WordPress is a blog publishing system written in PHP and backed by a MySQL database. Distributed under the GNU General Public License, WordPress is free software. The latest release is version 2.1.2, released on March 03, 2007.
How do I set up my own WordPress blog?
It’s not a hard thing to do. In fact, it is quite easy for someone with even just a basic grasp of the Internet and a rudimentary knowledge of web development. What a person lacks in web design skills can easily be made up for with creative problem solving.
We’ll take you through the process step by step. But first a little back story…
The Power of Blogging
You obviously realize the benefit of having a blog. A blog may be used to communicate to an audience for any of the following: services, products, ideals, ideas, political standing, anecdotes, information, education, entertainment, humorous jokes and funny images… or a documented journal about ones own mundane life. It could be a part of a business plan, or it could be for therapy. It may bolster your ranking and backlinks of other websites that you own. You could make money from displaying ads that are Click Per Action (resulting in a sale) or Pay Per Click. You could be doing it simply for the love of it. Whatever the reason there are plenty of others who think it’s a good idea. In fact 70,000 new blogs are launched each day.
Don’t Confuse WordPress.org with WordPress.com
“WordPress.com is an easy and powerful way to start blogging”.
Indeed it is. It is a blog hosting platform. Much like blogspot/blogger.com or LiveJournal… you register an account and you start a blog. No need for a domain name (though it can be set up that way if you so wish) and no need for your own web hosting. You can log in from anywhere in the world, write what’s on your mind, and click PUBLISH. And it’s done. Live on the internet. Zero cost.
“WordPress (WordPress.org) is a state-of-the-art semantic personal publishing platform with a focus on aesthetics, web standards, and usability. What a mouthful. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.”
The difference is you download the blog application known as WordPress and install it on your own webspace. And you’ll also need your own domain name too. While you don’t have to pay for WordPress.org you will have to pay for the web hosting and domain name to utilize it.
What Are You Going to Blog About?
Before we throw ourselves into the serious stuff, you need to have a good idea what you want to do a site about. If you in fact do know what you want to do, skip to the next bit. Otherwise read on…
Pick a topic that excites you. Hopefully it’s something that you have some personal experience. That way what you have to say will benefit those who will find your site after doing a search. The Internet doesn’t need another “scraped site” (content scraped from other sites and dumped on yours). What the Internet does need though is something fresh… new… original… unique. If you can do that it’ll give you a distinct advantage over the majority of the other 70,000 people that started the same day you did.
Buying a Domain Name
You’ve got the idea in your head, and you know the direction that your site is going to take. Next step is to buy a domain name to complement it. The big question is do you go for something descriptive, something generic or something you can brand…? Avoid ‘dot comming’ your own name. Sure, do it, but don’t use it for a blog. At least not until you’ve had a few years of experience and you’ve got a reputation for being an expert at something.
There’s much discussion and debate about choosing the right name. Other than that tip about your own I won’t go into it here. It’s a decision that you’ll have to wrestle with yourself. The general consensus of opinion is that a dot com domain is better than any other option, simply because when searchers are told about an internet site, they automatically assume it is a dot com. You do not want to choose a dot net, only to find yourself competing with a website of the same name but ending in dot com. It will be extremely difficult for people to find you if they dont know you have a dot net domain name, and the dot com site will be getting all of YOUR traffic!
For US$15 (or less) a year you can get a domain name. Don’t rush into it. Write a list of names you’d like. Hopefully you’ll narrow it down to one and not be stuck with three that you just have to own.
For your first site you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Just the simplest plan from either one of the major webhosting companies. Just Google webhosting and you will find a ton of them come up. There are a few big players in the webhosting arena, and I would highly recommend you read several reviews to make sure you are getting a reliable webhost.
Many of the webhosting companies run regular discounts, so once you choose 2 or 3 (or even 1) Google coupon codes for those webhosts. I know that as of writing Bluehost (whom I use and have done so for over a year now without any problems) has a discount running AND also offers your first domain purchase free!
Why pay for a domain name or for webhosting?
If you can set up a blog for free why pay to do it yourself? The benefit is that you will own the domain name. At least for a year or however long you register it for. And of course you can renew it before it lapses (they’ll remind you, provided you used an email address that remains current).
With paid webhosting you have access to a lot of statistics. How many visitors you get per day, where they came from (referring URL’s), what search terms people have used in Search Engines to find you (that’s a handy one). That and a whole lot more that you don’t get if you go with a free blog host. Also, depending on which free blogging platform you choose you may not be able to fully monetize it. Too many affiliate links are frowned upon by free blogging platforms and could cause your blog to be taken offline, with a loss of all of your content, and leaving your readers wondering where you disappeared to!
Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for”? It fits the whole free vs. paid web hosting deal like a glove.
The benefits of using WordPress
WordPress is simple to use. It’s not hard at all. Be adventurous and make a few blog entries once you’ve got it up and running. You can delete them once you’ve done playing. You can set it up so if you take a week off (or however long) and set the time and date in advance to post blog entries that you’ve already written. No one will ever need to know that you’re on vacation! Sounds enticing? Then I think you’ll need to install it and open up a whole new world of fun and excitement!
Two Ways to Install WordPress
Go to and download the zip file.
Next you need to install it. They have instructions for that right here: http://codex.WordPress.org/Installing_WordPress
They even have the Famous 5-Minute Install http://codex.WordPress.org/Installing_WordPress#Famous_5-Minute_Install
While it is famous it is not easy. Now if following those instructions is a little daunting (and for most people I know it would be) there is an easier way to do it. Check out the next method…
Second Way to Install WordPress
For the purposes of this second method of installation, lets assume you decided to get your webhosting through HostGator. The reason that I suggested them is that they’re reliable, affordable and they make installing WordPress easier than brewing a decent coffee.
The webhosting from this company comes with cPanel. It’s an easy to use Graphical User Interface so you can manage your domain name. You don’t have to rely on typing in complicated executable commands in a black DOS prompt style window or resort to any other arcane measures to make the magic happen. Everything you need to do is done with the click of a button. And typing in just a few details in the designated text fields when required.
In addition to that they have Fantastico in their cPanel.
We’ll assume that you’ve sorted out your webhosting and have the Name Servers all sorted out and it’s all up and ready to go. If it’s not or you’re having trouble, send an email to the webhost (or use their Live Support, available from the homepage of their site) or an email will sort it all out. Support is there to help you. I’ve used it many times. They’re patient and informative to newbies and experienced clients alike.
After the domain name is ‘resolved’ (pointing at the webspace) you can log into your cPanel account. You can get to it via your internet browser, by typing in www.yourdomain.com/cpanel It’ll prompt you for your webhosting username and password. Type it in and click OK. You’re in!
“Fantastico is a commercial script library which automates the installation of web applications to a website. Fantastico scripts are executed from the administration area of a website control panel such as cPanel.” Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fantastico_%28web_hosting%29
Method 2 Continued…
To install WordPress you begin by clicking on “Fantastico” (There will be icon that says Fantastico underneath it, you won’t miss it).
In the Navigation list find the one that says WordPress. Click on it.
In the right hand side it shows a bunch of details for WordPress.
There’s a link that says “New Installation“. Click on it.
When the next page comes up it’ll pre-populate (fill in) the fields it already knows. You only have to add a few of your own.
If you want your blog to be your actual site (eg: when people type in www.yourdomain.com they automatically arrive at your blog) then leave blank the bit that says “Install in directory”.
If you’re adding a blog to an existing site you will type in a name for that directory for it to install to. What should you name it? I’ll leave that up to you. But as an example here is what it could be:
If you install WordPress into a directory that is what people will have to type in to get to your blog.
Admin access data
That’s the username and password to log into WordPress once you’ve installed it. You could be anywhere in the world and you can log in with those details, safely and securely, to your WordPress blog to do an update.
“Admin nickname” is the displayed name on your blog as the author of the blog entry. It doesn’t have to be the same as your username. In fact make sure it’s different. That’ll add a bit more security.
“Admin e-mail (your email address)”. You may have to change it as mine seems to default to my firstname.lastname@example.org. When people register at your site you can get notifications. As well as when they make posts.
“Site name” and “Description” are displayed at the top of your blog. Especially on the default theme. It may not on a customised theme. But fill it in anyway, it can be changed later.
E-mail account configuration
You’ll need to add a “E-mail account password”. I’m pretty sure this is the same password as your cPanel password. Whatever it is (whether or not you can add a new one) the cPanel password works for me. If you leave it blank you won’t be able to complete the install.
You can now click on “Install WordPress“.
WordPress Installation Page 2 of 3
You get a page where it verifies everything you are making it do. If the details are correct (double check that your directory name is properly spelt) then click on “Finish Installation“.
WordPress Installation Page 3 of 3
It’ll give you a link for the Admin log in page. And suggests that you bookmark it (which is a good idea). You can email the details of the installation to yourself. Just type in your email address and hit “Send E-mail”.
The best thing about doing it this way is that the database gets automatically set up as part of the process. It’s like magic. No need to play around with MySQL as per the requirements of the first method of installation.
And you’re done. But first lets cover a few extra points. Because knowledge is power. And to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
By going back at anytime into cPanel > Fantastico > WordPress you have the option of removing the current installation. Just click on the link “Remove”. It’ll delete it all. Including your blog entries. So make sure you know what you’re doing. You can’t get it back once it’s gone.
Every now and then the good folk at WordPress bring out a new release. Sometimes it’s because of a security issue (undesirables are always trying to crack the latest hot applications) or if they’ve got a whole bunch of new exciting features. It’s best to upgrade. The good thing about Fantastico is that if you go into the Fanstatico page at cPanel if it’s due for an upgrade it will TELL YOU. It even gives you a link to upgrade. Simply titled: “Upgrade Link”. Clicking on that will automagically install the upgrade.
Now go check out your blog (if you haven’t done so already). It’s rather uninteresting. It’s the default theme. It can be changed. Quite easily.
There are plenty of free themes. Hundreds. Thousands even. More than you’ll ever need or want. And they’re easy to install.
A good place to start is here: “>themes.WordPress.net
Look around. Download a few. You can install a bunch of them and test them out on your own blog. Which I’ll tell you how to do a little later.
There’s over a 1,500 themes there. All free. If after you’ve exhausted that there are other places to find them. A quick Google search for WordPress themes will give you many more results.
Customizing a free theme
If you know how to use Photoshop it’s easy to do. Just edit the header graphic and upload the new one to the exact same spot (making sure it’s the exact same file name too) and it will overwrite the old one with the new and improved one.
There are all sorts of tools, features and widgets that can be used with WordPress to make it even more powerful. Start here: http://wp-plugins.net
After you’ve downloaded and unzipped your chosen theme you must upload (FTP) the contents of your webspace to the specific themes directory: www.yourdomain/wp-content/themes/
…or if you’ve installed WordPress into a directory you’d need to upload it to someplace like this: www.yourdomain/WordPress/wp-content/themes/ Replace ‘WordPress’ with the name of your directory.
Once you’ve done that you will log into your WordPress Admin page (the one that you were told to bookmark) and along the top after you’ve logged in is the menu bar. Click on “Presentation”. It’ll show the themes that are installed.
If for whatever reason it hasn’t installed properly it’ll display a message letting you know it hasn’t. Otherwise it’ll be there with the Name, Author and Description. All you have to do is click the SELECT link in the fourth column (in older versions of WordPress). Or click on the thumbnail of your uploaded theme.
And it’s done! Go and check, you’ll see the results. And be amazed at how easy it is.
You’ve got your own domain name, sorted out the webhosting, installed WordPress, uploaded a theme. You’re all set to go!
All you need now is to fill it with content. If it’s well written, unique and original content the search engines (and your visitors) will love you.
How Often Should I Update?
As often as you like. Though being regular is better than a sporadic binge.
Once a week is good. Any longer and your visitors may return a few times to check up on you but then write you off and not come back again.
Twice a week is good. Plan your week accordingly so you can be regimented in your time.
Once a day is also good. So long as you have the content to sustain it. And not just that, you’ll need to be a very good writer to pull it off.
Several times a day… only an experienced blogger should attempt this. And by experienced I mean you know your subject inside and out as well as what blogging is all about. And you’ve been consistent with at least a weekly updated blog for a year or longer.
Have fun with your new WordPress blog.