So you want to start your first blog, and you want to do it fast. This guide will show you how. You’ll learn how to choose a cheap web hosting account, grab your dream domain and get WordPress up and running in an hour.
It’s fast and easy, and you’ll enjoy having complete control over your own WordPress blog.
WordPress itself is completely free. To create a website using WordPress, you need a web hosting account. Your web host stores the WordPress files on their server and ensures your site is available round the clock. All you have to do is choose the right host.
WordPress works great on practically any budget hosting package. Most new users start with a cheap shared hosting package costing a few bucks a month. “Shared” means the web host places multiple clients on the same server, which is an economical way of providing resources for small websites.
The cheapest shared hosting is offered on the Linux platform. Luckily, that’s what WordPress runs on too. You don’t need to worry about the operating system you’re running on your own computer, because Linux hosting can be managed from any computer with an internet connection. Just make sure that your host supports WordPress. We suggest HostGator.
Even though it’s called shared hosting, you will be allocated your own server space and resources. Web hosts are committed to ensuring it’s secure. Shared hosting is often marketed as “unlimited,” but the host will still expect your usage to be within certain limits.
Check that your hosting plan allows you to:
HostGator is a good example of a cheap host that’s built to run WordPress. It offers all of the features you’ll likely need: email accounts, forwarding, FTP and more for $3.40/mo. There’s no need to sign up for a long-term contract, and there’s plenty of WordPress help for new customers in the Help Center.
You’ll also need to buy a domain name for your website. This is the URL your visitors type in to visit your site. (Our domain name is WhoIsHostingThis.com.)
Choosing the right domain name can be a challenge, mostly because many of the good ones are long gone!
We suggest you:
<!–The good news: HostGator offer a free domain when you buy your web hosting.–>
The good news: HostGator offer a special low price for domain names for WhoIsHostingThis.com visitors.
If you want to buy more domains, take a look at GoDaddy, the world’s most popular domain registrar. However, many webmasters (Including us!) dislike the interface and aggressive upselling.
We use Uniregistry. The interface is super-simple to use, and they have many of the new GTLDs domains (like .ninja or .rocks) cheaper than anybody else. Best of all: there’s no constant upsells!
If you find the domain you want has already been registered, you may still be able to buy it. In fact, we did just that with this domain, WhoIsHostingThis.com!
Domain marketplaces sell “aftermarket” domains from $50 right up to many millions of dollars. The most popular domain marketplace is Sedo, who we’ve bought and sold many dozens of domains with over the years.
Now you have your shared hosting account, you can install WordPress. There are two ways to do it.
Whichever method you choose, you will be up and running within an hour.
Hosting companies like HostGator offer WordPress as a One Click Install. In your web hosting control panel, you simply use a Wizard to install the application on your account. Using the One Click method, your blog will be fully functioning within 10 minutes.
The downside of the One Click Installer is that it’s slightly less customizable then the second method we’ll show you. If you prefer to learn as you go, keep reading.
The second option is a self-install. WordPress claim that it takes 5 minutes. It’s not difficult, but it takes slightly longer than five minutes. (For us, at least!)
You’ll have to use this method if your host doesn’t offer a One Click Installer. But relax — it’s still dead easy.
To install WordPress in 5 minutes:
At the end of the installation, you’ll be asked to log into WordPress to configure the application. Keep reading to find out what tweaks you need to make.
Now your blog is up and running, it’s time to customize the settings so everything works the way you want it to.
But first, a sensible precaution: rename the default user. This makes your blog more secure. In the sidebar, select Users -> Your Profile and change the details to something unique to you.
WordPress is a template system. The website content, such as the blog posts and static pages, are stored in a database. The site layout and color scheme is stored separately in a template.
You can choose any theme from tens of thousands. What’s more, you can change templates whenever you like, and make your site look totally different.
WordPress developers often distribute free themes. They also create templates that users pay for: premium themes.
So why would anyone buy a theme when there are free options?
Here are a few reasons to go premium:
Our favorite marketplace for premium themes is ThemeForest. They have thousands starting at around $10 — although many of the best themes run $30-$50.
Other popular premium themes you’ll see often in the wild are:
It’s a matter of personal taste: what looks good to you. If you don’t want to spend the extra money, simply try a free theme first and, once your site is bringing in traffic, consider an upgrade to a premium theme.
WordPress has a built-in theme editor that’s What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG). As you edit the theme, the changes are reflected in a real time preview. It’s easy to tweak themes to get them how you want them.
In the WordPress admin area, navigate to Appearance, then Customize. The drop-down lists on the left hand side will display the customization options available to you.
The theme editor is designed for small tweaks rather than big layout changes. If you want to customize your theme extensively, you’ll need to dive into the code or hire a professional.
Need some help making WordPress do something a little fancier? We use and recommend Elto. It’s a marketplace where geeks bid on small projects. For example, “Update my WordPress theme.” Or, “Fix my broken WP plugin”. Projects start around $30.
With WordPress plugins, you can further extend your blog’s functions until it fits your requirements perfectly. It’s easy to install plugins from the WordPress admin area (found at http://yoursite/wp-admin).
We recommend that you install the Plugin Central first. It allows you to quickly install plugins via the official WordPress plugin site.
What other plugins should you install? Here’s a few of our favorites:
CodeCanyon has hundreds of specialist WordPress plugins from around $10. You’ll find plugins to add anything you can think of, from fancy forms to newsletter tools.
Again, Elto can help you find geeks to undertake small projects.
Now it’s time to add content to your new WordPress website. Initially, there are two types of content to write: Posts and Pages.
Here’s how to tell them apart:
Work on writing your Pages first so that the site structure and navigation is in place. You can then work on your Posts, building a rolling sequence of updates that are published over time.
There are no strict rules on how to blog, or what to blog about. Your first post can be on any topic that you feel comfortable writing about. However, bear in mind that search engines like to see good quality content. Aim to publish interesting, informative posts that will hook in your readers and get them coming back for more.
Use our blogging tips to guide your first post:
And that’s it! Enjoy blogging with WordPress. Don’t forget to untick the “Search Engine Visibility” checkbox once your site is ready for its first visitors.