How To Start A Blog, Part 3: Starting A WordPress Blog

Starting your WordPress blog is very easy. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform because it’s easy to use and there are a ton of plugins and themes to make your blog look and work the way you want it to.

You can go to wordpress.com if you want to go free, but I don’t recommend it. There are limitations on how you can earn money there. Pay for your own domain name, pay for hosting elsewhere, and you can install WordPress and earn money more easily. You will also look more professional than if you go with any of the free sites.

I like Hostgator for my websites. I’ve used them for years now. There’s occasional frustration with them, but that’s true everywhere. If not Hostgator, many people like Bluehost. They’re owned by the same parent companies, but there are differences. Take a look and decide which you prefer. My examples will use Hostgator because that’s where I’m at right now.

hostgator screenshot

You’ll land on a page something like this when you go to Hostgator. It will change over time, so don’t assume it will be exactly like this. When you’re just getting started, that smallest plan is enough, just be aware that it only supports one domain name, as of this writing. The next plan up allows unlimited domain names, so if you’re planning multiple blogs, you will at some point want to move up. Plans and pricing can change, so I won’t share a lot of details.

Don’t start out with multiple blogs. You’re learning how to run things right now. Don’t complicate matters just now. Get a feel for what you’re doing before you even consider expanding. Hostgator or any other host will gladly let you upgrade later.

Hostgator will allow you to register your domain as you sign up for your plan. You will also pick how many months of plan you want to pay for at this time. You currently get the best price if you sign up for a three year contract, but if you can’t afford that, pick one of the other contracts. Contracts renew automatically at the end of their term unless you cancel.

You do not need to sign up for the extras they’re offering. You can, but they aren’t necessary. There are WordPress plugins that also help with security, and that’s what I use.

After going through the registration process and payment, you can log into your cPanel. It will look something like this:

cPanel hostgator

You may see a 1-Click WordPress installation link, and that is one possible way to go. It will give you a bunch of options to have a pro install it for you for a cost. Once again, not necessary. Ignore those – the installer will take mere minutes. Don’t start paying for things that are easy to do yourself. Pay for the things that are difficult or take more time than you can spare.

If you want to learn to install WordPress on your own (it’s not hard!), skip this section. I’ll show you how I handle things below.

1-Click Installer Instructions

If you’re going the 1-Click installer route, just follow the instructions. Choose your domain on the first screen, fill out the required information on the second, and hit Install. It’s that simple to install WordPress using this method. Just don’t use “admin” as your username. It used to be the default, and hackers still try it first.

one click installer wordpress

At this point, your installation is complete. Make sure to take note of your username and password. Hostgator will offer to sell you a WordPress theme. You can buy one if you want, but WordPress comes with a basic theme that is free, which is enough to get started. There are tons of themes out there for you to consider when the time is right, both free and paid.

What I don’t like about this method is that the 1-Click installer puts in ads for things to buy for your new installation. I don’t need junk clogging up my blog admin panel. When I want to buy something to make my blog better, I can find it and install it myself. That said, they’re plugins and you can go to the plugin page and delete them.

Manual WordPress Installation

WordPress installation is fairly simple. Unfamiliar, but simple once you know what to do. You can use the instructions available on wordpress.org or follow my instructions.

The first thing you need to do is install the MySQL database. You’ll see a link in your cPanel. Click it. This will take you to a place to create a new database. You will need to create a database and a user, then add the user to the database. These are separate steps, but they all take place on the same page. Make sure you note the password you create for the user. You’ll need that along with the database name and username for your WordPress installation.

mysql example

You will also need an FTP program. I use Filezilla. You can download and install it onto your computer. Refuse any extras with the install – sometimes they offer some extras you don’t need. Your cPanel login information should let you sign into your website using the site manager.

Go to wordpress.org and download WordPress. Save the zip file, and unzip it to a location on your computer. Find wp-config-sample.php and rename it to wp-config.php. Open it in a text editor such as Notepad. Put in your database information.

There are security keys you can edit as well. You don’t need to remember these, so they can be complicated. WordPress offers a generator to create random keys for these, and that’s plenty good enough.

Save your file as “All types” and not .txt. It must end in .php and not .txt to work.

Connect to your hosting using Filezilla. In most cases, you want to install WordPress to the root of domain, which is in the public_html file. If you have multiple domains, you may need to locate the right domain first. Upload the unzipped files for WordPress.

Once the files are uploaded, visit your website. You should see the installation page. Follow the instructions to create your account. Don’t use “admin” as your username, as it used to be the default, and is still very popular with hackers. Once you’re done and you have logged in, it will tell you which files to delete using your FTP program.

Choosing A Theme

You may find it simplest to use one of the themes included in your installation to start. There are other themes all over the place, but these will get you started. You want a theme that is responsive, so that your site will show well on smartphones as well as tablets and computers. A lot of people visit websites through their phones, and you should be ready for that.

Most themes are easy to customize with your own choice of colors, header images and so forth. The Customize link in the Themes menu will give you the available options. It will give you the recommended sizes for images.

Don’t overdo the time you spend choosing and setting up your theme right now. Change it enough to look how you want it to for the start.

Adding Plugins

Plugins can add a lot to your blog. They can make it easier to promote your blog on social media, improve security, and much more. Here are a few that I like:

Bulletproof Security
Yoast SEO
Shareaholic
Sucuri Security

You can find these by clicking Add New in the Plugins section of your blog. Just do a search. They will take a little configuration. Links for each should appear on the left menu of your administration area.

Make Your First Post

Once you have your blog set up satisfactorily, it’s time to make your first post. There’s a “New” link at the top you can click, or click on “Posts” over to the left, and then click to make a new post. You can copy and paste it from your word processor if you have one written already, or type directly in the post box. Come up with a good title, and include photos if possible. WordPress makes it easy to add images with the “Add Media” button.

You can of course delete the “Hello” post WordPress includes automatically. Alternatively, edit it to create your own hello.

Include An About Page

People like to know who you are. Make an About page to let people know who you are and what your blog is about. Some themes will show your About information on the sidebar.

Pages are different from posts. You will find the link to make a page just below the Media section on the left.

Include A Privacy Policy, Terms Of Service, etc.

You should include a privacy policy and other legal pages on your site, especially if you want to use Adsense, recommend affiliate products or otherwise make money off your blog. Adsense and many affiliate programs have specific requirements you must follow in terms of your privacy policy and disclosing that you are an affiliate.

You can set these up even if you aren’t using these programs yet. It won’t hurt you to be prepared. Check with each program as you join to ensure you’re meeting their specific requirements.

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