If the thought of creating your own website makes you feel overwhelmed, rest assured that you are not alone. The good news is that starting your own site is not quite as daunting as you might presume. Most importantly, you don’t need a background in web design.
What you do need is a little bit of an introduction to WordPress and then an idea on what to blog or sell with the hopes of creating a secondary or primary income.
If you are new to WordPress, that is totally okay. Whether you want to write about pets, sports, music, or something else entirely, this helpful guide will show you how to get started.
What is WordPress And Why Should You Use It?
WordPress is a free content management system (CMS) that powers a huge number of blogs and websites all over the world. In fact, it powers close to half (43.4%) of all the websites on the world wide web.
The reason why WordPress is so popular is that it has a massive selection of different plugins and templates that can be used by anyone, no matter your knowledge base. You can completely customize WordPress if you want to create a blog or run an online store selling booties for dogs.
One of the reasons WordPress is so popular for beginners or those without any coding experience is that it’s open source, so customizations are infinite. Better yet, there is often no cost to use WordPress directly, though there are likely costs involved to host your website (we’ll cover more on that later).
Anyone who wants to use WordPress can install it and modify it within a few hours and continue to customize it throughout the life of your website.
WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com
Even as WordPress is free, there are still two different opportunities to use it and they differ pretty significantly.
With WordPress.org, you can download the CMS for WordPress but you must use it with a separate third-party host like Bluehost, GoDaddy, or HostGator, for example. In other words, you cannot host your site through WordPress.org, it’s simply for “downloading” the WordPress software.
The second option is WordPress.com which is owned by the developer of WordPress, Automattic, and its founder, Matt Mullenweg. Differing from WordPress.org, you can utilize WordPress.com as a host for your website for free, though it comes with some limitations.
Unlike WordPress.org which is infinitely customizable, WordPress.com won’t allow you to customize your site as much, which is a notable limitation. You also have to choose a paid plan to install third-party plugins, something you can do for free through WordPress.org.
Why Use WordPress?
There are a few main reasons why anyone would use WordPress and the first one is the most obvious. WordPress is free. Yes, there might be a cost involved should you opt to go down the WordPress.org and third-party hosting route, but WordPress as a CMS is free.
WordPress is also very easy to use, even for beginners. That includes how easy it is to customize with colors, change your logo, change a website background, play around with different size borders, and so much more.
WordPress is also very safe and that’s especially true when you factor in the multitude of security-based extensions available to install.
Last but certainly not least is that WordPress is very SEO friendly. Whether you are starting a website or have had your website for years, SEO continues to play a vital role in the success of any website.
Setting Up A WordPress.com Account
Ideally, for most people, going down the WordPress.org road is the best option so setting up a WordPress account will start by choosing a third-party hosting provider. Bluehost.com has been a recommended WordPress host since 2005 so it’s a great place to start.
Before you do anything with WordPress, there is one consideration you need to make first and that is your domain name. This is your website’s permanent address on the web, just as ours is www.history-computer.com. This domain should encompass the direction of your site so it’s critical that you choose carefully before making a purchase.
If you do choose to go down the WordPress.com route, you can have your website up and running in three easy steps.
- Select your WordPress.com plan which can range from free all the way to $45 per month (billed yearly) if you want to create your own online ecommerce store.
- Choose the name of your blog which will look something like thisblogisawesome.wordpress.com. You can also register thisblogisawesome.com as a separate domain via WordPress.com and remove the dot wordpress extension.
- Write your first blog post. It’s that simple. Write about whatever you want, as many words as you want and in whatever style you want.
- Display your posts to the world. In the third and final step of starting a website with WordPress.com, you can publish your posts for everyone to see (or read, or buy, or send to their friends).
Getting Started With WordPress.org
Choose A Host
If you opt to go down the WordPress.org route and utilize a third-party developer, the setup process is quite different than with WordPress.com.
You’ll start with choosing a host. Bluehost has again proven itself to be among the best in supporting WordPress and it does so at a very minimal cost. Jump over to Bluehost.com and start by choosing one of their monthly WordPress hosting plans, which begin at $2.95 a month.
Once you have selected the plan, you’ll be asked to create a new domain or utilize a domain you already own. If you are setting up as new, you can choose both the domain and whether you want to use .com, .net, .site, etc.
The following step will ask for your name, address, and email, verifying your Bluehost plan choice and your payment information. There are also a few extras you can purchase for extra privacy protection around your domain name, search engine jumpstarting (SEO help), and more.
The last option on the sign-up page is your payment option, and Bluehost is definitely eager to capture your money. Once you pay, you will receive an email on how to access your web control panel which will tell you how to set up an email address with your new domain as well as how to install WordPress.
Upon receiving your confirmation email and accessing your Bluehost cPanel, WordPress will automatically install it for you. This is true not just of Bluehost, but most third-panel web hosting companies as they do all of the backend work for you.
All it takes is one click in your cPanel and, voila, WordPress is installed. After you are notified the installation is finished, you just need to locate “Login to WordPress.” You can also access your WordPress login by going to: yousiteurl.com/wp-admin/ from any web browser.
At this point, WordPress is set up and all ready to go. So what’s next?
Selecting A WordPress Theme
A WordPress site isn’t as good as its theme, but it’s a pretty important part of any website building. How well users can navigate your website is entirely based on your theme, so it’s definitely an integral part and, therefore, a very important choice.
Right out of the “box,” WordPress comes with a very generic theme. To get rid of this theme, look in your WordPress dashboard on the left-hand side and locate Appearance > Themes > Add New.
You are now taken to a page where you can choose from thousands of free themes. There are quite literally thousands to choose from and you can sort by popular, layout, features, etc. until you find something that clicks.
Of course, you can also find a WordPress theme online by searching via Google where there are an equal number of themes available for purchase. Many are already customized by WordPress developers with costs that can vary from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars.
Installing A Theme
Let’s say you want to stick with a free theme. Installing a theme is super easy. All you have to do is locate the theme from the steps above (reminder: Appearance > Themes > Add New).
Upon choosing the theme, in the theme square, there should be a blue “Install” button. Click on it and wait for the magic to happen.
After the theme is installed, you are then taken to your theme’s customizer where you can change hundreds of settings. Some of the options will include things like your website’s background color, header colors, footer colors, the background image of the website, and a whole lot more. The options are not infinite, but close.
Extensions can play a big role in how well your website is both running and performing. Incorporating one of the most popular extensions with Yoast SEO can be invaluable to making sure any content you post is SEO friendly for Google’s crawler engine.
Equally important is Akismet, which successfully blocks spam comments from appearing at the end of any blog post. Jetpack ensures that your website is secure by blocking malware and providing real-time backups in the case of website failures.
To install an extension, go to Plugins > Add New in the WordPress admin menu and search for one of the plugins above or search online for thousands more.
What Do You Post About?
With WordPress installed and a theme selected and customized, your next step is now to decide what to post.
As a default content type, WordPress allows for “posts” that are likely already very familiar to you as that’s exactly the type of content you are reading now.
To start writing a post, in the WordPress admin area (left-hand side of the screen), go to Posts > New and the new post screen will appear. From here you can add a title, choose an author, choose a category, update the URL of the post, choose a featured image or add an excerpt.
With all of these options filled in, it’s time to write. What is the topic of your blog or website? If it’s a pet blog, maybe your first post is all about your favorite dog breeds. If it’s a sports blog, maybe it’s about why Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.
Remember that your website content gives it its own voice, so you want to post content that speaks to the voice you want to project.
Once you have written your first or your 100th post, when it’s ready to publish, just click on the big blue Publish button at the top right of WordPress and the content goes live.
Creating A Posting Schedule
To grow a successful blog, you need to keep working on new content regularly. By creating a post schedule or calendar, you can help yourself visualize the next few posts you want to write and when you want to post them.
There is no single rule about how much content you should post in a week. That’s going to be very dependent on your blog or website. Most websites like this one recognize that the more content, the better for keeping readers interested and coming back.
It might help to write down what your goals are with your website. Are you trying to promote or grow a business or write about a topic you have a lot of passion for?
Start small and begin with 1 to 2 posts a week, as you are getting familiar with WordPress and finding the voice of your website. After you have 10 to 20 blogs published, look to bump up to 3 posts a week. Of course, maybe your blog posts are shorter lengths like 500 words, and then you can do 4 to 5 posts a week.
You’ll have to be the judge, but starting small and learning how to be consistent is the best path toward growth.
Starting your own website through WordPress, whether it’s WordPress.com or WordPress.org, is far easier than most people think. The rewards for starting a WordPress site can also be great as it’s a great way to grow a second income, find others who are passionate about the same topic, or build a portfolio that you can use to help grow your career. Don’t forget about social media marketing either which is going to be a critical resource for finding more readers!