So you’ve decided to take the plunge and set up a self-hosted WordPress website, congrats! It’s the most widely-used platform for bloggers and businesses for a reason — the sky’s the limit when it comes to what you can do with it!
But setting up a WordPress website might feel intimidating if you’ve never done it before. There’s a lot of technical terminologies you might not be familiar with and the instructions can easily trip you up.
If you follow the instructions below step-by-step, it shouldn’t take you long to get this all set up. I created a brand new site installation from scratch so I made certain I didn’t skip over details a lot of tutorials leave out. If I wasn’t taking the time to document the process, it probably would have taken less than 30 minutes from start to finish.
Take one step at a time and I promise… you got this.
Before we dive in, I want to clarify something a lot of my clients often get confused about…
You’ll need two types of hosting:
- Your domain name
- Your website (your database where things like text and images are stored, WordPress installation, etc.)
For domain hosting, the hosting company is called a registrar. For your website hosting, that’s your web host.
I recommend using two different companies for each of these hosting needs. If you register a domain name with a reputable web host you’re probably going to be okay, but I don’t like to have all my eggs in one basket.
The process looks like this…
You’ll register your domain name > then sign up for a web hosting account > you’ll get some settings from them and then go back to your registrar to plug them in so your domain name points to your new WordPress website.
Easy peasy and I’m going to walk you through it step-by-step.
STEP 1: Register Your Domain Name
For domain name registration, I recommend NameCheap. They’re all pretty much the same in what they do (host your domain name), but they differ in the intuitiveness of their interface, business practices (I’m not a fan of Godaddy’s hard-sell tactics) and customer service.
If you haven’t chosen your domain name yet, a couple of tips:
- Do NOT research names by typing them into GoDaddy or any other registrar’s search function. They’re watching you and will increase the price on you. (I’m pretty sure poachers are watching too, and they’ll hold your domain name ransom and sell it to you at a premium.) Instead, just go to your browser bar and type it in to see it’s available.
- Do a quick search on the trademark lookup database to make sure you’re not infringing on someone’s trademarked name.
- Do a quick search (in Google) to see if your domain name is very similar to another blogger’s domain…you might find it difficult to build your brand if someone’s got there first, plus it’s very poor form even if it’s not trademarked (adding “the” to a domain name or some other small tweak doesn’t count)
When you’re ready, go to NameCheap and enter in the domain you want to register… then click checkout.
This is all you need to do on this page, don’t worry about the upsells for now.
Notice the “Promo Code” — go to Google and type in “Namecheap coupons” and grab a coupon code. I did and it saved me a couple of bucks. (Why not?)
Go ahead and select the WHOIS Guard, that just removes your personal information from public listings and it’s free.
Continue with your purchase and that’s it for now. We’ll come back to NameCheap after you’ve set up your website hosting.
STEP 2: Set Up Your Website Hosting Account
Web hosting service providers all offer pretty much the same features. But I can promise you that some of them are a pain in the arse to work with and they’ll put your website on overloaded servers that will slow your site down.
My former web host was so horrible, even when their server was hacked, they never responded to a single support ticket.
While the quality of service can change over time, right now I’m recommending SiteGround because their customer service is top-notch and their sites load fast.
Start with the lowest price plan to start, you can always upgrade that later.
Next you’ll be asked to type in your domain name. If you haven’t already registered that with Namecheap, do that now.
Follow the checkout process and when you get to this screen, you have the option of adding on “site scanner.” This is optional. There are other security-monitoring plugins and services you can add to your site later, or you can just take care of that concern now and add it on if you like.
Continue checking out and when you’re done, you’ll get a welcome email. Save this email because it contains important information!
Here, they tell you the settings you’ll need to update in Namecheap… keep these handy!
Put a pin in that for now and let’s finish configuring your website on SiteGround…
In this same email click on the button that says LAUNCH WIZARD
This will take you to the SiteGround website where you’ll install WordPress using their easy-peasy Wizard.
When you land on this screen, select START A NEW WEBSITE
That will open up the “Please choose software to install” menu and you want to click on the WordPress logo.
That will open up your initial settings for your WordPress installation. Choose a username and pick a secure password you’re not using anywhere else online.
Once you fill that out, click Complete Setup.
Once you click on that, don’t panic if it just hangs there — it’ll take a few seconds for it to install WordPress and configure everything, then you’ll get a success message…
Hurray! You’re almost there.
STEP 3: Point your domain to your web host
Now we just need to let Namecheap know that your new website is set up on SiteGround, so let’s head back over to NameCheap — make sure you’re logged in to your account.
Look for Domain List from the dropdown menu on the right-hand side and select that.
Then, when you get to this screen, select the checkmark on the left-hand side of your domain name.
Right above that look for the “Actions” dropdown menu and select DNS/Host Records…
You’ll come to this screen, select “I understand this change may impact existing services…” and if you want them to send you an email select that (that’s optional, I didn’t bother).
Sidebar: You’re soon going to need those nameserver settings Siteground sent you in the welcome email, so get those handy. If you’ve lost track of them already (even though I warned you 😂) or, if in the future you need to find them — just log in to your SiteGround customer account and look for My Accounts > Information and Settings > Account DNS. Note: your settings will most likely be different so don’t try and plug in my settings! 🤪
Okay back to your NameCheap account…
Once you click NEXT you’ll see a screen like this. It looks intimidating but no worries, I got you! Just select Custom DNS. This is where you’ll plug in the nameserver settings from SiteGround.
Once you click on that Custom DNS radio button it’ll open up the following menu. This is where you’ll copy and paste the two nameserver settings from SiteGround. They will be two addresses with NS1 and NS2 in front.
Copy and paste the NS1 address into the first row, then copy and paste the NS2 into the second row. Don’t worry about all the extra rows, when you’re done click Save Changes.
For example, mine looks like this…
Guess what, you’re done! Hurray!!!
Even though I personally think they should throw confetti it’ll seem like nothing happened. But, rest assured, things are happening.
Now NameCheap will get to work pointing your domain name to your new hosting account at SiteGround.
That can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days, but you’re done with the hard part and now it’s up to them.
You’ll know when the domain name has propagated when you type in your domain name into a browser and you see a blank, sad-lookin’ website there. 😁(Don’t worry, I’m going to help you fix that up too.)
But wait, there’s more!
There’s one more step I want you to take care of now while you’ve got all your tabs and accounts open. It’ll save you a lot of trouble later and it’ll only take a few minutes.
STEP 4: Set up SSL
When you first set up a web hosting account, for some bizarre reason, a security certificate is not automatically configured. A security certificate (or “SSL”) is what encrypts information that passes between your server and your site users.
It’s what gives your site URL the “s” in https://.
It’s most critical when doing e-commerce, but it’s required these days for every website even if you’re not collecting information from your site visitors.
Don’t skip this step, here’s why…
If you’re not using SSL, the browser your site visitors are using will inform them that your site is not secure and give them a warning message. You may have run into this yourself? What most people do is see that warning and hightail it out of there. No good!
Also, Google wants to know that your site is secure and while it’s not the most important factor they consider when ranking your site (more like a tie-breaker for now), it can be a real pain in the arse to switch from http:// to https:// later so let’s just handle it now while we’re waiting for the domain to propagate.
Note: In your SiteGround account under “add services” you’ll see options for SSL. This is where you can get hardcore about it and buy premium SSL (it’s spendy). For most blogs and regular old marketing websites, you don’t need that (if you’re not sure, contact SiteGround).
I always opt for the free SSL certificate so I’m going to show you how to configure that.
Step 1: Go to yourdomain.com/cpanel and log in with your SiteGround username & password.
Note: This is not the same thing as the username and password you used to install WordPress, this is the username and password for your SiteGround cPanel account which is a separate thing. Your cPanel is where you can do all sorts of stuff pertaining to your website including setting up email accounts.
I got tripped up here because there’s a lot of passwords to remember and I missed where SiteGround explained what the cPanel login is.
If you lost track of your cPanel password too, here’s how to find that:
Log into SiteGround.com to your customer account and go to MyAccounts > Information & Settings
Look down toward the middle of that page for “cPanel Username” — make note of that, you’ll need to use that to log in to cPanel. Then go to “Change Password” if you need to reset it.
Got it? Awesome, moving on — it’ll only take a couple more minutes.
Okay once you log in to your cPanel account (yourdomain.com/cpanel), scroll all the way down to nearly the bottom and look for the security section.
You’re looking for “let’s encrypt.”
Select the “Let’s Encrypt SSL” radio button and then when you see this screen, make sure your domain name is selected then click the Install button.
And that’s all there is to it! Not so bad, right?
Whoo-hoo, you did it! Now we wait a little bit for all the settings to take effect
It’s telling us we’re in a queue so now we need to wait for the web gnomes sort out all their stuff again… so chill for now and check back later.
Your domain name may still be “in progress” as it makes its way pointing everything over to SiteGround and for me, it took a little while for the SLL configuration to be complete.
You’ll know you’re good to go when you go to your browser bar and type in https://yourdomain.com and a sad, blank-lookin’ website loads.
In the next tutorial, I’m going to walk you through configuring your WordPress website the right way so you don’t run into problems down the road. You’ll want to wait until your domain has propagated and the SLL is in place so for now… just give yourself a little pat on the back for a job well done!
Taughnee Stone is an award-winning designer, brand strategist, and location-independent business owner for over 15 years. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, she now lives in Croatia with her husband, energetic Samoyed, and three bossy cats.