A simple, step-by-step guide for starting a blog in less than 20 minutes. Updated 4th of May, 2015.
I know, I know… starting a blog can be confusing. When I started my first blog over five years ago, didn’t know a THING about blogs or blogging.
I kept looking through Google for help, but all the guides I found were too technical and difficult to follow.
That’s why I wrote this guide. I’ve now managed over 20 different blogs, some with over 200,000 visitors, and I wanted to help beginners (like I used to be) do the same by giving them a super easy guide that I wish I had when I started.
Four Steps to Start a Blog:
- Select a blogging platform (WordPress).
- Set up a self-hosted blog on your own domain (or use free services).
- Find and install a blog layout/theme.
- Configure your new blog and write your first post.
One last thing…
If you EVER get stuck while learning how to start a blog – I’m here to help you. I won’t be able to set up a blog for you, but I can do my best to answer your blogging related questions.
Just drop me a line if you hit a snag.
If you are still hesitating, I suggest you read my article titled “Reasons why you should start your own blog.”
STEP ONE: Choose a Blog Topic
What should I write about?
To help figure this out, ask yourself a few questions:
1. Why am I blogging?
What’s your goal – making money? Showcasing your expertise? Sharing your life experience? Whatever you write about should line up with that goal.
When I start my first blog, I just wanted to write about smartphones and tech gadgets and maybe make a few bucks along the way, so I started there.
2. What am I passionate about?
You need to LOVE what you write about or you’ll burn out. Try to pick topics that you really like talking about. Blogging should never feel like a chore; your readers will know if you don’t really care.
3. What am I an expert in?
Know a lot about a specific field? Been in an industry for a long time? Chances are, you’ve got a lot of knowledge to share that others would find interesting.
The most important thing – just start!
Part of the adventure of blogging is that you don’t need to have it all figured out. Sometimes you learn the most while doing a research for your blog post. If you’re stuck, just start writing about your hobbies or your daily life, and you’ll soon discover what you like writing about most.
P.S. If you already know your blog niche or topic, you can skip this step and move onto Step 2.
Here are some of the most popular blogging topics in 2015:
- Personal blogs – Sharing your story is powerful – there’s no other “you”! Share your thoughts, opinions, ideas, rants, or take the opportunity to help others (like I did)
- Lifestyle / Fashion blogs – Interested in clothes, shoes and accessories? Good news – LOTS of people are, all around the world! Writing about trends, designers, events and more can bring in pretty good traffic.
- Food blogs – I’ve never seen more interest in the things we eat! From diet sites to recipe blogs, I’m seeing tons of photo-rich, really interesting food blogs out there; if you’re a natural in the kitchen, you might think about starting there.
- Music blogs – Got a favorite band – or 200 favorite bands? Whether you love rock and roll or you’re an EDM fan, reviewing albums, concerts or just writing about the music scene in general is a popular thing to do right now.
- Travel blogs – I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want to travel the world writing about the awesome things they see. Snap photos, showcase destinations and share the crazy adventures you have along the way.
“Do it yourself“, “How to” and other informative blogs are also becoming very popular. Struggling to come up with good blog post ideas? Check my latest article about: 101 blog post ideas that will make your blog hot.
STEP 2: Finding the Right Platform
Before you start blogging, you need to choose the platform you’ll use.
What’s a “platform, anyway?”
Building a blog used to be pretty complicated. You needed to learn HTML (code), CSS, and a bunch of technical junk.
Thanks to platforms, none of that is necessary anymore. A “platform” is just a system that makes adding and editing content super easy and code-free, even if you’re not very technical.
Using a platform like WordPress is as simple as using Microsoft Word!
What platform do most people use?
Most of the blogs on the internet are made with WordPress – in fact, WordPress has been used over 72 million times and is used by many popular blogs and sites (including this one!)
I’ve tried dozens of different platforms out there (Joomla, Drupal etc..), and…
I strongly recommend you use WordPress for your blog. Here’s why:
- It’s the easiest platform for beginners (Joomla and Drupal are much more difficult to learn)
- You can choose from thousands of awesome-looking templates and themes (Tumblr and Joomla doesn’t have that much free themes)
- You can categorise your blog posts and create custom menus without needing to learn any code
- There are tons of awesome plugins you can install with one click that add features like newsletter signups, photo galleries and more
- Whenever you need help, there’s a HUGE community of bloggers and developers on WordPress who are happy to help
Why shouldn’t I just use a free platform, like tumblr?
I don’t want to go into too much right now, but if you are serious about blogging and decide to blog more than 2-3 months it’s strongly recommended to self-host your blog. Sites like Tumblr and Blogspot isn’t way to go.
In that way you’ll have no limitations related to your blog content, images and videos. Your blog will look more professional, better looking and has tons of free features that you can add later on. Plus, you actually own your blog.
However, if you don’t plan to blog a for more than a month, free option might make sense.
Free is not actually FREE!
There are some serious drawbacks to “free” sites (tumblr and blogspot) that most people don’t realize:
- Your site will be MUCH harder for people to find – Instead of getting to pick a custom domain name (that just means the web address of your blog), you’re stuck with a sub-domain.
Example: My site’s domain is startbloggingonline.com – but if I had built my site on blogger, it would be startbloggingonline.blogger.com. That’s much harder for people to remember, right?
- You won’t look as professional – If your goal is to get covered in the press, make money or become a well-known blogger, it’s going to be much harder on a platform that looks cheap and rented.
You’ll have fewer designs to choose from – You don’t want a bland, boring, generic look – do you? WordPress has a HUNDREDS array of templates designed by the community – other sites have a couple dozen.
- Want to add features? Too bad! – If you ever want to add a photo gallery, install a forum or even just filter spam better, you’re out of luck –but WordPress has thousands of plugins to choose from.
And maybe most importantly…
- You have NO control over your OWN blog – When your blog is hosted on someone else’s site, they own it – not you. If they decide your blog doesn’t fit their policies, they can remove you without any warning, sending all your hard work down the drain.
“But I have no budget!”
I understand – I was there once, too. If you really don’t have $3 – $8 a month to put towards your blog (and that’s really all it takes!) starting with a free option might make sense.
But if you have ANY plans to grow a popular, money-making blog, hosted version the way to go.
How much will it cost to start a WordPress blog on my own domain?
Not much! All you need is…
- A domain name (web address) – About $10/year (I’ll show you how to get one for $5)
- A hosting service (connects your blog to the internet) – About $3 – $6 per month.
That’s it – less than a movie ticket to use the best platform on your own custom domain.
What if I decide I don’t want to blog anymore?
If you decide blogging really isn’t for you, you can cancel any time. Most services even have a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you’ve got a full month to test it out without paying a dime.
I don’t have a domain name or host yet. What now?
In step 3, I’ll show you everything you need to do to get a WordPress blog up and running.
STEP 3: Setting Up Your Domain, Hosting & Blog
How do I pick the best domain name?
My advice? Get creative – but keep it simple. Make sure your domain name is…
- Brandable – Choose a domain name that reflects your style, attitude and subject. You might even choose to use your own name, like MikeWallagher.com
- Memorable – Nobody will remember “www.all-about-latest-fashion-trends.com”, but something like “welldressed.com” will stick in their heads.
- Unique – Ripping someone else off is no way to build a brand.
I prefer to pick something that either ends with .com, .net or .org, but sometimes the best domain names are already taken.
Where should I get my domain name and hosting?
I’ve hosted my sites and blogs on tons of different hosting companies. Some were good, some were… well, terrible.
Today, I use www.HostGator.com for all of my blogs and recommend it to every new blogger I help.
- Super cheap – Really affordable compared to the competition (less than $2.99/mo)
- Easy set up – Setting up WordPress on HostGator is ridiculously simple
- Fast – Other hosts loaded my blog verrrry slowly. I’ve never had a problem with HostGator.
- 24/7 support – If anything happens, they’ve got great customer support by phone and email
Later in the guide, I’ll be showing you HostGator’s set up process – but I’ve included a tutorial on how to install your blog manually as well, in case you decide to go with someone else.
One last note: If you go with a different hosting company, please make sure they offer unlimited bandwidth and unlimited disk space (like HostGator does). That will help you to avoid problems later on.
How do I Install WordPress?
Once you’ve got your domain name and hosting, you have two options to install your blog to your own domain:
- A) With “One-Click-Installation” (HostGator uses this – it’s so easy)
- B) Manually (A lot tougher)
The One-Click-Installation is better for beginners or those who are trying to set up their first blog. If you are internet/computer savvy then have a look at the manual tutorial. Either way, you’ll get your blog online very quickly.
Option 1: Set Up Your WordPress Blog Using HostGator Hosting (EASIEST)
I’m about to show you how to buy a domain, set up your hosting package and get your WordPress blog set up using HostGator.
Just like I mentioned earlier, HostGator gives you a super cheap hosting, great support and speedy load times – and they’ve been around for a while.
Don’t worry – if you’ve already got a domain name, you can still use this guide.
Setting Up Your Hosting & Domain Name
NOTE: Follow the screenshots below to make sure you get the cheapest and most suitable package available (Domain name + Blog hosting = $45/year)
You can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.
1. Sign Up at www.HostGator.com
Remember: Clicking the link above gives you a cheap domain name for $5 when you check out.
This is the HostGator homepage, where you can buy a domain name and hosting for your blog. Click on the “Start Your Site Now” to begin the registration process – this will take you to the next screen to choose your domain name.
2. Choose your desired domain name and see if it’s available
Choose a domain name for your blog (.com, .net and .org are the most common ones)
If you’ve already bought a domain from somewhere else, click “I already own this domain“..
3. Choose your hosting plan & options
Because you’re just starting out, the “Hatchling” will cover everything you need. You’ll get a domain name and a hosting for less than $45/year.
TIP: “Domain Privacy Protection” is not crucial, but if you don’t want your name or phone number to be shared publically in the WHOIS database (a big database every host is required to send that information to), tick the box and it’ll all be hidden (the company will hide your details behind a proxy, so nobody can see who you are).
If you un-tick this option, you’ll save $9.95.
Also, make you sure have entered “STARTBLOG” discount coupon to get a discount (58% off).
“Additional services” are not actually needed, HostGator is secure enough, and they can help you with manual backups (if needed). Again, if you choose “No Thanks” for Automatic Backups, you’ll save another $20.
After that click “Check Out” and you have saved quite a lot of time and money.
4. Complete the purchase
You’ll need to fill in your name and credit card details using HostGator’s secure payment system to complete the purchase.
Be very careful to enter correct details so the customer support team can verify the registration and give you additional help if you need it.
Installing WordPress to your Domain
Now that you’ve got your hosting and domain name, you need to start the WordPress installation process.
Within a few minutes of signing up, you should receive blog hosting account log in information in your email box (see below).
How to install WordPress with one click (on HostGator)
1. Log into your Control panel:
The control panel looks like this:
2. Click on the large blue icon called “QuickInstalls”.
As soon as you do, you’ll see a page where you can install WordPress to your domain with a single click (see below)
Click the “Install” button, and you’re almost done!
If you want to install your WordPress blog to your root domain (YourNewBlog.com), just click on “Check Domain”. If you want to install blog somewhere else (like YourNewBlog.com/blog), use the directory option.
HostGator may ask you to overwrite some files – but that’s completely OK.
HostGator automatically generates you a strong password that you can see right after you’ve finished the installation. You should receive it via email and you should also see it on your “Notification Center”.
Congratulations, your blog is now ready! It’s a great feeling, isn’t it?
How to Log In:
When you are ready, use YourNewBlog.com/wp-admin to log in to your WordPress blog dashboard.
This should be your “default” WordPress blog after installation:
P.S: If you didn’t manage to install WordPress to your blog or you simply got stuck, feel free to contact their customer support. They can help you with the blog installation process over chat and phone.
Option 2: Set Up a WordPress Blog Manually to Any Host (ADVANCED)
- PHP 4.2 or greater
- MySQL 4.0 or greater
- At least 1GB free disk space
If your host meets the requirements, go and download WordPress from – http://wordpress.org/download
Once that’s done, you need to unzip the file to a new folder on your desktop. Make sure you do it properly; otherwise your blog installation will fail.
After that you need to look for a file (in the folder where you just extracted your WordPress.zip) named “wp-config-sample.php“. Once you’ve found it, You have to remove the sample and rename it as “wp-config.php“
After that open the file with WordPad (or Notepad) and change the following lines:
define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’); define(‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’); define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’); define(‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’); – In most cases you don’t have to change this. So at first you can leave it as it is.
If you don’t know your database name, username and password then ask your host’s customer support for them. Once you have edited the file, hit the “Save” button.
Now you need to connect to your hosting FTP account; you will need a FTP client (for example, FileZilla). Again, you will need to get your username and password from your hosting company. If you upload the files to the root directory then your blog will be accessible from www.yourdomain.com. If you upload files to a specific folder (for example myblog), your blog will be accessible from www.yourdomain.com/myblog. Make sure you don’t have any other “index” file (.html, .htm) in the directory as this can interrupt the whole installation process. You can only have index.php, which is part of WordPress.
Simple, hey? Don’t give up just yet, you are almost there. Now open your web browser and type in the following URL: www.yourblogaddress.com/wp-admin/install.php After that fill in the form (password, username and name of the blog) and click on the “Install WordPress” button. After that you are ready!
Once You’ve Installed: How to Choose Your Design, Write Your First Post and Promote Your Blog
How do I Log into My WordPress Dashboard?
Just log in from http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin (replace “yoursite” with your domain) and enter your username and password.
How do I Choose My Design?
WordPress uses “Themes”, or design templates, to decide how your site looks. There are thousands of professionally designed and fully-customisable themes to choose from!
- Log into your WordPress dashboard (Check above instructions)
- Click “Appearance” in the sidebar, then click “Themes” for instant access to over 1500 free themes!
- Search by keyword for a theme you like, or browse as you wish. Watch for themes that are “responsive”, as these will look good on mobile devices.
- Choose one you like and click “Install”, then click “Activate”.
Don’t worry – changing themes won’t delete any of your past posts from your blog.
Check out WordPress ABC for even more help customizing your blog.
How do I Add a New Post?
- Log into your WordPress dashboard (Check above instructions)
- Click “Posts” in the sidebar, then click “Add New”.
- Write your content, save and push publish!
How do I Install a Plugin?
Plugins add features and tools to your website – from newsletter signups and contact forms to photo galleries and forums.
- Log into your WordPress dashboard (See above instructions)
- Click “Plugins” in the sidebar, then “Add New”
- Search by keyword to find plugins for just about anything!
Got any other basics I should know or learn?
Yup! Check out WordPress ABC, an article I wrote for people who want to learn more about WordPress “buttons and whistles”. This article covers more about WordPress, including how to change themes and really customize your blog.
How can I promote my blog/make money off of it?
Great question – but there’s just too much to cover in one guide. I’ve written more about it here: “Promote Your Blog”. Check it out as I’ve put my plan for traffic there.
You can also learn a ton by signing up to my totally free email series, where I answer the most common questions I’m asked.
That was easy – wasn’t it?
P.S. Two last things:
1) If you found this tutorial helpful, I’d love it if you shared it using the links below. It really means a lot to me!
2) If you started a blog, you should definitely join to my blogging course, where I share tons of tricks, tips and advice you can use to get traffic, make money and create an amazing blog!
Simply click on the “FREE course” at the top of my page and you’re on your way!
If you’re all set and ready – start bloggin’!
– Mike Wallagher