How to Start a Blog: The Complete Guide From Start to Finish
How to Start a Blog
Blogging is a great way to express yourself, make new friends, and earn some extra money.
And it’s really easy to get started — even if you’ve never tried blogging before.
The secret is to start simple. We’ve compiled all of our expert advice and tips into this guide.
Your new blog will be up and running by the time you’ve finished reading this article.
The guide below is broken down into 5 simple steps:
- Get the Right Hosting
- Pick the Perfect Domain Name
- Set Up WordPress Quickly
- Create Great Content
- Build Traffic
Using our tips, you’ll save time and money and get your new blog online faster. You’ll also learn how to attract visitors and make your blog more visible in search.
1. Get the Right Hosting
There are many different ways to set up a website. Comparing all the different hosting companies can be confusing.
So keep it simple. Just decide to use WordPress and find a hosting company that supports it.
WordPress is the web’s most popular CMS (content management system). It powers roughly 20% of the websites that are active today, and a huge number of those are blogs.
It lets you customize your layout, create content, and expand your blog’s functionality over time. And you can achieve all this without touching a single line of code.
We also love WordPress because:
- It’s free for anyone to download
- It’s really easy to install
- There is tons of free help online
- It’s fast and secure
- It helps you to get started quickly.
So WordPress, along with a cheap shared hosting account, is the perfect combination. Many of the world’s most successful blogs were created in exactly this way, and still run on WordPress today.
So now you just need to choose a web hosting company. We’ve made this part really simple.
Our #1 Host For WordPress
For all WordPress bloggers, we recommend BlueHost. It’s a perfect choice for all new bloggers. And it has been recommended by the makers of WordPress since 2005, too.
BlueHost’s shared hosting plan is inexpensive and allows plenty of capacity for your blog to grow. You get great technical support. And it includes cPanel, which makes your hosting really easy to manage.
For example, you’ll want to create at least one email address for your blog. Maybe you’ll want to move it to a new host someday. cPanel makes all of that really simple to achieve, even if you don’t have any technical knowledge.
There’s more good news for bloggers. BlueHost’s cheapest shared hosting plan offers WordPress as a one-click installer. Just find the button in cPanel and click it to create your new blog. It’ll be set up automatically within a few minutes.
Tip: Don’t worry too much about expensive hosting and fancy features. Sure, you may need a higher capacity plan later. But a cheap shared hosting plan with BlueHost has everything you need to get started.
2. Pick The Perfect Domain Name
Your domain name is extremely important. It’s the first point of contact that your audience will have with your blog.
Inevitably, they’ll make snap judgments based on your domain name. So you need to get this exactly right.
Golden Rules For Domain Names
Before you go ahead and pick a domain, there are three golden rules you should follow:
- Your domain name must be memorable
- Your domain name must be easy to spell
- Your domain name must describe the theme of your blog, or establish your brand name.
For example, if you’re a passionate collector of vintage guitars, AmericanVintageGuitars.com would be a better fit than MyFavoriteGuitars.com. It fulfils all of the criteria we mentioned.
Incorporating keywords into your domain name can guide you to more relevant words. Keywords are individual words or phrases that are closely related to your niche. Think about the words that people might use to search for your content, and bear them in mind when domain shopping.
Avoid the temptation to cram in too many words. Putting one or two keywords in your domain might be enough to give your blog a boost in search engine results.
3. Set Up WordPress
Once WordPress is installed, you’ll receive an email with your username, password, and login URL. Go ahead and log in.
You’ll see that you have access to a dashboard. This area gives you complete control over your blog. You can create Pages, like your contact and “about me” page. And you can create Posts on your blog.
The dashboard is also the control panel for the blog (separate to cPanel, which is the control panel for your hosting account). The WordPress dashboard lets you control the layout, the functionality, and the settings for your site.
There are a two quick housekeeping tasks you need to take care of before you publish your first post:
- In the Settings area, go to Permalinks. Change them from Plain to either “Day and name,” “Month and name,” or “Post name.” These permalinks will help you to get listed in search engines, because your URLs will use keywords instead of numbers. This gives you a better chance of being indexed for relevant terms, which will drive traffic faster.
- Also in Settings, under General, customize your blog Site Title and Tagline. On the same screen, you can check that your email address is correct, just in case you need to reset your password in the future.
Your WordPress theme is very important. It allows you to get creative and make your blog look like home.
So: should you use a free theme? Here are the pros and cons:
- Pros: You can switch between free themes as frequently as you like, without having to pay a penny. So you can try out lots of different color schemes and layouts. Free themes have all the basic functionality you need for a blog. So they’re a good choice when you’re just starting out.
- Cons: You may find that lots of other blogs are using the same theme as you, which can make your blog look generic. If you’re building a brand, you don’t want to look too amateurish. Additionally, free themes sometimes don’t offer complete customization, which may be more important to you as your blog gains traction. For example, a premium theme will allow you to control practically every aspect of the layout. You will be less restricted by the theme defaults compared to a free theme.
So for beginners, free themes offer more freedom to experiment, while premium themes offer more features. But you need to be very sure that a premium theme is right for you before you purchase it. New bloggers sometimes struggle to compare one premium theme against another because they don’t fully understand the features yet.
If you’re not used to using WordPress, we recommend using a free theme until you know which features matter to you most. WordPress has its own repository of free themes. You can install them right from your dashboard; just click on “Appearance” and then “Themes.”
WordPress Plugins: Unleashing Your Blog’s Power
Plugins are extensions that add features to WordPress.
They can make your blog even more powerful by adding interactive features, creating shortcuts, and integrating your blog with third-party services.
But you need to be careful when looking for plugins to enhance your blog.
Loading your blog with too many plugins is a certain way to slow it to a crawl. That could make it difficult for your readers to navigate around your blog. And poorly coded plugins can introduce security risks on your blog. For example, hackers may figure out a way to manipulate the plugin to send spam from your website.
So for multiple reasons, you should only install plugins that you really need. And if you decide to stop using a plugin, you should delete it from your WordPress dashboard. Every few months, review the plugins on your blog and delete any that aren’t being actively maintained.
It’s important to keep all of your plugins up-to-date because old plugins are more susceptible to security threats.
Four Plugins You Definitely Need Now
There are 4 key plugins that every blog should have, so go ahead and grab these for your blog right away. On your dashboard, go to “Plugins” and then “Add New.” You can install these plugins from there.
- Akismet, to prevent your comments section being overwhelmed by spam content (other anti-spam plugins are available, like WP-SpamShield)
- Jetpack, which is developed by the WordPress team, and adds lots of useful features — like visitor stats
- WordFence, a security plugin that protects your WordPress blog against hacking and malware
- Yoast, which makes it really easy to optimize your blog for search engines.
4. Create Content
Your content will give you a fighting chance of gaining valuable traffic for your blog. And once the traffic starts to flow, your blog could become a profitable hobby — or a full-time job.
But if your content is average, you may not attract much traffic at all.
You need to be clear about what you want to say, and it helps to imagine who your audience will be. Pick a topic that you are truly passionate about, and anticipate the needs of your readers.
For example, if you plan to start an affiliate blog, you’ll need to write content that informs and educates buyers. You’ll want to inspire them to find out more. If you decide to start a STEM blog, you might choose to write about your research projects. In each case, you need to find the right angle.
Your Writing Style
There’s no magic rule or formula that will determine what your content should look like. It depends on your niche, and what your passion is. To a degree, it depends on what your readers are looking for.
Some blogs are about the moment. They focus on breaking news and viral stories. These blogs gain a lot of traffic very soon after publication, and the articles tend to be short and snappy.
Other blogs contain in-depth articles that are written with longevity in mind. These articles tend to be longer, more detailed, and attract traffic over the long-term.
Look at your competitors and look at the things they do well. Try to find gaps in their strategy, and capitalize on those opportunities.
Create a Schedule
Creating a schedule for your blog will help you to get some momentum.
Scheduling is important for two reasons:
- You need to encourage your readers to visit your blog frequently. Spacing out your posts ensures that there’s always something new to read.
- Search engines tend to favor sites that are continually updated with fresh content. So updating on a regular basis could give you an SEO advantage too.
There’s no right or wrong frequency for publishing new posts. It depends on your topic, your audience, and your goals for the blog as it grows. But no matter how often you update your blog, it’s a good idea to space out your posts, instead of publishing a bunch of new content all at the same time.
You don’t have to sit down and write posts right before you want them to go live. WordPress has a built-in scheduler that lets you pre-plan new entries on your blog.
This powerful feature gives you the freedom to devise a complete blogging schedule. You can create a content plan, write the posts ahead of time, and then publish them at regular intervals.
5. Build Traffic
Once you’ve got content up on your site, you’ll want to focus on getting visitors to your site. This isn’t as hard as you think.
While you can do all sorts of marketing tricks, everything comes down to promotion and ranking well in the search engines.
Thankfully, both marketing and SEO are covered extensively on this website, so we have plenty of tips to guide you. And once you have traffic, you may want to push your visitors to subscribe to your email list to keep them coming back for more.
When choosing a domain name, you need a matching name on social media sites.
Registering on social networks will protect your reputation, and prevent shady marketers from grabbing your name and using it for a rival site. So try to get the exact same wording as your domain, or a very close variant.
Social networks drastically expand your blog’s reach. If you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you have a better chance of getting found, so you should be including them as part of your blogging strategy.
Now all you have to do is get started. The first step is to find a host. If you are still unsure about this step, check out our page Best WordPress Hosting Compared.