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It seems like everyone has their own blog today. Creatives, entrepreneurs, college students, moms… everybody blogs. It might seem like something complicated, and while sometimes it is, blogging is actually not that hard. Everybody and their mother can start their own blog, and so can you! I’ve received several questions and emails about starting your own blog and how I run mine. This step-by-step guide will help you walk through the process of creating your own self-hosted blog!
Before we start, I want to be honest: if you take blogging seriously, I would definitely consider getting a self-hosted blog. Sure, there are many free platforms like wordpress.com and blogger where you can easily set up a blog in a couple of clicks, but did you know that these platforms own your content? That’s right, the posts you spend hours creating are actually not yours, and the owners can do whatever they want with it.
Also, you will be taken more seriously if you have a self-hosted blog. That’s just how it is. It’s very hard to make a name for yourself in the blogging community when you still have .wordpress.com attached to your domain name. Very few blogs have been able to make it with only the free version of WordPress. It’s possible, but a lot harder.
Finally, moving from wordpress.com to the self-hosted version can be a pain in the ass. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the move if Abigail from Living the Gray Life hadn’t walked me through the process. There are so many things that can go wrong with the move, and if you’re new to blogging, save yourself a lot of pain and hours of work by getting started with the self-hosted version! It’s an investment, but it’s so worth it.
However, if you’re new to blogging and are not sure whether it is for you or not, I would start out with a free website. That’ll allow you to test out whether you really love blogging or not, and that way you won’t have to spend money on a project that could possibly turn out to be something that is simply not for you.
Now, let’s get started!
After you purchased your domain name, it’s time to find a good host. Opinions totally differ on this one. Some bloggers prefer a certain hosting service, others prefer another one. What I suggest you do is shopping for it. See their prices and what they offer, ask other bloggers about their opinion… Hosting a big investment, so make sure you choose right! Also, don’t forget that support services are just as important as the price! If you encounter any problems, it’s important to receive the help you want. You don’t want to be stuck with a cheap host that doesn’t even care about you!
I personally went with HostGator. I wanted something that was affordable and didn’t want to pay for things I wouldn’t even be using. They have many different bundles that are very budget-friendly and can accommodate everyone’s needs. Once you get to their website, just click the “Web Hosting” tab to check out their plans!
I personally went with the hatchling plan because it has unlimited bandwidth and I only needed one domain. It’s also very inexpensive and you get all the basic services that you need. I went through my fair share of trouble with my move to self-hosted, and the HostGator support team really helped! If you’re only just starting out, that’s definitely the plan that I would go for as you probably won’t need everything that they offer right away.
After you have chosen your plan, you have to register your domain. Coming up with a domain name is probably the hardest part, haha. You want something that is going to be representative of your niche and your personality, but you also want something that is unique and that people are going to remember.
A Wanderer’s Adventures was supposed to be a travel + lifestyle blog. That’s why I came up with that name. But, turns out I don’t travel that much (except when I was abroad in England for a semester), and that I’m better at helping people with their college experience. When I switched to self-hosted, I thought about changing my name, but I couldn’t think of anything good enough. That, and there was the fact that I had grown attached to this name. So, don’t make too much of a fuss with the domain name and the meaning behind it. If you like it and it’s available, go for it! The important part is that you love it.
Pro tip: Try to avoid domain names that include numbers, unless it makes sense with your branding and niche. If the name you wanted isn’t available, try to think of other combinations or declinations. Also, try to stick to the .com extension.
Completing your purchase
Once your domain is registered, just go through the rest of the prompts on the page – choose a package, choose hosting length (I personally committed to 3 years, but that’s totally up to you!), choose a username and security pin, and fill out your billing information.
I also set up Google Apps for Work, which was an additional cost, but I was willing to pay for it (it’s what allows you to have a email@example.com email!).
The important thing to remember when it comes to hosting is to choose something that fit your needs. If you want to use the same company I’ve been using since I’ve moved to self-hosted, click here!
Now, the fun part starts! It’s time for you to start creating that beautiful blog of yours, and that starts with installing WordPress! I know there are other blogging platforms you can use (such as Squarespace), but I can definitely say that WordPress is a great choice! I haven’t tried anything else though, so that’s the only one I know. But I really love it!
WordPress is easy to install, especially if you chose HostGator as your host! To install it, just go to your control panel (http:// yourdomain.com/cpanel) and choose WordPress. After, you simply need to follow the installing process. HostGator does it all for you!
Note: When I set up my blog back in July, it took at least 24 hours for my account to be activated. Someone from the HostGator told me that it can take up to 48 hours for your account to be set up, so be patient!
Now is the time to get your theme set up! There are many free options offered by WordPress that you can personalize, and if you’re good at coding, you can even create your own child theme. I personally know next to nothing when it comes to coding, HTML, and CSS, so I decided to purchase my theme. My current theme is from pipdig and I absolutely love it! The installation process is super easy and they have so many cute and affordable options! What I also love about them is that you can customize them to fit your needs.
PAGES AND POSTS
Before launching your blog, I suggest you already have a few posts in the works. You can write about basically anything: it can be an introduction post, a post within your niche, why you created your blog… it’s up to you! Also, start brainstorming other posts ideas for when your blog is launched! Trust me, writing posts can be hard sometimes.
Also, make sure you have set up your “About me” page! These are terribly hard to write because you want to show your personality and the reason behind your blog. It’s where your audience can get to know you and your blog, and it’s also the place brands are going to look at if they want to collaborate with you! Make sure you include your contact email address (you can set a “Contact” page if you prefer!). Erica from Coming Up Roses wrote an amazing blog post to help you write the perfect “About” page!
If you want to add extra pages, it’s up to you!
WIDGETS AND PLUGINS
I had a hard time grasping the concept of widgets and plugins at first, but now I cannot live without them!
Basically, a widget is a component of your blog that lets you perform a function or access a service.
A plugin is a software component that adds a specific feature to your website. It allows you to customize your blog. Here are some of my favorite plugins:
- Yoast SEO: This is the tool when it comes to SEO! This plugin helps you make sure your posts will get ranked as high as possible on search engine! What I love about it is that it’s really easy to use. You don’t need to be a coding or SEO expert to work it out! Basically, it tells you how your SEO and readability are, and gives you tips to improve both. This is probably the plugin I love the most!
- Disqus Comment System: You need to have a comment system. It’s what allows you to interact with your audience directly on your blog! I personally love Disqus because it’s easy to use. Moving the comments from my WordPress blog was also quite easy, so I love that!
- jQuery Pin It Button for images: Pinterest is the tool when it comes to traffic! So if you’re looking for a way to increase your stats, install this plugin! It allows you to pin images to Pinterest directly from your blog. All you have to do is click the “Pin It” button, save it to your board and you’re done! It’s that easy.