Have you always wanted to how to start a blog or wordpress site but don’t know where to start? It can be really frustrating and overwhelming, but I’m here to tell you that it’s easy and totally within your reach. I’m going to give you a quick overview of what it takes to build a successful food blog – from scratch. You can do it!
When you’re starting from scratch, there are a few options…
- Hire someone to design and build it for you. If you like modern, straightforward design, I recommend my friends over at JP Mixed Media, they are great! This method can be pricey but worth it if you want to eliminate the design and technical aspects of getting your site launched.
- The other option is to build it yourself. Won’t worry, it is much scarier than it sounds. I’ll give you step-by-step instructions that are unbeatable!
Disclaimer: Please note that some of the product links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links. I use all of the products listed below and highly recommend them all. Questions? Just ask.
Today I’m going to teach you how to start a wordpress site from scratch, and set it up with the proper plugins to make sure you’re off on the right foot. Starting a WordPress site is not hard!
You’re probably wondering how long this will take… Well, if you are just starting out and have never done anything like this before, it could take you a while – but it should not take more than a few hours. You can definitely get your site up in a day!
Before we get started, just to give you some overview – while it you can totally set up and manage a wordpress with with no prior knowledge, it is extremely helpful to have access to FTP, a basic / general knowledge of HTML/CSS/PHP, and a text editor. With this knowledge you can do amazing things!
STEP 1 // DOMAIN NAME AND HOSTING
First, you need a domain name and web hosting. I usually go with GoDaddy for domain names and Bluehost for hosting. You don’t have to buy your domain name from the same hosting company. I highly recommend Bluehost for hosting because it is secure and they have really great, affordable plans. I am signed up for their Business Pro plan for Shared Accounts, so this means that I can host multiple sites on my account (don’t ask me how many I have, lol!).
STEP 2 // POINT YOUR DOMAIN TO BLUEHOST (OR YOUR WEBSERVER)
If you purchased your domain name and your hosting from two different companies, you will need to log into your domain account, and point the domain to the hosting account. To do this, find your domain settings, look for the nameservers section, and you’ll need to type in the custom nameservers, so that your domain name is attached to your web hosting.
For bluehost, the nameservers are: NS1.BLUEHOST.COM and NS2.BLUEHOST.COM. Really easy!
STEP 3 // INSTALL WORDPRESS
You can install WordPress one of 3 ways. You can hire someone to do it for you, you can use a 1-click install… your web host will most likely offer this kind of option (Bluehost uses the Mojo Marketplace site for 1-click installs). Or you can install it manually. This entails creating databases in your server and pointing them to WordPress. Here are instructions on how to install WordPress on your own.
STEP 4 // WORDPRESS SETTINGS
If you are going to be installing multiple versions of WordPress, there are a number of things that you should be doing to all of them, all the time (to optimize performance).
- Permalinks – Go to Settings > Permalinks and change your permalinks to “post-name”. Changing this helps the search engines find your site and content better. Just do it.
- WWW? – Decide whether you want your site to show up with the www. prefix. In settings > general you can specify this.
- In Settings, add your site title, description (if you want), etc. Scroll around through the all of the settings options and fill in as much as you can / want.
STEP 5 // INSTALL A THEME
Once you have WordPress installed, you need to install and activate a theme. To do this, go to Appearance > Themes section in your WordPress dashboard. You can either choose a free theme from the WordPress repository or you can upload one of your own. At the top, you’ll see a button to “upload”. To upload a theme, choose your theme’s .zip file from your computer and upload it!
Besides the WordPress Repository there are other places to find great WordPress themes.
Here are a few different popular sites:
A WordPress theme is the like the clothing – it’s look and style of your website. There are many places online to find nice themes, but I always go back to using the StudioPress Genesis framework with one of their child themes. What does this mean? Basically, Genesis is a theme that you install… it provides a basic foundation for your website’s look. Kind of like the underwear of your website. Now you need to get dressed – the “clothes” are what we call, “child themes”. Basically, if you want to customize your website, and/or make sure that future changes are not affected by theme updates, you want to use a child theme, because your customizations will always stay intact. Once I started using child themes, I never looked back. Now I’m a 100% Genesis girl.
StudioPress has a ton of great child themes to choose from. Visit www.studiopress.com to browse their selection. What’s great about Studiopress also is that all of their themes are responsive, and look great on all tablets and mobile devices.
Here is a list of some Genesis child theme examples (these are my sites):
- Kira Stackhouse (my photography site) – Cafe Pro theme
- Nuena Photography – Genesis Sample Theme
- Fryhole – Daily Dish theme
- Yesteryay – Cafe Pro Theme
- Project DOG – News Pro Theme
What to look for in a WordPress theme
- Great Design – Take your time and look around before you choose a final design. Choosing the right theme will help give your brand the right start, so carefully consider the layout, navigation, overall user experience, color palette, etc.
- Responsive – A responsive site will rearrange itself when a window is resized or you are viewing a website on a mobile device or tablet. It’s the digital age – you need a theme that will look great on all kinds of devices.
- SEO Optimized – SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. Not everyone who builds a theme codes it with search engines in mind. Having clean code will help the search engines find the information in your site, which will allow your website to rank higher in the search results (that is the goal!). Not sure how your site ranks? Run it through the W3C Validator. You don’t need to know what all of the errors mean but obviously less is better.
- User Friendly – Again, this goes back to great design. If you were a visitor on your own site, what would you think? Would you be able to find what you’re looking for?
- Tech Support – Depending on where you buy your theme (if you buy one), the amount of support you can receive if something doesn’t work will vary. If you use a free theme, you may have to figure it out yourself or look for solutions in support forums, because not all of the theme creators maintain the themes after they are released. I highly recommend choosing a theme that includes theme support – because as WordPress changes, your theme may change, and it feels good to know that there is support out there if you need it.
STEP 6 // PLUGINS
To add functionality to your site, add plugins! If you can hard code some of them directly into your site, better… but if not, these are great! In your WordPress dashboard, you can go to Plugins > Add New and then search for them for an easy 1-click install. Otherwise, you need to download them to your computer from WordPress.org and then drag them into the Plugins (/wp-content/plugins) folder in your FTP.
Once you install your plugins, you’ll want to go through each of their settings sections one-by-one to make sure they are set up the way you want.
To make things super easy, here’s a list of the plugins that I highly recommend.
- Akismet – protects your site from spammers
- BackWPUp – this is a great backup plugin that will create a backup of your site automatically when you tell it to. I use this plugin to have my sites backed up to my dropbox. Easy!
- Contact Form 7 – awesome, free contact form
- Google Analyticator – enable Google analytics with this plugin, you’re also able to view your current stats in the WordPress dashboard
- Jetpack – I like using the sharing buttons from Jetpack, they are robust and customizable with CSS!
- NextGen Gallery – I actually upgraded to NextGen Pro – it’s great for photo galleries, the free version is awesome though too if you’re looking for something basic that won’t crash
- Simply Instagram – Great plugin to add your instagram account
- Sucuri Scanner – Security scanner
- W3 Total Cache – makes your page load time faster
- WordPress SEO – the best WordPress SEO plugin to optimize your site for search engines
If you use Genesis, here’s a list of some the best Genesis WordPress plugins.
- Genesis Connect for WooCommerce – use WooCommerce with Genesis!
- Genesis Simple Edits – allows you to modify the Genesis footer area of your site
- Genesis Simple Hooks – allows you to inject code into specific hook areas – this saves time so you don’t have to program it all into the functions.php file
- Genesis Visual Hook Guide – this shows you a visual layout of all of your site’s hook and filter areas
STEP 7 // SET UP GOOGLE TOOLS
- Google Analytics – track your stats!
- Google Webmaster Tools – makes sure your site is up and running!
- Feedburner – Creates an RSS feed for people to follow. You can also have your readers subscribe to new posts.
- Google Apps – If you don’t already have an email address for your site, consider signing up for Google Apps – you can run your email off of Gmail (@yourdomain.com) as well as Google Apps (docs, calendar, etc) It’s $5/mo for individuals, well worth it!
STEP 8 // SET UP SOCIAL ACCOUNTS
This step could be either first or last – whichever! Don’t forget to set up all of your social accounts. For most people, these would be the most effective channels for social sharing:
That’s about it! I’ll be writing some posts about specific topics soon… so stay tuned!