WordPress blog setup tutorial
No that you have registered your domain and signed up for your web hosting account, the moment has arrived to set up your very first blog. And therefore, I have decided to write this WordPress blog setup tutorial.
Originally, when mentioning the word wordpress, everyone automatically was thinking of a blog. But, right now wordpress is quite a bit more than just a blog. It could be considered as a full-blown content management system. A system that lets you building a full and professionally looking site without even knowing html, css or programming. You can add whatever you like with a few clicks of your mouse. And that is probably one of the reasons why worpdress has become so popular over they years. At present, about 20% of all the sites on Internet are using it.
Installing WordPress on your hosting account
The very first step of this WordPress blog setup consists of installing wordpress on your hosting account. And just in case you are quite scared right now because you have never done this, don’t worry. It’s more or less like installing a new software on your computer.
First, you will need to log in at your hosting account’s user panel with the user name and password provided by your hosting company in their welcome email. In this case I will continue to use the example of HostGator, but it is quite similar with other hosting companies.
Once logged in, you scroll down to the section “Software/Services“, and click on the link that says “QuickInstall“.
Once inside the QuickInstall screen, locate and select WordPress on the left hand menu. And then click the “Continue” button and select your registered domain from the drop down list.
Next, provide all the requested details: your email address (to send you the details of your new blog, once the setup has been completed), a blog title (which can always been changed later on), a user name for your blog, and your first and last name.
As soon as you click the “Install Now” button your blog will be installed and a few seconds later you will be able to see the url to log in at your blog, together with your user name and a randomly generated password. Normally, you will receive an email with copy of these data, but I always write it down as well (just in case). Ah, and to avoid confusions, remember that the user name and password for your blog site are NOT the same as the ones for your hosting account!
Changing the default wordpress theme
Once you log in, you will end up at the dashboard of your wordpress installation. This is like the home base or backend of your blog and will look more or less like this:
The best way to get familiar with the dashboard is to play around with it and click on every link to find out what it’s function is and see what they do.
One of those links says “Appearances“, and when you put your mouse pointer on it, you will see a window popping up with several other links. The first on of those link says “Themes“, and when you click on it anew page will open with the different themes you have installed in your wordpress installation.
One of those themes is the one that is marked as activated, and is the one that you are currently using to display your blog on the front end. However, with a couple of clicks of your mouse you can easily switch to any of the other themes that you have installed. But these are default themes that come with any wordpress installation, and perhaps not the best ones for our purpose: making money online.
At the top of the Themes page you will see a link called “Add New“, that brings up another page with a bunch of other free themes that you can install. But are any of these useful? How many times in your life have you heard the following words: “You get what you pay for!”. And free is just that… free.
Lots of those free themes might look quite nice, but your blog doesn’t have to look just nice.
A good wordpress theme should have various characteristics:
- it should be well-coded; a theme with a sloppy code will result in errors and will take too much time to load. You only have a couple of seconds to convince a visitor to stay on your blog. If you site takes forever to load, he will be off to another site…
- it should be optimized for the search engines: a seo optimized theme will make it easy for the search engines to find your content and rank your stuff.
- it should be responsive: this means that your theme should be coded in such a way that it is easy to view from any kind of device, like a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. If your theme is not responsive, users will not be able to surf your site from their mobile phone. In other words, you will be loosing millions of potential clients.
- and last but not least, it should have a good customer support: Whenever you experience some kind of problem related to your theme you should have access to some kind of support to help you out. Lots of free themes don’t offer any kind of support, which means that you are totally on your own 🙁
For all these reasons, I would personally recommend you to stay away from almost all these free themes and decide for a paid theme with a proven track record. There quite some good ones around from different companies. But one of my favorite companies is My Theme Shop. They have a lot of excellent themes and at very reasonable prices. On top of that, they also have an top-notch customer support and an active forum where users help each other out. Just take a look at their online catalogue and pick one you like.
If you buy a theme from one of those companies, like My Theme Shop, you will receive a zip file from them that contains all the files belonging to that theme. Installing that paid theme on your worpdress installation is very easy. On top of the Add Themes page you will see a link called “Upload Theme“. This will bring up a couple of new lines underneath with a button that says “Browse“. By means of this button you can search and fetch the zip file with the paid theme files from your computer. Once you have found and select this zip file on your computer, you click the “Install Now” button.
It might take a minute or two for the installation process to complete (depending on how big the zip file is and how fast your server is).
And once installed, there is a last step to perform for your new theme to show up on your site’s front end. You will need to activate the theme. To accomplish this, just go back to the main Themes page (from the left hand side bar in the dashboard, you select Appearance > Themes). Once there, put the pointer of your mouse over the preview thumb corresponding to your new theme, and click on the “activate” link. And that’s it! You have just changed the theme of your blog 🙂
Adjusting the wordpress settings
The next step should be going through the different sections of the Settings area: General, Writing, Reading, Discussion, Media and Permalinks.
The most important thing to do is to change the default settings in the Settings > Permalinks area. You will notice that the default WordPress permalink is like http://yourdomain.com/?p=123 . This permalink is short, but absolutely not friendly for the search engines. Therefore, you will need to change it to make it search engine friendly. Personally, I would either recommend to select the “Post name” option, or to make a “custom structure” like http://yourdomain.com/%category%/%postname%/ . This way your permalinks will be search engine friendly and always contain the keywords from each of your blog posts.
As to the rest of the settings, in Settings > General you will need to enter or adjust your blog title and tagline, select your timezone and the preferred date format.
Usually, I don’t change anything in the Settings > Writing area. But that is of course up to you…
In Settings > Reading I usually don’t make any changes either. However, here you have the option to change the number of blog posts you would like to have on your index page.
The Settings > Discussion are is where you can set everything related to the comments on your blog. If you would like to allow people to comment on your site, or not. Who is allowed to comment, etc…
In Settings > Media I usually leave the dimensions of the different image sizes as they are. However, I always make sure to check the box at the bottom: “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders”. This way all the pictures used in your blog posts will be uploaded in the folder corresponding to the month that each post has been written.
Installing wordpress plugins
What are plugins exactly? Well, they some kind of add-ons for the basic wordpress installation. Plugins are methods to extend and add to the default functionality that already exists in WordPress. The core of WordPress is designed to be simple and lightweight, to maximize flexibility and minimize code bloat. Plugins then offer custom functions and features so that each user can modify his site to his own specific needs.
As you can see at plugins section from WordPress.org, there are literally thousands of plugins available, covering many different needs. And those are just the free ones, because WordPress.org doesn’t list any paid plugins. However, I can conform that there are lots of premium plugins as well.
Adding a new plugin can be achieved in 2 different ways from the Plugins > Add New page.
Either use the “Search Plugins” function at the right hand side of the page to search for any plugin included in the collection from WordPress.org. And if you find a plugin you would like to add, click to install it, and finally activate it.
Or you can upload a zip file from your computer to install a plugin you obtained or bought somewhere else. This method works exactly the same way I explained earlier on to install a new theme.
You can of course upload whatever plugin you like or need, but if you want some advice about what type of plugins I usually install on my blogs, I would like to recommend you this other post I wrote about my favorite plugins.
Anyway, I have made it easy for you to download all my favorite free plugins mentioned in that post right here in exchange for a simple “share” or “like”. Once you have shared or liked this post, just refresh this page and the zip files will appear unlocked. Sounds good?