Blogging is the best! And it’s totally easy to get started. Just follow a few simple steps to pick your name, set up your site, pretty-ify your pages, and start posting content.
Before you think about hosting or plugins, you need a name! I spent a good six weeks brainstorming before I settled on Life As A Strawberry. I enlisted friends and family to help me pick a name that would best represent me and my point of view. One of the biggest challenges was coming up with something original – there are SO MANY food bloggers out there already, and they’ve all snapped up a lot of creative names! As you make a list of name possibilities, punch each one into Google to make sure you aren’t swiping someone else’s concept.
You can easily check the availability of a potential domain name (and see related suggestions!) with an instant domain search.
Hosting and Setup
Life As a Strawberry is hosted with Bluehost – I registered my domain name for free and paid for two years of hosting through them for under $100. They’ve been awesome – great customer service to help me get started and I’ve never had a problem with my site. They also make installing WordPress.org software a breeze. I HIGHLY recommend them if you’re starting your own website.
If you want to get your blog started for free, you can create a site through WordPress.com or Blogger. Both of these sites will provide the hosting for your site, but your web URL will look something like: www.yourblogname.wordpress.com, as opposed to a self-hosted URL, which would look like: www.yourblogname.com. It’s a minor difference, but when I started my blog I decided I wanted to self-host in order to streamline the URL and make it easier for people to find.
WordPress is a popular blogging platform, and it’s available in two formats: WordPress.com, which is an open-source, free-to-use software responsible for hosting many different blogs, and WordPress.org, which requires you to host your own domain name (with a company like Bluehost). A good overview of the differences can be found here. The biggest things to note are that the .com version won’t let you upload your own themes, so you have some constraints as far as blog design goes. WordPress.com accounts are also not allowed to run advertisements, which means you aren’t able to monetize your blog. I use WordPress.org for Life As a Strawberry, and I’ve been very happy with it. You’re able to download or purchase a ton of different themes (or create your own!), so you have endless options when it comes to how you want your blog to look. You can also monetize a WordPress.org blog very easily.
My blog was originally designed with a free theme (it’s no longer available), I used the popular Thesis Theme for awhile but honestly wasn’t thrilled with it (a bit too much of a learning curve from me, even as someone who designs their own websites!) and recently switched Life As A Strawberry over to the Fun theme (which so far I like a lot!) I also moved The SSBP to its own, self-hosted site last year, where I use the Jupiter Theme (which I LOVE for the commerce and business sites I develop).
SEARCH BAR: The WordPress search bar is notoriously unhelpful, so I use free plugin called Swiftype Search. It makes the user search experience a lot better AND it gives me analytics data about what people are searching for on my site!
Protecting Your Blog
PROTECTING YOUR LOGIN INFO: If you decide to use WordPress, you’ll see that the site automatically sets your login username to “admin.” This can be bad – because that’s the most common username on the site AND because WordPress allows unlimited login attempts, it makes it easy for hackers to try and get into your account. The good news is, it’s easy to fix!
From your WordPress home page, go to the “users” tab and click “add new user.” Create a new user and GIVE IT ADMIN RIGHTS (⬅️⬅️IMPORTANT). Try to come up with a unique username/password combo – it’ll protect you better from those pesky hackers. Next, log out of your “admin” account and log back in with your new username. Go back to the “users” tab on the toolbar and delete the original “admin” account. If you have existing posts on your blog, it will prompt you after you click “delete” to choose a new account to attribute any existing posts to. Choose to attribute any existing posts to the new account you just created. Ta-da! So much safer. Now, the new account you created will be your primary login account. There’s also a great plugin called Limit Login Attempts that will limit the number of login attempts that anyone can use when trying to get into your website.
BLOCKING THOSE PESKY SPAMMERS: I STRONGLY recommend downloading a good spam-blocker plugin. I didn’t have one for the first few months of blogging, and I (foolishly) thought I’d be fine, but then one day I logged into my account to find 73 (!!!!) spam comments (from the same “company”) had been posted on every.single.page. of my site. THE HORROR! I had to spend a good hour finding and deleting them all, and it was no.fun.whatsoever. So I downloaded Akismet ASAP. Since I downloaded their plugin, this software has blocked over 60,000 (!!!) additional spam comments from making it to my site. Yay! The way it works is that Akismet screens every comment someone tries to post, and pulls anything that registers spam into a queue instead of letting it post directly to your site. When you log on to your WordPress dashboard, you can go through the comments in this spam queue and delete them in one fell spam-busting swoop.
Bam! Blog safety: accomplished. Now we can get to the fun design part!
Designing Your Blog
I had SO MUCH FUN designing my blog. I started with a template that employed mostly neutral colors, but after a few months I did a big redesign to brighten up the blog and make it look fresher and more inviting. I still do freelance graphic design work, so if you’d like some help with your own blog logo, social media buttons, or e-book design, feel free to contact me! I always love working on new projects.
I designed the image components of my blog in Adobe Illustrator. There are other programs out there that have design capabilities, but for me, nothing beats the Adobe Creative Suite. If you don’t work with Adobe, Canva is another awesome tool for graphic design! As far as installing my images on the site, I was at the mercy of some fabulous tutorials on coding for the web.
When you begin to work on the design of your blog, spend some time online researching popular blogs from other writers. You don’t need to limit this search to food blogs, either – you’re looking for design inspiration! Take notes on what you like and don’t like – do you lean more towards bright or dark colors? What kind of navigational menu setup will work best for you – a menu on the side, on the top? I probably looked at 200 or more blogs for inspiration, just to get an idea about what type of layouts or colors I liked or didn’t.