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How to Start a Blog in 5 Steps

Posted By Darren Rowse 30th of March 2016 General 19

how to start a blog 5 stepsIn this post I want to walk you through the basics of how to start a blog, and while I do, I want to answer some of the basic technical questions that many pre-bloggers need to answer to get their first blog up and running.

There are many reasons to start a blog, but the challenge that faces all aspiring bloggers (including me back in 2002) is: how to start a blog?

How to Start a Blog

In general there are a few simple steps that you will need to complete to start your blog:

  1. Choose your blogging platform
  2. Secure a domain name and get hosting in place
  3. Configure your blog
  4. Design your blog
  5. Start creating useful content that serves readers

Below I’ll walk you through how I’d approach each step and suggest further reading that will be helpful on other important questions like: choosing a niche, finding readers for your blog, building community with your blog, and thinking about how to make money from it, etc.

My hope is that this step by step starting guide will help you to make your first blog.

Step 1: Choose a Blogging Platform

To start a blog you’ll need to select a blogging platform – or a tool that helps you to get your content up onto the web.

There are many blogging platforms available but in my mind the choice is clear and simple. I would set up straight away on a WordPress.org site, and I highly recommend you do too.

WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform and for good reason –

  • It is free to use
  • It is easy to set up
  • It has been around for many years and is a robust and secure system (although you do need to keep it up-to-date to maintain security)
  • It has a whole industry of tool providers, designers and developers around it that will help you to customise your blog in many ways

Keep in mind that WordPress offer two tools:

  1. WordPress.com – where they host your blog, look after the back end, and give you access to have it on their own domain. It’s free to start but, you pay to upgrade different elements of it.
  2. WordPress.org – where you have complete control and host the blog on your own server, your own domain and have complete control over how it looks, operates and how you can monetise it. It is completely free to use but you need to arrange your own hosting, domain etc.

WordPress.com is easier to set up and means you don’t need to keep upgrading versions of WordPress but it gives you less control over your design, how you monetise and what features you can add. WordPress.com is free to start with but depending upon what upgrades you want to get it can end up being just as expensive as WordPress.org.

My recommendation is to go with WordPress.org – you’ll have a little more work in the setting up phase (I’ll walk you through it below) but in the long run you’ll have full control over the look, feel, features and monetization of your site. It could end up cheaper for you too!

Step 2: Secure a Domain Name and Get Hosting in Place

Next you’ll need a domain name (your blog’s address) so that you have a home for your blog online. Here on ProBlogger my domain name is www.problogger.com – every blog needs its own domain, so it can be easier said than done to find one that isn’t taken!

For the sake of this article I just want to talk about how to technically get your domain – but there are a few other factors to consider including:

  • The Human perspective – readability of your domain, the ease of it to say and remember, etc
  • The Brand perspective – uniqueness, what the domain says about you
  • The SEO perspective – choosing a domain with good keywords can help your site rank higher in Google
  • The Legal perspective – copyright and trademark factors

We cover all four of these areas in our post 4 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Domain Name. I would highly recommend reading that post before you go out and grab a domain.

Depending upon where you get your domain and which domain you choose, a domain isn’t a super-expensive thing to secure – but it will cost you at least a few dollars a year.

Perhaps the simplest way to get your domain is to do so with the same place that you get your blog hosted. My recommendation for a good place to start is BlueHost (aff). It is the most common hosting among my readers and is both affordable and is as reliable a solution as you’re likely to find at this price point.

The other great thing about Bluehost is that they offer 1-click installation of WordPress.org and have specially optimised hosting for WordPress blogs.

As I write this article, Bluehost have an offer to get set up for just $3.95 USD per month (including your domain name).

An alternative to check out – the other hosting service that I’m hearing great things about lately from many ProBlogger readers is inmotion hosting (aff). They also offer a free domain when you sign up with them and have a very simple to use install option for WordPress.

Note: we use WebSynthesis for our blog hosting. It’s an amazing service but is not cheap but is great for a blog with significant traffic. While I do recommend it for heavy traffic blogs it would probably be overkill if you’re just starting out – as a result I recommend Bluehost which is a host I’ve used in the early days of blogs that I’ve started in the past, and am confident about inmotion also based upon the recommendation of trusted friends who swear by them.

Step 3: Set Up Your Blog

If you’ve gone with Bluehost as your domain and hosting provider, installing WordPress is super simple. In fact Bluehost have created a simple video to show you exactly how to do it:

If you have any trouble during this process, they have a live chat support system which enables you to ask questions of their support team.

Note: other hosts including inmotion have similar simple install systems for WordPress but if you run into trouble WordPress have an installing WordPress page too here.

Once you’ve completed this process, you now have a WordPress blog installed! Congratulations – you’re almost there!

Step 4: Configure and Design Your Blog

If this is your first experience of WordPress you might be looking at the dashboard and wondering what you’ve done by installing it – it feels overwhelming doesn’t it!

Don’t worry – you’ll pick this up in no time and just need a good walk through!

Configuring your blog

Luckily the team at Bluehost have put together a great series of tutorials that will help you with becoming used to WordPress and also setting things up to make your blog look and operate just right.

Here’s a good video that introduces you to what you’re looking at on your WordPress dashboard.

And here is another on creating categories and tags for your blog:

One of the most powerful things in WordPress is that it allows you to install and use plugins to get extra functionality on your blog. You might want to save this one to watch later but it will help with making your blog more feature rich.

Designing your blog

Another thing you’ll want to do now is to think about your blog’s design. First impressions count for a lot so you’ll want one that says something about the type of brand you’re trying to create and that helps you stand out in the crowded blogosphere.

Bluehost have a video that shows you the basics of setting up and choosing a design theme but can I echo the advice in the video about investing in a ‘premium theme’ for your blog.

While there are many thousands of free themes out there, this is an area that it can be well worth investing in.

Last time we surveyed ProBlogger readers, we found that most ProBlogger readers agree with this, and have premium themes as the basis of their blog designs. While they will cost you to buy, if you get one from a reputable source they’ll be secure, fast, have good search engine optimisation, will be designed for mobile as well as desktop, and be easy to install and customise.

The premium theme supplier that I have used over the years and highly recommend is StudioPress (aff). I’ve used their themes in the early days of numerous blogs and love their design but also support. I love them so much I’ve allowed them to put my face and testimonials all over their site :-)

To be honest – the design part of setting up a blog is the bit I find hardest. It is definitely possible to do it 100% yourself (and there are many tutorials around that will help you learn the skills to do it) but for 99.9% of new bloggers a theme that you tweak is the way to go.

The other option if you’re super serious is to hire a designer to do a custom design for you. But that is likely to cost you some significant cash to get a reputable designer and so a them is probably the best place to start.

Don’t stress too much in the early days – we all start with a design that we later look back on and cringe a little at. The main thing is to get set up and evolve from there. My key tip is to choose a simple, classic and clean design that you can add a simple logo to to make it a bit more individual and then get on with blogging!

Step 5: Start creating useful content that serves readers

OK – hopefully by now you’ve got your domain, hosting, have installed WordPress and have your theme installed. You have started a blog… but you’re not a blogger until you start creating some content for your blog!

I can’t really tell you what to write on your blog for your first post – because it is something that will vary a lot from blogger to blogger – but I’ll share some links below that might help give you some starting points.

What I can point you to is a couple of helpful videos from our friends at Bluehost again.

There are two types of content that you are able to create for your blog in WordPress – ‘Pages’ and ‘Posts’.

Pages

Pages are the ‘static’ pages on your blog that won’t really change that much but which you’ll link to from your menus and navigation areas on your blog. For instance here on ProBlogger my ‘About Page’ and ‘Speaking Page’ are created using a ‘page’.

Your first page should probably be an ‘About Page’ – a page which tells people about you and your blog. It’s a page you’ll want to show up in your navigation area/menu and is going to get quite a few people read it to understand what you’re about as a blogger.

Need help with your about page – check out our previous post on what to include in your About Page?

Posts

Posts are a little different and what you’ll spend most of your time creating as a blogger – they’re where you create your regular blog posts. Posts will appear on the front page of your blog once they’re published. They usually have comments and a date to show readers when it was published.

Let’s start by creating an ‘About Page’. It’s easy to do – in fact if you know how to use a word processor like Word then you should be ok!

Here’s exactly who to do that with our friends from Bluehost:

Next it is time to write your first blog post.

Once again the content is going to vary a lot from blog to blog but how you get that post up onto your blog is a relatively simple process and one that you’re going to become a master at in no time!

In fact you’re going to find this process very similar to creating a ‘page’ for your blog. Here’s a last video from Bluehost on creating ‘posts’.

Further Reading on Creating Content for Your Blog

There’s a great deal more that you could read about starting a blog but the process above should get you going. Once you’ve worked through it here are a few other suggested articles to read to help you take your next steps.

probloggers-first-week-of-blogging.jpg

I would also highly recommend that you check out our Guide to Your First Week of Blogging eBook which is perfect for anyone who has just set up their blog to help them to think through some key challenges that face bloggers like how to come up with an editorial strategy, how to find readers and much more.

It presents a series of 32 achievable tasks that will not only get your blog going but that will help you to develop the skills you need to achieve your potential as a blogger.

Also check out some of these articles and podcast episodes:

Have you started a blog?

If you’ve used this guide to start a blog I’d love to hear from you in comments below. Feel free to let us know what blog you started and how you found using this guide including how we could improve it to make the processing of getting started easier.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Aniee Qasim says: 03/31/2016 at 3:52 am

    I Really liked your post and you this blog, thanks for the awesome blog

  2. Great tips! In my opinion, the most important thing for blogging is to creat unique and attractive contet – for both – users and Google.

  3. Don’t forget to spend a little time to find some potential partners and friends online who are not direct competitors but who work in a similar niche. You can collaborate on content, count on getting am more shares and feel a little less “one day marketing”. Buzzsumo is a good took for this.

  4. Fantastic post! I found the step-by-step instructions and screenshots to be super helpful. I just made the big switch from WordPress.com to self-hosting this week. Thanks so much!

  5. Hi Darren, this is my first comment after reading your blog for long time. Newbie bloggers always tend to blog at free blogging platforms such as blogspot or wordpress.com, once they move to wordpress, they will realize the power of wordpress, community, support and everything.

  6. Hi,
    I’ve read your write-up on content development and it’s quite impressive.

    I’m a blogger and I write on wide range of issues. But I ever since I completed a professional course in Health and Safety, I’ve resolved to focus on that subject. I’ve since published a few topics on my blog “From My Lazy Chair” http://theerudite1.blogspot.com and http://nzikpidordorblog.wordpress.com

    But I’ve noticed I’m not getting a lot of people visiting my blog. Meanwhile, when I blog on issues having to do with politics, I do get an encouraging number of people visiting my blog.

    You may want to help me out with the development of the content in this regard.

    Many thanks.

    Nyaxoasi.

  7. Harri cliff says: 04/05/2016 at 10:06 pm

    Hi darren.

    You’ve been doing great and elevating my spirit about blogging which i would probably start this month ending-thanks alot.

    I want to know…which is the first step to start? Will i first create my site on wordpress and then later go to bluehost to do the hosting?

  8. Thanks Darren. What is your opinion of the Blogger blogspot platform? I know the prevailing sentiment is negative, but I do know a few very successful people who swear by it. In fact, one in particular in the art community receives 60,000 plus views a month, while not even using their own domain on it. They use nothing but the themes that Blogger provides, “quite well I made add”.

    It has made me re-think my opinion of the platform. Unfortunately I have had a lot issues with host providers over the years, and more than a few headaches with WordPress and different themes. I don’t remember too many issues with Google’s Blogger, but I always felt I had to do the WordPress Host and Domain thing to be legit.

    • Jason if I knew I was going to stick to blogging and give it a serious go I’d follow the approach outlined above and go with a hosted option like WordPress rather than start on Blogspot.

  9. Eduardo Carvalho says: 04/06/2016 at 6:14 am

    Thank you Darren for this article. I have read and saved it for later. It is going to be really useful.
    Just one thing though, the link to “inmotion hosting” is going to Evernote.

    Thank you again.

  10. Hi Darren, I used WordPress since 2008 and am astounded by the dizzying array of possibilities that its ecosystem offers today. Your only limit is your imagination. That said, I do question if it is the right choice for most bloggers.

    In my case, I found myself noodling around too much and fussing over tiny things all the time instead of investing in creating more quality content for my audience.

    By the time I paid for professional level hosting (wpEngine), support services (wpCurve), custom design, and various premium parts (theme, plugins, and various SaaS), it really added up.

    I think that until very recently, going down that route was the only viable choice for a professional grade website or blog, but I don’t believe that is the case today.

    I’m currently in the process of moving my personal site to Squarespace, and my various magazine style blogs to “Medium for Publishers.” I will lose a lot of freedom and options, but it’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make in return for dropping the time and money I spend on tinkering with the platform to almost zero.

    I believe that the network effect of Medium, and the other many features it has, will benefit me more than having my own stand alone blog. A number of substantial publishers agree and are making the move from WordPress to Medium for this reason.

    That said, WordPress is still the best choice to anyone who does need full control over all aspects of their site. And, it is still insanely great value for money – the things you can do with it these days for a modest investment would have cost a fortune ten years ago.

  11. I know how PHP, HTML,CSS … so it’s not difficult for me to set up a website, but my problem is content. English is not my native language, so I have to hire writers to write articles for me. Results are always not satisfied. They usually don’t give me the article that I need. I have waste plenty of money on those crappy writers.

  12. Hi, Darren. I’m in the middle of this blog, which has been most valuable. The videos by Dan are helpful as well. However, it appears the WordPress design has been revamped, so it was kind of hard to follow the video and navigate through my version of WordPress. Of course, like he said, it’s good to experiment, which I did, but I just thought I’d let you know, so he can update them (if you know him, that is).

  13. Mehran says: 05/16/2016 at 7:13 pm

    Hello Darren!

    I’ve had a couple of experiences in blogging. and Now I’m planning on launching a new blog. I was writing about history back then and because It had some pretty content we got very good results. (It wasn’t that narrow too. It was about art, history and culture at the same time) But this time I’m starting all alone and history is my field of expertise. Should I start with a history blog, or a blog generally about humanities?

    I really need some advise, because On the one hand It’s really not easy starting a history blog and expecting good traffic (I’m over thinking about traffic. because my previous experiences made me realise that a good content will attract readers eventually) and On the other hand, I’m not sure If I should have a blog that I can write series posts about politics and stuff like that along with history or I should just have history-focused blog.

    I would appreciate it if could give some advise on this and others, If the have any idea what I should do.

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