So you want to install WordPress, start your own blog and build a platform to share your ideas with the world? Good news! You are in the right place and will be up and running in about 10 minutes.
This guide features the exact step-by-step process that I follow when I build my own blogs. No prior experience or tech-knowledge is necessary. By the end of this post you will have your own blog online. Are you ready?
Step 1: Get your domain name
Internet is amazing. All domain names are created equal and having one puts you on the same playing field as any big company out there. Anyone anywhere in the world can reach your blog by simply typing few letters in their browsers. And the cost of starting is low. Plus WordPress content management platform allows you to build a blog for free. The biggest investment you will need to make is your time.
WordPress is an open-source, free content publishing platform. It is very user-focused and constantly developed. It’s used by millions of people and powers more than 60 million sites. This is 25% of the entire web. It’s used by casual bloggers to some of the largest businesses including Facebook, eBay, NASA, Mozilla, CNN and many more. It is the dominant blogging tool and every second two new WordPress blogs are born!
Alternatives like Tumblr and Blogger are available but only self-hosted WordPress allows you the complete control over the look and feel, features and other aspects of your blog. It is also very easy to work in, update and keep up. I love it and run all my projects on it.
WordPress needs a domain name and a web server space to work. A domain name is the address people will type to get access to your site and a server space is where your content and files are hosted online. I recommend Bluehost for the easiest setup process. It is simple to use, offers a free domain name, an affordable hosting account with unlimited space and WordPress officially recommends it. More than 2 million WordPress blogs are hosted there.
Are you wondering what domain name to use? These are the characteristics of a good domain name:
- Brief, simple and easy to spell
- Unique, catchy, easy to pronounce and memorable
- Appropriate to your topic, but not so descriptive that it is generic
- YourName.com is always a good choice (as long as you are comfortable with it)
- Need more advice? See this post.
Disclosure: I do earn a commission if you sign-up to Bluehost using my link at no additional cost to you. Plus you do get an exclusive discount as a visit from my blog. Please know that I only recommend products and services that I find helpful and useful. If you do choose to buy through my affiliate link, thank you for your support!
Step 2: Enter your account information
After you have chosen your perfect domain name, you need to enter your account information to register it. It is a pretty straight forward process and includes you filling in your full name, address, phone number and email address.
Step 3: Choose your account plan
On the next step you need to choose your account plan. Exclusive promo rate for HowToMakeMyBlog visitors ranges from $3.49 to $4.95 per month depending on the length of your commitment. Note that you’ll be required to pay the annual rate in advance so if you pick 36 months at $3.49/month, a very reasonable monthly amount for the service you will get, you will be billed $125.64.
It is not necessary to sign-up for any of the other services they offer (Domain Privacy Protection, Site Backup Pro, Search Engine Jumpstart, Sitelock Security, Google Apps for Work) so feel free to skip them.
Step 4: Enter your billing information
On the next step you need to fill in your billing information. Enter your credit card details, confirm that you have read the T&C’s and click on “Next”. Your credit card information will now be verified. You’ll be offered several upgrades but you do not need them so feel free to say no to all the offers and complete your purchase.
Step 5: Time to install WordPress
Congratulations! You now officially own your domain name, a hosting account and are one step closer to getting your site live to the world.
On this step you can create your account password upon which you will get an introductory email which has your account information. Save it.
It’s time to set up your WordPress site. Enter the control panel by clicking on “Login” on the top right of the front page navigation and filling in your login details. In the “Home” tab of the “Hosting” area in the control panel, scroll down the page, find and click on “Install WordPress” in the “Website” section.
Step 6: Start a brand new WordPress install
This will take you to the Mojo Marketplace, a system that helps you install WordPress on your domain name and hosting space without needing any prior experience or tech know-how. Click on the large “Install” button to start a brand new install.
Step 7: Fill in your site name and other details
Simply select the domain name on which you wish to install WordPress and click on “Check Domain”. There will be an error message but don’t worry as you do want to overwrite the files.
This leads you to the last step. Click “Show advanced options” and fill in your site details as seen in the image below: Site Name, Admin Username, and Admin Password. Username and password will be what you use to login to your WordPress admin dashboard in your day-to-day blogging. Make them strong and secure. Click “Install Now” as seen below.
Step 8: Your WordPress is live! Login to the dashboard
And that’s it. Your site will be ready within couple of moments. You will see a confirmation message on your screen. Anyone can then access your new site by going to yourdomain.com. Now you have a site up and running in no time and with very little money spent.
You can go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ to login to your WordPress admin back-end with username and password that you chose in step 7. WordPress admin is where all the magic happens. WordPress is simple and easy to use but there is a medium-sized learning curve to get used to it. Take some time exploring the opportunities and possibilities with your new WordPress site. Left hand sidebar is full of options for you:
- In “Posts” you can write your first article. Posts are the main content of your site. Posts are the articles you are regularly writing for your visitors. They appear in your RSS feed, can be tagged and categorized. Posts traditionally feature a published on date in the byline and are placed in a reverse chronological order on your home page.
- In “Posts > Categories” you can group your posts into topics and allow users to find your content easier. If you go into “Settings” and then “Writing” in your admin interface you can select a new “Default Post Category” as otherwise all posts will by default go into “Uncategorized”. A category page lists all the posts from that category. These pages are very useful to give your visitors a nice access point to dig deeper into your content.
- “Posts > Tags” are similar to categories but they are just used more specifically. They keywords that are much more specific than categories and while I might have a category called ”Celebrity style” I might put a celebrity’s name as a tag to a post. Tags are usually links which lead to a page showcasing all the posts that are tagged with that specific keyword.
- In “Media” you will see a list of all the imagery and videos you have uploaded.
- “Pages” are more strategic than posts and are not updated daily. They are traditionally placed in navigational menu, contain more static information such as “About page” and “Contact page”. Many blogs have a “New? Start Here” page where they introduce a first-time visitor to the topic. Some have pages that focus on attracting customers such as “Consulting page” or “Services page” that list details on products and allow people to book an appointment.
- In “Comments” you can get an overview of all comments posted by your visitors. You can reply to the comments here. You can also moderate the comments by deleting and editing.
- In “Appearance > Themes” you can find and activate beautiful design themes. WordPress has thousands of them. How your site looks is often the first indication to readers of the quality of your content. No one will hang around a badly designed page. Get a great design that makes your site pretty. For a complete step-by-step process on choosing the design that fits take a look here.
- In “Appearance > Menus” you can set up your navigation menu.
- In “Appearance > Widgets” you can set up the look and features of your sidebar.
- In “Plugins” you can find and activate powerful plugins to extend WordPress. There are thousands of free plugins available and they can be used to add many features to your website. These are some of my favorite plugins.
- In “Users” you can edit your user profile or add other people who will be your collaborators.
- In “Tools” you can import content from your other blogs, such as your Blogger blog.
- In “Settings” you can change the name of your blog and explore other settings.
Step 9: To-dos to optimize your new blog
Let’s look at this to-do list that I go through as soon as I install a new WordPress blog.
Replace the default “Admin” user account (In Users > Your Profile)
Some WordPress installs come with a default username. You should not use it as it is not personal. You don’t want “Admin” to be the name of the author in the byline of the posts you publish. It can also be a vulnerability as spammers know that default username and can use that to try to break into your site. Create a new username which displays your full name in post bylines and delete the default admin username. Take a look at my complete guide to making your WordPress blog safe and secure.
Remove the generic content that comes with WordPress
WordPress comes with several default items such as an introductory post, a welcome page and some pre-installed plugins. You can safely get rid of all of them. Delete the generic “Hello World!” post (In Posts), the “Sample Page” page (In Pages) and “Hello Dolly” plugin (In Plugins).
Activate comment spam blocker (In Plugins)
Many spammers use WordPress comment areas to promote pages where they sell dubious products. You don’t want these people to hang out in your own comments area. Luckily, the solution is simple with one of the spam blockers. Akismet is the best comment spam filter and it comes within your WordPress installation. Activate the plugin and then you just need to “Create a new Akismet key“. Do check my detailed guide to eliminating WordPress comment spam for more advice.
Fill in “Site Title” and “Tagline” (In Settings > General)
You don’t want your site to be “just another WordPress site”, which is the default tagline in WordPress. That doesn’t tell your visitor much about what you do. You should make one up for yourself. Write your title in “Site Title”. Explain what your site is about in “Tagline”.
Don’t allow user registrations (In Settings > General > Membership)
WordPress allows your visitors to register for accounts on your site. This is not necessary if you’re not running a membership site and it leaves your blog open to hackers and spam. This if off by default but just make sure “Anyone can register” is ticked off.
Update ping services (In Settings > Writing > Update Services)
Pings help you automatically notify different online services when you publish a new post. I don’t think I’ve ever received any visitors thanks to this but it’s a 2-min, one-time job so I recommend you do it in any case. Update this field with ping services that WordPress recommends
Make your site visible to search engines (In Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility)
Make sure your site is visible to everyone, including search engines. Your site is visible to search engines by default but it has happened that bloggers ticked this box and were later wondering why search engines didn’t index their sites. Make sure the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is ticked off.
Say no to the email updates (In Settings > Discussion > E-mail me whenever)
WordPress notifies you via email when there is a new comment on your site. That might be a bit distracting for your productivity when you start getting many comments so I change the default option to no emails.
Make permalinks short and pretty (In Settings > Permalinks)
Your permalinks are the URL’s of your articles. You don’t want them to be called something as generic as domainname.com/123456. Change it to actually spell out the name of your post. The default permalink structure: /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/. It includes the date your post was published. It’s not be the best if you publish timeless content as having a date in the URL might make people think the article is outdated.
I use the custom option field called “Post name” – it is a well-structured, short and search engine friendly permalink. My permalinks look like this: domainname.com/post-name.
Step 10: Make your blog awesome and search engine friendly
Let’s take a look at these features that you should incorporate into your new site:
Create an About page
Make an introductory page where you explain about your project, about yourself and what your site helps people with. Tell people what your purpose and your mission is. Don’t be shy, include a picture of yourself. If possible get a professional to take a high-quality picture.
If I go to your about page, how long will take me to find the purpose of your site? Is it clear within the first seconds, or do I have to read through endless paragraphs to find out? The more concise and kick-ass your story, the easier it will be for your readers to get to like you, subscribe to you and even share you with their friends.
Create a Contact page
Make a page where people can get in touch with you. This will be very useful to get reader feedback, to get connected to other bloggers and maybe even to attract sponsors. Contact Form 7 is the plugin I usually use to add a contact form to a page like this. It can even be inserted into your about page. It is very simple and effective.
Install Google Analytics to start tracking visitors
Google Analytics is a useful tool to track and analyse your visitors. It provides you a lot of data to see where they find your articles, a lot of geographical data, how visitors like your site and much more. This data will help you make better future decisions such as what type of topics to cover, where to go to attract more readers and more.
Create a sitemap to help Google learn about your content
Your sitemap lists all the posts and pages that are accessible for search engines to crawl and index. Basically having a sitemap helps Google and other search engines learn more about your content and hopefully also send you more traffic.
A sitemap is a file that lists URL’s for a site along with additional metadata about each URL. Information like when the post was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URL’s on the site.
Google usually discovers your pages from links within the site and from other online sites. Sitemaps supplement this data with more information. The easiest way of implementing an XML Sitemap on your blog is to use one of the free plugins such as WordPress SEO and Google XML Sitemaps. The plugin updates the sitemap automatically when you publish new content so there is no need to do anything after you activate the plugin.
Here’s my guide to everything you need to know to get your blog on top of Google’s search results.
Add your site to Search Console
Search Console (the tool formerly knows as Google Webmaster Tools) is a useful tool to track the progress of your site in search engines and for Google to give you feedback on what you can improve.
I keep an eye on this as Google sends messages according to what kind of things they discover. These messages help you stay on top and quickly react to warnings such as potential spam attack or other problems Google encounters with your site. In Search Console Google gives you information they have about your site, your inbound links and search engine rankings.
Create your Search Console account and verify your blog. Submit your XML Sitemap directly to Google. Choose your site Preferred domain – either with or without www. Make sure this is consistent with the URL you use in your WordPress settings (In Settings > General > WordPress Address URL).
Setup social media accounts
Social media can be a useful place for you to make people aware of your site and attract them to come visit your articles. In order to do that you should create profiles on Twitter, Facebook and/or any other social media platform where your target audience is. Make sure to link back to your URL from the profiles and vice versa.
Don’t just create profiles at every social media site, be focused on platforms that are most popular with your target audience. Create a Twitter profile, a Facebook page, Pinterest, Instagram and whatever else social media profile that is relevant to your audience.
Include follow buttons to your social media profiles in your sidebar to start building your loyal following. Start networking, engaging and building your following from day one. Go to Twitter, search for people in your target group, get in touch, connect to them and win them over one by one.
Give people the choice of how they want to hear from you
It is important for you to retain some of your first time visitors to make them come back and become loyal readers. You can do this by getting them to sign up to your mailing list in order for you to be able to contact them again. Check out my full guide on starting your own newsletter.
Make it easy for people to follow you in social media, subscribe to you via email or via messaging tools. Point out how many others are reading your site. The more popular your site is, the more persuasive it becomes automatically as people like to be a part of the crowd and like to follow things that are popular and that other people are following as well.
Step 11: Publish your first post!
Now the real work begins. Starting a site turns out is easier than creating a post. More than 50 percent of all blogs never publish a single post. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you. You need to start publishing epic blog posts.
Your content needs to be useful, valuable, entertaining, educating. It needs to satisfy the needs of an audience. Look at things from the audience point of view and figure out what you can help people with. What is it that you know well and can do better than other people?
Be incredibly useful and valuable. Share your experience and know-how. Give away your secrets. Tell people about your problems and how you have solved them. Answer questions real people have. Everyone loves a how-to guide or a tutorial post so teach people something useful. Create lists of amazing tools and resources.
The content is everything so you must start building lots of it to attract visitors. Internet is polluted by bad content. People are tired of it. For you to have any chance of standing out and attracting an audience you do need to offer something different, better and special. Go above and beyond the normal article. Something more detailed, more useful, easier to understand and easier to implement than the best content that is out there.
The common angle of looking at a topic is no longer of any real interest. Spice things up and develop your own style, tone of voice and concept that can help differentiate you from other sites in the field. Add an angle on an angle. Will you be visiting every country in the world? Will you be developing a new start-up every month and teaching people how to do it too?
Your headlines must be sharp, they must make people curious and prompt them to click. You need to make your headlines irresistible to attract attention. See how to write clickable headlines.
Go through this checklist before making your post live and click “Publish”. Congratulations on your first post! Now write the second one. Then the third one.
Here’s a quick look into how I work within the WordPress post writing interface:
Step 12: Keep learning and improving
After publishing the first post you realize that the work is only starting. Be realistic. Your first post will most probably suck. Only your mother might like it. Your analytics report might say you had two visitors only. No one would click on the Twitter share button or the Facebook like button. This may sound a bit harsh but even the biggest bloggers published posts that sucked early on in their careers.
Don’t just give up after couple of weeks if you feel like you have not reached your high expectations, but manage your expectations better. Blogging is not going to get you rich quick. Big things are possible and you should dream about reaching them but do not expect it to happen to you overnight.
What separates the best bloggers from the rest is that while failing they were learning the fundamentals of creating immersive content. Focus your time and efforts on learning the craft of blogging. Learning how to create great content is the most important lesson for you to become a successful blogger. The content and the way you present and promote that content, determines how well your project will do.
This is what counts. Getting experience. Learning how to write better. Improving the way you present your content. Getting more comfortable about reaching out to people and promoting your content. These are key skills that you need to build a successful site. It takes a lot of time to master all these. You will be starting from almost zero and building your way up, learning from all the bad content you put out there and all the experience that you gain.
If you have questions, just search on Google or use my site. WordPress has a huge community of hundreds of thousands of developers and designers all over the world always eager to help and answer questions.
By taking these steps you will already do more than most people do. Other people keep talking and dreaming and you are not one of them. You have published that first post despite being fearful of the feedback. You are actually in the field working. Only doing the real work can help you. Slowly but surely your site will grow. Your reputation in the industry will increase.
Step 13: Make a promise to show up again tomorrow
There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, and consistency is definitely one of them. Remain consistent with your site for at least 6-12 months. The reason most sites “fail” is simply because the author stops updating them. The hardest part is the initial hurdle, so decide now that you’re going to keep at it. Make a promise to show up again tomorrow. Put in the effort and you will see the results.
Commit yourself to posting on a regular schedule. I have posted 3 times a week for more than a year after starting this blog. It creates a momentum and helps you attract and build a loyal audience. Make it easier on yourself by preparing a number of articles for the launch. If you want to keep to a consistent schedule, they’ll save you when life’s typical interruptions come into play. I always have a number of ideas in a draft document that I could work on and publish.
Work on attracting your first visitors. Visitors won’t just come after you publish. You will have to go out and get them. You need to have a marketing routine that you go through every time after you have published a new piece of content to drive traffic to it. This is my routine. Get out there. Find your target audience. Connect with them. Show that you are the expert. Promote your content wherever you can, whenever you can. If you don’t do this not many people will know about you.
The real work of a blogger is about performing consistently day after day and building an audience few people at a time. It is a lot of work, takes up a lot of your day and is hard to get away from. It is a marathon, it is not a sprint. There is a long road ahead. You are ready to conquer a piece of the online world. Enjoy it!