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CHALLENGE DAY #3: Putting Together The Technical Pieces

Before you can start getting your blog out there into the world, there are just a few things we need to do to make it presentable and working smoothly on both the back and front end.

I’ll be honest though- for my non-techie students, this has been their least favorite day.

But the good news is that as always, I’m here to bring you through the day step-by-step, and with my recommendations, this part will be a breeze.


I challenge you today to finish today’s lesson and get one step closer to an additional income stream in your life!


Today you will learn how to:

  • pick a theme that both your readers and search engines will love,
  • set up Google Analytics the right way,
  • install plugins you’ll need for blogging,
  • and set up important legal pages to protect yourself.

Remember, if you need help with anything at all, ask away in our Facebook community, and tag your question with #challengeday3.



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CHOOSING A PROFITABLE THEME

Ok, there’s no such thing as a straight-up profitable theme but a fast, SEO-friendly and well-designed theme can definitely help the page views you get, reader attention and how well it does with search engines.

TOP TIPS FOR PICKING A WORDPRESS THEME

Harper theme

1. Choose a responsive theme.

A responsive theme makes your site extremely easy to use whether your reader is on a laptop, mobile, or tablet.

This is quite important because many people use their mobile and tablet like their computers now.

If your site doesn’t work properly on any one of these devices, that perspective reader may never even have the chance to hear your hearty advice and words.

Personally, about 50% of my traffic comes from mobile devices! If I don’t have a site that functions well on a phone, I could easily lose 50% of my readers.

You will know when a theme is responsive because it is normally listed as a primary feature.

2. Keep it clean in design and color.

Choose a theme that is clean and easy-to-read.

Having a messy theme cluttered with unnecessary graphics or contrasting colors will make it hard for a reader to actually read your content.

You want them focused on your words, not what the harsh colors your theme has.

3. Consider a premium theme.

I’ll admit it– I’m cheap. When I first started blogging, I opted for mostly free plugins and apps. I only spent money on hosting and a premium theme.

A premium theme is a must because:

  • you’ll be able to customize your site and have full control over the design, which readers will love,
  • and they’re SEO friendly, mobile responsive and fast, which search engines will love.

They’re normally only a one-time payment and are usually easier to work with than free ones.

You will spend a lot less time designing and can jump right into blogging.


FREE VS PAID WORDPRESS THEMES

My Personal Experience with Themes

When I first started blogging, I tried a couple of free WordPress themes, and I was so frustrated!

Even though each theme cost me nothing, the amount of time I had to put into getting the theme to look like the demo or getting to do something slightly close to what I wanted was not worth it.

I couldn’t even get help because the free theme developers did not come with support (surprise because they put something out for free…), and I’m pretty sure they weren’t mobile responsive and SEO friendly.

Because of my free theme frustration, over the past five years, I’ve bought and used WordPress themes from three theme developers and two of them are clear winners because they make themes that are:

  • easy to install,
  • fast for SEO,
  • responsive for all devices,
  • came with support,
  • and ENJOYABLE TO USE AND CUSTOMIZE.

My advice for you to save money in the long run

There are three things that I recommend people buying when they first start out blogging: a hosting plan, paid theme and this one social sharing plugin that’s the absolute best, which we’ll get to later.

I recommend the paid theme because it’s a one-time payment and so much easier to use and customize than a free one.

Time is money, and by buying a paid theme, you end up “saving money” by saving your time.

However, if you can’t afford a paid theme or you want to test out if blogging is for you and are being mindful of Bluehost’s 30-day return policy, then install WordPress’ free Twenty Twenty theme until you’re ready to buy a theme.

It should already be installed or be the first theme you see under Appearance -> Theme.


THEME RECOMMENDATIONS

Update June 16, 2021

Normally I recommend 17th Avenue Design. I have bought three themes from her in the past few years for my two blogs and my sister’s blog.

Her themes are mobile responsiveness, have lots of bells and whistles and come with really great support. Altogether, the themes and support combined make them really easy to use even for beginners.

However, since Google’s Core Web Vitals update, I changed my WordPress theme so it could be as fast as possible and the most search engine optimized as possible.

The theme designer I use does not have themes available to the public yet. But I wanted to give you the best alternative.

WP Astra Themes

I recommend WP Astra themes, which have been recommended time and time again by multiple SEO focused website auditors.

WP Astra themes are designed with speed in mind. Speed is one of many parts that play into Google showing your blog in its search engines so I recommend choosing a fast and lightweight theme.

WP Astra is a highly customizable theme with lots of support so it’ll be easy to make it look and operate as you’d like.

Whichever WP Astra theme you choose, make sure to get one that is editable with Gutenberg blocks, NOT Elementor. Gutenberg is WordPress’ built in block editor, which means it’ll be faster for your site.

See WP Astra’s many Gutenberg ready-to-import templates here. Keep in mind you can customize and design one from scratch as well.

If a fast and lightweight theme is not of utmost importance to you and you want something more feminine and aesthetic, check out the next theme designer I’ve personally used.

17th Avenue Design WordPress Themes

my old blog’s homepage using the Audrey theme

17th Avenue Design has been my go-to theme shop for the past few years.

I love them because she has feminine WordPress themes that come with full documentation on how to install it and customize it.

She even offers support for the initial installation stage, which if you follow her instructions step-by-step you own’t need it, but it’s there for you.

TWO TYPES OF FEMININE WORDPRESS THEMES BY 17TH AVENUE

She has two types of WordPress themes: premium and simple.

They’re mobile responsive, fast and packed with features you need to make money from blogging.

The only difference is that premium themes have more advanced features such as a shop or portfolio so they’re good to grow with. These are great for not just bloggers but also creatives, entrepreneurs and shop owners.

Simple themes are straightforward and easy-to-use and generally are set up a blog with a sidebar. This makes it great for bloggers!

Because of differences between premium and simple themes, premium themes are more expensive but worth it.


INSTALLING YOUR THEME

Once you’ve bought your theme, follow the instructions that your theme designer gave you.

Both of them have super detailed instructions so just read them carefully and go step-by-step!

They’ll also teach you how to customize your theme to your liking.


SETTING UP GOOGLE ANALYTICS THE RIGHT WAY

Signing up for a Google Analytics account is a must.

It is the industry standard for tracking data to/from your website and has a wealth of information that will help you learn:

  • who your audience is (i.e. age, country they live in, language they speak, what device they use),
  • where your audience is coming from (i.e. Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, search engines, etc.),
  • what time you should promote your blog on social media,
  • and even give you stats that’ll help you work with brands!

Yes, we need Google Analytics to read the data on our blog so that we can know how well our blog is doing and how to better improve our blogging strategy.

Please head to my blog post on Google Analytics for Bloggers where you’ll learn:

  • how to sign up for a Google Analytics account,
  • what adjustments you need to make in settings,
  • how to add Google Analytics to your blog,
  • and what data you and brands want to know.

Read this post: Google Analytics for Bloggers.


INSTALLING PLUGINS

Plugins on WordPress are like apps to phones. They add features and functionality to our WordPress blogs that make our blog better.

Here are my recommendations for plugins to start out with. Most are free!

PLUGINS I RECOMMEND

YOAST SEO

Kind of like a beginner’s guide to search engine optimization, which helps your blog be found by people searching on search engines. You’ll see it at the bottom of each blog post.

  • Install this plugin with the directions below that show you how to install plugins on WordPress.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard in the left black sidebar towards the bottom.

We will be using this plugin to help you claim your website on Pinterest in Next Steps so make sure to have it installed by then!

GDPR COOKIE CONSENT

Because your site uses cookies to store information from your readers (i.e. IP address related things, etc.), you need to let them know about this.

You can do this easily with the GDPR Cookie Consent plugin.

  • Install this plugin with the directions below.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard in the left black sidebar.

Remove noreferrer

Not to get too technical right now but WordPress adds this code “noreferrer” to each link.

Because of this, the site we’re linking out to can’t tell who referred traffic to them.

This plugin removes that noreferrer code from each link so that the website you’re linking to can tell that traffic is coming for you.

This is especially important when the website your linking to is part of an affiliate marketing program you’re working with.

This is not necessary right now but I suggest installing it anyways.

Then you’ll be good to go when you start linking to products and services you use and genuinely recommend, and in turn, get a commission from the referral you made! We’ll be covering affiliate marketing on day five. Stay tuned!

  • Install this plugin with the directions below.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard when you hover over Settings in the left black sidebar.

Plugins for security and spam

To help secure your website from malware and viruses (aka hackers doing stupid things to your site) and spam comments, I use these two free plugins:

  • Anti-Malware Security and Brute-Force Firewall
  • Titan Anti-spam & Security
  • Install this plugin with the directions below.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard in the left black sidebar (anti-malware) and when you hover over Settings in the left black sidebar (anti-spam).

ShortPixel Image Optimizer

Images can take up a lot of space if they’re not optimized. They can also slow down your website, which makes for a less optimal experience for readers and search engines don’t like.

ShortPixel automatically optimize your photos as you upload them to the media section of your WordPress dashboard.

  • Before installing ShortPixel, you will need to sign up for the free plan. To make sure it’s free, go to the Monthly Plans and click on the Free plan.
  • After signing up, follow their instructions to install the plugin.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard in the left black sidebar when you hover over Media.

LuckyWP Table of Contents

If you want your blog posts to show a table of contents, then this is a great plugin to install.

I’ve tried two different table of contents plugins, and this one is best. You can adjust the settings so that table of contents show up on each post automatically, or you can manually add it in each post.

  • Install this plugin with the directions below.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard when you hover over Settings in the left black sidebar.

WP ROCKET

For a super fast website, which Google and search engines love, I highly recommend WP Rocket if you have money to spend on this.

It is by far the best caching and optimization plugin I’ve used, and the customer support is amazing.

  • Before installing WP Rocket, you will need to buy the plugin.
  • After signing up, follow their instructions to install the plugin.
  • After you install it, you can find this plugin in your WP admin dashboard when you hover over Settings in the left black sidebar.

If you don’t want to buy the plugin right now, then you can W3 Total Cache, which I used until I could afford WP Rocket.


INSTRUCTIONS FOR INSTALLING PLUGINS

Unless I recommend installing plugins directly from a plugin brand’s website, here’s the usual way to do it:

  1. Login to www.yourblogcom/wp-admin, which brings you to your WordPress admin dashboard.
  2. Look at the black sidebar on the left, find Plugins and click on it.
  3. Click Add New (in the top left).
  4. Search for the plugin title below.
  5. Activate the plugin.

Tip: Scroll back up to see all the plugins you should install!


PROTECTING YOURSELF WITH LEGAL PAGES

You are not just a blogger! You are a business owner, and as a business owner, you need to protect yourself legally.

To do so, your blog needs to have three pages:

PRIVACY POLICY

A Privacy Policy page tells your reader what personal information you collect from them and how you use that information.

For example, when you install Google Analytics, you collect anonymous data from your reader and use that information for your own purpose.

It needs to address children’s privacy, personal information, GDPR provisions, cookie policies and more.

DISCLAIMER

A Disclaimer page prevents you from being held liable for anything published on your blog.

For example, if you are a health blogger but not are a doctor, the Disclaimer page would note that and prevent you from being sued.

It needs to express that you are not giving professional advice, have appropriate provisions to protect you from liabilities, have affiliate disclosures and more.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

A Terms and Conditions page gives your readers rules about using your website and can include refund/exchange policies.

It needs to safeguard your personal content, explain the lawful use of your site and more.


HOW TO WRITE THESE PAGES

To write these pages, in your WordPress dashboard, add a new page and title it Privacy Policy, Disclaimer or Terms and Conditions, whichever you’re working on.

To make it legally sound and specific to your blog, I highly recommend getting these lawyer written pages.

They are specifically written for bloggers, and the best part is, you get lifetime updates every time there’s new worldwide or country-specific policies we need to be aware of (i.e. GDPR and CCPA implemented in 2018).

These three legal pages will protect your website from lawsuits and from being shutdown.

If you don’t have the cash right now, here are two options:

  1. Completely Free Option: You can use Terms and Conditions Template to generate free Privacy Policy, Terms and Condition and Disclaimer pages.
  2. Cheap Option: You can get an approx. $12 (as of Oct. 2020) Privacy Policy page from Etsy. But you should still use the Terms & Conditions template for a Terms & Condition and Disclaimer page.

The first option is what I did in the first year of blogging, but it’s not as foolproof as getting legal pages written by a lawyer since these aren’t specific to bloggers.

Do this at your own risk!

If you decide to pay for the legal bundle, only get the Starter bundle. This is enough as it includes the three pages you need.

It includes 9 bonus disclaimers, which will be handy for sponsored posts and affiliate marketing.


AFTER YOU WRITE THESE PAGES

After you write the Privacy Policy, go to your WordPress dashboard -> Settings -> Privacy. Update the page to your Privacy Policy page.

Then go to Appearance -> Menu, and add these pages in Menu(s) on your blog so that your readers can access them when needed.

I have them in two spots:

in the sidebar menu of my Audrey WordPress theme
the footer menu of my Audrey WordPress theme

You don’t need them in two spots like me, but having them in the Footer is a good idea so they’re always there for your readers to access.


NEXT STEP

I am so proud of you for finishing the third day of the challenge!

Now you can:

If you have any questions, feel free to ask anything in our Facebook group!


#letsbamm


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