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What is ONE thing you can do to move your business forward right now? Start a blog! I’m serious. I’ve had this blog for more than four years now, and during that time I’ve had clients hire me because of it, and I’ve had amazing opportunities I would not have had otherwise. Case in point: This year, Hachette published an excerpt from one of my blog posts in one of their textbooks in France! (I know, crazy right?)
All this blogging has taught me a thing or two about what it takes to start a successful blog and what the best hosting companies are.
Okay, so I know what you’re thinking: Setting up a blog/website is SO complicated and I’m not very techie, don’t I need to hire a developer to build one for me for $2,000?? NO, PLEASE NO! If you’re just starting out, keep your costs lean for now. I am a HUGE DIYer and I believe every blogger and business owner should know the basics of WordPress sites.
Friend, you are about to save a ton of money by DIYing it. And I am here to help!
(Note: I am in NO WAY saying that hiring a designer or developer is a waste of money. It is definitely not. They are professionals and I respect the heck out of them. But I do believe if you are strapped for cash, with all the technology available out there, you can do it yourself for now, and then invest in the pros when your blog is making money.)
What’s the Difference Between a Blog and a Website?
Basically, a blog IS a website, but a website is not necessarily a blog. Lemme break it down for you:
A blog is a website with a homepage that lists the latest posts in chronological order, with the most recent posts showing up at the top.
So does your business need a blog or a website? BOTH! It’s up to you if you decide if you want your business website’s homepage to show your latest blog posts, or if you want your site’s homepage to be static with welcome text, info about your services, etc.
My business website is my blog, The Wherever Writer. You can see what I mean by going to whereverwriter.com’s homepage and seeing that my latest blog posts show up on it.
The advantage of blogging is you create more content, which helps your business get found via search engines (through a process known as SEO, Search Engine Optimization).
What You Need to Start Your Own Blog/Website
Let’s use a house metaphor to make this super simple to understand. Your visitors are your guests whom you are inviting into your house (your website) for a delicious meal (your content)!
- A domain name = Your address. This is the address where people can go to find your blog. (Example: This blog’s domain name is whereverwriter.com)
- A CMS = Your kitchen. In this case we will use WordPress. A CMS is the “behind the scenes” area of your blog where you (the administrator) control and tweak content. This is where you will write and publish posts and manage plugins. Let’s say that the CMS is the kitchen where you’ll cook up the delicious meal you’ll serve your guests (AKA content for your visitors). (Example: My blog is on the WordPress CMS.)
- A WordPress “theme.” = Your house’s exterior. A theme is a design template. This is the exterior of your house. You want it to look nice and put together because you want it to be inviting to your visitors. (Example: This blog’s WordPress theme is Oleander by SoloPine.)
- Web hosting = Your plot of land. You’ll need a place on which to build your house, right? Your host is where all your blog’s files are stored. (Example: My blog’s host is SiteGround.)
Which Web Hosting Company Is the Best?
To remain balanced, there are SO MANY OPTIONS for hosting companies. Popular ones include HostGator and Bluehost (my former hosting company) BUT I highly recommend SiteGround. You can go here to find out why I switched from Bluehost to SiteGround.
Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 8 Steps!
Step 1: Buy a domain name. (If you buy hosting with SiteGround, a domain is included for free.)
How are your visitors going to find your “house”? That’s right–you need a domain name to give your blog an address. You can buy a domain name from one company, and purchase hosting with a different company, or you can buy both in one place. Personally, I bought my domains through Bluehost, but I have my web hosting with SiteGround.
Don’t get too hung up on this or else you may never start your blog. Remember, you can always change your domain name later, and a domain typically costs around $10. You can also always transfer a domain name from one company to another. For example, if I wanted to, I could transfer my domains from Bluehost to SiteGround.
You need to first make sure your domain name is available. While you’re brainstorming, plug in domain name ideas in a place like Name.com and check to see if they’re available before getting your heart set on them.
If you’re a freelancer, it makes sense to buy your own name, if it’s not already taken. (Example: YourFirstNameYourLastName.com) Otherwise, try to choose a domain name that makes sense for the type of blog and/or business you’ll have. Example: I chose whereverwriter.com because I planned to write about my travels and I’m also a freelance writer.
Step 2: Select a Hosting Plan
All right–now before we build your awesome house, you’re going to need to buy a plot of land for it.
Head on over to SiteGround and select a hosting plan. If you’re just starting your blog, go with the most basic and cost effective plan, StartUp. You can always upgrade your plan later as you grow.
Step 3: Input your contact and payment information
Step 4: Choose how many months of hosting you’d like to purchase.
You get discounts when you buy “in bulk,” so if you are really serious about this blog, I recommend purchasing 36 months because SiteGround is running an INSANE deal right now. To put it in perspective, when I bought my hosting from SiteGround earlier this year, I paid $179 for 12 months of hosting. You could get TRIPLE that time for LESS than what I paid. (To be fair, I did buy the package one step above StartUp, GrowBig, but still, if I had waited to purchase GrowBig today, I’d spend only $95 for the 12 months! Oh well.)
Step 4: Install WordPress. Open a support ticket to have SiteGround install WordPress FOR YOU for FREE!
Installing WordPress with SiteGround could not be any easier. Their support team will do it for you for free! After you sign up for your hosting, log in to your account and select the “Support” tab.
Next, scroll down and select “WordPress Assistance.”
Step 5: Pick a WordPress theme.
So you’ve got an address and a plot of land, now it’s time to build your house! You want its exterior to be visually pleasing, and most importantly, you want it to be inviting to your ideal visitor.
My FAVORITE company to buy WordPress themes from is SoloPine. They have very clean, feminine designs. Plus, they have unbeatable support representatives who always respond to you quickly and help you solve any issues you may run into. I previously had their Redwood theme installed and loved it. I recently updated to Oleander and think it’s gorgeous.
Step 6: Install your WordPress Theme
To install your WordPress theme, go to Appearance > Themes and click “Add New.”
Then click “Upload Theme.”
Now ALL you have to do now is upload the .zip file you received when you purchased your theme. DO NOT UNZIP the file. Just upload the zipped file, and you’re good to go!
Now hover over your newly-installed theme and click “Activate.”
Ta da! Go to your site and you’ll see your new WordPress theme!
Step 7: Customize your WordPress theme.
WordPress theme lookin’ a little rough? That’s because now you need to customize the theme. Go to Appearance > Settings > Customize to tweak your theme to look the way you’d like it to look. If you need technical help, contact the maker of your theme.
One of the many reasons I love SoloPine is they include ONE FREE YEAR of tech support with their themes. I email them every time I want to do a bit of advanced customization, such as insert CSS to change the width of my navigation bar, and they always email me back promptly with EXACTLY what I need to do.
Step 8: Start producing awesome content!
Now the real work begins! You’ve got to get into your kitchen (WordPress CMS) and start cooking up meals (content) for your guests (visitors)! (All right, friends, I realize I have now exhausted my metaphor. Thanks for bearing with me!) :)
My biggest piece of advice to beginner bloggers is this: Stop worrying about publishing new posts every day, or even every week. What works best (as in, ranks well in search engines) is high-quality, long blog posts. Take your time to do research and write a blog post that solves someone’s problem. Think of what people are searching for, and write a blog post answering their questions about it. It’s quality over quantity.
That’s a Wrap!
Woohoo! Give yourself a pat on the back because you just built your own business website/blog!