Do you want to start a blog? If so – you’re in the right place.
In this post we want to walk you through the basics of how to start a blog, and while we do, we 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 is: how to start a blog?
Easy Steps, Best Tips…
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 if I were to start a blog 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 start 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 (although you do need to make a small investment in a domain and a server – more on that below)
- 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!
I know some of you are probably searching for advice on how to start a blog for free and so my advice to invest a little in a WordPress.org blog might not be exactly what you’re looking to hear because there are some small costs associated with it – but you’ll be better off in the long run and as you’ll see below the expense is not great.
Step 2: Secure a Domain Name and Set Up Your Blog Hosting
I recommend using BlueHost for getting both your domain and hosting set up.
Choose a Domain
For the next step of starting your blog 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.
Set Up Your Blog Hosting with Bluehost
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.
WordPress has been recommending Bluehost for blog hosting since 2005. With 1-click WordPress installation, 24/7 support, and a super affordable rate, Bluehost is a great option for building your first website or blog.
Special Offer for ProBlogger Readers: As I write this article, BlueHost have an offer exclusive to ProBlogger readers to get set up for just $2.95 USD per month (including a domain name!). This is a 63% saving.
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! You started a blog! 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.
If you’re looking for a really easy solution, check out the new StudioPress Sites, a fully hosted, all-in-one WordPress website builder that will give you:
- The Genesis Framework – Industry Standard Design Framework that makes WordPress easier, without sacrificing power or flexibility
- 20 Mobile-Optimized HTML5 Designs – sleek professional designs that provide beautiful frames for your content
- Fast Loading Cloud Performance – cloud infrastructure that’s optimized specifically for peak WordPress performance
- Zero “Hosting” Hassles – with a fully hosted website that will grow with you and your website traffic
- One-Click Install of Included Plugins – Never wonder which plugins are trustworthy, thanks to your StudioPress Site’s repository of one-click solutions for the functionality you desire.
- Rock-Solid Security
- Advanced SEO Functionality
- Automatic Plugin and Theme Maintenance – Many WordPress site owners spend $$$ every month to have an outside service keep things updated and safe.
- World-Class Support – friendly support team standing by 24/7
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 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’.
Here is how to make money from a blog:
- Set up your blog
- Start creating useful content
- Get off your blog and start finding readers
- Build engagement with the readers that come
- Start making money from the readership you have through one or more of a variety of income streams
Sounds easy doesn’t it! On some levels the process is simple – but you need to know up front that there’s a lot to each step and below I’m going to give you some pointers on each including some further reading.
Here’s how to make money from a blog.
1. Start a Blog
In order to make money blogging you’re going to need to have a blog. While this is pretty obvious it is also a stumbling block for many PreBloggers who come to the idea of blogging with little or no technical background.
If that’s you – don’t worry! It was my story too and most bloggers start out feeling a little overwhelmed by the process of starting their blog.
2. Start Creating Useful Content
A blog is not a blog without content so once you’ve set your blog up you need to focus your attention upon creating useful content. What you choose to create will depend a little on the topic that you choose to write about (on that note, most successful bloggers have some focus to their blogging whether that be a niche or a demographic that they write for).
The key with creating content is to make it as useful as possible. Focus upon creating content that changes people’s lives in some way will be the type of content that people will value the most and it will help people to feel like they know, like and trust you – which is really important if you later want to make money from your blog.
3. Get off your blog and start finding readers
As you create the most useful content that you possibly can it is easy to get very insular with your focus and spend most of your time looking at building your blog. Many bloggers have a ‘build it and they will come mentality’ with their blogging but this is a bit of a trap.
If you want to make money from your blog you need to not only focus upon building a great blog but it is also necessary to get off your blog and to start promoting it.
There are many ways to experiment with growing your blog’s audience that I’ve written in previous blog posts and talked about in podcasts (I’ll share some further reading and listening below) but it is important to enter into all these strategies remembering that you should not just be looking for ‘traffic’ but ‘readers’.
Start by thinking carefully about the type of reader you’d like to have read your blog. You might like to create an avatar of that reader (sometimes called a reader persona or profile) to help you work out who you’re trying to attract.
Once you know who you’re hoping to have read your blog ask yourself where that type of person might already be gathering online. Begin to list where they might be gathering:
- Are they reading certain blogs? List the top 3
- Are they participating in certain forums? List the top 3
- Are they listening to podcasts? List the top 3
- Are they engaging on certain social networks? List the top 3
- Which accounts are they following on each of these social networks? List the top 3
Each of these places that you reader might already be gathering has opportunities to develop a presence whether that be by leaving good comments, offering to create guest posts or simply by being helpful and answering questions.
With this list of blogs, focus, podcasts, social media accounts in hand you will have some good spots to begin to hang out and create value.
The key is to build a presence, to add value, to foster relationships – not to engage in spammy practices.
4. Build engagement with the readers that come
With sustained focus upon creating great content and finding readers for your blog you’ll begin to notice people visiting your blog and engaging with your content.
At this point you need to switch your focus to engaging with those readers and building community.
Respond to comments, reach out to those readers personally and do everything that you can to keep them coming back again and again by building a ‘sticky blog’.
Look after the readers you already have well and you’ll find they spread the word of your blog for you and help make your blog even more widely read.
Having an engaged reader is also much easier to make money from.
5. Start making money from the readership you have through one or more of a variety of income streams
OK – the first four steps of starting a blog, creating content, finding readers and building engagement with those readers are important foundations that you really do need to get in place before you’ll be able to build long term income for your blog.
There’s no avoiding that what we’ve covered is a lot of work but if you do it well you’ll be setting yourself up well and giving yourself every chance of being able to make money from your blog.
With these foundations in place you’re now ready to start attempting to make money from your blog but you do need to be aware that just because you have set up your blog, have content and have engaged readers that the money won’t just automatically flow.
It takes continued work and experimentation to make money from your blog.
I’ve written many articles here on ProBlogger on the topic of making money blogging and will link to some suggested further reading on the topic below but let me share a few introductory words on the topic first.
There are Many Ways to Make Money Blogging
One of the biggest misconceptions that I see bloggers having about monetising blogs is that they have to do it in one of a handful of ways. The reality is that there are many ways to make money from blogs.
Don’t worry though – while this map is quite overwhelming at a first glance there are a few main ‘clusters’ of income streams that you might want to focus upon rather than all the specific ones.
1. Advertising Income
This is where many bloggers start. In many ways this model of making money from blogs is not dissimilar to how a magazine or newspaper sells ads. As your traffic and brand grows you’ll find advertisers will be willing to pay to get exposure to your audience.
While you need decent traffic to do a direct deal with an advertisers there are ad networks (like Google AdSense) that act as a middleman and enable smaller publishers to run ads on their blogs. This is where many bloggers start (I did too).
2. Affiliate Income
A recent survey of ProBlogger readers found that affiliate promotions was the most common type of income that our readers have.
To put it most simply – affiliate income is when you link to a product that is for sale on another site (take Amazon for example) and if someone follows your link and ends up buying that product you earn a commission on that sale.
There’s more to it than that but this is another great place to start with monetising your blog as affiliate programs are easy to sign up for and if you have an engaged audience you will find they follow the recommendations that you make on products.
While not something most bloggers do I have noticed an increase in the number of bloggers making money by running events.
Alternatively online events or summits are getting more popular.
4. Recurring Income
Another growing category of income that I’m seeing more and more bloggers are experimenting is recurring income streams (sometimes called continuity programs or membership programs).
This is where readers pay a regular recurring amount (usually on a monthly or annual basis) for access to either premium content, a community area, some kind of service, tools, coaching (or some combination of these things).
6. Promoting a Business
Many brick and mortar businesses indirectly make money from their blogs by using their blogs to grow their profile and direct readers to their business.
A common way that many bloggers make money is through offering services to their readers. These might be anything from coaching and consulting, to writing or copywriting, to design, training or other freelance services.
While I started out making money from my blogs through advertising and affiliate promotions today my #1 source of income is through selling eBooks and courses on my blogs. These ‘virtual products’ take work to create but have been lucrative for me and many other bloggers.
Products can of course take many forms and income virtual information products like eBooks or courses but also other virtual products like software, reports etc.
The other type of product some bloggers sell is physical products. This is most common when the blogger has a business but sometimes bloggers also create merchandise (T-shirts etc) or other physical products to sell.
Other Income Streams
There are of course other forms of income that bloggers experiment with. Some include asking for donations, syndicating content to other sites and lastly selling their blogs.
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.