How to Set Up a FREE WordPress Blog

Since my last two posts, How to Blog, Part 1: Here’s the Plan and How to Blog, Part 2: Attract More Readers With SEO, I’ve gotten requests to write about setting up a free blog. And here you go! The step-by-step below is the process to set up a free blog on WordPress.

FIRST: Come up with a unique blog url that will help readers find you!
Before you even think about setting up a blog, prepare a list of potential website address (url) names in case your #1 choice is already taken. Bloggers typically use their own name in the url. Example: MollyGreene, MollyRGreene, MRGreene, MRGreeneAuthor, MollyGreeneWriter. You get the picture. Keep in mind that all free WordPress.com websites have “wordpress.com” in the url, in addition to your “chosen” website address name. Example: http://YourBlog’sName.wordpress.com (Note: you can buy your way around that, but this post is all about the free).

It’s also a good idea to browse WP’s free theme library to get ideas about how you’d like your blog to look. The theme is the frame that creates the basic design and “holds” your posts. Note: you can register your blog and decide on a theme later, if you can’t decide. Ready? Here we go!

chalkboard communicatorsHow to Blog in Five Easy Steps:
Part 1: Registration
• Go to WordPress.com
• Click on “Sign Up” in the center of the upper (black) menu bar
• NEXT PAGE: Type in your blog address choice(s) – WordPress will provide immediate feedback re: whether your choice(s) are available. Next, choose a username and a password, type in the email address associated with the account, and choose a language (English is the default). Click “Create blog”
• NEXT PAGE: Check your e-mail to for the link to complete your registration. Go to your email, click the link, and registration is complete. Your account is now active!
• Login to your new blog account with your username and password. In the upper (black) menu bar, click on “Dashboard”

Part 2: Activate Your Theme
• On the left side menu, choose Appearance > Themes.
Browse the WP theme library. When you find a FREE theme that looks interesting, click the words “Live Preview” just below the screen shot. If you like what you see, choose “Save and Activate” in the upper left corner of your page. (Note: If you’ve already browsed themes and know what you want, simply type in the name in the search box upper left, then click on “Activate.”) The basic design of your blog is now in place.

Part 3: Tweak Your Blog Design
• In the left hand menu bar, go to Settings > General Settings.
Start at the top by typing in the “name” (not to be confused with the website address url). This name will appear in the header – it’s what you want your readers to see when they view your site, such as “Molly Greene, Writer.” It doesn’t have to be the same name/phrase you chose for your url. Next, choose a tagline (optional) such as, “Author, Blogger, Windbag.” (Note: Yours will be much more literate and sophisticated.) At the bottom of the page, Click “Save.” (Note: Depending on the theme you choose, you may need to choose a background and/or upload a header. You’re on your own here.)
• To view your NEW blog, click on the name you typed in, which now appears in the upper (black) menu bar. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Part 4: Add Widgets
• In the left hand menu bar, go to Appearance > Widgets. (What the heck is a widget?)
Widgets enhance the design and functionality of your blog. On this page, you will choose what you want your readers to “see” and use in the right margin of your website (or left, depending on your chosen theme.) The most common widgets are an Email Subscription form (aka a widget called “Follow blog”) Categories, Archives, a Facebook Like box, and a Tag Cloud (a visual of your most-used tags. It might be best to add this later, after you have a few posts and tags). Add a Meta box at the bottom so you can easily log in to your site.
• Once you’ve decided on widgets you want, grab them with your mouse one at a time and “drag” them from the list on the left to the boxes on the right. Where you drag and drop widgets will affect your blog layout. Experiment!
• Done? Click on your blog’s name in the upper black menu bar and check it out! You can play with the type and positioning of widgets, and you can change them in the future.

Part 5: Publish Your First Post!
• In the left hand menu bar, go to Posts > Add New.
The WordPress publishing tool can be a little slow, so I recommend you write and edit posts in a word processing program, then copy & paste the text into the box on the “New Post” page. The title of your post goes in the box at the top of the page (“Enter title here”). To add a link in the body of the post, highlight the content where you want the link to appear, click on the odd-looking chain link thingy in the menu bar above the content window, paste the actual link into the pop-up box, choose “open link in new window,” then click “Add link” at the bottom of this box.
• Click the “SAVE DRAFT” button upper right on the page OFTEN!
• To view (and proof) the page as it will actually appear when published, click the “Preview” button upper right on the page.
• Ready to post? Click the dark blue “Publish” button upper right on the page.

Congratulations – you are now an official BLOGGER! If you decide to skip the free and set up a self-hosted website, be sure to check out Bluehost
(affiliate). Bluehost is a top-rated web developer’s favorite. I’ve used them for two years with great results.

For more in-depth information about a free blog, refer to WordPress.com’s extensive tutorial library:
Beginners Tutorial http://learn.wordpress.com
Launch Your Blog http://learn.wordpress.com/get-acquainted
Customize Your Blog http://learn.wordpress.com/get-customized
Publish Your First Post http://learn.wordpress.com/get-published

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13 Responses to How to Set Up a FREE WordPress Blog

  1. Monika April 17, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    I hear you on the spam thing. WordPress attracts it like crazy. Other than that, it is pretty good. Anyway, the first alternative that comes to mind is Blogger, and you can jump right in if you already have a gmail account. If you are looking to host it on your own server, the two choice that I would look at are Joombla! and Movable Type. Joombla is good, but it can ask a lot of you – it does reward your efforts however, and lets you ramp up the complexity to what ever level you want out of it. Movable Type has been around forever. It is probably the most powerful blogging software, and is aimed a bit more at power users. It rewards those who take the time to learn how to fully utilize it.

  2. taha August 24, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Can we add Plugins to a free wp Blog ???

    • Molly Greene August 24, 2013 at 8:13 am #

      No, free WP does not allow customization with plugins or widgets.

  3. Matt Forsythe September 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Thanks for the great tip Molly. I have never really been a blogger or Social Media person, but in order to push my Virtual Assistant business, I am finding that I have to do these things for good SEO practices. I have been hearing a lot of good things about WordPress and wanted to look into it. I will use your advise to get this going. Thank you so much.

    • Molly Greene September 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

      My pleasure, Matt!

  4. Flunda September 17, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

    Hi

    I signed up for a wordpress.com blog account and filled out all the info first, including post and about page, and then I chose a theme; the photo from the theme does not load up only the writings, can you help me with this??

    • Molly Greene September 17, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Two thoughts: One, could it be your browser not displaying the graphics? and two, load another theme and see if it does the same thing. Your next move would be to contact WordPress Support and work with them to resolve your issue. Good luck!

  5. Stacy Flick September 30, 2013 at 4:30 am #

    Hi Molly,

    Thanks for sharing how to set up a blog, there is some great information there. WordPress.com is a great free tool to start you off as a blogger but there are a few pit falls to using WP.com as im sure your aware.

    Your blog is never really yours and with all that hard work you put into it for it to get shut down it’s going to hurt you if this happens. I think one of your other commenter’s said about FREE plugins and that you can’t use them. Shame as there are loads of great ones to choose from.

    I use wordpress.org (self hosted) and for the $8 per month its a great way to secure your site, have your own domain name (yourname.com) use the hundreds of thousands of free plugins etc.

    I think if your seriously thinking about blogging in the long term WordPress.org is a more permanent route.

    -Stacy

    • Molly Greene September 30, 2013 at 11:39 am #

      Hey Stacy. Yes, I agree, and have talked in my book and other blog posts about the fact that WordPress.org is the best way to go for serious bloggers. However, no harm learning the ropes on free WordPress while you’re building a self-hosted blog. Thanks so much for your comment!

  6. victor October 26, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    Thanks molly. your tutorial could never have helped better. but i will appreciate better if you can link me up with extensive tutorials on wordpress blogging. Thanks.

    • Molly Greene October 26, 2013 at 9:28 am #

      Hi Victor. Google “WordPress tutorials” and you’ll find a lot of information.

  7. stacy November 27, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    I’m trying to activate a free blog site at wordpress and after I’ve typed all of my info in and hit create blog, it does nothing. It does say an email will be sent, but I haven’t gotten any emails either and it’s been hours. I’ve also done this several times. I’m kind of sad and hoping you will help.

    • Molly Greene November 27, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      1) Check to be sure your email address in the WordPress system is correct; 2) check your email spam folder for messages; and 3) if none of these work, email WordPress tech support — their contact info is on WordPress.com. Hope this helps!