If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for longer than 5 minutes you’ll have probably heard of WordPress! If you’ve read the answers to the question, ‘What platform should I use for building my Blog?’ you’ll have definitely seen WordPress mentioned!
WordPress is the blogging industry norm. There are apparently 76.5 million blogs currently using WordPress! (Source)
If you want total, complete control over your blog content, site design and functionality, then WordPress is the solution for you.
But when WordPress is completely new to you, it can seem very confusing and not at all user friendly. Which why I wrote this post, which will introduce to the basics, explain some of the weird terms and tell you what you need to get started with WordPress!
(This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase from the merchants I recommend)
What is WordPress?
WordPress is a content management system and publishing platform. It is the software that allows you to add blog posts, pages, images and other content to your blog without needing to be a Web developer.
WordPress is open source software, meaning it’s built and updated by a team of hundreds of community volunteers. It’s free to use, and there’s two different ways of using it.
The first is the ‘.org (dot org) version’, which you’ll also see Bloggers call ‘self hosted’. To use it you simply head to WordPress.org and download and install it on your domain with your hosting provider. Or you use a Website Host like SiteGround who have 1-click Installation! (Don’t worry if this all sounds a bit confusing – keep reading and I’ll explain it!)
The software is also used at WordPress.com where it is available if you want a free, hosted blog. This is what bloggers mean when they talk about the ‘dot com’ version of WordPress. There is no downloading and installing required which may initially sound like an excellent idea! But it’s not for everyone.
It is possible to make money from a free Blog hosted with WordPress.com, but you don’t get the flexibility you get with self hosted WordPress.
Nearly all of the big name, high earning Bloggers who’s income report you’ve been reading have self hosted WordPress Blogs. And there’s a good reason. Self hosted WordPress allows you complete control over the look, functionality and features of your Blog.
However, I don’t want to tell you you can’t go with the hosted version of WordPress, so I’ve broken down the pros and cons and features of both versions, so you can make up your own mind…
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
WordPress.org Features, Pros & Cons
- WordPress Software: Free
- Domain name: Between $10 – $15 per year for a .com
- Web Hosting: From $3.95 per month with SiteGround plus a free domain name for the first year.
- Themes: Free up to thousands for a custom site. This Blog runs on the Genesis Framework ($59.95), plus a child theme by Hello You Designs ($65)
- Premium plugins (optional, you can get all the essentials for free): Prices vary
Ease of Use
You have to install WordPress and your blog theme and do your own maintenance, including updates and back ups. However, if you get WordPress hosting from a host like SiteGround, you get automatic updates and a one click ‘installation wizard’ to get you started. It honestly is very simple!
You don’t need to know HTML for writing your blog posts but it does help and it helps to know CSS for making changes to your theme.
Unlimited! Huge choice of themes and hundreds of designers and developers that can create a totally custom site for you. The only limits are your imagination (and maybe your budget unless you’re a Web developer or designer!)
Whatever you want your blog to do, there’s a plug-in (or several!) that can help you do it.
You have total control. Your site is yours and you can do whatever you want with it or on it. (As long as you keep it legal of course!) On the flip side this means it is entirely possible for you to break your blog. And if you do break it, it’s up to you to fix it!
Again, the only limit is your imagination! You can run ads, include affiliate links, write sponsored posts, add an e-commerce plugin and sell products or services, it really is up to you. There are no Terms of Service to abide by. As long as you keep it legal, you can monetise your blog any way you want to!
There is no universal ‘WordPress support’ and as I just said, if you break your blog, you have to fix it. BUT, there are 76.5 million blogs using WordPress so there will be someone available who can help you! A search of Google, YouTube or asking in a Blogging Facebook group should answer any WordPress related questions you have.
WordPress.com Features, Pros & Cons
Free BUT that only includes a .wordpress.com domain, 3GB of space, basic design customisation, community support only, and WordPress can place their choice of ads on your site. To use your own domain name and fully customise the look and functionality of your Blog you will need to upgrade.
Premium Plan $99 per year: Gets you advanced design customisation including CSS editing, Unlimited Premium Themes, 13GB of storage, your own choice of domain, Email & Live Chat Support and no WordPress selected ads.
Business Plan $299 per year: As the Premium Plan plus e-commerce capabilities, unlimited storage, Google Analytics, and the ability to Install Plugins and upload your own Themes.
Ease of Use
Hosting, security & backups are all included. Just create an account and you can have a blog up and running within minutes. You can toggle between HTML & WYSIWYG editor when writing blog posts.
Very limited to no customisation with free package depending on the settings on your chosen theme. Even with the premium plan with design customisation included, you can only use the themes available from WordPress.com.
Functionality is limited to what is made available by the plug-ins and widgets included on WordPress.com. You can’t install your own choices of plug-ins.
When you sign up for a WordPress.com account you accept their Terms of Service. If WordPress decide you are in violation of their Terms of Service, they can shut down your blog and remove your account. In their User Guidelines they list what they deem inappropriate content but also say interpretations are up to them.
A free WordPress.com blog allows you to write sponsored posts and use affiliate links. You can’t use AdSense unless you are a WordPress VIP User, though WordPress do their own version called WordAds which you can apply for. Banner advertising isn’t allowed. For more information on affiliates, advertising and sponsored sites read the Policies and Safety information.
Support forums available on all all plans and 24/7 email and live chat support with Premium & Business Plans.
So now you know that you get a lot more for less money when you go with the self hosted version of WordPress, here’s an introduction into what you need to get started.
The Basics of Get Started with WordPress.org
Your Blog Domain
Your domain is your blog address (the www. bit.) The .com or .co.uk etc is called the extension. There is a wide variety of extensions available and it’s up to you if you go for a dot com or something different. The only thing I will say is most people will automatically assume a Web address has a dot com extension. And if the dot com for your domain isn’t available, do you want to have the same business name as the person with the dot com extension?
You buy your domain from a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap, or from your host when you set up your Blog. Most hosts (including SiteGround who I use for my Blogs) will give you a domain free for the first year when you purchase hosting.
When you decide what to name your blog, check your domain is available before you make your final decision!
Your Blog Hosting
Your hosting is your blog’s home on the Internet. It is where your blog and all the files associated with it are stored. A hosting provider will have different packages available depending on how much storage space you need and the amount of traffic your Blog gets.
Hosting providers like SiteGround offer specific WordPress hosting, with features like 1-click WordPress Installation. Their packages start at $3.95 per month and I speak from experience when I say their support is super quick and newbie-blogger friendly!
Basically anything and everything you might want to do or have on your blog you can do with a plugin. You get Plugins for security things such as fighting spam and automatic back ups, marketing such as pop-ups or share buttons and functionality like e-commerce and membership sites.
Your Blog Theme
Your theme is what controls what your blog looks like. There are millions of different themes available for self hosted wordpress sites, from free themes right up to a fully customised one designed just for you. Your choice of theme basically comes down to what you want your blog to look like.
If you’re looking for something super simple to use, and fully customisable, without any coding, you’ll like the Divi Theme and Page Builder! Divi enables you to deign and build you Blog and other pages by simply placing different content blocks where you want them to go.
There are some handy things to remember when choosing your Theme.
Tips for Choosing a WordPress Blog Theme
Free vs Paid Themes
Free Themes generally have fewer customisation options than premium themes and have either no, or limited, support. However, I am amazed at how attractive and how many features some free WordPress themes do have. I tend to recommend a Free Theme to start with, until you decide exactly what you want your blog to look like, to avoid wasting money on a Theme you decide you don’t like.
If your hunting for a free Theme, don’t miss this post where I’ve shared 21 attractive & feature-packed Free WordPress Themes.
Make sure your Theme is Mobile Responsive
Your blog has to be mobile responsive! 44% of my blog visitors visit from a mobile device. A mobile responsive design automatically recognises that your blog reader is on their mobile or tablet and your blog layout changes automatically to better suit their device.
And, Google prioritises search results from mobile friendly sites if users are searching from a mobile device.
Ask for Recommendations
Do you love the way someone’s blog looks? Ask them what theme they’re using. They might be happy to share. Ask in Facebook blogging groups for recommendations. You’ll also find out where not to buy one from!
Read the Reviews
If you’ve found a theme you love but you can’t find anyone with personal experience using it, read the reviews. See if there’s any negative ones that mention recurring issues or bugs.
Check what level of Support is provided
Buy a theme from a provider that gives you documentation and instructions for installing and after sales support in case anything goes wrong! Some may even install it for you at extra cost. Check to see what is included with your theme and if you have to pay a yearly fee to keep access to theme upgrades and updates.
And that really is it. All you need to get started with a WordPress Blog is Hosting, a Domain Name and a Theme.
Blogging is a really fulfilling hobby, and can even be a lucrative earner if you want to make money while staying at home with your kids or side hustle your way out of your boring 9-5!
The next step is just to start! Head over to this post for the free Quick Start step-by-step guide on How to Start a Blog with WordPress and SiteGround.