How to Start a Blog

The Beginner's Guide to Successful Blogging

by and FirstSiteGuide team (Last updated: August 24, 2016)

About this guide

Have you decided to start a blog? Then you opened the right web page.

First, we want you to understand starting a blog is not as daunting as many people think. In fact, by following the step-by-step instructions in this guide, you will be able to set up and create your own blog, avoiding pitfalls and missteps that hinder some novices (no technical skills needed).

We hope that by creating your own blog you will gain knowledge, friendships, support, confidence or turn blogging into a lucrative business.

Ready? Let’s get to it!

What you need to know before you start a blog

This section provides background information to help you understand the basics of blogging. We also describe a number of different benefits of blogging, how to choose your niche and blogging topic.

The Evolution of Blogging
  • 2016
    Today, news blogs rival mainstream media
    Social media has made blooging more interactional
  • Niche blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch brought blogging to the mainstream in the 21st century
    2001
  • 1999
    1997
    The invention of the word was a joint effort between John Barger, who coined the term “weblog” in 1997 as a shortened version of “logging the Web,” and Peter Merholz, who truncated the term to “blog” in 1999.
  • 1994
    The first blog is credited to a Swarthmore College student named Justin Hall, who in 1994 created the site Links.net. However, the term “blog” didn’t enter our lexicon until several years later.

What is a blog?

A blog (shortened from the phrase "weblog") is known as many things—a digital magazine, diary, newscast, collector's meeting place, a showcase for your art, information sharing, teaching hub, place to learn and...well, almost anything you want it to be. A typical blog combines text, images, videos and links to relevant pages and media on the Web. Blog readers can leave comments and communicate with the author. In fact, dialogue and interaction are a popular part of a blog's success.

The benefits of blogging

Become a better writer and thinker

Once you start blogging, you'll find yourself becoming a better writer and thinker. Mastering content takes creative thought. When you become immersed in creating great pieces of content for your blog, your writing, thinking and research skills improve in the process.

Establish yourself as an expert

6.7 million people blog on blogging sites and
12 million people blogs via social networks

Blogs are wonderful tools to help people establish themselves as experts in a field or niche. We all have some kind of interest and expertise to share with others. If you’re able to produce great content on your blog and/or have a unique point of view on the topic, then be assured that your future audience will recognize it and reward you for it. With a bit of effort, you too can become an authority in your area of interest.

Increase your self-confidence

The more involved you become with blogging, the more your creative juices will flow. That's one reason why blogging is so popular. As you gain knowledge about your topic, the confidence you build in your followers and most importantly, in yourself, will soar. All of this leads to increased creativity. Keep an open mind and enjoy your new-found confidence in your own abilities!

Make friends and have fun

With practice and a little effort, you can easily build your base of blog fans and followers. As you become known as an expert in your niche, you can inspire, encourage and help your followers make a difference in their own lives. Along your blogging journey, you will make new friends and connections throughout the world. If you like to travel, that means a lot of couches are available for you to snooze on while winging your way around the globe!

Make money from your blog

Blogging may well become your passion but you can also make money with your blog. In fact, many authority bloggers are able to make a living from blogging. There are many ways to monetize your blog. You can place ads and receive compensation from companies by promoting their products and services. Or you can sell your own digital products and merchandise.

How to choose a perfect niche

Before you create your own blog and move forward to become a successful blogger try to attain the highest form of knowledge in the niche/topic of your choice. So pick the one that appeals to you—the one you are passionate about and most interested in. Aspire for success, happiness, security and recognition. By choosing your niche of interest and having your own point of view you’ll be able to position and differentiate your blog from the competition.

Brainstorm to find your topic

Following is a process that can help you determine which niche is best for you:

  • Make a list of your interests or hobbies. Which topics fascinate you? List them all, for instance: golf, fishing, yoga, playing games or cooking.

  • Next, list accomplishments you are proud of, such as musical talent, artistic talent or sports achievements.

  • Now, list difficulties you have overcome or defeated, such as: losing a significant amount of weight, recovering from a financial setback or managing a disease.

During the course of this exercise, you will get a better feeling for the topics that resonate with you. The ones you are most passionate about are the best candidates for your niche. Read this article on How to choose a niche for more information.

Unfold this section to learn:
  • What is blog?
  • The benefits of blogging
  • How to choose a perfect niche

Five easy steps to building a blog:

  • Choose a blogging platform (self-hosted recommended)
  • Pick a domain name
  • Get a web hosting account
  • Install blogging software and set up a blog
  • Select a blog design and layout

Choose a blogging platform

At this stage, you’ll need to determine the type of blog management platform/tool you want to use. We recommend that you set up your blog on one of the self-hosted platforms. But before you make the decision, let us describe each option.

When it comes to starting your blog you have the following options: free, freemium and self-hosted (recommended) platforms.

Free platforms

For many new bloggers, the availability of free blogging platforms such as Blogger or Tumblr is tempting. Of course, there is one big benefit, it's free. But you need to understand that having a blog name in this form—yourname.blogspot.com or yourname.tumblr.com, is the sign of an inexperienced beginner who likely won't be taken seriously.

By keeping your blog on a free platform, you let the platform own your name. You’ll be subject to their rules and restrictions, they may limit or prohibit ads on your blog, or they may even place their own ads on your blog. If you're serious about blogging, you’ll want to move away from this option.

Freemium platforms

Top in Blog usage in the United States
WordPress95.56%
Blogger4.06%
MovableType0.19%
Ghost0.1%
Tumblr0.06%
Blog Engine0.02%
Svbtle0.01%
Posthaven0%
Anchor CMS0%
Silvrback0%
Stats as of 05.02.2016 Source: builtwith.com

Freemium means you’ll have a trial period before you have to start paying (costs vary from $5 to $30 per month). Several platforms are available. One of the most popular is TypePad. This platform focuses on ease of use for writing, but customization options are limited and it lacks certain features of value to bloggers.

By default, your TypePad blog name will look like this: yourname.typepad.com. It's not always the best option if you’re trying to build the name and brand for your blog. However you could point your own domain (purchased through any domain registrar) to a TypePad blog.

Self-hosted platforms

Self-hosted platforms allow you to run a blog on your own domain. Aside from following your domain registrar and web hosting company's rules, you’re fully in charge of your blog and its contents.

You have number of choices when it comes to a self-hosted blog system (also called Content Management System or CMS). The most popular is Wordpress.org.

This blog option is called self-hosted because you will use your own web hosting space and name for your blog. It normally costs $4 to $8 per month for the web space (hosting account), depending on the company you choose, and $12 to $15 per year for the name (domain). The actual CMS is usually open-source and free.

Although we mentioned some free blog-hosting options, the best course of action is to own your blog, especially if you will be using your own copyrighted material (articles, drawings, photos, etc.). Pay a small amount of money every month, about the same as a Starbucks coffee, and you will build your own equity. If you plan to sell products, services, music or anything else via your blog, then paid hosting is the best way to go. Many hosting providers can help you maintain an ecommerce blog.

One of the best and most well-known self-hosted content management systems (CMS) is WordPress.org, powering 25.4% of all websites in the world and responsible for over 76.5 million blogs, which is recommended by 99% of the blogging blogging experts we’ve surveyed

To get your new self-hosted blog started, you need to decide on two important things: a domain name and a web hosting provider.

Pick a domain name

Your domain name will be the name by which you will be known online, no matter what niche you choose. It’s the unique address of your blog on the Internet. Your domain will be yours as long as you continue paying the annual fee ($10 to $15 for a .com domain).

Users who know your domain/URL (uniform resource locator) can simply type it into their browser's address bar. Others will be able to discover your blog through search engines such as Google and Bing, so you definitely need to find a unique moniker.

Your domain name may be the highly popular "dot com" or it may be country or niche specific. From .us (United Sates) to .co.uk (United Kingdom) and from .guru (yes, for life coaches) to .sport (for sports related domains), these top level domains (TLDs) are added to any domain name in order to point to their location. The general rule is to go for a "dot com" domain, but some of the other extensions can work. For example "dot net" or "dot me."

In the end, it's about being memorable, so if a different extension or country code helps you be memorable, then break the rules! If you need help choosing your domain name read this guide.

Get a web hosting account

After choosing a domain name, selecting reliable hosting services will be one of the most important decisions you make. To a great extent, the functionality and performance of your blog will depend on your hosting provider. The host makes sure your blog is available 24/7 to potential readers and it’s where your files are stored online.

Most hosting companies also offer domain registration services. Some people keep their domain name with the registrar company, separate from the hosting account. We recommend keeping it all under your hosting account for hassle-free management and maintenance.


Choosing a web hosting provider

The wrong web host can cause many problems with your blog. Just imagine choosing a mobile company that has no reception. Your web host is a major piece of the puzzle to maintaining a successful blog, therefore, it’s crucial that you choose a reliable provider.

Often, when people are asked what services are most important to look for in a good web host, they cite things like 24/7 phone and chat support, reliability, and reputation. Good hosting providers offer additional features such as database support, backups and free email. Most hosting companies offer similar options and features and as a beginning blogger, you won't have to go deeply into technical details to use them.

Install blogging software and set up a blog

Now it’s time to get your domain name and web hosting account, and create your new blog. Below you will find easy-to-follow videos to get your blog set up with trusted hosting providers.

If you choose to go with a different hosting company, the process might be slightly different but the action steps will be the same.

Should you need any help with the set up process, we will be happy to assist you, free of charge. Just contact us.

Select a blog design and layout

After Wordpress is installed, the first thing your blog needs is a face (design and layout). The design of your blog can be easily changed with the Themes. The default theme that comes with your WordPress blog installed is Twenty Sixteen—while it's a good starter theme, you could select a theme that is more unique to your blog and compatible with your niche. Choose a theme that looks great, but also works for your unique content needs. Your readers will first notice the overall appearance of the blog, before even taking a look at the content.

Action steps

Here's a quick checklist for choosing your theme by searching within the blog dashboard:

  1. Read the description

    Most themes come with a short description of features and functionality. By reading it, you should have a rough idea if the theme matches your needs and how customizable it is.

  2. Preview the theme

    Preview the theme to get an idea of the overall look and layout.

  1. Check the ratings

    Popular themes will have star ratings that are visible in the preview and under theme details. They should give you a clear idea how good the theme is.

  2. Check for responsiveness

    Aim for a responsive design that will work on desktop browsers and mobile devices. This is recommended by Google.

If you find a theme that takes your breath away, cool down. Once you install a theme you like, don't be surprised if it doesn't look quite right. Your theme is just a skeleton of your blog. To make it appealing, you’ll have to fill in content (text, photos, videos, etc.).

Conclusion

Congratulations! Now you have your own domain name, hosting space and your blog is set up. Next, you will need to get familiar with the Wordpress dashboard, learn how to make desired changes to your blog, start your content creation and promotion in order to become a successful blogger.