How to Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in Step by Step Guide

How to start a blog? And why do people create their blogs on WordPress only? Is there any difference in launching a self-hosted WordPress version for beginners in 2022?

I know there are hundreds or even thousands of guides on how to make a blog in any niche, but I found many of them confusing, lengthy with details no one needs, and of course, not every web host or domain registration company works the same. So, here is your step-by-step WordPress blog setup, it should be easy-to-follow for creating your first self-hosted blog on WordPress from A to Z. That means that everything a beginner needs will be found in this tutorial, but with additional recommendations, settings, tips, and tricks to make a blog work better.

1. How to create a WordPress blog the first time

Before learning how to start a blog, I recommend looking at the next tips and tricks. They should help you to learn more about blogging, and also, that may help you avoid common mistakes that beginners make when they create their first sites using WordPress.

Define what you’re going to blog about (niche)

Before thinking about the WordPress blog setup, you have to understand a couple of things. So, first, Don’t just copy what others are doing, not every blog niche work and what worked for others may not be profitable for you.

Take your time to understand what are the topics that you’ll blog about, and what you have as skills, or if you have the time to learn online, you can write about more topics. The most important key here is to dedicate the time for research, writing, and editing, you don’t want to write low-quality content and expect traffic in the end.

It's better to know:
Starting a blog for a topic you’re expert in is the best way, if you know how to make clothes or how to wear them based on fashion trends, etc, then, use your skills to write about that. You’ll be an expert in that field and with time, people will follow your blog and read it frequently. Don’t write about complicated things that you’re not an expert on, or at least, start learning before writing any post.

Choose and register the domain name

Do you want to learn how to start a successful blog? Then, you need to pick the right domain name for it. I see lots of bloggers spend long hours searching for a lengthy domain name and they neglect that the reader prefers easy to remember the name. At the same time, make things professional and use a one-word domain name if you can, it will be difficult to find a blog domain that’s available for a single work, but if you mix things, you can get one, just be creative or use online domain name generators that can help.

Never choose a domain based on keyword research, there are many wrong tips about that, even a word with nonsense can make your site brandable and known, think about a name like ” fashion blog in California” if you choose that as a domain, it’s not professional, and it looks like spam. Instead, think about shorn names like Google, Bing, Twitter, Tesla, Apple, etc…

Get the right web hosting plan

A web host should offer quality services and WordPress-specific support to help when you need them. So, there are hunters of options out there, but what really works the best is HostGator, I tried them and they’re the right place to start a self-hosted WordPress blog and look professional. Other online blogging platforms may offer different solutions, but WordPress-optimized web hosts are the best.

Here is why choosing HostGator is the right decision and why it’s on one of the top blog hosting sites.

  • HostGator offers cloud infrastructure for bloggers
  • The latest cPanel control panel
  • Create an email in a few clicks
  • Free SSL certificate (for security)
  • Lots of tools for management like File Editor, FTP act…
  • Fast servers than other shared web hosts
  • Free domain name
  • Friendly customer support by phone, live chat, or tickets
  • Lots of getting started tutorials for beginners
  • Award-winning company
  • You don’t have to worry about domain configurations, it will be ready automatically
Why getting free domain matters?
To start a website, you need the domain and the web hosting or server, but if you choose them separately, things are not going to work like you expect if you’re a beginner. You’ll need to point the domain DNS to the saved IP or add the nameservers manually and that’s a pain the first time. Luckily, HostGator offers the domain for free and adds the configurations automatically, so, there is nothing to do on your end, and thus getting the domain and the hosting from the same provider will save you money, time, and effort.

What hosting plan to choose?

In reality, all the HostGator plans are good, but the fits plan called “Hatchling” is configured for a single domain name. So choose that if you’re planning to self-host one WordPress domain only. Keep in mind that you can add as many subdomains as you need, but that’s for a single installation and it should work well and let you launch your first WordPress blog without any issue.

On the other hand, if you have a plan to add more blogs, then, choose the next package called Baby, which supports unlimited domains and installations. All the plans come with SSL and unmetered bandwidth, so, there is no need to think about limitations.

Buy the web hosting plan

Now that you’ve decided what plan you need for web hosting, here is how to buy one. First, visit the HostGator website, and let’s suppose we need the first plan for a single blog. So, click on the Buy Now! button to start the process. That’s the best website to start a blog for beginners and for everyone who looks for friendly customer assistance, lots of features, and one of the biggest web hosts in the US and in the World.

Don’t forget to claim your free domain during the checkout, it’s only available for free when you create your account, so, choose one.

On the next page, you’ll get the option to claim your free domain, don’t skip this step and add the domain you look for. The system will tell you if it’s available or not, just keep changing the name until you find one that’s available. But please make sure you’ve chosen a good domain that’s not too long or complicated for your blog success if you want to uncover the truth on how to start a WordPress blog that works well and generates traffic for your business or services.

How to claim the free blog domain with HostGator

Once you find a domain that’s available for your new blog, you’ll see it in green color and already checked. Now, don’t click on the extra domain extension, they’re just for information. Otherwise, you’ll add them to your cart.

Check if the Blog domain is available

Just under the list of the other extension, you don’t need, you’ll find that the web host already added the domain privacy protection which cost $14 or so, so, you may want to uncheck that as you only needed it to hide your real contact information from the domain WhoIs records. Keep it checked to hide your real details when someone looks up your domain or uncheck it to show them, only for privacy reasons, it does not help or affect anything else).

Domain privacy protection for your blog

Now, scroll down on that page and complete the steps, by creating the account with all the personal details that are needed.

Remember that keeping the billing cycle as it’s by default for 36 months is the cheapest offer, you can’t get better than that.

Creating the WordPress blog hosting account

Do you need HostGator’s additional services?

I think this is important especially for those who never used WordPress or any web hosting service in the past. Dealing with extra hosting addons might be confusing, for that reason, here is what you need to know about the HostGator extra services when you signup.

Hostgator's extra hosting services

Now, here will be additional services that HostGator checked by default (you don’t need them for a blog, there are many alternatives for free with plugins) that includes the following options:

  • SSL certificate: You don’t need it, you already have one for free (otherwise check it if you want to sell things online)
  • SiteLock Essentials
  • Professional Email (you already can create them for free)
  • Site Backup
  • HostGator SEO Tools: Never use this service, no real benefit

Finally, review the information and check the box to accept the terms of service like any online order, and click on the Checkout button.

Checkout the web hosting plan

Just after that, the system will process the payment:

Processing a hosting account order

When everything is OK, you’ll be redirected to the HostGator’s welcome message in the client’s control panel. From there, you can see your web hosting account invoice, domain, access to cPanel, support center, etc…

The good news is this, you don’t have to log in separately to cPanel as there is a direct access link from your main billing account. So, it’s easy to access the tools and software installer without filling the cPanel’s login details, all you have to do is just click on it. Here is the HostGator billing and support system:

HostGator billing and support system

Now, wait a few minutes and check your email, you’ll find the welcome email with the details of your hosting account. Please save that email for later use, it has your cPanel login URL, password, username, and the nameservers with the IP address. If you got the domain during the checkout, you’ll save time and don’t need extra steps.

HostGator hosting email with account info

Just for info, if you’re wondering what’s the Marketplace menu in HostGator, then here is a screenshot of it. It has add-ons and extra services and tools that you may need and add with a few clicks later.

Hostgator marketplace for blog resources

What about SSL?

HostGator offers the free Let’s Encrypt certificate, and if you get the domain name from them, you don’t have to do anything, the SSL will be added automatically. However, if you want to see or manage it, you can find it under the Marketplace link in the HostGator billing system as above.

What Does the cPanel Look Like with HostGator?

Being a customer with HostGator for years allowed me to make comparisons with other providers, and what no other web host offers like them is a super easy-to-use cPanel control panel. There are no complicated designs and everything is ready to use with a few clicks of the button. Here is how their cPanel version looks like:

Hostgator cPanel

That’s just the first part of the full page, there are many other tools and features.

If you need more options and plugins, you can take a look at Trustiko blogging tools and resources. You’ll find services, apps, and tools that bloggers like and use. Now, let’s find out how to start your own blog with WordPress and HostGator hosting.

How to install WordPress with HostGator?

Years ago, the WordPress blog setup was a real pain with complicated processes and server issues. However, things have changed now, and nowadays, installing WordPress on HostGator hosting is easier than you think, there is automatic software that adds everything with a few clicks.

Once you log in to your cPanel account by HostGator, you’ll find the WordPress installer tool on the top of the page, look at the following screenshot I created to find it, then, click on it.

How to install WordPress on HostGator

Now, the installation page will be there, you have to add some basic details about your new blog, it’s required for building it.

Starting the WordPress blog setup with HostGator

As you can see from the above screenshot, there is a free installation tool. However, for those who prefer that professionals do the full blog creation for them, there are different plans for that. Now, because it’s easy to start the installation, you don’t have to hire an expert to do that for you, here is how.

Select your domain from that drop-down menu, if you have a single domain, then, choose it. Then, leave the field directory empty and don’t add anything there, leave it and click on the Next button.

WordPress installation and setup details

As you can see, I organized the details by numbers, so you know exactly what to add to the installation page, here are the details.

  • Step 1: Blog title: for example, “my fashion blog”
  • Step 2: Admin User: This will be your blog administrator username, make it a mix of words and digits for better security
  • Step 3. Your First and Last Name (you can change them later)
  • Step 4: Add your actual Email Address, you’ll receive the password there, so, use a working email
  • Step 5: Accept the items by checking the box, and clicking on the Install button

Wait a few seconds for the installation to complete:

Blog Installation complete

It’s done, you’ve just installed your first WordPress blog and you’ll receive the login details to your email with the password. So, check your inbox after a few seconds. If you got no email, check your spam or junk folder, sometimes email providers send them to that folder.

Blog Install complete with details in email

2. How to install the WordPress theme and plugins

If you need to use premium quality WordPress themes or even get your own custom blog design, then, make sure you read our guide on where to find premium themes.

A WordPress site can work without any plugin, however, these tools extend the default functionalities and add more plugins and features. So, there is always a need to add plugins for security, backups, or others. But the main thing here is even if there are thousands of WordPress plugins, you should never install any of them. Just look for reviews, what users are saying, and only add a few of them.

In reality, the more plugins you install in WordPress, the more issues you make to the site, and consequently, the page will load slower. So, make a balance between what you need a function, and what the site can handle to still work fast.

Pro tip:
Securing your blog with any of these plugins I tested and verified will make your site work better, you’ll block suspicious logins, attacks, and stop all the worries about being hacked. But remember, install one security plugin and not many of them.

This is how you can install a plugin to your blog. First, access your WordPress admin area, it’s the dashboard that ends with “wp-admin” that you got after installation, or just add it to the end of your blog domain like this:

https://yourblog.com/wp-admin/

When you access that page, add your blog username and password already saved after the installation. Next, find Plugins and then, click on Add New as the next screenshot:

How to Install a WordPress plugin

You can search for a plugin by its name or by keywords, and when you find one, click Install Now. After that wait for the installation (it will take 10 seconds on average or so depending on the size of the files). Once you see the button Activate is there instead of Install Now, click on it and it will be functional.

How to install and activate a WordPress plugin

Of course, if you have a plugin that you saved on your laptop, upload its Zip file by clicking on the purple example above on the “Upload Plugin” button.

In the HostGator cPanel, there are themes and plugins for WordPress, most of them are premium with higher quality. So you may check them if you want, look at the following screenshot.
Acessing themes and plugins for WordPress in HostGator

Installing the theme

Installing a theme for your blog is easy and simple, all you have to do is click on the Appearance menu, then choose, Theme, here is how.

Accessing the themes menu

Now, you have the option to install a theme for free from the WordPress directory or add your own if you already purchased one. For now, let’s add a new theme for free.

How to add a new WordPress theme

Wait a few seconds for the theme install to complete. Once you see the activate button, click on it, and now, the blog will have that design.

How to activate a theme in WordPress

When a theme is active, it will add a menu to customize it and it all depends on what features the theme developer added, so, you may find extra options and a menu with other themes. But in general, you can find the theme control panel and customization page under “Appearance”, exactly as the new example I created.

Access the active theme menu

Here is how the WordPress customizer looks like for that theme, you can edit the colors, widgets, many, etc…

Accessing the the WordPress theme customizer

That’s it for the blog theme when you add lots of posts, the design will be similar to the demo.

Important:
Don’t use themes from any designer or company, there are many popular marketplaces with junk themes that people buy and then regret. Look for a clean, lightweight, and easy-to-use theme, and of course, don’t select a theme because of its thousands of features that you don’t need. Instead, you only need a blog that’s fast, SEO friendly, and secure, that’s what will help your blog stand out from others. Complicated themes with lots of options have more problems than benefits.

After installing the theme and the needed plugins, you may want to start creating the first blog post, but wait, you can configure the site and avoid problems later because you missed something you wish you had configured from the beginning. So, here is how to do that.

3. How to set up a WordPress blog

Now, you’ve installed the blog, but how do you set up WordPress? For that, I’ve included the recommended blog configuration that everyone is looking for. You don’t need to waste time changing settings and risking your site layout and database. The following blog setup guide should work for most users even if it’s their first time launching a blog with WordPress self-hosted.

1. Change your blog name and tagline

This is how to use WordPress, so take note of these details because you’ll need them later. This is important, the default WordPress site tagline is “just another WordPress site” and you should remove that and add your own. The same for the site name, it should reflect what you wanted. So, when you log in to WordPress, find Settings and then, change these two options as the next.

How to edit the blog settings in WordPress

Make sure you click the save button when you change these details. Now, for the title of the blog, make sure it’s relevant and not any keywords you use, it does not matter these days and it has no value for ranking or anything else.

Google is smarter and it gives weight to each page on the blog and not the blog tagline or stuffed keywords. Some popular blogs have two words or even one while others who write long phrases get penalized for overdoing that, so keep it short, and easy.

2. Set up the WordPress comments

This is crucial for the blog, you should block spam and only allow legitimate people from adding their comments on your posts and not robots. Google gives this section of settings an important value as it distinguishes between real bloggers who care about their content and spammers who copy-paste pages. So here are the recommended WordPress settings for comments or discussions.

First, find “Discussion” under “Settings” and you’ll get the dedicated page. Next, Check the following options or your comment form won’t be there or it won’t work:

  • Allow people to submit comments on new posts
  • Comment author must fill out name and email
  • Enable threaded (nested) comments
  • Anyone posts a comment
  • A comment is held for moderation
  • Comment must be manually approved

And uncheck the following options in Red color of the screenshot there are enabled by default. You don’t need them and I highly recommend disabling any of these options.

WordPress discussion settings page

I don’t recommend skipping this configuration in any circumstances, it’s vital for the blog. In fact, the permalink structure that works best and that’s SEO friendly is the simplest one: your blog domain, followed by the page title without mentioning any extra detail that confuses the search engines and people. So, again, go to the settings panel and this time click on Permalinks. Now just check “Post name” and click on the save changes button, that’s it.

WordPress blog permalink settings

4. Reading settings

On this configuration page, you can set the number of posts to show on the homepage and of course, show a short summary of each one and not the full page. Here is what I recommend to check, and make sure your blog is public by disabling the option “Search Engine Visibility“.

Configuring the blog "Reading" settings

(Optional step) Compress the blog content for speed

I always recommend optimizing WordPress for speed, and there is no way to think about that without compressing all the blog files, text, and images. Luckily, in your cPanel account, you’ll find a dedicated tool that saves up to 80% of the web hosting account bandwidth and disk space by clicking on a button. All you have to do is find the Optimize Website icon under the Software tab and click on it as the new example:

How to optimize website files in cPanel

Integrate Google Analytics and Search Console

I combined these two popular Google webmaster and analytics tools in one step because they work with the office plugin that you can add to the blog. Then, everything will be easier and faster. So, first, visit the Site kit by Google and add it to WordPress as a plugin or search for Sitekit by Google directly in the WordPress plugins search box.

How to add the Site Kit by Google to WP

Next, activate the plugin and you’ll be redirected automatically to the plugins dashboard inside WordPress. After that, you have to click on the Start Setup.

Starting the Site Kit plugin setup

Google will walk you through the steps to follow by clicking the buttons and it will do everything for you. You may just want to accept the permission to access your Google account and configure the site tools.

Google Analytics is not required for a blog, but it helps to track visits and see from where they’re coming from and what pages they visit with timing, etc… Anyway, you can visit the Google Analytics website, then, create an account for free and then, follow these steps.

Adding Google Analytics to your blog

When you add the blog name and URL, you should accept the Google terms. Next, you’ll get the tracking code to integrate into WordPress.

For the Google search console, create an account, and then add the blog domain there. After that, choose the domain options and not the URL, as the domain will be better for long-term validation. Consequently, you’ll need to add the Google verification code to your domain name DNS with HostGator. Luckily, that’s not hard if you log in to your cPanel account, and then find the advanced DNS edit like this one and click on it.

Accessing the Advanced zone editor in HostGaror's cPanel

Next, choose “TXT” from the option where you can “A” and add the code that Google asked for.

How to add add a TXT record for blog domain in cPanel

Wait like a half hour or so and your blog will be verified with Google as it will check for that code automatically.

Using the above step-by-step tutorial, you’ve learned the best way to start a blog. Now, pages in WordPress are important and you need to create basic details about your blog that the reader can access and read to learn more about you or use the contact form. So, here is what you can add as pages:

  1. About“: Create a page and name it “about us” or similar names. Then, tell what the blog is about and it’s better to write interesting content and not just one paragraph or two.
  2. Contact“: This is the page that users will use to get in touch with you or ask questions. So, you don’t want to neglect it. Add a contact form and don’t share your email publicly, a spammer will use it.
  3. Privacy policy“: As a WordPress blog, it’s highly recommended to create a page and tell people what data you collect and how you’re using it. I know it’s boring, but it’s also necessary. Now, never copy and paste these pages from the web, and write your own. Here is an article with tips and tricks to write the page.

How to create blog categories in WordPress

Categories in WordPress organize the blog article for humans and also for search engines. That way, it makes sense to allocate a post to a category and that’s what helps users or readers to understand and navigate the site. However, you don’t have to create lots of them, just start with one category. Once you think a topic has no category, create a new one and keep them few and not dozens.

How to creat categories in WordPress blog

How to start your first blog post

Now that you have installed WordPress, added the theme and the recommended plugins, it’s time to start the first blog post. To do that, log in to your self-hosted WordPress blog and click on the “Posts” menu from the later menu. Then, choose “Add New“, you can also use the top menu “New” to create a new page and posts. Anyway, look at the next screenshot to locate the new post creation link.

How to add the first blog post in WordPress

In the WordPress post editor, add your text, images, or even videos, and make sure you read what every option does, by using the following screenshot.

Understanding the WordPress editor interface

As an additional step, you may prefer displaying the author bio just after each post. In fact, the location of the bio depends on the settings of the theme,  but you can tell dear who you’re in a short paragraph by editing your profile under the “Users” settings, here is how to find it.

Access the WordPress Users menu

That’s how to create a blog using WordPress for the first time, even if you never tried the tool before, you can do all the steps in under an hour if you follow this guide. I hope you find it helpful and deserve to share it with your friends, if you have a question, you can ask it using the comments section below, happy blogging.

FAQs about starting a blog with HostGator

As many users have questions to ask, I think there are many confusions about using WordPress as a blogging software with many web hosts. So, here are a couple of answers.

Does HostGator offer free email?

Unlike other web hosts, you don’t have to pay for the email, HostGator lets you create as many email accounts as you want to for your blog. In cPanel, there is a tool for that, and of course, users can forward their blog email, access webmail online, or in their Gmail or any other provider.

Does HostGator offer free SSL?

Absolutely, yes, the SSL certificate is free of charge and it’s available with all the packages. It’s not like the other SSL offered by competitors, but better and more secure. In addition, if there is a need to sell products on your blog, you can buy the wildcard SSL certificate that will cost less than other services, but for single domain blogs and sites, SSL is free.

Is WordPress free with HostGator?

WordPress is open-source software, you can install it on your computer for testing or on a web host like HostGator that makes it visible to the world. In other words, users don’t pay for using or installing WordPress, but they pay the fees for renting the server’s resources and customer support.

How long does it take for WordPress to be installed on HostGator?

With a shared hosting account, you can install WordPress on Hostgator servers in 20 seconds or less, and if you choose their fully managed hosting, WordPress will be installed automatically without the need for any further implementations. Just add the blog tools, theme, and customize it.

Why is HostGator considered the best for bloggers?

HostGator has been online for 17 years, and it’s one of the most popular web hosts in the USA, the Texas data centers come with lots of benefits and there is customer support available 24/7 to get assistance and fix any problem.

If you think that HostGator is slow, or not the best for WordPress, then, think again as if you try any of the other blog hosting providers on shared environments, you’ll find them awful. I noticed many users of the HostGator control panel don’t even use the features and tools there, so, when someone never uses the full blog files compression, of course, he’ll find pages work slower than expected.

In cPanel, users get dozens of tools that are premium and HostGator paid for, so you get them for free, and when you use some of them as I recommend above, everything will work faster.

Is WordPress compatible with HostGator?

The short answer is yes, HostGator is a well-known PHP web host that offers MySQL and advanced server caching. So it has all the programming languages to run a CMS like WordPress and others smoothly.

As HostGator is fully compatible with WordPress, bloggers prefer using it for a long time, but wait, many neglect the fact that shared hosting does not mean installing a blog and bombarding it with thousands of visits per day without making issues. That’s why it’s better to upgrade to a VPS when your blog receives lots of traffic as any PHP and MySQL software won’t handle high traffic without issues on the same server that other sites use and share resources with.

On the other hand, the HostGator’s managed hosting is compatible with WordPress blogs without worrying about speed and resources, that’s because every blog gets its dedicated resources like RAM, and CPU, and thus, no other site will be affected when some blogs excessively use the server resources.

Does HostGator give a free domain name?

Last year, HostGator started offering the domain name for free with every yearly hosting plan, which means when you sign up for 12 months or more billing cycles, the domain for your blog is free for the first year.

Now, you may think that’s a great saving, but personally, what attracts the intention is not the price itself, you’ll need to pay for the privacy of the domain that cost $15 or so, but the best thing here is the automated DNS configuration to link the WordPress blog to the domain name and that save lots of time and effort for beginners.

That’s why I recommend creating a new blog with a web host that gives you the domain for free as you don’t have to deal with complicated settings the first time.

Conclusion

Now you should have all the tips, tricks, and recommendations to start your first blog on WordPress with step by step tutorial. As you can see I spent a lot of time creating these screenshots and adding notes, beginners can easily build their first WordPress blog from scratch and without any complicated tools. If you need to ask questions, make sure you add them in the following comment section or use the contact page for sending us your email.

Avatar for Fathi Arfaoui
About Fathi Arfaoui

Fathi Arfaoui is a Physicist, Blogger and the founder of Trustiko.com. He shares Business, WordPress and Blogging tips to build a better blog and succeed online.

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