How to Start a Blog

The Beginner's Guide to Successful Blogging


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by and FirstSiteGuide team (Last updated: October 18, 2018)

Do you want to learn how to start a blog?

Starting a blog is not complicated at all, and we’re here to assure you that creating a successful 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 your own blog (no technical skills needed).

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, how to choose your niche and blogging topic.

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

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how to blog infographic

Feel free to use this infographic on your site

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

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 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 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 with 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. 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

blogs solve problems

Before you create your own site 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 from the competition.

Brainstorm to find your topic

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

blogger lifestyle
  • 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.

Five easy steps to starting a blog:

  • Choose a blogging platform
  • 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

wordpress platform

At this stage, you’ll need to determine the type of 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 management platforms you have the following options: free, freemium and self-hosted (recommended) platforms.

Free platforms

Top management platforms in the United States – May 2018
WordPress 96.96% Blog usage in U.S.
Blogger 2.78%
MovableType 0.12%
Ghost 0.08%
Tumblr 0.03%
Blog Engine 0.01%
Pagekit 0%
Svbtle 0%
Posthaven 0%
Anchor CMS 0%

Source: builtwith.com

For many new bloggers, the availability of free 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 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. If you’re serious about blogging, you’ll want to move away from this option.

Freemium platforms

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

This option is called self-hosted because you will use your own web hosting space and name. 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 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 e-commerce blog.

wordpress is a king

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 sites. It is recommended by 99% of the 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. We highly recommend Bluehost that powers over 2 million websites worldwide and only for our visitors, they offer a special deal that includes a FREE DOMAIN NAME and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bluehost web hosting company is recommended by WordPress.org as one “of the best and brightest of the hosting world”.

WordPress Bluehost

Pick a domain name

pick domain name

Your domain name will be the name by which you will be known online, no matter what niche you choose. It’s your unique address 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 you 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 States) 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!

Get a web hosting account


choose web hosting

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 site will depend on your hosting provider. The host makes sure your site 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.

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.

Install blogging software and set up a blog

Now it’s time to get your FREE DOMAIN NAME and web hosting account, and create your new blog. Bellow you will find our recommended hosting provider—Bluehost. We were able to negotiate a special price only for FirstSiteGuide visitors, so feel free to use it. Also, if you get stuck, we included step by step instructions to help you with the process.

Step by step blog set up instructions

This section provides detailed information to help you sign up for web hosting account and set up a WordPress. We also included screenshots of the pages that you need to go through.

Step One

Use this link to get the special deal from Bluehost. Then click the “Get Started Now” button.

Step One

Step Two

You should start by selecting your plan. If this is your very first one, you should go with the basic one – at least until you explore your options. The one called plus should be able to cover all your needs once you get going, and you should consider the pro version once your popularity skyrockets.
step two

Step Three

Your domain name has an important say when it comes to the future success of your blog, so you should take your time to come up with something new. Just type in a desired domain in this “new domain” box and BlueHost will show you whether it’s available or not. If not, it will provide you with a list of similar names for you to choose from.

step three

Step Four

After you pick out your domain name, BlueHost will take you to the registration page where it will be required from you to fill in your personal info including the billing data. A couple of minutes is all you need.

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Step Five

Pay additional attention to your hosting options. Obviously, the 12 month package has the lowest price, but the other two are great when you want to make a long term investment. You can feel free to uncheck the rest of the boxes – you can always get them later when you find them necessary.

step five

Step Six

After you enter your payment information, you’re ready to set your password which will be used for account verification purposes.

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Step Seven

After successfully creating your new password you will be able to login to your account.

step seven

Step Eight

Once you login to your account, you are now able to choose one of the default WordPress themes, provided by Bluehost. Keep in mind that you can always pick another theme from a WordPress.org repository.

step eight

Step Nine

After picking a theme of your choice you are now ready to log in into the WordPress dashboard.

step nine

Step Ten

Once you login into your WordPress dashboard you will be prompted with the “Welcome” message and you can choose to accept the help provided by BlueHost for selecting the type of website you are about to create. Or, you can always do it on your own.

step ten

Step Eleven

If you click on the Bluehost button in the left hand corner, you will see the page with various tools which are designed to help you create your new site. You can easily launch your site by clicking the “Launch” button and be seen online within minutes.

step eleven

After clicking the “Launch” button, you will just need to fill the two most important fields for your site. The title and description, which will tell your future visitors what is your site all about.

step eleven

Now your new site is ready for launch!

If something is still unclear, perhaps our step-by-step video will be helpful, so check it out.

If you don’t have time to do it by yourself and would like us to set up your new blog for only $29.99, then click here for more details!

Select a blog design and layout

More on themes

The first thing your blog’s front end needs is a face (design and layout). You want to create an environment that is both eye-catching and practical. In the long run, you want your visitors to easily find information on your site. You don’t want visitors to be discouraged by the colors you choose or the non-intuitive and unpractical way in which information is displayed. Your design can cause instant distrust of your blog or instant acceptance.

Start your search for a theme as soon as your WordPress platform is installed. The look and feel of your blog rely on the theme you choose. Your readers will first notice the overall appearance, before even taking a look at the content. Choose a theme that looks great, but also works for your unique content needs. The default theme that comes with your WordPress blog installed is Twenty Seventeen—while it’s a good starter theme, you’ll want to choose a theme that is unique and compatible with your niche.

Premium theme price
A premium WordPress theme has the average price of $40

Third-party themes
Among the 10 most popular free themes on WordPress.org, only 3 come from third-party developers (not developed by WordPress.org or Automattic). They are: Swift, Zerif Lite, ColorWay

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

  1. 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.
  2. 2. Check for responsiveness
    Aim for a responsive design that will work on desktop browsers and mobile devices. This is recommended by Google.
  1. 3. Check the ratings
    There will be star ratings visible in the preview and under theme details to give you a clear idea how good the theme is.
  2. 4. Preview the theme
    Preview the theme (demo) to get an idea of the overall look, layout and how customizable it is.

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.).

Recommended reading: 100+ Types of Digital Content You Can Make

Free, premium, and custom themes

Free, premium, and custom themes

For many visionary novice bloggers, the world is not enough. The stash of free themes (more than two thousand themes are available on WordPress.org) does not satisfy their particular desire for look and feel. There are two other options you can take a look at, premium and custom themes. But they incur a cost, sometimes a tiny one, at other times a huge amount.

For the most part, it’s hard to choose the right theme from such a wide variety. At FirstSiteGuide, we’re doing our best to make that process easier for you.

Premium themes are created by both single developers and dedicated showcase websites. The price range for a single-use licenses ranges from $30 to $500, depending on which premium theme you choose.

Prospective revenue from usage of a WordPress theme from ThemeForest
Breakdown by amount earned

Wordpress usage

Custom themes are created by an individual developer (coder and designer, or agency) who will either customize an existing theme or create a brand new theme for you. While coming with clear-cut advantages, they are not the ideal choice for beginner bloggers due to their high cost. Prices to customize a theme range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the features you want.

Examples of good free and premium themes

Based on our experience, we recommend the following free and premium themes for new bloggers.

Free themes

Themeforest share
93% of overall sales come from responsive themes, according to ThemeForest

Decode is a top choice for bloggers who are after a minimal look. Customizations include different colors and sidebar items accessible from the menu
Supernova is a true gem, despite its classical look and feel. With color palettes, full-width sliders and custom headers, it has been designed to meet the needs of bloggers
Clean Retina is a simple, clean, and responsive theme that adapts automatically to any browser size. Along with the elegant design, the theme is easily customizable

Premium themes

You can find different premium themes online from the resources mentioned earlier. We recommend you to check the themes series from StudioPress. Their services and support are top notches and all of their themes are highly customizable. Here are three themes that are suited for the blog:

Wintersong is a theme that carries an air of the bare essentials. Calm, minimal, and outstanding, it’s versatile enough to work for all types of sites
Beautiful is a theme that shows a lot of attention to details—details you can customize to give your website a unique look
Modern Studio theme is bold, sleek and colorful. With a contemporary look that meets the needs of the passionate blogger

Installing and setting up your new theme are steps that will give you the thrill of empowerment at the same time confirming what a good choice it was to go for WordPress as your management system.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ

How do you start your own blog for free?

There are several platforms that allow you to start your blog for free. All you have to do is to choose the one you like, register an account and start blogging. For example, you can start a free blog on WordPress.com, Blogger or Tumblr in a matter of a few minutes.

But before you jump to the next step and start a free blog with the CMS that looked nice, you must understand that free blogs come with many disadvantages. Also, having a free blog usually depicts you as a beginner with no experience who does not get his or her blog seriously. With a free blog you:

  • Can’t have a custom domain
  • Can’t earn money
  • Don’t own the blog
  • Can’t customize it as you might want

If you want to start a new blog the right way, we strongly suggest hosting your own site and start building with WordPress.

But if you can live with all the downside of a free blog and you are really not that into running the whole thing on your own, take a look at our comparison of WordPress and Blogger or WordPress vs Tumblr to find out more about the platforms. Then go to the official site of the platform you liked better, create an account and start blogging.

FAQ

Which is the best blogging site?

As you might have already realized, there are more than a few blogging platforms that can easily catch your attention. Although the answer depends on your needs and wishes (where each platform have its good and bad sides, of course), we are strong supporters of self-hosted WordPress.

Some may argue the fact that having a self-hosted WordPress site is the best option, but you can’t dispute the fact that it is the most popular blogging platform in the world. WordPress will let you own and control the blog. Let us show you what WordPress really is and why we love it so much.

FAQ

How much does it cost to start a blog?

Starting a self-hosted blog is not as expensive as you might have initially thought. If you choose to host your site with Bluehost that we recommend, you can have the environment ready for as low as $2.95 per month!

While usually a domain would cost you around $15, with Bluehost you will get one for FREE! The basic package also includes a free SSL certificate (which protects data transfers on your site and makes it safe), 50GB of storage and unlimited bandwidth which means you can have as much visitors as you are able to attract to your site. And this is more than enough to start with.

FAQ

How do I learn WordPress?

We always love to hear that someone is interested in learning about WordPress or blogging in general. That’s because we have been working hard to gather the knowledge and experience we had been collecting for many years in the business.

We have dedicated the entire section of our site to learning WordPress where you can level up your WordPress skills and understand the best practices.

The section will guide you from the very beginnings of your WordPress site to advanced techniques that will teach you how to develop a unique site that both you and your visitor will love.

FAQ

What to do if I already have a free blog?

For starters, don’t worry. If you decide to switch to a self-hosted WordPress, you can quickly & painlessly move your free blog to your new host.

Most of the free platforms allow you to export the content. And WordPress features a ton of tools that will automatically import the content to the new blog. If you are running a Blogger, let us show you how to move it to WordPress, step-by-step.

FAQ

How bloggers get paid?

There are two main categories we can talk about when it comes to getting paid as a blogger. One is passive income while the other requires you to engage in some actions.

Passive income is an always popular option since it allows you to earn money even while you sleep. While the concept is very tempting, you should understand that it isn’t entirely true. While you are able to get paid all the time, you still have to work hard on the advertisements and different systems if you want to get the best out it (earn as much as possible). This usually includes:

  • Displaying Google ads or other advertising platforms/networks
  • Affiliate links (you get a percentage for sale that comes from your site)
  • Adding textual advertisements & links

The active income may bring you more cash, but it needs a way more involvement. You can earn money by:

  • Having Course Sales, Training, and Coaching
  • Writing & publishing sponsored posts and listings
  • Selling products directly
  • Writing ebooks
  • Podcast sponsorships

These are just some popular ways of earning money while blogging. Learn more about it through our beginner’s guide with tips from 33 experts.

FAQ

How much money can you make from a blog?

It depends on many factors. Are you just starting out or you already blog for some time and have a group of people who trust you? Is blogging your primary focus or do you manage a blog just in your spare time?

According to Glassdoor, bloggers in the United States on average earn $30,000 per year. Obviously, some earn a lot less, while there are influencers who have millions of people following them and can earn more than $100,000 per year. Some even say they get more than a million dollar per year.

If you are just starting out, don’t get disappointed that blogging won’t buy you a new car in the first few months. If your blog is completely new, you will have to work hard before getting that first paycheck.

Also, passive income needs time to start increasing. Different advertisements and banners will make sense only after you have a well-established blog. While it is possible to get a few bucks per click on a Google ad, you will have to develop your site and build an audience before that becomes a reality. So, when starting out, you can expect only a fraction of a dollar for each click, but do not let that discourage you. Everything has a start, so does your income from a blog.

FAQ

What should I blog about?

More often than not, people think they should blog about popular topics where they think money grows on trees. And while the truth is that you might be able to attract the larger audience if you write about smartphones instead of blogging about something specific like tuna fishing, that’s the wrong way to go. In the case, it would show that you write about something you might not completely understand and love, and it would result in an unsuccessful blog that not even you would enjoy.

Instead, you should blog about something you love and follow. Even if it is a smaller audience, your passion and expertise will attract just the right people. You will be able to connect with them which will help you to grow the and even earn money from it.

FAQ

What to do if your domain name is taken?

Unfortunately, gazillions of awesome domain names have been already taken. Especially if you aim for the most popular .com domain. But don’t worry; if you can’t get the domain you wanted while registering for a hosting account, Bluehost will help you by letting you choose one later. Just by clicking the button, you can skip the registration of the domain. That will give you time to do some research and thinking. Try thinking about other options or maybe another extension like .net or any other that may be a good fit your blog.

Free Domain Later

We have put together a guide to help you come up with a great domain name, so take your time and consider all the factors before registering a domain.

FAQ

How do I switch from HTTP to HTTPS on Bluehost?

Recently, Google started to penalize sites that aren’t secured. News about unsecured sites started to spread like a wildfire, and everyone wanted to get their site on the safe list. And so should you; having a secure website have more than a few benefits:

  • Having Course Sales, Training, and Coaching
  • Writing & publishing sponsored posts and listings
  • Selling products directly
  • Writing ebooks
  • Podcast sponsorships

To make your site safe, all you need to do is turn on the SSL certificate. It controls the data transfer on your site and makes it unreadable to nosy people who might sniff the data from an outside. But before you start worrying that only technicians and internet experts know how to do this, let us show you how you can get a FREE secure connection in just a few steps:

My Site

Login to your Bluehost account (Use the login information you received via email after creating an account)

If not already selected, choose “hosting login” tab

Click on “My Sites” from the menu

Hover over the thumbnail that represents your site

Click the “Manage Site” option that will show up over the thumbnail

Select the “Security” tab at the top

Turn on the “Free SSL Certificate” by clicking the switch to “On”

After toggling the switch, you should wait up to one hour before the changes get visible on your site.

To quickly identify if SSL certificate was successfully installed for your domain, check for the icons next to the URL of your site.

If using Chrome, you should see a little green lock followed by the word “secure” or the name of the site. This will indicate that the certificate has been successfully installed and that your blog follows the rules. Congratulations!

Secure

If not, Chrome will show a little information icon (a circled letter “i”). If you click on the icon, it will tell you that the site is not secure, and warn you about leaving sensitive information on that site. Now you can imagine how terrible that looks like when Google recommends not to leave any information on a site.

Google

Please note that you can turn on the certificate only after your domain registration is fully completed. To make sure it will work, wait at least 24 hours before turning on the certificate.

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, start your content creation and promotion in order to become a successful blogger. Check out our Resources and Blog sections to learn how to run your blog.