How to Start a Blog : Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners

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Have you ever thought about starting a blog and wondered how to take the first step?

You are not alone. There are a thousand different ways you could start a blog. Most of them are wrong. I want to show you the right way to start a blog.

Are you in?

This is where it all begins. You have been thinking about starting a blog for a while. And, now, you are ready. There is a lot that goes into starting a blog, but don’t worry. My goal is to give you a complete step-by-step guide to starting your own blog. In the following guide, I will include everything you need to know from idea to execution.

I recommend starting a blog the right way. Avoid free blogging platforms. Why? Simple. If you are serious about blogging, treat it like a business from the very beginning. Free blogging platforms are acceptable if you aren’t serious about blogging. But, if you want to make money with your blog someday, invest a little money in your blog. There is a small cost involved with registering your own domain name and signing up for a website host. More on these later.

Find your niche.

Selecting your niche is one of the most fun parts of starting a blog. Your blog’s niche will have an impact on everything from the layout to language to topics and forms of monetization. Your niche is one of the most important aspects of your future as a professional blogger.

Passion

Realistically, you should only start a blog on a topic that you are passionate about. Do you want to start making money as a blogger? Click here to find out how to start a blog. If you enjoy writing about a topic, that is a good start. Making a blog a success requires a lot of hard work. You will spend many hours writing blog posts. If the niche you choose is not something you really enjoy writing about, you will most likely give up before you succeed.

Another important reason you should only blog about a topic you deeply care about is that the people you are competing against do.  Many bloggers start blogging because they love a particular topic. They want to share their knowledge or experience with the world. They don’t consider writing about their niche a chore. Because they love the niche they selected. They are OK writing for 20-hours to write that perfect post about “starting a blog”, for example :).

Passion is not enough to succeed. Sorry, it is a fact. Just because you are passionate about a niche, it doesn’t mean it is the right niche for you. Again, if you want to make money with your blog one day, this is an important point.

Focus

The right niche has a large enough audience. Let me give you an example, you might be interested in restoring early 20th century bicycles made in Luxemburg. Now there is nothing wrong with that niche except that it might have an audience that is too small. I am sure Luxemburg has made some fine bicycles in the early 20th century, but how many people are out there interested in the topic? If you don’t care about website monetization or the size of your audience than you don’t need to worry about this. But, if you want to monetize your blog down the road the size of your audience will have a huge impact. To put it simply, the larger your audience the better chance you have to monetize your blog.

An example of a small niche with a fairly large audience is the tiny house movement. I have interviewed Kent Griswold who is blogging about tiny house issues. You can listen to Kent share how he started blogging and how he is succeeding in a tiny niche (Yes, pun intended :). Kent is a great example, that you can make money and succeed within small niches.

Competition

Before you settle on a niche, make sure there is competition. While some people shy away from the competition I recommend seeking competition. Here is why. Competition means there is a market. Competition tells you that there is money to be made in a niche. You can also learn from your competitors. You can learn how they market to their audience. You can find out where they advertise. You can find out what their readers think about them. Competition is a source of knowledge.

Audience

In addition to learning from your competition, you have to learn about your target market. Who is your reader? Is it a he or a she? How old is she? What interests does she have? What topics are important to her? How many of her are there? You can’t just say: “My audience is middle-aged women”. You have to be much more specific than that. If you can’t define your audience by measurable terms, you haven’t put enough thought into it.

For example, an audience could be:

  • Female.
  • Between the age of 25 and 40.
  • College educated.
  • Living in the USA.
  • Interested in starting a business.
  • Earning between $45,000 and $90,000.

Monetization

The keyword in the above sentence is “chance”. Yes. It is only a chance. It is not guaranteed that you will be able to monetize a niche. I have interviewed several very successful bloggers on Success Harbor. What I have learned is that if you select the wrong niche, even if you have a lot of visitors, there is still a chance that you won’t make much money. For example, if you have a blog about video games, 10,000 monthly visitors might not result in substantial income. But, if you have the same amount of traffic for a web design blog, you might be able to monetize the traffic a lot more easily.

Select your domain name.

When you start a blog you are also building a brand. You can’t separate your brand from your domain name. Registering the “right” domain name is key. Researching, selecting, and registering your domain name will have a long-term impact on your blogging career.

Before we go any further, there are myths about domains you should stop believing:

  • All of the good domain names have been registered. This is simply not true. There are still many great domain names. If you are willing to put some thought into it, you can have a great domain name for your blog.
  • Many people think that the domain name doesn’t matter. Even if you have great content a great domain name will help you build a brand.
  • Your domain name doesn’t have to include your target keyword. If it does, it’s OK, but it is not required. So, don’t register a domain like onekeyword-otherkeyword.com just to have your target keyword in it. In the old days of the internet, including your keywords would give you an advantage, but it is no longer true.
  • Once you register a .com domain you should also register every possible other extension like .net, .org, .biz, .cc, .co, and the list goes on and on. Today there are hundreds of different domain extensions. Resist the temptation of wanting to own all of them. It could get really expensive fast.
  • Once you register the domain you own it forever. You only own the domain as long as you have it registered. If you forget to renew your domain name, you can lose it and you might never get it back. I recommend registering your domain for 5-years instead of the usual one year period.
  • You don’t have to spend a fortune to buy a domain name on a secondary market. You might want a domain name the someone has already registered. There are marketplaces where you can buy great domain names at reasonable costs.
  • When you register a domain name you still have to have website and hosting. Your domain name registration doesn’t include your website or your website hosting.

Unlimited potential. Unlimited names. .COM's just $9.99 each!

Memorable

The best domain names are memorable. Before you decide on a domain name, make sure it is easy to remember. Just because a domain name can be over 60 characters long it doesn’t mean that you should have one. I prefer domain names that are less than 12 characters long. Now, this is not a hard rule. It is more of a guide. You could find a domain name that is 20 characters long and it is a super memorable name.

Keep It Simple

The best domain names are free of complications.

Here is what you need to do simplify your domain name:

  • Avoid hyphens.
  • Don’t use numbers. But if you do, register the domain name with the number and spelled out. For example, if you register 1webdesigner.com also register onewebdesigner.com.
  • Avoid commonly mistyped or misspelled words.
  • Check to make sure the domain name you want to register is not a registered trademark. You don’t want legal complications down the road.

I have a detailed article on How to Get a Domain Name That Will Help You Succeed, check it out.

Sign up for hosting.

There are thousands of hosting companies out there with new ones popping up everyday Selecting the “right” hosting company for your blog is enough to get your head spin.

Your host is the home of your blog. You want a host you can call when something goes wrong. There are several hosting companies that we have used over the years and been happy with. Currently, we are using SiteGround.  We have also used Bluehost which is a good starter hosting company. We have also used Rackspace hosting for years. They are also great, but more expensive than SiteGround and Bluehost.

Let’s start with our current hosting company, SiteGround, for Success Harbor. I have signed up with them after I have read good things about them from other bloggers. The one thing about hosting companies is that the word gets out fast. If they are good you will hear about it and if they are bad you will hear about the complaints too. After reading complimentary mentions about SiteGround I signed up with them. It is still one of the inexpensive web hosts but I really like my experience so far.

business advice

Here are my favorite things about SiteGround hosting:

  • Reliability – They are extremely reliable. Keep in mind that most hosting companies boast about nearly 100% uptime, but in reality, most of them don’t live up to such claims.
  • Ease of use – Everything within the SiteGround cpanel is straight forward. You don’t have to be a nerd to figure things out.
  • Support – The real test of a hosting company is the quality of support. When you call them or open a ticket you want a resolution to your problem within minutes, not hours or days. So far, my experience with the SiteGround support team has been excellent.

Another low-cost option you might want to try is Bluehost. I have used Bluehost for years for many websites that I have owned over the years. They are a solid beginner hosting company. They had good support and a fairly reliable hosting service. Their control panel is also easy to use.

How to Start a Blog on Site Ground and Install WordPress

Congratulations. You’ve made it this far. You have selected a niche. You have registered your domain name. Then, you’ve signed up for hosting. Now, you are ready to install WordPress. Why WordPress you might ask?

Here are a few important reasons you should use WordPress for your blog:

  • WordPress is used by over 25% of all websites in the world. Why? Because it is a robust website platform.
  • WordPress is easy to use. That’s right. You don’t have to be a tech geek to manage a WordPress website.
  • WordPress is a free open source website platform. That means you don’t have to buy it. You don’t have to pay a monthly fee to use WordPress like you have to pay for so many other website platforms.
  • There are many plugins for WordPress. The plugins make it easy for you to add new features to your website for free or very inexpensively.
  • There are many WordPress professionals who can help you with your website.

I am going to walk you through the process of getting started with SiteGround. None of the steps are complicated. It just takes a little time. Here we go…

Step 1

Go to SiteGround to sign up for your own hosting account. You’ll be directed to SiteGround through my affiliate link. (I appreciate your support.)

Step 2

Select your hosting plan. Like most hosting companies SiteGround offers multiple plans. Since you are just starting out I recommend that you sign up for their StartUp plan. It is great for starting a blog. The StartUp plan will have everything you need to get your blog up and running.

Important note! Even though most hosting companies will give you the option to register your domain name for you. I recommend that you keep your hosting separate from your domain name registration. The simple reason for that is that if you decide to move your site to another hosting company the whole process will be easier for you. I recommend Namecheap to register your domain name. When you register your domain name resist the up-sell. Only pay for your domain name registration.

Step 3

When you see the option to “Register a New Domain” or “I already have a Domain”, select the first option.

how-to-start-a-blog-select-domain

Step 4

Enter your account information. This is the usual name, email address and billing information.

Step 5

I recommend that you sign up for at least 12-months. To get the cheapest option you would need to sign up for a longer period such as 36-months. You are basically prepaying to get a highly discounted price. The might offer you some additional services at the time of signup, but ignore them for now.

Step 6

Before you are done with your new account signup, you will need to select a password. It is very important that you select a strong password. A strong password is at least 15 characters long and includes upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters such as ! $ % (/)[\]{}#”. If you have a hard time coming up with a strong password, I recommend you use this site to generate a secure password for you.

Step 7

After you have set up your account, you are ready to log in to your hosting account for the first time. When you log in for the first time you might see a window like the one below:

first-time-login

When you see the above window pop up click “No, I’m fine. Thanks!” I am here to help you, so you don’t need to click “Get Started Now”. You can also select the “Don’t show this again.” in the bottom left corner.

Step 8

Once you have created your hosting account and you type your domain name into your browser you will get something like this:

topofy-new-hosting

What this means is that you don’t yet have a website installed on your new hosting account. That is what we are going to do next.

Step 9

Look around in your website hosting management area. Your hosting account comes with cpanel. It is a great tool to help you make managing your website easier. Here is a screenshot of the top section of the cpanel:

cpanel-1262016

Step 10

Click the “Site Software” icon under the “Software/Services” section.

start-a-blog-install-wp

Step 11

Click the WordPress link on the Site Software page.

site-software-wordpress

Step 12

There will be a few fields on this page for you to complete. All of them are very simple.

Here is what you will need to input:

  • Type a username that you want to use. The username has to be at least 5 characters long. Don’t use “admin” as your admin username. It is too obvious and easy to guess.
  • Type a password. The requirement is 5 characters minimum, but that is too short. Refer to the section above on creating strong passwords. You can also click the “Generate Password” button. Make sure that you remember your username and password because you won’t be able to log in to your blog without them.
  • Enter your email address.
  • Make sure that your installation URL only shows your domain name such as http://topofy.com/. If there is some text prefilled after http://topofy.com/, delete it.
  • Table Prefix, you can leave it at default.
  • MySQL DB: Leave it at the “Create New Database” option.
  • Click the “Install” button.

wp-install-0126-2016

Step 13

After you have clicked the “Install” button. You can check your installation by typing your domain name in your browser. Your should see something like this:

siteground-wordpress-01262016

Step 14

Congratulations! You have installed WordPress.

Step 15

Now, let’s log in to your new blog. You are going to need the username and password that you have chosen during the WordPress installation.

wordpress-login-01262016

Step 16

Let’s name your blog. On the left side of your Dashboard select “Settings”. It will land you on the General Settings page.

For now, you can leave most everything unchanged, but do the following:

  •  Enter your Site Title. This is basically the name of your website.
  • Enter your tagline. If you don’t have one yet, you can leave it blank.
  • You can change your timezone if you want.
  • Then, click the “Save Changes” button.

Step 17

Now, let’s create your first blog post. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be your best writing yet. We are just testing your new blog to make sure everything works fine.

Still, in your Dashboard click “Posts”. Then, on the top click “Add New”.

first-blog-post-01262016

Click “Publish”. To view your first blog post, click “View post” on the top of the page. Your newly published post will look something like this:

published-blog-post-01262016

Step 18

Now you are ready to go. You have registered your domain name. You have signed up for hosting and installed WordPress. You have published your first blog post.

Bonus Step

Your blog can look even better with a professional theme. On Success Harbor, I am using a theme that I have bought on Themeforest. This is not a requirement, but it helps to make your blog look professional. A great theme is much more than a new look for your blog. It is also giving you the building blogs to manage and customize your blog. On Success Harbor we use a theme called uDesign, you can check it out on Themeforest. It is an excellent responsive WordPress theme. The great thing about buying a theme on Themeforest is that you get support. If you run into trouble, you can contact the coder of the theme and they will help you out.

Final Thoughts

And that’s how you start a blog. It sounds complicated, but it isn’t as long as you follow my instructions step-by-step. Just like anything the seems complex you can simplify it by breaking it down into small manageable steps. As you have read above, you don’t have to be a tech geek to get your blog online. You don’t have to be a genius. Just take one step at a time. Don’t let the process intimidate you.

If you ever have any questions about how to start your blog, please ask away in the comments, and I will try to help as best as I can.

Now get started with building your blog!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see our Disclosures here.

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George Meszaros is the editor and co-founder of Success Harbor where entrepreneurs learn about building successful companies. Success Harbor is dedicated to document the entrepreneurial journey through interviews, original research, and unique content. George Meszaros is also co-founder of Webene, a web design and digital marketing agency.
2017-09-19T09:55:01+00:00 August 21st, 2017|Articles, Blogging|0 Comments