Setting up a new WordPress blog has never been easier. Even if you’re a newcomer to the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), its Famous 5 Minute Installation will ensure that you’re up and running in no time at all. The tools you’ll need are few: an FTP client (such as FileZilla), a web hosting account and the ability to create at least one database on it (MySQL is the usual database management system of choice), and a simple text editor for modifying small snippets of code (Notepad++ is a free and lightweight option). Although we won’t cover how to connect via FTP or how to create a new database here, most respectable hosting services will have documentation that covers this, you can checkout our documentation on how to do this at: http://www.hostmediauk.com/videos/. Short of creating your own custom theme though, no significant coding skills are necessary for getting to grips with WordPress.

The first thing you’ll need to do is to download and unzip the latest version of WordPress, which can be obtained from the WordPress website (http://wordpress.org/download/). Before you do anything with these files, first ensure that you have created a new database on your remote server (or local machine), and that you have all the details you need to connect to that database (such as the username, password, and the name of the database of itself). Next, find a file called ‘wp-config-sample.php’ in your new WordPress root directory and rename it to ‘wp-config.php’, before opening it in your text editor of choice and adding your database connection details in the relevant places. Once you’ve saved and closed that file, upload all the WordPress files to your server via your FTP client and navigate to the homepage in your web browser. From here you can simply follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation process, or you can consult the WordPress documentation should any errors arise (http://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress#Famous_5-Minute_Install).

If you’re not automatically directed there, you can access the admin area of your new WordPress install by navigating to your WordPress homepage and adding ‘/wp-admin’ at the end of the URL, and then entering the username and password you chose during the installation process (hopefully you made them memorable, but difficult for others to guess). You’ll see the main menu running down the left-hand side of your screen, and from here you can select ‘Plugins’ for a list of installed plugins – you can activate/deactivate, edit, or delete them here as appropriate. In addition to the built-in facility here for installing other plugins, you can also upload the plugin files directly via your FTP client by navigating to ‘wp-content/plugins’ – the plugin itself will then appear in the admin panel as we’ve just discussed.

Although creating custom themes is beyond the scope of this article, you can create new theme folders if you wish under wp-content/themes, which is where you’d place the files for your custom theme. There are, of course, plenty of WordPress themes that exist already, and you can access a list of available themes in the admin area by navigating to ‘Appearance’, then ‘Themes’, and finally ‘Install Themes’ from the tab at the top of the page. You can filter your search from here, and usually a new theme will include some basic documentation on how to modify menus, the colour scheme, and so on. There are many WordPress themes available for free, but some advanced themes (for example, those that include sophisticated e-commerce functionality) require payment. If the theme’s license allows it, you can also modify its source code by opening the relevant files in your chosen text editor, but this shouldn’t be attempted unless you know what you’re doing. Some themes allow for simple modifications in the admin panel, which you’ll ordinarily find under in the ‘Theme Options’ submenu of ‘Appearance’.

So now that you’ve installed WordPress on a remote server or your own local machine, installed your desired plugins, and chosen a relevant theme – what next? To get the best out of WordPress and attract visitors to your new site, it’s important to understand how to apply search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques. To achieve maximum control over your site’s SEO, it’s probably best to build your own theme – that way, not only can you set your own meta tags and build things like the robots.txt file (for instructions to search engine crawlers) and the .htaccess file (for, among things, creating semantic URLs) from scratch, but you can be absolutely certain that you’re using good, clean code. Once the site’s up though, it’s important to keep in mind that content is king – keep your blog or website regularly updated, and ensure that your call-to-action (CTA), should you have one, is clearly visible on your homepage. Be sure to avoid black hat techniques – avoid keyword spam and link farming, and stick to interesting and original content. Don’t forget to link out to trusted sources as much as possible too, and always tag and categorise your blog posts using descriptive terms, and use catchy but relevant titles: ’10 SEO Techniques for WordPress Beginners’, for example. Finally, make sure you submit your new site to the major search engines, using services such as Google Webmaster (http://www.google.com/webmasters/), and keep an eye on who’s visiting which pages, and for how long. If you’re so inclined, there are WordPress plugins that will help enormously with SEO techniques – try, for example, the popular All In One SEO Pack available from the WordPress website (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/all-in-one-seo-pack/). Ultimately though, the key to SEO success is an attractive-looking website that contains current and original content – always keep that in mind.

If there’s one last thing you should keep in mind with WordPress, it’s good housekeeping. Check back with your admin panel often, and make sure your active plugins are up to date and compatible with the version of WordPress you’re currently using – remember that the WordPress team are constantly improving the software, so update your install whenever you’re prompted too (which is done in just a few clicks). The compatibility issue applies to your theme as well: things like menus can easily break when you change from one version of WordPress to a more recent version, and so if the theme’s developer has ceased work on the theme you’ll either need to switch themes or apply the fixes yourself (if the license permits that). Sticking with the versions you originally installed is perfectly fine, but remember that the newest plugins might only work with the newest version of WordPress, so stay alert and keep your themes and plugins up to date.

Good luck with your WordPress install! If you require any details regarding hosting for WordPress please contact our team!

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