How to Build a WordPress Blog in 2020 (and Secure It With SSL & 2FA)

How to Build a WordPress Blog in 2020 (and Secure It With SSL & 2FA)
Jan Zavrel
Jan Zavrel Follow Last updated: October 11, 2020
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You’re here because you are finally ready to dive in and build your own WordPress blog. You probably already know that WordPress is the most popular publishing platform, but you’re not exactly sure how to start and what are the best practices.

Well, you’ve come to the right place because in this comprehensive article, you’ll learn everything you need to succesfully build your WordPress blog and I will show you everything you need to do in order to make your blog fast, secure and attractive.

Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links for products I use and love. This means if you click on such a link and take action (like subscribe, or make a purchase), I may receive some coffee money at no extra cost to you. This helps me creating more content free of charge to you. And, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Thanks for your support!

What is a blog?

A blog is a regularly updated website where the author frequently adds new content in the form of articles (a.k.a. blog posts). Most bloggers use a casual writing style. The main reason is to attract readers to something other than what they are used to from traditional websites, which have to follow certain rules regarding grammar and content. You are currently reading my blog and this guide will help you create your own blog build on WordPress.

What is WordPress?

WordPress is the name of the most popular publishing platform that runs almost 40% of the whole web. It's very easy to install and use, so it's probably the best choice for beginners and seasoned writers as well. WordPress is well documented, supported and regularly updated. It's available as a service for those who just want to start writing, or as a stand-alone web application for those, who want to make custom changes with themes and plugins.

Should I start blogging?

Of course! Even theses days with other options like YouTube and social networks, blogging is still one of the easiest ways to create an online presence, start a business and even earn some extra money. And if you're really good at providing quality content, your blog might become quite popular and earn you so much money via adds and affiliate marketing, that you'll be able to quit your current job and become a full-time professional blogger. That doesn't sound bad at all, does it?

Can I start blogging without any technical skills?

A short answer is yes, because with WordPress.com, you can just buy an all-inclusive service and start writing your content with just a few mouse clicks.

A bit longer answer is that it depends on how much you want to customize your website. Most of the customization can be done with a user-friendly website builders like Elementor or Astra, and you can easily add new features with thousands of plugins. On the other hand, these customizations tend to slower your website if not executed properly, so you might need some help - like this website :)

Can I earn some decent money with blogging?

That depends on what you consider decent money. You can definitely earn some if you take it seriously. There are millions of blogs out there, but not all of them are of the same quality. If you write really good content and update your blog regularly, Google will eventually take notice and put you at the top of its search results. But it definitely takes time and it means a lot of hard work. Don't expect overnight success and quick riches as some gurus would like you to believe.

How much does it cost to start blogging?

Do you want to just write and focus all your energy on the quality of your content? In such case, you'll pay around $30 per month for a managed WordPress hosting. This means that you won't have to care about security, updates and backups because all this technical stuff will be managed for your by the provider. One of such providers is Flywheel which also offers premium StudioPress themes with all plans.

Do you want to save as much as possible and don't mind to learn some technical stuff? In such case, you can have your own publishing solution built on JAMstack. I personally run many websites this way and pay only for domains. If you're on budget and can't afford quality managed hosting, read this article and consider JAMstack before you try cheap shared hosting.


Here’s my detailed guide to the whole process of building a WordPress blog from scratch. Let’s get started!

How to Build a WordPress Blog in 2020 (With SSL & 2FA)

  1. Choose the right niche
  2. Name your blog and buy the domain
  3. Select the right flavor of WordPress
  4. Choose the right hosting
  5. Set up Google Analytics & Google Search Console
  6. Secure your WordPress blog
  7. Learn WordPress basics
  8. Select WordPress theme
  9. Install important plugins
  10. Turn on maintenance mode
  11. Learn how to backup your website
  12. Write your About page

1. Choose the right niche

  1. Find a topic that you would love to write about for years. Start with your hobbies or things you own to spark some ideas.
  2. Make sure that there’s an audience for that topic by using keyword research tools like KWFinder or SEMrush.
  3. If you want to earn money by blogging, make sure that there’s enough products or services for your topic so you can take advantage of affiliate marketing.

Most tutorials and articles on how to build a WordPress blog start with choosing a domain name, but I think it’s much more important to decide first what you want to write about. It will help you determine the type of content and the target audience for your blog. Only then can you start dealing with the domain and the name of the blog, which go hand in hand.

Maybe you already have millions of topics in your head, or you can’t think of anything you want to write about, but the idea of starting your blog still attracts you. It might reassure you that you are not alone. Choosing the right niche for your blog can be challenging, but that’s why you’re here so let’s get to it.

Why do you need to know your audience?

Beginners usually make a big mistake of totally ignoring this important aspect of blogging. They are so eager to start that they rather spent time by choosing the theme and installing WordPress plugins instead of thinking about their potential readers.

Once they have their WordPress blog ready, they just start writing about anything that comes to their minds. The problem is that such blogs about everything aren’t very popular and you should definitely avoid this approach unless you are movie start, influencer or another kind of celebrity.

In other words, unless you are the topic, it’s hard to build audience by writing about everything you love. On the other hand, if you stick to one topic, there’s a great chance that people who likes one of your posts will also be interested in the rest of your content.

Remember that a blog is not a diary. If you want to write about what you love regardless of what others love, you should write your personal diary instead of blog.

What is a blog niche?

It’s very simple, a blog niche is a specific topic you write about. The only problem is that you can have a specific topic, but it’s still to broad. Here’s an example. You can start blogging about computer games in general, but this is a very broad topic. It’s better to niche down which means to focus on more specific topic for your ideal target audience. Let’s say you niche down to games for Windows PC, or you can focus on specific genre and write about shooting games only, or you can niche down even more and have a very very specific blog just about Doom.

Now, consider your potential reader who wants to know something about monsters in Doom 3. Do you think he will rather go to website like IGN or GameSpot with their very broad focus, or to your amazing blog EverythingDoom? This is the power of a very specific blog niche, it attracts a certain kind of readers who expect you to be an expert in what you write about if you narrow it down enough.

What if I just want to write but have no topic?

Instead of starting writing right away, you need to sit down and make a list of things you generally like to do, talk about with your friends, read about or listen about in podcast or watch about on YouTube. Hobbies are most of the time the best starting point when trying to select the topic for your blog.

Make sure that you would like to write about these things for years to come. Many blogs start with great enthusiasm only to end up with few mediocre posts few month later. Don’t make your initial excitement for your own blog fool you. Many bloggers buy a new domain, grab a 3-year web hosting plan and almost destroy the keyboard the first week. Next week, it’s a bit more lukewarm and few months later, they struggle to write only few hundred words.

Just be honest with you and imagine that you write hundreds of articles on a selected topic. If this idea scares you, then move on to another topic until you find one that excites you enough to stick with it for years.

Here are few tips if you really struggle with blogging ideas:

  • Your house or room: Look around and check the stuff you own. Maybe you have a camera, or Playstation. Do you have a bike? Do you like to cook? Something might spark the idea.
  • Your everyday life: Think about what you do on a daily basis. Is there something you like so much that you could write about it for years?
  • Your hobbies: What about some blogs or podcasts your frequently read and listen to? Do you feel that you might be able write about similar topic and maybe even add something more to it?

Once you have your list of ideas ready, you should take a look at it from these three angles:

  1. Readers
  2. Passion
  3. Money

Let’s face it. Finding the ideal topic for your blog will almost certainly mean to compromise between what you want to write about, what people wants to read about, and what can potentially earn you some money. The money aspect isn’t always that important because some people just love writing for the sake of it and they don’t care about generating income from blog. If you’re in that group, it’s much easier for you.

Perfect niche for your blog

There are three most relevant combinations you should consider:

  1. Passion and Money: This is more like writing a personal diary. It’s great that you really enjoy writing about a topic that has a potential to earn you money. But if nobody reads your blog and you have no traffic, you won’t sell anything.
  2. Readers and Money: In this case, you have both basic needs covered. You have found your target audience for the content you can sell. The problem is that you don’t really enjoy writing about this topic, and every new article you publish is a real struggle. If the money is still worth it, there are probably worse things in life than sitting at the keyboard and writing about something you don’t enjoy that much. Maybe you can even hire someone to write the content for you. It’s all about how much the blog earns you.
  3. Readers and Passion: This is a pretty good combination, if you don’t care about money. You have people who want to read your blog and you really enjoy writing. That’s a great hobby, but if you want to earn some income from your blog, this is not a way to get it.

By now, you probably understand what I want to say. You should find a niche that meets all three criteria. You should really enjoy blogging, not just for a few weeks, but for a few years at least. At the same time, you should have loyal and passionate readers who will regularly come back to your blog for new content, otherwise you better start writing a diary. And if you don’t mind having some extra income, you should definitely consider whether your topic is related to any products or services that you can promote with paid (ideally honest) advertising. But on the other hand, money should be only a pleasant side effect, not be the primary reason to start a blog.

According to Bloggingwizzard, finding the right niche for your blog is all about finding the answers to three basic questions.

Question #1: Will I love writing about this topic even one year and 50+ posts from now?

Will I love writing about this topic even one year and 50+ posts from now?

I will repeat myself here, but only because this is really important. It’s one thing to build a WordPress blog and start writing your first article with all the enthusiams, but it’s quite something else to keep at it even after the inital exctitement wears off and maintain your blog with regular updates and new content. Trust me, blogging on regular basis is very time consuming if you want to do it properly and publish quality, well-researched and responsibly referenced posts.

Without frequent updates, your content will become obsolete and irelevant over time. Some bloggers focus solely on the so-called evergreen content, which may be relevant for several years. This is another aspect you might want to consider when deciding on your niche. Depending on your content, your half-a-year-old article from an area that changes frequently won’t inspire anyone. Do you want to write about mobile phones? In that case, be prepared to publish new content (and update the existing one) at least every month to stay relevant.

If you manage to build a popular blog, people might actually help you with up-to-date content by offering to write the so-called guest posts, because it will help them bring audience to their own blog in return.

Question #2: Is there any audience that wants to read about this topic?

Is there any audience that wants to read about this topic?

Now you know that there is at least one person who is interested in your topic and that’s you. It’s a good start but you should find out if you’re not alone and if anyone else who would like to join you. Let’s take a look at some online tools that will help you determine if it makes any sense to start blogging about your topic.

The easiest way to verify that there are enough readers for your blog is to use Google Trends to learn two important things immediately:

  • whether people are even looking for the information in your niche
  • whether the interest in your niche is rising or falling

Even though this is not a full-blown market analysis, it is a good start. Go ahead and enter a few keywords that specify your niche. If you want to write about passive income like me, try entering “passive income” or “earn money online”.

Google Trends search bar

Notice the chart that shows the interest in your keyword:

Interest over time

As Google explains: “Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time. A value of 100 is the peak popularity for the term. A value of 50 means that the term is half as popular. A score of 0 means there was not enough data for this term.”

When you scroll down, you’ll get a list of related topics and search terms:

Related topics and queries

Google Trends also helps you compare the popularity of different keywords. I will add “passive income” to see the results:

Keywords comparison

As you can see in this case, the “passive income” is much more popular than “earn money online”. But it also probably means that it would be much harder to rank for this keyword because of greater competition.

2. Do a quick keyword research

You should now have a basic idea of the popularity of the niche you want to start writing a blog about. But the problem is that Google Trends really only shows trends, or relative numbers. To find out what the absolute numbers are, you need to do a keyword research that will tell you exactly how many people search for keywords in your niche each month.

First, you need to brainstorm a list of keywords related to your niche. If you struggle with this, let Google help you with its search predictions. Based on factors like popularity or similarity, Google offers these possible search terms below your own search terms. They are related to what you’re looking for and what other people have already searched for.

Google search predictions

Here’s an example for passive income:

  • passive income ideas
  • earn money online from home
  • digital products to sell

Next, you need to put these terms into some online keyword research tool like SEMrush, KWFinder or Moz Keyword Explorer.

Moz Keyword Explorer

What should interest you most is the keyword search volume per month. A few thousand queries a month is a good start and as you can see in the screenshot above, my search term has around 7.5 thousand queries monthly with 60% of organic click-through rate. If your keyword is in the lower hundreds of searches, you’ll have a hard time coming up with enough articles that people will be interested in. In such case, it’s better to consider a better search term. And that’s basically what the whole keyword research is about.

Question #3: Can I make some money from this niche?

Can I make some money from this niche?

I can’t promise you anything, but if you manage to find a relatively popular niche with low competition and publish quality content, then there’s a good chance that Google will notice you and your posts will start ranking in search results.

Remember that you and Google have the same goal. You both want people to come back, because they realize that you provide the best answers to their questions. If you offer the best answers, Google will gladly promote your content and there’s no reason why your blog shouldn’t be in the top ten search results. Once you have some serious organic traffic, you can try either Google AdSense or affiliate marketing to profit from it.

2. Name your blog and buy the domain

Now that you know what you want to write about and that there’s an audience for your content, it’s time to think about the name and the domain for your blog.

How to name the blog?

I’ll start with something that goes against the grain. Relax, your blog’s name is not as important as some bloggers want you to believe. In the past, it made much more sense to fuss about this issue for weeks and even months. If you managed to come up with a unique blog name and grabbed a corresponding domain with relevant keywords, you were almost guaranteed to rank in search results, but those days are long gone.

Great name doesn’t make a great blog

Some bloggers that give advice about naming your blog and choosing the domain still believe that the right name will somehow (magically) make your blog automatically more popular and that people care about the name of the website or the URL when they decide whether they will click the link to the post or move on to another link. Does it really work this way? No, it doesn’t and you know it from your own experience.

When you decide on which link to click on the search results page, you definitely care way more about the headline than about the name of the website, unless it’s obviously somehow ackward. I don’t even remember the names of most websites I randomly visit via Google and I would never say: “Oh, that headline looks promising, but I’ll move on because the name of this blog is strange”.

The funny part about this whole artifically created problem is that the biggest advocates of carefully researched blog name and domain actually use their own personal names. Either because they weren’t able themselves to come up with something more sophisicated and simply gave up, or because they just don’t believe in what they’re preaching.

With that said, there is one valid aspect you should consider when choosing the name and the domain for your new blog and that’s the niche you’ll be focusing on. That’s why it’s far better to start with choosing the right niche (as we do in this article) and decide on your blog’s name and domain later because by that time, you’ll have answer to most of your questions.

Personal name

Many successful bloggers just take their first and last name, put them together and add the .com extension to it. This means if you’re John Smith, your domain name would be johnsmith.com. Depending on the popularity of your name, this domain might be already taken. In such case, you need to get more creative and use some kind of modification like jsmith.com or try another extension like .co, .net or .blog.

Here’s why using your personal name is a good idea:

  • it’s very unique in most cases: unless you have a very popular combination of first name and last name, you should be able to find suitable domain name without too much effort
  • it’s very broad regarding your future content: if you decide to change your niche later down the road, your personal name won’t stay in the way

Brand name

Choosing a brand name is a bit more complicated and you have two options:

  • create a brand name which includes keywords from your niche (like WP Engine)
  • go wild and use anything that comes to your mind (like CrazyEgg)

Here’s why using a brand name is a good idea:

  • it immediatelly communicates what your blog is about: your brand gives your readers a hint about the content of your blog,
  • it’s not connected with you as your personal brand: when you decide later to sell your blog as a business, your brand name isn’t an issue as personal name would be

How to choose the domain?

Once you have the name for your blog, it’s time to shop for a domain name. Ideally, they should correspond to each other, but lots of domains are already taken, so this task might prove to be quite challenging.

Do I need my own domain?

The simple answer is no. To start writing, you don’t actually need your own domain and if for whatever reason you don’t feel like building your own blog just yet, but you absolutely want to start writing to see if you’re really into it, you can. There are online publishing platforms that will let you write and publish your content for free, and even earn some money. One of the most popular is probably Medium.com and in this article, you can learn all about it.

The problem with Medium, Steemit, Dev.to or Hashnode is that you can’t control these platforms. You have very limited options regarding the look and feel of your content and ultimately, you’re not building audience for yourself, but for them.

That’s why I generally recommend to build your own blog with your own domain and use these platforms only as a marketing tool for your content which is primarily available on your blog. This means that you publish either the whole article or just a first few chapters on these platforms and let the readers know that they can get the whole piece on your website. This way, you can take advantage of the massive traffic these platforms usually enjoy.

Some web hosting providers like Bluehost offer a free domain name as a part of their deal, so if you plan to take advantage of such a deal, don’t buy your domain just yet as a standalone purchase and wait until we discuss how to choose the right hosting.

Bluehost.com landing page

What domain extension should I use?

Some bloggers will give you plenty of reasons why the extension is important, but in my opinion it doesn’t really matter and you should simply choose the one that’s available with some exceptions that I mention below.

It’s probably wise to start with .com, but if your domain with this extension is already taken, go for .net, .co, .io or .blog. There were times when .com extension was considered to be suitable for commercial websites only, .io just for services related to information technologies, and .blog, well, for blogs, but these days, it makes no difference. You can’t simply fool Google with .com domain when your content lacks the required quality.

The only exception is probably nation-based domains like .de, .fr or .co.uk which I don’t recommend, unless you’re positive that your content is solely aimed for that specific nation (especially when the content is in that national language). Otherwise, you will probably only confuse and limit your international audience.

Remember that your most important job is to start writing the content as soon as possible, because that’s what matters the most. Don’t spend weeks and months researching the ideal names and domains, it’s simply a waste of time.

Domain registration

Unless you want to take advantage of free domain offer that comes with some web hosting plans, it’s time to check, that your domain is available for registration. The whole process is pretty straightforward. All you need is to pick a registrar of your choice (like Namecheap.com for example) and write the domain name you wish to buy in the search form. If it’s available for purchase, you just fill out your information and payment method and you’re good to go.

Domain Name Registration with Namecheap

3. Select the right flavor of WordPress

There are many different publishing platforms, but WordPress is probalby the most popular. What might be a bit confusing is the fact, that there are actually two kinds of WordPress available on two different websites. This means that you can use WordPress as a service (available at WordPress.com) or you can run it as your own installation (available at WordPress.org.

There are some important differences you should consider before deciding which option is the right for you. Either you are willing to spend some time with tinkering and having absolute freedom with your setup or you just want to start writing your content and some limitations aren’t an issue.

Watch this lesson from my Mastering WordPress course where I quickly explain the biggest differences between those two versions of WordPress:

WordPress.com

WordPress as a service is available at www.wordpress.com and you can choose between free and paid plans. The biggest disadvantage of free plan is that you’re not able to use your own domain which is in the stark contrast to the goal of creating your online presence based on your domain. That’s the most important reason to avoid free plan altogether.

There are also four paid plans, Personal for $4 per month, Premium for $8 per month, Business for $25 per month and eCommerce for $45 per month.

You can check the pricing page for features offered in each plan. If you want just write and you don’t care about the fact that WordPress will use its own branding in the footer, go ahead and by Personal plan.

For $4 per month, it’s a pretty good deal for anyone who just wants to start building content on his domain. If you want to remove the WordPress.com footer branding, you’ll need a Business plan, which is not worth the price, so in such a case, you’re far better off with your own WordPress installation.

WordPress.org

WordPress is also available at www.wordpress.org as free software that you can run on your own server. This means that you’re absolutely free to do whatever you want, there’s nothing you can’t change. You’re free to use whatever design and plugins of your choice. On the other hand, you’ll need that server. The easiest and most popular approach is to buy a hosting service that will prepare and run such a server for you.

When it comes to hosting, there are myriad providers with different features and prices they offer. Let’s take a look at some better of them which I can personally recommend.

4. Choose the right hosting

When you decide to run your blog on publishing platform like WordPress, you need to accept the fact, that you will need to pay for web hosting services. There’s no practical way around this. WordPress needs specific technologies, regular maintenance and technical support to work properly. All of this cost money.

Even though some hosting providers offer free plans, you should avoid free WordPress hosting because it’s generally very slow and you end up with some sort of ads on your website. When it comes to performance, speed, and quality support, it’s definitely better to be a paying customer. You should also avoid extremely cheap shared hosting. Anything above $10 per month should be enough for hosting providers to cover their expenses and offer reasonable services.

There are three main categories of WordPress hosting services:

  1. a very cheap shared hosting
  2. a resonably priced shared hosting
  3. a managed WordPress hosting

A very cheap shared hosting

These services have the so called churn-and-burn business model. The hosting provider will usually offer a heavy discount for the first year if you pay upfront, and his goal is to get as much upfront payments from these newcomers as possible. Customers usually compare the only thing they can, which is the price, but they don’t know about the poor quality of customer support and maintentance, the low performance under heavy load, the security issues, and so on.

After few months of frustration, customers leave for better alternative and the hosting provider gets the rest of the prepaid period. Since the low price attracts a lot of newcomers, leaving customers is not an issue for this provider, because he doesn’t care about long-term relationship and quality service. I suggest you avoid this kind of hosting for your own good. Anything below $5 per month with unlimited resources should sound sketchy and the time you will have to spend by solving problems is not worth the discount.

A reasonably priced shared hosting

These hosting providers offer entry-level shared hosting for beginning bloggers. If you’re on budget, you should be fine with this kind of shared hosting services. They offer a reasonable performance and customer support, but you must be reasonable as well and can’t expect that for $10 per month, you’ll get everything in a top-notch quality. Resources are costly and somebody has to pay for them. Either you or the hosting provider.

With some technical skills and DIY solutions available on the Internet, you can sort most of the problems on your own, but prepare for some maintenance job you’ll have to do beside writing your content. WordPress needs regular updates to address security and performance issues. You’ll have to play with plugins and themes to speed up your website. You’ll have to perform frequent backups of your data. What you safe on a monthly fee, you’ll pay in your own time.

I can recommend these plans from providers endorsed by WordPress.org:

These are standard, non-promotional prices you’ll pay at the end of introductory period, but you’ll probably get a better deal as a new customer. Especially when you pay upfront for a whole year.

A managed WordPress hosting

If you want to focus solely on writing your content without any technical hassle, a managed WordPress hosting is the best solution for you. It’s more expensive than shared hosting, but you’ll get everything you can think of, namely piece of mind that your WordPress is always up-to-date, secured and backed up. On top of that, if there’s any problem, you’ll get a professional solution from skilled customer support team.

If you can afford it, a managed WordPress hosting will allow you to forget about the technical aspect of WordPress and let you think only about your content.

These are my favorite plans from the best managed hosting providers:

These are standard, non-promotional prices you’ll pay at the end of introductory period, but you’ll probably get a better deal as a new customer. Especially when you pay upfront for a whole year.

There’s no question that a managed WordPress hosting is the best solution you can buy. However, if you’re just starting with blogging, you shouldn’t expect a huge traffic immediately. That’s why it’s fine to choose from a reasonable priced shared hosting services and once you outgrow your plan, you can easily move your blog to one of the managed hosting plans. All three providers mentioned above will gladly help you with the transfer of the whole website.

Web hosting reviews

On my WordPress-focused website TodayWP.com, I recently reviewed many different web hosting plans, so make sure to check these articles if you want to learn more about web hosting for your blog:

  1. 10 Best Web Hosting Plans for WordPress

  2. How to Set Up WordPress with Hostinger

  3. SiteGround Managed WordPress Reviewed

  4. Managed WordPress by Flywheel Reviewed

Ready to set up your web hosting account?

Once you choose your web hosting provider, it’s time to finally install your copy of WordPress. These days, most hosting providers offer preinstalled WordPress or at least some kind of user-friendly administration with cPanel with Softaculous.

I made these quick tutorials to walk you step-by-step through the entire process of WordPress setup in just a few minutes:

If you prefer a written step-by-step text guide, here’s how to set up your WordPress blog with Namecheap and SiteGround.

5. Set up Google Analytics & Google Search Console

Google offers two amazing tools for webmasters. Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Let’s take a look at what they can do for you and why it makes sense to set them up as soon as possible. I’ve prepared to separate tutorials, so make sure to read them both if you don’t have your Google Analytics and Google Search Console account yet.

How to Set Up Google Analytics

How to Set Up Google Search Console

Once you’re all set, it’s time for some basic WordPress setup.

6. Secure your WordPress blog

There are two aspects of securing your blog you need to take care of:

  1. You need to make sure that you readers access your blog only via secured HTTPS connection.
  2. You need to secure your access to WordPress administration

Enable HTTPS with SSL/TLS certificate

It’s very important to set up an SSL/TLS certificate and deliver your content via the secure HTTPS protocol because. Using the old HTTP protocol will negatively impact your ranking and most modern browsers will actively discourage your potential readers from accessing your blog if it’s delivered via unsecured HTTP protocol. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary for the success of your domain to have an SSL/TLS certificate.

Chances are that you’re already covered as more and more web hosting providers offer SSL with their plans, but it’s important to make sure. Navigate to your blog in the web browser and click the lock icon in front of the URL address. You should see that your website is delivered via HTTPS.

This is what it looks like in Safari: HTTPS in Safari This is what it looks like in Chrome: HTTPS in Chrome

If you don’t have secured connection, ask your web hosting provider what went wrong. Good provider should set it up for you for free, but some still offer this feature for a monthly fee. In such case, kindly reject such offer.

There are three options to get this certificate free of charge:

  1. Choose the web hosting provider that offers SSL for free: Most providers endorsed by WordPress like Bluehost, Dreamhost and SiteGround won’t charge you for SSL certificate.
  2. Check with your current registrar: The chances are that this service comes with your domain name. My favorite registrar Porkbun offers SSL certificate for all domains you purchase from them.
  3. Use Cloudflare as your DNS manager: Cloudflare offers amazing set of tools for free and free SSL is for your domain is one of them.

I wrote a detailed tutorial about how to use SSL certificate with Cloudflare. So make sure to read How to Get Free SSL Certificate for Your Domain where I explain everything step by step.

Replace the default user

Securing your WordPress should be the first thing you focus on after the installation. Since WordPress is so popular, it’s also a very popular target of all kinds of attacks and the last thing you want is to lose your hard work because somebody will steal your credentials and delete your content for whatever reason.

Sometimes, WordPress is installed with the default username admin. Unfortunately, the username can’t be changed, so it’s better to create a new user with a unique name and then delete the default admin user. The reason is that WordPress is a very favorite target for all kinds of malicious attacks and there’s no reason to make it any simpler for the attacker. He expects that the username is admin so he’ll try to get to that account by guessing the password. When you change the username, it’s more difficult for him.

Later, I’ll show you an even better way to protect your WordPress, but for now, let’s change the user like this.

Step 1

Go to Users -> Add New.

Step 2

Fill out the form and make sure that the Role option is set to Administrator. Click the Add New User button.

Step 3

Now, you should see two users in the list, the default admin user and your new-created user, both are Administrators.

Step 4

Click the Delete button next to the admin user.

Step 5

Confirm the deletion.

Step 6

Check that there’s only one user on the list.

Set up the Secure Sign-On service

Even though you made it more complicated for potential attackers to log in to your dashboard with the default admin user, it’s still not enough. To make your WordPress account even more secure you should force admin access only via WordPress.com with two-factor authentication turned on.

To set this up, you will need three things:

  1. WordPress.com account
  2. Jetpack plugin
  3. Code Snippets plugin

Make sure to read How to Secure Your WordPress Site with Secure Sign On where I describe the whole process step by step.

7. Learn WordPress basics

Right from the beginning, you need to decide the correct linking structure. This is very important because if you decide to change the links later, you’ll lose all links you or others might have used to link to your website.

Imagine that you write an article about SEO called 5 Tips to Best SEO Practice and the link to that article is https://myblog.com/index.html?p=123.

Somebody will write about your article and place this link to his website. If you, however, change the link later to https://myblog.com/best-seo, the old link will stop working.

This is what you need to avoid and that’s why it’s important to decide the right link structure even before you publish your first article.

I personally suggest you use just your domain name followed by the slug of the article as shown in the second example, that is https://myblog.com/best-seo.

Let’s see how to set this up:

Step 1

In your Dashboard, go to Settings -> Permalinks.

Step 2

Select the Post name option from the list.

Step 3

Make sure you don’t have the Plain option selected instead. This one is truly the worst of all and it baffles me why it’s the default option.

Step 4

Scroll down and save the changes.

That’s it. Now, you should see the message at the of the window that the permalink structure has been updated.

Front page, posts and menu

It’s important to understand the basic structure of WordPress before you start writing your first post. You should be able to create basic menu with two links. One link to the front page, and another one for the list of post. Read this article where I will explain how to make this very quickly: How to Change WordPress Front Page.

Learn WordPress with my Mastering WordPress course

Whether you’re building a blog, personal portfolio, a landing page for your company, or maybe even an online store, in this course, I will teach you all the fundamentals of WordPress so you can start building your own website today.

You don’t have to be a programmer, you don’t need to learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript. You need just a computer with internet access.

Each lesson builds on concepts and skills from the previous one and by the end of this course, you’ll know how to install and manage your own WordPress website.

You’ll learn everything you need about the difference between posts and pages, categories and tags, plugins, themes, and widgets.

I will show you how to secure your WordPress website with Two-Step Authentication, how to create a beautiful contact form for your readers, how to install and customize themes.

What you will learn

  • What is WordPress
  • How to use admin dashboard
  • What’s the difference between posts and pages
  • How to use Gutenberg, a new block-based editor
  • How to work with images
  • How to create text links and buttons
  • How to work with file attachments
  • How to add video and audio files to posts and pages
  • How to use featured image properly
  • What’s the difference between categories and tags
  • What publishing options WordPress offers
  • How to edit existing posts and pages
  • How to create and edit navigation menu
  • How to work with Customizer
  • How to use widgets
  • How to change blog layout
  • How to install and customize GeneratePress theme
  • How to install Genesis Framework
  • How to install Newspaper theme
  • How to use plugins
  • How to use comments
  • How to manage WordPress users
  • How to work with general settings

Who is this course for?

  • Absolute beginners who want to learn how to create their own website with WordPress
  • Seasoned WordPress users who want to learn how to work with Gutenberg editor

What do you need?

  • You don’t need any prior experience with WordPress
  • You don’t need to know any programming language
  • You just need a computer with a web browser and internet connection

Enroll now for free!

Mastering WordPress course is available on Skillshare. If you’re new to Skillshare, you’ll get this course for free, and on top of that, you’ll get 14 days of Premium Membership which includes access to the whole library of premium learning material available on Skillshare. You can cancel anytime during those 14 days and you won’t be charged anything.

Get the course!

8. Select WordPress theme

First, you need to decide whether you want to spend money right away because there are basically two types of themes:

  1. free themes
  2. premium themes

Even though I’ve been using some popular premium themes for a long time, I believe that for blogging, nothing beats simple and uncluttered layout. You see, the most important task is to get your message out and sometimes a theme might interfere with this task, especially if it’s very complicated.

There are so many these days, it’s really hard to find the best one, but I want to help you save time and money with my experience. You can always go ahead and check Envato Marketplace where you will find hundreds of themes, some of them are pretty good, but you should always focus on these important factors:

  • how heavy is the theme?
  • is it SEO-friendly?
  • is it mobile-friendly?

These days, a lot of people access the Internet solely via mobile devices, so it’s probably a bad idea or at least a waste of time to use a theme which might look good on big screens, but terrible on iPhone.

Most of the modern themes are SEO friendly these days and since they are very often built with responsiveness in mind, they’ll be probably mobile-friendly as well. When it comes to their heaviness, or, how long it takes to load, it’s a whole different story.

The simple rule says that the more fancy-looking a particular theme is, the heavier its code and the longer it will take to load your website. Speed is an extremely important factor as people are getting more and more restless when it comes to content delivery. In other words, you should always prefer speed over eye-candy design.

I tried many great-looking themes like Avada or Newspaper, but the ugly truth is that they were very slow. Here’s what my PageSpeed Insights results looked like with Avada.

That’s when I realized that it’s time to focus more on speed and less on looks. Thankfully, I have later discovered GeneratePress which I can wholeheartedly recommend. Go ahead and check the How to Install GeneratePress Theme article to learn more about this free, lightweight, and fast theme from Tom Usborne.

9. Install important plugins

Plugins are a great way to extend the basic functionality of WordPress, but you need to be very careful not to overdo it with them. Too many plugins will slow down your website. That’s why I will recommend only a few plugins that I consider the most useful.

When it comes to a successful blog, you need to focus on two things:

  1. Speed, to make your blog load as fast as possible
  2. Writing, to make your content discoverable and enjoyable to read

I picked two plugins from each group here. WP Super Cache and Autoptimize will help you make your blog speedier. Yoast SEO and Grammarly.com will make sure that your content is grammatically correct and SEO-friendly.

Make sure to read Speed Up Your WordPress Site with WP Super Cache and Autoptimize to improve your WordPress performance with minimal overhead.

Yoast SEO

This is a very useful plugin that will help you with writing SEO-friendly articles. SEO is a huge topic on its own so make sure to read about 3 Steps to Powerful SEO for Your WordPress Blog where I explain everything in detail.

Grammarly

Grammarly.com landing page

Not a plugin per se, but Grammarly is a great tool for English grammar, especially if you’re not a native speaker. It works just fine with the classic editor as well as with the Gutenberg editor.

10. Turn on maintenance mode

Even though your newly created blog won’t have many visitors, it’s a good idea to hide your work in progress behind the curtain until you’re ready to present it to the whole world.

Maintenance mode allows you to show a single page with some basic information about the fact, that you are currently building your site and it’s not ready for the prime time yet.

There are many ways to set this up. You can do it manually, you can download one of the many plugins that will do it for you but since I recommend to keep the number of plugins to the absolutely necessary minimum, I suggest you use the feature built-in the Elementor.

Elementor is an amazing page builder and the easiest way to get it is with Hello theme which is very simple to use and fast to load.

Make sure to watch How to Set Up the Maintenance Mode with Elementor where I will show you step by step how to make this work right inside this theme builder, so you don’t have to install a separate plugin for this functionality.

Learn Elementor Pro

If you enjoy Elementor, check out How to Create WordPress Layout with Elementor Pro where I will teach you how to build these features:

  • site logo, icon, and main menu
  • landing page
  • header
  • footer
  • list of posts

I published this course on Skillshare and when you sign up with the link below, I’ll get some coffee money, and you’ll get their premium plan with 22.000+ courses for 14 days for free.

You won’t be charged anything for your first 14 days and you can cancel your membership whenever you want within that period, so I guess it’s a win-win for all of us :)

Thanks in advance for your support, have a great day and stay productive! :)

11. Learn how to backup your website

It’s important to regulary backup your WordPress website. You’ll never know what can happen and loosing your hard work is the last thing you want. That’s why it’s crucial to make sure that you have copies of your website stored somewhere safe. You can use plugins or you can pick the right web hosting service that will do regular backups for you. Here’s the article with some suggestions: How to Back up Your WordPress Website

12. Write your About page

Learning how to write an About page is a very important skill. A well-written About page can help you introduce yourself to your readers and explain why they should care about what you have to say.

In this article, I will walk you through the most important steps of writing a perfect About page.

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Jan Zavrel
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Jan Zavrel Follow

Developer, Author, Teacher, Evernote Certified Consultant.