WordPress is a very popular, widely used platform for blogging. It's powerful, has an easy-to-use administration panel and can even serve as a full-fledged content management system (CMS) should you have the need. It's friendly to search engine optimization (SEO). Many free, excellent plug-ins are available for it that significantly extend its already considerable capabilities. A large community of volunteers gives friendly support to newcomers, and many WordPress experts offer their paid services to individuals and businesses in need of highly customized installations. This robust third-party support by amateurs and professionals is a large part of what makes WordPress an unusually desirable blogging platform.
It is possible to operate a totally free WordPress blog, but at the cost of a very limited selection of themes and a severely restricted range of pre-selected plug-ins. Choosing your own private blog hosting service has considerable advantages. You'll be able to use any themes you want, and will have an unlimited choice of plug-ins. A paid solution for hosting will also not pester your readers with random advertising over which you have no control.
The more popular your writing becomes, the more likely it is that a contingent of lowlife freeloaders will swarm at your blog like flies. Comment or trackback spam is composed of generic comments meant to slurp popularity drop by drop from your blog, dripping it on grungy back-alley link farms or shady sites that sell dubious pharmaceuticals. Akismet is a crowd-powered spam cop developed by Automattic which checks your incoming blog comments or trackbacks against a huge database drawn from the feedback from tens of thousands of participating bloggers. Suspicious entries are sequestered in your WordPress spam jail for later release or ruthless execution at your whim. The Akismet Statistics menu item, found in your Dashboard, shows the numbers for spam, "ham" and false positives. Ham is the body of good comments, and false positives are mistaken spam that you later remarked as ham. This plug-in can save a great of time that would have been lost manually clearing out junk comments. The company offers a popular free personal, non-commercial version of its service, albeit with an amusing, easily-bypassed request for donations.
Note: The free WordPress plug-in is distinct from the Akismet service itself. Both are needed.
The WordPress database is the beating heart of your blog. Your writing, your readers' comments and much else are hidden within this complex lump of data. Lose it, and everything important to your blog is lost. Regular backups will give you peace of mind. The free WP-DBManager plug-in will automatically make backups and restore them at your command. It can also optimize and repair databases.
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo! are happiest when there's a sitemap in your blog installation. A sitemap is a special text or Extensible Markup Language (XML) file in the Web root directory which tells search engine robots which URLs on your site to index and which to ignore as irrelevant or private. The free Google XML Sitemaps plug-in will generate such a sitemap using the superior XML format. It will also automatically notify major search engines of new posts, keeping them up-to-date on your blog. Potential readers will be more likely therefore to find your site through search engine result pages.
This jack-of-all-trades tool will help you optimize your site to further rise in search engine listings for better visibility. The free All-in-One SEO Pack will help generate a title, home-page description and embedded keywords that are attractive to search engines. The home-page description is what appears under your site URL in search engine results, the title is the text that appears in the browser's top bar and keywords are words for which people tend to search. Examples are "beef" or "best" or "how to" or "car". The relevant keywords will depend on your blog topics and interests.
Note: Be cautious about overdoing it. The major search engines frown on overly frantic or sneaky SEO tactics and will quietly penalize bloggers who try too hard.
Your Blog Home
The best hosting for WordPress will be much the same as for other hosting needs. Look for good customer support and a reputation for not overloading shared servers. A very common and useful feature offered by decent hosting services is automatic WordPress installation by the Fantastico or Softaculous auto-installers. You will usually still need to install your own custom themes or plug-ins, but the heavy lifting of basic WordPress installation will have been done for you up front.
With a few essential plug-ins and a nice theme, your blog at a good WordPress hosting service will be a joy to use, maintain and popularize.
Ellee Parker hails from the west coast, loves anime and the eastern culture in general. She could sit for hours surfing the net and watching sci-fi and suspense-thriller movies online.