Over the past few weeks, my friends and I wrote about different aspects of blogging and how to position your blog more successful. In this post, I would like to take a step back and talk about how to start a blog. Specifically, I will discuss how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog since we already established that it’s one of the best platforms to start on.
Photo by rocatis via Flickr
Please note the discussion below assumes that you are interested in monetizing your blog and attracting readership. It’s not as applicable to if you want to blog casually.
1. Establish a business plan for your blog
This doesn’t have to be a full business plan since blogging has a very low cost of entry. But before you begin, there are several things you need to consider:
- What’s the main focus of your blog? — I discussed this in Key to Successful Blogging. Be sure to pick a topic that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.
- What are you trying to accomplish with your blog? — Do you want to start a blog to complement your business, products, and services? For side income? For notoriety? To open doors to other opportunities? To help others? To keep yourself accountable?
- What are your expectations? — How much time are you willing to commit? What level of traffic, subscribers, income do you expect 3 months, 6 months, and a year from now? What would you do if you fail to meet those expectations?
2. Find and register a domain name
Once you have identified your blog’s topic, it’s time to find relevant and brandable domain name. I discussed this topic in detail in How to Create an Amazing Domain Name. I currently use GoDaddy.com and I do recommend them for domain name registration.
3. Find the right web hosting company
Finding the right web hosting company is probably one of the bothersome aspects of starting your own self-hosted web site. I have used many hosting companies in the past, including GoDaddy.com Hosting.
I am currently with Media Temple and have been very satisfied.
I think the four most important things to do when you start out initially are:
- Pick the Linux package over Windows. With Linux you will have greater flexibility with .htaccess and working with PHP.
- Pick a host that offers cPanel and phpMyAdmin administrative interfaces.
- Use the lowest cost package. Don’t worry, you won’t go over the limits any time soon.
- Sign up for 1 month only. Extend an additional month if you are happy and slowly work your way up to full year commitment. Use the money back guarantee if needed.
Here are a few more web hosting companies you could choose from:
- LunarPages $60 for a year.
- Bluehost Web Hosting, $6.95 per month
- Host Gator, unlimited website for $10 per month
4. Install WordPress
Installing WordPress is not too difficult, but it could be challenging if you are unfamiliar with the web. The basic steps are as follow:
- Download WordPress
- Unzip and FTP files to your web host
- Set up database
- Set up database username and password
- Update wp-config.php file
- Run WordPress built-in installation
- Akismet –Protection against spams
- All in One SEO Pack — Gives your blog basic SEO boost
- FeedBurner FeedSmith — Consolidate your feeds into FeedBurner feed
- Google XML Sitemaps — Gives your blog basic SEO boost
- Smart Archives — Gives your blog cleaner and better archives page. The archives page on Blogthority is a slightly modified version.
- Subscribe To Comments — Allows people who left comment to subscribe to the conversation, helps make your blog more interactive
- WP-ContactForm — Gives your blog a nice spam protected contact form
- WP 2.3 Related Posts — Shows related posts at the end of each post, helps make your blog more engaging and increase page views
- WP Super Cache — Makes your blog faster and decreases server load
- Akismet –Protection against spams
5. Find and install a WordPress theme
One of the nice thing about WordPress is that there are literally thousands of theme to choose from. With minimal effort you can make your blog looks fairly unique. I discussed this in detail in How to Find the Right WordPress Theme.
6. Install and set up essentials plug-ins
Plug-ins are add on programs that enhance the functionality of WordPress. You can find hundreds of plug-ins at the WordPress plugin directory. However, the ones that I considered essential are:
7. Set up companion accounts and integrate their functionalities
Companion accounts are other online services that make your blog more effective. I shared more information in 12 Essential Companion Accounts for a Successful Blog. Basically, these accounts will help in different aspects like monetization, marketing, traffic generation, search engines optimization, and so on.
8. Configure your WordPress installation
Once you have everything set up and installed, you’ll have to make everything works together. This involves making configuration changes in the administrative control panel, as well as some minor tweaking of your WordPress theme. This latter part will involve a little bit of HTML and PHP programming.