If you’re brand new to the concept of blogging or authority site-building then it’s easy to get intimidated about the technical side of things.
After all, while the idea of starting a profitable website may sound wonderful; what steps must be taken to create your own site?
Here there’s good news…
These days it’s easier than ever before to set up your own site from scratch, and with minimal technical knowledge.
The reason is that a huge range of products and services aim to make the setup process as simple as possible. Generally speaking (particularly when you choose the right services and tools) you’ll find that setting up your site doesn’t have to be difficult at all.
Indeed, I would argue that setting up your first profit-producing site is perhaps the most exciting step of all. It’s the step in the process where you suddenly go from “idea” to “reality”.
In this section I’m going to take you through exactly how to set up a blog.
I’ll assume no technical knowledge. If you managed to make your way to this page today then you have all the skills necessary to build your first website in record time. I’ll also show you how to do it on a tight budget – so don’t worry about the costs involved.
For those readers concerned about their lack of technical knowledge I have aimed to make this a detailed step-by-step guide. In a surprisingly short period of time you’ll be proudly emailing your friends so they can admire your work of art!
Here’s what you’re going to learn in this section:
- 6 key steps for choosing the perfect domain name
- How to set up your brand new site in just 7 simple steps
- A detailed introduction to using WordPress for the first time
- 7 technical changes you should make to WordPress before launching
- How to change the appearance of your site with no technical knowledge
- My list of 23 tested plugins to add incredible functionality to your site
By the end of this section you’ll have chosen a website address, you’ll have setup the software that runs your blog, you’ll have changed the appearance of your blog to suit your unique tastes and you’ll have added some cool plugins that add functionality to your site.
In short – you’ll have a blog or authority site ready and waiting for you to start writing.
Excited? You should be…
Let’s get started…
An Introduction to Web Hosting
Your website needs a home; somewhere where it can be accessible at all times of the day irrespective of what you’re doing. Such a service is known as a “web host”.
Possibly the best analogy is to think of a web hosting account as like renting space on a powerful computer that’s always connected to the internet. We build your website there so that even when you turn your own computer off your web hosting account allows visitors to access your site.
Free Vs Paid Web Hosting Services
There are dozens of ways to launch a blog or authority site. Indeed, knowingly or unknowingly you’ve probably heard of at least a few of the options. Perhaps names like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger ring bells?
At each of these sites, you can set up a blog completely for free. For this reason, such web hosting options tend to be popular. However, there are some significant weaknesses with such options…
Most of the free blogging platforms don’t provide you with your own website address (unless you pay extra). Instead, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:
I think you’d agree that such a website isn’t overly professional. If one of our major goals is to create a professional-grade website that visitors will trust then having your own website address (“domain name”) is essential. A website address like the one above doesn’t scream trustworthy and professional.
An even greater concern when it comes to free web hosts like this is you will find yourself tremendously limited on what you can do with your blog. Such hosts typically offer very little flexibility to really let your imagination run wild; you’ll be limited to certain designs, layouts, features, and so on.
In contrast to this, paid web hosting accounts (even budget versions) offer you much more flexibility and control over your site. You can easily add features and have unlimited control over your site’s appearance and functionality.
Getting any kind of tech support can be frustrating when you’re running a blog on a free web hosting service. This isn’t really surprising; if you’re not paying anything to your web host then what motivation do they have to assist you with any issues?
Even with the cheapest of paid web hosts I have personally found the levels of support to be superior.
Risk of Closure
The fourth reason why building your site on a free web host isn’t recommended is simply that sites can disappear.
Many bloggers have logged into their account one morning only to find that their blog has been removed – either deliberately or accidentally.
Imagine how you’d feel if you spent years building up your website, only for it to vanish without explanation one day?
No, the long and short of it is that in my opinion building your blog or authority site on a free web host is like building your house on quicksand. You just never know what’s going to happen around the corner.
If you’re serious about creating a profit-producing website that can reliably bring you an income each month then it’s much better to get started on the right foot, to begin with – and to get a proper web hosting account from the outset.
Factors To Consider When Selecting a Web Host for Your Blog
Choosing a web host is like selecting a credit card; there are thousands of options out there, and trying to tell the differences between them can be very difficult for the uninitiated. In my experience of dozen of web hosts, here are the key elements I suggest you look out for:
Ease of Domain Name Purchases
We’ll cover domain names (website addresses) in the next section of this guide, but for now all you need to know are that there are two ways to get your blog set up.
The first of these is to buy your website address and hosting from the same company – at which point they work together seamlessly and automatically.
The second option is to buy your domain name and your web hosting from two different companies – then do a little technical magic to get the two services to work together.
While the process of getting your domain and hosting to work together isn’t overly complex, it is just one extra thing for a beginner to learn; and one more opportunity for something to go wrong.
If you’re just setting up your first authority site or blog then I recommend selecting a web host that will you let you purchase your domain name at the same time.
It’s just one less thing for you to worry about; and can actually work out more cost-effective too.
Ease of Installing WordPress
As you’ll see, the software we’re going to use to build your blog is called “WordPress”. The software is free, but depending on the web host you select the process of installing WordPress can vary significantly.
The “best” web hosts for bloggers make it “push-button” simple. You simply click a few buttons and WordPress is installed automatically for you – with nothing technical required.
Later on in this section I’ll walk you step-by-step through the process of installing the WordPress blog software on Bluehost and you’ll be shocked at how simple it really is.
There’s little point in spending money on a web hosting account if they’re always going down. Why would you invest time and energy into growing a blog if half the time when someone visits your site it doesn’t work?
This is why I recommend that new bloggers avoid less well-known web hosts, where the quality of service can be a little sketchy. Instead, it’s better to focus on a tried-and-tested web host used by thousands of other successful bloggers such as Bluehost or WP Engine.
We all have to start somewhere when it comes to web hosting. However, over time you’ll find that your blog grows and prospers. Traffic starts to increase and with it the strain that your web hosting account is put under.
Also consider that your blog will be constantly undergoing a process of evolution, as you add new features and services over time.
Lastly, consider that once you’re bitten by the “blogging bug”, one website is very rarely enough.
Right now, as an example, I maintain 4 main blogs, 3 secondary blogs that are in their infancy, and a network of content-based affiliate sites. Realistically, I own 20+ sites, all attracting visitors on a daily basis. All require reliable web hosting so they don’t need to be “babysat”.
All these factors point to one thing; when signing up for a web hosting account for your blog, you should take the time to consider how much room your account has for growth. Those that are severely limited may get frustrating very quickly indeed.
Factors you may want to look out for when selecting a web hosting account for your blog include:
As you set up additional sites – as you almost certainly will – it can be very useful to be able to add them to an existing web hosting account. Not only does this help to keep your costs down, but it also makes managing all your sites much easier if it can be done from one central control panel.
Adding new sites to your portfolio then becomes simplicity itself. As an entrepreneurially-minded individual, I would therefore encourage you to give preference to those web hosting accounts that allow you to host multiple domains/sites on a single account.
Disk Space Limitations
Websites and blogs obviously take up space just like any other computer file. The bigger your blog is – the more posts it has for example – the more space it will take up.
If you plan to be adding memory-intensive content like videos and podcasts to your blog then you’ll need even more disk space. And don’t forget that you’ll likely end up with a number of different sites on a single hosting account.
Once again then, this is a case of “the more the merrier”. I would advise you to prioritize web hosts that offer large amounts of storage space – even unlimited disk space – so as to avoid having to limit your creativity when building your blogging empire.
Every time someone visits your blog they use up “bandwidth”. The more visitors you get, the more bandwidth you’ll use. Of course, the more (qualified) visitors we can get to our site, the better.
The last thing we want to do is send visitors packing because we’ve reached our bandwidth limitation.
Believe me, it happens all the time.
Indeed, one of the key reasons why I stumbled across Bluehost originally was that my current host at the time was placing severe limits on my bandwidth.
My sites were growing, yet time and again I was breaching my limits, and visitors were arriving at my blogs to be greeted with nothing more than an unfortunate warning message.
Hardly what you’d call a professional first impression, I think you’d agree.
No, if more visitors are better then you need to make sure you’ve got enough bandwidth to service the needs of all those readers you’re going to service.
For peace of mind, selecting a host that offers “unlimited” bandwidth is often the best bet; that way even if you get lucky and one of your posts goes viral on social media you can feel confident you’ve got the bandwidth to receive all those visitors.
There’s one key factor you can’t assess from a web host’s website, and that’s the customer service levels on offer. A cheap web host with all the features you’re looking for still isn’t worth the hassle if the customer service sucks. In such cases I’d rather pay a tiny bit more and know that the support available to me is world-class.
That means that when you’re looking at web hosting plans, a useful factor can be to consider how long the guarantee is. The last thing you want is to get two weeks in and realize the service sucks, only to be stuck for the rest of the year.
Remember: the longer the refund/cancellation period, the safer the deal is for you. Furthermore, if web hosts are willing to offer favourable terms like this its normally a good sign about how confident they are in their offering.
The last factor here is of course price; you don’t want to be paying more than necessary when you’re just starting out. Once your site starts to grow you can always consider upgrading to a “super host” like WP Engine; to start out I would suggest signing up with a simpler host perfect for most blogs.
Bluehost, for example, will host your website for less than $10 per month (depending on which package you opt for) which really helps to minimize your risk.
After all, you don’t need to start making very much money in order to be cash flow positive on such a deal.
The Best Web Hosting For Bloggers
There are dozens of web hosting companies out there, offering all sorts of different packages and different prices. Indeed, a whole industry has cropped up around web hosting and helping you find the most suitable solution.
As someone who has, over the course of the last decade, built 100+ websites and blogs, I’ve tested out my fair share of web hosting companies, and I keep on finding myself coming back time and again to the same web host.
I use either Bluehost or Hostgator to host pretty much every single website and blog I create, and even now where many of my sites are seeing thousands of daily visitors I’m still very happy with the experience.
It’s worth noting that anyone who has done business online for long enough will from time to time run into problems. For me, as an example, I had a few websites hacked some years ago. The hackers installed a virus directly onto my sites and I spent weeks working with a website security expert trying to get rid of the problem.
Eventually out of frustration I emailed the support team at Bluehost, explained the problem, and asked for any suggestions they could make. Within a matter of hours, they had successfully located and eliminated the problem, before rolling back my sites to a version they had saved.
In less than a day they had fixed the problem – the very same problem, my security “expert” hadn’t managed in the space of two weeks.
The message here is clear. I’ve always received top-quality service from Bluehost – and this is something that you simply can see when you compare hosts on features alone. If you’re looking for what I see as the perfect combination of value-for-money and customer service then I’d encourage you to set up an account with Bluehost.
If you’d rather shop around than other hosts with good reputations among bloggers include:
- WP Engine
Domain Names for Bloggers
The name you choose for your blog is of critical importance.
It helps to set the tone for your blog, it hints at the overall subject you’ll be covering and it affects just how easy (or otherwise) people find it to remember your blog. The importance of choosing the right domain name can therefore not be understated.
That said, there is an important lesson here; be aware that each domain name is unique. That means realistically that you’re probably going to have to go through a whole list of possible options until you find one that is suitable. Then, even when you find an appropriate domain name you’ve then got to decide who to register it with. This alone can be something of a challenge.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start off by looking at how to choose a domain name, then we’ll get to the subject of actually registering it…
6 Key Lessons For Choosing A Domain Name For Your Blog
When it comes to selecting a suitable domain name for your blog there are a number of critical factors you should consider.
Top Level Domains
Domain names or website addresses come in two distinct parts. Let’s take this site as an example. Firstly, there’s the “TechToucan” part – that’s the main “brand” of this website. Then there’s the ending – in this case, “.com”. There are a variety of these endings, with new ones being introduced all the time.
The most popular domain endings are:
These are what are known as “top-level domains” or TLDs – they’re basically the endings that everyone remembers.
There are, however, a whole range of other domains, including:
…not to mention all the country-specific endings used by local businesses (.co.uk or .ca as examples).
The point is that you need to select a domain name that people will remember. And that generally means selecting one of the first endings.
The best – bar none – is to find a suitable domain that is available and ends in .com – simply because it looks professional and people will remember it.
I would therefore strongly advise you to find a .com domain. Worst case scenario goes for a .net or .org, but I’d advise you to stay away from most of the other endings simply because they look less professional.
Branded Vs Keyword-Focused
In the recent past, Google gave websites with keywords in their domain priority over other sites.
So, for example, if you wanted to rank for the phrase “how to start a blog”, the best-possible domain was HowToStartABlog.com. Having this domain meant you had an unfair advantage in the search engines and stood a better chance of ranking for this keyword phrase than your competitors.
Now, though, this has largely changed. Indeed now you’re more likely to get a penalty than a bonus for a domain that very obviously tries to manipulate the search engine results.
In other words, keyword-rich domains are out, and branded domains are back in. Ignore any advice you may see to the contrary – this information is some years out of date and sorely needs updating. Go after domains that sound cool and catchy, not like they’re just a keyword phrase with a .com on the end.
Ideally, the domain name you choose for your blog will have some kind of relevance to the overall topic of your site. This site, while now focusing on blogging and content marketing, actually started off as a blog all about technology, hence the domain. Over the years it has evolved and refined to its current remit.
Examples of domains that do a fair job of describing the overarching topic, without sounding too “spammy” or keyword-focused include:
… and so on. Hopefully, you can see how these domains are both branded and descriptive.
Pleasantly, ladies and gentlemen here’s one example where longer isn’t necessarily better 😉
Shorter domain names tend to be more memorable and to look more professional than longer domain names. They may be hard to come across – specifically because they’re in such demand – but it can be worth taking the time to find a short(ish) domain.
Avoid The Dashes
Due to the fact that domain names are unique, one common problem experienced involves coming up with a “killer” domain name only to find that someone else has registered it.
Indeed, there’s little more annoying for an online entrepreneur. And so it is that some bloggers try to get around the problem by adding dashes between words. So, for example, if TechToucan.com was gone, some bloggers might have instead gone for Tech-Toucan.com – almost the same, just with the addition of a dash.
Over the years, however, this has repeatedly gotten out of control.Domains like Best-Web-Hosting-For-Wordpress-Blogs.com are sadly rather commonplace and – as you can see – look less than trustworthy.
In general then I would caution you to avoid domain names with dashes. One dash you might just get away with; any more and you risk looking like a spammy affiliate site. And nobody wants that (not even spammy affiliates).
Social Media Profiles
As you’re going to see later on in this guide, one of the very best ways to start driving profitable visitors to your new site is with social media. Popular examples include Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, though you may also want to consider sites like Instagram or Tumblr depending on your niche.
One final check – though arguably of less importance than the other steps – can be to check whether your chosen domain is available as a social media profile. So, if your chosen domain is MomsGettingFit.com then check whether the following options are available:
While it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if these social media profiles aren’t available, it’s always nice when they are. After all, being able to expand your “brand” onto social media in an organized and logical fashion looks professional.
How to Brainstorm and Select the Perfect Domain Name
Over the last few sections we’ve discussed the basics of web hosting and domain names; this is where we start to really take action and make your dreams of owning your own profitable website a reality!
In this section we’re going to brainstorm a list of potential domain names, check which ones are available, then we’re going to actually register your domain and web hosting.
In other words, this is an “action step” in which you’ll be carrying out a few enjoyable steps and ending up with the first semblance of a blog or authority site.
The first step in selecting a suitable domain name for your website is to do some brainstorming. Put your thinking cap on and consider the niche that you’ve chosen for your blog or authority website. Can you think of some catchy domain name ideas?
I like to start a new text document for this brainstorming phase, trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, taking into account the recommendations for choosing a domain name covered earlier.
Let’s assume for a minute that we are planning to create an authority blog on the subject of feeding dogs raw food – sometimes known as “Bones and Raw Food” or “BARF” for short. Some ideas we might brainstorm could include:
..and so on.
Each of these is short and sweet. Each ends with a .com. Each is quite branded yet descriptive about the purpose of our site while avoiding hyphens.
Of course, we don’t yet know if these domains are available, but that’s not important at this stage. We’ll check what is actually available later; for now, just go mad with pen and paper or a text document on your computer to come up with as many ideas as you possibly can.
Remember: nothing is a daft idea so let your imagination run wild. If you can, try to get friends or family members involved too, giving you a different perspective. Action Step: Try to brainstorm a list of potential domain names now. Make a note of all the ideas you have.
Expand Your List with Domain Brainstorming Tools
A really handy trick for greatly expanding your list of possible domains is to use the range of domain suggestion tools available free-of-charge online. With these tools you simply enter one or two relevant keyword phrases (in our case “raw” or “barf”) and then the tools generate hundreds of potential domain ideas for us to consider.
Here are some of the best domain suggestion tools that I use:
Simply take your time to comb through the suggestions these tools make and you’ll likely find dozens of potential ideas to add to your master list.
Indeed, while I’m perhaps not the most imaginative website creator out there, I almost always find that Lean Domain Search generates not only far more ideas than I do but also considerably better suggestions too! Therefore don’t underestimate how useful these tools are.
Added them to your list? Great, then let’s move on with your giant list of potential domain names and actually check which ones are available to register… Action Step: Use the above tools now to generate a whole load more domain name ideas and add these to your list.
Bulk Check Domain Availability
Traditionally, domains are checked for availability one-by-one.
As domain names have to be unique, however, and ever more domains are registered each day, it gets tougher and tougher to find one that hasn’t already been snapped up.
These days, therefore, I recommend you check your domain names in bulk to see which are available.
Checking 50-100 potential domain names in one go saves you a lot of time (and disappointment!) over doing them individually.
Here we’re going to use a bulk checking tool from GoDaddy.Important: when you discover a domain that is available DON’T register your domain here – we’ll talk about exactly how to register your domain name shortly – just remember that we’re just using this tool to see quickly which domains are available for registration.
In this step you’ll want to navigate to: https://uk.godaddy.com/domains/bulk-domain-search.aspx
Now paste the list of domain names into the box. If your domain ideas already have the .com ending on them then simply click the “Go” button.
If you didn’t add the .com ending to each of your potential ideas then be sure to check the .com box before clicking “Go”.
Now the magic happens; GoDaddy will check each of your domain ideas one-by-one and bring back a list of all the domains from your list that are available to register. One of these will be used for your website address!Action Step: Use GoDaddy’s tool now to see which of your domain name ideas are available to register now.
Select From the Available Domains
By now you’ve got a list of the domains that are available – so it’s time to take action.
Go back through your ideas, considering each in turn in order to decide on which you’ll register for your blog. Ideally ask the opinions of a friend or loved one, who will help you to narrow down the options to just one domain.
As a side note, remember that domain names are unique. That means that just because a domain name is available to register right now doesn’t necessarily mean it will be tomorrow or next week.
New domains are being registered all the time, and there’s little more disappointing than taking some days to decide on exactly which domain name you like best, only to go back to register it and find it’s already gone.
No – once you’ve done your bulk domain check you should aim to make a final decision as rapidly as possible and then to register your chosen domain as soon as possible – ideally within minutes.
So make your decision on which domain you’ll use for your site without hesitation – then snap that baby up before anyone else can beat you to it.
Action Step: Decide on the best available name from your list of available domains.
Register Your Chosen Domain Name & Web Hosting
The final step is to actually register that domain name as soon as possible.
As discussed in a previous section of this course, it is generally easiest to buy both your domain name and web hosting from the same company. In this way you don’t need to worry about the technical side of making the two work together when you’ve used two different companies.
For the purposes of this stage I’m going to be using Bluehost, though you can of course use a different host if you opt for them…