How to Start Your Website or Blog with WordPress

Create Your Website With WordPressThere is no doubt that the Internet is the new “gold rush”. Having a website is a required commerce channel for any business today. Even a small Mom and Pop shop will benefit from having a well branded web presence.  If you don’t have a business but are instead interested in being a blogger, you can monetize your content relatively easily. Programs like Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, and the eBay Partner Network stand ready to scour your content with their sophisticated algorithms and match it to their advertisers’ products.

Still, there remains a barrier between you and the Internet masses: design. These days, Internet users expect mobile-friendly sites that are smart and easy on the eyes as well. Visitors expect to be greeted with responsive designs that do the panning, scrolling and zooming for them. Enter WordPress. WordPress is a content management system—used by 22.4% of all websites as of 2014—that allows you to focus on creating stellar content. With WordPress, you can change your design on the fly without ever touching a line of code. Furthermore, you can get additional cutting edge design elements in the form of themes and plugins for hundreds of dollars less than a dedicated designer would charge you.

Percentage of Websites Using WordPress Worldwide

If you’re planning to put up your first site, you may feel a bit overwhelmed. While this can seem daunting at first, there’s no cause for alarm. The only costs involved are registering a domain name (usually around $10 a year) and a web hosting plan to host your website (typically between $4 and $6 a month). Some web hosting companies like WebHostingHub actually provide you with a free domain registration for your first year. There are three major steps, and this guide will walk you through them one by one. Once you’re beyond that initial stage, you’ll have no trouble publishing high-quality content to a hungry audience.

Part 1: Picking and Registering Your Domain Name

Perhaps the most important aspect of starting your own website or blog is the domain name you choose. Your domain name is your calling card, and as such, it’s very important that you optimize it as much as possible. The term “optimize” is a bit vague, so here are some specific tips to help you along:

Brainstorm

Come up with five keywords that represent the site that you want to create. Once you have all five, mix and match them on paper or in your favorite word processing program. You can also use mind mapping software like FreeMind to help you along. Add prefixes and suffixes where you need them to create better flow. Additionally, there are many free domain name generators available online. While they may not give you a home run, they can yield a good place to start.

Stick With .com Domains

A domain ending in .com will help you immensely when you’re just starting out. The fact is that .com carries more weight than .net, .org or any of the other new domain suffixes out there. If you ever plan on selling something on your domain, or if you intend to make money as an affiliate, a .com domain will aid you in building brand recognition.

Make it Unique

If you make your domain too similar to an established site, you’ll lose out in a number of ways. For one, if your domain contains their trademarks, you’re lining yourself up for a lawsuit. Second, as you build your site, you’ll likely lose traffic to people who enter your competitor’s website into their browser by mistake. Important: never register a domain that is a misspelled or hyphenated version of a competitor’s site.

Keep it Simple and Short

Ask yourself this: is your desired domain easy to spell/type? How many characters is it? If your domain is too long or is difficult to type, you’ll have trouble building your brand. Short names are easy to remember and easy to type. They are also easy to share, which is just as important. Additionally, short domain names leave more room for snippets in the search engines, and they are more business card friendly.

Make it Memorable

This should go without saying, but there are still plenty of people who register domains like “www.FlowerEStore.com.” While this can work if you’re an established name, it can prove disastrous for startups. The domain above is too similar to the hundreds of domains like it. Consider the following domains: Flickr, Yahoo!, Pandora, Grooveshark and Google. None of these speak to exactly what their site is about, but they are all memorable. Coming up with a unique word for your domain can help you when it comes time to create your logo and the other elements that make up your brand.

  • Keep it short:  Short names are easy to remember and easy to type. They are also easy to share, which is just as important. Additionally, short domain names leave more room for snippets in the search engines, and they are more business card friendly. 
  • Set up expectations: You can be as creative as you want, but your domain should still give someone an idea of what your site is all about. Grooveshark is a great example of this. The domain creates a sense of intrigue while making it clear that the site has something to do with music.
  • Avoid trademarks: This bears repeating. Don’t use established trademarks in your domain. The domain myapplestore.com may sound like a great idea, but it will be shut down within a month or so.
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens: These elements make it difficult for people to say your domain out loud, which makes sharing more difficult. Any form of word-of-mouth advertising is valuable, so do all you can to make your domain easy to share.
  • Don’t be trendy: Beyond these fundamentals, what works today might not work tomorrow. Your domain is your online identity, so don’t follow fads hoping to cash in.

A stylish domain can work well, but if your primary concern is search engine optimization (SEO), you will want to stick to a domain that includes your keywords. Google and other search engines look to your domain and your content to find out what your site is all about. If your domain doesn’t help them in that regard, it might take them a bit longer to classify and rank your site. Actually registering a domain is fairly straightforward. The most popular domain registrars are GoDaddy, eNom, Network Solutions and Namecheap.

All of these domain registrars allow you to check domain availability from their site. If the domain you want is available, simply pay and you’re good to go. A .com domain will typically run you between $10 and $15 per year. Note that you can’t actually buy a domain. You are actually renting the domain, and if you don’t pay your yearly fee, someone else can then rent the domain for themselves.

Domain Availability Checker

Part 2: Setting Up Your Web Hosting Account

Finding hosting is the next crucial step in starting your own WordPress site. A Web host is the crucial link between your site and the world at large. They host all of your site’s files and make it available to Web browsers via a server. Not all hosts are created equal, however, and you should carefully compare hosts before you buy. Transferring a site from one host to another can be a hassle. Here’s what to look for:

Plenty of Disk Space

Most hosts have various plans they offer, and the available disk space tends to increase with each. However, some hosts, like WebHostingHub, offer unlimited space for all plans. A good rule of thumb is go with a plan that has at least 20% more space than you’re currently using. A benefit of unlimited disk space is that you will be able to upload high-definition images. A limited space plan is not necessarily bad, however. Many hosts allow you to scale as you go, which means you may be able to find a very inexpensive starter plan.

Lots of Bandwidth

Bandwidth is a measure of the amount of data that your site can send and receive in a given period of time. The more bandwidth you get, the better. As with disk space, some providers offer unlimited bandwidth, while others cap bandwidth and charge if you go over. This isn’t usually an issue with new sites. You’ll likely find that your bandwidth scales nicely with the size of your site. The goal is to have monetization in place before you need to upgrade. Keep in mind that hosting video on your site will eat through your bandwidth extremely quickly. It’s always a good idea to upload large videos to YouTube or other video sharing platforms and then embed the video into your pages/posts.

99.9% Uptime

Uptime refers to the percentage of time that your site will be available to the public. All hosts experience downtime for one reason or another, but a good host will guarantee at least 99.9% uptime. The host’s servers should be on a redundant power supply in a climate-controlled room, so barring a meteor strike, or rare emergency maintenance you shouldn’t notice downtime.

Database Functionality

In order to use WordPress or other popular content management systems your web host needs to be able to provide you with access to MySQL databases and a programming languages called PHP. WebHostingHub offers access to everything you need to install WordPress easily and all within just a few minutes.

A Reasonable Price

Price shouldn’t be the only item on your agenda, but it is important. Some web hosts allow individuals to resell their hosting plans for a markup, and generally, you’re better off going straight to the source. A good price for a beginner’s plan is around $5 per month. This will generally get you the disk space and bandwidth you need to start building traffic. WebHostingHub offers a very competitive web hosting plan starting at only $3.99. As with most hosting companies, the more years you pay for in advance, the larger a discount you will receive overall. You can, however, pay for only one year if you wish.

Example of Suitable WordPress Hosting
Discounted Pricing With Advanced Payments

WebHostingHub InMotion Hosting Green Geeks A2 Hosting
1 Year Pricing  $5.99/Month $4.79/Month  $6.36/Month  $3.92/Month
2 Year Pricing  $4.99/Month $4.19/Month  $5.56/Month  $3.92/Month
3 Year Pricing  $3.99/Month x  $3.96/Month  x

Types of Web Hosting

Free Hosting SucksThere are four types of hosting that you should be aware of. The first is free hosting, and you should avoid it all costs. While these businesses will indeed host your site on their servers, you will likely be met with severe data and bandwidth limitations. Worse, the host will recoup its costs by displaying advertisements on your site. These ads are often poorly targeted. They will turn your readers off and make it more difficult for you to build an audience.

Shared Hosting is Used by Most WebsitesThe second type of hosting is referred to as “shared hosting.” Shared hosting works like this: you and a bunch of other sites are all stored on the same server. You share bandwidth, disk space and other server resources. Most hosts’ beginner plans utilize shared hosting. This type of hosting isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a new or even an established website, but you will want to graduate to a more dedicated hosting solution if your traffic becomes massive. Most of the websites on the Internet are hosted on shared web servers so it comes as no surprise that it is the most popular and advertised type of hosting.

One concern with this type of hosting is that if the shared server is not configured or monitored well if one site on the server uses up too many resources, it’s possible for the other websites on the server to become sluggish and not perform as well. This is where resource protection and monitoring comes into play. All of the web hosting companies reviewed on this site have protections and monitoring in place so that a single website cannot overuse shared server resources.

Dedicated HostingDedicated hosting refers to—as you’ve likely guessed—the practice of having your very own server dedicated to only you. This is ideal because you aren’t sharing bandwidth, disk space, CPU, memory, etc with any other sites, your site’s files aren’t stored on the same machine as any others and you can customize it however you like. The main benefit: dedicated hosting will always be the fastest. Naturally, dedicated hosting costs more than any other type of hosting, anywhere from $75 up to $1,000’s per month.

Virtual Private ServerThe next step up from shared web hosting and a step down from dedicated server hosting is a virtual private server (VPS). A VPS is similar to dedicated hosting in that you have your own dedicated hosting environment where no one else has access to your server resources, you have full control over customizations and re-booting. A VPS hosting plan is on dedicated server that is partitioned into many virtual private servers, each having it’s own allocated dedicated resources and isolated environment. The cost of VPS plans typically range from $20 – $200 depending on your requirements.

So Which Type Do I Choose?

Unless you require unique server customizations, or know for a fact that you will be receiving massive amounts of traffic to your newly established website within the first few months, go with a shared web hosting solution. The majority of sites online today are hosted on shared hosting plans and they perform perfectly fine. There is no sense in spending more than you need to, especially when you are just starting out. This is not to say that all shared hosting providers are created equal. You still need to do your research and make sure you are signing up with a reliable company that will not let you down. Read through our collection of web hosting reviews or check out our narrowed down five popular web hosts comparison chart and make an informed decision.

NameServers

A nameserver is the machine that your computer talks to when you type a domain name into your web browser and press “Enter.” It translates the domain name into the IP address of the website that you’re trying to reach. If it wasn’t for nameservers, you would have to remember the IP address of every website you wanted to visit. When you register your domain, it will be assigned nameservers, but if you don’t register your domain with your web host, you’ll have to change the nameservers so that they point to your web host’s servers. This is a fairly straightforward process. Let’s take GoDaddy and WebHostingHub as examples. The steps for any other domain registrar should be very similar.

  1. Log in to your GoDaddy account and click “My Account.”
  2. Click the “Launch” button next to the “Domains” tab.
  3. Click the box next to the domain that you want to edit.
  4. Click “Set Nameservers.”
  5. Click the “I have specific nameservers for my domains” option.
  6. Delete the existing nameservers and replace them with WebHostingHub’s nameservers:
    Nameserver 1: ns1.webhostinghub.com
    Nameserver 2: ns2.webhostinghub.com
  7. Click “OK.”

Note that it can take up to 24 hours for the changes to propagate through your domain registrar’s servers. As you can see, you can save quite a few steps if you buy your domain and hosting from the same provider. Nevertheless it’s not too complicated to get your web host’s nameservers connected to your domain name within your domain registrar account.

Part 3: Creating Your Website with WordPress

You might think that with all WordPress can do for you, it would be difficult to install. Actually, most modern web hosts make installing WordPress a pain-free experience. cPanel is a web hosting control panel from which you can install add-ons to your site, and most hosts offer it along with Softaculous or Fantastico, which are nifty auto-installers. Installing WordPress will work the same way on just about any host that offers cPanel, but let’s use WebHostingHub again as an example.

Installing WordPress With WebHostingHub

 

  1. WebHostingHub WordPressLog in to your WebHostingHub cPanel account.
  2. Click on the “Softaculous” icon under the “Software/Services”section.
  3. Select the “WordPress” option.
  4. Click “Install”
  5. Select your domain from the dropdown list.
  6. Leave the “In Directory” box empty, put in your “Site Name” and “Site Description” and type a username and password in the appropriate boxes.
  7. Click “Install”

Once you’ve installed WordPress, you’ll receive an email letting you know how to log in. If you load your website at this point, you will be greeted by the default WordPress theme. This theme looks rather plain, but don’t worry: changing it is a cinch.

Video Guide: Install WordPress Using Softaculous

Getting Started With WordPress

WordPress themes are collections of files that alter the appearance and the functionality of a WordPress site. Theme creators tend to create these skins with a particular type of site in mind for instance: an image gallery, video site, e-commerce site, online magazine or online newspaper. This makes searching for themes relatively easy. Additionally, the WordPress website has thousands of free themes available. There are also professional paid themes available through websites like ThemeForest or ElegantThemes that typically cost around $50 and have more functionality. When you are just starting out it’s best to use a free theme and once you are more familiar with WordPress consider looking into paid themes.

Free WordPress Themes

To search for a free theme, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin page at yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
  2. Click “Appearance,” followed by “Themes.”
  3. Click “Add New,” and search through the thousands of free themes.

If you find a theme that you would like to preview, simply click “Install.” To install a theme you’ve purchased or downloaded from the Internet, simply click “Upload” instead of “Search” on the “Themes” page. Note that WordPress can only install themes that have been saved in zipped format. This shouldn’t be an issue if you’ve purchased a theme or downloaded a theme from within WordPress. Also note that you can change your WordPress theme at any time without ever touching a line of code.

Installing Plugins

Like themes, plugins extend the functionality of WordPress. Unlike themes, they do not generally impact the appearance of your site. Here is a few reasons to try plugins:

  • Automatically filter spam comments
  • Add a free autoresponder to your site
  • Automatically add social media buttons to each post
  • Add a forum to your site
  • Easily create image and video galleries
  • Add powerful shortcodes to your WordPress editor

Shortcodes are short snippets of text that execute complex code. With shortcodes, you can add amazing content to your site with the press of a button. While WordPress comes with many shortcodes, the best are typically only available via premium plugins from third-party vendors, which cost money. Still, these premium plugins can pay off as they can give you functionality that your competitors may not have. Here’s how to install plugins:

  1. Log in to your WordPress admin page.
  2. Click the “Plugins” button, and then click “Add New.”
  3. From this page you can search for plugins or check out featured or popular plugins.
  4. If you have a plugin that you want to install manually click “Upload”, then “Browse,” and then select the file when the dialog box that appears.

WordPress will automatically process the plugin. If the plugin is formatted correctly, you will be presented with an “Activate” button. Click this button to complete the process. As with themes, plugins must be zipped.

Posting Content to WordPress

WordPress offers you an easy-to-use WYSIWYG editor. This editor parses HTML, and you can also easily insert images into it. There are two viewing modes available to you, and you can switch between them at any time. One viewing mode shows you your HTML code, and the other shows you how that code will appear to your readers. You can also preview your post at any time by clicking the “Preview” button in the upper right-hand side of the screen. When you do so, your post will appear in a new tab.

To create a new post, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Log in to your WordPress backend.
  2. Click “Posts.”
  3. Click “Add New.”
  4. Enter a title in the appropriate box.
  5. Enter your post’s content.
  6. Enter tags in the “Tags” box. Tags are keywords that pertain to your post’s content. Tags help your visitors find the content they want to read when they search your site.
  7. Select a category from the drop-down box or create a new category.

Creating Categories

At this point, you may not have any categories, so let’s address that now. You must post your content under a category. This keeps your posts neat and allows your visitors to skim through your site by topic, which also helps Google better understand what your site is all about. You can create a new category at any time you’re logged into WordPress by clicking “Administrative,” “Posts,” and then “Categories.” You can also create new categories when you create posts.

It’s a good idea to structure your post with headings. Headings help your reader skim your content to find the information that they are most interested in. WordPress uses the HTML tags “h1,” h2”, etc, so it’s a good idea to practice using them before you take your post live. The “h1” tag is the largest followed by the “h2” tag and “h3” tag.

Building an Audience

Now that you have your site up and running, you’ll no doubt want to start building traffic. This is easier said than done, but there are a few solid tips you can follow to speed things along:

Create well-written, useful content. The fastest way to become an authority in your niche is to understand the problems that your audience is facing and to help them solve those problems. If you plan to sell an informational product, there’s no need to give away all of your knowledge for free. Still, you want to help them along a bit so that they will come to view you as an authority. One effective tactic is to offer a free report in exchange for their email address. Once they opt in, you can build the relationship further by sending them useful email updates. Do NOT spam their inbox ever, instead focus on building a trusted relationship.

Capitalize on social media. Create Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest accounts that are dedicated to your site. Share useful content with your followers wherever you find it. Don’t just link them to your own blog posts. Engage with your followers on a regular basis for best results.

Know who the influencers are. Use social media search engines like BuzzSumo to find out who the big guns are in your niche. Create long, authoritative articles on your site, and then gently promote them to these individuals. If you’re lucky, these influencers will share your post. If you’ve created high-quality content, you should get quite a few backlinks from this.

Go step-by-step. When creating your content, keep it simple and to the point. Just because something is easy for you doesn’t mean it will be easy for someone else. Take your reader by the hand, and walk them through the process you’re describing.

Post often. Posting on a regular basis shows readers that your site is active, and it keeps your site in front of your subscribers.

Be unique. Google and your readers will value unique content over content that is similar to what’s already out there. Consider using Copyscape or a similar service to check whether what you’ve written is unique. It’s possible to plagiarize someone else in your field without realizing it.

Creating a blog for the first time is a daunting task, but it’s certainly not insurmountable. What’s more, once you’ve created your first site, you’ll be able to scale up and create any number of other sites quite easily. If you’re able to create—or purchase—quality content on a regular basis and use social media to your advantage, you should have no trouble getting traffic to your site.

Compare Five Solid WordPress Web Hosting Options

A comparison chart of five popular web hosts that all provide easy single click installations of WordPress. We’ve narrowed down your WordPress hosting search so you can jump into action and start creating your blog ASAP.

Check it out now and get your site started!

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