A few days ago a friend of mine asked me, “How to start a blog?”. He had no idea where to begin. I instantly had a flashback of myself. The first thing that popped into my head was ‘WordPress.’ Not because it helps me earn my bread & butter; but because it is the easiest and fastest way to start blogging. And powers 38% of websites on the internet for crying out loud!
See, when I decided that I need to set up a WordPress blog; I had to refer to not one but many how-to articles. There’s a how-to guide for every single thing that you can do with WordPress. Believe me; you do not want to be referring multiple guides on how to start a blog; it just slows you down. Probably freak you out as well. Which is why I decided to write this guide.
How will this guide help you?
- Go for a free WordPress blog or a self-hosted WordPress site?
- Choosing a hosting provider, domain name and installing WordPress
- Choosing a theme for your WordPress site
- Installing your WordPress theme
- Seven things to do after installing WordPress
- Must-have plugins
Without wasting another minute, let’s get started with how to start a blog!
Free Or Self-hosted WordPress Site?
The first and most important question you must ask yourself, whether you want to create a free WordPress blog or a self-hosted WordPress site? The answer fairly depends on how serious you are about blogging. If you are thinking long term blogging, then a self-hosted WordPress site is the right choice for you. But let’s have a quick comparison of the two.
A free WordPress blog can be created at WordPress.com but remember it has its pros & cons. There are different pricing plans available depending on your blogging needs. Remember ‘Free‘ means you do not own your blog! A free WordPress blog means your domain name will have a .wordpress.com extension (for example MyAwesomeBlog.wordpress.com). But having a personalized domain name is cool if you ask me. Which would you prefer MyAwesomeBlog.wordpress.com or MyAwesomeBlog.com? The latter one for sure right!
A self-hosted WordPress site means you own every aspect of your blog. You have complete authority to personalize it to reflect your personality. With the right customizations, you can channel yourself into your blog. You can monetize it too. A little secret – a self-hosted WordPress site is way better & lighter on your wallet with the right hosting service plan. Intrigued? Keep reading.
Choosing A Hosting Provider, Domain Name, and Installing WordPress
Domain name will be your website’s address or URL, as we discussed earlier. Remember MyAwesomeBlog.com? If you have decided to have a self-hosted WordPress site, then there are some hosting providers you can choose from. Some of the most trusted hosting providers include SiteGround, WPEngine, Bluehost, and HostGator. Each hosting provider has their pricing plans. Here’s an in-depth comparison between the most popular hosting providers. Almost all hosting providers offer a free domain name and one-click WordPress installation. So I suggest you take advantage of it and get a domain name created while buying a hosting plan itself.
SiteGround has been reviewed and proven to be one of the best hosting providers. You can buy the StartUp Plan by SiteGround for as low as $3.95/month. They even have an option where you get WordPress preinstalled on your hosting account. Just follow the 3-steps on-screen instructions. No fuss at all!!!
Wasn’t that easy? Congratulations, you just learned how to create your blog site with WordPress!
Choosing A Theme For Your WordPress Site
When you start a blog you want to get noticed and a theme is the first thing that pops for your readers. Your blogging site must represent you. Also, the theme has to convey what you blog about at a glance. It helps create a rapport with your readers. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and responsiveness matter equally when you are choosing a theme. SEO of your WordPress site is directly related to Google page rankings. So, it is a smart move to have an SEO optimized theme right from the beginning which is responsive. Responsive themes look great on any device so it should be criteria when choosing a theme.
CyberChimps is home to 30+ responsive and optimized for SEO WordPress themes with over 5 million theme downloads. Being a newbie, you can use the inbuilt drag and drop website builder to set up the theme without any coding knowledge whatsoever. You can try their Responsive Theme for free or buy one of their premium themes. CyberChimps has a theme for every niche.
Installing Your WordPress Theme
We are installing the free Responsive Theme by CyberChimps. You would have received a download link for the free theme (responsive.[version-number].zip) after providing an email address on their download page. Download the theme. Now, log in to your WordPress site.
Then, navigate to WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Themes. Click the Add New button, followed by the Upload Theme button. Then, click “Browse,” select your responsive.18.104.22.168.zip (which you downloaded) and press Install Now.
Click Activate on completion, and that’s it. That wasn’t so hard right?
5 Must-have Plugins For Your WordPress Site
The third-party appendages that add additional functionality to your blog are plugins. Keep the number of plugins to a minimum, install only the best and the ones you need. Installing too many plugins or plugins from unreliable sources will result in a slow WordPress site.
Head over to WordPress Dashboard > Plugins > Add New. Below are five must-have plugins for bloggers. Search for, install, and activate the following free plugins one by one:
- Akismet – a nifty plugin to avoid spam comments. You will require an API Key to activate the plugin, just quickly create a free account on WordPress.com and get your WordPress API key.
- Yoast SEO (the de facto standard SEO plugin for WordPress). For further details and a beginner’s guide to SEO read Yoast’s Definitive SEO Guide.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights: Easily track your blog’s traffic with loads of interesting data – traffic sources, overall traffic, views per author & category, automatic tracking of outbound clicks and pageviews.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com to supercharge your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.
- Contact Form 7: A flexible yet simple and an easy-to-use plugin, to add contact forms on your WordPress site.
Also, you’ll want to keep your readers updated about your blog posts via email. As a new blogger, you should sign up for a MailChimp account. MailChimp is a nice email subscription option which offers a free plan if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. You can always upgrade your pricing plan as your subscriber list grows.
7 Things To Do Immediately After Installing WordPress
1. Delete the default page and posts
A fresh installation of WordPress has some dummy data. You do not need it, so get rid of it before you begin anything else. Go to WordPress Dashboard > Posts> All posts, delete the default Hello world post. Then navigate to WordPress Dashboard > Pages > All Pages & delete the default Sample page.
2. Change the permalink structure
By default, the WordPress permalink is like http://yourdomain.com/p=123. This is not search-engine friendly. Remember we talked about SEO and Google rankings before? Yes, permalink plays a crucial role in SEO too.
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Permalink & select the Post name permalink structure. Click on save. This ensures that your permalink when appearing in the search engine, it will contain some keywords, and your blog posts will rank better in the search engine.
3. Change the site title, tagline and time zone
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Settings, customize the site title and site tagline. Change the time zone settings to reflect your correct time zone.
4. Disable user registrations
On the same settings page as above, disable the user registrations for your WordPress site. If you are going to be the only author to blog on your site it makes no sense to have this option enabled.
5. Add a favicon
See the tiny icon on your internet browser’s tab? That’s a favicon. Favicons serve the purpose of personal branding in the virtual world. Usually, a favicon is a 16×16 pixel or 32×32 pixels image. You can create one online easily. It could be your initials or an image. For most themes, you need to upload your favicon in your theme options.
6. Create About and Contact pages
Your readers want to get to know you if they like your content. Create a small About page which would help your audience to know you as a person. We installed the Contact Form 7 plugin; it’s time to add a contact form on a Contact page. Always, offer your readers a solution to get in touch with you.
7. Change your username if you have used “admin.”
If you have used “admin” as the username for your WordPress site, change it immediately. It is the easiest to hack into.