How To Start Blogging – The Simple Step-by-step Guide
Some readers have asked for a guide on how to start a blog without having knowledge of codes. So do you really want to start blogging? That’s commendable!
But…how the heck do you get started? There’s so much info out there on the internet, and everyone’s telling you to do different things. So Where’s the starting point?
Gush! You sigh. But should you give up? Well, that would be yet another dream cast into the waste bin.
Not to worry, your dream is just about coming alive! I promise to keep it simple, relatively easy, and definitely easy to understand (no stupid grammar and jargon). Sound good? Let’s move on.
Why Join The Blogging World?
Below, I’m going to outline exactly what you need to do to get started and set up your own personal blog. Before getting there though, I really want to talk about WHY you should build a blog.
Note: If you already have a solid idea of the whys, then skip this and go right ahead with the guide.
Here are some reasons:
Blogging has quickly become one of the most popular ways of communicating and spreading information and news. There are literally millions of blogs online (don’t worry, you can make yours stand out and get noticed!).
It’s a great way to express yourself and also a fantastic way to share information with others.
You use your time in helping other knowledge seekers especially if you’ve got worthy content.
You become a better person and a better writer.
The best reason? You can make money blogging.
Did you know all of that? Well, nice to be reminded.
Note please that before ever you start creating a blog, you need to have an idea of what your blog will be about. Will it be news, entertainment, politics, a combination of various niche? Well, that’s the most important decision to make so you don’t get lost in the crowd. Giving it something new or improving on what have been there is usually the best. Don’t you think?
One very last thing before we get started:
Creating your own blog can take probably up to 30 minutes. So grab yourself a coffee or juice (whatever you fancy) and let’s get stuck in.
The Steps Covered In This Blogging Guide
There’s five basic steps you need to go through in order to set up a blog. If you follow this five step and the entire guide, you’ll have your own blog set up in 30 minutes or less. You are not about to set up a website from scratch, hence very little technical ability needed here. In fact, there’s no coding required by you. Happy, huh?
The 5 Easy Steps to Starting a Blog:
Choose your preferred blogging platform
Setting up a blog on your own domain
Choose a web hosting service for your blog
Designing your blog (sure fun!)
Making your blog a success
Are your still reading? You’ve made it this far! Let’s jump into step 1.
1. Getting Started – Choose your Blogging Platform (WordPress)
Before you can even start worrying about how your blog will look like, you’ll need to choose your blogging platform.
There’s a lot to choose from. You are able to create a blog with many different blogging platforms, such as WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger and more.
However, given that there are over 87 million active users using WordPress today, it’s clear which platform is the boss.
It’s FREE for everyone to use (including themes, layouts and add-ons that many other blogging platforms don’t provide).
It’s super easy to set up. Even many unlearned fellows are able to do it.
It’s secure; WordPress are always updating their software and keeping everything sound and secure, so there’s rarely a worry of having your blog come under hacking attacks. No wonder organizations like Sony, NASA and even university blogs are using WordPress.
Can be very much customized. There are hundreds of free themes and plugins that add more functionality to your blog, from contact and subscribe boxes to plugins that improve blog performance and more.
While the other blogging platforms are generally all pretty OK, nothing in my opinion has ever come close to matching the freedom and customization options that WordPress offers. So without a doubt, go with WordPress. Especially when you are just starting out.
Wait! At this point, you don’t need to install or download anything. We will, but first…
Let’s move to step 2.
2. Setting up a blog on your own domain (self-hosted WordPress)
Why you shouldn’t create a blog on a free blogging platform
Without a doubt, you need to self-host your WordPress blog.
Think about it – what famous, successful blogger you know is using a free blogging website like “startbloggingonline.wordpress.com” instead of their own domain name like “StartBloggingOnline.com”, for example?
It’s not just that – free blogging platforms have other problems too – including…
You don’t control your content – the blogging platform does. They could shut you down any time, and for any reason. Do you want that?
The web address of your blog will be long and hard to remember (like yourfreeblog.blogspot.com) instead of a catchy, branded address you choose.
You’re not allowed to advertise on most free blogging platforms, making it much harder to ever make money from blogging.
Don’t get me wrong: If you really don’t care whether or not your blog will be successful, go with free blogging platforms. They’re an okay way to try out blogging for a little bit.
But if you ever want to look credible, build an audience and make money blogging, then you need your own blog, on your own domain name, with your own hosting. That way, you make the rules and control your content.
If I were you (and I can’t be you – winking), I’d start with a self-hosted blog on my own domain from day one. Setting up a blog like this is WAY easier and less expensive than you think.
Finding a domain name and web hosting provider.
You will discover that step 2 and 3 are almost muddled together. This way you will achieve your goal of building an active blog through this quick guide.
Now to the exciting part! To set up a self-hosted blog on your own domain name, you’ll need two things:
Domain name – This will be your personal blog address where people find you over and over again. For example Google’s Domain is www.Google.com. Your new blog domain name will be www.YourBlogName.com, or “.net, .org, .biz”, etc. Note that “.com” is pretty popular and easy to remember plus other advantages. The cost of a domain name is usually $10/year, but you could get one for much cheaper.
Web hosting – This will be the home of your blog address and content that’s on the blog. Without web hosting, you’ll be unable to use your domain. Think of it as a computer hard drive that stores all your content on your blog (images, blog posts and so on). The cost of web hosting is usually somewhere between $2-5 per month depending on the hosting company you use.
This cost is less than what you spend on lunch, so it won’t break your bank. But it’s an important investment to your blog success.
Where should I get my domain name and hosting?
When it comes to hosting, there are only two things that matter.
Page load speed – The average amount of time (in seconds) it takes your blog to load.
Up-time – 99.9% isn’t enough (it’s 42 minutes of downtime per month). You should be aiming for 100%.
There are hundreds of different web hosting providers. They all offer you a similar service (domain + hosting). Some highly recommended web hosting companies are Bluehost, iPage, Godaddy. HostGator, etc…
Why not let’s base our learning on HostGator? They (www.HostGator.com) are among the best for domain names and web hosting. In terms of blog load speed and uptime, they are excellent!
However, you can always go with another web hosting service as long as it’s fast, reliable and offers unlimited storage and bandwidth. This helps you to avoid problems later on.
Good decision! What do you think?
Slow down there! Getting a self-hosted domain name is one big decision you’ll have to make before you proceed. Follow the advice…don’t let ‘free’ becloud your judgement. Don’t go for a free domain name if you want to make something really good out of your blog as stated above.
If you don’t have a hosting or a domain name yet – don’t worry. I’ll be showing this in a minute.
At the end of this step (3), you will have a fully working self-hosted WordPress blog on your own domain name! Sounds promising, innit? Sip your juice! We’ll make it!
P.S. If you don’t want to use HostGator, you can always choose another hosting provider, the registration and the set up process should be some what similar. Some hosting companies do not have one click install for WordPress (not good for beginners).
Let’s proceed dear reader to step 3.
3. Choose a web hosting service for your blog
3.1. Go to www.HostGator.com and then click “Start Your WordPress Blog”.
3.2 Pick a Domain name for your blog (i.e what you would like your domain to be called. Example: butterflylife.com)
Already have a domain name?
Just write it in the right box on the Homepage of HostGator and keep moving to the next step by scrolling down a bit.
How do I choose a good domain name?
Choosing a bad domain name is one of the most common mistakes bloggers make. Be sure you choose a domain name that is…
3.2.1. Easy to Remember – Don’t choose a nonsense name, something tough to spell, or a long name full of dashes. “www.best-fashion-and-entertainment-world.com” won’t ever stick in someone’s head, but something like “www.fashionstar.com” rolls off the tongue.
3.2.2. Unique and Descriptive – You want a name that reflects who you are and what you care about. Be creative and build an identity you’re excited about!
3.2.3. Trustworthy – Domain extensions like “.com”, “.org” or “.net” are the most popular, with “.com” being the one most people think of first. Try to avoid crazy extensions like “.rocks” or “.biz”, as these are less commonly used, tougher to remember and not as trusted.
Type the domain name you want to use in the box, then click “next”. If the name is available, you’ll be able to claim it. If it’s not available, choose another one.
If the name you want isn’t available, HostGator will show you some alternatives that are similar – or you can punch in a new name and try again. I’d suggest you to use something that ends with .com, .net or .org
3.3. Choose your blog hosting plan
I recommend the “Hatchling” plan for now – you can always upgrade later if you decide you want more advanced features, but you get more than enough with the Hatchling.
3.4. Complete your registration
Once you’ve chosen Hatchling plan and found a name you like that’s available, you’ll need to register it by putting in your contact and billing information.
You’ll also have a chance to customize your package a bit. This is a chance to save some more money, so don’t skip it!
a) Domain Privacy Protection (DPP) hides your registration information in the “whois database”, a worldwide database everyone has access to. I recommend it if you want to keep yourself anonymous, but uncheck the box if you want to save as much as possible.
b) I’d uncheck all the other boxes (Site Backup, Constant Contact, SiteLock Security) as these aren’t really worth your money. You can always add them later.
3.5. Log in to your new account and install WordPress blog
It may take a few minutes for HostGator to register your account, so be patient. You should get a confirmation email when your account is ready.
Once you’ve logged in to your control panel (all the information you need for that should be in your inbox) , it’s time to install WordPress. Thankfully, this takes just one click!
Log-in to your Hostgator control panel
Look about halfway down the page for the left sidebar section
Click “Install WordPress.”
Once clicked, you’ll be automatically transferred to Mojomarketplace.com – shhh, don’t panic! this is just a site that helps HostGator install platforms (like WordPress).
You should immediately see a screen where you’re offered to “Install” or “Import” WordPress.
Click “Install” to get to the next step.
When you’re finished, “Install WordPress”, you’ll see a loading bar at the top of your page that will eventually tell you that your WordPress blog has been installed and you’ll see your log-in credentials.
3.6. Log in and check out your new blog
Once the installation completes, you’ll get an email that shares your login information, including an “Admin URL”. (In case you missed that notification bar)
To log in to your blog, click the admin URL. If you forget this URL, it’s simply www.yourblog.com/wp-admin (where “yourblog” is your domain name).
You’ve just logged into your blog?
Wow! Congratulations! – you now know how to make a blog using WordPress. You’ve installed WordPress and set up your blog, all on your own! You can rise up and punch the air with excitement! As you can see, it was really easy and straightforward. Sip your coffee now.
Now let’s get to step 4. Keep following this guide and you will find designing a blog more interesting than you thought. The real fun part begins!
4. Designing your blog
Configure, Design and Tweak your blog
In this section, you will learn some WordPress blog basics, including:
Getting familiar with WordPress dashboard
Changing your blog’s design
Installing new plugins/features
Making your blog search engine friendly
If you’ve set up your blog, you’re now ready to start using WordPress and customizing your blog. It’s a promise – it’ll be pretty easy and fun at the same time.
Remember: You can log in to your blog by going to www.yourblog.com/wp-admin/ and using the credentials you set up with HostGator or any other hosting company you used.
4.1. Understanding the WordPress Dashboard
When you log in for the first time, you’ll see a dashboard or admin panel to the left that looks something like this:
Let’s break down some of the most important ones for new bloggers to know:
“Dashboard” gives you an ‘at-a-glance look’ at your recent activity, including how many posts, comments and pages you have. You can also write up a quick draft blog post here – but don’t – you will see a better way a little later in the guide.
“Posts” is where you’ll click if you want to add a new blog post or edit an existing one.
“Media” is the library of all the pictures, videos, and audio files you’ve uploaded to the site. You can manage all of those items here.
“Pages” is where you can add a new permanent page – like a services or contact me page (not a blog post!) and manage the pages you’ve already created.
“Comments” is the place you’ll want to go to manage your site visitors comments. You can see which comments are waiting for your approval, review comments you’ve approved, see which comments WordPress has labelled as spam and delete comments you don’t want.
“Appearance” – this is where you can edit your blog’s design and install new themes and layouts. You will see exactly how to do this a little later in the page.
“Plugins” is where you’d click if you wanted to install a new plugin, like a photo gallery or SEO tool. Keep your fingers scrolling, you will learn how to do this in a moment.
“Settings” is the last section you need to know about. Here, you can change your site’s title and tagline, edit your email address and manage all of your site’s important settings.
4.2. Changing Your Blog’s Design (Themes & Layouts)
WordPress blogging platform uses design templates called “Themes” to figure out how your site should look. Changing your blog’s layout and design is as simple as installing a new theme.
There are over 2,000 professionally designed, fully-customisable and free themes to choose from – so you’ve got a lot of options. If you want to see more premium type of templates and themes, head over to the site Themeforest.net.
Here’s how to find and install a theme you love:
Mouse-over the “Appearance” tab in the WordPress sidebar, then click on “Themes”.
On the next screen, you’ll see several themes are already installed. If you don’t like those, click the “Add New” button at the top, or the great big “Add New” square to start searching for a theme.
Now, you’ll see tabs where you’ll find featured, popular and brand new themes, as well as a “Feature Filter” and search bar. Hope you’re following?
“Feature Filter” option is really lovely, because you can choose themes in certain color schemes, select specific layouts and even choose themes with built-in advanced features.
Just choose the options you want, then click “Apply Filters” on the left hand side. If you’re finding this challenging, just search by keyword – there’s no wrong way!
When you’ve found a theme you like, click “Install”. You’re nearly done!
Once the theme has been installed, all that’s left to do is click “Activate” on the next screen:
That wasn’t difficult. Was it? Guess there’s joy in you so far.
4.3. Installing a New Plugin (add some cool features to your blog)
“Plugins” are little software modules that you can install to add more functionalities, features and tools to your blog. They can do all sorts of things, like:
Adding contact forms
Reducing comment spam
Making your blog SEO-friendly
Creating newsletter sign-up forms
Adding photo galleries
Creating sliding images
And lots, LOTS more.
Installing them is really easy. First, Mouse-over “Plugins” in the sidebar, then click “Add New”.
Now, you can search by keyword to find plugins for almost anything! Use the search plugin box.
When you find a plugin you like, just click “Install Now” and then “Activate Plugin” on the page that follows.
BE CAREFUL: Before you install any plugin, it’s a wise idea to Google its name and read reviews. Some plugins can break your theme, cause problems with security, or just plain work poorly, so always get a second opinion first.
Also, make sure your plugins (and themes) are always up-to-date. Don’t worry though, WordPress usually lets you know when some of them are out of date.
4.4. Configuring your blog to become search engine friendly
There are some things you’d need to do to make your blog more search engine friendly. Search engines do not like two things:
Ugly and clumsy URL-s – http://yourblog.com/2012/04/topic-a/auhtor-Mike/how-to-start-a-blog. A much better way is to use: http://yourblog.com/start-a-blog
See the difference? One is filled with irrelevant information and the another one is short, clean and neat.
In order to change your links to be more cleaner, click on the “Settings” -> “Permalinks” and use the following settings:
4.5. Spam comments
Unfortunately, lots of people want to leave automate spam comments on your blog. They do that for couple of reasons – to get people from your blog to their blog and to advertise their services/products.
To avoid that, make sure you moderate your comments. Here’s how to do that: Go to “Settings” -> “Discussion” and tick those two options.
How are you faring so far? Still excited?
4.6. Managing Your User Information
If you ever need to change your user details, password, or add another user so someone else can access your blog, it helps to know how to manage your user details.
To manage users, mouse-over the “Users” tan on the left-hand menu.
Adding a New User
Click the “Add New” link in the users section of the left-hand menu, and you’ll be usehered into the page:
Fill in the details for the user you’d like to add – including a password you can remember to share with them. You can send it to them via email by clicking the radio box option – but that’s not always the most secure way to do things.
BE CAREFUL: The “Role” you choose from the drop-down menu will determine what your new user is able to do.
“Subscribers” are only able to manage their own profiles – not update or change content.
“Administrators” can access all the administration options – making any changes or adding new users.
“Authors” can publish and manage their own posts, but nothing else.
“Contributors” can write and manage their own posts, but cannot publish them.
“Editors” can publish and manage posts – including the posts of other users.
Warning! Don’t give access to anyone who doesn’t need it! Else you may run into troubles with your blog.
4.7. Adding/Writing Blog Posts and Pages
By now you should have fully working WordPress blog on your own domain name. You should also have a custom blog theme that fits with your blog’s topic. Congratulations – you’ve done a LOT and I’m proud that you’ve managed to get so far.
In the LAST step, I’ll show you how to write your first blog post and share some tips for writing blog posts.
In this section, I’ll show you…