So you want to start a travel blog, or any blog for that matter but you have next to no clue how to get started. A quick Google search will reveal countless how-to articles, yet a lot of them are now outdated. It is only getting easier and cheaper to set up your own self hosted website to showcase your hobbies, your cooking or your travel photos. In this article I aim to show you how to start a simple self hosted WordPress blog, not how to get rich quick while travelling the world.
Also bear in mind that you will need some intermediate computer knowledge, Windows or Mac, to set up and maintain a self hosted website. Self hosting basically means you have your own domain with no wordpress.com or blogspot.com in your website name. Self hosting also costs a little money, just a little, whereas the above mentioned blogging platforms are free, but not nearly as flexible as your own paid installation.
I have not counted the steps needed to start a website, there are quite a few more than 6, 3, 12 etc. But they are very quick steps, so read on to discover how to set up your new self hosted WordPress domain on a lazy Sunday afternoon while sipping Pina Colada by your pool and dreaming of the places you plan to go to and write about…..
How to start your own travel blog
Choose a domain name
This is probably the most important step. Your domain name needs to say something about you and your website. This is also something that is difficult and complicated to change once your site has been up and running for a while.
Now what comes after your domain is not really important. Some say it is, some say it isn’t, although I will suggest try for a .com first, then maybe .net But shop around, here, as more and more very cool TLD’s are becoming available, and at different prices, such as .xyz for a blog of your daily thoughts. For more tips & tricks on what to consider when choosing a domain name, go here: Worst Domain Names
Next step is web hosting.
Every website needs somewhere to live, a physical computer, a host. A legendary hosting company like Afrihost will do it’s utmost best to ensure it’s servers are powered up and connected to the internet 24/7. Bear in mind though that no host company on earth can guarantee 100% uptime, not even facebook or Google themselves are up 100% of the time, it’s just not possible. But great hosts, like Afrihost, come very close, 99% and up.
As the demand for website hosting is growing, so is the number of hosting companies offering very cheap, and also ‘free’ shared website hosting along with ‘unlimited’ bandwidth/traffic which, to put it bluntly, just isn’t if you read the fine print. Be careful and weary of such ‘free/unlimited’ offers. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, or comes with a nasty catch, like banner ads all over your site, or long term contracts, or glacial slow speeds, or all of the above.
Shared hosting, which is when a few hundred websites share the same physical server, has been created in order to keep costs down significantly for entry level website owners. Afrihost has a plethora of package choices from entry level shared hosting right up to enterprise cloud hosting and dedicated rack hosting for professionals.
At Afrihost South Africa you have the utmost freedom and flexibility to upgrade, or even downgrade as your needs change with their groundbreaking ‘ClientZone’ user interface. There are no long term contracts at Afrihost, all services are billed pro-rata on a monthly basis.
In 2012, Afrihost finished first in the South African Deloitte Fast 50 competition that recognizes the country’s fastest growing technology companies. Afrihost have partnered with MTN, the biggest telecoms network on the continent to offer the best products and services to their clients. Afrihost’s servers are located at MTN’s state of the art data centres in Johannesburg.
The above, along with their legendary 24/7 support is the reason why we chose Afrihost to host The Travelling Chilli.
Hosting packages at Afrihost start at ZAR29 / month for the Silver Home Linux package. This includes a MySQL database which is what WordPress needs to run. At the time of writing this article, a Silver Home Linux package which includes 1GB of storage space, costs the equivalent of just US$3-00/month. 1GB of storage is plenty space to start any type of blog, trust me. Just keep your photos under 500k each and host your video’s on YouTube and embed them on your site.
What is WordPress?
WordPress is free, ‘open source’ software that assembles and ‘serves’ (displays) to the world the content that you upload to your website in almost any way you want it to. Open source means you can freely go into the source code and change what you like, but that is highly advanced stuff, I learned that the hard way. Out of the box, WordPress, along with all the 1000’s of free themes and plugins will work just fine. It is by far the most used software of it’s kind, running about 23% of the worlds top 10 million websites as of January 2015. It is also extremely secure as there is a huge international community behind it all.
How To Install WordPress
Once in there, click on hosting:
Then click on your new domain:
Then click on cPanel:
Log into cPanel:
Scroll down and click on WordPress. You will be taken to the Softaculous installer.
Click on the blue install button:
Choose protocol. In most cases you should just leave it as http://
Choose the domain to install WordPress on.
In directory, remove the ‘WP’ that is there, otherwise people will have to put /wp after your TLD to get to your site.
You may be asked at some point about over writing files in your public_html folder, say yes. All that is there at this point is the Afrihost ‘coming soon’ landing page, which will now be replaced by your WordPress installation.
Table prefix, leave as is.
Your site name. This does not have to be the same as your domain, but in our case it is, and it can also be split up into multiple words in upper or lower case. ‘The Travelling Chilli’
Your site description should be just a few short words summarising your site, such as ‘The Food The Flavour The Adventure The World’, which you should see if you look up at the top of your browser window, when on the home page of this site.
Do NOT use admin, or your own name as a user name. Should you do so, hackers will already be halfway into hacking your site, they only then have to guess or brute force their way through your password, so make that difficult to guess too. Use a password manager, such as ‘Keychain’, if you have a Mac. Windows will have a similar feature. You can choose to have your login details emailed to you, or just make a note of them on paper, then hide or destroy said piece of paper afterwards.
Using the same password for all your email and social media accounts is a big no no, this includes your WordPress website.
Don’t worry about any of the advanced options at this stage. You can have a peek anyway, if you are curious and come back to them later. Click ‘Install’ at the bottom of the Softaculous installer.
Now to log in to the ‘back end’ of your WordPress installation, go to www.yournewsitethatrocks.xyz/wp-admin and you should see this:
Once you have installed and logged into WordPress you will need to choose a theme. There are 1000’s of great free themes out there. However, if you would like that much more flexibility to customise your website even more, you can purchase all of the 87 Elegant premium themes for the price of one. We use Divi at The Travelling Chilli. Should you click on that link or the banner below and purchase a theme package from Elegant Themes, we will receive a commission. This helps us to keep The Travelling Chilli going, and we will love you forever and buy you beer, coffee or tea if we ever meet in person.
Plugins that I highly recommend to start with are:
Akismet. This is actually already included in your WordPress installation. It does an excellent job of preventing comment spam, for free. Donations are most welcome.
UpdraftPlus. This I cannot stress enough….backup, backup, backup…..oh, have I mentioned, back up your site! (After you have put content on it) No host that I know of will guarantee 100% up time, or the data on your site. Read the fine print on this one. This plugin is tried and tested by yours truly, and it wasn’t the fault of Afrihost, it protected my site from none other than…..myself. Once you have set this up, you can sync it to a dropbox account. This was how I restored our precious blog after I messed with core code.
Wordfence Security. Unfortunately there are a lot of bad people out there who will want to hack your site, and believe me, they will try. No site in the world is immune from such things, sadly.
WordPress SEO by Yoast. A very powerful and useful must have plugin. Get it.
All the above plugins, and any other plugin obtained from the WordPress plugin repository will have instructions on how to customise and set them up to suit your needs
It may take a few short hours before you can set up WordPress on your new hosting package. This applies to most hosts, and it can take up to 24hrs for your site to go completely live as the ‘Domain Name Servers’ (DNS) around the world need to be updated to the fact that your site now exists, and where it exists. In the meantime, pour yourself another Pina C, and dream of nice things…..
Thats about it really. At least the set up process for your new blog. The only thing that now limits you is your imagination! There is also a huge international community of people out there just waiting to help you, including me, should you need it. For more info on WordPress and how to use it, go to: www.wordpress.org Also be sure to download any themes and plugins only from there, or from within your WordPress installation, or from sources you are sure you can trust like Elegant Themes.
If you have any questions or would like any clarity on the things I have just written about, please drop a comment.
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