Hello, friends! How did last week go? Have you had a chance to figure out why you want to blog and what you’d like to blog about? Several of you reached out and, I have to say, I’m SUPER impressed by the work you did. I can’t wait to read the blogs you create.
This week we turn our focus away from the emotional side of creating a blog and turn toward the tech side. (If you already have a blog up and running that you’re happy with, you’re dismissed from this week’s lesson!)
For many people, myself included, dealing with “computer stuff” can feel overwhelming. It’s easy to become discouraged because lots of lovely computer folks seem to speak a different language—at least that’s what it feels like to me.
I didn’t want this guide to feel that way. I wanted something that would be with you step-by-step or, more accurately, a “click by click.” So that’s what I wrote. It’s just like how I write my recipes, in fact. 🙂 So while there are MANY tutorials out there for setting up a blog, none of them sound like the way I’d teach a friend. In fact, I wrote this guide with one friend very clearly in mind. She’s an amazing writer. And the worst tech person ever. (#saidlovingly) I get calls like this, “I just deleted my manuscript. TELL ME WHAT TO DO.” She’s the person I had in mind when I put this together. So if you are nervous about setting up a blog, I really hope you won’t be by the end.
How to Use This Guide
Time Required: About one hour
Before we begin…a word about what I’m going to teach in this guide.
There are many platforms for blogging. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, SquareSpace, etc. I’d need to start a new blog just to cover all the options!
I’m teaching you what I know. And I know WordPress. This is the lens through which I view blogging. I think WordPress works best for blogging. It’s easy enough for a beginner to use and robust enough to grow with you.
The same goes for hosting, I like BlueHost. There are other options available but I’ve found BlueHost to be the most reliable. (Note: I love BlueHost so much that I’m an affiliate. If you use the links provided in this guide, I earn a commission.)
To make your life easy, read through this guide one time before you do anything. Then, when you’re ready to set up your blog, open this post in one browser window or tab. Then open a second browser tab or window. Toggle between the two as you set up your blog. If possible, you could also pull up this post on one screen, like your tablet or phone, (tablet/phone) and use your laptop/desktop to set up your blog. I’ll be with you with each click!
Step One: Name Your Blog Name
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet.
Ah, a blog name. A blog name must be totally perfect, right? Like the spelling of “kitchen” from our friends at TheKitchn.com. It’s right on! And totally the way you’d spell “kitchen.” Not only is spelling important, so is clarity! Look at Buzzfeed.com! So clear! You know just what you’ll find by looking at that name. And you never, ever want to mix words and numbers. The folks at Food52.com told me this, I think.
As you can see from my examples, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to naming your blog. Anyone who tells you there are is a ninny. Seriously. A ninny. If you have great content, it almost doesn’t matter what you name your blog. Give yourself permission to have fun and name your blog whatever sounds good to your ear!
Take some time to brainstorm a few blog names. Chances are, the first name you come up with might already be taken.
Pro Tip: Consider Social Media When Naming Your Blog
My only suggestion is to think about character limits for social media. I can’t use the Twitter handle “GlutenFreeBaking” because it’s too long. (My name also contains too many characters. So I’m stuck with “ElizBarbone.)
Here are the current limits:
Twitter: 15 characters
Facebook Page: 70 characters
Pinterest: 37 characters
My suggestion: stick with something 15 characters or less. Shorter names are easy for folks to remember.
Pro Tip: Pay for the domain name!
There are lots of sites that offer you freebie blog names. Avoid these. As the old saying goes, “There’s no such thing as a free…blog name!”
1. They always look clunky. A totally free blog name usually looks something like this: ThisIsMyBlog.WordPress.com. The tacked on WordPress.com advertises the service who gave it to you for free. When you go with a a freebie name, you do NOT own the domain “ThisIsMyBlog.com. You only have access to ThisIsMyBlog.WordPress.com. At some point, you’re going to want to drop the freebie portion of the name. You’ll eventually want your blog to appear at“ThisIsMyBlog.com.” When this happens, you’ll need to purchase that domain name, in this case, “ThisIsMyBlog.com”. Often you’ll find it’s not available. Someone else owns it! Then you freak out and it’s a big mess.
2. They limit what you can do. When you sign up for a free domain and host, you need to abide by all sorts of rules. When you purchase the domain, it’s your house, your rules. (Or, your blog, your rules. You get the point.)
Save yourself the hassle and purchasing your own name. (And, guys, I’m really cheap. So if I advise spending money, it’s not a suggestion I make lightly. In this case, it’s worth spending the money.)
Purchasing the name for your blog is called, “domain registration”. I recommend you use BlueHost. If you sign up for a year of hosting with them, they’ll give you the domain registration for free. That’s nice, right? (If you buy the domain name without the hosting, it’ll cost you $6.99.)
Step Two: Select Your Blog Name and Hosting Plan
After brainstorming what you’d like to name your blog, head over to BlueHost.com. You should find this nifty little box.
Type your possible blog name into the box. Click next.
Bluehost checks to see if the blog is available. If it is…do a happy dance! If not, BlueHost suggests other names. I’d avoid these as they are usually pretty lame. Brainstorm another name and repeat the process until you find a name that’s available.
Now you need to select your hosting plan. I suggest going with the “starter” plan. (You can always upgrade later as your blog grows.)
When you click “select” BlueHost defaults to a three year plan. Click that drop-down next to account plan and go head and select the 12 Month Price. Why pay upfront for three years when you are just starting out?
You’ll notice that a one year plan costs a little more per month than a three year plan. Since you don’t have to pay for three years upfront, I think paying $2.00 extra per month makes sense. However, this is totally up to you!
Select “Domain Privacy Protection.” It keeps your information, like home address and phone number, private. I doubt you want this information made easily available to the public. It’s worth that $0.99. 🙂
Go ahead and leave the remaining boxes unchecked. Fill in your billing information and then, BOOM, you own a domain name and have a hosting package!
Step Three: Installing WordPress
After you buy your domain and hosting, you need to install a content management system (CMS).
“Elizabeth! What’s a CMS and why the %$#& do I need one?”
Good questions! Think of the CMS as the framework for your blog. If you use Facebook, you know that when you login to Facebook, it looks a certain way. There’s an easy way to post status updates, photos, and annoying political rants that no one wants to read links to things you find awesome.
Your blog functions the same way. The CMS allows you to format your blog, write posts, organize it into categories, and more.
Unlike Facebook, you need to install WordPress on your BlueHost account. This isn’t hard but there’s lots of clicking involved. Pour yourself a cup of something yummy. It’s time to install WordPress!
Go to BlueHost.com and click “login”.
Type in your username and password.
You’re now at the hosting panel. Scroll down until you see, “Install WordPress.” Click on it.
Click “Install.” (Getting exciting, eh?)
Your domain should appear in the box above. (If you own several domains, use the drop-down to select the domain you want use.) Leave “directory” blank and click “check domain.”
Leave “Show Advanced Options” unchecked. Click on “I have read the terms and conditions.” (Which I’m sure you TOTALLY read, right? RIGHT!)
Now WordPress will install. As soon as it does, an ad pops up! Click the “x” to close this ad. It will NOT close on it’s own and you’ll sit there for nothing.
YAY! How great is this? You installed WordPress! Click on “View Credentials.”
You will a username and password. I’ve blocked mine from this photo. Copy your password. (Hightlight it with your mouse and right click to save your password to your clipboard.)
Click on Admin URL.
After you click on Admin URL, you will be taken to the login area for your WordPress Site.
Type in your Username and paste your password. (Right click on your mouse to paste the password.)
This is your dashboard. It’s where the magic happens for your blog! From here, you’ll create posts. We’ll tackle how to create a post later in the series. Today we’ll focus on making your blog pretty.
But first, we need to take care of one security matter. We need to create a new password. You want to get rid of the one BlueHost assigned you.
Scroll down until you see “Users.” Hover over it. A pop out will appear. Click on “all users.”
There will only be one user. You. 🙂 Hover over your name. “Edit” will appear. Click on it.
Change your Nickname. It will probably be your email address. Get rid of that. I changed mine to “Elizabeth.” Whatever you type here will be publicly displayed. Use your real first name or a nom de plume. It’s up to you.
Scroll down until you see “Account Management.” Click on “generate password.”
Type in a new password. You need to remember this. You’ll use this to login to your blog. Once you change this password, the original password BlueHost assigned to your blog will no longer work. Click “Update Profile” to save the changes. Done!
Step Four: Installing a Theme
Have you ever visited an ugly blog? My blog was SO UGLY and hard to navigate before I switched to WordPress! Thankfully, WordPress makes it fairly easy for anyone to have a lovely blog by using something called a “theme.”
As the name implies, a theme changes the way your site looks and behaves without changing WordPress itself. A good theme makes a blog look good and makes it easy to navigate and friendly (or not!) to search engines. You could spend thousands of dollars on a custom WordPress theme. That’s not what we are doing here. We’re all about the DIY.
Free WordPress Themes
WordPress comes with a few free themes preinstalled. They’re fairly basic and anyone who sets up a WordPress blog has these themes. So they lend a very generic look to your site. If you’re on a tight budget or aren’t sure what you want to do with your blog, start with the free themes!
Let’s look at the installed free themes:
From the dashboard, click on Appearance —> Themes.
Here are two themes of the themes. On my example blog, “Twenty Fifteen” is active.
You can take a look at each free theme and see if one grabs you. Click on the theme —–> click “live preview.” See if you like what you see.
If you don’t like any of the pre-installed themes, go ahead and click “Add Themes.” You’ll see lots of themes. Some are free. Some aren’t. If you don’t like any of the free themes and have a little money (about $50 to $100) to spend, it’s time to talk about premium themes!
Premium WordPress Themes
With all those free themes, why bother spending money on a theme? Answer: they’re TOTALLY worth the money!
Designers have spent time creating themes that not only look great but make your site function really well.
There are countless premium themes to chose from. However, I’m only going to focus on one: The Genesis Framework by StudioPress. (Note: I love StudioPress so much that I’m a BlueHost affiliate. If you use the links provided in this guide, I earn a commission.) It’s the powerful theme that I use on my site. Genesis is what’s known as “parent” theme. On it’s own it’s not really visually attractive. It’s more of a workhorse for making your blog search engine friendly, easy to navigate, and mobile-responsive. (This means that your site can be easily viewed on phones and tablets.) For beauty, you need something called a “child” theme. A child theme REQUIRES a parent theme to work.
Think about the Genesis Framework, your parent theme, like a well-built empty house. The child themes are the couches, curtains, and exquisite pottery! While Genesis is the only parent theme I recommend, there are dozens of child themes that go with it. Pick the one you like. (If you’re a food blogger, I suggest the Foodie Theme. It has a recipe index!)
Pro Tip: Parent and Child Themes for WordPress
Remember: a child theme needs an installed parent theme to work.
Pro Tip: Buy Genesis Framework AND a Child Theme before Installing Genesis
Before installing the Genesis Framework, I STRONGLY suggest you also purchase a child theme. You want to install them at the same time.
Once you purchase your Genesis Theme and your child theme, we’re ready to install
How to Install the Genesis Framework
Click on Appearance —-> Themes. You’ll see a button that says “add new.” Click on it.
On your computer, find the Genesis Theme. (You want to upload the .zip file.)
Once you’ve located the file, click “install now.”
Now it’s time to install your child theme.
Repeat the steps, only this time, select your child theme. In my case, it’s the Foodie Pro Theme.
As you did for the Genesis Framework, click “install now.”
You’re almost done! Only one thing remains: making your site active.
Once you click that button, your site is LIVE.
Can you believe it? You did it! YOU CREATED A BLOG!
That’s enough for this week! Next time, we are going to create our first post. Have fun until then!
Please Note: There are affiliate links in this guide. If you use the links provided, I earn a commission which supports this site. Thank you for using the links!