How to set up WordPress

Though WordPress boasts a “famous 5-minute installation,” if you’re setting up WordPress for the first time, it may not seem that simple to you. And that’s totally understandable! Working with self-hosted WordPress comes with a lot of options and flexibility, making it a great option for the present and future of your website. But with so many options, it’s also difficult to know where to start. In today’s blog post and video, I’m going to show you how to set up WordPress.

Video: How to set up WordPress

Step 1: Purchase your domain name.

To use self-hosted WordPress, you need to purchase a domain name. I purchase all of my domain names through Namecheap (affiliate link). Many web hosts will offer a free domain name when you sign up for a hosting account, but I prefer to purchase my domains separately through Namecheap. Their renewal price is typically a lot cheaper, and so is their privacy protection (a must-have so you don’t get spammed by domain companies!). If you’re not sure what domain name to use, you can read my tips for choosing the right domain name over here.

Step 2: Purchase a web hosting plan.

When you use self-hosted WordPress, you need a place to store the files. Think of your web hosting plan as the rent you pay for the space you need on the web to store your files. Web hosting plans vary greatly in price and service, and the plan you should select depends on your budget and site needs.

I host this site on Flywheel (affiliate link), a managed WordPress host, because this site is essential to my business and it’s worth paying the extra money for better service. My podcast site, on the other hand, is hosted with Bluehost (affiliate link), because it’s more of a hobby and I’d like to save money on the hosting costs. You can check out my book Make WP Work for a more thorough comparison of web hosting plans.

I recommend keeping your domain name and hosting on separate services so that if you do experience problems with one service you don’t have to move everything.

Step 3: Point your domain nameservers to your host.

If you purchase your domain separately from your host, you’ll need to point your domain name to your host. To do this, you’ll need to set up nameservers for your domain name, which appear in your domain options. They will default to the company from which you bought your domain, and you’ll probably need to select an option to use custom nameservers. Your web host will provide you with the nameserver values, or you can search for “[name of your hosting company] nameservers” to get those values.

Step 4: Add your domain to your cPanel.

This may vary depending on the host that you choose and how many websites you have. If you signed up for a new hosting account, it will give you the option to use a domain name you already have, and it will add that domain to your cPanel for you.

If you are adding your domain to an existing hosting account that’s already associated with another domain, you’ll need to set up your domain as an add-on domain in your cPanel. An add-on domain means that your domain has its own directory on your server and loads as its own site (versus parked domains, which simply redirect to the main domain on your account).

Heads up! You may need to wait 24 hours after changing your domain’s nameservers to add your domain to your hosting. This is because it can take 24 hours for domain changes to work through the internet.

Step 5: Run the WordPress install.

Most web hosts come with a WordPress installer that will install WordPress for you. This part is pretty straightforward. Heads up! Make sure that you enter your own username and password. Though most web hosts now require you to enter a username and password, a few still default to “admin,” which is not a secure username and can set your site up for hacking in the future.

Step 6: Set your site up for success!

Now that WordPress is installed, you’re ready to blog! However, there are a few little extras you should consider to set your site up for success.

First, go to the Users section and select your username. Scroll down and customize your First Name, Last Name, and Nickname. These options will populate the dropdown menu for how to display your name publicly. If you want your site name, or an “author” designation to appear after your name, add this in the Nickname and it will show up in the dropdown menu.

Next, go to Settings > General. Enter a tagline to replace the default, otherwise this may appear in your theme and search results. Then scroll down and update your timezone to make sure that scheduled posts publish at the time you expect.

Finally, go to Settings > Permalinks. Many hosts default to plain, which just shows the post ID. This isn’t good for SEO, and it also makes it difficult to remember your URLs for sharing purposes. I like to use the Post Name setting as this makes your URLs as short as possible while still being descriptive.

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Now you’re all set to start blogging! For more in-depth instructions on installing and using WordPress, be sure to check out my book Make WP Work.