It seems I have been getting a lot of questions lately related to starting a blog – both from the technical point of view but also the more thematical portion. Since those two are completely different beast, I’ll be tackling them in separate posts. Today, I’ll be talking about starting a blog, technically speaking.
PLATFORMS / CMS
The first consideration when starting a blog is your blogging platform. There’s pros and cons to all of them – Blogger, WordPress.com, WordPress.org (self-hosted), and Squarespace.
Regardless, at the end of the day if you’re doing this to monetize or even if you think you might monetize but aren’t sure – WordPress is the winner in my opinion.
If you want to read more about the pro/cons, I suggest this post by Marianne – it’s by far the most comprehensive post I’ve seen.
However, if you’re convinced on starting a blog with WordPress.org, the self-hosted version (or moving to WordPress), read on my friend, because I’ll lay out all the technical steps to starting a blog.
A domain name is a lot like a home addres but for your blog. It’s where people will go to find your blog. My domain name is 259west.com and in order to get your own you’ll need to register a new domain name with a domain registrar.
You can choose to buy your domain name together with your hosting package (below) or you can buy the domain name separately. I recommend my clients they keep their domain name and hosting separate for a couple of reasons and it all boils down to this – do not keep all your eggs in one basket. If one of your accounts get hacked – you still have control of the other half of your blog (either content or address). If your hosting goes down with no restore date in sight, you can move your blog to a new host and update your domain to point there. Basically if anything goes wrong, you’re not SOL if you have the two separate.
Now, where to register your domain? There’s a few options but here are the two I recommend –
I have domains with both of them and have never had an issue. Their dashboards are easy to navigate for when you need to renew the domain or update your DNS settings, which is why I recommend them.
A web host is where your blog will be hosted or housed. If we keep with the house analogy, your domain name is your address whereas your web host is your house lot. Only your hour isn’t 100% attached to your lot (host) – you can move it around to a different host if you need to.
When it comes to hosting you will have a few different concerns –
- Customer Service
The #1 thing to remember here is you truly do get what you pay for. I’ve lost count of the times a client has gone with cheap hosting only to have it turn into a nightmare of constant downtime, hacks, and crappy customer service. There’s only three hosting services I recommend and they are –
- Flywheel – they are who I host my blog with and my only regret is that I didn’t start off with them to begin with. They’re a host specifically built for WordPress and it shows. I have never experienced downtime, my site runs fast, they include backups, malware checks as well as malware clean up, and their customer support is stellar. That being said they are a little pricey when compared to other hosts but it’s 100% worth it.
- Siteground – if you can’t afford Flywheel just yet, Siteground is the way to go. They’re affordable and they have stellar service, all around. I have a couple of smaller sites with them and I’ve never had an issue. Additionally, lots of my clients are on Siteground and they LOVE them. If you’re just getting started I’d recommend going with their “StartUp” plan which stars at $6.99/mo and moving up from there once your blog starts growing.
- WP Engine – similar to Flywheel, WPManage are a WordPress optimized host. There is a similar price tag to Flywheel but it’s worth it. Their servers are able to handle high levels of traffic with minimal to no downtime.
Once you’ve signed up for hosting, you’ll more than likely need to install WordPress and I’ve got a video for you if you need help with this step.
So you’ve made it this far and that’s really exciting – but then you click over to your brand new blog and it looks pretty blah, right? Well this is when the fun begins! It’s time to jazz it up.
There are tons of themes you can use for WordPress but I recommend going with a Genesis theme. Genesis Themes are well-coded, SEO friendly, and easy to customize through child themes.
What is the Genesis Framework?
Weird car analogy here but bear with me – think of WordPress as the engine that runs your website. If so, then themes are the rest – the framework, built, paint job, and glittery flames on the side.
The problem with having framework + aesthetics combined is that when you need to update the framework, you also update the paint job. In our case, this means taking the paint job (and glittery flames on the side) back to factory defaults.
Having the Genesis Framework fixes this issue.
With Genesis, anytime the framework needs an update – say, a security update to make extra sure hackers aren’t going to get in – you’re only updating the framework. The aesthetics, are on an outer layer called the Child Theme.
This means you can go to town on the aesthetics – change the paint color, add extra glittery flames, and even fake hot pink eye lashes – and next time you update the framework, those will remain intact. No going back to factory settings.
Genesis is truly THE WordPress framework to use. It’s the only one I use with my clients and on this here site. I truly cannot recommend it enough. It is a $59 investment but it’s 100% worth it. You get the framework, support from StudioPress if you ever need, and their basic / starter child theme (the Sample Child Theme).
So as I mentioned in my car analogy, Child Themes are the fun part – the paint job and glittery flames up the side. The wonderful thing about the Genesis Community is that there are SO MANY child themes to choose from – everything from minimalist, to super girly, to moe masculine child themes. Below are my favorite resources for Child Themes.
- StudioPress (Genesis Makers)
- Restored 316 Designs
- Pretty Darn Cute Design
- Shay Bocks
- 17th Avenue Designs
If you’re looking for even more options, you can always check what’s available on CreativeMarket and Etsy!
Most sellers will offer to install your themes for a fee but it’s super easy to do on your own and all themes comes with instructions!
So to recap – the steps to starting a blog, technically speaking, are
- Purchase a domain name
- Set a hosting account
- Install WordPress
- Purchase and install a theme framework
- Purchase and install a child theme
- Get to blogging!
Further Reading – What are plugins + how to add them
If you’d like to learn more about the tech side of running and maintaining a blog be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’ll be doing WordPress 101 videos, as well as sharing social media tips!
Photo Source: KaboomPics