There are a few different reasons people might start a blog: keeping an online journal they can look back on in years to come; connecting with other likeminded people; or sharing advice on a certain topic if you’re an expert in that area and earning money from the blog. I earn the equivalent of a full time income from blogging just doing it in my free time, and this is how you can too!
Whatever the reason for wanting to start a blog, people are often nervous of taking the plunge thinking that it’ll be a lot of work to start up. But it doesn’t need to be! Personally I’ve set up tens of blogs, for myself and for other people.
So I’ve broken it down into 5 easy steps to help you start your own blog:
1. The Very Beginning: choosing a niche, platform & domain
The first question to ask yourself is: what are you planning to blog about? You’ll need to know this to come up with the name for your blog. Your niche can be anything as broad as fashion and travel, to specific like cats or Mexican recipes. Whatever your niche, come up with a name for your blog that fits this.
Every blog needs a platform. This is the “back end” of the site – the place that you go to when you’re writing posts, changing the design or doing any editing. There are many different options, but the most user friendly and best platform for starting a blog is WordPress.
To use WordPress as a blogging platform, first you need to buy your domain. A brand new domain can start from as little as 99p for a year. You can do this through a site that sells domains like 1&1 or you can even get a FREE domain with some hosting companies – read on for more about this.
2. The Technical Stuff: getting hosting
A blog needs hosting. You might read when people talk about self-hosting, and this is the best option for people who want to make money from blogging.
I highly recommend Rochen – this is the hosting I currently use. They have a number of options for web hosting and their customer service is second to none – I’ve had almost instant responses to every issue I’ve had, including taking a whole blog down by accident the other day and them pulling it back up for me from a recent back up within minutes. Their costs for blogs are as follows:
- Premium Web Hosting – one site: from £2.95/mo.
This includes free domain registration, up to 25,000 views per month, 20GB SSD Web Storage, instant activation and more.
- Premium Web Hosting – multiple sites: from £4.95/mo.
This includes free domain registration, up to 100,000 views per month, 60GB SSD Web Storage, instant activiation and more.
Their interface is also super simple for a beginner to use. And like I said, they’re available 24/7 if you get stuck with anything. If you click through my Rochen link, you can get FREE domain registration for your new blog!
Many bloggers also recommend Bluehost as I mentioned above – this is one I signed up with initially before moving over to Rochen as it suited me better. They’re definitely worth checking out if you want another option.
3. The Pretty Stuff: a theme
You should now have a blog! But it may not be what you imagined – there’s probably a blank screen in front of you with a post entitled “Hello World!” and not much else. It’s now time to prettify that blog.
5 sites to find a theme for your new blog (coming soon!)
There are literally thousands, hundreds of thousands, of options for a theme for your blog. You can find free themes at WordPress, but these are used all over the blogging world and aren’t that great. If you want one that offers you the functionality you’ll need while also looking good, you’ll want to purchase a theme.
There are some things you’ll want to make sure you’re looking out for in a blog theme – these are key:
- A responsive theme – this means it will change the way the site looks depending on how the user is viewing it, whether on a desktop, tablet or mobile. As well as being user friendly. Google also much prefers responsive sites, so make sure yours is.
- SEO Friendly – again, this will keep Google happy.
- Simple – a busy theme will get your readers confused. Choose one that has plenty of room for everything you want but is simple and easy to use.
To install your theme, go to your WordPress dashboard > Appearance > Themes.
From here, click the Add New button then Upload Theme, and simply select the Zip file containing your theme. You’ll be prompted to enter your FTP password which your hosting should have sent you, then you’ll have to activate the theme. And you’re done!
You may also want to design your logo at this stage. If you’ve got a bit of design experience, you can do it yourself, but I highly recommend Logojoy who created the logo for this blog. It can cost as little as $20 to get a logo, but I chose the $65 option which gave me a premium service: high res logo, vector files, transparent background, black/white versions, full copyright ownership, the ability to make changes and re-download and brand guidelines including font names and colours.
You’ll also want to install plugins.
FAQ: What are WordPress plugins?
Plugins are software that can be installed on a WordPress blog that offer new features or extended functionality on your site.
The plugins that you’ll need all depend on what your niche is – fashion and beauty bloggers might want an Instagram plugin that shows their latest Insta snaps; travel bloggers might want a map of the world to show on their front page with their current location.
Your theme may have come with a few plugins which it might have asked you to install when you uploaded the theme. Make sure that you’ve done so that your theme works to its full potential.
Here are my must-have WordPress plugins when just starting a new blog:
- Jetpack – this has a huge amount of functions, but I mostly just use the Stats option as a quick overview of stats without having to go to Google Analytics.
- Askimet Anti-Spam – this manages spam comments for you.
10 Must-Have WordPress plugins (coming soon!)
How to set up Google Analytics on your blog (coming soon!)
4. The Blogging: writing content
Finally – finally – you can get on with the good bit: the writing! Before launching your blog, it’s recommended to have a few posts ready to go or even already published on the site. I would recommend preparing up to around 10 blog posts and planning a schedule for them to go live. It might also be handy to have a brainstorm for future topics too. You’ll also want to create imagery ready for these posts or find stock images for them.
Where to find free stock photos for blogging (coming soon!)
There are a couple of things you must have on your site when you start:
- About page – tell your readers more about yourself, what the blog is about and why.
- Contact page – include contact information on how your readers or potential advertisers can contact you. I’d recommend having an email address rather than a contact form. This can be a simple Gmail address, but since you’ve bought a domain, you can set up a proper one tied to your domain, like firstname.lastname@example.org – this looks much more professional.
How to set up a domain email address with Rochen & CPanel (coming soon!)
5. The Promotion: social media, SEO and more
The final part is promoting your blog – no one will be able to find it if you don’t do this!
5a. Social Media
As soon as you’ve set up your blog, you should set up your social profiles – you want these live before you publish your first post. Ideally you want to start growing a following on them before you hit publish too.
The Holy Grail of social networks for me are: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. There are others you may find work for your niche such as LinkedIn, Google+ and more. Find a username that will be consistent across all platforms, making it easier for your readers to find you, for example, RebelAngelBlog is my handle across all my social networks for my personal blog.
You can start building your following across these platforms by following influential members of the community or niche that you plan to blog about and interact with them – comment on their posts, retweet them, give them likes and hearts. They’ll start to notice you and follow back.
5b. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
This is really one for when your blog is up and running, but it’s key: if your blog comes up high in Google’s search results, you’ll get so much more traffic without needing to lift a finger. But how do you get it there?
Before you’ve started your publishing posts, make sure your theme is SEO friendly. When you start publishing posts, ensure they’re of a high quality – use keywords that people will be searching for, but don’t cram it full of them; make sure your blog posts are over 500 words; include internal and external links within posts to useful resources. Doing this will make sure that Google recognises your blog as an authority, and it’ll also encourage people to start linking back to you too – meaning you’re only going to get better in the search results.
How to find keywords for your blog niche (coming soon!)
And now you’re ready to embark on your blogging journey – enjoy!
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