How to Start a Blog: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide (2018)

How to Start a Blog Step by Step

You want to start a blog but feel overwhelmed.

You’ve read countless articles and done a ton of research.

Everything you learn leads to more and more questions…

What to focus on? Where to even begin?

You feel like you’re failing before you even get started!

But what if we told you:

It doesn’t have to be so difficult…

The key to any difficult or ambitious goal is to break it down into smaller, easier steps. And this is true of starting a money-making blog.

In the following guide, we’re going to show you how to overcome the overwhelm. We’ll follow a proven, step-by step blueprint for starting a profitable blog – and in less time than you’d think.

Join us as we start our journey with the all-important first step: understanding your WHY!

Why you should cancel Netflix and start blogging RIGHT NOW

It might be difficult to pinpoint why we’re helplessly addicted to binge-watching. Fortunately, the reasons for starting a blog are much clearer!

Blogging can be an incredibly rewarding experience personally, professionally and financially. Here are some of the best reasons you should get started today:

  • Make money working from home. Are you type of person who leaps out of bed each morning, excited about rush hour traffic, condescending bosses, trading time for money and helping make someone else rich? If so, you should probably stop reading this and close the browser tab. For everyone else, blogging can start off making you a side income and eventually job-replacing money!
  • Build an audience. No matter what stage you’re at with your side-gig or business, being able to reach people at very little cost is a good thing. Done correctly, blogging will help create more traffic, build your email list and ultimately increase your customer conversion rates (more sales)!
  • Establish yourself as an expert. A blog is an ideal place to develop your thoughts around a particular topic. With time and consistency, you’ll establish trust and influence in your industry… making yourself into an authority or thought-leader. This will help you stand out amongst the competition and open new doors of opportunity.
  • Creative outlet/inspire others. No matter where your interests lie, blogging gives you a platform for expressing yourself and connecting with other like-minded individuals. It’s a place where you can just write, share your story, encourage others or build awareness around a particular topic.

Do any of these reasons resonate with you? Do you know your own why(s)?

If so, let’s pull the curtains back a little further. Let’s see what it actually takes to start a blog.

Zero to blog: How to hit the ground running

The following is an overview of the topics we’ll cover in this guide. Each section is organized in a way that shows you the exact steps to follow to reach your goal.

Complete each section and your new blog will be up and running in no time!

  1. Decide what to blog about
  2. Come up with a domain name
  3. Choose your blogging platform
  4. Find a web host
  5. Install WordPress
  6. Make your first blog post

Step 1:

Decide What to Blog About

Light bulbLike any story, every blog has a beginning – and if you’re just beginning, you may wonder what to blog about.

If you already have a topic in mind, that’s great! However, we still recommend reading this section to make sure it’s your BEST possible topic.

There are many ways to get stuck. Let’s avoid all of them!

Picking your blogging topic seems like it should be simple yet so many people get stuck here. We’re talking days, weeks, or longer. Some people never make it beyond this point because of analysis paralysis.

What helps is thinking about this process like a relationship. You aren’t getting married to your topic. Instead, it’s a date. If after several months you realize it’s not right for you, you can change things up by pivoting or choosing another topic. No worries.

So with that in mind, let’s get started!

The wrong way to pick a niche

If you’ve read other guides on starting a blog, you’ve probably noticed a lot of the same advice. It goes something like this: pick the topic you’re passionate about, an expert in, and then target a specific demographic.

This is actually bad advice for a beginner.

Here’s why:

Passion. A topic you’re passionate about doesn’t always translate well into a business. For example, we’re passionate about eating pizza and watching movies. Solid biz foundation? Probably not.

Also, a lot of people don’t even know what they’re truly passionate about.

Instead, let your interests guide you… and success will create passion.

Success creates passion more than passion creates success. Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip

Expert status. You do not have to be an expert. To repeat, you do NOT have to be an expert.

You just have to know enough to help someone behind you. Given time, you’ll be able to help even more people and eventually become an expert.

There are countless, successful bloggers out there who were new to their topic when they started. More on this below.

Highly specific demographic. When you’re first starting off, you want to do quite the opposite. You want to cast a wide net. Things are going to be awkward in the beginning. You’ll fumble around a bit. It’ll take some time to understand your audience and their needs.

In other words, it’s hard to know exactly where this blogging thing is going to end up, so you want to be careful not to pigeonhole yourself.

By going wide at the start, you have room to play and explore different areas underneath that broader topic. Once you get a better understanding of your audience – and what you’re enjoying – you can then get more specific (if you choose).

The secret to picking a profit-guaranteed niche

Here’s how to set yourself up for success and start making money sooner versus later:

Criteria for how to pick a niche

1. Genuine interest. Is this a topic you can enjoy? Do you have any interest in it at all?

As a blogger, you’ll be writing within your topic for many years to come. If you really hate this niche, you’re going to make yourself miserable.

Also, if every post is like pulling teeth, it’ll show in your writing. Your readers will sense this – and they will certainly not come back to read more.

2. Ability to help. Can you help people with this?

You don’t need to be an expert. You DO need to be able to help solve your audiences’ problems – to some degree.

If you are starting new in this niche, helping people can be as simple as sharing your journey, the things that you are learning and anything you wish you’d known at the start.

If you do have some experience in this niche, then you’ll have many more options in how you can help others.

But in the beginning, it’s only necessary to be able to help someone who is a few steps behind you.

3. Existing competition. Is there competition? Are there already a lot of blogs on this topic? If so, then good news!

One of the best indicators of a strong, healthy market is competition. Why? Because a competitive niche is a proven money maker. If you are seeing a lot of competition, it almost always means there’s a lot of money to be made.

If you see little competition, you can still find success but it will probably take longer. Our advice to you: if you don’t see a lot of competition in this niche, you had better do some research and figure out why.

The 8 proven niches that can increase your chances of success

If you are looking to profit from your blog as quickly as possible, these are the niches we recommend exploring. Each has massive audiences with a proven track record for spending money.

Any niche has the potential to be profitable, but these 8 topics will get you there in the shortest amount of time:

The 8 best blog niches

Step 2:

Come up with a Domain Name

Congratulations! Now that you know your blog’s niche, it’s time to pick your domain name!

Your domain name is like your street address. It’s how people know where to find your home.

Anatomy of a website address

Choosing your domain name is another one of those beginner traps. Many will struggle and spend countless hours agonizing over the perfect domain name.

But here’s a secret we want to let you in on:

It’s not as important as you think!

Now don’t get us wrong. You shouldn’t just use any crappy name you think of on a whim.

But consider this. In the blogging world, there are a lot of things you can get wrong and still find success.

The two exceptions:

  1. understanding your audience and
  2. producing great content.

Get those right and you’ll be light-years ahead of the competition!

So back to the brainstorming…

If you are wanting to brand yourself as an expert in the future, you can consider using your name as the domain. This only works if your name is easy to spell, unique enough and available.

Chemistry beakerOtherwise, spend some time thinking about your future plans with your blog.

What kind of value will you offer your audience? What makes it unique? What kind of feeling or imagery do you want to conjure? If you had to describe your blog in just a few words, what would they be?

Write these words down and then play around with combining them in different ways. Your domain name should give your audience some idea of what your blog is about in a short, memorable way.

How to make your domain memorable – for the RIGHT reasons

Things to DO:

  • Keep it short
  • Make it easy to say
  • Make it easy to spell
  • Make it easy to remember
  • Be relevant (or intuitive) to your niche
  • Make it descriptive and brandable, if possible
  • If it makes sense, include a city, state or country
  • It’s ideal if you can also claim the social media handles
  • Consider the future; don’t use something trendy right now

Things to AVOID:

  • Do not use trademarks
  • Don’t stuff with keywords
  • Don’t use hyphens, digits or difficult words
  • Don’t make it too long to type (or too short)
  • Don’t use nonsensical names just to be trendy
  • You shouldn’t have to clarify or explain it to someone
  • Don’t use names that are very similar to other influences

OK, so you’ve brainstormed some domain name ideas. Now what?

Claim your domain, before someone else does!

Death and taxes are said to be the only two things certain in life. We would add a third item to this list:

Your domain name is taken already.

OK, that might be a little dramatic but it’s possibly true. To date, over 330 million domains have been registered. Read that number again:

Three hundred, thirty… MILLION.

If those were stacks of dollar bills, it’d reach over 20-miles high!

So, if your first handful of domain names are already taken, do not fret. It’s just part of the process. Limitations breed creativity. Let this be an opportunity to come up with something even more unique or memorable.

You can use the widget below to easily check whether your domain name is available:

Search for your domain name:

If your domain is available, get a head start and click ORDER NOW. This will take you to our recommended host (spoiler alert: it’s SiteGround) with our preferred plan pre-selected. We also cover this in greater detail in Step 4 below.

Step 3:

Choose Your Blogging Platform

Your blogging platform is the software that runs your website. Using our home analogy, it’s like your type of housing – apartment, condo, duplex etc.

Each has their pros and cons. But in the world of blogging, there really is one platform that stands above the rest:

WordPress!

About 30% of websites on Earth now run WordPress. Think about that for a second…

That’s a crazy amount of websites!

And that number more than doubles when talking about just blogging platforms:

Blogging platform stats by ConvertKit2017 State of the Blogging Industry by ConvertKit

It’s not by accident that WordPress has grown so quickly in popularity (and continues to). Here are just some of the reasons we’ve used it for the past 11 years and recommend it:

  • WordPress is completely open source. This means there isn’t a single company that owns it, so you don’t have to worry what to do if the company goes bankrupt. Open source also means less expensive, more transparent (fewer surprises), better security and higher quality.
  • It has some of the best SEO (search engine optimization) straight out of the box. This means it plays nicely with search engines like Google and Bing. You can feel confident that the platform will do its part for helping your content become found.
  • Saying WordPress is flexible and customizable would be a drastic understatement. Tens of thousands of plugins and themes exist today to extend its features and appearance in every way imaginable. If you can think it – then yes, there’s probably an “app” for it!
  • WordPress has a huge, passionate and flourishing community of developers and enthusiasts. This following lends itself to the sharing of ideas and producing new and creative tools. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of!

You’ve made it this far! Awesome job. Let’s keep the momentum going!

Here’s a recap of your progress:

  • You’ve decided to start a blog for several good reasons
  • You’ve stacked the odds in your favor by choosing a profitable niche – and one that is a good fit for you
  • You brainstormed and picked a great domain name for your blog
  • You learned about the best blogging platform available to beginners and professionals alike

The next step is to figure out where to build our home.

Step 4:

Find a Web Host

If you wanted, you could download the WordPress software and install the blog onto your own computer. The problem is… the rest of the world won’t be able to see it. This is why we need a web host company. They make your blog visible to the world.

Your hosting company is like your landlord. You pay them rent so your blog can live on one of their computers. They take care of all the technical hardware stuff so you can focus on blogging!

A web host typically costs in the $10-15/month range.

If you think about the high costs involved with starting a traditional brick and mortar type business, then you really begin to see how inexpensive starting an online business is.

There are few legitimate businesses out there that could be started for less than a couple hundred bucks. Let alone have the same full-time income earning potential as blogging!

The most important factors when considering a web host

When shopping for a web host, here are the most important things to look for:

  • Support: If something happens to your blog, you don’t want to waste time trying to figure out how to fix it. An issue with your website can be embarrassing, cause you to miss out on new customers and ultimately cost you money. Great support should be available 24/7 to help you get everything back up and rolling.
  • Reliability: What’s the point of having a web host if they’re constantly down? Uptime is the term companies use to refer to how long their computers were up and running without issue. It’s not uncommon to expect 99.99% from your hosting company.
  • Speed: Google already considers your site speed in its ranking algorithm and others are likely to follow. But more important than SEO is your visitor’s experience. Consider this: how long will you spend on a blank webpage that’s taking forever to load? Exactly…..
  • Price: Collectively, these factors above create VALUE. Each person has to decide for themselves what it’s worth. Even if you’re just getting started, we don’t recommend going with the cheapest web host you can find. That’s setting yourself up for headaches and more headaches down the road.

Your web host is the foundation of your blog – of your business. Give yourself the best chances at success by using a company with a solid reputation and established track records. Which leads to the next section:

Our hosting recommendation

We’ve bounced around from a number of web hosts over the years, including… 1&1, DreamHost, FatCow, GoDaddy, HostMonster, HostGator, NameCheap, ServInt, Cloudways, our own hosting server, a long list of free web hosts, and probably some others we’re forgetting.
Best web host award

But the host we’ve grown to love and recommend to friends and family? That slot goes to SiteGround. Not only do we recommend them, but we also use them for ALL our websites today

Let’s look at SiteGround’s highlight reel and see why.

Like a good book, you can’t judge a web host by its cover

SiteGround may appear ordinary and unassuming at first glance, but make no mistake – there’s a lot of power under that hood. Their servers are optimized specifically for WordPress which makes them fast and primed for your blog – right from the start!

Their customer support is fast and knowledgeable too. Chat, phone and support tickets are available at all hours meaning you can rest assured – there’s someone around at 2:31 am to help you out.

Other reasons SiteGround is a no-brainer:

  • Everything is easy to use. Non-techies welcome!
  • Moving from another web host but don’t know how? No problem. SiteGround can help move you.
  • Hackers are a nuisance to everyone. Have peace of mind knowing SiteGround uses state of the art security to keep your websites safe and protected.
  • If something bad DOES happen? SiteGround backs your websites up daily, so you’ll always have a backup to revert to in case something goes wrong.
  • Everyone starts a business with growth and success in mind. SiteGround’s base level service is already fast and optimized but it also comes with a ton of room to grow (when you’re ready).
  • Their plans include things most other hosts charge extra for… for example, unlimited SSL certificates, fast HTTP/2 enabled servers, 1-click CloudFlare CDN, server-side caching, speedy SSD drives, and more!
  • They are one of the few hosts officially recommended by WordPress.org.

You can feel confident that SiteGround’s experience level and state of the art equipment will take care of your hosting needs, freeing your mind to focus on developing your blogging business instead. This is how it should be!

How to get started with SiteGround

Click here to go to SiteGround and start your blog! (The link will open in a new window).

The link above will save you 65% or more on SiteGround hosting. This is their best promotion for 2018 and is automatically applied to your order.

Once the SiteGround page opens, click SIGN UP.

SiteGround web hosting sign up page

Next, choose a plan. For beginners, we recommend either the StartUp or GrowBig plans. The two plans are quite similar with a few exceptions.

In particular, the starter plan allows only one website. Also, things like transferring your website and restoring from a backup are paid services (but free with GrowBig).

We went with the GrowBig plan primarily because we host multiple websites.

Click ORDER NOW.

Choose SiteGround hosting plan

Earlier in this guide, you came up with a domain name. Enter this domain name in the blank field. Make sure you’ve selected the right extension (.com, .co or .net).

If you already have a domain name (registered with a different company), click the “I already have a Domain” option and enter your existing domain name.

Click PROCEED to continue.

Register new domain

Continue the account setup by entering your personal information and payment details. Continue down the screen…

SiteGround account and payment information

In the Purchase Information section, there’s a few fields to clarify…

Period: SiteGround gives you a pretty nice discount on your initial 12-month order. Afterward, you’ll be billed on a monthly basis at their regular price. You can, however, extend this discount up to 36-months (your first three years) by changing the Period for this initial order.

Domain Privacy: Every domain has a public record that shows who owns it and how to contact them. This opens the door to unwanted solicitations, spam and even identity theft. Domain Privacy is SiteGround’s service that will keep your personal information private and unavailable to the public. We highly recommend it!

SG Site Scanner: Keeping your websites up and running is one of SiteGround’s priorities. The SG Site Scanner will monitor your account daily and check it for being hacked, infected with malware and domain blacklisting. If you want extra peace of mind, it’s worth considering at less than $2/month.

After reviewing your options, click PAY NOW.

SiteGround purchase information

Congratulations! You’ve just created your hosting account!

In the next section, we’ll walk you through installing WordPress. Don’t worry – SiteGround makes this super quick and easy. To get started, click PROCEED TO CUSTOMER AREA.

SiteGround account created

Step 5:

Install WordPress

Once upon a time… setting up a WordPress blog required: downloading the software, extracting it on your server, setting file permissions, creating a database and users, making some code changes and then tying it all together using an installation script.

As you’ll soon see, the process is much more streamlined with SiteGround. Continuing from where we left off above – click Start a new website.

Start a new website option

Next, click on WordPress and fill out your login details. Be sure to write these down because you’ll need them again when logging into your new WordPress website.

Click CONFIRM.

Install WordPress and login details

If you didn’t select any account enhancements (such as SG Site Scanner), they’ll give you another chance to choose it. Check it or leave it unchecked – and then click CONFIRM.

Confirm SiteGround account setup

The final step is to click COMPETE SETUP.

Complete hosting account setup

Your account setup is complete and WordPress has been installed! Great job!!

You should receive a setup confirmation email from SiteGround. It’ll have your website login details, including the Admin URL and username (that you came up with above). Keep this info nearby because you’ll use this when logging into your website.

Hosting account confirmation email

Step 6:

Make Your First Blog Post

You’ve got a blog now! How awesome is that?

Granted, there’s not a lot to see at the moment. But that’s easy enough to fix! In this section, we’ll make your new home look a little more inviting by making your first blog post!

To start, go to your Admin URL (from previous step). You should see a login prompt like below. Enter your login details and click Log In.

WordPress login prompt

After logging in, you’ll see your WordPress dashboard. It should look something like the following picture.

There’s a lot to look at on this screen. Don’t let it intimidate you! At the beginning here, we’ll just focus on what’s necessary for hitting your goal – making that first post. The rest can be learned over time.

Click on Posts.

WordPress dashboard posts menu

This is your Posts view. This is where you will come to add, edit or delete your blog posts. SiteGround creates a resources post during setup, so it’s normal to see something already here.

Click Add New.

Add new WordPress Post

This is where you will create your actual blog post. There’s some strategy to crafting a great blog post but that’s outside the scope of this article.

For now, keep things simple and write something brief. For example, you could write an introduction. Let people know why you created this blog and what they can expect in the near future. Remember, this is just an exercise and you can always delete this post later.

Afterwards, click Publish.

Publish new WordPress post

Easy peasy, right? You just published your first blog post for the world to see!

To see what it looks like, click the View post link.

View new WordPress Post

Your finished product!

First WordPress Post

Wrap Up

If you’ve made it this far, then seriously… WELL DONE! You’ve just taken a huge step towards becoming your own boss, crafting your ideal life and starting your online business!

You rock!!

Give yourself a pat on the back and take a break.

When you come back, we’ll continue with Part 2 in this series on setting up a blog. Here we’ll walk you through 8 essential steps in configuring and customizing your new blog.

This is where things start to get fun. We promise – you won’t want to miss it!

Next Steps

We’re glad you took the time to read through this guide. The most important next step is to take action!

If you found anything in this guide helpful, we ask one thing of you: please PIN THIS or share it with a friend. It helps us and it helps them. Everyone wins! 🙂

Once again, we hope you learned a lot from this how-to guide. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions. Just post them in the comments below.

We want to help. Leave a comment, let us know where you’re struggling.

 

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