A blog has the potential to change your life!
Yes, it helps you express yourself, which in itself is a huge benefit, but there are many others as follows:
- It helps you develop new contacts.
- It opens you up to new business opportunities.
- It helps you make money.
- It helps you discover your true passions.
- It helps you invest more time into your true passions.
So by wanting to start a blog, you are making an excellent decision.
If you don't how to proceed, I have written this comprehensive guide just for you.
This guide is a genuine attempt to help anyone who wants to start a blog (with a low budget), but is not well versed with the technical aspects of blogging and is getting bogged down by all the information out there.
I have broken this article down into 22 simple steps.
Each step will take you around 10 minutes to complete. So by following this guide, you will be able to put up a blog (with your own domain name) within a few hours. I would say, a max of 3 hours.
So get excited! By the end of these 22 steps, you will have put up your first blog post!
Step 1: Brainstorm your domain name
The first step is to come up with a domain name for your blog.
Think of this as naming your first child.
Open a notepad on your computer and write down a bunch of names. Keep adding to this list as and when new names pop-up in your mind.
Tip: The best way to come up with great names is to read a lot on the topic(s) related to your blog. For example, if you want to put up a blog related to 'marketing', read a lot of marketing related literature. While reading, be aware of all the words that you find appealing and make a note of them.
Step 2: Decide on the domain name extension (TLD)
As you would have noticed a domain name consists of two separate parts, one if the actual 'name' and the other is the 'extension' like .com, .net, .org etc. In technical terms, the extension is known as a TLD (Top level domain).
I would highly recommend going for a '.com' domain extension. In-case, your favorite name is not available in the '.com', you can consider going for .net or .org.
You can also consider going for country code TLDs (ccTLDs). Some popular ones being .us (USA), .in (India), .uk (United Kingdom), .ca (Canada), .se (Sweden).
Some Country code TLDs require you to have a business within the respective country. For example, to register a .us domain, you need to have your business registered in the US. ccTLDs are good if your blog is targeted towards a regional audience.
Apart from these, there are hundreds of new TLDs available, some popular ones being .me, .io, .co, .biz, .guru, .club, .life, .services, .group, .site, .press and .online.
Step 3: Check if your domain name is available for registration
Your chosen domain name will be available for registration as long as someone else has not already registered it before you.
You can use a bulk name checker like the one offered by Dynadot to check multiple names to see if they are available or taken.
To access the tool, go here: https://www.dynadot.com/domain/bulk-search.html
Once there, enter your domain names, in the space provided (one name per line) and then select your favorite extensions and click the search button.
If your domain name is not available, you will see it labeled as 'Taken'. If it is available, you will see a price tag against it.
Make a list of all available domain names and fix on the one that you find the most appealing.
Step 4: Register your domain name
You can register your domain name using a service like NameCheap.com or Godaddy. I prefer and recommend NameCheap.
Simply go to NameCheap.com, enter your domain name in the search box and click search.
Note: Make sure to enter the complete domain name with the extension (eg: sitename.com)
You should be able to see 'This domain is available' message. Click on the cart icon to add this domain to your shopping cart and then click on the 'view cart' button.
This will take you to the check out page. After verifying all the details, click on the 'Confirm order' button.
You will now be asked to register and make payment. NameCheap charges you around $12/domain with free WHOIS protection. Free WHOIS allows you to hide your registration (home/office address) details so it is not available to spammers.
Once you make payment, the domain name will be registered in your name for a period of one year.
Note that at the end of this one year term, you will need to renew the domain name. NameCheap has an auto-renewal facility that will automatically renew your domain names, so you need not worry about that.
Can I change my blog's domain name later? Yes, you can change your blog's domain name at any time but it will take a bit of work. Some tasks that you will need to do are as follows:
- Redirect the old domain to the new domain.
- Download your old site's database/files/media and re-upload to the new site.
- Inform Google by making changes in Google's search console. (Of-course this step is only required if you want to maintain your organic Google rankings.)
- Maintain the old domain name so it redirects to the new one at all times.
Step 5: Choose a web host
Now that you have a domain name, you need a web host to host your website files and make them accessible to the public.
Considering that you want to host only one website, I would recommend going for a shared hosting service.
The one I recommend is HawkHost. Their shared hosting package is priced at $5/month. Yup, super affordable!
If you do not want to go with Hawkhost, there are tons of other options to consider. Check out my hosting article for more details:
Step 6: Buy web hosting
Here are the steps to buy hosting from HawkHost. You can use these steps to buy hosting from any service (just make sure to buy Linux hosting with Cpanel):
a.) Visit Hawkhost.com and go to their Linux shared hosting page here: https://www.hawkhost.com/shared-web-hosting.
b.) Click on 'Sign up now' for the Primary shared hosting package. This will take you to the 'choose a domain page'.
c.) Select 'I will use my existing domain and update my nameservers' option.
d.) Enter the domain name you registered before and click 'Use'.
e.) Click checkout, enter your details and make the payment. You have the option to pay using your credit card or Paypal.
That's it, your hosting is set.
Step 7: Check your email from the Hosting Company
The hosting company will send you 2 emails with all your account details. You should receive these emails within an hour of registration.
The first email is a welcome email that also contains your 'ID' and 'password' to login to the 'client area'. The 'client area' allows you to make payments, change your account passwords etc. So make sure to note this down.
The second email (with the subject line, New Account Information) contains details of your hosting account.
In this email, you need to make a note of the following three items:
1.) Your Cpanel username and password. (Cpanel is your web hosting control panel)
2.) Your nameservers: If you registered with hawkhost, the nameservers will be as follows:
3.) Your Cpanel (Control panel) login URL. Login URL to the Cpanel is generally as follows:
https://sitename.com/cpanel (Replace, sitename.com with your domain name.)
You can use your account username and password to login to Cpanel.
Important Note: you can only login to Cpanel after you have added the hosting nameservers to your domain name.
Let's see how to do this:
Step 8: Configure Nameservers
You now need to link your domain name, with your hosting account.
This way, when someone types in your domain name in their browser, the browser will know where your files are hosted.
To link your domain name with your hosting, follow these steps:
a.) Go to NameCheap.com (or where you registered you domain name) and Login to your account.
b.) Click on 'Domain List' from the left panel and then click on the 'manage' button next to the domain name. This will take you to the domain management page.
c.) On the domain management page, scroll down a little until you see the nameservers section. Select 'Custom DNS' from the drop down and enter the nameservers given by your hosting provider (that you got in your email) and click the green tick mark icon to save changes.
Refer image below:
Once you have made the changes, it will take a max of 24 hours for the changes to take effect (this is called domain name propagation). Sometimes it can happen even within one hour.
To check if the changes have taken effect, keep visiting your domain name (in your broswer) every hour or so. If the domain name loads with a blank page, then it means the changes have been made.
You can proceed to the next step once the changes have been made.
Step 9: Login to your web hosting Cpanel
Cpanel is a control panel that allows you to configure your hosting.
Once your domain name has propagated, you should be able to login to your cpanel by visiting the Cpanel login URL that you got in your hosting email (refer step 7):
https://www.sitename.com/cpanel (replace sitename.com with your domain name)
Visit the Cpanel login URL and login to your Cpanel by using the username and password that you got in the email.
Step 10: Install wordpress
WordPress is a CMS (Content management system) that will allow you to easily manage your blog. You can post, delete and update articles, allow user comments and a lot more with extreme ease using wordpress.
You can install wordpress the hard way using FTP (File transfer protocol) or using an auto-installer like Softaculous that comes with every CPanel account.
Here's how you can install wordpress using Softaculous:
a.) As mentioned in step 9, login to your Cpanel, and scroll down until you see 'Softaculous Apps Installer' section. Click on 'WordPress' under this section.
b.) On the wordpress installation page, click the 'Install Now' button.
c.) You will now be presented with the following options:
Choose protocol: Since you are getting a free SSL certificate from Hawkhost, you can leave this at 'Https'. If you are not using hawkhost, change this to http.
Choose domain: Your domain name will automatically be selected. Leave that as it is.
In Directory: Make sure to leave this blank.
Refer image below:
Site Name & Description: Enter a name and a brief description for your blog. Keep the blog name within 4 to 7 words.
Admin Username, Password & Email: Select a username and password. This is the username/password you will use to login to your wordpress dashboard. Enter your email address.
Now click on 'Advanced Options', and make the following changes:
Database name: Change the default value to something random. For example: tw455
Table prefix: Again, change this value to something random. Example: td45_ (Don't forget the underscore at the end). This increases security.
Auto upgrades: Make sure to check the auto upgrade option. You can leave auto-upgrade for plugins and themes unchecked.
Automated Backups: Select Once a day.
Backup rotation: Can be left at 4. (This will keep only the 4 latest backups and delete old ones to save server space).
Now click on 'Select a theme' and choose a theme that you like. If you want, you can skip this step and install a theme from within your wordpress dashboard.
Hover over a theme and click 'demo' to see a demo of the theme.
Simply click 'select' for the theme that you like. You can always change the theme later from your wordpress dashboard, so no worries.
Finally click the 'Install' button.
Within a few seconds you should get the 'Congratulations, the software was installed successfully' message.
Note down your wordpress administrative URL which will be https://sitename.com/wp-admin/
Step 11: Login to your wordpress (administrative) dashboard
To go to your wordpress dashboard, vist your admin URL:
https://sitename.com/wp-admin/ (Replace sitename.com with your domain name)
Enter the admin username and password you created in the previous step to login.
Step 12: Configure WordPress
Before you start blogging, it is important that you configure wordpress.
Here are some important configurations you can do:
a.) Remove 'Uncategorized': The first step is to remove the default uncategorized category. To do this, hover your mouse over 'Posts' in the left sidebar of your wordpress dashboard and select 'Categories'.
Once on the categories page, hover your mouse over 'Uncategorized' and click 'Edit'.
Change the Name and Slug to a category you want to add for your site.
If you are unsure of the category name, simply use a generic category like 'Articles'. You can always change this later.
You can also add more categories if you want.
b.) General: From the left panel, hover your mouse over 'Settings' and click on 'General'. You can make changes to your site's name, description and email address here if you need. Make sure to scroll down and click 'Save changes' if you want your changes to stay.
c.) Writing: You need not make any changes here.
d.) Reading: On here you can set the number of posts to display on the homepage. The default is 10. You can increase or decrease this number if you want.
e.) Discussion & Media: You can leave the settings here as they are.
f.) Permalinks: This is the most important setting as it allows you to set a structure for your URLs.
The recommended permalink structure is 'Post name'. This setting will keep your URLs short and simple and will also make it easy in-case you want to move your hosting to a different provider.
So select 'Post name' and click the 'Save changes' button.
You should now see the 'Permalink structure updated' confirmations message.
Step 13: Add a new user
It is best not to use your admin account to post articles.
The best practice is to create a new user under your name and then use it as a default author for your articles.
To do this, click on 'Users > All New' from the left panel. Make sure to set the role of the user as 'Author' and not 'Subscriber'.
While publishing a post, select this user as the author or simply login using this account when you want to publish posts.
Step 14: Select a theme
Themes allow you to change your website's appearance. WordPress has thousands of free and paid themes to choose from. These themes are fully customizable from your dashboard.
To select a theme, go to Appearance > Themes.
You can then select from pre-installed themes (twenty sixteen, twenty seventeen etc.) or select a theme from the WordPress theme database by clicking on 'Add New Theme'. Click the 'Live Preview' to see how your site will look with the theme.
For starters I recommend the 'Twenty seventeen' theme by wordpress. This theme is modern, simplistic yet very professional looking. This theme comes per-installed with your wordpress installation and you should be able to see it in your themes directory (Appearance > Themes).
To use the theme, simply select the 'Twenty seventeen' theme and click activate. (If the theme is already activated, leave it as it is.)
You can visit your site now and see how it looks. I bet you will like it.
Step 15: Create an 'About Me' and 'contact' pages
The next step is to create an 'About Me' and 'Contact page' for your blog.
To do this, simply click on the 'Pages' link from the left panel and select 'Add New'. Input a suitable title for the page, write the page's content and click 'Publish'.
You can create as many pages as you want in this way.
These pages can be used as navigational links. I will tell you how to add navigational links, later in this tutorial.
Note: For the contact page, you can either give out your email address or add a contact form using a plugin. Refer the final step on adding a contact form plugin.
Step 16: Customize your theme
You can easily customize your theme by going to Appearance > Customize (Hover over the Appearance link in the left panel and click Customize).
This will take you to the theme customization page that will have all customization options in the left panel and the site preview on the right.
For example, to add a logo, click on 'Select logo' and upload a logo from your computer. If you add a logo, you can remove the logo text and description by un-checking 'Display site title and tagline'.
Similarly, you can replace the 'header background' by clicking on 'Select Image' and uploading a different image from you computer.
Play around with different options until you get familiar with all of them.
Once you are satisfied with your changes, click 'Save & Publish'.
You can also add a navigation menu, social icons, and add/remove sidebar widgets using the customization page.
Check out this video for step by step instructions on customizing your theme: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iOSZKsvFepo
Step 17: Add top navigation menu
Menus are navigational links.
The twenty seventeen theme supports two menus as follows:
- Top menu: Appears on top right after the header image.
- Social menu: Appears on the footer and displays your social links.
You can either edit menus on the customization page as mentioned in the previous step or directly from within your dashboard by going to 'Appearance > Menus'.
To create a top menu do the following:
a.) Go to 'Appearance > Menus' and click on 'Create a new menu.'
b.) Give the menu a name and click 'Create menu'.
c.) Now click on pages, select the About Me and Contact Me pages that you created and click 'Add to menu'.
d.) Under menu settings, check 'Top Menu' under 'display location' and click the 'Save Menu' button.
Your top navigation should now be visible on your site.
Similarly, to add a social links menu, follow the same steps. Create a new menu and name it 'Social' and click 'Create menu'.
Now click on 'Custom Links', add your facebook URL and write 'facebook' in the link text and click 'Add Menu'. The theme will automatically convert this to the facebook icon. You can repeat this for twitter, instagram and other social media.
Step 18: Add/remove sidebar widgets
The links that appear in the right sidebar are controlled by widgets.
You can add/remove widgets by going to 'Appearance > Widgets'. Simply drag and drop widgets that you want to add and remove.
Each widget has its own settings. For example, the 'Recent posts' widget allows you to select the number of articles to display and if or not to display the date. You also get to add a title for this widget.
Step 19: Create your first blog post
Finally, it's time to add your first blog post.
To create a blog post, go to 'Posts > Add New'.
Click on 'Screen options' located on the top left of your screen and make sure that all options are checked. This includes 'Author', 'discussion', 'custom fields' and 'format'.
Once done, begin writing your post by entering the post title and content.
WordPress will auto generate your permalink (which is the link to access your post). You can click the 'edit' button to edit the permalink to your preference.
You can add an image to your post by clicking on 'Add Media'. Similarly, you can add a featured image to appear alongside your post title by clicking on 'Set featured image' located on the right panel.
Before publishing the article, select a category and add tags. Also, select the author of the article. Make sure to keep the author as the 'new user' created in Step 8.
Avoid using admin as the author as this can expose your admin username and make your blog insecure.
Once you are satisfied, click 'Publish'.
Congratulations! You have published your first blog article!
Step 20: Show only excerpts on homepage and category pages
As you would have noticed, the twenty seventeen themes displays the entire length of the post on the homepage. You obviously don't want that happening. You should only display an excerpt (summery) of your posts on the homepage.
The issue is that the only way to achieve this is to edit your theme files using FTP.
An easier solution is to add the 'read more' tag to each of your posts. You can add the 'read more' tag wherever you want within your article. That's the part which will be displayed on the homepage followed by a 'continue reading' link.
Step 21: Add plugins
Plugins are additional functionalities that you can add to your wordpress blog. WordPress has a ton of free and paid plugins. It is advised that you limit your plugins to the bare minimum as too many plugins can slow down your site.
To add a plugin, go to Plugins > Add New from the left panel. On the 'Add plugins' page, search for a plugin you want to add. To install a plugin, click 'install now' and then 'Activate'.
You can see a list of all plugins you installed on your plugins page at Plugins > Installed Plugins.
Here are few recommended plugins. You can add them if you want:
Disqus: The disqus plugin allows you to add the disqus commenting system to your blog. This will automatically take care of comment spam. If you use the default wordpress comment system, you will need to install an plugin to prevent comment spam. If not your comments will be filled with spammy comments from spam robots.
Askimit: If you plan on using wordpress comments then Askimit will help block spam comments. Though, askimit is not free.
WP Super Cache: This plugin helps create cached versions of your webpages so they are served faster while reducing server load.
Contact form 7: This is a popular plugin that will allow you to add a contact page to your blog. Here's a tutorial on how to add a form to your site using this plugin.
Yoast SEO Plugin: This plugin helps optimize your website for search engines.
Addthis social sharing buttons: This plugin adds social sharing buttons (facebook, twitter, pinterest etc.) to your wordpress blog posts.
TinyPNG Image optimization: This plugin optimizes your JPEG and PNG images by reducing their file size while maintaining the quality, so they load faster and consume less server resources.
Updraft plus backup plugin: This plugin automatically backs up your wordpress database and files and sends them to your email address or to a cloud space like dropbox. It also restores database/files when required. Here's a tutorial to add updraft plus to your blog.
Step 22: Create an email address with your domain name
To create an email address with your domain name (eg: email@example.com), login to your Cpanel.
Once logged in, go to the section named 'Email' and click on 'Email Accounts'. Enter your name, password and click 'create account'.
You can also create a forwarder to forward all your emails directly to your main email account (eg: a gmail account). To create a forwarder, go the the Email section and click on 'Forwarders'. On this page, click on 'Add Forwarder'. Enter the email address that you just created and in the destination box, enter your gmail address and click 'Add Forwarder'. Now all your mails will be forwarded to your gmail account.
To access your webmail, go to https://sitename.com/webmail (Change sitename.com with your domain name).
And just like that you have published your blog. Wasn't that hard now was it?
Your blogging journey
As you continue blogging, you not only learn how to write and blog better, but also become good at managing your blog. This includes learning some of the technical aspects of managing wordpress. Here are a few things that you should learn:
- A bit of HTML and CSS.
- Basic PHP commands so you can edit your theme's functions.php file.
- Transfer files to and from your server using FTP (File transfer protocol).
- Edit HTaccess to secure your server.
- On-site SEO basics.
- Promoting and marketing your blog online.
- Monetizing your blog to make money.
You can learn all this and more on this blog! So please subscribe.
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