Ever dreamed of starting your own blog? No exaggeration, Blogging changed my life. It gave me purpose, a creative outlet, access to like-minded communities and, yes, income.
The process of blogging has taught me more than anything learned in previous jobs and, more awesomely, equipped me with a set of practical and entrepreneurial skills which allow me to work from home.
I don’t own Unicorn-print yoga pants, but if I did, I could wear them to work every. single. day and no one would care.
If you’ve been wavering over whether to start a blog, it’s time to stop procrastinating and hit the green light. This step-by-step guide walks you through the process of creating a WordPress blog; from setting up a hosting account, to installing WordPress and your chosen theme. It tells you the essential things you need to add to your site and how to be legally compliant.
Ready to change your life? Let’s do this.
This post contains affiliate links. I may make a commission if you buy a product or service through such a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure for further information.
I thought long and hard how to make this guide as simple as possible. These nine sections cover everything you need to do to create a blog in WordPress:
- Choose domain name and hosting
- Install and set up WordPress
- Add plugins
- Add SSL Certificate
- Choose and install a theme
- Legal stuff
- Write your first blog post
1. Domain name and hosting
First, you’ll need to choose a name. Don’t rush into this. Here’s a few things to consider when choosing a name for your blog:
- Make sure it’s easy to read on paper, on screens and doesn’t look funky as a URL.
- Think five years ahead. Be wary of hip, ‘of the moment’ words and phrases. It could date quickly making you cringe every time you tell someone what your blog’s called.
- Do a search on Google to see if it’s already taken, trade-marked or associated with another brand. Use Knowem to see if it’s available across all your social media networks.
- Ideally, always go for .com. It’s global and better for SEO. If it’s not available, and you really don’t want to change your name, consider another globally-focused suffix instead, such as .co
- Never user hyphens or punctuation to separate words in a URL. It looks spammy and people are more likely to mis-spell it.
Shop around for a good deal when buying your domain name. I tend to go for the cheapest deal and always buy a minimum of two years. (It’s worth checking what renewal costs will be if you intend to renew at the end of this period). Always purchase domain privacy or you’ll get spammed relentlessly by people trying to sell you web design services via phone!
Namecheap offers the best deals around right now including free privacy protection for life. Click here to check if your chosen domain name is available.
I’ve been through several popular shared hosting companies in the last decade or so of blogging and now very happily hooked up with Siteground. Things like value-for-money, speed, free SSL certificate and Cloudflare Content Delivery Network set-up, unrivalled up-time record, free back-ups and a choice of server locations are already excellent reasons to choose them, but you know what really kicks the competition to the curb? Their customer service is the BEST.
When you’re starting out, believe me things will go wrong, your site will ‘break’ and you’ll want to day drink and ugly cry when all your hard work gets lost because you did something wrong and can’t figure out how to un-do it.
Siteground are a WordPress-approved hosting provider with top-notch customer service. You can contact them via phone, Live Chat or Support Ticket. I’ve rarely waited more than a few minutes and they’ve always fixed any issues quickly and without fuss. If you’re new to blogging, it’s easy to appreciate why this kind of support is golden.
You can set up your WordPress hosting account with Siteground from just $3.95/£2.75 a month. Click here to compare WordPress hosting plans.
2. Install WordPress
Installing WordPress is a doddle and takes just a few minutes. You can follow Siteground’s WordPress installation guide here. Choose any of the free themes offered on install – you’ll be changing it later. Once you’ve installed WordPress, there’s a few things you need to do.
Let’s head over to your WordPress WP-admin Dashboard and scroll down to the ‘Settings’ menu to make these changes (don’t forget to hit ‘Save’):
- General –
- add your site title and tagline (one-sentence that describes your blog and will show on browser tabs)
- change the language, timezone, date and time format
- Reading –
- Amend Homepage settings. You can opt to display your latest posts or a static page (you’ll need to design a new Page first). Set number of posts to show and if you want full text or a summary of each post to show here). Select if you want to show ‘related posts’ after each blog post (highly recommended).
- Discussion –
- Amend Discussion (comment) settings. If you wish to allow blog comments this is where you control what’s allowed and how long comments remain open.
- Media –
- Amend image settings. Here’s where you can amend standard image sizes if you don’t want to run with standard sizing.
- Permalinks –
- Change the structure to a ‘human readable’ format – I prefer ‘Post Name’ over a date-specific format because it helps your content appear evergreen and fresh to search engines.
3. Install WordPress Plugins
Plugins are simply software ‘add-ons’ which extend WordPress functionality. In other words, they help you do more with your site! Many plugins are completely free while some Premium plugins incur a small fee.
They’re incredibly useful but can slow your site down, conflict with each other and open the door to potential security breaches. Try to keep your plugins to the absolute minimum required to make your site look great and function properly.
Always remember to keep your theme and plugins updated on a regular basis (head to ‘Updates’ in the WordPress dashboard) and only ever install plugins which are compatible with your version of WordPress, have with a high number of installs and attracted positive feedback.
To install a new plugin, head to the Plugins section of your WordPress dashboard.
- Click ‘add new’
- Type the name of your chosen plugin in the search box.
- Find the plugin from the list and hit ‘Install Now’
- Once installed, hit ‘Activate’. It will now show as ‘Active’ and be visible in the Plugins page . Hit ‘Settings’ under each plugin to edit.
That’s all there is to it!
My essential list of recommended WordPress plugins:
- Jetpack – the free version offers over 100 free themes, image optimisation, brute force attack prevention and downtime monitoring, automated social media posting, stats and the handy ‘related posts’ feature.
- 404 page – enables you to direct 404 errors to a custom page rather than a generic error message. Add a search box, a funny gif or links to other helpful content to your page to encourage visitors to stick around and not bounce away in frustration!
- Akismet – the best anti-spam tool to protect your blog from annoying spam.
- Wordfence Security – essential security-focused plugin with Anti-virus, Firewall and Malware Scanning features. Let’s you know when your plugins and theme needs updating.
- WP Fastest Cache – a caching plugin which stores and saves a copy of regularly accessed files – ie ‘caches’ them, to prevent draining your hosting account’s PHP resources. Is the easiest and most effective free plugin for speeding up your site’s load time.
- Contact Form 7 – a simple contact form that can be embedded on any page of your website using a shortcode.
- Insert Headers and Footers – If you’re installing things like Google Analytics, Cookie notices or any other tracking tools which require you to add code to your website’s header or footer, this plugin makes it super easy to add code in one place without having to mess with your site’s PHP files.
- Remove Query Strings – helps to speed up your website by removing all redundant ‘?’ from static, cached files.
- Yoast SEO – don’t write a blog post without it! Provides on-page prompts and hints to help you craft SEO-friendly blog posts every time. Essential.
- Smush – A brilliant image optimiser plugin to help reduce image size to improve your site’s load time.
- Social Warfare – the only Premium plugin I can’t live without! A social sharing secret weapon with customisable sharing buttons (floating and static). Its Pinterest-optimised features mean you control exactly which images get shared to the platform – by far the biggest source of traffic for any blogger. Don’t blog without it!
Once installed and your blog’s settings amended, head back to your C-Panel in your Siteground Account. This is where you go to look under the hood of your WordPress blog. It looks scary, but don’t worry, you’ll probably only use the Site Improvement Tools, Security and Mail sections to begin with.
4. Install SSL Certificate
Nowadays, all sites should be running over a secure SSL protocol, particularly in the wake of the recent GDPR regulations which came into force May 25th. If you’re unsure what this means, take a look up at the URL in your browser address bar. The little green padlock means this site has an SSL certificate installed and all data is encrypted.
Thanks to Let’s Encrypt – a recognised Certificate Authority backed by the likes of Google – there’s no need to pay for an SSL certificate. Siteground was one of the first to offer Let’s Encrypt certificate integration and the installation process takes a couple of minutes.
- Go to C-Panel > Security > Let’s Encrypt:
2. Select the domain where you wish to install the SSL certificate > Select ‘Let’s Encrypt SSL’ > Install
3. Installation take a few seconds. Once complete hit OK. That’s it!
5. Choose and Install a Theme
Choosing a theme can be one of the most overwhelming aspects of starting a blog. Which is why it’s one of the last things you should do before going live with your blog.
Before you leap into choosing a theme, my advice is to spend some time getting a feel for WordPress, developing a content strategy, outlining some posts, establishing a brand identity and really trying to get inside the mind of your ideal audience and niche. Only then can you choose a theme which truly reflects your brand and website requirements.
Don’t be tempted to choose a theme until you’ve spent a few weeks tinkering with your WordPress dashboard and never, ever choose a theme without first physically drawing out a rough sketch, on paper, with your ideal layout, navigation and site structure.
It’s very easy to be swayed by a theme developer’s gorgeous promo pics – these sites always feature perfect photography, professional logos and gorgeous fonts. I’ve learned the hard way how disappointing it can be when you swap the demo images out for your own.
(If you’re looking for logo ideas, this post shows you how to DIY your own logo).
What to look out for when choosing a WordPress theme:
- well coded and SEO-friendly by a reputable WordPress developer in HTML5
- responsive and mobile-friendly
- offers most, if not all of the functionality you require without needing to add a ton of plugins to achieve the desired effect (think menus and navigation options, header and footer customisations etc)
- contains easy customisation options so you can add your own fonts, colours and imagery
- contains no cumbersome elements like Carousels which slow your site down
- is optimised for conversion – functionality to add landing pages, buttons and calls-to-action to promote newsletter signups, product sales etc
- offers dedicated support and detailed customisation instructions
Don’t cheap out with a free theme. Even if it meets your design criteria, its developer is unlikely to offer much in the way of dedicated support.
Design-wise, your theme should have most of the heavy lifting coded in already. Plugins give added flexibility but slow your site down, so it pays to take your time to find a theme that meets your criteria most closely.
Think carefully about how you want your site to look and function and seek out a theme that ticks as many boxes as possible. I recommend using the Genesis framework by Studiopress, with a premium ‘child’ theme.
If your website is like a car, think of the framework (or ‘parent’ theme) as its engine and a ‘child’ theme as its exterior paint job. Genesis has gained a reputation for being fast and SEO-focused. I switched a couple of years ago and love it!
Studiopress offers great support, lot of tutorials along with lots of great themes. Click to purchase the Genesis framework and check out their themes.
If you’re looking for a Genesis theme geared specifically towards female entrepreneurs, you’ll love everything by Hello You designs:
…and Restored 316 Designs:
Both offer gorgeous, conversion-focused themes built on the Genesis framework, great support and tons of helpful guides and tips to help you get the best out of your theme.
If you don’t want to use a dedicated WordPress framework, it’s totally possible to install a theme directly. My favourite non-Genesis developer is Bluchic who also offer dedicated support and gorgeous, conversion-focused, SEO-friendly themes aimed at female entrepreneurs:
Once you’ve made your choice, it’s time to install your theme. It’s really easy and can be done in a few clicks.
Here’s how to install Genesis and a child theme on your website (Note: If you’re installing a regular theme, simply follow steps 1 to 3):
- In your WordPress dashboard go to appearance > themes > add new
2. Now click ‘Upload Theme’ > select Genesis Zip file from desktop > Click ‘Install Now’
3. When the file is installed, click ‘Activate’.
4. Now repeat this process with your child theme Zip file. DON’T ACTIVATE THE CHILD THEME BEFORE THE PARENT THEME (GENESIS FRAMEWORK)!
This will create a new ‘Genesis’ menu in your WordPress Dashboard with a Settings option that can be configured the way you want. Click on Appearance > Customise to customise your theme’s fonts, colours, layout and imagery. This is when you’ll want to refer to your theme developer’s support documentation for guidance.
6. Legal Stuff
(Please note I’m not a lawyer (obvs!) and this does not constitute legal advice, merely a point of reference).
This is when things can get really overwhelming! So much has been written about personal data, GDPR and legal disclosures that it’s difficult for new bloggers to figure out what’s really essential, and what’s not. Each country has slightly different requirements, but these legal notices and documents are what’s generally required as a minimum:
If you’re using affiliate marketing to generate revenue on your blog, or indeed being compensated in any way (including sponsorships, freebies etc), you’ll need a general standalone disclosure to that effect.
Your disclosure can be long or short. Don’t waffle on and say more than is needed. Check what’s required in your country but here in the UK it’s acceptable to use this wording as recommended by the Consumer Education Portal:
I, XXXXX, owner of XXXX.com am in business as an affiliate marketer and recommend products on this website for which I earn a commission. I hope this disclosure will demonstrate my intent to run an honest and reputable business. Please visit the Consumer Education Portal for more info”
If you’re an Amazon affiliate, you’ll also need to add a separate disclosure on the same page. The wording should read:
XXXXX is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
If you’re in the U.S, the FTC has published extensive guidance about how to disclose properly.
To create your Affiliate Disclosure page, simply create a new page in WordPress, add your affiliate disclosure wording and hit save. Then add a link to this page in your website’s footer where users are able to access it from every page. (Simply drag a text widget into the footer area and add your HTML or hyperlink there).
Finally, you must add a clear and obvious disclosure on every single page where you use affiliate links or are running sponsored content. It should not be buried at the bottom of a post or on a single page somewhere.
The reader must be able to view it before or close to each actual affiliate link. I prefer to place mine after my blog post intro, under the blog header image. It reads as follows:
This post contains affiliate links. I may make a commission if you buy a product or service through such a link. Please see my Affiliate Disclosure for further information.
Terms & Conditions
A short, dated notice reminding visitors that your website’s content is protected by copyright and cannot be used or replicated without prior permission. Again, it makes sense to include a link to your Copyright notice in your website’s footer, so its visible on every page.
Alongside your policy, you should install a pop-up Cookie solution so users can manage their Cookie preferences. The idea is that consent must be freely and actively given. Implied consent (“continuing to use this site is an acceptance of our Cookies” type of thing) is no longer acceptable. (See ‘8 Tools To Help Bloggers Nail GDPR compliance’).
7. Publish your first WordPress post
You’re almost on the home stretch now. All that’s left to do is publish your first blog post! Here’s some tips to get you started:
- Start with an introduction or a basic guide to your niche and topic.
- Consider it from your reader’s perspective. What about this topic is of most interest to them?
- Start with a question and aim to answer it so your reader has a clear takeaway.
- Summarise your post and ask for a share from your visitors!
- Share on social media!
Once you’ve written your post it’s time to publish in WordPress. Here’s how:
- Go to Posts > Add New
2. Enter your post title then copy and paste your body text below in the Post Content section. You can add images anywhere by clicking ‘Add Media’ then simply dropping your image onto the uploader. Remember to save your work periodically and hit ‘Preview’ if you want to see how it looks as a published post.
3. Add a Featured Image by clicking ‘Set featured Image’ on bottom right of your screen > upload image in correct proportions > Click blue button ‘Set featured image’.
4. Assign a category to your post, check spelling, readability and follow the SEO prompts provided by Yoast. Hit Publish!
Congratulations! You’re a published Blogger!
Wrapping it up
Starting a blog on WordPress can be pretty daunting, but the potential rewards – creative and financial – are worth the learning curve. If you follow the steps in this guide, you’ll have a solid blogging foundation on which to build your own mini empire.
It won’t happen overnight. Things like search engine optimisation (SEO) take time to master and the constant battle for traffic and subscribers tests even the most dedicated of bloggy entrepreneurs.
Just remember, blogging is also great fun and you’ll meet a bunch of amazing people along the way. Your grit, persistence and effort will teach you things you never thought you were capable of.
And yes, those Unicorn yoga pants do come in your size : )