Have you ever thought about sharing your best teaching ideas and thoughts on your own blog? Perhaps you have an idea and just don’t know (yet) how to get your website setup. I’m pleased to say you’re in the right place, as I’ll show you precisely how to get your own teaching blog off the ground. Not only is it easier than it sounds, I’ll also share some tips on blogging and how to choose a domain name.
I started blogging about my favourite TV Shows in 2001 using free tools online and coding my own webpages in html. It was quite hard in those days as I was new to the internet and my computer had 16mb of ram and a 166Mhz CPU. I also had a really fast 56kbps modem so I could download 1mb images in minutes. Sounds crazy doesn’t it, now that we have online video, social media and host of other facilities online. Time has certainly moved on in leaps and bounds. Since becoming a teacher I’ve tried to use my web building knowledge (that’s growing all the time) to make a website fit for teachers. I hope you find this guide useful!
In this post we’ll cover the following:
Why would a teacher start a blog?
Why not use a free service?
Setting up your website
Choosing a domain name
Selecting a theme
Working with WordPress
What to write
Basic website structure
Make it yours (personalisation)
Why would a teacher start a blog?
There are many reasons to not only start a blog but for teachers to get onto the internet and share ideas. In many ways, teachers are at the forefront of what’s possible in the world and if an educator is able to learn from the world and pass it on, then it would greatly benefit their students. In an increasingly digital world, it pays for educators to have the skills and know-how.
- It is possible to make money. While I don’t make a huge amount of money online I do make enough to cover the running costs. It is a low-risk and low barrier to entry and a great way to learn about the ways of the internet.
- Make materials and share knowledge. Having your own place online can help you share your teaching and education experiences online to help you cultivate your name (or brand). This can be a great next step if you want to become a published author.
- Gaining exposure. It’s so easy to use the internet today that it has become the defacto method for companies, charities, and individuals to reach out to people. You’ll often find that YouTube, Instragram, and individual blogs/websites are where people are discovered. A name, a skill, or any other ability is just a Google search away. A teaching blog is a great way to find others like you.
- Write. Improve your writing skills. Encourage others. Make a community. All of it can be achieved with a blog, no matter the cost or size.
In a nutshell, your website is a place online to make it what you want it to be. Do you want to share worksheets? Brainstorm ideas with others? Establish a pedagogy? Connect with like-minded people in your profession? All of it is possible.
What if I’m useless with technology? Can I do this?
Absolutely. Thousands of sites are made each week by people of all ages from around the world. Many technologies like WordPress are very user-friendly and there are thousands of walk-throughs online to help you. I started with limited knowledge and over time it grew to what this site is today.
How much does it cost?
You needn’t have alarge budget, you can start a professional blog for just $10 / month and this includes all the important costs like a domain and hosting (which I’ll cover later).
Why not just use a free service?
This is a great question and a fair one. In short, I don’t usually advise people to use a free service to make their site unless it is just a hobby or experimental site. There are many reasons. The prime reason is if you want to make money then you need to have as much freedom as possible, but other reasons include:
- Free services that are available from Google like Blogger, or from Tumblr are great for beginners. They do however place limits on what can be done on your site to make money. For instance, you won’t be able to sell ebooks and lesson plans (like I do) unless you ‘upgrade’ your package. While this is fine for some it does defeats the purpose of having a teaching blog in the first place.
- Website visitors (or traffic as it’s called) is the best way to make money from your site as you can offer your content to them and sell lesson plans. You can use sites like tes.com or teacherspayteachers.com but they take a commission of up to 60%! And TES often charges an additional tax of around 15% depending on where the purchase takes place. That means a lesson selling for $10 will only give you $4 after all charges. If you had this on your own site, then you’ll keep more of your hard work and create your own brand at the same time. If you don’t believe me the screenshot below is of my 24 page debating lesson plan I sold for $10 (and took 2 months to write). You can see from the image below that I made just over half of the sale price with the rest going to tax and ‘TES Royalty’ fees. TES and other sites do not actively advertise my products and are, in my own opinion, no better than Amazon in how they treat their authors. I started this teaching blog to make my work reward me more.
- Free services are simply using your content to make their own site more popular and therefore increase their own bottom line. The internet is the best place for individuals to be entrepreneurs and make their own path.
- Switching from a free service to another company is a hassle and is likely to cause disruption. Doing it yourself will take hours and hiring someone will take hundreds of dollars/pounds. Some hosting companies will help you but this the time to investigate.
- Many features on professional websites are not available on free blogs, for example; e-commerce, newsletters delivery services, and custom themes.
If you’ve not discouraged by this then I would suggest using blogger or tumblr.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
I use and recommend WordPress, but not through WordPress.com. The difference is a bit confusing but it can be broken as follows:
If you choose WordPress, you have two options: hosted or self-hosted.
- Hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.com blogs, are free but limit your income potential.
- Self-hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.org blogs, cost a little money but give you much more control, and do not limit your income potential.
No technical knowledge is required to start your own teaching related website. Just follow the steps below to begin your self-hosted journey.
Setting up your website
To being you need two distinct things, firstly a blogging software platform to get your words organised and published, and a hosting service to keep your words, images and video online for people to see. Both can be obtained easily.
For a blogging software platform there are many to choose from, like WordPress, Joomla, Pubvana, Dotclear, Nibbleblog, and many more. As for hosting there are hundreds of companies which offer these services, like Bluehost. In all the years I’ve blogged and managed websites, sometimes for myself and others, I’ve always used WordPress and Bluehost.
Let’s get your teaching blog started!
The first thing is to click here to go to Bluehost’s site and hit the green ‘Get Started Now’ button. The images may change slightly but it is essentially the same.
The next thing to do is to select a hosing plan. It’s best to choose the Plus or Choice Plus plan as they provide you with most features and services. A great tool to use is Domain Privacy and SiteBackup Pro. The domain privacy feature means your details when you register your domain will remain private from the public and the backup service takes the hassle out of doing weekly website backups. Let the pros at Bluehost handle your teaching blog.
The choice plan also includes advertising vouchers to use so you can promote your website if you wish.
Registering a domain name with Bluehost
It’s always hard to think of a name under time pressure. So at Bluehost you’re able to register and then think of a domain name (mine is esldebates.com) at a later date and then register that name with a free domain credit. Simply click the link at the bottom of the page that says, “Choose later!” (you might have to wait a second before it appears). Or, you might see a “Choose Free Domain Later” popup box. Both do the same thing. I like this feature a lot as many other hosting companies don’t have this feature.
If you have registered a domain name in the past, enter it into the “I have a domain name” box. Don’t worry, doing so won’t mess it up if it’s currently being used elsewhere. Entering it here is simply a way Bluehost identifies your account.
Choosing a domain name
This is perhaps going to be the most difficult aspect of your adventure online. Unlike many things to do with technology it isn’t a simple process to rename or change a domain name. When you think of a name to register it must be kept on a public record, usually a public organisation like ICANN, and once registered stays with you for the term of the registration (often a year at a time).
It’s quite tempting to think of a really authoritative sounding name, but chances are that it’s already taken. Many people new to blogging often choose a name in haste and so perhaps don’t think about how their content will change in the next ten years or how it would be seen online by people and Google. In that way, teaching blog could be a personal pursuit for the moment, but later it may be a business.
As a rule or thumb it’s better to have shorter names and try to avoid using dashes between words. Take for example:
While the first is clearer to see, it’s actually a little cumbersome to write quickly, so it’s better to think of a name that summarises your mission to write. It could be keywords like “learn” and “English”, so you’d get an idea to have a name like www.learningenglish4u.com. This would be a fine name to start with. Alternatively, you can use your organisation’s name, if you are writing for your school or organisation.
.com or not to .com?
There are lots of stories how it’s better to have a .com domain instead of .tv, .co.uk, .ca, or any other. It’s true that the majority of websites are registered with .com, Google and other search engines wouldn’t see you site in a different way. It will be treated just like any other site. If you feel .blog, .education, or .space best reflects your site (or has the name you want) then go for it. Some extensive research has been conducted by Versign to show the number of .coms in existence.
You can use the tool directly below to check if your name is ready to be registered.
Entering your payment information
On the next page, you can enter your payment information. Just make sure your email address used is correct and you check it often. This address is vital as it will allow you to access your account details from Bluehost. Don’t forget to archive those emails.
Select your package information
Choose your payment plan on how far into the future you want to pay. In general, the more months you pay in advance, the cheaper your hosting will be. I personally choose to pay up to 5 years in advance to get the best deal. The monthly cost is very reasonable.
As for extras, it’s best to get domain privacy and automatic backup. Don’t worry if you’re not able to get those extras during the sign-up process, you can add them on at a later time, just send Bluehost a support email and they’ll help you out.
Please note that domain privacy is only available for new domains that are being registered with Bluehost, if you have an existing name then you will need to speak to your existing domain registrar.
Setting a password
Once your purchase is complete you’ll be asked by Bluehost to choose a password as follows:
Don’t forget to choose a strong password. I often use 4 dictionary words together and then use a combination of numbers.
Picking a theme
Next, Bluehost lets you choose a theme for your blog right away. Personally, it’s best not to use a free theme as many are not always kept up to date. Sometimes young designers create free themes to demonstrate their skills and then sell additional services for their themes. If you use an outdated theme, then this could be an opening for attack by hackers. It’s always good to use the latest themes from reliable vendors. Choosing a theme for now will be enough for the short to medium term while you arrange your initial pages and setup your site up.
When I first started my teaching blog I simply used the default theme for over a year until I decided to move on to something else that fit my needs.
Once done, note your temporary domain. If you elected to choose a domain at a later stage it should appear at the top of the next page. If it looks unusual with numbers and letters, don’t worry. Just ensure you have made a note of it.
If, however, you chose to register a new domain, the process of propagation (you can read more details about how this works here) will take anything between 1 – 24 hours, this depends on many factors. In the past, I’ve had domains propagate within 30 minutes, and sometimes it has taken me 6 hours.
If you are using a domain that was registered elsewhere, then you will need to change your DNS name servers to Bluehost. You can either call you own domain registrar to help or contact Bluehost support.
Whatever situation you are in with domains, you are ready to start your site. Before any pages are published you site will have a ‘coming soon’ page ready for the world until you make pages visible.
Working with WordPress
WordPress is a well-established and mature software product that powers millions of websites around the world. It’s a very power platform which has thousands of developers creating themes, plugins and extensions, which all contribute to the features and functions of the platform. It’s also fast as it can utilising cache functions to speed up your site for free. Lastly, it probably has the best fully integrated SEO features too, making it easier for people to find content on your site through Google.
We’re now going to configure important settings in WordPress to get you off to a running start.
Using the WordPress dashboard
This is the heart of your new site and you’ll be using this page for every aspect of your new blog. From installing plugins to making posts and pages.
There are options to use the Start Up Wizard to create and ‘Personal’ and ‘Business’ site, but in all honesty, it’s best to create it all on your own so that you have an effective understanding of the features and to develop the site over the years. Choose ‘I don’t need help’ as we are going to start fresh and make changes and improvements as we need them.
Getting to know your settings
Making the best start in WordPress is all about knowing what to change and why. Firstly, it’s best to close out the dashboard notifications so it’s less cluttered in the admin dashboard pages. Each time you install a new plugin or when your attention in need a notification will appear here again. So, it’s always good to have a quick read and then just cross out the dialogue box.
Changing your username
For a number of years now it’s widely known that the default username for every WordPress installation is ‘Admin’. With this information nefarious hackers often try to guess passwords by repeatedly typing (or with some software) passwords. Lazy or perhaps absent-minded users would still use ‘Admin’ and ‘123456’ as their passwords. Remember, anyone who gets access to your blog will be able to destroy your hard graft and thus send you back to the very beginning.
By avoiding ‘Admin’ as the username you’re able to sidestep many of the low-effort attacks on your site. It’s also a great way to be vigilant in the future when creating usernames.
Navigate to Users > All Users
You should see just one user ‘Admin’. At the top of the page click ‘Add New’. Create a new username, it can be anything you like, but ensure that it’s less obvious than Admin. A good choice would be that of letters and numbers. Then ensure you have given that user Administrator privileges .
Now that’s done log out and then log back in using the new username and password.
Once back in you can remove the previous ‘Admin’ username. Again, please ensure you attribute all posts to another user using the drop down menu.
From this point forward your WordPress username and password is that of the new user. You should not be using Admin again.
Ensure your site title, tagline, and email address are all accurately reflected. These settings can be changed at anytime, but for now choose something that best shows what you’re doing now on the site. The Tagline for ESLDebates is currently ‘Free Debating Resources for Teachers’.
Don’t change your site URL and address until your domain name has been registered and has settled. As I explained before it takes between 1 – 24 hours for a new domain to propagate. This can be done the following day so as to minimise complications.
WordPress installs a number of plugins or has published a few pages or posts to get your started. In reality these exist to give you an idea of the ropes and are not really needed in any way. They don’t serve any purpose but to help new users to navigate around and help them understand modifications they make.
Removing the following means you’re no longer shouting to the world that you’re “new”:
- Meta Widget. Your sidebar contains widgets which can allow you to have images or text or other features. By default WordPress adds a widget to your frontpage that has links to your admin page. To remove it go to Appearance > Widget . Find the widget called ‘Meta’ on the right hand side of the scnreen and click the small arrow to expand its contents. Find the delete button and then it’s gone.
- The ‘Hello World’ Post. Go to Posts > All Posts . Hover over the post title and click the “Trash” link.
- The ‘Sample Page’. Go to Pages > All Pages. Hover over the page title and click the “Trash” link.
maximizing your website structure
How Google and Bing see your website is invaluable. Making sure your pages are using the best Search Engine Optimization (SEO) could increase your page ranking and allow more people to find it naturally through searches. To give a quick example. I had optimised my pages on controversial debates, debates on faiths, and lessons on TED Talks, and this resulted in thousands of people visiting my site.
Managing good SEO is a habit that will be incorporated into every post and page. The linking structure of your website is automatically generated and follows a formula set by the user.
Let’s have a look at links (or permalinks). Consider the following three structures:
- https://esldebates.com /?p=3439475
- https://esldebates.com /2019/12/1/35353/
- https://esldebates.com /56-debating-topics-on-religion-and-faith/
Of the three above which would you think is the best for SEO? Given that Google and Bing algorithms are able to read text, it’s easy to say that the third is the best . This is because it contains the essential keywords for that page. Ensuring all your posts are using this schema is ideal. Let’s go ahead and do that.Go to Settings > Permalinks Set the blog permalink structure to ‘Post Name’ so that the link shows the title of the post and nothing else.
The best plugins to use[THIS SECTION IS BEING UPDATED]
Switching to a secure domain
Lets have a look at the two URLs below:
- http s ://esldebates.com/
As you can see the first example has an extra ‘s’, this means that the site is secure and can be trusted by others. Once your domain is fully registered and recognised (meaning, you’re not using a temporary domain). You can following this guide here on Bluehost to help you get this organised.
Be aware, thanks to Let’s Encrypt, a project to get more sites secured for free, many hosting companies can offer free SSL security on your site for free. No additional fees are required in many circumstances.
Getting in to your WordPress again
To get to your WordPress Admin page again go to your browser’s bar and type in https://yourdomain.com/admin/
From there you will see a login page and you can enter your login information. Don’t forget this is your new login and not your old one which was by default ‘admin’.
If you’re not able to get into your WordPress admin page, you can always have secondary access through your Bluehost account.
What to write?
It’s fair to say that you want to produce content for teachers, students, and to generally broaden education in some way. That said, try to write according to a theme and to avoid writing randomly. Stay focussed and try to stick to a particular topic.
Pick a topic
Education is a broad topic and there are many areas to focus on. It is better to stay close to a single topic or a select group of topics. This is your niche. Using this a map you are able to create posts and pages around an area. Over time this means you are becoming an expert. It also means you are able to be easily found. It makes sense that if you are blogging repeatedly on say, homeschooling, that more and more people will be drawn to your content. You have multiple posts on a topic that people are keen to read and be interested in. For my teaching blog, I was keen to develop higher-level teaching materials to share with the world.
Within the realm of education you can focus on:
- lesson planning
- teaching style and strategies
- self-help work
- vocab for a particular use
- videos on pronunciation
- listening exercises
Once you have you chosen topic, say grammar, then you are to focus more on this theme. You target is to become an expert in this topic so that it stands out from other websites and resources online.
At the same time try not to focus too much. Choosing English grammar is a good start. You must think how you can compete with The British Council or other sites. Perhaps grammar worksheets or video grammar lessons would be a better topic to choose. However, going further to say grammar topics with videos on adjectives would be too much. There needs to be a balance between to specifc and too general.
What do your readers want?
Creating a popular education blog relies on a few important factors.
Solve a problem. Why are people searching for articles online? It’s usually to solve a problem that they have. They are looking for a solution or a new method to help them. Here at ESL Debates I make debating lesson plans for ESL teachers.
Bring something new. What can you do to help people produce something they are interested in but lack the skills or knowledge to do so? Maybe you have a better way to teach maths? Perhaps you know how teachers should be teaching spoken performance? Whatever it is how can you make an existing practice better?
Help teachers to reach a goal. As teachers we all have common ambitions. We want to make our classes more interesting, to have better worksheet,s and to have more current materials. What can your teaching blog do to make that happen?
Basic website structure
Now we’ve got the basics out-of-the-way let’s get down to some writing! WordPress organises content into Posts, which are about a theme, and then Pages, which are more permanent with information which doesn’t change.
Examples of Posts are:
- Best adjectives to use in debates
- Most used phrases for persuasive language
- TED Talks debating videos
Examples of Pages are:
- About Us
Generally speaking Pages are used to make menus and links on your sidebar to less changed content. Posts are the regular articles and content to make your site have things to read.Go to Pages > Add New to create a page. Once you’re done making a page, you can click Publish so that it can become viewable.
Most sites will need the following pages to be trusted by Google and other users.
- About Us. Explain to the world who you are and what you are trying to achieve in your teaching blog. Make sure you write just a few lines and tell your readers how you will help them.
- Contact. Where can people find you? Try to have you email written in the following way: themoderator AT esldebates DOT com. By using “AT” instead of “@” and “DOT” instead of “.” you can lowering your chance to get spam in your inbox. Computers are able to read email addresses, so every little helps. As your site gets bigger you can arrange a FAQ section here or on another page.
- Resources. Use this page to list websites you feel are useful for your users. Not only does it help your audience but it is a clear way of telling Google and Bing what theme your blog falls under. Additionally, if you write a guest post on another blog, you can put their website details on this page.
When starting to write your first post most bloggers then to write a post about “how I started this blog”. It’s best to avoid this and go straight into what you’re blogging about. Talk in-depth and at length about your chosen topic. Having longer detailed posts are what people are looking for. Try to draft posts that are at least 800 words in length, and think of creating 20% of your posts to be longer, at around 2000 words.
Upon launch, it’s good to have:
- At least 5 – 7 posts that are detailed and totally unique. This site on companies and industrial developments in China (my own site) followed this rule, and it now gets regular traffic.
- Attempt to have a conveyor belt of posts in various stages of development that can be published in the future. Around 10 – 20 is ideal.
Composing articles usually come in a particular format:
- How to articles (How to use free debate lesson plans)
- Pros and cons article
- A checklist article (List of debate motions on faith and religion)
- A things-to-do article
- A problem and solution article
- A goal-setting article
- A holiday article
- A personal story article
When it comes to starting your teaching blog you will need to make a choice on what content type you’ll be needing.
Make it yours
Since you’ve got some content it’s time to think about your theme (not too much, just consider the basics)
It’s easy to get excited about all the options and modifications that are possible. It’s best to keep things simple. The more complex your theme, ti’s easier for things to break. Keeping things simple for your teaching blog is the best bet going forward.
Choose a simple theme to begin with so that you can focus on your content.
If you are thinking of a new theme you’ve got to consider the following:
- A theme that is mobile, tablet, and desktop friendly. It’s easy to view and adapt to all of these sizes. Around 48% of all sites are be used by mobile users, so it’s important to think about viewable area for these users.
- Image positions. Do you want images to be above the posts or by their side?
- Sidebar positions. There are many options, but the most popular is to have a single side bar to the right of the content.
Getting traffic to your teaching blog
There are many ways to make money from your site. Do keep in mind that having steady and growing traffic (or visitors) is the key to building a sustainable income. The important thing is the keep creating high-quality content that will want people to come back over and over.
Generally speaking these are the most common ways to develop revenue from a site:
- Build an email list.
- affiliate marketing.
- Launch a product.
There you go teachers! I hope you find this guide useful in finding a way to make your name online.
Do let me know personally if there are any issues and I’ll try to help any way I can. You can leave messages below if you have any questions.