10 Bare Necessity Blogging Tips

10 Bare Necessity Blogging Tips

I started blogging back in July 2013 and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. To be perfectly honest, I’m still learning so much on the go. I’ve learned about some incredible platforms, resources, and plugins that I wish I knew from the get go. Only through experimentation and mistakes have I learned what I know up to now. I’ve wasted a lot of time by not having had these resources in place from the start. I’m nowhere close to being a blogging expert, but here are 10 things I wish I knew from the very start.


 
The plugins I am recommending below are for self hosted sites using WordPress.org. These plugins are all completely free. I’ve selected the plugins which I believe are the best based on my personal experience and which have the best ratings.

1. Self Hosting

I started off on WordPress.com because it was free in July 2013. I eventually switched to self hosting through Bluehost on January 2014. It was a bit of a pain in the ass migrating everything over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. Yes, costs start at $3.95 a month to self host, but it is definitely worth the cost if you are serious about blogging because WordPress.org opens up an array of customization that is not available on WordPress.com. If I were to do it again, I would start straight with self hosting with Bluehost.

2. Google Analytics

I only implemented Google Analytics in January 2014 when I migrated to self hosting. I wish I had data back from when I started blogging in July 2013. God, I love data. I probably spend a little too much time analyzing looking at my data, something you should try not to do too much when you first start out blogging (because it can be depressing). Some great Google Analytics plugins for WordPress.org are Google Analytics by Yoast and Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.

3. SEO

I didn’t know anything about SEO, even though I had heard about the term before. I didn’t think it would be too important if I produced great content. Wrong. It is important to do at least the bare minimum SEO and the plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast is an amazing tool for getting the basic SEO optimization done throughout your blog. I recommend doing this from the get go because I had to go back and do over a years worth of SEO optimization on old posts and, let me tell you, it was a pain in the ass.

4. Image Optimization

I had no idea images should be optimized throughout a blog. It never clicked in my head that if the file size for an image is too large, the load time for the reader will increase. Duh. If you don’t have your images optimized, go check out Google Pagespeed Insights to see how fast your site loads and what recommendations are made: one of the biggest culprits of slow site speed is non-optimized images.

Why is this important? First, because slow speed times annoy readers – I know it annoys me and you don’t want annoyed readers. Second, Google takes into consideration page speed in their rankings: they aren’t going to display you as highly/relevantly in search if you have a slow ass site.

Use the plugin Google Pagespeed Insights for WordPress to check site speed from your dashboard. Use the plugins WP Smush.it or EWWW Image Optimizer to optimize and resize your images.

5. Caching

I never realized caching would be so important to site speed. Long story short, your website will be much quicker if it is cached for returning readers. Install the plugin WP Super Cache for an easy all-in-one caching experience.

6. XML Sitemap

Related to SEO, Image Optimization, and Caching, Google XML Sitemaps will automatically produce a XML sitemap so that search engines can more easily index your site.

7. Viglink

Manually entering affiliate links is a huge pain in the ass. Viglink automates the process by adding affiliate links into your site where it is most applicable – their algorithm searches for the best places to inject affiliate links. For this service, Viglink takes a small percentage of the revenue generated through the affiliate links on your website. It is really worthwhile if you don’t have an interest in manually entering and then manually making sure every affiliate link on your website is functioning properly. Viglink puts affiliate linking on cruise control and it is well worth it if you want to focus exclusively on content creation.

8. Favicon

Want that cool little image right before your URL? It’s called a favicon and you can get it installed super easily with the All in One Favicon plugin. I wasted so much time trying to understand how to compress an image into a .ISO file before I stumbled onto this amazing plugin that solved my problem in a few seconds.

9. MailChimp

If you start building a mailing list, you should NOT use Feedburner. The interface is bloated, ugly, and non-intuitive. Rather, you should choose something like MailChimp or Aweber. I can only recommend MailChimp because I only have experience with them, and I have so far loved it. It is free to use their basic features and you only need to upgrade if you want extra features and your subscription list surpasses 2000 emails and/or 12,000 emails a month.

In terms of plugin integration on WordPress.org, I highly recommend MailChimp for WordPress and Analytics360.

10. Pinterest

I still don’t completely understand the ins and outs of Pinterest, but I do know that it has a very large female community base and if your site is geared towards a large female readership, having easy buttons to pin images to Pinterest would be invaluable. This is where jQuery Pin It Button for Images comes in. This plugin automagically applies “Pin It” buttons to all your images for an easy way for your readers to Pin things to Pinterest. Go check out the picture at the beginning of this post. If you hover your mouse on the image, you’ll see a “Pin It” button automagically appear on the top left corner. Amazing!

Conclusion

I hope you guys found these resources helpful. I’m sure I haven’t even uncovered the surface of the amazing amount of plugins and other resources available for bloggers. This list of 10 should get most beginners started. Perhaps a couple were interesting and new resources some of the more experienced bloggers have yet to take for a test drive!

Oh, and if you want to reminisce about childhood with me, sing along:

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  • Yeah, there’s a lot of things I was missing in the beginning. If you write it, “they” will read, right? Wrong! I’ve started to dabble into pinterest, but honestly I’ve realized that I have a 50/50 split of male/female readers, so it’s not like I have a hugely skewed readership.

    I found self-hosting all had other bloggers take me more seriously. Maybe that was in my head, but I know there is disdain in the blogging community over .blogspot and .wordpress sites.

    • 50/50 is still a pretty sizeable female readership – I’ve noticed in your comments that the most active participants on your site tend to lean towards the female demographic. Pinterest could yet have really useful applications for you!

      Self hosting definitely does make you up your game once you see what other bloggers on their self hosted platforms are doing.

      WordPress.com is great if you just want a small personal blog. But if you want to take your game to another level and you want to create a business, self hosting is the way to go!

  • I should figure out the linking of mailchimp and WP… I agree that feedburner emails are pretty awful. Does the linked WP/mailchimp combo send posts automatically? (I hate setting up newsletter emails!)

    • MailChimp can send all your posts via email for free, just like Feedburner does.

      If you want more advanced automation options, those are paid features. I’ve been getting by without needing them but might look into it in the future.

  • Great tips. There are a few plugins I should look into for my site.

    • Glad these tips were of some use and help for ya! 🙂

  • Thanks for the great tips, Steve. I need to check out the google analytics plugins, image optimization and maybe the mail chimp. I started on WordPress.com too and moved over to self-hosted in July.

    • Happy that you got some value out of the tips! I remember you gave me a blogging tip a few weeks ago and it was much appreciated (I think Twitter wasn’t automatically including “via @kapitalust”) 😀

  • I never even thought about a plugin for cache but it makes sense. Thanks for the tips!

    • Get on it and cache your site for a little more responsiveness and speed! 🙂

  • omg I don’t do any of this haha… except self-hosting (and mine with bluehost is spotty!!)

    I’m lucky my blog has grown as much as it has without concerted effort. I’ve had things like “learn SEO” on my to-do list for ages but… ah well. I still live by the rule that all that matters is creating great content — which is a purist point of view that is often NOT true. But I’m stubborn 😉

    • Get on some of this stuff Bridget! I believe great content is the primary factor, but things like promotion and site optimization are also important. If you think of the reader as a customer, you wouldn’t want your customer to be annoyed by things like slow load times and lag. It’s all about the customer’s experience!

  • Steve,

    Great list here.

    I have to be honest and admit I don’t use a lot of this stuff. I’m not real tech savvy, but focusing on the writing has done well for me thus far.

    However, I found a lot of value here. I’ve never set up a favicon before. But I installed that plugin and now have a cool little icon there. Awesome!

    I also downloaded the XML Sitemap plugin. Anything to make it easier to find the site! 🙂

    Thanks for putting this together.

    Best regards!

    • Amazing – I see the favicon now!! Haha it brings me joy to think that such a more established blogger got some value out of this post written by a rookie (relatively speaking).

      Good content is like good health = eating healthy and exercising will get you 80% of the way there. To gain that last 20% and strive for the best, detailed optimization and efficiency is necessary.

      Of course, it’s up to each individual on whether they are content with getting to 80% or pushing for the last 20% too!

  • Thanks for the good tips! We actually just got GAnalytics up and running last night, so I’m excited to start overanalyzing all of our data immediately!

    • I’m glad you’ll get something out of these tips 😀

      Haha my biggest advice – don’t pay TOO much attention to site stats. It really can be a little depressing for the first little while 😛

  • Thanks for sharing these great WP tips. Like you I’m still learning the ins and outs of WP and the 1000s of plugins to improve the site. I just installed the XML site map plugin and hope its configured correctly. I bookmarked this page for future reference.