If you’re looking for an ‘easy to follow’ step by step guide on how to start a WordPress blog, you’re in the right place.
In 2016, I partnered with six-figure blogging coach Yaro Starak to help students of his Blog Mastermind Coaching Program set up their WordPress websites.
Since then, through my blog setup service, I have helped hundreds of people start a WordPress blog (the right way).
And now, in this ‘do it yourself guide’, I am going to help you, too.
In This Tutorial
- How much does it cost to start a WordPress blog
- Should I start a blog on WordPress
- Self-Hosted WordPress Blog Vs WordPress.com
- How to Start a WordPress Blog (Step by Step)
- What Next?
How Much Does it Cost to Start a WordPress Blog?
To start a WordPress blog you will need at a minimum:
- A domain name (up to $10.00)
- Web hosting (up to $212.40 for 3 years )
- A WordPress theme
- Essential WordPress plugins
I’ve not included the cost for a WordPress theme because if you really have to you can use a free one, although I don’t recommend it (tell you why shortly).
And all the essential plugins are free. But I am going to recommend one optional premium plugins to keep your blog loading FAST after you have set it up.
So… that gives us a total of $224.20 dollars if you get web hosting for 3 years. If you get hosting for one year only, you can expect to pay about $105.40.
Should I Start a Blog on WordPress?
The short answer.
Hell yeah! WordPress is awesome.
The not so short answer.
More than 33% (which is millions) of website owners use WordPress and there’s a good reason for that.
WordPress plugins make it easy for you to add any new site features you can possibly think of without touching a single line of website code.
With WordPress, you own your website and all the content on it 100%, unlike other platforms like Medium who can close your account anytime, without warning.
That said …
There are two types of WordPress so you must be careful not to use the wrong one!
Self-Hosted WordPress Website Vs WordPress.com
What’s the difference?
Well, they are both free to use. But …
With a self-hosted WordPress site you buy a domain name and pay for web hosting yourself, and install WordPress.org on your web hosting account.
- You own the site 100%
- You can install WordPress plugins
- You can install premium WordPress themes
- You can customize your WordPress theme
- You can monetize your website without restrictions
Whereas WordPress.com gives you a free domain and hosts your site for you. BUT just like Medium, they own your site and all the content you publish.
- They can delete your site anytime
- You cannot install WordPress plugins
- You cannot install premium themes
- You cannot customize your theme
- You cannot monetize your site how you want
If you’re blogging for fun, WordPress.com is a sweet deal. But if you’re blogging for business, you’ll need to create a self-hosted WordPress website.
Are you ready? Let’s get started.
How to Start a WordPress Blog
This guide assumes that you’ve already picked a blog topic to write about, and you are now ready to start a blog on WordPress.
Follow along with the detailed steps below to learn how to set up a WordPress website. We will:
- Step 1: Register a domain name
- Step 2: Get web hosting
- Step 3: Update domain name settings
- Step 4: Create a professional email address
- Step 5: Install WordPress
- Step 6: Configure WordPress core settings
- Step 7: Add a WordPress theme
- Step 8: Install essential WordPress plugins
Step 1: Register a Domain Name
The first step towards starting a WordPress blog is to buy a domain name.
A domain name is the web address where your website can be found online. For example: www.theblogmechanic.com
If you need help brainstorming domain name ideas see my article how to choose a domain name for help.
Once you’ve decided on a domain name, you need to register it with a domain registrar.
For that, I recommend NameCheap. That’s where I buy my domain names, and I only recommend services that I like and trust. Also …
I am using NameCheap in this guide to show you how to set up a WordPress blog. If you use NameCheap too, you’ll find it easier to follow along.
To get started, click here to go to NameCheap.
- Enter your chosen domain name (without .com or .net etc)
- Click the search icon to the right
Providing the domain name is available, at the top of the next page, you will see how much it costs. Click the ‘add to cart’ button to continue.
Next, you will be offered some additional services.
You DO NOT need any of these extras.
For security reasons, you should keep your domain and web hosting accounts separate, so we will get web hosting from another provider in the next step …
And your web hosting provider will give you SSL and a professional email for free, so you don’t need any of those upsells. Click the checkout button to continue.
On the next page, leave EVERYTHING as is and click the ‘confirm order’ button.
Create a new account and continue.
On the Account page, enter your account information and continue.
On the Setup page, scroll to the bottom and ‘save configuration to default settings’. Click Continue.
Next, choose your billing method. I prefer Paypal, but there’s also an option to pay with card, in which case you’ll need to enter your card information.
Upon completion, click the continue button. Review your order and pay.
After payment you will be taken to a purchase summary page where you can download a receipt.
And that’s all for now! You can close the page. Just don’t forget your NameCheap username and password. You will need to login in step 3 of this guide.
Step 2: Get Web Hosting
Now that you have a domain name, you need to get some web hosting.
Web hosting is where all your website files are stored on the internet. It’s like the land your website is built on. And your domain name is the address.
Because when you’re just getting started with a blog, it’s likely that you’re not making any money online (yet), so you’ll want to keep costs down until you do.
Am I right?
That’s why I recommend Bluehost to get started with.
You get 3 years of web hosting for only $178.20 (ish) which works out at $59.40 a year … much cheaper than SiteGround …
They charge $579.24 for three years, or $119.99 for the first year, then $299.88 every year after that – not the best choice for beginner bloggers.
So … I recommend starting with Bluehost until you’ve grown your blog. Then you can upgrade to SiteGround when the time is right.
To get started, go to Bluehost. Click the ‘get started’ button and follow along.
Select the Plus plan.
Where it says ‘Use a Domain You Own’, enter your domain name. Click next.
Next, on the accounts page:
- Account Information: enter your details
- Account plan: choose 36 months
- Package Extras: unselect CodeGuard Basic
- Package Extras: unselect SiteLock
- Payment Information: enter card details or choose PayPal
- Agree to Bluehost’s terms of service
- Click submit to continue
Upon completion of payment you’ll be taken to a success page where you can pick a username and password for your Bluehost account.
Click the ‘create your account’ button. Your domain name which is used to login to Bluehost will be prefilled for you. Enter a password. Click create account.
And that’s it.
You have successfully created a web hosting account with Bluehost.
Step 3: Update Domain Name Settings
At this stage, when you visit your domain name, this is what you will see.
Even if you were to login to Bluehost and install WordPress on your server, you will not see the WordPress site at your domain name.
First, you must update your domain name settings to make your domain name work with your Bluehost account.
To do that, login to NameCheap. On the dashboard, you will see your registered domain name.
To the right of your domain name, open the menu and click ‘manage’.
Then, scroll to the NameServers section and select Custom DNS.
Enter ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com – then click save.
You’ll see a success message saying the nameservers have been changed, and changes can take up to 48 hours, but it’s usually much sooner than that.
Wait a few hours, then visit your domain name. Chances are, the domain name will already be working with your Bluehost account.
How will you know?
You’ll no longer see the NameCheap page at your domain name. Instead, you will see a coming soon page like this …
When you see that page, come back to this guide and continue with the steps below.
Step 4: Install WordPress
When you login to Bluehost for the first time, they automatically install WordPress for you.
But first, they will ask you some questions and from your answers, they will recommend some WordPress plugins. Skip the questions.
I will recommend my list of hand picked free WordPress plugins to you. Plugins that I always install on every WordPress website I create for blog setup clients.
There are four steps to skip. Skip them ALL until you see a page saying WordPress has been installed. DO NOT click the ‘launch my site’ button.
As tempting as it may feel right now to jump ahead and launch the site, it is not ready yet. There are other things we must do first. So …
Keep the WordPress is installed page open and let’s continue.
Step 5: Create a Professional Email Address
When starting a WordPress blog for business, you’ll want to have a professional email address that’s branded to your business name.
For example, my business name is The Blog Mechanic and my email address is [email protected]
You can and should create a business branded email address for your website, too, and add the email address to your WordPress website settings.
To get started, in the left menu, click the advanced tab. That will take you to cPanel.
In cPanel, go to Email >> Email Acconts
Click the +CREATE button to the right.
On the next page:
- Add an email username
- Choose a password (one that you will remember)
- Select unlimited
- Click +CREATE
You will now see your new email address listed on the email accounts page.
In the upcoming steps of this guide, we will add it to your WordPress website.
Until then, you need to open up your email account. You need to access it when we configure your WordPress settings and some plugins.
To open the email account, click the ‘check email’ link to the right of the email address (see image above). Then click Roundcube to open your inbox.
Now that your email account is open, go back to the Email Accounts page and click the My Sites tab.
Before we login to the websitse, install a theme, and finish setting it up, first, we need to change and configure some core WordPress settings.
Step 6: Configure WordPress Settings
On the My Sites page, click the ‘manage sites’ button.
Go to the Settings tab.
On the settings tab, your Site URL should start with https – if it doesn’t, add the ‘s’ and click the save updates button.
- Turn OFF all automatic updates
- Turn OFF disable comments for old posts
- Turn OFF the coming soon page
Note: I strongly recommend you DO NOT auto-update plugins, WordPress, or themes. Automatic updates can break your website.
Next, go to the Security tab.
By default, the Free SSL Certificate should be on. If you are seeing a message saying SSL is unknown or unavailabe, see this tutorial on how to fix it.
Now you can log in to WordPress. Click the ‘Log in to WordPress’ button. Bluehost will load the site and log you in automatically.
Once logged in, you need to:
- Turn off server side caching
- Update site settings
- Remove unwanted plugins
- Change username and password
- Fill out user profile information
Turn Off Server Side Caching
To improve performance, Bluehost install site caching. Although this helps your site load faster, it can cause problems when making changes to WordPress.
Bluehost caching is not the best caching solution for your blog. So, we are going to turn it off and install the best caching plugin a little later.
From your WordPress admin dashboard, in the left sidebar, go to Settings >> General. Scroll to the bottom of the page and select Cache Level Off (level 0)
Click the Save Changes button.
Update Site Settings:
From the WordPress dashboard, again go to Settings >> General.
- Add a site title
- Add a tagline
- Add your new email address
- Save your changes
Note: The tagline is shown in search engine results and in the browser tab when you hover over it with your mouse. So, you’ll definitely want to change it.
Note: you need to confirm the change of email address. Go to the email account we opened in step 4 of this guide. Find the email and click the link inside.
Now go to Settings >> Reading
Until your new WordPress blog is ready to be launched, you don’t want Google and other search engines showing it in the search results.
So … for now … we will temporarily block your site from the search engines.
Scroll to the bottom of the Readings page and select ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’.
Don’t forget to come back here and change this setting when you’re ready to launch your new site! I’d hate for you to miss out on free traffic from Google!
Next up, go to Settings >> Discussion
- Attempt to notify any blogs linked to from the post
- Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks)
- Show comments cookies opt-in checkbox, allowing comment author cookies to be set
- comments must be manually approved
Save your changes.
Finally, go to Settings >> Permalinks and make sure ‘post name’ is selected. If it’s not, select it and save changes.
Remove Unwanted Plugins
Despite skipping the questions when we logged in to Bluehost for the first time, they still install some plugins on your WordPress website. You don’t need these plugins.
To delete them, from the WordPress admin dashboard, in the left side menu, go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins.
Select all the active plugins (highlighted blue) and then select ‘deactivate’ from the Bulk Actions menu. Click the apply button. WordPress will deactivate the plugins.
Then, select all the installed plugins except two:
From the Bulk Actions menu choose ‘delete’ and click the apply button.
Update User Profile
When Bluehost automatically install WordPress for you, you don’t get to choose a login username and password, and it’s important they are …
- Memorable for you
- Not easy for hackers to guess
And in my experience, that’s usually NOT the case. So, we need to update them.
First, we’ll install a plugin to change the username. Then, we’ll update the password.
From the WordPress admin dashboard, go to Plugins >> Add New and search for Username Changer.
Install and activate the plugin. See my guide on how to install WordPress plugins for more information.
After activating the plugin, from the WordPress dashboard, go to Users >> Your Profile and scroll down to the Name section.
Click the Change Username link. Update it to something memorable and strong. By strong, I mean something that is not easy to guess. Then save your changes.
Note: you will be logged out of WordPress after updating the username. To log back in go to Bluehost and use the My Sites tab.
Once you’re logged back into WordPress, it’s time to update the password. From the WordPress dashboard go to Users >> Your Profile >> Account Management.
Click the ‘generate password’ button. A strong password will be suggested. I recommend using it. Or enter a custom password that’s memorable for you.
Either way, click the ‘update profile’ button when you’re done! Then you can finish filling out your user profile information.
- Enter your first name
- Enter your last name
- Change your display name
- Enter your new email address
- Click the ‘update profile’ button
And that’s it for step 6 of this guide! Let’s continue.
Note: upon completion you should delete the Username Changer plugin.
Step 7: Install a WordPress Theme
WordPress themes control how your website looks.
If you have followed the steps in this guide to start a blog on WordPress, right now, your site will look something like this ….
It looks very basic, I’m sure you’ll agree?
When blogging for business, you’ll definitely want something more visually appealing.
So … you have two choices …
Personally, I’m not a big fan of free themes because you get what you pay for, right? And since you pay nothing for a free theme …
- Support is limited
- Features and functionality are limited
- Free themes are harder to customize
- Developers are more likely to abandon free themes
With a premium theme, if something goes wrong, you get help from the developer. They look more professional, have more features, and are updated regularly.
That said …
Because no two WordPress themes are the same, I cannot show you how to set one up on your blog to look exactly like the theme demo. However …
If you purchased hosting and a theme through my affiliate links in this guide, and you get stuck setting up your theme, I will set it up for you, for free.
Note: my free theme set up offer, is to set up the theme to look like the theme demo only, filled with demo content. Theme customizations are not included.
Purchase a theme you like and follow the set up instructions. Then, come back to this guide to continue with the remaining steps.
Step 8: Install Essential WordPress Plugins
Plugins add a variety of new features to WordPress like contact forms, email opt-in forms, site caching, image optimization, spam protection, security, and more.
Included in my blog setup service, I install a collection of carefully hand-selected plugins that I consider to be crucial for every WordPress website.
Next, in this guide, we will install and correctly configure those plugins to add essential website features to YOUR new blog.
Adding a Contact Form to WordPress
When blogging for business you should make it super easy for readers to contact you by adding a contact form to your website.
Note: I DO NOT recommend displaying your email address on your site because spam bots will detect it and you’ll likely get bombarded with spam email.
By adding a contact form, readers can still contact you without you publicly showing your email address, and contact forms look professional.
I recommend a contact form plugin called Ninja Forms. It’s free and easy to use. More than 1 million websites use it, including myself.
First, install and activate the plugin. See my guide on how to install WordPress plugins if needed.
Once activated, a new ‘Ninja Forms’ tab is added to the WordPress dashboard menu.
Go to Ninja Forms >> Dashboard. You’ll see a ‘contact me’ form has already been added. To edit the form, click the cog icon to the right, and then the edit link.
To stop those pesky spam bots from targeting the contact form we’re going to add a simple anti-spam question. Click the blue ‘+’ button in the bottom right corner.
Next, in the right column, scroll to the bottom and drag and drop the Anti-Spam module to the left column. Place it under the ‘message’ box.
Click anywhere on the Anti-Spam module to configure the settings. Add an equation or a question, then add the answer. Click the blue done button.
To hide the form title from your contact page:
- Go to the Advanced tab
- Select Display Settings
- Turn off Disable Form Title
- Click the blue Done button
From there, click the blue publish button and close the page. Upon completion, you will be taken back to the Ninja Forms dashboard.
Lastly, if you haven’t done so already, create a contact page on your WordPress website. Copy the Ninja Forms shortcode and add it to the contact page.
Blocking Spam Comments
If you don’t protect your website against spam comments it won’t be long before you are inundated with hundreds, sometimes thousands of them every day.
Trust me. You don’t want that. I’ve been there.
Moderating spam comments will waste hours of your time. Time that could otherwise be spent creating content for your new blog.
To protect your site from spam comments, we will use a free plugin called Akismet.
Go to Plugins >> Installed Plugins.
If you have followed this guide on how to start a WordPress blog, Akismet will already be installed on your site. You just need to activate it.
If not, install and activate the plugin. See my step by step guide on how to install WordPress plugins if needed.
Once activated, setting up the Akismet plugin is fairly straight forward. From the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings >> Akismet Anti-Spam.
Then, click the blue ‘set up your Akismet account’ button and follow the prompts.
Note: you will need access to the new email account we set up in step 4 of this guide. Akismet will send you a confirmation link and your API key.
Adding Google Analytics to WordPress
Google Analytics is a free software that tells you how many people are visiting your website, where they are coming from, and what they are doing on your site.
Having data-driven information like this is priceless. It helps you grow blog traffic, build your email list, and make money online much FASTER.
I recommend installing Google Analytics on WordPress from day one of starting a WordPress blog. To do that, we will use a free plugin called MonsterInsights.
See my tutorial how to add Google Analytics to WordPress for detailed instructions.
Protecting Your Blog From Hackers
Just because your WordPress website is new, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it won’t be hacked. That’s just not true.
Hackers are ruthless. They don’t care how old or new your site is, or how much money it makes. They just get a buzz from destroying any website they can.
To help protect your website against site hacks, I recommend a free WordPress security plugin called Wordfence. Install and activate the plugin.
- Enter your email address
- Select ‘Yes or No’ to join the mailing list
- Agree to the Wordfence terms
- Click continue
You DO NOT need to upgrade to premium on the next screen. The free version of Wordfence provides adequate protection for your blog. Click the ‘No Thanks’ link.
A new menu item named Wordfence will be added to WordPress:
Go to Wordfence >> All Options >> Wordfence Global Options
Under Email Alert Preferences, select the following settings. Save your changes.
You will then see two information boxes towards the top of the screen.
Click ‘No thanks’ for automatic updates. Then click the ‘click here to configure button’ and follow the prompts to make your site as secure as possible.
Optimize WordPress Performance
Site speed is now a top Google ranking factor, and research shows that 47% of website visitors won’t wait longer than 2 seconds for a site to load.
That means if you want people to:
- Read your blog
- Join your email list
- Buy things from you
Your WordPress website needs to load FAST, on desktop and mobile devices!
To optimize the load time of your website and keep it loading fast, I recommend a WordPress plugin called WP Rocket.
It’s not free, but it is lowcost at just $49 per year for a single site license. And it’s easy to use for non-techie bloggers and new WordPress users.
To see WP Rocket in action and install it on your WordPress website, see my WP Rocket Review for detailed instructions.
Optimize Your Blog For SEO
Another mistake I see beginner bloggers make is not optimizing their content for SEO from the very beginning.
I’m guilty of the same mistake.
It was years before I started taking search engine optimization seriously, and I dread to think how much traffic I missed out on because of it.
If you want to grow your blog in the fastest time possible, you need to master SEO and optimize your content from the very beginning.
First, you need to make sure your site has a friendly permalink structure which it does already if you’ve been following this guide on how to start a WordPress blog.
But just to be sure, from the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings >> Permalink, and make sure ‘post name’ is selected.
Then you need to install an SEO plugin. I recommend RankMath. When switching to it from Yoast SEO, my traffic grew by 300% in less than 48 hours.
Install and activate RankMath. Once activated, the plugin walks you through a setup wizard. RankMath also provides set up instructions here.
Backing Up Your WordPress Blog
After starting a WordPress blog, most people don’t even think about website backups until it’s too late – a plugin update broke their site or it was hacked.
Don’t make the same mistake! You need to make regular backups of your site. That way, if something goes wrong, you can easily restore it.
You have successfully created a WordPress blog.
Now that the site is set up and filled with demo content, looking beautifully like the theme demo at StudioPress or Thrive Themes …
All that’s left to do now before you launch, is log in to the site and start replacing all the demo content with original content of your own.
And when you’ve done that, don’t forget to go to Settings >> Reading to update the ‘search engine visibiliy’ option like I showed you in step 6 of this guide.
I hope you found this guide on how to start a WordPress blog helpful. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments box below.
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* This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and then purchase the product, I’ll receive a small fee at no additional cost to you.