Welcome back to my Starting A Gaming Blog series! In Phase 1, we looked at how to plan out your blog (you can read that here). Now, it’s time to move on and discuss getting the basics of your gaming blog up and running. After all, once you’ve got your niche determined, you’re going to want to get started with creating content, right?
Well, don’t! It’s still not time yet. Since we want your gaming blog to work and grow, you need to take your time and get it correct from the get-go. And that means that we need to get your blog set up right first. So, let’s take a look at what you need to do in order to get that setup correct.
Choosing The Right Platform
The first port of call is to determine what blogging platform you are going to use. Now, this may not be something you’ve really thought about or looked into, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But now is the time to think carefully about it. But first, what is a blogging platform?
Well, to run a blog you need what is called a Content Management System, or CMS for short. This is a sort of software that runs behind your website’s “front end” (the part that readers will see) and acts as the section of your website where you write the content, upload images and sort out all of the functionality. Basically, it’s the admin section of a website. In the old days of static websites that didn’t change much, there wasn’t a need for a CMS. However, with a blog (where content is created on a regular basis) it is necessary to have one. Otherwise, you’d need to manual code each blog post, and to quote an outdated meme; “ain’t nobody got time for that”.
Currently, there are two “big” blogging platforms out there; Blogger and WordPress. Which one you decide to go for is entirely up to you, but as this is my post, I’m going to explain why I chose WordPress over Blogger.
I’ve been working in the Digital Marketing industry for over 10 years now, and I’ve used a bunch of different CMS over that time. Of all of them, WordPress is the most user-friendly, in my opinion. It’s incredibly easy to pick up and get started with, offering a huge amount of versatility in terms of blog post writing, styling and more. Plus, the sheer number of plugins available (both free and paid) means that you can do almost anything you need to with it.
In fact, even the developers at work recommend WordPress for any client that isn’t running an online shop (and even some that are). It’s such a hugely customisable platform that you can created whatever type of website you want with it. So, naturally, I would advise that you go with WordPress.
Finding A Host
Once you’ve decided on a blogging platform, the next thing to think about is hosting. Both Blogger and WordPress have free hosting services with themselves that you can use. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should. By using the free hosting, you will only ever have access to the limited version of your chosen blogging platform. This will make it much more challenging to stand out from the crowd, and also limit the amount of promotion you can do through the likes of SEO (which we will touch on later in this series).
Instead, you should look into “self-hosting”, which simply refers to buying a domain name and hosting service from a company outside of WordPress or Blogger.
Since, by now, you will have already decided on your brand name, that should be your domain (address). For example, my brand name is 16-Bit Dad, so my domain is 16bitdad.com. It just makes sense, right?
There are places like One.com where you can get both a domain name and hosting together, which is a good place to start if you want to get going quickly. However, you may find that you outgrow their services pretty quickly. Personally, I bought my domain from 1&1, and then got my hosting through KazooSoft, and haven’t looked back since.
Either way, once you’ve got your hosting sorted, you’ll need to install your chosen platform. If you’ve decided upon WordPress, most hosting providers have a 1-Click Install for WordPress, which will guide you through the setup of the CMS and get it running. Once that is done, you can log into your admin section and start sorting out the necessary plugins!
Necessary Plugins for Success
Okay, so now that you’ve gotten your CMS sorted, it’s time to look at the necessary plugins that your gaming blog will need to succeed. Unfortunately, my knowledge and experience in this area is largely limited to WordPress… So, I’m going to have to focus on the most important WordPress plugins. Therefore, the following is a breakdown of the plugins that I would recommend anyone blogging on WordPress make use of (oh, and they are all free).
- Yoast SEO – this is an absolutely essential plugin, as it will fix a large number of potential SEO problems as soon as you activate it, and also allow you to optimise your blog with the methods that we will be covering later on in this series.
- Monster Insights – this plugin allows you to connect Google Analytics to your blog so that you can keep track of how many visitors you get, how long they spend on your blog and more, which all helps you find the post styles that get the most engagement and which gets the least.
- AMP for WP – this added super-fast loading mobile page functionality to your blog, which means that Google and Facebook will show you to more people.
- WP All In One Security – this plugin helps to keep your website as secure as possible.
Those 4 are the absolute key plugins, in my opinion. There is a tonne of other plugins out there, so I’m not going to cover all of them. However, by having those 4 plugins at the very least, you’ll help your gaming blog to hit the ground running.
Getting The Design
The final aspect of your blog that we need to look at in this phase of starting a gaming blog is the design. Both WordPress and Blogger feature themes that you can “install” to change the look and feel of your website. However, the free themes are limited in terms of customisation, and you run the risk of looking like any other gaming blogger out there. This is a problem in the current internet age – after all, most of us have a small attention span, so if your site doesn’t capture their interest in seconds, you’ll have lost that reader.
Therefore, it is important to give your blog a specific style that suits the brand that you decided on. Again, taking this site as an example, since my brand and niche revolve around retro gaming, I make the site’s design and style based on pixel graphics.
To do this, I use Elegant Themes’ Divi theme, which is premium yet highly customisable theme that I would recommend to anyone. It even comes with a page builder in it, meaning that you can design the layout of post with ease. But in the end, the best thing to do is to look around and research the style of other plays and see what you can reuse.
And That’s All Folks
Those were the next steps you need to take to start a gaming blog off on the right food. By doing all of these before you start to generate content means that your content will be seen by a larger number of people.
In the next phase of starting a gaming blog, we will be looking at your first post and the anatomy of that post. But until there, if you have any questions about what we could today, feel free to add them in the comments section below.