Understanding and Setting Up Your Website Host and Domain

My love can’t be bought, y’all – but if I’m promoting stuff I use and recommend anyway, I’ll add an affiliate link if it’s possible. What that means is that you pay NO MORE than you would anyway, but I get some kind of cut that will help pay for this site to keep going. Win/win.

Thanks for scratching my back, and I’ll keep scratching yours by developing kick-ass content that actually helps you out in some way.

Set up your own site using this tutorial series that will take you from site hosting all the way to social media integration - from A-Z, all for FREE.

I’ve been blogging for 9 years now.

It’s evolved from a purely personal online journal of sorts (with only myself reading, ha!) to a site with over 50,000 readers a month. I’ve made some income with this site from time to time, but to be honest, my focus has primarily been on story telling, not money making, and merging those two did not seem feasible to me.

I know now that I was wrong: it is completely feasible to make money while crafting a place in which stories can be told and information conveyed, and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

I’m going to do so in a step-by-step tutorial, one post at a time, that you can choose to follow as I publish each piece, or read at the end, when it’s all done. I will take you through everything that I have learned these past 9 years, and guide you through the process of setting up your own site, which you could use for a blog or a business or anything in between.

I’m going to be talking about your site as “your site” and not “your blog” because I think most people tend to think of blogs as personal pieces, and what I’ll be teaching you in these tutorials is really how to make a website, which you could use however you want. You could use your website as an online journal, a place to stash hilarious YouTube cat videos, build a forum for fellow Lego-lovers or whatever you want!

Ready? Awesome!

Think of your site as a house

Image of a hand drawn simple house with an arrow pointing to script saying "your site"

The most perfect analogy that I can use throughout this series is that your website is like house.

Your Website is Like Your House

You build your house, you keep your stuff in it, it’s where you live. That function is the same essential function as your website: your site is what you build, it’s where you keep your stuff, it’s a place of your internet presence.

And your house is on land, right? (If you live in an apartment, just swap out “building” for “land”, but even then, your building was ultimately built on land, right? Boat-dwellers, let’s talk analogies later!)

The land that your house is on serves the same purpose as the host that your site is on.

Think of your host as the land your house is built on

A hand drawn image of a simple house on land, with arrows from the house pointing to script saying "your site", and another arrow from the land pointing to script saying "your host"

Your website host is like the land your house is on:

You might own your land and house or your might rent your land and house. Using that analogy, you either rent or own your site.

If you rent your site, that is like building your site on WordPress.com or on Blogger. Both sites are free, but you do not ultimately own your own site, and you need to follow rules about what you place on your site in exchange for the free hosting.

I started off that way, building my first site on Blogger. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to create something more, and I wanted the solid potential of earning money from my site (something that is hard to do using Blogger or WordPress.com), so I moved my site to self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org).

Self-hosting

Self-hosting is like owning your own land and house.

You pay for your property taxes and house upkeep (in website development speak, that’s “hosting fees” and “domain fee” and “theme” if you pay for that). But it’s YOURS; you own it. You can sell it later, or give it away; you can make money on it, you change it however you want. There are no rules.

If you are serious about setting up a site, I will only recommend self-hosting.

There are a lot of hosts out there, but I’m going to go through this tutorial with Bluehost, because that’s who I host with. I’ve heard great things about Siteground too – and it’s a bonus that they will transfer your website for free – (from wherever to them), but for the purpose of simplicity, I’m sticking to who I myself host with in this tutorial.*

Step One:

Head on over to Bluehost.

This is what is should look like when you get there:

bluehost site

You just want the basic plan  now, so go ahead and click that green button that you see on the screen that says “get started now.”

After you click that green “get started” now button, you are led to this page:

bluehost plans selection

You choose between basic at about $4 a month or prime, which is on sale for about $6 a month. I’d go for prime, because it’s on sale and when you lock in a deal like that, you have it for a long time.

You also have unlimited websites and unlimited bandwidth and website space, which ends up being a big deal (especially if you are like me and end up with LOTS of websites!).

But do what you feel is right – it’s all good and I’m NOT trying to get you to buy anything or whatever here.

Step Two:

Having selected the option of your choice, you'll be led to this page:

image is a screenshot of blue host's page to choose a domain name

This page wants you to sign up for your new domain, and of course this is where it’s really scarifun lots of fun and a little scary.

Your domain name is very important – you want to take the time and choose it well. Short, snappy, to the point, easy to remember. Oh, and  available!

Unless you have spent time on this already, you might be here for a while. Of course, Bluehost has a popup set to display after you’ve been on this page for a while (or if you leave), in which it gives you the option to continue registering for them as your host, but decide on your domain name later.

That page looks like this:

the bluehost popup that says to choose domain later

I’m going to assume you won’t go for that option –

I’m going to assume that you’ve entered the domain name that you want already, and you entered it, and clicked “next.”

From there, you see this page:

Bluehost package information

Don't freak out!

If you are like me at all, you are freaking out over that “total” there – but don’t! First of all, you can pay by the month, not a lump sum for a year. Next, you don’t have to have anything other than the hosting and your domain.

The backup pro, site lock security, domain privacy, etc – you really don’t need those, because you can get free backup and security through your WordPress plugins (more on that later!).

Keep it simple for now. Just the domain and hosting.

All right, guys.

This is where I’m going to pause it. Setting up your site is remarkably like hiking (or running a long distance); you want to pace yourself to go the long haul.

So, having made sure you got your site on Bluehost (or Siteground, or wherever it was you chose) take a break, get something to drink and sign up for the next step to be sent directly to you (below) while you catch up with Portlandia, Speechless, or the new season of Born This Way 🙂

The Complete Tutorial Will Include:

  1. Hosting & Domain
  2. Installing WordPress (which is free) on your domain and how to sign in
  3. Understanding your Dashboard
  4. Essential plugins, including basic set up for site protection and backup
  5. Themes
  6. Integrating social media

We can see where we are at that point, but I think it’s also worthwhile for you to understand how to troubleshoot from you cPanel on your host (which is why it’s so valuable to self-host as opposed to free-host).

Any questions? Comments? Concerns? Holla!