write your first blog post, see tips for writing posts on WordPress below.
The Practical Approach to Starting a WordPress.com Blog
If you choose the practical approach to starting your WordPress.com Blog, and you are ready to get serious about your WordPress.com blog, then here are the step-by-step instructions.
1. Make a Plan for Your Blog
You wanted a blog. Now you have one. What are you going to do with it?
This sounds like a simple question, but it’s not. What are you going to do with your new blog? Does it have a purpose? Does it have a reason? Do you have an idea of what you are going to write about? Or did you just get one because everyone else seems to have one? Think about why you wanted one and what you are going to do with it now that you have it.
If you are totally new to this concept of “blogging”, take time to learn what a blog is and see how others are blogging. I recommend that you check out Technorati, Memeorandum, and Google Blogsearch to see what others are doing and how they are doing it.
Also visit the WordPress.com Blogs of the Day showcasing the most popular blogs in various languages on WordPress.com.
If you are logged into WordPress.com, when you view a WordPress.com blog like this one, you will also see a blue bar at the top of every page. On the right size of the blue bar is a link for “Next Blog”. Click it and you will be randomly sent to another WordPress.com blog. Click through a few to see what others in the WordPress.com community are doing. There are over 750,000 WordPress.com blogs, so you have a lot of blogging examples and styles to check out.
To begin the process of making your blog plan, make a list of the top 10 things you want to blog about. If you have a narrower vision, then make it the top 5 things.
Under each one, make a list of what you want to blog about under each topic. Here’s a condensed example I did for this blog.
|How to use WordPress.com
Who uses WordPress.com
Why use WordPress.com blogs
How to blog
Who reads blogs
How do blogs work
Tools and resources
Layout and structure
Tools and resources
Types of blogs
Types of bloggers
Blogging communities and groups
Blogging societies and clubs
Blog networks and networking
From your own list, choose your categories. If you know what you are going to write about, then create a category for each core subject.
From my own list, I set up my initial categories as Blog Babble (about blogging and bloggers), Web Wise, WordPress News, WordPress Tips, and WordPress.com. Months later, I had enough articles to create more categories. I also found that Blog Babble was a bad category choice. It really isn’t descriptive and rarely visited, yet I have a lot of posts there that don’t seem to fit anywhere else. Begin with the categories you need and then add as you go. It’s harder to remove them later than add, so add slowly as you go.
Once you have outlined your purpose and categories, take a few minutes to write down a few blog post story ideas under each category. I recommend you have at least three, preferably five, to help you get started. Make it part of your plan’s schedule to write each of these first ideas in the first week or two of your blog’s life.
With a clear idea of the topics you will be blogging about, write up a descriptive sentence or two, or even a paragraph, that describes what you are going to blog about. From that, come up with a title and subtitle for your new blog, specifically aimed at what you are going to blog about. You can call it “Bailey’s Blog” but it helps you, and your readers, if you call it “Bailey’s Blog on Blogging”, or a more descriptive title that helps us all know what you are going to blog about.
With your new blog’s title, subtitle, descriptive paragraph, categories, and a few article ideas ready to dance off your fingers onto your blog, you are ready for the next step.
2. Identify Your Blog
Unless you specify otherwise, WordPress.com uses your username for your blog address. Before you start developing your WordPress.com blog, think about how that address identifies you and your blog.
For example, a username like “bailey” will become bailey.wordpress.com. If you want your blog URL to be more representative, maybe baileyonblogging.wordpress.com would be more appropriate. As more and more WordPress.com blogs are created, not all good names will be available, so you might want to play with your options such as bailey4blogging.wordpress.com.
If you have chosen a username and blog URL that you are not happy with, from the WordPress Administration Panels, click Options > Delete Blog, and start over. It is better you think this through before taking this step, but if you are really unhappy, then start over.
When you are set with your blog’s address/URL, then it’s time to define your blog’s visible identity. Click Options. Using the information from your plan, fill in the blanks. Fill in the Weblog Title and the Tagline from your blog title and subtitle.
If applicable, move down and choose the language in which you will be writing your blog. Check the rest of the page and fill in all the information you need, including your email address, and the date and time zone you are in. All of this information helps identify your blog to the world.
When you are done, click Update Options to save the new information. View the site to check out how this information is displayed. Don’t like it, go back and change it. Like it, move on to the next step.
3. Set Up Your Categories
There are two ways to enter categories in WordPress, from the Category panel or from the Write Post Panel. The Write Post Panel is easy, just enter in the new category titles and click ADD.
A new feature available only for WordPress.com blogs is an AJAX aid which pops up a window with helpful suggestions and recommendations of tags other people are using on their WordPress.com blogs. As you type in the category, a drop-down style menu appears listing similar words. To choose one of the words, click on it. When you are ready, click ADD, and the category will be added to your WordPress.com blog.
To add categories via the Category panel, from the Manage > Categories, click Add Category.
You have several options for entering information about your category. There is the Category Title and the Category Description.
|One Post = Visible Category
In order to “see” a category on your WordPress blog, there must be a post in that category. If necessary, go back and edit your test posts and put them in your new categories to test how they look on your blog incorporated within the blog’s design.
Some WordPress Themes use the Category Description in the Category links in your sidebar. Thus a long descriptive paragraph might look awkward in your sidebar. Fill in both the Category Title and Category Description, save the information, then view your blog to see what information appears. If the description is not visible, then it will usually be used in the link
title information. If it is visible, decide whether or not you want that information displayed. If not, then go back and remove the Category Description information.
You also have an option to create sub-categories. These are categories under the main category, such as a main category of “Space” with subcategories of “stars”, “moons”, and “nebulae”. To begin with, consider sticking with main categories and then subcategorizing things as you blog more. Remember, you can’t see the categories on your blog until you have categorized a post in that category.
Enter each of your main categories and when you are done, it’s time to take the next step.
- Categories versus Tags – What’s the Difference and Which One?
- The Problems With Tags and Tagging
- Categories versus Tags: Defining the Limitations
- Putting Some Thought Into Blog Categories and Tags
- Tags Are Not Categories – Got It?
- Tags and Tagging in WordPress and Everywhere
4. Add Pages About You and Your Blog
WordPress Pages are distinctive from posts as they sit outside of the chronological order of your blog posts. They are more like static web pages and usually include information such as “About”, “Contact”, “Site Map”, or “Schedule”. Which Pages you add to your blog depends upon your blog’s purpose and intent.
I recommend highly that at minimum you fill in your “About” Page. The About Page comes automatically activated on most WordPress.com blogs. It says something bland, basically that more information should be coming soon. So fill in that information.
Click Manage > Pages to access your Pages Panel. On the line for “About”, click EDIT.
Type in information about who you are, what you do, and why you are blogging. It works similar to writing a post. Share as much or as little information as you would like the world to know. If you would like to stay anonymous, then at least let us know the purpose of the blog without identifying yourself.
Do not give out personal or private information. Just give us information that helps us get to know what this blog is about and maybe what qualifications you have to write what you write on your blog. For more information on writing your About page, see Who The Hell Are You.
If you do not want your About Page to be shown on your blog, then click the DELETE link for the About Page.
To add more Pages, click the Add Pages link and add more pages to your blog. You can even add subPages, Pages underneath main pages, similar to subcategories.
You can add all kinds of Pages to your blog, but remember, these are not posts. Links to these Pages will always be visible on your blog. They are often highlighted in many WordPress Themes and displayed prominently. Make them count.
When you are done, view your blog and check out the links to your new Pages to see how they look. You can edit them, make changes, and even delete them as needed.
Now, it’s time to tackle the look of your blog.
5. Choose a New Look for Your WordPress.com Blog
The first step in choosing a new look for your WordPress.com blog is to have content. Without examples of your blog post content, you can’t really get a feel for what your blog will look like once you start blogging.
Following the instructions in Designing a WordPress Theme – Building a Post Sandbox for getting example content and paste it into one or more posts on your blog. This content include all of the typical HTML usages found within a blog post, such as bold, italic, headings, images, and links. You can remove these posts later after you’ve finished your blog’s set up.
Which one should you choose? Choosing a WordPress Theme is based upon personal preference, blog purpose, and audience expectation.
If you will be writing about your personal life, then you can choose just about anything. If you want to highlight you are young and fun-loving, then a more fun and modern looking Theme might appeal to you and your readers. If you are blogging about technology, professional businesses or industry, then consider something more technical or professional looking.
Your WordPress Theme choice isn’t always about personal preference. You are not the only one who looks at your blog. Choose a look that matches your blog’s purpose and audience. Remember, we still tend to judge a book by its cover. Consider your audience’s expectation. What they would like to see when reading your topics?
To change your WordPress.com blog’s look, go to Appearance and go through all the different examples. Test drive a few by choosing them, then viewing your blog.
Poke around each new look. Look at how the front page works. Does it show full posts or excerpts? Click on a link to visit the single post view. Is there a sidebar here, too? Or not? Do you want one? Does anything else change? Click on a category and look at how the page may look the same or different from the front page or single post. Then do a search and see how those look. Anything different? The same? Do you like all of these views? If not, try another one. If yes, then let’s move onto the next step.
6. Fix Your WordPress Sidebar
The WordPress.com blog sidebar is made up of WordPress Widgets, blocks of content and navigational links you can rearrange and change. I call them sidebar accessories, though modern WordPress Widgets are not restrained to the sidebar, most are found there.
To access them, go to Appearance > Widgets. You can choose which elements are seen in which sidebar(s) and move things around. There are a variety of options.
At the minimum, it is highly recommended that you have the following somewhere in your sidebar, preferably near the top of the page:
- Most Recent Posts
Play with them. Update and save your changes and preview your blog to see the results. Not happy, change it. Happy, keep blogging.
- Playing with WordPress.com New Sidebar Widgets
- WordPress.com Widgets – Customizing Your WordPress.com Theme Sidebar
- Customizing RSS Feed Links for WordPress.com and WordPress Sidebar Widgets
7. Start Blogging
You are ready to start blogging once you have the look and feel of your blog set up, your categories, and your purpose.
Tips on Writing a Blog Post
Here is a step by step instruction guide to help you through the details of writing your first blog posts.
Fill in the title of the post in the post title form area. In the current version of WordPress, it is the first blank box at the top of the page.
Don’t worry about using apostrophes, hyphens, or quote marks. They will be visible in the post title, but cleaned up in the link, called the post slug when you publish the post. If you wish to change the post slug, click the Edit button next to the permalink below the post title.
For tips on writing post titles, see Writing Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles on Your Blog and Creating Effective, Attention-Getting Headlines and Titles.
If you would like to change the post title after publishing the post, see Changing Titles in the Titles of WordPress Posts
Writing Post Content
Edit the post example you used from the Designing a WordPress Theme – Building a Post Sandbox article. Using the Visual Editor (WYSIWYG), you will see links and images and headings, all the parts and pieces that can go into a blog post.
Switch to the HTML view in the post editor and you will see the HTML code that instructs the browser on how to display a web page. It appears intimidating at first, but there are only a few HTML codes in the average blog post, such as headings, bold, italic, images, and links. It helps to be familiar with the basic HTML so you can easily edit and fix any visually messed up code.
Create a Link in a WordPress Blog
To add a link to another post, blog, or website, click the link button above the post textarea. These buttons are called “Quicktag buttons”. The link button in the Visual editor looks like two links in a chain. Next to it is the “unlink” button, which removes a link. It looks like a broken link in the chain.
Enter in the address/URL of the link and the name of the link, write in the title you want the link to be. For example, a link to this blog would be
http://lorelle.wordpress.com/ and the title would be Lorelle on WordPress.
Add an Image, Document, Audio or Video File to a WordPress Blog
To add an image, look for Upload/Insert under the post title and permalink. There are buttons for images, video, audio, other media, and Polls, if you are on WordPress.com or have PollDaddy WordPress Plugin installed.
- Click Select Files or the Browser Uploader options.
- Find the file(s) you wish to upload and select them.
- Wait for the media to be processed. A thumbnail is automatically created for visual files.
- Click Show to show the details of each file.
- Edit the details, adding the title, caption, optional description (for long, detailed descriptions), then set the alignment (for the text to wrap or not around the image) and the size.
- Click Insert into Post.
The process for linking to a file from off your site, first be sure you have permission to use the image, video, or other file type, then:
- Choose From URL
- Enter or paste in the Image URL.
- Enter a title for the image and a caption.
- Set the alignment so the text will wrap around the image.
- Click Insert into Post.
The process for using images already in the Media Library, images already uploaded to your WordPress blog, just click on the Media Library and follow the instructions for inserting an image or file into your blog post above.
To use the gallery feature, see Using the Gallery Shortcode in WordPress.
Adding Content Design Elements
The Quicktag buttons are great helpers to modify and enhance the look of your blog post text. They will make selected text bold, italic, create blockquotes, lists, and more. There is even a spell check button. Experiment with the Quicktag buttons to learn what they do.
There are two rows of Quicktag buttons on the Visual editor view. Click the last button on the row to show the second row of buttons.
Preview Your Post
To see what your post will look like as you are working on it, click the Preview Changes button in the right sidebar. This saves and stores your blog post in the database, but does not publish it. No one can see it until you hit Publish or Update Changes.
What Should You Blog About?
What you write about is up to you. This is your blog. There are no rules, only the ones you make for yourself. I highly recommend that you stick to your blogging purpose to keep you focused and on track. It will also help attract an audience of like-minded folks to your blog.
If you are looking for blogging ideas, then check out Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog to help get you started.
Just remember, it’s your blog and it’s your content. Write and publish original content so your unique voice is added to the online world. In other words, don’t copy other people’s work.
There is only one last step to setting up your new WordPress.com blog. Learning how to manage your WordPress.com blog.
Here are a few more tips for writing blog posts in WordPress and blog writing in general:
- Writing With Post Excerpts and Feed Excerpts in Mind
- Writing with Single Lines Not Double in Your Blog Posts
- WordPress.com Blog Bling
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Blockquotes and Quotes
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Blogroll and Sidebar Bling
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Decorating Your WordPress.com Blog
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Fun Font Bling
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Lines and Smilies
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Show Off Your Blog Bling
- WordPress.com Blog Bling: Signatures and Writing Code
- WordPress.com, Please Stop Using Snap Preview
- 10 Things You Need to Know Before You Blog
- 20 Answers to the Question: What Does It Take to Blog?
- Blog Writing: I lk yr blg
6. Managing Your WordPress.com Blog
Once you have done the basics and written a few posts, it’s time to start managing and administrating your WordPress.com blog.
Check Comments: One of the great thrills of blogging is the interaction, reading what people have to say about what you’ve written. To check the comments on your WordPress.com blog, go to Comments and scroll through the list of comments. If this is a brand new WordPress.com blog, you will automatically have a comment waiting for you from Mr. WordPress.
If you see a comment you would like to respond to, click Reply from the list that appears when your mouse hovers over the comment. It will open a small panel for you to reply to the comment.
If you see a problem or blatantly wrong misspelling and you’d like to fix it, or something you would like to edit out, then click Quick Edit or Edit to edit the comment and make the necessary changes.
If you feel that this comment is comment spam, do not delete it. Click the Spam link to remove the comment spam and send information about the comment spam to Akismet to help prevent future comment spam.
If the comment is grayed out and dim, it has been held for moderation. This means that it is waiting attention from you before it appears on your blog. To approve it, click Approve or click EDIT and then mark it as approved and save the comment.
If you want to think about a comment for a bit before letting others see it, you can mark it as Unapproved. It will sit in your Moderation queue until you’ve made a decision.
If you want to delete it, and it is not comment spam, click the Delete link. It’s your blog. You control the comments.
You can also search through your comments. To search, use the search form on the comments page and type in the keyword(s) for the comment you are looking for and a list will be generated.
Comment Spam: WordPress.com blogs are protected from comment spam by Akismet, a powerful comment spam fighting service. It is free for all WordPress.com users. For the most part, it catches most comment spam, but fighting comment spam is a never-ending battle. Within the WordPress.com community though, each of us has the ability to mark comment spam as comment spam, which adds the information to Akismet’s database, preventing the same comment spam from getting through next time.
On rare occasions a good comment gets picked up by Akismet’s comment spam prevention techniques and you may find it in your Comments > Spam list. Scroll down the list to see if anything appears to be a good comment and mark it as Not Spam or Approve.
If all the comments in the queue are spam, you can just leave them there and they will automatically be cleared out after a specific time period, or just click Delete All Spam.
Do not be fooled by nice comments. Comment spammers are tricky and will often include comments that compliment your writing or your blog. They will even say “thank you” and encourage you to respond in some way, making their comment look like it is participating in the conversation. Look closely. You will often see that the website links to casinos, drugs, porn, or some site that isn’t quite right looking. If in doubt, check it out. Also check email addresses. Many use hotmails.com which looks like hotmail but isn’t. Don’t be fooled. Comment spam is evil. Kill it.
- What is Comment Spam?
- Comments on Comments
- Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging
- Check Your WordPress.com Comments for Comment Spam
- You Must Be Logged In To Comment
- New Delete Comment Spam Button in Akismet for WordPress.com Users
- I Love It When You Say Nice Things About Me
Blogroll: Your Blogroll is your list of links to other sites typically found in your blog’s sidebar. If you would like to add links to other blogs or websites, click the Blogroll tab and fill in the information for those sites. For more information on how to enter links in your WordPress blogrolls, see Using the Links Manager from the WordPress Codex, the online manual for WordPress users.
Dashboard and Blog Statistics: As part of managing your WordPress.com blog, you need to stay on top of what is going on around the WordPress and WordPress.com communities. From the WordPress.com Dashboard panel, you can monitor updates and new information about WordPress.com, and see what posts and blogs are attracting the most attention and traffic.
In the Dashboard sidebar, you will also see the Latest Activity section. This highlights the most recent trackbacks or incoming links (other sites linking to you), comments, recent posts, and other information about the activity on your blog.
In the tabs under the Dashboard title, you will find links to your Blog Stats and Feed Stats.
The Feed Stats display how many people are viewing your blog via feeds and what type of feed reader they are using to access your blog.
The Blog Stats shows you the traffic statistics of your blog. It shows you a chart of how many times your blog has been accessed (not counting visits by you), where they are coming from (referrals), which posts are getting the most traffic, top search engine keywords that brought visitors to your blog, and more.
Do not expect these to show much measurable traffic for a while. It takes time to attract attention and build an audience. For some, it can take months and months, maybe a year. For others, depending upon their blogging topic, it can take less time. Be patient and concentrate on the blogging, not on the statistics.
- Don’t You Know What a Feed Is Yet? Get To Know Your Feeds!
- Benefits and Uses of Website Feeds
- My Daily Tasks With WordPress
Related Articles About WordPress.com
For more help, I’ve included a list of articles below, but do stop in at the WordPress.com Support Forums and the WordPress.com FAQ site to ask more questions and get more information on using WordPress.com.
- What can you do with wordpress.com?
- WordPress Versions – How Many and What’s the Diff?
- What do you want to know about WordPress and wordpress.com?
- What to do with your free wordpress.com blog
- Need Help? The wordpress.com FAQ
- A Guide to the WordPress Codex, The Online Manual for WordPress Users
- Why Have a WordPress.com Blog? Why Not?
- More News from WordPress, wordpress.com and WordPressMU
- Increasing the Benefits on wordpress.com
- Hello, wordpress.com users and testers!
- New WordPress.com Forums
- How WordPress Users are Benefiting from WordPress.com
- A Tagging Bookmarklet for WordPress and wordpress.com Users
- Adding Technorati Tags to WordPressMU Sites
- Attention WordPress Theme Designers: Designing Themes for WordPressMU
- Designing Themes for WordPressMU – Fill In All The Details
- WordPress Theme Designers: Slapping You Upside the Head
- The Perfect WordPress Dashboard
- Customizing wordpress.com Default Theme Headers
- WOW! Image Browsing and Uploading Feature on wordpress.com
- WordPress.com Users Hit By Direct Attack – Stopped in its Tracks
- Improving Your SEO Standards with WordPress.com Blogs
- Creative Usability with WordPress.com Blogs
- Backing Up Your WordPress.com Blog
- WordPress.com Top Blogs of the Day
- Cruising The WordPress.com Blogging Community
- WordPress.com New Feature: Feed Stats
- WordPress.com Buzz
- New Write Post Preview – Real Live Preview
- Get Your Free WordPress.com Blog Now
- WordPress.com Now Offers Users More Users
- New Features for WordPress.com: New Themes, Import, Video Links, and Some Privacy Protection
- WordPress.com Bloggers Now Have Spell Check
- Who Cares About WordPress.com
WordPress.com – The Future of WordPress in Action
WordPress.com is a beta testing site for the WordPress blogging platform, too. New features are added, changed, and fixed all the time. This may mean that things get screwed up once in a while, but for the most part, it is a chance to use and abuse the latest in blogging technology.
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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network, and author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.