Bluehost versus Fairy Blog Mother with ‘How to Start a Blog’ Tutorials

Comparative Review Bluehost blog tutorials

There are plenty of video blog tutorials on the web showing you how to set up a blog. They come in many shapes and sizes, all kinds of learning levels, and focus on various blogging elements deemed to be the most important.

And that’s just it. Most technical people assume people who blog are the same as them. They’re used to blog tutorials that are fast-moving with whizzing cursors, and jargon-filled descriptions merrily sailing through each click without waiting for the user to catch up.

Therefore they presume they should produce something equivalent to teach others how to blog.

However, this sort of attitude towards creating blog tutorials will leave some would-be bloggers totally confused and frustrated. They blink unbelievingly at the video they are watching, which leaves them none the wiser for this learning experience they are enduring.

Too old to blog?

I have had plenty of exasperated and worried first-time bloggers asking me to explain something they’ve just seen elsewhere.

After I’ve finished, and the penny has finally dropped, they often say “Why didn’t the other person explain it like that?”.  Well, it was probably because they couldn’t.  They hadn’t experienced the same level of ‘not understanding’ as a real beginner.

I remember tearing my hair out because I didn’t understand what half the words meant when I first started blogging. There was this young whipper-snapper on an online help-forum who immediately dismissed me as “too old to blog”. If I could have physically throttled him, I would have.

In fact it’s absolutely rubbish that anyone is too old to blog. All that is needed is a different, more suitable style of teaching. They need a teacher who appreciates how each new blogger thinks, and delivers it in a way that is not condescending, but helpful.

The teacher needs to explain what’s going to happen, visually and slowly show exactly what is happening, and reassuringly explain the result once it has happened.

So what about Bluehost’s blog tutorials?

I wanted to find a really big shot in the blogging world who provided blog tutorials to make a comparison with my own blog tutorials. So I naturally turned to ProBlogger’s page How to Start a Blog in 5 Steps to see what he offered.

In fact ProBlogger doesn’t provide his own tutorials, but uses the ones created by Bluehost, which is the blog hosting company he recommends.

This was equally disappointing and interesting. Disappointing because Darren Rowse didn’t think it was worth his while to create his own blog tutorials, and interesting that he was quite happy to offload the task onto Bluehost.

Darren has written heaps of posts, podcasts, books and other resources explaining many aspects of how to blog. However, hosting companies have a different attitude towards explaining things than a blogging guru. I suspected Bluehost wouldn’t be as patient, slow-paced and explanatory as I would be.

And, of course, they would be dealing with WordPress.org blogs, as they recommend WordPress as a suitable Content Management System (CMS), whereas I prefer to break in my beginners with WordPress.com, because I view it as a blogging medium.

How Bluehost views new WordPress users

 
  • They promote WordPress.org
  • WordPress is a CMS for business websites
  • They assume users are reasonably technical
  • Everything is business orientated
  • These tutorials are an exercise to promote Bluehost

How I approach new WordPress bloggers

 
  • I prefert to start training with WordPress.com
  • WordPress is a blogging platform
  • I focus on totally non-technical users
  • I focus on blogging rather than business
  • I want to teach the basics properly

I went through all 10 video blog tutorials presented on the page, starting with the first one from Step 3:

Video 1: How to install WordPress

This video is about how to install WordPress using Mojo Marketplace. This is a one-click-install system that has made the process of setting up a WordPress.org blog so much easier since I first started blogging a decade ago.

I liked this video. The female narrator was clear with good dialogue. I really appreciated the red pencil circling things she wanted her viewers to focus on, and she went through the process methodically and not too fast.

However, I didn’t approve her suggestion of adding a directory to the root (this bit went far to fast for my liking with very little explanation). Also there was very limited information on creating good usernames and passwords, which I would take great pains to do so.

Things that were good

 
  • Clear, good dialogue
  • Delivered fairly slowly
  • Red circling pen that highlighted focused areas

Things that were not good

 
  • Mentioned unnecessary additions that created confusion
  • Limited information in certain areas

Focusing on how-to add content

The next set of videos in Step 4 had a change in presenter. Unfortunately Dave was not a good choice, even if he is an important figure in Bluehost.

I suppose he was trying to be friendly, but it didn’t come across like that. The over-familiar attitude was extremely off-putting and made me feel uneasy. There was too much of him chatting in front of his fire and not enough focusing on WordPress. For my users, he would not have gone down well.

See my tweetable below:

Blog tutorials need to factual not over-familiar, empathetic not ingratiating, relatable not confusing. Click to tweet

Video 2: Login and admin area

Dave’s delivery of this tutorial was to try and be simple. But by doing so he came across more garbled and confusing because he sailed through introducing each item too quickly.

Simplicity is not glossing over things to save time. You can explain things simply by referencing them to something your users can relate to.

For example, I liken WordPress’s Dashboard to a hotel foyer. This is where you can access the features and facilities (like the restaurant, bar, stairs to the rooms) as shown in the left sidebar.

Creating confusion

Obviously Dave had planned his tutorials to include additional subjects in later videos. Because he is addressing a business market, he thought it was useful to mention certain elements to keep his watchers engaged. Unfortunately referring to multiple users and plugins at this stage may have resulted putting off some users even before they had started!

Dave’s delivery was not his best asset. I suppose being American didn’t help. Recommending people to be inquisitive and experimenting with various areas of WordPress to see what happens was admirable. However, his phrase “Get comfortable, you’re moving in!” with his creepy smile really made me cringe!

How Dave explained it

 
  • Explained ‘back end’ unsatisfactory
  • Mentioned elements that would have caused confusion
  • Over simplified the login procedure
  • Inadequate description of left sidebar contents

How I would have taught it

 
  • Liken Dashboard to a hotel foyer
  • Explain its contents better
  • Focus on simple descriptions to avoid unnecessary confusion
  • Better explanation of login procedure

What Dave did well

 
  • Encouraged users to try things out
  • Recommended opening a new tab to see changes
  • Description and management of holding page

Video 3: Creating pages

Dave’s main focus was to introduce WordPress as a medium to create business websites. Therefore to him webpages were more important than blog posts. So it was inevitable for him to introduce them first.

However, I would avoid creating pages at this point in my blog tutorials. I like to start my beginner bloggers off with WordPress.com (so they don’t have to worry about hosts, domains and other expenses), so the most natural thing they would like to do first is to create a post.

Dave’s visual directions started off at a reasonable pace, but after a while they sped up, so you really needed to focus hard on the cursor to see what was happening. It was obvious he doesn’t appreciate stragglers that need time to catch up.

These are the processes Dave whizzed through at breakneck speed:

  • Deleting pages
  • Creating links
  • Editing permalinks
  • Adding images

These are what Dave explained badly:

  • Permalinks
  • Subheadings

Set the scene first

One thing I think is important is explaining what my users see when they are confronted with something different. It is part of the reassurance tactic. See my tweetable below:

If new bloggers feel comfortable with their surroundings, they can follow learning processes better. Click to tweet!

There are some elements that require a good explanatory description before users are told how they can use it. I never assume they know anything in advance. Even if they do know, hopefully they will still listen to what I have to say, as sometimes they can learn something new.

(This is exactly what happened with Dave’s tutorial, as I learned another way of getting rid of comment boxes at the bottom of pages.)

There are some elements, like the editing icons, that deserve a video of their own. These are usually included in the process of creating a page (or post), but the explanation is usually whisked through far too quickly. I think it would be much better to give them the time they deserve in a separate tutorial.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Introduced pages before posts
  • Cursor moved too fast to see it properly
  • Showed processes too fast to understand what happened the first time around
  • Used a lot of jargon
  • Gave misinformed information
  • Provided inadequate explanations

How I would have taught it

 
  • Introduce posts before pages
  • Move cursor slowly to allow users to catch up
  • Explain what users see before demonstrating a function
  • Slow down the ‘how-to’ process considerably
  • Create a separate video to explain some elements better

What Dave did well

 
  • Explained the Text and Visual view modes
  • Information about image suitability
  • Alternative method of removing comment boxes

Video 4: Creating posts

Interestingly, Dave doesn’t consider blog posts to be that important. Hence why he placed them in this secondary role to pages. To him WordPress is principally an easy-to-use CMS for a business website.

For me it’s the other way around. See my tweetable below:

WordPress blogs are designed to create blog posts. Only by adding static pages it can become a website. Click to tweet! 

Therefore how Dave understood posts meant his style of teaching was different. He focused on jargon he thought was important to businesses, such as keywords in permalinks. Even though he skimmed over page formats, it was in preparation for inserting different kinds of media, such as podcasts, videos, pdfs, etc.

The power of words

For me, it is the writing element that should be foremost. Proper explanation about titles, headers, sentences, paragraphs, permalink editing, saving, scheduling, and publishing is required. Words and images here should take centre stage, and keywords require a careful mention in how they can be used effectively.

Dave’s explanation of inserting podcasts, videos and pdfs into posts was definitely designed for more technically minded users. His delivery was at breakneck speed, even I had difficulty keeping up. This was much more of showing what could be done, rather than how to do it.

Blog tutorials should include a followable ‘how-to’ when something is introduced, otherwise it’s not a tutorial. Click to tweet

New items should be explained as well as shown, slowly, carefully and with consideration. For example, inserting media into a post is a complicated subject for a beginner, which I would have thought was more appropriate as an intermediary level.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Posts take a secondary role
  • Skimmed introduction of features
  • Focused on inappropriate features
  • Extremely fast introduction to inserting media

How I would have taught it

 
  • Posts more important than pages
  • Focus more on writing
  • Better explanation of features on editing page
  • Much slower teaching for inserting media

What Dave did well

 
  • Reserved categories and tags for another video

Video 5: Categories and tags

It seemed to me that categories and tags were a bit confusing to Dave, as if he didn’t really understand them properly.

However, he did have a purpose for them, which was revealed in a later video, though I didn’t know that when I first watched this tutorial.

He launched straight into creating child categories off the Uncategorized category, which I would not have done. I would also have edited Uncategorized first (showing the users slowly), and then explained the parent versus child situation better. I would also have improved on my explanation of categories and keywords (Dave is obsessed with mentioning keywords!).

Too quick!

Dave’s explanation of how to allocate categories in Quick Edit was so fast, I had to go back and look at it again!

His explanation of tags as miniature categories was just plain wrong! They are more like secondary keywords. This again showed Dave’s lack of understanding in this subject. This resulted in a very disappointing video.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Teaching delivery far too fast to follow properly
  • Keyword advice regarding categories inappropriate
  • Description of tags is wrong
  • Explanation of tags vs categories very confusing

How I would have taught it

 
  • Better explanation of both categories and tags
  • Show how they relate to the post and each other
  • Explain their function better
  • Slow down teaching delivery considerably

What Dave did well

 
  • Good explanation of where categories can be seen in a post

Video 6: Using plugins

Now we are venturing into an intermediary level of blog tutorials here, leaving my beginners behind. This is particularly so if I was teaching in WordPress.com, where widgets are used instead. Dave introduced widgets almost as an afterthought in a later video.

However, plugins have a prominent role in WordPress.org websites, which is why Dave introduced them here. Even so, his explanation of what they are was limited, which was a shame, as I suspect he knows quite a lot about plugins.

Introducing 3 plugins

He first introduced the plugin Akismet, which is a spam eater installed into a WordPress website by default. A rapid explanation of how to activate it failed to mention it requires a WordPress.com account.

The next suggested plugin was for a form for the Contact page. Dave’s explanation of how to find an appropriate plugin, how to select it via rating and when it was last updated, and what to look for within the plugin’s details, was very good indeed.

But he fell short with his delivery of how to insert and activate it, as this was a bit too fast for comfort. His explanation about shortcodes and how they can be implemented in a page was also good, but equally delivered too rapidly. No details were given about how to optimise the plugin ready for use.

Showing expertise

Dave really revealed his expertise when he showed how to insert a Google map into the Contact page. It’s a pity all his other deliveries were not as good as this.

The third plugin was for a Gallery slider, as these appear to be all the rage for simple business websites. Dave’s grease lightening explanation of how to set it up was only suitable for more technically minded users. But even then some would have had trouble coping.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Insufficient explanation about plugins
  • Introduced Akismet, Contact Form and Gallery plugins
  • Advised about how to select, insert and activate plugins
  • Explained shortcodes and how to implement them
  • Rapid delivery on how to set up the Gallery plugin

How I would have taught it

 
  • Mention Akismet needs a WordPress.com account to activate it
  • More advice about optimising settings of chosen plugins
  • Choose simpler plugins as examples
  • Deliver teaching at a much slower pace
  • Reserve this tutorial to an intemediate level

What Dave did well

 
  • Excellent explanation how to insert a Google map into the Contact page
  • Very good explanation how to choose the most appropriate plugin
  • Good explanation about shortcodes

Video 7: Customising themes

Here Dave was in his element, as he obviously enjoyed showing how a website can look. However, most of what he explained in this tutorial was very dependent upon the theme he had chosen. And since most of it was delivered again at grease lightening, all you could do was to sit and watch!

The expected explanations about where to find themes, how to preview them, advice on which theme to choose, how to upload them, and a quick reference to the customisation area was delivered in this tutorial. Dave had chosen a theme he thought would be suitable for a restaurant, although he didn’t mention its name.

Let’s get visual!

He showed how to create a simple banner (including the cropping procedure), how to add a logo, how the theme’s options accommodate a background (with an awful result!), how to take away sidebars in the pages (dependent upon the theme), and how to add a favicon (but not how to obtain one).

He also showed how to add a slider. He casually mentioned the need of a plugin, but not which one, and the setting up method was delivered like a whirlwind! Since the slider conflicted with the banner, this was removed, and now I realised why he didn’t bother explaining much about banners.

And at the end of the video Dave introduced Bluehost’s special offer for premium themes and upgrading free themes in relation to the separate premium theme video he mentioned at the beginning. There has to be an ulterior motive for these free blog tutorials after all!

How Dave explained it

 
  • Explained and advises about themes
  • Offered a separate video about premium themes
  • Homepage creation almost overlooked
  • Most features were dependent upon the theme used
  • How to add a slider was also far too fast

How I would have taught it

 
  • Slow down the teaching pace considerably and explained things better
  • Focus much better on creating a hompage
  • Provide more information about favicons
  • Use better visual examples
  • Use a more generic theme

What Dave did well

 
  • Suggested people experiment to find something suitable

Video 8: Menus and widgets

Dave glossed over his description of the navigation bar and inadequately explained why some pages showed and others didn’t. It was all a bit haphazard and confusing.

However, he successfully delivered clear, if somewhat fast, tutorials on how to create a menu and how to upload widgets into the sidebars, header and footers. He took advantage of the theme’s features, which may have been confusing to those who weren’t using the same theme, such as the ability to change templates and their corresponding sidebar elements.

I didn’t like his suggestion for a category tab in the navigation bar for the blog posts. I would have created a separate blog page to show the blog post listings, and placed a category widget in the sidebar.

Also I would not compare widgets with menus. Widgets are like extra applications you can add to your sidebar, etc, to increase the functionality of your blog. Menus allow you to organise your navigation bars better.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Very brief description of navigation bar
  • Described how to create a menu
  • The comparison of widgets with menus is wrong
  • Described how to upload widgets
  • Added blog posts tab to menu via category option
  • Explanation dependent upon theme’s features

How I would have taught it

 
  • Explain menus and widgets are not similar, but quite different
  • Describe navigation bar in more appropriate way
  • Explain how-to tutorials at a much slower pace
  • Add blog post to menu via blog page, not category option
  • Would use a more appropriate generic theme

What Dave did well

 
  • Clear explanation of how to create a menu, but delivered a bit fast
  • Clear explanation of how to upload widgets into sidebars, also delivered too fast

Video 9: Creating and managing multiple users

This video is very much orientated to a business website, whereas a blogger would not think about having multiple authors when they are just starting out.

Dave gave good, clear, quick descriptions on each of the user type accounts and how to create a new one. He also warned about when a colleague leaves the company and the importance of deleting their account for security purposes, and showed how to do this clearly.

However, nothing is mentioned about security regarding usernames and passwords, which is something every WordPress user ought to know about.

And interestingly, because Dave ignores the value of blog posts, he failed to mention anything about filling in the details within a user account, and how this can affect Bio Box plugins that show more information about each author.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Managing multiple users is suitable for business websites
  • Showed how to create and delete a user account
  • Nothing mentioned about user profiles

How I would have taught it

 
  • A beginner blogger would probably be the sole author of their blog
  • Explain about usernames and passwords and how to create and change them
  • Explain about editing the user profile and settings
  • Explain about bio boxes

What Dave did well

 
  • Good description of the user type accounts
  • Clear description how to create a user account
  • Clear reminder to delete user account after a colleague leaves the company

Video 10: Marketing your website

There always has to be a summing up video at the end, so Dave had chosen to provide some tips about marketing your new business website.

Interestingly the first thing he said was to keep adding “fresh new content on a regular basis”. He casually mentioned this should be in pages and blog posts, the latter being a medium he has glossed over somewhat during the blog tutorials. I wonder if he got that idea from reading Step 5 of Darren’s content, who is, of course, talking about blogs and not business websites.

Another tip is to include the business website URL in all the company’s marketing and communication materials, though he didn’t give examples.

His many ‘attempts’ at mentioning keywords throughout these blog tutorials seemed to be his way of suggesting ideas for SEO (search engine optimisation). Anybody listening would have failed to glean much information from this, so he went on to recommend Bluehost’s SEO services (well, he has to get something from these blog tutorials).

Remember to be social

Dave then moved onto social media. He stated this is a method of getting friends and followers to share website content, and emphasised the power of recommendation through social proof. He reminded you to keep your social media profiles “fresh with interesting new content on a regular basis” (a bit like the website), making sure it is “casual and personal”.

Then he recommended sharing the website’s content into social media via a plugin or a “specialised functionality in the theme option screen under the Appearance menu”. If you didn’t get any of that, I’m not surprised!

What he meant is that if you have activated the Jetpack plugin, which is installed by default into WordPress.org blogs, there is a section that enables you to automatically set up a feed into social media whenever you publish something on your website.

Get backed up

Regularly backing up your website is good advice, for peace of mind and content restoration should anything disastrous go wrong. Of course he took advantage of this opportunity to plug the Bluehost’s ProBackup system. He did suggest an alternative to create backups via the Tools tab in the Dashboard sidebar, and showed you how to export and import backups from and into your website.

He then finished his blog tutorials with a reminder to regularly update WordPress and any plugins on your website as a security measure, and briefly showed you how to do this.

How Dave explained it

 
  • Keep adding “fresh new content on a regular basis”
  • Plaster the URL over all promotional material
  • Use Bluehost’s SEO and backup services
  • Confused information about RSS feeds
  • Remember to update regularly

How I would have taught it

 
  • Write blogs consistently at a rate you can manage
  • How to make your blog’s URL visible
  • Provide simple SEO advice and how to use an appropriate plugin
  • Show what the default plugins have to offer
  • Remind about updating and security

What Dave did well

 
  • Sorry Dave, nothing to report from this video!

What wasn’t mentioned in these blog tutorials that should have been?

Settings

It amazes me how many people don’t go through the Settings to make sure they’ve got the right time zone, language, date set-up, etc, not to mention optimising the blog’s title and strapline. The same sort of people would probably not change the Uncategorized category or delete the Hello Dolly plugin given to you with the other default plugins.

Commenting

So many websites are turning off their commenting facilities nowadays, even though the big shots that closed them down are now opening them again!

However, it is important to go through the Discussion Settings to make sure all comments are moderated by you first before they are published, rather than allowing previously approved commenters to be automatically published. This way spammers can get a toe hold and you will find it difficult to get rid of them.

There are lots of tips and tricks about coping and recognising spam, how to write good comments on other blogs, and how to cope with trolls and other unscrupulous beings on the web.

Is there anything I’ve left out of my blog tutorials?

If so, let me know in the comment box below. I would love to hear from you!

Meanwhile, if you are looking for a good set of tutorials on how to set up a blog, perfectly designed for you as a beginner that needs extra help, rather than a series of videos that rattle through the subjects at a rate of knots, then consider looking at what I have to offer.

As well as my usual blog tutorials, I also can provide bespoke videos specifically designed to answer your personal questions, and solve any problems that are keeping you from reaching your goals. Plenty of bloggers have relished their personal videos, which have made their lives easier and improved their blogging performance considerably.

Why not book a complimentary blog review to see what I have to offer? You’ll receive a video showing what I found that was good, and recommendations to make improvements. And if necessary, I could explain the video more clearly in a 1:1 Skype call.

All you need to do is to click on the button below:

Click here to find out more about your complimentary blog review!

I look forward to hearing from you.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.
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