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My Experience on Starting a Self-Hosted Blog Using WordPress

By Edited Jan 26, 2016 5 5
WordPress Stickers Everywhere
Credit: teamstickergiant / John Fischer

Whether you decide to blog about your weight loss journey or yohave a product to promote, WordPress provides software to create your blog or website.  I discovered WordPress.org when I was learning about niche websites as a way to make money online. 

What first attracted me to WordPress.org is that it allows me to have my own domain name.  I didn't want a website address such as www.webhostcompany.com/dianasawesomeblog.  I would prefer to tell people to find me at www.dianasawesomeblog.com (not my real website name).

My secondary reason for selecting WordPress.org is that there are not any limitations on the amount and types of ads that I can place on my website.  As I would like to make some extra money to fund my future travel adventures,  I want to be able to earn money from my blog.  I applied for a Google AdSense account, became an Amazon Affiliate and joined a few other affiliate marketing programs.  I like that I have the control on not only placing whichever ads that I want on my site, but I can also choose where to put them. 

Domain Name and Web Hosting 
As WordPress.org websites are self-hosted, I did have to register a domain name and pay for website hosting.  As I am a self-proclaimed tightwad, this was a drawback for me as I didn't want to spend any money on my new online passive income ventures quite so soon.  However, I decided to do so anyway.

Based on recommendations from the experts that I am following, I chose to register my domain name and host my website with Bluehost.   Since I purchased a web hosting package from them, my domain name registration was free and my monthly hosting fees are just under $5.00 per month.   I was able to register my domain name, start my web hosting plan and install WordPress in less than 30 minutes.  There are other hosting companies that you can use and the WordPress.org website lists Bluehost, DreamHost and Laughing Squid as the companies that meet their minimum requirements for running the WordPress.org software.

When I chose the domain name for my blog, I have to admit that I didn't put much thought into it.  At that time, I was very anxious to start my blog and I didn't read the chapter on search engine optimization yet.  I now have a website with a name that doesn't describe my blog topic and it's made up of a set of words that people will typically not search for on the search engines.

However, it is my domain name and I like the way it sounds.   When I am ready to name my future niche site, I will do my keyword research and pick a name that will help generate traffic to my site.

Using WordPress
Once you have your WordPress software installed, you can start working on your blog.   To do this, you will need to login to your dashboard by opening your browser and typing in your website's URL followed by /wp-admin.  Once you are logged in,  you will see your dashboard.  This is where you will do website tasks such as entering your profile settings, adding pages, creating menus and categories, writing posts and choosing your theme.

When I first opened my dashboard, I was able to figure out how to write blog posts easily.  But beyond that, I had to teach myself new terminology.  I didn't know what a widget or what a plugin was.  I saw that there were several customization options available to me but I didn't know how to customize.  I have had to teach myself a lot from figuring out how to copy AdSense HTML code into my text widgets and how to create a two-level menu system.  But the most fun and time consuming part for me was choosing my theme.

WP Dashboard
Credit: Diana Poisson

The dashboard is where you will customize your site and write your posts.

Choosing Your Theme 
The theme is the overall appearance of your blog.  This is where you can change the colors of  your website so that it is blue, green, yellow or black.  You can choose to have just one big picture of yourself on the top of each page or if you are a photographer, you may choose a theme where you can display 6 pictures of your photographs on the front page.  Besides the look, there are so many functions that you can add to your theme.  You can add in Facebook and Twitter buttons, a form to collect user emails, maps, videos, AdSense ads and much more.

Fortunately, WordPress made it easy to find and change your theme.  After you log into your dashboard, you go to the Appearance -> Themes menu item.  From here, you can manage your installed themes and search for hundreds of free themes.  Installation is easy, you just select your theme and press the "Install Now" link.

If you can't find a free theme that you like, then you have the option to search for Premium (paid) themes on Google or create your own theme if you know how to code.  When changing to a different theme, I was relieved to find out that I didn't lose any of my pages or posts that I created.  The files are still saved in your dashboard even if they aren't displayed on your new theme.   

WP Theme Selections
Credit: Diana Poisson

There are hundreds of free themes to select from.

My Theme Selection Experience
Though I am very impressed with the large selection of themes to choose from, it was very hard for me to decide which one to use.  I can be very indecisive at times and for the first few nights after I created my website, I would just sit in front of my computer and go from theme to theme to theme without giving any a good chance to see if it was what I wanted.  

My two main problems at that time was that I didn't have a clear idea on how I wanted my website to look and I also wasn't experienced enough to customize a theme to make it do what I wanted.  Some themes give you customization options and some don't.  However, to my knowledge, you can customize any theme by modifying the theme's cascading style sheets or CSS.  However, since I don't yet know CSS, this wasn't and still isn't an option for me.

I finally ended up with the Thesis 2.0 theme.  I chose this theme only because it is the theme that a successful blogger that I am following uses for his website.  I figured if it was good enough for an "expert", it would be more than good enough for me.  I liked the way that his website looked and this theme has great search engine optimization and customization features.  

I purchased and installed the theme and imagine my surprise when I was presented with a white page.  There wasn't any fancy colors or cool layouts.  This theme gives users unlimited customization options, but you have to know how to customize it first.  I did not have any idea on how to do that, so I ended up purchasing a pre-made skin package for less than $100.00.  A skin runs on top of the Thesis 2.0 framework and it is similar to a theme in that it gives the website its design and colors.

I have a few skins to choose from and I installed one and used it for a month and now I am using my second skin.  I am slowly figuring out how to customize it using the skin editor.  I am proud to say that I finally figured out how to make a few design changes.  

My Suggestion Before Starting Your First Website
I doubt that I will hit it big with my first blog, but I am glad that I have it as it is a great way for me to learn WordPress.   I have found that there is a lot that I don't know about when it comes to customizing my site.  I was able to figure out how to create pages and posts easily, but it took me an hour to figure out how to post my profile picture on each of my pages.  I am still trying to figure out how to include a cool looking "author bio" box.  

My suggestion is that if you are considering creating a niche website, is that you take the time to teach yourself WordPress so that when you do start your website, you can concentrate on writing great content rather than on trying to figure out how to add in design items such as social media buttons and pictures.

At the very least, either create a free WordPress.com account or pay for a few months of web hosting for a practice website on WordPress.org.  

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Comments

Aug 31, 2014 3:51pm
JoyceBocek
I learned new things here and have a long ways to go. I have a domain, "ooh-lalah.com" through GoDaddy. Ooh-lalah -- search engines don't have a clue and who's going to search for it? It's about crochet.
Sep 1, 2014 6:52am
dlpoisson
Hi Joyce, I named my first website SecondHalfDreams - it was a random decision with no thought put into it. I didn't even have a website topic back then. Now, I write about Amazon FBA on that website and am getting Amazon affiliate sales. Again, SecondHalfDreams has nothing to do with Amazon FBA. But people are finding me through the connections that I make on social media. I do recommend having your domain name match your website topic, but it isn't 100% needed!
May 9, 2015 10:27pm
shar-On
It is definitely a learning curve. I have a travel blog with wordpress, but it is only a free one as I just wanted to write about my traveling and free camp site experiences etc. I found it very difficult to negotiate in the beginning. Although I had two blogspot blogs on miscellaneous subjects. At first these used to have Amazon and Adsense but then the Amazon abilities disappeared.
I am using the wordpress one now just for the experience. Thank for this information.
May 10, 2015 9:37am
Marlando
Hi: Great informative article especially for a computer clucks such as I am. In fact, two thumbs up and a rating for U.
May 10, 2015 12:55pm
dlpoisson
Hi Shar-On and Marlando - I've been using WordPress for two years now. As with any new program, there is a learning curve but it does get easier. I'm definitely not a pro though - I use the same theme for all 3 of my websites and use the same basic plugins. Haven't gotten into CSS yet. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
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