How To Start A Blog That Stands Out From The Rest
If there was one question I get asked time and time again, it’s ‘how do I start a blog?’ Really, the answer can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. And there are a whole bunch of ‘how to start a blog’ posts out there, but they all seem to be the same. Designed to sell you on a particular hosting company, show you how to set it up… and then…. Nothing.
No follow through, no ‘next steps’ and no guidance.
But not this post. Oh no… because that’s not how I roll. And because I love information – both giving information and consuming information.
So get ready for it… this is going to be a doozy.
The Technical Stuff
I’d be mad to tell you that you can set up a blog without having to do any of the technical stuff. It just doesn’t work. These days there are a tonne of blogging platforms out there that you can use – but there’s only one I recommend. Self-hosted on WordPress.
Did that sound like jibberish to you? It’s okay. I’ll explain.
To have a blog, you require a ‘platform’ of sorts. Say your blog is your house – you need a piece of land to put it on. This is your ‘host’. When you have a block of land of your own, like self-hosted, you get to decide a lot more about your house, your land and your entire set up. Because you own it. You’re paying for it and you own it.
If you use a platform like Blogger or WordPress.com (that is the free version of WordPress) it’s more like your home is an apartment in a block and you’re kind of just staying there for free. Which also means there’s a chance you can be kicked out at any time. And you’re a lot more restricted in what you do.
So, self-hosted on WordPress is the way to go.
Choosing a Host
There’s a number of hosts you can choose from out there, some will charge you for two years upfront, other’s for a year, and some just a few months. When you’re starting out, a budget is definitely something to keep in mind, so going for one of the ‘big’ guys might be a bit of a stretch.
However, going super budget isn’t the best option either. I went with GoDaddy and while they were okay, I wouldn’t go raving about them, my site was down (often at high traffic times) and my site was slow. If your site is running slow, you’re going to be losing traffic because people won’t wait.
I decided to change my hosting over to SiteGround and I’ve never looked back. Their service is incredible, their support guys do way more for me than they ever need to and no question is too big or too silly to ask. They’ve done things like move my whole site over for me, optimised things at their end so my site would be even faster and gave me recommendations of what I could do at my end and they even went and redirected a whole heap of old URL’s for me. Over and above the service I’d ever expect.
Another option for hosting is Bluehost. While I believe their prices are comparable to SiteGround, I do believe SiteGround hosting is superior. However, I understand a lot of bloggers starting out LOVE Bluehost and they do have fantastic deals running from time to time.
So What Do I Do?
Okay, so here’s the start of our step by steps.
Head over to SiteGround to choose your hosting plan. If you’re just starting out your blog, you only need to start on the baby hosting plan. If your site goes gangbusters and you’re getting a tonne of traffic, upgrading is super easy and takes next to no time. Plus these guys can do it all for you. So right now, only pay for what you need. Click on ‘WordPress Services’ and then ‘WordPress Hosting’ and select the ‘StartUp Plan’ (look at that… it’s 50% off already for you! Winner. Cheaper than a cup of coffee!!).
In this next step, you’ll get to choose the domain you want your site to have. Going with our previous ‘house’ analogy, your domain is your address, the address people type in to go to your site.
If you’ve already purchased a domain somewhere else, simply select that you have a domain already, otherwise you can choose your domain here and add to your purchase – SiteGround are pretty good with their prices for domain hosting plus having your domain with them makes some of the tech stuff a bit easier to deal with.
Once you’ve purchased your hosting and logged into SiteGround it’s time to get your site online! Yay!
When you’re logged in, you’ll see a series of tabs – click on the ‘My Accounts’ tab.
Then click on the ‘Manage Account’ button.
And then click on the red ‘Go To cPanel’ button.
The above window will open and this will be where all of the behind the scenes action of your blog takes place. Don’t fret if you’re not tech savvy, you’ll rarely have to be in here and we are just here to simply ‘install’ your site.
Scroll down until you find the section titled ‘AutoInstallers’. You’ll need to select the ‘WordPress’ option.
When the WordPress window opens, select the ‘Instal Now’ option down the bottom.
Fill in the details for your site, create an admin name (do not use ‘admin’ as this leaves your site in a vulnerable position to be hacked) and create a strong password for it (and write it down somewhere).
Be sure to select ‘none’ when it asks you to install a theme. We will take care of this later.
And now we wait… this shouldn’t take too long.
Once you’re all done, take note of the ‘Administrative URL’ – this is the URL you will need to use to login to the back end of your WordPress site. Usually it is http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin
Head over to the Administrative URL, use your login details and login to your brand new WordPress site!
While it looks bare and a little boring now, don’t stress. There’s plenty of time to make it pretty!
Choosing a Theme
Choosing a theme for your site can be one of the most time-consuming tasks you undertake. There are sooooooo many themes and to be honest until you’ve actually gotten in and used them, it’s hard to know what you want.
I’ve spent way too much time searching for themes over the years to do things I wanted them to do and what I realised is that getting a good theme right from the start saves a whole bunch of time later down the track. Plus, learning how to really use the theme properly helps too.
Rather than bombarding you with more information here, click through to this additional reading about themes and what I recommend.
Top 10 Gorgeous WordPress Themes for Serious Bloggers – this post will cover off the most beautiful WordPress themes you can find and give you a run down on each of them.
The Last WordPress Theme You’ll Ever Need – This post not only talks about X Theme (the theme I use on this site here) it also shows you the back end of the theme so you can get an understanding of how you can customise it and make it look perfect for you.
Once you have your theme chosen and purchased, you’ll need to ensure you keep your theme in zip format to install it.
In the sidebar of your WordPress site, you’ll see the option of ‘Appearance’ and then ‘Themes’. Click on ‘Themes’.
Then you need to click on ‘Add New’ which is right at the top, followed by ‘Upload Theme’
The above will open and you can either drag and drop your zip file to this area or click on ‘Choose File’ and select it this way.
Then click on Install. Once the theme is installed, it will give you the option to ‘Activate’ your theme – go ahead and do this and your theme will be installed ready to customise.
Again, it is best that you get to know your theme and how to do things with it. Taking on a theme without any guidance can be seriously daunting and lead to a lot of frustration. If you Google ‘How to Customise (insert your theme name here) Theme’ you’ll be sure to find step by step guides showing you how to do just about anything you want with your theme.
What Do I Do Next?
Phew – that’s a whole lot of information for you in one go. But I promise, if you work through it and keep this page handy as you do, it will be a lot easier than it seems.
Now it’s time to actually start filling your site with content! Have fun!!