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How To Start a Blog With AARP: Is Their Training Enough?

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AARP LogoDid you know that AARP has a section on their website where you can learn how to start a blog?  But is their training enough?  Have they provided you with the tools to completely learn how to set up a website and learn the best blogging practices, and, should you wish, learn how to monetize your site?

In my opinion, AARP has provided an excellent starting point to begin your own blog and even provide some recommended blog hosting sites that you should take a look at.

Let’s review what they offer and if it’s sufficient.  Click on the colored tab below to review their “How to Set Up a Blog by Using WordPress”.

 

 

Who Is AARP?

AARP is the acronym for the American Association of Retired Persons and their mission statement includes, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps people 50 and older improve the quality of their lives”.  They have an “Who We Are” page that will describe their overall goals, including their Code of Conduct. 

This is obviously a respected online community and truly does have the interests of its members at heart.  The information available is certainly worth checking out for all Baby Boomers.

 

How to Blog – What AARP Covers

The training on the AARP website is organized into 5 sections.  I will be referring to the five sections that have been included and have copied the link here should you want to review it for yourself.  I have listed them here with my comments within each section.

 

AARP Setting up a Blog Table of Contents

 

 Section 1: The Basics

Claims that you will be shown how to set up a blog or a website from start to finish.

Notes that there are only two things you need to do:

  1. Sign up for web hosting and choose a domain name
  2. Use WordPress to create your blog

 

While the above information is correct, there is more that you should know prior to setting up your blog.

For instance:

  • What niche will your website be in?  There are millions of websites on the internet and how do you determine what your website will be about and if there are people looking for your niche?
  • As an example, writing about antique cars might be a passion of yours but that may be too broad a term and have a lot of competing traffic that you will not rank well in.  However, hood ornaments for antique cars is a very specialized niche and there are further sub-niches you can dig deeper into.

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Here is a search with just “antique cars”:

Antique Cars Search Results

 

This is what it looks like if you search for “antique car hood ornaments”:

Antique Cars Hood Ornaments Search Results

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  • Over 39 million compared to over 300,000 shows that you would increase your chances of being found with the correct way to do keyword research.  This should then be drilled down even further.
  • I wholeheartedly support the recommendation to build your website using WordPress.  This blog post you are reading uses a WordPress theme and I have found it to be extremely easy to use and it comes with many options.  However, specific training on things like pages, posts, plugins, etc. are not covered in the AARP training.

 

Section 2: Web Hosting

The training does address your need to choose your domain or website name.

It then goes on to discuss web hosting and your requirements to have someone host your website, usually for a low monthly fee, which is a requirement for anyone who wants to own their own website.

 

Again, I found that the training provided barely scratched the surface of what you truly need to know:

  • Choosing your domain name is, of course, one of the first things you need to do but this training does fall short in showing you how to do that.
  • As the training notes, you also need to find out if your chosen name is available but, besides promoting their recommended website host, the article gives little direction on how to do that.  I’ve done some research on this and have found some tips that that work for me which you can read here.

 

Section 3: Website Design

As noted, WordPress is the recommended platform to use for your website and I totally agree with the AARP author on this point.

There are a couple of WordPress screenshots that give you an insider’s look at what the website would look like to your visitors and what the dashboard looks like to you as the site owner.

The author uses and recommends FatCow and does indicate there is additional training should you sign up with them.  I am not aware of this web host and so will offer no comments here but will let you check it out for yourself in the link noted above.

 

Knowing what I know about WordPress and the many options available, I found this section to be over-simplified.

  • There are other platforms that are available that are free; such as Google’s Blogger or even micro blogs like Squidoo or Tumblr.
  • There are thousands of WordPress themes available to you, free or paid, and many of them are designed with a purpose in mind; i.e. themes for photography, newsletters, or even ones that work best for monetization.  This is important when selecting your theme and it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices available to you.

 

Section 4: Extra Information

Fortunately, there are a number of additional articles you can link to from this page.  The categories include:

  • General Information
  • Blogging
  • Business Sites

 

These links are very useful but, again, fall short on providing the detail and training that all of us, especially beginners, would need to have in order to launch a successful website.

  • While there is reference to the importance of keywords, traffic, and even monetization, I think that most Baby Boomer bloggers would be left thirsting for more detail and further direction than what is provided here.
  • I also note that this beginner’s guide is originally dated from 2009.  There have been many changes to websites and how to get your posts ranked in the search engines in the past 4 years.  Look at the Panda update Google invoked in the spring of 2013.  This has had a huge effect on websites that were identified as spammers or even pyramid schemes.  It’s important to keep up with the changes that are occurring, even if it’s to add an additional article about them.

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Google Penguin

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  • Social media is another important aspect if you own a website and want to “get the word out there”.  You need to be able to post your latest articles and engage with your social networks.

 

Section 5: Start Making Your Site

As noted above, the author is predisposed to FatCow as the website host of choice and now walks you through how to set up your site using that service.

WordPress is then used as the platform of choice to launch your website.

 

As previously noted, I do not have any experience with FatCow so will not make a recommendation here about it.  But the author is correct with the process you need to follow:

  • Select a host.
  • Select a WordPress theme (and most of them are very easy to set up).

 

The training that is provided to start your site is a good place to jump in and “get your feet wet” but I think that most folks serious about creating their own website will quickly realize that you are left with more questions than there are answers.

I also found the information regarding Search Engine Optimization very limited given the importance of what you must do to have your website found by the search engines.

If you would rather start your own site for free then it’s worth your time to review who offers a more complete education and that covers all the concerns I have noted above.

 

Member Posts

I do want to mention that the AARP site provides members with the opportunity to submit posts and potentially have them read by thousands of other members. This is a great feature and something that I plan on taking advantage of.  You are even given the ability to search blogs by subject matter.

AARP Search Blogs

 

There is also an online search box in the Groups Directory which I think is incredibly useful so you can read what others are doing, post your questions, or even just chat with fellow members.  This is something that every online community should provide as they are typically well attended by the members.

AARP Groups Directory

 

 

Conclusion

While I think that the free online blog training hosted on AARP is a great way to start, outlines the basic steps, and provides for members to blog, I think it falls short of what could be offered.

Anyone new to the world of websites will quickly realize that something seems to be lacking and the training is not all that it needs to be in order to ensure your online success.

 

My Recommendation

I have reviewed a number of different online opportunities that claim to provide the training and support that I was looking for.  After being “burned” a few times, I have found one that provides everything that I was looking for and offers so much more than what AARP provides.  You can read my review of Wealthy Affiliate here if you would like.

I’ve also included a screenshot of their free training for new members, which includes videos and lessons to act on.  Compare this to what AARP teaches above and I know you will agree that the difference is immediately noticeable.

 

Screenshot of Wealthy Affiliate Certification 1 Lessons

 

Try out the free membership…it comes with two free websites

Compare their training and support to AARP’s…or any others

Join an online community that teaches that knowledge comes before money

Learn how to build your successful blog

 

Click on the box below and watch a short video…and keep your credit card in your wallet!

 

Thank you for reading and please leave me a comment.

 

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Comments

  1. Hi Rick. I used to host with Fatcow and cannot recommend it. My main complaint is that their servers were frequently down (once or more per month), and I ran into lots of tech issues. Also, they ‘reel’ you in with discounts that make their service look cheaper than others, but those discounts stop after your initial year, and their normal priced packages are pretty much the same as other services.

    I use Hostgator now, and am much happier. Actually, since you mentioned WA, it’s worth noting that WA has good hosting, and it’s great for someone learning to build their business because much of the training in WA is geared towards those that host there too. Plus, because it’s a place for newbies, problems are often solved behind the scenes for you, meaning you don’t have ‘get your hands dirty’.

    • Thanks for reading . I agree that Wealthy Affiliate offers unparalleled blog hosting and I have been very satisfied with their service. During the recent “Twitter scare” we were reassured that our WordPress sites would not be affected and, sure enough, none of mine were. I like to buy my sites, their actually quite cheap for an annual subscription, and then “point” them to WA and keep them hosted there. That way I can build my site and if I need to submit a ticket do so right from the same page. Great seeing you hear and all the best to you.

      • I did not know there was a ‘twitter scare’. What happened?

        • There was a scare earlier this year. Here’s one of the news stories. There was then a lot of discussion at WA about this and the Admin area, members fearful that hackers would be able to get into our Dashboards. But we were assured by the owners that everything was good, that they were monitoring this day by day, and that our sites were OK. It was great to find out that the hosting at WA is secure and we are taken care of. Here is a post from Carson from last June that shows what they are always doing in the background. We’re OK!

  2. It was a very interesting and thorough article. I was unaware of any other places that offered a free start to blogging. Do you think WA is actually the best place to learn how to make a blog page. I can’t remember if you mentioned how much it was either

    • I appreciate your comments. If you missed the link to my review of Wealthy Affiliate here it is again. I review the prices as well as the services that are offered. You can get two free websites and access the Level 1 Certification Training that will get you well on your way. This is free and you only upgrade to Premium if you choose to, which is $49 per month. We are currently doing a Boot Camp as well and free members can access the Phase 1 of 5 sections that will build on your other training. It’s worth checking out for yourself, I think you will quickly see all the advantages as compared to what AARP offers.

      • This was really helpful information and I think I am going to join WA. I have heard some really good things about them and I’m ready to learn how to make websites

        • Hey Ryan, great to hear you want to join WA. You can click here to check it out. It’s such an awesome online community and the training is second to none. But I’ll let you decide for yourself. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I followed your links on the AARP site and agree, they need to at least update the offering for their members.

    This is an introductory overview of what a website entails. There is absolutely no way that someone new to building a site would know how to complete the journey.

    When you consider that most of the clients that see this are typically technologically challenged to start with, this information becomes essentially useless.

    Thanks for this information Rick.

    • I agree, if I had discovered the AARP page when I was starting out I would have thought, “Cool, this looks pretty easy”. I would have then been left frustrated knowing that there were other steps not covered…especially at the beginning that would have help me find my niche, choose a name, know how to get ranked, and have immediate support to a knowledgeable community.

      There seems to be an assumption that Baby Boomers need things spelled out like we’re still in kindergarten (and that was a long time ago anyways). We’re actually a little more savvy than that; after all, we invented television, ice cream makers, and, oh heck…computers. Thanks for reading.

  4. Nice article Rick, I had no idea that AARP even offered blogs. I guess I’m not even close to the age where I would be checking into them yet lol I’m too young for that .I did enjoy your article and it’s good to know that they offer this service. I think the blogs offered at Wealthy Affiliate are of better value and anyone can get started for free with no experience. Thanks for providing us with this information man and keep up the great work you are doing here.

    • Thanks Scott. The AARP training is a good start but I found it lacking in so many ways. There is a lot for the beginner web owner that was missed and that I think is critical to anyone’s online success and they really need to know which is the best blogging site. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I have been using WA for some time now and the support and training they offer to their members has opened up a whole new world for me. I would highly recommend it to everyone.

    • Thank you for your kind words, I’m always glad to see another WA member. If you have a website I would like to take a look.

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