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How to start a blog: a complete guide for beginners

This is everything you'll need to start your own blog

Person editing a WordPress site
(Image: © Pixabay)

Blogging is a great way to build a community, share your interests with the world, and make a profit while doing so. If you want to start a blog, however, it’s important to know exactly how to do so.

To create a successful blog, you need a clever strategy. Otherwise, it can be challenging to make your brand stand out and gain a following or turn into a profitable online business.

That’s why we’ve come up with a step-by-step guide on how to start a blog. We’ll also cover ways to monetize your blog and offer some extra tips to set you up for success.

What is a blog?

A blog is a type of website consisting of regularly-updated content. The term originates from the word “weblog”, meaning to log information online. 

The main content of a blog is the blog post, which is an individual web page containing an article about the blog’s subject matter. Most often, you will find these entries displayed in reverse chronological order on the homepage – from latest to oldest.

Why should you start a blog?

Starting a blog can help you expand your network – if you’re an expert in a field, blogging will establish your reputation.

It’s also possible to generate sizable passive income by blogging. Some common ways to make money from your blog are affiliate programs, sponsorships, and display ads.

If you have an online business, blogging can increase the chances of gaining more traffic via SEO. Research shows that business sites with a blog have 434% more indexed pages in search engines.

Creating a successful blog requires more than good writing skills, however. It also involves audience research, the best SEO practices, and a well-crafted marketing strategy.

Step-by-step guide to starting a blog

With all of the benefits and considerations in mind, check out our guide on how to start a blog.

Brainstorming

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1. Brainstorm blog ideas

Start your blog by picking a niche – a range of topics that your blog content should stick with. It should align with your passions and skills, making it easier to plan out and build content about it.

Simultaneously, the blog topic should have an existing following. Picking an unpopular niche can make it difficult to build an audience and attract partnerships to monetize your blog with.

Here are some guiding questions you can ask yourself:

  • What kind of bloggers do you follow?
  • What subjects are you an expert in? If a person comes to you for help, what is it usually for?
  • What kind of blog content is lacking in the industry you’re passionate about? How can you fill in the gap?

WordPress on a laptop

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2. Chose a blogging platform

The next step is choosing a platform to build your blog with. For this, we recommend using WordPress.org. It’s a content management system (CMS) with robust blogging tools and a vast collection of plugins that can help you customize the site.

Using a CMS requires a web hosting service to get the blog up and running. Here’s a list of top web hosts to launch a self-hosted WordPress blog with:

  • Hostinger - This hosting company offers a 99.9% uptime guarantee and a beginner-friendly control panel, starting from $0.99/month. Our Hostinger review shows the pros and cons of their hosting plans, service, server performance, and customer support.
  • Bluehost - A web hosting provider with great site performance and a one-click button to install WordPress. The prices start from $3.99/month. Read our Bluehost review for more information.
  • HostGator - A web host offering unmetered bandwidth with all of its shared hosting plans, which start from $2.75/month along with a 45-day money-back guarantee. Check out our full Hostgator review to read up on its other benefits.

Alternatively, you can use blogging sites like Blogger. This type of platform already comes equipped with blog hosting, so you won’t have to make a separate purchase.

WordPress also comes in a hosted version in the form of WordPress.com. It allows you to blog for free, although the selection of tools is not nearly as extensive.

3. Pick a domain name for your blog

When picking a custom domain name, choose carefully – your blog name should be short, catchy, and descriptive of the blog’s purpose.

Although it’s possible to use your personal or business brand name, there’s a chance that someone else has taken it. Consider using Namechk to check on its availability on the web and social media.

Another aspect to consider is the TLD (Top level domain) or the extension that appears at the end of the web address. From all of them, .com is the ideal choice for professional bloggers, with the average price for it starting around $8/year and targets a global market. Some web hosting companies also include free domain registration for one year in their plans.

If available, consider purchasing a domain privacy protection service. This feature will protect any personal information from being accessible on the WHOIS public database.

4. Pick a blog theme

When designing your blog, start by choosing a theme. It should be responsive and have all the features needed to function correctly. At the same time, the theme should help readers navigate between the articles easily.

If you use a hosted blogging platform, the themes usually come provided on their website.

For WordPress users, free blog themes are available in the official directory. Third-party marketplaces like ThemeForest and TemplateMonster also offer premium WordPress themes. They usually come with perks like regular updates and customer support.

Computer

(Image credit: Startupstockphotos / Pexels)

5. Customize your blog

It’s time to customize your chosen theme. Here’s what you can do when modifying a blog:

  • Create the website pages - Depending on your preferences, the homepage can double as the blog page, though many bloggers seperate the two. Other than that, you need a Contact page, About page, and separate pages for the blog post categories.
  • Set up a navigation bar - It should be visible on top of the header and accessible across all pages. Only include links most relevant to readers’ interests to avoid cluttering the menu.
  • Upload a logo - It can set you apart from similar blogs and increase brand recognition. Many logo generators can come up with a high-quality design using some premade icons and AI assistance.
  • Customize the colors and fonts - Ensure they represent your brand’s visual identity.
  • Add a sidebar - It’s a space next to the main content area intended for displaying a short bio, social media handles, or call-to-action buttons.

6. Add any necessary extensions or plugins

In CMSs and blogging platforms, extensions are add-ons users can install to enable custom additional functionality on a website. In WordPress, they’re called plugins.

A blog usually requires the following types of extensions or WordPress plugins:

  • SEO - A popular example is Yoast SEO, which can guide WordPress users on optimizing blog content for search engines.
  • Contact form - Enable readers to communicate with you via a fillable web-based form. WPForms is a well-known plugin in this category.
  • Spam protection - Blogs are a prime target for spam comments, which can hurt your reputation and web user experience. Prevent this from happening with Akismet.
  • Speed optimization - The longer your website loads, the less likely visitors are to stay and explore its content. WP Rocket can solve this problem by enabling website cache.

7. Create a content strategy

One way to ensure your blog posts remain relevant and interesting to readers is with a solid content strategy. Here’s a guide to creating one:

  • Set realistic and measurable goals - Pick a specific and achievable objective you expect to accomplish. An example of this is to accumulate a thousand readers by the end of the month.
  • Define your ideal readers - Knowing your target audience can determine the type of blog posts to publish and the kind of writing style to adopt.
  • Conduct keyword research - Find out your target audience’s interests using tools like Answer the Public or Google Trends. From there, select the terms that have the most potential to become blog posts.
  • Set up a blog editorial calendar - Create a schedule to write and publish the blog posts. Some bloggers prefer to make many drafts in advance and post them one at a time throughout the month.

SEO

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8. Learn about SEO

SEO is short for search engine optimization, which is a collection of practices that aims to make a web page rank better on search engines. That way, the website can gain more exposure and organic traffic.

If you’re a beginner, there are tons of SEO resources to learn from. For example, Google’s SEO starter guide and Ahrefs' SEO basics guide are great places to start.

Installing some SEO tools can also make it easier to strategize your content for search engines. If you prefer using free software, Ahrefs has a free version and is an excellent choice. It can help with both keyword research and competitor analysis.

9. Install analytics tools

An analytics tool can track your site’s performance, measure the effectiveness of the content strategy, and locate any web-related issues.

Google Analytics is the go-to choice for bloggers. It’s free and can show a wide range of performance metrics, such as the traffic sources and number of blog posts or pages a person visits in a single session.

You only need a Google account to get started. Then copy and paste the Tracking ID to the site’s code to begin collecting data.

Email client

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10. Set up your email list

An email list is a collection of user-submitted email addresses. In blogging, they're intended for marketing purposes, such as updating readers about new blog posts.

Creating one requires email marketing software. It will enable an opt-in form on your website, where visitors can fill in their name and email address. Additionally, it can automate the email delivery and personalize the message for each subscriber. 

11. Publish and promote your blog

With the blog set up, it’s time to write your first blog posts and publish them.

Refer to the topics you’ve selected from the content strategy to decide what article to write about. Focus on making evergreen content, covering informative topics that will always remain relevant to your target audience.

Remember to promote the blog every time you publish a new post. Besides leveraging your email list, establish an online presence in social media networks often used by your readers. Also, take part in community-oriented sites like Quora and Reddit to expand your reach.

12. Collaborate with other blogs

Guest posting on other blogs in your niche offers the chance to broaden exposure and establish credibility. Plus, it’s an excellent way to build backlinks – which is essential for ranking well on search engines.

To land your first guest posting opportunity, make sure to send an enticing email pitch. Address the recipient by name and make the message personal. Prove that you’ve researched the blog in-depth and mention some articles you like. 

Lastly, attach a draft of the post you want to write about so that the blogger can visualize what the article looks like. Ensure that it follows their submission guidelines and writing style. 

Person working on a WordPress post

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Starting a blog

Now that you know how to start a blog, all that’s left to do is take the first step. Let’s recap:

  1. Brainstorm for a blog niche that suits your interests and has potential for traffic. 
  2. Choose a blogging platform. We recommend using WordPress and web hosting plans by Hostinger, Bluehost, or Hostgator.
  3. Pick a catchy and descriptive domain name.
  4. Pick a responsive blog theme that helps readers navigate through the blog posts.
  5. Customize your blog. Set up the website pages, navigation bar, logo, colors and fonts, and sidebar.
  6. Add extensions for SEO, contact forms, spam protection, and speed optimization. 
  7. Create a content strategy to serve as a guide for writing your blog posts. 
  8. Research the best SEO practices and install SEO tools.
  9. Install an analytics tool to keep track of your blog’s performance and locate any issues.
  10. Set up an email list for marketing purposes by using email marketing software.
  11. Publish your first few blog posts and promote the blog on social media and community-oriented websites.
  12. Guest post on blogs in your niche to build backlinks and broaden your exposure. 

Keep in mind that blogging takes a lot of time and effort. You may not gain a massive following or make money overnight, but it can be a rewarding experience.

Make sure to try our recommended tools, tips, and tricks to ensure future success. Good luck!