There are plenty of blogs and tutorials out there explaining the strategic side of starting your own blog, for example finding your niche, promoting via social media, etc.
Let me be clear, those things are über important and essential to your success as a commercial blogger, but they won’t do you much good if you aren’t au fait with the technical aspects of starting a blog.
Don’t be intimidated, though. When I started out blogging I was virtually clueless with regards to things like hosting and domains; you might as well have asked me to pilot a spaceship!
But I’m being completely sincere when I tell you that I figured it all out (with the help of a tutorial or two) over the course of a single afternoon. By the evening, I felt confident enough to apply for a job in Silicone Valley. Okay, not really, but you get the idea.
In today’s post, I’ll be teaching you step-by-step how to set up your blog from scratch using the most popular blogging platform (and the one that I use myself), WordPress.
There are three ways to go about it:
Build a free WordPress blog.
Pro: It’s free. Duh.
Con: It doesn’t look very professional as the URL will be in the following format: yourblogname.wordpress.com. Not ideal for serious bloggers but perfectly acceptable of you don’t want to pay for hosting.
Let WordPress host your site.
Pro: Looks more professional since “WordPress” won’t appear in the URL.
Find your own web hosting service and just install the WordPress CMS.
Pro: Looks professional and there are some really affordable packages available.
Con: Not entirely free and involves a bit of technical stuff.
Option 3 is, in my opinion, offers the best mix of professionalism and value for money, so that will be the focus of this tutorial.
Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Step 1: Choose a memorable name for your blog
Try to choose a name that reflects what you do. If you bake cupcakes, try to work that into the name of your blog. You may have a bit of a hard time finding an available domain name (more on that later), but you can try different variations or even work your own name into the domain name, for example www.juliescustomcupcakes.com.
You will need to register your domain name but, since many hosting companies handle the domain name registration process as well, you can proceed straight to step number 2.
Step 2: Decide on a hosting company and package
Once you’ve decided on a name for your blog, you need to decide on a company that will host it on their server for a monthly fee.
The increasingly popular Hostgator offers packages starting from $2.78 per month for a single domain and offers one-click CMS installation (which we’ll cover a bit later on).
Hostgator will also take care of your domain registration, which will cost you around $15 per year.
Whatever hosting service or package you decide on, be sure to choose one that offers a minimum of one MySQL database.
Now, finding a reliable web hosting platform can be daunting since there are literally dozens of these service providers out there, and they vary significantly in terms of what functionality they offer and the level of technical know-how that they require.
Fortunately, my friends over at Reviews.com have taken all the hassle and anxiety out of choosing a web hosting platform by looking at over 200 of the most popular platforms, focusing on options that are reliable, intuitive, knowledgeable and easy to upgrade when the time comes.
Their team’s extensive research led them to create an incredibly valuable resource to help anyone get started and feel comfortable on their own.
Do yourself a favor and go check out their picks of the best hosting platforms here. It’s a must-read for anyone wanting to administer their own website or blog.
Step 3: Install WordPress
Still with me? Good, because this is where things get a little bit technical. But fear not, I’m here to guide you.
Once you’ve registered your domain and signed up for a hosting service, you need to install the content management system (CMS) – in this case WordPress – on the server.
The majority of hosting companies (including Hostgator) offer cPanel as a web hosting control panel.
All you need to do is log in to your hosting service’s client area, and look for the cPanel link. The hosting company (for example Hostgator) will usually email you the login details for the client area as well as the cPanel interface.
Click on the cPanel link, and enter your login credentials.
Once you’re in cPanel, you should see an array of apps and widgets. Don’t panic, though, we’re only interested in installing WordPress at this stage.
If you don’t see the WordPress one-click installer app on your dashboard, don’t worry, you probably just need to access it via the Softaculous Apps Installer (this installer is usually found under the Software heading in cPanel).
Once you’ve located the WordPress icon, you can click on it to go to the installation home screen.
Click on Install and just follow the onscreen prompts and the installer will do the rest and populate the MySQL database.
Step 4: Customize your blog and start blogging, for blog’s sake!
That wasn’t so difficult, now was it?
That pretty much takes care of the technical part, and it’s time to have some fun.
You can log into your site’s editor by navigating your browser to yourblogname.com/wp-admin. Enter your credentials and start playing around with the look and feel of your blog, and infuse it with your own voice and personality. WordPress makes use of a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor, so it’s really no different from your favorite word processing software.
You don’t need to be a coder in order to have a WordPress blog!
WordPress offers countless fantastic free themes and plug-ins to help you really make your WordPress blog your own, and I’ll be sure to discuss these in a future post.