I am a website designer, I have been designing websites for 18 years and this is my first attempt at setting up an actual blogging website. I am not going to kid you, it is a lot of work – but it is a lot of fun too. The biggest issue for me so far has been expecting instant results, visitors pouring in from everywhere. I have read other bloggers articles on setting up blogs, Googled, and Googled some more looking for tips on other bloggers experiences. One word stands out from everything I have read – Patience.
Plan to invest in blogging for a long time before you see a return. The web is a big, noisy place and unless you’re willing to invest more over a greater period of time than others, you’ll find success nearly impossible. If you’re seeking short-term ROI, or a quick path to recognition, blogging is the wrong path. But if you can stick it out for years without results and constantly learn, iterate, and improve, you can achieve something remarkable.
Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz
The Blog Revelation
Jul 12, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I was laying in bed one night reading, and my wife came in and out of the blue said you should start a blog. She went on talking about all of the inspirational stories in her magazines about people who started their own blogs. She said “You would be good at it”. I ended up tossing and turning in bed until 3 am, my mind racing a hundred miles per hour going over what I would all need to get my blog up and running. I was so excited to get started. As I lay in bed thinking, the first thing I would need is a domain. Everything South Dakota popped into my head so I flew out of bed to check if it was available…it was! I couldn’t believe it wasn’t already taken, it had to be a sign from God. I purchased the domain and that was my first step to becoming a blogger.
WordPress Install on WPEngine
Jul 13, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I have setup quite a few websites over the years, but use WordPress exclusively now for all my new websites for clients. It just offers so much, with all the great plugins and the ability to expand your site down the road. I remember always hearing about the security of WordPress, its always getting hacked, etc., I suppose that depends on the server it’s hosted on and also outdated plugins that get installed. I haven’t had any instances of hacking on any of my sites to date. I will give most of the credit to WPEngine for that. WPEngine support has sent notification to me when a certain plugin I had installed had a security issue and needed updating. When installing plugins always make sure they are not outdated. I have seen plugins that hadn’t been updated for several years. You want to stay away from those. And of course, if they have terrible reviews I tend to stay clear of those too.
After I setup the install, I changed direction and started thinking about a logo design for my blog. That took a few hours to do, settling on the right look and colors. Once I was happy with what I came up with I started to think about the design/look of my site.
Installing WordPress Theme and Plugins
Jul 14, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I use Divi theme by Elegant Themes on all my WordPress installs. I have tried countless other free themes and some paid themes and nothing compares to Divi. You have complete control over every part of your site. You can create custom layouts from scratch using the Divi Builder. It also comes with a handful of cool modules.
However, for my blog site I used Elegant Themes Extra Theme, which is built for blogging. You can still use all the Divi Builder modules shown above with the Extra Theme. The Extra theme has better blog layouts to choose from, and all the social media sharing and ratings built into your posts.
Here is a list of plugins I use on most every site I setup.
Besides the Monarch and Gravity Forms plugins, I use the free versions for the others listed below.
- Child Theme Wizard – https://wordpress.org/plugins/child-theme-wizard/
I highly recommend setting up a child theme. That is why I list it first, it should be the first plugin you install. I learned the hard way in the beginning when it came to updating my theme, all the customization’s I had made to the style sheet, footer, etc. were all wiped away. I had to revert the site back and then left the theme “outdated” until I finally had time to fix everything using a Child Theme. What a pain!
- Gravity Forms – https://www.gravityforms.com/
I love Gravity Forms, it is absolutely the best form builder I have used. You can use it to sell products, polls, survey’s and a bunch of other great add-ons.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – https://wordpress.org/plugins/jetpack/
My blog site is the first time I have used Jetpack. I wanted an easy way to publish my blog posts to all my social media accounts without having to publish them individually – I have it hooked up to Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus. It uses WordPress.com to accomplish that, but it is a snap to setup.
- Monarch Plugin – https://www.elegantthemes.com/
Social media plugin.
- Remove Query Strings From Static Resources – https://wordpress.org/plugins/remove-query-strings-from-static-resources/
Run a test on your WordPress site here https://tools.pingdom.com, this plugin will give you a better score.
- Smush – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-smushit/
The free version does a good job I guess, I haven’t really looked into it closely. When you upload an image into your media folder it will show how much it “smushed” the image.
- Widget Options – https://wordpress.org/plugins/widget-options/
This is a handy plugin that will let you show/hide widgets on certain pages. For instance if your site has a main tab called About Us, and under that you have 10 additional pages. This plugin will let you choose just those pages to show certain widgets, like a navigation widget or maybe an image. It really comes in handy.
- WP Sitemap Page – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-sitemap-page/
This plugin is simple and does it’s job. Shows a simple site map using a shortcode you can put on any page. You can also exclude pages by it’s ID# or your posts.
- Yoast SEO – https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
I use this plugin to change the meta Titles and Descriptions on my pages. The Breadcrumb navigation shortcode is nice too, especially if you have pages nested under other pages. Yoast also gives you pointers on how to make your pages more SEO friendly – not enough content on your page, no image, etc. It creates an XML site map that search engines find/read. One of those plugins you should always install.
Working on a design for my blog
Jul 15-18, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I didn’t do a lot of customizing for my blog site. I added a light gray wood background image. I like to use small “repeatable” background images instead of large 1920 pixel wide images that slow down the loading of the site. It gives the site a unique customized look. Below is the actual image I use for the background of my blog site.
Next, I tweaked some theme colors to match my logo. Made some font style changes. And went back and forth trying out different blog layouts that the Extra Theme provides. You can create a custom Category, or layout and then you can apply that layout to your home page. The first screen shot below shows my home page layout in the category builder area. The second screen shot shows the check box that you select to apply the layout to your home page. Note: after you apply the category layout to your home page, you have to go under Appearance – Customize – and then click the Homepage Settings tab and choose the category that you created. See the third screen shot.
Once I was satisfied with everything, I switched gears and started setting up all my social media accounts.
Setting up Social Media
Jul 19-20, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I setup accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google +. The Jetpack plugin gives the ability to setup automatic posting to these platforms and also Path and LinkedIn. It uses WordPress.com to accomplish this, so you first have to setup a free account with them, and then you simply click the “connect” button next to the different social media types and it easily finds your accounts that you setup. Then, whenever you post something it automatically posts to those social media accounts. Note: Be careful, once you publish a post – its out there! If you find a spelling error or missed something, you have edit that post on ALL your accounts. You can’t just update your post in WordPress and republish in the hopes it will update all your media accounts.
Started to write some blogs and went “live”
Jul 21 – 25, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I wanted to fill the site up with some blog posts before going “live”. I also came up with a template in Photoshop to use for creating my blog post “featured images”. I wanted to give all my post a custom image header so they stand out. I mostly use a photos that I take, and sometimes stock photos through my Adobe account.
When I had a handful of posts published, I added my domain to the WPEngine account and updated the DNS Records in my domain control panel. Once the site was up and running, I hooked up the SSL Certificate which WPEngine provides.
Next, I invited my friends and family on Facebook to check out my site, like and share my page, etc.
Starting to see signs of life
Jul 26, 2018 | My Blogging Story
Everything was pretty quiet at first, I have about 110 followers on Facebook as of right now. To be honest I don’t even check the other SM accounts. I just publish stuff out to them. Here is my Google Analytics screen shot – so far I have 1,636 unique page views.
I am now trying to publish a post everyday, sometimes a couple a day if time allows. Some post are short and easy so they don’t take much time to whip out. Just want to get the World Wide Web full of my posts so search engines can start finding them. The more content the better!
One interesting note, I could tell when my pages/site started to get indexed by Google. It was maybe at the 2 week mark and I started to get spam comments, and also noticed the Jetpack site stats went from 0 to now over 1600 malicious login attempts! I know this looks scary, but it is a good sign that your site and pages are being found I guess.
So from here on out I am just going to keep on blogging. Change up some things hear and there. After reading other blogger articles it might take a year or more for things to really start clicking. I also have a bad habit of being impatient.
August 16, 2018 | My Blogging Story
I moved Parker’s Midweek Update over to Everything South Dakota. Parker has over 2800 email subscribers and my company hosts his site, and I post his news for him. BPro the company I work for has an old email server we use to send out mass emails to his subscribers. We have been wanting to shut down the server for some time since the program used to send the emails is really outdated and Joe, one of our programmers doesn’t have time to maintain it any longer. I sent an email announcement to his subscribers letting know that Parker’s news was moving to it’s new home at Everything South Dakota. I asked them to like my Facebook page so they get his news directly on their “wall”. I think this new setup will be good for everyone, brings in traffic, etc. As of right now my Facebook page has 193 likes.
August 20, 2018 | My Blogging Story
Landed a great opportunity to work with The Original Kimball Popcorn Ball company. Each month we will be giving away a case of 24 popcorn balls! I am using gravity forms to handle the entries directly on the everythingsouthdakota.com website instead of using Facebook to just collect “likes” and stuff. This will draw people directly to the website and make it much easier to keep track of entries, etc. I will still send out a post to all my social media accounts to let people know the Giveaway is starting.
YES! Instagram automatic posting from WordPress
August 21, 2018 | My Blogging Story
What a life saver! I installed this plugin on my site and now my posts will automatically go out to my Instagram account. Very easy to setup. And it works perfect.
August 30, 2018 | My Blogging Story
Holy crap getting some stupid spam comments on my posts now. Thankfully they don’t get posted automatically…lol. I could activate a spam plugin which would cost money, I think as long as the spam doesn’t get posted automatically I will just click the “spam” button and move them to the trash.
I will continue to update this post as things change.
One Year Anniversary!
Well what do you know, my Everything South Dakota blog will be 1 year old on July 12, 2019! Having fun!