So you want to start a blog, and you want to do it fast. This guide will show you how. You’ll learn how to choose a cheap web hosting account, grab your dream domain and get WordPress up and running in an hour.
It’s fast and easy, and you’ll enjoy having complete control over your own WordPress blog.
Step 1. Get Cheap Hosting
WordPress itself is completely free. To create a website using WordPress, you need a web hosting account. Your web host stores the WordPress files on their server and ensures your site is available round the clock. All you have to do is choose the right host.
WordPress works great on practically any hosting package, from budget shared hosting right through to a dedicated server plan. Most new users start with a cheap shared hosting package costing a few bucks a month. ‘Shared’ means the web host places multiple clients on the same server, which is an economical way of providing resources for small websites.
Choosing the Best Shared Hosting
The cheapest shared hosting is offered on the Linux platform, and Linux is the best platform for WordPress too. You don’t need to worry about the operating system you’re running on your own computer, because Linux hosting can be managed from any computer with an internet connection. Just make sure that your host supports WordPress. Almost all of them do.
Even though it’s called shared hosting, you will be allocated your own server space and resources. Web hosts are committed to ensuring it’s secure. Shared hosting is often marketed as ‘unlimited’, but the host will still expect your use to be sensible and only use your space for the tasks they allow.
Check that your plan allows you to:
- Install WordPress (most do)
- Set up email accounts linked to your domain
- Access your files via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software
- Move away without penalty, or upgrade, if you outgrow the hosting plan
Web Hosting Hub is a good example of a cheap host that’s built to run WordPress. It offers all of the features you’ll likely need: email accounts, forwarding, FTP and more. And it’s inexpensive, too. Web Hosting Hub doesn’t push customers to sign up for a long-term contract, and there’s plenty of WordPress help for new customers in its Help Center.
Choosing a Great Domain Name
You’ll also need to buy a domain name for your website. This is the URL your visitors type in to visit your site. (Our domain name is StudyWeb.com)
Choosing the right name can be a challenge. You can’t edit your domain if you make a mistake. And, while domains are cheap, it’s a waste to own domains you never use.
- Go for a short, snappy word that you can brand – or your name, if it’s a personal site
- Avoid domains with lots of keywords, and don’t use hyphens in the domain name
- Aim for a .com, or a localized domain, like .co.uk, if you trade mainly in one country
- Check that your domain isn’t trademarked, and use KnowEm.com to check availability on other services like Twitter
For convenience, Web Hosting Hub allows you to purchase your hosting and domain name at the same time. You can also manage them from the same control panel. Depending on the plan you choose, you may be given a FREE domain name just for signing up.
Step 2. Install WordPress
Now you have your shared hosting account, you can install WordPress. There are two ways to do it.
Whichever method you choose, you will be up and running within an hour.
Option A: the Super-Easy Method
Hosting companies like Web Hosting Hub offer WordPress as a 1-Click Installer. In your web hosting control panel, you simply use a Wizard to install the application on your account. Using the 1-Click method, your blog will be fully functioning within 10 minutes.
The downside of the 1-Click Installer is that it’s slightly less customizable then the second method we’ll show you. If you prefer to learn as you go, keep reading.
Option B: the 15-Minute Method
The second option is a self-install. It’s not difficult, but it takes slightly longer. You’ll have to use this method if your host doesn’t offer a 1-Click Installer.
To install WordPress in 15 minutes:
- Download a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client application. FileZilla and Cyberduck are great
- In your browser, log in to your hosting control panel and create a new MySQL database. Make a note of the database name, username and password, including any text before the underscore (which may be added automatically)
- Visit wordpress.org and download the installer zip file
- Unzip the file on your computer
- Connect to your web hosting account using the FTP login your host provided
- Upload all of the unzipped files to the root of the public_html folder, or the www folder if you don’t see public_html
- Visit your website at the domain name URL
- Follow the instructions to complete the installation
At the end of the installation, you’ll be asked to log into WordPress to configure the application. Keep reading to find out what tweaks you need to make.
Step 3. WordPress Configuration
Now your blog is up and running, it’s time to customize the settings so everything works the way you want it to.
But first, a sensible precaution: rename the default user. This makes your blog more secure. In the sidebar, select Users -> Your Profile and change the details to something unique to you.
- First, switch on Permalinks. This setting gives your blog readable URLs that may give your site an SEO boost. Navigate to Settings -> Permalinks, select the Post name option and save. If you want to use a Custom Structure here, be sure to avoid numbers and punctuation, such as underscores.
- Discussion settings are next. These settings control how comments are handled. If you don’t have a blog on your site, you should disable comments completely. If you have a blog, leave Allow people to post comments on new articles Customize the settings as you prefer.
- Reading settings tell WordPress how your blog should be displayed. You can choose one of your Pages as a static front page, or display your latest blog posts on the home page instead. In this section, you will also see a Search Engine Visibility checkbox. While you’re working on your site, you can check this box to hide your blog from search engines. Set yourself a reminder to uncheck this box when you’re ready for launch.
- Change the default image storage folder in WordPress. This will make your blog more secure and could give you an SEO advantage. First, use your FTP software to create a new folder in wp_content called images. Then, in WordPress’ Settings section, look for the Miscellaneous page. Under Store uploads in this folder, point WordPress to images, rather than the default, uploads.
Step 4. Add Essential Plugins
With plugins, you can further extend WordPress’ functions until it fits your requirements perfectly. It’s easy to install Plugins from the WordPress admin area.
We recommend that you install the Plugin Central plugin first. It allows you to quickly install multiple plugins, saving time.
What else should you add? Here’s a list:
- Akismet: An awesome spam-catcher that will prevent spam from littering your blog comments. Akismet uses a sophisticated detection method to filter out comment spam for manual review. You need a key to use it, but these are freely available from http://akismet.com/personal
- Yoast SEO: Another free plugin, and an essential extension to WordPress. Yoast SEO adds features and fields that give your blog an SEO boost. It makes the whole WordPress application smarter, and helps you to understand how to write more optimized content, titles and descriptions. Search and install from the Plugins page.
- Make it easy for visitors to email you: add a contact form. Contact Form 7 is a free, easy to use contact form plugin. Explore it at http://ContactForm7.com
- W3 Total Cache helps to speed up WordPress by caching some of the most frequently accessed content. It can be installed in seconds through the Plugins page.
- The AddThis plugin adds social sharing buttons to every blog post you write. Install it through the Plugins page.
- Encourage users to subscribe to your blog with a MailChimp subscription form. It’s really easy. Just grab the MailChimp plugin and set up an account at http://mailchimp.com
Step 5. Choose a Theme
WordPress is a template system. The website content, such as the blog posts and static pages, are stored in a database. The site layout and color scheme is stored separately in a template.
You can choose any compatible template from tens of thousands, and swap your template whenever you like.
Free or Paid?
WordPress developers often distribute free templates, and they also create templates that users pay for – premium themes. So why would anyone buy a theme when there are free options? Here are a few reasons to go premium:
- Free themes may be used by dozens of websites. Premium themes are less commonly used, so there’s less chance of a competitor launching a site that looks exactly the same as yours
- Developers who distribute free themes don’t usually offer extended support. With a premium theme, you will usually have a direct contact for the developer
- Premium themes may include more advanced features and sometimes come bundled with premium plugins
If you’re just starting out, why not use a free theme first? Once your site is bringing in some traffic, consider an upgrade to a premium theme.
Customizing Your Theme
WordPress has a built-in theme editor that’s What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG). As you edit the theme, the changes are reflected in a real time preview. It’s easy to tweak themes to get them how you want them.
In the WordPress admin area, navigate to Appearance, then Customize. The drop-down lists on the left hand side will display the customization options available to you.
The theme editor is designed for small tweaks rather than big layout changes. If you want to customize your theme extensively, you’ll need to dive into the code or hire a developer.
6. Create Your Content
Now it’s time to add content to your new WordPress website. Initially, there are two types of content to write: Posts and Pages.
Here’s how to tell them apart:
- A Page is a static page. Examples include your About page, information about your products or services, and your Home page. Pages are designed to be evergreen: they always exist prominently on your website as a ‘shop front’. If you are planning to run a personal site, you may just have one or two static pages
- A Post is a blog post. Blog posts are time stamped, and readers are often invited to comment on them or share them on social media
Work on writing your Pages first so that the site structure and navigation is in place. You can then work on your Posts, building a rolling sequence of updates that are published over time.
How to Blog
There are no strict rules on how to blog, or what to blog about. Your first post can be on any topic that you feel comfortable writing about. However, bear in mind that search engines like to see good quality content. Aim to publish interesting, informative posts that will hook in your readers and get them coming back for me.
Use our blogging tips to guide your first post:
- When structuring the title of a blog post, make sure you include keywords. They will be carried over to the URL that WordPress generates for the post, and both will help with SEO
- Upload one image using the Featured Image box in the Post composition screen. This image will appear next to the post in WordPress and on some social media websites. Images make blog posts much more engaging
- Set up at least one category, and ideally two or three. Use tags to describe themes in your blog
- Use the WordPress editor to add headings to your post. Use Heading 2 primarily; sub headings should be assigned Heading 3, Heading 4 and so on
- Don’t try to trick Google by using excessive keywords in your content. This may have been a recommended tactic in the past, but Google is now much smarter at penalizing bloggers for it
- Blogging is exciting, but if you’re not much of a writer, it may be difficult to maintain a strict blogging schedule. If you have a budget set aside, hire a professional content writer to supplement your blog posts with additional content
And that’s it! Enjoy blogging with WordPress. Don’t forget to untick the Search Engine Visibility checkbox once your site is ready for its first visitors.