Do you want to start a blog but have no idea how to actually get started? Do you need a little help understanding WordPress and how to get your new blog all set up? If so, you’re reading the right post! This blog post will tell you about WordPress, how to set up your domain name and web hosting, how to choose and install your ideal WordPress theme, and what plugins you should have when you first get started.
Wordpress is the industry standard platform for blogging. With WordPress, you can customize your site to the exact look and feel that you want, you can monetize your blog, and you have full control over where ads will be placed on your blog (if you want them to appear at all). WordPress is also great because of the outstanding SEO (search engine optimization) features; meaning with WordPress your blog is more likely to get found in search results when someone Googles something that relates to your blog.
Did you know that there are two different versions of WordPress? This is where things can get a little confusing, so let’s straighten this out. There is WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. WordPress.COM is the free version of WordPress. While having a free blog may work for some bloggers who are just interested in sharing their posts with friends and family; if you are looking to grow your blog, reach a large audience, make money blogging, and have full control over your blogs design, you will want to go with WordPress.ORG, which is the self-hosted platform that has a small annual cost. Let me explain the differences:
WordPress.COM (the free version)
- Ads will be displayed on your blog that are not relevant to your blog topic. The money that is earned from these ads goes directly to WordPress.COM, not to you. You cannot monetize your blog when using their free platform.
- Your blog, and all of its content, is owned by WordPress.COM. I believe that YOU should own your own content. What’s scary is if WordPress.COM were to shut down or change their rules or terms, your blog could literally disappear overnight.
- Since your site is free, your blog domain name will always look like this: www.yourname.wordpress.com Not only does this not look professional, but it’s actually advertising and promoting WordPress on every single one of your blog posts.
- You can’t use premium plugins on a WordPress.COM site. Believe me, you are going to want to use plugins on your blog! I will explain more about plugins below.
WordPress.ORG (the self-hosted, paid version)
If you are ready to get serious about blogging, I highly recommend that you go with a WordPress.ORG self-hosted site. This means that you need to purchase your domain name and web hosting. The cost is minimal and it gives you complete freedom over the layout and design of your blog, ads, and your own preferences regarding monetizing your blog. If you are going to put in all of the time and effort to build your brand, write all of your content, and design every aspect of your blog, YOU should definitely own every bit of content and have full control over it.
Domain Name and Web Hosting
Your domain name is your web address, often referred to as your URL or WWW. For example, my blogs domain name is www.JumpIntoMonday.com. Your domain name should match your blog or business name so everything is consistent, easy to remember, and easy for readers to find you online.
Web Hosting is the storage for all of your website files and where your site “lives” online. Most web hosting companies also offer options to have your email set up to match your domain (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org), website protection against spam and hackers, and domain privacy protection.
I have always purchased my domain and web hosting together as one package, and paid for it on an annual basis. This makes it easy to remember since everything is through one company and the payment is only due once per year. If you are willing to purchase hosting for two or three years at a time, the cost will usually be significantly less. While there are many companies online that you can purchase your domain and web hosting through, I highly recommend SiteGround and Bluehost. Both of these companies are major players, have been around for many years, and have awesome reviews and customer service. Take a look at both options, compare the plans, and decide which one works best for you. Annual plans with SiteGround and Bluehost start at just $3.95 per month. Keep in mind that you pay for the full year up front when you sign up; however both companies will usually include a free domain name with your first year so it’s an awesome deal!
Use the handy Domain Name Checker below to see if the domain name you want is available. Keep searching until you find the perfect name for your site!
Install WordPress and Select A Theme
Once you purchase your domain name and web hosting, you can easily install WordPress (which is free from your hosting company), and get up and running. In my opinion, selecting the perfect WordPress theme is my favorite part! Ha….I really do enjoy designing my blog! The theme is the actual design and layout of your blog. While there are tons of free themes to choose from, I recommend a paid theme so you blog looks unique, professional, and stands out from the crowd – especially if you are hoping to make money blogging. Premium themes can cost anywhere between $50 to $150, but keep in mind that this is a one-time purchase (unless you choose to completely redesign your blog in the future).
When looking online for your perfect WordPress theme, consider the overall look of the theme (left sidebar, right sidebar, no sidebar, footer content, ad placement locations, etc.) as well as the functionality of the theme. I definitely recommend choosing a theme that is mobile responsive; meaning that it automatically looks great whether you are looking at your blog on a computer, phone, or tablet. Since your readers will be looking at your site from a variety of different devices, having a responsive theme is a must. As you are browsing through themes, remember that you can change the colors and fonts, upload your own photos, your logo, etc.
Once you purchase your premium theme, you simply have to install the theme. From your WordPress dashboard, click on “Appearance” in the left sidebar menu, then select “Themes”, then “Add New” and select the ZIP file for your theme. Once it’s loaded hit “Activate” and now you can start customizing it!
Plugins are an extra bit of code that allow you to fully customize your blog. There are thousands of plugins available, for virtually everything you can think of to add to your site, and the majority of them are completely free. Here are a few of my favorite plugins:
- Yoast SEO: This plugin dramatically helps with your SEO
- Akismet: Say goodbye to annoying spam comments with this super-handy plugin
- Jetpack: This plugin has SO many features; I personally love the website statistics it provides
- Pin It Button For Pinterest: Make your images pinnable and ready to save and share on Pinterest
- Pretty Link Pro: If you plan on monetizing your blog, use this link cloaker to create “no follow” links
To install a plugin, simply download the ZIP file, then from your WordPress dashboard, click on “Plugins” in the left sidebar menu, and select “Add New.” Once it’s loaded hit “Activate” and then edit the settings if needed.
Starting a new blog is a fun and exciting experience, but I understand that it can also feel a bit overwhelming at first. Remember to focus one item at a time. I’ve created this handy “getting started checklist” that includes the things you should do before you launch your blog. Also be sure to check out my step by step guide to setting up your blog with Bluehost and the list of all of my favorite blogging tools and resources.
One final note about the cost of starting your new blog….many new blogger will spend about $120 for domain and web hosting for one year and less than $120 for a premium theme. Those are your ONLY start up costs. What other business can you start for less than $250? Keep in mind that every expense is a business expense, so save your receipts and use them when you file your taxes each year. Blogging is a nice way to make a little extra money and has a very low start up cost in comparison to practically any other business. If you’re looking to make money blogging to pay yourself back quickly, check out these two related blog posts: Five Ways To Make Money Online and Make Money With One WordPress Plugin.