Here it is… how to set up a blog: the technical stuff.
If you haven’t already read my post about everything to do before spending money on your blog, go back and check that one out. It’s important that you understand what your blog is about and who it’s for before you set up the blog itself.
If you’ve already read that post and worked through each of the action items, it’s now time to set up the technical side of your blog! So exciting!
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How to Set Up Hosting
Hosting. Domain. WordPress. If you’re completely new to blogging, all of these different terms can be really confusing. What are all these things and how do they relate?
So here’s the answer: Your host is the land you rent. Your domain is the RV you park on that land. And WordPress is the interior design and furniture that makes your RV pretty and functional.
Choose a domain name
First, you’ll want to choose your domain name. Your domain name is your website URL. For example, my blog’s domain name is jamimico.com.
You will want your blog’s domain name to match the blog’s name.
So now comes the hard part… what are you going to name your blog?
Contrary to what you might think, your blog’s name isn’t actually that important. Most people won’t pay too much attention to the blog’s name when they’re deciding to click into your site. In fact, the headlines of your posts are more important than the name of your blog when it comes to getting traffic.
So write down a list of names that you like and that fit your brand and then rank them. Favorite to least favorite.
Not every URL will be available, so your name will partly be dictated by what’s available. This is where buying your domain and hosting come into the picture.
Buy domain and hosting
Most hosting sites will have the option for you to buy your domain at the same time you buy your hosting. This makes everything 100 times easier.
Bluehost is my host of choice. It’s the host that I currently use for my website and I love it! It’s perfect for new bloggers who are just setting up their blog, don’t have a ton of traffic yet, and are looking for a cheap hosting solution.
I chose Bluehost because it’s by far the most affordable host out there and it’s super simple to set up. Perfect for beginners.
Because it’s what I know and use, I’ll walk you through how to get started with Bluehost.
P.S. If you haven’t set up your website yet, you can sign up for Bluehost through my link and get a free domain!
To set up your hosting, start by going to Bluehost’s site. Here is what you’ll see on the homepage:
Click “Get Started Now” and it will take you to a screen where you can choose the hosting package you want. For a new blogger, the basic package is enough. So, I’d recommend going with that for now.
Here’s where you’ll get to choose your domain name! Take out the list you made before of possible blog names and type them into the “new domain” box to see if they’re available.
If you’re not sure yet, you can always select to choose your domain name later, but I highly recommend deciding now. Like I said before, your blog’s name won’t make or break your blog, so go ahead and make a decision and then move on.
This part is pretty straight forward… just enter your info!
Here’s a neat little secret I discovered as I was taking the screenshots: At this point, if you move your mouse up to the corner of the screen, like you’re going to exit, a pop-up will appear with a discount offer.
Beware, though, the pop-up will only appear once, even if you exit fully and start over. So, don’t exit after you’ve seen the pop-up.
Here’s where you need to make some decisions.
First, decide how many years of hosting you’d like to purchase up front. If you’re planning on going big with your blog, I’d suggest only purchasing one year.
Bluehost is great for beginners, but it doesn’t handle large amounts of traffic well. Eventually, you’ll want to switch to a new (more expensive) host so you don’t want to pay for too much up front.
When it comes to the “package extras”, I can’t tell you what you need and what you don’t need, because it’s different for every blog, so do a little research and figure out what’s best for yours. I will say that most (if not all) of these extras are probably not necessary.
Now, just simply enter your payment info and you’re done!
See, I told you it was easy!
If you haven’t set up your hosting yet, don’t forget to use my link for a free domain.
When you sign up for hosting with Bluehost, installing WordPress is super simple. Bluehost will walk you through setting up your WordPress step-by-step. Then, ta-da! You have a website!
Setting Up Your Blog
Here comes the fun part – setting up and designing your blog!
The next few steps can feel a little overwhelming at times, but when you’re done, you’ll have blog that’s set up and ready for some content. How exciting is that?!
Just remember, a launched blog is better than a perfect blog.
Choose a WordPress theme
There are a lot of themes to choose from and there isn’t one that’s better than all the others. The theme you choose depends on what you want your blog to look like and how you want it to be structured.
There’s no reason to go with a paid theme from the beginning, but no matter which theme you choose, it’s important that your theme has two things: support and a paid version.
There will likely be a few times along the way that you have questions about how to customize something within your theme. You’ll want to make sure your theme offers support that can help answer your questions. Most free themes do not offer support, so you’ll need to look around to find the options that do.
Most free themes have limitations around how much they can be customized, and, eventually you might want more options. Having a paid version means that you’ll be able to widen your blog’s customization without having to redo it completely.
Plugins are like apps for your website that can help with a variety of different things.
As you decide which plugins to add, remember that every plugin has an effect on your blog’s load time, so you’ll want to limit the number of plugins you use. My general rule of thumb is that, if it can be done without a plugin, it should be.
Here are some things you may want to use a plugin for:
- Related posts
- Contact forms
- Opt-in forms
There are many different plugins for each of these things and what works best for my blog may not be what works best for yours. So do a little research and find the plugins that are a good fit for you.
Create categories in WordPress
Remember the categories you decided on when working through the previous post? Now you need to set them up on your blog.
In WordPress, in the left-hand column, hover your mouse over the word “Posts”. A box will appear and, from there, you’ll want to select “Categories”.
On this page, you’ll simply fill in the form to create new categories. You can also create sub-categories, but you may want to hold off on this until you have a good number of posts.
Set up menu in WordPress
Now that your categories are set up, you can add them to your menu. A blog’s menu is generally located at the top of the blog and gives a list of options for readers to choose from.
There are many different ways you can arrange your menu. Take a look at other blogs and see what you like and what you don’t like.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that it should be obvious where you want your reader to click. If you want your reader to sign up for your email list, include your “Subscribe” page in your menu. If you want them to learn about a product you offer, include the product’s sales page in your menu.
Regardless of the other pages you include, you’ll want to place your “About” page in a place that’s easy to find. Readers will search for your “About” page and might get frustrated if they can’t find it.
To set up your menu, hover over “Appearance” in the left-hand column of WordPress and then select “Menu”. Use this page to create your main menu and any other menus you might want to include on your blog.
Add social media links to the blog
One of the best ways to get quality traffic is to make it easy for people to share your content. Every theme is different, but most will offer a place to include social media links on your blog.
You can also look into social media plugins that will make those links more visible. Some of these plugins can even create popups that ask your readers to follow your social media accounts.
Analytics and SEO
Understanding analytics and SEO will give you the tools you need to target the right people at the right time. It is next to impossible to grow your blog if you don’t understand who is visiting your blog and how they’re finding it.
Learn how to use Google Analytics
The first step in understanding your readers and where they’re coming from is to set up an analytics tool.
I highly recommend using Google Analytics. It’s free and very in-depth and you can break down the analytics in a lot of different ways.
To set it up, simply go to the Google Analytics website and follow the instructions.
Once it’s set up, go in and start playing around. Because you haven’t officially launched your site yet, you won’t have much to see.
But, if you log out of your WordPress editor, you should be able to see when you visit your site and what pages you’ve looked at. This will at least give you an idea of what you’ll be able to see about your audience and where they’re coming from.
Note: I want to emphasize the importance of setting up analytics before you launch. You will want to know how many readers you have from day one.
Learn about SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization. While it can take time for search engines, like Google, to find your site and start suggesting it to readers, you want to make sure that your SEO game is strong from the get go. This will ensure that your site gains traction as quickly as possible.
Because SEO is a complex topic that could fill multiple posts on its own, I’m not going to go into it here. However, there is a lot of information to be found just by searching the web.
Neil Patel is the leading expert on SEO and he’s a good go-to for learning the basics.
Install Keywords Everywhere
This tool changed everything for me. I didn’t discover it until I was a few months into blogging, but I wish I had known about it sooner.
As you’ll learn from all your SEO studies, it’s important to choose keywords for each of your posts. These will be the terms that you hope to rank for in search engines, like Google.
Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that will show you all the info on keywords. Every time you search on Google, it will show you how many times that term is searched each month, along with related keywords and other terms people search for.
This tool is a life-saver when it comes to figuring out keywords for your posts.
Install an SEO plugin
Since you’re just starting out, an SEO plugin will guide you in making your posts and site SEO-friendly. I use Yoast SEO and highly recommend it.
On top of giving suggestions on how to improve each post, it also helps with some of the more complex things like sitemaps.
Set up email list management account
Having a way to communicate with your readers is essential and having an email list makes it 100x easier to make money through your blog. As many have said, “The money is in the list”.
So, first things first, you’ll need to choose an email service provider. Here are a few of the common choices:
Some of these providers offer free plans up to a certain number of subscribers. However, those tend to have some limited functionalities and may have restrictions around affiliate marketing.
Others don’t offer free plans but have some incredible functionalities and allow you to send however many affiliate links you’d like.
I currently use MailChimp, because it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. But I plan to switch to ConvertKit once I reach about 500 subscribers, since MailChimp has affiliate marketing restrictions.
So, do a little research and see which email service provider will work best for you.
Create a welcome email for new subscribers
When someone signs up for your email list, you don’t want them to hear crickets.
Instead, you want them to receive an email from you thanking them for signing up and letting them know what they can expect from you. You can also use this as an opportunity to tell your story and connect with your readers.
Most email platforms allow you to set up an automated email that will go out to your readers right when they subscribe.
If you want to get really fancy, you can set up a whole series of automated emails!
Set up social media accounts
This one should be pretty self-explanatory. It’s likely that you’re familiar with social media sites and how they work.
For now, don’t worry too much about strategy. Just set up the accounts you’re planning to be active on in the first two months.
I would recommend starting with only one or two platforms. In the beginning, you’ll be spending a lot of time learning how to market on each platform and it can quickly become overwhelming if you’re trying to do too much.
In case you aren’t familiar with social media sites, here are the main sites to consider:
- Pinterest (not technically social media)
P.S. If you need help setting up your Pinterest account for your business, my Pinterest Marketing Strategy post will walk you through it step-by-step.
One Last Note
You are now the proud owner of a website! Just a few more steps and you’ll have a blog that’s ready to launch.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the technical things you need to know to set up your blog.
Now that you’ve got your site all set up and ready to go, keep an eye out for the next post about creating and formatting your blog’s content!