Setting up a blog website on WordPress has never been easier in 2023. There are so many plug-ins and tools to choose from. But not many people know that it’s possible to set up a WordPress blog for next to nothing, virtually free.
Here is your free, simple step by step guide on the 7 things you need to set up an almost free WordPress blog / website in 2023.
- 1. Choose a host (the bit that's not free)
- 2. Download WordPress (it's free)
- 3. Choose a free WordPress theme for your blog
- 4. Select and install a free starter template
- 5. Download some free blogging tools
- 6. Build a subscriber list and newsletter for free
- 7. Register with Google Search Console (it's free!)
- Final thoughts
Some of the links in this blog post are affiliate links. This means I may get a small commission if you buy something after clicking through.
1. Choose a host (the bit that’s not free)
As WordPress websites are self-hosted, you’ll need to choose a company to host your website. (With hosted platforms like Wix and Kajabi, they provide both the platform and the hosting).
However, self-hosting isn’t expensive, as you can see from the example of SiteGround above. You’ll also need to buy the domain name, but again that’s not expensive. (SiteGround currently charge £14.99 for the first year).
However, where the free element comes in is that SiteGround include a free basic email service using your domain name, and a free daily backup, both of which are often charged separately.
I switched to SiteGround for my first website, The Independent Landlord, as the site was often down and the customer service was slow. I now have 3 websites hosted by SiteGround, and have their GrowBig plan, which is for unlimited websites up to 20 GB space.
So, it’s the one thing you need to pay for with a WordPress website, but the free basic email and daily back up means it’s more than just the standard web-hosting.
There are lots of other good web hosting companies out there, but given my bad experience with BlueHost, I’m sticking to recommending SiteGround. Click here for details on SiteGround’s plans.
2. Download WordPress (it’s free)
The next stage is very easy.
When you log in for the first time in your Client Area after setting up a host, you should see a welcome message and a button “SET UP WEBSITE”. This will take you directly through the installation process. With SiteGround, you select Start New Website and WordPress as your application of choice. You’ll also have the option to include WordPress (and WooCommerce).
I wouldn’t recommend downloading one of their themes; the one from Astra has more functionality.
Finally, you click on “WordPress Admin” (it’s in the My Websites tab), and that will take you through to the WordPress Dashboard for the rest of your website set up.
3. Choose a free WordPress theme for your blog
This is the exciting bit: choosing your theme. WordPress offers free themes, but I highly recommend the Astra theme, which is what I use for this website.
What is a website theme in WordPress? A theme is a collection of templates, code files, and stylesheets that change the way a WordPress website is displayed on the front-end (what the user sees), without modifying the core WordPress software. In other words, it changes the way the website looks and moves.
There are huge numbers of different WordPress themes out there. For my first website, I used a theme that looked nice, but doesn’t have the adaptability or responsiveness that I’m looking for. I came to regret my choice. For The Web Smith, I decided to try the Astra theme.
Why did I choose the Astra theme for this Website??
- Websites need to be mobile-friendly both to rank on Google but, more importantly, users increasingly use their mobile phones to search for things on the internet, instead of computers. The Astra theme is not only mobile-friendly, but it’s also fully-responsive, which means that the web pages look good on any size screen.
- Speed is also incredibly important. People hate waiting for pages to load. Astra is built for speed so that it loads quickly on any device, providing a good user experience from the moment they land on the page.
- I wanted to be able to customise my website, and Astra allows me to do this without having to code or pay someone to do it for me.
- I also love how it works with Spectra (also free) which sits on top of the Gutenberg block editor, and gives more options.
- Finally, I love the free Astra starter templates (see below) for my WordPress blog!
>> Related Post: How to get the best out of WordPress 6.3
4. Select and install a free starter template
The next step, regardless of where your theme is from, is either to download a starter template, or to build the website yourself using the tools in the theme. It’s definitely harder doing it from scratch.
If you’re new to blogging, I’d recommend downloading a really simple template that you don’t have to do too much customising to, so you don’t get bogged down in making layout changes. You’ll be able to add bells and whistles when you’re more confident in WordPress.
5. Download some free blogging tools
One great thing about WordPress is that there are so many plug-ins and tools available. Here are my top 3 free plug-ins for new bloggers:
- Yoast SEO – I use the Premium version, but the free version is good for beginners.
- Rawpixel– fantastic for free stock images, although the number of free downloads is limited each day, so you need to be a bit strategic about your choices and you also need to attribute the photos.
- Ivory Mix – I belong to the full membership of Ivory Mix, but they offer a free membership which gives access to over 550 really lovely photos. Just what you need when you build your website.
If you’d like to find out about other sorts of free tools, take a look at my blog post here.
>> Related post: The Best Free Tools for New Bloggers
>> Pro Tip: How to get the best from your blog images
6. Build a subscriber list and newsletter for free
One of the most important things you need to do when you set up a new website is to build your list of subscribers so you can send them regular newsletters. This really helps to build loyalty for your website, and it drives a lot of traffic too.
I send my newsletters once a week. After not liking Mailchimp (click here for a comparison), and finding ConvertKit too expensive for a new website, I switched to MailerLite for The Independent Landlord.
MailerLite a fantastic email platform, and is totally free until you reach 1,000 subscribers. It’s easy to use with a drag and drop newsletter builder. You can also set up automated emails to go out when someone subscribes or buys something from your website. The pop-ups and forms to invite people to subscribe are easy to use too. I’ve inserted an example of an embedded sign up form with an image just before this section, and one without an image at the end of the post.
It’s such a good service for new bloggers that I’ve signed up with MailerLite for The Web Smith Network newsletter.
To find out more and register for a free trial (which you can continue for free under 1,000 subscribers), click here for MailerLite
7. Register with Google Search Console (it’s free!)
If you’re on a tight budget, there’s only one tool for SEO that you really need, and it’s free: Google Search Console.
Google Search Console helps you see which keywords are bringing traffic to your site in real life. It identifies some errors that might be affecting your rankings, and helps you optimise your content so your site performs better in the Google search results.
I like Google Search Console as it’s a quick and easy way to track how my websites are performing at both the page level, and for the overall website. It also shows what we need to do to improve the content so that the pages rank better.
Here’s Google’s instructions for setting up Google Search Console. It can take a while before your site is indexed. When the data starts coming through, it’s definitely worth taking the time to study the data. And don’t forget to ask each new page to be indexed in Google Search Console when you publish it. Click here for more straightforward SEO tips like that for beginners!
With so many high quality free tools available to help new bloggers, 2023 is a great time to start a blog. Tools like Spectra’s amazing Flexbox containers have made it so easy for people with no coding experience to build a website that looks amazing and even moves!
The main cost of setting up a WordPress website now is your time. Pretty much everything else you actually need (as oppose to what you want or have been told you should want) is available for free.