There are many different blog platforms out there but there is only one that dominates this industry and it is called WordPress. WordPress is a great product, so great that the creators made it available in 2 forms, hosted and self-hosted.
The hosted version is at WordPress.com, and it is a free blogging platform that comes already hosted for you. You just sign up, name your blog and start blogging.
The second is a self-hosted WordPress, available at WordPress.org, where you install the WordPress platform right on your own hosting account. This version will require you a few more steps to get everything set up, but it is very much worth it.
It is worth it because you have all the control and you own everything you create on it, as opposed to the hosted version, where WordPress controls and owns pretty much everything you create on it and you have very limited control over it's look and functionality. You do get free hosting though, but is that worth giving up your content and control?
I always teach to use the self-hosted WordPress, so this is what we are going to be covering here.
Are you ready to get into it? Let's go!
Registering A Domain Name
The first step to creating a blog is registering a domain name. Domain name is the address you type into the address bar to get to a website in your browser. A lot of .COM domains have already been bought out and are not available, but that doesn't mean that you can't find a good domain. With a little research, you can find a nice domain that will be perfect for you. There are also other extensions besides .COM that you can choose but you want to stick with .COM as much as you can.
When picking a domain, you should look for an exact match domain name, or a brandable domain.
An exact match domain is like this, if you are going to be blogging about guitars, your domain should say something like "bestaccousticguitars.com" or something that is a keyword that people would search in the search engine to find information about whatever it is that your are blogging about.
A brandable domain is when you create a brand name for your blog and the domain should be your brand name. I've heard something that can help you create a brandable domain, you take your favorite color and add the name of the food that you had for breakfast this morning. This makes a brandable name, but I am not sure if it will be relevant to your blogging topic, so use that example to create a brandable domain for your blog topic.
Google used to give more "points" to websites with domains that are exact match, but the do not do that any longer, so any domain you pick, will work fine. I still like exact match domains, but those are hard to find these days.
Before we continue with the domain registration, let me tell you a bit about web hosting, because we will walk through both together. It's sort of a two-for-one process.
Getting A Website Hosting Account
Web hosting is simple, it is just a server that sits in some warehouse, hooked up to the internet, with your website on it. When someone enters your domain name in to the browser, the routers and switches that power the Internet point your browser to that server where your website is located and the server then displays your website to the visitor.
There are different hosting companies that offer essentially the same service. Right now, most of the companies offer unlimited hosting so the only difference is price and reliability.
I used to recommend GoDaddy for hosting because they are easy to use and used to have great up-time. Lately, their service has not been so great. I think their customer base is growing fast and they are running out of space on their servers, I don't know, this is just my thinking.
In any case, I now recommend JustHost as the web host to go with, because they offer great service and their up-time is really good. The price for the unlimited hosting is also great, It is under $3 per month when you prepay ahead, plus you get a free domain. Can't beat that.
This is what I was saying that you get two-for-one, you get a free domain when you buy a web hosting account from JustHost.
Setting Up Your Domain, Web Hosting and Installing WordPress
So to get started, go to JustHost by clicking here (it will open in a separate window).
That is my affiliate link, so I will get a small commission if you purchase the hosting account from them. I want to be up front with you that some of the services I recommend do pay me a commission, but let me be clear that my priority is first, to recommend services and product that are great, that I use my self and think that you will benefit from, and only secondly that they pay a commission, and not the other way around. Now that we have that covered, let's get back to business.
After you get your hosting account and domain, it is time to install WordPress. With JustHost, it is very easy to do.
1. Log into your JustHost account.
2. Click the WordPress icon in the Website Builders section (see image below)
3. Then click the Install button (see image below).
4. Select your domain in the drop-down menu. Leave the field next to it empty. Click Check Domain (see image below).
5. Give your blog a Name, then enter an admin username and a password. Click Install Now when ready (see image below).
JustHost will work on installing your WordPress for you and will let you know when it is ready. As soon as it is ready, your blog will be available at your domain. You will be able to log into your WordPress by browsing to yourdomain.com/wp-admin. You will use the credentials you have created in step 5 above, to log into WordPress admin.
This is it. Your blog is ready to go, in it's raw form. The only thing left is to install a theme (template) you like and start writing.
Getting A WordPress Theme
There are tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of themes available for WordPress today. Some of them are premium and a lot of them are completely free. As with anything, in many cases, you will get what you pay for. There are however solid themes available that are free, you will find them and recognize them just by looking at the demo. If it looks cheesy on the outside, it probably is same on the inside.
Free WordPress Themes
To find a free theme, all you need to do is log into your WordPress Admin panel and click Appearance > Themes, then click the Add New button at the top. Here on this page you will find the Featured, Popular and Latest tabs at the top. The Featured and Popular sections will give you the top free themes that are available in the WordPress directory. These two categories contain themes that have been voted on by the users and also those that deserve to be featured. You can count on those to be higher quality.
You can also search the rest of the themes by clicking the Feature Filter button and selecting the criteria you want, or by simply searching using the search box on the right.
After all this, if you are still not satisfied, then it is time to go outside WordPress directory and hit the streets of Google. Searching for free WordPress themes on Google is easy, simply search for "[keyword] WordPress Theme Free" and you will find many to choose from. Doing it this way though, will open you up to some bad themes as well as some great ones. The trick is to be able to tell if a theme is solid or garbage. Like I said before, you will recognize them by their look. If it looks good and has nice features in the demo (that actually work), it is probably a good theme to choose.
Just search for some good ones, pick a few, install them and see if you like it, if not, go to the next. That is the beauty of free themes, you don't like it, you just toss it.
Premium Paid Themes
Just like free, there are enormous amount of paid themes out there. My favorite place to go for Premium WordPress themes, is ThemeForest. This is a huge market place for top quality WordPress themes. The quality of these themes is unmatched by any other source on the Internet. Having said that, the price of $45 to $65 is unbeatable either. If I ever need a premium theme, I always get it from them.
The themes that are on ThemeForest are built by individual developers, they create them and they support them, ThemeForest is a market place for those developers where they can sell their work. Because ThemeForest has such high quality standards and pricing policies, developers strive to create the best theme they can, so ThemeForest prices them as high as possible. This means that if you see a theme that is $55 or $65, you will know that it is top notch. It takes a lot to please ThemeForest to get into that price point.
There are also many other places on the Internet that sells premium themes, which are really good too. I have purchased them from various suppliers. It's great for when you can't find quiet what you need in ThemeForest, they you go out and search the rest of the Internet. The bad part about it, is that you have no way to know the quality level of the themes and have nothing to compare it to, so it becomes a gamble.
Thankfully, I have not ran into problems to this day, buying from any suppliers of themes. The reason is that most places will do their best to support you and fix any issues, instead of refunding your money. So as long as you make sure they have a satisfaction guarantee, you should be golden.
In some cases, you may need a theme that is very specific, in a special category, where no other theme compares. Such themes like for a Videographer or a Photographer portfolio. There are very special themes that cater to specific categories, they will be priced higher, from $100 to $250. This is normal, and you also will know that you are getting a quality theme, plus, it better come with a satisfaction guarantee.
Installing A WordPress Theme
The installation of a WordPress theme is so easy, I don;t know if it is worth the paragraph I am dedicating to it. It is basically like this, when you get a theme, it will come in a Zipped folder that will either contain the theme files, or a package of source, documentation and license files. Once you download your file, unzip it so you can see what is in it.
If you do not see any folders in there that look like Documentation or License, and instead you see an images folder and files like header.php and footer.php, this means that these are the theme files. Otherwise, you should see another .zip file int here, named with your theme name or something close. That is the file you will need, the [your theme name].zip. Yes the zip file is what you will need. WordPress will deal with unzipping it and all that jazz.
1. To install the theme, log into your WordPress Admin panel and go to Appearance > Themes, then click the Add New at the top and then click the Upload Theme at the top. This will bring up the upload screen, select your .zip file and upload it. When it asks to install and activate it, go ahead and do it.
Haha, yes, it's just one step. That's it, your theme is installed. If you browse to your domain, you will see the new look. You will need to configure everything to match the demo by following the instructions the theme came with. Some themes come with instructions and demo content that you can import to set up the theme to look exactly like the demo does.
Before You Do Anything Else...
This is critical for your blog, so pay attention. Follow these steps before you start blogging. Log into your WordPress Admin panel and do the following.
- Click Settings > Permalinks. Select Post Name in the Common Settings section. This will make your blog have Search Engine Friendly URLs. This is critical for SEO.
- Click Plugins > Add New. In the search bar, search for "WordPress SEO by Yoast". Find it and install it. This will help you set up your SEO settings.
There are other plugins that you should install, but they are not critical, so we will get into them later.
Now you're set, you are ready to blog!
If you have any questions, please write them in the comments and I will do my best to answer as promptly as I can.