So, you’ve finally decided to get started with a blog?
You’ve spent quite some time deciding what to blog about. And, oh, you’ve seen WordPress getting recommended by almost everyone (including me) and want it too?
As a beginner, there will be a number of mistakes you will make for sure when setting up your first WordPress (or even the next ones)! Trust me, I’ve done them all after 3 years of working with WordPress and setting up about 10 WordPress websites. God, I wish I knew everything I know now as I would have saved a lot of time!
Here is what we will see in this step-by-step guide:
As I was creating a new WordPress website, I decided it would be a good time to create this step-by-step guide that will help WordPress beginners a great deal (and me for the next WordPress websites I have to create!).
I couldn’t start this blog post without mentioning why I love WordPress and why you should use it!
First, WordPress.org is free as it’s an open-source project. “Where’s the catch?” you might ask. Well, there’s no catch, but you have to host your website on your own. In addition to all of what I mention in this section and in comparison with other Content Management Systems (CMS), you have greater control over your website. For instance, compared to a Squarespace website or the likes, you know exactly how much you will pay for hosting in the coming years and aren’t “stuck” regarding hosting, scalability and flexibility.
And WordPress is widely used, for instance by websites such as the Huffington post or TechCrunch. According to W3Techs:
WordPress is used by 27.9% of all the websites, that is a content management system market share of 58.9%.
WordPress is also really reliable and is updated consistently which ensures your WordPress website is always as up-to-date as it can be regarding security and features.
What I also love about WordPress website is that they are highly customizable. You get to chose which theme you use between hundreds of thousands of specialized themes according to if you want to blog, build a business or are a photographer. And as we’ll see during this article, themes allow you to quickly customize elements across your whole website, which is pretty neat!
Regarding functionality, add-ons in WordPress are called plugins, and there are god knows how many of them! Whether you want to create a membership website, speed up your website with caching or have it back up automatically: there’s a plugin for that!
First things first, you have to know what your WordPress blog you will be about before creating it. Why? Because you will soon have to choose your domain name!
Head to my What in the World Should You Blog About? For Real. Article if you’re still having some doubts!
At this point you will need two things:
- a domain name which is your website’s address
- a hosting where your website’s files will be stored
I know this domain step can be very intimidating as you’re taking decisions about your not-even-born-yet blog. Don’t get scared and go ahead with your guts and common sense. Nothing is non-reversible: you could still change your domain name if you want later!
Domain names usually cost about US$ 10 per year depending on the extension you chose. And usually, it’s really easy to register them at the same time as your hosting with your hosting provider. And you know I’m all about making things easy!
A few recommendations about domain names here:
- Always chose .com over something else: it’s the most recognized domain extension. I also like the .co one more and more!
- If you’re blog is going with your personal brand, my advice is to stick with firstnamelastname.com as I did.
- Pick a descriptive name, preferably one that includes one or more keywords that make sense for what you’ll be blogging about!
- Make it easy to remember & catchy!
- Avoid any – in the domain name as people will consistently make mistakes about your domain name!
When it comes to WordPress hosting, I’ve tried a lot of providers like GoDaddy, Hostgator, 1&1 and was never satisfied until I switched to a few months ago when I switched to the highly recommended SiteGround Their stellar support has always helped me a great deal with any problem or questions that I had (as well as handling the migration of my website from Godaddy or setting up and email address). What’s more, you can choose between many server localization and they have a very clean interface that offers Cpanel (pretty rare for cheap plans)!
I highly recommend SiteGround and their starter offer at $3.95/mo (for one year). It’s also really easy to install WordPress (a few clicks)!
All set, got your domain name and hosting plan? Looks ready to install WordPress!
In your CPanel account, scroll to the bottom until you see the WordPress icon and click it so that they install WordPress for you. It will look something like that:
They will then ask you for a few details like a username, password and where to install your WordPress: pretty straightforward!
After your WordPress is installed (congrats!), head over to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and log in with the username & password you just created.
You will then land on your new WordPress Dashboard. Don’t worry; you’ll be much more comfortable with it in no time!
Welcome to WordPress!
WordPress has a pretty clear interface with the menu on the left and a few things at the top of your screen. To find anything that has to do with design and customization of your website, head to the “Appearance” section. For now, we’ll want to click on “Themes”!
This is where you chose and activate WordPress Themes.
WordPress provides you with a few free themes right out of the box, but you don’t want your website to look like thousands of others right?
Other than the “default” free themes, there are a lot of other free themes out there. Some of them good, others bad.
One of my first WordPress mistakes was to go with a free theme for about 2 years. It looked good and was customizable: I was happy. However, the more and more I learned about WordPress, I wished I had picked a premium theme for some reasons:
- Those are usually updated
- They offer greater customizing options
- They mostly always look way better
- They have a better compatibility with plugins
- Their code is cleaner = faster loading times and no interference with plugins
Need I say more? I strongly advise you to go with a premium theme.
Two options here:
A) You could spend hours (yep!) looking for the perfect theme for your blog idea and look through WordPress custom “feature filters” or even look on Themes Marketplaces.
B) You could go with the same WordPress theme (“Divi” by Elegant Themes) as me and make sure you make a good choice.
Not only is Divi one of the most used themes in the world, but it is made by one of the top 3 WordPress themes creators with +400’000 customers as well!
Alright, now that you have either gotten your hands on Divi or any other WordPress Theme, time to install it!
Usually, you will have to download it as a .Zip file and upload it to WordPress. Same “Appearance” then “Themes” section. Go ahead and click that “Add Theme” and then “Upload theme” buttons and find your . Zip file!
And activate it!
Extra suggested step: create a “Child Theme”
Something that I’d recommend anyone doing is creating a child theme right away. A Child theme is a sort of clone of your WordPress theme that will allow you to customize it without fear of breaking everything!
Luckily for us, there is a plugin for that called “one-click Child Theme”. Copy that and place it in the search box here, install it and activate it!
Nearly done! Then click here to create and name your child theme: don’t hesitate to be funky: mine is “Ambroise Debret” :).
Do this now; you’ll thank me later!
Now that you’re all set with your theme and child theme configured, it’s time to set the appearance of your website!
In the “Themes” section, go ahead and click that “Customize” button of your child theme, you know you want it!
After that, the customization options you have will depend according to which theme you’ve chosen. Here is what it looks like for me:
Here you should be able to customize most of your website’s appearance including logos, font color, titles size as well as menu locations and content!
Once it’s done, hit that “Save and publish button” and it’s live!
Note that I’m talking about how things are presented as well as header and footer here. For the actual content of the pages & blog posts, that will come later!
As with anything, it’s better to start the right way and avoid mistakes when it comes to everything SEO!
SEO is a way for your you to generate “free” traffic to your new blog. It’s the process by which you optimize the way search engines discover, index & read your website to offer in search engines results, all via keywords and semantics. A bit lost? Totally normal, that’s why we have plugins do most of the hard work for us, at least for the technical part!
A plugin I always recommend when it comes to WordPress SEO is called “Yoast SEO”. With the same process as the child theme plugin, you can go and install it right away by clicking “Plugins/Add New” and search for it, then installing and activating it!
After you’ve installed it, go to its settings by clicking the “SEO” menu that’s appeared on the left menu of your WordPress admin, and I want you to click on “Webmaster tools” and on the “Google search console” link.
You will then be asked to log in with your Google account. Once that’s done, you will have to verify that you own the domain name for which you’re asking Webmaster Tool control.
I recommend you click on “alternate methods” and the “HTML tag” one because I have a little hack!
Copy the code in the red rectangle and copy it in the previous screen. Voilà!
Now, time to use Yoast’s setup wizard!
Here are few things you’ll want to pay attention to:
For the Google Search Console part, you will just have to log in since you’ve already created your website’s profile.
Something that Google will like when it crawls your website is an XML sitemap. It’s it just a plan of your website that makes it easier for Google. Luckily for us, Yoast does it if you activate it in the advanced settings:
If you’re really on fire, you can go ahead and indicate to Google Webmaster tools where your XML sitemap is located. Usually, you’ll just have to enter this part: “sitemap_index.xml” after your pre-filled domain name.
Setting up your Permalinks
Permalinks refer to the way your website’s URLs are created; this is critical to set up the right way!
By default, they’re setup to “plain” but the best setting is “Post name”. You will want to make sure your change it to this and hit “Save”!
After you start publishing your first blog posts, you will want to know how they performed. That is where Google Analytics comes in. Set it up right now to start getting insights on who visits your website, for what content and how long they stay!
You’re all set!
I couldn’t let you off without showing you how to create your first pages and blog posts.
Even if the structure is not the same between a website page and blog post page in WordPress, they are very similar! Here I will show you how to create your very first blog post!
First off, click “Add new” in the “Post” section of your WordPress menu.
You will then land on a white page that you will have to fill.
You shouldn’t forget to add Categories, tags as well as featured image that will represent your blog post!
Yoast will also help you at this step! You will determine your focus keyword (what you’re trying to rank for in Google for this article), and it will help you optimize your blog post.
Here you can edit your blog post title, URL and meta description (the text that goes with your blog post title in the Google search results) as well.
After that, Yoast will give you an analysis of what you could do better as well as a global grade in the form of green, orange or red light. While you shouldn’t obsess over not having a green light, it remains a good indicator!
You can hit publish and start promoting your blog post, or automate it!
So now you have the blog you always wanted and know how to create blog posts. You’ve only done the easiest part!
I find that where most bloggers fail to succeed is when it comes to staying consistent when it comes to publishing blog posts.
I’ve detailed in a previous blog post what my blogging process looks like, and I’ve been blogging consistently for 35 weeks = blog posts (with 2 weeks break for Christmas)!
When it comes to making your website better and better, it can be done by adding plugins to add functionalities to your WordPress website. You can also work on the user experience by customizing your design and more!
The ultimate step for every blogger is to generate revenue from his blog to the point that he can live from it! I’ve detailed the different methods (ads, affiliate, products or lead-generation) with which you can do so in my How to Monetize your Blog post.
Summary & next steps
If you’ve applied most of the steps of this article, you’re at the beginning of your path as a successful blogger!
Here is what we’ve seen today:
- Why WordPress
- Step 1: Determine What You Will Blog About
- Step 2: Chose Your Domain Name & WordPress Hosting
- Step 3: Install WordPress
- Step 4: Choose Your Theme
- Step 5: Customize Your New WordPress
- Step 6: Get Your On-site SEO & URL Structure Right And Setup Your Analytics
- Step 7: Create Your First Pages & Blog Post
- Step 8: Blog Consistently & Make Your Website Better
- Step 9: Make Money From Your Blog
Did you have any issue setting up your WordPress blog? Any recommendations? I’ll answer in the comments!