The Inexperienced Guide to an Optimized Blog in 30 Min

SMS Text

This being my debut article on SEJ I wanted to write on a topic that I’m passionate about. As an educator I always try to share my experiences and knowledge to help the community and my students. I figured there would be no better way for me to get started than to help you get started. Today we are going to squash some myths and shake things up a bit by creating a simple, optimized website in under 30 min.

Stop Trying to be an Expert

While there are countless photoshop and html/css tutorials out there, the truth of the matter is that we are not all designers and developers. I know what you’re saying, “I’ve got Dreamweaver (or some other WYSIWYG) I can create a custom website in no time.” Yes that’s true but slapping an .html extension on the end of a file doesn’t make it worthy of the internet or your users. I’m a firm believer of “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”, so leave it to the experts.

A Custom Website or Blog is Expensive

Well yes and no, again, you get what you pay for. As designers and developers get better at what they do, they can charge more and take on less work. Paying less or below average will probably mean that you’re hiring an over worked or under experienced professional. I have seen it many times, a small business or individual spends most or all of what little budget they have on a sub par product.  If you’re hiring someone to do a website for you, make sure you know who you’re working with and that you are getting your money’s worth. This I’ll leave to another article.

How Do I Get Started on My Own, I Have No Time and No Budget

This is the part of the article where I begin to rock the boat a bit.  I have a lot of developer friends that I debate with on this topic. “Should I build something custom or reuse someone else’s work?” There is no end all be all right answer but for the most part my feeling is to recycle other peoples hard work. Why reinvent the wheel? Which leads me to the solution to this problem, themes and cms’s.

Side Note: Everything you learn here can be applied to many different industries and projects but for the purposes of this article let’s say you’re a small business that needs an online presence and possibly a blog

A CMS is a content management system or a framework that allows you to easily add, remove or edit content using a “backend” that will update the “frontend” or live version of your site. Themes are reusable sets of html, css and server side coding that allows you to “skin” or change the layout and design of your site requiring little or no knowledge of code from you.

Have a Plan

Step 1 – Get Hosting:

As with all websites, they must be hosted somewhere in cyberspace. There are many choices out there but today we are going to work with a hosting company that I’m familiar with and would fully recommend, Bluehost. Bluehost has unlimited file storage and over 300GB of monthly bandwidth for under $7 a month. So when your site takes off and you need a server that can handle the traffic you’ll have no problems. Not to mention super fast tech support and plenty of other perks, including an intuitive cpanel where you can control and update your server.

Signing up with Bluehost is really simple and they even throw in a free domain name. So lets assume that you’ve set up your hosting and your domain is resolved and ready.

Step 2 – Choose and Install a CMS

Again there are plenty of choices out there for your project. In the past I have worked with TextPattern, Joomla, Drupal and Expression Engine. Today we’ll be diving into my favorite cms, WordPress.

WordPress has one of the most simple installations of any cms available. We are going to make it even easier for you by working directly in our Bluehost cPanel.  Once you’re logged into your cPanel scroll to the bottom and under “Software / Services” you’ll see an icon labeled “WordPress”, click it.

Install WordPress

The next few steps are very simple. After clicking the above WordPress link you’ll be asked to install the wordpress, just click “Install”.

Install WordPress

Next you’ll be asked to choose what version of wordpress and where the files will be installed. Most cases you want to go with the latest version of wordpress which has the least bugs and security flaws, (wordpress is constantly updating their software to make these improvements).

If you want your site to be at your main domain you don’t have to select a location, it’ll install the files in the root. In this case I’m installing these files at my main domain /sej.

Set up a blog

Don’t worry about the advanced options for now and make sure you agree to the Simple Scripts TOS.  Click Complete. At which point you’ll see a progress bar, once that reaches 100% you’ll be given a url to access your wordpress install and a username and password. Store this information.

Once you login into the backend you’ll see the wordpress dashboard.  I can spend many hours and articles teaching you everything there is to know about wordpress.  However the best thing to do is dive in and get started.

Now all you need to do is install a theme, install a few plugins and a fill in your content.

WordPress does a great job of making your life easy with the installation of themes and plugins.

To install a theme go to the “Appearance” dropdown on the left and click “Add New Themes”

Set up a blog

From here you can easily search themes, my suggestion is to search for a wordpress theme using google, browse it, demo it and when you’re happy come back here and install it.

Once you install the theme all you have to do is select “themes” on the left to show your installed themes and just “Activate” you’re new theme.

Set up a blog

All you have left to do is input your content by adding new pages, uploading photos and other media and publish your site. Below are a few articles related to the use of wordpress, these will help you with the finer details of using and relying on wordpress for your site:

I hope this article enlightened you that you don’t need a huge budget or a great deal of time to get a simple site off the ground and that it’s ok to go with a free theme in the beginning. Eventually it probably makes sense for you to hire someone to create a custom site more dedicated to fulfilling your needs. This is a great place to start especially if you are creating a new business or starting a new blog.

These tools are great ways to test and see if you have a viable or profitable plan to move forward with, with little or no risk.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think below.

The guest post is by Jesse Friedman

Jesse Friedman
Jesse Friedman is a veteran WordPress developer. In 2012 he wrote the “Web Designers Guide to WordPress“. With years of experience as a speaker and... Read Full Bio
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Patricia Skinner

    Hi Jesse, I love this article: I’m a firm WordPress advocate so I agree with all this. All that functionality, a website up-and-running in 30 minutes or less, and Google loves it. What more can you want for free?

    Welcome to the clan. 🙂

  • Jesse Friedman

    Thanks Patricia

    I am really hoping that it’ll inspire people to take initiative to create their own websites with better results. It’s unfortunate that many people consider a poorly done but custom site is better than a well designed and optimized template website.

  • kpaul

    Good info for beginners. Thanks for sharing.

  • Gail L Jordan

    Please advise.
    It is my understanding that Word press will own the content. Is this correct?
    If correct why would this be a good idea? Especially for the legal profession?
    This is exactly why I have not recommended Word press.
    Thank you.

    • Jesse Friedman

      Hello Gail

      I think you are confusing and is a hosted blogging service where you post your content on to the wordpress servers. is where you download the software to to install wordpress on your server. By doing this you maintain ownership of all content posted to your server.

      There is an interesting article here: that discusses this in further detail.

      I also invite you to read the WP TOS.

  • Christine Taylor

    I was always a believer in “hire people smarter than you”. I still believe that but in the area of SEO and Website design I am finding it crucial to know more than the basic so you can better guide those you direct. I have been unhappy with the finished product and can only blame myself for not asking the correct questions.

    My News Year’s resolution is to bite the bullet and dig in. Thank you for a great place to start.

  • Jason

    Great debut article wonderful information. Your a good writer, thanks for sharing. I will be on the lookout for more great articles from you to come. Thanks!

  • Joe B

    Jesse, recycling other people's work is definitely the way to go. I like to ask a new client what kinds of websites have you seen that you like. I then tell them we can simulate (not carbon copy) the look and feel. This seems to work well. Trying to start from scratch is not easy especially if the client likes to change their mind often.

  • nvmedia

    Thanks for the post Jesse.
    What do you think is the best wordpress theme around these days?

  • nvmedia

    Thanks for the post Jesse.
    What do you think is the best wordpress theme around these days?