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In episode #25 of Content Warfare Podcast we spend the entire episode answering the most frequently asked question from readers and subscribers of the Content Warfare Newsletter {become a subscriber}.

How do I create a WordPress blog and what tools should I use?

I decided to compile all the questions into one podcast that walked from start to finish through the tools I recommend for starting and growing a WordPress blog.

Some of tools and recommendations basic for the listeners who are beginners or maybe are still deciding whether or not a WordPress blog is right for their business. But I do get into some more advanced tools and plugins as well as the theory behind why you would want to use certain tools (like Pop-ups and SEO software) for the more advanced WordPress blogger.

Some of the tools recommended in this guide do cost money (these are worth it) and some are free (these are definitely worth it), but all of them will help you create a WordPress blog that grows your business. Furthermore, every tool I recommend I have used at some point in my blogging career.

Disclosure: Not all the resources listed on this page are free.  Please not that some of the links are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you).  These are all tools that I recommend because I use or have used them and feel that each can help you create a WordPress blog that will grow your business.  I’m not in the business of getting rich off affiliate links… 

creating wordpress blogNaming Your Blog and Choosing a Domain

Choosing the name of your WordPress blog and the URL domain name is incredibly important to the long-term success of online presence.

I don’t want to reinvent the wheel on this one so I encourage you to visit 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name from SEOMoz.  This is a pretty exhaustive resource on the topic from a company that I trust as an expert.  When you’ve made your decision and are ready to purchase a domain name the next step is hosting.

My sole advice on choosing a domain name is TAKE YOUR TIME.  This is like being able to go back in time and choose the name your parents gave you.  Once you make the decision it’s permanent so don’t rush this.

Hosting Your WordPress Blog

Most WordPress bloggers start their blog using the free platform.  You can tell a free shared-hosted blog because the URL looks like ( and in general the blog will look very bland.  Free blogs do not have access to the quality WordPress themes that a self-hosted blog does.

Self-hosting your WordPress blog is far less complicated and expensive than you may think.  What’s important is registering your blog with a hosting provider that specializes in WordPress.  Wordpress blogs are built on a unique style of code and because of this some hosting services are better equipped than others.

If you are starting a WordPress blog today or if you’re looking for a hosting service that help your blog perform better my top recommendations are:

  • WPEngine HostingWP Engine – WP Engine is all about hassle-free hosting focused on speed, scale, security and support.  These are all features crucial to the success of your blog… unless you’d like to deal with inconvenient errors, overloads and downtime that quickly repel the readers you work so hard to attract. {host with WPEngine}
  • Bluehost – Bluehost is lower cost option for hosting your WordPress blog than WP Engine.  Bluehost is very reliable and very easy to use, including one-click install of WordPress.  You can register your new URL and have WordPress loaded and ready to rock in a matter of moments.  Bluehost is very WordPress friendly and is currently the hosting service I use on this blog. {host with Bluehost}

Building Your Blog and Web Design

  • WordPress - There is no better platform for content management for the average blogger than WordPress.  It’s free, easy to use and looks great.  Both this blog and my insurance agency blog run on WordPress.  With each of the hosting options listed above WPEngine and Bluehost WordPress is only one-click away.  Follow the instructions inside of each system to quickly and easily upload WordPress onto your new website.

Included in your WordPress blog install will be two free themes.  You can, if you so choose, begin to build your new blog on one of these free themes. You can also search the WordPress directory for additional free WordPress blog themes.

Wordpress blog theme

Adding a new theme is easy…

However, I caution you against this.  When creating your WordPress blog platform one of the most important decisions you’ll make is the theme framework on which to build.  Think of your WordPress theme framework as the literal foundation of your blog, on top of which all the shiny features and functions you enjoy will be placed.

It’s very easy to fall into the “Free theme” trap.


You wouldn’t wear sweatpants to a job interview would you?

Think of every visitor who finds your site as a job interview.  The professional look of your website matters… a lot!  There is a ton of content on the Internet, which means people have choices.  If you decide to rock a bush league looking website that’s your choice, but understand it sends the message you are NOT serious about what you’re doing.

If you’re going to put time and effort into creating a blog, spend a few extra bucks and look like a professional.  There are also site speed and SEO benefits to working with a premium WordPress theme as well.

You absolutely cannot go wrong choosing to build your blog platform on either of the Thesis or Genesis WordPress frameworks.

  • Genesis WordPress Theme – (this is what I use now) When you purchase the Genesis framework for the first time, you receive two items.  The Genesis framework and a skin (or child theme as Studiopress, the creator of Genesis refers to them).  There are many Genesis skins both created by Studiopress and skins created by approved 3rd parties.  The skin you choose will ultimately define the general shape and functionality of your blog. {Learn more about Genesis themes}
  • Thesis WordPress Theme – The great part about Thesis 2.0 is you are not limited to the constraints of a specific theme.  You build the site you want, the way you want it.  In this case I’m able to place a very strong call-to-action on the homepage of my own custom design.The launch of Thesis 2.0 birthed an entirely new way to create WordPress blogs.  For that reason, the drag and drop customization, though easy and amazing once you get the hang of it, can be a pain in the ass to figure out at first.  I know more than a few people who have gotten frustrated and gone back to Genesis.That doesn’t mean I agree with their decision.  It just means there will be a learning curve. {learn more about Thesis themes}

Logo / Graphics Work

  • Fiverr – Fiverr is a cheap and easy place to just about anything you can think of related to graphic work, logos, video work for $5. Now there is certainly a level of quality you are giving up by using Fiverr, but for small projects and simple tasks Fiverr is a fantastic resource that I use all the time.
  • ODesk – Odesk is a much more robust and professional platform. This is a forum for professionals to help you achieve larger project with a much higher level of quality. These jobs will cost more but for task like the logo you’ll use on WordPress blog you’re going to be much happier with the result engaging a contractor on Odesk.
  • 99Designs – 99designs is a unique style design website that allows you to create jobs graphics and web design jobs and then have contractors from all over the world bid on your work. We actually used 99designs for The Murray Group logo and got what we were looking for at a very reasonable price tag.

RSS Subscription Service

  • Feedblitz – Feedblitz is the #1 alternative to Google’s Feedburner for RSS subscription services. As Google has begun to pare down a few of it’s services it looks like Feedburner is eventually going to get the axe. I moved all my feeds to Feedblitz a few weeks ago and I’m very happy with their service. Feedblitz also has a nice email subscription service as well, but I use Aweber to manage my email subscribers.

Blog Images


A great place to get creative commons photos…

  • Photopin – Photopin is a very simple website that searches images with the creative commons license and allows you to download them with attribution to the owner of the photo. Quality images truly enhance the effectiveness of your content and I have no problem adding an attribution link to my WordPress blog in exchange for a quality image.
  • PicMonkey – This is my go-to online program for enhancing and/or resizing, adding borders or text to an image. Most of it’s features are free. I use the tool so much I pay the $5 a month for the full version but even with the free version you get a ton of great features.

SEO {Search Engine Optimization}

  • Scribe SEO – Optimize content faster, choose great keywords, preserve reader engagement, build quality links and increase targeted traffic… All that stuff sounds great!  But it also works… What I love about Scribe SEO (I use it on both this site and our insurance agency website) is that you get both an on-page snapshot of your SEO buildout as well as a site wide score for the particular keyword you’re targeting.  Over time you begin to see the site wide score rise as you attack a target keyword. At a minimum check out the four eBooks that you get for free just for logging in, it’s Copyblogger at their best {Check out the Scribe Content Library}
  • SEOMoz – SEOMoz is the most popular WordPress blog backend SEO software available on the Internet. I currently do not subscribe to their service but I have in the past. SEOMoz is great for keyword research, (though I recommend starting with the Google Keyword Tool which is free), but what I find fascinating about SEOMoz is that you can look in at your competitors and see what keywords they’re ranking for. Then you can attack those keywords and beat your competitors at their own game.
  • WordPress SEO by Yoast – WordPress SEO is the most complete WordPress SEO plugin that exists today for WordPress blog users. It incorporates everything from a snippet preview and page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between. In my personal opinion this is a Must Have plugin for all WordPress blogs.
  • Video SEO by Yoast – If you use video on your site, in your posts or pages, you don’t want the search results for those pages to look bland like any other result, do you? No, you want them to be video results, so they catch the attention of the searcher more, rank better and thus get you more visitors. If you use video I strongly recommend adding this plugin. I use it on my insurance agency website and love it.
  • Local SEO by Yoast – Local search is very important. More and more people are searching on local search phrases or at least have local intent while searching (think mobile search!). So it’s pretty obvious you want to be found on these local phrases. This is a very simple yet powerful plugin that adds meta data to your website which provides Google with better local search data.

Landing Pages

  • Premise Landing Pages – Premise makes creating landing pages very simple.  I’ve used premise on both this site and my insurance agency website and from my experience is the single BEST landing page software I’ve found for a WordPress blog. That being said if you purchase a premium WordPress blog theme with Genesis or Thesis then landing pages are built into most of the child themes available for those platforms. In that case you wouldn’t need Premise.

Email Marketing

  • OptinSkin – Optinskin allows you to add gorgeous email subscription or optin-forms to your WordPress blog. These forms require no coding and come pre-loaded with a drag and drop backend for easy customization. I used Optinskin for a long time and had absolutely no complaints. I taught myself a little bit of coding and that is only reason I don’t use them today.
  • Aweber – The internet’s most powerful email opt-in service and email marketing/broadcasting tool. This is what I use to build my email list and deliver the Content Warfare Newsletter.  If want to learn why read Why After Three Years I Dropped Mailchimp as My Newsletter Service for Aweber. I really do like Aweber and to this point in my blogging career is one of the few tools I couldn’t continue without.
  • MailChimp – Mailchimp is very nice newsletter service that has increased the quality of their product immensely over the years. I still think it’s a little clunky compared to Aweber but it does have a free limited option for beginners.
  • Infusionsoft – Infusionsoft is an extremely robust marketing automation system with capabilities far beyond anything that Aweber or Mailchimp can do. That being said it’s also about five times the cost. We use Infusionsoft at my insurance agency. If you’re interested in more information on Infusionsoft send me a message here at Ask Hanley and we can discuss the system more.
  • Pippity Pop-ups – Pippity is a Pop-up service that makes creating and launching pop-ups very easy. I know people have different opinions and pop-ups. Regardless of your opinion the simple fact is that pop-ups work REALLY well at attracting new subscribers.  I’ve used Pippity in the past and probably will again at some point.

Comment System


A great way to reward reader comments…

  • CommentLuv – CommentLuv Premium is a popular WordPress plugin that will magnetize your readers, socialize your comments and viralize your posts. Reward your readers and have fine grain control over dofollow, keywords in the name and the ability to add twitter names to comments. It includes some of the most advanced anti spam features to protect you from bots and sophisticated heuristics to prevent human spam which has been proven to dramatically decrease the amount of spam that a blog gets. There is also a free version of CommentLuv but for the small price of the premium plugin the extra features are worth the money {Get CommentLuv Premium here}
  • Disqus – Disqus, pronounced “discuss”, is a service and tool for web comments and discussions. Disqus makes commenting easier and more interactive, while connecting websites and commenters across a thriving discussion community. If I didn’t really like the look and feel of the native WordPress blog comment system and CommentLuv I would use Disqus (and it’s free).
  • IntenseDebate – I don’t know a lot about IntenseDebate other than I know that a decent number of bloggers use it. It’s not my favorite and I will probably never use it but it is free.
  • Livefyre – Livefyre is another comment system that I find lacking and clunky compared to the native WordPress blog comment system or Disqus but it does have some cool sharing features and I know there are decent number of bloggers that use this system. It is also free.


  • Google Analytics – Google Analytics is the enterprise-class web analytics solution that gives you rich insights into your website traffic and marketing effectiveness.  Basically the best tracking system for the average blogger.  There are other tracking products available but stick with Google Analytics and you can’t go wrong. Google Analytics is free and very easy to add to your site. Google Analytics by Yoast is a nice plugin that can handle the entire process for you.

Efficiency Products

  •  Buffer App – There are a lot of tools that allow you to schedule tweets and facebook posts but the only one that I use is Buffer App.  The Google Chrome extension makes scheduling my messages easy and allows me to accurately space them throughout the day. That is a ton of functionality from their free product… I’ve never needed the paid option.

Additional Plugins

All of these plugins are Free and add functionality to your site beyond what comes standard on a new WordPress blog install. Consider each and if you feel the tool would be useful I recommend adding. In general it’s a good rule of thumb to keep you plugins to a minimum unless it is serving a very specific and valuable purpose to your WordPress blog. Over using plugins can drastically slow down your site.

  • Tweet Old Post – Plugin to tweet about your old posts to get more hits for them and keep them alive.
  • Better Delete Revision – Remove and delete old revision of posts, pages and related meta content completely then optimize Database: reduce size and optimization to speed up!
  • Digg Digg – Your all in one share buttons plugin. Add a floating bar with share buttons to your blog. Just like Mashable… I really like this plugin.
  • Flare (social connections) – Flare is a simple yet eye-catching social sharing bar that gets you followed and lets your content get shared via posts, pages, and media types.
  • Google XML Sitemaps – In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap-usually called Sitemap, with a capital S-is a list of the pages on your website. You submit this sitemap to Google to help with site indexing for search engines.
  • nrelated Related Content – The best way to display related content: Thumbnails or Text, on all your pages. This is another of my favorite functionality adding plugins.
  • Twitter Cards – Add Twitter Card markup to individual posts. Supports summary, photo, and player types. See this post on Twitter Cards for why adding this plugin is important.
  • W3 Total Cache – Easy Web Performance Optimization (WPO) using caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support. Also adds a CDN or Content Delivery Network to your blog.

I hope that you find these resource and the corresponding podcast helpful. If you have any questions or comments about the tools and resources I discuss here please use the comments below.

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About Ryan Hanley

This blog was created to help brands grow their audience, to grow their business. When I'm not writing, podcasting or creating the videos you'll find on this site, you'll usually find me watching baseball with my son Duke and a cold beer in my hand.

  • Lorenzo

    Also recommend setting up a plugin to monitor for broken links. Broken Link Checker comes to mind.

    I currently use Redirection to create permanent redirects (301) to fix broken links. Can even be used to mask referral or affiliate links on your site.

    • Ryan Hanley


      For affiliate links try Pretty Link Lite. That’s a great plugin for creating nice looking affiliate links that actually make sense.



  • Jeff Echols

    Great podcast and post. Thank you.

    I recently launched Architect of the Internet to provide content about using social media as part of the marketing arsenal from the unique perspective of the architectural profession.

    I’m starting from square one in terms of building a professional level WordPress blog so the information that you shared is extremely helpful to me.

    Thanks again, keep fighting the good fight,


    • Ryan Hanley

      I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment Jeff! I bet your background gives you an extremely unique opinion on building an online presence.

      All the best,

      Ryan H.

  • Mike


    One the most valuable posts I’ve read in a while. A ton of plugins I’ve never heard of.

    I heard you’ve got to be careful to not add too many plugins because it could bog down your blog?

    Either way, I’m pumped to try some of them, like the schema one.

    Thanks for all your efforts.


    • Ryan Hanley


      Appreciate the feedback buddy… The Schema Plugin is great and very easy to use!



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