In 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:
- Choose your blogging platform
- Secure a domain name and get hosting in place with Bluehost
- Configure your blog
- Design your blog
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
>> Podcast: How to Decide on a WordPress Theme for Your Blog with graphic designer and developer Kelly Exeter
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. You might also like to check out ThemeForest which have thousands of WordPress themes from many different designers.
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!
Overwhelmed by the process of getting your WP theme installed? Check out the service from ThemeValet who can help get you set up.
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 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 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.
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:
- What do I need to have ready before I Launch my Blog?
- 10 Things I Wish I Knew About Blogging When I Started
- Create an Elevator Pitch for Your Blog
- How to Craft a Blog Post
- 21 Common Blogging Mistakes
- How to Make Money Blogging
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.