If starting a blog is part of your new year’s resolution or you’ve simply decided this the right time for you then you’ve come to the right place! This post will go over all the necessary steps to get off the ground with ZERO (ok maybe a little) technical skills. This is in my opinion the shortest and more comprehensive guide out there. But unlike most posts that teach you how to start a blog, I’m not going to start off with some rags to riches story. The other how to start a blog posts you’ve may have read makes it seems like they went from zero to millionaire within in no time. That doesn’t happen in the real world. Blogging is hard and you got to keep sticking with it even if you have family members subscribing. Monetizing from your blog is even harder.
How to Start a Blog in 2017
Ok if you’re still reading that means I didn’t scare you off. Now on to the good side of blogging. If you love to write or share your experiences then this is perfect for you. If you write about something people care about and have great posts, people will come as long as you do adequate promoting with friends, family and social media. Once you hit that critical mass then you can start monetizing your blog.
There are 5 steps you need to tackle before starting a blog
- Choose your blog platform (WordPress end of story)
- Choose the type web hosting for your blog (various places)
- Choose a self-hosting provider (where your page is stored)
- Design your blog (by using themes)
- Configure your blog (all the plugins you’ll need)
Step 1 – Choose your blog platform
I’m not going to go over different blogging platforms because the only one you want to use is self-hosted WordPress. It’s the best out there and used by millions upon millions of bloggers. You get the best hosting providers, you get the best SEO and you get the best plugins. Do not try to waste your time with anyone else just because they might be free.
If you like pretty diagrams, here is one from Pingdom about the top blogs platforms out there.
If I still haven’t convinced you yet, here are more reasons why you should go with WordPress.
Best SEO (search engine optimization) out there
Lots of free and paid themes and layouts
Huge number of supporters and support forums
Tons of customization with plugins
Step 2 – Choose the type of web hosting for your blog
So now that you’ve settled on WordPress, you’ll have to make a decision on if you want the free version which is hosted on WordPress.com’s own site or you want to pay for a self-hosted WordPress site. Before you say, “Of course lets’ go with the free WordPress option!” NO! There are a lot of drawbacks that really will hinder you.
You can’t use your own Domain Name
You won’t be able to really build your brand because you won’t be able to use your own domain name with the free version of WordPress. You have to use something that has .wordpress.com at the end. Example would be Samplename.wordpress.com.
You are essentially building more awareness for WordPress rather than your own brand. Let’s say if you establish a blog empire called thecatvideoblogs.com, all your articles on Google will have your own domain name links. Over time they build up and if you get super popular people will know your domain name by heart. But if you establish an blog empire that is thecatvideoblog.wordpress.com, it’s totally different. See the difference? Having your own domain is also reat from a SEO perspective. Google/Bing’s crawlers can scan your site easier and be able to capture all of your posts/pages effectively.
While using a free WordPress site, you can’t monetize it! This is very important because honestly it costs money to run a blog and if you can’t at least recoup your hosting fees then its not worth it in the long run. You definitely need to monetize the site either with sponsorship, ads, affiliate marketing or publication.
Free WordPress sites puts huge restraints on what you can upload in terms of pictures and videos. You’ll have to link them all from 3rd party sites which slows down performance. This is a huge limit.
Free WordPress sites have little to no plugins and themes to customize your site with. The advantages a self-hosted WordPress blog with the use of themes and plugins are beyond enormous. I can’t stress that enough! You want as much customization as possible.
Lastly it has been known that free WordPress sites gets deleted for no apparent reason. Either by mistake or WordPress feels like your violating their policy, you can find one day that all of your hard work is gone! NO! You don’t want that to happen. That doesn’t happen with self-hosted WordPress solutions.
Step 3 – Choose a self-hosting provider for your blog
You better not be thinking about free WordPress at this point! Let’s move on to self-hosted WordPress.
So let me recap, self-hosting means that you are using your own domain name and paying for someone to host your content for you. Your web page, posts, videos/pictures, comments, etc…is hosted. It’s like renting a space that is yours only.
So where do you go for self-hosting? There are many places out there. I’ve used many before but the one that truly impresses me with insane speed and customer service is SiteGround. That is where this blog is running. I made a switch before going live with this site and I’m truly shocked how fast things run.
Both have a “one-click” WordPress install within their admin panel. What does that mean? It means both have a button that will automatically install WordPress on your blog. The order of things is to sign up, then choose your level of hosting plan, select a domain name and look for the one-click WordPress install button on the admin panel. After you sign up the first thing to do is to select your very own domain name.
If you’ve never bought a domain name before and i’m assuming almost everyone reading this…you’re in for a treat! Take your time and come up with something great and represents your blog in a clear manner. So what do you do if you can’t think of something?
All of the self-hosting provider provide suggestions based on the domain names you want. So even if your name is taken, there are other variations of it suggested. Below is a nice little widget from Bluehost that allows you to check domain names.
After you’ve selected a domain name, you’ll be presented with some options. First one is Domain Policy which is auto checked. I recommend you to get it. Domain privacy basically masks who you are so in case anyone is looking for you, they won’t be able to find out your name or address. Below is a good example of it and if you really don’t care if anyone searches for you then you can uncheck this option.
All of the self-hosting companies by default check the backups and security services. They are optional but I would say keep them because they are useful.
After you get everything selected, check out and wait for the confirmation emails and you are set! Next would be to install and configure your self-hosted WordPress. Customer service from both companies can guide you through an WordPress installation. I highly recommend calling them or using live chat to get the whole thing setup for you.
But if you want to tackle the process yourself, here are some guides to help.
Step 4 – Designing your blog
Now, the fun part! Themes are fun because you can choose from thousands of themes out there. Everyone is a bit different from each other and it really depends on your tastes and the type of blog you have that will determine what is the best theme to use. To get started don’t be TOO picky with your selection. You can always change your theme anytime and its very easy to do with a few clicks.
To choose a new theme, you can either head to Appearance > Themes and install a free WordPress theme or you can grab a paid premium theme from someone like Elegant Themes. YouCanBlogAlso is running the Divi 3.0 Theme and Builder and it is highly recommended! The builder allows you to create your blog visually using drag and drop rather than HTML code. Here are some cool animated gifs showing you what I mean.
Overall for theme selections, always consider these things:
Preview the theme – Preview to get an idea of what your blog will look like before applying. It’s not the end of the world if you did but there are little things that you may have to reconfigure if you try to switch back.
Check the ratings – This should be obvious, do not install themes that have anything less than 4 stars. Look for 4.5 – 5 star ratings. Feel free to read people’s opinions on why the theme is bad or great.
Check for responsiveness – This one is tougher and you won’t really be able to check until your blog is fully done. Check Google PageSpeed Insights and GTMetrix to see how fast or slow your mobile and desktop site is. They will both make recommendations on what is slowing down your site. If your theme is less than optimal, change it.
Step 5 – Configure your blog
You might be thinking what the difference is between configuring your blog and designing your blog? Well remember all the plugins I kept talking about, there are definitely a few you should think about installing. The reason why I say step 5 is optional is at this point its more important to start blogging! Spending weeks or months trying to get all the right plug ins would be silly at this point. You need content and lots of it so at this stage I would recommend you start writing and promoting.
Promote your blog to everyone you know and even people you don’t! Tell your friends and family, blast your posts on social media and join forums or groups that relate to your niche. A good rule of thumb is at least 2 new blog posts a week but if you can make it 3 that would be best. It might seem like a lot of work but remember you don’t have to make your posts perfect. I know there are a lot of perfectionist out there that keep rewriting posts over and over and then they end up not publishing anything.
In case you are wondering, here are the top plugins I would recommend you installing. All you have to do is click on Plugins on the left navigation bar and click on “add new” on top and then search for them.
SEO by Yoast – The best SEO tool out there period. Some consider this the best plugin.
SumoMe – One of the best tools you can use for social sharing, email sign ups, analytics and more.
Related Posts – Great plugin that allow you to showcase other posts that an reader might be interested in seeing.
Jetpack – Jack of all trades plugin that gives you enhanced security, performance improvements, analytics and more.
Akismet – Filters out all comments that are spam. Once your blog becomes popular, you get spammed consistently.
Redirection – In case someone miss types an page, this will redirect them back to your home page.
Google XML Sitemaps – Generates an XML sitemap so that Google can crawl your site easier. Needed for SEO.
WP Smush Pro – Automatically compresses any photo you upload so they take less space and load quicker.
WP Hide Posts – Gives you the ability to hide posts from appearing.
Use Any Font – Just like what the name implies, allows you to change the font of your posts/pages.
These are the best and what I consider plugins everyone should have. Of course there are a ton more out there so have fun and experiment.
To recap the blogging jargon
In case you just aren’t understanding the difference between what a domain name is vs self-hosting company vs what WordPress is, lets look at it this way.
Domain name = AddressYour domain name is like your address, it tells people you own it.
WordPress = ApartmentWordPress is like your apartment building. It is where you build, customize and showcase what you want to say.
At this stage, you should be all done and be able to rock n’ roll! Remember themes and plugins can come secondary to content. Get the basics done so that you have a decent layout and plugins and start hammering away at the posts. Once you have a decent amount then relax back a little and work on the smaller details. If you have any questions/issues or want to leave a thanks, please comment below or Email Me. I’ll try to help you out with any problems.
Enjoy your new blog!
Don’t worry I didn’t forget! I’ve decided to separate out the monetizing section into another post. Take a look here: