Yay, you want to start a blog! *jazz hands*
Then you’re in the right place. This page is a full on, hand-holding guide to setting up your very own blog.
I remember when I set up my very first blog.
I was in tears. Literally crying in frustration. I almost didn’t make it to Publish because I just couldn’t figure the whole process out. Now, I’ve been running websites for nearly 8 years!
No tears for you!
Before We Go Any Further… Let’s Get This Out of the Way
Many people starting a blog wonder which blog platform they should go with. You essentially have two choices: self-hosted (you host your own site via a hosting company) or hosted (the blog platform hosts it for you).
Hosted platforms are often free, but more limited in what you can do with them (ex. Blogspot, WordPress.com, Wix, Squarespace). Some of them – like WordPress.com – don’t let you monetize your site via ads AT ALL. Plus, a hosted site isn’t yours per se; it’s the host’s. And if someone were to flag your account for spam or copyright infringement or a host of other things, the host can shut down your site in a snap. Yes, it’s unlikely this would happen if you’re doing everything right, but it’s still their discretion.
A self-hosted platform (WordPress.org) allows you room to grow and customize your blog. Consider it the gold standard of blogging. You pay a host a small monthly fee, or an upfront yearly fee, and that’s all you have to pay if you want! Many bloggers make the mistake of going the free route, only to have to make the cumbersome process of moving to a self-hosted platform later on. Go with self-hosted from the start and you’ll save time and headaches in the long run!
The 4 things you need to start a blog
For less than $15, you can get started with a site of your own. *fist pump*
To start a self-hosted blog, you need four basic techy things:
1. A domain name
2. A place to host your site
3. WordPress (the self-hosted version)
4. A theme for your blog design
How do they all work together? My house analogy should help:
Host: Your web host is the land where you’re building your dream home. Most bloggers will be on a shared server at their host, like you might buy land as part of a neighborhood development. But that little part of the neighborhood is all YOURS, baby.
Your domain name (URL): This is the address of your house. In order for someone to get there, they need to know the address.
Website with WordPress: This is the house which sits on your land. WordPress is like the framework for making your website easy to use, much like your house has doors, walls, and other basics. Much better than a house that’s nothing but an empty box inside, right?
Theme: Your theme is like your home’s furniture and decorates. While thousands of people have WordPress sites, your theme give your site a custom look with specific colors, fonts, and more than make your house a HOME.
I’m going to show you each of these steps!
1. Get Your Domain Name
I imagine if you’re reading a page like this, that you already have something in mind to blog about. So now it’s time to find a domain name to fit. A domain name is the URL that someone types into a browser to visit your blog.
But if you’re still unsure, or you’re trying to narrow it down, then take a second to jot down the answer these questions.
What topics are you passionate about?
What makes your point of view unique about these topics?
Can you solve a need around these topics?
Once you have your answers, narrow down the topics to a key focus area.
If you need help domain name ideas, be sure to read my step-by-step post on naming your blog.
If your ideal domain name isn’t available, try Name Mesh to come up with something similar.
If you have your name and are ready to vet it (so it doesn’t come back to haunt you), run through this quick vetting checklist.
Once you have your domain name, hold onto it. You’ll get to make it official in a few more steps!
2. Secure a Place to Host Your Site
Next, you need a place to HOST your site. Again, this is the land where your website lives on the vast, vast Internet.
There are a few types of hosting, but as a new website, you want to stick with shared hosting.
Shared hosting means that your site is hosting on a server, along with other websites. I’ve been blogging a long time and still use shared hosting. Down the road, you might switch to VPN or dedicated hosting when you’re rocking that blog traffic, but for now, you don’t need it.
SiteGround is an affordable, popular choice for shared hosting.
First of all, they’ve been around since 2004. They’re known for their top-notch, 24/7 customer support (you’ll need them in the odd hours of the night at some point). You can even reach them ON THE PHONE if you need to. And look how fast you get an actual person to help you.
Trust me, I’ve in a lot of Facebook groups and anytime someone asks about a host, I see people chime in with “I use SiteGround” and “SiteGround’s the best!” In fact, that why I ended up switching from my old host.
One more (pretty big) reason? They are NOT part of the EIN (Endurance Insurance Group), along with some 50+ other hosting brands (Hostgator, A Small Orange, etc). EIG is a big financial group, focused on growth and shareholder satisfaction, instead of innovation and service improvement. I’ve used and recommended EIG hosts in the past, but I just can’t anymore.
The Step-by-Step to Getting Your Site Set Up on SiteGround
Visit SiteGround then click the Get Started Now button, then walk through the steps.
By clicking the link and setting up your account, I get a commission. It doesn’t cost you anything more, but it helps me keep this site up to provide awesome resources like this!
1. Pick a plan.
If you’re just starting out, go with the StartUp Plan. It’s super affordable and a great way to get up and running.
Click Get Started once you choose your plan.
2. Choose a domain name.
If you went through the exercise earlier on this page, you should have a domain name in mind already. If it’s a new domain, select Register a New Domain, then walk through the easy process to register your domain.
If you already have a domain, good news! SiteGround includes free website transfers. They help you through everything to make it as easy as possible.
3. Review and Complete.
Enter your email address and create a password. Make sure to note your password somewhere! Then fill in your basic information like name, address, first born child… oh wait. Scratch that last one.
Enter your credit card info. Don’t worry- it’s secure!
Finish the checkout process. If you pay for 12 months upfront, you can save 60%! I definitely recommend it, but you don’t HAVE to. No need to go longer than 12 months right now though until you finish your rookie year of blogging.
The SG Site Scanner will be pre-checked, but you don’t HAVE to buy it right now. You can always add it later if you’re on a tight budget.
4. Click Pay Now!
Yes, you are now a blog owner! Now to set it all up!
3. Install WordPress in a Snap.
Now comes the fun part.
Click My Accounts, then the red button that says Go to cPanel.
Then click WordPress from the Autoinstaller section.
The next part looks like a lot, but I promise it’s easy!
Just leave the Protocol selections as is.
Add your site name and description in their respective boxes. You can always change this later within WordPress.
Finally, enter your admin account info. This is to log into your WordPress website and is different than logging into SiteGround. Once you get this set up, you’ll go to yourwebsite.com/wp-admin to log in so you can set up your website as well as write and publish blog posts. You won’t need to log into SiteGround all that much.
Admin Username: Never use “admin” as your username. It’s too easy for hackers to guess that! Instead, use your email address or another name of your choosing.
Admin Password: Go with the default or select something equally as strong.
Admin Email: your email addy
Language: your language
Plugins: Leave those unchecked.
Choose Theme: None. There’s only one choice anyway and you’re better off continuing below and installing a nice theme.
Then, click Install!
And looky there.
4. Install a Theme to Pretty It Up!
Now that you have your land, your home, and your address, it’s time for the best part… your decor!
A theme is what gives your blog personality. WordPress comes with a theme already installed, but it’s fairly generic. If you go to Appearance > Themes in your WP dashboard, you can search through free themes to start with. However, a buying a theme (called a PREMIUM theme) right from the start is going to have some benefits:
- Quality: Developers will typically spend more time developing a premium theme so you will have a higher-quality product that is up-to-date with the latest in web standards.
- Customization: Free themes often give you limited ways to customize the design unless you’re savvy with CSS. With premium themes, you’ll have lots of ways to easily customize the design to make it your own.
- Security: Free themes are often packed with malicious code. If you go through the WordPress search under Appearance>Themes you should be safe, but don’t trust free themes from elsewhere unless you trust the designer.
- Support: A theme designer can help answer questions you have about the theme and basic setup. If you’re using something that’s free, the theme’s creator isn’t going to go out of their way to help.
For new bloggers, my biggest piece of advice with picking and customizing a theme is this: KEEP IT SIMPLE. Don’t pick a super basic theme, then fumble through designing something yourself. Pick a theme with a design you already love, then just do some basic customizations like changing colors and images.
Restored316 makes CHILD themes for a very popular, robust theme called Genesis. Genesis is VERY powerful, but it’s a framework theme. Meaning unless you know a lot about CSS, you need to buy a child theme as well to pretty it up.
Think of Genesis as the PARENT and a Restored 316 theme as the CHILD that works with the parent.
AngieMakes also creates beautiful themes, but here stand alone and don’t need a parent theme. I just adore this Honeycrisp theme.
When you purchase a theme, it’ll come as a ZIP file. Leave it like that, because you’ll upload it that way to WordPress.
To install a theme, go to Appearance>Theme, then select Add New.
Then add your theme as a ZIP file.
Once it’s loaded, you can start customizing it with your own colors and style. You can make changes by going to Appearance > Customize if you aren’t taken directly there after you installed your theme.
Start customizing and have some fun!
You Did It!
You set up a blog! Feel proud, friend. That’s no small feat.
Now comes actually writing that content. If you need ideas for blog posts, try this little brainstorming trick. And if you need some blog design tips, check out my list of quick design tips. Now go forth and blog!
Grab this WordPress glossary!
35+ easy-to-understand definitions of the most-used WordPress terms.