Choosing a Domain Name & Setting Up WordPress {Blogging Basics for Beginners}

Blogging Basics for Beginners

Blogging Basics for Beginners: A 12-Week Series to Walk You Through Setting Up a WordPress.org Blog will run every Thursday from August 30th through November 15th. Click here for all of the posts in the series.

This week we’re going to talk about choosing a domain name and setting up WordPress.org with a Hostgator hosting account. This is a long post, so I’d recommend focusing on one section at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed!

Choosing a Domain Name

Before we dive into choosing a domain name for your blog, I have a couple thoughts: I do think it’s important to choose carefully, but I don’t think that choosing the wrong blog name is the end of the world either. Don’t let perfection paralysis stop you in your tracks at this point. Do your research, think through the questions below and then…just do it!

Here’s another hint: Most professional bloggers go through at least one other blog — sometimes several — before they land on the blog that actually earns them an income. I did. Tsh from Simple Mom did. Crystal from Money Saving Mom did. Have fun, and don’t be afraid to try new things. You don’t have to do everything perfectly from the start!

With that out of the way, let’s choose and buy a domain name, shall we?

Buying a Domain Name
I purchase all of my domain names through GoDaddy.com. You can easily search available domain names right from their homepage. If your first choice is taken, don’t be discouraged — just keep trying until you find one!

When choosing a domain name, you want something that is memorable and easily tells potential readers what your site is about. It should be catchy but easy to spell (for example, I avoid hyphens in domain names because they can be confusing), and while intentional misspellings can work (i.e., Flickr.com), they can be confusing as well, so choose them carefully.

Another thing I personally would avoid is including your name in the domain name. It’s not a bad idea to buy this domain name (such as mandiehman.com), but for a blog itself, mandiscorner.com doesn’t have the same professional feel — or tell the potential reader what the site is about as — as lifeyourway.net.

.com Versus .net
Although some people will recommend that you only purchase .com domains, I don’t agree with this recommendation. I’ve been happy with owning the .net version of serveral sites, including this one — lifeyourway.net — and even ProBlogger is found at problogger.net. My friend Stephanie has a very successful blog at keeperofthehome.org.

That said, .com is the most common, so if it’s available, by all means choose that one! And this may sound a bit hypocritical, but I probably wouldn’t choose the lesser known top-level domains (.me, .info, etc.).

Add-On Purchases
Which brings me to my next point. When you purchase your domain name — no matter which company you buy from — they will try to convince you to buy the .info, .net, .org, .me and several other varieties of your domain name as well. While I typically buy both the .net and .com for my domains (when they’re available), you really don’t need to buy all of them.

GoDaddy also has their own hosting company as well as several other add-on products you can purchase at checkout. My recommendation is to skip all of those and simply buy the domain name itself.

The one add-on you may want to consider is Private Domain Registration, which hides your name and address from the public. Anyone can search the WHOIS database to find the owner’s name and address for any domain name, and while you can provide fake information, it’s illegal to do so. My recommendation is to either set up a P.O. Box to use for your address or opt for Private Domain Registration if you want to hide that information.

Further Reading
For more information on choosing a domain name, I recommend these posts. Keep in mind, though, that these are all opinions, and you’ll find some conflicting advice in them. At the end if the day, you need to follow your gut and pick the domain name that best fits your goals and vision for your site!

Setting Your Nameservers

While free to use, WordPress.org requires you to own both a domain name and to pay a hosting company to host the blog, or — put another way — to store and maintain the files that make the blog work and publish those to the internet to make them accessible to other people.

Back when blogging first started, Blogger and Typepad were the stand bearers because they were easy to use and didn’t require any technical know-how. WordPress came along and changed the game. However, when it was first released, WordPress could be somewhat daunting for people to install. It required downloading software, making configurations to certain files, creating a SQL database as well as making sure folder and file permissions were correct.

Makes your head spin, right?

Thankfully, it has become very easy for anyone to get up and running. Hosting companies like Hostgator make it even easier to get things going. And their prices start at under $10/month.

Editor’s note: Life Your Way is hosted with Agathon Group, which offers cloud hosting and technical support that is better suited to the needs of our network as it grows; however, I started with Hostgator and recommend them for anyone getting started. This post does include affiliate links which allow us to continue to offer tutorials such as this one at no charge to you!

Once you’ve created a Hostgator account, you’ll receive a welcome email. Included in that email will be your accounts “nameservers”. Nameservers are the specific addresses for the server where your site is hosted. In order to make your website work, you need to set your nameservers correctly in GoDaddy as well, so let’s walk through that process.

Log into your GoDaddy account and look for the Domain Management tool under Products. Click on that:

Setting Nameservers

In the domain management tool, click on the domain you’re setting up to open the domain details. Scroll down to the Nameservers section and click Set Nameservers:

Setting Nameservers

Copy the nameservers from your Hostgator welcome email and paste those into the Nameservers fields in the pop-up window:

Setting Nameservers

Click OK and log out of Go Daddy. You’re now ready to install WordPress on your Hostgator account!

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

So, assuming you have your domain and your Hostgator account set up, go ahead and log into your control panel:

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

After you log in, scroll down towards the bottom of the screen. Under Software/Services there is an item called QuickInstall. Click on that:

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

The QuickInstall screen will come up. On the left hand side you’ll see WordPress under the Blog Software heading. Click on it:

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

The WordPress options become available. WordPress will be installed under your default website unless you want to choose a different directory. If so, fill that space in. If not, leave it blank. Enter the email address, the admin username (this will be used to log in to WordPress) and the blog title. You first and last name are optional. Click on ‘Create Now’:

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

If everything goes right, you’ll see the blog being installed, get to 100% and get the ‘Congratulations!’ message. The URL for where you will log in will be shown as well as your user id (which is the admin name username you created earlier) and a temporary password. Have that ready and then click on the /wp-admin link:

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

Tada! You’re all done. Go ahead and log into WordPress and start blogging!

Installing WordPress on Hostgator

Next week we’ll walk through using the Twenty Eleven WordPress theme to start customizing your blog.

Have you gotten your domain name and hosting account set up yet? Any issues?

James Brooks is a professional blogger, web designer and social media consultant based on the South West coast of England. As well as being a co-founder of GPlusTuts, a blog about Google+, James also enjoys blogging about technology, food and tea!
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