You may have heard by now that WordPress is one of the best and most user friendly blogging software in existence. However, even though it’s not difficult to use, there is a learning curve with everything. If you’ve never installed WordPress, you may be unclear about the steps you have to follow. With this in mind, we’ve created a brief beginner’s guide to using WordPress.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
Just to clarify one point – this article is referring to WordPress.org, which is a self-hosted blog where you own the domain. WordPress.com, though owned by the same company, is a type of blog where you don’t own the domain but are using the WordPress.com domain.
The latter is a free and easy way to start blogging, but it’s much harder to rank a site that you don’t own. You are also subject to the terms and conditions of the site owner, which means they can remove your blog and cancel your account at any time (which occurs not too frequently but is still a concern). With this in mind, I’d recommend starting off with WordPress.org so you have complete control over your site.
What you need to Start Using WordPress
All you need to start your own WordPress blog is a domain and web hosting. All good web hosting companies provide you with the tools to install WordPress for free. In fact, you can install as many WordPress blogs as you want, at least if you have a hosting plan that permits you to have multiple domains.
For this reason, if you are still searching for a web host, it’s a good idea to find a hosting plan that allows you unlimited domains for one price. That way, once you learn how easy it is to create new WordPress sites, you’ll be able to build as many as you want.
Of course, even if you are only allowed one domain, you can still create multiple WordPress sites on sub-domains. This, however, is a little more limited in terms of what you can accomplish in terms of SEO.
Assuming that you already have a domain and web hosting, you are now ready to install your first WordPress site. Different web hosts give you different tools for doing this.
The easiest method, however, is to use a script installing application. Most web hosts provide you with either Fantastico, Softaculous, SimpleScripts or a similar script installer. These allow you to install, not only WordPress, but lots of other popular scripts (such as forums, polls, shopping carts, galleries and many others) in a few clicks of your mouse!
Step by Step guide to install WordPress
- Log into your web host’s cPanel.
- Scroll down until you find Fantastico or whatever script installer the web host makes available. If you’re not sure about this, check the knowledgebase, FAQ or contact your web hosting company’s support. For the quickest help, you can use live chat.
- Next you will click on the WordPress link (you will have options to install many different scripts). In HostGator, this is located on the upper left, under Blogs.
- Click on New Installation.
- Choose the domain and directory where you want to install WordPress. If you only have one domain, there will only be one choice here. You can leave Directory blank, unless you want to create a new directory for this domain.
On this screen, you will also choose an Admin name and password, and give a name and description for your site. Don’t worry, you can change change any of this information later, if you want to.
- Click on Install WordPress at the bottom of the page, and you’re done!
Now that you’ve installed WordPress, it’s time to set it up. Keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything at once. If you’re not sure what you want to do in certain areas, you can always modify it in the future.
- Log into your web host’s cPanel.
Once you’ve installed WordPress, you should be able to log into your new site using the username and password that you have just put in. Your WordPress site’s login page is located at http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
The first thing you should look for is your Dashboard. This is where you will be able to control all of the settings for your new site.
Here are some recommendations for your settings. You will probably change some of these as you learn more about WordPress and decide how you want to customize your site.
Here you should put in a site title. This should not be your domain name, but the title you want people to see when they land on your page. Underneath, you can fill in a few words for the Tagline. This is a basic description of your site. If you filled in these two fields when installing WordPress, you won’t have to do it now.
You can also choose your URL. The main consideration here is whether you want it to be http://yourdomain.com or http://www.yourdomain.com.
Fill in the email address that people can use to contact you. You can use an existing email, or create a new one that goes with the domain of this site. For example, you could create the email address: email@example.com.
The rest of the fields are not that important for a new site. You can set up the site so anyone can register, and also change the date and time formats to match your time zone.
Here are some other settings that are worth looking at and changing:
You can choose how many posts to show up on each page, and whether to display the full text or only a summary.
Make sure that, under Search Engine Visibility, that the box saying “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not checked. If it is, you will be telling the search engines to not index and rank your site!
It’s best to choose Post Name rather than keep the default setting. This will make your posts easier for the search engines to index. It’s better for your posts to have a structure like: www.yourdomain.com/new-post rather than:
Later on you can work on things like widgets, plugins and other settings that will customize your site.
Choosing a Theme
Your theme is what determines the look and layout of your site. There are thousands of free themes to choose from. Eventually, you may want to purchase a premium theme to help make your site look more professional and unique. In fact, if you are setting up an online store or any kind of business site, you may want to get a good quality theme right away.
For our purposes, however, we’ll assume you are starting off with a free theme. WordPress provides you with a default theme that is rather plain. I would suggest not keeping this, as it announces to the world that your WordPress site is brand new.
Search and Browse for a theme
Even if you want to stick with a free theme, you have many to choose from. To choose a theme, click on Appearance on your Dashboard. Then, since you will want to install a new theme, click on Install Themes at the top of the page. Here, you can browse some of the selections under Featured, Newest and Recently Updated.
Search and Browse for a theme
When you find one you like, you can click on Preview to see how it looks. if you like it, you then click on Install Now, then Activate. You then click on Visit Site to see how it looks and works.
Edit your theme
You can customize your theme under Appearance. Different themes will have different customization options. Premium themes such as those from Elegant Themes will have a very intuitive customization panel called ePanel. Through this control panel, you can customize your theme’s color, background image, title, layout, sidebar and many other features – all without touching the codes!
However, for most free WordPress themes, only simple customization options are available through the Dashboard. If you’re familiar with coding, you can open the editor and make changes to the header, sidebars or footers!
It’s easy to install, activate and deactivate themes through the Dashboard, so if you don’t like the way your current theme looks and works, you can look for a new one and give it a try! That’s the beauty of WordPress.
Plugins are advanced features that give your WordPress site all kinds of capabilities. There are thousands of plugins, both free and ones that you have to buy. One popular plugin that is pre-installed with every WordPress site is Akismet, which helps to prevent spam.
When you click on Plugins, you will see Akismet listed. If you’ve never used it before, you will have to get an API Key for it to work. There is a link where you can get this. It’s a long string of characters that you just have to copy and paste, and click on Activate.
For some reason, WordPress also pre-installs a Hello Dolly plugin. You can remove this, as this is really not necessary. I have no idea what this plugin does, haha!
Creating Posts and Pages
The whole reason you want a blog is to start posting, so let’s go over the basics of how to do this.
First, you should remove the default sample page and post that are installed when you install WordPress. These are another instant clue to readers that your site is brand new. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s better to put up at least a short new post to get your blog off the ground!
From your dashboard, click on Posts at the top left hand side of the page. If you want to remove the sample post, hover your mouse over it and click on Trash.
To create a new post, click on Add New at the top of the page.
From here you can give your post a title and write your content. The interface is very similar to most word processing programs. You can add links, make text bold or italicized, create bulleted lists and so forth.
When you’re done with the post, click on Publish on the right. You can always go back and edit posts whenever you want.
You can create pages in a similar manner. Click on Pages, which is a few lines under Posts. Remove the sample page by placing it in the Trash. Then click on Add New. Give your page a title, write the content and publish it.
To make your pages visible from the home page, you should create a widget. This should be possible with any theme. Click on Widgets, under Appearance, and drag the Pages widget to where you want it on your page (e.g. left or right sidebar).
Now you have a good idea on how to install and set up a WordPress site. This process will get a lot easier once you’ve done it a couple of times. The advantage of this is that you can then set up a new site very quickly.
Learning the basics of WordPress only takes a short time. Becoming an expert, however, can take years. The fact is, though, that most users only need a fraction of the features that are available. You only have to become knowledgeable in the areas that are relevant for you.
It’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about WordPress. Be willing to investigate new features, themes and plugins that might help to improve your site. WordPress is constantly evolving, so you have to pay attention to keep up with it!