Starting a blog is easy.
Sure, it could get very tricky in the later stage; but generally speaking, blogging is doable for everyone who has a computer with an Internet connection.
If you are new to the blogging world, I will walk you through all the basics of setting up a blog online to writing your first post on this page. Here are the six steps to follow:
1. Register Your Domain Name
Your domain is the name of your blog. It is not something physical that you can touch or see; but merely a string of characters that give your website an identity – like the title of a book or a place. Your domain ‘tells’ your visitors what sort of blog they are visiting.
You can choose and register your domain names via a domain registrar.
Personally, I use NameCheap to manage my domain registrations mainly because they are usually cheaper and offer free-for-life domain privacy protections. But any other reputable domain registrars should be just fine.
2. Signup for a Web Host
Web hosting is the physical place where you store your blog content – words, blog themes, images, videos, and so on. To own web hosting, we rent it from companies who set up and manage web hosting servers.
There are different types of web hosting in the market and there are tons of things to consider when choosing a web host. I am not going to cover those details in this article – if you are curious, feel to click in those links to learn more.
For new bloggers, start small with affordable shared hosting.
3. Point Your Blog Domain DNS to Your Host
Next, you'll need to update the Domain Name System (DNS) record at the domain name registrar (where you registered your domain in step #1) to point to your web hosting DNS Nameserver. Details of your web hosting DNS Nameserver are usually emailed to you when you first signup to your hosting.
DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is used to direct any incoming user toward the IP address of the server. So, when a user enters your domain name (ie. example.com) in their browser, the DNS records will fetch the IP address of your web host and serve your blog to the user.
In case you need help, here are the step-by-step instructions on updating your blog DNS at Namecheap.
4. Install WordPress to your web host
To start blogging, you will first need to install a “blogging software” into your web host.
There are plenty of “blogging software” in today's market but WordPress is by far the most popular system. It is free, popular, well-developed, widely supported by open source community, and newbies-friendly. Statistically, more than 95% of the blogs in the United States are built using WordPress and there are over 30 billion blogs run on WordPress.
WordPress can be installed manually to your web host; or installed automatically using a one-click installation app. Both methods are fairly simple and can be done easily.
WordPress Manual Installation
In a quick glance, here are the steps you need to do:
- Download the latest WordPress package here.
- Create a database for WordPress on your web server, as well as a MySQL user who has all privileges for accessing and modifying it.
- Rename the wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php.
- Open wp-config.php in the text editor (notepad) and fill in your database details.
- Place the WordPress files in the desired location on your web server.
- Run the WordPress installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php in your web browser. If you installed WordPress in the root directory, you should visit: http://example.com/wp-admin/install.php; if you installed WordPress in its own subdirectory called blog, for example, you should visit: http://example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php
- And you are done.
WordPress One-Click Installation
Most bloggers do not install their WordPress manually.
With the support of one-click installation services like Softaculous (available with most web hosts), the installation process is very straightforward and can be done in just a few simple clicks.
For your reference, the following images show where you can find the auto-installation feature on you Hostinger dashboard. To install WordPress, just click on the circled icon and follow the dummy-proof instructions – your WordPress system should be up and running in less than 5 minutes.
Things might look different for different web hosts but the process is basically the same. So don’t worry if you are not using one these web hosts I am showing here.
Login to Your WordPress Admin Page (Backend System)
Once you have got your WordPress system installed, you will be given an URL to log in to your WordPress administrator page. In most cases, the URL will be something like this (depending on the folder you installed the WordPress):
Go to this URL and log in with your preset username and password; and from there, you will now be at the back-end (dashboard) of your WordPress site – this is part of the blog where only you as the administrator can access.
By the way – It is a good idea to bookmark your WordPress wp-admin login URL since you will be coming in here very often.
The latest version of WordPress at this time of writing is version 5.9.3 – by default, you will be using WordPress Gutenberg as the block editor. Gutenberg brings a lot of flexibility to the WordPress platform. This is especially useful for beginners since many things like setting background colors and more no longer require coding. The block system helps with article layout management as well.
To write and publish a new post, simply navigate to the left sidebar, click ‘Posts’ > ‘Add New’ and you’ll be directed to the writing screen. Click ‘Preview’ to preview how things look on the front end (what your readers will see), and click ‘Publish’ once the post is complete.
Hola! You now have your first blog post published.
5. Design Your Blog Appearance with Pre-made Themes
Now that we have the bare WordPress ready, it's time to take a deeper dive. Like all Content Management Systems (CMS), a WordPress blog consists of 3 main elements:
- CMS Core – the system that we installed earlier using auto-installer,
- Themes – the “front-end” of your blog, this is where you control how your blog looks like, and
- Plugins – add-ons that gives you control and functions on your blog (more about this later)
To design or customize a blog outlook, all we need to do is to customize a set of PHP and CSS files that are usually located in /wp-content/themes/ directory. These files are separated from WordPress core systems and you can change them as often as you want.
Most individual bloggers do not create their own blog themes from scratch. Rather, what most of us do is to pick a ready-made theme (or a raw theme) and customize it according to our needs. There are endless numbers of beautiful WordPress themes around the Internet – a simple search on Google will lead you to millions.
If this is your first time establishing a WordPress blog, my suggestion to you is to start with a ready-made theme and tweak it along the way.
Here's where you can get ready-made WordPress designs:
- Official WordPress Theme Directory (free)
- Professional Designed WordPress Themes ($50 – $800)
We will look into each option below.
Official WordPress Theme Directory (Free)
WordPress Themes Directory is where you can get all the free WordPress themes. Themes listed in this directory follow very tight standards provided by the WordPress developers, hence, in my opinion, this is the best place to get free, bug-less theme designs.
Professional Designed WordPress Themes (Paid)
Another way to get high-quality WordPress themes is to subscribe to WordPress Theme Clubs or pay for a professionally designed theme.
If this is the first time you heard of Theme Clubs, here's how it works: You pay a fixed amount of fee to join the club and you get various designs offered in the clubs. The themes offered in Theme Club are usually professionally designed and updated regularly.
There are a lot more others out there – some clubs even cater to a particular industry, such as realtors or schools; but we will only cover three in this article.
Website: ElegantThemes.com / [icon tag] Price: $89/year or $249/lifetime
Elegant Themes is arguably the most popular WordPress theme club in the industry. With over 750,000 happy customers, the theme site offers Divi Builder with more than 800 pre-made layouts and designs to choose from. It also lets you download premium plugins that will supercharge your online business. The subscription to Elegant Theme is affordable enough. You can enjoy access to all themes on unlimited sites for $69/per year. If you wish to use the plugins too, you must pay $70/year. If you love Elegant Themes, you might as well purchase the lifetime plan for a one-time payment of $199.
My experience with Elegant Themes was overall positive and I have no issue recommending them.
It is affordable and easy to use, and the customization options are pretty much endless. Whether you are a casual blogger or an experienced businessman, Elegant Themes is not only a great way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your website, it also helps to make your site navigable and more user-friendly, which is good for attracting more traffic and boosting business.
Website: StudioPress.com / [icon tag] Price: $129.95/theme or $499.95/lifetime
If you’re a long-time WordPress user, then you’ve probably heard of StudioPress. It is popular for its Genesis Framework, the minimalist and SEO-friendly WordPress framework for all StudioPress themes.
StudioPress offers flexible pricing based on your needs. The Genesis Framework with a child theme is available for a one-time payment of $59.99. The premium theme, which includes the Genesis Framework, cost $99 each. If you want access to all the themes, you can pay $499.
Website: ArtisanThemes.io / [icon tag] Price: $129 – $389/theme
Artisan Themes is not your usual WordPress theme club. Instead of downloading themes with pre-made layouts, this theme club lets you build a theme from scratch using over 20 modules (calls to action, tiled displays, portfolio elements, etc.).
You can unleash modules on its themes. Two of its most functional and contemporary themes are Indigo and Modules. Unlike other WordPress theme sites, you can only buy the themes individually for $129 each.
Ready Made Sites is perfect for people who don’t want the hassle of customizing a WordPress theme. Simply choose the theme that best describes your business so you can set it up in a matter of minutes. You can only use the Ready Made Sites if you have installed the theme from the shop as specified.
6. Add Blog Functionalities with Plugins
A plugin is an add-on application that runs on top of WordPress and adds new features and functionality to a WordPress blog. There are almost 60,000 free plugins in WordPress.org official plugin directory right now and tens of thousands more are available in other market places.
Bloggers use plugins to add all sorts of functions to their WordPress blogs. For example, you can:
- Build a job board using WP Job Manager plugin
- Create an online store using WordPress WooCommerce plugin
- Make a podcast website using Simple Podcast Press plugin
- Run a members-only blog with Nexcess WPQuickStart
In case this is your first time using WordPress, here are some essential (and free) plugins to begin with:
Plugins for Security & Spam Protections
Akismet is one of the oldest plugins that come along with your WordPress by default. This plugin helps check all your comments against its service to see if they are spam. It collects all the spam and lets you review it under your blog’s ‘comments’ admin screen.
Vault Press, on the other hand, is a real-time backup and security scanning service designed by Automattic. This plugin gives you the functionality to backup and synchronizes all your posts, comments, media files, revisions, and dashboard settings on the servers. WordFence and iThemes Security are plugins that combine all necessary WordPress security features. The main function of this plugin is to tighten a blog’s security without having to worry about conflicting features or missing anything on your site or blog.
Plugins for Blog Performance
You need a number of performance optimization plugins to speed up your blog. Thankfully you can cover most of these optimizations with free plugins.
For caching – W3 Total Cache, WP-Optimize, LiteSpeed Cache, Swift Performance, as well as Autoptimize are the well-known options. A cache plugin is a must-have in the modern blogging world – it improves the user experience greatly by increasing the server performance, reducing the time taken to download and increasing page loading speed.
For content delivery network (CDN) – Cloud Flare offers a free plugin that integrates everything in a few clicks.
Also – if your blog has lots of images in it – consider adding EWWW Image Optimizer. It is a one-click image optimizer that is able to optimize the image files in your library. It also has an automatic image compression feature to reduce the size of images while uploading them. By optimizing images, you can reduce page load times and result in faster site performance.
Plugins for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Although WordPress is an SEO-friendly blogging platform, there is quite a lot more to do to improve your blog's SEO score and rank better in search engines.
Plugin for Gutenberg Blocks
With the introduction of the Gutenberg editor in WordPress 5.0, bloggers can now create content using a block-based editor. By default, WordPress offers a set of basic content blocks such as a paragraph, image, call-to-action button, shortcode, and so on. By adding in Gutenberg Block plugins, you get to add more engaging elements (for example – FAQ, accordion, author profile, carousel, click-to-tweets, GIF blocks, etc) to your blog.
Final Thoughts: Setting Up Your Blog is Step #1
Recap: How to Start a Blog?
So there you have it – your very first blog. As I promised – easy peasy.
But creating your blog is just the first step. Once your blog is ready, you need to start growing and improving it. Utilizing the right set of data, choosing the best tools, and applying the best strategy all make an impact on how successful your blog will be.
Time needed: 2 hours.
Starting a blog is easy. Sure, it could get very tricky in the later stage; but generally speaking, blogging is doable for everyone who has a computer with an Internet connection.
- Register Your Domain Name
Your domain is the name of your blog. It is not something physical that you can touch or see; but merely a string of characters that give your website an identity – like the title of a book or a place. Your domain ‘tells’ your visitors what sort of blog they are visiting. You can choose and register your domain names via a domain registrar – GoDaddy, NameCheap, Hover are some of the popular ones.
- Signup for a Web Host
Web hosting is the physical place where you store your blog content – words, blog themes, images, videos, and so on. To own a web hosting, we rent it from companies who set up and manage web hosting servers. For new bloggers, start small with affordable shared hosting – Hostinger ($1.99 per month) and A2 Hosting ($2.99 per month) are cheap, reliable, and offer sufficient features for most of the blogs. I highly recommended them for starters.
- Point Your Blog Domain DNS to Your Host
Next, you'll need to update the Domain Name System (DNS) record at the domain name registrar (where you registered your domain in step #1) to point to your web hosting DNS Nameserver. Details of your web hosting DNS Nameserver are usually emailed to you when you first signup for your hosting.
- Install WordPress to your web host
To start blogging, you will first need to install a “blogging software” into your web host. WordPress is by far the most popular “blogging software” available in the market – It is free, popular, well-developed, widely supported by open source community, and newbies-friendly.
- Design Your Blog Appearance with Pre-made Themes
Most individual bloggers do not create their own blog themes from scratch. Rather, what most of us do is pick a ready-made theme (or a raw theme) and customize it according to our needs. There are endless numbers of beautiful WordPress themes around the Internet – a simple search on Google will lead you to millions. If this is your first time establishing a WordPress blog, my suggestion to you is to start with a ready-made theme and tweak it along the way.
- Add Blog Functionalities with Plugins
Bloggers use plugins to add all sorts of functions to their WordPress blogs. For example, you can build a job board using WP Job Manager plugin, create an online store using WordPress WooCommerce plugin, run a members-only blog with Nexcess WPQuickStart, and so on.
Continue Your Blogging Journey
To continue your journey check out my other guide in this series.
- What to write about? Finding the right niche for your blog
- How to make money blogging: 23 ways to monetize your blog
- How to improve and keep growing your blog
- How to grow your blog traffic: Taking Your Blog to First 10,000 pageviews
A Little More: Why Read My Blogging Guide?
I founded this site, Web Hosting Secrets Revealed (WHSR), back in 2008, and thanks partially to a great welcome by the blogging community we have gone from strength to strength.
Since then, WHSR has grown to become one of the Net’s leading sites for web hosting advice, and I have attracted to the brand some of the strongest voices in contemporary blogging – all of whom have fed their input into this book and the site, making it the go-to resource for anyone starting down the self-hosted blogging route.
With this no-nonsense guide, I will be providing you with some of the quickest, easy-to-understand, and above all effective solutions to your blogging problems – culled from my own experience and from the minds of people who enjoy what they do.
“Me” in Blogging Scene
So… Is Blogging Still Worth it today?
The phrase “worth it” can be very subjective. Blogging is something highly versatile, possibly beneficial for making money, business promotion, or simply to occupy your time. To be completely honest – the true value of blogging depends on the individual.
1. Making Money Online
There are many ways for blogs to earn money and today, opportunities for the capable are even greater. Consumers today increasingly look towards influencers as a source of trusted information. Companies have realized this as well.
Established food bloggers have been making thousands of dollars every month.
Brands have shown their willingness to work closely with popular bloggers. For instance, Somersbys worked with Polish bloggers in their recent marketing campaign. The result was a success for both brands and the bloggers.
As another example of this WPX Hosting designated Matthew Woodward of SEO Bloggers as their ‘official mascot’ for product promotion. Your opportunities will lie in the niche you’ve chosen, as well as the strength of your audience.
2. Business Promotion
Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that a great-looking official site is enough of a digital presence. However, evidence has shown that companies that blog get, on average, 55% more visitors and 434% more indexed pages in search engines.
More indexed pages mean a higher chance of ranking well in search, leading to greater traffic volume. The more visitors you have, the higher your volume of conversion will typically be. In fact, many B2B marketers are convinced blogging is the most important type of content online.
3. Just for fun
Everyone needs a hobby and if you don’t take things too seriously, you can basically blog at no cost at all. There are a number of decent free web hosting providers, many of whom will even provide a free subdomain for use.
Even if you want something that performs a little better, this can be achieved for under $100 a year. Not only can you share information to a wide audience, but there’s a high chance you will pick up supporting skills as well – image editing, SEO, and more.
Useful Blogging Tools We Like
Even though useful free tools and web services do exist online, the trouble is picking up them among all other junk or/and outdated tools. To save you time, here's a list of handy tools we use all the time at WHSR.
- After the Deadline – Advance style and grammar checker.
- Grammarly – Most popular web writing assistant.
- Hemingway App – Write short and bold with this tool.
- Freedom.to – Block distracting websites so you can focus on writing.
- ByWord – Distraction-free writing tool.
- Evernote – Note clipping and productivity tool.
- Grammar Checker – Free grammar checker from Writer.com
- Fotor – Edit and design beautiful images tool for social media posts, posters, invitations, etc.
- Canva – Design pretty images and social media posts.
- Cartoonize – Instantly create, edit, and personalize your photo into artwork.
- Design Wizard – Create pretty images using free templates and ready-made images.
- JPEG Mini – Reduce the size of .jpeg files.
- Tiny PNG – Reduce the size of .png files.
- Skitch – Taking image notes.
- Pic Monkey – Award-winning image editing tool.
- Pik to Chart – Simple infographic creation tool.
- Pixlr – Image editing tool.
- Favicon.io – The best favicon generator, ever.
Free Stock Photos & Images
- Icon Finder – Huge free icon directory.
- Morgule File – More than 350,000 images for commercial use.
- Stock Snap – Image directory site with beautiful free photos added weekly.
- WHSR Free Icons – Free icons designed by our in-house designer.
- Cheap stock images – Places to get cheap stock photos
References & Researches
- World Scientific – Free academics newsletter.
- The World Fact Book – No kidding – world info directly from the CIA.
- Tech Republic – White papers, reports, and case studies on tech.
- Marketing Sherpa – Free marketing reports.
- Trade Pub – Free magazines, white papers, and case studies.
- Hubspot Library – Good reference source in marketing.
- CrunchBase – News on startup companies.
- BuzzFeed Trending – Find the latest hot topics on BuzzFeed.
- Creative Writing Prompt – Ideas and prompts to overcome writing blocks.
- Google Alerts – Get alert emails on new content you are tracking.
Social Media, Marketing & SEO
- Bing Webmaster Tool – Bing's free site diagnostic tool.
- Google Webmaster Tool – Google's free site diagnostic tool.
- Follow – Stalk your competitors
- Majestic SEO – Free version allows you to check a site link profile (CF/TF) quickly.
- Engage Bay -All-in-one marketing, sales & service automation platform
- Similar Page Checker – Check for duplicated pages on your blog.
- Like Explorer – Check social metrics of your (or competitors') content.
- Tweet Deck – Manage multiple Twitter accounts in one dashboard.
- Buzz Sumo – Find popular content and influencers on major social media networks.
- Tag Board – Social media market research.
- IFTTT – Publish content on multiple social media platforms easily.
Web Analytics & Productivity
- Google Analytics – Free web stats.
- Matomo – Google Analytics minus Google.
- YouTube Analytics – Statistics on your YouTube videos.
- WP Statistics – Compare your WordPress blog with others.
- Process Street – Simple process and workflow management.
Website Speed Testing
- Bitcatcha – Check site speed from 10 locations.
- Webpage Test – Check webpage speed in detail.
- GT Metrix – Test and track webpage loading speed in detail.
Frequent-Asked Questions in Blogging
The estimated cost to start a blog which includes a domain name and a web hosting is below $100 a year (less than $10 a month). This cost is based on a self-hosted blog (using WordPress). The breakdown of the cost would be $15 annually for a .com domain name and about $60 annually for web hosting fee.
To get a better picture of how bloggers get paid, I categorized them into 2 types – one is where you deal directly with customers or advertisers while the other is where you join a program offered by a company or network. When you are dealing directly with customers or advertisers, you have more control over the pricing. You can earn money by selling premium content (membership site), direct advertising, selling your product, and more.
There are numerous platforms where you can start a free blog today, this includes WordPress.com, Tumblr, or Blogger. To create a free blog, all you have to do is to sign up and you can start publishing your content.
Nothing comes for free in our world. There are a number of disadvantages to a free blogging platform. There are rules laid down by each platform that you need to observe. The domain name of your blog appears to be a subdomain such as “myblogname.wordpress.com” or “myblogname.tumblr.com”. There are limited functionality, plugins, and theme selection you can make to your blog. Last but not least – usually, free platforms limit the opportunity of monetizing your blog. I strongly suggest you start your blog using a self-hosted WordPress.org (as what I've covered in this guide). Besides overcoming the limitation of the free blog, the potential growth of your blog is limitless.
So You Want to Start A Blog?
This is part 1 of my Blogging 101 Guide for those who are serious about starting a blog and perhaps making a living out of it. In this article, we will look at the needed steps to set up a functioning blog using WordPress.
Once you are done, remember to also check out:
Finding the right niche for your blog
Things you can do to improve your blog
How to grow your blog traffic
Practical ways to make money from your blog