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So you’re ready to blog! Seemingly everyone has a blog these days, so it must be easy right? While it might seem as if grabbing your blogspot.com handle and taking off running is the answer, if you are serious about starting a blog and becoming a voice in your industry, getting it right from the get-go will save you a huge headache down the road. So, you’re going to kick it off with a bang and build your very old WordPress blog out of the gate. Here’s how to start a blog!
Are we doing this the easy way or the easier way?
Before we start out, let’s chat a bit about the world of the internets. Kids, if you don’t know what you are doing, it can be an overwhelming place! I’ve been doing this for a while, and have a pretty complicated setup for my blogs. As I’ve mentioned, each of my domains are registered with DreamHost, but my hosting is with LiquidWeb. I have a dedicated server. If you don’t know the words “DNS” and “CPanel”, my preferred setup may not be for you, as it does require a bit of know-how to get set up. I puffy pink heart LiquidWeb, but if you’ve made your way here, you are probably looking for an easy-peasy beginner’s setup, with minimal effort and investment on your part. That’s why we’re going to chat about Bluehost.
If you’re a bit more savvy and want to replicate my exact setup, I’m happy to provide that info! Get in touch. And if you’re unhappy with your current web host for any reason, you should absolutely consider a move to LiquidWeb. Their support is positively stellar and the migration was completely painless, as they do all of the heavy lifting. My average response time to support emails is 6 minutes (yes, you read that right!).
Step 1: Name Your Blog
After brainstorming blog names, you will first need to verify in the US Trademark Database (TESS) that your chosen name is not taken, and do a quick Google search to be sure that you aren’t stepping on any internet toes with your selected name. You will also want to verify with Whois that the .com of your chosen name is available for purchase. Name your blog wisely because this is your internet address for all the world to see, and changing it down the line, though possible, is not fun!
Step 2: Set Up Hosting
Signing up for hosting is a bit like signing an apartment lease. Your server is where your data will “live”. You can learn about the different types of web hosting right here, but if you’re just starting out, you’re probably going to want to choose shared hosting. Bluehost has three levels of shared hosting, and they’ll even throw in a domain name free of charge if you opt to host with them! Their starter plan is by far the least expensive and while you do have to prepay to get the stated monthly rate, it is the most economical option. Their plus plan is also an incredible value and gives you a lot of extra features for just a few more dollars a month (the “unlimited website space” feature is huge!).
Step 3: Choose Your Domain Name
After you’ve selected the hosting plan you want, type in the domain name you’ve chosen into the box that appears on the next screen. If it’s already taken you may have to come up with an alternative, but hopefully your first pick is available and you’re on your way! From there you can follow the screen prompts to get your domain name fully registered as yours. You’re almost ready to roll!
You should definitely keep the check mark selected for “Domain Privacy Protection”. Why is this important? In a nutshell, if you don’t choose the privacy option, anyone who chooses to look it up will be able to see that you are the registered owner of your domain name. And we love our internet friends, but let’s just keep our home address private, eh? Uncheck all of the other options as we’ll use WordPress functionality (and VaultPress!) for the rest.
Step 4: Install WordPress
Once you’ve registered your domain name and gotten your hosting plan all set up, it’s time to install WordPress! So let’s back it up for just a moment. What is WordPress, anyway? WordPress is a content management system and is the most widely used blogging software. Yes, there are other options. You’re welcome to check them out, but I will tell you from first hand experience that WordPress is the way you want to go. It’s powerful, flexible, and it will grow with you as your blog grows.
Login to your Bluehost account and find the Website Builders section. From there, click on the WordPress logo and on the next page click the Install button under the Do it Yourself section.
Click on the Check Domain button. Choose your admin username (make sure your username is lowercase, and pick something simple like your first name) and password (choose something secure! I recommend a 16-digit random password). Check the terms and conditions box and then select Install Now. Easy right?
Next, you’ll see a message letting you know that your installation is complete. At that point, click on View Credentials and be sure to write down your admin URL, username, and password. You’ll need this information to log into your blog for the first time.
Visit your admin URL and enter the provided username and password and at this point you’re officially logged in. Yippee! Next up, visit this post on Installing WordPress for some essential first steps.
Step 5: Choose a WordPress Theme
Now it’s time to make your blog pretty! To do this, you’ll need to choose a WordPress theme. Themes hold the files that tell the browser what to display and how it should look. The WordPress theme directory has thousands of themes, but pretty ones can be a little tricky to find! Each of my blogs run on a custom theme that I designed and coded, but that’s way more than you should even consider taking on as you’re getting started. Here are a few of my favorite starter themes, perfect for your blog’s first look:
Genesis & StudioPress
Many of the world’s most successful bloggers run themes based upon the Genesis framework. What’s a framework you ask? The folks behind Genesis describe it this way: think of WordPress as your car’s engine, a framework as the frame and body, and your theme as the paint and trim. A framework allows most of the heavy lifting to be done outside of the “prettiness”, and give some cool features right out of the box, making a framework great for bloggers starting out.
StudioPress themes utilize the Genesis framework, and there are many gorgeous themes for lifestyle blogs. Best of all, they are mobile-ready and optimized for pretty pictures! Go ahead and browse around StudioPress to see what suits your fancy. My favorite is the Fun theme, which has elements that are perfectly suited for a blog, shop, or combination of both.
Pretty Darn Cute Design
That Fun theme is designed by Pretty Darn Cute Design, and her themes are, well, pretty darn cute! If you already own the Genesis framework, mosey on over to Pretty Darn Cute Design to view some of the most beautiful, feminine themes around.
Etsy isn’t just for crafting! There are some gorgeous pre-made WordPress themes available. I adore the lovelies over at 17th Avenue Designs, and at only $35, it won’t break the bank for your starter theme.
You will also want to read up on the basics of WordPress themes, as it will be helpful to know where to make any small tweaks you decide to tackle. And of course, you won’t be using a starter theme forever, as you’re going to learn enough to code your own or work with a pro here on Edit and Post!
Step 6: Get Social
OK. Your blog is up and running and you’ve started creating gorgeous content. That’s only half the battle, friends! It’s time to get social. There are four integral social media channels for bloggers: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Social media handles are precious, so head on over to grab your blog’s handles right now. Yep, now. I’ll wait here.
You’re back? Great. Now that you have your handles, let’s chat a little bit about social media management. Here are a few awesome tools to help you schedule your social media posts and track your social reach.
- Viraltag – we use and love this Pinterest scheduling tool which allows you to view oodles of stats about popular pins and your followers, as well as do the basic job of scheduling your Pinterest pins.
- Hootsuite – allows you to easily manage and follow multiple social networks. I love Hootsuite for Twitter especially, as you can follow multiple streams in one interface.
- Iconosquare – grab an Iconosquare account to get data on your Instagram account, including the most popular time of day to post. You can also learn about your follows and unfollows.
- Latergramme – schedule Instagram posts.
- Gramblr – Instagram from your computer, instead of your phone.
Remember to respond to comments, ask questions and generally connect with your followers, because that’s the quickest way to build a social media following. Bonus: social followers build great referral traffic to your blog.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! I know that this is a lot to digest. There’s lots more about WordPress in our “Building Your WordPress Blog” series, and if any terms are still confusing, check out our Bloglossary. Last but not least, if you have any questions at all, feel free to reach out via email to ami [at] edit and post dot com. Happy blogging!