So you want to start a blog? If you’re like most people, you might feel intimidated or apprehensive at the thought of starting a blog in 2019, especially with the millions of blogs already in existence. You may be wondering if it would even be worth it for you to start a blog given the saturation in most niches. Trust me, not only can you start a blog in 2019, you definitely should.
First of all, what is a blog? A weblog, most commonly known as blog, can be many things. It is your personal space where you share your thoughts, your experiences, your expertise, or whatever you want. It’s your personal platform where you can showcase your talent and express yourself. What do you find on a blog? You’ll find whatever content you want to share. Content is usually a mix of media (images and video) and copy (text).
On the technical side, a blog is simply a platform that organizes your content into a blog form. To start a blog, it has to be hosted, or stored, on special computers called servers. We pay hosting service providers to host our websites on their servers, which allows our blogs to appear on the world wide web.
Does it sound like too much information already? Don’t worry! This guide provides clear, non-technical steps for those of you who are looking for a simple process. Follow these steps and you’ll be a blogger in no time.
Start a Blog Step One: Figure Out Your Niche
What’s your passion? What do you have a strong opinion on? What have you achieved or, indeed, failed at? What do you know inside and out? What do you think people need and will respond to? If you’re passionate about it, chances are, others will be too.
To start a blog, or even an e-commerce site, you need to think about a niche. Will you be selling fishing goods, wine accessories, beauty products? You need to narrow it down. It’s always a good idea to do a little market research before starting, to make sure that there is a market for what you want to blog about or sell. If you have competitors, see what they are doing and think about how you can do it better or with a twist.
Start a Blog Step Two: Select a Platform
When you start a blog, you’ll find that there are a myriad of blogging platforms to choose from, but 2 main types: self-hosted and free.
I’m not here to talk you out of using a free platform. In fact, I think it’s a great way to start a blog if you aren’t sure that blogging is something that you will be serious about. When I first started blogging more than a decade ago, I used a free platform to see if blogging was really for me.
Free always sounds good, but there are a few draw-backs. The platform essentially owns your blog name and can use it for their own purposes. You also have to follow their rules, and there are restrictions—they may not allow ads or they may impose ads onto your blog. Another draw-back is that they might limit services and require you to upgrade—which means paying for services in the end. Lastly, if and when you do want to change to another service, it can get complicated and expensive.
If you are serious about blogging, the better option is to go for a self-hosted platform. With a self-hosted platform, also known as a Content Management System (CMS), you run your blog from your own domain where you will have better control. There is a host account fee, but the platform itself is most often free and open-source.
CMSs protect your property better since you own and run the blog yourself. This is obviously what you want, especially if you are going to sell products or provide services that need copyright protection. Another added benefit of CMSs for this kind of blogging is that they often help in e-commerce maintenance. A very important last point—you will be taken more seriously and appear more professional by brands.
The most popular CMS, for good reason, is WordPress.org. Easy set-up, versatility, and a myriad of plugins and extensions are some of the things that make it the go-to choice. Everyone has their own needs and preferences, however, so experiment around with a few until you’ve found something that suits you best.
Start a Blog Step Three: Choose a Domain Name
Before you start a blog, much consideration needs to go into your blog URL. Choosing a domain name is basically setting up your unique online identity, so choose wisely. People who have your URL (uniform resource locator) can type it in to locate your blog. Those looking for blogs about relevant topics will find you by searching through Google, Bing and other search engines, so having a catchy, appropriate and one-of-a-kind URL is important.
The normal URL is the “dot com”, but there are others and being different from the rest helps you to stand out. Your URL might reflect which country you’re in (.us, .my, .co.uk), which helps users to distinguish if you’re local to them. You can have topic-identifying URLs like, .sport, .knitting or .music. You may also add extensions to your URL, like “dot me”.
Pro Tip: If possible, try to have your niche keyword in your URL. While it’s nice to have cute and unique URLs, you want your URL to have your target keyword. Having a well-structured SEO friendly URL will act as a ranking factor with Google.
Start a Blog Step Four: Set Up Your Hosting Account
When you start a blog, this step, above all others, is crucial because this will be the difference between making things easy for yourself and having a rough time of it. How the host functions means easy access, consistency, flexibility, reliability and security to you. It is your visitor’s window to you so all these things are important to them too.
Many hosting service providers have domain registration services, and it’s a good idea to use them. Not only will your domain usually be free upon sign-up, but you can keep your hosting and domain together which typically makes things easier. Let’s have a look at 3 of the leading hosting service providers that will keep you going happily for a very long time—Bluehost, KnownHost and SiteGround, and see how they work with WordPress.
Bluehost is reliable, and it’s recommended by most experts in the blogging world. Even WordPress has given it the thumbs up for seamless hosting facilities. It’s affordable with a free high-quality blog domain.
Bluehost also offers great technical support for any problems you may encounter when you start a blog, a free SSL Certificate, and a guarantee to boot. Here’s how to get hosting services through Bluehost:
1. Click on the “Get Started Now” button.
2. Choose a plan.
I recommend the Choice Plus plan because it comes with the domain privacy feature. When registering a domain, you are required to include your personal contact information which means your name, phone number, email and mailing address will be public. I made the mistake of not getting the domain privacy once and I was harassed nonstop by telemarketers for many months. Even after I tried to remedy the situation by purchasing the domain privacy later on, the calls and letters in the mail continued for quite some time. Once your information is out there, it’s out there for a long time.
3. Choose a domain name.
Type your chosen domain name into the “New Domain” box and Bluehost will run a search to determine if you can use it. If it’s been used, the platform will give you some variations.
If you’d like to choose your domain name later, click “Choose Later!” or “Choose Free Domain Later”. You can then experiment around in WordPress until you come up with a suitable name.
4. Fill in your details into the registration form, or connect the Bluehost account to your Google account.
5. Spend some time thinking about which package to choose. If you’re going to be blogging long-term, then the 36-month plan works out to be more economical.
The optional boxes aren’t necessary at the get-go—you can opt in to them later as and when you need them. The exception is Domain Privacy Protection which is important for your protection. As I mentioned earlier, if you get the Choice Plus plan, it’s included.
IMPORTANT! The Domain Privacy add-on is only for new domains! If you are going to choose a domain name later, or if you’re using an existing domain, you don’t have this option. Existing domain users can contact their domain registered company about privacy add-ons.
6. Password set-up comes next, after-which you can log in to your account. This password is for your Bluehost account, not your WordPress blog.
7. Launch your WordPress site.
Open WordPress directly from the Coming Soon page – click Start Building and you’re in! You’ll get to your Dashboard first, which is the heart of your blog. You’ll be prompted to decide whether you’d like Bluehost’s help to choose what type of website you want to set up. If you’re confident, you can do it on your own by clicking I don’t need help.
If you choose Bluehost’s help, you’ll come to a page with tools to help you set up a site. Just follow the instructions and you’ll be good to go. Just click Launch!
WordPress has recently listed SiteGround as one of their go-to hosts, proving that it’s reputable and solid. It guarantees 100% uptime so you’re always available to visitors, and its page load times are superb. After-sales service is prompt and efficient, especially for WordPress users. Like Bluehost, SiteGround comes with a free SSL Certificate.
1. Click “Get Started” under WordPress Hosting on SiteGround’s homepage.
2. Choose a plan.
The plans are cutely named StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek, but they are essentially the same as what’s offered by other hosting services. Generally, the aptly named StartUp is all that is required when you’re new at blogging, but a reviewer has mentioned that they wished they had gone straight to “GrowBig” because the speed was much better when she switched over, she could run multiple websites with the GrowBig plan, and reaching a higher number of visitors is easier.
3. Choose your domain name.
The first domain name with SiteGround is free if you buy the annual hosting package. Similar to other hosting sites, SiteGround will help you check if your new domain name is being used. A tip is to go for a .com name, despite the temptation to choose a .net or .org name that is provided to stand out. A .com name is the most professional in the long-run.
If you already have a domain name, select “I already have a Domain”.
4. Choose your plan length.
The good thing about Siteground is, you don’t have to choose an extended plan for the best deal. No matter if you choose the 12-month plan or the 36-month plan, you will get the same discount. Like Bluehost, SiteGround offers a free SSL certificate with your domain and additional services like, Domain Privacy and HackAlert Monitoring.
5. Launch your WordPress site.
In the SiteGround User Area, get your cPanel to install WordPress onto SiteGround. Click My Accounts, then the reddish-orange ‘cPanel’ button. Scroll down to “Autoinstallers”, click WordPress and follow the prompts. Add an username and password for your WordPress login.
When you’re all done, click the admin button, and you’re in! To make it easier to find your WordPress login page, the URL is generally www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.
KnownHost is a lesser known hosting service provider but is quickly becoming one of the heavy hitters. It’s also affordable, and the number one hosting provider that I recommend for anyone who isn’t at all technical or is limited on time. And like Bluehost and SiteGround, KnownHost includes SSL Certificates with their hosting plans.
KnownHost is 100% fully managed, so all you have to worry about is the content you want to add to your blog. They literally take care of the rest. If you wanted to move your website(s) over to KnownHost, they handle that for you. If you want to backup your site, they do that for you too. Security configuration and WordPress speed optimizations are also what they do as standard.
1. Look for Managed WordPress Hosting on their homepage and click See Details.
2. Select a plan.
3. Choose your domain name and plan length.
4. Fill in your details into the registration form and then contact KnownHost support and they will setup the rest.
Start a Blog Step Five: Choose Your Theme
Now that you’re all set up with a hosting provider, let’s have a look at theme selection. The theme is what your visitors will see and interact with once they’re on your site, so you want its look to reflect you and your message. The theme also dictates the site’s functionality and speed, and even how well it works on mobile devices. A theme can package different combinations of layouts and styles so that you can find the best fit for your blog without having to tweak every single detail.
When you’re ready to work on your theme, read the theme’s description to give you an idea if it works for you. Determine how responsive the theme is, and whether it will work well with desktop browsers and mobile devices alike. Have a look at users’ and industry experts’ ratings and reviews. Finally, preview the theme for yourself to get a feel of how it looks, works and how easily customizable it is. Once installed, fill it with content and review it again.
Pro Tip: Having a theme that is responsive is imperative. Your website should not only look good on a mobile device but should have full functionality. Google ranks mobile-friendly websites higher than sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
There are generally two options for WordPress themes—free or premium. You can also hire developers to design customized themes for you or tweak an existing theme to fit your style. As always, free sounds great but be aware that less attention is paid to anything free. Free themes aren’t updated as frequently and this leaves holes in them into which hackers can worm. They are also not as functional, and their speed might be compromised too.
One of the absolute best themes to use is Divi. I simply love it and use it myself on one of my websites and on a couple of my clients’ websites as well. I love all of the plugins that come included, but I especially love the Divi Builder. You can use it on any WordPress theme. If you don’t know anything about Divi, I highly recommend you look into it. Its functionality is top-notch, and it is constantly being updated with new features.
If you want to browse WordPress themes, my favorite website is Creativemarket.com. I found my current theme for this website on Creative Market. You can’t go wrong with their huge selection of premium themes by many talented independent developers.
Once you’ve chosen and paid for your theme, you’re theme will be available for you as a zip file. You will first need to download the zip folder to your computer and then you will need to upload the file to WordPress. To do this, in the left panel, click on Appearance, Themes, and then Add New at the top of the page. From there, you will click on Upload Theme and select your theme’s zip folder. Once it’s installed, click Activate.
Start a Blog Step Six: Setup Your General Settings
Before you start adding your content, let’s set some general settings.
If you’re able, change your Admin username from ‘Admin’ to something else. Changing the default username makes it harder for hackers to get into your website.
Personalize the site title, tagline and avatar so visitors can immediately identify your blog. A short, impactful tagline can really make an impression on site visitors. Hover over Settings in the left panel, then click General.
Set your timezone accordingly. It makes a huge difference when you start scheduling your posts. Scheduled posts are published according to the blog’s timezone. Go to Settings in the left panel, then click General.
Next, delete any default content including sample pages and posts. Just hover over either the page or post title and click Trash. If there are any unnecessary plugins, delete them as well. In the left panel, click on Plugins and from there you will see all of your currently installed plugins. Delete all of them by deactivating them first, then clicking delete.
One really important plugin I highly recommend is Yoast SEO. It is a simple and easy to use plugin that helps you optimize your website for search. Best of all, it has a free version that is perfectly adequate. To install it, just click on Plugins and then Add New at the top. In the search bar, type Yoast SEO and once it appears, click Install and then Activate.
One thing to keep in mind when starting a blog is that plugins can enhance your blog and improve the experiences of your visitors. But you don’t want to have too many as they slow down your site, so only add them if they actually add value.
Browse through the free plugins available in the WordPress Plugin Directory. You can find plugins for anything from social sharing, security, visitor interaction, as well as SEO. Research a little into each plugin before you insert them and only choose those that have been reviewed favorably and have good support.
The permalink is the URL that’s unique to every webpage. The permalink structure dictates how the URL will look and it directly impacts your SEO (search engine optimization). Setting your permalink structure is a must.
Now that you have your theme installed and your general settings in place, it’s time for the final step in starting your blog—it’s time to add your content.
Start a Blog Step Seven: Add Your Content
If you want your blog to reach anyone in the EU, you’ll need to get GDPR compliance. A new blog just needs very simple verbiage to gain this, but as you gain a foothold in the blogging world you should fine-tune your verbiage.
You’ll also have the option of setting a static homepage and a static blog page. Depending on the WordPress theme, you’ll want to follow the instructions you’re given for your theme’s setup. Those instructions will help you set up the theme to look like the demo you previewed before your purchase.
Write your first post!
You’ve come to the most exciting part of the process—filling up content! A good tip is to write your post on a text editor first, then cut and paste it into WordPress. I personally use Google Docs. This avoids tying up up your site while it continuously uploads as you write.
When you start a blog, it is important to take some time to identify your tone of voice—light-hearted and humorous or serious and scholarly. This is how new site visitors will identify and relate with you, and it will determine if they will keep coming back, so keep it real.
The first post will generally be an introduction to you and what your blog is all about. Show them why you need to be heard. Along the way, aim to create cornerstone content that will be ever-relevant and from which visitors can gain information and inspiration at any time.
Aside from cornerstone posts, there are 2 other notable types of posts that you should include: the ‘definition’ post and the ‘fishbone’ post. The definition post is to inform people about something they might need to know about. Write in depth about it. The fishbone post is a comprehensive list of ideas or skills that are pertinent to your main topic. Give an explanation of each item and provide good-quality links for them.
When you start a blog, a crucial step to note that will get you into the hearts and minds of millions of readers is to tweak your post with SEO in mind. Your efforts will be wasted if people can’t find your blog amidst the myriad of reading material on the web.
Identify a keyword and check it with Google’s keyword tool. It should relate to your topic and have a good amount of traffic, but not much competition. Include the keyword in the title, a subhead and throughout the post. Also add meta tags for your post with a plugin. Yoast’s WordPress SEO is great for this.
To get your text on WordPress, go to Posts on your Dashboard and click on Add New. Give your post an easily identifiable, relevant title. Check your permalink and insert relevant keywords. To change the permalink structure, click Edit.
To add quotes, images, videos or PDFs, hover over the spot you want to place them on. Click the “+” icon and a new block will be created. To add links, highlight the text to be linked and click the icon that looks like a chain link in your formatting options box. Paste the URL you want to link to in the popup that appears.
Before you publish your post, click the Preview button to see how it will look once it’s live. You can then choose to Publish, Save Draft, or schedule the post to be publish at a future date and time. To schedule the post, click on Immediately in the Document tab and choose the date and time.
Set your post visibility to public, private or password protected to control your target audience.
When you start a blog, you need to think about whether you want to organize your content into categories that will break down the general ideas in your blog. It’s best to have at most 7 categories to organize things nicely and not confuse your visitors and, indeed, yourself! Look for the categories selection option to the right of your screen.
Although all three of the hosting service providers I’ve mentioned in this article include a free SSL certificate with their hosting plans, not all hosting providers do. If you were to choose another hosting service provider that doesn’t include a free SSL certificate, I highly recommend that you also purchase a SSL certificate as an add-on. An SSL certificate means that you will be labeled secure by Google and other search engines. Websites without certificates rank lower on search engines, and in some cases, they may not rank at all.
There’s a lot of information here, so I hope you’ve taken your time to go through everything thoroughly. Relax, there’s always help to be had at any stage of the proceedings. Most importantly of all, have fun with your new platform, the world’s window to you, and potential money-maker. May 2019 be the year that you finally start a blog, the one you’ve been wanting to start for ages.