So you’ve taken the biggest step and made the decision to start a blog. But now you have to build the damn thing and you haven’t a clue where to begin.
That’s where we come in. We’ve put together this three part ‘How to Start a Blog’ guide specifically to help make the whole process easy and pain-free for brand new bloggers.
This guide is aimed specifically at creating a WordPress blog.
WordPress is the World’s biggest content management platform, is flexible and has a ton of features and add-ons. We use it as the platform for all our websites.
Posts in this series:
This post contains affiliate links which means we earn a commission for referring you. Don’t worry…it doesn’t cost you any more than it otherwise would and we only recommend tools we have used and love.
Hosting and Domain
Feel free to skip the explanation if you know this bit, but for people who are completely new to all of this, here’s a very quick explanation about what hosting actually is and why you need it.
Your website is made up of a number of different files. In order to see your site, your visitors need to be able to access those files.
Your hosting provider provides the servers that house your site’s files and make them available for the public to access.
But how to choose your provider?
You have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a hosting provider. But not all hosts are created equal. More importantly, not all of them provide the level of support and service that you need.
So, tempting as it is to go straight for the cheapest option when first starting out, doing that will only cause you unwanted and unnecessary problems in the future.
Both are quality hosts who provide excellent (and fast) customer service and additional features to make your life easier.
(For the purposes of this post, we will focus on setting up a blog with Dreamhost).
Setting Up Your Blog With Dreamhost
To start your WordPress blog with Dreamhost choose ‘Wordpress Hosting’ from the menu bar.
On the next page, select the shared hosting option. This will be more than sufficient to cover all your website needs when you are just starting out.
After creating your account you need to choose your domain name which will be registered directly through Dreamhost.
Your domain name is the virtual address of your business (the .com, .co, .xyz).
You have the choice of different domains (.com, .co, .xyz). Whichever you choose is completely based on your own preference. In general, .com names are more popular and widely known but more and more people are now choosing to use alternative options.
For example, we chose wildislecreative.co for our current domain because it fits with our company name, Wild Isle Creative Co.
Type your required domain into the box to check whether its available.
Once you have chosen an available domain just follow the options through to the end to purchase your plan. On the ‘Additional Options’ tab, make sure you keep the ‘Install WordPress’ box ticked.
Now you have your domain and hosting in place, its time to install WordPress. In your Dreamhost dashboard, head over to the left hand menu.
Select ‘Goodies’ – ‘One-Click Installs’ – ‘WordPress’
Select your domain from the top dropdown box. Leave the other options as they are. Click ‘Install for me now’ and follow the instructions to finish the setup. Its as easy as that.
Choose Your Theme
Now you have all the technical stuff sorted, its time to get your website to start looking like a website.
Assuming that you will not be investing in a professional website designer, the next step is to choose a theme for your WordPress website.
Your theme will provide the functionality, style, design and layout for your WordPress site.
You have a number of options here:
Use a Free Theme
You can choose from a whole collection of free themes in the WordPress library. Free themes generally have less functionality and customisable design features than premium themes but are a good option if you are just starting out and don’t have the money to invest in a premium theme.
Purchase a Premium Theme
If you want a beautifully designed blog but don’t have enough time to spend hours customising it then consider purchasing a premium theme. Premium themes have more design features and give you more flexibility than a free theme. Creative Market is one of our favourite places to purchase high quality premium themes.
Purchase a Premium Theme That Allows You to DIY
If you want more control over the design of your website and the ability to customise it yourself then a DIY theme is your best bet. The most popular of these is Divi which gives you control over your entire site, is relatively easy to use and has an extremely helpful blog and community where you can pick up loads of tips and tricks.
Installing Your Theme
There are two ways to install a theme on your website.
If you are installing a theme direct from the WordPress library, click ‘Appearance’ – ‘Themes’ – ‘Add New’ in the left-hand menu.
Search for available themes and click ‘Install’.
Once your theme is installed, click ‘Activate’ and your theme is ready to go.
If you have decided to go for a premium theme, then you will be given a zip file of your theme. In the ‘Themes’ tab, click on ‘Add Theme’ and then ‘Upload Theme’. Upload your zip file, activate the theme as with the WordPress themes above and you are ready to go.
We talk more about how to customise your theme in Parts 2 and 3 of the series.
The last technical step before we start getting to the fun stuff is to install any plugins you want on your site.
Plugins are pieces of software that you can install to add different functionality to your website.
You can get a plugin for almost anything you want to do on your site, but its best to exercise a bit of caution here. If you have a lot of plugins, especially lower quality ones, it can seriously slow down your website’s load speed, which will lose you readers.
To add a new plugin, click ‘Plugins’ and ‘Add New’ in the left hand menu bar.
Search for the plugin you want and click ‘Install Now’.
When the plugin has finished installing, click ‘Activate’.
The plugin is now active and you can go ahead and start configuring the settings. The settings will be in different places depending on the plugin. Sometimes a new option will be added to the left-hand menu bar on your WordPress dashboard, sometimes you will find it in the ‘Settings’ tab and sometimes in the widget area.
We recommend the following plugins for your site:
Vaultpress – Website Backups
Wordfence or Sucuri Scanner – Site security
Akismet – Anti-spam
Broken Link Checker – Check for broken links
Jetpack – Includes a whole suite of features (content, security, performance)
Yoast – Search Engine Optimisation of your pages and posts
Simple Social Icons – Easy, customisable social media icons