Starting a blog is an overwhelming task. There is so much to do and, unless you’ve done it before, figuring out what’s important can be difficult. This is the checklist I use to make sure everything is done.
Last week I made a list of 15 things to do when you start your blog. Let’s see if we can finish that list today! (If you didn’t check out that last one, read it now! This post will make way more sense if you do. 😛 )
1. Set up a child theme.
I meant to mention this last week and it slipped my mind.
Before customizing your theme, you’ll want to create a child theme. I wrote a tutorial (How to Create a Child Theme) that also explains what a child theme is and why you need one. If it looks too confusing, scroll to the bottom. I linked to a plugin that will create the child theme for you.
2. Create a custom favicon.
A favicon is a small picture, 16 x 16 pixels, that helps brand your blog. It shows up in the tab and on your Pinterest account (when you’ve been approved for rich pins). If you look at this site’s tab, you’ll see a red circle with “BG” in it. That’s my favicon.
I made that in PicMonkey and installed it using code. However, you can use a plugin called Custom Favicon to upload it easily.
3. Make your site mobile friendly.
This is a MUST as of late April 2015. Google changed their policy on mobile sites. So now, if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’ll get penalized for it. They have a site where you can test the mobile friendliness. It’s here.
To make my site mobile friendly, I prefer to install WP Touch. It’s simple to use and it looks great. This site used to use that until I started working with The Blogger Network (they give you a mobile site). But Gray Cat Games uses it and I love it.
On that note….
4. Make Bookmark icons.
One of the features of WP Touch is that you can create special icons people can see when they bookmark your site on their phones or tablets. One for Android and one for Apple. The app will tell you how big they need to be (I can’t remember). I made mine in Picmonkey and just uploaded them.
5. Install SEO by Yoast.
If you’re not sure what SEO is, the time to learn is now. Learn it as soon as you get into blogging and it will make life SO much easier! I didn’t do that and I’m still going through all of my old posts, trying to update their SEO.
There are a lot of plugins that can help you figure out how SEO works, but this is the one most people swear by.
6. Set up your Webmaster Tools.
This is the best way to figure out who your audience is and how to market your blog for them. It tells you what keywords people use to find your site (which will help you optimize your site for those keywords).
It has a learning curve, so if you can find tutorials on it, that would be great. 😛 I mostly learned about it through the Learn to Blog Facebook Group.
7. Set up Google Analytics.
Analytics is considered THE source for updates about your traffic. If you want to work with brands and advertising companies (particularly The Blogger Network), they’ll want to know what your traffic is through Google, not through Jetpack or AWStats (which is what many hosts come with). So if you want an accurate count of your page views, sign up with GA as soon as you start your blog.
8. Choose a commenting system.
This is one I still struggle with. I like CommentLuv (which is what I use on this site), but it increases spam (by A LOT). This isn’t just a problem with me, either. I’ve heard a lot of bloggers complain about it and it only gets worse as your traffic grows. But it also gives people an incentive to comment, because it automatically links to their most recent blog posts. (And you can go into the settings and let people choose from their most recent 10 posts.)
A lot of people like Disqus because it’s easy for the blogger to use. The problem is that a lot of bloggers don’t know to check their settings and many of them have “Guest comments” turned off. Which means anyone who comments has to create an account…and no one likes to do that. Anything that makes it harder for readers to comment is a no-no. I use Disqus on GCG and it IS incredibly easy to use. I allow guest comments. Unfortunately, so many people are used to Disqus not allowing guest comments, that they assume (incorrectly) that they’ll have to sign-in to comment on my site, as well. So I’m considering switching to something else, depending on how it goes. Basically, if you use Disqus, remember to go into your settings and allow guest comments. Otherwise, don’t use it.
Jetpack also has its own system. If you have a WordPress account, it will automatically link to it. If you don’t, you can fill out a form that will link to your blog. It’s very easy to use.
If there’s anything to learn here, it’s to always check the settings of your plugins. They can be hard to find sometimes (some are in “Plugins,” some are in “Appearance,” some are in “Settings,” and some are just…right there on the sidebar of your dashboard), but take the time to look for them and learn about them.
9. Check your site.
Check it everywhere. Write a test post and make sure it looks good on your phone, tablet, in Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari. Look at it on multiple computers. Sometimes you’ll see something weird on one browser that doesn’t show up on another.
I once changed the fonts on my site, only to realize a month later that I didn’t. It looked like I did on my computer because the fonts are installed on my computer. They weren’t on my husband’s. So when I got on his laptop and looked at my site, everything was in Comic Sans (ugh). Plus, the font I chose was much smaller than Comic Sans, which means my code made the font size larger. So with Comic Sans, it was ENORMOUS.
Like I said, it was like that for a month. And this was RIGHT after I posted 6 Blog Design Tips for Beginners. So I imagine people saw my site and thought, “Pfft. Like YOU have any room to give people advice.” It’s certainly what I would have thought. Oops!
10. Publish your first post!
Now that everything is set up correctly and your site is beautiful, you’re ready to publish!
What would you do before hitting “publish”? Is there anything I missed?
And where should you go next? When should you monetize? How do you grow your traffic? You can find out in How I Monetized My Blog and How I More Than Doubled My Page Views in 2 Months.
Great tips! Since I’m relatively new, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make things easier and improve what I’ve done already!
Glad I could help! 🙂
I am very new to blogging and just came across your tutorials, which are very helpful. Any advice on an email subscription service for people to get post updates? My sight is very basic at the moment, but slowly trying to make it interesting!
Yes! I mentioned in part one of this post (I really should have named them Part 1 and Part 2) that I use MailChimp. However, I actually recommend MadMimi because it’s SO much easier to figure out and use. I use MailChimp because I run multiple blogs and MC lets me have multiple RSS sign ups. MadMimi will only let you have one per account (unless you pay for premium). Hope that helps!
Thanks for writing this post. It’s so nice to have someone offer new bloggers a few startup suggestions (in plain English, too!). I followed your steps (part 1 & 2) and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. Now I need a nap.
By the way, your FAQ page is the best thing I’ve read all day. Your snarkiness is awesome. I just found your site, but I’ll definitely be sad to see you go. Good luck with the Gray Cat Games!
Thanks! I’m going to continue writing Budget Girl, just under a new name. (Once I figure out what that name is.) Hope you’ll continue following! 🙂