It is 2020 and there’s never been a better time to start a blog. Anybody can start a beginner, even a beginner like you. You don’t need to know coding or graphic design. We have got you covered.
We are going to walk you through the process of starting a blog, step-by-step, sharing with you which tools to use (most are free) that will make life even easier. If you can’t afford tools, we’ll show you how you can do it for free. It’s so simple that even an absolute beginner, can set up a personal or professional blog inside just 30-minutes.
Of course, you’ll need to write the blog posts, that can take a little bit of time, but we’ll get you to the stage where that’s all you need to worry about.
So that’s enough of an intro. I have 30 minutes to show you everything you know, step-by-step, to launch your own blog, starting with nothing, and there’s no better time to get started.
Let’s do it.
Step 1 – We need to pick the blog topic
The first step can be the toughest. What are you going to write about? If you have an idea in your mind, that’s awesome, you can skip this step. But if you haven’t, then read on.
Most great blogs focus on just one subject. There are some exceptions. For example, there are what we call lifestyle blogs. They tend to cover many subjects, but they tend to be social media-driven. Google likes blogs about one subject, it understands them.
Unless you have a very solid idea in your mind about what you want to write about, we suggest making it focused on one thing. It could be food, travel, fashion.
There are two schools of thought. The first is the easiest and the one that most people tend to follow. That’s to write about what you feel passionate about.
It’s not a bad idea, because subject ideas will flow easily and most importantly, you’ll enjoy it. It won’t become a drag. After all, the goal is to find something you’re passionate about, so running your blog will be less about work and more about fun.
3 popular suggestions are to write about something you are:
- already expert in
- passionate about
- learning and want to write about the process as you do
I love to workout, I’m in great shape. So I started my blog to talk about my philosophy and approach to fitness. I talk about it all the time anyway, so why not share that with others and make money?
The other idea is to think about what niches make the most money. It’s a little more complicated, but the goal might be to marry what you know about or have some interest in, with how you plan to make money from it.
There are so many ways to monetize a blog, from endorsements to advertising or creating your own digital products. It’s a guide we could create just to talk about that. But the principle is simple. You need an audience to monetize and that requires good quality content.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The first step is to decide what you are going to write about.
If you are stuck, just move on. Allow yourself time to think about it. Get your blog set up, get it ready. The rest will happen from there.
Step 2 – Find the right blogging platform
It feels like there is a choice to make, but there isn’t, not really.
It’s super easy to sign up for one of the free blogging platforms, like Blogger of Tumblr. Easy to get started, easy to use, easy to attract some audience.
However, they have massive drawbacks.
They are not very good at monetizing your audience, which for a lot of people, is the end goal. You have limitations to your design and, most importantly. It’s not your platform, they could change the platform or close it down, and your blog is dead. All that hard work is gone.
We’ll discuss it a little more, but our recommendation is what they call “self-hosting.” That means having your own website, with your own little spot on a server.
It requires a little more work than the free platforms, but it’s not difficult to set up. In fact you can have it set up by the time you’ve finished this article.
And most importantly, it doesn’t require any real technical know-how or money.
Which blogging platform should I choose?
When it comes to blogging platforms, there are many different ones to choose from. They can vary; some are flexible and easy to use, while others are more complicated, meaning the learning curve is higher.
The short answer is WordPress. WP is a free, open-source blog platform, and it’s the best way to make a blog in 2020. Hands down.
In our opinion, and we have tried dozens of blogging platforms, WordPress comes out on top every time, and 30% of the internet agrees. It doesn’t make blogging easier than when using a free blog website platform, not in the short term, but you make better blogs and more money in the long run.
Here are the reasons we think self-hosted WordPress is likely your best option:
- Using it is free (open-source)
- It has hundreds of free (and premium) blog themes, making it very flexible.
- Has a large developer community
- Setting up a blog is beginner-friendly
- WordPress is updated and improved regularly
- Your blog is fully under your control
How much will it cost to self-host my WordPress blog?
Not much! All you’ll require are:
- Domain name – this is your own web address, for example, www.MyBlogName.com at a cost of about $10 a year, later in this guide we will show you exactly how to get one for free.
- Web hosting – this is the service you need to host your blog. It costs about $5-10 per month for a simple and reliable web host service on a shared server.
That means it costs in total about $50 per year. It’s worth the investment if you want your blog to be successful.
If you find that blogging isn’t for you, there is nothing to stop you from canceling the hosting service. In a lot of cases, the providers provide a 30-day money-back guarantee.
As to Domain names, these cannot be refunded. Once your payment is stopped, the domain name just simply expires and becomes available for purchase again.
It is our opinion that using the self-hosted route is best. The reason being, it is very flexible, and from day one, you can start creating and growing your blog. WordPress is so easy to use too. Worst-case scenario, there are so many WordPress experts, if you get stuck, it won’t cost a lot to ask for help.
Easy to use, easy to design, and easy to monetize is the name of the game. So when I see people asking how to start a blog for free, it frustrates me because if you can afford $50, you get so much more. Platforms that are free are free for a reason.
When people ask me how do you start a blog, I don’t even bother to mention free blog platforms, WordPress is the only option for me, it’s a no-brainer.
Step 3: Selecting a domain name
It’s tough to pick the right new domain name when you begin your own blog. But it’s important. To create your own blog, you need one, it’s basically the address of the blog.
In the purest sense, your domain name is essentially a group of numbers. 216. 3.122.14. That’s a specific location on a server where your website lives, and when someone wants to see it, they need the address to call it up.
But we would never remember websites if all they were were these strings of numbers, so some smart people came up with the idea of covering the IP address with a name that would be easier to remember. That’s your domain name.
When it comes to selecting a domain name right away, people tend to overthink it. Like they’re deciding on the name of their unborn child, but it’s not that important. As long as it’s catchy and easy to remember it doesn’t matter so much. The key to blogging is the content you create.
You have to pay for the privilege of having your own domain name. But it’s not too painful. Most domains cost $10-15 a year.
So how do you pick a name? Here is a simple list of some dos and don’ts:
- Pick something easy to remember. The shorter, the better.
- If it’s a company URL, then why not www.mycompanyname.com?
- Domain extensions matter. If you can try to stick to .com, .org, .net., you should. You can also add your countries most common extension to that list. People trust these domain extensions.
- Separate long words with a hyphen if you think it helps for people to remember or if the original has been taken, e.g., www.sydney-dentists.com.
- Overcomplicate it by being too long
- Use words visitors can’t spell easily
- Use too many hyphens, so it’s difficult to remember, e.g., www.best-dentists-in-Sydney.com
- Don’t overthink it. I’ve said it again, and I’ll repeat it. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck at step 1. You can always change it later if you grow to hate it. It’s only $10-15, but most likely, you won’t.
Checking domain availability:
Head over to https://www.bluehost.com/domains
Once there, start to think of ideas for your domains and typing them into the search box and clicking the search button
It will check the database and either return a result saying it’s available or it’s unavailable.
If you find your name is not available, keep going. Eventually, you’ll find the ideal name and it will be available.
Super, you have a name that is available! You have found your domain. Now it’s time to think about hosting (and this is how we are going to pick up our domain for free so don’t buy anything yet). Then we are almost ready to design your blog.
Step 4 – Set up your blog through web hosting (and register domain name)
When starting with a self-hosted WordPress blog, you are going to need a domain name and web hosting. Self-hosted WordPress is definitely the way to go, and we are going to show you how you set it up as cheaply and ask as quickly as possible.
There are many ways to create your WordPress site, and you can certainly use other hosting companies. Still, to start a blog as a beginner, we suggest using Bluehost for WordPress bloggers.
This is why we are fans of Bluehost web hosting to get started with blogging on WordPress
- The custom domain name (free for the 1st year),
- Free SSL certificate (security).
- Website hosting
- Simple, one-click install for WordPress
- Free email accounts, like [email protected]
- Great and quick customer support
- Useful content in their knowledgebase
When it comes to blogging for beginners, we like the web hosting services from Bluehost, we trust them and have experience with using them. Especially as they are cheap. But there are others too that are on a par with Bluehost. Just ensure they have WordPress, one-click install features, and it’s easy to open an account. Make sure you get a new domain for free, because, well, why not?
Should you get stuck when registering a domain name and signing up for Bluehost here is a step-by-step guide for you to follow:
Once you have signed up with Bluehost, you’re able to install your WordPress blog.
Most web hosting companies offer one-click install for a WordPress blogging platform, which means you don’t need any prior knowledge or technical experience.
Here’s what you need to do to install WordPress on Bluehost
- Log in to your user profile at Bluehost.
- In the “Home” page click on the blue button “WordPress”
- WordPress installation starts
Once you’ve done that, be aware that it can take up to 10-15 minutes to be activated.
Once installing is complete, Bluehost will let you choose your admin login and password for WordPress.
Step 5 – Configure your WordPress blog
Now your admin account with WordPress is set up (see the previous step) you are ready to proceed to your new dashboard:
Go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and enter your login details. Once logged in, you’ll see this:
Although WordPress is already 100% operational, you will find there are some settings still to go through. Don’t worry, we’ll walk you through them.
Start by going to the left sidebar and clicking on Settings → General.
Now you can set:
- “Site Title” – this is the name of your site. The title is especially important as it’s what the visitor gets to see first, and also plays a major role in how search engines determine your rankings. If you have a business, you will want to make sure it’s there.
- “Tagline” – this is like a summary of your blog, and it’s part of all WordPress sites.
Worth noting in the last section of General Settings is the Bluehost ‘Coming Soon’ feature. Turn this feature off once you are ready for your blog to go live.
Making your site visible on Google
We want to ensure our site can be found by the search engines, primarily Google. This is essential because otherwise, no one will find your content.
To make sure that happens to go to Settings → Reading (again, from the main sidebar) and then ensure that the field labeled “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” remains unchecked.
If you don’t check this, you might find you have an invisible site.
The ‘permalinks’ settings are the place on the WordPress platform where you decide on the structure your URLs take. For example, most sites have the page title in their URL, like this: www.example.com/this-is-my-blog-post-title
You do this by going to Settings → Permalinks. Once there, you need to set your permalinks to the “Post name” variant, like this:
This is the most optimal setting of the ones available and also the one preferred by Google and other search engines.
Step 6 – Design your blog by choosing a theme
WordPress has another ‘ace up its sleeve,’ you can have a top-quality looking blog even if you aren’t a skilled web designer.
How you ask! This is because WordPress has thousands of themes readily available on the web. What’s more, a lot of them are free and easily customized – no special coding knowledge required.
Go back to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance → Themes. Once there, click on “Add New”:
Then, switch the tab to “Popular”:
From here you are going to see the most popular free WordPress themes on the market, and the best bit is with just one click you can install whichever one you want.
So, have a browse through the list. Spend some time finding what will suit the site.
Once you’ve decided on a theme you like, you can go ahead and install it. Simply click “install” next to the theme’s name, then click “activate.”
Note: All you are doing here is changing what your blog looks like. Your content isn’t being changed at all – it’s safe! Themes can be changed as often you like with no worry your pages will vanish in the process.
Step 7 – Add logo, change colors and structure
Although the WordPress theme you have decided on will come with some specific pre-configured design components, you will have some variations and options to personalize it too.
To do this – go to Appearance → Customize. What you’ll see is the WordPress Customizer:
Depending on your current theme, you’ll get a different set of options in the sidebar menu, but the most common ones will include:
“Site Identity” – this is where you can set your blog title again, plus add a logo image and a site icon (aka. favicon).
“Colors” – for adjusting the basic colors used throughout the design.
“Header” – for setting your header graphic or image.
“Background” – for setting your background graphic, image, or color.
“Menus” – more on this later on.
“Widgets” – more on this later on as well. And other, theme-dependent settings.
Add Logo And Favicon
If you don’t have a logo yet, you can create one on the myriad of logo tools online. Many are free.
If you don’t have a favicon yet, you can use favicon generators, similar to logo tools, there are plenty of tools that are free.
You will probably have your site title and tagline already set up. What you are doing here is adding your company logo and favicon, which are both really easy to do:
To add your logo, simply click the button “Select logo.” On the next screen, WordPress will identify for you the type of graphic that is acceptable for your logos.
Once you have uploaded your logo, you will see inside the live preview window.
To add your favicon, click on the button labeled “Select image” under the “Site Icon” section:
This process is very similar to the logo’s – WordPress will identify which type of image it is expecting. The only big difference is that once you added your favicon it isn’t displayed in the preview. In order to see it look at the main top bar of the web browser next to your blog title.
Change The Blog Colors
The different sets of options in the Customizer section on WordPress will depend on the theme you are using. To give you an idea see the default theme example below:
There may only be a couple of settings on the WordPress dashboard to play around with, but they can still help you achieve a look for your new blog that’s in keeping with your brand and has it looking unique.
If you’re not sure what colors to choose, there are websites that show you which colors compliment each other, and look at other websites for inspiration.
Add Custom Header Graphic
The Custom Header Graphic section is also dependent on which theme you are using. The most common setting you will come across will allow you to add a header graphic/image, or possibly a header video. All you need to do to set your header image is to click “Add new image.” Many WordPress themes have this option.
You have the freedom to choose whatever image you want for your site header. However, it must be of sufficiently high quality. WordPress will inform you of the minimal requirements for the header image on the upload screen.
Some themes come with the ability to set the main background for your whole website.
Generally, the options offered will let you set a custom image or provide a solid color to the background. The longer you experiment with this, you will certainly find you will come up with some very interesting effects.
Step 8 – Add/Write new blog posts and pages
With all the above done, you can now start creating the content for your new blog on your new WordPress site.
If you are building a blog, you’ll likely need at least some of the following pages:
- Blog – this one section WordPress creates for you automatically. By default, all your latest blog posts are going to be listed right on the homepage.
- About – to tell your visitors what the blog is about and who’s behind it.
- Contact – to let people contact you directly.
- Services / Products – to list your products and/or services and tell people why they should buy them.
- Testimonials – from your previous customers.
- Portfolio – your body of work presented attractively.
Create New Pages
Now that you’ve decided on the type of pages you may need, it’s time to talk about how to actually create them.
The good thing about WordPress is that the process of creating a new page is the same no matter what type of page it is.
Here’s what you do – go to WordPress dashboard, then to Pages then Add New. The screen you will see is WordPress’s main page editing screen:
Add your content into the content editor. Here’s a nice guide from Bluehost how to get the most out of the content editor.
As you would imagine, once you click the “Publish” button, your page becomes visible to the public.
Add Blog Posts
One of the core elements of the WordPress CMS is its blog functionality. This is why WordPress has dedicated a whole separate section to the creating and publishing of blog posts.
You can find it if you go to Posts from the main WordPress dashboard sidebar:
The process of creating new posts works in the same ways as creating new pages. The big difference is that posts will be displayed automatically onto the homepage. At the same time, you will need to add your pages to the menu so anyone visiting your blog can find them.
Add Navigation Menu
In WordPress, the menus have a very special job. They are the best tool to ensure that the pages you have created can be found by your readers.
Your blog should have one main menu which should be in the navigation bar, this is the most used format and will be something visitors to your site will expect to see.
To create a new menu, go to Appearance → Menus. In here you will see all the pages you have created, click on the checkboxes of the pages you would like in your new menu. Click “Add to Menu.” In the section on the right, you will see all the pages listed in your menu.
At this point, you can drag and drop these pages to realign them. When this is done, you check one of the checkboxes under “Display location.”This is where your main navigation location will be listed.
By clicking on the main “Save Menu” button, the menu is going to be set.
Change Your Blog Sidebar and Footer
The theme you are using will determine how many sidebars are available, this can be anywhere from zero to a handful. Plus, there may be a customizable footer too.
To find out what is displayed in these areas, we are going to use WordPress Widgets.
Simply put, widgets are small blocks of content that can be displayed in various places throughout a WordPress blog.
To see what this is all about, just go to Appearance → Widgets.
What you see here are all the different widgets that WordPress gives you. Just to name a few:
- Archives – a list of all your past blog posts
- Image – an image of your choice
- Categories – a list of all your blog categories
- Recent Posts
- Search – a search bar
- Text – a piece of custom text
- and a lot more
These widgets can be placed in one of the predefined widget areas, this is normally in the footer or sidebar.
For example, we can drag-and-drop the “Recent Posts” widget to our “Footer 1” widget area, like so:
This can be done with any other available widget. All you do is grab and drag from the section on the left then into any other widget area the theme allows.
Note The widget areas that you see in your admin panel depend on the theme that you’re currently using.
BONUS: Writing content for the search engine
Creating blog posts is easy, we’ve shown you everything you need to know. But there is more to a blog than creating it. WordPress does most of the heavy lifting with that, but there is one thing WordPress can’t help you with. The last step is getting traffic to your content. By traffic, we mean visitors.
This is the role of content. To get started, you need to pick a subject to write about that you know people are interested in. You need to download a tool like Keyword surfer. This is a free tool that shows you the number of searches people make for a search term.
The data is given for monthly search terms. Just add new words in your search box, and the tool will do the rest.
You want to find search terms that have a good amount of traffic. Then you know people will be interested in your content. Now you’ve found your subject to write about, and you know that people are interested because you checked how many people search each month; the next step is to start writing.
Now, at this point, you need to understand how Google decides which pages to show in the search results. It’s a long story, companies make millions and millions of dollars mastering this process. But in terms of content, there are some basic rules.
You need to help Google understand what your WordPress site is about. More specifically, what this page is about. So make sure the main term people use to search for your subject is in the title of the page. It’s also going to be in the first paragraph.
At the same time, Google is smarter than just understanding content with keywords, they can also understand natural variations and synonyms. The name of the game is to give Google as many signals as is natural to help them understand the article.
A good way to determine how many times you should use specific words is to look at the pages that are top of the search results. See how often they use terms and copy them.
The technical name for this is TF IDF. There are tools that can do it for you. But if money is tight, you can do it manually. Just use Word Counter to get general data and then use it when you start creating your post.
Google is only 1 way of getting people to see your site. It’s great because so many people use Google to search for things they are interested in. However, social media is another way, or even if your blog is selling things, you can try Google Adwords.
Launch your blog and keep improving
Congratulations and Well done! Your new blog is ready to launch!
Wasn’t too hard now was it?
Keep in mind that every blog you create with WordPress is different. You can always change WordPress themes or even buy premium ones to really make your blog look professional and unique.
You have to keep going. Google will start paying more attention to your site the more articles you have. You’ll start to grow an audience who keeps coming back to read your stuff too. Persistence is the key. Do it because it’s a challenge or you’re interested, don’t worry about money at first. That comes when you’ve generated an audience.