Think you need to start a blog? This guide for starting a blog makes a few assumptions:
- First, it assumes that you have no prior knowledge. The steps in this guide break down setting up a website in the simplest possible way. You’ll have a completely functional website in about fifteen minutes.
- Second, it assumes that you already have a good reason for thinking you need one. This guide is not going to convince you that you should have a blog. It’s just here to lay out the steps you should follow to get started once you already want one.
- Third, it assumes that you’ve been looking for information on “how to start a blog.” You should already have a basic idea of what that actually means.
- And fourth, it assumes that you will be running a self-hosted WordPress installation. This is the most common type of blog. It’s the most common because it is the most effective, despite being one of the easiest solutions. You will be able to maintain and manage your blog in an hour or two a week. Or, you can spend dozens of hours helping to build a powerful asset to help you promote your business.
If you don’t fit these assumptions, there may be better guides out there for you. You might even be able to find something helpful here. If you fit the criteria, please keep reading.
At the end of this article there will be a link to download a PDF that maps out these steps in the simplest way possible. Feel free to skip ahead and download the PDF if you just want to get to it. The rest of the article is going to elaborate and provide reasons to start a blog. If that’s not what you’re looking for, skip ahead now.
If you have any issues throughout this process, feel free to contact us.
Step 1: Choose your domain
You cannot underestimate the importance of owning your own domain (www.example.com.) Many business owners try to get by using a sub-domain from a blogging or “website hosting” site. And then a gmail (or even worse, hotmail) email that includes their full company name before the @ sign. (example.blogspot.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Not a single person has ever been impressed by these. They distract from your content and your message. They can even cause people to doubt the legitimacy of your business. Your business needs to project a professional image online. You want to, at least, match your real-world image.
If will cost you money in the long run. You wouldn’t set up a retail location in a rusty old shed in the backyard. Your domain is your home online. It’s the branding and the location. It’s where people know to find you. You want to get as close to your actual business name as you can. Your blog should reflect the values and style of the rest of your business.
Your web-host will help you register your first domain. If you use a reasonably large host, they will include your domain at no cost (with no strings attached.) For now, just think about what you want your domain to be.
Step 2: You need a reliable web-host
This step is the only one that is going to cost a couple of dollars. (Literally, only a couple of dollars.) There are free hosting alternatives available, but none of them are suitable for being your primary website.
You should own your content and have the flexibility to do anything you need to do with your website.
You can use other blogging and social media sites as well. Your online presence can be pushed out far and wide through any number of social media sites. But you need your primary website to be a property you pay to host so that you have a legitimate “home base” online.
Any advice you have received about using a Facebook page as your main online presence is incorrect.
Sure, there’s a built in audience. But there is far too much you’re missing out on, and you’re not building a real digital asset. Start a blog first. Post to Facebook later.
We recommend Dreamhost.com for hosting. They offer unlimited storage and bandwidth on their basic shared hosting plan. This makes their pricing a lot simpler than some of their competitors. You don’t need to pick the best plan and risk paying overage fees if your site becomes successful. (Aff: Use the promo code “wordsicle” at checkout to receive a discount on everything you need.)
They will even walk you through registering your first domain. It may take a few tries to get something that fits and is available. Spend as long as you need to get something simple and specific to your business.
Step 3: Now start a blog
You wouldn’t think the third step would be this easy, but it is. If you’re hosting with Dreamhost, you simply click their “One Click Installs.” They’ve got a big button that installs WordPress for you. It will apply all the most recent updates to your WordPress installation. It even includes all the back-end tools that will get you running. (They know what they’re doing. They host thousands upon thousands of these things.)
On the sidebar. Just look for this.
Fill out your domain. Leave the rest alone.
You will receive an email within a few minutes telling you all the heavy-lifting has been done for you.
(Do you want to do this the hard way? Feel free to check out the official WordPress documentation. And then slap yourself silly for doing things the hard way for no reason.)
Step 4: Configuring WordPress
You don’t need to think too hard about the initial setup of your WordPress options. WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world because it’s so easy to go back in to change things later. Dreamhost will send you a confirmation email. Once you receive it, go to your domain in any web-browser.
The first thing you’re going to see is a language selection:
The next step requires you fill out a few fields, including an email address.
You can use your main email address for now, or you can take a moment to go into the Dreamhost webpanel to create a domain-specific email for this purpose.
Make sure you give your blog a title and a tagline that fits your business. They don’t have to be pithy and cool. They can be simple. In fact, it may benefit you in the long run to keep them simple. You want people to be able to find you using Google and the other search engines. Your title should probably be the name of your business. (This isn’t the best time to get too creative – save that for later.)
You should choose something that you will remember for your user name and password. But remember that the WordPress login page is accessible from the open internet.
You should consider this as secure as your banking information. Your blog will be a vital part of your business, and you don’t want to make it too easy to get in and tear it down.
You will want to keep your blog visible to search engines.
Step 5: Keep Your Blog Simple
At this point, you’ll be looking at a page that looks something like this:
The best thing you can do now is click the big “customize your site” button. You can play around with general styling or change your theme. You shouldn’t get too wrapped up in this just yet.
A brand new WordPress blog isn’t doing anything. One of the reasons for the popularity of WordPress is that you can update the theme at any time. You can change the general look of your blog at any time without having to rebuild your content pages. Modifying the look and style of your website shouldn’t get in the way of building your content plan.
If you decide to pick your theme now, set a timer. Give yourself an hour at the absolute max. Twenty minutes should do it.
If you start a blog and then spend all your time on design elements, you will create a beautiful website that has no function.
There’s thousands of plugins that will help you do almost anything. Most of these are terrible. Be picky when choosing which plugins are right for you. Don’t go crazy installing a whole bunch right away. Again, put this off for later. You don’t want to get distracted by these details.
If you start a blog and then spend all your time adding tools, you will have a website that, while technically impressive, no one will see.
What you really need to do now is write. You need to build some content pages. You don’t want to start a blog and just start filling out pages without any idea what you’re really trying to do. Come up with a plan.
Decide what your blog is for, who your blog is for, and work out a plan on how to serve those people best. There is no wrong way to do this, but there is definitely some ways that are more right than others. If you need help in building a content marketing plan, sign up for our email list or get in touch.
Start a blog in 5 steps (or less?)
If you’re wondering about the “or less” in the title, feel free to check out our one page resource that covers the content of this page in the simplest form. Drop your email list in the box below and you will receive an email with instructions on how to get your guide.
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