*This post may contain affiliate links
I decided to do things a little different today. Ever since creating www.barkandbiscuits.com I have been asked by people how I started this blog. Today, I wanted to talk about the ‘behind the scenes' and actually show you the exact steps so that you can start a blog on your own.
Blogging is a wonderful opportunity to express yourself, connect with people and make money. In addition to sharing my love and passion for dogs with others, one of my goals is to become a full-time blogger so that I have the ability to travel and create my own schedule.
When I started this blog, I was faced with so many challenges. I didn't know where to begin and was constantly frustrated. I'm not a computer person nor do I know anything about designing a website, let alone building one. I have been a ballerina my whole life. Trust me, computers were like a foreign language to me. It took a ton of work, lots of YouTube videos and many mistakes to build Bark and Biscuits. I wish that I had found an easy to understand, step-by-step guide to help me.
That has been my motivation to write this post. Building this website all on my own has taught me so much. The good, the bad, the right, the wrong. If I can help make the process a little easier, I will be very happy.
These are the steps I took to create my website. By the end of this tutorial, you too will have your own blog and will be able to start your blogging journey. Be sure you bookmark this page so that you can easily find it again if you need to.
Choose A Blog Name and Purchase Domain
The very first thing you need to do is come up with a name. Try to come up with a name that is simple, easy to read and easy to type. I personally wouldn't include any hyphens or numbers, for example – pet-blog4you.com. Names with numbers or hyphens are easily misunderstood. Next, you need to purchase your domain. The domain is the address that people type into their browser to get to your website. For example, my domain is www.barkandbiscuits.com.
I highly recommend getting your domain from NameCheap. If you are building your blog for the long term with a goal to turn this into a business, this is your best option. Namecheap offers great customer support and they include WhoIsGuard for free. WhoIsGuard protects your private information such as your home address, phone number, and email from being publicly displayed on the internet. Hello, spam calls! Now I will walk you through the steps to getting your own domain. (Woo-Hoo!)
Head over to NameCheap. The first thing you will want to do is search for your domain name. After you hit “search” they will let you know if the domain you chose is available or not. As far as what extension (the end of a web address) to get, the .com domain extension is still by far the most popular and easily recognized. This is what I recommend getting. Here are some other top extensions: .co, .net, .me. If your chosen domain is available, you should see something like this:
If your name is not available, don't worry. You can try a variation of your name. For example, instead of ‘Delightful Dog', you can try ‘The Delightful Dog' or ‘Dogs Are Delightful'. My suggestion to you, don't get too caught up in your name. You want to begin your blogging journey as soon as possible, not sit around for hours thinking of the perfect name. When you are just starting out, you have no idea where your blogging path may take you. You may even completely change your niche, which many people do. Don't get too caught up in the name.
Think About This:
When thinking of a blog name, check social media channels to see if that name is available. It's best to have a brand that is cohesive and consistent across all channels so that you are easy to find. There are millions of people on social media, so finding the exact name to match your website name may be difficult. Try and find something close or add a hyphen to your social media username if need be.
If you do need an inspiration boost, try searching the web or looking at magazines. I find Pinterest to be a wonderful source of inspiration.
Once you find an available domain, you will want to add it to your cart. While inside your cart, make sure that “WhoIsGuard' is enabled. This is your privacy protection.
Because you are just starting out and most likely won't have a zillion people going to your site right away (we can all dream, right?) you don't need to enable Premium DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System.
Don't worry about all the add-ons at the bottom. Just proceed to ‘Confirm Order‘. From here, you will be asked to create an account. Click ‘Continue‘.
The next page will be the WhoIs Contact information. Leave everything as is and make sure WhoIsGuard Privacy Protection is checked. Click ‘Continue'.
Next is the payment page. Enter in payment details and scroll to the bottom. You will now choose if you want your domain to auto-renew. I would recommend doing this just because a year is a long time from now and if you miss the email to renew, you could lose your domain, which would be a tragedy after all of your hard work. Of course, this is completely up to you. Hit ‘Continue‘
Review your order and click Pay Now.
Congratulations! You now own your own domain! Your ID protect is automatically enabled. Now check your email. You should have received an email from Namecheap asking you to verify your email address. Be sure to do this.
Before you move on, I highly recommend creating a ‘folder' in your email dedicated to your blog. For example, I have a ‘Bark and Biscuits' folder. Everything I purchase; receipts, account information, anything and everything gets moved to this folder. That way I can keep track of my expenses and remember things like who I bought my domain through. It's very important to keep all of your receipts because you can write them off! Yup! 30% back on everything you expense. The best way for bloggers to do taxes is through Taxzilla, which is designed specifically for people with side income like blogging. It's seriously the best but that's a whole separate post!
Now that you have your domain, you need to host it. This is like the house for your website. It is strongly recommended to keep the domain and hosting separate which means that you don't want to host your website through the same place you bought your domain. I cannot speak highly enough about DreamHost. They host over 1.5 million websites and blogs. I have used them for multiple websites and always have a good experience.
DreamHost offers a 100% uptime guarantee so if the servers go down and people aren't able to access your website, they will credit you a day's service for every hour of interrupted service. They have 24/7 support whether you want to chat or email. DreamHost does offer phone support but you do need to pay for this, unfortunately. I have always contacted them through chat and had all my questions answered thoroughly, especially when I was just starting out and didn't even know what hosting meant. The best part is their one-click WordPress install. For us newbies, this is vital. I'll discuss what WordPress is later on.
Go to Dreamhost.
At the top of the homepage, click on ‘WordPress Hosting'.
You have two different plans to choose from. Shared Hosting or DreamPress.
I will do my best to explain these to you. Shared Hosting is their affordable, basic WordPress web hosting for new users or lower traffic sites. On a shared server, you ‘share' server space with other customers. Customers don't have access to your files but they will share the resources of the server. If another customer gets a heavy amount of traffic to their site, it's possible that your site may run slow, but DreamHost does their best to make sure it doesn't happen often. Shared hosting costs $10.95 per month. I have personally called DreamHost and negotiated a special discount code exclusively for my readers. Use this link to receive 40% off shared hosting for just $5.78/month when you buy the annual plan!
The other option is the ‘DreamPress' plan. DreamPress is DreamHost's managed WordPress hosting. It is more expensive, $16.95/month for their annual plan. According to DreamPress, they set you up with a faster server, more memory and power, and a built-in cache that works with as many plugins and themes as possible and even server-side caching. If your website suddenly gets a lot of traffic, DreamPress will be ready. Since you are just starting out, I think the basic Shared Hosting will be just fine.
Just to be clear, with the Shared Hosting plan you are still able to install WordPress and completely customize themes, get plugins and code like any other WordPress site. It's just in a shared environment. You can absolutely upgrade later if you need to. For the sake of this tutorial, I will use the Shared Hosting Plan.
Click on ‘Shared hosting Plan' (If you are using my link for the sweet discount, it will say ‘Get Started Now'). Now you will be asked to create an account.
Once logged in, type in your domain and choose ‘I already own this domain‘. Click Continue.
Fill in your contact and payment information. Click ‘Place Order Now'.
Once your order is complete, it should say something like ‘You should receive your FTP/shell account password as soon as we've finished activating your account'. Click ‘Continue to Your Web Panel'.
Inside your Web Panel Dashboard, your account will say it's pending at the top.
Now is a good time to check your email. You should have received a receipt from DreamHost. File this receipt in the ‘dedicated blog folder' we talked about earlier. Remember, you can write this off on your taxes!
You should receive another email from DreamHost that says ‘your account has been activated' along with a lot of intimidating information that looks like a foreign language. Don't worry! It took about 5 minutes for me to receive this email.
You will then get one more email saying that your FTP(File Transfer Protocol) user is now ACTIVE. Be sure to keep these emails.
Once you have received both these emails, you have to change something called your name servers. Since you have purchased your domain(NameCheap) and hosting(DreamHost) from two separate websites, you will need to change the name servers for your domain name. Changing the name servers will connect your domain to your hosting account. I know this sounds complicated but it's very easy!
How to Change Nameservers
Log into your NameCheap account.
Once in your dashboard, click ‘Domain List' and then ‘Manage' next to your domain. Scroll down to ‘Name servers' and select ‘Custom DNS' from the drop-down menu.
To find your Name servers, go to the email that DreamHost sent you(the one with all the techy stuff). It should have the name server information you need to enter into NameCheap. Copy and paste the 1st name server from DreamHost into Name server 1 on NameCheap. You should not include the series of numbers after. For example, if you are hosting at Dreamhost, the name servers provided are: ns1.dreamhost.com, ns2.dreamhost.com, ns3.dreamhost.com. Do this until all name servers are filled in. DreamHost has 3 so you may need to click ‘add name server'. To ‘save', click the little green arrow on the right. Namecheap will tell you that it may take up to 48 hours for this to take effect. It took me about an hour. You will know when it's ready by typing in your domain and seeing something like “hosted by DreamHost”.
It's time to install WordPress! Yay! WordPress is an extremely powerful blogging content management system (or CMS). This is where you create your beautiful website and write content. WordPress is free and can be downloaded for self-hosted installations from WordPress.org (which is what we want). I have to admit, this was SO confusing for me in the beginning. There is wordpress.org and wordpress.com. Two very different things. If you want to turn your blog into a business, you definitely want to be using wordpress.org because it is self-hosted. With wordpress.com, you are extremely limited and they host the website for you, meaning that your domain name will include ‘wordpress.com'.
Head over to your DreamHost dashboard. In the left-hand Panel, click on Goodies> One-Click Installs. From the list of One-Click-Installs, choose WordPress.
Enter the following:
Install to: Select your domain from the drop-down menu. Leave the box to the right blank.
Select Database: Leave this as ‘Automatically Create Database' since this creates a new unique database for your site.
Deluxe Install: I would suggest not checking this box if you are planning on making money from your blog. Instead, at the end of this post, I will give you a list of all the WordPress plugins I use. Again, this is totally up to you.
Click ‘Install it for me now!'
Yay! Yay! Congratulations, you now have your own blog!
You should have received an email from DreamHost with your WordPress login information. You will need to set your password. Just use the links in the email.
To manage/post/edit your blog, go to www.YourDomain.com/wp-admin
To view your new website visit www.YourDomain.com.
Now you have to work on picking out a theme, designing your new site and producing awesome content! The fun has just begun. I wish you all the best on your blogging journey. Let me know when you have your site up and running and I will check it out and leave a comment to jumpstart your traffic and engagement. In other words, I'll be your first fan 🙂
Choosing a WordPress Theme
Your theme is what makes your blog personal and beautiful! Everything from the colors, fonts, social sharing buttons, layout – these are all part of your theme. There is an endless amount of themes to choose from. I have listed my favorite resources for themes below.
Beautiful Dawn has some gorgeous themes created for beginner and intermediate bloggers. They are awesome because you don't have to mess with any code. You have the ability to change the colors, fonts and layout all within the themes built-in theme customizer. All themes are compatible with the self-hosted WordPress platform(which you have).
StudioPress Themes powered by Genesis is probably one of the most popular frameworks for WordPress. This is what I use for Bark and Biscuits. What I love about their themes is that they are extremely mobile responsive which means that it looks and works great on a mobile device or tablet. Most of my traffic comes from mobile devices so you can imagine how important having a mobile responsive website is. Their themes look professional and beautiful and run blazing fast.
There are also free themes through WordPress you can use too. In your WordPress Dashboard, go to ‘Appearance' on the left-hand side and then click on ‘Themes.' Click ‘Live Preview' to view the theme or ‘Activate' to install.
Recommended WordPress Plugins
Plugins are ways to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress so that you can customize your site to your specific needs. There are so many plugins available. As a beginner just starting out, knowing which plugins to get for your blog can be a bit overwhelming. These are the plugins I currently use on barkandbiscuits.com and highly recommend. After you install a theme, I recommend installing some plugins.
- Akismet Anti-Spam – this protects your blog from spam.
- BackWPup – this is what I use to back-up my site. You should ALWAYS back-up your website!
- jQuery Pin It Button for Images- highlights images on hover and adds a “Pin It” button over them for easy pinning to Pinterest. A must for us bloggers!
- Pretty Link Pro Beginner Edition – If you want to monetize your blog, this plugin is great. Shrink, track and share any URL on the Internet from your website.
- Yoast SEO – In my opinion, Yoast is a must. It's an all-in-one SEO solution for WordPress, including on-page content analysis and XML sitemaps
- Simple Social Icons – this is what links visitors to your social media sites.
- Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights – View traffic and see how visitors find and use your website.
- OptinMonster API– I use this plugin for my email opt-in.
Most of these are free but also offer an upgraded paid premium plan with additional features. To download a plugin, go to your WordPress Dashboard and on the left-hand side click ‘Plugins' then ‘Add New'. You can search for specific plugins or browse by category. Have a look around but be careful not to download too many. They can slow your site down. You also need to make sure they are compatible with your theme which will tell you in the description.
Writing Your First Blog Post (like a pro)
The one tool I recommend you start using once your blog is up and running is Grammarly. Grammarly is the world's most accurate grammar checker, and it's invaluable to writers. It simply makes sure that everything you type is mistake-free. I love to write, but I'm terrible at spelling. Yes, I'm in my thirties and still have trouble spelling ‘definitely.' Without Grammarly, my work would look unprofessional. In addition to fixing spelling and punctuation errors, Grammarly offers suggestions to improve the readability of your post. Whether you are composing an email, writing a blog post or sharing on social media, Grammarly has you covered. I use it every single time I write and highly recommend it for you.
How to Start Making Money on Your Blog
This is the part you have all been waiting for! As I mentioned above, one of my main goals is to be a full-time blogger so I have the ability to travel and set my own schedule. Many people think that you need a huge following and thousands of people visiting your blog every day to begin making money. This is not the case! If you want to make money blogging, you should absolutely start right away!
Within my very first week of blogging(I had a whopping 10 visitors to my site) I made $45.00! I did this through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you promote other people’s products and earn a commission if people actually end up buying through your personal link. It's no cost for your readers and earns you money for your hard work. It's a great way to recommend great products!
The way I learned how to use affiliate marketing on my blog is through another fellow blogger, Michelle at Making Sense of Cents. She has been one of my main inspirations for this blog. Michelle makes over $70,000 a month blogging. Yes, you read that correctly. She has also been featured in Forbes Magazine as well as others. Did I mention she is only in her 20's?!
She created a course called Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. In this course, she teaches you everything you need to know to make thousands of dollars from affiliate marketing. She shares her techniques, strategies, and tools needed to be successful. Additionally, everyone that takes the course gets invited to Michelle's private Facebook group where you are surrounded by serious bloggers offering a wealth of information. Michelle frequently mentors us and answers questions that we have. I can't tell you how helpful and amazing this group has been. Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is phenomenal and I can't say enough about it.
WordPress can be very confusing at first. I still get confused by it. You can download this FREE WordPress Guide which will help guide you through the process of editing your site content. YouTube is also a great place to find WordPress tutorials. They may even have tutorials on how to customize your specific theme which is super helpful.
I really hope that this tutorial is beneficial. When I created Bark and Biscuits, I was constantly frustrated. It was hard to find answers and I made SO MANY mistakes. If this helps at all, that will make me very happy. If you get stuck, don't hesitate to reach out to customer support for NameCheap, DreamHost or WordPress. You can ALWAYS email me if you need help and I will do my best to answer your questions. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is just the beginning. Please subscribe to our newsletter and follow along on social media as we continue to dive deeper into this blogging series. How to drive traffic, write great content and use Pinterest to make money are some of our upcoming topics.
Please let me know in the comments below if you get stuck or need more information. I want this tutorial to be as helpful and thorough as possible! xo