A Self Hosted WordPress Site for Craft Sellers
Welcome to Episode 4 of the Craft Seller Success podcast. In this episode I will be talking about how to get a self-hosted WordPress site for craft sellers. I will go over what you need to have and how to actually get the blog.
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Transcript of Episode 004
This is the Craft Seller Success podcast from Tin Teddy. Episode number four, A Self-Hosted WordPress site for Craft Sellers
Welcome to the Craft Seller Success Podcast – helping craft sellers sell their crafts
Hi, I’m Deborah Richardson from Tin Teddy.
In Episode 2 I talked about the different types of blogs available. You may remember I said that I had a self-hosted WordPress blog. In this episode I am going to talk more about why I chose this option and some of the things you need to know if you want one for your craft seller blog.
Why do You have a WordPress blog?
I first started my blog, at TinTeddy.com, in 2012. It is quite hard to believe that is now 6 years ago! During that time I have learnt a lot more about blogging, and about WordPress. I have made many changes and improvements over the years, and have even totally redesigned it a couple of times!
My blog does help me sell my crafting products etc. But that is not the only reason I blog. I enjoy it! And I love getting feedback from people who have found the blog useful or entertaining.
The various benefits of my blog to my business are as follows:
- Number 1 I can use it to advertise my own products. There are small adverts at the side of my blog pages, and I write articles about my products, with links to where they are for sale.
- Number 2 I have articles to help my customers. I sell graphics for crafters to use. I know, for example, that many of my customers make things that they then sell at craft shows, so I have articles with advice on selling at craft shows.
- Number 3 I can share crafty projects and patterns that I come up with. This bit is more for my personal pleasure than anything else, hehe, but it is relevant to my niche so I think this adds to my blog. Remember, every article you write is one more little ambassador for your brand, out there being found by new people.
- Number 4 I earn a little extra income from my blog via affiliate links. When I post a tutorial, for example, I can add affiliate links to the supplies I used in it, from various retailers. If someone buys from the links, I get a small payment from the seller – at no additional cost to my visitors, of course.
- Number 5 Having a blog increases my authority in my niche and helps strengthen the Tin Teddy brand. I talk more about this episode 16 of the podcast, An Expert in Your Niche, as it is, in my opinion, something that can really help a small handmade seller.
- Number 6 Because my business has a few different branches, multiple shops etc, the Tin Teddy blog serves as a hub. It is also the ideal way for someone to find out more about me and the Tin Teddy brand and to contact me.
I use WordPress because it is low cost, very flexible and (now I am used to it!) easy to use. I have been able to grow and change my site over the years and have many potential future options open to me. Using themes makes it very easy to get a professional, y looking blog quickly and easily. And I can customise the site and have it how I want. Although it did take a little while to get used to WordPress, and at first I had a few hiccups when things went wrong and I had to learn how to fix them, now my blog is well established I can definitely see why a self-hosted WordPress blog is the most popular option for small online businesses today.
What Do I Need to have a WordPress blog of my own?
As discussed in Episode 2, you will need to rent server space from a webhost. I use GoDaddy. For many bloggers this will be the only significant expense required.
You will probably need a domain name. Your hosting company may include one as part of the hosting package. Your domain name is the address of your blog. My blog’s domain name is www.TinTeddy.com. Make sure your domain name is memorable, easy to spell, as short as possible and ideally one you will be happy to live with for a long time. Most people will use the same name as their online shop or other branding. If you have another website then you may want to add “blog” to the domain name.
Obviously you will need some sort of computer! Lots of bloggers use a traditional PC or a laptop, but it is possible to run a WordPress site from a tablet such as an iPad or Android. You can even post content from a smart phone, with a free WordPress app. You will of course require an internet connection.
There are bloggers who happily run their blogs from a tablet, using free WiFi in cafes and public places. Blogging has become very accessible.
You will need pictures. Nowadays web-users are used to seeing beautiful pictures, especially on craft-related blogs. So it will be important to have access to a camera. You do not need the latest state-of-the-art one though. Many bloggers use pretty basic cameras and indeed lots use the camera on their smart phone. Modern phones take jolly good pictures! Things like good lighting, planning the layout and having an in-focus picture are much more important than having an expensive camera!
Pictures for use on the internet do not need to be super high resolution, you will only need a couple of megapixels. So you can use quite an old digital camera and still take perfectly lovely blog pictures. There are lots of tutorials, YouTube videos and books on how to take better pictures. Good technique is the important thing, not the equipment.
You can also source pictures that others have taken. There are many stock photo sites that will sell you beautiful pictures for your blog. There are also numerous free stock photo sites. But do not use pictures you just “find on the internet”. Most pictures online are under copyright and belong to someone. Only use an image if you are sure you are allowed to do so. If in doubt, don’t use it.
Using stock images can really make a blog look attractive, but I would strongly suggest mixing in some of your own images too. After all, other people will be using those same stock images on THEIR blogs! If you want to really do well at blogging, you need to stand out from the crowd.
You will probably need a WordPress theme. A theme is what gives your WordPress blog its overall look. There are literally thousands and thousands of readymade themes to choose from. Some have a one-off or yearly cost and these are known as premium themes. But there are loads of free themes too, and a couple of nice ones come with the WordPress software.
I have a noticed an increasing number of themes are what is often called “freemium”. There are two versions of the theme available. One is totally free. The other will cost you money but has lots of extra features, customisation options, maybe premium plugins included and customer support available.
You can find a theme that suits the personality of your blog. You will then be able to customise it so it is just how you like it. Themes make it very easy to get a professional looking blog quickly.
My TinTeddy blog is currently using a free theme called Spacious from ThemeGrill and my Craft Llama crafting community site uses a lovely premium theme called Kleo from SeventhQueen. There will be links to these in the show notes.
You will probably need some plugins. Again these come in premium (ie paid for), free and freemium (two versions, free and paid) flavours. There are some “must have” plugins that most bloggers have. These include one to back up your blog, one to prevent spammers posting blog comments, plugins to help with SEO and getting your site found and to create a contact form. You may also want plugins for things like creating picture galleries, handling eCommerce, displaying social icons and all sorts of other useful, and fun things.
Plugins can even be used to turn your blog into a fully functioning online shop. See episode 20, Building a Standalone Craft Shop with WordPress and Woocommerce for much more on that.
In Episode 23 I will discuss some of the most popular WordPress plugins for craft and craftseller blogs.
You will need content.
This is the biggy. Although all the other things are important, a blog is really only as good as its content. To quote Mr Bill Gates – “Content is King”
Though you can commission someone else to write your content for you, most bloggers write their own. In a future episode I will be talking about the big question that you may be thinking right now “So what do I actually blog about!!”
A quick summary for now would be: you can blog about your new products, behind the scenes in your business, upcoming events, useful information for your customers, articles related to your niche and much, much more.
This is a subject I am very interested in and I know is something that a lot of bloggers fret about. I have even written a book on this very subject. It is called Make It, Blog It, Profit – blog post ideas for craft sellers. It is available from Amazon and other book sellers. Don’t worry, that’s the end of the shameless book plug!
You will need to produce content on a regular basis. You might remember my saying, in Episode 2, that regular content is very important. Some bloggers write each post as they go along, the day before it is due to be published online perhaps. Others prepare a few posts at a time then publish them as required. You will soon find what is comfortable for you.
You will probably need a blogging schedule. I have no doubt that there are many bloggers who don’t have one, but certainly a lot of people find that having some sort of schedule makes their blogging life much easier. A wall calendar, a planner, a diary, an online scheduling app or scraps of paper, which ever system you use the important thing is actually having a system. It is much easier to post regularly if you have thought a bit in advance about what you are going to be writing about. I will talk more about this in Episode 11.
You will need to know a bit about marketing. Writing lots of great posts is all very well but it is important that people know they exist. There are basically three ways to do this.
One is to tell people about them. Most modern bloggers use social media a lot for this. I will be talking about Social Media in Episode 8. But there are lots of other ways to tell people about your content. Many bloggers have some sort of regular email or newsletter for those who subscribe, for example. If you search online for “marketing a blog” you will see just how many articles, YouTube videos, books and courses there are on this massive and important topic. I will, of course, be talking more about it in future episodes, so stay tuned.
The second way of getting your blog found is when other people link to your content. If you write useful posts then this will happen naturally, but there are ways to help it along a little. Having lots of inbound links, as these are called, is very good for your blog. As well as helping people find you, it will also increase your standing with search engines such as Google.
And the third way to get your content found is using SEO, which you will have heard me mention in previous episodes – and I will be mentioning many times in future ones! SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is the art of creating content that search engines such as Google can easily find. If someone is searching on Google for how to clean a pearl necklace, you may well want them to find your article on that very subject. Having good SEO increases your chance of coming up high in the Google search results. Poor SEO means the searcher will never know your article exists, no matter how great it might be.
So knowing the basics of SEO is rather a must. I will be talking a lot more about SEO for your blog in a later podcast, but you can bet I will mention it before then too – it really is a very important subject for anyone posting content to the internet –and that includes the items you sell, by the way. Whether you sell on Etsy, Shopify, eBay or your own website, good SEO will help people find YOUR products.
Most bloggers use all three of these marketing techniques to give their blogs and content the maximum chance of being found.
A Handy Hint
If you are planning on starting a blog, but are not quite ready to do so yet, I recommend you do three things in advance. One is register your domain name as soon as you know which one you want. This will prevent anyone else getting it before you.
The next thing you can do is begin to plan your blog. Brainstorm what things you will want to write about. You can use this brainstorm to create a list of articles and content to write about. This really helps prevent writer’s block later on! Whenever I am planning a new project, I use the free software, XMind8 to create quick and easy brainstorms.
The third thing you can do in advance is begin to actually write that content! Write your articles in a word-processing package such as Microsoft Word or Notepad, or in a note-taking app such as Evernote. You will then be able to copy and paste them into WordPress at a later date. Start writing your content as soon as you start to get ideas! You will be glad of a stash of part- or fully written articles later on. You can also source or take pictures in advance, of course.
How Do I get This Blog?
Fully explaining how to install and use WordPress would take too long to do here, plus it differs depending on your circumstances. There are plenty of resources and instructions easily available, so I will just give you a “whistle stop tour” for now. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything, instead try to get the general idea. You can research the details later.
Once you have rented server space from a hosting company, you can download the free WordPress files from WordPress.org and follow their clear instructions on how to install them. But first, do check whether your web host has some sort of “automatic” WordPress installation, as some do. If so, this will probably be the easiest way to get going.
Another Handy hint – I’d recommend getting your domain name first. Create the directory that you want to install WordPress in (that is, the directory on your web host’s server), then point your domain name at this directory (your domain name provider should have instructions on how to do this). I have found this to be much easier than having to change your content’s URLS on WordPress if you add the domain name later on.
Once WordPress is installed you will be able to log into your new blog from any internet connected computer. You will also be able to access it from the WordPress apps for tablets and smart phones.
From here you can add a theme. You can change themes as often as you like, so don’t worry too much to start with, you can just use one of the preinstalled basic themes that come with WordPress to get going.
You can customise your blog with your name, details and branding. Just changing a couple of pictures and adding your blog title can make a huge difference. Your blog is now your own and taking shape J
And then you can start adding content. This will, of course be an ongoing thing. Each day, week, month or however often you post, your collection of content will grow. It takes a little while for a new blog to get noticed, especially when you have very little content. But over time you should start to see your visitors going up. Add a way for them to subscribe to your blog so they see when you post something new. Keep working on it.
Blogging is often described as a long game. Sadly many bloggers give up after just a few months because they think that it “isn’t working”. Just like learning a new language or how to play an instrument, It takes time. I did a bit of research and found that many blogging experts feel that it takes at least 6 months for a blog to really get going. So keep creating great content, learn about ways to market your content and you will see those visitors increasing.
Best of luck with your craft selling blog.
Links to all the sites mentioned, and additional information can be found in the Show Notes on the Tin Teddy blog, together with a full transcript.
In the next episode of the Craft Seller Success podcast I will be talking about Branding for Craft Sellers. What is your brand, how do you use it and why is it so important? This episode will be out on 12 June 2018.
Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to the Craft Seller Success podcast.
Check out www.TinTeddy.com for more Craft Seller resources.
Until next time, byee
The Craft Seller Success Podcast from Tin Teddy.
Featuring Deborah Richardson and Matthew French
Original music by Matthew French
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You may want to check out episode 23, Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Craft Seller Blog or Shop.