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Learning how to start a blog can be an intimidating task to undertake, but isn’t all that bad once you the get ball rolling. Plus, it’s worth working through all of the technical bits that need to be put in place while setting up a blog. Blogging provides an easy way for just about anyone to start their own business, and it’s one of the most effective forms of content marketing you can implement. However, convincing you to start a blog isn’t the focus of this article.
In this post, we’re going to briefly cover the things you’ll need to do before you start a blog before we dive into the step-by-step process of starting a blog with SiteGround (and WordPress). Once that’s done, I’ll show you how to point your domain to SiteGround. We’ll wrap up with an overview of everything you’ll need to do next to launch your blog.
Before we get started, however, I just wanted to let you know that I do have a tutorial on /*/*how to start a blog with Flywheel/*/*, a managed WordPress host. While they’re more expensive in the long run, they allow you to pay month-to-month (SiteGround’s payments are annual) and handle a lot of site maintenance tasks for you. I highly recommend checking that post out before you decide on SiteGround.
Anyway, here’s my tutorial on how to start a blog with SiteGround. Let’s get into it.
Finding Your Blog Niche
The first step of learning how to start a blog is learning how to find your blog niche. A niche is the umbrella topic your blog is centered around, meaning every single blog post you publish can fall under it. It’ll keep you focused as you learn how to build a blog and grow your audience. It can also help you find success as niche markets tend to be less competitive than their broader counterparts.
To find your niche, I recommend starting with broad topics you know and are interested in and breaking those topics down into niches. You should then research each niche to discover which ones have the best blogging potential, popularity and sales potential and base your decision off of those results.
I do not recommend choosing a niche simply because it’s profitable. Blogging, and business for that matter, isn’t just about profit, page views and social media shares. It’s about building a new life for yourself that allows you to make a career out of writing about something you care about and connecting with an audience through your writing. Chasing numbers will only lead to failure in more ways than one.
If you haven’t found your niche, yet, I wrote an entire post called How to Find Your Blog Niche. It’ll walk you through the process.
Registering Your Domain
The next step in starting a blog is choosing a blog niche and registering your domain. I highly recommend building a website that has a blog rather than simply starting a blog for free with Medium or WordPress.com. It gives you more freedom over your business and gives you access to more tools when it comes to designing, building and marketing your website. Regardless, your business needs a brand name, and your website needs an address people can use to visit it.
I register all of my domains with Namecheap. They have fair prices that don’t rise year after year, and their dashboard is intuitive and incredibly easy to use.
If you need help choosing a blog name and/or registering your domain, be sure to read my post How to Choose a Blog Name and Register a Domain Name with Namecheap.
Choosing a Blogging Platform
Once you know the topic you want to blog about and have a domain ready to go, you’re ready to find a platform to host your blog. There are dedicated blogging platforms out there, such as WordPress.com, Blogger and Medium, but I highly recommend choosing a platform that allows you to build an entire website around your blog.
Learning how to set up a blog with a fully-blown website attached to it gives you the ability to build proper pages, including a homepage, an About page, a Contact page, and even landing pages and cornerstone content. It also gives you the ability to take full advantage of email marketing, which leads me to my next point.
Free blogging platforms come with very few features when it comes to actually building your website. Sure, they may have a few cool themes and allow you to add pages to your blog, but they don’t have modern tools and designs that allow you to build a full-scale online business from a blog. Platforms like WordPress.org and Squarespace, on the other hand, allow you to take full advantage of sleek website designs and powerful tools.
Since this is a post on how to start a blog with SiteGround, I obviously favor WordPress.org. Let’s talk about why.
Why I Recommend WordPress.org
First off, I want to reiterate something I went over in The Ultimate Guide to WordPress for Beginners, a mega guide I wrote for entrepreneurs unfamiliar with the CMS. The word “WordPress” is used to refer to two different platforms—WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.com is a blogging platform and WordPress.org is a self-hosted solution. They’re both free, but WordPress.com hosts your blog for you while WordPress.org requires you to have a server to install it on, which it does not provide (hence why we’re learning how to purchase space on a server from SiteGround in this article). When I refer to “WordPress,” I’m referring to WordPress.org.
The reason I recommend WordPress.org over WordPress.com is simple, and I mentioned it in the previous section. WordPress.com comes with many limitations while WordPress.org has a large collection of 50,000+ third-party plugins and thousands upon thousands of third-party themes available for it. Simply put, you’re able to accomplish far more with WordPress.org.
Something else you may be wondering is why I recommend WordPress over an all-in-one solution like Squarespace. I think Squarespace is a wonderful platform. I even used it to host my portfolio site in my 5+ years as a freelance writer, but I do advise against using an all-in-one platform to host something that contains as much content as a blog.
Every new blog post you publish creates a new page on your site, and every image you insert on your site takes up space on your server. Moving a small website, such as my three-page portfolio website, away from Squarespace was very easy to do. Moving a website that has a blog filled with dozens or even hundreds of posts, on the other hand, would be a massive undertaking. If you start a blog with Squarespace and decide to move away from it for whatever reason, you’re going to have to recreate and upload each and every one of those blog posts and each and every image you have on your site. WordPress (as an open-source platform) is compatible with dozens of hosts, which makes it it possible to transfer an entire website between hosts without experiencing any downtime or requiring days of editing. Plus, it’s built for blogging but also allows you to add multiple features to your site, including a store, forum, online school and more.
I could go on and on about this topic, but we need to get to the tutorial. Without further ado, here’s my tutorial on how to start a blog with SiteGround.
How to Start a Blog with SiteGround
Like I said, when you use WordPress, you need a server to install it on in order to use it. I’m going to show you how to purchase a hosting server from SiteGround and install WordPress on it. SiteGround is my favorite shared host. They host my portfolio website lynwildwood.com, which has a load time of just under 600 milliseconds and an uptime performance of 100%.
Shared hosting is a form of web hosting where you “share” resources with other websites on your server. They have a higher risk of security and are slower in nature, but they’re cheaper as a result. You can learn more about the types of hosting available for WordPress in my guide to WordPress for beginners.
They have great security, a wonderful support staff and tons of features for WordPress users to utilize. The reasons I recommend them to beginners are their prices (they offer a discount of over 60% on your first year), their performance (even as a shared host) and their ease of use.
Learning how to start a blog with SiteGround begins by choosing a hosting plan.
Step 1: Choosing a Hosting Plan
Click here to head on over to SiteGround to view their hosting plans. They offer three shared hosting plans for WordPress:
The plan you ultimately decide to go with will depend on your needs and budget. It’s important to note that although SiteGround lists their prices in month-to-month format, they require you to pay for at least an entire year upfront. Plus, the over 60% discount they offer is only available your first year. Here are the real costs for each plan, just so you’re aware:
|First Year||Second Year|
You can pay for up to three years in advance, but as much as I love SiteGround, I recommend only paying for a year upfront with any host. A lot can happen in three years. That wonderful host that’s blowing your mind today may wind up screwing you over tomorrow. The smaller the commitment, the better.
As far as “what you need” goes, here are my recommendations. Since each plan is designed based on the amount of space your site needs and the amount of traffic you receive, I recommend StartUp if you’re learning how to start a blog as more of a hobby and/or don’t have a ton of time or money to put into it in your first year.
If you plan to create a blog post (and publish it) at least once a week while promoting your blog with social media, guest blogging and similar strategies, I recommend GrowBig. I only recommend GoGeek to those who can truly afford it and plan on putting a lot of money into their marketing strategies.
Once you’ve decided which plan you’d like to go with, click the Get Started button associated with it.
Step 2: Entering a Domain Name
The next step is entering a domain name. You can either register one with SiteGround or enter one you’ve registered elsewhere. Like I said, I register all of my domain names with Namecheap, and I recommend you to do the same for several reasons. For starters, SiteGround’s domain names are really pricey by industry standards. A .com domain costs $15.95/year, and that’s without domain privacy.
An ICANN bylaw requires all domains to have legitimate personal information linked to them. The idea is to cut back on the amount of spam that exists on the internet. Domain privacy is a form of protection you can purchase to keep your personal information, including your name, physical address, phone number and email address, private. The service you purchase domain privacy protection from will replace your personal information with their own. It’s optional, but if you don’t want solicitors sending you letters, emails and phone calls, I recommend purchasing it for every domain you register. Namecheap offers this service free of charge.
Whether or not you choose to register your domain with Namecheap, I still recommend registering your domain with someone other than your host. You can learn more about why I suggest this in my tutorial for Namecheap, but it has to do with the way domain name transfers work in comparison to website transfers. I can transfer my WordPress site from one host to another in a matter of minutes without experiencing any downtime. In fact, I’ve done it with this site. Domain names on the other hand? They can take as long as 15 days to transfer, which could result in the same amount of downtime for your site.
Anyway, once you have a domain name, follow one of these steps:
Instructions: Enter your domain name, select the domain extension (.com, .org, etc.) you want, and click Proceed.
Third-Party Domain, such as Namecheap
Instructions: Enter your domain name, and click Proceed.
Step 3: Completing Your Order
Enter your desired account information. This is the information you’ll use to log into your SiteGround account. Enter your billing address and credit/debit card information after that. You can pay via PayPal, but you’ll need to talk to a customer service representative. To do so, scroll to the top of the page, hover over the Help link in the navigation menu, and click Start a Sales Chat if you want to pay via PayPal. If not, continue to review your order.
There are a few things you can do in the Hosting Services section:
- Plan – Choose a different hosting plan, if you wish.
- Data Center – Choose a data center location that’s closest to where you live/plan on doing business.
- Period – Choose the number of years you’d like to pay for upfront. As much as I love and trust SiteGround, I recommend only paying for a year upfront no matter the host. Paying for two or three years upfront is too much of a monetary commitment to give to a company you have no history with.
Since I recommend registering your domain with someone other than SiteGround and this is a tutorial for new blogs, the only “Extra Service” you need to concern yourself with is SG Site Scanner. This is a security tool that scans your site for malware and other malicious code. You can pay for this if you wish, but I recommend using a plugin called Wordfence instead. It’s free and offers a lot more features. SG Site Scanner is selected by default, so if you don’t wish to pay for it, make sure you deselect it.
Once you’re done reviewing your order, take a look at your total to make sure it matches everything you wish to pay for right now, and click Pay Now to complete your order.
Step 4: Installing WordPress
Once your order is complete, we can finally learn how to start a blog by setting one up on the server you just purchased. We’re going to learn how to make a blog by installing WordPress. Click the Proceed to Customer Area button. You’ll be redirected to SiteGround’s setup wizard.
Once there, look under the Set Up Your Website section, and select Start a New Website. Choose WordPress, and enter your desired login credentials for your site. These credentials are for the administration account for your WordPress site and are different from the login credentials you’ll use to log into SiteGround.
Avoid using “admin” or your own name as your username. Hackers only need two things to log into your site’s admin accounts—username and password. If they can guess your username, they’ll only need to break your password to get in. As an example, let’s say your name is Clark Kent and your (Earth) birthday is February 29. You can use that info to create a secure username that’s at least more secure than “clark kent,” such as:
The list could go on and on. Make sure you use a secure password filled with numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters and symbols. I recommend generating a secure password with a password manager like LastPass and saving your credentials there. That way you don’t need to remember a complicated password or type it in manually every time.
Security Tip: If you use LastPass, make sure you don’t add the email address you use to sign up for LastPass to your vault. It’s best to keep these accounts separate in case one gets compromised.
Regardless of how you create and save your username and password, keep them close by. We’ll use them to sign into the backend of WordPress in a moment.
Click Confirm once you’re done. SiteGround may try to push their SG Site Scanner again. Again, you can pay for this now if you wish, but there are other solutions out there that are free (such as Wordfence). If you don’t wish to purchase it, leave it deselected, click Confirm once again, and click Complete Setup.
You should receive this message after completing the setup process. Click Proceed to Customer Area.
Step 5: Connecting Your Domain to SiteGround
Notice: Skip this step if you registered your domain with SiteGround.
You should be in the Customer Area of SiteGround by now. Open the My Accounts tab, and open the Information & Settings section. You’ll find two items in the “Account DNS” section. These are your nameservers. They’re what you’ll need to point your domain from your domain registrar to your SiteGround server.
These instructions may not be crystal clear depending on who you registered your domain with. In Namecheap, open your Domain List, and click the Manage button associated with the domain you want to point to SiteGround.
Scroll down to the Nameservers section under the Domain tab. Select Custom DNS, and copy and paste both of your nameservers from SiteGround one by one. Click the small blue checkmark to save them.
Enter your domain in your browser’s address bar to check on the connection’s status. You’ll know everything is working correctly when your homepage says “My WordPress Blog.” It usually only takes a few minutes, but Namecheap states it may take as long as 48 hours.
Cleaning Up WordPress
Once you’re sure your domain is connected to your SiteGround server and your website is up and running, you can log in to the backend of it. The backend is the WordPress admin area. It’s what you’ll use to manage the style, functionality and content of your website.
To access the WordPress admin area, enter “yourdomain.com/wp-admin” in the address bar, but replace “yourdomain.com” with your actual domain. Since you’re not logged in, this will redirect you to the WordPress login page where you can enter the credentials we set up in Step 4.
You’ll be greeted with this as soon as you log in:
So, what do I mean by “cleaning up WordPress.” Every new WordPress installation comes preloaded with a few pages and plugins you (likely) don’t need. So, let’s get rid of ‘em. This will give you a chance to work with the backend of WordPress before we wrap this post up. Again, if you need more help learning WordPress, check out my beginner’s guide.
Start by dismissing the Welcome to WordPress message at the top of the Home screen. Then, view your WordPress posts by viewing the admin menu and navigating to Posts → All Posts.
WordPress comes preloaded with an already published blog post called “Hello world!” However, SiteGround replaces this post with one called “WordPress Resources at SiteGround.” It’s a basic summary of the features SIteGround offers to WordPress users. You can hover over the title of this post and click View if you want, but I’m going to show you how to delete it since you don’t need it. This will show you how to delete posts in general.
Hover over the title, and click Trash.
This moves the post to the Trash. To delete it permanently, open the Trash screen, hover over the post again, and click Delete Permanently.
Next, hover over Pages, and select All Pages. Let’s learn how to delete items in bulk. Select the checkbox at the top of the list.
Click Bulk Actions, select Move to Trash, and click Apply.
Open the Trash screen, select both pages, and repeat the same steps, but select Delete Permanently this time before clicking Apply.
Lastly, let’s delete the plugins that come preinstalled with every new WordPress installation. Navigate to Plugins → Installed Plugins.
You should see three plugins here—Akismet, Hello Dolly and Jetpack. WordPress has its own comment system you can use if you choose to enable comments on your blog. Akismet is an anti-spam plugin that will catch and help you manage any spam that comes through this system.
Hello Dolly is a useless plugin that I’m not going to bother explaining (sorry, Matt). Jetpack, on the other hand, may be useful to you. This one is installed and activated by SiteGround on every new WordPress site installed with them. It’s by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.org and WordPress.com. It’s a “jack of all trades” type of plugin that offers a long list of features, which has inspired years of debates about whether or not it’s bloated and slows down sites.
I personally don’t use Jetpack. I’m on the “it’s too bloated” side of the debate and prefer to install solutions one-by-one when I need them. Feel free to do your research so you can decide whether or not you want to use it, but there’s no harm in deleting it now. It’s a free plugin, so you can always install it later on by going to Plugins → Add New.
You’ll need to deactivate Jetpack before you delete it, but you can delete these plugins in the same way we deleted those default pages and posts moments ago.
So, now that you’ve got your hosting server set up and your blog is live, you’re probably wondering what to do next. First, I highly recommend activating a “Coming Soon” page on your website. I typically use a free coming soon plugin developed by SeedProd. It’ll put your site in “maintenance mode” where visitors are only able to view your Coming Soon page. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to make changes and tweaks to your site’s content and design without anyone seeing a thing.
Next up is your theme. You probably noticed your homepage already has a design, but it’s not exactly what you’re looking for. What you’re seeing is the default theme that comes pre-installed and activated with every new WordPress site. What you’ll want to do first is install a custom theme, tweak its design to your liking and build your primary pages. These are your Home, About, Blog and Contact pages.
I typically recommend Divi by Elegant Themes. It’s a premium theme that comes with a built-in page builder plugin you can use to customize the design of your website with point-and-click and drag-and-drop maneuvers.
Divi is available as part of Elegant Themes’ theme club, which you can join for $89/year or $249 for life. This club also comes with Bloom, a plugin that allows you to add email sign-up forms to your website, and Monarch, a plugin that allows you to add social sharing buttons to your website.
I recommend Hestia if you’re on a budget. It’s a free theme that comes with a premium version you can upgrade to at a later point. This is the theme I use here on Learn with Lyn. Its homepage comes with what are known as “widgets.” You can add your own content to these widgets, negating the need for you to build your own homepage.
You can activate this theme directly from the WordPress theme repository by navigating (from the admin menu) to Appearance → Themes → Add New → search for “hestia” → Install theme simply labelled “Hestia” → Activate.
You should also install and activate a security plugin if you didn’t purchase SiteGround’s. Enabling a reCAPTCHA form on your login page is beneficial as well. I use Wordfence for security and Login No Captcha reCAPTCHA for reCAPTCHA forms. You can install and activate both of these plugins by going to Plugins → Add New.
Once your website is all set up, you get to work creating content and starting an email list. Of course, I will be adding content teaching you how to do all of this in the future, so subscribe to my own email list for help along your journey!
As for now, I wish you the best of luck!