If you’ve found this article, it’s most likely because you’re thinking of starting your own blog for the first time. After doing some preliminary research, you may find yourself overwelmed with the amount of information available. Don’t let this stop you! Starting a blog can be both simple and complicated, depending how you approach it. The purpose of this article is to navigate through the entire process of concept to to launch via the path of least resistence. I will assume minimal experience with blogging and websites in general and do my best to cover all topics in an easy to understand manner. Withour futher adieu, let’s get started!
What’s involved in starting my own blog?
A lot of the steps that I’ll discuss in this article are relevant to starting any website, not just a blog. Here is a brief overview of the topics that I will be covering:
- How to purchase a domain name (http://www.example.com)
- How to find the right web hosting provider
- WordPress and why it’s the best option for your blog
- How to install WordPress on your server
- Finding and installing a theme for your blog
Each topic above acts as a ‘step’ in the process of taking your blog from concept to launch. Some of the topics need to be completed before others can be started, so I’ll be covering them in the order that I would recommend following. As you absorb the information from each step, feel free to go off and do some additional research to ensure that you are comfortable with your understanding of the topic.
What is a domain name and where do I get one?
You probably have an idea of what you want your blog to be about. If not, put on your thinking hat and figure out what type of content you want to create. It’s difficult to proceed without having a solid idea of what type of content you’re going to be creating, as you will see below!
A domain name is the address for your website. For example, www.pubvertiser.com is the domain name for this website. Each domain name is unique and can only be used by one person at a time. There are multiple (hunderds) of domain extensions, such as .com, .net, .org, .me. Each domain can be registered with each extension. So while I am the exclusive owner of www.pubvertiser.com, someone else is able to register www.pubvertiser.net or www.pubvertiser.net. For this reason, some companies will register all of the major extensions for their website to avoid their competition snatching them up. In most cases it’s not worth registering multiple extensions, just grab the one that you want and leave the rest (most of the time, you’ll want the .com).
Domains can be purchased from one of the many domain registrars. Some popular ones include:
- NameCheap (https://www.namecheap.com)
- Name.com (https://www.name.com)
- Hover (https://www.hover.com)
They all offer the same core service of registering domain names on your behalf. The price is generally very similar, starting from around $8 a year for a .com. Some extensions cost more and there are often sales on specific extensions for as low as $2 a year. Generally, expect to pay $8 – $10 a year for a .com domain.
I personally use and recommend NameCheap for all domain purchases. They offer fair pricing, have a clean account interface and great customer support. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which registrar you use, so take your pick!
A word of warning! Some web hosting providers (which we will get to next) will offer to give you a free domain with their hosting packages. I strongly recommend never taking up this offer. Doing so will give your web hosting provider control over your domain and hosting, which is a bad idea. In the event that you want to change web hosting providers (which can happen quite often), there is a chance that they will charge you a fee to move your domain. It’s best to use a proper domain registrar to register your domains and a proper web host to provide the server. Keep them seperate!
How do I choose a web hosting provider?
Now that you’ve secured your domain name, it’s time to find a web hosting provider. The way the internet works is that every domain points to a particular server. When someone enters a domain into their browser, the browser checks which server the domain is pointing to and loads the content for the user. Much like domain registrars, web hosting providers all offer a similar service. Their primary function is to store your files and display them to a visitor when they visit your domain. Of course they do other things as well, which is where the differences start showing.
I wrote an article that covers choosing the right web hosting provider in much more detail than we will be in this article. I would recommend having a read through that article to get a better understanding of the web hosting industry and why certain hosts are better than others. For the purpose of this article, I am just going to recommend signing up with SiteGround (https://www.siteground.com). They offer everything you need for getting your website or blog online and do so at a very fair price. They have three plans that are targeted specifically at WordPress users (the software that we will be using to power the blog) that you can find here:
I would recommend starting with the cheapest plan, StartUp. The reason being that it’s much easier to move to a higher plan than it is to move down a plan. This web hosting plan will suffice for almost all small blogs and websites, so you won’t need to worry about upgrading until further down the road.
How do I point my domain to my web hosting provider?
When you purchase a web hosting package, the provider will usually email you with a few details about your new account. Among these details, you will find the following:
- Server IP address
- Domain Name Server (DNS)
You don’t need to remember the IP address, as more often than not, you’ll never need it. However, the DNS are used to tell your domain which server to load your website from (the DNS point to the IP address). You’ll usually receive two DNS addresses that will be very similar to each other, aside from a number/letter or two. Once you have these two addresses, log in to your account for the domain registrar that you used to purchase your domain. Each domain registrar will have a slighty different process for assigning the DNS addresses to your domain, so it’s best to look through their documentation to find an accurate guide. If you used NameCheap, their guide can be found here. You’ll want to select ‘Custom DNS’ from their list of options, then insert the two DNS that were provided to you by your web hosting provider.
After you save your new DNS addresses to your domain, you may need to wait up to 24 hours for them to propagate. If you attempt to load your domain in the browser now, you will most likely see either an error page (server not found) or a temporary landing page provided by your domain registrar. Once the DNS propagation is complete, loading your domain in the browser will display the content from your web hosting account.
So, what is WordPress and what does it do?
It’s worth noting that there are a few options when it comes to which software to use to power your blog. Since we’re taking the path of least resistance, WordPress is our software of choice. WordPress is an open source content management system. It started out as blogging software, but gradually became more and more flexible for creating other types of websites. As of writing, WordPress powers over 25% of websites on the internet (that’s a lot!). The reason it is so popular stems from its extremely easy setup, its user friendly interface and its ability to be be customized to suit anyones needs.
If you signed up with SiteGround, the offer a one-click option to install WordPress. SiteGround themselves provider an article on how to use their WordPress install wizard here. If asked, don’t both installing any themes or plugins during the installation process. We will get to all of that a bit later.
At the end of the wizard, take note of the login URL, username and password that you are provided and write them down somewhere. Those are the details that you will use to login to your WordPress dashboard where you can manage your site and create content.
If you’ve made it this far, you’ve made it through the boring part! We’re now going to install WordPress and start creating some content. Hopefully your domain has finished propagating by now and you can see either a blank white page or a landing page for your web host. Awesome, this means the server is ready to start displaying content from your hosting account.
WordPress so popular these days that a lot of web hosts will provide a one-click install feature as part of their package. It’s worth getting in touch with your host (either via email or live chat) and ask if they:
- Have a one-click install of WordPress available.
- Can install WordPress for you.
The WordPress install itself is only five minutes long, but it does involve uploading files via FTP and creating a database via your hosting account. The official guide on how to install WordPress can be found here (https://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress). It’s quite dry, but it does cover all of the steps. If you decided to use SiteGround as your web host, they provide a guide specific to their hosting service here (https://www.siteground.com/tutorials/wordpress/installation/)
Finding and installing a theme
As I mentioned earlier, there are thousands of free themes available for WordPress. If you’re just experiementing with the idea of blogging, I would recommending installing some of the free themes and having a play around with the options. Don’t worry about breaking anything, it’s easy enough to reset a WordPress installation and start from scratch. A lot of free WordPress themes can be found in the official WordPress repository here (https://wordpress.org/themes/). If you decide to use one of themes from the official WordPress repository, you can install it via your WordPress admin panel, saving you the hassel of downloading and uploading the files. A guide on how to install WordPress themes can be found here (https://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Themes).
If you wish to go for a more premium feel, you can purchase a theme instead. The largest marketplace of WordPress themes is called ThemeForst (https://themeforest.net/category/wordpress), part of the Envato network. Premium themes can cost anywhere from $10 to $200 USD, with the average being around $60 USD. These themes cannot be installed using the one-click feature, you will need to download the files and upload them to your hosting account.
Once you have installed and activated your theme, you should immediately see changes to your website when you open your domain in your browser. Now we’re getting somewhere!
Creating your first post
The time has come to create your first post, how exciting! Posts are created via the WordPress admin panel, using the built in editing tools. I can’t tell you how to write your posts, that part is up to you! You should give your post a nice, descriptive title and then write to your hearts content. If you’re looking for some additional guidance on how to create a post, I would recommend having a read through the following articles:
After you have published your post, reload your domain in the browser and see your new content in all it’s glory! You should now be able to see how blogs take shape over time, as more content is created, the website starts to fill out and more of WordPress’ features become useful (such as search, categories etc).