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Blogs are a fantastic way to reach a vast audience and to get your message across and luckily, it is now easier than ever before to get involved in blogging, without having to know how to code or anything of the sort. In as little as 20 minutes, anybody can get their blog up and running, and start posting content for their audience.
If you are ready to take your first step into the big wide world of blogging, then let’s get started!
When it comes down to it, a blog is a website, and pretty much all websites have some certain requirements. Here is what you will need to do:
- Get a domain name
- Choose a reliable web host
- Decide on a blogging platform
- Write your first post
We are going to take a closer look at each of these items and boil it down to the basics.
Step 1 & 2: Your Domain Name and Hosting
For this guide, we will be using HostGator, a fantastic and reliable seller of hosting and domain names. Thanks to their simple sign-up process, we can kill two birds with one stone and get our hosting and domain needs taken care of at the same time.
Head on over to www.hostgator.com and click Get Started Now. At the moment, HostGator offers 3 main web hosting packages, Hatchling, Baby, and Business. For most new bloggers, Hatchling will be all you need to get up and running, and there is always room for expansion later, so for this guide that is what we will use.
Here you will be greeted by a pretty simple sign-up form, the first section being about your new blog’s domain name. If you have already got one handy, just type it into the box and move on to section 2. If, however, you do not already have a domain name, luckily you can grab one here now.
For this guide, I’m going to get a new domain. The text box lets you input a name, and the dropdown box lets you select a Top Level Domain (TLD) such as .com, .net, or in this case, .space. I have decided to go with bloggable.space. I think it has a nice ring to it. If your desired domain is not available, HostGator will helpfully suggest a few similar ones which you might be interested in, but it is always good to have a few ideas handy, lest you first choice already be taken.
When it comes to picking a domain name, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the best results.
- Keep it short, keep it simple – I’m sure most people would agree that short, simple domain names are quite a bit more memorable and easy to type than their long-tailed counterparts. For example, favorite-foods-from-around-the-world.com is long, easy to misremember, and overall less user-friendly than ww.foodworld.com, or something like that.
- Make it memorable, but relevant – If you want your blog to pick up traction, it needs to have an identity, and the best place to start building this image is your domain name, as a lot of the time, this is the first thing your prospective readers will see. Make sure you pick something descriptive and in-tune with what you blog about, but not something so generic that it fails to stand out from the crowd.
- Don’t get too crazy with the options – As I mentioned above, I went with the .space TLD instead of something more traditional like .com. This isn’t always the best idea. Sometimes it can work in your favour, but if not carefully chosen and built upon properly, it can make the site look gimmicky or tacky. The traditional TLDs like .com, .org, .net, etc are usually a safe bet. I only chose the .space domain this time for demonstrative purposes, but make sure you keep this in mind when choosing your own.
After finding a domain name which suits you, you can move on to Section 2. Here you can choose your package type, billing cycle, and some account details.
I’m going to stick with the Hatchling plan for this guide, but if your needs differ, you can always choose a more advanced package, or upgrade later.
Section 3 is all about your Billing info and payment method, so fill this out as you see fit, and scroll on down to section 4.
Here you can opt to add a few additional services to your hosting plan, such as anti-hacker protection, easy backups, SSL certificates, and Gmail for business. It is worth noting that the Hatchling plan cannot make use of SSL certificates, so if this is a requirement for you, you may need to opt instead for the Baby package. If you are on a bit of a budget and don’t think the add-ons will help you too much, you can opt-out of the pre-selected ones by unticking the checkboxes. This is a good way to save a few dollars, so be sure to take note.
Once you have made all your selections, review your choices and proceed to the checkout. After a brief period for payment processing with your chosen method, you will be taken to your new HostGator account.
Step 3: Your Blogging Platform
Now That you have your hosting and domain name, you need an actual blog. There are a number of options for this, but perhaps none as well known and robust as WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging platform with a crazy amount of support, free themes, free plugins, and a large knowledgeable and helpful user base who are always keen to help a fellow blogger out. If you want to avoid headaches in the future, and have your blog functional and secure as soon as possible, WordPress is the way to go.
Because WordPress is so popular, HostGator offers super simple installation for it. From your account dashboard, click on the Hosting tab, and you will be taken here.
Click on “Get Started with WordPress Today”, to do just that. You will be taken to a simple installer which will ask you to select the domain for installation (in case you have more than one) as well as the directory you wish to install to. Most people will want to leave the directory field blank, as adding something here such as “wordpress” will result in that being added to your final base URL, in my case it would be www.bloggable.space/wordpress. To avoid this, just leave the field blank, and click next.
You will be prompted for a few details, such as your name, username, and an email address. Fill this information you as you desire and click next.
After a short delay, you will get a message indicating that the installation is complete, and you will be presented with your base URL (Installed To) as well as the username you set just a moment ago, and the password for your new account (which you can – and should – change after logging in).
To log in to you WordPress Admin Panel, the easiest way is to take your base URL which you were just given, and append “/wp-admin” to it. It should look something like www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
You will be presented with the WordPress login page. Enter your previously chosen username, and provided password here and click “Log In”.
Welcome to WordPress. Time for the fun stuff.
When you log in, a handy setup wizard will guide you through a few settings such as your Blog’s name and Site Description. Don’t stress too much about these, they can be changed at any time in the settings menu, found in the left hand sidebar. WordPress is designed to work right out of the box, but part of its charm is that it is infinitely extensible. For pretty much any need you have, you can find a Free (or premium) theme or plugin to fulfil your requirements. I would suggest finding a theme to spruce your new blog up a bit, as the default ones provided by WordPress are a bit bland, to put it lightly. To get going quick, you can check out the built-in theme store from the menu in Appearance > Themes and then clicking “Wordpress.org Themes” at the top. Find something you like, click install, then click activate, and you’re off to the races.
Step 4: Your first blog post.
WordPress is a truly powerful Content Management System (CMS) and one of the uses for which it really shines is traditional Blogs. Getting started with your posting couldn’t be easier luckily, as you are about to see.
In the sidebar, click on Posts and you will be shown your latest blog posts, and the default sample one if you haven’t already removed it. Up the top, click on “Add new” and get ready to start writing.
You should see at the top of your screen “Add New Post”. If so, it is time to get started, at last! You can enter a title now, come back to it later, or maybe just put in a placeholder. You will have time to review before you publish your writing.
In the main body content area, you can start writing your post, complete with all of the formatting and media options you would expect of a blogging platform of WordPress’ calibre. At the right hand side you will notice a few boxes with some interesting options, such as post category, tags, format and publication status. Often, sticking with the defaults will be fine, but it never hurts to give your posts a category and some tags to keep things organised further down the line.
If you don’t feel you can hack it all in one sitting, you can save your work as a draft and continue later, or if you finish writing but do not want to make it live for the world to see quite yet, you can schedule the post to be automatically published at a certain date and time.
Once you have finished working on your first post, adding any necessary links or images using WordPress’ toolbar, you are ready to publish it. Fear not if you make an error, as you can always unpublish or edit a post at any time if you feel it needs a bit more work.
Just like that, you have set up your own blog – your own website. Welcome to the world of blogging, time to make something great.