So, it’s 2019, and you have finally decided to quit procrastinating. Now, you’re ready to set up your very own blog. Excellent decision!
But, you’re a bit confused about the process of setting it all up. “How do I start my blog? “Do I need to learn how to code a website?” If those sounded like you, be assured that you’re in the right place for the correct answers. This free guide is here to walk you through the easy processes.
Perhaps, you’re still left with a tinge of doubt, wondering if it would be worth the trouble. There you are, asking yourself: “why should I start a blog?” Here’s a quick rundown of why blogging is an activity that will be worth your time.
Why You Should Start Your Blog
1. Blogging helps you create a personal space for self-expression. It’s an excellent way to share your ideas and experiences while connecting with people that share the same interests. Whatever your interests are, blogging provides a pool where you can share your story, contribute your content.
2. It helps you become a better writer; hence, you’d become a more organized thinker.
3. Keeping a blog helps you keep your creative juices flowing.
4. Blogging makes you a better person. Does that sound far-fetched? Well, it’s an activity that requires consistent effort, commitment, and discipline. All are admirable values to have.
5. The coolest reason? You can make money doing it! A blog provides a platform for directly connecting with readers. It allows you to build trust and sustain their loyalty; this can open up some money-making opportunities for you in the long run.
How Do You Go About Starting Your Own Blog?
Here’s A Step By Step Guide
#1: Find a Niche – Important to your Success
Your blog should be centered on something that you’re passionate about. Say, you like to cook, and you’d like to share your recipes with an audience, cooking is your niche. There are a thousand and one other niches to choose from—personal experiences (some use their blogs as a kind of diary to share their everyday stories), photography, healthy living, fashion, and even hungover owls (believe me, I found that one on Tumblr!).
It’s important to focus your blog on a topic you’re genuinely interested in so that generating content would be easy.
If you’re having difficulty finding a niche, make a list of five things that you love to do. Then start striking the redundant ones off your list, one after the other. There would be that one you just couldn’t strike off—the lone surviving item on your list is your niche.
Note that you don’t have to be an exceptional writer to start your blog. Most blogs are written in informal, conversational language because it’s easier to connect with readers that way. You’re allowed to write in a language and tone that is convenient for you. There are no alien rules to this, only yours.
#2: Pick a Blog Name – Very Important to your Success
Your blog name should be descriptive enough for a reader to know what it’s about, at first glance. If you’re planning to start a cooking blog, the name should include pointers like “recipes,” “meals,” or “chow.”
To make your blog name unique, you could make it related to your name or your nickname. It will do you a world of good if you pick a fun, original blog name because this will be your domain name (more on this later). Also, ensure that it is easy to pronounce; the trick is to try saying it out loud.
#3: Choose a Blogging Platform – Important to your Success
Hey, you’re really doing this! Now, it’s time to choose a blogging platform. A blogging platform is the software program that helps you create and save your blog posts online. It also makes them available to you or your readers, any time.
Regarding the earlier question on whether you need to first learn how to code, the answer is NO. These blogging platforms have gone through the trouble of coding the program and designing blog templates so the blogging process can be easy for you. It’s like renting a furnished apartment—all you have to do is bring your stuff and start living in.
There are quite a few blogging platforms to choose from: WordPress, Blogger, Wix, Weebly, and Tumblr are some of the most popular ones. Which one works best?
Well, if you’re looking for a blog platform that:
- is super easy for beginners to use
- allows you to have your own .com address
- comes with over 5,000 pre-installed blog themes
- has an impressive track record (which means you can trust them with your precious blog)
- provides support in case you get stuck (which is not likely, but it sure is nice to know)
- gives you the power to earn some income from your blog someday, then, WordPress is your best option!
WordPress is the most trusted blogging platform as it powers over 91% of all the blogs on the internet, including big names like Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even Beyonce! So you’ll be rolling with the big leagues, look at you!
Free blogging platforms (including the “free” WordPress hosted via WordPress.com), dangle the word “free” in front of you. Don’t fall for that bait as nothing about them is truly free.
Here are a few downsides to grabbing a free blog.
- It does not Look Professional
Free blogs are not a bad option if your blog is only just a hobby. But, if you’re planning to get a lot more value out of it, it wouldn’t look professional to potential readers with the run-of-the-mill widgets, and credit links in the footer. Visitors won’t take you seriously when they notice that you’re not willing to invest in your blog.
- You Don’t Really Own Your Blog
Thinking of a nice, and sleek blog name with your own .com address? Well, too bad. You won’t get that with free blogs. Instead, you’d get a tattletale address like “yourblogname.blogger.com.” It’s like sharing credits with the blogging platform, and with an address like that, your blog will not be easy to find on the web. Such a bummer, that one!
- Limits, Limits, and More Limits
Using a free blog means that you can’t customize your page the way you want to. You’d be stuck with a bunch of generic themes that other free bloggers use. Boooring!
- Lots of Security Threats
Since you’re paying no “rent” for your blog, you can get kicked out at any time. Your blog and its content can be deleted or suspended by the host platform for one reason or the other. Can you imagine all those hard work, going down the drain?
- Switching Sites or Exporting Content is a Serious Hassle
If you decide to move your blog to another domain or a different host, it can be a total disaster with free blogging platforms. You could even end up losing all your stuff.
- You can’t Monetize a Free Blog
Free blogging platforms do not allow you to implement third-party advertising or put up direct ads. You cannot, for example, create sponsored posts or a premium membership site. The blogging platform would place pop-ups on your page and get all the revenue from it. Sounds like such a huge price to pay. No?
Dining with the Queen Bees of this world should come at a steep price, right? Nothing is farther from the truth as a self-hosted WordPress site would cost you less than $10 per month (depending on your hosting provider).
The WordPress.org software is 100% free to download; you’re basically just paying for your own domain name and the limitless control that you get over your page. Great deal, isn’t it?!
#4: Choose a Host for your Blog – Critical to your Success
A blog host is basically the company that puts your blog up on the internet so everyone else can see it. It’s like a computer hard drive on the web where the files of your website are saved and can be accessed at any time. If you don’t have hosting, your blog won’t be visible on the internet. Every website you visit pays for a web host but some are more expensive than others. On the average, you could spend as much as $300 to $4,000 on a webhost but as a beginner, start small.
For web host, there are a lot out there but I recommend Bluehost. Fast, easy to set up and affordable.
Click here to go to Bluehost and start your blog for less than $100 PER YEAR. The link will open in a new window so you can reference these instructions as you work.
There are many blog hosting options that you can choose from. However, Bluehost is the one that I would recommend because it’s a one-stop shop for excellent and affordable web hosting. Also, It offers FREE REGISTRATION of your domain name. Bluehost currently hosts over 2 million blogs online and has been recommended by WordPress since 2005 for new bloggers.
Click here to go to Bluehost and start your blog for less than $100 per year. The link will open in a new window so you can reference these instructions as you work.
Bluehost offers a simple one-click WordPress install, which makes starting a self-hosted blog super easy. They also offer a 24/7 customer support system via phone or web chat. Through this, they provide help in case one needs it (which is unlikely). Plus, you can get a great hosting plan for as low as $2.75 per month and they add a FREE domain name for your first year. If you get unsatisfied with their services for any reason, Bluehost provides a money-back guarantee so you can be sure to receive only stellar services.
Now, let’s get into the steps of setting up your site on Bluehost. It’s pretty easy, I promise.
Select a Plan
Since you’re just starting up, it’s pretty safe to go with the Basic plan. You can upgrade it later if you wish to.
Enter your Domain Name
Type your domain name in the left box and then click “next” to start the registration process. If your domain name is not available, try different variations of it while still making sure to stick with words that describe what your blog is really about. You can try re-arranging the words, or adding your name to make it a bit more personal. You can choose any domain extension that you want. Granted, the .com domains are the most popular and easiest to remember, other extensions such as .net, .org, or .io are just as effective.
Enter your Details
Enter your email address and other account details on the registration page.
Choose your Hosting Package Duration
Bluehost offers 12-month, 24-month and 36-month account plans. It’s safer to select the 12-month plan, even though you’d potentially be saving money by paying for two or three years upfront. Nonetheless, the 1-year price is quite reasonable and you’d be losing no extra money if you decide that blogging isn’t for you after a year. Finally, you can choose to add or remove any extra features by checking or unchecking the boxes provided.
Enter your Card Details
Enter your credit card details with the foreknowledge that your account details are safe. Bluehost offers HTTP security and this means no one could have a record of your account details during and after any transaction.
- Create a Password and Log In
Finally, Log In
Click the “log in” button and you’re in. Told you this was going to be easy!
#5: Set Up your WordPress Account
Type in your blog name as “username” and your password. If you’re unsure about your blog name, check your mail. Bluehost would have sent you your log in details. Your blog software—WordPress—would automatically be installed and you can start customizing your blog. Subsequently, you can log in to your WordPress site by typing www.yourblogname.com/wp-admin to access your dashboard where all the magic happens, and you’re the ringleader!
You’ll be asked to choose a template or a theme. You can pick any random one or just skip, since you can easily change it later. Click the ‘Start Building’ button and voila!
#6: Personalize your Blog
At the start, the layout might appear confusing. However, you’d get the hang of it faster than you can imagine. On the sidebar of your dashboard are some icons that read Posts, Media, Pages, Comments, Appearance, Users, Plugins, etc.
To write a new blog post or view old ones, click on Posts. Use the Media button to upload library photo files or view previously uploaded ones. Open Pages if you ever decide to create static pages. The Comments tab is for managing the comments on your posts. The most fun part, where you can change the outlook and design of your page, is the Appearance tab; here, you have over 5000 themes at your disposal!
Next, choose whether your blog is for business or personal purposes. Pick the one that is applicable to you, and remember, this can be changed anytime! Next, you’ll see a page where you’ll be asked to provide your “site title” (which is basically your blog name) and a brief description of your site. Keep your description simple, and sweet. Highlight the purpose of your blog as briefly as possible.
On the next screen, click “Yes” in answer to whether you’d like to update your site with news or blog posts.
Moving on, you’d be shown a page where you have to choose whether your homepage should be a static welcome page or most recent updates. I would recommend you choose the latter, so that your blog can always have new, fresh content to catch readers’ attention.
Next, you can set up a “Contact Us” page if you would like readers to be able to reach out to you. It could be something as simple as your name, your email address, and social media handles. Alternatively, you could take it a notch higher and include a short bio, stating your skills and interests (this is a great option if you’re planning to market a brand or product, with your blog). You could choose to skip this option.
#7: Choose and Customize your Design
Here, you get to design your blog and make it look exactly how you want it. You probably have something in mind inspired by some of your favorite blogs and you can’t wait to dig in! To access the themes, click on Appearance then Add New Theme to begin. You’ll be directed to a theme search screen that you can explore by clicking the Feature Filter. With this, you can sort search results by color, layout, etc. Simply check the boxes you want and click Apply Filters.
Having over 5000 free templates is a gift and a curse. It is cool that you have a multitude to choose from. However, because there are so many, it is easy to get confused and end up spending more time than necessary trying to find something that works.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when picking your theme
- Keep it as simple as possible. The best designs are the ones that are clutter free and user-friendly. Pick one that gives enough space for your most important components to be noticed easily. Also, ensure that your selected theme is mobile-friendly, because most of your potential readers would be mobile users. As a matter of fact, the Google search engine gives little priority to sites that do not have mobile-friendly templates.
- Use a theme that works on different browsers. You could try checking it out on the most popular ones, just to be sure.
- Pick a theme that is suited for your niche. If your blog will be mostly text-based, pick one that has prominent space and design for text. If you’re going to be using more pictures than text, pick a theme that places those pictures nicely and visibly. It is best not to use a sport-oriented theme if you’d be blogging about food. Now, you get the picture.
When you find one that you like, click the blue Install button and then press Activate. Remember that you can switch themes at the click of a button without losing your content, at any time! However, try not to do it too frequently so that your blog can have a consistent outlook. This would require a lot of self-restraint because WordPress themes are that attractive.
#8: Start Writing!
High-five! You did it! Now that your blog is up and running, it’s time to put up your first blog post. To write a new post, click on Posts, then Add new. A post editing screen with standard writing tools would appear. This page is quite familiar; it’s like the ones on MS Word writing pages, so writing your post should be as easy as typing an email. Don’t forget that perfection is not a thing in blogging. It’s the passion and interest that you have in your topic that will attract readers to your content.
Speaking of readers, there are more people online now than ever. This means that you’ll get an audience, right away, but we’ll be looking into plugins that would help you boost your content and attract even more readers to your blog.
To add life and color to your post, be sure to add images. You can do this by clicking the Add Media tab and uploading images from your local library or searching for relevant ones online. Make your post structured and easier to read by adding headings where necessary. It is most useful when writing a long piece. Do this by scrolling up to Paragraph and select the heading you’d like to use from the drop-down menu. Use the Heading 1 for blog post titles only, and stick to the smaller headings for the titles in the body of the post.
If you want to add links to your posts (whether to share a piece of relevant content from a credible site or to make reference to another one of your posts) highlight the desired text and then scroll up to the editing tools suite. Click the button that looks like a paperclip, then add the URL of the link. Make sure that you click the settings icon and check the box for “open link in a new tab” This is important; you don’t want people leaving your site when they click on a link.
When you’re all done, add a picture that will be displayed at the top of your post and used as thumbnails when you share the link. You can do this by scrolling down the right sidebar of your blog menu, then clicking “set featured image.” Add an image through the same “add media” process. Finally, push the big blue Publish button after proofreading and checking against formatting errors.
Yay! Your very own first blog post is live on the web! Great job!
Up till here, you’ve done great, but it could be made better with that extra oomph. If you want a lot of people to see your content, below is a bonus topic, just for you.
BONUS: HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR BLOG
You, most likely, made it all the way here because you don’t want your blog to get lost among the myriad of blogs that are on the web. Here are a few things you can do to ensure the prominence of your sparkling new blog.
Create Quality Content
Nothing sells better than good stuff. If your passion and interest really shine through your writing, you’d have your readers coming back for more. Also, it helps if you focus your blog on a specific topic and try to generate content that meets a need in that field. Ever wondered why life hacks blogs get so much readership? It’s because they’re telling you stuff you didn’t know—that’s a good way to keep things going with your blog.
Customize your Post Slugs
Your slug is the URL of the specific post you’re publishing. If you have a blog URL like “yourblogname.com/new-post/,” that last bit after the forward slash is your slug. By default, WordPress makes the title of your post the slug, but this is usually too long. You should change it so it’s no longer than 3-4 words.
To do this, click your post title and click the ‘edit’ tab in the part that says “permalink.” Try to use an SEO keyword—think of what people would type on Google if they were looking for the information that you have shared in the post. However, do not change a slug after publishing a post, as this will result in lost traffic.
Use Plugins to your Advantage
Plugins let you add features to help improve readability and offer better ways to connect with your readers. You could add email capture plugins, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugins, site analytics, increasing page load speeds, etc. For starters, a recommended plugin is Yoast SEO. It helps you to optimize your blog post titles, descriptions, content length, and other elements that improve your blog. This ensures that you can be found easily by search engines.
Phew! I bet you’re proud that you finally crossed “Start a blog” off your 2019 to-do list. Now, it’s time to down that glass in celebration. Here’s to creating fresh and consistent contents on your way to a successful blog!