We have come to part V in this series on how to start a blog. So far, we have gone over:
- the pros and cons of free vs. paid blogs
- how to set up a free blog on WordPress
- how to get a domain name and web hosting
- selecting a theme
Today, we’ll talk about the final steps needed to get your self-hosted blog up and running (note: this assumes you followed the steps in the earlier posts, bought your domain name through GoDaddy and signed up with HostGator for hosting – however, if you have chosen other providers, chances are the steps will be very similar for those as well).
Change the Nameservers
As soon as you sign up with HostGator, they send you a welcome email with the names of two nameservers in it. Keep this, you’ll need it. Log into your account at www.GoDaddy.com, click on Domains and in the list of names that show up (list if you own more than one), click on Launch. You will get to a page with all the info about your domain, and under Domain Settings, you’ll see Nameservers (third item down on the list).
Click on the Manage link. This brings opens a new window – select “Custom” and click on Enter Custom Nameservers. Paste in the nameserver names HostGator sent you and click OK. It can take a little while before this goes into effect, so you can log out of GoDaddy once you’ve done this.
By now, hopefully the nameserver change has taken effect. You’ll know it did if you can log into your cPanel. The cPanel is the control center of the inner workings of your blog and you log into it by typing www.yourdomainname.com/cpanel in your URL window (obviously yourdomainname needs to be replaced with whatever your domain name is).
If the nameservers have been changed, this will take you to a log in window, where you log in with the username and password you created when you registered at HostGator.
Scroll down on the page until you see a heading called Software/Services. In that box, you’ll see a blue smiley face called Fantastico De Luxe. Click on that. In the next window, you want to select WordPress from the menu on the left hand side of the page. This takes you to a new window, where you need to click on New Installation (leave the box next to “Install in directory” blank). That will take you to yet another screen where you need to fill in the domain name, username, password, nickname, your email address and your site name (it will say yourdomainname.com but you want to change that to Your Domain Name. This is the name of your blog that will show up in the header). Then click on Install WordPress.
A new screen will come up where you need to click on “Finish Installation”. You’ll get to another screen where you have the option of having the details of the installation emailed to you. It’s a good idea to do that, so fill in your email address in the window provided and click “Send E-mail”. That’s it! Once that’s done, you can make sure it worked by going into your browser and typing in your domain (www.yourdomainname.com) in the URL window. If all went according to plan, you will see your blog (with a default theme).
Install The Theme
The next step is to install your theme that you downloaded earlier (see How To Start A Blog Part IV: Selecting a Theme if you missed that part).
Log into your blog. You do this by typing in your blog address and /wp-admin in the URL window (so it would be www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin) and enter the user name and password you used to set up WordPress in cPanel. This will bring you to your dashboard.
Go to Appearance (it’s in the menu on the left side of your blog) – Themes. This brings you to a new window where you should see a default theme and perhaps also a few others. To switch to your new theme, click on Add New and in the new window that opens, you can either search for themes, or click on Upload and upload the zip file with your theme from your computer. Once you have uploaded it, you can do a live preview, and if you like what you see, go ahead and activate it.
Once you’ve activated your new theme, there are a few little housekeeping chores to be done. Note that your site will be live while you’re doing this, so if you prefer to set things up behind the scenes, use a “coming soon” type page. I like the Ultimate Coming Soon & Maintenance Mode plugin from SeedProd – it’s what I used while working on this site; it looks great and it is really easy to set up and configure to your needs. www.seedprod.com
The first thing you want to do is to click on Settings (at the bottom of the left side menu) and in the General Settings, type in the title of your blog, your tagline (if you have / want one), the URL and address of your blog (unless it’s already there), your email address and your date and time format preferences. Click Save Changes.
Then, in the left hand menu, click on “Permalinks” and make sure Post name is selected. This will make sure your posts have nice and “clean” URLs with your post title in the URL (instead of things like MyDomainName.com/?p=123). Once you’ve done that, click Save Changes.
In “Reading”, set things up the way you want them (if you are using your blog as a website, you want to make the front page a Static page) and you obviously want the search engines to find you, so make sure that box is not checked.
Click on “Writing” and select the options you want. They’re mostly a matter of preference, but one thing you want to make sure here is that your blog “pings”, so in the window on the bottom of the Writing settings, make sure it says http://rpc.pingomatic.com/. What that means is that every time you publish a new post, the search engines will be alerted that you posted something, which is a good thing. Click Save changes.
In “Discussion” you set your preferences for how comments are handled, so the settings here are really up to you. I prefer to approve comments before they’re posted because of spam, and I also select “Show Avatars”.
If your theme doesn’t come with good built in SEO, it’s a good idea to install a plugin for that. There are many to choose from, but my favorite is Yoast’s WordPress SEO. I have written about that a bit a more in the Plugins post, so check that out if you want to know more, but for now, go to Plugins and Add New and in the search window, type in wordpress seo and click search. Yoast’s WordPress SEO is usually the first one on the list. Click on install now and then activate it. Once you do, you’ll see that an SEO listing shows up in your dashboard menu (far down, on the left). You can leave it as is, or you can go in and set things up the way you want.
For a complete list of the blogging products I use and recommend, see the Recommended Blogging / Website Resources page.