How to Start a WordPress Blog (Step by Step Guide)

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Last updated: July 16, 2020

Ready to start a brand new WordPress blog, but not sure who to go about it?

Feeling overwhelmed by all the information you’re reading online, and just really not sure where to start?

In this article, I am going to take you through this process of starting a blog, step by step, from registering a domain and setting up hosting, to publishing your very first blog post.

TOOLS USED IN THIS GUIDE

Namecheap:
Trustworthy and easy domain name registration.

DreamHost:
Affordable and top quality web hosting.

GeneratePress:
Lightweight and easy to use WordPress theme.

How to Start a WordPress Blog in 10 Steps

Get yourself a nice cup of coffee, and follow this guide to set up your very own WordPress blog!

Step 1: Choose a Blog Name

Perhaps the most important step in starting your blog is choosing a suitable name.

The last thing you want to do is having to change your blog name one or two years down the track, because you chose the wrong name.

The name of your blog typically is the same as your domain name. For example, if your blog is named “John’s Travel Adventures”, your domain would ideally be johnstraveladventures.com, or johns-travel-adventures.com.

Find a good name for your new blog

Here are some practical tips for choosing a good name for your new WordPress blog:

  • Short and Catchy:
    Go for a blog name that is short, catchy, and easy to remember and spell.
  • Don’t Go Too Narrow:
    Don’t choose a name that is too specific so that it blocks you from exanding to new topics down the track.
  • No Numbers or Special Characters:
    Numbers, hyphens and other special characters usually don’t belong in blog or domain names, so it’s best to avoid these if possible.
  • Avoid Brand Names:
    Try to avoid using commercial brands or trademarks in your domain name because you may be violating copyrights.
  • Use a Blog Name Generator:
    If you’re struggling to find a good blog name, a generator or thesaurus can be super helpful in generating ideas.
  • Choose the Right TLD:
    TLD stands for Top Level Domain, and the .com TLD is still, by far, the most recognizable and most used TLD.
Also read:
>> How to choose a good blog name and not regret it.

Step 2: Register a Domain Name

Once you’ve picked a good name for your blog and you made sure the domain name still exists, it’s time to register that domain.

While it’s certainly possible to buy a domain + web hosting package at one and the same company, I always keep them separate.

I do this mainly because of safety reasons. If something bad were to happen to your web host, you still have access to your domain, and vice versa. It’s the best way, and it’s also very easy to set up.

Note: if you do prefer to have your domain + web hosting in one place, you can skip this step and go to step 3!

For domain registration I recommend Namecheap, and for web hosting I recommend DreamHost.

Why choose Namecheap?

  • Easy – They have a super easy registration process.
  • Affordable – They never overcharge.
  • Domain Privacy – Unlike many other registrars, Namecheap doesn’t charge extra for domain privacy.

Let’s now go through the process of registering a new domain step-by-step.

Note: the pricing in the images may not be accurate today.

Head over to namecheap.com and enter your chosen domain name in the search box:

Namecheap domain registration step 1

Namecheap will now check if it’s available.

Click the Add to Cart button:

Namecheap domain registration step 2

Click checkout and go through your order. Make sure you have WhoisGuard selected (it’s free) and select the amount of years you wish to pay for.

One year is usually enough because you can easily renew each year at no extra cost.

Click the Confirm Order button:

Namecheap domain registration step 3

In the next step you can create a Namecheap account (or simply log in if you already have one).

Submit your details and click Continue:

Namecheap domain registration step 4

In the final step you can submit your payment details (card or PayPal).

Once you click the Pay Now button, the domain is yours!

Namecheap domain registration step 5

If all goes well, you will receive a confirmation email from Namecheap.

You can now also navigate to your Namecheap account where you can have a look at your brand new domain:

Namecheap domain registration step 6

The next step is pointing the nameservers for your new domain to DreamHost, because that’s where we are going to host your site.

This may sound a bit complicated, but it’s actually quite a straightforward process. This Namecheap article explains exactly how to complete this step. Don’t worry, it’s easy.

And here are the custom DreamHost nameservers you can use for your domain (as per this DreamHost article).

  • ns1.dreamhost.com
  • ns2.dreamhost.com
  • ns3.dreamhost.com

Now it’s time to buy a web hosting plan!

Step 3: Purchase Web Hosting

For a new blog, I recommend a shared hosting plan with Dreamhost.

Shared hosting is typically the most affordable way to get a website online, and with a quality web host such as DreamHost, you can expect an easy setup process and excellent technical support.

Why choose DreamHost?

  • Great Performance – DreamHost have excellent servers and tools to make your site load fast.
  • Easy Setup – Setting up a WordPress blog is easy.
  • Technical Support – They have a highly knowledgeable and skilled technical support team.
  • Easy Upgrade – Upgrading to a bigger plan or server is just a simple click of a button.
  • Online Guides – They have a huge library with online help guides.
  • Endorsements – They have been endorsed by WordPress.org, CNET, PCMag, and other large publishers.

Let’s now go through the process of purchasing DreamHost web hosting.

Note: the pricing in the images may not be accurate today.

Click this link to head over to DreamHost with a special discount on Shared Hosting.

You can now choose between Shared Starter and Shared Unlimited. I strongly recommend Shared Unlimited for the following reasons:

  • You can add more sites for free later on.
  • DreamHost will install a free SSL certificate for you.
  • You will have free email (very important).

Click the Sign Up Now button:

DreamHost WordPress blog hosting step 1

I recommend you choose a yearly plan. This will give you a big discount compared to monthly payments, and there’s no need to commit to a 3-year plan.

Click the “I already have a domain” button:

DreamHost WordPress blog hosting step 2

Enter the domain you registered with Namecheap, and click the Assign button:

DreamHost WordPress blog hosting step 3

In the order summary page, make sure you have the yearly plan selected.

In the list of checkboxes, the only option you need to select is Pre-Install WordPress:

DreamHost WordPress blog hosting step 4

Submit your billing details, and hit the confirm button. Congratulations, you have officially purchased a web hosting plan for your new WordPress blog!

DreamHost will now do a bit of magic in the background, and you will receive a confirmation email once that’s all sorted out.

Also read:
>> My in-depth review of DreamHost.

Step 4: Set up WordPress

As mentioned above, DreamHost will have pre-installed WordPress for you when you purchased their shared hosting plan.

It may take a little while before DreamHost has set everything up for you, but once you receive their confirmation email, you can log in to your brand new WordPress blog.

The WordPress Admin dashboard is located here:

www.yournewblog.com/wp-admin

And the login URL is located here:

www.yournewblog.com/wp-login.php

One of the emails you receive from DreamHost will contain the username for your new WordPress blog, plus a link to reset your password.

If you click that link, you will see something like this:

WordPress new password

It’s important to choose a good password here that is easy for you to remember, and impossible for others to guess.

Once you’ve reset your password, you’re asked to log in with your username and chosen password. Congratulations, you are now logged in to your new WordPress blog!

Your WordPress dashboard will look something like this:

WordPress dashboard

Let’s quickly go through some important features and settings in your WordPress dashboard:

  • Posts:
    This is where you’re going to create your future blog posts. Most likely, WordPress will have created a dummy post, called “Hello World”. Feel free to click Edit underneath that post to have a quick look at the WordPress editor.
  • Media:
    This is where all your images will be stored. You can upload images in this library, or otherwise directly in the posts you are going to write.
  • Pages:
    This is where you’re going to create standard pages, such as About, Contact and Privacy. Most likely, WordPress will have pre-created a Privacy page for you already, which you can edit later on.
  • Comments:
    This is where you can moderate all the comments on your blog posts.
  • Appearance:
    This is where you can select your themes, widgets, menus, and much more.
  • Plugins:
    This is where you can install and uninstall your WordPress plugins. WordPress will have pre-installed a few plugins, such as Akismet, to get you started.
  • Settings:
    This is where you can configure important settings related to your site, such as the tagline, your homepage layout, comment settings, and much more.

One thing I recommend you do now is set the Site Title, the Tagline, and the correct WordPress Address URL.

Go to Setting >> General:

General WordPress settings

The Site Title is usually the name of your new blog. In my case, it’s Blog Pioneer.

The Tag Line explains in one short sentence what your blog is about.

The WordPress Address URL is the correct URL of your new blog. You need to make sure this is set with or without the “www” bit, depending on your preference.

In the next step, we’re going to install a new WordPress theme!

Step 5: Choose a WordPress Theme

A WordPress theme can make or break a blog. A theme dictates to a large extent what your blog is going to look like.

With WordPress, you can either choose a free theme, or a paid premium theme. Some free themes are actually pretty good, but I would always recommend to purchase a premium theme.

A good quality premium theme will typically have better support, better features, and better customization options.

When choosing a theme, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Features:
    You want a theme that offers good features, but you also don’t want to have too many features so that your site becomes heavy, bloated and slow.
  • Support:
    It’s super important to choose a theme that is being actively supported and maintained.
  • Site Speed:
    You also want to a theme that loads quick, to not only please your readers, but also Google (page speed is a ranking factor).

I recommend the following two themes/developers:

In this article I am going to explain how to purchase, install, and configure the GeneratePress theme, as that is my personal favorite theme.

GeneratePress WordPress theme and Premium plugin

GeneratePress is a free theme + Premium plugin combination. For some the free theme may be sufficient, but honestly, adding the Premium plugin is a no-brainer.

As you can read in my review of GeneratePress, the Premium plugin allows you to add essential features, but only the features you need and want. This keeps the theme itself super light, and keeps your blog lean and fast.

First, we’re going to install the free GeneratePress theme.

In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to Appearance >> Themes. Click the Add New button at the top, and search for GeneratePress:

Install the GeneratePress WordPress theme

Hover over the GeneratePress theme image, and click the Install button.

Once it’s installed, click the Activate button:

Activate the GeneratePress WordPress theme

Awesome, the free GeneratePress theme is now installed on your WordPress blog.

The next step is to purchase a GeneratePress Premium license, after which we can install the plugin on your website.

Click this link to go to the GeneratePress website, and search for the Add to Cart button.

Purchase GP Premium

Click that button, and submit your billing details in the following page. I also recommend you tick the box at the bottom to receive important email updates.

You will now have a GeneratePress user account where you can download the GP Premium plugin as a ZIP file. Click the Download button and save the ZIP file to a folder on your computer.

In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to Plugins >> Add New, then click the Upload Plugin button. Browse to the ZIP file on your computer, and then click the Install Now button. Once it’s installed, make sure you click the Activate Plugin button:

Install and activate GP Premium

The next thing you need to do is activating your License Key so you can receive updates when they become available.

To do this, navigate to Appearance >> GeneratePress. On the right side, you will see a box labeled “Updates”. Paste your license key into the license key field, and click the Save button.

Congratulations, you have now installed and activated both the GeneratePress theme as well as the GP Premium plugin.

But we’re not finished yet!

When you go have a look at your site now, you will notice that it looks very empty, and a little bit boring. One of the pros of using GP Premium is that you have access to a Site Library with great templates that you can use.

You can browse the Site Library here, to have a look at what’s available.

I personally really like the template called Tasty, which is great for recipe sites, but can be used for any other niche as well.

To import this template (or any other template) from the Site Library, navigate to Appearance >> GeneratePress, and activate the Site Library module:

Activate the GP Site Library module

Once you’ve done that, click on the Site Library tab at the top and search for your chosen template, in this case Tasty.

Click on the Details button, followed by the Import Options button:

Install a GP Premium site library template

GeneratePress will now import all the settings, modules and plugins that are required by this template. Once that’s done, check your site again. You will now see that it already starts to look like a real blog!

The next thing you should do is click the Customize button at the top, which will allow you to customize your site, such as changing the header, the font, the sidebar widgets, and so much more:

Customize your GP Premium theme settings

I recommend you take your time to go through these settings, so you can get your site to look exactly like you want it to look.

Helpful GeneratePress related articles:
>> How to add Google Analytics in GeneratePress.
>> How to add breadcrumbs in GeneratePress.
>> How to add an author box in GeneratePress.

Step 6: Install WordPress Plugins

Once your WordPress blog is up and running, you will soon learn that there are tons of plugins out there that can literally solve all of your WordPress problems.

Some plugins are essential, and other plugins are plain unnecessary. The temptation will always be there to install a new plugin for whatever issue you may have, but I strongly recommend you only install plugins you really need.

Each installed plugin has the potential to slow down your site, and make your site more vulnerable from a security perspective. It’s also important to always update your plugins to the latest versions to avoid security and compatibility issues.

Installing a new plugin is super easy. Simply navigate to Plugins >> Add New, and search for the plugin you want to install. You can then install that particular plugin by clicking the Install Now button:

Add new plugin in WordPress

Here is a list of plugins I recommend for a new WordPress blogger:

  • Wordfence:
    Keeping your WordPress blog secure is crucial. You will need a firewall, a file scanner, and protection against brute-force attacks to make sure your WordPress blog does not get hacked. There are several good security plugins available but I recommend Wordfence as it offers a good set of features with an easy user interface.
  • Yoast SEO:
    My favorite SEO plugin that optimizes blog posts, creates sitemaps, generates bread crumbs, and so much more. SEO is quite complicated though, and Yoast is nothing more than a good start. If you want to be serious about blogging, I strongly recommend you read everything you can about SEO.
  • Grow:
    My favorite social media sharing plugin is Grow, a popular lightweight plugin that adds simple social share buttons to your WordPress blog. The paid version is very affordable and comes with a few more options.
  • WP Super Cache:
    Your new WordPress blog needs a plugin to improve site speed. One of the better plugins to help improve your website performance is WP Super Cache. It’s a free plugin that is easy to install and configure.

Step 7: Create Essential Pages

Now that your new WordPress blog is up and running, it’s time to create a few essential pages.

Depending on the theme or site template you’ve chosen, you may already have a few dummy pages automatically created.

Navigate to Pages in your WordPress admin dashboard and have a look at what’s already there. The following pages are quite essential to have:

  • About:
    Your About Me page should tell visitors who you are, what your site is about, why you started the site, and everything else you would like to share.
  • Contact:
    As your blog grows, more visitors will want to contact you. A Contact page can be super basic. Just a few sentences with an email address or contact form will suffice.
  • Privacy:
    WordPress creates a standard Privacy page for you which has all the essential info. I do recommend you change the wording a bit and perhaps strip out some paragraphs that you might not need.

Creating a new page is very easy. Navigate to Pages >> Add New, which will open the editor for that new page:

Add a new Page in WordPress

The Preview button at the top right allows you to see what this page looks like.

Once you’re happy with your new page, simply hit the Publish button and your page will be live on the Internet!

Step 8: Publish Your First Blog Post

Okay, now it’s time to do what blogging is all about, publishing a Blog Post!

Navigate to Posts >> Add New, which opens the WordPress editor. The editor is basically the same as the editor for Pages, but with Posts you have more options available to you:

Add a new Blog Post in WordPress

Your blog post title goes at the top, and the actual content of the post goes in the editor box underneath the title.

The editor requires a bit of getting used it, and may be considered somewhat complicated if you’ve never used it before. But trust me when I say that you will quickly get used to it.

Also note that a Post will always need to be assigned to a Category. Therefore it’s best to create one or more categories before you create Posts.

Navigate to Posts >> Categories, fill out the details required, and click the Add New Category button:

Add a new Category in WordPress

That’s it! You’re now ready to start publishing content on your WordPress blog.

It may be hard in the beginning, but like everything else in life, you just need to dive deep, try it out, and the whole process will become easier the more your practice.

Step 9: Start Tracking Your Blog Traffic

It’s important to know how many people visit your site, where they come from, and how long they stick around for. You can get access to that kind of data by setting up Google Analytics for your new WordPress blog.

Signing up is easy. Simply follow the steps to verify ownership of your web property and install the Analytics script in your blog. Google Analytics is quite easy to understand and can help you get some great insights into your audience.

Use Google Analytics for your WordPress blog

Google Search Console is another free tool that gives you technical feedback related to the overall quality of your WordPress blog. It will tell you when there are issues that you should resolve.

For example, if your sitemap isn’t configured properly or not at all, Search Console will let you know. Search Console will also tell you if there are HTML errors that you would otherwise not know about.

Bing (powered by Microsoft) has a similar suite of tools, called Bing Webmaster Tools. While Bing is not as big as Google, I do recommend signing up with them.

Step 10: Monetize Your Blog

That’s right, blogs can make money. Some blogs make a few dollars a day, other blogs are successful million dollar businesses.

The two most common ways to make money with your blog are advertising and affiliate marketing.

Advertising

By far the biggest advertising network is the Google AdSense program. Signing up is easy, as long as your blog is of good quality and receives a certain amount of traffic.

They have strict guidelines, so make sure you read them before signing up and placing ads on your brand new blog.

Once you reach a certain amount of traffic, you can apply to join an ad management company, such as AdThrive or Mediavine. Check out my in-depth review of Mediavine if you’d like to know more.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing means that you promote other people’s products on your blog. If you manage to sell one of these products, you then receive a percentage of the sale price.

For example, in this blog post that you’re currently reading, if you purchase a product via one of the links, I will receive a small commission (thank you!).

One of the most popular affiliate networks is Amazon Associates. Amazon is an internationally trusted marketplace where you can find pretty much all kinds of products, including products that fit within the niche of your blog.

Check out my review of AAWP, an Amazon affiliates WordPress plugin that helps you create great looking tables and widgets for the Amazon products you wish to promote.

AAWP WordPress plugin review

Other Monetization Methods

But there are other ways to make money with your blog. For example, a business that fits within the niche of your blog can request to write a sponsored article with the aim to promote their business. In this case you will need to disclose to your audience that the article is sponsored by a third party.

Similarly, a company can ask you to test one of their products and write an honest review about it on your blog. Depending on how much traffic your blog receives each month, you can charge a good amount of money for these types of sponsored articles and product reviews.

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What’s Next?

Now that you’ve started a WordPress blog and have created some content, it’s time to look at the future.

There are two things that I think are super important when it comes to growing your blog (apart from constentently publishing great content):

  1. SEO and Keyword Research
  2. Social Media

Let’s talk a little more about these two topics.

Learn SEO and Keyword Research

Understanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is super important as it will help grow your organic search traffic. And organic search (visitors coming from the search engines like Google) is still the most reliable traffic source.

It’s obviously beyond the scope of this How to Start a WordPress Blog article to explain the ins and outs of SEO, but I can give you some links to helpful resources:

Set up Social Media Accounts

In this era of social media, a blog without at least one social media account can hardly be considered a blog.

Even if you’re not a social media fan, it is still recommended to explore Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other major social media channel.

Social Media can help your blog in three ways:

  1. Fun – It’s a fun way to engage with, and grow, your audience.
  2. Positive Branding – If you manage your social media channels properly, this will increase the credibility and trustworthiness of your blog or brand.
  3. SEO Benefits – Active and engaging social media accounts with lots of referral traffic will send positive signals to Google.

I would recommend you start with just one or two social media accounts, and sign up for another one or two down the track if you feel it can benefit your blog.

It’s easy to get sucked into social media, thinking that you need to have thriving social media accounts to make your blog a success. Whilst social media certainly is important, the quality of the content on your blog is much more important.

Focus on your blog and slowly build up your social media presence as the content on your site grows. If there is hardly any (quality) content on your blog, your social media channels won’t get much traction either.

If you decide to create a Pinterest account, I strongly recommend you explore Tailwind.

Tailwind is a super popular tool that can help you save time scheduling to Pinterest and post at the best times for optimal engagement. I’ve been using it for one of my sites for a while, and it’s helped me grow my Pinterest traffic enormously.

Pinterest with Tailwind

Start Blogging!

If you’re new to blogging then the whole process may be a bit overwhelming. But hopefully this guide explaining how to start a blog is enough for you to take the plunge.

Once you have your blog up and running, make sure you keep updating your WordPress installation and plugins to the latest versions because this will keep your blog secure.

Starting a blog from scratch requires a lot of hard work, patience and perseverance. The more quality content you publish and the more you promote your blog, the more visitors you will get.

If you have any questions or if you get stuck at any of the steps, feel free to email me, as I am always happy to help.

Good luck!

LIST OF RESOURCES

Blogging Tools:
My list of recommended blogging tools for beginners and pros.

Namecheap:
Trustworthy and easy domain name registration.

DreamHost:
Affordable and top quality web hosting.

GeneratePress:
Super fast and easy to use WordPress theme.

Google Search Console:
Technical website insights offered by Google.

Google Analytics:
Essential website tracking statistics.

 

How to start a WordPress blog

 
AJ Mens

I am a corporate IT nerd turned digital marketing enthusiast, specializing in SEO and content strategy. I have been blogging since 2015, and my aim with Blog Pioneer is to help you achieve success online. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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