Update: This post has been edited on September 5, 2019, to reflect the new and improved SiteGround user area and the latest WordPress best practices.Veteran bloggers often sound like a broken record for a reason.
It’s because they know what they’re talking about.
Have you ever met a blogger who makes at least four-figures every month, let along 5 and 6 figures, who said they prefer a proprietary blogging platform over self-hosted WordPress?
And there’s a reason for that.
If you’re a serious blogger who wants to make money off of blogging, you will find that you’ll need to integrate sophisticated features and sometimes third-party services to your blog. With WordPress, something like adding features and functionalities is like a breeze.
But proprietary platforms like SquareSpace or Wix or even the other, not-self-hosted WordPress.com? I can guarantee that integrating anything other than what they offer with in-house will be a nightmare, if not downright impossible.
So, if you take blogging seriously, make that investment now. Purchase a domain and hosting package, and set up your WordPress blog. This way, you’ll be good to go for years to come! And trust me, having a strong foundation for your blog will set you up for success from the beginning of your blogging journey.
Setting up your self-hosted blog isn’t hard, per se. However, there’s a way to do it right, and then there are plenty of ways to do it wrong.
If you’re on a budget and are not able to hire a developer to set up your blog for you, allow me to walk you through the process in this post.
Now chill! If I scared you there, my apologies. It’s not rocket science, so, as long as you follow the instructions here, you will be all set and ready to launch your blog in no time!
Ready? Let’s start!
[Please note that this blog post has several affiliate link. Meaning, I make a commission if you make a purchase through my affiliate links, paid to me by the affiliate merchant, and at no cost to you.]
Choose Your WordPress Host
One of the first things people get stuck on is choosing the right host.
Now, if you trust me at all, just take my word for it and sign up for SiteGround hosting [affiliate].
Trust me on this. I have freelanced as a web designer and developer and have had the opportunity to work with a bunch of different hosting companies, and none, NOT A SINGLE ONE could live up to the quality of SiteGround. Their services, as well as their customer service, are top-notch!
And it’s affordable!
Trust me, whether it’s your blog’s security, or it’s speed and performance, or the customer care representatives, SiteGround trumps ALL OTHER hosting companies you can think of.
So, without further adieu, sign up for SiteGround knowing that you and your blog will be in great hands!
Sign Up for SiteGround Hosting
Signing up for SiteGround is easy-peasy!
1. Head over to SiteGround.
2. Choose your plan. As you can see on the image above, SiteGround offers three shared hosting plans for WordPress users. The cheapest being the StartUp plan with basic features and functionalities. The GrowBig plan offers a whole bunch of other features including staging, whenever backup restore, enhanced security and performance. The GoGeek offers a web-solution that’s even faster than GrowBig.
It may be tempting to go with the StartUp plan, but if you can afford it, I highly encourage you to sign up for the GrowBig plan. This way, you’ll be able to enjoy Siteground at its full potential.
And of course, you can upgrade any time!
For example, until just a few months ago, I was on the GrowBig plan. But then as my traffic and income grew, I switched to the GoGeek plan, and boy oh boy, my website loading speed went up by 50%!
3. Once you choose a plan, the next screen will prompt you to pick your primary domain. In this step, you can register a new domain with SiteGround, or use one that you already own. Click “Proceed” after you’ve chosen your option.
(If you have a domain from a different company, you have to transfer or point your domain to SiteGround. I suggest pointing as it’s faster and easier. Different companies have different interfaces, but essentially, you’ll have to point your domain to SiteGround using SiteGround’s nameservers. More on it in the next section.)
4. Now, review everything, and then click the “Pay Now” button to purchase your brand new SiteGround hosting plan!
Optional: Point Your Third-Party Domain to SiteGround
Skip this step if you purchased your domain with SiteGround. However, if you own a domain from a different company, you’ll need to point your domain to SiteGround.
You can do so using nameservers or A records. I suggest using nameservers.
The pointing method is same no matter which company you purchased your domain with. You’ll need to get the nameserver addresses (there are two of these) from SiteGround, and then edit your domain’s original nameservers to add the SiteGround nameservers.
While the method is the same, depending on the company you purchased your domain from, the interface to change nameservers may look different.
A popular company to purchase domains from is NameCheap. In fact, I purchase all my domain from them. Since it would be impossible to show you the interface of all the different companies, I will simply walk you through the domain pointing process for NameCheap. Even if you own your domain with someone else, you should still be able to utilize the same methods to point your third-party domain to SiteGround.
1. The first step is to get SiteGround’s nameservers.
Log into your SiteGround account. Click on “Websites” from the navigation bar, and then click on “Site Tools” under your website URL. See image below.
In the next page, you’ll see the nameserver that you’ll be using on your third-party domain’s DNS settings. Note that the nameservers you see in the image below are likely not the same as the ones you’ll need to use. Use the ones you see on your account.
2. In the next step, you’ll need to log into your third-party domain company. In this demonstration, I’m using NameCheap.
Log on to NameCheap, and then click on “Manage” next to the URL that you’re about to point to SiteGround.
In the following page, scroll down to where it gives you nameserver options. Choose “Custom Nameservers” from the dropdown, and add the SiteGround nameservers. Then, click on the green check mark to save your new nameservers.
And that’s it. These new nameservers will now tell NameCheap to point to SiteGround instead of NameCheap.
Please note that nameserver changes may take a few hours to a whole day to take effect. Wait until the nameserver propagation is complete before you go on to the next steps.
Set Up WordPress on Your New SiteGround Hosting
Now that you’re ready to set up your WordPress blog, you may be tempted to just go and install WordPress. That’s all good and everything, but I want you to pay attention to this part because I want you to do things in a certain order. It will make life a lot easier for you in the long run.
Start with Installing SSL
SSL is what makes your URL https:// instead of http://
It’s important because, in layman’s terms, SSL makes the connection between a browser and server safe.
I see people skipping this part completely. Please don’t!
So, before installing WordPress, I want you to install SSL certificate to your domain. It’s easy, let me show you how.
Go to your SiteGround account, click on “Websites”, and then click on “Site Tools” like before. And then, click on the three lines next to the SiteGround logo on top-left to show more options available to you.
From this list, click on “Security” to expand, and then click on “SSL Manager”.
In the following page, choose the SSL certificate from the drop-down (Let’s Encrypt, the first option is sufficient for most blogs), and then click on “Get”.
Now Install WordPress
Go back to the dashboard (you can access the dashboard for the selected domain from the options on the left panel which you can access by clicking the three lines next to the top-left SiteGround logo), and then click on “App manager”.
In the next window, choose the app to be installed from the drop-down. Choose WordPress as that’s what we’re installing.
When you select “WordPress”, more options will be shown to you. Fill out the fields and then click on “Install”.
A few notes on the fields to be filled out. If you want to WordPress to be installed in the main domain, leave “Installation Path” blank. if you want your WordPress URL to be something like “https://mysite.com/blog”, then add “/blog” in the ‘Installation Path” field. Typically, you’d leave it blank.
Pick an admin username that is hard to guess. DO NOT use “admin” or your blog’s name as the username. Those are easy to guess and therefore, not safe for use.
Pick a password that is difficult to guess. I’d advise mixing uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Use a good email address that you have access to and you will check regularly.
And then, click “Install”.
Clean Up Your WordPress Installation
Back in the days, WordPress installation came with a bunch of pre-installed, unnecessary plugins. Thankfully, SiteGround at least has gotten rid of most of them. The only pre-installed plugin now is the SiteGround Optimizer plugin. This is a good plugin to have for beginners as this takes care of caching and some other performance enhancing issues.
However, I personally like to use a premium plugin called WP Rocket for all of my site optimization needs. You can check out the following blog post to learn more about improving your WordPress blog speed and enhancing performance: How to Improve WordPress Speed and Performance with WP Rocket and SiteGround Hosting
Install Your Chosen Template
Now it’s time to install a template. A template determines how your blog/website looks and performs. It’s imperative that you choose a good theme, that’s well coded, and from a reputable theme-foundry who won’t disappear on you in two years.
There is no shortage of free as well as paid, premium templates for WordPress. There are also site-builder plugins that you can use to create something completely unique.
To install a theme, go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes, and then click on “Add New”. Follow the prompts to install the theme of choice, and then click on “Activate”. Most themes will require you to do some initial setup, and you can do that by following their support documentation.
Install and Activate Essential Plugins
These are the absolute essential plugins any WordPress user must have. Make sure to install and activate these plugins as soon as possible. (Psst, if you’re not sure how to install a plugin, I wrote a step-by-step guide on how to install and activate a plugin.)
- Anti-Spam – for detecting and filtering spam comments.
- WordFence Security – for securing your website from brute-force attacks and malware.
- UpDraft Plus – for automatically backing up your content and database. (Here’s a guide showing you how to set up automated, periodic backups with UpdraftPlus.)
- Yoast – for policing SEO
- Optimole – for optimizing and compressing image files.
- Sassy Social Share – for sharing blog posts.
- WP Rocket – caching and site performance enhancing plugin to make your site load faster.
- Media Cleaner – helps you clean up unlinked media files in your media library.
- Edit Author Slug – When you click on a user, the link adds the user’s username as the slug. Which can be a huge security issue for most WordPress sites. Edit Author Slug helps you mask the username with a custom slug.
Also, since Gutenberg was released, I’ve been using a plugin called Classic Editor. Classic Editor replaces the Gutenberg editor and instead uses the previous editor which I prefer much more over the Gutenberg editor. I feel that the Gutenberg editor is still not very user-friendly when it comes to bloggers.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to write long-form blog posts, and I also craft all my blog posts directly on the WordPress post editor. The Gutenberg editor is really not meant for crafting long-form content on the editor itself.
Feel free to play with both editing platforms and see which you prefer.
We’ve now covered the technical aspect of setting up your WordPress blog with SiteGround [affiliate].
Next, I want you to install Google Analytics to your blog, and submit your sitemap to Google’s Search Console.
If you’re unclear about any of the steps above, or if you have questions and/or comments, leave them in the comments below! I’ll try to address as many of them as possible, as soon as I can. Thank you for reading!
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