*** Note: This post contains affiliate links. ***
I remember the day I first started searching online for resources on “How to Start a Blog”…
I had about a thousand tabs open on my browser. I read tons of “how to” guides, blog posts and articles and despite making my fair share of ‘newbie’ mistakes, I finally did it. I took the plunge and “launched” my blog.
Those experiences and feelings are still fresh with me and I haven’t forgotten the time it took to learn “all the things” I now know about the business of blogging.
So today, I’m here sharing my experience with you on “How to Start a New Blog” for your business and I know it will help you get started with your own blog for your business fast and the right way!
If you’ve spent any time at all researching how to start a blog, you know that there are a lot of steps just to get started. And that’s before you can publish your first blog post! And on the top of that, there are a lot of technical things to learn.
Well, today you don’t have to read a million different articles to get started… just read this one. I have included everything that you will need to start a successful blog.
Today, we are in the golden age of Internet marketing. You can start today and leave your mark on the world… easily. And of course, make money doing it.
By starting your own blog, you can share your knowledge and experience, communicate with your target audience and even promote your business. Never before has it been this easy for entrepreneurs to establish their own platform for their business or their personal brand. And when you combine blogging with the popularity of social media today, it’s possible for you, as a small business owner or a solopreneur, to market your business online with only a minimal investment.
You will find out below that starting a new blog is not hard at all – anyone can do it! And with this guide, you won’t have to spend countless hours piecing together an action plan. I’ve included all the steps that you will need to get started the right way from the beginning. I will also give you my secret tips so that you can avoid mistakes and rework and save yourself from endless frustration.
Starting a blog is a great way to share your passion and experience. You can contribute something to the world and make it a better place.
So, with that in mind, grab a cup of coffee or tea and your favorite notepad and pens to take a few notes and let’s get started now!
NOTE: This guide is divided into easy to skim sections. Feel free to read the sections that interest you now and bookmark this guide to come back to as a reference while you’re working through the steps to start your own blog.
1. Choose Your Blogging Niche
Before you get start blogging, take some time to decide what you want to blog about. This first step is particularly important if you are starting a blog for your business or if you have a goal to monetize your blog. There are bloggers that write about anything and everything, but if you take some time to study what successful blogs have in common, one of the things that you will notice is that they are very targeted to a specific audience. Writing about too many topics or unrelated topics is usually a recipe for failure. You might be wondering… Why isn’t that a good idea?
Meredith Hill said “When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one.” Seth Godin put it even more succinctly when he said “Everyone is not your customer.” Merdith and Seth are widely quoted on this topic because one thing that successful entrepreneurs have in common is knowing exactly who their customer is and how they can best serve them.
So, instead of just “starting a blog”, time some time to narrow down your focus and choose a specific niche. Some popular blogging niches are fashion, food, parenting, lifestyle, business, technology, and finance. But even those niches are too broad.
A simple formula that you can use to help narrow down your niche and the purpose of your blog is:
I am (fill in the blank) and I help (fill in the blank) do (fill in the blank) so that (fill in the blank).
Here’s an example:
I am a weight loss surgery patient, success story, and advocate. I help future and former bariatric surgery patients educate themselves, navigate the surgical weight loss journey, and adapt to their new lifestyle so that they can lead healthy and happy lives.
See how that is more specific and targeted than simply saying that you have a health and fitness blog?
Another problem you may face is trying to decide between writing about something you are passionate about versus something that you believe has the potential to make money. As you can imagine, both are important.
Passion is good, but if you’re not able to make money with your blog, then you have a hobby, not a business. On the other hand, you will most likely have trouble writing articles for a blog if you are not passionate about the content, even if the niche seems to be a profitable one. So ultimately, it’s important to consider both your interests and passions, as well as your blogging goals and strategy, before you start a blog.
Bottom line, if you’re starting a blog to make money, choose a niche that you are passionate about, but also something that will give you the greatest chance of generating an income or increasing an existing revenue stream. Some options for monetizing a blog include creating and selling your own services or products, writing sponsored posts and affiliate marketing.
Want to start using affiliate marketing to make money blogging? Read this post…
2. Choose Your Blogging Platform
One of the first things you have to do when you start blogging is to choose a blogging platform. There are lots of choices including Blogger, Tumblr, Wix, Squarespace and WordPress. Choosing the blogging platform that is right for you is SO important. So, how do you know which platform is right for you? There are a few things to consider, but the most important considerations are:
- Who ‘owns’ your website?
- How will you maintain your website and how comfortable are you learning new things?
- How much do you want to be able to customize your website?
- What will the website be used for and what features does it need to have?
Choosing a platform that is not right for you and then realizing later that you want to change platforms is a common mistake made by new bloggers. Unfortunately, changing platforms is not always an easy thing to do. Be sure to do enough research of your own that you feel confident in your choice and committed to the platform that you choose.
Here are some things to consider:
- WordPress powers 26% of the web. [Source: More Surprising Statistics About WordPress Usage]
- If you start your blog on WordPress.com, you are not hosting your own site and you do not have your own domain name. WordPress.org is self-hosted and you own your domain name and host your own site. (Note: self-hosting does involve paying a hosting fee, but the monthly cost is about the same as a Starbucks latte, give or take a dollar or two.) Here’s an official explanation from WordPress.com:
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
WordPress.com is a service that hosts WordPress blogs. WordPress.org is a community where people work on the open source WordPress software. It’s also where that software can be downloaded to be run on your own web server.
- Self hosted WordPress sites are highly customizable. There are plugins available to add almost any feature or functionality that you could imagine without having to hire a developer or learn to write code.
Bottom line, for the most control of your website and the most flexibility to customize your blog or website in whatever way that you want or need to, start out with a self-hosted WordPress.org blog from the beginning.
If you are really, really uncomfortable with technology and want something that is easy to learn and use and requires even fewer technical skills, you may also want to check out Squarespace. Anecdotally, I would say that it’s the second most popular platform for bloggers right now, or at least the most popular up and coming alternative to WordPress.
3. Choose Your Branded Domain Name
The next step in setting up a new blog is to choose a domain name. And depending on your personality, this can be a really fun or a really frustrating process. So, take a deep breath, put on your creative hat, and get ready to spend some time brainstorming, checking availability, brainstorming some more, thinking outside the box and then FINALLY deciding on the perfect domain name.
A few things to consider before choosing your domain name are:
- Shorter domain names are generally easier to remember.
- Avoid made up and misspelled words in domain names.
- For an existing business, a matching domain name makes a lot of sense, but may or may not be available.
- Your domain name is like an online business card – make sure that it matches the brand image you want to convey.
- Before choosing a domain name, check to see if the same name is available on social media platforms.
- Will you choose a domain name based on the blog niche, your business name or your own name?
Here are some sites that you can use to help you in generating domain name ideas:
My favorite site to use to check domain and username availability is Namechk. It not only checks domain name availability, it also checks to see if the same name is available as a user name on social media platforms!
Just like it’s sometimes hard to start writing from a blank piece of paper, it can be hard coming up with a fabulous domain name using just your own creativity. So, be sure to check out some of the sites above to help with the idea generation process.
Also, Facebook groups for bloggers are a great place to get feedback from experienced bloggers before you finalize your choice.
Once you’ve decided on the perfect name for your blog, be sure to register your domain name so that it’s yours to keep! If you don’t already have a domain name registrar in mind, I recommend NameCheap (or you can just register your domain name through your hosting provider if a free domain name registration is part of your new hosting agreement.)
4. Choose Hosting For Your Website
Another mistake many new bloggers make is choosing a hosting provider based solely on cost. Before you go searching high and low for the cheapest hosting available, let me remind you of (or if you’re totally new to this, tell you) the most important things to consider when choosing a hosting provider.
- Security – how quickly are patches applied to keep your website safe from vulnerabilities? Is your site isolated effectively from other neighboring sites?
- Speed – how fast do pages load and how much traffic can the host handle?
- Support – how quickly can you reach support and how quickly are issues resolved?
If you’d like a recommendation, I personally use and recommend SiteGround for WordPress.org hosting. Why?
1. My personal experience with SiteGround has been amazing! I love their chat support and they are always willing to help with those technical tasks that aren’t so easy if you’re not a professional website developer.
2. They are one of the most popular and highly rated hosting companies out there, yet still affordable. Check out the infographic below for some stats if you’re a “show me” type of person…
What impressed me was the fact that the biggest group for SiteGround is people who have already tested 3 – 5 companies!
3. Did I mention that SiteGround is affordable?
You can get hosting with SiteGround for less than what you would normally spend on a carry-out pizza. And when they run a special (which is often), for less than what you would spend at Starbucks. 🙂
If you want to get excellent customer support, a website with fast page load times, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your website is secure, you can’t go wrong with SiteGround.
Note: I also have a blog on Bluehost and although I’m no longer actively blogging on that site, I’ve had a good experience with Bluehost as well. So, if you are one of the those people that wants to compare alternatives and shop around, check out Bluehost too.
5. Install WordPress on Your Website
Manually installing WordPress is a 4 step process.
- Download the WordPress installation package.
- Upload the WordPress files to your server.
- Create a MySQL database for WordPress to use.
- Go through the installation process.
If you have chosen SiteGround to host your blog, the hosting service includes 3 hassle free install options:
- SiteGround WordPress Setup Wizard
- WordPress Auto-install through Softaculous
- Free manual installation by the SiteGround Support Team
If you are not using SiteGround, check with your host to see whether you need to install WordPress manually or if other options are available.
What’s next? Now that WordPress is installed, there are a few more things to take care of before you start writing your first blog post.
First, choose a professional WordPress theme. If you’re on a budget, you can get a professional themes for FREE if you choose a ‘freemium’ theme. A freemium theme is a free theme created by a professional WordPress theme company to advertise their premium themes. aThemes and MyThemeShop are two such companies. If you can afford a premium theme, Genesis themes are highly recommended. They are clean, fast and professional themes created by CopyBlogger Media LLC.
If you decide to customize your WordPress theme, I recommend that you create a Child Theme. WordPress is continuously evolving and each new update adds new features. WordPress theme companies update their themes all the time. When you update a theme, all the customizations go away. This means that if you update your theme, you will lose and need to re-do all the customizations that you have done to your theme. Creating a child theme allows you to update your theme WITHOUT losing your customizations. Smart, right? You can read more about child themes (and watch a video) here:
Finally, as a new blogger, deciding what plugins to install can be overwhelming. Here’s a list of WordPress plugins that you need. All of these are FREE:
- Jetpack by WordPress.com – Jetpack “simplifies managing WordPress sites by giving you visitor stats, security services, speeding up images, and helping you get more traffic.” It also enables custom CSS and configurable widgets.
- Yoast SEO – The only SEO plugin you will ever need. Easy to configure, simple to use, yet effective.
- SumoMe – makes it super easy for people to share your awesome content on desktop and mobile devices.
- Lazy Load – Images are loaded only when visible to the user. Improves page load times.
- W3 Total Cache – The ultimate caching plugin to speed up your website by improving your server performance and caching every aspect of your site.
- Google XML Sitemaps – automatically generates an updated sitemap and submits it to top search engines.
- Akismet – an advanced hosted anti-spam service
- iThemes Security – If you want to prevent hackers, this is the plugin you need. It “helps to fix common holes in your WordPress site from potential automated attacks.”
- Broken Link Checker – checks your posts, comments and other content for broken links and missing images and notifies you if any are found.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP – adds your Google Analytics tracking code in every page of your website. Also displays Google Analytics reports in your WordPress Dashboard.
- UpdraftPlus – simplifies backups (and restoration) and allows you to backup to the cloud, such as Dropbox or Google Drive.
Pro Tip: Always save 15 days worth of backups. You never know when something might go wrong. And never save your backups on your own server, use Dropbox or Google Drive instead.
6. Additional Blogging Tools And Resources
Congratulations! You have officially started a blog.
Login to your blog (add “/admin” after your url to get to the admin dashboard login), click on “Add New Post,” write your first post and hit the publish button. That’s it. And now that you’ve started your blog and published your first blog post, here are some additional tools to make your life easier and to help make your blog a success:
Email Service Provider – Trust me, you want to start building your own email list right away. So, you will need an email service provider to send emails to readers who subscribe to your newsletter or who opt in to get a freebie or content upgrade on your blog. You can use a free option like MailerLite to get started or go with a paid option like ConvertKit from the beginning, depending on your budget and which features are important to you. I recommend MailerLite over MailChimp because MailerLite includes automated email sequences even on the free plan and you can also create stand-alone landing pages in MailerLite.
If you want more detailed information to help you choose an email service provider, this post compares three email services providers popular with bloggers.
Brand Style Guide – What is a brand style guide? Simply put, it’s a document that defines the standards or “rules” for your brand or website. A style guide typically includes your logo, brand colors, fonts and sometimes even patterns. It is used to help ensure consistency on your website and anywhere else your brand is represented visually. You can create one using Frontify or you can even create a simple Brand Kit (consisting of your brand colors, logo and fonts) in Canva.
Social Media Images and Content Upgrades – If you are already experienced with Photoshop or Indesign, that’s great! If not, Canva is a hugely popular choice for making beautiful images for sharing on social media and professional looking documents such checklists, resource guides and even e-books.
If you’d like to see an example of an amazing multi-page “content upgrade’ that I created in Canva (with no design training whatsoever), you can download my free SWIPE FILE of 125 Pinterest boards for popular blog niches in this post.
Stock Photography – there are many resources for free and affordable stock photography, but my favorite is Ivorymix. Ivorymix specializes in fabulous, fun and happy stock and custom photography for DIY blog and business branding. Best of all, they offer free stock photos every month, affordable packages and subscriptions, as well as amazing custom photography for truly unique visual branding.
Survey Your Readers – If you want to know what your readers want you to write about, ask them! Ask them what problems they are facing and then write articles to help them solve those problems. Some tools that you can use to survey your readers include SurveyMonkey, Typeform and Google Forms.
Website Feedback – Peek is a free usability tool that allows you to see and hear a 5 minute video of a real person using your website. You can use Peek up to three times per month for free and you can get feedback on both the desktop and the mobile version of your website. Feedback is generally focused on the site’s home page and basic navigation and I have found that the impartial feedback helps you understand small things that can be done to improve the overall user experience.
Test Website Speed – It’s important to measure and monitor your website speed and improve it if necessary. Google has said that website speed has an impact on search ranking and more importantly, most users will not spend time on a site that is slow to load or to navigate from one page to the next. You can use a free tool such as the Pingdom website speed test or GTmetrix to analyze your site’s speed performance and even get actionable recommendations on how to optimize it.
Keyword Research – In addition to surveying your audience, you should do keyword research to help find topics that will people are searching for and want to read about. This will also help with SEO and search engine referral traffic. Toolfeast is a free suite of user friendly SEO tools. For a list of 10 other free keyword research tools, check out this article:
Editing – It’s true that first draft of your article never goes well. You need to edit, edit and edit some more to make it amazing. I recommend AirStory for drafting your blog posts before creating them in WordPress. Use Hemingway App to edit articles like a professional.
Headline Generator – Need help coming up with catchy, shareable blog titles and headlines? Use these online tools to help generate ideas for blog titles using your desired keywords.
What WordPress theme is that? – When you’re starting a new blog for the first time, you’ll probably check out a LOT of other blogs. And when you’re trying to choose a theme, you’ll probably want to know what theme your favorite websites and blogs are using. Don’t worry – there’s an easy way to find out. Just use BuiltWith to find out the technology behind the website and if it happens to be WordPress, use WPThemeDetector to find out exactly what theme and plugins the site uses.
7. Quick Reference List:
Here is a quick list of my top recommended tools and services to get started:
Blogging Platform: WordPress.org
Domain Name & Hosting: SiteGround
Stock Photography: Ivorymix
Note: I’ve personally used MailChimp and MailerLite and I definitely prefer MailerLite for a number of reasons, including how user friendly their drag and drop email editor is and the fact that they include automated email sequences on their free plan (unlike MailChimp) and they have built-in landing pages.
I’ve also included ConvertKit in my list of recommendations because it is widely loved and recommended by many bloggers. However, ConvertKit plans start at $29 per month, so if you’re looking for an email service provider that is free to start, I highly recommend starting with MailerLite vs. MailChimp.
Here’s What to do Next…
Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. I hope that you feel ready to start your own blog today. 🙂
Take some time to work through the steps outlined above. To recap:
- Decide on your blog’s niche.
- Choose a domain name.
- Sign up for WordPress.org hosting and register your domain name.
- Install WordPress.
- Install a theme.
- Start blogging.
I hope that you’ve found this guide to be helpful and are excited to start your own blog now. Take it step-by-step and apply what you learned in this article to start your own blog.
If, after reading this guide, you’re ready to take the next step, I’d love to connect and stay in touch. Leave a comment on this post or join my Facebook group for bloggers, entrepreneurs and online business owners to be a part of our awesome community.
P.S. If this post is helpful, be sure to save it on Pinterest for later!