How to Start a Blog
By Nick Biggs
Want to learn how to create a blog? This is an all-inclusive, comprehensive guide dedicated to teaching beginning bloggers how to get on their feet- no coding necessary!
This guide will get you started and show you some of the most common- and often costly- mistakes first time bloggers make and how to avoid them.
Ready to start your blog? Grab a coffee and let’s get started!
1: Choosing a Blogging Platform
Recommended Platform: WordPress
First time bloggers often jump in way too fast- costly mistake number one! Before you start worrying about your blog design get a few things straightened out. One of those “things” is your choice of blogging platform.
There are a lot of platforms to choose from, WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger just to name a few, so you don’t have to worry about variety.
Which one is right for you?
As of March of 2014, there are 76.5 million blogs on WordPress, making it the clear fan favorite among bloggers.
Here’s what makes WordPress so popular:
They don’t have the fees many other platforms seem to thrive on- there are no registration fees or fees for themes, designs or add-ons.
It is really easy to install and setup, even for a first time user.
WordPress is constantly evolving, updating their systems and keeping them secure to keep your blog free from unwanted hacks.
It is easy to customize thanks to their numerous free themes, designs, and add-ons. You can create a truly unique blog!
If you are new to blogging WordPress is the easiest, most user-friendly platform and no other platform can compare with its options for customization.
Now, let’s highlight another common mistake of first time bloggers- creating a blog on a free platform…
Creating a blog on a free platform will lead to frustration and headaches
It is imperative that you self host your WordPress blog. You will likely never run into a popular blog or authority site hosted on a free platform. It just doesn’t look professional to see www.blogtreprenuer.wordpress.com instead of www.blogtrepreneur.com.
Not only does the name sound less authoritative, free platforms are also rife with other issues. Here are just a few other issues you’ll run into:
No control over your “own” blog: The platform owns the domain name and they can pretty much do anything they want to with your blog, including shutting it down for any reason, at any point in time. A big risk just to save a few bucks.
It’s harder to have a branded or subject specific URL: You miss the opportunity to do anything fun or specific with your blog’s name because of the extra words and phrases that are not part of your brand.
No advertising of your own: On many free platforms, you cannot advertise, making it harder for you to get any revenue from blogging.
If you aren’t worried about whether or not your blog is successful and want to try out blogging to see if it is for you, feel free to go with a free platform.
If you want to build a credible blog, build a following, and / or make money, your blog needs its own domain name. Self-hosting gives you complete control to make your own rules and build your brand.
I suggest starting with a self-hosted blog on your own domain from the very beginning to avoid a costly or difficult move later on. It is easy and cheaper than you might think.
Now comes the fun part…
Getting your own Domain Name and finding a Web Hosting Provider
To start your blog, you are going to need a couple of things:
- Domain name: This is how people will find your blog. For example, Google’s domain name is www.Google.com. Yours will be www.YourBlogsName.com. Once you have your domain name, the name is off the market and no one else can use the name without tweaking it a little. This only costs around $10 per year.
- Web hosting: This is the virtual home of your blog and its content. Without this vital piece, your domain name will be useless. ?Web hosting is like a computer’s file system that provides storage for all of your blog’s content. The price for this “home” – between $24 and $60 annually – is less than a venti sized Starbucks coffee per month and is a vital component to your blogging success.
Selecting a domain name and hosting
Really only a couple of things matter with hosting:
- Page loading speed: The average number of seconds that it takes your pages to load for your readers.
- Uptime: The amount of time your blog is available to readers. The claim of 99.9% is not enough (For you number crunchers, that’s 42 minutes that your blog is unreachable per month). Those 42 minutes that people can’t access your blog can cost you readers and even revenue.
Before you jump right into it, there are many web hosting providers and they are all going to give you a similar service and price, so don’t get overwhelmed. There are famous web hosting companies like Godaddy, but we recommend HostGator after having experience with many other companies.
HostGator is top notch when it comes to blog load speed and uptime.
HostGator is on the money with their services, user friendly, and one of the absolute best for beginners.
Don’t get us wrong, you can always use a different hosting company. However, make sure that it is fast, dependable, and gives you unlimited storage and bandwidth. This will stop you from running into issues down the road.
2: Setting up the Blog
Note: If you don’t want to use HostGator, you can use a different hosting company. There is no promise that they will be as good as HostGator, but the sign up and set up processes should be somewhat similar. Please be aware that some companies don’t have one-click install for WordPress- if you need to manually install WordPress, you can follow this guide to do so, though this is not suggested for blogger beginners.
1. Visit Hostgator.com and click the “Get Started Now” button.
Bonus: We have negotiated a discount for everyone reading this guide.
2. Choosing a Domain Name
Have a domain name in mind?
Click on “Domains” at the top left of the menu then search for your preferred domain.
Selecting a domain name: What do I do?
Another costly mistake among first time bloggers is choosing a bad domain.
You need a domain name that is:
1. Remembered easily – Nothing that is nonsense, difficult to spell, misspelled, or full of dashes. Something like “www.best-techy-supplies-in-the-universe.com” won’t be remember after a few seconds of looking at it and quite frankly, it could annoy some people to the point where they just click the back button upon seeing it. Something like “www.techgeek.com”, on the other hand, looks cleaner and is easier to remember.
2. Descriptive – Pick a name that lets people know who you are or what you site is about.
3. Trustworthy – Avoid strange domain extensions like “.rocks” or “.biz”, are not often used, more forgettable, and not as trusted as “.org”, “.net”, or “.com”.
Type the domain name you want in the box, then hit “next”. If your name has not yet been claimed by someone else then you’ll be able to get it.
If the name you want is not an option, you can try another name or HostGator will give you a few choices similar to the name you wanted. It might be tempting to simply add a different extension to the name you wanted (i.e. adding “.biz” to the end instead of “.com”) but remember the trustworthy discussion above and make sure you chose the right extensions.
3. Choosing your hosting plan
For beginners the “Hatchling” plan is recommended initially. Of course, you can upgrade later if you need more features, but the Hatchling plan will give you plenty of features to play around with for now.
4. Completing Registration
When you’ve completed the steps above, you will need to complete it by typing in contact and billing information.
Apply discount code “STARTBLOG” to save even more money.
You will also have an opportunity to add extra services to your package.
1) Domain Privacy Protection (DPP) will hide your information (address, phone number, etc.) from the “whois database”; a database that anyone can access. Highly recommended.
2) Uncheck the additional boxes: These are not really worth it. You can get them later if you decide that you want them.
5. Sign in and install WordPress blog
HostGator can take a few minutes to register your account but you should get an email shortly confirming when everything is ready to go!
Once you’ve logged in to your control panel, it’s time to install WordPress.
Log-in to HostGator
Look at the left sidebar section
Click the option “Install WordPress”
When you have done that, you will be taken to Mojomarketplace.com – don’t worry, this is just a site that assists HostGator in installing WordPress.
You will see a screen in which you have the choice to “Install” or “Import” WordPress. Click “Install”.
When you’re done with that step, click “Install WordPress”.
You will notice a bar at the top of the page which shows you how the installation is progressing. When it is finished, it will tell you that the installation is done and you’ll see your log-in ID.
6. Log-in and look around your blog
When the install is complete, you will receive an email that has your login information which includes an “Admin URL”.
To log in to your blog, click this URL. If you ever lose this email or forget it, the URL is simply “www.yourblog.com/wp-admin”.
Congrats, you now have your blog! Remember, this guide can help you if at any time you want to create another blog – with just a little guidance it’s easy, isn’t it? You can stop here or read further for more on how to maneuver around, design and tweak your blog.
3: Configuring, Designing and Tweaking your blog
Here you’ll learn a few WordPress basics, including:
Understanding the WordPress dashboard
Altering the design of your blog
Setting up plugins/features
Getting your blog to be as user friendly as possible.
After setting up your blog, you are ready to start using WordPress to make your blog unique -it’s fun, easy and a great way to make your blog a reflection of you!
The WordPress Dashboard
The first time you sign in to WordPress, you are going to see a dashboard that looks similar to (or exactly the same) as this:
Here is an overview of important items for new bloggers to know:
?“Dashboard”: This shows you a brief view of recent activity- the number of posts, comments received, and pages you have on your blog.
- “Settings”: You can change your site’s title or tagline, change your email address and other settings under this tab.
“Media”: This is where all the pictures and other files you have uploaded to your blog are stored. You can also manage them here.
“Pages”: Click this to create a new page (like a contact page or information on your services) and/or to manage existing pages.
“Comments”: This is where you will be able to see and moderate all your comments. You will be able to see approved comments go live, review previously approved comments, see the comments that WordPress has marked as spam and the comments you have moved to the trash.
“Appearance”: Click here to edit the design and get fresh themes and layouts for your blog. (You will learn more about this below).
“Plugins”: Click here if you need or want to install a new plugin. (Keep reading to learn more about “plugins” and how you can make them work for your blog).
Altering Your Design (Blog Themes and Layouts)
WordPress has design template called “themes” which you can use to change your blog’s format and design. Ready for a new look? All you have to do is install a new theme to get a new look.
With over two-thousand free themes to pick from, you have plenty of variety. However, if you need more, there are premium templates at themeforest.net.
Finding and Installing a Theme
Hover over the “Appearance” button in the sidebar and hit the tab “Themes”.
It will take you to a screen with basic themes that have already been installed for you to choose from. If you do not see any that you like, you can search for themes by using the search bar at the top-right of the screen or click the button “Add New” beside the title “Themes” at the very top.
After hitting “Add New” a tab will appear and you can choose between “featured”, “popular” or “latest” themes. Alternatively, you can also use the search bar or choose another filter.
If you are getting overwhelmed by all the themes, filter through them using the “feature filter”. With the feature filter you can filter through themes based on color schemes, layouts and built-in features you would like your theme to have.
Once you have chosen what you want from your theme, click the button that says “Apply Filters” located at the top. You can also use the search bar and type in keywords to find the perfect theme for your needs.
After you have decided on the theme you would like, just click “install”.
Once it is installed all you have to do is click “Activate” when it goes to the next page:
Install a New Plugin
Warning: Before installing plugins, please Google any plugins you are thinking of using and read the reviews before installing them. Plugins can sometimes cause glitches in your blog’s theme and security.
“Plugins” are small software pieces that you can use to add features to your blog. Here is a small list of what they are able to do:
Add contact forms
Reduce spam commenting
Make your blog more SEO-friendly
Create sign up forms for newsletters
Add photo galleries
First, hover over the sidebar’s “Plugins” and hit “Add New”.
You can use the search bar to find any plugins by any keyword!
When you find a plugin you want click “Install Now” and then “Activate Plugin” on the next page.
It is important to keep your blog and its components up to date to keep everything working properly and maintain site security. Do not fret though, WordPress will normally let you know when you need to update anything.
Making your blog SEO-friendly
Search engines hate two things:
1. Irrelevant and cluttered URLs:
Wrong way: http://blog.com/2016/07/topic-a/author-Mia/how-to-start-a-blog.
Better way: http://blog.com/start-a-blog
One is packed with unrelated information while the other is simple and to the point.
To make sure your blog posts have clean URLs, hit “Settings” and then “Permalinks”. Use these settings:
2. Junky comments
Unfortunately, all too often, you will get people that will leave automated spam comments on your posts. They are often trying to steal readers from your blog and/or promoting their own services and products.
To prevent spam and junk comments, simply moderate all your comments. Go into “Settings” and then “Discussion” and mark the two things shown below:
Handling Your Information
There may be a time that you need to change your information, password, or even add a user so another person can access your blog.
Managing users is simple, just hover over the tab “Users” on the sidebar.
Add New User
Hit “Add New” as shown in the image above, and you will see this page next:
Type in information for the user you are adding, including a password. WordPress allows you to send the password through an email, just mark the option “Send Password”.
BE CAREFUL: The “Role” you decide on will decide what permissions your user has.
“Subscribers”: Only able to edit their profiles, not update or edit content.
“Administrators”: Have access to all settings
“Authors”: Are able to publish and edit their posts.
“Contributors”: Are able to create and edit their posts, but are unable publish the content.
“Editors”: Can publish and edit all posts
4: Blog Posts / Pages
Got it all so far?
For this section, you will learn about:
Writing a post in WordPress
Adding images and links, as well as formatting text
Quick tips to help you write amazing content
Creating a Post
When you want to create a new post, hit “Posts” on the sidebar and click “Add New”.
You will see a screen similar to this next:
In the top bar, you type in your title of your blog post. Beneath that is a text box for you to write your post.
You can save or publish your draft by using the menu that is located on the top right of the page. You can also select a desired time for your posts to be published or post them so only authorized people can see them.
Once you hit “Publish” your blog posts are live! If you ever want to view your previously published posts, just go to the “All Posts” tab in the sidebar and they are in the “Posts” tab. You can also edit them from here any time you want.
Here are a few more tips to make your blog awesome:
Add an Image
A picture is worth a thousand words! When adding images, first make sure that your cursor is at the point that you want your image to be located. If your cursor is in the wrong place you have to move your picture manually, which can be a pain.
Once you have your cursor in the right place, hit the “Add Media” button which is located right below the title bar.
The button will direct you to a new page. From here, hit “Upload Files” and then “Select Files”.
Once you have found the picture you want to use, double click the image and it will upload automatically.
Once your picture or pictures are finished uploading, highlight the image you want to use and hit “Insert into post” to add the image into the post you are working on.
Add a Link
Linking your content to other websites is a powerful tool- it can help build relationships, cite references and share information.
To add a link into your post, hover over the top menu until you find the button that looks like a chain link.
There will be a page that pops up and you will have to enter the URL you are linking to.
URL is the link you are wanting to share. To avoid broken links, you will need to include “http://” and then the “www.”
“Link Text” is the bit of text you would like readers to click to be redirected to the URL.
“Open link in a new window/tab” – Make sure you have checked this box or when readers click your link, they will leave your blog and have to hit the back button each time they want to return, a little annoying.
To link to a page that already exists, you can use the “Search” area to find the existing page and click on it to add the link.
After that, hit the “Add Link” button and voila! Your link is ready.
NOTE: Like inserting an image, the link will be located wherever the cursor was left. Make sure it is in the correct spot before adding a hyperlink
Add Headers and Edit Text
Your blog’s appearance is important and making your blog easy on the eyes keeps readers coming back. Use headings and strategic bolding to make your content easy to scan through.
To add a heading, click on the menu on the bottom-left of the toolbar.
“Heading 1” is really only supposed to be used once within your page (normally at the top), and use the others for sections you want to stand out to readers, as this is better for the eyes and SEO. To do this the easy way, highlight your text you are wanting to make a heading and then follow the above steps
This is pretty simple for someone who knows the basics of Microsoft word but just in case:
“B” = bolding
“I” = italics
“U” = underlining your text
“A” = dropdown menu where you can the color you want your font to be
That covers the basics for editing pages and posts. Your blog is now well underway and you can shift your focus to promoting your new content!