I’ve been in the game for quite a while now, having launched and grown a fair amount of successful blogs. Along the way, I’ve learned a good majority of what there is to know about the industry.
In this guide, I’m pulling back the curtain and sharing that knowledge with you, covering everything you need to know about how to start a blog.
Let’s get started.
Quick Scroll to Chapter:
Getting Started and FAQ
Contents in this chapter:
What Do You Need to Start A WordPress Blog?
There are three things necessary for starting a WordPress blog:
- A domain name. This is the address where your site lives. It’s the URL, or destination people type into a search engine to find your site. Kind of like the address to your house.
- A hosting account. This is the server where your files, like images, text, and databases live. Think of this like your house, which stores all your belongings.
- A little time and patience. Setting up a blog on WordPress is not overly technical or complicated complicated, but does come with a learning curve that takes a bit of time to learn.
If you’re already confused, don’t worry. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process from scratch, step by step. We’ll cover the basics of how to start a blog, including…
- How to pick a winning and profitable niche.
- How to register a domain name.
- The best web hosting company and package to select.
- How to set up WordPress on your domain.
- How to pick the best theme company and design.
- The basics of writing a blog post.
- Essential plugins your blog should not be without.
- How to grow your blog to increase traffic.
- How to monetize your blog once you get traffic.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in!
When family and friends learn that I now work online full-time, they often ask me how to start a blog and make money online.
After explaining the process of starting a blog a few dozen times, I thought it would be much easier to document a step-by-step guide on how to become a blogger.
Making 6-figures and a full-time living online is possible if you just launch your own website. The key is to just get it going.
And while you may be tempted to rush out and start a free blog, building a profitable website with a legitimate brand requires some very basic investments, such as a custom domain and web hosting.
But before we dive too far into the how, there are a few things to know before you create and build a blog in 2018.
Decide What To Blog About
Contrary to what many new bloggers would like to believe, blogging will not bring you millions overnight. It may be simple to get started, but be prepared to put in the time and work required to actually grow your project.
Like any other business, it requires time, patience, and commitment, so pick a topic or niche you are passionate and knowledgeable about. Trust me, your audience can tell when you love discussing the topic in your blog posts, and that will build credibility and loyalty.
I’ve made this mistake many times in the past by purchasing websites I knew nothing about then trying to relate to my newfound audience. I failed, and very badly at that.
Not only is it hard to write about a subject you know nothing about, but it’s also not helpful for readers. Stick to what you know and build off your passion.
Furthermore, a unique experience or perspective on a subject will help you stand out from other bloggers online, and encourage social media sharing from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. These mediums can provide exposure and drive huge amounts of traffic to your site.
If you’re stuck trying to figure out which niche or topic to write about, check out this video for some helpful tips:
Which Blogging Platform To Use
A blogging platform, or CMS for short, is a necessary piece of a blog that helps manage your content, images, and design. The free WordPress blogging platform is the best in terms of being simple, reliable, and flexible.
It is so easy to use that nearly 100 million websites use this CMS, and most hosting companies even offer “1-Click Blog Installation” features specifically for new bloggers who want to install WordPress.
Without any HTML or technical knowledge, you can build your own blog and customize it with different free themes (designs), layouts, plugins, and features.
On the other hand, you may want to learn how to start a blog for free using Blogger, Tumblr, Wix or Weebly.
A free solution offers users a chance to get their feet wet, but if you intend on making any money blogging online, I can tell you that starting a free blog is the wrong decision.
Let me explain why “free” is not actually free.
- You can’t have your own domain. This site, Yahoo.com, Google.com and CNN.com have their own domains. With a self-hosted blog, you can pick any available domain name you want and register it. However, if you choose to start a blog on Blogger.com or Tumblr.com, your website’s URL will look like YourSite.Blogger.com or YourSite.Tumblr.com. Imagine if you had to go to Yahoo.Blogger.com – what would you think? Credible or easy to remember? Would you share that “blog” with your family and friends?
- You don’t really own your blog. Because your blog is hosted on their site, you aren’t even the “owner” of it. Your blog can be removed or deleted without warning. If you decide to move to your own domain and hosting later, you won’t be able to take your traffic or readership with you, either.
- There is no flexibility. When you make a blog using a free blogging service, you are limited to their infrastructure, design, and layout. The themes these platforms offer are limited and boring, and you can’t install any 3rd-party plugins.
- You can’t make money, or at least not as much. Many people make money blogging, from $100 a month to $1,000,000 per month. Unfortunately for you, most of these free blogging sites won’t allow you to, and if they do, the platform will take a percentage of your earnings.
For all these reasons and more, I HIGHLY recommend you use an inexpensive hosting company and buy your own domain (i.e. MyBlog.com or MyBlog.org).
With costs almost negligible, we’re sure you’ll turn a profit in your first few months. More on that later in this article.
Cost of Starting A Self-Hosted Blog
The biggest advantage of starting a blog or business online is that it’s incredibly cheap. Unlike the days of old where starting a business was capital-intensive, starting a blog in 2018 can usually be done for under $100.
Here are the costs you may incur hosting your own blog using WordPress’s free blog software.
- Domain: $15 per year.
- Hosting: $3 – $5 per month, or about $36 per year with our discount.
- Themes: Some are free. Others, such as the Genesis Framework, can cost around $100.
The best part is there is no commitment, making learning how to start a blog a very low risk decision. Even if you try and don’t succeed, as long as you don’t go overboard spending money, you’ll only be out a little chunk of change.
If after a month or two, you decide blogging isn’t for you, you can usually cancel and get a refund. Many hosting companies even offer a 30-Day or Anytime Money-Back Guarantee.
You really have nothing to lose at this point. The tutorial below will walk you through how to create a blog.
Choose A Domain or Blog Name
Hopefully you’ve decided to self-host a blog on your own domain. Now comes the fun part – picking your blog name and domain.
Picking A Domain
Selecting a domain or blog name can be a challenge for some bloggers because it needs to be brandable, meaningful, short and easy to remember.
If you are interested in blogging about healthy food and recipes, a domain like My-Favorite-Healthy-Food-Recipes.com or MyFavoriteFoodRecipes.com is not the way to go.
Try a catchy, unique domain such as EatWell.com or HealthFanatic.com. Similarly, you can brand your domain after yourself by using your name.
Where To Buy A Domain
It is usually best for you to buy a domain and hosting package together, especially since the best hosting companies will give you the domain for free when you buy hosting, saving you both time and money. For example, Bluehost will let you register a free domain if you choose their shared hosting packages.
If you get hosting through Bluehost, definitely take advantage of the free domain name. If you go with another host that doesn’t offer a free domain, you’ll usually want to register a domain through an outside company.
Although there are lots of registrars to lease domains from, it is always better to go with a reputable company. However, stay away from the most well-known companies like GoDaddy, as they will overcharge you a ton.
Seriously, always stay away from GoDaddy.
They’re so well known that they’re able to price gouge their customers, and it’s almost predatory. It makes me furious.
To further illustrate what I mean, let’s do a quick test.
I priced out the domain “mynewblog1234.com” through my favorite registrar Namecheap, and my least favorite, GoDaddy.
If I register the domain through Namecheap, you can see it will only cost me $11.16 for a one year registration. If I apply a promo code, this price will drop to around $9, and they even throw in a free WhoisGuard subscription for the first year.
When checking the price on GoDaddy, however, you’ll see the amount is nearly double that of Namecheap.
Not only that, but when the domain renews I’m looking at even HIGHER prices. $9.99 for domain privacy? Give me a break.
But at any rate, do some shopping around to find deals. You’ll save money up front and thank yourself in the end.
Once you have a domain, you’ll then want to sign up for a web hosting package.
What you need
When you first build a blog, you don’t need anything fancy. You won’t need managed WordPress hosting or a dedicated server. You just need a cheap hosting plan that allows you to host your files and get your site live.
In my years building blogs, I’ve learned that BlueHost is one of the best inexpensive hosting companies, especially for new bloggers. Because they have so many users, they are able to operate at scale to offer super cheap shared hosting plans that allow you to get a site live for little money down.
*Shared hosting is when a web host will give multiple users access to the same server, and they share resources like storage space and memory. There are often tens, or even hundreds of users on the same shared hosting plan, sharing the same resources.
BlueHost excels in the following categories:
- Reputation, Uptime, and Security
- Customer Service and Technical Support
- Price and Money Back Guarantee
- Features and Free Email Accounts
BlueHost’s shared hosting plans include a free domain, unlimited everything (space, bandwidth, email accounts, etc.), automated backups, 24/7 technical support via phone and chat, and an average up-time of 99.9% so you don’t have to deal with server crashes and network outages.
BlueHost is also highly recommended for 1-click WordPress installs. Their extremely user-friendly control panel means you can start your blog in 15 minutes.
Overall, BlueHost offers powerful servers, fast connections, and unlimited bandwidth/disk space, all of which are critical to your future success making money blogging online.
When your blog starts getting a lot more traffic, you can look into more powerful managed WordPress hosts like WPEngine or Flywheel. But for now, shared hosting is a great place to start.
How To Set Up A Blog [Step-By-Step Guide]
So, “how do I start a blog?”
First, click here or the image below to take advantage of my special 60% off discount with BlueHost. Then on the BlueHost homepage, click on the “Get Started Now” button.
You will be asked to choose a hosting package. I recommend the “Starter” option for new bloggers, but if you can afford it and want the added flexibility of starting multiple blogs on the same server without buying new hosting, I suggest you opt for the “Plus” option.
On the next page, in the “New Domain” box, choose your desired domain name. If the domain is available, you will move on to the next step of the registration process. Otherwise, you will need to choose another name. If you already own a domain name, input it in the “I Have A Domain Name” box to proceed.
Once you have chosen a blog name, you will need to fill out your account information. Afterwards, scroll down the page to select your web hosting and options.
As a new blogger, we recommend picking the “36 Month” option because it maximizes your discount and since BlueHost offers a “Money-Back Guarantee”, you can cancel your hosting plan anytime you want to get a refund of your balance. Plus, your domain is free with BlueHost – a $15 savings.
However, if you aren’t completely sure about starting a blog and making money but still want to take advantage of a discounted rate, choose the “12 Month” option and give yourself a year to grow your blog.
Please keep in mind that you will be required to make payment upfront. That’s how BlueHost is able to offer my readers some of the lowest prices in the industry.
Here’s the math, based on using my special discount.
- 12 months at $4.95 per month is $59.40 per year and $59.40 upfront.
- 24 months at $3.95 per month is $47.40 per year and $94.80 upfront.
- 36 months at $2.95 per month is $35.40 per year and $106.20 upfront.
Additionally, we recommend you uncheck all the add-on options, but keep the “Domain Privacy Protection” to protect your blog’s ownership details (your name, mailing address, email, phone number, etc.) from being associated with your domain name and publicly shared.
I can tell you from experience that if you don’t register the domain as private, spammers will find you. Once a spammer finds you through these details, you’ll be subjected to a never-ending stream of emails offering SEO services for your new site.
Under no circumstances should you EVER actually give these spammer’s SEO services a try. They don’t work, and will likely do nothing but hurt your site in the end.
Finally, you will need to input your billing and payment information. BlueHost is one of the best and most secure hosting companies, so you can feel safe inputting your credit card details.
When the transaction completes, you will receive an email to confirm the creation of your BlueHost account. Log in to your new BlueHost account to install your WordPress blog.
On the main page, find the “Website” section and click on “Install WordPress” to begin the installation process.
On the pop-up screen, you’ll want to click on “Install” to start a brand new installation of WordPress.
Here, choose your domain from the drop-down list to install your WordPress there. Leave the second “Directory” box empty.
The last step is to setup your basic WordPress login details.
Click “Show Advanced Options” to type in your credentials. Your “Site Name” is effectively your blog name, and can always be changed later. Your “Admin Username” should be something unique and not publicly available for security purposes.
Finally, choose an easy to remember “Admin Password”, which you also change later. Obviously keep your username/password login information handy because you will need it to access the back-end of your fresh WP install.
Finally, press “Install Now” to start the WordPress installation.
After the installation is complete, visit your “Site URL” to check out the template WordPress theme and layout, which you will be able to edit and customize.
To log in to the back-end, click on the “Login URL” and enter the username/password you created above. For convenience, bookmark “yourdomain.com/wp-login.php” or “yourdomain.com/wp-admin/” because that will be your login URL going forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
Our guide has helped many people get started in the blogging world. Here’s a few of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received.
Do I need WordPress to start a blog?
No, you don’t need WordPress to start a blog. There are other platforms available, but WordPress is the simplest and most easily customizable platform currently available.
Can I make money on my blog?
Yes, you can monetize your blog and receive income from your traffic. There are many different ways to make money blogging, but we suggest first focusing on growing traffic and gaining new readers.
How do you come up with blog post ideas?
Using Google is a great way to come up with new blog post ideas. Type a query into Google, then look at the results that come up with autocomplete. This is a great way to see what people are actually searching for.
Can I create and run an anonymous blog?
Yes, you can create and run a blog anonymously without anybody knowing who is behind the scenes. Regardless of the reason for anonymity, tools like Private Registration and lack of public knowledge on your blog will allow you to remain in the shadows. We suggest viewing our “How to Start An Anonymous Blog” guide for more details.