WordPress is built for blogging. If you want to build a content-heavy website, then this CMS is going to be your best friend.
WordPress makes setting up a blog incredibly easy. After all, it was initially created as a blogging platform, and it hasn’t lost its roots.
Below you’ll learn the ins and outs of how to start a WordPress blog.
(Note: If you’d like to learn the ins and outs of WordPress, and the benefits of choosing this as your blogging platform, read our guide to “What Is WordPress?” But, if you’ve already chosen WordPress, and you’re ready to dig in and get started building your blog, read on. )
Even if you’re a complete beginner and you’ve never even thought about creating a website before, then this post is for you. We’re starting entirely from scratch and leaving no stone unturned (we even included some how-to videos), by the end of this post you’ll have a functional WordPress site, ready to publish your first post.
1. Set Up Your Web Hosting and Domain Name
The first things you need before you start building your WordPress blog are a domain name and web hosting. Without these two things, there’s nowhere to install WordPress and have a website that lives on the internet.
To keep things simple, your domain name (or your web address) is what people will type into the address bar to access your website. While your web host is where you’ll store your website’s files. When someone types your domain name into the address bar, their web browser communicates with the server and displays your website’s files. In this case, those files will be your WordPress blog!
BONUS! If you buy a web hosting package for 1 year or longer, HostGator will give you a FREE domain for the first year.
Alright, let’s pick up a domain name and hosting account. Need help choosing the best domain name for your blog? Check out this article.
First, head over to the HostGator Managed WordPress Hosting page. You’ll see that there are a ton of different packages to choose from:
Generally, it’s a better idea to go with the Standard or the Business plan, as these plans give you the freedom to add more domains to your hosting account and also come equipped with more advanced features.
Once you’ve decided on your plan, click on the ‘Buy Now!’ button. On this next screen, you’ll be able to add a domain to your order.
The domain search feature is built into the signup page, so the tool will perform a search on any domain you enter and show you which domain name extensions are available.
Once you’ve found the perfect domain, then you can enter your payment information to complete your purchase and officially register it!
After you’ve finished signing up, you’ll receive an email from HostGator that contains your cPanel link. This control panel is what we’ll be using to install WordPress, so keep an eye out for this email before you proceed with the next step.
2. Install WordPress on Your Site
To install WordPress, click on the control panel link you received in your welcome email, then enter your username and password.
Your control panel should look similar to the image below:
You can install WordPress quickly by clicking on the ‘Softaculous Apps Installer’ icon. Softaculous will guide you through the steps to complete your set up or you can follow these instructions.
Once the installation is complete, you’ll be directed to a confirmation screen. Your login details will be on this screen, and they’ll also be emailed to you. Make sure you keep these in a secure place, as we’ll need these to finish setting up your site.
3. Choose and Customize Your WordPress Theme
Now you have the foundation laid. Your domain and hosting are purchased, and WordPress is installed on your site. But, you can’t start customizing your site just yet, to do that you’ll need to install a WordPress theme.
Themes are how WordPress handles site customization and adding new features to your site.
To install a new theme on your site, we’re going to first login to your WordPress dashboard. To do this, you’ll be using a link that looks something like ‘mywebsite.com/wp-admin.’ On this screen you’ll enter your username and password, and click ‘Login.’
This will bring you to your WordPress dashboard, which will be your home base for customizing your site. It’ll look more or less like the image below:
By default, our site will be using a basic WordPress theme, but you’ll probably want to change this out to a theme that better suits your site.
To do this navigate to Appearance>Themes on your left-hand navigation bar, then click ‘Add New.’ On the next screen, you’ll be able to choose between thousands of different free themes available from the WordPress themes repository.
You can sort themes via popularity, publish date, or even use the feature filter, or search for a specific name or keyword. We’re going to filter by most popular and see what kind of themes are available.
After a little scrolling, we found the ‘Escapade’ theme. This travel blog theme is perfect for an aspiring travel blogger. Once you’ve found a theme you like, you can click the ‘Preview’ button to get an idea for what the theme will look like, or go for it and click ‘Install.’
Once you click ‘Install’ WordPress will install the theme for you, all you have to do is click the ‘Activate’ button once the installer is complete.
Now, this theme will be the new face of your WordPress blog. You can further customize your site by navigating to Appearance>Customize. Here you’ll get a series of customization options like changing your site color scheme, adding a background image, changing your logo, and a lot more. The customization options you have will depend on the theme that you installed.
Feel free to spend time playing around with the Customization menu until you have a blog design that you’re happy with.
Create a Site Menu for Your WordPress Blog
To make site navigation easier, you’re going to need to create a site navigation menu. Your theme might have already created a basic menu for your site. But, if not, here’s how you get to your menu section and create a new menu.
Within your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance>Menus.
On this screen, you’ll be able to create new menu items, rearrange your menus, choose from existing pages, and assign your menus to different locations on your site.
Add New Pages to Your WordPress Blog
WordPress treats your pages in a similar fashion to your posts. But, in our case, our pages will be things like our home page, about page, contact page, and more.
Almost every kind of website will need these standard pages. They might have come pre-created when WordPress was installed. But, if not, then you’ll want to create these yourself.
To do this navigate to Pages>Add New.
Then, once you’re satisfied with your page, click ‘Publish’ and you’re good to go.
To manage all of your website pages and see which ones you’ve published you can navigate to Pages>All Pages, and this will give you a list of every page you’ve created so far:
As you can see from the image above, there are duplicate pages that can be deleted.
Customize Your WordPress Sidebar
One of the final things we’ll want to customize is our sidebar. This is the space to the right of your text, and it’s common across a lot of popular blogs. In this area you’ll typically showcase your recent posts, insert an email sign up box, include advertising space, and more.
We’ll customize this area with what’s known as widgets. These are drag and drop sections of code that add new features to our sidebar.
Navigate over to Appearance>Widgets, and you’ll see a screen like the one below.
Then, on the ‘Primary Sidebar’ section we can drag widgets from the left-hand side, into the ‘Primary Sidebar’ box. You can add things like image galleries, recent posts, a search bar, custom text, and a lot more.
This Widget section is also how you’ll customize other widgetized aspects of your theme, like your footer section, certain home page sections, and more.
When you install certain WordPress plugins sometimes they’ll add a widget to this area as well.
4. Add New Blog Features with WordPress Plugins
With your navigation menu created, and your initial pages created, it’s time to add a few must-have WordPress plugins.
Plugins are how WordPress handles site customizations. This allows you to add new features like social sharing buttons, speed optimization features, image sliders, SEO optimization, and a lot more.
To add new plugins to your blog, navigate to Plugins>Add New.
Here you can browse through popular plugins, search via keyword, or even install from the list of recommended plugins.
With thousands of different WordPress plugins to choose from, the search can get a little overwhelming, but this article is a great place to start:
Once you’ve found a plugin that you want to install, hover over the plugin and click ‘Install Now,’ then ‘Activate.’
5. Publish Your First Blog Post on WordPress
You’ve finally made it; it’s time to publish your first blog post! As you’ll soon learn, this is very easy to do.
From your WordPress dashboard, click on Posts>Add New. This will bring us to a new screen where we can write out our new blog.
Underneath the title all you have to do is click to start writing.
If you want to add additional media to your blog post you can do that by hovering over the section below your sentence and selecting the ‘Add Image’ icon:
Now, you can upload an image from your computer, select an image you previously uploaded, or insert an image from a URL.
With the content block feature, you can add image galleries, new headings, and a lot more.
Once you’re satisfied with your post, all you have to do is click ‘Publish…’ in the upper right-hand corner of your editor:
Now your first blog will be live for the world to read!
If you ever want to see all of the posts you’ve written, or delete certain posts, then navigate to Posts>All Posts.
Just click on the headline and you’ll be able to open and edit your blog posts. From this screen you’ll also have the option to delete multiple posts at the same time.
By now you have a super solid foundation. Your site is setup, has some basic functionality, and you’re working on your first post. Your blogging dreams are one step closer to coming true.
Now it’s time to get to writing and make your blog a success!