If you’re here to learn how to start a blog, look no further.
You will find many guides that have been published by bloggers from all around the globe, but this one is definitely based on personal experience.
Before you even begin blogging, you should first identify several things, like why do you want to blog?
Do you have enough time to maintain a blog?
What do you want to write about?
This will be a comprehensive guide that works on both creating a blog or a different kind of website from scratch.
It will be divided into several sections from identifying a niche to setting it up.
1. Identify why you want to blog
Before you even start, you need to know why you wish to blog. People in general are divided into two groups.
The first group is blogging for money. Due to its popularity and the ability to actually make money, blogging is now a career choice by some. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the income reports on Pinterest or even by doing a Google search.
There are plenty of bloggers earning livable income these days (including myself) but the truth is, majority are still not earning enough. Determination, perseverance and the willingness to learn (among others) are key factors in success.
The second group is blogging for passion. If you’re passionate in spreading your message to random people on the internet without thinking of money, then you can always create a blog to do so. It also influences how you may proceed later on. This was the trend before social media came into existence.
If you’re not thinking of making any money whatsoever from blogging, then this article may not be for you.
2. Choosing the right niche (or multi-niche)
Once you’ve decided you want to blog, you then need to pick a niche (or not). This section will be divided into two – picking a niche and choosing to be multi-niche instead.
2.1. Why do you need a niche?
The most common advice given by bloggers is that you need a niche to succeed these days given the saturation in the industry. There are its own advantages and disadvantages to each approach based on my own experience.
Having a niche is great because it’s so much easier to establish yourself as an expert. If you’re only writing on one topic (e.g. food), then you’ll be seen to know more on food than anything else. Furthermore, it’s easier to obtain sponsorship or other forms of income when you’re known to be an expert in one area.
Another advantage is that your readers will be targeted. They are more likely to engage with you as compared to when you’re writing on every topic.
It has its downside though. If your niche is too narrow, you may find yourself running out of ideas or crossing over to other niches. Furthermore, you may burn out quickly if you lose interest in the particular niche you’ve chosen.
That being said, even if you choose to be niche, it doesn’t have to be too narrow. Take for instance having a website on ‘video games in general‘ vs ‘a specific game in the market‘. A niche can be really wide or really narrow based on that example.
2.2. Going multi-niche instead
The other way is to multi-niche. This means having different topics on your same website like travel and food together, or even more topics.
A good example of a multi-niche blog are online magazines. If you choose to go multi-niche, the best way is if the niches are related. For instance, food reviews and travel can be closely related. Politics and food recipes on the other hand, are not remotely related.
The advantage of having a multi-niche site is that you can write on plenty of other topics and you won’t feel burnt out as quickly. Ideas can easily flow as you’re wide enough in your range. It may also be easier to get blog visitors from all over since you have many different topics.
There are a few downsides to this approach though. First of all, it’s so much harder to identify yourself as an expert in a niche since you’re writing on so many things. You will also find yourself struggling (if you’re doing this solo) to update every topic.
Many who tried this method ended up struggling because they couldn’t cope with content creation on a regular basis, apart from managing a site, getting traffic and so many other things you have to manage alone.
2.3. My advice
If you’re doing this solo, try going with a single niche first, and then branching out later if you’ve found some success already. It’s a lot easier this way. You’ll have to deal with SEO, hosting, technical issues, content creation and other business-related stuff all alone. That can be daunting enough when you’re just starting. Start simple and branch out later.
If you have a team, then multi-niche is more possible. You can have some in charge of content and others with the technical parts like getting visitors and managing the blog.
3. Get a domain name
Once you’ve decided your niche, choose a domain name. A domain name is the name of your website as you can see in the URL.
For e.g. the domain name of this website is “newsiteguide.com“.
You can buy domain names from registrars. There are several registrars you can find on Google like GoDaddy and NameCheap.
Personally, I’ve been using GoDaddy to buy domain names because they already have a reputation in this business.
Try to pick a domain name that is relevant for your blog. If you’re doing travel, you can have a domain name with the word ‘travel’ inside it.
It’s not mandatory to have your niche inside the domain name but it’s better as your readers can relate to it. That being said, there are plenty of websites with irrelevant names but are still successful.
4. Choose a platform for your blog
After getting a domain name, you need to choose a platform for your blog. I’m sure you’ve heard of WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, Shopify and so on.
They are all different platforms for blogging. The most popular at the moment (and for right reason) is WordPress.
WordPress is popular as a content management system (a.k.a. CMS) because it’s apparently more ‘Google-ranking-friendly’ than many other platforms. Furthermore, there are a ton of plugins that can help your business. Plugins are like add-ons that give you extra features for your blog, such as security, anti-spam, image compression, payment system and many more.
After years of blogging, WordPress is still the optimal choice.
There are two versions though. One is WordPress.com which is a free / premium platform where you can easily set up a blog.
The other is by downloading the CMS directly from WordPress.org and hosting the content on a hosting provider.
Notice that the two are not the same thing!
4.1. Why I don’t recommend WordPress.com for making money
WordPress.com may be free and is easy to set up but it has a lot of limitations as far as making money goes.
If you’re only interested in starting a blog without thinking of income, then this is the best way.
The free version of WordPress is more beginner-friendly since they customized it nicely for you. The downside is that you can only choose a small range of plugins to install, and many of the important plugins aren’t in the list.
Furthermore, you have limitations on putting advertising and limitations on what you can write.
If you write something that is against their terms and conditions, they can remove your blog and you’re gone.
As you’re limited in the things you can do, you’re also limited in the income you can make.
WordPress.com also has a paid version which gives you more features, but that is still limited compared to self-hosting.
4.2. What is self-hosting WordPress?
What is hosting in the first place?
Think of it this way.
If you’re running a retail business selling watches, you need a shop to sell the watches in.
Similarly, if you have a website, you need something to bring your site online and visible on the web.
That something is hosting.
Hosting keeps your site alive, brings the content of your website online and good hosting ensures that it stays that way uninterrupted for as long as possible.
Self-hosting WordPress basically means finding your own hosting provider to bring your WordPress CMS (where your content is stored) online.
4.3. Difference between WordPress.com and self-hosting
To clarify, both WordPress.com and self-hosting WordPress uses the same content management system (CMS). Think of it as using the same software. The difference is that WordPress.com is a business by the WordPress company where they are the ones hosting it.
So if you use their website, they provide the platform for you including hosting. You only need to create content which is much easier, but as explained above, you’re very much limited in your earning capacity.
When you self-host, you can download the WordPress CMS (software) for free and get an external hosting provider like Bluehost, Siteground, Kinsta and so on. They will be the ones who will host your website for a fee each month.
A self-hosted WordPress is tougher for a beginner because you’re introduced to more technical areas of managing a website. That said, you don’t need to have an IT background to manage it. Many bloggers including myself did not have any knowledge prior to self-hosting, but we learn as we go.
4.4. Why self-hosted WordPress > WordPress.com
As mentioned many times, self-hosting is the way to go for making money.
Here are some reasons why:
- It allows you to install many plugins that will help your business. There are plugins on speed, security, image compression, payment accepting system, anti-spam, SEO tools and many more. If not mistaken, there are millions of plugins out there.
- You can publish content without worrying of getting taken down by WordPress.com for violation of ToS.
- You are the owner of the content. When you write on WordPress.com, you’re essentially using their platform and they are the owners of your website. If you self-host, you are the owner of your site. If the hosting company brings you down, you can always move to another hosting company if you have the backup copy.
- More ways to make money. There will be no obstacles to make money (apart from your own ability) on your website. If you use WordPress.com, you can’t even use external advertising networks to monetize your content.
5. How to start a blog on WordPress
If I’ve managed to convince you to create a self-hosted WordPress blog, read on.
I mentioned above that you need to download the CMS from WordPress.org.
Luckily, that’s not necessary. These days, hosting providers should have a built-in function where you can install WordPress without downloading anything.
The hosting provider we recommend is Bluehost for the following reasons:
- It is cheap and costs $2.95 a month (and above).
- They were recommended by WordPress themselves as a hosting provider.
- Money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their service.
- They provide an easy way to install WordPress.
- They are recommended by plenty of other bloggers and hosts a few million websites.
Disclosure: I’m an affiliate of Bluehost which means I get a commission if anyone purchases their service through my links.
5.1. Visit Bluehost
The first step is to go to Bluehost and sign up for hosting.
You should see the homepage like in the screenshot below.
You can sign up by clicking on ‘Start Saving!’ or other relevant buttons.
5.2. Choose your plan
Next, you need to choose your plan. One thing you should note is that Bluehost usually charges annually upfront instead of on a month-to-month basis.
The price is shown for each month but they’ll probably charge upfront for the number of years selected.
If budget is an issue, the basic plan of $2.95 will do.
Even with the basic plan, you will get an unmetered bandwidth, free SSL cert (for https) and 1 included domain. This means if you don’t have a domain name yet, they will provide one for you.
That said, I still prefer to have my domain name separate from my hosting provider.
5.3. Set up domain
In the next step, you need to either create a new domain (using the free domain they provide), or choose your own domain.
If you’ve bought a domain on GoDaddy or some other registrar, you can insert your domain name.
Otherwise, you can also skip this step for later.
5.4. Fill in the details
You’ll then reach the part where you have to fill in your account information.
Below the account information, you will find package information and package extras.
Package extras are probably not necessary if you ask me, but if you have the money, then it’s up to you.
You also need to put your payment details to make payment. You will be charged upfront for the entire number of years you choose.
5.5. Create your password
Next, you need to create a password. This one is fairly straightforward.
5.6. Pick a theme
You’ll now need to pick a theme. A theme is the layout of your website and how it looks to visitors.
You will be given a list of themes to choose. Pick one that is suitable for your niche. It’s not crucial at this point because you can always change your theme at any time.
Once you’ve picked your theme, you can start building your website.
5.7. Introduction to back-end
You will now see the back-end of your blog. A website is divided into two parts – front-end and back-end.
Front-end is what people who visit your website will see. The back-end is where you will manage your website and modify what your front-end looks like.
This is where it gets tough for most people. The back-end can look confusing for many first-timers and it’s normal. It’s the same feeling years ago when I first started blogging.
Play around with the buttons on the left side of the screen to see what they do.
You will see Posts, Media, Appearance, Plugins and so many other features which can be customized.
Familiarize yourself with it first and it can take some time.
5.8. Launch your site
If you click on ‘Home’ under the ‘Bluehost’ tab on your left side, you will see this screen.
You will be given an option to launch your website. You can either launch now or choose to launch later after you’ve written some posts.
If you wish to launch your site, you need to choose the Site Title and description.
The Site Title is the name of your site that will be displayed on the homepage. The description is just a short sentence describing the website.
It can be changed later so don’t worry.
And once you’ve launched, you’ve officially started your first blog on Bluehost!
It’s a steep learning curve but very possible for most people, even stay-at-home-moms (SAHM). Quite a number of SAHMs are launching their blogs and doing pretty well these days, so it’s not as difficult as you might think.
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Another thing you should familiarize with is your hosting’s CPanel or dashboard.
As you’re using Bluehost, you will see this dashboard when you visit the CPanel in the Bluehost site.
The CPanel is where you manage the server functions of your website.
Most of the time, you’re not likely to use it but it’s still good to know the functions. Look around and familiarize with it too.
Each hosting provider has their own CPanel or dashboard to manage server-side issues.
6. Which plugins to use
Once you have created a blog, you then need to decide on which plugins to install. As mentioned above, there are tons of plugins you can use.
That being said, only use plugins you actually need. The more plugins you have, the slower your website becomes, and site speed influences ranking on Google. Try to keep your plugins to a minimum. Lesser than 10 is even better.
Furthermore, each plugin which is not updated regularly or is not secure can be used by hackers as a backdoor to your site. If you’re running a popular blog, the risk is even higher and you’ll be targeted more.
To determine which plugin to install, you should look at factors like how many active downloads it has, the rating given by other bloggers, and when it was last updated.
6.1. List of plugins
Here are some of the well-known plugins you can use:
- Akismet Anti-Spam: This plugin allows you to filter out the spam that you’ll get as a website owner. Most blogs do get tons of spam and Akismet is a good plugin for that. That said, it is possible that legitimate comments may be filtered as spam and it happens occasionally.
- WP-Rocket: This plugin is a performance-enhancing plugin. It speeds up your website when used. The downside is that it’s not free.
- Classic Editor: If you hate the new Gutenberg (block-style) editor, you can download this plugin to give you the classic editor. If you’re new to blogging, you’ll notice that your editor (place where you write a post) is a block-style editor meaning there are separate blocks for title, paragraph and so on. In the past, we all used the classic editor which is still more user-friendly for most people.
- Google Analytics Dashboard for WP: This plugin is used to synchronize with Google Analytics and display your blog traffic data from the back-end. Google Analytics is a website by Google to allow you to check your website’s traffic. It’s not necessary if you don’t wish to see your traffic from your blog’s back-end.
- Yoast SEO or Rank Math: These two are plugins for SEO purposes. SEO stands for search engine optimization. A blog with good SEO is able to rank better on Google (or Bing and other search engines). You can use any of these two plugins (not both). Installing them doesn’t automatically make your SEO good. It only gives you guidance on your on-page SEO and helps you with your sitemap. There’s a paid version but it’s not necessary for most people.
- TinyMCE Advanced: This plugin allows you to have more formatting options in your editor. For e.g. it allows you to add a table in your editor if you don’t know HTML.
- Smush: This one is an image compression plugin. It reduces image size when you upload images into your website.
You don’t have to follow this list exactly as each website uses a different set of plugins.
7. How to write your first post
Next is on how to write your post using the back-end.
Click on Posts at the left side of the back-end and click on ‘Add New’ to begin. You will see the screen like in the image below.
Below is what you call the editor. It’s where you type and add images (or other stuff) to create a blog post.
You will see ‘Visual’ and ‘Text’ as circled in red in the image below.
‘Visual’ is where you’ll normally use when typing an article. Most of the time, you only need to use the ‘Visual’ part. What you see is what you will get in the final article.
As for the ‘Text’ section, it’s actually what goes behind the article. It’s the html section of the article and you normally don’t need to use it.
If you wish to add images, click on ‘Add Media’. Click on ‘Upload Files’ and choose the images you wish to upload.
Once the images are uploaded, it will appear in the ‘Media Library’. You can now use the images in your article.
After finishing your article, click on ‘Publish’ at the right side of the screen and your article is live on the internet!
When writing an article, you will want to pay attention to your on-page SEO and other technical stuff but that’s a separate topic altogether.
8. Where to promote your blog
Writing an article is not enough to succeed. You can’t just publish an article and wait for visitors to read. At least not when you’re new.
The web is pretty saturated and content is aplenty.
One way of getting your blog out there is by promoting it in various areas.
Here are some places you can promote your content:
- Social media. This one includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other networks. It’s harder and harder to get noticed on social media these days especially if you’re a content creator. That being said, it’s better than nothing.
- Forums. Look for forums relevant to your niche and you can promote your articles if they’re relevant. This also depends on the forum’s policies on self-promotion. Don’t spam at forums.
- Aggregators. Reddit falls under this category. Reddit is a great place to get blog traffic but Redditors are very much against self-promotion. Some subreddits may allow you to promote. The best way to use Reddit is by being an actual participant in the website. Occasionally, you can leave a link where it’s relevant and only if it’s relevant. Redditors can detect if you’re only there to promote your blog.
- Email. One way of getting people to read your blog is by getting new subscribers to your mailing list. You can install a plugin like MailerLite to collect emails.
- Guest posting. You can also find opportunities to guest post on someone else’s blog.
- YouTube / video: YouTube is the biggest video platform and if you can create video content that’s relevant, you can also link back to your blog.
- Pinterest: This one is also a search engine if you think about it and it’s a great way to get traffic for certain niches like food, crafting, DIY, travel and so on. There are plenty of articles around on how to optimize for Pinterest.
- SEO: You can’t promote on Google directly for free but there are tons of articles on how to optimize your content for Google. Google is still the no.1 organic traffic source for many people.
9. How to make money from your blog
Having lots of visitors isn’t enough if your aim is monetization. You need to choose a way(s) to make money from your blog.
Here are some popular ways to make money blogging. The list is brief as this is a topic by its own.
- Advertising. The most common way of monetizing a blog is by having advertisements. One of my main blogs uses this method as the income source as well. The key is to have many visitors (mainly western countries as they pay higher) and join a network like Google Adsense or Mediavine.
- Affiliate marketing. This one allows you to earn by promoting certain products or services. Take Amazon for instance. You can use affiliate links in product reviews or roundups and if someone buys stuff on Amazon using your link, you will earn a small commission.
- Sponsored posts. If you have engaged readers in a certain niche, your chances of being approached by relevant brands increases. They may pay you to promote their product or service.
- Sell your own products. If you have products to sell like courses, e-books and other digital or non-digital items, you can use your blog to do so.
- Provide services. Likewise, if you’re a good writer and wish to sell writing services, you can use your blog as a platform to advertise your services.
- Sell your blog. There are some bloggers who regularly build new websites to a certain point and sell them for profit. These are website flippers. If you wish to stop blogging and your site has good value, you can sell it off for a good price (usually 24 times of monthly blog income).
There are many other ways to make money but this list is not exhaustive. It’s just to give you an idea. Most bloggers fall under advertising / affiliate marketing.
In a nutshell
Starting a blog or other types of websites can be daunting at first if you’re new to this.
It takes time, perseverance, effort and the willingness to learn to succeed in blogging.
If you have any further questions on how to set up a blog, do contact me here.