How to Start a Blog with WordPress (Step by Step Guide)
People often ask me how to start a blog such as Best Sydney Walks. Starting a WordPress blog isn’t super complicated, but it’s important to get the basics right. Once that’s done, the next challenge is to drive more traffic to your brand new WordPress blog.
Running a blog for most people is a hobby. You can use it to to share your thoughts, your ideas and your personal experiences. For others, a blog is a business. A blog can generate a modest side-income stream or even a full-time income that pays all the bills.
To help you get started, I’ve created this simple guide so you can start your very own blog with WordPress.
Step 1: Register a Domain Name
Before you register a domain name, you will need to think about the name of your blog. This is the most important step because the name of your blog should be permanent.
The name of your blog is usually the same as the domain name. So if your blog is called “John’s Travel Adventures”, then your domain name would be “johnstraveladventures.com”, or “johns-travel-adventures.com”.
How to Register a Domain?
If you’re Australia based, you don’t have to register your new domain with an Australian registrar. You can register your domain anywhere you like.
When registering a domain name, you can choose a hosting package with the same company. It’s perfectly fine though to have your domain registration and hosting in two different places, but it’s easier to use one company for both.
It is recommended for Australian businesses to choose a .au domain as this will generate trust and credibility, also from a search engine perspective. However, if you’re a blogger, you don’t necessarily need to choose a .au domain, even if your blog is focused on Australia.
Step 2: Host Your WordPress Blog
Hosting a WordPress blog is very affordable. But choosing a good hosting provider and a suitable hosting package can be quite overwhelming as there are so many options available.
Best Sydney Walks is hosted at DreamHost and I couldn’t be happier.
Typically, if you’re a new blogger, you will choose a shared hosting account. This simply means your website will be hosted on a server that is shared with other websites. For a brand new website, this is perfectly fine.
Once your blog gets more traffic, you can always upgrade to a more expensive, but better performing virtual private server. DreamHost has excellent VPS options available and upgrading is not difficult at all.
Signing up with DreamHost is an easy process:
- Navigate to DreamHost (40% discount offer)
- Create an account
- Pick your free domain
- Select the shared hosting plan
- Select additional options (for example SSL certificate)
- Submit payment details
If you’ve never used WordPress before, you can get DreamHost to install WordPress on your new website for you. Very easy!
I see many first-time bloggers make a crucial mistake. They choose free hosting with WordPress, Weebly, Wix or any of the other platforms that offer free hosting.
If you have a domain with free hosting, for example yourname.wordpress.com, or yourname.weebly.com, or yourname.wix.com, you don’t actually own your website. It also lacks professionalism and credibility to have a domain that isn’t yours.
So I always recommend to register your very own domain and choose a shared hosting package.
Step 3: Install WordPress
WordPress powers almost a third of all Internet websites.
While there are other blogging frameworks out there, such as Wix, Weebly and Joomla, WordPress is the best choice in terms of ease-of-use, customisability, robustness and overall support in the blogging community.
There are two different ways to start blogging with WordPress. You can go for the all-in-one option which includes domain and hosting, but this means your domain will end with .wordpress.com.
As mentioned above, this is not a good idea, as you don’t actually own your website. The best way to use WordPress is to register your own domain and to install WordPress.
Web hosting providers like DreamHost make this very easy. They can install WordPress for you with a simple click on a button.
Step 4: Choose a Premium WordPress Theme
Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next step is to find a suitable WordPress theme. You can choose between free themes or premium themes. The obvious benefit of a free theme is that they are free!
While most free themes are pretty good, they often have a very basic look and feel and a limited set of features. If you’re just starting out, a free theme with no bells and whistles may be just fine for your blog.
A premium WordPress theme however typically offers more features such as funky widgets and special customisation tools. There are literally thousands of premium themes available on the market and picking the right one is not only difficult but also very time consuming.
Thrive Themes is highly regarded in the blogging community and some of the biggest blogs actually use a WordPress theme developed by Thrive Themes.
Best Sydney Walks uses the FocusBlog theme made by Thrive Themes. It’s a great theme that is easy to configure and performs really well.
It’s fast, easy to use and includes some very useful design features that allow me to create great layouts without the need to write complicated HTML or CSS code.
MyThemeShop is a highly successful shop that sells premium WordPress themes as well as popular WordPress plugins.
All their themes are fully mobile responsive, have great performance and come with regular updates. In addition, they provide 24/7 technical support should you need it.
Step 5: Install WordPress Plugins
There are literally millions of WordPress plugins available that can solve all of your WordPress problems. Some plugins are important, other plugins are unnecessary.
Here is a list of plugins that I personally recommend. They are free, but also have premium versions available. You can easily install these plugins via the Add New Plugin section within your WordPress dashboard.
The best WordPress anti-spam plugin available. Akismet does a great job at filtering out spam comments.
- W3 Total Cache:
W3 Total Cache is one of the best plugins to help improve your the performance of your website. When your site grows bigger, it’s important to start looking at how fast your site loads. A slow website will push visitors away.
- Contact Form 7:
Your website needs a contact form like Best Sydney Walks does. Contact Form 7 is a plugin that helps you configure simple web forms and easily integrate them into your WordPress pages.
- Yoast SEO:
My favourite SEO plugin that helps you optimise individual blog posts so that the search engines like them. SEO can be complicated, and Yoast helps to get certain things right. If you want to be serious about blogging though, I strongly recommend you dive deep into the world of SEO to take advantage of it.
Sumo offers a suite of tools to help you increase your traffic and boost your social media presence.
Step 6: Start Writing
Once you have everything set up, it’s time to start publishing content!
It’s important to start thinking about a structure for your site. In WordPress you can easily do this be defining categories, with each category containing several articles that cover topics that fit within the category.
For example, in Best Sydney Walks I have a category named Coastal Walks that contains several articles that describe different coastal walks in and around Sydney. Sounds simple and logical, but you will soon find out that creating a good structure of your site is actually quite hard.
Once you have a structure in mind, you can start writing blog posts and assign them to categories. Also make sure to publish an about page, where you explain what your WordPress blog is about, and a contact page, with a form where visitors can submit their questions or feedback.
Step 7: Create Social Media Accounts
Love it or hate it, a blog without at least one social media channel can hardly be considered a blog anymore.
So even if you’re not a social media fan, it is still important to go social with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whichever channel you prefer.
Why Use Social Media?
Social Media can help your blog in different ways:
- It’s a fun way to grow your audience
- You can increase traffic to your blog
- If you manage your social media channels properly, it will increase the credibility and trustworthiness
- Active and engaging social media accounts will also have a positive impact on your search engine visibility
Don’t feel pressured though to get involved in all types of social media. Managing social media can be very time consuming with relatively little return in the beginning of your blog journey.
I recommend to start with just one or two social media accounts. Once your blog picks up, you can always sign up for another one or two.
Step 8: Track Your Website Traffic
When your blog is live, you want to know who visits your site, where they come from, how long they stick around, and so forth. You can get access to these kinds of statistics by installing Google Analytics in your website.
Simply sign up, follow the steps to verify ownership of your site, install a little piece of code in your site, and start tracking! Google Analytics is very easy to understand and can help you get better insights into your audience and how to serve it better.
It’s also wise to sign up for Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). Search Console gives you technical feedback around the overall quality of your website and will tell you when there are issues that you should resolve.
For example, if your sitemap isn’t configured properly, Search Console will tell you about it. In addition, Search Console will tell you if there are any HTML errors that you would otherwise never find out.
Bing (the search engine powered by Microsoft) has a similar suite of tools, called Bing Webmaster Tools. I recommend signing up with them too.
Affordable domain registration and hosting.
Top quality premium WordPress themes and plugins.
Top quality premium WordPress themes.
Technical website insights offered by Google.
Essential website tracking statistics.