How to Start a Blog

The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Successful Blog


  • start a blog img 1
  • start a blog img 2
  • start a blog img 3

by and FirstSiteGuide team (Last updated: December 11, 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 setting up your own blog is not as daunting as many people think.

In fact, by following the step-by-step instructions in this guide you will learn how to create a blog in less than no time (no technical skills needed).

The 7 easy steps to start a blog:

Definition of blog
Some people still don’t know 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, a 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.
  • Step #1: Select a perfect niche
  • Step #2: Choose a blogging platform
  • Step #3: Pick a domain name
  • Step #4: Get a web hosting account
  • Step #5: Install blogging software and set up a blog
  • Step #6: Find the right theme (blog design)
  • Step #7: Write blog content

Click here to skip the introduction and common questions section

Introduction and common questions

Before you go into action steps, let us cover some valuable information. This section provides background (blogging 101) information to help you understand why people start a blog and the most frequent questions blogging beginners ask.

Why start a blog?

Become a better writer and thinker

x

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 and teach others how to start blogging.

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 monetize your blog. In fact, many authority bloggers are able to earn a living from blogging. There are many ways to make money blogging. 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.

The most common questions

Question 1: How to start a blog for free?

People often wonder where to start a blog, but there are several blogging platforms that allow you to start a 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 set up a free blog on Blogger or Tumblr in a matter of a few minutes.
But you need to understand a few things when starting a blog for free:

  • If you open a Blogspot account then your free blog name will be in this form: “blogname.blogspot.com” or “blogname.tumblr.com”. In the blogging community, this type of blog is the sign of an inexperienced beginner who likely won’t be taken seriously.

  • You’ll be subject to rules and restrictions set by platform. They may limit or prohibit you to use ads, 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 sooner than later.

To start a blog the right way, we strongly suggest to set up a self-hosted blog with WordPress and we will cover how-to in this blogging guide. If for some reason the free is the only option for you, then create an account on one of the platforms mentioned above and check them out.

Question 2: Do bloggers make money?

You can definitely make money blogging. The amount of money will depend on many factors and it won’t happen overnight but if you put enough effort you could be making extra income or even make a living from your blog.

When you are just starting a blog, don’t get disappointed if blogging won’t buy you a new car in the first few months.

Step #1: Select a perfect niche

blogs solve problems

To become a successful blogger you will have to choose the right niche and work on attaining the highest form of knowledge within that topic. So pick the one that appeals to you—the one you are passionate about and most interested in. Strive for success, happiness, and recognition. By choosing the niche of interest and having your own point of view you’ll be able to differentiate your personal 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.

Step #2: Choose a blogging platform

wordpress platform

At this stage, you’ll need to look at the best blog sites out there and determine the type of blog management tool you want to use. We recommend that you start your blog using a self-hosted setup that we show in this guide. But before you ask yourself, how do I start a blog, let us describe each option.

When it comes to blogging platforms you have the following options: free and self-hosted (recommended).

Free platforms

Blogging statistics for 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 tools such as Blogger or Tumblr is tempting. Of course, there is one big benefit, it’s free.

By keeping your blog on a free platform, you let the platform own your name. You’ll be subject to their rules and restrictions. If you are looking to start a blog to make money, 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.

Self-hosted platforms

Self-hosted platforms allow you to run a blog using 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 self-hosted systems (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 this 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. For new bloggers, we recommend Bluehost, a company that powers over 2 million websites worldwide. You will get a free domain name when you signup with them and they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Step #3: 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.”

Recommended tool:

In the end, it’s about being memorable, so if a different extension or country code helps you be memorable, then break the rules!

Step #4: 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.

Based on our survey, a reliable provider is Bluehost. It is recommended by 99% of the blogging experts and WordPress.org named it as one “of the best and brightest of the hosting world”.

WordPress Bluehost

Step #5: Install blogging software and set up a blog

This section provides detailed information to help you signup for the web hosting account and set up a WordPress CMS. As an example, we will show you how to launch a blog with Bluehost and we included screenshots of the pages that you need to go through.

Step by step blog set up instructions

If you decide to go with other web hosting provider the process might be slightly different but most steps should be similar.

Step One

Use this link to visit 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.

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.

step sixa

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

Congratulations, you just learned how to start your own blog. Your new blog is ready for launch so get ready to learn blogging and how to become a successful blogger!

Step #6: Find the right theme (blog design)

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.).

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.

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.

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 a beginner blogger due to their high cost. Prices to customize a theme, range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the features you want.

Step #7: Write blog content

writing blog content

The next step is to figure out what content you need to make for your new blog and the best practices you should follow. The content of your blog will be the bait that attracts your readers.

Without great content, even the most well-designed, tightly-structured blogs will ultimately fail. There are two blocks you need to worry about, pre-launch and post-launch contents:

Pre-launch content

Before you start writing your day-to-day blog posts, you will want to make sure static pages (such as About us, Contact, etc.) and other parts of your blog (Sidebar, Footer, etc.) are filled with the suitable information. Let’s explore each of these content areas.

  • About us: The most traditional page on any blog is the About page. This page tells new visitors to your blog what it is all about, who you are and why you run a blog about the particular topic. Depending on your niche and your style, the information you provide can be “all business” or personal and fun.

  • Contact: This page allows visitors of your blog to communicate with you at any time. It can be a simple page with your email address plus social network links, or you can use a simple contact form that visitors can use to communicate with you without leaving your website.

  • Sidebar content: Your sidebar is the smaller column to the left or right (depending on the theme you selected) of your blog’s main content. In the sidebar, you could include your blog categories, most popular posts, ads, etc.

  • SEO meta tags: You will need to prepare content for the SEO titles and description tags of each page (not seen on the actual page but you need to have it ready).

Post-launch content

  • Blog posts: The blog post is an entry (article) that you write on a blog. It can include content in the form of text, photos, infographics, or videos.

  • Cornerstone content: Cornerstone (or evergreen) content continues to be relevant to its readers and gives them value years after the publish date. It is always fresh and up-to-date. It remains informative and retains its original quality. As its name implies – it is timeless.

Recommended reading: How to Write Blog Content – Posts, Pages, & More

More Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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 and 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 and 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 and 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 on how to make money blogging 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, professional bloggers working for popular blogs in the United States can earn on average a $30,000 per year. Obviously, some bloggers earn a lot less through their own blogs, while there are influencers who have millions of people following them and can earn more than $100,000 per year.

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 blog 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 and 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, you’ve completed reading the “How to Start a Blog” guide! By now you should have your own domain name, hosting space and your blog set up. Next, you will need to get familiar with the WordPress dashboard, learn how to make desired changes, learn blogging basics such as 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.