I noticed my recent blogging frenzy has been somewhat contagious – I’ve watched as a few friends have successfully branded themselves and started their own blogs in the past few weeks and it makes me super happy!
If you’ve always wanted to start a blog or want to create a DIY website for your business but weren’t sure how, this post is for you.
Stop stressing about SiteGround v BlueHost v Hostgator…and Wix v Weebly v Squarespace v WordPress…
Let me make it simple:
This post contains affiliate links which means I may get a small commission if you buy something through the link. I only recommend products and services I use and LOVE and think you’ll love too.
Step 1 – Choose a domain name
If you’re starting a blog, this would logically be the name of your blog. If you’re creating a freelancer website or personal website you can use your name or business name.
Make sure to Google your domain name and see if anyone else is using it. You should also check if it’s available as a .com address on GoDaddy. Don’t worry about the prices here because when you register with SiteGround (Step 2 below) you’ll get your domain name for free. Also check social media to make sure you’ll be able to grab your handles.
If you’re looking for tips on how to choose a domain, check out these articles:
Step 2 – Host your own site
I highly recommend hosting your own site. I used to host with WordPress.com (when my domain was mishvo.wordpress.com) for free and that’s great if you’re just using your blog for personal reasons but if you want to grow your audience, monetize your blog, or use your site for business reasons, you need to get off the free platform and dive into the world of self-hosting (a nice unintentional swimming metaphor there;)
You will have much more control. I recommend moving off WordPress.com if you’re using it now as soon as possible so you can start building domain authority and backlinks to your self-hosted (permanent) site and won’t have to deal with setting up or paying for redirects.
If you’re wondering about the different types of self-hosting, I recommend starting off with shared hosting and upgrading if your traffic outgrows it. You can read about the differences between shared hosting v VPS v dedicated here.
Who should I host with?
I am so sick of seeing this asked in Facebook groups because a quick Google search or search in any forum/Facebook group will bring you the obvious answer: SiteGround.
There is just simply no competition.
Their customer service is better than any I have ever encountered. If I have a question (and trust me, I had a lot in the beginning. I didn’t even know what a cpanel was), I can just go to their site and will be chatting with a customer service person in seconds on their live chat.
They have walked me through every step I’ve stumbled over, including transferring everything from my WordPress.com site over to the new site, and creating a redirect for mishvo.com which I accidentally bought before mishvoinmotion.com. So yeah they are really wonderful.
Their prices are slightly higher than BlueHost but I really feel you are getting the value you’re paying for with them.
Now I’ve never used BlueHost, but I’ve heard of many people who have, especially when they’re starting out as bloggers. If you’ve been hanging out in the travel blog space, you’ve probably seen a lot of people recommending Blue Host.
So what convinced me to use Siteground instead of Bluehost?
They are simply the best of the best.
As Aileen from I Am Aileen explains, “[SiteGround is] simply the best. Their live chat is superb, systems are amazing (no downtimes ever since I joined) and they’re very non-techy-friendly. After bad experiences with both Bluehost, HostGator and several other providers, SiteGround just tops the list for me.” And as you can tell by the site she has built, she knows her website stuff!
How do I sign up?
You can go here to get started and get 60% OFF their regular prices.
Now you need to choose your hosting plan. SiteGround has three options to choose from:
- The StartUp plan is perfect for people with one website that are just starting out – $3.95/month
- The GrowBig plan is great value for your money, including the option for multiple websites and the SuperCacher that greatly improves a WordPress and Joomla website speed – $5.95/month I use this one
- The GoGeek plan for those of you who are planning on getting deep into web development or host a ton of sites on your account – $11.95/month
I bought the StartUp plan at first but upgraded to GrowBig once I started freelancing because it allows me to host more than one domain on my account and I needed to build a freelancer website in addition to this blog.
Click “Get Started” on the plan you choose.
Now you have to enter your chosen domain (i.e. yourwebsite.com). This is the website address that you see up in the bar at the top of your browser. You get free domain registration with any SiteGround hosting plan you choose so that’s exciting.
Select “Register a new domain” and fill in your domain name. I recommend using .com. Either way just pay attention to the dropdown menu on the right and select the extension you want.
SiteGround also offers free website transfer if you already bought your domain somewhere else.
Now it’s time to review and complete your order. Something that’s great about SiteGround is that their discount applies no matter how long you sign up for (other hosts only apply the discount for the longest time period, trying to rope you in for a couple years). I would probably go for the 12 months at first and see how you do blogging for a year.
Or if this is a business or personal site you know you’ll have for a while, go for the maximum time (36 months) so you get the discount for as long as possible.
**IMPORTANT: I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the SG Site Scanner but make sure you click the box to get domain privacy. Otherwise anyone can look up your name and address!
(The following screenshot shows an order for the GrowBig plan – your screen might look slightly different if you’re getting the StartUp plan.)
Yay you did it! You have a website now, you just need to put some stuff on it.
Step 3 – Connect Wordpress
You’re gonna want to use WordPress.org to design your site (this is different from the free platform WordPress.com by the way! This site explains the differences). Everyone uses WordPress so there’s lots of help out there on the Internet if you run into trouble and you can either get deep into coding or keep it fairly simple and tech-free if you’re a newbie website person by using plugins (like me).
From the email you received from SiteGround confirming your registration, click the “My Accounts” link.
After you log in you should see the “Website Startup Wizard” which will show up for users who are logging in for the first time. Select “WordPress” and “Proceed”.
Another way to go about this is from your My Account page once you’re logged into Siteground–> Go to the “WordPress Installer” under the WordPress Tools section if it’s there or “WordPress” under the Autoinstallers section.
You’ll need to enter your email address and create a username and password for your WordPress account. I recommend creating a more complex username than simply “admin” for security reasons.
Don’t worry about installing themes yet – just add the basic free WordPress theme for now. You’ll get a custom theme next.
Step 4 – Choosing a WordPress Theme
Now it’s time for the fun part.
So, the free versus paid theme debate: Get a paid theme. It’ll be slicker, better designed, and feature support.
If you insist on pinching pennies here, you can get a free WordPress theme through their site (from your WordPress Dashboard go to “Appearance” then “Themes” and “Add new” to browse the free and/or premium themes).
The best WordPress themes for business and freelancer sites
I use a theme called Make from The Theme Foundry on both my blog and freelancer site. I like the flexibility of this theme in comparison to other free themes. I started out with the free version and later upgraded to pro for two main reasons: I wanted to get rid of the white label at the bottom of my site (I felt it looked unprofessional) and I wanted to be able to add widgets to my builder pages. Meaning, I wanted my front page to automatically update with the newest blog posts.
Divi is another really popular drag-and-drop WordPress theme that comes highly recommended from around the internet.
The best WordPress themes for bloggers
Divi and Make are great for more business-oriented sites but not ideal if you want a more “magazine style” look for a blog you’ll be updating frequently. (I know I use Make on my blog but am now in the market for a new theme!)
Here are some of my favorite themes from Theme Forest:
Many lady bloggers love the Solo Pine themes for a feminine look.
Installing your theme
You can have your new theme up and running within minutes – then you can customize it from the Appearance>Customize section of the Dashboard. Each theme offers different customization options.
Plugins add bits of code to your website to add certain functions beyond what your theme does automatically. You can use plugins to add extra features like a newsletter sign up box, social media widgets, and an SEO tracker. Here are some plugins I use that I recommend:
- Jetpack for WordPress.com – You should see the option to activate this somewhere when you log in to your Dashboard. It’s an all-in-one plugin including stuff like site stats and recent posts. Jetpack can slow down your site, so if you’re using Google Analytics and you have a robust theme already, you probably don’t even need it.
- Akismet – Another one you should already see somewhere when you log in. It will protect your blog from spam. You’ll need to activate it.
- Yoast SEO – You can analyze the SEO rating of each post you write, plus edit the metadata (how the post looks if people find it through a search engine). This is a free plugin you can search for under “Plugins” > “Add New”
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Automatically inserts a tracking code into every page of your site (once you get connected to Google Analytics). This is a free plugin you can search for under “Plugins” > “Add New”
- Mailchimp for WordPress – For connecting your email list sign up with sidebar widgets.
- SiteGround Dynamic Cache – Caching your site will increase its speed. Follow the directions here to set up this SiteGround feature.
Be careful not to install too many plugins because they can slow down your site significantly.
Step 5 – Grab your social media handles
Easy enough! Head to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and wherever else you get social online and create handles for your blog. Try to keep your handles the same as your domain name/blog name to keep the consistency of your brand.
Well that’s all I got for now! Hopefully this has been helpful for getting started with a website or blog of your own. It’s a lot to think about in the beginning but it’s worth it once you have everything set up and you can start writing content.