Tutorials

How to start a WordPress blog: Step-by-step guide (2018)

New to blogging or thinking on moving to Wordpress? This guide should help you out.

If you find this guide on how to start a WordPress blog useful, let me know in the comments below. This post contains affiliate links for third party services for domain and web hosting registration.

It’s 2018 and you’ve got a burning idea, project or passion that you want the world to know about.

What’s one of the best ways to tell everyone? A blog, of course.

I’ve been doing it – blogging – since 2004 but 2018 is a real blogging year for me. That also makes for a wealth of WordPress experience so I’ve put together this comprehensive guide to get you started on hosting your own WordPress blog.

Whether you’re blogging for your business, as a hobby or looking to make money (and you can), this guide will take you through the basics.

How to start a WordPress Blog

We’ll break this into a few areas

  1. Picking and registering a domain name
  2. Buying web hosting for your new Blog
  3. Installing WordPress
  4. Making your first post
  5. Adding some themes
  6. Installing WordPress plugins

For the purposes of the tutorial, and being based in Ireland, I’m using Blacknight‘s services for domain name and web hosting registration. Almost all my client registrations and hosting are through Blacknight and for customer service they can’t be faulted.

A similar approach can also be used for the likes of GoDaddy, Bluehost or other international registrars and providers. However, screenshots may differ.

Don't just tell your story, BLOG your story!

1. Picking and registering a domain name

A domain name is the URL (link) used for your blog. Registering a .com domain is relatively painless and affordable. E.g, for my food blog, Ken On Food, I registered kenonfood.com. For Kilkenny Music, I registered kilkennymusic.com.

A lot of people use their own names (like kenmcguire.ie), or pick a company name. Whatever name you plan on going with for your blog, you should search to see if the equivalent is available as a domain name. It’s what will appear in search results, what you will put on business cards and how people will find your blog.

The domain name search screen at Blacknight.com
The domain name search screen at Blacknight.com

Some people mix and match topics, mix and match words. Some people also avoid the .com domain as they can’t get what they’re after. In Ireland, you could opt for a .ie (registration of which is much easier starting March 2018), in the UK you could opt for .co.uk, in France you could opt for .fr.

Some bloggers like to go for .blog domains. Whatever extension you choose, think about how you will use the domain

  • Is it easy to write down or difficult to spell?
  • Is your domain short and memorable?
  • Can build your brand around?
  • Does your domain have any competition?

It all starts with a simple domain name search, or you can use tools like Namemesh, Leandomainsearch.com and namestation to help you mix and match ideas.

When you’re budgeting, remember that a domain name needs to be renewed every year.

2. Buying web hosting for your new blog

So you’ve got a domain name picked? Brilliant. The next step to start a WordPress blog is to organise hosting for your domain. With Blacknight, you can add hosting to your cart before checking out and complete the domain and hosting in one swoop. It’s a similar process for the likes of GoDaddy, Siteground, Bluehost or other providers.

For WordPress installations, you’ll want a hosting package that it Linux-based, as opposed to Windows-based. Shared hosting (the cheapest kind) is perfect to start. However, if you plan on scaling up your blog, adding a good ecommerce element or expanding in general, you may want to consider cloud hosting or dedicated hosting.

For now, let’s stick to the basics.

What is web hosting?

If you’re new to the term, think of it as the space on the internet where your website will live. You store food in a fridge, you’ll store your website with a web host. If you don’t have hosting, you don’t have a website.

How much will web hosting cost?

This will depend on the company you choose as your host. For example, with Blacknight, you can host from as little as €4.95 a month – though it gets cheaper if you buy a year in advance (use coupon code madness on checkout for 20% off annual deals).

The likes of Bluehost can get you started from as little as $3.95 monthly with GoDaddy, Siteground and other providers offering similar low-cost deals.

A word of caution, however. With some companies, if you buy cheap, you’ll get cheap.

As a starting point, you could look at Blacknight’s Minimus Hosting option, perfect for blogs and personal websites. It also includes basic email (allowing you to use yourname@yourdomain.com instead of a free service).

Blacknight web hosting comparison chart.
Blacknight web hosting comparison chart.

To start you off, you would get 10GB disk space (that’s a lot of storage for photos, audio clips, and your blog), a hefty traffic allowance (for folks viewing and downloading) and database service to allow you install WordPress.

3. Installing WordPress

Ok, so you’ve got your domain name registered and you’ve bought your web hosting. Now, you get started with WordPress.

I always recommend going the self-hosted route with WordPress. You can register for a free blog option via WordPress.com but you’ll always be missing out. Having your own hosted version of WordPress allows you complete control, access to more themes, plugins and allows you to create a unique experience for your visitors and readers.

The automatic WordPress install

The folks at Blacknight make this so easy, you’ll be up and running in minutes, avoiding MySQL setup, FTP transfers or any of the usual starter publishing requirements.

WordPress is available as a one-click install through Blacknight’s Application Vault, included in your hosting package.

They’ve published this really handy PDF guide, complete with screenshots, to get you going (updated March 2018).

Log into your new web hosting control panel (you will have been sent details post purchase) and follow the instructions from the link above. Alternatively, keep reading.

Website management in the Blacknight control panel
Website management in the Blacknight control panel

Inside your hosting control panel, you will see a section for websites, with a list of your available domain names. Choose the domain name you wish to install WordPress on, then click on web applications.

Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 2
Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 2

For first-time users, the web applications folder will contain no items. Click install to get started.

Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 3
Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 3

From the list of available applications, click on WordPress. This will automatically start the installation of the very latest version of WordPress.

Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 4
Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 4

You will be prompted towards requirements for the installation. Your web hosting package comes with PHP and MySQL databases as default. These will be green-lit, and you can proceed by clicking next.

Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 5
Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 5

On the configuration screen, you can choose where you want WordPress installed along with your admin user details.

Leave the URL path blank entirely if you wish to use the root of your domain for your new WordPress blog. e.g. if I wanted to use kenmcguire.ie for my blog, I would leave it blank. If I wanted to use kenmcguire.ie/wordpress for my blog, I would enter /wordpress.

Best advice? Leave it blank altogether.

Choose your WordPress username and a password. Tip: use a name other than admin or administrator.

When you’re ready, click next.

Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 6
Installing WordPress on Blacknight, step 6

Finally, we confirm all aspects of the installation. Click on finish and in about 5 minutes you’ll be ready to log in.

The manual WordPress install

Installing WordPress yourself requires you to know a few things. You

  • should be comfortable working in your web hosts control panel
  • can set up and access FTP details for your web server
  • be able to up and access a MySQL database for your new WordPress blog

If you want to go the full manual route, I recommend reading the WordPress Codex for installing WordPress from scratch.

If you choose the automatic install option with Blacknight, your new blog will be ready to use in 5-10 minutes.

To access your WordPress dashboard, visit yourdomain.com/wp-admin, replacing yourdomain.com with whatever your chosen domain name is.

4. Making your first WordPress blog post

You wanted to start a WordPress blog and now you have. You want to dive right in? Why not!

WordPress dashboard example screenshot.
WordPress dashboard example screenshot.

To make your first WordPress blog post, from the Dashboard area, click on Posts, then Add New.

WordPress example blog post
WordPress example blog post

There are a few simple ingredients

  • Post title: This is the title for your blog post. For example the title for the post you are now reading is How to start a WordPress blog: Step-by-step guide (2018).
  • Post content: This is your actual blog post. Unleash your inner writer, add photos, add videos, add links, tell your story.
  • Post category: A convenient way of breaking up your blog is dividing posts into categories. If you’re a food blogger, you might have categories like recipes, restaurants, kitchen gadgets etc.
  • Post tags: Use tags, as keywords, to help readers find your blog posts both when searching your own blog, and via search engines. Your blog will be able to display a list of posts by tag too.

Make that post, read it – re-read it – then hit the big blue publish button when you’re ready to go public.

Go see what it looks like, punch in your domain name and check out your new WordPress blog!

5. Putting a design on your new WordPress blog

If you’ve gotten this far, you were able to start a WordPress blog. Congratulations. The next steps will help you add a new theme, and expand your blog through plugins.

Add a WordPress theme
Add a WordPress theme

To add a new WordPress theme, we go to Appearance > Themes from the admin menu. Then click on Add New.

Add a WordPress theme
Add a WordPress theme

There are lots of different themes available, from the plain to the insane. You can choose pre-made themes for magazine layouts, business, travel, music, food and more.

Wordpress: Activate a new theme
WordPress: Activate a new theme

When you find a new theme, you can choose to preview with your existing content or install and start using.

Themes installed in this manner are free and will not cost you anything.

For more advanced themes and commercial options, one of my favourite resources is Themeforest.

6. Add some extra functionality through WordPress plugins

WordPress plugins are make having a hosted WordPress blog all the better.

  • Want to start selling online? Install WooCommerce.
  • Looking to improve your SEO? Install Yoast.
  • Need to publish search engine friendly recipes? It can all be done.
WordPress: Add plugins
WordPress: Add plugins

To get started, go to Plugins > Add new from the admin menu. Some of my favourites include Yoast (for SEO), Jetpack (for added WordPress functions) and Akismet (for stopping spam comments).

If you have a plugin you have bought from a third party, you can install it using the upload plugin link.

And that’s it!

Congratulations – you wanted to start a WordPress blog and now you have. There’s still a lot to learn. How do menus work? How can I improve my SEO? Do I need an SSL certificate?

Worry about those later and start enjoying your new blog today.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Have you any questions? Leave a comment below, including any tips and tricks of your own.

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Ken McGuire

Broadcaster and sports writer at KCLR96FM; digital media head with a production eye on theatre, film and video; Read my Irish food blog, Ken On Food.

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