How To Start A Blog In 2018: The Beginner’s Guide

Blogging is one of those “no experience required” jobs. It’s pretty simple to start a blog but it’s very difficult to master. The purpose of this guide is to teach you how to start your blog today and make it a success. All with simple and clear, step-by-step instructions.

How to start a blog

Throughout this beginner guide, I have included links to additional resources that provide more in-depth information about the particular topic that I covered. Let’s get started.

What should I blog about?

You can find the perfect blog topic for you by interlinking your passion and personality with the demand from the market.

Your sweet blogging spot

Are you unsure about what niche you want to be blogging about?

Take a look at my Simple Guide To Figuring Out The Niche To Blog About.

How to come up with a name for my blog?

You know the topic you want to cover but how about the name? These are the three main approaches for coming up with a memorable blog name:

Choosing a name for your blog

Need more help with naming your blog?

See A Quick Guide To Coming Up With A Memorable Blog Name.

What’s the best blogging platform?

There’s just too many options available. WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Medium, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly just to name a few. It’s easy to get lost and not understand the difference between them.

The choice boils down to this: Do you want to blog using a closed and commercial platform or using a self-hosted and open platform?

When I created my first site about my favorite band Metallica I used one of the closed, for-profit platforms. My site turned out popular, but I had restrictions on what I could post, how I could present my content and they even put banner advertisement on my site. I had to leave that platform and went on to self-host my site.

It’s not ideal to rely 100% on commercial platforms in the long term for these reasons:

  • When using a commercial platform you don’t own your blog, the company behind the platform does.
  • Commercial platforms are more expensive and have restrictive terms of use with regards to the design, what you can post content about, if and how you can monetize and more.
  • Commercial platforms change, adapt their positioning and disrupt their users. Some cease to exist. Some get taken over, get neglected and shut down (remember Posterous?).

The opposite of commercial platforms are the self-hosted and open platforms. The key player here is WordPress. WordPress is an open-source, self-hosted blogging platform that allows you to build your blog for free. It’s used by millions of people and powers more than 29% of the entire web. Some of the largest brands host their sites on WordPress including Facebook, eBay, NASA, Mozilla and CNN.

WordPress has a huge community of hundreds of thousands of developers and designers all over the world. They contribute with design themes and plugins for everyone to use and are always eager to help and answer questions. I use WordPress and recommend it to all the beginners.

How to get your blog up and running in 5 minutes

This is the exact step-by-step process that I follow when I launch a new blog. No prior experience or tech-knowledge is necessary.

There is no cost for WordPress itself but you do need a domain name (the address people will type to get access to your blog) and a server space (where your content and files are hosted) to run it.

There is a lot of competition between the different web hosts which makes the cost of starting a blog low. It costs about $35 to get your own domain name and a hosting account for an entire year. And it will take you about 5 minutes to get your WordPress blog online with the 1-click install feature.

WordPress users offerThere are several capable and affordable hosting providers. I recommend Bluehost for the easiest setup process.

They offer a free domain name, 24/7 live support and WordPress recommends them. More than 2 million blogs are hosted there and you can get started at $2.95 per month.

Here’s the step-by-step process to start your blog in 5 minutes:

  1. Visit Bluehost and click “Get started now.
  2. Select the “Basic” plan at $2.95 per month. It’s recommended for beginner bloggers.
  3. Type in your chosen domain name and click on “Next“.
  4. Bluehost tries to upsell several other services such as SEO help and these combined can add about $9 extra to your monthly cost. All these are uneccesary so I recommend you deselect them all. To get the lowest price you need to sign up for 36 months. The total price for having your blog up and running for 3 full years is $106.20.
  5. Fill in your personal information, your payment details and click on “Submit“.
  6. Your account is now open. Set your Bluehost account password on this page.
  7. Now it’s time to install your blog. Click on “WordPress Tools” in the top menu.
  8. Fill in your blog’s name, the username/password combination you want to use and click on “Install WordPress“. You’ll be able to change any of these at a later stage too.
  9. It will take a minute to setup your blog and you’ll get an email with the subject line “New WordPress Site” when it’s done.
  10. Congratulations! You now officially own a domain name and your blog is live. Anyone can access it by going to yourdomain.com. You can go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin/ and explore the WordPress admin section.

Disclosure: I do earn a commission if you sign-up using my link at no additional cost to you. Please know that I only recommend products that I find helpful and useful. If you do choose to buy through my link, thank you for your support!

How to get started with the WordPress Admin Dashboard

WordPress admin dashboard is where all the magic happens. There is a medium-sized learning curve to get used to it so do take some time to explore the opportunities and possibilities now open to you. Here’s a brief introduction to the different sections:

WordPress Dashboard navigation

  • “Dashboard” features all the announcements such as the latest updates to the WordPress software and stats. You can edit the elements to suit your needs.
  • In “Posts” you can write your first blog article. Posts are the main content of your blog. Posts traditionally feature a published on date in the byline and are placed in a reverse chronological order on a traditional blog homepage.
  • In “Posts > Categories” you can group your posts into topics and allow users to find your content easier. A category page lists all the posts from that category. These pages are very useful to give your visitors an access point to dig deeper into your content.
  • “Posts > Tags” are similar to categories but they are just used more specifically. While I might have a category called ”Celebrity style” I might put a celebrity’s name as a tag to a post. A tag page showcases all the posts that are tagged with that specific keyword.
  • In “Media” you can upload your multimedia and get a list of all the imagery and videos you have uploaded.
  • “Pages” are more strategic than posts and are not updated daily. They are traditionally placed in the navigation menu and contain more static information such as an “About page” or a contact form.
  • In “Comments” you see all the comments posted by your visitors. You can reply to the comments and moderate the conversation.
  • In “Appearance > Themes” you can discover beautiful design themes that can make your blog look pretty. There are thousands of them.
  • In “Appearance > Customize” you can edit your chosen theme to make your blog look any way that you want in terms of fonts, colors and more.
  • In “Appearance > Menus” you can set up your navigation menu.
  • In “Appearance > Widgets” you can set up the look and features of your sidebar.
  • In “Plugins” you can find and activate powerful plugins to extend the functionality of WordPress. There’s a plugin for anything and here’s a list of some of my favorite plugins.
  • In “Users” you can edit your user profile or add other people who will be your collaborators.
  • In “Tools” you can import content from your old blogs, such as your Blogger blog.
  • In “Settings” you can change the name of your blog, add the tagline and do other useful tweaks.

8 to-dos to make your new blog awesome

Bluehost helps take away some of the hassle of running WordPress by doing some maintenance work for you automatically such as keeping your software, themes and plugins up to date.

There are still few other things I recommend you do before working on your first blog post. These will help you tweak the look and feel of your blog and get you started with a bang. Here’s a to-do list that I go through as soon as I install a new WordPress blog:

1. Fill in “Site Title” and “Tagline” (In Settings > General)

You don’t want your blog to be “just another WordPress site”, which is the default tagline in WordPress. That doesn’t tell your visitor much about what you do. You should make one up for yourself. In your WordPress admin settings write your title in “Site Title” and explain what your blog is about in the “Tagline”.

2. Activate your preferred design theme (In Appereance – Themes)

By default you will have several design themes made by the people behind WordPress. These are decent options to start with but there are thousands of other design options. So explore the available themes and choose one that you prefer. Remember that it is easy to change the theme at any time that you wish. Changing themes doesn’t affect your content at all. All of it remains untouched no matter what theme you’re using.

Default WordPress design themes

For more on picking the perfect theme see: How To Design Your Blog And Make It Look Pretty (2018 Update).

3. Activate plugins to add extra features and functionality

There’s a WordPress plugin for anything. Any feature or functionality that you can think of or that you have seen on other blogs and want to have it too. All without any tech know-how. Most plugins work out of the box. Here’s my list of The 50 Best WordPress Plugins For Your Blog.

4. Remove the generic content that comes with WordPress

WordPress comes with several default items such as an introductory post, a welcome page and some preinstalled plugins. You can safely get rid of all of them.

5. Give visitors the choice of how they want to hear from you

It’s important for you to retain some of your first time visitors to make them come back and become loyal fans. The most efficient way of doing this is to get them to sign up to your mailing list. Check out my full guide on starting your own newsletter.

Social media can also be a useful place for you to make people aware of your blog and attract them to come visit your articles. Create profiles on a few handpicked and relevant platforms where your target audience is and link back to your blog. Start networking, engaging and building your following from day one. Then make it easy for your blog visitors to follow you in social media.

6. Create an About page

Make an introductory page where you explain about your project, about yourself and what your blog helps people with. Tell people what your purpose and your mission is. Don’t be shy. Include a picture of yourself.

Your “About Me” page isn’t about you at all, it’s about your audience. It should convince them to stay and explore more. The more concise and kick-ass your story, the easier it will be for your audience to get to like you, subscribe and even share with their friends. Your about page should answer these questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you do for your audience?
  3. What makes you qualified to post about a certain topic?

7. Add a contact form to your About page

Let people get in touch. This will be very useful to get feedback, to get connected to other bloggers and maybe even attract sponsors. It’s very simple and effective to add a contact form. Just use a plugin such as Contact Form 7.

8. Activate comment spam blocker (In Plugins)

Many spammers use WordPress comment areas to promote pages where they sell dubious products. You don’t want these in your own comments area. Luckily, the solution is simple with one of the spam blockers such as Akismet. Do check my detailed guide on eliminating WordPress comment spam.

Get friendly with Google and other search engines

Search engines are an important source of traffic for most blogs. These are the five steps you should take to make sure that your blog can be discovered by Google and other search engines.

1. Switch on your SSL certificate

A free SSL certificate for your domain name is included in your Bluehost account. It protects your visitors and their sensitive details such as credit card info, usernames, passwords, contact form messages and more.

Google Chrome warns its users when visiting websites without the SSL certificate installed so it’s recommended that you turn it on. Click on “WordPress Tools” in your Bluehost account, choose “Security” in the left hand navigation, and enable the “free SSL certificate”.

It may take up to an hour for your domain to update, but when it does your URL will start with https instead of http, your visitors will be safe and Google will be happy and might send you extra traffic.

2. Make permalinks short and pretty (In Settings > Permalinks)

Your permalinks are the URL’s of your articles. You don’t want your URL’s to be something as generic as domainname.com/123456. Change it in your WordPress settings to actually spell out the name of your post by selecting the field called “Post name”. Your post URL’s will now be domainname.com/post-name. It is a well-structured, short and search engine friendly permalink.

3. Install Google Analytics to start tracking visitors

Google Analytics is a useful tool to track and analyse your blog visitors. This data will help you make better future decisions such as what type of topics to cover and where to go to attract more visitors. This plugin makes it easy to embed the Google Analytics code into your blog. You can also check out my guide on how you should use Google Analytics.

4. Create a sitemap to help Google learn about your content

Your sitemap lists all the posts and pages that are accessible for search engines. Having a sitemap helps Google (and other search engines) learn more about your content, rank it in their search results and send you blog traffic.

The easiest way of implementing an XML Sitemap on your blog is to use one of the free plugins such as WordPress SEO and Google XML Sitemaps. The plugin updates the sitemap automatically when you publish new content so there is no need to do anything after you activate it.

5. Add your blog to Google’s Search Console

Search Console is a useful tool to track the progress of your blog in search engines and for Google to give you feedback on what you can improve.

  1. Create your Search Console account and verify your blog.
  2. Submit your XML Sitemap link directly to Google.
  3. Choose your site Preferred domain – either with or without www. Make sure this is consistent with the URL you use in your WordPress admin (In Settings > General > WordPress Address URL).

Here’s everything else you need to know to get your blog on top of Google’s search results.

Publishing your first blog post

You now have a pretty looking and optimised blog, but starting a blog is much easier than creating and publishing the first blog post. More than 50% of all blogs never publish a single post. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

Get into the WordPress post editor, compose the best post that you can and publish it. Be realistic. Your first post will most probably suck. Only your mother might like it. You will have no visitors and no clicks on that Facebook like button.

WordPress post editor

Don’t just give up if you feel like you haven’t reached your high expectations. Manage your expectations better. Even the biggest bloggers published posts that sucked early on. What separates the best bloggers from the rest is that while failing they were learning the fundamentals of creating great content that answers questions real people have and that adds value to the lives of visitors.

You are starting from almost zero and building your way up, learning from all the bad content you put out there and all the experience that you gain. Focus your time and efforts on learning the craft of creating amazing blog content. It takes a lot of time to master it but you can get help from people who have been there before.

See my guide: How To Stop Publishing Generic, Boring And Forgettable Blog Content.

How do I get blog visitors?

Visitors won’t just come after you publish your first post. You will have to go out and get those first visitors. If you don’t do this not many people will know about you. Get comfortable about reaching out to people and promoting your content.

A good idea is to have a marketing routine that you go through every time after you have published a new piece of content.

Here’s some help with marketing: 40 Places To Promote Your Content And Get Visitors.

How do I make money blogging?

Know that blogging is not going to get you rich quick. Big things are possible and you should dream about reaching them but do not expect it to happen to you overnight. No matter what you have heard from other sources.

The good news is that by following the previous steps of publishing great content and taking massive action to atract an audience, you are well on your way to start making money from your blog too.

Making money from your blogging

There are many ways to monetize your content. Affiliate marketing is one that many bloggers start with and that I highly recommend for beginners.

See my guide on How To Make First $500 From Your Blog.

Happy blogging!

By taking all of the steps outlined in this post you will already do more than most people do. Other people keep talking and dreaming and you are not one of them. You have published that first post despite being fearful of the feedback. You are actually in the field working and trying to get visitors.

There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, and consistency is definitely one of them. The reason most blogs fail is simply because the author stops updating them. The hardest part is the initial hurdle, so decide now that you’re going to keep at it. Make a promise to show up again tomorrow. Commit yourself to posting on a regular schedule. Put in the effort and you will create a momentum.

Blogging is a lot of work, takes up a lot of your day and is hard to get away from.  It’s about performing consistently day after day and building an audience few people at a time. Slowly but surely your blog will grow. Your reputation in the industry will increase. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is a long road ahead and you should enjoy it!

Do you have other questions? Take a look at My Answers To The Most Frequently Asked Questions About Blogging.

The post How To Start A Blog In 2018: The Beginner’s Guide appeared first on HowToMakeMyBlog.

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