Starting a blog can mean different things to different people.
Some start a blog to build a personal brand, others to increase brand awareness for their business. And some start a blog to earn money.
But starting a blog can be a little overwhelming (and intimidating), if you are a complete beginner.
In this post, I’ll be covering everything you need to know on how to start your very own WordPress blog. I’ll also be answering some frequently asked questions (FAQs) on blogging as well.
But before we begin, let’s clear the air on the two types of WordPress platforms: Hosted and Self-hosting.
The Two WordPress Platforms:
WordPress.com is a freemium platform. Hosting, security and backup services are completely taken care of by WordPress (Automattic Inc). But the catch is, you can’t have your own domain name unless you upgrade. You’ll need to choose a free sub-domain with the format yourblog.wordpress.com. Also, you’ll have limited control over your blog. You can’t add plugins and you’ll have to choose from the limited list of themes unless you update to expensive plans.
WordPress.org is a free, open-source software. But to use WordPress.org, you’ll need a domain name and a hosting service which will cost you some money. From theme to plugins, to backup, you are fully in control of your blog and its contents.
Where to Start a blog: WordPress.com or WordPress.org
- If you are just exploring if blogging is for you, I’d recommend you to start a blog for free at WordPress.com. You can always switch to self-hosted WordPress later if you are really into blogging.
- But if you are serious about blogging, it is better to start with WordPress.org as you’ll have more control over it.
How to Start your own Self-hosted WordPress blog
Before getting started, let’s run a checklist of the things you’ll need to run a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Things you’ll need to run a Self-hosted WordPress Blog
- Register a Domain Name
- Choose a Hosting Plan and setup WordPress
- Pick your Theme
- A few Plugins to get Started
Steps to create a self-hosted WordPress Blog
Step 1: Register a Domain Name
In simple terms, a domain name is the website address that people used to find your online. For example: My domain name is nrachel.com. To register a domain name, you need to purchase it from a domain registrar like Godaddy or Namecheap by checking the availability first.
But before choosing the domain name, it is important to clearly identify your niche and define what you are going to blog about. To zero-ing down on a niche, make a list of all the categories that you can write about and brainstorm to come up with at least 20 blog ideas to write about within each category. This way, you can figure out your niche easily.
It is important to choose domain names that are short, memorable and reflect the purpose of your site to attract visitors.
If your desired domain names are already taken and you are finding it hard to decide on a name, you can use domain name generators to brainstorm. Domain Wheel and Godaddy Domain Name Generator provide really good suggestions.
NOTE: Domain names are like rentals, you own them for the period that you are choosing to register. If you don’t want to lose them, it is important to renew them before they expire. You can register a domain name for a minimum period of 1 year.
Step 2: Choose a Hosting Plan
Once you’ve selected your domain name, it is time now to choose a home for your website and it’s content. Web Hosting is a service that allows you to post your website content onto the internet. The web host is responsible for keeping your blog available 24/7 so that your readers can access it from anywhere, anytime.
Your web host is one of the factors that determines the performance of your site. It determines how fast your blog loads to your readers (page load speed). There are plenty of cheap hosting options out there but choosing a reliable hosting service is very important.
WordPress recommends Bluehost, Dreamhost and SiteGround as good hosting choices. I use WPX hosting for my blog and would recommend it if you are managing multiple WordPress sites. As a new blogger, I would recommend you to choose the cheapest hosting plan from a reliable service provider like BlueHost. Once you start getting more traffic, you can upgrade plans later.
Once you choose a web hosting plan, you’ll need to add your domain name and set up WordPress. The set instructions vary from one hosting provider to another. I’d recommend you to follow the hosting service provider’s instructions to finish this step.
Step 3: Pick your theme
Did you know that WordPress powers a whooping 39% of all the websites on the internet? One of the many reasons why WordPress is so popular is because of the thousands of thousands of free/fremium themes and plugins options to choose from.
My recommendation is that you pick a free theme to begin with and invest in a good premium theme that has more features at a later phase.
To change your default WordPress theme, head over to Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme option. I would recommend choosing between Zakra, Kadence WP or Astra theme as these themes are light-weight and comes with cool features.
Step 4: Install these Most Vital (Free) Plugins
The following are some vital plugins for your WordPress blog:
UpDraftPlus (Backup Plugin)
Although your hosting company may provide backup service. It is recommended to install UpDraftPlus – a backup plugin to secure your data. UpDraftPlus lets you backup and all the key settings related to your blog – plugins, themes, uploads, database and others. You can schedule automatic backups even to a Google Drive.
Google Site Kit (Analytics Plugin)
Google Site Kit WordPress plugin connects you to six very important Google services from within your WordPress admin panel. These six services are: Google Analytics, Search Console, AdSense, PageSpeed Insights, Optimize and Tag Manager.
As a beginner, it is recommended to setup Analytics and Search Console through Google Site Kit. These two services will help you analyze how your readers are behaving in your site once you start publishing content.
RankMath (SEO Plugin)
Rank Math is a Search Engine Optimization plugin that would help you to optimize your blog posts for search engines. The plugin provides useful recommendations to increase your content’s search engine visibility.
WP Super Cache (Caching Plugin)
One of the worst experiences you can give to your readers is slow loading time. WP Super Cache is a plugin that reduces your page load time by retrieving cached copies of your pages.
WordFence (Security Plugin)
A hacked WordPress site is more damaging than you think. Google can penalize your blog if you don’t have adequate security in place. And that’s why you need WordFence. WordFence protects your site from spam, malware, and other threats in real time.
Step 5: Take care of these Important Settings
Here are some basic things that you need to set up before you start working on your content and going live.
#1 Change Site Title, Tagline, and Timezone
The site title let’s your readers know the name of your site. You can use the tagline to briefly describe what your site is about. To change the site title, tagline, and timezone settings go to Settings » General page.
#2 Configure Default Category
By default, all of your blog posts will be filed under “Uncategorized” category. It is advisable to switch this to something else (like a topic that you most often blog about). To do this change, first, go to Posts » Categories page to create a new category. Then, go to Settings » Writing page and set up your default category.
#3 Remove any unused theme or plugin
It is a good practise to uninstall any unused theme or plugin. They occupy extra space and need to be updated too. Also, there’s always a risk of a hacker taking control of your site through vulnerability in these unused plugins.
To delete an unused theme, head over to Appearance » Themes page and click on a theme that you want to delete. You’ll see a pop-up window, on the bottom-right corner you will see the “delete” button.
To delete an unused plugin, go to Plugins » Installed Plugins page click “Inactive” to delete the plugins you don’t want.
Your Next Steps
Now that you’ve set up your blog, it is time to start writing. Once you’ve done, don’t forget to optimize your content for SEO.