If you’re looking to start a blog and have never done it before, it can probably be very confusing. Where do you start? What platform? What does all of this mean? So here is a guide to walk you through setting up your own blog or website using WordPress.
Think of your website as your digital home. Your physical home has an address, land, a foundation, rooms, interior design, and so on. Your website is very similar to this same idea. So lets start…
Your House Type (Which platform?)
Do you want to buy a house and own your property or do you want an apartment where you are always renting and never actually own it? Well obviously you want to buy your property, and that is the same for your website. There are many platforms out there such as WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, etc. With WordPress, you own everything including your content. However, with other platforms like Squarespace, you don’t actually own your content. So you can have a ton of content uploaded to Squarespace and then one day Squarespace decides they want to shut down, well there goes your content and your website. This is just one of the many reasons I prefer WordPress. So for the sake of this walk-through, we will be discussing WordPress.
Your Land (Hosting)
The first thing you need to do is have a place to build your home. For you to build your physical home you need land, for us to build our digital home we need hosting. Just like your land is where your house and belongings go, your host is where all the files and content goes and allows it to be seen on the internet. Choosing the right hosting is extremely important. Some things to look for in your hosting provider would be the company, the limitations in their packages, and their pricing.
Some hosting companies include Bluehost, WP Engine and Siteground. As a general rule of thumb you should stay away from GoDaddy. I’ve tried various hosting and I currently use Siteground, and they are amazing and I highly recommend them. Siteground also has additional features such as domain privacy, security, backups, and caching. However, I suggest doing your research as well. Be sure to see how long a company has been in business for, their reviews, and and their customer service. Customer service is a big deal for me because if something goes wrong with your site and you need help, you want someone that you will be able to reach and walk you through getting the problem fixed.
As far as packages go, it depends on what you are setting up your blog or website for. But for the most part, if you’re just starting out and just want a web presence, you can probably start with the smallest package that your host offers. If you have multiple domains that you want hosted from your account then also make sure your package offers this. Most hosting plans include a free domain or free domain transfer. I bought my domain on NameCheap and then just simply connect it to my hosting.
Also, some hosting companies specialize in hosting wordpress sites such as WP Engine or Flywheel, however, they are a little more pricey and it might not be something you need right now. Most hosting companies how have the option to automatically install WordPress and that is what I use on Siteground.
Your Address (Domain Name)
Now that you have your land, you need to have an address. You want people to visit your house, right? So in your digital house, this is your domain name. Usually this is your business or blog name. The most common domain names end in .com but there are many other options that are out there depending on if you’re an organization or in a different country. In order to purchase domain, you can go through your hosting account if they offer a free domain or you can also purchase it through a separate registrar. I personally use NameCheap for all of my domains and I love it!
If you bought your domain name with your hosting account then you can skip this step. If you bought your domain name through a separate registrar, you will have to connect your domain name with your hosting account. First you will need to know the name servers for your hosting. In SiteGround it is located in “My Account” > Access cPanel > On the left hand side it will list the name servers. Now, on NameCheap you will click on the settings for your chosen domain and you will see the option to edit your name servers. Copy and paste those name servers into the appropriate spots and done. It will take some time to “propagate” but basically that means you have to wait for them to connect to each other.
Build Your Framework (Install WordPress)
So now you have your address and your land, now its time to start building the house, so lets install WordPress. If you chose a host that installs WordPress for you, I suggest using this feature. On Siteground it is located under “My Account” > cPanel > AutoInstallers > WordPress. Then it will ask for you to choose a WordPress Username and Password and email address. For the safety of your site, do NOT use “Admin” for your username and try to pick a complex password. Then click through to finish and it should take a few minutes for WordPress to install and then you are good to go! In order to access the “back-end” of your site, you will go to “www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin” and login using the credentials you made. That was easy, right?
Key Features of Your Home
Before you begin making the inside of your home fancy, you want to make sure you have key features installed. In your WordPress settings, be sure to walk yourself through the settings. Make sure your email address, names, time zones, and date formats are correct.
Also, a must is setting up your permalinks. This is how your links will be viewed for your blog posts. Go to settings > permalinks> and select “Post Name”. Don’t forget to hit save.
You can setup a gravatar. This is will be an image that will be seen when you comment. It takes a couple minutes to create one and then you don’t have to worry about it.
When you are building a home, you want it to be safe and make sure everything works properly. This is the same for your digital home. Here are some plugins that I would suggest installing to your WordPress site. Plugins are like “apps” for your cell phone. There are tons out there, some are free and some cost money. Since you are just starting, most of the free plugins will work great. To add a plugin, go to “Plugins” > Add New. You will be able to see a “marketplace” of plugins to choose from or to search from. The plugins that I recommend:
Yoast SEO – This plugin is one of the most downloaded plugins of all time. It helps with your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) which means better ranking in search engines. This helps you setup SEO for each page and post, helps setup a sitemap, and also informs google about your social media accounts.
Google Analytics – This helps you connect to Google Analytics to each of your pages so you can see which pages are being viewed and how many times.
WordFence – There are people that try to hack into your site and to prevent this from happening, I use WordFence. There are a ton of settings that help prevent getting your site attacked or to make sure there isn’t any malware in your files.
UpdraftPlus – You never know what can happen to your files so you always want to have a backup of them. UpdraftPlus allows you to backup your files and restore them if you need to. The free version doesn’t offer automatic backup but if you backup your site once a week, then you are good to go. Also, be sure to connect it to a remote storage as well such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
W3 Total Cache – When you have visitors you want them to be able to view your site quickly or else they will leave. Every time a visitor comes to the site the website has to pull the information from the server which is fine, but if you have a lot of visitors pulling information from your site all at the same time, it can take more time. A caching plugin displays a “static” page instead of requesting the same information over and over again.
There are a ton of plugins that you can choose from, these are just basics and a starting off point for you.
Interior Design (Finding a theme to make your site pretty)
A theme is what you use to make your site’s design. There are a ton of themes out there including free ones, premium ones, or custom ones. I create the custom ones, so if you need help with this, then let me know. Some themes are great and some are horrible so it’s important to know what you are looking for:
Buy from a reputable site (I like Creative Market but there are also Envato Themes and ThemeForest)
Another option for a free theme is called Make. You can download from their site or you can find it in the WordPress Themes marketplace
Be sure the theme has a great design that is targeted to your audience
Check compatibility with the theme to your version of WordPress
Check compatibility with popular plugins
Ideally, it should be responsive
Check if the theme owner offers support
Is it easy to customize?
One thing I think most people have trouble with is editing or customizing their theme. Once they buy it, they realize that they can’t customize it the way they want. Be sure to try out the demo or ask the author of the template any questions you have before purchasing.
Once you find the theme you like, you will need to download it and install it into your WordPress site. When you download the file, you have to make sure that it is zipped and then you will go to “Appearances” > “Themes” > “Add New”. Once you download the zipped file, you will activate it and done! You should be able to view your site and see the theme working.
Now your virtual home is ready and you can start posting your blog posts! Yay. You can even add additional pages including contact pages or a custom home page, depending on the purpose of your site. This will get you a site that is live and get you started, however, there are tons of things you can do to edit your theme and make sure your WordPress site reflects your brand. This is a quick tutorial just to get you started.
Does this information totally confuse you? Maybe you aren’t ready to be a digital architect? If you need help, just let me know here! We can get you going with a WordPress site and custom theme branded just for you.