Starting Your First Blog In 2018: The “How To” Guide
Last updated: March 9, 2018 at 13:51 pm
Blogging is a great way to express yourself, make new friends, and earn extra money. And it’s really easy to get started — even if you’ve never tried blogging before.
Like many things in life, the secret is just to start! Your new blog will be up and running by the time you’ve finished our five steps. Relax, we’ll hold your hand the whole way through.
How To Start A Blog Today
Our guide has 5 simple steps (it’ll take about 20 minutes):
- Get the Best Web Hosting
- Pick Your Domain Name
- Set Up WordPress
- Create Great Content
- Build Traffic
Our step-by-step blogging guide will save you time and money and get your new blog online today. Once we’ve live, we’ll teach you how to produce content and how to attract your first visitors.
Blogs are whatever we make them. Defining ‘Blog’ is a fool’s errand.”
Two Things Before We Start
#1. While we teach you how to start your blog, some of the services we recommend pay us a “referral fee” if you buy their service. This doesn’t cost you a penny – in fact, you will save money with some special deals we’ve negotiated.
#2. Starting your blog takes a little time – about 20 minutes or so to get started. We suggest building your blog in one session, if possible. Short of time? Relax, we have a plan…
What Is a Blog, Exactly?
“Blog” is a contraction of “web log”. It’s a website that’s updated regularly, and is usually written by one person or a small group of writers. The tone of voice is usually pretty informal.
But, there are also professional, scientific, and academic blogs with a less casual voice. There is no single style, tone, or topic that defines a blog. Instead, blogs can be described as “anything goes”.
Originally considered an online journal or diary, blogging has expanded into much more than a place for individuals to share their thoughts with the world. In short, a blog can be defined as a website that you regularly update with new content.
Blogs come in all shapes and sizes. Really, you can blog about anything. The most common blog topics are in the realm of travel, fashion, food, and pets. But even though these niches are saturated with content, people are continuously finding new angles to take with them.
A blog can exist to be informative, educational, instructional, or just plain entertaining. If you’re ever read a piece of writing online, chances are you’ve read a blog post.
You can learn more in our history of blogging post.
Help! I Want To Make A Website, Not A Blog
No problem. The process to make a website is the same (at least at the start) as starting a blog, and WordPress is still your best choice to build the site with. Onwards!
Why Start A Blog?
It’s easy, fun and the best way to make your voice heard online. And – best of all – it’s very cheap to get started, and doesn’t require you to be a technical genius.
Is blogging dead? Most definitely, the answer is “no”. While Twitter gets bigger and bigger, it’s no replacement for a blog.
First of all, Twitter is a platform for sharing short snippets of text, articles, and pictures. You cannot post an entire article’s worth of content on there. Sure, you can use Twitter to promote your blog and share links to your posts. But Twitter itself is no replacement for blogging.
Many people want to learn how to start a blog to use as an online journal. This medium acts as an outlet to their thoughts and gives them an audience to share their opinions with.
Others choose a topic that they’re passionate about like gardening, traveling, or woodworking. They may blog to share their knowledge about these topics or create a discussion among like-minded individuals.
- Food blogs are a great example of a topic you can tackle on a personal blog. Maybe you are an accomplished hobby chef who wants to show off your baking prowess. Or maybe you’re trying to teach yourself to cook with a pressure cooker, documenting your progress (and humorous mistakes) along the way.
- Fashion blogs are also very popular for personal bloggers. People are always looking for the next big trend in clothing, makeup, shoes, and accessories. Maybe you’re the trendsetter in your clique and you want to show everyone how it’s done. On the other hand, you could write humorous posts about the latest runway absurdities.
Making Money With Your Blog
People running a personal hobby blog sometimes do so with the aim of making some money off of it. There are many different ways to make money with your blog. So many that this topic requires a full article of its own.
In short, people typically make money by placing advertisements on their blog, signing up as affiliates with other companies, or promoting products in their posts.
Don’t quit your day job yet! It takes a long time, even years, to build up an established blog that can make some decent money.
Blogging for Business
Businesses blog for another reason. This is referred to as content marketing, a form of marketing that is becoming extremely popular and valuable. You’ve probably noticed that almost every e-commerce store or online service has a blog.
Blogs help companies increase their online presence, develop an engaged audience, facilitate trust in their brand, send traffic to their website, promote products, educate their consumer base… the list goes on.
Small Business Blogging
If you own a small business, you’ve probably already got a website. If you’re disappointed with the amount of visitors you get, or are lacking discoverability, you should seriously consider adding a blog.
The content marketing you do with a blog is a great way to get exposure to search engines. Better search results performance means that more customers will find your business.
New Businesses Need Blogs Too
Blogging is especially critical for anyone starting a new business. By far, the fastest and easiest way to get leads is to use content marketing with a blog to attract visitors to your site.
Even better? Blogging is a free way of advertising your startup, which is critical to new businesses with tight budgets.
Even if you’re not starting a blog for business purposes, you can still make a little money for yourself as a side hustle with a blog linked to an e-commerce site.
For example, if you’ve got an Etsy shop, you could start blogging about how you get your ideas and the steps involved in creating your projects. You can take pictures of people using your items and feature testimonials from folks who’ve purchased them.
You can also reverse the process. If you’ve already got a great idea for a blog topic, and you’re using WordPress to blog about it, you can add an online store with the WooCommerce plug-in and start selling immediately!
Why Should I Trust You Guys?
We run some of the biggest websites for webmasters in the world. As well as Blogging.com, we run HTML.com, Digital.com & many more.
In fact, our sites have become so popular that they’ve been featured in newspapers, magazines and websites like…
Our carefully crafted guides – just like this! – are read by many millions of readers every month in hundreds of countries around the world.
Finally, we’ve been doing it since way back in 2006 (a whole century in internet years)!
Why Should You Use WordPress?
WordPress is the world’s most popular CMS (content management system). It powers 27%+ of all websites online today, and an even larger percentage of blogs. (You’ll find more insane WordPress statistics over here).
Once you’ve created a blogging website with WordPress (more on this later), it’s simple to update it with new content. You can write blog posts directly into the text field in your WordPress dashboard, or you can write them in your favorite word processor and just paste your content into WordPress. You’ll be able to format your posts and add images, as well as various other interesting features.
Since WordPress is focused on blogging, it makes blog creation as user-friendly and intuitive as possible. Everyone from techy millennials to tech-illiterate baby boomers run blogs on WordPress.
WordPress’s dominant, global popularity is due to some killer advantages it has over its competition:
- Simple and powerful – WordPress is simple enough for beginners, but powerful enough for experts and developers.
- Customizable – It has nearly infinite customizability with plug-ins and themes.
- Flexible – WordPress isn’t “just” a blog. It’s flexible enough to use for almost any website need.
- Mobile optimized – Not only does WordPress support themes which adjust to any device, you can also write blog posts from mobile devices.
- Free! WordPress is open source software, which means that most web hosts offer it for free or you can download it yourself for free.
- SEO-friendly – WordPress is built to make search engine optimization easy. There are also dozens of plug-ins available to help with SEO.
- Security – WordPress itself is constantly being updated for security concerns. As long as you update promptly and be careful with themes and plug-ins, you shouldn’t run into many issues.
- Support – WordPress boasts a huge free, online support community. It contains over 2 million forum posts which are manned by volunteers who are users just like you.
“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud”
5 Reasons We Love WordPress
WordPress lets you customize your layout, create content, and expand your blog’s functionality over time. And you can achieve all this without touching a single line of code.
We love WordPress for lots of reasons, but to provide specifics:
- It’s 100% free (even if you make money from your blog in future)
- It’s super-easy to install (5 minutes max)
- There are lots of awesome WordPress themes & plugins available (and most are free)
- There is tons of free help online (like at Blogging.com!)
- It’s very easy to get started in a few minutes.
Help! I Need A WordPress Alternative
We love WordPress – just like the rest of the internet. But if you insist on starting your blog on another platform, you might like to check out Wix website builder.
What About Weebly Website Builder?
You may have heard about another website creation platform called Weebly. Weebly is a drag-and-drop website builder.
What’s a Website Builder?
Website builders can be an attractive solution for people who only need a one-page home on the internet. It usually takes just a few clicks (and a bit of typing) to set up a site.
Some site builders allow you to choose a “free” hosting plan. But caveat emptor — because free plans usually come with a catch or two:
- Subdomains – You can’t use your own domain name. Instead, you must choose a subdomain like “mysite.weebly.com.”
- Ads – Usually your site is plastered with advertising for the site builder. These ads can’t be removed unless you purchase a paid plan.
- Design restrictions – Themes are often restricted to a handful of fairly boring choices.
Even with paid plans, website builders may restrict what you can do with your site’s design and functionality.
Blogging With Site Builders
Weebly can be good for simple website design and hosting but even though you can also create a blog on their platform, most bloggers prefer the flexibility of WordPress.
Blogging on a website builder, depending on which one you choose, can be kind of a pain in the neck. Why? Because most site builders are created with just two types of customers in mind: small businesses and e-commerce sellers.
Adding a blog to a site builder like Weebly is usually an afterthought and thus, many of the features you want in a blog may be missing. For example, the ability to schedule blog posts ahead of time or make custom blog pages is often lacking.
Site Builders Require Onsite Hosting
If you use a site builder like Weebly, you must pay for a monthly plan which includes hosting. However, you won’t have the flexibility of choosing your own hosting provider as you can with WordPress.
For example, if you’re unhappy with with your site’s uptime, you can’t just move your site to another site builder. You’ll have to start all over at another web host.
For Most People, WordPress Is a Better Option
Compared to website builders like Weebly, WordPress is a lot more powerful, easy to use, scalable, and flexible.
On top of that, the real killer feature for WordPress is your ability to do almost anything you want with countless available plugins. Most site builders don’t have plug-ins (also called connectable “apps”) and even those that do have very limited capabilities.
Thus, WordPress users will have more tools at their disposal and much more freedom to create what they want.
Do I Need My Own Website?
We recommend starting your own blog site instead of using a blogging platform like Medium. Medium is an online platform for publishing content. There are many benefits to using the platform, including an instant start to blogging.
But having your very own website gives you complete control and ownership over your content. You get your own domain, your own brand, your own dedicated readers. You have complete control over the design and format of your site. You can monetize your blog and add any functionality you want.
Read the Fine Print
Something else to think about is that there can be some unsettling terms of service for sites like Medium. For example:
- They can republish your work wherever and whenever they like, without compensating you or even sourcing the content to you.
- They can reformat your work.
- They can make money off of your posts through targeted advertising (and they don’t share the revenue with you).
You don’t have to waive your rights to any of your work if you self-host your site — and any money you make is 100% yours to keep.
A Hybrid Approach Can Work Well
A lot of bloggers prefer to post content on their personal websites first, and then post a duplicate of their content to Medium. This lets them expand their reach to a wider audience.
So, no, you don’t need your own website to start a blog. But we highly recommend it! For all of the same reasons that we recommend using WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: Which Do You Need?
WordPress comes in two flavors. Be sure to know which you need.
WordPress.com is their “back to basics” blogging platform. You can build a WordPress site easily enough, but it’s much more limited than the regular WordPress.
For example, your choice of WordPress theme and plugins is drastically restricted (which is why few major blogs use it).
Worst of all? You’re stuck with a http://something.wordpress.com subdomain, instead of a proper domain name.
Not only does it look unprofessional, it means you are not in full control of your blog’s most important asset: it’s domain name. This is because your blog is hosted on WordPress’s servers. In other words, you don’t have to pay for web hosting.
But before you jump into using WordPress.com for a free blog, know that personal blog hosting is extremely cheap. And with all the features you get from using WordPress.org, everyone agrees that it’s worth it to pay a bit for hosting your own website.
“Grown up” WordPress – aka WordPress.org – is the most popular choice for 99% of blogs. We strongly recommend you opt for WordPress.org, as you’re future-proofing your blog.
(It’s possible to move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org later… but it’s painful).
Take our advice and choose WordPress.org. Your next step is to buy WordPress web hosting.
Step #1. Choose the Best Web Hosting
Comparing all the different WordPress hosting services can be overwhelming. Almost every budget hosting company, big or small, now supports WordPress. And they all claim to be the best, and the cheapest!
Why Is Finding The Best Web Hosting Important?
Good web hosting can make or break your blog. Web hosting is what allows websites to be posted on the internet. Your website needs to be stored on a server so it can be accessed by people all over the world via the internet. Though it’s possible to host a website from your own computer, this isn’t realistic for most people. Which is why web hosting companies exist to provide this service.
You need to think about four things when it comes to web hosting:-
- Cost. What will it cost per month?
- Speed. You need your blog to load fast. Speed is super-important as users move to mobile.
- Uptime. Every website goes offline sometimes. But a good web host will help avoid problems with downtime.
- Technical Support.
The Types of Web Hosting
Web hosting comes in a wide variety of options. You’ll run into shared hosting, cloud hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated servers. If you’re starting a blog for the first time, you don’t need to worry about the last two.
Shared hosting is the cheapest and most basic form of hosting available. This kind of hosting stores your website on a server that you share with other customers of the hosting company. And, you share all of the resources – such as bandwidth and disk space – of the server as well.
Cloud hosting will give you faster website speeds because it stores your website across multiple shared servers. This increases site performance because users don’t share the resources of just one server with each other. And, cloud users enjoy higher uptime since a problem with one server is unlikely to affect a website stored on multiple servers.
VPS and dedicated hosting provide more power for larger websites with much higher traffic.
You’ll also notice that some hosting companies have WordPress hosting. These plans typically run on shared servers but can also be offered as cloud and VPS-based hosting. WordPress hosting is optimized for running the platform and will give you the most seamless WordPress experience.
But if you’re looking for the cheapest hosting possible, go with a basic shared hosting plan. Just make sure you can get a one-click WordPress install to make your life easier.
Our Favorite WordPress Hosting Service
We recommend BlueHost as the perfect choice for new bloggers.
It’s been recommended by Automattic – the team of geniuses behind WordPress – since 2005, and BlueHost’s parent company is one of the investors behind Automattic, so you know you’re in good hands.
One of our favorite things about Bluehost is their WordPress hosting built on revolutionary VPS technology. Since they use the power of virtual servers instead of shared servers, WordPress websites run insanely fast.
Bluehost makes it effortless to install WordPress from the control panel in your hosting account. They also include a content delivery network (CDN) to provide faster website loading for people located geographically farther from their servers. And, all websites get a free SSL certificate to reassure your site visitors that their information is secure.
Although we love Bluehost, we wish they provided an uptime guarantee. When a web host guarantees a certain amount of uptime (typically 99.9%), their customers can receive compensation if their website goes down for extended periods.
Bluehost’s WordPress-optimized plans may be more expensive than you’re willing to pay. They start at about $20/month. In that case, personal bloggers will have absolutely no problem with their cheaper shared hosting plans. You’ll still get adequate resources for your new blog, and a free domain name!
Or, go with Bluehost’s cloud hosting for a more affordable option than their WordPress plans but for 2x faster loading than you get with their shared hosting.
Go and signup now at BlueHost.com before moving to the continue with the next step of the tutorial.
How Good Is BlueHost For Uptime?
Despite Bluehost’s lack of uptime guarantee, we’ve been very pleased with the reliability of their hosting. We’ve consistently had at least 99.9% uptime from them. Compared to other hosts that experienced much more frequent downtime, Bluehost’s reliability is impressive.
If, however, you do experience extensive downtime with Bluehost, they’ll let you pull out of your contract early. If you do this, they’ll issue a pro-rated refund for the remainder of your subscription.
Here’s BlueHost’s uptime graph vs nine other hosts we’ve been tracking long term. Remember, an uptime of 99.9% is the industry standard.:-:-
How Fast Is BlueHost?
We can’t stress enough how important your page load speed is. Many site visitors will leave immediately if your page takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Talk about impatient, right? With so much information available online, people aren’t going to wait for it from a website that takes too long to load.
Bluehost claims that their shared hosting plans provide a load time of 372ms (milliseconds). Their cloud hosting will give you 151ms. Our experience with Bluehost’s shared plans has shown that they consistently provide load speeds of less than 3 seconds. Great!
This graph shows how fast BlueHost is vs nine other hosts we’ve been tracking long term:-
Why Is Technical Support Important?
The final point – technical support – is boring, but it’s also really, really important. When it’s 1am and you don’t know why your blog is offline, you need somebody you can speak to!
Specifically, you need somebody you can call by phone – not send an email and wait a week for a reply.
How Much Does Web Hosting Cost?
BlueHost usually costs $7.95/month.
However, we’ve negotiated a special deal for Blogging.com readers. Take a look here for the latest pricing.
If you’re prepared to make a long-term commitment, BlueHost costs as little as $2.95/month. The longer you commit to, the less you pay each month. It’s your call.
Help! I Can’t Afford To Pay For A Year’s Web Hosting…
When starting a blog, we think it’s important to make a commitment – just like joining the gym. But we also know that not everybody is able to make big financial commitments just like that.
If you need a “Plan B” who offer month-to-month billing, we recommend HostGator, owned by the same parent company as BlueHost.
Help! I Need To Start A Free Blog
In our opinion, WordPress.com is the only show in town. Sure, there are plenty of other services, like Google’s Blogger.com or Yahoo’s Tumblr. But they’re severely limited next to WordPress for a free blog service.
Go signup now at WordPress.com before continuing with the next step.
Which Web Hosting Plan Is Best For Me?
Most hosting services offer multiple plans. BlueHost’s cheapest shared hosting plan is fine for a new blog, and allows plenty of bandwidth and disk space for your blog to grow.
BlueHost’s cheapest shared hosting plan offers WordPress as a one-click installer. Just find this button in your control panel (called cPanel) and click it to setup your new blog. It’ll be ready in seconds.
Need More Powerful WordPress Hosting?
Already got an existing site or blog that needs upgrading? If Bluehost doesn’t sound powerful enough for what you have planned , we recommend you check out WP Engine.
However, we’ve negotiated a special deal for Blogging.com readers. You can find the most up-to-date pricing here
WP Engine is specially focused on hosting WordPress websites. In fact, that’s all they do. Do to their pricey nature, their hosting is better suited for small to medium-sized businesses. Or for personal bloggers who experience over 20,000 visitors per month.
This hosting provider’s business plans are great for companies running multiple blogs because they allow for more than one WordPress install. Although most of their plans use shared servers, they provide 99.95% uptime for websites hosted with them.
WP Engine provides added power for growing blogs or business websites. But this power may be overkill for the new blogger. If you’re just starting out, grab a cheaper plan from Bluehost instead. You can always migrate your website to WP Engine for free if you outgrow Bluehost.
Consider Professional Web Design Services, Too
If you’re a small business owner or a personal blogger with a day job, you might decide that it’s more efficient (and more professional) to hire a professional website designer.
There are lots of situations where paying for design services is a smart move:
- You don’t have the time to invest in learning all the ins-and-outs of web design.
- Perhaps you don’t have an eye for design and want professional help.
- You want a super slick design or complex functionality.
- You have the budget to pay for it.
There are plenty of places to find professional web design help. You can take advantage of gig powerhouses like Fiverr, Upwork, or 99designs. You could also do a local Google search to find design firms close to you.
But probably the easiest way to find professional design services is to take advantage of the services offered by your web host. If you choose a large host like Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, and InMotion, you pay for a one-time use of their in-house design services.
Step #2. Pick A Domain Name
Your domain name is extremely important. It’s the first point of contact that your audience will have with your blog. Your blog’s readers are sure to make snap judgments based on your domain name. So you need to get it right first time!
Before you register your domain name, there are three golden rules you should follow. Your domain name should…
- Be memorable
- Be easy to spell (aka “pass the radio test“)
- Be descriptive (i.e., describes your blog’s topic or establishes a brand name)
For example, if you’re a passionate collector of vintage guitars, “VintageGuitars.com” would be a better fit than “MyFavoriteGuitars.com.” It fulfils all of the criteria we mentioned.
However, VintageGuitars.com is likely to be a very expensive domain indeed. (More on premium domains in a moment.)
Incorporating keywords into your domain name can help brand a blog — like Blogging.com! Keywords are individual words or phrases that are closely related to your niche. Think about the words that people might use to search for your content, and bear them in mind when choosing a domain name to register.
Finally, remember, you can’t use spaces or punctuation (except dashes) in a domain name.
Good and Bad Domain Names
To get a better idea of what makes up a good domain name, we’ve come up with some examples:
For a blog on caring for pet budgies, “friendly-birds.com” is a bad domain name:
- First, this domain uses a hyphen. This is a problem because people are likely to forget the hyphen when typing in your domain.
- And, the name doesn’t describe that the blog is about budgies or pet care.
Instead, “healthybudgie.com” is a much better choice. The domain name is specific, contains keywords, is short, memorable, and easy to spell.
A domain name for a carpentry blog of “ibuildthingsoutofwood.com” may sound detailed and specific, but it’s actually too long and hard to remember. “Learncarpentry.com” is much shorter, specific, descriptive, and uses valuable keywords.
For a gardening blog by a woman named Hermoine, “hermoineblogs.com” sounds adequate. However:
- This domain name is vague, it’s not descriptive, and contains no keywords about gardening.
- Additionally, if your name is hard to spell leave it out of your domain.
On the other hand, vegetablegardening.com is descriptive, short, easy to spell, and takes advantage of keywords.
You can read more about choosing a good domain name in our in-depth guide.
Consider Using a Domain Name Generator
If you’re really stuck finding a domain name, you can try one of the many domain name generators out there — a simple Google search will bring up dozens for you to try.
Or you can take another route to the same destination and use a business name generator. GoDaddy has one, as do many e-commerce solutions like the drop-shipper site Oberlo.
What Domain Name Extension Should I Use For My Blog?
The choice is yours! We love .COM domains (hence Blogging.com), but they can be expensive (more on that in a moment).
[By the way, domain name extensions are actually called Top Level Domains (TLDs) or generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).]
What Domain Name Extensions Can I Register?
The world’s most popular domain extensions (or TLDs) include…
|Worldwide||Country Specific||"New" TLDs|
How To Register A Domain Name
BlueHost offers a free domain when you sign up to a shared hosting plan. So you can register your hosting and domain all at the same time.
Want To Use A Different Domain Registrar?
If you can’t find the TLD you want, or if you’d prefer to register your domain elsewhere, we also use and recommend GoDaddy.
Help! My Perfect Domain Name Is Already Registered!
If you’re feeling ambitious, we have an excellent guide at WhoIsHostingThis about how to buy a domain name that’s already registered.
If you’re very lucky, the domain might be listed for sale at a domain name marketplaces. Two of the biggest premium domain aftermarkets are:-
We’ve bought premium domain names from each of these, and are happy to recommend them. The bad news?
- You might need to spend A LOT of money
- You may spend many weeks or months negotiating
- You will typically wait 1+ weeks for your domain to transfer ownership
Premium domains usually start at $1,000+, but some change hands for $100,000s or even millions of dollars. Before you fall in love with your dream domain name (and have to remortgage the house), you have been warned!
Step #3. Setup WordPress
How To Install WordPress
Lucky for you, WordPress is famous for their “5 minute install”.
Just follow the instructions and give your blog a name. Don’t worry, you can change it later easily enough if you need to (unlike the domain name, which is much more hassle to change).
How to Login To WordPress
Once WordPress is installed, you’ll receive an email with your…
- Username (“admin” by default)
- Password (whatever you entered)
- WordPress Login URL (This will look like: http://blogging.com/wp-admin/)
It looks like this:-
If you can’t find the email, check your spam folder. Got the email? Then go ahead and log in to WordPress.
Exploring The WordPress Dashboard
You’ll see that you have access to a dashboard. This area gives you complete control over your WordPress blog.
In a few short moment, you’ll be ready to create your first blog posts or pages, like your contact page or other “must have” pages.
The WordPress dashboard is the control panel for your blog and lets you control everything from the design to the technical settings.
How To Setup WordPress
Good news: WordPress works great right out of the box. There are three simple housekeeping tasks you need to take care of before you publish your first post:
a) Set Your Blog’s Name
In Settings > General, customize your:
- Site Title (eg, Blogging.com)
- Tagline (a strapline displayed below the logo in many WordPress themes)
b) Double Check Your Email Address
Check that your email address is correct, in case you need to reset your password in future. If there’s a typo, you’ll be locked out.
a) Setup Permalinks
In Settings option of the left-hand menu, go to Permalinks. They’ll be set to “Plain”. We suggest you use:-
- “Post name” (eg, blogging.com/sample-post/)
But if you prefer, you can opt for one of these alternatives:-
- “Day and name” (eg, blogging.com/2017/12/03/sample-post/)
- “Month and name” (eg, blogging.com/2017/12/sample-post/)
“Permalinks” are the words that appear in the URLs for your blog posts and pages. They help search engines, like Google, find your blog posts more easily. This gives you a better chance of being indexed for the keywords that will drive traffic to your blog.
Whatever permalinks you choose, be prepared to stick with it: changing them once your blog has started to gain an audience can have catastrophic repercussions for your blog traffic!
How To Choose A WordPress Theme
“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”
To design your website with WordPress, you first need to start with a pre-designed theme. WordPress has countless to choose from.
Your choice of WordPress theme is just as important as your choice of domain name. It allows you to get creative, and make your blog look and feel just like home.
The good news is WordPress makes it super-easy to chop and change your WordPress theme. You can change it every day of the year if you want to!
So: should you use a free theme or pay for a premium WordPress theme?
(For example, a premium theme will allow you to control practically every aspect of the layout. You will be less restricted by the theme defaults compared to a free theme.)
New Blogger? Use A Free Theme
For beginners to blogging, free themes offer more freedom to experiment. If you’re not used to using WordPress, we recommend using a free theme until you know which features matter to you most. WordPress has its own repository of free themes.
You can install them right from your dashboard; just click on “Appearance” and then “Themes.”
Some of the most popular free WordPress Themes include…
- Twenty Seventeen
- Twenty Sixteen
- Twenty Fifteen
…and usually arrive by default when you install WordPress. You’ll probably recognize them all because these blog themes are so widely used. For example, Twenty Seventeen looks like this:-
Advantages Of Free Themes
- Freedom To Choose. You can switch between free themes as frequently as you like, without having to pay.
- Experiment. Try out lots of different color schemes and layouts
- 100% Free with all the basic functionality you need to start blogging
Disadvantages Of Free Themes
- Generic. You may find that thousands of other blogs use the same WordPress theme as you
- Less Professional. The sad truth is it’s harder to make your blog look professional with a free theme
- Less customization. Free themes usually offer less sophisticated customization. This will be more important as your blog builds an audience and gains traction.
Experienced Blogger? Upgrade To A Premium Theme
Premium themes usually offer a more stylish and exclusive look out of the box. In that case, we suggest investing in a premium theme.
Our favorite sites to buy premium WordPress themes include:-
- Genesis by StudoPress.com is a suite of several dozen premium themes
- ThemeForest has 1000s of premium WordPress themes
- Elegant Themes
How Much Do Premium WordPress Themes Cost?
It varies. Expect to pay from $29 at the low end to $99. Some super-deluxe premium WordPress themes will cost $150+, if you buy a developer license to use across many sites.
How to Install, Update, and Change WordPress Themes
WordPress makes it simple to alter the design of your website. Installing a theme is easy:-
- From your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New
- Now you’ll see all of WordPress’s featured themes. You can choose one of these or search for the names of themes you’ve heard about.
- To narrow your search, use the Feature Filter to select layout, your desired features, and your blog subject.
- Once you find a theme you like, you can preview it with your content. If you don’t have any website content or the plugins necessary for the theme, this preview might not look like anything like the final product.
- Once you’ve picked a winning theme, just click Activate, and you’re done!
You can then customize your theme using the customizer. The extent to which you can customize your website will depend on the theme you selected. Change between themes easily just by activating a new theme. All of your website content will appear in the new theme.
You will know if there is a new update to your theme when you go to Appearance > Themes. This will show you all of the themes you’ve saved, as well as your active one. If it’s time to update a theme, just click Update Now.
Before you do this, note that any customization you did to the theme will be lost when you update it. To avoid this, you’ll have to update it manually.
How To Customize WordPress With Plugins
Plugins are extensions that add features to WordPress and help unleash the power of WordPress. They can make your blog even more powerful by adding features.
Popular plugins do things like add:-
- Better SEO (making your blog appear higher in the search engines)
- “Cacheing” (making your blog faster)
- Fancy contact forms
How to Find and Install Plugins:-
- Click Plugins > Add New from your WordPress dashboard
- Check out the featured plugins on this page for the most popular and useful options.
- Use the search function to find plugins for the specific features you want to add to your website, like a shopping cart or intent-to-leave popups.
- When you find a plugin you like, just click Install Now.
- Activate the plugin and you’re good to go!
Some themes may require you to install particular plugins for some of their features to work. Each theme will make it clear which plugins you need to install.
3 “Must Have” Free WordPress Plugins
In our opinion, there are three “must have” WordPress plugins that every blog should have. Go ahead and grab these for your blog right away. On the WordPress dashboard, go to “Plugins”, then “Add New” and search for them by name.
- Akismet, to prevent comment spam from overwhelming your comment section.
It’s free & built by the same team that made WordPress, Automattic.
- WP Super Cache, to speed up your blog. It’s also by Automattic.
- Yoast SEO, which makes it really easy to optimize your blog for search engines (This is your first step towards “search engine optimization” (SEO).
The free version of Yoast SEO is fine for now – you don’t need Yoast SEO premium.
2 “Must Have” Premium WordPress Plugins
There are a handful of premium WordPress plugins that we think every blog should have. You’ll need to pay for these ones.
- Jetpack, which is also developed by the WordPress team, and adds features backups for a small fee
- Sucuri, a security plugin that protects your blog against hacking and malware. It’s owned by GoDaddy.
Each of these plugins is built by a respected contributor to the WordPress community. Alas, not all are.
WordPress Plugins: How To Stay Safe
Plugins are a critical part of WordPress. We use them extensively on Blogging.com. But you need to be careful when adding plugins to your blog for several reasons.
- Speed. Too many plugins will slow WordPress down. A LOT. That makes it difficult for your readers to navigate, and for search engines to crawl it.
- Security. Out-of-date plugins are a security risk that could get your blog hacked.
- Getting hacked. Poorly coded plugins can also introduce security risks. For example, hackers may figure out a way to manipulate the plugin to send spam from your domain name, or to insert hidden links on your site.
How to Backup Your WordPress Website
There may come a time when you have to back up your WordPress site. Maybe you want to do this on a regular basis just to be safe. If not, you’ll at least want to back it up before making major changes or manually updating your theme. There are a couple of easy ways to do this:
- Through your hosting company. Many web hosts provide backups for their customers which you can control from your user account.
- Use a WordPress plugin for automatic backups, such as Duplicator.
- Back your site up manually. This is slightly more complicated and involves using cPanel or an SFTP program.
- If your web host provides customer support, they will be able to help back up your WordPress website.
How to Add Google Analytics to WordPress
Google analytics is an amazing, free analytics service for tracking your website visitors. It provides a wealth of information such as where your visitors come from and which web pages perform the best. This helps bloggers learn who to target with their content and which blog topics people like the most.
To integrate Google Analytics with your WordPress site:
- Sign up for a Google Analytics account.
- Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be presented with your Google Analytics tracking code. Copy this code.
- Navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Install and activate an analytics plugin, such as MonsterInsights or Google Analytics Dashboard.
- Follow the instructions for your plugin, you should end up at a place to paste the tracking code that you copied from Google Analytics. Both of the mentioned plugins have simple step-by-step instructions on how to do this.
Step #4. Create a Content Plan
Now we come to the nitty-gritty. You’ve got to put a plan together to generate content for your blog — and then execute that plan.
Planning isn’t just for business bloggers. Even personal bloggers should have a good idea of what they want to write about before they dive in. Otherwise, that “Under Construction” page will be there forever. Or, worse, you spend months between blog posts, which is a sure-fire way to lose an audience for good.
Don’t fret! Content planning isn’t rocket science. We’ll walk you through it every step of the way.
Determine Your Target Audience
You need to be clear about what you want to say, and it helps to imagine who your audience will be. Pick a topic that you are truly passionate about, and think about the needs of your blog’s readers.
One quick and easy way to figure out your target audience is to imagine that you’re writing letters to a particular type of person.
Ask yourself questions like these:
- Are you talking to men or women?
- Children or adults?
- Where do they live?
- What activities do your audience members participate in?
- What type of work do they do?
- What kind of hobbies do they have?
- What does a typical day in their lives look like?
It’s important not to get too granular at this point. Your target audience should be big enough to incorporate the basic elements of what you want to blog enough, but not so small as to be non-existent.
Example: I’m creating a blog for “pet parents.”
- They can be any gender or age.
- Obviously, they like to do things with their pets like walking dogs or playing with cats.
- They can live anywhere in the world.
- Significant chunks of their daily lives involve interacting with their pets (walking, feeding, playing, snuggling).
- They consider their pets to be part of the family, more so than those who merely call themselves “pet owners.”
Verifying Your Target
If you’re not sure if your target audience is right, do a Google search (or Amazon book search) to find other websites, blogs, or books addressing that audience.
If you can find lots of books and sites on the topic, you’re on the right track. Those books are evidence that your target audience is big enough to accomodate a new player.
However, if you can only find a smattering of content addressing your audience, you should consider widening it out just a bit to ensure there’s enough room for your blog too.
Choose a Niche
Niches can be a tricky concept to understand, but they’re pretty important for your blog.
Big websites, magazines, and newspapers can target huge audiences because they have massive amounts of content and a stable full of writers to create it. Huffington Post, Sports Illustrated, and the Wall Street Journal fall into this category.
However, you’re not going to get far competing with those heavyweights, so you need to drill down into your target audience and focus on a subset of those people. By narrowing your focus to a niche (sometimes called an angle), your blog now has room to compete for eyeballs.
Slicing the Pie
Let’s explain it with an analogy. Your target audience is a pie, but your niche is a slice of that pie. (There are lots of pies, representing other target audiences.)
Example: My pie is “pet parents.” But I only want a slice of that audience. Possible niches for this audience include:
- Dog beach reviews
- Pet hotel or travel suggestions
- Urban pet parents lifestyle (or childless, gay, etc.)
- Pet health or adoption (although these two probably need to be even narrower)
- Handmade pet toys
I’m going to go with “handmade pet toys.” I can write about where to find them, how to make them, toy safety, toys based on your pet’s personality, etc. I can also tell stories about my own pets, start an Instagram or Twitter to feature pet photos, and review toys.
Once you choose a niche, it should be a bit easier to come up with a good name for your blog.
Let’s call my new blog, Fuzzy Family Fun.
What Topics Should You Cover?
This is where the fun starts on your content plan. Seriously, just go nuts and use whatever brainstorming tools you have at your disposal. Write down everything you can think of and then go back and dig even deeper into those subjects. As much as possible, make sure you tie it back to your niche idea because straying too far will diffuse the effectiveness of your targeting.
Here are some topic generation tools:
- Mind-mapping – Draw out branches from your main topics to see how many more ideas you can split off from them.
- Google Trends – Do a search on your niche, but also look at news headlines and see if there’s a place where they intersect your niche
- Use other sites for inspiration – Quora is a great place to look for blog topics. Search to see the kinds of questions people are asking and then write a post around that topic.
- Social media – What’s happening on Twitter or Facebook that you could use to create new topics?
Example: My brainstorming helped me come up with these post ideas around handmade pet toys:
- The history of dog toys in the White House (or cat toys or Downing Street)
- Knitting or felt patterns for toys
- Pet toys around the world
- Toys that might be harmful to your pet’s health
Find Your Blogging “Voice”
For the most part you shouldn’t worry about “finding a voice,” like some fiction writers are taught. Just write the same way you talk. Blogging is a lot less formal than other printed media and since it’s an interactive platform, it’s easiest to just be yourself.
Having said that, if you’re targeting a supersaturated audience, one way to “niche” yourself is with a unique style of writing. You can probably think of lots of examples where humor, style, or oddness make a particular blog memorable.
Ideas for alternative voices for your blog should be tempered with what you’re able to consistently deliver. In other words, don’t start a blog based on medieval English if you can’t keep it up.
Example: For my Fuzzy Family Fun blog, I’m just going to write like I talk since I’m also a pet owner. Readers will connect better with my personal stories if they come from my authentic voice.
Step #5. How To Write Your First Blog Post
High-quality content is critical to gaining traffic for your new blog.
(Once the web traffic starts to flow, your blog could become a profitable hobby — or even a full-time job. More on making money from your blog later).
But if your content is merely average, you may not attract much traffic – or even none at all! There’s a million blogs on the internet. You need to make yours stand out from the competition.
How Long Should a Blog Post Be?
The length of content on the internet is a hotly debated topic. Word-count is a key contributor to your search ranking results. Longer content typically ranks higher on Google. In fact, the longer the better when it comes to search ranking. This is because longer articles will contain more keywords, more topics, headings, links, and pictures.
At the very least, your blog posts should be more than 300 words for Google to rank it. The ideal length of a post for general reading is 1,000+ words.
And that’s just fine too. Just make sure that your long posts are extremely easy to read and to skim. Avoid walls of text at all costs!
If you’re aiming for a solid number, then between 1000 and 1500 word posts should be a perfect starting point. But feel free to experiment and find what works best for you and your audience.
How To Write Your Best Content
“The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust.”
There’s no magic formula to determine what your content should look like. It depends on your niche, and what your passion is. And it depends on what your readers are looking for.
Some blogs focus on breaking news or viral stories from the web. These blogs can gain a lot of traffic very soon after publication. The articles tend to have a short lifespan.
Other blogs contain in-depth articles that are written with longevity in mind (what we call “evergreen content”).
These articles tend to be longer, more detailed, and aim to attract traffic for many years – or even decades!
Look at other blogs in your niche and look at the things they do well. Try to find gaps in their strategy, and capitalize on those opportunities.
How To Create a Blog Schedule
Setting a schedule for your blog will help you build traffic – and keep it up over the medium and long term.
Scheduling is important for two reasons:
- Building Readership. You’ll encourage your readers to visit your blog regularly. Pacing your blog posts ensures that there’s always something new to read.
- The Power Of Habit. You’ll get into the habit of regular writing – and stick with it. Just like going to the gym!
How Often Should I Publish Blog Posts?
There’s no right or wrong frequency for publishing new posts. It depends on…
- Your blog’s topic (eg, breaking news vs history)
- Your audience (eg, young vs old)
- Your goals (eg, a hobby vs a job as professional blogger)
But no matter how often you update your blog, it’s a good idea to space out your posts, instead of publishing lots of new blog posts all at the same time.
You don’t have to sit down and write every blog post just before you intend to publish. WordPress has a built-in post scheduler that lets you plan new blog posts in advance.
This gives you the freedom to plan a complete blogging schedule, write the blog posts ahead of time, and then publish them at regular intervals.
That might be once a day, once a week or once a month – the choice is yours.
Step #6. Promote Your Blog
“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.”
Once you’ve got your first blog posts live, the next step is to get visitors to read your blog. This isn’t as hard as you might think. Most bloggers rely on four key sources of traffic:-
- Search engines, like:
- Social media, including:
- Google Plus
- RSS (You can read more about RSS subscriptions here).
- Email newsletters
- Direct traffic, or people typing your domain name. You’ll not have any when you launch your blog!
There’s plenty of articles on Blogging.com about search engines and social media, so we have plenty of tips to guide you.
Promoting your blog on social media is one of the best ways to increase readership. This keeps your followers updated on your new posts, makes it easy for them to share your content with others, and helps create engagement as readers discuss your topics.
Take advantage of this valuable, and completely free tool for expanding your blog’s audience.
Once you have traffic, you may want to push your visitors to subscribe via RSS or via email list to keep them coming back for more. More on that in a moment.
How To Get Your Blog Indexed By Google
Search engines like Google add new blogs to their index when they discover them mentions (in the form of links) on existing sites. The more links your blog has, the more popular it is and the higher Google rank you.
Want to know how to get your first link to your new blog? Read on below!
How To Create Social Media Profiles At Facebook, Twitter Etc
You’ll need a matching name to your domain name on social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter.
Registering on social networks will protect your reputation, and prevent shady marketers from grabbing your name and using it for a rival site. Try to get the exact same wording as your domain (or a very close variant).
Social networks can drastically expand your blog’s audience. If you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you have a better chance of getting found, so you should be thinking about them as part of your blogging strategy.
Step #7. Succeed by Learning From the Masters
Before you set out on your blogging journey, it’s helpful to examine your definition of “success,” since it can mean different things to different people.
Some ways to measure success:
- Hits per day
- Visitors per week
- E-commerce sales
- Newsletter/email list signups
- Getting at least one comment per blog post
- Increasing your social media following
- Raising money for charity
- Getting all your friends to read your posts
- Simply committing to your posting schedule
You don’t need to measure yourself against all of these metrics. Just pick the goal(s) that you realistically want to achieve.
And your idea of success may be something altogether different from what I’ve listed above! In any event, it helps to know what you’re aiming at before you set out.
7 Most Common Blogging Success Factors
There are, of course, some overall keys to blogging success. You can’t go wrong in implementing any (or all) of these suggestions.
- Provide content that your audience values.
- Make sure you understand SEO. (And keep up to date with it.)
- Post on a consistent schedule.
- Use social media for promotion, but don’t overdo it.
- Interact with your commenters. They’re your best promoters.
- Educate yourself on blogging.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
That last one is probably the most important one. Experiment to see what both you and your readers like. If something falls flat, don’t give up just try something new. Rinse and repeat.
What Do Your Favorite Blogs Do?
It can help to take a look at your favorite blogs or other popular blogs you’ve heard of with a critical eye to figure out how they’re succeeding. You can also look at the flip side: What do some blogs do that keep you from coming back?
Are they sending out regular emails to their readers? Do they offer merchandise? Do they have ads? Is there a pop-up newsletter box every time you click? Do they update frequently? How do they interact with commenters? What are they doing on social media?
Patterning yourself after a blogger you like is proof of the mantra that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
That’s it. We ask for your help with three things:
- Spread The Word. If you found this guide helpful, please consider sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or by email to anybody you think might need our help.
- Share Your Blog With Us. Please be sure to email us and share your new blog. We’ll be featuring the best new blogs with our readers.
- Sign Up For Our Newsletter. for tips and advice on how to grow your readership & even earn money from your blog.
Further Reading: Blog Design
There’s plenty of posts on Blogging.com to help you get to the next level with your blog:-
Further Reading: Content Creation
- Evergreen Content Defined and Examined
- 7 Types of Evergreen Content
- What is 10x Content? How Can it Drive Traffic to My Blog?
- How To Write Better Blog Posts
- HTML for beginners at HTML.com
Further Reading: Getting Traffic & Building An Audience
Further Reading: How To Make Money From Your Blog
Need Help Starting Your Blog?
Email us and we’ll do our best to help. We promise to respond to every message we receive, but please be patient: we tackle your questions in the order we receive them!