Starting your first blog is an exciting endeavor. But, I also know how overwhelming it can be, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be tech savvy. You want to make your presence known to the world, but are unsure of where to start. I get it. This is why to I recommend you start your blog with WordPress.
Why WordPress Is a Great Platform for Blogs
Let me just clarify that WordPress.org and WordPress.com are not the same.
WordPress.com is a blog hosting service which gives you very limited options. I seriously urge you to not go this route. You are strapped for cash, I’ve been there, but if you want to start earning money with your blog. WordPress.com is not the way to go.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is where you can download the WordPress software which you then need to install on your own web hosting. While this may sound intimidating, it’s really not. Many commercial web hosts offer 1-click install for WordPress which means you can get your blog up in just a few minutes! (Later on in this article I will talk some about my absolute favorite hosting service to use, so stay with me here!)
With this you will be able to customize your blog in a way that suits your needs. Running your blog on the self-hosted version of WordPress means you have full control over your website. You own it, you can design it any way you want, you can publish any kind of content you want, and tons more.
The core WordPress software is already powerful on its own, and it even comes pre-installed with a few themes and plugins. With themes, you have thousands of free and premium themes to choose from, and you can make your site look as unique as you want. And when you add plugins, you can totally change your website’s functionality!
Even if you just want to blog for now, if you ever decide you want to add an online store to your blog later on, you can do that with WordPress. You can create landing pages on WordPress, you can add a forum to your site, you can even sell memberships or courses on it! In short, WordPress plugins are awesome.
Other platforms don’t come near the number of themes and plugins available on WordPress, which is why it’s such a popular choice for bloggers and website owners alike.
As with most platforms, however, WordPress does come with a bit of a learning curve. My goal is to help walk you the ins and outs of setting up your blog using WordPress without too much of a headache. In addition, WordPress has an active global community behind it, so you’ll never run out of tips and ideas to customize your website.
Step 1: Choose Your Domain Name
Domain names are relatively cheap. However, keep in mind when scouting prices, the first year is often offered at a super cheap rate and will sharply increase in price after the year is up. I purchased my domain on SiteRubix powered by Wealthy Affiliate. The price is a little higher at first, but will not increase in price as time goes on. That is a huge bonus for me as I don’t have to think about price increases later on down the road while trying to build my blog.
Also, if you are REALLY strapped for cash, you can get two FREE websites through SiteRubix, as well. The domain name won’t be as pretty as your typical domain, but you will still get all the fancy features and then some at no cost. Once your budget allows, you can then purchase a standard domain and easily move your site over to its new address.
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind before you go ahead and purchase your domain name:
Make it short
The shorter your domain name, the better it is for your brand.
Don’t go for domain names that are 30 or more characters long. That’s just really too long. For instance, if you want to look up a website and its domain name is “iamthebestestandcoolestbloggerever.com” you’d probably stop typing halfway through and just abandon the site. (I know, “bestest” is not a word, but it’s fun to say anyhow.)
Also, the chances of misspelling or mistyping a long domain name are high, so you definitely want to keep it short.
Make it easy to remember
Brandable domain names are more memorable than randomly spelled ones. An example of a brandable domain name would be “moneysavingmom.com”. It’s a popular website with a good-sized following. I’m certain that the memorable domain name helped with their branding efforts, too.
If you’re planning to build a personal or portfolio website, you can use your own name as your domain name. For instance, I have a personal website called shannonsalas.com (though, I have yet to build it). A lot of bloggers have gone this route.
Finally, if someone’s already using your preferred domain, try adding something another word to your domain name. For instance, instead of “janesmith.com”, you can use something like “janiejo.com” or “janiejosmith.com.”
Avoid Hyphens as Much as Possible
Ugh…hyphens. Let me ask you this: If you are looking for a specific website, how often do you think to type the hyphens? Probably not much, and neither will your readers. Keep it simple, drop the hyphens.
Make sure your domain name isn’t trademarked or copyrighted
Getting into legal trouble is a very real possibility if you don’t research your domain name before you buy it. If you end up buying a domain name that is trademarked or copyrighted, you could get into a hot mess.
Before you buy your domain, it’s a good idea to use an online tool like Trademarkia to search for trademarks.
Use the right domain name extension
With hundreds of domain name extensions to choose from, which one is the right one for your business? For starters, .com is usually the first thing people search for. When the .com is taken up, people usually go for the .net and then .org, and so on.
But why are .coms so popular? Well, it’s been around for many, many years. When people tell you their web address for the first time, you normally expect to type in .com on your web browser.
For instance, if people tell you their website is “myawesomeblog.net”, you would probably type in “myawesomeblog.com” before you realize it’s the wrong website! So you’d have to go back and edit the domain name and type in .net instead of .com.
Step 2: Find the Right Hosting Service for Your WordPress Blog
The WordPress platform needs two things to work. It needs a domain name and web hosting. Think of it this way, if your website is your house, then your domain name is the street address and your web hosting is the piece of land your house sits on.
Just like your house, you want to build it on a good piece of land. This is why choosing a good web hosting company is a must if you want your WordPress website to succeed.
Web hosting companies number by the thousands and most can support a WordPress installation on their servers. No two web hosting services are the same. Some are fantastic and some are downright awful. Believe me, I’ve tried a bunch of then!
My number one recommendation for web hosting is actually through Wealthy Affiliate. Honestly, I was leery of it at first, and then found the support, training, and affordability of the program to be outstanding. And, I don’t say that about hardly anything. But, that’s a story for another time.
Wealthy Affiliate’s web hosting service, SiteRubix, is fast, super easy to set up, and the customer service is truly on top of their game. In addition, you get all sorts of premium tools for already included in the fantastic price. These are tools that you would ordinarily have to pay extra for on other hosting services. And, installing WordPress on your site is as easy as clicking “Install.” Click here to check then out!
With anything, it’s good to have options. I truly believe that SiteRubix is by far the best choice, but there are a couple of notable runners-up.
Both are affordable and both offer 1-click WordPress installation, so you can quickly have a WordPress website without any hassle or headache involved. They also offer 24/7 support so if you have questions about web hosting or you need help setting up your site, then you can contact then anytime through a variety of communication channels.
Step 3: Install WordPress With the Click of a Button
Depending on your web hosting company, you may have a couple of different ways to do the 1-click install.
Installing WordPress on SiteRubix is super simple. Click “Install” and you are done.
However, if your web host is Bluehost, you can either use Bluehost’s WordPress Tools or you can use their partner, MOJO Marketplace. You can access MOJO from your Bluehost cPanel dashboard.
For the sake of simplicity, I will walk you through the first method of 1-click WordPress install on Bluehost. If you use another web host that offers this functionality, the user interface may appear different. But for the most part, the fields you need to fill out will be similar.
Installing via cPanel’s WordPress Tools section
Once you’ve logged in to your web hosting’s cPanel, look for the WordPress Tools section. On Bluehost, you’ll find the link in the menu bar at the top of the page. Click on WordPress Tools and then go to the New Install tab.
You will see this screen below:
As you can see, the form is very straightforward. Here’s what you need to supply so you can successfully install WordPress:
- Domain – Your domain should show up by default, unless you have more than one domain with your hosting service.
- Path – leave this blank to install WordPress on your main or root domain.
- Site Title – type in the title for your website. You can always edit this later on in your WordPress admin. For now, you can just leave this blank or write something like, ‘My New Blog’ or ‘My New WordPress Website.’
- Admin Username – type in the username you want to use when you log in to your WordPress admin.
- Admin Password – type in the password you want to use for your WordPress site admin. Be sure to write down your password as you won’t receive a copy of it.
- Admin Email – type in the admin email you want to use for your WordPress website. It can be your custom domain email address, or your personal email address such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo.
Once you’ve filled out the required information, hit the green Install WordPress button. In a few minutes, you will receive an email from your web host confirming the installation.
The confirmation email contains the link to your new WordPress website, the link to where you can log in to your WordPress admin, and your username. Your password won’t be displayed for security reasons
Your WordPress site is now set up!
Step 4: Choose a Theme
WordPress themes aren’t created equal. Price-wise, themes can go anywhere from free to a few hundred dollars. As far as flexibility goes, some themes allow you to build just about any kind of website, while others will limit you to a few tweaks only.
The Pre-Installed WordPress Themes
WordPress has some pre-installed themes ready for you when you set up your account. You need to log in to your WordPress dashboard to view these themes. When you’re logged in, go to Appearance > Themes. Here, you will see which themes are installed.
Personally, I don’t use pre-installed themes. To start off, I recommend searching for a theme that best suits you and your brand. But, if you are happy with one of the themes that already come pre-installed, then more power to you! All you have left to do is customize your site.
To access the customizer, you simply need to click on the blue Customize button as you can see in the screenshot above. Alternatively, you can also go to Appearance > Customize.
You can customize each theme differently, depending on the theme’s features.
- In the Site Identity section, you can upload your website’s logo and favicon, as well as update the Site Title and Tagline here.
- In the Colors section, you can set the color scheme you want to use. You can also customize the Header Text color here.
- In the Header Media section, this is where you upload header images.
- In the Menus section, you can specify where you want your menus to appear. Some themes only offer one menu, where others offer two or more.
- In the Widgets section, you can choose to add widgets in the Sidebar, or in the Footer section. Widgets can include recent posts, an author bio, or even social media threads.
- In the Homepage Settings section, you can choose what’s displayed on the homepage of your website. You can use a static homepage or display your latest blog posts. As you’re just starting out, I recommend just displaying your latest blog posts instead of using a static homepage. As you become more comfortable with WordPress and as you blog grows, you can then move to adding a static homepage to your site.
- In the Theme Options section, you can choose from one or two-layout column. You can also select the content you want to display in the front page.
- In the Additional CSS section, you can add your own CSS code to customize the appearance of your WordPress website. I never use this section.
How To Add New WordPress Themes To Your Site
Welathy Affiliate’s SiteRubix makes choosing a new WordPress theme super easy. After you have installed WordPress, the service will offer you plenty of nice, free, customizable options to choose from before you even log into WordPress.
If you want to change your theme from within WordPress, which you will have to do with other hosting services, switching between themes in WordPress is extremely easy. You just need to go to Appearance > Themes. To add your new theme, click on the Add New button.
If you want to get a feel for how WordPress themes work, then you can simply choose from any of the Featured, Popular, and Latest themes on your Themes dashboard.
If you don’t want to scroll through thousands of free themes, use the Search Themes box on the right.
If you want to install or preview a free WordPress.org theme, hover your mouse over the theme so the Install and Preview buttons will appear. The preview button will allow you to see what your website will look like before actually installing your theme.
Once you are happy with your theme choice, click Install then click on Activate to use the theme immediately.
Free Versus Premium WordPress Themes – Which Should You Go For?
WordPress is an extremely versatile open source platform. You can choose from thousands of both free and premium themes either on the WordPress.org Theme Directory or on many third-party websites.
Obviously, free themes come with a zero dollar price tag. Premium themes can run from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Some theme shops like Thrive Themes and Elegant Themes offer subscription-style membership which gives you access to their full suite of WordPress themes and plugins.
It makes sense that more people will be using free WordPress themes for their websites, right? After all, they don’t pay for using it. The only downside is that thousands of websites will be using the same free theme, so you’re not exactly in unique territory.
Later on down the road, you might want to consider getting a premium theme. Yes, other people will still be using that theme, but with the host of customization options you get, you can pretty much make your website look as unique as you want.
That Wasn’t So Bad, Was It?
Starting a blog with WordPress doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you will be surprised at just how easy it is. To sum things up, simply choose and purchase your domain name, select a solid hosting service, install WordPress, and start your journey! If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to answer then!
Disclosure: Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on and purchase an item or offer that I feature on this page, then I will receive a commission on that item or offer at no additional cost to you (see full disclosure).