Thanks to Meg, our fantastic guest blogger and WordPress developer, for sharing her expertise to grow your history blog with WordPress. If you’d like to guest blog for us too please get in touch. In full disclosure this post contains affiliate links.
Hi, I’m Meg a WordPress Developer with a love for all things history! I’m constantly scrolling through the internet looking for the next interesting blog post.
With seven years of WordPress Development experience under my belt, I know a thing or two which might help you grow your WordPress blog.
A website is all about creating the best experience for your user and making sure you’re keeping Google happy if those posts aren’t ranking in Google then your organic search will be down and you’ll be losing views for all those history geeks, like me!
One: Use WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com
With .org you will have to host your own website but this will mean you’ll have total control over what you do with e.g. the theme you use, and the plugins you activate, and the domain name you choose.
With .com you may end up paying more than you would with .org and you’ll have little control, they do offer a free version but it’ll give you even less control over your site so I really wouldn’t recommend it. You may also end up with a subdomain such as historyblog.wordpress.com, this will look unprofessional and will make ranking your posts in search engines such as Google very difficult.
If you’d like to use WordPress.org then I’d recommend reading on, and paying close attention to number 5 (Get High-Quality Hosting)!
Two: Start out with a High-Quality Theme (and make sure it’s responsive!)
Choosing your Theme carefully is very important, and usually, I’d always recommend having a theme custom-built by a developer such as myself. But starting out as a history blogger can be a little costly and nerve-wracking at first, so choosing a free high-quality theme such as the ones below help you get on your feet and decide where you’d like to take the blog.
TwentyTwenty Theme: WordPress’ own theme, its high quality and uses the most modern technology such as Gutenburg (the only page builder type tool that I do accept!). It’ll run your site quickly, and it’s responsive.
Astra: Great theme, light-weight and powerful. Make sure you use Gutenburg over the other page builders though.
Neve: Again a great powerful theme that allows you to use Gutenburg.
GeneratePress: A high quality and well-coded theme, probably one of the ones I’d choose if I wasn’t going to build my own theme from scratch.
Three: Make sure your Site is Responsive
Making sure you choose a responsive theme is so incredibly important because its one of the things that search engines look at when they crawl through your website, if your site isn’t responsive then chances are it won’t rank very highly in Google, meaning an even smaller chance to increase your organic search.
A responsive site is also so incredibly important for user experience, over 50% of all users will visit your site on a mobile device. If they can’t use the site then they’ll just leave. The blogging market is very competitive so giving your users the best experience makes it more likely they’ll be a return visitor.
Four: Stay away from the Drag & Drop Page Builders
There are so many ways a WordPress theme can be built, but most of the cheap and free themes are built using a drag and drop page builders such as Elementor, Divi, and Beaver.
The reason I dislike these page builders so much is the bulk they bring to your site, every page builder site I’ve ever worked with has always been incredibly slow with many loading between 10-20 seconds (users usually leave a site after 3 seconds if it hasn’t loaded!). This slow site speed will mean you could lose up to 50% of your website viewers, throwing all that hard work you’ve put into blog post writing out of the window.
They also tend to be quite naff when it comes to mobile and tablet view. Making it hard for the user to visit your site on a mobile device.
I’d recommend using a theme that comes with Advanced Custom Fields, Gutenburg or just the good old Classic Wiswig Editor built into it. It can sometimes be hard to work this out, but consulting a WordPress Developer is an easy way to get some advice.
Five: Get High-Quality Hosting
If you decide to use WordPress.org then you’ll require your own hosting to get your website online, there are so many hosting providers to choose from that it can all get a bit bewildering.
The best hosting package you can get is WordPress Managed Hosting, this will provide you with 24/7 support and a hosting provider that really understands WordPress.
Some of the highest quality hosting providers I’d recommend are:
These will have a high uptime rate, support, and fast servers!
Or if your developer has created you a custom theme ask them about hosting, many will be happy to look after and take care of your hosting for you making it easier for you to concentrate on the blogging!
Six: Get an SSL Certificate
Getting an SSL Certificate means that your site will be protected, and will show the ‘lock’ symbol in the URL bar. An SSL helps to provide authenticity to the website, showing the user and search engine its a site that can be trusted.
Many search engines have now started un-ranking websites in their listing which do not have an SSL Certificate, again making it incredibly hard for users to discover your website.
Setting up an SSL can be a little tricky sometimes depending on your hosting provider so I’d suggest always consulting a Developer for some quick advice on how to set one up.
Seven: Activate some powerful plugins (But not too many!)
WPFastestCache: Using a Cache tool on your WordPress site will help make it load quicker, giving the users a better experience.
Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster: A great plugin to help unload un-needed plugins on certain pages, compile code. I’d recommend giving it a test and seeing what you think.
YoastSEO: The most amazing plugin for anything SEO!
Other than the main, and most important plugins you need for your site try and keep any more to a minimum, the more plugins you use, the more your site needs to load which potentially slow your website down and add unneeded bulk.
Eight: Compress Those Images
Large images = a slow website! Make sure you are exporting your images at 72DPI and sized correctly if you are using a program such as Photoshop.
Also, always make sure you have a plugin active such as Smush. This plugin helps to compress your images, remove unwanted data and gives you the option to have LazyLoad (loads only the images the user sees at that time, then loads the rest on scroll – improving the speed of your site) on your images.
Nine: Sign up for Google Analytics
Google Analytics is amazing for tracking users moving throughout your site. It’s easy to set up, and only takes a small about of code to be added to your WordPress website to get it activated.
You can use a plugin, but I’d suggest adding the code straight to your theme instead (it’s very easy) and will avoid having another plugin on your website.
Ten: Find a Developer you Trust!
Having a developer you trust, even if it’s just for some advice, can make your experience with WordPress and setting up your blog so much smoother and easier. Even if you don’t want a custom theme built right from the start, its great to know a developer who can fix those little bugs for you and help guide you through the whole process.
For more advice, feel free to contact me via my website. I’m always up for a chat and a cuppa over a video call.
Meg is a WordPress Developer with 7 years experience, she specialises in all things WordPress and optimization - making sure your website is the highest quality it can be. Meg has a love for all things history, especially anything to do with English monarchy - Queen Elizabeth I is her favourite!