Whether you plan to have your unique talent globally recognized or make your company website come to life with better keyword rankings and more traffic (and conversions), deciding to start a self-hosted blog on WordPress, the most preferred blogging platform, is one of the best things you’ll ever do. A lot of people think that setting up a WordPress blog on one’s own is just a heck lot of work. It requires hiring a tech geek or a web developer. This isn’t actually true. Even if you possess no coding/ programming knowledge at all or lack relevant professional experience, you can easily accomplish this task without getting yourself a headache. All you need to do is adhere to a couple of key steps, one by one, and you’ll have a blog alive and kicking within less than a day.
Given below are ten steps that will help you start a WordPress blog on your own while making it feel like a piece of cake –
#1. Get a Domain (and Buy a Hosting Plan)
If you want to start a stand-alone blog, a domain name and a hosting plan are the fundamental requirements. A domain name is an exclusive name which users will identify your blog with whereas hosting refers to renting a tiny web space where your blog will have a home.
Usually, reserving a .com domain, provided it’s available, doesn’t cost you more than $10 and a basic hosting plan is available at around $30/ year. Both GoDaddy and BlueHost, however, offer you a free domain with a starter web hosting package which costs $30/ year and $50/ year respectively. In case you buy a hosting package for multiple years at once, you’ll enjoy a discounted rate with both these service providers.
[Note: Overlook this step if you already have a live business website where the WordPress blog will be installed.]
#2. Install WordPress
As soon as the domain name has been registered and web hosting bought with a service provider of your choice, you’ll receive an email containing all the essential information about the new account set-up. You’ll be given the cPanel location, username and password. So, you can quickly access your cPanel (your hosting engine) from where to install WordPress. Locate the ‘Install WordPress’ icon and click it to complete installation. You can also ask your web host provider to get it done, and they’ll most probably be happy to do it for you. Once the blog has been installed, you’ll have the blog URL from where you’ll be accessing its admin section so that you can configure all its basic features and functionalities and start publishing blog posts, one after another.
[Note: Unless you’re creating the WordPress blog on an existing website, you should install it in the root directory.]
#3. Choose, and Apply a Relevant Theme
I consider you’re in. Once you’ve logged into the admin section of your blog, it’s time to check out the default themes gallery offered by WordPress and choose one that suits your specific requirements the best. Whether you want your blog to have one column, two columns or three columns, the gallery offers you a wide range of options in different colors and designs that you may like.
The WordPress themes are located here –
Appearance -> Themes -> Install Themes
If you’ve purchased a premium theme outside of WordPress, you can also upload and activate it from the same dashboard in seconds. To buy a premium theme for your blog, choose either Woo Themes or Elegant Themes.
#4. Fix Permalink Structure
You may be wondering as to what the word ‘permalink’ means. It refers to the URL of the blog posts you’ll publish. You can never ignore or save this critical configuration fix for a later time, as a delayed change might result in a huge of loss of traffic. The URL structure of your posts must be set up first-hand. From inside the WordPress admin area, you can click the ‘Settings’ tab and then go to the Permalink section for setting up the URL structure in a way that looks good to the eye and improves the search-friendliness of your blog.
The default permalink structure, which isn’t user-friendly at all, is automatically enabled after you have installed WordPress. Unless you fix it and choose a suitable format (e.g.- post name or custom structure), it will remain the same. The format selection will also depend on whether you’re starting a completely independent blog or one that will be attached to your existing website because the URL structures will fundamentally vary.
[Note: Using categories as part of the permalink structure for your WordPress blog will lead to having broken links if you ever decide to change or modify the category names in future.]
#5. Install Basic WordPress Plugins
WordPress plugins are a wonderful invention. With thousands of these plugins at your disposal for free, you can quickly resolve multiple issues and streamline the essential processes on your blog without messing up with even a single line of code. The WordPress Plugin Directory offers you plugins for enhancing SEO, preventing commenting spam, backing up data, bolstering security, creating XML sitemaps, adding social media sharing buttons, creating contact forms and integrating analytics among others.
When you start a WordPress blog, I would personally suggest you use the following essential plugins –
Since Akismet (which prevents blog comment spam) is not free anymore, you may want to replace it with another that doesn’t need you to a pay a fee. In that case, you should choose WP-SpamShield or WP-SpamFree. You can use more of these plugins as your requirements increase with the growth of your blog. But don’t use them excessively. It’s to be noted that all WordPress plugins are not coded very well. If you end up installing too many plugins, that are poorly coded, it might increase the download time of your site.
#6. Customize the Header and the Footer
The header and the footer of your blog are important sections. Whether you’re using a free WordPress theme or a premium theme, uploading your own unique header to the blog isn’t a tough job. You can add the header image from the dashboard with a single click. Likewise, you can also easily customize the footer adding the links that you want there and removing those that you don’t. At the start, you shouldn’t worry too much about the footer. It’s good to keep it simple. In case you want to create a multi-column footer, you can search for a similar plugin (a ready-made footer widget) in the WordPress plugin directory, download it to your computer, and then upload and activate the same from the WordPress dashboard. Customize as required.
#7. Structure the Sidebar
Thankfully, WordPress offers you multiple widgets for the sidebar design. Depending on what elements or stuff you need to showcase in the sidebar, you can choose from the available widgets. Just go to Appearance from the WordPress dashboard and click Widgets to check out the items that you may want to add to the sidebar of your blog.
Essential items you’ll need in the sidebar include –
A welcome message at the top
A subscription form
A list of recent posts
A list of recent Comments
A list of categories
A list of monthly archive
To start displaying these items, all you need to do is drag-and-drop matching widgets in the sidebar space and click ‘Save’, and you’re done. For the welcome message at the top, you’ll need to use the ‘Text’ widget.
#8. Create the Basic Pages
Technically, pages and blog posts are different. Before you start to publish posts on your WordPress blog, there are a couple of fundamental pages that you’ll need to create. If you’re launching an independent WordPress blog, these pages carry even more importance. To write them, you can go to ‘Pages’ from your WordPress dashboard and click ‘Create New Page’.
Important pages that you’ll need include –
Blog Commenting Policy
Terms and Conditions
The number of pages you’d like to create depends on your specific requirements. There are no restrictions.
#9. Integrate Analytics
For business bloggers, setting up analytics is something that can never be ignored. Since Google Analytics is a free tool, you don’t need to look for any other software program. Log into your Google Analytics account and generate a code. Once the code has been generated, copy and place it into the header file of your blog. Many WordPress and premium themes also offer alternate insertion options so you don’t need to work with files. You can accomplish this task the easier way by using a relevant WordPress plugin as well.
Once the Google analytics program has been integrated, you’ll be able to track the performance of your blog in terms visits, page views, organic traffic and bounce rate. This makes tweaking for better results easier.
#10. Write (and Publish) Your First Blog Post
Congratulations – your WordPress blog is now in good order and raring to go! It’s finally time to write your first blog post. Pick a topic that your readers will like. Craft a good blog post. Edit it for errors, and hit ‘Publish’.
Provided you follow the above-mentioned steps appropriately and stick to the guidelines mentioned therein really well, you won’t need any outside help to start a WordPress blog. As soon as you’re done with it, you’ll have your own social media platform from where you can share the stuff you know best, help people and create a name for yourself or your company.
Please feel free to leave a comment, share more tips or ask any questions that you may have in mind.