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So, you want to start a blog?
If you’ve never done it before the process can seem super complicated and overwhelming. There’s a lot of jargon you’re not familiar with and a lot of steps to take.
Not only that, but you don’t want to waste your money and time on something that is just going to turn out to be a flop.
Well, I’m here to make your life easier because this post is gonna teach you how to start a blog and guide you through each step of the process.
I’ll tell you what essential things you need to set up and what can wait. Where to spend your money and what you can get for free.
Anyone can set up a blog but its success depends on a multitude of factors. One of which is the niche that you decide upon.
I’ve written a post that teaches you the process of choosing your blogging niche.
Find it here –> How to Choose a Blogging Niche in 5 Easy Steps
Go ahead and work through that post if you haven’t yet nailed down your niche. If you’ve got it sorted then let’s carry on and get stuck into how to start a blog.
How to Start a Blog in 2019
If you’re completely new to blogging then all this terminology is going to seem like a different language. So, I’m going to try to simplify it as best as possible.
There are three vital components to your blog:
- The hosting company. – I highly recommend Siteground (I use them to host this site!)
- The platform on which it is hosted.
- Your domain.
Decide on a Name
Understanding what you need to create a blog is the first step you need to take. First up, you’ll need a domain name (unless you choose Bluehost as your hosting company).
I actually find this one of the most difficult parts. It’s not all that different from naming my kids, ha! Mostly because I invest a lot of time and effort into my blogs and I don’t want to tire of the name.
Honestly, try not to overthink it too much.
- Draw a mindmap.
- Write out the main points that you want your blog to focus on.
- Describe the audience you’re looking to appeal to.
- Start jotting down names that come to you.
As a rule, you want them to be easy to spell and remember.
The second thing to keep in mind is whether or not the domain is available. So, once you’ve written a list of name possibilities, head to a domain registry and start entering them in to see if they’re available.
Be wary of very cheap domain registrations and make sure you know what they’re going to charge you after the first year.
Take note of the price they’ve crossed out and not just the one they’ve highlighted. The likelihood is that they’re going to charge you whatever that crossed-out price is after your first year is over.
Another thing to be aware of is whether or not another company is conducting business under that name or a very similar one.
Make sure to do a Google search and look through social media just to cover your bases.
Once you’ve decided upon your blog name and bought the domain, you can then decide which hosting company you’re going to choose.
So let me start out by explaining the difference between a hosted blog and a self-hosted blog.
Self-hosted vs Hosted:
When it comes to knowing how to start a blog, it is so important to understand the difference between these two things.
Hosted blogs are free. That is obviously a great perk for a lot of people.
You sign up, pick a template and you’re good to go.
What is the issue with that?
- Well, you’re limited in regards to how much you can customise your blog.
- Your domain name is going to have .wix or .blogspot after its name.
- In general, your site is less likely to stand out amongst the crowd.
But what exactly is the difference between hosted and self-hosted?
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- Quick to set up
- Limited options for customisation
- You don’t own your blog (you could lose everything if they decide to take it down)
- .wix etc following your blog name
- Limited ways to monetize (i.e they’ll run ads on your site but you won’t get the revenue from them)
- Can grow with you
- You own your blog
- You can choose your hosting company
- No .wix etc following your blog name
- Vast options for monetization
How to Start a Blog: Hosting Companies
If you’ve decided to go WordPress then you’re going to need a host.
What is a host?
It basically stores all of your website information and makes it available to everyone that wishes to view it.
Different websites require different types of hosting based on the size and traffic that they receive. That is why web hosts offer different plans.
So, which should you choose and how much do they cost?
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As a beginner blogger, there are two web host companies that are great to start with.
#1 My Number One Recommendation is Siteground.
If you’re starting out from scratch then Bluehost is the most affordable way to go, however, I chose Siteground because of their customer service recommendation and affordability.
I also chose them because I could host both of my blogs with them.
Siteground can definitely work for beginner bloggers but is a great option for a growing blog or someone that is starting a second blog.
Plans start for as little as $3.95/mo (12 months due upfront)
Through Siteground you’ll get:
- Free SSL
- 24/7 customer service
- Free backup
If you already have a blog but wish to switch servers then you can choose their GrowBig plan and get free site transfer as well.
Sign up for SiteGround Hosting.
#2 Another Super Affordable Options is Bluehost.
If you’re just starting out and have a limited budget, then their basic starter plan could be perfect at just $2.95 per month. Otherwise, if you want the room to grow, then you could go with either their plus plan or choice plus. All very reasonable in price.
Why should you go with Bluehost?
Well, here is a list of great reasons:
- It is super affordable!
- You’ll get a free domain. (Immediate savings!)
- Free SSL (lets others know your site is secure)
- You can build your own website which will ultimately help you appear more professional.
- There’s a safe back out term if you’re not satisfied with their service.
- 24/7 customer service
Sign up for hosting now with this link –> Start a blog with Bluehost.
How to Start a Blog: Platforms
Now that you understand the difference between a hosted and self-hosted site, let’s discuss what a website platform is and which you should choose.
What is a website platform?
Essentially, it is where you can customise your blog. There will be ways and means that you can add or change elements to suit the needs of your work.
Techopedia‘s definition is:
A platform is a group of technologies that are used as a base upon which other applications, processes or technologies are developed.
The platform is where you will edit and customise your blog. It is where you will write and publish your content. In essence, it is your work station.
So, which one should you choose?
WordPress is the platform of choice for most serious bloggers and it is the only one I would strongly recommend. It is straightforward to use and has seemingly endless options for customisation and growth.
Even if you do struggle with the interface to begin with, because it is such a popular platform, there is no shortage of tutorials that you can find online.
There are other website platforms out there, but I can’t recommend any of them more than WordPress. And I mean WordPress.org not WordPress.com. What’s the difference?
WordPress.org is self-hosted, WordPress.com is not.
You’ve bought your domain, signed up for hosting, so now it is time to download and install WordPress. Just visit this link to start that process.
How to Start a Blog: Choosing a Theme
Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next thing to do is choose a theme.
There are free themes available, but if you want to get something that better suits your style or a specific layout, then you’re better off purchasing one.
Where should you go to look for one?
I’ve had themes from a couple of different places. The most recent one I purchased from Etsy.
Another popular place to find blog themes is Themeforest.
That is where I purchased the theme for my parenting blog, Christine Keys.
You’ll find a vast assortment of blog themes ranging in both style and price.
Finally, there are Divi themes.
They are definitely pricey, but very user-friendly and potentially time-saving.
Installing Your Theme
Most themes will come with instructions on how to install them, but just in case you’re struggling, here are some screenshots to help you out.
Your theme will come in a zip folder. What you want to do is save that folder to your desktop.
Once you’ve done that, log in to WordPress and choose Appearance > Themes.
You’ll see an option to add a new theme.
Click that button and it’ll change to Upload theme.
Click that and choose the theme that you saved to your desktop.
Once your theme has been uploaded and installed you’ll be able to customise it to your liking.
You will likely have received some kind of instruction manual with it, but if you get stuck you can also reach out to the developer for help.
How to Start a Blog: Essential Connections
There are two vital connections that you will want to set up once you have your theme installed.
Those are the places that you will go to dig into the statistics of your blog such as site traffic and keyword ranking.
If you haven’t got an account with either then you’ll need to set those up. That process is very straightforward.
You’ll also have to claim your website and that will require you inserting a code that they will provide into the header section of your blog. You can find that under Appearances > Editor.
Plugins are part of what makes WordPress so great. There’s a plugin for basically anything you can think of.
For instance, contact forms, social sharing buttons, etc.
A word of caution. Plugins are wonderful, but you do want to limit them to those that are only necessary. Why?
Well, too many plugins can slow down your site which will result in a less than stellar user experience.
Make sure that the plugins that you choose have been developed in a way that slows down your site the least and only download ones that are doing a job and not just sitting there.
How to Start a Blog: Design Your Brand
This is my absolute favourite part of starting a new blog. Brand design.
I love to create and this is perfect for that.
I like to start by figuring out which colour scheme I’m after. Pinterest is a great place to go for inspiration.
If you search for ‘blog colour palette’ you’ll be met with a bunch of pins to get you brainstorming.
I like to research colours a little bit as well. What feelings do certain colours convey and how is that going to depict my brand to readers?
Here’s a great post that talks about colours and their meanings –> How to Use the Psychology of Colors When Marketing
Once you’ve decided on your colour scheme, you can create a logo.
Now, this is an area where you may need to reach out to a professional.
I’ve always created my own logos and have been very happy with them, but if you struggle with design or have no clue what you’re doing then hand it over to someone who does.
Your logo represents your brand so it is worth taking the time and spending the money if necessary to achieve something worthwhile.
I do all of my own graphic design and have used several different programs over the years. Some of them free and some of them not.
Canva is a free option where you can create pins, media kits, graphics, logos, etc. There are tons of free options to choose from.
They also have the option for a paid subscription so you can access their full services such as being able to use your own fonts.
PicMonkey is another online design service where you can sign up for a subscription. Again, you can edit photos and design graphics to your heart’s content.
I personally use and love Photoshop for Pin creation, Illustrator for logos and printables, and Lightroom for photo editing.
There is quite a learning curve to these programs and they’re not free to use so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to beginner bloggers.
However, if you’ve had experience with them in the past then they’re great for all your blogging design needs!
There are also several websites that offer free and paid design elements.
For free stock photos, my go-to’s are:
For fonts and graphic design elements:
How to Start a Blog: Set up Social Media
As soon as you’ve settled on your domain name I would recommend you go ahead and claim your social media accounts.
If possible, you want to make your handle the same across all platforms so it is easy for your readers to find you.
Don’t try and take on all of the social media platforms at once. By all means, claim your handle, but don’t feel as though you have to be active on all of them.
Pick which ones you personally love to engage on and go from there.
They each reach my audience in a different way.
Pinterest is by far the platform that brings in the most traffic to my blog so that is the platform that I spend the most time and money investing in.
It is also where you can focus your short-term efforts in regards to building your traffic and getting some traction.
When it comes to blog traffic, you never want to have all your eggs in one basket. It is important to diversify.
However, to begin with, Pinterest is one of the easiest platforms from which to get results.
How to Start a Blog: Set up an Email List
One of the things I’ve seen stated by many, many successful bloggers is that they wished that they had started their email list sooner.
Truth is, you can begin to build your email list even before you’ve launched your site.
Why is having an email list so important?
Well, it gives you a direct link to your audience. It isn’t like social media platforms where there are distractions everywhere. Instead, you can really focus your content and direct it towards your loyal followers.
If your blog were to suddenly be unavailable, you at least can still access your audience via your email list.
There are so many reasons that having an email list is a huge asset, but really, that’s a subject that deserves its own dedicated post.
You might be wondering how and where to set up an email list.
I have used three different email providers throughout my time blogging.
For beginner bloggers I would recommend the following:
It is a very simple service for beginners to start out with.
It is also free for your first 1000 subscribers.
If you’d like to access their full features, then you can sign up to one of their plans which start at a very reasonable price.
- Create standout email campaigns
- Automate emails
- Optimize for your audience using segmentation, testing, reports, and personalisation.
The only con I have for MailChimp is that I did find it a bit complicated to really customise their forms to suit the branding on my site. But, if you’re after a free email service to get you started, then MailChimp will do fine.
Sign up for MailChimp here –> MailChimp Sign Up
Mailerlite is a service that I’ve used on my parenting blog for a good long while now.
You are able to:
Create custom forms to integrate on your site.
- Design automated email campaigns.
- Send out newsletters.
- Link Google Analytics.
- Free up to 1000 subscribers.
It has become another traffic source for my blog which in turn generates more income.
Plans start at $0 and go up from there depending on the number of subscribers you have and the features you want access to.
Sign Up for Mailerlite –> Free Mailerlite Account
For intermediate bloggers or bloggers that would like the best service from the getgo, I strongly recommend signing up for the following:
Guys, I’ve read about ConvertKit all over the blogging community. Seriously.
It comes highly recommended.
But you know what? I ignored the recommendations because I didn’t feel as though the investment was worth it.
When I started up this blog, I did my research a bit more and at the end of the day, ConvertKit won out.
The user interface, the promptness of their email service, and their brilliant customer support beat every other service, hands down.
They keep it simple and yet beautiful at the same time.
- Get a free trial
- Build stunning forms and landing pages
- Convert your audience
- Create effective email automation and sequences
- Organise your subscribers
Get your free trial of ConvertKit here –> ConvertKit Sign Up
How to Start a Blog: Write Pillar Content
When people have asked me how to start a blog, one of the key things I tell them to do is to write content ahead of time.
So, once you have carried out the previous steps you are finally ready to start working on your pillar content.
This is the content that is going to be the foundation upon which you build the rest of your blog.
Not only will it tell your audience what your blog is about, but it will also tell Google which will help with SEO (search engine optimization) and organic traffic.
How do you decide what to write and how many posts do you need?
I would suggest getting a notebook and listing out all the blog post ideas that you have.
Then, go through that list and pick out the ones that are the most niche-specific.
Don’t forget to check out my post on how to choose your niche –> How to Choose a Blogging Niche in 5 Easy Steps
You want 3-5 posts written that define what your blog is about. They are known as your pillar posts or content.
That will give you something to promote and share with people when you launch your blog.
I would say that having 5-10 posts on your blog before you launch is ideal, but definitely 3-5 of those need to be very niche specific.
After that, you can decide how often you’ll post new content. Your schedule will be unique to you. How often you post will depend on how much time you have and the kind of content that you’re producing.
My recommendation is to start slow. Perhaps once a week or once every two weeks.
Take the time to create really solid, quality content and then share it via Pinterest, Facebook, etc.
If you feel as though you can pump out more quality content then do it, but don’t rush the process. Quality is going to trump quantity.
The main thing is that you stay consistent. Posting 5 times in one week and then not at all for a month is not going to be beneficial.
Whatever you do, do it consistently and over time you will be rewarded.