So, you want to start a WordPress blog?
If the thought of purchasing domains names, hosting and customizing WordPress themes fills you with a sense of dread and overwhelm.
You’re in the right place.
In this post I will show you step-by-step (as in step 1 do this and step 2 do that) exactly how to start and setup your WordPress blog.
Here’s what you’ll learn:
- How to choose the best hosting
- How to install WordPress
- How to install a FREE SSL certificate
- Navigating the WordPress dashboard
- How to setup WordPress the right way
- How to extend the functionality of WordPress with plugins
- How to choose and customise a theme
- How to use widgets
- Write your first post or page
- Create and use menus
Let’s gets started
There are three steps to setting up a WordPress website.
Step 1 – Purchasing your domain name for example: https://yourawesomeblogname.com – this is your home on the internet.
Step 2 – Purchasing your hosting – where you will install WordPress and all of your website files and content will live.
Step 3 – Installing WordPress.You can purchase your domain from any domain name registrar (separately to your hosting).
If you do, you must replace settings at your current domain name registrar with ones provided by your hosting company.
Like this…Copy these:
And paste them here:
If you haven’t done this before, get in touch with support – they will help you.
Haven’t purchased your domain or hosting yet? You’ll find it easier to purchase both from the same company. So you won’t need to mess about changing settings, you’re not comfortable with.
Two options with hosting – managed WordPress hosting and unmanaged.
If you’re new to WordPress and not that technical – I recommend Managed WordPress hosting. Because the hosting company manages all the technical aspects of running WordPress. Including, security, speed, WordPress updates and backups.
Managed WordPress hosting costs more, but thanks to SiteGround an official WordPress recommended hosting provider, they have agreed to offer our readers a 60% discount off all plans.
Open SiteGround in a new browser window and follow these instructions:
Select ‘Sign up’ and choose ‘Order now’ underneath the plan you want.
Choose ‘Grow Big’ because you get unlimited websites, priority support, and use of their backup restore tool.
How to register your domain name
Enter your new domain name to check availability, select the domain extension you want.
Click on ‘Proceed’.
Go ahead and setup your account and payments details – and click on ‘Pay now’.
Once that’s setup, you will receive a couple of emails from SiteGround.
When you get this email, click the link to login to your new hosting account.
Select ‘My Account’ then ‘cpanel’ and click ‘proceed’.
Under the second subheading ‘Autoinstallers’ select WordPress’.
Scroll down and click ‘install now’.
You must fill in a few details.
Protocol: you won’t have SSL installed yet so select http:// (We’ll go through this step-by-step later)
In the next drop-down select your new domain name.In Directory, leave it blank.
Change your sitename and description if you wish – you can change this later.
Save the user-name and password and change the admin email if you want to.
Once installed you should see this screen:
Click the link next to Administrative URI – this is the link to login to your WordPress dashboard.
Keep your user-name and password safe, I use and recommend Lastpass to manage your passwords.
At the end of January 2017 Google began including non-secure notices in the browser on sites without https if they collected sensitive data.
And again in October 2017 said pages with forms served over http will have a non-secure notices in the browser. When the page loads and when your readers enter their data.
So, what do you do?
Install a FREE SSL certificate.
To get https you need to install an SSL certificate on your web server. An SSL certificate encrypts communication between your readers web browser and your web server.
Meaning it decreases the risk of sensitive information being stolen by hackers.
And installing one is easy with SiteGround.
Login to your SiteGround account, click on ‘cPanel’ again.
Scroll down to the security tab and click on ‘Lets Encrypt’.
Under ‘Install new Let’s Encrypt Certificate’ select your domain click ‘install’.
Go back to cPanel, in the WordPress tools tab select ‘WordPress Toolkit’.
Select your domain and click ‘Manage’ and then ‘Configure SSL’.
The first time you login to WordPress it will look like this:
This is the WordPress dashboard and it will be the first thing you see every time you login to your WordPress site.
The first area you can see on your dashboard is the welcome area, this gives you a place to start when you first use WordPress.
You’ll see basic getting started tasks like, customising your site, changing your WordPress theme, writing your first blog post or turning on/off comments.
If you don’t want to see this each time you login, you can dismiss it in the top right-hand corner.
Below this you’ll find the rest of the boxes WordPress comes with by default.
The ‘At a Glance’ box shows basic information about what content you have on your site for example you can see I have 4 posts, 1 page and 1 comment. You can also see what version of WordPress I’m running and theme I have installed.
To the right you have the ‘Quick Draft’ box where you can create a quick draft of a blog post.
in ‘Activity’ you can see any recent activity on your site, published posts and any recent comments you have waiting to approved or are awaiting moderation.
The last box is news and recent articles you have posted.
If you want to dismiss other boxes click on the ‘Screen Option’ in the top right-hand side and check or un-check the relevant check boxes.
If you want to rearrange any of the boxes, you can by dragging them into space or on top of one another.
The WordPress admin bar
Click on the home icon in the top left-hand corner of the WordPress to open your homepage.
And you’ll notice a persistent header at the top of your website whilst you’re logged in.
This is there to give you an easy way to access some common tasks like customising your theme, updating plugins and creating new posts or pages.
And if you want to jump back into the dashboard at anytime. Select the dashboard icon and select any of the menu options.
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make before customising your website. Is how you want your homepage setup.
Let me explain.
There are two types of homepage you can create with WordPress.
By default, WordPress uses the first option to display ‘your latest posts’ which displays your latest posts (duh!) in a dynamic layout.
Or you can have a ‘static homepage’ which you can use to show custom content.
I prefer to use a ‘static homepage’ because your homepage typically generates more traffic than other pages. And the best way to convert that traffic into subscribers is to create a custom (opt-in focused) home page.
To get started creating a static homepage, first thing you need to do is create a page and name it something like ‘home’ save and publish the page.
Repeat the process again but this time name your page ‘blog’ – all will become clear in a second.
Next, go to ‘Settings’ ‘Reading’ select the ‘A static page’ radio button, where it says ‘Homepage’ select your saved ‘homepage’.
Where it says ‘Posts page’ choose the page you named ‘blog’.
When you choose a static homepage, you can create a dynamic blog homepage which will display a handful of your most recent posts.
Save your changes.
How to create SEO friendly URL’s
There are a number of options for setting the permanent URL structure of posts and pages, etc
The best for SEO is ‘post name’.
To change or check if this is set up correctly
Go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Permalinks’
You’ll see a number of common setting but the best for SEO is ‘post name’ if it’s not selected, select it. Save changes.
Then click on ‘General’ and fill in your ‘Site title’ and ‘Tagline’ if you didn’t complete those steps when you installed WordPress. Save your changes again.
A WordPress plugin is a piece of software that can extend the functionality of your website.
There are tens of thousands of free WordPress plugins available from the WordPress plugin repository.
There are also many premium (paid) plugins available to purchase from third party vendors.
A note of caution:
Only use or buy third party plugins from trustworthy sources.
To use a plugin you need to upload it, install it and activate it.
Lets run through the steps.
Select ‘Plugins’ in the left hand side menu, click on ‘add new’ and you’ll see you have two choices.
Choice 1 – Search for a plugin in the search bar, click on ‘install’ and once it’s installed ‘Activate’ it.
Choice 2 – if you’ve purchased or downloaded a plugin elsewhere click on ‘upload plugin’ ‘Choose plugin’ and browse to find your downloaded .zip file (you don’t need to unzip the plugin) ‘activate’ it once it’s installed.
With a fresh install of WordPress you should already have two plugins installed – Akismet and Hello Dolly.
Whilst Akismet is a useful plugin – worth keeping for protecting your blog from spam. Hello Dolly is useless, delete it.
Beyond that here’s a basic set of plugins to get you started.
I recommend installing plugins to help you in these 5 areas:
When I start a new WordPress install I start with a basic set of plugins that covers the following areas:
The plugins I recommend to handle each are:
As we’ve already seen Akismet comes installed and is a powerful plugin for handling spam.
Caching plugins allow your web pages to be delivered with super-fast response time, without having to do all the heavy processing, every time the page loads.
Yoast SEO is my favourite SEO plugin another to check out is All in One SEO Pack.
Backups- There can be many reasons you may need to restore a backed version of your website – your site has is hacked, an update has gone wrong or you’ve made an error either by deleting a file or incorrectly editing code.
When it does you’ll want to have a recent backup so you can restore it.
Plenty of backup plugins – BackWPup is a popular free plugin and Vaultpress is a popular premium backup solution.
The final plugin will help you get started with securing your site by scanning, monitoring and hardening.
If you want to take security a step further consider Securi Firewall a website application firewall. (might need explaining)
WordPress security is an important topic and worth reading up on in more detail this article by wpbeginner is a great start.
A word of caution:
Be careful with WordPress plugins, plugins can add a lot of unnecessary bloat to your website which can slow down your site.
If you want to check which plugins are guilty of slowing down your website install – yes I know another plugin.
But P3 Profiler – measures your website performance and impact each plugin has on your sites load time.
WordPress themes represent the design of your website. And present content to your visitors by taking the content stored in WordPress and displaying it their a browser.
To manage your themes go to ‘Appearance’ ‘Themes’.
You will see thumbnail images of available themes.
To use a theme, you need to activate the theme. Hover your cursor over a theme and select ‘Active’.
If you want to preview the theme before activating it – select ‘Preview’
Once you’ve activated a theme, you’ll see a ‘Customise’ button. Go ahead, a select it to open the Theme Customiser
The theme customizer has limitations to how much of your theme you can customise.
And the options you have to edit differ from theme to theme.
Typically, you’ll be able to change your site colours, add a logo, header image and create menus.
WordPress widgets add additional content and features to your website.
WordPress comes with several default widgets such as ‘recent posts’, ‘search’, and ‘categories’.
To use a widget, you add them to a widget area’.
Widget areas are commonly found in the footer, sidebar and homepage.
Each theme has its own unique number of widget areas.
To use a widget – add it to a widget area.
Two ways to do that.
1. Click on the widget – select a widget area from the drop-down menu and click ‘Add Widget’.
2. Drag the widget onto one of the widget areas on the right-hand side of the page.
Once added, you’ll notice each widget has its own set of features for you to customise.
What is the difference between a WordPress page and post?
Posts and pages are very similar but have a few distinct differences, it’s worth understanding.
Pages are static pages such as you About, Services and Contact page.
Posts are used in a blog. But can also be used for other purposes. For example, if you an appointments plugin, the appointments pages you create are post types and so are posts.
After that the only real difference is in the page attributes.
Pages can be a child of other pages, a sub-page. For example, you may have a general ‘Services’ page with an overview of all the services you offer, underneath which you’ll have a page which describes each service in more detail.
Your URL structure might look like this: yourdomain.com/services/service-1.
There are three options that separate posts. Categories and Tags help users sort your content. Categories are top-level topics and Tags describe your pots in more detail.
Excerpt, lets you write a brief description of your post. Your blog archive page will often show a title, featured image along with your excerpt of all the posts.
The process for writing your first page or post is the same.
You can start a new page or post by either click the + icon in the admin page and selecting either Page or Post. Or by choosing Posts or Pages on the left hand-side menu.
Where it says ‘Enter title here’ enter a title. If this is a page, you’ll enter something like, About or Contact if it’s a post you’ll use the title of your blog post.
On the right-hand side in the ‘Publish’ widget click on ‘Save Draft’.
You’ll notice a permalink appear beneath your post title – change this if needed.
The title for this post is: How to Start a WordPress Blog the Right Way in 2018.
By default WordPress might create my permalink something like how-to-start-a-wordpress-blog-the-right-way. I prefer to keep my URL structure short and include a keyword if possible, so I’ll change my permalink to start-a-wordpress-blog
Notice under the ‘Publish’ widget you can ‘Preview’ your page, to see how it looks. Change visibility to either Public, Private or Password protected. And schedule the publish date of the post.
The WordPress editor
The current WordPress editor is not a live ‘what you see is what you get’ or WYSIWYG editor. Meaning that the content your add and edit in the WordPress editor will look slightly different when you publish the page.
To see what your page will look like part way through editing – select ‘preview’.
Type or paste in copy into the editor.
To format text you’ll use page you’ll use default styles set up in your theme. Use ‘paragraph’ for body copy and various headings to divide your content up into subheadings.
Beyond that typical word processor style formatting applies to enable you to bold or italic words, add bullets or numbered lists.
You may have also noticed two tabs ‘Visual’ and ‘Text’
Typically you’ll do most of your formatting using the ‘Visual’ tab but you can add HTML in the ‘Text’ tab.
To add an image to your page or post click on ‘Media’ in the top left of the editor to open your media library.
If you’ve previous uploaded an image select it and click on ‘insert into post’
To upload a new image, select ‘Upload files’ and either drop your file/s onto the page or select ‘Select files’.
Once uploaded add a Title and Alt text underneath ‘Attachment details’.
Change the display setting to suit and insert the image into your post.
If you decide you want to edit the image once you’ve inserted it. Just click on the image in the Editor, change the alignment via any of the icons or select the ‘pencil’ to edit additional display settings, change the size of the image or crop the image further.
Once your post is complete (and checked) choose an appropriate category, add relevant tags, preview the page to double check it and then publish the page.
Access your menus under ‘Appearance’, ‘Menus’.
To create a menu, in the Menu Name field give your menu a new name ‘Main Navigation’ for example. And click on ‘Create Menu’.
Underneath ‘Pages’ you’ll notice two options.
Pages shows all the pages available to add to a menu, same with Posts. You can also add Custom links – to pages not available in WordPress, this could be a sub-domain, or landing page for example. Last you can also add Categories to your menu.
Go-ahead and add your links to your menu.
To rearrange menu items simple drag and drop each.
Under ‘Menu Settings’ under display location select ‘Header Menu’ or ‘Primary Menu’ (this will change depending upon your theme).
Save the menu and check your page.
You can also create and add Menus to different parts of your blog.
If you want to add a number of links in the footer of your blog, you can use a menu rather than adding them individually.
Repeat the steps above to create a new menu.
Select ‘Widgets’. find the widget ‘Navigation Menu’ click on it and choose a widget area you want to add your menu to.
Now find that widget area click on the down arrow to the right of where it says ‘Navigation Menu’ give your menu a title and then next to ‘select menu’ choose the new menu you’ve just created.
Save and check your page.
I hope you found this article useful. If I’ve missed anything or if you’d like me add additional topics to this post.
Let me know in the comments.
Also, check out my WordPress 101 post for tips on how to use WordPress to grow your business.