Last week I wrote a post about why you should start a blog.
Today I’m going to show how to create a blog–from purchasing your domain name to installing WordPress and creating a beautiful, completely customizable website without ever having to touch any code.
I’m going to make this process as simple and easy as possible for you.
Don’t worry too much about the details at this point. Once you your site up and running, then you can go back and focus on tweaking the details. But for now, let’s focus on getting started.
The total cost of setting up your blog will run around $20-$60 (depending on if you want to purchase a “premium” theme or not — see optional Step 5).
While you can create a free blog, if you want to be taken seriously I highly recommend making the investment in buying a domain name and creating a self-hosted blog. Not only is a self-hosted WordPress blog with your own domain name a lot more professional looking, but it’s also a lot more customizable than a free blog.
I use a self-hosted WordPress.org framework, which is the most popular blogging platform on the web. It’s the easiest, cheapest, and most simple way to build a blog. For this reason the rest of this guide assumes that you’ll be using the WordPress.org framework as well.
Plus, making a small financial investment, no matter how small it is, will also force you to take your blog more seriously. The way I see it, if you’re going to do something, you might as well commit to it.
If you’re willing to make the commitment (and if you’ve read this far, I think you are), let’s get started…
1. Purchasing a Domain Name.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the address for your website. It’s the URL that people type into their web browser to get to your website (i.e. collegetopia.co), but it’s not your actual website. It’s simply a way of identifying your website and helping people get to your website.
Coming Up with a Domain Name
Domain names are important, because they’re how people will remember your blog. But don’t worry about coming up with the PERFECT domain name.
Spend some time brainstorming possible names and then just PICK ONE. Go with your gut, and move on.
Remember that the most important thing for you to focus on when you’re starting a blog is to take action. Don’t get stuck on one thing. You can always go back and change things later (and your domain name is no exception).
Where to Purchase a Domain Name
You can purchase a domain name from a number of different sites, and they usually run between $9-$13 per year.
I purchased Collegetopia.co through GoDaddy.com for $10.99, which I found to be the cheapest (for that particular domain name). But here are some other sites that sell domains that are worth checking out to make comparisons:
If you decide to buy your domain name from GoDaddy, make sure that you only purchase the domain name…
DO NOT PURCHASE WEB HOSTING THROUGH GODADDY.
You’ll have the option to purchase both your domain name and web hosting through GoDaddy, but don’t do it. GoDaddy is known for having terrible web-hosting. You’ll want to purchase web hosting from another site. I’ll tell you which hosting provider I recommend and use for Collegetopia in the next step.
Something else to keep in mind: domain name costs vary depending on the top-level domain, or TLD (which is the suffix part of the domain, such as .com or .net). Generally, “.com” is the most expensive because it’s the most common and familiar TLD. But because almost all “.com” domain names are already taken, you’re going to start seeing a lot more other TLD’s popping up, such as .co’s. This was part of my reasoning for going with “.co” when I made Collegetopia. So don’t worry if you can’t get a “.com”, it’s not the end of the world. If anything, you’re just ahead of the curve ;).
2. Purchasing Web Hosting
What is Web Hosting?
If you think about your website as a house, and the domain name is your address, then the web hosting is the house itself. Your web hosting provides the server where all your files are stored and made available online.
Where to Purchase Web Hosting
Like domain names, there are lots of different options to choose from for purchasing your hosting provider. Prices vary depending on the type of hosting you’re getting, but for your first site a basic “shared” hosting account is all you need. This will typically cost about $8/month.
I recommend the basic “Hatchling Plan” from HostGator which costs $8.76/month if you pay monthly or $6.98/month if you pay for a full year in advance (recommended).
If you use coupon code “COLLEGETOPIA” when checking out (see steps below) you’ll get an additional 25% off your purchase!
There are other options out there, but HostGator is what I use for Collegetopia and I’ve never had any problems with them. Honestly, there isn’t much of a difference between most of these basic hosting plans, but when I was originally doing my research on different hosting plans I ultimately decided to go with HostGator because they are known for having the best customer service, which I think is the the most important factor when dealing with a service like this.
How to Get 25% Off From HostGator
1. Go to HostGator.com and click the Web Hosting tab in the top left.
2. Under Hatchling Plan, select from the drop-down menu which payment option you want to choose (monthly, 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, or 3 years–I recommend choosing at least the 1 year option) and then click the Sign Up Now! button.
3. Click on the I Already Own This Domain tab and enter your domain in the space provided (assuming you already bought your domain from another site, like GoDaddy.com).
4. Confirm that the Hatchling package and your preferred billing cycle is selected.
5. Choose a username and security pin.
6. Enter your billing and payment information.
7. In the Add Additional Services section I recommend un-checking everything. You don’t need any of this stuff.
8. Enter the coupon code COLLEGETOPIA to get 25% off.
9. Select the box saying you have read and agree to the Terms of Service.
10. Review the order details and click Checkout Now!
3. Installing WordPress
What is WordPress?
WordPress is what’s called a content management system (CMS). Basically, it’s the interface which allows you to create a beautiful website without ever having to touch a line of code. WordPress is the most popular blogging platform on the web because it’s extremely easy to use.
How to Install WordPress
1. Type this URL into your browser: yourdomain.com/cpanel (replace yourdomain.com with the domain name you purchased in Step 1)
Sometimes it can take a little while for your domain to be up and running. If this is the case, use the link for “Your Control Panel” that you were given in the email from HostGator with your Account Info
2. Login with the username and password you were given in the email from HostGator
3. You are now logged into your cPanel. This is the back end of your hosting account. Don’t worry about how complex it looks right now. All you need to do is scroll down to the Software/Services section and the click on the QuickInstall option.
4. In the sidebar on the left, click on WordPress under the Blog Software section.
5. Click Continue.
6. Under Application URL where it says “http://” you should see a drop-down menu with your domain name followed by a blank box. Leave that box blank.
7. Un-check Enable Auto Upgrades. You’ll want to keep your WordPress up-to-date, but it’s better to do these upgrades manually.
8. Fill in the rest of the fields (admin email, blog title, admin user, first name, last name).
9. Click Install Now!
You should now have a fully functioning, self-hosted WordPress web site. If you visit your site you should see the title with the default WordPress theme.
The URL to login to your WordPress “Dashboard” (which is where you’ll be doing all of your publishing) is yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
Once logged in, you’ll see a sidebar on the left which has links to all of the functions for managing your website. Most of this is pretty straight forward so I won’t waste your time explaining everything. But feel free to spend some time just exploring these functions and getting a feel for the interface.
Configuring WordPress Settings
While for the most part WordPress is good to go right out of the box, there are a few Settings you might want to adjust:
• General > Timezone (choose your timezone)
• General > Date Format and Time Format (choose whatever you prefer)
• Permalinks > choose Post name
(These are all accessed by the Settings tab in the side bar once you’re logged into your WordPress Dashboard.)
4. Installing Recommended WordPress Plugins
What are Plugins?
Plugins are addons that expand the functionality of your site (sort of like how extensions add functionality to Google Chrome).There are thousands of plugins available to install, and most of them are completely free.
How to Add Plugins
Adding plugins is extremely easy.
1. Go to Plugins > Add New.
2. Type in the name of the plugin and click Search Plugins.
3. Click Install Now under the Plugin you want to install.
4. Once it says the plugin has been successfully installed, click Activate Plugin.
• Limit Login Attempts – protects you from hackers by limiting the number of login attempts
• Slick social share buttons – a sweet social sharing slide bar (the one you see floating to the left of this article)
• UpdraftPlus – makes backing up your blog super easy (something you should do on a regular basis)
• WordPress SEO – the best free SEO plugin (this one takes some configuration – use this guide)
5. Purchasing a Theme (optional)
What is a Theme?
A theme is essentially a template for the design of your site. There are tons of great free themes available in the WordPress Theme Directory (which is why this step is optional), however, you can also purchase Premium Themes from other sites which are usually better designed and offer more functionality than the free themes.
Where to Purchase Premium Themes
I purchased the theme for Collegetopia from ThemeForest.net, but here are a few other options:
How to Install a WordPress Theme
1. Go to Appearance > Themes.
2. Click on the Install Themes tab.
3. Click Upload.
4. Click Choose File and select the theme file (.zip) from wherever you saved it on your computer.
5. Click Install Now.
6. Click Activate.
And there you have it, you’ve just created your very own blog :).
Like I said at the beginning, this guide is intended to help you get the ball rolling. This is by no means an all-inclusive guide that covers everything there is to know about creating a blog, but it’s enough to get you started, and that’s the most important step.
Once your blog is up and running, post a link to it in the comments—I’d love to check it out.
Also feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to help!
Image Source: Wikipedia