So you want to blog. But you have no idea how. All you know is that it’s complicated. And you aren’t even techy. So many internet jargons that you don’t have time to decipher, and with your very limited time between work and life, it’s too much to care about.
Let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be complicated.
The most important thing you should know when starting a blog is this: you don’t have to figure out everything all at once. Baby step your way through the blogging maze.
The keyword is baby step. That said, I won’t start this tutorial with a bunch of blogging jargons you know nothing about. I’ll start with only three, then we’ll work our way up from there.
Three should be enough not to overwhelm your non techy brain.
Here we go. Ready?
Think of hosting as the house to your blog. Everything you upload to your blog lives here: the texts, photos, and videos you create are saved here.
There are two types of hosting: self-hosting and free hosting. Companies like WordPress offers both.
Free hosting is, you guessed it, free of charge. You don’t pay to save your posts, images, and videos. The catch? If you care a lot about your content, using a free hosting is a very risky business.
The hosting company can shut down your blog anytime, for any reason— all these without giving you notice, and without it being legally responsible for it. It’s for free in the first place and the company doesn’t owe you anything.
On the other side is the self-hosting. The yearly fee is around $100 to $120. Yes, you’re paying for the rent on this one. This also means the landlord (the hosting company) can’t kick you out just because he feels like it. As a paying customer, you have access to features that a free hosting account don’t.
For now, know that if you’re serious about blogging, choose a self-hosted blog. If you aren’t sure about blogging just yet and want to first test the waters, sign up for a 3 month subscription. Hostgator hosting company allows subscription within less than a year.
Domain is basically the address link to your blog. For example, the domain in this blog is blahblahblah.com. To get to this blog, you have to type in “blahblahblah.com” to the address bar to get here.
Like hosting, there are free and paid version of domain names. And as usual, the paid version is better.
Everybody would agree that myawesomeblog.com sounds more professional than myawesomeblog.wordpress.com or myawesomeblog.blogspot.com which is what you get if you choose a free version.
Owning your own domain name is like letting your readers know that you’re serious about branding and all the contents you put to your site.
How much does a domain cost?
Domain ranges from $10 to $20 dollars a year and in some hosting companies like Bluehost, you’re even entitled for a one free year of your own domain, so you only pay for the hosting. More on that later.
Tips in choosing a domain name:
Choose a domain that’s easy to remember and spell.
Some like to cook up clever domain names that are a combination of multiple workds like “traveloka”. And while traveloka is a perfect example of a cleverly crafted domain, some newbie bloggers try very hard with bad results. They come up with domain names like angelztravelzxoxo.com and they wonder why people can’t spell.
If in doubt, stick to relevance and simplicity.
In the grand scheme of blogging, your domain name will matter very less, if at all. So instead of spending days coming up with the best, creative domain name, consider these two basic rules: relevance and simplicity. Is it relevant? Is it simple and easy to understand and remember? If yes, then you’re good to go.
For example: you want to blog about money tips. Then “moneytips.com” isn’t a bad domain. It may sound lame in terms of creativity but in relevance and simplicity, it scores a perfect 10. Readers will understand within nanoseconds what your blog is all about. And in blogging, not confusing your readers is very, very important.
Where you place your logo, whether put your photo on the sidebar or at the footer, or attach a share button on your posts—these setups don’t automatically happen just by setting up your domain and hosting. You need WordPress to do these.
Think of WordPress as the carpenter of your blog. After establishing the house for your blog(hosting) and its address (domain name), you’ll need to start building your blog block by block and get a carpenter.
This carpenter is WordPress.
The good thing about WordPress is, after you pay for the hosting and domain is, it’s 100% free.
So now, that you’ve learned the three main blogging terminologies namely the hosting—the home of your blog; the domain name—the address of your blog; and WordPress—the carpenter of your blog, then it’s time to set up the installation.
Step 1: Choose your hosting company.
There are two main hosting recommended by WordPress itself: BlueHost, and SiteGround. Let’s discuss their pros and cons:
- Top-notch customer service. SiteGround chat supports are very good at their jobs. The reps are quick to respond and understand technical issues like the backs of their hands. This kind of customer service just isn’t on the menu of every company and it’s so exceptionally good that it’s worth a mention.
- Almost no downtime and fast loading. There’s a lot of factors of a site’s speed but one major factor is the hosting itself. With SiteGround, this isn’t something you should worry about.
- Pricey compared to others: The first year isn’t going to be a problem as you’ll pay the discounted prices which range from $3.95, $5.95, and $11.95 monthly, depending on which plan you use. But comes the second year and then you’ll feel the price. Their regular monthly rates per month are $11.95, $19.95, and $34.95.
- Limited number of visitors: As you can see here, the most basic plan has a recommended 10,000 monthly visits, the second plan with 25,000 visits, and the highest one with 100,000 visits. In Bluehost though, there isn’t any mention of a limit.
Verdict: If you don’t expect a high traffic on your first year of blogging (which is usually the case), and you’re not a tech savvy, SiteGround is worth a try. You’ll need all the help you can get especially on your first year. And their excellent customer service paired with their no nonsense reps are going to help you a lot with your technical concerns.
- Affordable: Promo prices for the first year are $2.95, $5.45, and 5.45 monthly. Their regular rates are $7.99, $10.99, and $14.99. Compared to SiteGround, this is significantly lower.
- Free domain on the first year: While SiteGround charges a yearly $15.95 for the domain, Bluehost offers it for free on the first year.
- Their reps aren’t that competitive. Expect to repeat and paraphrase your question for the chat support to understand you. A Bluehost rep once told me that he handles 3 chats at a time. That’s too much of a multitask for single rep to remain sharp.
Verdict: If you already have a decent knowledge on the technical aspect of blogging and lots of patience and time to spare, Bluehost really isn’t all that bad, especially if your budget is your main concern.
But if you’re a beginner who have zero clue on the tech side of blogging, choose SiteGround. The first year isn’t going to be expensive anyway. When the second year comes and you pretty much know what you’re doing, you can then decide to switch to Bluehost, or stay in SiteGround, if you earn enough from your blog to sustain it.
Steps to sign up for a hosting
The step-by-step tutorial is going to depend on the hosting you choose. But the general process should be the following.
- If you sign up in Bluehost, I recommend, choosing the Choice Plus. It has the same price as the Plus and offers better features.If you plan to build multiple sites in the future, don’t choose Basic as it only allows one website. While Choice Plus and Plus allows unlimited space and websites.
When it’s time to pay for the regular rate and you can no longer afford the $14.99 a month, you can ask for a downgrade to Plus.
If you’re in SiteGround, I recommend GrowBig. It allows multiple websites unlike the StartUp, and isn’t so pricey compared to GoGeek. If your monthly visitors exceeds 25,000, you can always request for an upgrade and pay the difference.
Step 2: Choose your domain name.
Decide on a domain name. Remember the tips I wrote above on how to come up with your own domain.
If you’re a complete beginner, fill out the “new domain” part.
If you already have a domain from a different company, fill out “i have a domain name”, then hit “next”.
The same goes for SiteGround. Check “Register a New Domain” if you have no domain yet. And check “I already have a Domain” if you do. Hit Proceed.
As you noticed, you have options to choose domain extensions like .net, .org, .coffee and more. If in doubt, choose .com. It is the most popular extension and readers general default to it.
Domain extensions don’t matter much anyway. It’s just used to specify what your site is all about. If you choose .ph, it means Philippines, .org for organization, .net for organizations that involve networking technologies, such as Internet. Remember,picking extensions other than .com is optional.
Step 3: Enter your personal and payment info and watch out for extra charges.
Bluehost should look something like this.
Choose the duration of your subscription. With Bluehost, 12 months is the shortest. 3 years should give you the highest discount.
See the boxes above? If you don’t want additional charges, uncheck them all. Although they offer extra features, they aren’t necessary to build a blog and you can purchase them later once you know each of their function.
And the last part is your card information.
Once done, check the checkbox below to confirm that you agree to Bluehost’s terms and conditions.
SiteGround should look something like this.
Uncheck the Domain Privacy and SG Site Scanner if you don’t want additional charges.
Lastly, check the first box to confirm you agree to SiteGround’s Terms of Service.
Step 4: WordPress Installation
- After payment, the system should ask you to create your own login credentials. Take note of all of them as there’ll be more than one login to memorize. You’ll have to remember 2 login credentials: your hosting account and WordPress,
- If you’re confused, contact your hosting’s chat support and they’ll gladly do the WordPress installation for you.
- Do make sure that your site has an SSL certificate. SSL is the green padlock you see along with “https” that preceeds your domain name. This indicates that your site is secure. SiteGround and Bluehost offer free SSL so if you don’t see any green padlock with https on your site, go and request to have it installed.
Setting up WordPress
Now that your hosting and domain are set up, majority of your job will now revolve around WordPress.
- To access your WordPress account, add “/admin” to your blog. If your blog name is “myfantasticblog.com”, you can access your blog by typing in “myfantasticblog.com/admin.” A page that looks like this should pop up. Enter your password and you’re in.
- Once logged in, you should see this.
This is the backend of your WordPress where you’ll do most of your work.
Basic WordPress Functions You Need to Know Now
How to add a post: Hover on Posts, and click Add New.
All Posts will bring you to all your published and drafts post.
Categories will let you set the categories for your blog.
Tags is another way to sort your blog, like categories.
After clicking Add New, you’ll see a page to write down your blog post.
At the right side is the Save Draft to save your post without publishing it.
Preview is to preview the look of your post as if it’s live.
And Publish to publish your post.
Categories and Tags to sort your blog.
Click Set featured image to set the photo that’ll appear as the thumbnail of your post. It’s also the image that appears when you share the post in social media.
How to Add a Page
Remember, Page and Post are two different things. Page is static and never changes. This is and this is where you put your About Me, Contact, and Services.
On the other hand, post is generally written on schedule to keep your site fresh with new content.
To add a page, hover on Pages and click Add New.
What you’ll see next is similar to Posts with its Publish, Preview, and Save Draft buttons but without the Categories and Tags.
How to set the menus
Hover on Appearance and click Menus.
Name it Primary Menu just for reference. Then click Create Menu.
After that, you should now have the option on what to put on your Menu based on the Pages, Posts, and Categories you’ve created.
You can even customize the link if you want a menu to lead to a different page other than you blog.
For example, you want to add the category Uncategorized to the menu. Just check it and click “Add to Menu.”
You should now see Uncategorized added to your menu.
On the Display location, check the location where you want this menu to appear, then hit Save Menu.
Once you go the homepage of your blog, you should now see the Uncategorized in the top left menu.
How to set your blog’s theme.
Think of your blog theme like your mobile’s theme. It mainly controls the appearance of your site’s blog. Like hosting and domain, it has free and premium version.
For now, you don’t really have to purchase a premium version as there are decent, updated themes out there that will do the job perfectly well.
As a default, your hosting will install the theme Twenty Seventeen, but if you fancy other themes, then WordPress has plenty, both free and premium.
To change your blog’s theme, hover on Appearance and click Themes.
Then you’ll see this current theme installed in your blog. In this page, Twenty Seventeen is the theme currently in use.
To add a new theme, click Add New Theme. You will then see a page showing all available themes, both free and premium.
Feel free to test out the themes to your liking by clicking Preview.
Note: if your blog doesn’t have enough posts and images on it, the Preview isn’t going to look anywhere near the theme’s thumbnail. The thumbnail represented will be the appearance once the enough images and posts are present.
Create at least 5-10 posts containing dummy texts and images before getting a good look at each theme’s preview.
How to Customize your blog
For now, remember that if you want to control the overall appearance of your blog, Appearance—>Customize is where you have to go.
Depending on your theme, the settings at the left side of will vary. The basic settings that are always present in the Customize are:
Site Identity to change your site’s logo, site title, tagline, and icon.
Depending on your theme, some of these functions are going to be absent or present: change header photo, font style and size, color, and layouts.
How to set your homepage
Homepage is the first page your readers will see once they land to your page.
If you want your recent blog posts to appear on your homepage— nothing more, nothing less—then you need to set your Homepage Settings to your latest posts.
Again, go to Customize and click on Homepage Settings. Choose latest posts. Hit Publish.
Setting a static page as your homepage
When to set a static page as a homepage
Set your homepage to static if you want to display more than your blog’s recent posts.
For example, along with your recent posts, you want to add other items to your homepage like your photo, a newsletter sign up, or Facebook like box, then setting a static page as your homepage is the way to go.
Just check A static page then set the name of the page that you want to set as homepage. Hit Publish.
How to setup widgets
Controlling what appears on your sidebar, homepage and footer is accessed through Widgets.
As you can see, setting up your widgets is done by drag and drop. At first, managing them is going to be confusing but go ahead and tinker around until you get the feel of it.
There isn’t a one size fits all guide to widgets as they vary depending on your theme, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to handle any theme’s widgets.
How to set up plugins
Think of WordPress plugins like an app on your mobile. For example, collage maker just doesn’t exist in your mobile unless you download a collage maker app.
WordPress plugin works like that too. It’s a piece of software containing extended functionality that your theme doesn’t offer.
For example, you want to add a Like button to each of your posts, but your theme doesn’t offer it, then you’ll have to add a plugin that specifically adds a like button to your posts.
Like hosting and domain, Plugins have both free and premium version. The good news is you don’t have to purchase a premium plug in to have a decent blog.
To add a plugin, hover on Plugins, then click Add New.
Let’s say you’re looking for a plugin that will add an SEO functionality to your blog. Then you need to download Yoast. At the top right corner of the page, type in Yoast, then click Install then Activate.
From there, you should already see the Yoast on your Plugins page.
Here are my recommended list of plugin that you should install.
For tracking your site’s traffic:
Google Analytics Dashboard for WP (GADWP) by ExactMetrics
For inserting ads
Ad Inserter by Igor Funa
GDPR by Trew Knowledge
For backing up your website
All-in-One WP Migration by ServMask
For attaching a contact form where readers can send you messages and emails.
Contact Form 7 by Takayuki Miyoshi
For adding table of contents (optional but comes in handy for long posts)
Easy Table of Contents by Steven A. Zahm
For collecting subscriber’s emails
Optin Forms by Fancy Themes
For SEO (Search engine optimization)
Yoast by Team Yoast
For optimizing and cleaning clutter from your database
WP-Optimize by David Anderson
After activating all these plugins, your job doesn’t end there. You’ll have to figure out each of their settings. Don’t worry though, each plugin offers a tutorial on how to configure their settings. All you need is more time and patience and you should be able to figure out blogging.
Hope this helps.
Blogging is a complicated art but don’t let it discourage you
For now, don’t expect to know everything overnight. Take comfort from the fact that whatever happens, there’s always free tutorial online that’ll answer your question. And little by little, everything will fall into place.
Disclosure: Some of links above is affiliate link and will give me some cents as a commission.