How to Start a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners & Those Starting Out
We are living in a remarkable time, everybody who has internet access has the opportunity to create their very own space on the internet in the form of a blog for business or fun, that they can market for free (social media) and build their very own audience. If you’re somebody who has thought about starting a blog but hasn’t then it’s time to dive in. If you decide to procrastinate for another year, in 12 months you will wish you had started sooner.
This post details exactly how to create a blog and provides you with all of the resources and details how and where to start. Whether you want to start a travel, food, hobby, fashion or beauty blog, you can simply follow the steps below to create your own home on the internet.
I’ve tried numerous platforms and sites for hosting, and below I am providing you with WHAT WORKS. The steps below are exactly how I created Rachael’s Journal after trial and error with other website and blogs, and if I had to do it all over again tomorrow, I would follow the exact steps below.
DECIDE ON A NAME
If you haven’t seen it, I’ve done a full blog post on picking a name for your blog. To accompany that post, I’ve created a checklist for selecting a name, which covers some things you may not consider before it’s too late. If you sign-up for my digital mail via the link or at the end of this post, you will receive access to my free resources page where you can download this PDF checklist.
SECURE YOUR BLOG’S DOMAIN & HOST
Two major elements here:
- Get the http://www.yourblogsname.com website. This is called your ‘Domain’ and you want to get the .com version. This is like buying land to build a house on.
- Get a ‘Host’ to link to your Domain which is what will host your blog. This is like building the house on your land.
The best way to do this is to use Bluehost who will give you a domain for free when you sign-up for hosting. I highly recommend having your domain and hosting in one place and they are so EASY to use. Follow the next steps to get your domain and hosting in one go….
Step-by-step Domain and Hosting Setup for your Blog
Hosting is what allows you to put something on the domain that is visible to an audience, in this instance a blog.
Step 1 – Head to the Bluehost website and click on the green button which will say something like ‘get started now’ or ‘start your website’.
I highly recommend you use Bluehost because they seamlessly support everything you need to setup your blog all in one place. They also include an easy WordPress setup and free email addresses. Woohoo!
Step 2 – Choose your plan. You can always start out with Basic, and upgrade later. Basic has everything you need to get started. However, one consideration as a blogger, is you will likely be posting lots of images on your website and these will all take up space. You may find you quickly get close to, or exceed the 50GB space allowance. For that reason, I think the ‘Plus’ plan is a great option for bloggers.
Step 3 – Enter your domain details. You really want to get the .com version! If that’s already taken for the name you want, you will be competing for rankings on Google and you don’t want that (See blog post on picking a name).
Step 4 – Create your Hosting account
You can determine your billing term. The longer you can pay for now, the better the deal is. Start with a minimum 12 months. Select ‘Domain Privacy’ Registration and then click next. You will be prompted to enter your billing information and agree to the service terms. Once you get to the next back you don’t need any of the ‘Additional Upgrades’ to start your blog.
CONGRATULATIONS! You now have your very own home on the internet. Set your password and now you can login to your account for the first time. YAY!
If this following window pops up, you can close it because I will talk you through what to do next now that you have a hosting account.
Now you have setup an account for your domain and hosting, you need to attach a blogging platform which is where you will create all of your blog posts and all of the content that appears on your blog.
The ultimate blogging platform is WordPress and it is widely popular among the top blogs out there and likely most of the ones you visit! WordPress is completely free, allows you to use your own domain, highly customizable, has sophisticated capabilities and powerful plugins. The capabilities aren’t as limiting as some of the other platforms out there!
You can simply link WordPress in your Bluehost dashboard. To do login to your Hosting dashboard which should look like this:
You’ll need to scroll down this page and click on the ‘Install WordPress’ button under the Website section:
On the next page, select the domain you have just registered to link WordPress (leave Directory blank):
Click ‘Next’. Here you will be prompted to name your site, create your WordPress username, and your WordPress login password. This login information is what you will use everytime you want to edit your blog.
*TIP* – When creating a WordPress account pick a username that isn’t obvious, don’t use ‘admin’. This is for security reasons as there are bots that will try and hack your account using common usernames such as ‘admin’. If your username doesn’t match your blog name or ‘admin’, it is harder for hackers to breach.
In the installation setup be sure you have selected ‘Show Advanced Options’, you will need to ensure you select “Automatically create a new database for this installation” and “I have read the terms and conditions”. Click ‘Install Now.’
Going forward, you really only need to access Bluehost for emails and if you need to renew your domain or hosting plan. All of your blog content is now supported with WordPress and all of your blog content sits there for editing. To log in to WordPress to edit your blog go to the following:
The login screen should look like this:
Enter your username and get your password from your Bluehost Notifications Center tab. Look out for a notification from MOJO Marketplace. You must enter your password and login to WordPress within 12 hours of setup.
Now you have all of your blog framework setup – Domain, Hosting and WordPress, it’s time to jump into some of the fun visual stuff!
SELECTING A THEME (BLOG LAYOUT)
I LOVE THIS PART. Selecting a theme for your blog is so exciting! You need to pick a theme for your blog which is how your blog is set out, the design! Instead of hiring a developer to create a whole custom website layout, you can purchase a pre-made design for your blog that you can customize to suit your desired colours, fonts etc.
You can purchase gorgeous pre-made themes are wonderful prices and don’t have to worry about paying big bucks up front for custom design. When you purchase a theme, it’s yours to keep.
Here are my two FAVOURITE places to find a theme for your blog. I am a customer of each:
Restored 316: Gorgeous and sleek designs for bloggers and online businesses. Restored 316 even has the coolest feature that allows you to take a quiz to determine which theme works for your needs! There is lots of inspiration for layouts depending on the nature of your blog – for example food or craft blogs.
Bluchic – This is who has created my current blog layout! Bluchic offer feminine and chic themes that are so easy to customize and a great price. I’m currently using the Olivie theme on Rachael’s Journal! One of the things I love about Bluchic, is that you can get full demos of the themes so you can imagine your blog’s layout. There are also complete theme documentation guides so you can get your blog setup completely with Instagram, colours and whatever else you desire!
Some themes may also require that you have the Genesis Framework from StudioPress. The most beautiful WordPress themes from designers Restored 316 and Bluchic may depend on the Genesis Framework being installed on your blog first.
My theme is Olivie by Bluchic. You can see the original theme template below and a comparison of how I have customized it to suit my branding:
When selecting a theme, there are some considerations you need to take in mind. Will your blog be very visual with lots of quality images? In that case, you want to pick a theme where the homepage shows large photos, with a summary of the text from the blog post.
Steps to install a theme:
1- Purchase a chic WordPress theme from Bluchic or Restored 316. You will download a ‘zip’ file to your computer once you have purchased. You will directly upload this zip file to WordPress.
2- If your theme requires the Genesis Framework (it will say so on the product page), go to StudioPress and purchase then download the Genesis Framework.
2- Go to the WordPress Dashboard and click ‘Appearance’ -> ‘Themes’
2- Then, click Add New button
3- Next, click Upload Theme button
4- Now, click Choose File and select the theme zip file (e.g. Olivie.zip) from your computer to be uploaded
5- Click Install Now button
6- Click Activate link. That’s it! Yay! Your blog now has a pretty new look ready for you to make your own.
PERSONALIZING YOUR THEME
Once your theme is installed, you need to optimize your homepage. Make sure to include all of these items:
- Blog name and logo (a free commercial font should suffice for now) which should link to your homepage
- A summary of what your blog is about and who it is for
- A photo of you and an ‘about snippet’ with a link to your full about page
- Link to contact page
- A search bar
- Categories (see next section)
- Social media account links
- An Instagram feed plugin (instructions later)
- Your blog feed
- A link to your homepage in the menu item
CREATING BLOG CATEGORIES
Categories are important because it will give you a framework for your blog and for your audience to understand what your blog is all about.
If you look at my menu, those are actually my top-level categories above the top. The items that drop down are by sub-categories. You will want to aim for 2-4 major categories. You can also start adding sub-categories later in a structure to match the following:
- Editorial Posts
- Blog Posts
As you can see, your blog posts should fall under one of your categories or subcategories. For example, if one of your major categories is ‘Fashion’, your sub-categories could be OOTD, Street Style, and Shopping. One of my top-level categories is Lifestyle, and sub-categories are home & office decor and book club.
CHANGING YOUR PERMALINKS (WHAAAAAT!)
This is a very important step. Before you publish anything on your blog, you want to make sure you have the correct permalink structure for a blog post.
What is a permalink?
A permalink is how the URL (www…..com/….) will appear once you publish a post. For example, my permalink for the ‘How to select a name for your blog or business” – http://www.rachaelsjournal.com/tips-for-selecting-a-name-for-your-blog-or-online-business/
Whenever I publish a post, you will see the name of the post in the URL.
The full list of options for Permalinks include:
As you can see, I have selected ‘post name’ and I recommend you do too. The major reason for this is SEO and being able to find your posts in Google.
There are a few key pages you should include on your blog:
- About Page
- Contact Page
To create these pages, do the following in the WordPress dashboard:
Click Pages and then ‘Add New’. Choose a title for your page (which will also be the text used in your URL). On top right you can click ‘Save Draft’ while you work on the page and nobody will be able to access it. Once you are happy with the content and ready to publish, simply click the blue ‘Publish’ button.
INSTALL ESSENTIAL PLUGINS
Plugins are add-ons for your blog and can be very helpful tools that give insights into things such as website traffic and what your most popular blog posts are. I recommend you install a traffic plugin and an SEO plugin.
One issue that you will face as a blogger, is that there are bots (and humans) out there that will try and hack into your blog, or upload malware or scam like matter. A tip for this is to ensure your WordPress username does not match your blog name. As a blogger, don’t want anyone knowing your WordPress username or being able to guess it, this will add an extra layer of security as the bots usually try thousands of password combinations, but if they can’t guess your username. Make sure it’s not ‘admin’ or something that simple, add some words to admin to make it tougher.
If you haven’t read my previous post about ‘Branding your Blog’ check it out.
You’ll likely want to start monetizing your blog, make sure you sign-up to my mailing list below, because I will be teaching you how to do just that and so much MORE!
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions, and I will do my best to get back to everyone!