WordPress is a great Web site builder, and it could be the only tool that you need to run your site. And while WordPress.com offers free blogging space (or nearly free, there are some things that you might want to pay for that I will get to in a moment), it may not be the best solution for everyone. The alternative is to use their software but run it on your own hosted site.
Why bother? Two big reasons: plug-in flexibility and search engine visibility. The hosted site can let you add all sorts of functionality to your site, including the ability to run Google Ads, change the appearance of the site, and optimize for search engines. One big downside: the hosted site doesn’t work as well with handling video content, which is better on the WP.com side (see this note here on what you need to do this from DemoGirl). If you have a lot of video content, stick with the WP.com site and pay for a space upgrade. (go to Upgrade menu and click on the 5GB space upgrade.)
I use GoDaddy.com as my registrar, and they offer a very reasonable hosting plan for $5 a month, less if you call them and negotiate a deal for one or two year plans. Get the Linux hosting, just because, even if know little about using Linux, because you won’t be touching the command line to run your site. Once you get your domain and hosting plan set up, you can install WordPress on your host and activate it using the GoDaddy account manager, again all from your Web browser. Then you just have to connect to the site with your browser (to yourdomain.com/wp-admin/) and you use the usual WP Web interface to set things up. If you are used to the WP.com web dashboard, it is very similar. The tricky part is just making sure that you have the right DNS settings so the outside world can get to your blog, and that may take a day or so to get working. There is also a button in the GoDaddy Account Manager to make your site live and you have to press that (I somehow missed that button and was stressed until I realized what was going on).
1. Set up a theme. You will need to download the theme to your desktop and then FTP the entire folder containing the theme files to your host, in the /wp-content/themes/ directory. Your host is already setup as an FTP server, you will need an FTP client to connect to it. I use Fetch on the Mac, CuteFTP is a simple program on the Windows side. The FTP username and password is what you gave GoDaddy as your Web site username and password (and not the same as your WP username and password).
2. Add plug-ins. The anti-spam Akismet is already included. I also have installed the following plug-ins:
- AddThis Social Bookmarking Widget — you can set up those cute little buttons to add your site’s posts to various social sites
- All in One SEO Pack — to help promote your site
- Google XML sitemaps — sitemaps.org generator, another helpful promotional tool
- Sociable — add links to social sites
- TubePress — way to display YouTube videos in your posts
- WordPress.com Stats — tracks your visitors
- WordPress.com Database Backup — this is a very important plug in and creates backup files that you can save to your desktop just in case
- WP-CMS Post control — better posting controls
- WP-Cumulus — flash based tag cloud that is cool toy
- WP Super Cache — caching plugin that improves performance
3. Move your actual blog posts. Make a backup of your WP.com posts and save to your desktop using the Tools/Export menu. Then on your hosted WP, do a Tools/Import to bring your posts into your new blog. Note that you will lose your Links (blogroll) data, and will have to re-create these. Also, any links to your old media files might be lost and you will need to edit these.
Here are a few places to get more tips on how to optimize things:
15 Useful WordPress tricks to make your theme even better — some of these involve editing the php configuration files, so you need to understand how to do this. You can FTP the file to your desktop, use a text editor, and then FTP them back to your host.
SEO for Beginners from BlogOhBlog — a few basic tips that are worth following and won’t take much time or skill to tune your WP installation