Why should I start a blog?
- Do you want to help people by sharing your expertise on a topic?
- Would you like to connect with people who are enthusiastic about your area of interest?
- Do you wish you could write about your life’s passion, but don’t know how to get started?
If the answer to any of these questions is YES, you should start a blog.
Is it easy to start a blog?
Yes! Starting a blog today is easier than ever. You don’t need to know a lot of technical details about websites, or how to program to start a blog. All you need is a few simple tools.
This article will guide you through the process of setting up a blog with WordPress. WordPress is a content management system. It helps organize your photos, posts, and pages on your website and enables a lot of advanced features. WordPress powers most blogs, as well as a lot of large websites. It’s the most popular content management system on the web today. It’s easy to use, and free!
Let’s get started!
Wait: why should I take your advice?
When I’m not creating recipes for How Do You Food, I’m working as a website designer for one of the nation’s top engineering colleges. I’ve been designing and building websites for over 22 years. Let’s put it this way: my career is older than WordPress, YouTube, Facebook, and Google. So I should at least share some of this wisdom I’ve collected while I’m aging gracefully, right?
Step 1: Find a web hosting provider for your blog
Blogs and websites are housed on servers – powerful computers with fast connections to the Internet. Web hosting providers are companies that “rent” you space on a server for your blog.
Most of the time, you’ll be sharing space on a single server with a lot of other websites. This is ok when you’re starting out, and is the most economical way to host a website. As your website grows, you may need to upgrade your web hosting to a more robust service that can handle your increased traffic. It is important to choose a web hosting provider that offers a variety of hosting plans to meet your needs.
But the most important feature of a web hosting provider is excellent customer support. When you need technical help with your site, you should be able to count on a web hosting provider’s customer service team. The best hosting providers offer 24/7 support by email or chat. Many hosting providers also offer an extensive knowledge base to help you solve your own website issues quickly.
If you’re just starting out, you are probably looking for a web hosting provider that’s affordable, too. Beware of cheap web hosting providers. (Bluehost is a provider that a lot of bloggers use when they’re starting out, but their customer service and performance ratings are not great.) You tend to get what you pay for with web hosting. Very low cost hosting plans usually mean that your site is sharing a server with A LOT of other sites – and a server that is overloaded is going to make your site slow.
If you begin to see more traffic to your site, any issues slowness, poor customer service, or downtime will have a greater impact. If you’re using ads on your blog and counting on page views for revenue, these issues will be costly.
Why not save yourself time and trouble and start out with a high-quality hosting provider right from the start? I use and recommend SiteGround or DreamHost for hosting your blog. Both of these providers offer outstanding customer service, a variety of hosting plans that enable your blog to grow, and added features like automatic WordPress installation, backups, and staging servers. SiteGround hosting is a great value.
Step 2: Choose a hosting plan for your blog
For new bloggers, I recommend SiteGround’s Start Up plan or a Virtual Private Server (VPS) Plan from DreamHost. These plans should be adequate for any new blogger, supporting traffic up to about 10,000 pageviews per month. They also offer additional features like easy WordPress installation, backups, and excellent support. I have experience working with both of these hosting providers myself.
Make sure your hosting plan includes these features:
- Backups. Sooner or later, you’ll need them. SiteGround offers automatic backups on their basic web hosting plan. DreamHost offers backups with their VPS hosting plans. Most importantly, these providers make it easy to restore a copy of your site when something goes wrong, your website is down, and you are FREAKING OUT.
- Support for HTTPS. Your blog should be a “secure site” or use a “secure certificate.” It means that data going to and from your site is encrypted to keep it secure and safe. SiteGround offers free Let’s Encrypt secure certificates that you can install with a few clicks.
- Email accounts. It’s a good idea to create an email address at your domain name (like email@example.com). Hosting providers usually offer the ability to set up email addresses at your domain. I like to set up an email address with my website hosting provider, and forward it into my main Gmail account, so I receive all my communication in one place.
Step 3: Register a domain name for your blog
You’ll need to decide on a domain name, or URL, for your blog. A domain name can be purchased through many different resellers, but obtaining a domain name through your hosting provider will be easiest. To see if your desired domain name is available, use the ICANN WHOIS Search, or find a domain name through DreamHost or SiteGround.
Tips for choosing a domain name for your blog
- Your domain name should reflect your blog name, if possible
- Make it easy to say and spell. Avoid novel spellings, weird combinations of letters standing in for words, and hyphens. You’ll have to clarify all of these out loud when speaking your domain name, and it’s awkward. And it should not be too long.
- Don’t make it too specific. For example, a baker named Sarah might start a blog at sarahscookies.com. But what happens when she wants to break into the cupcake business? It is preferable to err on the side of being somewhat general with your domain name at first, even if you choose a more specific niche for your content later.
- Check for unintentional words. Is loveofart.com about affection for art, or for a certain bodily function? Who knows. Would you click a link to find out?
- Beware of odd letter combinations. For example, you’re into moss photography (and who isn’t?), so you set up mossstudio.com. That combination of three of the same letters in a row is difficult for your visitors to read, and to type without errors.
Step 4: Install WordPress on your blog
Now you have a domain name, and a place to host your site. You’re almost ready to publish some content, but first you need to set up a tool that enables you to write and organize your content – WordPress.
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that gives you an easy-to-use, word-processor-like interface to help you organize posts, pages, and images. It can also be enhanced with plugins which enable more features like social media sharing buttons, email subscription forms, and e-commerce. The WordPress content management system powers about 30 percent of websites, so it’s widely-supported, tried, and true. Best of all, WordPress is FREE!
To use WordPress, you’ll need to install a set of files on your web server that makes WordPress work. There are two common installation methods:
- Download WordPress from WordPress.org and upload it to your website using FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
- Use a “one-click” install option offered by your hosting provider.
A one-click install is much faster and easier. If your hosting provider offers this option, you should use it. On SiteGround, installing WordPress involves clicking three buttons. That’s it! You can have your blog up and running in less than five minutes.
Ridiculously easy, right?
A note about WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org
It is possible to set up a freely-hosted website on WordPress.com, versus just downloading software from WordPress.org. But this hosting comes with some strict limitations, including:
- No e-commerce support (can’t sell products on your site)
- You can’t install plugins
- 3GB disk space limit
- You can’t monetize your blog by placing ads on it
You can read more about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org at ThemeIsle.
Step 5: Choose a WordPress theme for your blog
Although millions of sites on the web run WordPress, you’ll be hard-pressed to find two of them that look the same. That’s because WordPress uses themes to let you change the presentation and style of your blog content. Think of a theme as an outfit that you can put together to dress up your content. Like outfits, themes can be changed, and some themes work better with different website functions.
Free or Premium WordPress theme?
There are a lot of free WordPress themes out there, and many of these themes will suffice. You can also purchase a premium theme for your blog that includes support, updates, and more advanced features. I have used both free and premium themes, and I currently use a premium theme called Mai Lifestyle Pro along with the Genesis Framework.
Personally, I love the Genesis Framework because of the advanced options it gives me for site layout. Premium themes usually include customization options that give you easy ways to control navigation bars, layouts, and styling. As a web developer, I have built many WordPress themes from scratch, so I could build my own theme for my blog. But I’d rather focus on creating and promoting great content instead. Using the Genesis Framework and a premium theme is a great choice for me, and a popular choice for many bloggers.
Download WordPress Themes
Here are some websites where you can find WordPress themes:
- WordPress.org Theme Directory
- 71 Best Free WordPress Themes
- WordPress themes from TemplateMonster
- Genesis Framework
- Mai Theme
To install your theme, go to Appearance > Themes in your WordPress Dashboard. You’ll have the option to search through free themes offered at WordPress.org, or to upload a .zip file containing a theme that you’ve already downloaded or purchased.
Next: Using WordPress
Learning how to use WordPress is a huge topic, and beyond the scope of this article. In the future, I’ll be offering more posts with blogging tips and tutorials, but until then, there are many great websites out there that will help you learn how to use WordPress. Some of my favorites are:
Starting a blog takes time, and you’ll probably need to spend just a bit of money to get up and running. But soon you’ll be publishing content, gaining visitors, and getting engagement in your comments and from followers on on social media. And remember – setting up your blog is just the first step. The most successful bloggers post high-quality content on a consistent schedule. So start with a plan, keep creating great content, and you’ll go far!
I hope you have found this information helpful. If you have questions or suggestions, please leave a comment below, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s time to start writing![convertkit form=965703]