‘How to Start a Blog’ is THE complete guide to creating your very own blog. As a new entrant in the blogging world, I was always looking for detailed and simple to understand guides on blogging and starting a blog of my own. I did find a few guides but you know what? They were too technical and boring!
I always wanted to write a very detailed, yet effective guide to start a blog for beginners. Primarily because I made a few blogging mistakes initially that could have been avoided if I had this guide back then. But, now you have it at your disposal and I expect you to get the most out of it.
Considerable amount of time and energy has been put in writing this blogging guide for beginners. So, before we start, I would recommend you to bookmark this page so that you can take a break when required and come back and pick it up from where you left.
Sidenote: If you are new to blogging, I would recommend to you to read this post to understand what a blog is and why do people choose to blog.
At any time, if you are stuck at any step, feel free to contact me and I will be glad to help you out.
Let’s briefly go through the resources that I am offering in this ultimate blogging guide that will help you in starting your own blog.
- 1 1. Choosing a blogging platform
- 2 2. Picking up a domain name
- 3 3. Selecting a hosting provider
- 4 4. Setting up domain and hosting
- 5 5. Installing WordPress
- 6 6. Configure, design and tweak your blog
- 7 7. Basic WordPress settings
- 8 What next?
Don’t worry if it sounds a little technical. The content has been tailor-made for beginners.
Whether you’re just starting your very first blog, or just looking for tips on an existing one, this guide will definitely be helpful to you.
Are you ready to create your blog? Let’s get started….
1. Choosing a blogging platform
When you are ready to start a blog, you need to choose a blogging platform. While you may see the words “free” and “self hosted”, there is a lot of comparison about which choice is the better one. So you’re likely thinking to yourself, what’s the difference?
With a free blog (such a blog you can make on WordPress.com), you lack certain control. You don’t technically own the blog, so if any content is deemed against the Terms Of Service, your blog will be removed.
Yes, that’s true!
A free blogging platform is less professional, because your viewers know that you’re using a free service. There are limits in the design and layout, because you can’t edit code on a free blog. This means you’re stuck picking a layout that is likely being used on a bunch of other sites.
You don’t have creative individuality. You can’t sell advertisements, which limits your ability to monetize. But, you’ll still have ads displayed because that’s what “free” blogs are. They have to find a way to make their money back and they do so by putting advertisements on your blog and you won’t see any of the money. You’re also have limited access to tracking and analytic data which will help you determine who is visiting your blog and during what hours, which is useful to optimize your posts.
With a self-hosted blog (such a blog you can make on WordPress.org), you own it. The content is yours and there are no terms of service you’ll have to meet. Unless you’re doing something that is against the law, you don’t have to worry about your hard work being taken away from you. You also have complete freedom of your code. This means you can design a layout that is 100% unique, and really stand out.
With a Self-hosted blog, you can sell your own advertisements, and take control of the way you monetize your blog. You’re also able to make use of analytic data and tracking, which is great.
The reason there is such a debate, especially when you’re starting out, is cost.
Self-hosted blogs cost more than free ones. You have to pay for a domain name, and likely storage upgrades (to allow more room for your files). The initial cost may feel overwhelming. But keep in mind when you’re making this decision based on what your readers are going to think. A professionally done self hosted blog will look better and attract more viewers than a basic free blog.
You can’t really convey professionalism with a free blog. If you’re just a hobby blogger, maybe a free blog is the better idea. But if you ever want to make money from your blog, or get great connections, you want a self-hosted blog.
Considering the above reasons, and my personal experience, I will guide you on how to start a blog on self-hosted WordPress.
2. Picking up a domain name
This is probably the most important part of creating your blog.
Domain name is your personal blog address. This is the URL that people will put on the address bar to come to your blog. For example my blog URL is http://arpitroy.com. In the same way, your new blog’s domain will be http://YourBlog.com, where you have to choose a name that will come in place of YourBlog.
When you consider that the URL is the first thing people are going to see about your blog, title is the second thing. If it’s not compelling, it may not draw viewers. If it’s compelling but doesn’t relate to your blog content, it’s going to cause people to leave your blog without looking around (this is referred to as a “bounce rate” in tech terms).
So you want something that’s catchy and summarizes what you’re going to use your blog to talk about. The best way to come up with a domain name is to brainstorm, and write down, a few words that relate to your blog. Rearrange them in different orders and see if anything sounds great. If something jumps off the page at you, you likely have a winner.
You want a site name that is easy to remember, as well as definitive. There are some generators online you could try using if you’re really stuck. But, since a blog is a personal thing, you’re better off to come up with the name yourself. You could ask family and friends though. That’s a good suggestion for every step of your blogs creation.
For more tips on choosing a domain name, read the detailed post here.
Are you ready with you domain name ideas? See if it’s available here!
If the URL is taken, don’t lose hope. You might want to consider going back to the drawing board. Or at least rearranging your current idea into something that hasn’t been taken. You don’t want a blog URL that is too closely tied to another website. It will make it hard for viewers to differentiate. You always want to consider brand recognition. When you’re brainstorming, ask “will my reader remember this?”.
Now you would ask, what is the cost of buying a new domain name? Well, it can cost you upto $10 a year. But don’t worry! Continue reading the guide and I will show you how to get a domain for a much cheaper deal.
3. Selecting a hosting provider
Web hosting will contain or host everything that is there on your blog. Just buying a domain is not enough, you need a place to host your domain. Think of a computer but without a hard drive. Is it going to work? No, because you need storage for your operating system to be installed. And of course, to save your files. Similarly, a web hosting enables you to store your blog’s content like images, posts etc.
Again, the cost of web hosting is between $2-5 a month, but I will help you to get it at a cheaper deal.
Disclosure: Few of the below links are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. I only promote the products/services that I personally use and trust. You can read the disclosure policy here.
If you’re just getting started, the most recommended host is Bluehost. Especially if you’ve made the decision to go with a self-hosted WordPress blog. I recommend that these two be used together.
The process of connecting the two of them is basic. That’s important if you don’t know much about connecting a domain to a host. In fact, it can be done with just a few clicks and the integration is very easy.
In fact, studies say that over 850, 000 people are hosting their blogs on Bluehost.
That’s a big number. But the reward is big too. Along with the easy integration, it’s the most recognized and recommended host. You want to use a recognized host. This gives your viewers and readers confidence in your professionalism. It also gives other professionals confidence in your abilities. If you’re looking to make great connections, this is the way to do it.
While this review may be a little biased, there’s a reason for that. I have also used Hostgator on a few of my blogs, however Bluehost has been around for a very long time. They have a very long list of satisfied customers and users. They’re easy to use, and inexpensive. What more could you want from a host?
It’s time to get your blog up and running.
4. Setting up domain and hosting
If you don’t have a hosting and domain name yet, do not worry. I will explain you step by step on how to get your new blog online in just a few minutes.
1. Go to Bluehost.com and click on ‘Get Started Now’.
Remember: You will automatically get the discount added to your cart when you shop by using my link. Enjoy 🙂
2. Select the basic plan. This is what I would recommend for new bloggers.
3. If you have already purchased a domain name, enter you domain name in the ‘I have a domain name’ box and click on Next. If not, enter your preferred name in the ‘New domain’ box to check for availability.
I am sure, you might have come up with a unique name after reading the domain name section of the guide.
4. You have now reached the registration page where you need to fill your billing details.
5. Now, you need to select you hosting packages and add-ons. Make sure to select the 12 months package to take advantage of the 67% discount (discounts may vary as they keep on introducing new offers). I have un-checked other add-ons as we don’t require them right now. You can always add them later on if required.
6. Make the payment to complete the registration. You can skip any ‘upgrade’ part that comes after the payment. This entire registration procedure takes just a few minutes to complete.
5. Installing WordPress
1. Login to your account by going to the Bluehost homepage and clicking on ‘Login’ from the top right of your screen. Enter your credentials by referring to the email that you received from Bluehost. Make sure to select the ‘Hosting login’ tab, if not already selected.
2. Once you have successfully logged in to your cpanel, click on the Install WordPress icon under the website builders.
3. A new window will open up as shown in the image below. Click on the Install button (it may show ‘Start’) to being the WordPress installation process.
4. Now, you will have to choose the domain for which you want to install WordPress. It should already be selected, it not you can choose it from the drop down menu. You can leave the directory field blank as we don’t want to specify and sub folders.
5. Now, you need to enter your WordPress user info. You need to check the Show advanced options box and enter you Site Name or Title.
Choose an Admin Username and password. Make sure to use a strong password and refrain from using ‘admin’ as your username. You don’t want to make things easier for hackers.
Enter your email address (the login details will be sent here). Read the terms, check the box in agreement and click on Install Now.
6. Once the installation is complete, you will see the “Status:success” notification. Make a note of the important information that is displayed here in order to access your new WordPress site. You will also receive this information via email.
7. What now? Of course, you would like to login and start exploring the WordPress platform and writing your very first post, isn’t it?
So, to do that enter http://YourBlogName.com/wp-admin in the web browser to open up the WordPress login page. Replace YourBlogName with the domain name of your blog.
6. Configure, design and tweak your blog
Once you have installed WordPress on your blog, you are ready to learn about some very important stuff regarding the WordPress dashboard, designing your blog and installing new plugins.
We will talk about each of these thing one-by-one.
Know your WordPress dashboard
When you first login to your blog, you will be greeted with the WordPress screen shown in the image below (The appearance may change based on the version of WordPress).
To understand the WordPress dashboard better, we will discuss the important components individually.
Dashboard: This is where you land after logging in to your blog. This page gives you an overview of your recent activity, the number of posts, pages and comments (if you have comments enabled). You can also write a quick blog post and save it as a draft. However, I don’t recommend this. Here’s how to write a post in WordPress.
Posts: This tab enables you to add a new post and view all your published posts. You can also open up posts according to various categories, tags and can edit them if required.
Media: This is used to upload media (images, audio, video, documents etc.) to your WordPress blog. You can also view the library and manage these items here. Here’s some sites where you can get free blog images.
Comments: This is the place where you manage all the comments made by visitors on your blog. You can approve and review the comments to check if WordPress has identified them as spam, which can be deleted later on.
Appearance: You can set the design of your blog here by installing new themes and layouts. I will show you how to install themes later in this guide.
Plugins: These are important tools for your blog. Each plugin can provide you with different features, be it SEO, security or performance. I will show you how to install plugins in a moment.
Settings: You can change and manage your blog settings like timezone, site’s title and tagline, email addresses etc.
How to change your blog’s theme?
Themes are design templates used by WordPress that determine the look and feel of your blog. Now, there are both paid and free themes to choose from. WordPress offers a wide variety of free themes that are good enough for new bloggers. If you want a more professional looking blog, you should definitely invest in a paid premium theme.
Just to let you know, I use the Genesis Framework by Studiopress on my blog. It provides a secure and search engine optimized foundation for my blog. There are built-in features like custom body post classes, breadcrumbs, multiple layouts and many more. The designs of the child themes are elegant and eye-catching. I am currently using the Magazine Pro child theme which as you can see, is just brilliant! I would definitely recommend you to try out the Genesis Framework. It’s a very small one time investment for a beautiful blog.
Let’s take a look at how you can install a theme on your blog.
From your WordPress dashboard, hover your mouse to “Appearance” and click on “Themes”.
The “Manage Themes” page will open up where you can see all the themes that are installed on your WordPress blog. You can choose any one of those if you like them, else click on the “Add New” button to search for new themes.
You can now sort and filter the themes by selecting from the “Featured”, “Popular” and “Latest” options.
Once you identified a theme that you like, click on “Install”.
Once the theme has been installed, click on the “Activate” link for the new changes to take effect. That’s it!
Bonus: Tips for choosing a theme and layout
Now that you have set up your blog, you’re probably thinking that it’s good enough to slap on one of the themes that is recommended or available. Sure. It’s easy enough. But it’s not really that impressive. It’ll work at first, but you’re going to want to create something unique that will really draw attention from your viewers. You don’t want your blog to look the same as every other blog, right? Before you design that layout, there are some points you should keep in mind:
- Keep It Simple – You don’t want an overwhelming layout design. You want your navigation to be easy to find. You want any advertisements to be well placed. You want the entries to be the main focus. You don’t want too many images, because it slows down the loading time of the website. You want originality, but not complication. Simple is the best way to design your blog.
- Limit Color – Use color, but in moderation or splashes. It’ll be more visually appealing that way. You want to have a neutral or monotone color as your main color. The splashes of color are good for important details or call-to actions.
- Use Space – Don’t be afraid of empty spaces. Embrace them. You want to have extra unused space on your blog on the sides of your posts. This draws the reader’s eye directly to where your posts are sitting to be read. Space is a great tool to guide your readers eyes to be wherever you want them.
- Experiment – While you don’t want your blog overwhelming, you also don’t want it to look like every other blog. So play around a little bit with the arrangement of your navigation. See what looks more appealing particularly to your blog, and it’s content. Ask a family member or friend for suggestions.
Sure these aren’t the only tips to having a great design, but they’re the most important ones.
How to install a new plugin?
Plugins are software modules that extend and expand the functionality of WordPress. There are more than 45000 plugins available to download as I write this post – that doesn’t mean you need to download all of them!
You should only download plugins that are required on your blog. For example an SEO plugin, anti-spam, caching etc.
Installing a plugin is pretty simple.
Hover your mouse to “Plugins” and click on “Add New”.
Search for the desired plugin by entering the keywords. Once you find the plugin, click on “Install Now”.
Once the plugin is installed, click on “Activate Plugin” to finish the setup.
Also, keep you themes and plugins up-to-date. WordPress will remind you if there’s an update available.
User management can come in handy if you have multiple authors on you blog. Even if that is not the case, the “Users” tab allows you to manage your own email and password.
If you want to add a new user, hover the mouse to “Users” and click on “Add New”. You will see the page as shown in the image below.
Fill in all the details along with a password. You have to share this password with the new user in order for them to login to your WordPress blog. You also have the option to send them the password via email, however it’s not the most secure way to do this.
Here are the roles with a brief explanation.
Subscribers: These are readers who have registered on your blog. They can manage their profiles only and nothing else.
Administrators: An administrator is a super-user who can make any type of changes to a blog.
Authors: They can write and publish their own post, but can’t change anything else.
Contributors: These folks can just write and save their posts as drafts, but can’t publish them.
Editors: Can manage and publish posts, including the posts of other users.
7. Basic WordPress settings
There are certain settings that you ought to change after your very first login.
Site title and tagline
Head to “Settings” and enter your “Site Title” and “Tagline” under the “General” options. This is your blog’s identity and works well from an SEO perspective as well.
Go to “Settings” –> “Permalinks” and change the permalink structure right away. WordPress sets the default permalink structure to http://arpitroy.com/?p=123 which is difficult to read and is not search engine friendly. The best structure is http://arpitroy.com/sample-post/. Select it and click on “Save”.
Change the timezone to match your current location. This helps in sending out blog posts at the exact time when you are defining a schedule to publish.
Moderating blog comments
Change the comment setting to minimize spam. Go to “Discussion” under “Settings” and check the “Comment must be manually approved” checkbox.
Would you like your readers to find a grammatical mistake or a typo while they are totally engrossed in reading your blog post?
It is, therefore a good idea to enable proofreading before you publish or update a blog post. This can be easily enabled by navigating to “Users” –> “Your Profile” –> “Proofreading”
Once enabled, WordPress will proofread your content before you publish or update a post (depending on the settings). The text/phrase having the error will be highlighted and you can make corrections before the content goes live.
There are plenty of proofreading options that you can check mark as shown in the image above, totally up to your discretion.
Now that you know everything about starting you very own blog (probably you might have followed this guide and create one in the process!), it is time to take your blog to the next level.
Don’t you want to write your very first blog post? Check this guide on how to write a post in WordPress.
Check out the my handy tips for new bloggers as well.
Can’t decide what to blog about? Read this post.
Want to monetize your blog? Here’s how to make money blogging.
Finally, I would love to read your thoughts on this blogging guide. Do let me know by commenting below.
Also, if you loved the content and think this will help your friends and family in anyway, make use of the share button to spread the word. Happy Blogging!