Once I’ve convinced people that self-hosted WordPress (sometimes simply called WordPress.org) is the way to go, they often feel intimidated by the process.
In 2004, setting up a WordPress site was tricky and required a basic knowledge of web servers and some coding ability.
Today, setting up a WordPress site is as easy as point, click, and done. The process I’ll describe below is simple and will have you up and running with your own site in under a half-hour.
What You Need:
Cup of coffee (I’m also willing to substitute other beverages here depending on time of day and temperature)
For the visual learners, here’s me walking through the process (click the image to begin playing a video):
Step One: Secure Hosting.
Hosting is like renting a space for your website. You pay a hosting provider for the use of top-notch servers and they play “host” to those sites—managing details like up-time and bandwidth, and upgrades to the servers over time. Alternatively, you could purchase your own server and install it at your house, But the electricity to run it alone would cost you what I am about to propose.
I recommend Bluehost as the hosting provider of choice. There are three main reasons.
Reliability. Bluehost is one of the big dogs in WordPress hosting. They are a company that is not going anywhere, and their customers genuinely seem to be the priority. They advertise 99.99% up-time, as well.
Values. Bluehost is one of the few large providers with a specific policy against pornography. They strictly enforce this policy, which means your website won’t share server space with smut. This is also helpful in that pornography is a bandwidth hog.
Cost. Bluehost is not the cheapest hosting out there. But at under 6 bucks per month, I personally think it’s the best deal for sites that aren’t aiming for millions of pageviews per month.
A few caveats: The word “unlimited” is tossed liberally around in web hosting sales copy. Be aware, though, that an inexpensive hosting package cannot be expected to handle repeated huge bursts of traffic. WordPress itself is not equipped to handle it. What is not unlimited is the memory your server uses. If a blog post of yours gets shared on the front page of the New York Times, prepare for a digital hiccup while your shared server has to be rebooted.
Additionally, a sermon archive with 200 sermons in it installed on top of a WordPress configuration is a memory HOG. Just don’t read “unlimited” and think that you’re set to become the next Desiring God podcast for 6 bucks per month.
Second caveat is a disclosure: I am a Bluehost affiliate. That means that they pay me a small commission for every person who I refer to their service through my affiliate link: http://benlikes.us/bluehost. Every web hosting company has a similar affiliate plan. I chose Bluehost because of the three reasons above.
Thirdly, my sites are not hosted on Bluehost. I switched to a Media Temple’s DV developer package for a while, and now use DigitalOcean. If you are a geek who loves setting up and maintaining your own virtual server, go with DigitalOcean. MediaTemple has some great hosted options for higher volume sites, but they are going to be more expensive.
So, back to you. Head over to the Bluehost home page and click on the Get Started button.
Assuming that you don’t already have a domain name, enter your desired URL into the box under “I Need a Domain Name” and pick the correct extension (.com, .org, .net, etc) and click the Next button.
If your domain name is available, they will let you know and you can proceed to entering account information and select a package. The longer your commitment is, the lower the price is.
Also note that you have to pay up front for the length of your commitment. You’ve got a 30-day trial period, so I’d recommend saving the money and doing a longer commitment.
The remainder of the services on the screen are not crucial, with the exception of the domain whois privacy, which I would consider especially if the billing information on the card you are using is your home address.
On the next screen they will try to up-sell you with a number of add-ons. You can skip those for now, and if they make sense in the future (things like adding the .com version of your .net domain are a great idea) you can always do that then. Click the Complete button at the bottom of the screen.
Next you’ll create a password. I recommend their password generator, as it will give you a strong, unhackable password, which is important.
Once you create the password, depending on how long you took, you might get an error message after you click the Create button. That’s pretty common here, as the Bluehost system takes time to get your account set up. As a worst case scenario, you can always call their excellent customer support at 1-888-401-4678. I’d recommend just waiting a few extra seconds before clicking Create. Consider it a great time to utilize the coffee you brought with you.
Next up is logging in to your new hosting account. Your domain ought to be preloaded for you (if not, enter it in the field). Using the password you just created, click Login.
They might try to sell you some more up-sells here. Can’t fault them for trying, right? If so, decline those with the No thanks link to get to the Welcome screen. There, you’ll click on the cPanel link. (That’s geek-speak for “control panel”)
The cPanel can be overwhelming, but stick with me, and we’ll get you to exactly where you need to go. Scroll down the page to “Website Builders” and click on the WordPress logo.
That will load up a basic interface for installing WordPress called the Mojo Marketplace. Click the Start button to begin the process. You can ignore the “Oops” warning about something already being installed there— the only thing currently loaded on your brand-new website is a basic intro to BlueHost page that we want to overwrite with the WordPress software. Check that box, and click Install.
That will initiate an install process that could take a couple of minutes, but requires nothing from you. Utilize your cup of coffee for best results here.
Once the status reads “success,” you should see two steps. WRITE DOWN everything under Step 1. These URLs and passwords are the way for you to access your new site.
Try logging into your site using the Login URL.
Congratulations! You now have your own self-hosted WordPress website.
There are a few optional tweaks I recommend immediately before you add anything to your site. You can read about those here.
But not before you drain the last bit from that cup of coffee in celebration of a job well done.