For our first Good Blog Project, the Tots100 will be helping parent bloggers wanting to make the move to self-hosting. Making the move to self-hosted WordPress is something that lots of bloggers consider at one time or another.
Why? Self-hosting lets you host ads. You have a lot more freedom and choice in terms of design. You have access to an enormous library of software plug-ins created by the WordPress community, making tasks like SEO, customised designs and making money considerably easier.
But self-hosting can seem scary. Which is where the Good Blog Project comes in. Over the next 10 weeks we’ll take you, step by step, through everything you need to know to get started with WordPress – and make the very most of your WordPress blog once you’re up and running.
Our aim here is to provide you with tools, and not to be prescriptive – if something else works better for you, feel free to tweak our advice. If you have suggestions for improvements or additions, please share your thoughts in the comments, and help this to become an even better resource for Tots100 bloggers. So, where shall we start?
Week 1: Setting up and getting online
This week, we’re kicking off with the very basics. How do I get my WordPress blog started? Follow our step-by-step guide and you can be up and running on WordPress in just one hour.
- Buy a Domain
If you’ve been blogging on Blogspot.com or WordPress.com you might be blogging at something like www.goodblogproject.blogspot.com. It’s more professional and easier for people to understand if your blog is at www.goodblogproject.com – most people who don’t blog have no idea what Blogspot or WordPress is, for starters.
So you need to buy your own web address, also known as a domain (sometimes called a vanity URL). Having your own domain also gives you future freedom – if you want to move sites, or providers, you can always take your domain with you in future.
And you can have a portable email address, too – email@example.com looks better than firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to a site like 123-reg.co.uk and you’ll be able to search for domains and see what’s available for purchase. Think carefully about your blog name – with a bit of luck, you’ll be using it for a LONG time, so buy something that will still suit you a year or two down the line.
When you find a domain you like, you can buy the domain with various extensions – .com and .co.uk are the most common. We suggest buying both, to reduce the odds of someone setting up a site in future that could be confused with yours.
Your domain shouldn’t cost more than £20 for two years if you buy both .com and .co.uk. If you hunt around, it’s possible to buy domains even cheaper than that. If you’re likely to only run one or two domains, we strongly advise buying your domain from your hosting company. It will make life a LOT easier.
2. Buy Hosting
Once you have a website address, you need a bit of internet real-estate for your blog to sit on. Hosting companies provide space on their servers for your blog, and should offer additional services like back-up and support, in exchange for an annual fee – typically hosting will cost between £15 and £50 per year. We like TSOHost, which will register a domain for you, or allow you to point hosting at a domain registered elsewhere.
A basic hosting package is enough for most bloggers – if you have a choice between hosting on a Windows and Linux server, opt for Linux.
To make life easier, look for a hosting company that offers something called 1-click-apps or Softaculous. This means the host has a version of WordPress on its site that you can install very easily just by clicking on a WordPress logo – without having to download and upload the WordPress software yourself.
3. Install WordPress
Once you have hosting, you’ll want to go into your hosting company’s 1-click/Softaculous section (this will be in the cpanel or control panel) and select ‘install WordPress’. The software will usually ask you some basic questions, like:
- Do you want your new blog to have a www in the address or not? (depends on your preference)
- What will the title of your blog be?
- Will your blog have a strapline, or slogan?
- Do you want your blog to sit at the home page of the domain or at domain.com/blog?
- What will be the user name and password to log into your blog (different to the details to log into your hosting account)
Once this is all done, click ‘install’ and WordPress will be installed onto your new hosting. Simple!
If your preferred hosting company doesn’t do 1-click, things are a bit more complicated but not impossible. You’ll need to download WordPress from the WordPress site, then upload it to your hosting space via something called FTP.
This sounds scary but is really just like ‘Windows Explorer’ on your PC – you’ll be given a special user ID and password to log-in to a specific website, where FTP lets you see all the files and folders on your hosting space, and you can upload new ones.
4. Move your existing blog content
If you already have a blog, you’ll probably want to move the content over from your old site to your new, self-hosted site.
If you’re using WordPress.com this is very simple. Simply log into your dashboard on your old blog and select ‘Tools’ then ‘Export’. This will export all of your blog content, comments, pictures and so on into a file on your computer.
In Blogger, you need to select ‘settings’, ‘other’ and then ‘export’.
On self-hosted WordPress, there are plug-ins (small software programs) to help get your content from Blogger, Typepad or WordPress.com onto your new site. Log into your new blog and select ‘Plugins’ and ‘add new’ then search for ‘blogger import tool’ or ‘wordpress.com import tool’.
Once you find the plug-in, install and activate it by following the on-screen instructions.
Once this is done, go to ‘tools’ and ‘import’ then upload the file you saved on your computer of your old blog content.
5. Get your new site online
Once you have a blog, and content, you need to ensure the web address you bought directs visitors to your new blog. If you buy hosting and domains from the same company, this will be done for you – but if not, you need to think about something called ‘name servers’.
Your hosting company will send you a welcome email with details of your account and this will include details of ‘name servers’ – the addresses of the computers where your website will be hosted.
You will need to go into your account at the domain company and there will be an option called something like ‘DNS settings’, ‘change name servers’ or sometimes ‘manage my domain’. You’ll need to change the default name servers (which will probably include some reference to the domain company, like ns1.yourdomainco.com) to the name servers in your email from your hosting company. Once you’ve done this, click save and you’re all done.
Don’t panic if your domain doesn’t IMMEDIATELY point to your new website. It can take 48 hours for all the various ISPs to update their systems to include your new website. This will feel like a month, but there’s no short-cut, unfortunately.
6. Redirect your old blog to your new blog
Chances are, there are lots of links on the Internet pointing at posts on your old blog. You don’t want those to suddenly stop working. So you need to redirect those links and ensure anyone visiting them ends up on the right post on your new site.
If your old blog was on WordPress.com then you can pay a small amount (around £12) for a redirect that will redirect all your old posts to your new posts. It’s very simple, and works very well. If your old blog was on Blogger, there are plug-ins on your new WordPress site that will redirect traffic from your old posts to new posts.
7. Get started!
So now you have a domain that points to your new WordPress blog, which contains all your posts, comments and pictures (although be warned, moving pictures from WordPress.com to WordPress.org can be a bit shaky). It’s time to start customising the look and feel of your WordPress blog – come back next week for the second instalment in The Good Blog Project.
Want to know more?
- A PDF with detailed instructions and screen shots of this tutorial will be available for download in your Tots100 account from Monday morning – just check the eBook section for details.
- We have also provided a quick seven minute video demonstrating all the steps above – click below, or double click to watch at YouTube.
- Check back on the Tots100 site next week and we’ll be taking you through adding themes, customising the look of your blog and setting up analytics and reporting.