The easiest way to get a web site up and running these days is to use WordPress. It’s what we use here at Squidix. The advantages of self hosted WordPress over free platforms like Blogger and WordPress are numerous.
What it really comes down to is flexibility. A self hosted WordPress instance gives you the ability to install any of thousands of themes and plugins, or even write your own code to complement your site with virtually any functionality imaginable. Using your own domain goes hand in hand with a self hosted blog, and using your own domain gives you complete control over your URL. You can point it to whatever server you’d like, or redirect it to the URL of your choice.
Luckily, these days, setting up your own web hosting and WordPress instance is easy to do. Tools are plentiful, and there is a ton of information out there to help you along the way.
Step 1 – Domain Name
You’ll want your own domain name. Finding a good domain name can be tricky, but with a little digging it should be possible to find one that fits your web site. We recommend checking out this guide for some advice on finding a good domain.
You can register the domain you choose through the web hosting company you choose to sign up with, or you can use a domain registration company like NameCheap.
We generally recommend keeping your domain name separate from your hosting account. This way, if something goes wrong at your hosting company, you still have the domain, and can point it elsewhere.
Let’s start by going to the NameCheap register page.
Enter a domain you’d like in the text box. You may have to try a few different domains until you find something that’s available. Keep in mind NameCheap offers hundreds of extensions, so if the .com is not available, you may be able to grab the same domain with a different extension. Ideally however stick with .com or something else well known like .net or .org.
Once you find the domain you like, hit the “add to cart” button to the right.
You’ll be taken to a shopping cart page. Hit “confirm order” to start checkout.
From there, you’ll be taken through the checkout process where you fill in your account information and process your payment. That’s it for now as far as the domain goes!
Step 2 – Web Hosting
In order to run a self hosted WordPress blog, you’ll need web hosting. The term “web hosting” is very broad, but we’re referring here to what’s called shared hosting (read the different types of web hosting to learn a little bit more). It’s the quickest and easiest way to get your site hosted, and will suffice for the vast majority of web sites.
There are a few features we recommend that you look for.
- A strong money back guarantee. There’s no shortage of bad hosting companies out there. You want the option to cancel within the first 30 days or so and get a full refund to minimize your risk.
- An uptime guarantee. This is standard, but it’s nice to have. Most hosting companies will guarantee 99.9% uptime.
- At least 1GB of storage and 25GB of bandwidth. This will be easy to find. Most hosting companies offer quite a bit more. Don’t be drawn in by unrealistic offerings though, most sites only need around 1GB of storage anyway.
- The cPanel control panel. This is debatable, but it’s our personal favorite. It’s easy to work with, feature packed, and being the industry standard, it’s easy to find guides and tutorials for.
- A web script auto-installer that supports WordPress (preferably Softaculous). This is not a necessity, but we strongly recommend it. Installing WordPress was a much more difficult process before auto-installers became common.
If you’d like to read a bit more, check out our guide on how to choose a web hosting company.
We’ll walk you through the basics of signing up with Squidix (click here to see our WordPress compatible shared hosting plans), but these instructions will pertain to other companies as well, as the process is generally pretty similar.
If you don’t know what kind of resources you’ll need, as stated we recommend at least 1GB of storage and 25GB of bandwidth (it can’t hurt to get a little extra though). It’s generally very easy to upgrade or transfer a shared hosting account, so if it turns out you need more, you should be able to jump up to the next plan, or even to another company, with minimal effort and little to no downtime.
Note: We recommend signing up for a month to month or at most an annual payment term. Stay away from hosts that ask you to prepay 3-5 years up front.
First thing’s first, let’s pick a plan from this page.
Add it to your cart, and you’ll be prompted to enter the domain you just registered at NameCheap. Select “I already have a domain and will update my nameservers”, fill in your domain and continue.
Select your billing cycle and any addons you may need. For the sake of simplicity it’s probably best to leave the addons off for now, you can always come back and add them later.
You’ll be taken to a shopping cart page from which you can check out, which will require some basic information (name, address, etc) as well as payment. Generally orders are activated in about 15 minutes but it could be faster or slower depending on the time of day.
Now just sit tight and wait for your welcome email!
Step 3 – Set Your Name Servers
If you registered a domain with your hosting company when signing up, you won’t need to do this, it should be handled automatically. But if you’ve registered your domain elsewhere, you’ll need set your nameservers. What nameservers do is allow you to point a domain at a server, so that when someone visits your web site, their ISP is able to load the site from the proper IP address.
When your account is activated with your hosting company, you should receive a welcome email containing some basic information about your account. One of the things in this welcome email will be your nameservers. There will be more than one most likely, for example “ns1.squidix.net” and “ns2.squidix.net”.
If you go back to your domain registrar and log in, there should be an option to “set nameservers” for the domain you just registered. Fill in the nameservers provided by your hosting company and you should be good to go. Note that it can take some time for your domain to start working due to something called propagation. Technically it can take up to 72 hours, but usually it takes somewhere between 2 and 4 hours.
If you’ve used NameCheap as suggested, we’ll outline the process for you. First, log in to your NameCheap account. You’ll be taken to the dashboard where you’ll enter your domain and click “Modify” in the bottom left.
From here, click “Domain Name Server Setup” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can set your nameservers to the ones provided by your hosting company. Enter as many as your hosting company gives you, the more the better! Multiple nameservers is good for redundancy. Most hosting companies will only give you 2, but some will give you up to 5.
Note: You may have to click “Transfer DNS to Web Host” in the left hand menu in order to access this option.
Step 4 – Install WordPress
Hopefully, you’ve taken our advice and picked a host that offers the Softaculous auto-installer. Softaculous makes installing any of hundreds of web script a breeze (WordPress being one of them). The instructions below will pertain to cPanel and Softaculous.
First, you’ll need to log in to cPanel. The URL to log in, and the username and password should have been provided by your hosting company in your welcome email.
Scroll down a bit (how far depends on how cPanel is set up) and find the icon labeled “Softaculous”.
Being one of the most popular web scripts, if not the most popular web script, WordPress should be right front and center once you enter the softaculous interface. Hover over the WordPress box, and hit the install button.
You’ll be asked to fill out some basic information about your site. Most of these fields can be left with their default values, but some should be changed.
- In Directory: This is where you tell Softaculous where to put your WordPress instance. If you want your WordPress instance to be at the root of your web site, you can leave this blank. The default is “wp” which will put your WordPress instance at http://yourdomain.com/wp/.
- Admin Password: By default, this is “pass” which isn’t exactly a secure password. Change this to something you’ll remember, or use the password generator (the picture of a key next to the text box) to automatically generate a secure password.
- Admin Email: Put your email address here. This will be the administrative email address for your WordPress instance.
Scroll down and hit the “Install” button, and Softaculous will work its magic!
Step 5 – Configure WordPress
Well, you now have your own self hosted WordPress instance, but you’ll probably want to do a few more things.
First thing’s first, let’s log in! Go to “http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/” for the admin login page. You’ll be using the username and password you specified when installing via Softaculous.
Remember, it may take a while for your domain to work due to propagation, so don’t be alarmed! If in doubt, contact your hosting company to verify that everything is setup properly.
Set Up Your Permalinks
WordPress by default uses URLs formatted something like “http://yourdomain.com/index.php?p=1″ which is not exactly sexy. By configuring your permalink settings, you can give your pages and posts URLs like “http://yourdomain.com/about-us/” and “http://yourdomain.com/this-is-a-blog-post/”.
The default behavior is very easy to change. Once you’re in the administrative interface, hover over “Settings” in the left hand menu, and select “Permalinks” in the menu that pops out to the right.
Which option you want to select is up to you, but we generally recommend the “Post Name” option. It’s nice and simple, giving you clean and SEO friendly URLs with no clutter.
Hit the “Save Settings” button, and you’re all done!
Install a Theme
The default WordPress themes work, but they’re not the prettiest or most feature packed in the world, and they’re very simple, which may not fit well if you are doing a company web site or anything else more than just a basic blog.
We recommend checking out ThemeForest, the best place to find high quality premium WordPress themes. They generally range from $35-55.
But you don’t have to spend any money here if you don’t want to. There are thousands of free WordPress themes floating around the web. Check out the following lists and see if there’s anything you like:
- The 42 Best Free WordPress Themes
- 40+ Free Responsive WordPress Themes
- 20 Of The Best Free WordPress Themes In 2014
- 65+ Best Free Responsive WordPress Themes 2014
Once you download or purchase a theme, you should have a zip file, which you can then upload to WordPress. Hover over “Appearance” on the left hand menu, and select “Themes” in the popout menu.
This will take you to your theme management page, where you can see your currently installed themes. There will be a button towards the top of the page labeled “Add New”.
On the add theme page, you’ll be able to browse themes available from the WordPress repository, but you also have the option to upload your own zip file.
Install Some Plugins
There are a few plugins we recommend regardless of what kind of site you’re running. They’re all free and can installed right from the WordPress dashboard.
- WP Super Cache
Want to speed up your site? A caching plugin is the best way to get the most speed improvement with the least amount of effort.
- All In One SEO
Everyone wants their site to be search engine optimized. Luckily, now that you’re using WordPress, much of this can be automated using a plugin like All In One SEO.
If you don’t know already, you’ll soon find out that comment spam is a huge problem with blogs these days. Install akismet to protect your blog.
- Google XML Sitemaps
Another plugin that will assist you in your SEO efforts, Google XML sitemaps will automatically generate sitemaps for you to submit using Google’s webmaster tools.
- Limit Login Attempts
Protect yourself from brute force attacks with this handy plugin that limits login attempts for your user accounts.
Installing any of these plugins is very easy from the WordPress dashboard. First, hover over “Plugins” in the left hand menu, and hit “Add New” in the menu that pops out to the right.
From this page, you can browse the repository, or search for the exact plugin you’re looking to install.
Once you enter some keywords (or just the name of the plugin you’re looking for) you’ll be taken to a page with some search results. Hit the “Install Now” button in the box of the plugin you’d like to install.