Set up Your Blog

This content is for Fizzle members only.

It’s time to switch gears and start setting up the technology end of your blog. I’m going to show you how to do that in a way you can feel great about without wasting a bunch of time and money on stuff that doesn’t matter.

The first thing to understand is this: there is a lot you don’t know right now. Many aspects of your blog, your audience and what you write about can and likely will change as you learn rapidly over the coming months.

For these reasons, I implore you to keep your blog very simple from the start and to not give in to the temptation to try and build the perfect blog platform and design right now.

Your goal is to write, to connect with an audience and to get better and better at creating compelling content. Your blog’s design and features have little to do with whether the words on the page resonate deeply with your readers.

Resonating deeply with your readers happens in your words, not your design.

I know the temptation of designing a perfect blog, making it feel just right, fiddling with this plugin and that. And maybe there’s nothing I can say to keep you from doing so. But just remember: your words and your content are what resonate with your audience and turns them into fans. The simpler your website, the easier it is for that to happen.

And it couldn’t be easier these days: choose a proven platform and use a decent pre-built theme for your blog. Don’t get caught up in endless tweaking, don’t try to build a theme from scratch, and don’t work with a designer just yet. Because your site can go a number of different directions from here, and it will be nice to be able to start simple and change details as you progress.

It really is easy today to setup a blog. But I want to make sure you understand a couple things before you get started.

For instance, you have a couple of choices when it comes to the underlying platform you use to blog on. This is like the brains of the operation.

Then there is the theme you use, which determines how your blog looks to visitors. The fashion, as it were.

Then there’s web analytics, a little bit of free code you add to your website so you can track how many people are visiting your site. Very helpful.

Then there’s your email list provider. They give you a form you can put on your website so visitors can subscribe. Very important to the long term health of your blog.

And all of this lives at a domain name. www dot something you get to choose dot com.

Here’s a diagram to help you visualize these components:

Blog components

The action box below will guide you through each step of setting up your blog, giving you all the information you need to pick a platform, a theme, and get it all setup and working. We update that information regularly, so you’ll know about the best tools available in real time.

Actions for this Lesson

It’s time to setup your blog, theme, email list, analytics and domain name.

Please note: if you’ve been following the Fizzle Roadmap, you probably have some or all of this stuff setup already. But you may need to make sure your theme and platform supports blogging.

WordPress or Squarespace?

We recommend two platforms for blogging: WordPress and Squarespace.

WordPress is a self-hosted platform, meaning that you’ll need a web host to install WordPress on. Don’t worry though, the process is simple and we’ll walk you through it.

Squarespace includes hosting, so you won’t have to sign up for a separate host or install anything.

WordPress is free, open-source software, but your web host will cost somewhere between $3.49 and $20 per month, depending on the host and plan you choose.

Squarespace starts at $12 per month if paid annually or $16 month-to-month.

Both are easy to use and highly capable as blogging tools. Both have beautifully designed themes you can use without having to write any code.

If price, ease of use, design and blogging features are similar between both platforms, why would you choose one over the other?

WordPress is more flexible and customizable. WordPress can support completely custom designs. It also has many hundreds of third-party “plug-ins” that extend functionality. You can build entire members-only sites with WordPress. In fact, Fizzle runs on WordPress.

Squarespace, on the other hand, is often a better choice for people who don’t have technical skills and don’t want to customize their site beyond the built-in functionality.

Really, you can’t go wrong with either platform. We’ve used both in many different situations and either can be used to build a popular blog.

Choose one, then follow the instructions below to configure the platform, hosting, your domain name, theme and analytics.

Setting up WordPress

This next video will demonstrate how to sign up for Bluehost and register a new domain, have WordPress installed, publish your first blog post, install a new theme and configure WordPress to use Google Analytics.

Note: you can use any web host that supports WordPress. We have used Bluehost, HostGator, Dreamhost, Digital Ocean, WPEngine, Storm on Demand and more. In this video we recommend Bluehost because they are one of the least expensive and most reliable hosts.

Here’s the Bluehost discount signup link mentioned in the video » (if you use this link, WordPress will be automatically installed for you when you sign up)

 

Setting up Squarespace

This video will walk you through setting up Squarespace, choosing a theme, configuring your own domain name, publishing your first blog post and integrating with Google Analytics:

 

Choosing an Email Provider

There are dozens of email marketing service providers on the market. We recommend MailChimp for two reasons: 1) there is a free plan that works for up to 2,000 subscribers, and 2) MailChimp is the most fully featured and easy to use email marketing app. We have used MailChimp ourselves for years and continue to prefer it to the handful of other services we’ve tried.

Sign up for MailChimp’s free plan here »

Of course, you’re free to investigate other options and use any service you choose. Just keep in mind that our tutorials will focus on MailChimp because it is what 95% of our customers use.

Please note: the tutorials below will show you how to add basic email signup forms to your blog using MailChimp. For in-depth instructions about how to grow your email list quickly, please refer to our full course: Growing Your Email List to 10k Subscribers and Beyond. If you’re following the roadmap, this course will be presented later in this stage.

Adding a Sign-up form to WordPress

Watch this video to learn how to add your MailChimp signup forms to your WordPress posts and pages:

 

(Get the functions.php code referenced in the video here »)

Adding a Sign-up form to Squarespace

This video will show you how to add your MailChimp signup forms to your Squarespace posts and pages:

 


Once you’re done setting up your blog, I’ll see you in the next lesson where things get really exciting! Please make sure your blog is set up before moving on.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What if I don’t have technical skills?
  • Don’t worry! Yes, some aspects of running an online business will be frustrating if you don’t have technical abilities. However, the software you need to use for blogging keeps getting easier and easier to use. Squarespace is the most friendly for non-technical folks, but WordPress isn’t far behind.

    Plus, there are lots of great tutorials and supportive resources available around the web. We have a full WordPress tutorial series in our library. Your web host will be able to provide some support. You can ask questions in our forums. You can also hire a third-party developer, like WP Curve for bigger WordPress jobs.

  • What if they have a website set up already?
  • If you already have a website, make sure you can add a blog to the site. Both your platform and theme will need to support blogging.

  • What about Medium and other platforms?
  • Medium is an interesting platform for publishers. We love using it for syndicating blog posts and even for writing some original material, because it can help you reach a broader audience. However, we don’t recommend using Medium as your primary blogging platform because you are unable to control many important aspects of the design and features. For more, listen to this short podcast episode on why you shouldn’t move your blog to Medium.

    Medium is evolving and improving quickly, and our opinion may change over the coming months or years. If you have questions about Medium or any other blogging platform, please post in the forums or write us at support@fizzle.co.

  • Should I allow comments on my blog?
  • For new bloggers, we generally recommend that you seize every opportunity possible to interact with your readers. Comments can be a great way to hear from readers and collect valuable feedback.

    Ultimately, you can decide whether you want comments on your blog or not. Both choices have valid reasons for and against. Keep in mind that if you start with comments on, you can easily turn them off later.

Bonus: Recorded Coaching Session #8

When this course first launched, we led a cohort of students through the material and assignments over the course of 10 weeks. These coaching sessions are very in-depth (each session was 90 minutes to 2 hours). We spent most of the time answering student questions and reviewing assignments.

These sessions are recorded if you would like to follow along. They will appear here, at the end of lessons throughout this course. Keep in mind that each session covers more than one lesson, so only 10 of the 17 lessons will include recorded coaching videos like this.

Enjoy! Here is session #8, which covers lessons 14 & 15: