A STEP BY STEP GUIDE TO STARTING A BLOG
This post does contain an affiliate link, which in a nutshell means, if you click-through to purchase, I may earn a small commission – but you don’t pay any extra!
I’m guessing you’re here reading this because you want to start your own blog, right? It might sound like a totally daunting task, but the best way to find out if you want to have a blog is to just start one. You don’t need to have a whole business/finance/advertisement plan prepared, or even any writing/ computer skills. All you need is a little motivation to try something new that you could potentially fall in love with.
If you’ve done any research, you’ll have noticed that there a number of different platforms you can use for blogging. My preferred platform for blogging is the Self-hosted wordpress.org. You do not have to pay for a domain/ hosting and can get free themes or pay for a more advanced theme. The great thing about being self-hosted is that are no limitations with it; you can add code, change code, and implement ads for monetization.
Self-hosted WordPress is the only platform I’d recommend, but if you will really want to start a blog and are unable to invest any money then I thoroughly recommend WordPress.com or Blogger.
WordPress.com is the free blogging platform that WordPress offers. The MAIN difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org is this: who is ‘hosting’ your website. On wordpress.com, WordPress is hosting your website and you have zero access to the back-end controls of your website. You have no access to the “backend coding” of your website so you are therefore not able to change the look of your website outside the boundaries of the particular theme that you are using.
Blogger is Google’s free-to-use blogging platform. Just like WordPress.com, you’re able to sign up and begin blogging right away. The main difference between Blogger and WordPress is the backend. With Blogger, you can change the coding of your blog to change the way that it responds or looks to people who visit your website. This gives you a lot of control over the look and feel of your website, without having to spend any money at all.
One of the major advantages blogger has over WordPress is the ability to buy third-party themes that you can upload to your blog in order to change its entire look. Some great places for these themes are pipdig.org and Etsy.
I’ve not personally used either platform, but I’ve heard that both are great if you want to start blogging for free. However, if I did have to choose I would say WordPress. The only reason I would say that is because if you choose to upgrade to self-hosted it would be less of a learning curve as the interfaces are pretty much the same.
So, if you’re ready to get started setting up a self-hosted WordPress blog then carry on reading this post.
Register Your Domain
The first step in the process of going self-hosted is registering a domain name. There are two ways you can do this: through the hosting company you chose or through a third-party site like Godaddy or Namecheap. I chose to do mine through Godaddy as I was told if I ever decided to change hosting companies in the future it would be easier to transfer. I’m not 100% sure if that’s true- it’s just what I’ve been told. I’ve never used Namecheap personally, but have heard lots of people recommend them.
So if you decide to go with GoDaddy the first thing you need to do is go to their website, type in the name you want to use, and click “search”. It will then come up with a list and tell you if it’s available on .com .co.uk etc. and also how much it will cost. 90% of domain names start a $11.99
Then, once you’ve picked out your domain and you know it’s available you, click “add to cart”. It will then take you through a number of steps asking if you’d like to buy any extras. My advice is to skip everything and just buy the domain ‘Who is’ privacy, which basically means if someone try to search who owns a domain they won’t be able to find any of your personal information.
They will also try to offer you a really good deal on hosting, which I do not recommend you accept. I’ve never used their hosting but have heard from a lot of people that it’s super slow and your site is often down which is something you don’t want.
Then you’ll also get an option to select how many years hosting you want. It is a bit pricier, but if you can afford it I’d recommend signing up for at least 3 years because a year goes really fast and is gone before you know it.
Then, once you’ve gone through all the steps, it will take you to the payment page. What I like to do before I pay is to go to Google and search “go daddy coupon codes”. This will bring up pages where you can find coupons to get discounts on your domain. They can only be used once per account but you can get some great deals. Once I managed to get a 3-year domain name with WHOIS privacy for $10.
The above image is what will appear if the domain name is available.
If it is unavailable, the bottom image will appear.
However, if you really like the name and wanted to buy it with another extension I’d recommend researching first to see if it’s in use, and what it’s used for. This is to avoid confusion for your readers. You should also check to see if it is taken on social media. Even if the domain name is available, I still like to do that as there have been a few times where the name I’ve wanted has been taken on Twitter or Instagram.
Once you’ve got your domain name, you’re going to want to get some hosting. You’ll see a lot of great deals for cheap hosting, but don’t be tempted! Most of them aren’t great, however, there are some really expensive hosting services which I did try once and to be fair I didn’t see much different between the expensive hosting and the mid-range hosting I’m currently on.
The hosting I’m currently on is Host Gator, which I’ve been on for over 4 years. So far, I have had an amazing service. When you go to their home page you will see that they have a number of plans. The one I’m currently on is the “baby plan” as I wanted the option to have more than one domain, but if you’re only interested in having one domain then the “hatchling plan” will be fine.
You may be think hosting sounds a bit expensive, but I look at the price of $5.95 and just see it as the price of a Starbucks coffee.
So, once you’ve decided on the plan you want, all you need to do is click “sign up now” and it will take you through some steps. It will say “click here if you want to buy a domain” or “if you already own one click here”. Even for a computer novice the steps are self-explanatory and super easy to understand.
The above image is what will appear When you first arrive at Hostgator, if you click on “get started now” it will be the image below with the plans you can buy.
Some people actually pay to have WordPress installed, but it’s incredibly simple, and as long as you can read and know how to use a computer, you can do it yourself.
After you’ve registered your domain with Hostgator and signed up for your hosting account with Hostgator, you will receive a confirmation email that will contain some important information, including a link to your control panel, (cpannel) username, and password. If you chose to sing up for your domain with GoDaddy you’ll also receive an email including your login details and namerservers.
Under the “Popular Links” section you should see: “Build a New WordPress Site”. That’s where you’ll click to install WordPress. Fill out the form with your information (select your domain, fill in your name, username, blog title, etc.) and click “Install WordPress”. It’s that simple, to set up your blog.
WordPress will automatically send you all those details in an email, including a password which you can change once you’ve signed in.
After you’ve finished setting up your domain it’s time to access your blog and pick out a theme. To access you’d got to yourdomain.com/wp-admin here you’ll be prompted to type in the username you’ve picked and the password that WordPress emailed to you. This will allow you to log in and write all your posts, check comments, update themes etc.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO IF YOUR DOMAIN AND HOSTING ARE FROM TWO DIFFERENT PLACES
If you chose to register your domain through GoDaddy and your hosting through Hostgator (for example) then you will need to go into GoDaddy and change your nameservers. You will have received these in your welcome email from Hostgator. The reason you need to do this is so that your domain name is linked with your hosting. If you bought your hosting and domain through Hostgator, this will already be set up for you. Click this link for some basic steps on changing your nameservers.
This is what your dashboard will look like.
When you click on “build a new WordPress site” you will be greeted with the page below. you then need to select your domain name and click next.
When you click “next” this page will appear where you can fill out your details. You can get an email address from your hosting service, but I just create a Gmail email with my blog name.
When you load WordPress for the first time you will be greeted with this page which is your dashboard. If you want to navigate elsewhere on your site take a look at the black menu bar down the left-hand side of your screen.
This post is part 1 of series, so there will be other posts where I go into more detail about the backend of WordPress, having a niche using certain social media platforms for promotion and more.
xoxo The Alexandra Edit