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In today’s world of content marketing, there are many options when it comes to editing and publishing platforms. WordPress has walked its way to the top of the list of these Content Management Systems. Right now, I want to guide you on how to start a WordPress blog from scratch and build it to a complete business tool.
Before we get into it, let me discuss on a surface level why the choice of WordPress. In my introduction, I mentioned that the blogging script is sitting on the list of blogging tools everywhere on the Internet. There are reasons why it is occupying this leadership position:
- Ease of use
- Completely free and open source
- Limitless extension possibilities
- Extremely helpful community
- Unlimited availability of resources
- Available on almost all web hosting platforms
- Active and powerful team constantly updating and upgrading
This and many more attractions make WordPress the first choice for many bloggers. Notwithstanding, many of the websites and blogs that are easily cracked and brought down are powered by WordPress. This may seem like there is a security concern specific to WordPress. I don’t think this should raise an alarm. Security is a major issue online irrespective of platform. If your web hosting company is up to the task and you keep to the health practices of maintaining your blog, you are never going to face any downtime and loss of data as a result of any security weakness.
WordPress.org or WordPress.com?
As a new user, you have two options to start a WordPress blog: WordPress.org and .com. While these two allow you to set up a WordPress blog, knowing the major differences can help you in making the right choice for your blog.
The main difference is at the level of who is hosting your blog. The WordPress.com option is the hosted service of WordPress run by Automattic, a company created by one of the founders of WordPress to host WordPress powered sites.
Choosing WordPress.com means submitting your blog to an option with limited access. Your blog will be hosted by them and you are under obligation to only function within what they offer in terms of plugins, design and other facilities.
If you want to start a WordPress blog with WordPress.com, head over to the website here and follow onscreen instructions.
WordPress.org is the more flexible option that allows you to move your blog to extremes. It’s self-hosted. This means the script is available for you to download and install on supported servers. Optionally, many web hosting companies today offer this as a free addition to their services. All you need is to follow onscreen instructions from within your web hosting dashboard and have it set up within minutes. We are going to be following an example in a moment but first, let’s deal with something.
Before you start a WordPress blog
I have been blogging for over 10 years so I can tell you this from a rich experience. There are a few things you must get ready before you delve into setting up your website.
1 – Your blogging niche
The first step at starting a WordPress blog is to choose your blogging niche as this will set the path forward and determine how far you will deal with the challenges in the industry. If you make errors at this point, chances to restart after a failed attempt are eminent.
You may want to choose a blogging niche based on your passion or knowledge and availability of content sources. Do not start a WordPress blog until you are sure on strict terms what your blog will be focused on. Begin with the main topic and then spread out to related topics if there is need for that.
2 – Your domain name
Your niche will guide the choice of your domain name. Your blog name has a strong influence on your branding. You have the option to pick up a neutral domain name and build a brand on it or register a descriptive name that correlates highly with and defines your content. Don’t focus on picking a keyword-rich domain name. SEO has shifted from that position.
Further Reading: 10 Tips to Come Up with a Brandable Domain Name for Your Blog
3 – Your hosting choice
A bad web hosting option can lay a foundation for the failure of your blogging business. If you choose to host with WordPress.com as mentioned above, you may not worry a lot about web hosting related issues. But if your choice is WordPress.org, you have to pay closer attention to which company you are choosing to host your blog.
While cheap seems attractive from the cost point of view, you may be faced with highly limited resources. If your blog is new, you may not want to start with a dedicated server. Begin with what you need and scale your hosting as your business grows.
Here’s a shortlist of recommended hosts to check out: BigScoots (used by this blog), Bluehost, DreamHost, Hostinger, InterServer, iPage, and Namecheap.
Further Reading: The 15 Best WordPress Blog Hosting Sites for 2022
4 – Your first content
What will be the first content on your new WordPress blog? As a blogging coach, I have seen many jump into setting up their blogs without preparing their first content. There are a couple of pages you should get set before ever installing WordPress, some of which are:
- About us page
- Contact page
- Terms of Services
Depending on what you want to blog about, you may want to identify and get the content for some crucial pages ready.
What about your first blog post? If you already have an audience (maybe from another business), you may want to address them in your first article. You may just want to tell your story and let your readers know why the blog. My first article here was an overview and a broader presentation of the journey ahead of me with my new blog. There are lots of ideas to create your first article. Just relax and write to your audience, not search engines.
How to start a WordPress blog with WordPress.org
Having gone up to this point, I believe you now have a clearer picture of what the journey looks like. We’ve dealt with a couple of points including your niche, your domain name, your hosting service provider, the basic content you may need to begin with, etc.
There are two options to start a self-hosted blog with WordPress.org:
- Download the script from the site and upload to your hosting space. This is recommended if you run your own hosting server. Note that this is a very challenging option that comes with boat-load of difficulties
- Outsource your hosting to a dedicated web hosting company. This is by far the best option. All you need is pay the hosting fee and everything else you need to install your blog will be made available.
We will progress with option 2 where I walk you through setting up your WordPress website on a remote server. There is a long list of premium web hosting companies to choose from and most of these already have resources to help you get your site up and running in the next few minutes.
If your chosen web hosting company has the WordPress script ready to install, follow their instructions. For the sake of this demo, I will go with a common and popular web hosting tool called cPanel which is used by most of the popular web hosts. If that’s what you are using, navigate to the Software section where you have the Softaculous auto-installer.
Note that this may be different from your version and cPanel configuration. Just find your way to the Softaculous bundle.
Locate the option to install a fresh copy of WordPress:
A couple of things to pay attention to at this point:
- If you have more than 1 URL in your cPanel, make sure you choose the right installation URL (Protocol, domain and directory).
- Set the name of your Blog and Description. These can be modified within your WordPress dashboard
- Set your admin Username, Password and Email
- Select the language of your site.
- Pick a template and some plugins to begin with. We will deal more with this shortly.
- Set an email address where the installation parameters should be sent to. This is important so you don’t lose your login parameters
You have just installed your self-hosted WordPress blog. What next?
We are not done yet. There are a couple of things you must do to get your site ready and secured.
1 – Basic configuration
Your fresh copy of WordPress blog has a lot of things already set up. But there are also a few things you have to decide yourself. The default settings may not be the best for your objectives to be made.
Some of the areas I recommend you deal with as early as possible are your URL structure (Permalink), Site Title, Time zone, Date and Time format,
NB: Never change the Permalink of a live blog. Changing your permalinks settings can seriously impact your search engine visibility. That’s why I highly recommend you get this point fixed before moving on to publish and promote your content.
2 – Security
Before taking steps to publishing and promoting content, you must reinforce the security layer of your WordPress blog. There are several security plugins in the market. I use iThemes Security on many of my sites. What I recommend you do it:
- Change the default dashboard login URL
- Remove or change the default Admin user
- Change the default database ID entry of 1 for the default Admin user
- Rename the database table prefix from wp_ to something more complex and hidden
- Use a very strong password
- Take down idle plugins and themes
- Set up a content/database backup strategy. (Many web hosting companies off this but don’t solely rely on them)
- Implement Brute Force Protection locally in order to better protect your site against hackers that use a technique of trying to randomly guess login details of an administrator or someone else who has access to your site.
A good security plugin will allow you to handle these and many other aspects of your blog to keep it safe.
Further Reading: 11 Leading WordPress Maintenance Services to Consider
3 – Templates and Plugins
Any template you choose will affect the front-end beauty and ergonomics of your blog, content accessibility, Technical SEO and overall friendliness. Avoid any theme that’s not mobile-friendly.
Free WordPress themes abound but I will advise you to pick a premium theme that reflects your business and communicates value to your audience. You may want to check out Ishita’s post on how to choose a WordPress theme for your new WordPress blog. Don’t be in a hurry. Avoid mistakes by giving yourself enough time for adequate findings.
Plugins allow you to do more with your new WordPress blog. There is always the temptation to install just any plugin because we believe it’s going to do one or more things. Note however that the more the plugins you have activated (or idle), the more your blog is exposed to hackers. Some poorly coded plugins can affect your blog’s load speed, thereby negatively impacting your SEO. For a new WordPress blog, I will recommend a maximum of 10 plugins. Any plugin that’s not useful should be deleted without delay.
There is a long list of free and paid plugins to choose from. Sometimes, as a beginner, we get confused about which to get. I would not let you go wondering where to begin. Check out Neal Schaffer’s list of The 21 Best WordPress Plugins for Business Blogs for some solid recommendations.
Further Reading: The 15 Best SEO Plugins for WordPress That You Should Know
4 – What about a child theme for your new blog?
Having a child theme for your new blog may not be an immediate requirement but I think it will help you maintain some uniqueness on your WordPress site.
One of the things we expect from theme developers is constant updates and many of these updates come in a way that may cancel any changes we might have made on theme designs and functionalities.
Creating a child theme for your blog will keep any changes you make even when your theme is updated. I know this may be quite technical and confusing but you can find out more on this WordPress Child theme post I submitted on Lisa’s blog
5 – Social media channels
If you want social media to be part of your promotion strategies, get the different channels connected to your new blog. You may want to automate content promotion by using a plugin that pushes your new post to Twitter, Facebook, etc once you hit the publish button.
6 – Start building an Email list
This is one of the things I failed to do when I got into blogging some years ago. But you must not make the same mistake. Start collecting the addresses of your readers and building your email list as early as possible. MailChimp allows you to start building an email list without any extra cost.
There are several ways to get readers to submit their emails to your list:
- Offer them something for free (free ebook, discount code, free access to platform, etc)
- Just let them sign up to receive new posts.
- Allow them to sign up for any content upgrade.
Further Reading: The Definitive Guide to Email Marketing [free ebook]
Are you ready to start blogging?
Starting a WordPress blog is quite simple and quick if you have everything planned out. I hope these tips have been helpful. However, if you still face any issue while trying to get your blog up and running, please drop a comment.
Hero photo by Kelly Huang on Unsplash