A few days ago, one of my friends, who has a startup, asked me to help him set up his site on WordPress and then set start a blog on it.
It took me a few hours to set everything for him, where a major part of my time was spent explaining each step to him.
When you first start a blog, it could be overwhelming (especially if you're doing it on our own).
So, I thought it would be a good idea to create a simple checklist that one can follow when starting a new blog.
To make it even easier, I have recorded videos showing you the exact steps to take when starting a blog/website. For most sections, there is also an FAQ section where I list common queries I hear about that topic.
So here are the exact steps to follow when starting a blog (in the given sequence).
Note: This guide is for people who want to start a self-hosted blog or a website. This would require you to invest in the necessary tools and services. If you're looking for a free blog, this article is not meant for you.
1. If you don't have a domain, buy one
This is the first step when you want to start a blog or a website.
Your domain name is what your website URL that will be used to access your site.
You can buy domain from NameCheap or Godaddy (as these are relatively cheaper). Remember to get privacy protection for your domain, else your email would be visible to anyone who does a domain lookup on Who is. On NameCheap, you can get privacy protection for free.
While there is no restriction on what domain name to choose, it's better to have a name that reflects what that website/blog is about.
I booked the domain name CraftOfBlogging.com for this site as it's about blogging.
Also, it's better to have a domain name which is short and easy to remember.
Below are some common queries about getting a domain name.
Which domain extension should I get? (.com vs others)
I would recommend getting the .com extension if you can. In case it's not available, then you can choose others as well.
The reason I recommend getting a .com domain is because it's popular and easy to share. Apart from it, there is no additional benefit of having a .com extension.
If you don't get a .com domain, there is nothing to worry about. A lot of awesome websites that make tons of money and have huge following don't have a .com extension.
When getting a non .com domain, just do a quick check if the .com domain of the URL you want is already in use and if it's ranking well in search engines. In case it isn't (which happens a lot), you can safely get a non .com extension. But in case it is, I would recommend getting some other domain name. You don't want to be competing an already established website with the same name.
Are there any SEO benefits to having a .com domain? Does it rank better?
I have many sites that are not .com and rank as expected. Google strives on giving the best information for a searched query. If it comes from a non-.com site, that will be ranked above a .com domain.
For how long should you register the domain name?
You can get it for a year and then renew later. Or you can register it for multiple years at one go.
It's completely up to you. Just make sure you renew it before it expires.
What if I am targeting a specific region/country? Should I get the extension of that country?
Suppose you only want to focus on India as your target audience, there are two ways to go about it:
- Get the .com domain and specify the target country as India. This is covered in the last section about Google Search Console (where you can tell Google about your preferred country).
- Get the country specific domain (such as .in for India or .fr for France) and build your blog on it. If you get a country specific extension, it's a signal for Google that you're site is meant for the audience in that country.
2. Get a Reliable Hosting
Once you get a domain name, you only have an address to a website.
For your website to work, it needs to have content (articles/videos), images, and many other things that we will cover later.
You need a place to store all these files. And that's what hosting does.
When you take hosting space, it allows you to host your website (and all the files related to your site) on a server.
It's important to choose a hosting service that is reliable and safe. After all, you don't want your website to be unreachable or slow (or worse - hacked).
When I started my blog 5 years ago, I took shared hosting from GoDaddy. As my traffic increased, I realized Godaddy was not going to work for me. My blog was often unreachable and sometime painfully slow.
I still remained with Godaddy for a few years as I worried about the technical challenges of moving away from one hosting company to the other. I had on clue how to migrate a site and what to do in case anything goes wrong.
Until SiteGround came along.
SiteGround made it look so easy - easy to a technically challenged chump like me. It took only a few hours for them to migrate my site (and there was no downtime at all).
Now all my sites are hosted with SiteGround (earlier I had some hosted with BlueHost and HostGator as well).
I recommend getting the hosting from SiteGround as the hosting high-quality and their support is world-class.
If you already have a blog, you can migrate it to SiteGround for free (when you take there GrowBig or GoGeek plan).
Below is a video where I show you the options available in SiteGround and how to go about getting the hosting from it.
Below are some of the common queries I hear about web hosting.
Would a good hosting improve my site speed?
Absolutely! When your site is powered with high-speed servers, it will load faster.
What are the things I need to know when buying hosting?
While I am no expert, I have done enough research to know what to look for when buying the hosting for your website.
- Good support: While this has nothing to do with infrastructure, having the comfort of a good support is extremely important. SiteGround excels in this area.
- Single Site Vs Multi Site: Some hosting plans would allow only one site to be hosted, while some would allow multiple sites. If you plan to start multiple sites, choose accordingly.
- Web Space: This is the disk space available to you to store your files. SiteGround's Startup plan gives 10GB space, which is more than enough. The space is typically consumed by files such as images. It's not recommended to have videos on your own server. You can use YouTube for hosting the videos and embed on your site.
- Bandwidth: This one is tricky. A lot of hosting companies will promise unlimited bandwidth, only to ask you to upgrade as your site gets more traffic. SiteGround is upfront about it and says that there StartUp plan can manage up to 10K page views a month (which extends up to 25K if you use a CDN).
- Server Location: It's best to get a server close to your target audience. For my site where the audience is in US, my server is based out of US. For Indian audience, it's in Singapore.
- SSL Certificate: SiteGround gives a free SSL certificate with all their hosting plans. And it's as simple as clicking a button (I cover how to do this later in this article). Make sure you get free SSL when taking the hosting.
- Site Backup: I almost lost my site while upgrading it to a higher plan in GoDaddy. Post that I had to buy an additional site backup plan from them. Thankfully, daily backup is FREE in SiteGround (another reason for me to recommend it).
What does shared hosting mean?
Shared hosting mean that a server that hosts your site will be shared by many sites. This means that all these sites will have limited resources available to use.
Shared hosting is like you living as a paying guest. While you do have access to everything in the house, you have to share it with other people. And when your family grows, you can move to your own house (or a dedicated hosting when talking about websites).
When you start a blog, you're hardly using any resources. It's only when your blog starts growing that you'll need more resources. At that point, you can upgrade your hosting to a more resourceful shared hosting or even dedicated hosting.
3. Install WordPress
WordPress is a content management system that allows you to manage your blog.
Let's say you want write a blog post, where do you do that? You need a place to write those words... right?
WordPress give you an interface where you can manage your blog and add content to it.
With WordPress, you can create new posts and pages, add images and videos, change the look and feel of your site, add plugins to get enhanced functionalities (as we'll see later in this article), etc.
Once you have the hosting, you need to install WordPress (it's FREE).
In the video below, I show you how to install WordPress in case you have the hosting from SiteGround. The process would be the same from any hosting provider.
Below are some of the common queries I hear about WordPress.
Are there any alternatives to WordPress?
Yes. There are other content management systems such as Joomla, Drupal, etc. Some people also use CMS such as Wix or Weebly.
While each of these have their pros and cons, I strongly recommend WordPress. It runs 30% of the web and therefore has a lot of products and support around it.
While WordPress may have a bit of a learning curve, once you're comfortable with it, it makes managing a website/blog really easy. (I have done a detailed WordPress walk through video later in this article).
I have a little bit experience with Wix and Weebly and I found it easy to use but limited in functionality. Over the years, I have helped a lot of people to migrate form Wix/Weebly to WordPress. I suggest you start with WordPress only.
Should I have www in my website URL?
It doesn't matter!
You can have a website with or without www in the url. It's completely up to you and there is no benefit of one over the other.
To give you an example, Facebook has www in it's URL, and Twitter doesn't.
I prefer not having www in my sites, but that's just a personal preference.
4. Install the SSL Certificate
An SSL certificate has gained importance in the past few years. It makes your website/blog be seen as safe.
Once you install an SSL certificate, you'll see a green padlock when opening your site.
Now it's not just about the green padlock. The world is moving towards sites with SSL and sooner or later you'll have to get one.
And this is specially important if you collect payment information or email address on your blog.
Apart from this, it's also a ranking factor (not a big one, but one nonetheless).
The good news is that with SiteGround, getting an SSL certificate is as simple as clicking a button (literally).
Watch the video below on how to enable SSL on your site:
I have experience with Godaddy and Hostgator, and installing an SSL certificate was a pain with these hosting companies. I had to pay for the SSL, there was minimal help available, and the process seemed complex.
Another area where SiteGround excels (as the SSL certificate is free and has one-click installer).
Does having an SSL certificate impacts ranking?
While I have not seen any significant change due to it, it would be safe to assume that sites without an SSL may be at a disadvantage some time in the future (if not already).
I already have a blog. Would adding SSL (moving from http to https) impact my rankings?
No! Once you have moved to the https version of your site, you can 301 redirect all your links.
There is no loss is ranking when doing this (speaking from personal experience).
5. Configure WordPress Settings
When you install WordPress for the first time, there are a few settings you need to specify.
This is a one time activity, and once done, you're all set.
Below is a WordPress walk-through video where I cover the basic settings to do and the stuff you can do in WordPress:
6. Get a Good Lightweight Theme
A theme is what decides how your blog looks and works.
When you install WordPress, you get a default theme to begin with. While there is nothing wrong with it, it's not very friendly and it's the default theme (so everyone who's lazy to not change it has it).
Since a theme has a huge impact on how your site looks and the speed of your site, I recommend making an investment in getting a good light-weight theme.
I have experimented with a lot of different themes, and my favorite one is GeneratePress.
It's super simple to use and loads extremely fast.
In the video below, I cover how to install the GeneratePress theme and how to customize it.
While I highly recommend getting a premium theme like GeneratePress, in case you're not in a position to make this investment, you can install and use their free version. It allows some customization and can get you started.
Does a theme have an impact on site speed?
Yes! When a theme loads, there can be many things it needs to work properly (such as scripts, fonts, css). Some themes are heavy as it has a lot of these parts to load, which impact your site speed.
GeneratePress is a light-weight theme that loads at a lightning speed.
7. Install the Essential Plugins
WordPress is an open-source content management system.
While it's quite basic when used in isolation, there are a lot of plugins (Free and Paid) you can use to enhances WordPress functionalities.
Related: How to o install a plugin in WordPress.
Here is a list of some essential plugins that you should consider installing as soon as you have WordPress installed.
No one enjoys going through thousands on spam comments and identifying the genuine ones. But that's what you'd have to do if you don't do anything about it.
Akismet applies a protection that filters out spam comments.
It's a free plugin and all you need to do is create an account and add your site to it.
2. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is a free plugin that helps you make your article search engine friendly.
This works as a compass guiding you in the right direction when writing articles. There are specific factors it checks for, and tells you whether you've done it right or not.
Note that you don't need Yoast to rank in search engines. Also, you don't need to get everything right every time. It could become an obsession to get all the dots green, but you shouldn't try too much. If something looks good to you and Yoast disagree, feel free to ignore it. I rarely get all the dots green myself.
Apart from assisting in writing SEO-friendly articles, Yoast plugin also helps you in many other ways:
- It generates sitemap for you site (we will see later in this article why this is useful and what to do with it).
- It helps you construct how the post looks like when shared on Facebook/Twitter.
3. WP Smush
WP Smush is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to reduce the size of your images.
When you upload a heavy image on your page, it will lead to a higher load time. Wp Smush automatically reduces the size and helps you load your site faster.
While this is a good plugin, I recommend you don't just rely on this plugin to do all the smushing.
Before uploading an image to WordPress, try to minimize the size of the image. I use a free service - TinyPNG - to make my images lighter.
4. Easy Table of Contents
This plugin allows you to quickly create table of contents in an article.
It goes through all the headers (H1, H2, H3..) that you have in the article, and automatically generates a table of content.
This plugin allows a lot of customization. For example, if you only want the H2 and H3 to appear in the table of content list, you can specify that.
You can also change the text of a heading so that it shows something different in the ToC.
These are just some of the plugins to start with. Based on what you need, you can use plugins made for it.
Before installing a plugin, make sure you check that it has a sizable number of downloads and have been updated recently.
Is there a limit to the number of plugin I can install?
There is no limit, but as a rule of thumb, the lesser the better.
When you install a plugin, it add some scripts to your site to perform. For example, if I use the Easy Table of Content pluign, it will add the ToC which is being generated using a script. This leads to a slight increase in load time.
I try to keep the number of plugins to a minimum, but this is a trade-off between speed and functionality. So only install the plugins you absolutely need.
8. Add Google Analytics Code to Your Site
Google Analytics allows you to keep a track of how many people are visiting your site, which pages are getting most traffic, what country is the traffic coming from, what channels are sending the traffic, etc.
This is a free service from Google and all you need to do is place a simple code in your site to start the analytics going.
9. Add Your Site + Sitemaps to Google Search Console
A sitemap is a collection of links of all the content on your site.
- A post sitemap would have links to all the posts.
- A page sitemap would have links to all the pages..
- A category sitemap would have links to all the categories.
You get the idea.
Google Search Console is again a free service from Google that allows you to accurately keep track of search engine analytics.
Within search console, you can check what pages are getting traffic, what keywords are these pages ranking for, what position are these ranking for a keyword, etc. (allow it a few weeks to get the data when you add your site for the first time)
As your site grow, this information becomes a goldmine. You can use this to improve existing articles or create new ones.
Adding a site to Google Search Console may seem a bit complex for someone who has just started a blog.
Here is a video where I show the exact steps on adding a site to Google Search Console.
I have tried to cover a lot of ground in this article (and the videos).
While the entire process to start a blog and setting it up is quite straight forward, if you're new to this world, it may feel overwhelming. And to add to it, there are always multiple options available for all tools and services.
I truly believe in the tools and services I have recommended and I use these on all my sites. But I still encourage you to look at alternatives (if you have time and you want to) and make informed decisions.
If you think this tutorial lacks something obvious or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments section.
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