One place for hosting & domains


      How to Create the Perfect WordPress Featured Image (Sizing & Design Guide)

      To draw new visitors to your site, you may consider publishing blog posts regularly. However, without featured images, your posts likely won’t look inviting enough to earn clicks.

      Fortunately, you can easily create well-designed featured images for your articles. Once you know how to find the right photos, size them correctly, and optimize them for search engines, you can instantly revitalize your WordPress posts.

      In this post, we’ll explain what a featured image is. Then, we’ll share some tips on how to use them. Let’s get started!

      What is a Featured Image?

      In WordPress, the featured image is the visual representation of a specific post, page, or custom post type. When someone visits your website, these images will usually appear at the top of posts or in your blog feed:

      WordPress featured images

      Essentially, the featured image is the default thumbnail of your post. If someone shares the post on social media, this image will appear with the link:

      Social media featured image

      In WordPress, the featured image settings are determined by your theme. This includes the location and size of your images.

      Typically, featured images are displayed in the following places:

      • The top area of posts or pages
      • Pages on your website that link to blog posts, like your WordPress homepage, recommended posts section, or search results
      • Thumbnails for social media links

      Sometimes, featured images may be included in image galleries or sliders. You may also see them as background images.

      The Advantages of Using Featured Images

      If you’re new to WordPress, you might be wondering why you need a featured image for every post on your website. However, these can be the key to making a good first impression with new visitors.

      After users click on a link to one of your posts, featured images are often the first thing they’ll see and this can engage them enough to continue reading the article:

      Post featured image

      You’ll likely have a list of your published posts on your homepage. You can motivate visitors to read your content by including well-designed featured images.

      Plus, having a featured image for each post can help you establish visual consistency on your website:

      Home page featured images

      When you share your posts on social media, featured images can help advertise your content to users browsing their feeds. A well-designed image can increase engagement and generate more clicks to your site.

      What is the Ideal WordPress Featured Image Size?

      As we mentioned earlier, different WordPress themes can have various sizes for featured images. However, the general size is 1200 x 628 pixels.

      Here’s how this would look with the default Twenty Twenty-Two theme:

      Featured image size

      This size will work effectively with many WordPress themes. However, your featured image sizing may vary based on your personal preference and the layout of your theme.

      It’s important to note that WordPress will resize your images to its default settings. Whenever you upload an image, it creates three different versions:

      • Thumbnail: 150 x 150 px
      • Medium: 300 x 300 px
      • Large: 1024 x 1024 px

      If you want to keep the original size of the featured image, this will be its ‘Full Size.’ To edit any of these sizing options, you can navigate to Settings > Media:

      WordPress media settings

      Here, you can update the width and height with new values. Once you save your changes, uploaded images will resize to these dimensions.

      You can also add a custom featured image size. Before you do so, it’s a good idea to back up your website. After this step, you can add the following code to your functions.php file:

      add_image_size( string $name, int $width, int $height, bool|array $crop = false )

      Make sure to update these values with your new featured image sizes. Here’s an example of how this might look:

      add_image_size( 'post-thumbnail size', 800, 1500 );

      Next, you’ll need to display the new size within your theme. In your theme template file, update the_post_thumbnail() function:

      if ( has_post_thumbnail() ) {
      the_post_thumbnail( 'your-custom-size' );

      Once you save the file, you’ll have a new custom-featured image!

      Get Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

      Subscribe to our blog and receive great content just like this delivered straight to your inbox.

      How to Set a Featured Image in WordPress

      To set a featured image, open your WordPress dashboard and create a new post. Then, in the right-hand sidebar, look for the Featured Image section:

      Add WordPress featured image

      Here, click on Set Featured Image. This will open a pop-up where you can upload your media file. Alternatively, you can select an image from your Media Library:

      Select featured image

      If you need to adjust the size, find the Edit Image button. Then, use the various editing options to scale, crop, rotate, or flip the image as needed:

      Edit featured image

      When you’re done, hit Set featured image. You’ll now see a preview of the image while you create the post:

      New WordPress featured image

      Before you publish the post, you’ll want to preview it to ensure the featured image is showing. Remember that your theme may require more specific dimensions to work correctly. You can refer to your theme’s documentation if you experience difficulties during this process.

      Additionally, you can install a few plugins to make this process easier. For example, Auto Featured Image will automatically use the first photo in your post as the featured image. You can also use Default featured image to select a picture that will be used as a featured image in case you forget to add one to a post.

      How to Create the Perfect WordPress Featured Image (6 Tips)

      Featured images can turn your website into an engaging, media-rich experience. Let’s discuss some best practices for creating them!

      1. Be Relevant and Consistent

      When used correctly, featured images can enhance your blog posts and make them more attractive to visitors, but there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind.

      First, you’ll want to avoid using random images. A featured image should serve as an introduction to a post, so it needs to be relevant to the content.

      For example, if you run a food blog, you probably publish posts with new recipes. In this case, your featured image can be a photo of the finished meal:

      Relevant featured image

      It’s also good practice to keep your featured images consistent throughout your entire website. Since these will be displayed on your homepage, archive, and blog, you’ll want photos that align with your web design:

      Consistent featured images

      To find the right featured image, consider your current WordPress theme and layout. Then, select a high-resolution image that can be easily scaled down. After you finish creating the post, make sure to preview it to evaluate how well the image fits into your website.

      2. Avoid Using Copyrighted Images

      As you’re browsing images on the Internet, you may stumble across a photo that would look great as a featured image. However, before you upload it to your WordPress site, you’ll need to ensure that it isn’t copyrighted to avoid legal issues.

      When sourcing images, you can typically use anything under a Creative Commons license. These will be free to download and use on your website, except if they’re for commercial purposes.

      To find Creative Commons images, open Google Images. Then, click on Tools > Usage Rights > Creative Commons licenses. Once you refine your search, you’ll get a wealth of free images to choose from:

      Creative commons images

      There are also entire websites with these stock images. On a platform like Unsplash, you can download high-resolution photos that are free from copyright claims:

      Unsplash website

      Another alternative is to make your own featured images. By taking photos yourself or creating graphics in Canva, you can ensure that you avoid any copyright violations. Plus, these will be completely original!

      3. Optimize Featured Images to Reduce File Size

      If you publish posts on a regular basis, featured images will start taking up a lot of space in your Media Library. If they aren’t optimized properly, these photos could negatively affect your site performance.

      Essentially, optimizing your images involves reducing their file sizes. By compressing your featured images, you can minimize your loading time.

      If you don’t do this, you could end up with a poor Core Web Vitals score. Images might take too long to render, and you’ll see performance issues in your PageSpeed Insights reports:

      Failed Core Web Vitals report


      Fortunately, there’s an easy solution for this common image issue. A plugin like TinyPNG can automatically compress images as you upload them:

      TinyPNG plugin

      Plus, you’ll even be able to compress all images that you’ve already uploaded to your website. TinyPNG lets you bulk optimize any JPEG, PNG, or WebP images in your Media Library.

      4. Regenerate Old Thumbnails

      When you upload images to WordPress, it will resize them according to the pixel guidelines in your settings. Once you set new default sizes, your previously uploaded images will still have the outdated sizing.

      If you want to resize your featured images, you can manually reupload them. However, this will take some time.

      To solve this problem, you can install a WordPress plugin like reGenerate Thumbnails Advanced. This tool can regenerate the thumbnails for each of the images in your Media Library:

      Regenerate Thumbnails Advanced plugin

      After you install and activate the plugin, go to Tools > Regenerate Thumbnails. Under Regenerate Options, select the box next to Regenerate only Featured Images:

      Regenerate featured images

      Finally, hit Regenerate. This will automatically update all your featured images with the correct sizing.

      5. Optimize Images for Search Engines

      As a website owner, you probably already know how vitally important Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is. If you want to avoid paying for expensive advertising methods, you’ll want to rise to the top of search results by optimizing your content. This can help you bring in more organic traffic.

      Having featured images can help you improve your site’s SEO. By simply tweaking a few elements, you can make your images more appealing to search engines and users.

      First, you’ll want to make sure to add alt text. This will describe the featured image to search engines and screen readers. For instance, you could write “Orange and white cat standing in a pumpkin patch”:

      Featured image alt text

      Remember to include the post’s keyword in the alt text. This way, Google can understand what the post is about and rank it higher for related queries. Similarly, you can include these target keywords in the title, caption, and description for the featured image.

      6. Enhance Social Post Thumbnails

      Social media can be the perfect platform for promoting your blog posts. Before you encourage social sharing, it’s crucial to optimize your featured images for these platforms.

      You can easily customize your social media links using a plugin like Yoast SEO. For example, the premium version enables you to see previews of your Twitter and Facebook thumbnails.

      To get started, install and activate Yoast SEO. Next, find Yoast SEO > Social. On this page, fill out the URLs for your various social media pages:

      Add social media accounts

      Then, open a new post and scroll down to the Yoast SEO settings. In the Social tab, you can click on Select image to upload your featured image.

      Featured image for social posts

      You can also add a title and description for each social media platform. This will give visitors a taste of your content. Once you publish the post on social media, it will have a featured image and snippet that conveys precisely what the article is about.

      Use Featured Images Effectively

      Featured images can help make your posts stand out. Whether people are browsing your content on social media or your website, they can look at the featured image to see what the post is about before they start reading it.

      To review, here’s how you can create the perfect WordPress featured image:

      1. Be relevant and consistent.
      2. Find copyright-free images on platforms like Unsplash.
      3. Compress featured images with TinyPNG.
      4. Regenerate old thumbnails with reGenerate Thumbnails Advanced.
      5. Optimize images for search engines using keyword-focused alt text.
      6. Enhance social post thumbnails with Yoast SEO’s social settings.

      When you create your own featured images, you can build an original website without facing copyright issues. At DreamHost, our custom website design services can help you use the right images on your site.

      DreamHost Makes Web Design Easy

      Our designers can create a gorgeous website from SCRATCH to perfectly match your brand and vision — all coded with WordPress so you can manage your content going forward.

      custom website design

      Source link

      How to Write the Perfect Meta Description & Supercharge Your Organic Click-Through Rate

      Strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) fundamentals are essential if you want to get your content to be found organically in search engines. However, despite all of our efforts to cater to Google’s robots, we still need to ensure we’re paying special attention to the human element.

      Fortunately, a well-written meta description can catch readers’ attention and convince them that your content will answer their questions, and is worth their time. In turn, it can increase your site’s organic click-through rate (CTR) and help tell Google your page is valuable.

      In this post, we’ll introduce you to meta descriptions and their importance to your website. Then, we’ll share some important tips to help you write better meta descriptions and supercharge your organic CTR. Let’s get started!

      An Introduction to Meta Descriptions

      Meta descriptions are the snippets of text you see underneath the title within Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), as seen the example below:

      Meta description examples

      The main goal of a good meta description is to give readers an idea of what the web page is all about. Naturally, titles also play a vital role here, but there’s only so much information you can fit into a single headline.

      Meta descriptions provide up to a couple of sentences to expand on your page’s content. You can either write them yourself or have search engines generate them automatically based on your web page’s content.

      As convenient as having search engines do the work for you might sound, we strongly recommend that you write your own meta descriptions. That way, you get full control over what shows up on the SERPs and social media sites while also increasing your chances of engaging users.

      Let’s take a look at some meta description examples for a specific line of shoes. You can tell the meta description below was generated automatically, and it doesn’t give you much to go on:

      An example of a poorly-written meta description

      Here’s another result for the same product search, this one using a stronger meta description:

      A meta description from Nike news

      It’s important to understand that meta descriptions only give you a limited number of characters to play with. On desktops, that can be up to 160 characters, whereas mobile users will only see 120 of them. Roughly speaking, that means you get about two lines of text.

      Why Meta Descriptions Are Important

      SEO is all about relevance. In order to rank, you first need to produce high quality content designed to answer a specific question or cover a topic thoroughly and accurately. Beyond that, there are a whole bunch of SEO best practices, tips, and tricks that can help you rank better.

      Some of these Google has put into a category their algorithm uses to help them rank content in Search, referred to as “ranking factors.” There are over 200, in fact. Various examples include keyword usage, meta data, media usage in content, backlinks, and engagement.

      While meta descriptions themselves are not a “ranking factor” — in that they don’t directly influence the rankings of your pages — they can indirectly help you by encouraging real human searchers to click on your results, thus signaling higher user engagement and potentially influencing your search position.

      What to Include in a Meta Description

      Two lines of text isn’t much, but more often than not, it’s enough to cover a few key elements. Most often, this should include:

      1. What your page is about
      2. How it can benefit the reader

      If a meta description is too vague, then you’re not selling users on the idea of visiting your website. You’ll probably still get clicks, of course, but not as many as you might have otherwise.

      Let’s say, for example, that you wanted to write a meta description for this article you are reading right here. Here’s, maybe, a not-so-good example:

      Have you ever wondered what meta descriptions are? Wonder no more, because we’ll tell you everything you need to know.

      While it hits on the article’s primary topic, it doesn’t do a good job of previewing the page’s actual content. Now let’s give it another go, keeping in mind the fundamental elements we want to include:

      Meta descriptions convey what your web page is all about and can indirectly influence rankings. Find out how to write the perfect meta description here.

      This is short and to the point, and we even had enough characters left over to include a simple Call to Action (CTA). It may not win any literary awards, but it will get the job done.

      How to Write the Perfect Meta Description (10 Key Tips)

      At this point, you know the basics of what a meta description should include. Now here are 10 tips that will help you really knock your meta descriptions out of the park.

      1. Use Relevant Keywords

      If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the concept of keywords. Ideally, you’ll use key phrases organically throughout all of your content, including in metadata such as your descriptions.

      Let’s say, for example, that you’re writing a recipe and you want to optimize it for the search term “how to cook a healthy lasagna”. That’s an easy term to work into a meta description:

      Learning how to cook a healthy lasagna is easier than you might imagine. Let’s go over a recipe you can cook in under two hours!

      Including keywords within your meta descriptions is an SEO best practice. It gives search engines a better idea of what your content is all about.

      However, as always, make sure to work those meta keywords in organically. That means not stuffing your descriptions full of keywords.

      In fact, Google advises against using long lists of keywords in your meta descriptions. So, you’ll want to make sure your description still reads like something a human (not a bot) would write.

      2. Consider Meta Description Character Count

      So far, most of the examples we’ve shown you have come in well under the maximum character count for the major search engines. You want to get some mileage out of your meta descriptions. However, in practice, obsessing over the character count isn’t as serious as you might think.

      To build on our earlier example of a healthy lasagna recipe, you could easily expand on its description to cover more information:

      Learning how to cook a healthy lasagna is easier than you might imagine. For this recipe, we’re substituting meat with eggplants, which means it will cook faster and feed up to four people.

      That example goes over the character limit for both desktop and mobile meta descriptions in Google. In practice, it would get cut off and look something like this:

      Learning how to cook a healthy lasagna is easier than you might imagine. For this recipe, we’re substituting meat with eggplants, which means it will cook …

      That snippet still provides plenty of information, so you don’t necessarily need to change it. What matters is that you include the essential details early on, so whatever does get cut off is just supplementary information.

      You’ll also want to keep in mind that Google recommends against very short meta descriptions. Although it’s great to be concise, a one-sentence description is unlikely to contain enough information to make readers click through.

      3. Create Unique Meta Descriptions

      When it comes to meta descriptions, there are two kinds of potential duplicates. It’s good practice to avoid both of them:

      • Mimicking other sites’ descriptions
      • Having several of your pages use the same description

      Overall, duplicate content is almost always bad news when it comes to SEO. Moreover, it can hurt your CTR if you have several pages competing for the same search terms. For this reason, Google recommends against repurposing the same meta description for different pages or posts.

      For practical purposes, there’s no reason all of your pages shouldn’t have unique meta descriptions. If it takes you more than a few minutes to write one, then you’re probably overthinking it.

      Get Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

      Subscribe to our blog and receive great content just like this delivered straight to your inbox.

      4. Write Compelling Copy

      Most meta descriptions are pretty boring, at least linguistically speaking. The need to cover so much information in such a limited space doesn’t lend itself well to innovation.

      One way to make your meta descriptions stand out is by using compelling language. To do that, take a look at what other websites are writing for the keywords you want to rank for. Let’s say, for example, that you’re looking for a cast iron pizza recipe.

      A lot of the content will be similar, which means their meta descriptions will share elements as well. However, not all descriptions are equally effective:

      Examples of pizza recipes in the search results

      Some of our favorite hits from the above example include the words “crispy”, “buttery”, and “chewy”. There are five results here, but the first and last stand out due to their word choices.

      Think about it this way — if you’re staring at that page trying to decide which recipe to follow, you’ll probably pick the one that sounds more delicious. At that stage, you don’t know how good the recipe will be, so your only indicators are the title tag, picture, and word choice in the meta description.

      5. Be Specific and Concise

      A vague meta description is unlikely to get many click-throughs. If a reader doesn’t know what to expect from the outset, there’s little motivation for them to spend the effort visiting your page and reading your content.

      Although a meta description is short, you can pack details into it by being picky with your words. Using precise language can communicate the gist of your content without running over the character count.

      Google provides this example of a highly specific meta description for a product page:

      An example of a specific and detailed meta description

      When writing a meta description for a blog post, you might include a quick summary of its headings so that readers have a detailed overview of the content:

      An example of a meta description that uses a list format

      Alternatively, you might summarize one of the key points from your article in your meta description. The exact approach will depend on the nature of your post and what information is most relevant to readers.

      6. Make Your Meta Description Actionable

      Simply writing a statement summary of your blog post can tell potential readers what it’s about. However, it could come across as generic and even boring if you don’t add a little excitement to your meta description.

      You can address this by making your meta description actionable. This means prompting the reader to actually do something when they click on the headline and go to your article.

      In the following meta description example, the website engages readers by encouraging them to “try these tips”, while also explaining the benefits of the article:

      An example of a meta description with a call to action

      Using a CTA in your meta description can catch a reader’s attention when they’re scanning the search engine results. It can also tell them a little more about what they should expect to learn from your content.

      There are a couple of ways to make your meta description actionable. You can include a direct CTA at the end of it, like in the example above. Alternatively, you might use active voice throughout to excite the reader and incentivize them to click through:

      An example of a meta description with active language

      Both approaches are valid and can be effective for attracting readers to your site, so it’s a matter of preference. However, in all cases, we recommend staying away from passive language as much as possible.

      7. Consider Your Target Audience

      It’s also essential to consider your target audience when writing meta descriptions for your content. This is the group of people that typically read your blog or would benefit most from your content.

      It might seem like writing a more generic meta description will ensure your content appeals to more people. However, this approach is often counterproductive. That’s because opting for a bland meta description means you might miss out on attracting readers who will better connect with your content.

      One of the easiest ways to target your ideal audience is by thinking carefully about the tone of your meta description. For example, it could be a good idea to incorporate some humor and casual language if your target reader is Gen Z:

      An example of a humorous meta description

      Alternatively, a more serious and to-the-point description with formal language could be more appropriate if your content is targeted toward older professionals.

      8. Appeal to Emotion

      It’s also a good idea to appeal to emotion in your meta descriptions. This approach can involve targeting a positive emotion, such as a reader’s excitement, or a negative pain point, like fear or trepidation.

      Targeting emotions within your meta descriptions can be highly effective because it plays on readers’ psychological triggers. In fact, studies show that most people make emotional decisions when choosing brands or buying products.

      If you choose to target a positive emotion within your meta descriptions, consider using exciting words to make readers feel more invested in your content. Here’s an example:

      Asking for a promotion can supercharge your career and earn your employer’s respect. Learn how to ask for and actually get a promotion!

      The same approach can also work for negative emotions:

      Are you worried about what will happen to your family after you pass away? Check out our life insurance policies and find the best plan for you!

      In both scenarios, using a question at the start of the meta description can immediately tap into the reader’s state of mind. We’ll explore this a little more in the next tip.

      9. Answer a Specific Question or Concern

      Most people use search engines to answer a question they have in mind. You can see this in action with the People also ask section in Google search results:

      The People also ask section in Google search results

      Although there aren’t enough words in a meta description to answer a potential question, you can target search intent. This refers to the reason why a user is making a particular search online.

      Targeting search intent can convince readers that your post won’t be a waste of their time. By immediately bringing up the reason they’re searching in the first place, you can assure readers that the rest of your content will provide value.

      You can address search intent by posing a question within your meta description or outlining a concern the reader might have. For example, if you’re teaching readers how to create an online store, your meta description might look like this:

      Are you looking to turn your passion into a business and make money online? Check out our complete guide to creating an online store!

      Since search intent goes hand in hand with keyword research, you’ll want to consider it when planning and writing your post. Then, you can provide a concise and exciting invitation to keep reading within your meta description.

      Supercharge Your Organic CTR with Strong Meta Descriptions

      When you boil it down, SEO is very competitive. You’ll never be the only website within a niche, so you’ll need to look for ways to make your pages stand out in the SERPs. Fortunately, an informative and unique meta description is a great way to catch potential visitors’ eyes.

      There are a few ways to write a perfect meta description. You can include keywords and leverage interesting language. We also recommend being as specific and detailed as possible, using emotional vocabulary and phrases that will appeal to your target audience.

      Are you looking to maximize your reach and get new eyes on your site? Our Dreamhost SEO marketing services can help you optimize your existing content, create new posts for your website, and provide monthly reports to track your progress. Check out our SEO plans today!

      Search Engine Optimization Made Easy

      We take the guesswork (and actual work) out of growing your website traffic with SEO.

      DreamHost custom website development services

      Source link

      A Beginner’s Guide to Crafting the Perfect Blog — From Site Creation to Broadcasting Your Brand

      Back in the day, blogging essentially amounted to taking the stage in an empty theater. The spotlight shone on you as you stood behind the microphone and embarked on a soliloquy about your day. Maybe your dog did something funny and adorable, or perhaps you had a handful of vacation stories and photos to share. Maybe your aging water heater finally keeled over and died, setting off a tragically comedic series of home improvement projects.

      The availability and accessibility of personal web space in the mid-2000s gave rise to countless bloggers — but not many readers or business opportunities. Blogs typically added up to online diaries shared among close friends and family members, words thrown into the ether.

      via GIPHY

      Over the last several years, however, blogging has shifted from a self-serving ritual to an often fruitful endeavor. Several top blogs have turned into leading voices of industry and now amass hundreds of thousands of dollars each month.

      But blogging success isn’t just reserved for the Arianna Huffingtons of the world. From personal finance and fitness to food and fashion, individual writers can use their voice (well, their fingers and keyboard) to build a brand and expand it into a livelihood.

      However, don’t let the technical aspects of creating an online presence weigh you down or prevent you from starting. Coming up with your blogging idea and goals is plenty intimidating; once you’ve overcome that big hurdle, take a look at the steps we’ve outlined below to see how to make your dream a reality.

      Step 1: Pick Your Platform

      You know what you want to say, but how will anyone hear you? Your new blogging venture will face a critical early test when you choose which venue to share your point of view. While the writing, editing, and publishing features found in most blogging platforms are mostly the same, your experience and effectiveness will be significantly impacted.

      Website builders offer a beginner-friendly way to get online, but many of the big-name services tend to emphasize drag-and-drop design over providing a substantive and dynamic writing environment. Blogging is a bit of an afterthought, more of an extra feature thrown into the mix.

      Third-party publishing platforms like Blogger, Tumblr, or Medium emphasizes content and community, but it’s easy for authors to get lost in the crowd. Your brand becomes absorbed by the platform displaying your work.

      Even though all these options come with free or low-cost options, expenses can get a bit out of hand once you add the features you need to be successful (a custom domain name, for instance). You tend not to have as much flexibility as you’d think.

      Worst of all, those platforms own your content. The proprietary programs often make it difficult for you to download your content, and you won’t be able to transfer your site anywhere else without completely rebuilding. Granted, the companies mentioned likely aren’t disappearing anytime soon, but even promising startups can vanish in the blink of an eye — and take your blog with them.

      Turning to an open-source content management system like WordPress immediately solves all these woes. This free software powers nearly a third of the web, making it the most popular and trusted publishing tool.

      With a history rooted in blogging, WordPress balances writing tools with beautiful customizable designs (that will soon get even easier to use with the debut of Gutenberg and blocks). Both hobbyists and Fortune 500 companies use WordPress to build their brand and foster interactions with readers. You maintain complete control over your site and content. Trust us: go with WordPress.

      Want to learn more about WordPress? Check out our WordPress tutorials.

      Step 2: Set the Stage With a Domain Name and Hosting

      Although you can dip a toe into WordPress by using the all-in-one, we think self-hosted WordPress (found at is the way to go. Hosting your website files with a trusted provider like DreamHost gives you extra security and stability, along with unlimited growth opportunities and friendly support.

      What’s the difference between and Turns out, it’s big, especially when you want full control over your website.

      Most new bloggers will be well served with a shared web hosting plan. The configuration is the thankfully the cheapest option, but smaller price tags can open the door for performance issues or crummy customer service, depending on your provider.

      Instead of signing up with a generic web hosting plan, explore the specialized features WordPress hosting introduces. If you’re worried about the tech stuff becoming too involved or complicated, purchase managed WordPress hosting and let the experts take care of it. For more information on the similarities and differences between traditional web hosting and the managed WordPress variety, check out this resource from

      Once hosting is acquired, it’s time to take the first big, demonstrable step in establishing your blog! Many new hosting accounts, including ones through DreamHost, come with a free domain name registration. This is the URL your readers will associate with you and your content, so you’ll want to make this count! Hopefully, you already have a brand name in mind, but don’t be crushed if it’s not available as a domain. Some tips to consider when domain shopping:

      • Use descriptive keywords to describe your blog
      • Look for something short, pronounceable, and easy to spell
      • Avoid hyphens and other punctuation
      • Don’t be afraid to try different domain extensions
      • See if your name is also available on social media
      • Make sure there are no trademark or copyright infringements

      Step 3: Find a Theme and Customize Your Look

      Many hosts have simplified the WordPress installation process to just a click or two, but DreamHost has even eliminated that step. We’ll install WordPress for you, along with a handful of rock-solid themes and plugins to get you started. Finding the right theme or design is critical for your blog’s success, as it connects your readers with your content and quickly informs their first impression of your brand.

      Instead of getting bogged down in color schemes and typography, focus on functionality. Good blog themes should make your content easy to find. As such, pay attention to the information you display above the fold:

      • Is your navigation menu there?
      • What about a search box?
      • Recent or popular posts?

      Don’t feel like you need to make some big splash with your theme — clean, simple, useful designs always win.

      Obviously, your blog’s landing page and individual posts will garner the lion’s share of looks, but don’t forget about creating a visually engaging and useful design for an about page and a contact page. An about page helps build trust with your readers and enables you to share your personality and credentials, along with the blog’s mission and aspirations.

      Your theme and your content should work together and add value, not compete for attention. Fonts should be large and readable. Make sure the responsive or mobile-friendly versions of your site don’t hide important information on smaller screens. Instead of playing with the fun parts of web design, such as colors, imagery, and animations, concentrate on user experience. After all, your blog’s design is for your readers, not you!

      Step 4: Construct a Keyword-Driven Content Strategy

      Sure, you know you want to blog. But are you sure you’re treating this as a possible business venture and source of income (and not as a self-satisfying bout of verbal preening)? Briefly put your writing talents aside and come up with a business plan for your blog that avoids these common mistakes.

      For instance, how often do you plan on publishing a new post? Temper the initial excitement and avoid committing to an unsustainable writing schedule. Seek consistency, both in terms of frequency and tone. Your personality and chosen topic area will likely shape the voice you naturally bring to your content, but don’t lose sight of your target audience. Your readers’ demographics, locations, interests, and habits all offer hints as to what information will be the most useful and entertaining.

      Take the guesswork out of your writing prompts by engaging in a healthy bit of keyword research. In addition to the obvious benefits to search engine optimization and higher rankings, keyword research reveals what your target audience is actually looking for. Your blog might be the best content on the web, but it’s all largely for naught if Google can’t find it. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

      Instead of jumping straight into the deep end with high-value — and highly competitive — broad search terms, identify a handful of more specific searches that you can build a base around. Don’t write content around the area’s best restaurants; craft your posts around, say, the coziest Italian restaurant that’s the best spot to bring a date. The experts at Moz do a great job of explaining a straightforward, easy-to-follow method of keyword research.

      Step 5: Work Ahead With Writing

      Once you have a healthy list of topics to explore, it’s time to finally get to work! Are you surprised that writing is such a small part of establishing a successful blog? Because writing is theoretically the part that comes most natural to you, we’re just helping establish the guidelines through which to funnel your creativity and steer your success.

      For starters, you’ll want to publish a few posts before you officially launch your blog. Give readers a glimpse of what they can expect from your brand by covering a handful of topics in the voice and tone you envision using for the long haul. This enables your visitors to connect with you more personally and gain insights and information beyond the generic, “Hey, I started a blog” post.

      via GIPHY

      You might be chomping at the bit to get started blogging, but channel that excitement in ways that will keep that momentum going long after the initial rush wears off. In addition to the three to five posts you’ll publish, try to have another five to 10 posts written and saved in drafts. Beyond that, maintain a list of ideas or keywords you’ll want to write about in the future. By stocking up on content and topics, you’ll be poised to handle any bout of writer’s block that emerges.

      As for the content itself, find a schedule that works best for you. Publishing only two or three new posts a week is perfectly acceptable (that’s what we aim to do on the DreamHost blog). Daily articles sound great in theory, but first you need to find out if that is the right amount of content for your audience. Then take your time working up to that cadence. Spend the extra time formatting, proofreading, and otherwise perfecting each post.

      Step 6: Build Interactions and Boost Your Following

      Once your new blog is open for business, now it’s time to start attacking the second part of this post’s headline: broadcasting your brand. Just as the quality of your content won’t matter if Google can’t find you, the same can be said for your audience. Ideally, you set up your blog’s social media accounts as you worked on the site and starter content (remember when we listed social media availability as part of a strong domain name?).

      Naturally, you’ll frequently rely on your brand’s social media profiles to share new blog posts, but don’t resort to mindlessly copy/pasting links into your feed. Many of your same content creation and brainstorming exercises for your blog should also be used toward your social media: How can you be engaging, entertaining, and relevant to your followers? Find compelling images and other visual elements to accompany your posts; graphics alone can lead to more than 30 percent more clicks and visits on social media. Pose questions to your readers and lend timely insights into trending issues.

      Be sure to keep in mind that interactions with readers don’t (and shouldn’t) need to happen away from your blog. Social media networks connect broad swaths of people, but the most important audiences to focus on are the ones who have already found you. Turn your readers into brand advocates by creating engaging opportunities to interact and return to your blog. You can bridge the gap by making it easy for visitors to share their favorite post on Facebook and Twitter, of course, but consider allowing them to comment directly on the post — and be sure to respond to their questions and opinions. Doing so humanizes your brand and deepens the relationship with your readers.

      Consider capturing readers’ attention by flipping the relationship. Instead of sitting back and hoping for readers to come to your blog, set up an email newsletter or subscription and collect people’s addresses. That way, you can more actively get your content to the front and center, rather than waiting for someone to browse your blog’s way. This can easily be accomplished with an email marketing platform that provides embeddable code that can be placed in a widget on your blog’s sidebar or footer. Alternatively, consider a WordPress plugin that pops open a window directly asking for engagement. While these can be extraordinarily effective, beware of the fine line between user engagement and dark UX practices.

      Step 7: Analyze Analytics and Tweak Your Tactics

      So now your blog is a buzzing hive of activity. Readers are zipping around from one post to the next. Or maybe they’re checking out your About Page. Or instead of reading a post until the end, they’re just glancing at the headings. Maybe they’re not even opening a post.

      You’ll never know for sure until you look at analytics or the data that shows where visitors come from, how they move around their site, and why they leave. Google Analytics is the go-to (and free!) service that can provide a wealth of information about your audience and your site’s performance. Pageviews can identify your most popular blog post over a certain period, for instance, while a high bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave a site quickly after viewing only one page) may indicate some design or content changes could be in order.

      As you learn how long your readers stay on your blog and where they go, you might discover they don’t interact with your website quite how you anticipated. Find where the common hangups are and make the related tweaks to your navigation menu, read more links, and other interaction points. By solving your first few users’ problems, you’re paving the way for more and more readers.

      Do you have any questions about crafting the perfect blog? Join the DreamHost Community and let’s talk shop!

      Source link