I often get asked questions about my blog theme, and what I use for hosting so I thought I’d come up with one master post detailing everything I’ve done to get to this point — not to say that I don’t still have loads of room for improvement and learning! 😉 Today, I’m outlining the best things I’ve done for my blog in the hopes that it doesn’t take everyone as long as it took me to navigate through this confusing world of creating a beauuuutiful website.
1. Move to a self-hosted platform
When I first started my blog, I knew absolutely *zero* about creating a website. I honestly didn’t even know what my options were as far as hosting websites—I just stumbled across WordPress and rolled with it. I used WordPress.com for over a year and it was really a great introduction to operating my own site. I paid a flat rate per year with one of the plans and got my domain, chose a theme, and got writing.
With time and after looking around at some beautiful blogs out there, I realized that there were so many cool themes, plugins, and other features I wanted but couldn’t install with my platform. I believe the highest tier “business” plan on WordPress.com allows you to install outside themes, but it’s extremely expensive and still has many limitations.
I started to do my research and figured out what was entailed with a self-hosted blog/website on WordPress.org and decided to make the transfer. Again, not knowing the first thing about how to move over to self-hosting, I Googled around and discovered that WP has a transfer service for just this reason for a flat fee of about $130 if I remember correctly. I paid the fee (happily) and also got free support from the WP team after the transfer — which was necessary.
If you aren’t interested in paying this fee, there are tons of articles online outlining the steps of this transfer, I just felt more comfortable getting a hand on this one. The service helped me to create an account with SiteGround and from there I even figured out on my own how to create personal domain emails (firstname.lastname@example.org for example). (This was a proud moment for me 😀 )
Self-hosting = total freedom. Don’t be scared of it, your blog will transform!
2. Find a unique theme that works for you — and make it your own!
This was the main reason I transferred to self-hosting. There were too many gorgeous themes out there taunting me and I had totally exhausted all of the possible choices within WP.com. I discovered this super cool site called pipdig.co that has blog-specific themes and got to playing around. The themes are reasonably priced — all around $100 or so and there are still so many customizable options within them. That’s where the real fun starts. You can play with fonts, colors, widgets and more once you choose a theme you like and totally make it your own.
Investing in a great theme is definitely a worth-while purchase because you will most likely hang on to it for a while and it adds so much value to your site. Just be sure that it is a responsive theme, meaning that your site will render well on mobile and tablets.
3. Create a strong brand image
Branding is everything. Your image, including your logo, fonts, and color palette, is one of the first things people feel and see when they visit your site. You know all those stats about how many seconds or even milliseconds an employer spends looking at a resume? I feel like there’s a similar experience for new users visiting a website. There’s just sooo much out there that if you don’t have strong branding with an attractive logo, a defined color palette, and a complementary font, people may move on without ever even reading your content.
Everyone responds positively to something *beautiful* so take the time when you install your theme to play with colors and fonts and try to stick to one decision, at least for a while, to be consistent and maintain a strong image.
4. Optimize your posts with SEO plugins
This is one aspect that I had almost no control over before I moved to self-hosting. Search Engine Optimization is a great tool for getting more traffic to your blog posts and raising your ranking in Google. I wrote a whole post about this if you want to read more but the best tool I got out of switching to self-hosting was access to the Yoast plugin.
Once installed, Yoast appears in a box below your post drafts showing you what your blog post link will look like in Google and giving you the opportunity to designate a keyword to optimize. Here, you can edit the meta description for your post (inserting your keyword your optimizing for) and see a list of all kinds of suggestions on how to improve this particular post. Super useful and great reminders because even now I sometimes forget certain steps to SEO my post.
Everyone is operating at different levels of website knowledge, especially in the blogging world, and I still do my fair share of Googling and researching to find answers to all my questions. I hope that this information saved at least a few people from the madness I’ve endured beautifying my Bellezza Corner. Have any of you tried implementing these upgrades yet?