So you want to start a blog? That’s fantastic! Blogging is simple and fun but not easy. Definitely not easy. Even though you can set up a WordPress blog in less than 10 minutes, it takes countless hours of focus and patience to make things look the way you want. So my aim is to help you set up a blog from scratch on the world’s most awesome blogging platform – WordPress.org.
First things first.
Because it’s a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. WordPress started as just a blogging system, but has evolved to be used as full content management system and so much more through the thousands of plugins and widgets and themes, WordPress is limited only by your imagination and tech chops.
If you have already started a WordPress blog in the past then you have some edge, and if you are also willing to spend some money on marketing and promotion then you are even better placed to start a WordPress blog than another beginner.
Just a friendly reminder, as a newbie blogger no one will be aware of your blog, no one might read your blog posts. It will be just another blog. Well, it’s a start. A beginning. And yes, in time, you can make all the difference.
So let’s get started!
How To Start A WordPress Blog: Quick Glance
- Buy A Domain Name
- Domain name is the .com address that people type in their web browser to visit your blog.
- It costs around $10-15 per year.
- Buy A Web Hosting Plan
- Web Hosting is your storage space on the web (to host your content, images, files, etc.)
- It costs $60-$150 per year.
- You can buy InMotion Hosting via a special offer and it costs only $107.88 for 3 years (including one-year free domain registration). Or I would recommend a shared hosting plan by Hawk Host as it costs only $35.91 per year (even for renewal).
- Change Domain Nameservers
- It’s required only if your domain name registrar and the web hosting company are different.
- It takes less than 5 minutes to update the nameservers but it may take few hours for the new nameservers to become active.
- Get Started With Web Hosting
- It’s time to get to know your web hosting account and its various aspects.
- Install WordPress
- It’s a blogging software to manage your content.
- It’s free forever!
- Install A WordPress Plugin
- It’s to change the look and feel of your WordPress blog and to enhance its functionality.
- It’s free forever!
- Install A (Premium) WordPress Theme & Import (Optional) Demo Content
- It’s your blog’s design.
- It’s free if you are opting for a free WordPress theme.
- It costs around $50-$150 (one-time) for a premium WordPress theme.
- Configure WordPress Settings
- Get to know the various settings of WordPress and configure the same.
- It’s mostly set and forget kind of settings.
- Customize WordPress
- Customize WordPress menus and widgets.
- Install and configure necessary as well as essential WordPress plugins.
- Setup essential blogging tools.
- Add a logo/header.
1. Buy A Domain Name
The first step in building an online business is registering a domain name. It’s like incorporating a company when you want to set up a business. The only problem is, it takes a lot of thinking and patience to find a perfect domain name that reflects your personality or business, or both.
A domain name is your identity on the web. So try to find a name that’s unique, memorable, short, readable, and brandable (preferably a .com). You will also have to make sure that it doesn’t conflict with other brand names or trademarks.
Even though you usually get a free domain name when you sign up for a 12-month web hosting plan, I would recommend purchasing a domain name on your own from a domain registrar like Namecheap.com and it costs $10-$15 per year.
Doing so will make it easy to manage all your domain names from a single dashboard (assuming that you will need more domain names in the future).
Web hosting companies offer a domain name free of cost only for the first year, after which they start charging a premium rate. There’s every chance that you might not stick with the same web hosting company in the future, so it’s always better to purchase your domain names elsewhere and manage them separately.
Note: I’m starting a real WordPress blog here (for demo purpose).
1.1. Namecheap Homepage
Go to Namecheap homepage.
1.2. Choose Your Domain Name
Enter your desired domain name in the search box and click the search button to check its availability.
1.3. Check The Availability Of Your Domain Name
Click the “Add to Cart” button to add any (or all) of the available domain names to your Namecheap shopping cart.
1.4. View Cart
Click the “View Cart” button to customize the domain registration term, or to purchase optional add-on services, or to apply a Promo Code.
1.5. Enable/Disable Domain Privacy Protection
When you buy a domain name (no matter where), your address, email, phone number, company name, domain registration date, and hosting details will be publicly available on the web so that ANYONE can fetch those details by using a simple WhoIs Lookup.
With WhoisGuard (or Domain Privacy Protection), your personal details will be masked and will be replaced with the contact information of the domain registrar (Namecheap in this case) and it helps to prevent telemarketing/email spam.
Click “Confirm Order”.
1.6. Log In to Your Namecheap Account/Create A Namecheap Account
Login to your Namecheap account or create one if you are new to Namecheap.
1.7. Place Your Order
Review your domain name, registration term, payment details, and of course the final price and click “Pay Now”.
1.8. Purchase Summary
You will see the order confirmation and will receive an Order Summary email with details of your order. Meanwhile, you can click the “Manage” button to enter your Namecheap Dashboard and manage your newly registered domain name(s).
1.9. Namecheap Dashboard
Again, click the “Manage” button (next to the respective domain name) to update its contact details or nameservers, or to buy additional add-on services like privacy protection, email, etc.
1.10. New Domain Name Preview
And that’s the default page when you buy a new domain name at Namecheap.com.
2. Buy A Web Hosting Plan
A website can’t exist without a domain name and a web hosting plan. There are a ton of web hosting companies on the web and then there is countless web hosting comparisons, reviews, coupons, and deals of those hosting companies. And almost all of the bloggers recommend at least one web hosting company of their choice.
The problem is, the web hosting provider recommended by ‘Blogger A’ could be the worst rated hosting company by ‘Blogger B’ or vice versa. Again, a good percentage of the bloggers or the “best web hosting reviews and ratings” are biased.
I would say there’s no such thing as a perfect web hosting company. You need to select a web hosting plan based on your actual requirements and budget. If you are unsure about it then the best thing is to get help from your geeky friend or ask on a web hosting forum.
You can also check out my Web Hosting Handbook to know all (almost) things web hosting. Anyway, I’m recommending a shared hosting plan by Hawk Host (for this very tutorial) as it’s reliable and affordable (especially when it comes to renewal).
Just in case, Shared Hosting is the most popular — and also the most affordable — web hosting plan. It’s super-easy to manage a shared hosting plan and it’s equally good for beginners as well as experienced webmasters.
Shared hosting basically means that you’re sharing your server (resources as well as the cost) with hundreds of other websites. And that makes it affordable for everyone.
The majority of websites on the web are actually hosted on a shared hosting plan. It can cost as low as $1 per month to as high as $25 per month depending upon the hosting brand and their resources. If you are new to blogging or have an existing WordPress.com or BlogSpot.com blog that’s not getting a lot of traffic, a shared hosting plan is all that you need.
Also, shared hosting is good for a personal website or a small business website (assuming that you don’t expect too much traffic every single day, and all you need is an online presence plus business email).
And hey, a shared hosting may also be suitable when you need to host multiple websites — as long as you don’t expect hundreds of thousands of visits an hour to each website.
2.1. Hawk Host Homepage
Go to Hawk Host homepage and click on “Hosting” to select a shared web hosting plan.
2.2. Hawk Host Web Hosting Plans
Hawk Host offers 2 shared hosting plans and I would recommend the PRIMARY plan (or their basic plan) as it’s good for hosting unlimited websites and offers unlimited resources (bandwidth, databases, email accounts, subdomains, etc.).
So if you are planning to start multiple websites (or blogs) then the Primary plan is good enough. However, if you want to upload thousands of gigabytes of data then you should consider the Professional plan as it offers unlimited disk space as well. Again, it’s a good idea to pick a 2-year billing cycle as it offers the best value for money.
2.3. Choose Your Domain Name
Use the “Register a new domain” option, if you wish to purchase the domain name via Hawk Host itself.
2.4. Register A New Domain Name/Use Existing Domain Name
If you have already purchased it (say from Namecheap.com or GoDaddy.com) or own it elsewhere then use the “I will use my existing domain and update my nameservers” option.
2.5. Configure Your Hosting Plan
Review your web hosting plan and its billing cycle, hosting location (ignore this if you don’t know what it is), and of course the final price and click “Continue”.
2.6. Review & Checkout
Review your order and apply Promo Code (if any).
2.7. Promo Code
Confirm the final price (after applying the promo code) and click “Checkout”.
2.8. Complete Order
Enter your personal, billing and payment details and click “Complete Order”.
2.9. Hawk Host Welcome Email
You will instantly get a confirmation email.
2.10. Hawk Host Login
Login to Hawk Host Client Area by entering your email address and the password that you have set during the “Checkout” process.
2.11. Hawk Host Client Area
That’s the Hawk Host Client Area or the Dashboard from where you manage your Hawk Host products and services and billing. You can click on “SERVICES” to view your Hawk Host products and services.
2.12. Hawk Host My Products & Services
If you are logging in immediately after signing up, you will see a “Pending” status for your hosting account. However, you can click on it to see the hosting information (like the associated domain name, server name, IP address, nameservers, and billing details).
13. Hawk Host Manage Product
As you can see, the hosting account is pending but you can update the nameservers of your domain name (if it’s registered on Namecheap.com or GoDaddy.com or elsewhere). When the hosting account is totally setup, you will receive a New Account Information email from Hawk Host.
3. Change Domain Nameservers
When your domain name registrar and the web hosting company are different, you will have to update the nameservers (or name servers) of your domain name. For instance, my blog is currently hosted with InMotion Hosting and its nameservers are ns1.inmotionhosting.com and ns2.inmotionhosting.com. So when you type www.matrics360.com into the address bar, your computer fetches the page from the servers of InMotion Hosting.
And if I’m migrating my blog from InMotion Hosting to Hawk Host then my new nameservers become ns1.hawkhost.com and ns2.hawkhost.com. So I need to update the nameservers of my domain name by logging in to my Namecheap account (which is my domain registrar). Once the nameservers are updated, when you type www.matrics360.com into the address bar, your computer will fetch the page from the servers of Hawk Host (and NOT from InMotion Hosting).
3.1. Log In To Your Namecheap Account
Login to your Namecheap Dashboard.
3.2. Namecheap Dashboard
You will see a list of all domain names registered via Namecheap. Click on the “Manage” button (next to the respective domain name) to update its contact details or nameservers, or to buy additional add-on services like privacy protection, email, etc.
3.3. Namecheap BasicDNS
“Namecheap BasicDNS” is the default option and you can select the “Custom DNS” from the dropdown menu.
3.4. Namecheap Custom DNS
Enter the nameserver details provided by your web hosting company (Hawk Host, InMotion Hosting, BlueHost, etc.) and save the changes.
3.5. Updated Nameservers
It will take up to 36 hours for the new nameservers to become active. However, it usually happens in around 2-3 hours. You can check your domain name to see whether the new nameserver is active or not.
4. Get Started With Web Hosting
Now you have purchased a domain name, a web hosting plan and have updated the nameservers as well. So what happens after that? Basically, once you purchase a domain name + web hosting plan, you need to do 3 things. First, setup your web hosting account (including nameserver updates, update passwords, etc.). Second, upload the website files from your computer to the server. Third, setup your custom email accounts ([email protected]).
When your web hosting account is activated, you will receive a welcome email from the web hosting company with the account information. Some web hosting companies offer instant account activation and hence you receive the account information email almost instantly.
I have received the account information email in less than 30 minutes. Now I will simply go through the Hawk Host Client Area — just in case.
4.1. Hawk Host Account Information
That’s “Account Information” email from Hawk Host which includes the server details (or the login information to your hosting account). You will need this information to directly login to your cPanel. And hey, it’s different from your Hawk Host login (which is basically your email address and the password that you have set during the checkout process).
4.2. Hawk Host Login
Login to Hawk Host Client Area by entering your email address and the password that you have set during the “Checkout” process.
4.3. Hawk Host Client Area
That’s the Hawk Host Client Area or the Dashboard from where you manage your Hawk Host products and services and billing. You can click on “SERVICES” to view your Hawk Host products and services.
4.4. Hawk Host Services
Alternatively, you can go to Hawk Host Client Area > Services > My Services, to view your Hawk Host products and services.
4.5. Hawk Host My Services
When your hosting account is activated, you will see “Active” status for your hosting account.
4.6. Hawk Host Manage Product
You can click on your domain name to see its hosting information (like the associated domain name, server name, IP address, nameservers, and billing details). Also, you can click on the “cPanel” button (under One Click Login) to instantly login to your cPanel (without entering the cPanel username and password).
4.7. Hawk Host Domains
Go to Hawk Host Client Area > Domains, to manage the domain names registered via Hawk Host.
4.8. Hawk Host Billing
Go to Hawk Host Client Area > Billing, to manage your billing.
4.9. Hawk Host My Invoices
Go to Hawk Host Client Area > Billing > My Invoices, to view all your invoices.
4.10. Hawk Host Support
Go to Hawk Host Client Area > Support, to get support for your web hosting account from the Hawk Host support team.
5. Install WordPress
Now that you have purchased a domain name and a web hosting plan, it’s time to setup WordPress on your server. Login to Hawk Host Client Area when you receive the New Account Information email, and it’s from there that you manage various aspects of your web hosting account.
5.1. Hawk Host Dashboard
Go to Hawk Host Client Area > Services > My Products & Services, and click on your domain name to manage it. Click cPanel to manage the server aspects of your website. A quick note, you use the Hawk Host Client Area to manage your web hosting account and you enter the cPanel of the respective domain name to manage its website.
5.2. Hawk Host cPanel
cPanel is your dashboard to manage various aspects of your server and thereby your website(s). For instance, you need to go to cPanel to create a subdomain like premium.matrics360.com, or to setup email accounts, or to install WordPress, or to manage the files on your server, or to take a website backup, to check the disk & bandwidth usage, to manage databases, and so on. Just in case, here’s a full preview of the Hawk Host cPanel.
5.3. Softaculous Apps Installer
cPanel features and options are perfectly categorized and subcategorized into different sections. When you scroll down, you can see Softaculous Apps Installer.
Softaculous is a script library that lets you install a variety of commercial as well as open-source web applications on your website. Softaculous scripts are installed directly from the control panel of your website (cPanel in this case) and it automatically creates databases, set permission, and configure various files.
You can use the Softaculous Apps Installer to install various scripts like WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, phpBB, etc. Now you want to install WordPress, right? So, click on the “WordPress” icon from the Softaculous Apps Installer menu.
5.4. Install WordPress
Click “Install Now”.
5.5. WordPress Installation
Enter the basic details to set up your WordPress blog.
- If you want to install WordPress on your domain’s root (i.e. example.com or matrics360.com), then you need to leave the “In Directory” field blank (as shown above). And if you want to install WordPress on a subfolder named blog (i.e. matrics360.com/blog/) then you need to enter “blog” in the “In Directory” field.
- Enter the Site Name (or the name of the blog) and Site Description (or the tagline of the blog). Oh yeah, you can change it anytime.
- Enter the Admin Username (or login id), Admin Password (or login password), and Admin Email (to reset the password and for all notifications).
- Enter an email address (can be different from your admin email) for the “Email installation details to” field.
- Click “Install”.
Note: If you are getting an error that says “Installation cannot proceed because the following files already exist in the target folder” then simply check the box that says “Select the checkbox to overwrite all files and continue”.
5.6. Installing WordPress
Shows the progress of your WordPress installation.
5.7. Installed WordPress
Now WordPress installation is done on your server. You can access your WordPress site by clicking on your domain name. And you will get the WordPress installation details to your admin email id (provided during installation step).
5.8. WordPress New Installation Details
Your WordPress installation details email will show your URL (or the WordPress site address), Admin URL (to enter the backend), WordPress Admin ID, and database details.
6. Install A WordPress Plugin
Plugins extend the functionality of your WordPress site (just like we add new features and functions to a web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox) with custom features. WordPress Plugins are independently developed by third-party developers across the world.
There are over 50,000 plugins in the official WordPress Plugin Directory and you can install any of them using the plugin browser or the installer available in your WordPress dashboard.
If you know what you want then you can use the Search to find it. Or, you can browse the Featured, Popular, Recommended, or Favorites (favorite plugins of a particular WordPress.org user) to get an idea of what’s possible.
6.1. WordPress Plugins
Installed Plugins shows a list of all the plugins that you have installed and it even categorizes the plugins into All, Active, Inactive, and Update Available (plugins that are not up-to-date). You can activate or deactivate an installed plugin from here. And if there is a new version of a plugin that you have already installed, then it will show an “update now” link.
Click “Add New” to install a new plugin from the official WordPress plugin directory or by manually uploading one from your computer.
6.2. Add New WordPress Plugin
Use the search box to find the plugin that you are looking for. Or, use the “Upload Plugin” button to manually upload and install a plugin that you have downloaded or purchased elsewhere.
6.3. Install A WordPress Plugin
When you find the plugin that you are looking for, click “Install Now”.
6.4. Installed New WordPress Plugin
When a new plugin is installed successfully, you will see the “Activate” button.
6.5. Activate New WordPress Plugin
Click the “Activate” button.
6.6. Activated New WordPress Plugin
Now that you have installed and activated a new WordPress plugin.
6.7. Configure WordPress Plugin
Go try the plugin now!
7. Install A (Premium) WordPress Theme & Import (Optional) Demo Content
When you browse a WordPress theme, you need to visualize your future website. That’s why picking a theme/template is the toughest part of setting up any WordPress site. Seriously. There are a large number of free and paid WordPress themes out there so selecting one from so many themes can be extremely difficult.
The problem with free WordPress themes is that its developers may not update their themes regularly. And when the codes of your themes are not up-to-date, it becomes vulnerable to attacks in the future.
The same applies when you buy a paid WordPress theme from an independent theme developer (or freelancer). You may get the theme you really like at first, but eventually, the theme will become outdated.
I personally recommend buying WordPress themes from a premium WordPress theme marketplace because they make sure that their WordPress themes are up-to-date. And that’s why they release new updates regularly and even add additional features when WordPress updates its core software.
First things first.
There’s every chance that you will come across few terms like WordPress Framework, Child Theme (also known as Skin), and WordPress Hooks to name a few. So let us just explore those terms before getting started.
WordPress, Themes, Framework, Child Theme
WordPress is like the engine of your car, WordPress Framework is like the frame and body of your car, and a Child Theme is like the paint job done on your car.
A decade back there was no such thing called WordPress Framework or Child Theme because then it was all about WordPress plus a Theme. That is, we install WordPress on our web server and install a theme of your choice. That’s it.
In the past few years, WordPress has evolved and became more popular with a developer base like never before. So, it led to the rise of WordPress Frameworks.
That is, WordPress theme makers started building a foundation (known as a framework) for their themes. And it means all the themes developed by a theme maker has the same core features (in terms of design, security, SEO. etc.).
It also enables developers to easily create a child theme (or a skin) for a specific framework without having to code from scratch.
WordPress Hooks lets you change the default functions or add your own functions without changing the core WordPress files. You can go here to learn more about it (if you’re not a coder then I hope it won’t make you sick).
StudioPress themes are powered by Genesis Framework and it’s an industry standard WordPress framework trusted by hundreds of professional bloggers.
So here are the reasons I love StudioPress + Genesis Framework + Genesis Child Themes:
- Genesis themes are fast, mobile-friendly, and search friendly.
- Genesis Framework follows best coding practices and it basically means that you don’t have to worry about its code quality.
- There are no renewal costs for Genesis Framework (or for its child themes).
- When you buy a Genesis child theme from StudioPress, you can use it on unlimited websites, and you get lifetime updates and support. Most premium WordPress theme marketplaces charge you on an annual basis and they even charge you an additional fee for the developer version.
- There’s no developer version for StudioPress themes and you can install their themes on any number of websites (once you purchase it).
- The Genesis Framework is updated regularly and you can upgrade your WordPress site with just one-click (from the WordPress Dashboard).
- Genesis offers hooks and filters so you can add your own codes without touching the PHP files of the original theme.
- StudioPress offers a Pro Plus All-Theme Package and it gives you unlimited access to all of their (current as well as future) WordPress themes, plus support and updates.
- Genesis Framework is compatible with most WordPress plugins.
- Genesis developers are everywhere.
- Genesis Framework is so popular that its tutorials are also easily available.
That said, there is no need to go for a StudioPress theme or another premium WordPress theme unless you have a budget and you’re not in a hurry to build a professional blog. You can always build that perfect blog step by step. Almost all the bloggers were once a beginner and chances are they started with a free WordPress theme (myself included).
There are hundreds of free WordPress themes in the official WordPress theme repository and it’s more than just enough to get started. You can always upgrade later!
I’m installing Digital Pro by StudioPress (for this tutorial) but feel free to browse the StudioPress theme marketplace to find something else or try 25 Hand-picked Genesis Child Theme Marketplaces (to find a Genesis child theme from a third-party WordPress theme marketplace).
7.1. WordPress Login
Go to Admin URL (http://example.com/wp-admin/) and log in to your WordPress Dashboard using your Admin Username and Admin Password (created during the installation process).
7.2. WordPress Dashboard
That’s your WordPress Dashboard and it’s from here that you manage your WordPress site. Whether you want to install a WordPress theme, or install a plugin, or add content, or add another user, or change a setting — the Dashboard is the place to be in.
7.3. Default WordPress Site
That’s the default WordPress site. In other words, when you install WordPress for the first time, your website looks exactly like that.
7.4. Buy Premium WordPress Theme (Optional)
I’m going to assume that you need a premium WordPress blog and hence I recommend a premium WordPress theme. StudioPress.com (as I have already mentioned) is my favorite WordPress Theme Marketplace so I have selected Digital Pro Theme + Genesis Framework on StudioPress.com. The pricing is definitely on the higher side as it costs $99.95.
However, it’s worth the price as you get unlimited updates and support. Most of the other premium WordPress theme marketplaces charge a recurring fee and it basically means that you have to pay a fee annually to get future updates and support (say after one year).
When you purchase a WordPress theme (from any website), you will be able to download a .zip file and that will be your installation file. If you are buying a StudioPress theme, then you will have to download and install the Genesis Framework (or the parent theme) as well as the child theme (that is, two .zip files).
Just in case,
Genesis Framework is a super-theme and is the basic design, security, and SEO foundation of your WordPress site. On the flipside, a Genesis Child Theme sits on top of that framework and it handles all the design and layout aspects of your WordPress site.
7.5. Add New WordPress Theme
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Themes to manage your WordPress themes. It shows the active as well as the inactive themes. You can Activate or Live Preview any of the available themes or install a new one (by either uploading it from your computer or by choosing one from the free WordPress theme directory).
I’m going to assume that you have purchased Digital Pro Theme + Genesis Framework from StudioPress.com so you will have two.ZIP files (one for installing the Genesis Framework and one for installing the Genesis Child Theme) on your computer.
7.6. Upload New WordPress Theme
Click “Add New Theme” and then the “Upload Theme” button to upload the WordPress theme .zip files that you have downloaded from StudioPress.com.
7.7. Upload Genesis Framework
Upload and install the Genesis Framework at first.
7.8. Installing Genesis Framework
Do not activate the Genesis Framework. Instead, go back to WordPress Dashboard > Themes.
7.9. Upload Genesis Child Theme
Now upload and install “Digital Pro” (or the Genesis Child Theme that you have purchased).
7.10. Installing Genesis Child Theme
7.11. Genesis Theme Settings
When you activate ANY Genesis theme, you will see a new Genesis menu on the left sidebar. And it shows the submenus Theme Settings, SEO Settings, and Import/Export menu. Just in case, here is a screenshot of the full Genesis Theme Settings but you don’t have add/change anything unless you already know what you are doing.
7.12. Original Theme Demo (On StudioPress.com)
And that’s a glance of the Digital Pro demo site that I want to create.
7.13. Preview (Before Importing Demo Content)
And that’s the preview of the WordPress site that I have created (before importing the demo content or adding any content by myself).
Import StudioPress Theme Demo Content
I’m pretty sure that you buy a WordPress theme only because you loved its demo site. In other words, when you buy a WordPress theme you expect your website to look like its demo site, right?
Well, it’s not that easy. When you install a WordPress theme for the first time, it looks ugly (as shown above) because it doesn’t have any content or images or menus or anything else.
You have to install the plugin WordPress Importer to import the demo content. Go to WordPress Dashboard > Tools > Import, click “Install Now” (to import WordPress files).
7.14. Run WordPress Importer
When you have successfully installed the WordPress Importer plugin, go to WordPress Dashboard > Tools > Import and click “Run Importer”. It lets you import your theme demo content (or the content you have manually exported from another WordPress site).
7.15. Import Theme Demo Content
Just in case, the Digital Pro theme demo content is located in the “xml” folder of the unzipped child theme file.
Choose the file digital-pro.xml (to import content + images) and click the “Upload file and import” button.
7.16. WordPress Importer
You can assign a new author or choose an existing author for the demo content. And check the box next to “Download and import file attachments”.
7.17. Imported Demo Content
Just in case, you can ignore simple errors as long as the content is imported successfully.
8. Configure WordPress Settings
Now let’s get to know the various settings of WordPress and configure the same. The good thing is, most of them are set and forget kind of settings.
8.1. The WordPress Dashboard
When you install WordPress on your server, you get a chance to set a username and password of your choice and you get an admin URL that looks like — http://www.example.com/wp-admin/.
When you login successfully to WordPress, what you see first is the WordPress Dashboard (or simply the Dashboard). It gives you a quick glance of what’s happening on your blog — like the total number of blog posts and pages, comments, recently published posts, recent comments, etc.
In other words, the Dashboard is the backend of your WordPress site and it’s the place from where you can manage everything on your blog. Here different options are available — to publish a new blog post, create a new page, approve a comment, change settings, etc.
And you can also see the different WordPress menus (Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Plugins, Users, Tools, Settings) and its submenus on the left sidebar.
8.2. WordPress Screen Options
“Screen Options” are also context-specific and it lets you customize the WordPress screen that you are looking at. That is, you can use the Screen Options tab (located at the upper right corner of your screen) to personalize individual WordPress Dashboard sections (like Posts, Pages, Comments, etc.).
If there are options that you don’t use, you can disable them. And you can always bring them back later if needed. For instance, on the Dashboard, you can remove the items you don’t use, like ‘Welcome’, “WordPress Events and News’, or ‘Quick Draft’. That way, the screen can be made to look less cluttered and more in line with what you need to focus.
8.3. WordPress Help
“Help” is a context-specific menu that’s available on all WordPress pages so that you can get help for the current screen.
8.4. WordPress Updates
“Updates” allows you to check whether you have installed the latest version of WordPress and it also shows whether your Themes or Plugins are up-to-date or not. If there’s an update available for your WordPress site, then you will see a notification in the Toolbar (top) as well as the Sidebar (left).
5. Updating Process
Upgrading WordPress is a simple one-click process. All you need to do is click “Update Now” when you see a new version and WordPress will automatically do it for you. And to update themes and plugins, you can select all the plugins or themes that you want to update, and then click “Update Plugins” or “Update Themes” button.
8.6. WordPress General Settings
“General Settings” is the default Settings screen and it lets you configure/change your blog title, description, URLs, admin email, time zone, etc. Do not change the “WordPress Address (URL)” or “Site Address (URL)” unless you know its usage and purpose.
8.7. WordPress Writing Settings
You can publish content either from the WordPress Dashboard (using the WordPress Editor) or can use 3rd-party tools like (Blogo, Open Live Writer, etc.) or even via email. “Writing Settings” lets you change the default post category, post format, and link category.
There’s also a section called “Update Services” where you can add custom site update services so that WordPress will notify them when you publish a new blog post. You do not have to do anything there as WordPress already pre-fills it with a universal update service called Pingomatic (http://rpc.pingomatic.com/).
8.8. WordPress Reading Settings
“Reading Settings” lets you customize your homepage content and RSS feeds. That is, you can either show all your latest blog posts or a static page (whether it’s your about me, or an archive page, or a custom page) as your frontpage.
Also, you can change the number of blog posts shown per page on your blog and on your RSS feeds. And you can also choose whether to show only an excerpt of each blog post or to show its full content on your RSS feeds.
Finally, if you do not want search engines to index your blog (or show your website on search results) then you can check “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”.
8.9. WordPress Discussion Settings
“Discussion Settings” lets you change several options related to the default WordPress comment system. For instance, you can by default turn off comments completely for all blog posts by unchecking “Allow people to post comments on new articles” or can even choose to automatically close comments on blog posts older than X number of days.
Again, you can also control the way comments are approved and organized. That is, you can approve a comment automatically as soon as you get it or can hold it for moderation (I do it).
Finally, there’s another section called “Avatars”.
An avatar is an image that follows you from weblog to weblog appearing beside your name when you comment on avatar enabled sites.
Here you can customize the avatars of people who comment on your blog. If you want to know more about all the available Discussion options, go here.
8.10. WordPress Media Settings
“Media Settings” lets you change the thumbnail sizes of images that you place in a blog post and usually you don’t have to edit these settings as they’re automatically set by the WordPress theme that you are using.
You can also control how your uploaded files are organized. WordPress by default organizes your uploads by month and year. That is, if you upload a file in August 2017, then WordPress will place it in http://www.example.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08 folder (by automatically creating the folders: “2017” and “08”).
If you uncheck “Organize my uploads into month- and year-based folders” then all your uploads will be placed in http://www.example.com/wp-content/uploads/ (in an unorganized way).
8.11. WordPress Permalink Settings
“Permalink Settings” lets you change the format of the permanent URLs of your blog posts and pages. The default permalink format of WordPress is either lengthy or not so user/search friendly. In fact, WordPress itself officially calls the default permalinks as “Ugly”. And it’s usually of the format http://www.example.com/year/month/day/post-name/ or http://www.example.com/?p=123.
But the good thing is, WordPress lets you customize the URL structure the way you want by using a custom format like http://www.example.com/post-name/ (if you want to keep it short and search engine friendly) or something like http://www.example.com/archives/post-number/ (if you like numbers). You can go here to learn more about the available permalink formats.
You can also change the URL structure of the categories and tags on your blog. The default permalink format of a category archive page is: http://www.example.com/category/category-name/ and the default permalink format of a tag archive page is: http://www.example.com/tag/tag-name/.
8.12. WordPress Users
“Users” lists all the existing users of your WordPress site. WordPress users can be Administrators, Editors Authors, Contributors, or Subscribers — depending upon the roles and permissions associated with each one.
When you create new users, you can define their roles as well.
Simply click the “Add New” submenu to create a new user and you can set their user roles, password, and email id when you do so.
Here’s a quick glance of user roles:
- Administrators have access to all administration features on the site and can manage other users as well.
- Editors can write and publish their own posts as well as manage those of other users.
- Authors can write and publish their own posts and are able to upload files as well.
- Contributors can write and manage their posts but cannot publish them or upload files.
- Subscribers can only manage their own profiles in the system.
8.13. Your WordPress Profile
Your Profile is your personal profile and it contains information about you and your account. When you create new users, you can set their basic information like username, email, name, website, password, and user role.
So if users want to edit their profile information then they can go to their respective “Your Profile” page on their WordPress dashboard and can change the dashboard theme color, password, bio, email, display name, etc. by themselves.
Also, when you visit your own WordPress site while you are logged in, you will see a toolbar at the top of all blog posts and pages. It gives immediate access to your WordPress dashboard and some of its features (Dashboard, Profile, Themes, etc.) and even shows the number of available WordPress Updates and Comments awaiting moderation.
So if you want to hide it then you can do it from “Your Profile”. Simply uncheck the “Show Toolbar when viewing site” option on “Your Profile” settings page.
Additionally, if you are a coder then you might want to disable the visual editor and you can do it from the “Your Profile” page. Just check the “Disable the visual editor when writing” option and you will only see the text view (or HTML view) of posts and pages when you write or edit one.
8.14. WordPress Posts
If you’re really serious about blogging then “Posts” will be the most-visited section of your blog. That’s right! “Posts” lists all the blog posts (published, scheduled, private, drafts) on your blog in a reverse chronological order so that the latest blog post is always at the top. And there’s also a Trash available so that you can recover deleted blog posts or permanently delete it.
When you enter “Posts”, you can see a sample blog posted titled “Hello world!”. And if you hover your mouse over it, it will display the following quick actions: Edit, Quick Edit, Trash, View. Delete “Hello world!” as it’s just a sample blog post without any images.
Add New Post: WordPress Editor
When you want to create a new blog post, simply click the “Add New” submenu under “Posts” and it will take you to the WordPress WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) editor.
You can write content on a WordPress editor just like you do it on a Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. And you can use the “Add Media” button to upload files from your computer or from another URL.
You can start writing a blog post by entering a title in the title field and the actual content in the post editing area. Apart from that, you can also see a lot of other widgets called Publish, Format, Categories, Tags, Featured Image, etc.
You can easily minimize or expand widgets by clicking on its title bar and can reposition them using drag and drop (except the title and post editing area). Also, you can add/remove widgets using the “Screen Options” of the WordPress editor page.
For instance, if you have multiple authors on your blog then you can enable the “Author” widget so that you can change the authorship of the blog post that you’re currently editing.
The WordPress editor gives you a handful of formatting options and you can enable even more options by clicking on the “Toolbar Toggle” button (the last button in the row of formatting options).
Again, the WordPress editor offers two modes of editing: Visual and Text. You can click the appropriate tab to switch between the two. Visual mode gives you a WYSIWYG editor (similar to Microsoft Word) and you can format your blog post using the row of formatting options. Text mode lets you add HTML code along with regular text and you can switch modes accordingly.
When you finish composing a blog post, you can optionally select tags and categories to associate with the post. And if you do not wish to publish the blog post immediately then you can save it as a draft and can even publish it as a private post by changing the settings in the “Publish” widget.
Posts can also be scheduled to be published at a future time by clicking on the “Edit” next to “Publish Immediately” and selecting a future date and time. When you choose a future date and time, the “Publish” button changes to “Schedule” and you can click on it to schedule the blog post.
8.15. WordPress Categories
Categories help to keep your blog posts organized, and also improves the user experience. You can create as many categories as you want and a blog post can be assigned to more than one category.
Categories can have a hierarchy as well. It means you can create categories and its subcategories if you want to. If you haven’t created any categories, then all blog posts will automatically be added under a default category called “Uncategorized”.
8.16. WordPress Tags
Tags are like keywords, and you can optionally assign tags to your blog posts (to self-explain what your blog post is about). Unlike categories, tags do not support a hierarchy. It means, there’s no relation between one tag and the other.
So, what’s the difference between a category and a tag? Well, tags are more specific while categories are typically more general in nature.
For instance, if I have a tech blog then I can organize the categories and tags like this:
- Apple (Subcategory)
- iPhone (tags)
- OS X
- Google (Subcategory)
- Android (tags)
- Microsoft (Subcategory)
- Lumia (tags)
- Windows Phone
Of course, I can create as many categories as I want but if I do that then the blog will have an uncountable number of categories and it results in a poor user experience.
“Media” menu takes you to the Media Library. It shows all the media files — images, videos, etc. — that you have uploaded while creating blog posts and pages (recent uploads are listed first). You can click individual items to view/edit its details or to get its direct link.
You generally do not need to access the Media Library unless you want to manage a previously uploaded file or want to upload another file manually. Click “Add New” to manually upload files from your computer. And hey, you can upload ANY file format (not just images or documents).
8.18. WordPress Pages
Pages are similar to posts in a sense that they can also have a title, body, media, metadata, comments, etc. but they’re different from blog posts as they’re not part of chronological blog posts.
Pages do not support categories or tags but it can have a hierarchy. That is, you can create nested pages by making one page a parent of another page. And just like the Posts, you can customize the Pages screen using Screen Options.
Also, you can add a date and time and adjust the visibility and privacy of a Page just like you do on a Post page.
Bloggers usually prfer a Page over a Post when they want to publish a static page like About Me, Contact, Sitemap, etc. and it’s also relevant when you want to create a web page that requires continuous updation.
For instance, when you republish an old blog post it will appear on your homepage and all your blog subscribers will be notified (RSS and Email) — even if you didn’t want to. But when you update a Page, your blog subscribers won’t notice it unless you are linking to it as Pages don’t appear in a blog’s RSS feed.
8.19. WordPress Comments
Comments section lets you manage all the comments that you have received on your WordPress site. It shows the comments in a reverse chronological order. When you hover the cursor over a comment, it shows some quick actions that lets you approve, reply, edit, spam, or even trash it. You can also moderate multiple comments at the same time by using the “Bulk Actions” menu at the top.
9. Customize WordPress
I have already imported the demo content (provided by the theme developer) and personalized my WordPress settings. The next step is to customize WordPress the way I want. The goal here is to create a WordPress site exactly as it is on the demo site.
Here’s a quick glance at what we’re going to do:
- Customize WordPress Menus
- Customize WordPress Widgets
- Install Essential WordPress Plugins
- Setup Essential Blogging Tools
- WordPress Related Posts
- Yoast SEO
- Add Contact Form
- Add Logo/Header
9.1. Customize WordPress Menus
“Menus” are custom menus usually used to create the navigation and footer links (unless the theme supports more). Once you create a menu, you can add pages, posts, custom link, categories, tags, etc. (use Screen Options to make all the options visible) and can easily change its sort order by using drag and drop. They are displayed in a predefined location by the theme hence you can’t change its location. But you can change the links or its sorting order from the “Edit Menus” by customizing the “Menu Structure”.
9.2. Customize WordPress Menu Locations
You can check the “Manage Locations” to see how many menus are supported by the theme and can assign a menu to a location. Select your “Header Menu” and “Footer Menu” and click “Save Changes”. You can create as many menus as you want and then assign a menu to a location or can assign a single menu to all the locations.
9.3. Install & Activate Necessary WordPress Plugins
9.4. Customize WordPress Widgets
“Widgets” are more commonly known as sidebars because it was originally used to customize the sidebar (with a search bar, popular posts, recent comments, etc.) of a WordPress site. Today it’s also used to create and customize the homepage or inner-pages (when the theme is created to customize that way). When you enter Widgets, it shows a list of “Available Widgets”, “Widget Area” (or active widgets), and “Inactive Widgets”.
Available Widgets shows all the individual widgets that you can use on your WordPress site. You can reuse the same widgets as many times as you want — provided the theme that you are using supports it. The available widgets and the widget area depends upon the theme that is currently active. You can drag and drop widgets from one widget area to another. And when you have customized a widget you can click “Save” or can click “Delete” to permanently remove a widget that you no longer need.
WordPress also has an “Inactive Widgets” area and it’s like a reusable trash. You can drag and drop widgets from your active widget area to Inactive Widgets so that you can reuse it later (without losing the data). It’s particularly useful when you want to change your WordPress theme and keep the settings of your old widgets.
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets and you can see that the default WordPress widgets are still showing up.
Customize all the widget areas:
And that’s the preview of the WordPress site after customizing all the widget areas. Just in case, here is a full preview.
9.6. Install & Activate Essential WordPress Plugins
- Contact Form 7
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- WordPress Related Posts
- Yoast SEO
You can deactivate/delete plugins that you no longer need. Since you have already imported the demo content and widgets, it’s also safe to delete/deactivate WordPress Importer.
9.7. WordPress Related Posts
WordPress Related Posts shows a list of related posts with optional thumbnails and different styles to your readers.
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Settings > WordPress Related Posts, to customize the same.
9.8. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is not exactly a blogging tool but a WordPress plugin. It’s the ultimate SEO plugin for WordPress that allows you to optimize almost all the SEO aspects of your WordPress site.
Some of the features offered by WordPress SEO plugin are:
It checks whether a page is search engine optimized or not.
It enables XML Sitemaps, Breadcrumbs, RSS Optimization.
It lets you edit your .htaccess and robots.txt file from within WordPress dashboard.
It allows you to no-follow or no-index pages.
It allows you to define a canonical URL.
It offers Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ integration.
It’s multi-site compatible.
- …and many other features.
Here’s the Yoast SEO Dashboard.
9.8.1. Yoast SEO Dashboard – General
You can click the “Open the configuration wizard” to configure Yoast SEO plugin by yourself or you can follow my guide and set various options exactly as I did (replacing the website name and tagline with yours). You can change it later as you learn more about it.
9.8.2. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Features
9.8.3. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Your Info
9.8.4. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools (or now known as Google Search Console) provides insights about your website’s visibility on Google.
Click on “Google Search Console” to claim the ownership of your domain name on Google Search Console. And it will open Google Webmaster Central.
9.8.5. Google Webmaster Central
The recommended way to verify your domain name is HTML file upload method as it’s a set and forget kind of method. But if you are a beginner and don’t know how to manually upload files to your server then the easiest way is HTML tag method (in Alternate methods).
9.8.6. Yoast SEO Dashboard – Security
Enable advanced part of the Yoast SEO plugin as it gives you more control over your WordPress site’s SEO.
Click “Save changes”.
9.8.7. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – General
Yoast SEO Titles & Metas option lets you customize the titles, meta description, and indexing option of your WordPress pages and posts and archives (categories, tags, media, author, date).
9.8.8. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Homepage
9.8.9. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Post Types
9.8.10. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Taxonomies
9.8.11. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Archives
9.8.12. Yoast SEO Titles & Metas – Other
9.8.13. Yoast SEO Social
Enter your social media profiles so that search engines will associate it with your WordPress site.
9.9. Contact Form 7
Contact Form 7 is the best contact form plugin for WordPress. It can manage multiple contact forms and you can customize the forms the way you want.
Go to WordPress Dashboard > Contact > Contact Forms, you will see a default contact form titled “Contact form 1” that was automatically generated when you installed Contact Form 7 for the first time. You can customize it so as to make it match your requirements. Hover over it, and click “Edit”. You will go to the “Edit Contact Form” screen with tabs like Form, Mail, Messages, and Additional Settings.
9.9.1. Customize Contact Form 7 Form
Use “Form” tab to customize what information has to be collected from your readers.
9.9.2. Customize Contact Form 7 Mail
Use “Mail” tab to customize the way user-submitted data is handled. In the above example, all forms submitted by a user will be forwarded to another email address.
9.9.3. Customize Contact Form 7 Messages
User “Messages” tab to customize the acknowledgement (a user sees when they submit a form).
9.9.4. Create Contact Page (Or Customize Existing Contact Form Page)
There’s already a Contact page (included in the theme demo content), so instead of creating a new Page, I’m just editing it.
9.9.5. Add Contact Form 7 Shortcode
I have edited the contact page and added the shortcode (generated by Contact Form 7) to insert the Contact form.
9.9.6. Preview Contact Form Page
Here’s a preview of the contact form:
9.10. WordPress Customizer
“Customize” (WordPress Dashboard > Appearance > Customize) lets you modify several aspects of your WordPress site in real-time. Some of the items that you can change this way are Site Title, Tagline, Color, Header, Background, Navigation Menus, Sidebar Widgets, etc.
As you change a setting, it’s immediately reflected on the preview (on the right frame). However, the options available for customization depends entirely on the currently active theme.
9.10.1. Change Header/Logo
For StudioPress themes, the header Image is actually your logo. For other themes, the header image can be a wide image to show at the top of your WordPress site.
9.10.2. Add New Header Image
It’s best to upload an image based on the suggested image dimensions (600 x 140 in this case) as otherwise, the header may not look like the way you want.
9.10.3. Upload/Select A New Header/Logo Image
Upload your logo and add a “Title” as well as “Alt Text” (usually the name of your website) for the image.
9.10.4. Select & Crop Image
Crop the image if its dimensions are not equal to the recommended dimensions and if it’s same as the recommended size then click “Skip Cropping”. When you are done, click “Save & Publish”.
And here’s the screenshot of the final WordPress site that I’ve created.
Just in case, here’s a full preview. As you can see, I have customized it exactly as it is on the demo site.
How To Start A WordPress Blog — Step-by-Step Tutorials
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Buy A Domain Name
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Buy A Web Hosting Plan
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Change Domain Nameservers
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Get Started With Web Hosting
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Install WordPress
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Install A WordPress Plugin
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Install A (Premium) WordPress Theme & Import (Optional) Demo Content
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Configure WordPress Settings
- How To — Start A WordPress Blog — Customize WordPress
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” — Calvin Coolidge
Start a new blog. Publish few blog posts. Publish even more blog posts. Monetize it with ads. Make money. Make even more money. Sounds simple, right? Well, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t make money out of ads from a new blog unless you’re getting hundreds of thousands of visits a day.
Look what other successful bloggers are doing. And think about what you can do in the already crowded blogging space. You don’t have to copy other bloggers in your space. Instead, be yourself and learn from others.
Just remember that their success is the result of countless hours of reading, writing, experimenting, researching, clicking, and whatnot. So again, think about how you are going to stand out from the crowd (because that’s going to be your value addition).
For instance, you can Google search “how to start a WordPress blog” and you will see hundreds of other tutorials. So why me? Well, I just added more value by adding my own blogging experience. My version may perform better than others or it may not. But I did my best and that’s what it matters.
Happy Blogging! :)