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You probably clicked on this post because you are looking for tips on how to start a self hosted blog OR how to self host your existing blog. Today I am sharing my guide on how to start your self hosted blog with WordPress!
Starting a blog can feel like a completely overwhelming process. Believe me, I know! Read With Allison is at least my third attempt at blogging, but it has by far been my most successful blog.
I started Read With Allison in July 2018. Two years later, I finally took the plunge and self hosted my blog. It would have been 100% easier if I had self hosted my blog from day 1 but we live and learn, right?
Step 1: Decide what you will blog about
Before you start a self hosted blog, you need to decide what the blog will be about! This is called your blog’s niche and you will see that term thrown around quite a bit while researching how to start a blog.
When deciding on a niche, make sure it is a topic you actually enjoy and can talk about for hours. My previous blogs were failed attempts because I was trying to blog about beauty or fashion. I am interested in those topics, but I didn’t have much to say about either, so I never felt inspired to sit down and write a post.
It is super easy to talk yourself out of your blog’s niche if you focus on making money from the beginning. It’s great to have a goal, but don’t let that goal discourage you from even starting!
I almost scrapped Read With Allison because I didn’t think I could make money as a book blogger. So I sat down to write some practice posts for a lifestyle blog with a focus on productivity. I immediately felt imposter syndrome and wanted to quit before I even start because I didn’t feel like I had enough to say about productivity! I (obviously) decided to stick with my book blog and decided to add lifestyle content to my blog while still primarily blogging about books!
Step 2: Decide on a name for your blog
This is the hardest step to starting a self hosted blog. Or at least it was for me when I was thinking of scrapping Read With Allison. When you self host your blog, you will need to register a domain (a .com, .org, etc. website) for your blog. Do you know how hard it is to create a unique domain name in 2020? Pretty freaking hard!
However, your domain is important because it is a key part of your blog’s brand. Your domain name should represent what your blog is about. My blog is Read With Allison because that was my Instagram/bookstagram username first. “Read With” implies I blog about books and Allison is my name. Not super creative or original, but I’m glad I went with Read With Allison and not something generic like teacherreader or something (sorry if that’s your Instagram name!).
- I recommend creating a domain with a .com because it makes your blog seem more legit, but I also know how hard it is to find available domains with .com at the end.
- Before you register your domain, decide where you will self host your blog (next step!) because you may get a free domain with your host.
- Also check social media to see if your domain name is available on those platforms as well.
Step 3: Choose a self hosting service for your blog
So now that you have a niche and a domain name in mind, you need to decide where to host your blog. There are so many options for self hosting out there, and I was so indecisive about it! After two weeks of research, I decided to self host with Bluehost.
I mentioned before that I did not initially self host my blog. Read With Allison was originally a wordpress.com blog. I had a domain registered and paid around $5/month to have WordPress’ ads removed from my site, but the blog didn’t belong to me and I couldn’t monetize. I also had very limited options for customizing my blog or using plugins unless I upgraded to their waaay overpriced business plan.
So because my blog was hosted on wordpress.com, I had to export my blog to wordpress.org after I registered with Bluehost. I once upon a time considered myself somewhat tech savvy, so I looked up a tutorial on how to export a wordpress.com blog to wordpress.org. I tried following that tutorial twice and failed both times. It was time to contact Bluehost.
Bluehost has been amazing to work with and I’ve had zero problems with them. They have 24/7 support, so I hopped on a chat one Sunday morning. By that afternoon, they had completely exported my site and contacted me to make sure everything was there and looked okay.
Not only is Bluehost’s support great, but their plan pricing is great if you’re just starting out! You can use my link and self host your blog with plans starting at $3.95/month. That’s cheaper than the wordpress.com plan I had and I have total control over my blog now!
Step 4: Choose a theme for your blog
Now you are ready for the fun part-building your blog’s theme! You can choose a free theme through WordPress, but I had already been using one of those for two years, and I was ready to invest in a professional theme.
Again, I spent a week researching my options before making a choice. Ultimately I decided a theme with the Genesis Framework was the way to go for me. Most of the blogs I looked at were using themes that ran this framework, and it is super easy to customize a theme with Genesis.
You can purchase the Genesis Framework separately, and I was about to do that one night when I realized the theme I was looking at included the Genesis Framework for free.
I use the Mia theme from 17th Avenue Designs. Themes start at $45. The Genesis Framework alone costs $59.95, so it’s a great deal to get a theme and the Genesis Framework. I’m so glad I waited and did my research before purchasing Genesis Framework separately.
My theme came with super detailed instructions and was easy to set up. 17th Avenue Designs also offers lifetime theme support with your purchase. I was having an issue with my images resizing, and 17th Avenue Designs went above and beyond to help me fix the coding!
Once you have settled on a theme, you can start customizing the images and color palette for your blog.
Step 5: Add some plugins to your blog
You don’t want to go too plugin crazy because they can slow down your blog, but these are some of the plugins I use on my blog:
- Yoast SEO: Yoast is a great guideline for SEO (search engine optimization). It is not meant to replace SEO practices, but it is a great guide, especially when you are first starting out.
- Akismet Anti-Spam: Akismet will filter comments for spam so you don’t have to check for that each day.
- Classic Editor: I prefer to edit blog posts using the classic editor instead of the new block editor in WordPress.
- Pin It Button: This plugin will create a “Pin” button when you hover over an image.
- Google Analytics: Eventually you will be tracking your traffic a lot, and you will want to have Google Analytic stats, not just the WordPress stats through Jetpack.
Step 6: Create an “About Me” page
Your “About Me” page tells your readers who you are and what your blog is about. This is a crucial page to include on your blog from the beginning! I did not have an “About Me” page for the first two years of blogging.
My “About Me” page is under the “Start Here” category/tab in my links bar at the top of my blog. I included three pages under this tab because I wanted to break down the foundation of my blog.
My “About Me” page talks about who I am and why/when I started my blog. I included my social media accounts here as well so people can follow me there.
Related: About Read With Allison
The next two pages in my “Start Here” tab are very niche specific, so your pages may vary (or you may not need them at all!). The book community uses tons of acronyms that can be overwhelming at first, so I included a page breaking down some of the common terms and acronyms I use in my bookish posts.
Then I included a page breaking down my star rating system for book reviews because it is important to me that my readers know what makes a book a five star read for me. Again, this is very niche specific, so you may not need additional pages other than an “About Me” page.
Step 7: Write some blog posts
You wouldn’t open a store without merchandise, and you shouldn’t launch your blog without blog posts! When I re-launched my blog, I had two years of posts written, so I had to go back and edit those posts to make sure they worked with my new theme. I also had to check all of the links in those posts before I could make them public again.
Before you start writing your first post, make sure you have your permalinks set up for SEO optimization. You can do this in your WordPress Dashboard under Settings > Permalinks. You want your links to be yourdomain. com/ blog title.
If you are starting with a fresh blog, you have a huge advantage because hopefully you have chosen a theme that you will keep for awhile! I recommend having at least 6 blog posts written before you launch your blog. You want to make sure your readers have plenty of content to read when you launch.
As you are writing your blog posts, try to work in links to your own content so readers will spend more time on your blog. For instance, if I review a book by an author I’ve previously read before, I will include a link back to another book review for that same author. I also do this when I review a book with a similar theme or plot as another book I’ve read.
You will want to continue adding blog posts weekly after you launch with your initial posts. Ultimately, you have to decide on a posting schedule that works for you. Some people say you should post 2-3 times a week, but if you are posting just to post, you will not be doing yourself any favors in the long run! Remember: quality over quantity!
Blogging is much harder than it looks. I work on a post for a week or more depending on my schedule (I am a full time teacher). There’s more to a post than just writing it-you have to add links, create images, create pins, and edit for SEO.
When I was posting 2-3 times a week, I was not writing quality content. I was just churning out short posts and posting because I thought I had to. Now I post once a week, but the quality of my content has improved dramatically by focusing on one post per week.
The bottom line of starting a self host blog is this: don’t expect to launch overnight. Don’t even expect to launch within a week! Running a blog is work, but it can be very rewarding if you are passionate about it. But you will have to put in many hours of work if you want your blog to be successful.
Let me know in the comments if you are interested in more blogging tips! I have learned a lot over the last two years and continue to learn every day! Let me know in the comments what you’d like to know about blogging!