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Blogging is hard, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But only at the beginning. Once you get a handle on things, it gets easier. PROMISE.
One of the things that I, a poor writer, found so hard at the beginning, is that there’s no one way to do it.
Everyone and their dog has different must-have features that you assume you must have too:
- pro keyword planner
- a premium theme,
- a pricey pagebuilder
- a social medium scheduler
- an email provider
etc etc etc.
It gets very expensive very quickly.
I’m here to tell you that you only need to pay out for two things when it comes to creating a monetised blog:
Web hosting and a domain name.
I use Siteground for my hosting because they sort out my problems for me rather than telling me what to do. This is a godsend.
I know Bluehost seems cheaper, but you only get the super cheap rate if you buy like four years of hosting. That’s too much commitment for me!
I use Google domains because they’re cheap and come with domain privacy.
You DON’T need a paid theme. Or any of that other crap.
What even is a WordPress theme?
If you’re a web design aficionado, you might be able to create your own theme.
I’m not tech-y. Like, at all. When I first started blogging I had no idea what I was doing, and I had no idea what a theme was.
As it turns out, it’s not that complicated. A theme is what your website looks like.
When you’re new to blogging and desperate to get traffic and make money, you try to do too much of everything. I know. I’ve been there, and I can tell you that the only way to get eyes on your site is:
1 – Run yourself ragged on social media (yuk)
2 – Create great content that Google loves (yasss)
YOU DO NOT NEED TO LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT WEB DESIGN.
Unless, you know, you want to. Even things like what fonts pair well together is something you can learn on Canva.
You know sometimes you load a website and it just looks like a load of plain Times new Roman text? That’s when the CSS (don’t worry about that) hasn’t loaded properly and you’re seeing a themeless, naked website.
A theme is all the colours, fonts, and design-y bits. I’m sure there’s a more technical way to describe that, but that’s all we as writers, not programmers, need to know.
What are the benefits of having a paid theme?
- A paid theme has more customisation options
A lot of theme creators offer a free version of a theme and then offer a pro version with more customisation options, such as more fonts, colourways, layouts, and options to remove things such as watermarks.
- A paid theme is more secure
Premium themes tend to have spent more time improving the security of their theme, and make it less sucesptible to hackers.
- A paid theme has customer support
It’s always nice to have someone to turn to when the whole thing goes tits up. Especially, if like me, you haven’t a clue what you’re doing.
Are there any good free themes out there?
YES. I mentioned that there are a lot of free themes out there that have premium options, and I highly recommend picking one of those.
Freemium themes tend to have the same support and security as the premium service and they’re more likely to be kept up to date with updated versions of WordPress.
There seems to be an underlying implication that a free theme is less professional than a paid one, but the way to make your website look professional is to create quality content that’s well formatted, and not clutter it up with unnecessary crap.
Should you hire someone to create you a custom theme?
Sure, if you want to and have the money.
But just bear in mind that hiring a developer isn’t the easy way out. You’ll still have to be able to change the basic elements of your website unless you want to pay every time you change the colour of the text.
It can be a bit of a lottery picking a good designer too – if you pick some rando of Fiverr then you’re opening yourself up to hackers and you won’t know if the design is future-proofed for WordPress updates.
Good designers are pricey (and rightly so) so if you’re just starting out and want to keep your website as budget-friendly as possible, pick a Freemium theme.
Are page building themes (like Divi) worth the money?
Pagebuilders are more drag-and-drop than traditional websites, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically easier.
In all honesty, I’ve never tried Divi. It’s too expensive and then you have to do the work yourself. My skill and passion lie with writing, not web design, so I prefer a more structured theme.
I have used Elementor to create websites before, so if you do want to have a crack at designing your own website, then I can recommend it for beginners. I followed a Ferdy Korpershoek tutorial and it was pretty simple, but also a hell of a process. If you get a premade theme, you can just install it and go.
My recommendation for themes
I always used Genesis themes, but the whole child theme confused me (it’s not complicated, but there you go).
I use GeneratePress and I love it. There is a pro version that’s amazing, but the free one is absolutely fine for beginners.
Here’s why I love GeneratePress
- It’s fast
This is one of the most important things to look for in a theme. One of the issues with both pagebuilder themes and self-designed themes is that they tend to be pretty bloated and slow.
User experience is one of the key things Google looks at when deciding where to rank you. Slow site speed is bad for user experience and Google will rank you lower than a site that’s faster with similar content.
It’s speed that made me choose GeneratePress. My desktop speed was fine, but my mobile speed was crap. GeneratePress increased the speed by 30 points for FREE.
- It offers the customisation options I need
Too much customisation can be a bad thing when you’re first starting out, because it can trap you in a constant loop of improving your web design.
GeneratePress offers you a lot of font and colour options (a lot of themes don’t and plugins can bloat your site and slow it down)
- It’s secure and updated regularly
They update the premium theme, so why not the free one too? This means that as WordPress changes, the theme adapts.
How to pick a theme for your WordPress site
- Just try some.
Spend a couple of hours (NO MORE) installing various themes on your site and checking which ones you like. Check to see if they have the customisation you need.
It helps if you’ve already thought about the fonts and colours you’d like to have in your branding. If you’ve already made a logo, then check it has the same fonts available.
I mean, if you find one you love and it doesn’t match your branding, then it might be worth knocking up a new logo.
- Check forums
Like I mentioned, I discovered, GeneratePress through the r/wordpress subreddit. I would steer clear from asking questions like ‘which is the fastest free theme because newbie questions tend to be ignored. I found it by scrolling snd seeing which themes cropped up frequently.
This whole website is written for writers who want to make money from writing.
To do that, you need to catch Google’s attention.
Sure, you could spend hours creating content for Pinterest but I’m assuming that you’d rather be spending that time writing. And it’s your writing that’ll bring in views, not your design.
A fast website will ALWAYS beat a pretty one in Google’s eyes, for Google doesn’t actually have eyes. It can’t see your cool logo or great images. But it can differentiate between a site that loads in a second and one that loads in three.
Once you have an audience, you can make your site as pretty as you like, but that’s a year or two away, I’m afraid unless you’re doing this full time.
Which you will be, if you learn the ways of Google, which, if you stick around here, I’ll teach you.