To date, I keep getting questions and emails asking me how to start a blog. Eventually, I decided it was time to write a thorough, step-by-step guide based on my 10+ experience in writing for the web and blogging. A guide that anyone can follow to learn how to make a blog, relying on the best blogging platform at the moment (and I mean WordPress). I don’t stop there, as I recommend all the best free WordPress plugins to install, what WordPress theme to buy, and how to be found in the blogging realm. Are you ready for a new adventure? Good, let’s kick off the Start a blog guide, but first:
Why to start a blog?
Anyone can make money with a good blog that enjoys a nice number of readers and visitors. Be it sponsored posts (posts that you get paid to write and / or publish), free gadgets to review, or even free travel packages to enjoy and blog about.
You can make money by blogging
Do me a favor, fire up Google.com, search for “income reports” and read how the majority of those bloggers posting those reports started with a humble blog, and ended up growing it to a professional business that employs others as well. Look up the likes of the legendary Pat Flynn and Matthew Woodward to name a few.
There are endless ways to monetize a promising blog, but it all starts with choosing the right web hosting partner.
Free Vs Hosted
Blogger / Blogspot / WordPress.com? Free blog you say? Well, that would be a bad business decision if you ask me. Free is good, but not what a pro blogger would do. You need to spend / invest money to be taken seriously in the world of professional blogging.
Free has its limitations, which you will come to learn the hard way one day. Trust me when I say do your future self a great favor and avoid the free blogging options. One day you will come back to thank me.
It all starts with a domain name
Your start a blog journey begins with a domain name. Once again, I want you to avoid the temptation of a free domain registration, usually packaged with hard to resist web hosting offers. There is a good reason for that.
See, if you ever get hacked, recovering is easier when you have 2 separate accounts. One account for the domain name registration, another for hosting your website. Will you be safe from getting hacked? Beg you to reconsider. Remember that giants like Amazon, Sony were hacked in the past. Hell, the FBI email servers were hacked many times.
Before we leave this topic, advise you to always enable the Two-Factor Authentication method. Simply put, you are allowed to login to your account via a password and a special PIN sent to your mobile phone. Comes in very handy.
Register your domain name with NameCheap
They will tell you to register a simple, easy to remember domain name (a.k.a. web address). Problem is, all the good options are taken. Internet has millions and millions of websites and domains, leaving so little chance to find an available combination to your liking.
So, don’t worry too much, keep experimenting till you find an available domain name that you can remember and relate to. Once you’ve settled on a good name, it’s then time to register it. I am using NameCheap since over 10 years, and can recommend it for anyone registering a domain name. Click here to fire up a new window to the NameCheap domain registration page. Remember to sign up first thing.
Again, resist the amazing hosting offers that NameCheap will throw at you.
The search for a web host
They will warn you about XYZ hosting company, they will trash the other ZXY hosting company, while in the backstage, a giant consortium is buying all major hosting companies.
You can’t escape, sooner or later, the hosting company they recommended to you will be bought out by a big company or the other. Those which avoid the out-buying hammer, usually deteriorate with time and start offering lousy service and meager support.
Solution? Don’t worry much. Start small and when your blog grows and starts earning enough money, rent a full server, and mirror it with another hosting company, so if anything goes wrong with one, the other can save the day till everything is restored and goes back to normal.
Till that happens, heed my advice and start a blog with Bluehost.
Signup with Bluehost
Fire up the Bluehost website (click here) and take a look at the available hosting plans. On offer you will find Shared Hosting, Cloud Hosting, WordPress hosting, to name a few.
For the sake of keeping it simple, let’s stick for the time being with the Shared Hosting plan. Click Hosting then Shared Hosting. Once again you’ll be presented with 3 plans.
- YOU don’t have to worry about those different plans, as you can upgrade / downgrade anytime you want.
- Bluehost has a 30-day money back guarantee, so relax and don’t feel worried when faced with choices you need to make. Every decision you make can be changed without any drawbacks. Even if you change your mind afterwards, Bluehost will refund you.
The basic plan
Now, if you have ONE domain name that you want to host with Bluehost, then the basic plan is enough to get you started. If you have more domain names (aka websites, blogs) then go for the plus plan which allows you to host 10 domain names.
Click on the green Select button under the basic plan column. Bluehost will ask you to sign up now with your domain name. Enter yours in the i have a domain name box.
Next you will be asked to create your account. Pay attention to the email address you will be using, as Bluehost will get in touch with you only through this email id.
Afterwards you are asked to choose your preferred package information. Resist the up-sell efforts of Bluehost for the time being. Select the Basic 12 month $4.95/mo. You can skip all the extras for now as you can activate those anytime you want. For a new blog, those are not that crucial in this phase. When the time comes and you renew your hosting plan, then it will be wise to avail those good options.
Next you need to enter your payment options, agree to the Terms of service, and submit your info. Hoping that everything went well, by now you’ve completed your registration. Bluehost will then send you a confirmation email, containing all the information you’ll need to proceed.
Linking your domain from NameCheap to your Bluehost account
Now that you have a hosting plan with Bluehost, you need to tell your domain registrar (NameCheap.com) to forward visitors typing your domain name to go to your Bluehost account to view your website. You need to:
- Log into the NameCheap.com account.
- From the Dashboard, Select your registered domain name and press Manage. You can also click Domain List from the left menu.
- Set the NAMESERVERS grey field to Custom DNS and type ns1.bluehost.com (or 22.214.171.124) on one line and on the second one enter ns2.bluehost.com (or 126.96.36.199).
- Remember to save and you are done! Congrats.
Give it a minute or two and you can now access your new website hosted on Bluehost. (Worry not, it will be empty for the moment.)
Congratulations! Now it’s time to install WordPress, but first:
Why to only use WordPress?
- WordPress is the mostly used CMS / blogging script in the world with over 15 million websites using it, and it’s FREE.
- An open source platform where anyone can see how it works to make sure it’s safe.
- Supports themes, so you change the design without touching the core files.
- Many hosting providers offer one click installation of WordPress from the admin dashboard.
- WordPress functionality can easily be tweaked, enhanced, and controlled with the use of plugins.
- The global WordPress Community runs into millions. If you have a question or face a problem, thousands can help.
Time to Install WordPress in one click
Remember the email you’ve received from Bluehost upon your successful registration? It will contain your login information. Just head to my.bluehost.com and sign in using your new login and password. Now, click website under hosting.
From the big box showing WordPress, click Install now. You are then presented with two options, select the Do it yourself (FREE) option and click install.
Next, select your domain and click Select domain. Read and then accept the terms and condition, and then click install now.
It will take few moments, then you will be greeted by a message confirming that you’ve successfully installed WordPress on your website.
Visit http://www.yournewblog.com/wp-admin/ to bring up the famous WordPress login screen. Your user name will most probably be admin. Take your time to navigate the dashboard and all the options in the left menu. Afterwards you may:
Look professional, install a free / premium theme
WordPress relies on ‘theme’ to style the webpages. This means you can easily change how your website looks anytime you want without the need to reprogram or alter any code. You can switch to a new theme as many times as you like, and you can personalize your website by tweaking the elements of your chosen theme – i.e. colour schemes, font types, text size, etc.
Back in 2010 when I started a blog called Wajeez, I used a free theme for a while. Afterwards, I decided that the free theme was not delivering what I hoped for in my blog, and so I worked with a talented web developer to design a unique theme for my blog. Long story short, a custom theme is simply a money pit, long hours wasted back and forth explaining a problem and waiting for it to be fixed, just to discover another.
I decided that enough is enough. I started looking for a premium theme and settled on Enfold, the one you see shining on my blog here. By all means, I’d advise you to invest those $60 and buy it from the Envato Market here (You’ll need to create an Envato Account first). I sincerely recommend that anyone considering to start a blog to invest in a decent theme.
Essential WordPress plugins, free and premium
What is a plugin? Simply just apps that add more functions to the WordPress script. Plugins are created by developers, with some offering them for free, others for a premium. Free plugins are great, but they don’t do everything you wish for. In some cases, you need to buy premium Plugins to solve a problem or provide a special functionality your website requires.
In Wajeez, I rely on the following Plugins, which I highly recommend for you as well.
From your WordPress dashboard, from the left menu, hover over Plugins, select Add New and search for, install, and activate the following plugins:
My recommended list of WordPress Plugins when you first start a blog
Best free solution to protect your blog from comment spam. (You need to register to obtain an API code. Worth doing anyway.)
- Broken Link Checker
Checks your blog for broken links and missing images and notifies you on the dashboard if it found any. Very important for your SEO score.
- Contact Form 7
To enable your website visitors to send you messages via the Contact Form.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
It offers a pack of services, but its Site Stats offers a great deal of important data about the visitors. It will also email you if your website is down (not working).
- Top 10
Count daily and total visits per post and display the most popular posts based on the number of views.
- Wajeez OTD
A flexible plugin showing posts made on this date in past years. Yes, we developed it specially for Wajeez.com!
- WP Super Cache
Very fast caching plugin for WordPress. I tried the W3 Total Cache and had many many problems that I had to remove it.
- Yet Another Related Posts Plugin
Adds related posts to your website based on a powerful, customizable algorithm. It helps to keep your visitors a little bit longer.
- Yoast SEO
SEO is what makes search engines link searchers with your website. This Plugin is by far the best SEO plugin out there.
- Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress
Sharing your posts on social media channels is your top priority to bring more visitors to your blog. For that I chose this premium plugin, which I’m using all over Wajeez.com. The plugin automatically adds share bar showing: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Digg, StumbleUpon, VKontakte, Tumblr, Reddit, Print, E-mail and other 30 social networks. The price is $19 and you can buy it from the Envato store here. (You need first to create an Envato Account). Highly recommended.
The first post in the Start a blog journey
When you start a blog, writing your first blog post is like a celebration, a great announcement!
This first post is very important, mainly to you. See this big + sign on the top bar in WordPress Dashboard? Hover your mouse over it and select Post. Choose a title, and I’d recommend to do as many bloggers around the world do, they choose Hello World! as the title and then spill the beans, writing about what they want to tell the world.
A picture is worth a thousand words
When you start a blog, there are few things you pick up quickly. You need photos and a lot of the good ones. Sure, you can go ahead and start taking photos yourself, or use ready made stock photos. The good ones (aka high quality) are usually for a premium. But there are also some free stock websites like pixabay.com which I rely on heavily in the current time. Before that I used flickr.com but then the good photos had those copyrights stopping me from using them freely, so I moved on to Pixabay land.
Writer block, not enough time, need co-authors
After you start a blog, there will come a time when you have said all you wanted to, and then feel totally out of ideas. Others who start a blog may not have enough time to write on a regular base. The need then rises for external help. Luckily, there are many sources to find good, professional writers. If you are short for cash, then your best option is TextBroker.com. Articles by Level 4 writers would require little proof-reading and editing time. If you want to invest in a long term relation with freelancing writers, head to r/ForHire subreddit and look around for For Hire posts.
Getting traffic / Buying ads / Posting comments in forums and blogs
To start a blog is easy. To make a blog famous is not. It takes hard work and dedication. They will tell you Content is King. Well, the internet is full of kings and queens at the moment. For a new blog to stand out among the crowd, some paid advertising will be a good idea. It goes without saying that advertising for a blog with few posts is a sure way to lose money.
After you have posted 20+ LONG posts, with cross-reference links, only then you may consider paying for ads. I have found Facebook Ads to be a good option for getting visitors to your posts.
While writing those worthy posts, you can visit other blogs related to your blog’s main topic, and start writing meaningful, well researched comments. Those comments should encourage readers to know more about you, and hopefully click on your blog’s link.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my Start a blog guide, and welcome to the blogging parade!