If you’re here, you are probably wondering how to start a self hosted blog? You’ve come to the right place! Today I am sharing with you a step by step guide on how to start a self hosted blog successfully with wordpress! Starting a blog can feel overwhelming because it seems like there are so many steps! PLUS, everyone talks about how complicated WordPress is, but I promise it’s easier than it looks! I started my first blog in 2017 and since then, I have been able to turn it into my full time job! SO CAN YOU! If you are wanting to start a hobby blog, I can help with that too!
Disclaimer: Affiliate links are used. Read my full disclosure here.
STARTING A SELF HOSTED BLOG: 3 major keys!
When starting your self hosted blog there’s THREE things that are PRETTY MAJOR. I like to call it, The Who? What? Where? In simple; Your blog’s focus, domain name and where you are going to self host your blog.
When I first started my blog I didn’t start off on the right foot which caused headaches later on. Today I am going to make sure you start on the right foot so you don’t have those headaches such as transferring your website when you realize the platform you started on is too limited.
Step 1: WHAT is your blog about?
The first step of starting a blog is figuring out what your blog is about. Let’s start with your topic or niche. WHAT are you going to blog about? This always creates sticky feet for bloggers. They think too much about what they are supposed to be blogging about that they never start their blog. Thoughts like: What if this niche doesn’t make money? What if no one reads my content or cares about this topic? Listen, I get you want to make money and here’s a tip, YOU CAN make money with any niche if you get creative and step out of your comfort zone. Here’s another tip, ditch your negative mindsets because they are holding you back!
If you want to be successful at blogging, you’ll need to actually ENJOY what you are blogging about. If you don’t enjoy what you blog about then throw it all away because we would just be defeating the purpose. You’ll never feel motivate to blog because it’ll feel like a chore than a passion.
I really hate saying this but if you aren’t passionate about your blog there might be potential that it fails. But I said MIGHT because it’s not always the case BUT turning a blog into a full time job that pays you a comfortable salary takes a lot of dedication, consistency, long hours (especially in the beginning). It doesn’t just fall into your lap. But the good news is, I’m going to try and help you cut down those long hours and hopefully get you on the right track quicker than if I wasn’t by your side!
So when you think about what you want your blog to be about, think about what you ENJOY to talk, read and write about. THAT should be your focus. As your audience grows you will realize what topics they are loving and you can niche down if needed, which essentially means, narrow down the topics you talk about.
When I first started my first blog I had a lot of different topics that I blogged. It started to feel overwhelming and about 2 years later I decided to rebrand and separate my topics into 2 separate blogs which is why I have ellduclos.blog and BOSSGIRLBLOGGERS.com
If you want to blog about multiple topics you can BUT, it is better for your SEO to be more-so on topic, than have tons of unrelated topics and blog posts.
Step 2: The Domain Name – What’s your blog called?
NOW that you have your niche picked out, the next step to starting a blog is figuring out your domain name. This is the name of your website! For example mine is BOSSGIRLBLOGGERS.com and ellduclos.blog
Here’s how I came up with them. My first blog ellduclos was really on a whim. I was afraid people I knew would find my blog so I created a “secret identity” in a sense. My name is Lauren Duclos so instead of Lauren I chose Ell for L in Lauren. My middle name is also Elizabeth. So that’s what I went with! I have since then made my blog very public and people I know DO know about my blog, but I don’t mind anymore and neither should you!
My second blog BOSSGIRLBLOGGERS became a blog because of my facebook group BOSSGIRLBLOGGERS. I created this group in 2017 when I started my blog and I go more in depth on this here. But essentially it’s a blog filled with blog and marketing tips as well as feature members from the community!
When creating your domain, think about what your blog is going to be about and how you can tie it in with a personal touch.
-> Choose a name that will be easy to remember and preferably with .com, That’s one thing I wish I did differently with my first blog.
-> Two, choose a name that is available on all social media platforms. This makes it easy for your audience to find you on social media! Don’t choose a domain name that is already taken as a username on social media.
Step 3: Where are you going to self host your blog?
Alright so you have your domain name, now the next step to starting a blog is WHERE?! Where are you going to self host and create your blog. This is something I didn’t do in the beginning and regret it entirely. Self host from the beginning! It’s been the best thing for my blog. Self hosting has faster server speed, great customer service, affordable plans, unlimited customization, and awesome SEO tools.
Siteground is the self host I have used for almost 3 years now and I always recommend them. The best part is, they have a live chat team that has instantly helped me with any difficulties or questions.
You can use my link to get self hosting packages starting at just $3.95 a month
Now I’m going to walk you through signing up and which plan to choose.
You’ll want to select WordPress hosting
If you are just starting out the start up plan is great until you build up your traffic. Once your traffic begins to grow, you’ll need to upgrade. Until then, select start up!
Now you’ll fill out all the information, your domain name etc. You don’t necessarily need the Siteground scanner because there are other options, but I do suggest domain privacy so no one can access your personal info and all that Jazz.
Once you purchase and sign up, you’ll install the WordPress application onto your Siteground account and there you have it! Your blog is closer to being created!
Step 4: Customizing your blog
Now that your blog is created, you’ll want to go to your dashboard to customize it! You can access this by going to (yoursitename.com/wp-admin) or your Siteground admin backend.
You’ll login to your WordPress account and here you’ll find your dashboard.
It’s time to customize your blog. This could by far be the HARDEST PART in the beginning. A lot of people throw in the towel and give up here because creating and customizing your own blog on WordPress isn’t easy.
Choosing a blog theme
First you’ll want a theme for your blog. You can start off with a free theme BUT, having a premium and responsive theme that you purchase will give you more customization and flexibility. You’ll have a lot more options for making it look professional. I definitely recommend it. All of my purchased themes are from creative market. They are tougher to put together BUT it’s worth it and usually they come with tutorials.
Find your free themes here: go to dashboard > appearance > themes > add new
OR you can upload your own theme by hitting add new > upload the file that you purchased and downloaded.
Step 5: Creating your CORE 4 pages
Once you have your theme installed and customized to your liking, it’s time to create your CORE 4! When it comes to starting a blog there are 4 pages you NEED to create and have in your main menu.
- About Me
- Legal policies
Essentially these four pages are MUST HAVES and then you have your ADD ON pages that I will talk about next.
Let’s start with your about me. In your about me it’s important to share who YOU are and what your audience can expect from your blog. Use this page to share your story, what your mission is, why you started this blog and what it’s all about. Get REAL, show your personality, make the reader want to read more! If you really wow the reader with your about me, it’s possible the reader is a brand and will be so impressed by your story that they want to work with you!
There are so many approaches to blogging but one of my favorite approaches is the BE REAL, BE RELATABLE approach.
You can easily create a new page by going to dashboard > pages > add new
You would set the title to “about me” essentially and then write it out. Hit publish when you’re finished! You will create a separate page for each core 4!
The second core page you want to have is your contact page. If someone is reading your blog and loves your content so much that they want to collaborate with you or send an opportunity your way, you’ll want to make sure they do so by using your contact page!
This doesn’t need to include your address or phone number but it should include a contact form (which you can insert with the contact form plug-in, i’ll be talking about plug-ins shortly) and you should also list your email!
Lastly and self explanatory, a home page. This is essentially a link that your audience clicks to take them back to your blogs home page. Your logo should also do this!
These are the CORE 4 pages your blog needs.
Now let’s talk about add ons. These are great pages to have but not everyone will have them.
- Resource page
- Shop my favorites page
- Link to private group/community
- Products page
- Services page
These are all add-on pages that usually get created once the money making strategies are in place.
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Step 6: Add pages to your main menu
Now that you have your pages created, let’s add them to your main menu! You’ll do so by going to
dashboard > appearance > menus
Once you are there you will see your pages listed under most recent. Name your new menu as “main menu” , Select your pages and hit add to menu. Then SAVE your menu.
Step 7: Adding Plug-ins
The next step to starting a self hosted blog is adding plug-ins. The great thing about a self hosted WordPress blog is that you get access to tons of plug-ins to help take your blog customization and optimization up a notch!
Some of my must have plug-ins:
- google analytics/monster insights – track your sites stats (pageviews, visitors bounce rate etc.)
- YOAST SEO – guided SEO tips
- wp smush – optimizes your photos so they aren’t too large
- pinterest pin it – adds the pin it button to easily pin your images from your blog
- simple share – social share icons so people can easily share your posts to social media
- insert headers and footers – makes it easy to add code to your header when claiming website and setting up google analytics
- mailerlite – an email list builder
- contact forms
You can search and install these plugins by going to:
dashboard > plugins > add new
Step 8: Widgets for your blog
Now what about adding widgets to your blog? Widgets are pretty cool, it’s extra customization for your site. For example, let’s say I wanted to add a search bar to my sidebar? This is how I would do it…
go to dashboard > appearance > widgets
You would then drag over which ever widget you want to it’s appropriate section. For me it’s the primary sidebar. As you can see on my primary sidebar I have a blurb about me, search bar, my social media icons, newsletter, recent posts, and instagram feed.
Step 9: Setting up google analytics
Setting up google analytics is an important step when it comes to starting a self hosted blog. One thing I want to mention before we dive into google analytics and before you upload any new blog posts is to go and fix your permalink structure. Usually your permalink structure is set up automatically to include the date, however it’s best to NOT have the date include. To fix this,
Go to dashboard > settings > permalink Then select “post name”
This is how you want your permalink structure to be set up as.
This will help SEO (search engine optimization) play in your favor.
Next up, google analytics. Google analytics is essentially how you track website visitors, page views, bounce rate and more! You’ll want to properly install google analytics onto your site so you can accurately keep track of all your important stats!
You’ll first want to make sure you have the insert headers and footers plugin installed because this will make it SUPER easy for us to install google analytics.
After you create your account it will give you a tracking code to copy and insert into the header of your blog.
You’ll copy this code and insert it into the header section of your “insert headers and footers” plugin. Do this by going to your wordpress dashboard > settings > insert headers and footers.
Paste the code into the header section.
Once you get that installed after a few days you’ll be able to see your blog stats!
I created this blog about 3 months ago and these are my monthly stats so far using google analytics to check!
You can see that I have had 11,113 new users in the past 30 days. I also had 41,168 page views and 15,019 sessions! So essentially a session is the moment someone stays on your blog to the moment they leave, that would be one completed session.
If someone comes onto my site and looks at 3 of my blog posts before leaving my site, that counts as one session and 3 pageviews! Ideally you want to get your audience to stay on your blog as long as possible.
Now Almost 6 Months Since Starting This Blog:
I talk about how to grow your blog traffic with Pinterest marketing in my affordable e-course
I also share free tips to keep your audience on your blog longer here
Step 10: Creating your blog’s email list
The last step of the initial website setup is creating an email list! This is how you’ll collect emails from your viewers and create subscribers! The email list builder I use is Mailerlite. I love Mailerlite because it’s EXTREMELY affordable compared to other list builders, AND it’s so easy to use! You get your first 1,000 subscribers for free!
Here’s how to set up your blog email in your siteground backend.
Go to your siteground account > my account > manage account
Now click onto your cpanel/control panel
You’ll then want to scroll down to mail and click on email accounts
Now you can create a new email by filling out the required info.
Now you can use this email to verify your blog on Mailerlite after you set up your account! To check your email you will then hit access webmail
Now let’s talk about how to set up your email list, create a forms and get your forms added to your blog!
After you create your account on mailerlite and they verify your account, you’ll want to create your first form! It’s easier than you think.
Go to Mailerlite > Forms > Create Embedded Form
Next, title the form. I put “Join e-mail list.” But, if you were trying to promote a freebie you could name it your freebie opt-in. (i’ll talk about creating a freebie next!)
Now you can customize your form however you’d like! Have fun with it! Make it match your brand and then click “next” to save it!
We can add the form to your website by going back to your wordpress dashboard > mailerlite > signup forms and then hit “add new”
Select “forms created in MailerLite”
Then you can select your form from the drop down list!
After you add your form you can now insert it to your primary side bar! Go to appearance > widgets and scroll to MailerLite and select add to primary side bar.
You can also add your form to your blog posts wherever you find necessary! I recommend added it to the middle of your blog posts and at the end for best results. Do this by clicking the add MailerLite form button in your edit blog post toolbar.
It will allow you to choose the form and then add a short code to your blog post! Publish and you are all set!
Yay! You now have the foundations of a solid blog in place. Now it’s time to get blog posts created, published, and shared! Feel free to read more of my blog posts to learn content marketing strategies and ways to make money with your blog!