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 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…
Step 1 – 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/blog 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;)
Who should I host with?
I am so sick of seeing this asked because a quick Google search or post in any forum/Facebook group will bring you the obvious answer: SiteGround.
There is simply just 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 Blue Host but I really feel you are getting the value you’re paying for with them. Now I’ve never used Blue Host but I’ve heard of many people who do, 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.
You’re going to want 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 – $7.95/month
- 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 – $14.95/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.
Now you have to choose your 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.
If you want tips on how to choose a domain, check out these articles:
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.
**IMPORTANT: I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the HackAlert monitoring and you don’t need the premium support just based on my amazing experience with their “regular” support services, 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 2 – Connect Wordpress
How do I get WordPress working on my site?
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 plug ins (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 “Get WordPress preinstalled on this account” 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. Don’t worry about installing themes yet – you can do that later.
How do I make my site look cool?
Now it’s time for the fun part.
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).
I use a theme called Make from The Theme Foundry; 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.
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.
You’re also gonna wanna get you some plug ins. Plug ins can be used to further customize your site beyond what you get to do within your theme or add extra features like a newsletter sign up box, social media widgets, and an SEO tracker. Here are some plug ins 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 must-have plug in including stuff like site stats and recent posts.
- 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 meta data and how the post looks if people find it through a search engine. Creates XML sitemaps.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – Automatically inserts a tracking code into every page of your site (once you get connected to Google Analytics)
- SumoMe – Great for creating email list sign up forms (scroll box, smartbar, etc.) and you can also see heat maps on pages of your site and see where users are clicking the most.
- Mailchimp for WordPress – For connecting your email list sign up with sidebar widgets.
- Instagram feed – Put your Instagram feed somewhere on your site
Step 3 – 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 consistency of your brand.
Well that’s all I got for now! Hopefully this has been helpful for getting started with a 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.
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