So you want to start / create a blog, but don’t know where to begin?
I know, I know… starting a blog can be confusing. When I started my blogging journey nearly six years ago, I remember being baffled about this too. I kept searching through Google for different “how-to” guides, but they were all so technical and hard to follow.
Back then, blogging wasn’t so popular as it is today.
At that time, I just wanted to start a blog and make it successful. Fast forward and 6 years later, I’ve grown many blogs into 500,000+ monthly visitors. Obviously, everything didn’t go so smoothly at the beginning. However, during that time – I learned a LOT.
I put this guide together, so you could have a solid step-by-step guide for starting a blog without making all the common blogging mistakes. I also wanted to give back a little to the blogging community which has helped me a lot.
Here’s what you’ll learn on StartBloggingOnline.com:
- 1) How to choose a blog topic (or is it needed?)
- 2) How to find the best blogging platform (WordPress)
- 3) How to set up your blog (free or self-hosted)
- 4) How to generate more traffic to your blog
- 5) How to earn additional income through blogging
If you go through this guide from START to FINISH, you’ll have a blog that you can be PROUD OF – I promise. If you’re still hesitating, read my 11 reasons to start a blog.
STEP 1: Make a decision – free or self-hosted blog?
In short, there are two types of blogs – free blogging services and self-hosted blogs. I’ll explain the difference in a second, but first have a look at this chart:
|SELF-HOSTED BLOG||FREE BLOGGING SERVICES|
|Your blog address (URL, WWW.)||Your blog address will look professional and neat. You’ll be able to set up your own domain name like: www.YourNewBlog.com||Your blog address will look like: tumblr.com/yourblog or yourblog.blogspot.com. Hard to remember and not really something you’d trust as a visitor, right?|
|Who controls your blog content?||The only one who controls and moderates your blog is you. No-one will be able to remove/edit your content, you’ll decide what you publish.||Your blog content is controlled and owned by the free blogging service provider. If they think it’s against their TOS (which can happen), they can take down your blog without any warnings. All your hard work and time put on the blog can disappear within seconds.|
|How about monetization?||You decide which ads to place, which products/services to sell. Everything is up to you – there are NO limitations whatsoever. People can subscribe to your blog, too.||Not really. On a free blogging platform, you’ll have some limitations. For example; “Selling ad space or running Adsense are prohibited on free blogging services.”|
|Customisation?||You’ll have access to over 1,500 free themes/layouts and over 2,000 free plugins. You won’t run out of features.||Limited. Fewer plugins and themes to choose from (around 100). If you want more themes and plugins – you’ll need to pay as it’s only for Premium users.|
|What about the cost?||Domain name: $10 / year
Web Host: $2 – $4 / month
|FREE, but if you reach 25,000 monthly visitors, you’ll need to start paying.|
|How about bandwidth and storage?||Depends on your web hosting company, but it’s usually unlimited.||3GB for free (no videos, though).|
Still confused? Let me help you to decide.
So should I create a free blog or self-hosted blog? I know that this is one of the hardest decisions for people who want to create a blog. I’ve heard this question so many times, so I’ll do my best to keep things simple:
- Free blogging services: If you have no plans to blog more than a few months about something random, hands-down go with free blogging services. It doesn’t cost you a dime, you can signup within 5 minutes and start writing blog posts right away.
Drawbacks? You are not going to earn money/clients nor will you be able to grow your blog into something big. Your blog appearance will be basic and boring. In addition to that, your blog address will be unprofessional: YourNewBlog.FreeBlogging.com not YourNewBlog.com
Nevertheless, you’ll have your own private space for putting down your ideas and thoughts.
- Self-hosted blog: If you have plans to dedicate more time and effort into your blog and make it successful at some point, start with a self-hosted blog from day one. All the successful bloggers I personally know are using self-hosted blogs on their own domain names. You’ll have no limits, you’ll be able to earn money through your blog and it’s a MUCH better option.
Drawbacks? It’ll cost you some money. Domain names (www.YourNewBlog.com) are around $10 / year and web hosting is roughly $3 – $5 / month.
Most bloggers (including me) who start with a free blog, soon realise that a free blog service simply isn’t enough (mostly because of the limitations). They have to transfer all the content, images and blog posts from their free blog to a self-hosted blog and let their readers know about the switch – It’s a painful process that no one really wants to go through.
However, choosing one or another is totally up to you.
In the next step, I’ll show you how to choose your blog topic. If you already know what your blog is going to be about, go straight to my setup guide here: Get a domain name, web hosting and set up your self-hosted WordPress blog.
If you’re still hesitating, read on.
STEP 2: Choose your blog topic (… and meaning).
If you decided to start a self-hosted blog, wise choice. The next step is choosing a blog topic. You’ll NEED a blog topic. Without a blog topic your blog is pointless, there’s just no meaning to it.
Finding a niche, topic or category is ESSENTIAL for your blog. Otherwise, you’ll fail from day one. Believe me, I’ve mentored hundreds of beginner bloggers who all wanted to make it work, but failed since they didn’t choose a blog topic.
Here’s a simple rule I usually suggest: Choose a topic that you’re INTERESTED in. If you KNOW more about something than 99% of the rest of people, go with it. That way you can write about something that you’re passionate about. In that way, the readers of your blog will:
- A) Come back for more.
- B) Share your content on social media.
- C) Will buy products/services/consultation from you.
In other words, your blog will generate more traffic and income. Pretty simple, huh?
- Make it something you’re personally interested in. If you’re not interested in what you’re blogging about, it will show in your writing, and no one will want to read your posts. Focus your blog on your own interests or something that you can be passionate writing about.
- Try and make it a topic that you can blog about without losing steam or interest. To clarify, a blog focusing on type of chocolate might be interesting for a while, but sooner or later, you’ll run out of things to blog about. Widen the blog’s reach (by perhaps including all chocolate types!) and you’ll have an almost never-ending source of information and news to blog about.
- If you’re going to write about more than one topic, try to clarify which parts of those topics are the ones that interest you. If you start a blog and it’s very general from the start, it’s going to be confusing to your readers, because it won’t feel like your blog has a direction.
A way to remedy (which I’ve been suggesting to my readers) this is by splitting your blog into different sections; for example, if you’re starting a fashion blog, try splitting the blog into shoes, dresses, casual wear, formal wear, and so on. That way, everything is well-organised and your readers can choose which section to visit, depending on their preferences.
STEP 3: Choose a blogging platform
There are a lot of different blogging platforms to choose from: WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger and many more. However, given that there are over 72 million active users using WordPress today, it’s clear which platform is the boss. Even my own sites and blogs are built with WordPress platform. Here’s why:
1) It’s free to install and use.
2) It’s insanely easy to set up.
3) It’s super 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 Sony, NASA and even university blogs are using WP.
4) 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 great, nothing in my opinion has ever come close to matching the freedom and customisation options that WordPress offers. So without a doubt, go with WordPress.
STEP 4: Get your domain name and web hosting for your blog
To set up a self-hosted WordPress blog, 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, except you’ll choose what’s going to be behind YourNewBlog. The cost of a domain name is usually $10/year.
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. The cost of web hosting is usually somewhere between $2-5 per month.
It’s less than an XL coffee at Starbucks, so it won’t break the bank. But it’s an important investment to your blog success.
Where should I get my domain name and hosting?
There are hundreds of different web hosting companies like BlueHost, GoDaddy, iPage and so on…
They all offer you a similar service with a similar price, but after managing dozens of blogs and experiencing a ton of headaches with hosts, I now only use and recommend www.HostGator.com for domain names and web hosting.
But if you want, you can always go with another web host as long as it’s reliable, secure and with unlimited storage & bandwidth. That way you won’t run into troubles later on.
How do I choose a good domain name?
Choosing a bad domain name is one of the most common mistakes I see bloggers make. Be sure you choose a domain name that is…
1. Easy to Remember – Don’t choose a nonsense name, something tough to spell, or a long name full of dashes. “www.best-tech-gadgets-in-the-world.com” won’t ever stick in someone’s head, but something like “www.techgeeks.com” rolls off the tongue.
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. 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.
STEP 5: Set up your self-hosted WordPress blog
By now you should have a domain name, a great hosting provider and a blogging platform to get started with.
Below here are two links to two different guides. One will show you how to get your domain and hosting from HostGator (and how you can install WordPress). The other will show you to install WordPress manually to any other host.
Once you’ve completed the installation – you should have a fully-working self-hosted blog on your own domain name! That’s a huge step towards a successful blog, and this is already something you can be proud of
What’s next? The fun part
In the next section, I’ll walk you through some WordPress basics – including how to get your blog looking the way you want it to – how to change themes and add new features. This’ll be pretty interesting as you can use your own creativeness.
After that, I’ll show you some easy ways to generate more traffic to your blog as well as make money along the way.