Planning to create a WordPress blog? Great! Here is a free comprehensive guide to starting your blog. We understand the fear that comes with blog creation – especially for newbies. That’s why we have created this easy guide.
WordPress, in itself, is one of the simplest tools for starting a blog. You shouldn’t have a problem working with it.
- What a blog is and what it isn’t?
- Should you start a blog?
- What you need to start blogging.
- How to start a blog in 10 easy steps.
- How to start a blog with no money.
What a blog is and what it isn’t
Oftentimes, WordPress users ask if there is a difference between a blog and a website. Maybe you have the same question running through your mind. Here is your answer.
Blogs and websites are similar – except that blogs are regularly updated with fresh content. Websites, on the other hand, are more static in nature.
The content of a blog (known as ‘blog posts’) are usually arranged in descending chronological order – that means new posts appear first. See the screenshot below:
Blog readers can scan through the topics and click to read any topic they want.
Note that your blog content may not appear in ‘grid format’ like it is in the screenshot. The arrangement of your posts depends on your active WordPress theme (more on this later).
Now, a blog could be a part of a website, in the form of a separate page. Like this:
Or it could be an entire site of its own.
Most blogs have a comments section where readers can respond to the writeup. This creates a connection between the blogger and the reader.
Should you Start a Blog?
No doubt, building a successful blog is no child’s play. It takes a lot of time and effort. If you are passionate about blogging and you don’t mind giving it all it takes, go right ahead. Here are some benefits of being a blogger:
- Lets you share your ideas with the world.
- Establishes you as an authority.
- Creates a connection between you and the reader.
- You have an opportunity to make money from your blog.
- Refines your writing skills, etc.
What you Need to Start a Blog.
It doesn’t take so much to start a blog. Basically, all you need is:
- Access to the internet.
- A functional computer device.
- Some money to secure a web hosting service and a domain.
How to start a blog in 10 easy steps
This is the part you’ve been waiting for! Here are the stages involved in building a blog.
- Pick a niche.
- Name your blog and register your domain.
- Get a web host.
- Install your blogging software.
- Install a WordPress Theme and Customize it.
- Optimize your blog for Search Engines.
- Install other plugins.
- Setup Google analytics.
- Start creating content.
- Promote and Monetize your blog
Step 1: Pick a niche
A niche is a specific subject or field on which a blog is focused. It could be anything – technology, education, business, food, adventure, robots, automobile, entertainment, fashion, parenting, blogging, etc.
But you may be asking – why can’t I discuss everything on my blog?
Well, you won’t get into trouble for writing on many random topics. In fact, some folks have recorded significant success using the ‘any subject’ approach. However, sticking to one subject will help you build a more dedicated audience.
Based on research by GrowthBadger, most bloggers who earn more than $50,000 in a year revealed that they focus on a specific niche. Lower-income bloggers tend to worry about having a small audience, so they write about anything and everything.
Now, if you focus on ‘Fashion’, you are more likely to become an authority in that field faster than someone who blogs about fashion, food, business, etc.
Also, internet users who love what you do can identify with your blog easily (if you constantly update your blog with great content).
So, how do you select a blog niche?
Many brilliant ideas are probably running in your head right now. But answering the following questions will help you choose the one that is perfect for you.
- What topic do you enjoy discussing? Fashion? Then you should consider blogging about fashion.
- What topic do you know more than many others? Business? You could teach people how to start and manage their businesses via your blog.
- What are your hobbies? Car racing? What if you discuss all you know about cars on your blog?
- What profession have you spent a better part of your life doing? Nursing? Then a health blog will make a lot of sense.
To ease things up, use this chart:
In summary, if you are passionate about it and a group of people need it – blog about it. Blogging about something you love will keep you motivated every time.
Don’t be in a hurry to leave this stage. Take your time. Do some brainstorming. The perfect idea will come.
Step 2: Name your Blog and Register your Domain
When starting your blog, one thing is indispensable – A domain name. It’s a unique name for your blog.
When naming your blog:
- Choose a descriptive name:
Use a name that emphasizes what your blog is all about. For instance, if your blog is all about food, names that include recipes, meals, kitchen, etc., are great choices.
Using a name that properly describes your blog will give your visitor an idea of what to expect.
On the other hand, you can make your blog a bit more personal, by using your name or a variation of it.
- Keep it as short as possible (3 words at most):
A domain name can contain as much as 63 characters. But having that long will be pretty awkward. Keep your blog name short. The shorter, the better!
- Use a name that is easy to remember:
Not everyone uses the ‘Bookmark’ feature on their browsers. Choose a blog domain name that is memorable, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce.
For instance, the word ‘Pochemuchka’ is used to describe someone who asks too many questions. As beautiful as it sounds, it isn’t a good choice for a domain name. It is quite easy for an internet user to misspell such a word.
- No numbers:
Using numbers can mislead your site visitors. Think of this – ‘Head2toe.com’ is a lovely domain name. But, a user may try to access your site using ‘headtotoe.com’. This is quite confusing.
If you can, avoid using numbers.
- No hyphens:
Hyphens are misleading. In most cases, a web user may type ‘domainname.com’ instead of ‘domain-name.com’. That could cost you a significant number of visitors.
There are lots of extensions available, we have .com, .co, .org, .net, .us, .blog, .io, .biz, and so much more.
A survey conducted by Growthbadge on the memorability of domain extensions revealed that .com URLs are 33% more memorable. This is followed by .co, .org, .biz, .us, .net, and .blog, in that order.
Top Level Domains (TLDs) to avoid
According to Spamhaus (a company that fights spam on the internet), there are Top Level Domains with bad reputations. They include:
Using these extensions could affect your site’s traffic.
After choosing a domain name, check if it’s available. To do this, visit whois lookup page and type your chosen name.
If it isn’t available, that’s fine. Think of something different. You can also try using a different but memorable extension.
Finding a perfect and available name is hard, so take your time, search and find a good one. Although you can change your domain name later, it is best to select the right name from the beginning.
Side note: To know more about changing your site’s domain, read our beginner’s guide on how to change a domain name in WordPress.
Registering your domain name
Domain registrars are companies that let you purchase domain names.
Although there are hundreds of domain registrars out there, they offer different services. Some domain registrars are only licensed to sell domain names with specific extensions. Others can sell any domain.
When selecting a domain name registrar, look out for the following:
Don’t be carried away by attractive offers from domain registrars. In many cases, they offer low introductory prices for the first year. But, that’s just for the first year. Renewal prices are significantly higher.
For instance, some registrars offer $4.99 as an entry fee. From the second year, you’ll have to pay $18.17 for renewal.
Learn about all hidden fees before you commit.
- Domain Transfer Policies
Domain names can be moved from one registrar to the other. Review a registrar’s transfer policy to know if you will be charged for transferring your blog.
- Expiration policy
When your domain registration expires, a domain registrar may give you some time to pay up. Some others may simply resell your domain. So, check out a company’s expiration policy first before pitching your tent.
On average, a domain name costs about $12/year.
Step 3: Get a web host
A web hosting company gets your blog up and running on the internet. Without a web hosting provider, your blog remains offline. There are plenty of web hosts available on the market right now. How do you know which to go for?
Every good web host is expected to have the following:
How do you know which hosting company has great speed? Simple! Check reviews from real users.
- Uptime Guarantee:
Uptime is the amount of time a website/blog is online. Your blog has to be online most of the time. Generally, 99.9% uptime is the hosting industry standard. 99.9% uptime means your blog may be offline for about 8.64 hours in a year.
Downtime could be as a result of ongoing maintenance. When shopping for a host, read the Terms of Service to know how much uptime guarantee they offer.
A good web host is expected to have a group of experts that offer all-day support to customers. It could be through any of these means – live chat, e-mail or phone.
Poor security could cost you a lot. Choose a web host that offers good security.
To know more about WordPress Security? Check out this tutorial on WP security.
Step 4: Install your blogging software (WordPress)
Blogging platforms are web applications that make it easy to create pages and content. Many beginners make the wrong choice at this point. The platform you choose determines how your blog performs. With the self-hosted WordPress (WordPress.org), you can’t go wrong.
In the top 1 million sites, there are 376,668 sites identified as blogs. A huge percentage (96%) of these sites use WordPress blogging software.
WordPress is popular for many reasons – it’s free, lets you monetize your personal blog, and allows you to install any plugin of your choice.
Installing WordPress isn’t such a big deal especially if your web host offers one-click WordPress install. You only need to log into your hosting account and install WordPress.
If things don’t go well with this easy method, don’t fret. You can install WordPress manually.
How to Install WordPress Manually
- Download WordPress on your local PC from http://wordpress.org/download/ and unzip.
- Upload WordPress to your hosting account via FTP. Read our guide on how to install WordPress using FTP, to know how to do this.
- Create a MySql database and database user.
- To do this, log into cPanel .
- Scroll to the database section and click on ‘MySql Database wizard’.
- Create a Database and name it. Click ‘next’.
- Create a database user.
- Add user to Database and tick the all privileges box. Click ‘next’.
- Click ‘complete’
- Locate the wp-config file and configure it.
- To find this file, log into your cPanel.
- Click the file manager icon.
- Open the ‘public_html’ folder.
- Locate the wp-config-sample.php file.
- Right-click on the file and select rename.
- Change the files name to wp-config.php.
- Right click on your newly edited file and select ‘code edit’. You should see this:
/** MySQL database username */
/** MySQL database password */
- Replace ‘database name’ in the code with the database name you created in stage 3.
- Replace ‘username_here’ with the username you created in stage 3. The same goes for ‘password_here’ (replace it with your password).
- Time to run the installation.
- Open your installation page through a new browser window. It could be domain.com/wp-admin/install.php or domain.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php. It depends on where you uploaded your files to.
- Complete the WordPress Installation.
- By typing in your site name, password, username and email.
- And then clicking ‘install now’
And your WordPress blog is ready. The WordPress admin area may look like a struggle at first, and that’s normal. You’ll get used to it soon. Check our ‘introduction to the WordPress admin area’. It will help you navigate your way around the dashboard.
Step 5: Install a WordPress Theme and Customize it
Although your WordPress blog is ready, it still looks plain. All it needs is a little adjustment. A WordPress theme controls how your blog looks and feels.
Whether you are starting a travel blog or a personal finance blog, there is a theme fit for it.
How to install a theme
Login to your WordPress dashboard. Here’s how:
- Open ‘yourdomain.com/wp-admin’ on your web browser.
- Fill in your user credentials.
- Viola! You have logged in successfully to your dashboard. If for some reason, you can’t access your WP admin area, read our instructional guide on how to fix WordPress login issues.
There is a list of options arranged by the left-hand side of your screen. Click on ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’.
WordPress comes with some themes by default. You can simply click on any one of them and activate it. They are absolutely free.
However, if you seek more design, click on ‘Add New’ and explore a whole new world of eye-catching themes.
Making a decision may be a big deal at this point. Most of the themes are lovely. Click on a theme’s thumbnail to catch a glimpse of what the theme has to offer.
You can use the ‘feature filter’’ to make things easier. Click on it and select the features you’d love your theme to have.
Once you have made up your mind on the theme to use, click ‘install’ right next to it. Once the installation is done, click ‘activate’. And that’s all.
Apart from these free themes, you can install a premium theme for a fee. Check out these websites for some amazing themes:
- Theme Forest.
- Elegant themes.
- Theme Fuse, etc.
What you have at this point is a freshly installed theme bearing a name that isn’t yours. It’s time to make the theme yours. To do this, click ‘customize’ on your active theme.
The level of customization varies for every theme. Click on any of the menu options (like the site identity) and change them. By the time you are done, your site would look and feel just the way you want it.
Step 6: Optimize your Blog for Search engines
If you hope to have lots of readers someday, don’t skip this step. There are about 152 million blogs on the internet. To stay afloat, optimize your blog for search engines.
Fortunately, WordPress makes this process amazingly easy. To get started, install and activate Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast SEO is a popular WordPress plugin that can help your blog meet SEO standards.
To install this plugin, go to Plugins >> Add New page and search for Yoast SEO.
It’s most likely to be the first plugin to appear in your search results. Click ‘install’ and activate it.
At this point, Yoast SEO is fully activated on your blog. There are two ways of accessing your settings – the ‘SEO’ menu in the sidebar and the ‘Yoast’ icon on top of your dashboard.
Also, when creating a page or post, a section with SEO tools appears below the editor to help you optimize your content for search. You should use this section for each content you create.
Step 7: Install other Plugins
WordPress plugins improve the functionality of a WordPress site. Basically, for each feature you need on your blog – there are one or more corresponding plugins. Although there are many plugins available in the WordPress directory, some are more important than others.
Here is a list of plugins you need for your blog:
- WordPress Security plugin:
WordPress, in itself, is a secure platform. However, it is important to add an extra layer of protection using WP security plugins.
They protect your website from brute force attacks. iThemes security plugin, Jetpack, WordFence, and Sucuri, are examples of WordPress security plugins.
To know more about this, read our beginner’s guide on WordPress security.
- WordPress Backup:
Every WordPress blog needs a backup. A backup plugin would help you store your database and file. If by any chance, your blog crashes, you can restore your files quite easily.
- WordPress Contact Form plugin:
Establishing a relationship with your readers is vital. Use a WordPress contact form plugin to add forms on your bog. To know more, read this guide on the best contact form plugins.
Tips to consider before installing a plugin:
- Download plugins from the WordPress Plugin directory or from any trustworthy plugin developer. Stay away from plugins from questionable sources. To verify the quality of a Plugin, check its reviews and ratings.
- Download plugins that won’t conflict with your WordPress version.
- Too many Plugins can reduce your site’s speed. They occupy valuable space and bandwidth.
- Install updates regularly.
Step 8: Set up Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool used for tracking and analyzing a site’s traffic. With google analytics, you can tell:
- How many people visited your site.
- Which page is popular.
- What kind of content your visitors prefer.
- How to improve your site’s speed.
- Where your visitors live.
- What time they visit.
- How your visitors got to your site, etc.
Setting up Google Analytics on your site is pretty simple. Only three major steps are involved.
- Set up a Google Analytics account.
- Copy your tracking code.
- Paste it into the code of any page you want to track.
To know more about this, check out our guide on how to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.
Step 9: Start creating content
Here is the part you’ve been waiting for – to start sharing your ideas with the world.
How often will you update your blog? Once a week? Twice? Make a plan that works for you.
Also, you can write many articles as the inspiration comes and schedule it to be posted in the future. How do you schedule posts in WordPress? First, log into the WordPress dashboard. Paste your blog post into the editor. By the right side of your screen, click ‘Schedule Posts’
More content means:
- Better blogger/reader relationship.
- More opportunities to rank on search engines.
- Improved reputation.
- Increased conversions.
- More exposure.
So, what is the ideal blog post length? A blog post should contain a minimum of 300 words to do well in search engine rankings. However, longer posts (1000 words and more) perform better.. They are also more likely to be shared on social media by readers.
But, how do you cope with writing long blog posts consistently? Use these tips:
- Set realistic goals.
- Make a list of blog topics to write on.
- Dedicate specific times of the day to blog.
- Do away with all forms of distractions.
- Rest when you need to.
Step 10: Promote and Monetize your Blog
Promoting your blog encompasses all strategies used to drive traffic to your blog. See some of the strategies:
- Write guest posts.
- Make your blog searchable.
- Build relationships with other bloggers.
- Promote it on social media.
- Build an email list, etc.
Now, to the monetization aspect. There are a couple of ways to make money blogging. They include:
- Affiliate Marketing.
- Setting up Google AdSense on your blog.
- Selling physical or digital products on your blog.
- Creating ebooks.
By incorporating one or more of these into your blog, you can turn it into a source of passive income.
How to start a blog with no money
The steps we described above is the self-hosted WordPress version which would cost you some money (hosting, custom domain name, theme, etc.). If you want to build your blog without spending money, there is a way out. WordPress.com allows you to create blogs at no cost (note that we do not recommend this for professional, or even serious blogging).
Follow these steps:
Head Over to Wordress.com and click ‘Get Started’.
Create an account by filling your email address, preferred username, and password in the provided spaces. Click ‘Create Account’.
Next, confirm your WordPress account. To do this, open the email you receive from WordPress.com. And click ‘Confirm Now’.
Choose a domain. WordPress offers you a list of available domain names related to your preferred name. Each with varying prices. Since we are interested in starting a blog that takes no money, you should go for ‘domain.wordpress.com’. They are absolutely free.
Next, select ‘Start with a free site’.
Choose a blog design. Select a theme that meets your needs and install.
Write and publish your first blog post.
Truth be told, using a self-hosted blog is a better option. A blog that ends with ‘Wordpress.com’ isn’t always a good option. However, if you just want to have a feel of what blogging is about before making any financial commitment, you may try it.
You have just learned how to start a successful blog. What next?
The secret of having a profitable blog lies in one word – CONSISTENCY. Keep dishing out great content and your dream blog is only a while away.
You may experience some technical issues as time goes on, don’t worry. That’s why we are here – to support you on this journey. To start with, go through our WP college for more WordPress tutorials.
You can also get a free report on your site’s performance, security, and SEO delivered to your mail in 60 seconds.