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How to Start a Blog: 2015 Edition

Blog printingAre you new to this blogging thing? No idea where to start? Before I started blogging a few years ago, I didn’t know where to start either. But it really isn’t that hard and anyone can do it.

And why wouldn’t you want to start a blog? Doing it right can boost your brand significantly. You can use your blog to build your email list and use it to launch and sell products and services. It’s really a no brainer, so don’t let all this techy stuff get in the way of getting started.

Here is our step-by-step guide on how to setup your first blog.

Domain and Hosting

The first thing you need to do, is invest in a good domain and web hosting. For the domain, think of name that is brand-able and memorable. For example, Smart Passive Income is an example of a memorable blog name. Play around with a site like Bust a Name to help you come up with a cool name for your blog.

For web hosting, we recommend Media Temple. Media Temple offers shared hosting plans for people starting out, but you can also scale to their VPS web hosting packages when your blog starts getting more popular and receiving more traffic. Not only do we like Media Temple, but people like Josh Kotsay recommend using Media Temple as well.

Blog Platform and Theme

Next, you need to choose a blog platform to use. The most popular one out there is WordPress, and I would recommend using that. It’s usually available as a one-click install for almost any web host you go with. It’s used my millions, so it’s very easy to get help.

You want your blog to look nice, so you should install a nice looking theme to go with it. For the best all around theme that looks like and offers lots of customization options, I would go with the Thesis framework of course. It is highly customizable and you can install some great looking child themes to shape the look and feel of your blog as you like it.

Writing your Blog

Once you have all this setup, then you you just need to start blogging. Hopefully you have some ideas about what you already want to blog about, but if you don’t, read this post by Joshua Becker titled 15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog. It’s an excellent read, and it will inspire you as you start your journey into blogging.

One thing that is very important when blogging is to find your right niche. What’s the best niche? It’s the niche that you are passionate about. If you are not passionate about what you are writing, then your blog is not going to last long. You’re going to get bored long before you get successful. Entrepreneur.com has an excellent article on Finding your passion if you are currently having trouble coming up with something.


While it might look daunting at first, starting a blog is very easy and it’s very beneficial to do. It can provide you with a creative outlet to express your thoughts, and give exposure to them to a wider audience. A blog is also essential if you want to sell your product. It gives you much more brand exposure and allows you to promote your wares to a loyal audience.


Thesis Theme Review

Simple put, I love the Thesis WordPress Theme. I use it for every one of my sites and it is simply the easiest way for me to setup a nice looking blog that can be customized for whatever niche I am in. I liken it more to a WordPress theme framework, rather then just a standard WordPress theme since it is so flexible and gives you a huge amount of control when designing your site. The latest Thesis Theme 1.8 release adds some great new bells and whistles, and makes working with your sites that much easier. In this Thesis Theme review, I wanted to highlight some of best things I like about Thesis Theme.

Why Choose Thesis Theme?

  • Customize Your Site As YOU Like It – There’s nothing worse then being stuck with a WordPress theme that doesn’t allow you to layout your site exactly how you want. With Thesis theme’s powerful hooks, and custom loop API you can pretty much do anything with it.
  • Easy To Use Interface – Change your site layout, upload site header, font controls, and other site settings can all be modified from within the Thesis control panel. Even if you don’t know any HTML/CSS you can still create beautiful looking sites with Thesis.
  • Excellent On Page SEO – Thesis includes all the SEO options required to achieve optimal on page SEO for achieving high search engine rankings.
  • Regular Updates – Thesis theme is constantly being update to include awesome new features. Thus Thesis will continue to grow alongside your business.
  • Over 29,000 Customers – Thesis theme is the most popular premium wordpress theme on the planet and used by folks such as Matt Cutts, Danny Sullivan, and Sugarrae

Thesis Theme – Easy Layout Customization

Thesis Theme Design Options

With most WordPress themes, you are usually stuck with whatever column layout it was designed for. So unless you are a html/css whiz, it can be really difficult to change from say a two-column layout to a magazine style three-column layout. Not so with Thesis Theme. One of the options in the Design Options page is the ability to change the number of columns you want in your layout on the fly. Just specify the number of columns you want in the settings and your blog changes instantly. If want a three column look (1 content column, 2 sidebars), just select it with one click. You have complete control over the widths of each column, and you can even change the order in which they are displayed. This is amazingly powerful, and the basis to designing your site exactly how you want it.

Thesis Theme – Change the Look and Feel

You will likely want to change the colors, fonts of the various sections on your site. These can all be changed from with the Design Options pages as well. Thesis Theme integrates an awesome color picker widget that makes choosing the color you want really simple. If there’s something you want to change that can’t be done in the control panel, then you can add some CSS styling using your site’s custom stylesheet. The Thesis developers wisely separated this out from the main Thesis stylesheet so all your customizations are easily ported over during any Thesis updates. If you really want to change the look of your site, you can also try one of the many Thesis skins available. There are many free and premium Thesis Theme skins that you can try and some of them are really cool.

Thesis Theme – Other Cool Features

Other Thesis Theme features I really like a lot are the ability to add your own analytics tracking codes directly from the control panel. So if you use some analytics software like Google Analytics or Piwik, it can be easily integrated into your site. Thesis also integrates with all the popular javascript libraries like JQuery, Prototype, Mootools and others so you can easily add cool Ajax effects to your blog. Just select the javascript library you want, and start using it – no downloading required!

You can do some really cool things with the Thesis Theme multimedia box as well. Basically, it is a place on your site which you can use to rotate pictures, show Youtube videos, or even add banner ads to your site.

Thesis Theme – SEO Ready

One thing I’ve always looked for in a good WordPress Theme is to see how SEO friendly it is. For other themes, I’ve always downloaded the All-in-one SEO pack wordpress plugin to help with my SEO efforts. With Thesis Theme, you no longer need download a separate plugin like this. The theme makes it really simple to do things like customize your blog and post titles, update the meta tags for your posts, category and tag pages, and a whole lot more. Thesis Theme is SEO ready out of the box, and another reason why I like using it so much.

Thesis Theme – The Community

Finally, Thesis Theme has a really amazing community. It is probably the most popular premium WordPress Theme out there, and adoption of Thesis Theme has grown really fast since it was first released. The developer of Thesis Theme, Chris Pearson is awesome, and you can tell by the frequent Thesis Theme updates that he is really dedicated to making Thesis the best WordPress theme available. If you ever have any questions, there is also a very active Thesis Theme forum that I recommend you join. Plus as you can tell from this Thesis Theme tutorial site and others, there are a ton of third-party sites that are built around Thesis Theme and dedicated to helping you make the most out if it. As you can see, I really enjoy using Thesis Theme and I hope you enjoyed reading this Thesis Theme review. Come join our community and start using Thesis Theme.

Visit Thesis Theme (Official Site)
Or check out my killer Thesis Theme Bonus package


Thesis 1.8 Released

Last week, Chris Pearson released Thesis 1.8 to the world. It includes a bunch of exciting new features that makes Thesis even easier to work with. It was painless to upgrade this site to the new version and I’m really liking some of the new changes. Below are my favorite Thesis features of this new release.

New Header Image Uploader – The best way to distinguish your site from other Thesis site’s is to add your own custom header image. Thesis 1.8 introduces a new Header Image menu item where you can upload you own custom header with a click of a button. What’s nice is that it also tells you the optimal image width for your header based on your current layout options.

Meta Field Character Counts – For anyone into SEO, you know how important it is to write good title and meta description fields. However, each search engine limits the amount of characters to display for each. Now Thesis 1.8 keeps track of the character count for these two fields so you will fit these constraints. A small thing, but really useful!

New Google Fonts – Thesis 1.8 now supports 28 additional fonts from the Google Font Directory. Each of these fonts is web-safe, so everyone will be able to see them correctly.

WordPress 3.0 Menu Support – If you haven’t played around with the new WordPress 3.0 menu support, you are really missing out. It’s a superior method of customizing your navigation menus the way you like them. With Thesis 1.8, you can now choose between using the standard Thesis menus or WordPress 3.0 menus. No matter which style you choose, you can still tweak how they look through the Thesis nav menu controls.

New Category SEO Options – With Thesis 1.8, you can now customize the titles and descriptions for each of your category and tag pages. This really useful for SEO purposes if you silo your sites in this way.

Favicon Uploader – Works almost like the new header image uploader. It’s a very simple way to setup a favicon for your site which is extremely important for branding purposes.

Thesis Custom Loop API – Thesis 1.8 now allows you to include custom html/php inside the content of any page on your site. For anyone that know how to code, this gives you unparalleled flexibility for your designs.

If you haven’t purchased Thesis yet, what are you waiting for? As you can see, Thesis is constantly evolving and some great new stuff is being added to each new release.

Download Thesis 1.8 Now


One question I always get asked is how to change the way Thesis displays the number of comments for a post. By default, Thesis displays the number in curly brackets like this:

{ 0 } comments.

I am personally not a fan of how this looks, but fortunately Thesis makes this extremely easy to customize.

First open custom_functions.php and add this line to the bottom

remove_action('thesis_hook_after_post', 'thesis_comments_link');

This will remove the default Thesis number of comments display. Now to add your own custom look, add the following to the same file.

function custom_comments_link() {
  if (!is_single() && !is_page()) {
    echo '<p class="to_comments"><a href="';
    echo '#comments" rel="nofollow">';
    comments_number(__('<span>0</span> comments', 'thesis'), __('<span>1</span> comment', 'thesis'), __('<span>%</span> comments', 'thesis'));
    echo '</a> </p>';
add_action('thesis_hook_after_post', 'custom_comments_link');

Basically, this is the same code as before, but without the curly brackets. You can then use the to_comments css class to customize the number of comments look to your liking.


What’s New With Thesis 1.7

It took a little longer than we thought, but Thesis 1.7 was just released today. So what’s new in this latest version of Thesis?

  • Thesis 1.7 is faster and more efficient. Developer Chris Pearson has rewritten a significant portion of the code to make things noticeably faster. You should see the page load times in the options pages to be much snappier then previous versions of Thesis.
  • New Options Manager. Now you can backup your Thesis settings and even better, reuse your settings across all your Thesis installs.
  • More SEO options. Although previous versions of Thesis were already SEO optimized, Thesis 1.7 includes some great new customization options that give you more control. Now you can set separate meta tags (noindex, nofollow, no archive) for every post and page on your blog. The new Page Options also gives you full control over your category and tag pages.
  • Reorganized Options Pages. There are now five main pages in Thesis 1.7. Site Options, Design Options, Page Options, Custom File Editor and the Options Manager. Everything has been reorganized so that things are easier to find.
  • Included Javascript libraries. Now your favorite javascript libraries like JQuery, Prototype, and Mootools are available right out of the box.
  • New Comment Options. Now you can more easily tweak the way your comments appear.
  • Easy 301 Redirects. Great for people who want to mask their affiliate links

These are some of the new features of Thesis 1.7. I’ve already upgraded this site to the new version and I’m playing around with the new features right now. If you haven’t tried Thesis yet, now is the time to get on board.

Download Thesis 1.7


Customizing the Thesis Nav Menu

In Thesis 1.6, the navigation menu design was given an overhaul. Now the basic Thesis Navigation Menu looks like this:

<ul class="menu">
	<li class="tab tab-home current">
		<a href="http://thesisthemetutorial.com">Home</a>
	<li class="tab tab-1">
		<a href="http://thesisthemetutorial.com/about">About</a>

There are also a bunch of new navigation menu customization options in the Thesis Design Options interface. All the basic options can be tweaked including attributes like the link color, link background, hover background, nav border, etc. If you still need to customize your thesis nav menu some more, then just go into your custom.css and do your edits there.


Thesis Hooks Explained

To really customize Thesis the way you want to, you need to understand Thesis hooks. At first glance, hooks seem like a daunting concept to learn, but they really are quite simple. In this article, let me explain to you what Thesis hooks are, and how to take advantage of them on your site.

Hooks themselves are a WordPress concept. They were added into WP to provide plugin developers a way to call their own custom functions at specific times. There are actually two different types of hooks, Actions and Filters. Actions occur are hooks that are called at specific points in time or when a specific event happens. So there’s a WordPress hook called publish_post, and if you add your action to that hook, it will be called whenever someone publishes a post on the site. Filters are slightly different. They are called when WordPress is doing something with data (ie. text) like displaying it on the screen or saving it to the database. This allows you to add your own filters to modify the data in your own specific way. For example, you could add your own filter which would link to the Thesis homepage whenever it sees the word “Thesis” in a post.

There are hundreds of built in WordPress hooks, but they’re not particularly helpful for customizing Thesis itself. That’s why, Thesis has added it’s own set of Thesis hooks that makes modifying the theme very simple.

Lets solidify this with an example. Take the Thesis banner I’ve added to the top of the site. To do this, I first browsed through the Thesis hooks list and decided that thesis_hook_before_content would be the appropriate hook to use. You can also use the visual hooks reference at thesishooks.com which is a handy resource as well. Once we know which hook to use, open up your custom_functions.php file and add the following code.

function top_banner() { ?>
	<img src="http://thesisthemetutorial.com/images/thesis468x60.png"/>
add_action('thesis_hook_before_content', 'top_banner');

Add_action is a php function that takes 2 arguments, the hook name and a function. You can see I’m calling a function called top_banner and inside the function, all I’m doing is displaying my banner image. While this is really a trivial example, it really is this simple. By finding the appropriate Thesis hooks to use, you can pretty much customize the theme however you want.


Swap Thesis Navigation Menu and Header

In the default Thesis Theme configuration, the navigation menu is at the top, and the header is right below it. However, using Thesis hooks, it’s quite easy to swap them with a couple of lines of code. Just open up the file wp-content/themes/thesis/custom/custom_functions.php on your server and add the following to the bottom of the file:

// Remove the Thesis Navigation Menu From The Top
remove_action('thesis_hook_before_header', 'thesis_nav_menu');
// Add the Navigation Menu after #Header div
add_action('thesis_hook_after_header', 'thesis_nav_menu');

You can see an example of how this looks on this site.


Installing Thesis Theme

Installing Thesis is quite simple. In this Thesis Theme tutorial, I’m going to show you how to install Thesis onto your blog. This assumes you’ve already installed WordPress already, but if you haven’t, check out this WordPress installation tutorial.

Downloading Thesis Theme

The first thing you will need to do is download is download the latest version of the Thesis Theme. After your purchase, you should have received an email detailing your username and password and a link to your personal membership page. Login to your account and you can find a download link on the right. Alternatively, and you can download Thesis using this download link.

Installing Thesis Theme

  1. The thesis download will be in zip format, so you will first need to extract it. Mac users can just double-click to extract. Windows users can extract the file using a free utility like 7zip. Once it’s extracted, you should have a folder called thesis_16 on your local computer.
  2. Next, you’ll need to upload this thesis folder to the server. For that you’ll need a free FTP program like Cyberduck (Mac) or WinSCP (Windows).
  3. Thesis Install Location

  4. Login to your server using the credentials from your webhost, and navigate to your wordpress install. You’ll want to upload your extracted thesis folder to the wp-content/themes subdirectory.
  5. Once all the files have been uploaded, it’s time to Activate your copy of Thesis. Login to your WordPress admin panel, and go to Appearance > Themes on the left hand menu. Look for Thesis under Available Themes and select the activate link. Voila! You’re now using Thesis.
  6. One last thing. Go back into your ftp program and navigate over to wp-content/themes/thesis_16 and rename the custom-sample folder to custom. Now you can use the Thesis custom stylesheet and custom functions to tweak Thesis to your hearts content.

Upgrading To Thesis 1.6

I recently had to upgrade one of my older Thesis 1.5 installs to Thesis 1.6. Here are the steps to do it.

  1. In your existing Thesis install, make a backup of your custom folder and any images you may have added to your rotator folder
  2. Upload the new thesis_16 folder to your wp-content/themes directory.
  3. Rename the custom-sample folder to custom
  4. Copy the contents of your backed up custom folder to the new custom folder. Don’t overwrite the folder! Just copy the contents only.
  5. If necessary, copy the images from your backed up rotator folder to the new custom/rotator folder
  6. Log in to your WordPress Dashboard, and select the new Thesis 1.6 theme to activate

One thing to note is that the navigation menu has been significantly reworked in Thesis 1.6. If you have done any nav menu customizations to your previous Thesis install, you will probably be affected by these changes. If you need any help with this after you upgrade, visit the Thesis forums and someone will help you out.

As you can see, it is relatively simple to perform a Thesis 1.6 upgrade. Don’t delay if you are still using an older Thesis install.

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