Build a Blog with WordPress

Or

How to Set Up a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog

build wordpress blog by Leora Wenger on Websites for Small Biz

This post is about the development of a site that is primarily a blog. You can read about setting up a WordPress website (most businesses will want to choose this route). Some businesses may find their best course of online action should be in the form of a blog that shows articles and allows reader comments. Or you may want your blog to become your business – some bloggers find ways to build a business around a blog (through products, services, affiliate products or advertising).

Why Choose Self-Hosted

Perhaps you don’t know what self-hosted means. Self-hosted means you pay for web-hosting and set up the WordPress software on your own site. You can set up a blog on WordPress.com; however, you will not have access to all the plugins and themes that you may desire. Also, WordPress.com has certain rules, such as you are not allowed to put advertising on your site. WordPress.com will display their advertisements on your site unless you have purchased an Ad-free Upgrade or a VIP Services account. You can read the terms of service for WordPress.com here.

If you are running a business, even a small business, you should put your site on self-hosted WordPress. You can start off with a WordPress.com account, just to try out WordPress, but fairly soon you may discover you want the control of a self-hosted account.

How to Set Up the WordPress Blog

Choose Domain Name – spend time on this. Decide on your niche and choose a domain that has keywords in your niche. Others choose to name a domain related to their own names – this is a good choice if you are not ready to settle on one niche.

Choose Web Hosting – all web hosts are not built alike. Get a good recommendation for a webhost. I’ve been using BlueHost for a number of years, and they meet many of my and my clients’ needs.

Follow steps on WordPress Install page. The Codex is your friend. Get familiar with the WordPress Codex and the forum for support.

Pick a Theme. Start with Twenty-Twelve theme if you don’t have a set idea (yet) on a theme. There are some good premium themes such as WooThemes or Genesis or Thesis. More advanced users might want to start with a framework; I started using the _s (underscore) starter theme to create tailor-made themes. Choose a responsive theme so your site will work on mobile and tablets. If you want special design or coding for your site, you can hire someone to develop the theme for you.

Choose a good image for the header
– a picture is worth one thousand words.

Investigate Plugins – please don’t choose every plugin in the universe like a kid in candyland. You will need an anti-spam plugin like Akismet, which comes with WordPress. Research other plugins. Read posts labelled “10 Plugins Recommended for WordPress.” Just remember that if you pick too many, you will have problems later such as slow-loading on your blog.

Write three to four blog posts. Share on social media, with your friends and read other blogs in your niche. Good luck.

Your Turn, Please

Do you use WordPress? Have you used WordPress.com and switched to self-hosted WordPress? Do you have experience with other blogging systems? Why would you suggest WordPress to a business?

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52 thoughts on “Build a Blog with WordPress

  1. Great advice this Leora, so many new people exploring WordPress do not understand the difference between the dot org and dot com. Personally I use GoDaddy as a host due to their unbeatable one-click installation and first rate support network.

    I do urge people to spend a bit of money on a premium theme though. For just $40 you can have a site that, if built from scratch, would cost anywhere upwards of $700. Themeforest is a pretty good starting place. Oh, and also get the Yoast SEO plug-in – That small plug-in makes all my sites soar up the rankings 🙂

    1. Jim, love the Yoast SEO plugin. I’ve written about it before.

      And yes, premium themes can be worthwhile. I have found, however, since I write my own themes quickly, clients benefit from a theme that is tailor made for their needs.

  2. Setting up a new site or blog can be a very exciting time, but getting all the details hashed out is probably the most nerve wracking part. You made a very good suggestion for the domain name as well as the theme.

    1. Mary, thanks for the compliment. I encourage any newcomer to blogging to contact me for those “nerve-wracking” problems – I can often solve the problem quickly, and then the blogger can go back to doing the site on his/her own.

  3. Nice post and great work. I have been reading your blog for a while now. Apart from an SEO point of view, which would you pick to install your blog. On a sub domain or a sub folder?

    1. Funny that you ask, since I have done both on this site (subdomain such as biz.leoraw.com and subdirectory of leoraw.com/blog/). The subdomain is shorter. The sub-directory may be better SEO. I would consider both options and then decide.

  4. This is very good advise, especially if you haven’t gone to self-hosting. I have been self-hosted for quite a while. I also purchased a theme that was what we needed in functionality as well. All that really gives you so much more flexibility. 🙂
    Susan Cooper recently posted…Gainey Chardonnay 2011: WineMy Profile

  5. Isn’t it amazing that even business owners use wordpress.com. Don’t they understand how bad it looks for them?

    But then again, sometimes they are adviced to do so by people who don’t know what they are talking about but claim to be experts.
    Catarina recently posted…Ever heard of the iKnife?My Profile

    1. Catarina, I’m afraid people often need to learn the hard way (doing it one way and then seeing why it’s not such a great choice). However, if they are still mesmerized by their experts’ advice, they may stay on WordPress.com and not realize it’s costing them money.

  6. Thanks for the great information Leora. My blog is not associated with any business, nor am I looking at adding any ads, so WordPress.com is a simple and useful solution for me. As you noted, our corporate site is quite wisely NOT on wordpress.com. If I were to start my own business, I’d want more control. How daunting would it be to switch?
    Debra Yearwood recently posted…Saturday Morning Chit Chat – When Did We Catch Up With The Future?My Profile

    1. I’ve done the switch for people, and I usually charge about $100 to do so. Conversely, so many people have done the switch already, so you may be able to do it on your own. If you go with a premium theme, you can get a good corporate look quickly and lots already set up for you.

      1. Thank you. I know I’ll make the move eventually and with a husband as a graphic designer, I’m amazed I haven’t been harassed in to changing my theme yet, but I like what I have for now, but know that will change.

  7. Thanks for the great advise on self hosting. I’ve been thinking of doing this for a while now, but I am not all that computer literate when it comes to code and all that “back room” stuff. I may just give it a try sometime soon!
    Grace

    1. Grace, you get more tools with self-hosted WordPress. If you are good at self-teaching, the web, especially the Codex, has tons of good information. If you need help, it may only be small amounts of help. You might find with your blog experience you can figure a lot out on your own.

  8. I’m getting to the pint where I need I need to make a choice. To host and put everything on WordPress or Webs which I run my website from. I need to put all my eggs into one virtual online basket but I think I need to do more research first because I love the forum and cafepress that Webs offer but not the bloggin tools or… maybe I just need a computer genuis and maybe I can just intergrate them both… I need more knowledge and advice first
    Claire Cappetta recently posted…Stalking Liberty~ Sneek peek with the first chapter free!My Profile

    1. You can still link from a self-hosted site to a forum or to CafePress. I would be interested in hearing how your research goes and what you learn. There is probably not *one* correct answer but options for you.

  9. Excellent overview Leora. I’ve been self-hosted for years but I rarely do anything on it now – my webmaster handles any heavy stuff. And as for plug-ins, she asks me to avoid overloading on them because they can slow things down a lot. Recently she created my new theme using Genesis, so I was happy to see you mention it here. Thanks.
    Patricia Weber recently posted…If That Ever Happens to Me I Would…My Profile

  10. I started on wordpress.com until I quickly realised that I was more or less handcuffed. And as you would know, being a web developer, I was not used to this and needed control. So I move to self-hosted on Bluehost (upon seeing many recommendations). Never looked back. So far only one hour where the site kinda went dead. Loads fast (with tweaking from me). Your instructions are spot on on how to get it all up and running. When laid out like that – it seems to easy right!!
    Ashley Faulkes recently posted…How to schedule your tweets – Twitter Scheduling and moreMy Profile

    1. Ashley, interesting to know you also started out with WordPress.com. I already had web hosting (I originally wrote a CMS with PhP and MySQL), so I started with self-hosted WordPress right away. I told members of my blog workshop with no blogging experience to try WordPress.com at first since it’s free. If they like blogging and stick with it, then they can consider switching. But free makes people more willing to try.

      I did make it sound easy – but I’m guessing some will get stuck along the way. Happy to help others out.

  11. I have been kicking around some ideas for the switch (though it is still a little ways away). I don’t really want to run affiliate ads and what not on either of my sites. But I have been considering putting in stores eventually. I have thought of logo items for the beer site for a while now and for the writing site I eventually want to off books and such. I know I will have to go to a hosted site and probably change both themes when I am finally ready for this to happen.
    Jon Jefferson recently posted…Understanding Science FictionMy Profile

    1. Stores sound like a great approach to money-making. You might want to consider having one part of your site be store.yourdomain.com (and the rest could be http://www.yourdomain.com), just because stores can get a bit complicated and you probably want a theme specific for ecommerce. Good luck with it, Jon.

  12. I love some of the Premium themes but feel I don’t know enough hi-tech lingo to make sure I am choosing wisely and whether they’ll deliver what I am looking for.

    1. There are certain premium themes, such as Genesis, which are highly recommended. Just ask someone knowledgeable for a good recommendation. What lingo in particular is unclear?

      1. Hannah,

        The theme files can allow you to display groups of posts by category, by month, by tag, just to give the common examples. A file in the theme has coding to allow more than one post. Here’s an example of how a category page (category.php in the theme) looks on my site: http://biz.leoraw.com/category/wordpress/

        I set it up so it displays the post title, the featured image, an excerpt and the number of comments.

  13. I have a self-hosted WP website and have for years. I started off with WordPress.com but quickly moved to a self-hosted blog. My recommendation to those of you thinking to either switch from WP.com to a self-hosted site or even to change your theme in your existing self-hosted site, hire someone like Leora to do it. Unless you love technology and are super literate, it will be really difficult. I’m quite handy “under the hood” but I go right to my trust webmaster for technical issues beyond my capacity.
    Jeannette Paladino recently posted…Should You Fiddle With Your Brand by Renaming Your Company?My Profile

    1. Jeannette,

      Thank you for the recommendation. My initial reaction is “you’re so kind” but really I should say you are smart. I have eased people into the switch as well – meaning, they do 90-99% of it themselves, and then they ask a few questions, and I help them out.

    1. Thanks, Ivan. I realized that people need help with the basics, so I wrote up this post. Sometimes the details can get complicated along the way – that provides topics for future posts.

  14. I am using WordPress and just upgraded to a paid template. I started out on Blogger because I had no goal in mind but to write for myself. Once I realized that others were interested in reading what I was writing I moved to a self-hosted WordPress blog. WordPress just gives you more flexibility to do the things that are important to a blogger.
    Geek Girl recently posted…Picture Collage Maker: iPhone AppMy Profile

    1. Cheryl, it would be really helpful if you could actually *list* those things that you find in self-hosted that you didn’t find on Blogger. A post idea … (could be a guest post or part of a guest post here as well). People often ask, why self-hosted if I can get free? So I like a long list.

  15. Thank you but I think I’d need to ask you with more concrete examples so that you might explain my problems more clearly. Not to worry though.

  16. I didn’t mean that your explanations were not clear but that I didn’t explain clearly. I realise that my comment seems to say the opposite. i am sorry. Feel free to erase it.

  17. Since I have a main domain site I was able to create the blog site under a sub-domain of the main site. I agree with Jeannette to hire someone like you do it. I have to tell you that if I didn’t have a web developer and a web designer there is no way I could have done a blog site. To get it going I did hire someone in the Bloggers helping Bloggers group. Sometimes you can’t do it all.
    Arleen recently posted…Koozies: So Much More Than Just Can HoldersMy Profile

    1. Arleen, sounds like hiring web professionals worked for you. I know a few smart non-technical people that did it on their own – they read a lot and asked many questions along the way.

      You are right that we have to know our own abilities.

  18. Great post Leora! I’ve been using WordPress since I first started dabbling online in 2008 and I love it! Super user friendly. My personal favorite when it comes to purchasing domain names is Namecheap… And I have learned the importance of doing a hard install of WordPress after being hacked earlier this spring!

    1. Valerie, now I’ve learned from you. I’ve haven’t used Namecheap – I’ll take a look. Great that you are learning the importance of security and WordPress; sorry you had to learn the hard way.

  19. This is extremely helpful as I am trying to decide to either host my own domain or switch to wordpress. I am on blogger now, but I’m extremely limited by what I can and can’t do on Blogger.

  20. Hi Leora,

    I use to build websites with a product called Xsitepro which I found to be extremely easy to use and it creates awesome sites.

    Then I moved to the self-hosted WordPress platform which I love too. I’m blown away by the versatility of WordPress. With simple plugins you can do so much.

    Believe it or not my biggest frustration with WordPress is finding themes. I can spend all day finding a theme I like. I get too hung up on all the choices. LOL! I have bought a few themes too but for beginners your suggestion of going with Twenty-twelve is a good one.

    Liz 🙂
    Liz McGee recently posted…10 Proven Persuasive Techniques For Bloggers & WritersMy Profile

    1. I’m always leery of “products” for websites – as someone who codes, I know what a mess an “easy” product can be.

      I can believe it, on finding themes! I either write my own or modify great ones like Twenty Twelve (with child themes). Coding is power. With the underscore theme maker, you get the base for the theme code, and someone with coding knowledge can modify as needed. So my clients only get code they need, not five million bells and whistles they don’t need. Makes for a faster site.

    1. Becc, I like to hear that you find it relatively easy. That’s why I recommend it to all my small business clients … it is also quite powerful if you know how to get under the hood and create new pieces for plugins and themes.

  21. I just attended a writing conference with my art-teacher friend. She was blown away by all the talk about author platforms. I’ll be able to help her avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve come across. I’ve been happy with WordPress and like it much more than Blogger. There’s always something to learn, that much is for sure!
    Jeri recently posted…Author Interview: Michael CairnsMy Profile

  22. What do you think about using the Fantastico option in cpanel and just pressing the button to install. I think that the instructions on the WordPress site are very confusing for most people.

    Some say it is less secure just pressing the button, while others say there is nothing wrong with it?
    Mitz Pantic recently posted…Quality Content? WT Fudge Is It?My Profile

    1. Mitz,

      I used that once, maybe in 2007? After some issue with that installation, can’t remember why, I later learned how to install WordPress. Maybe at some point I will write an essay on why Fantastico is not a good idea. For one, you should know what’s in your wp-config. FYI, the new ways to install have gotten so easy – WordPress now gives you forms that will put the database, username and password in all the right places and sets up the wp-config for you. But you still need add in stuff like security keys and numbers of revisions.

  23. I recently started a subdirectory blog with WordPress on our html website.I found getting through all the important parts of setup, backup, SEO, etc all very daunting. Each plugin takes time to understand and make the most of.
    I realize now that I still have to add security keys and numbers of revisions to my config, so will be looking forward to another article from you.

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