Wondering how to start a blog? You’ve come to the right place! This one-stop complete beginner’s guide to starting a website will help you start any kind of blog right away. Read all the way to the end for some extra tips on how to start the successful blog and make money from blogging.
Are you planning to start a travel blog? Or are you looking to start a parenting and lifestyle blog? Or maybe you are passionate about food, education or fashion? No matter what your new blog is about, there are several steps you need to take before you can actually start to blog. And there are some common mistakes you definitely want to avoid in the beginning. Find out!
You may have Googled ‘how to start a blog’ or ‘how to start a travel blog’… and found tens of articles full of complicated technical explanations, words and abbreviations you’ve never heard of before… This post is not like that! I’ll try to explain the whole process of starting a website in a simple language and to guide you through the essential first steps. This is a beginner’s guide showing you how to start a blog or any kind of website. This post is about the practical and the technical side, before you actually start to write. Just follow the steps and you’ll learn how to start a blog right away.
Before we go on and you will inevitably learn some new names and terms, let me tell you that I didn’t know anything about creating websites when I started. I just followed these steps and learned (sometimes the hard way) along the way. And believe me, if I can do it, you can do it too!
How to start a blog and how to avoid common beginner’s mistakes
Here is a short overview of the process of starting a blog. You can click to jump ahead. However, I recommend that you read the entire post, so you don’t miss an important step on how to start a blog the right way!
TIP: Bookmark this post for future reference. I wish I had done it with some of the information I found when starting my travel blog! I couldn’t remember where I read one or the other tip and had to research the same information again and again…
How to start a blog in 7 easy steps:
- 1. Choose a niche for your blog
- 2. Pick a name for your blog
- 3. Register your domain name and buy hosting for your website
- 4. Install WordPress on your blog
- 5. Buy a premium theme to create your website
- 6. Install WordPress plugins
- 7. Do some blog planning and start writing
- 8. What else you should know when starting a blog
- 9. How to make money from your blog. Learn from the best!
How to start a blog – tips for beginners
1. Choose a niche for your blog
Before you start a blog, you should consider what your niche is. You should find a topic that you are passionate about and never get bored with and you should know who you want to write for. Your niche might be backpacking trips, iPhone photography or teen fashion. Whatever it is, stick to it and try to be consistent. Oh well, it doesn’t harm to write an article a bit off-topic once in a while (like blogging tips or a beginner’s guide to starting a travel blog ;)).
What is our niche? Full Suitcase family travel blog is a travel inspiration website for those who travel when their school/work schedule allows. For those who want to get the most out of their vacations and to discover the world. We don’t backpack, we don’t lead nomadic lifestyle and we don’t homeschool our kids, and so I write for people like us. Our mission is to help people to make the most of every trip. Figure out who you want to write for!
2. Pick a name for your blog
So you made the decision to start a blog and you can’t wait. You want it done as quickly as possible, preferably yesterday. You can start a travel blog or a food blog in just a couple of hours, but hold on just a little bit!
Before you continue with the next steps, you have to pick a name for your blog. Choosing a name is the single most important step when starting a blog. Take your time!
How to choose a good name for your blog
It’s best if your blog name matches your domain name. Domain name is the URL of your blog. My blog is Full Suitcase, domain – fullsuitcase.com.
- Keep your blog name short and easy to remember. The shorter the blog name, the better. Choosing a good name for your website is probably the biggest challenge as available short domain names are very difficult to find. Try two or maximum three words and don’t get discouraged when the 257 options you’ve tried appear to have been taken. Be creative, be persistent and you’ll find the perfect name for your blog. You can check for available domain names here. Whatever you pick, make sure it’s simple, easy to spell and memorable so that your readers can easily find you back.
- Think long-term. Are you planning to start a family travel blog and think of using words like a stroller or a toddler in the name? Think twice: your kids will grow up and you will not be traveling with a baby or a toddler forever, so pick a blog name that will stand the test of time.
- Consider your market. If you want to start a blog in English, you may want to buy a domain name .com. If your new blog is aimed towards a specific audience in another country, it’s probably wiser to register a domain name with the extension that is used there, e.g. .fr for France or .de for Germany. Of course, you can register the same domain name with different extensions (travelblogx.com, travelblogx.net, travelblogx.co.uk, etc).
3. Register your domain name and buy hosting for your website
How to buy a domain name
Before you just click on the first site offering to register your domain name, consider that it might be easier and simpler to first register with a web hosting company and buy your domain through them. Often, the domain name and/or registration is included when you sign-up for the hosting services, so you may want to look for a good web service hosting provider first. I use and recommend SiteGround. They make starting a blog really easy and the domain name is included in the standard hosting package.
What is hosting and why do you need it
I pay my hosting provider a monthly fee to rent their internet space so that people can actually find my site on the web. Theoretically, you can host your website on any computer or server, but if you don’t know anything about it, register with a reputable hosting company and save yourself a lot of stress.
What about free hosting
Why should you pay for hosting your blog instead of just choosing one of a hundred free hosting providers? Good question.
If you are looking for a travel diary type of blog, then by all means go ahead and sign up with a free hosting company like WordPress.com (not to be confused with WordPress.org – see further). If, however, you want to have full control over your blog and consider monetizing it, you should start your own website and host it with a web hosting company. That way you are free to decide if and how you monetize it.
It doesn’t cost a fortune either, so don’t worry about that. At SiteGround you can get a startup hosting deal from just 3,95 USD per month. You might find a cheaper hosting provider, but don’t just go for the cheapest option. You might save a dollar a month, but get stuck with a crappy service, like I was (see further).
TIP: Sign up with a really good, reputable hosting company, like SiteGround, from the start. It will save you lots of frustrations.
How to find a reliable and affordable hosting company for your blog
I use and truly recommend SiteGround as one of the very best price-quality hosting solutions available. It was not my first hosting provider when I started to blog, but I switched to SiteGround after my site had experienced regular downtimes at Bluehost and I never looked back.
I originally chose Bluehost based on some recommendations I found on the Internet. But it appears that those recommendations were outdated and the quality and customer service at Bluehost has gone downhill ever since. I’ve heard nothing but bad experiences from other bloggers who are with Bluehost and most of them switched to SiteGround, just as I did.
Before leaving Bluehost, I wanted to be sure I was making the right choice and so I did a lot of research. I also consulted with a Facebook group of more than 6,000 web designers and tech guys and most of them recommended SiteGround as the very best shared hosting company available in 2016. The prices at SiteGround are very comparable to Bluehost and other companies, but the quality and the service are beyond comparison! SiteGround is faster, safer, and more reliable.
Recently I had several issues which were not related to SiteGround (but I didn’t know that at that time and neither did they) and they helped me to solve the problem even if it wasn’t really theirs to solve. Their customer service is just that good!
When starting a blog, you probably have enough with a basic hosting plan at SiteGround. You can always upgrade later if need be. You also have 30-day money back guarantee so you don’t have much to loose. And, of course, you can always switch to another plan or another hosting provider if your blog traffic skyrockets.
Buy hosting for your blog
Are you ready to start a blog?
STEP I: Buy a domain name and hosting – sign up with SiteGround now.
TIP: Choose the cheapest hosting option in the beginning. Upgrade if/when needed.
TIP: Sign up for a longer period of time from the beginning. All hosting companies give you very competitive rates in the beginning, and at SiteGround you can secure the cheap starting rate for the whole period.
TIP: At SiteGround you have a choice between different data centres. Pick the one that is closest to your audience, so let’s say Chicago if your blog is mainly meant for the U.S. market.
4. Install WordPress for your blog
Now that you have a domain name and a reliable hosting company, you can finally start a blog.
TIP: Don’t try to reinvent the wheel – use WordPress for your blog.
What is WordPress and why do you need it for your blog?
WordPress is a FREE website creation tool. Basically, it’s the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system. More than 74 million (!) websites are created using WordPress. Take my word for it, WordPress is the best choice when starting a blog.
Please note that you need WordPress.org for self-hosted sites. WordPress.com is for free blogging solutions and you don’t want those if you are serious about blogging. Every day I hear bloggers say that they wish they knew this and signed up with WP.org from the start.
How to install WordPress?
STEP II: Install WordPress through your cPanel at SiteGround.
With SiteGround, WordPress installation is very easy through their cPanel. By the way, WordPress recommends SiteGround as one of the best hosting service providers and they work together making the whole installation process easy and simple.
Sign in to your SiteGround user area and go to the cPanel (cPanel can be found under ‘My Accounts’). Under ‘WordPress Tools’ you can find WordPress Installer. Click on it and follow the further instructions from there. It’s really as easy as it sounds. And if you get stuck, the amazing SiteGround support will help you figure it out right away.
TIP: You’ll need to choose user name and password to access your WordPress panel. Don’t use ‘Admin’ or ‘YourBlogName’ or your name as your user name. Pick something that no-one could easily guess and make sure you choose a really strong password. Hackers trying to log into your website will become a daily reality, so protect your blog from the very beginning.
WordPress is a bit overwhelming in the beginning, so you’ll need to start reading a lot, but there is tons of information out there and you’ll get there sooner than you think. If you want to create a really nice website quickly, you should get a premium WordPress theme.
5. Buy a premium WordPress theme to create your website
What is a WordPress theme and why do you need one?
WordPress theme helps you to design your website. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end, i.e. what a visitor sees when they browse on your website.
Why can’t you just use a free WordPress theme?
WordPress comes with lots of free themes that you can use to create your website. Many websites and beginner’s blogs use one of the free WordPress themes. However, free themes come with many restrictions and you will not be able to customise many of the features. You’ll have a travel blog that looks like thousands of others and you’ll quickly get frustrated about not being able to customise your blog the way you want it.
I’ve tried two of the most popular free WordPress themes in the beginning, but quickly gave up on them. I recommend investing in a premium theme from the start. A premium theme costs around 50 – 100 USD and it’s really worth the investment. In addition, X-theme, the theme I use and recommend has such an amazing knowledge base and support that it’ll save thousands of dollars on web designer fees along the way.
X-Theme – the best WordPress premium theme and why I recommend it
Do you know that an average web designer charges you at least 2,000 USD to create a (very simple) website? You pay for their time and experience, but if you have more time than money, I recommend that you do this yourself. I haven’t used any website design services for my website, but I purchased a premium theme – the X-theme and started building my blog. I didn’t know anything about making websites. No html, css, php and other impossible words. It was really overwhelming in the beginning as I started from scratch, but I’m not the only one doing this and you can do it too.
Thanks to the great continuous support from the amazing team at X-theme and their extensive knowledge base and tutorials, I was able to create this blog all by myself. And while not everything is perfect and I continue changing and tweaking my site as I go along, I love the idea that I have the full control over my site and I am able to solve most problems without any help by now.
TIP: If you are starting a blog and don’t have thousands of dollars to spend for web developers, I can highly recommend X-theme for building your website. It’s simple and easy to use for a complete beginner, but it has so many amazing features and possibilities that it’s used by the most savvy web designers to build some unbelievable websites. Let the reviews and their showcase gallery speak for themselves.
I did a lot of research before I chose the X-theme and I haven’t regretted it for a second. Their service is second to none and the support answers each and every question with unbelievable amount of patience. I would have never been able to create this blog without them! It’s the best 64 USD I’ve ever spent.
Some of the advantages of the X-Theme:
- X-Theme is retina-ready and responsive which means that your site is automatically adapted for any type of screens, including smartphones. That’s a must these days! You don’t have to do anything, the theme takes care of it automatically.
- It has a page builder that allows you to just drag and drop different layouts. Once you figure out how it works, you can make any page in just a few minutes.
- Over 20 extensions (premium plugins) are included with the theme. You might not need most of them, but if you were to buy just a few separately, it would cost you more than the whole X-Theme.
- X-Theme has sample Demo themes and templates which you can use to start building your site and adjust to your needs as you go. I used one of the demo’s to figure out how it all worked and started from there. It’s the easiest way to create a website if you know nothing about building websites.
- The theme is completely customizable and you can change pretty much anything the way you like it.
- … There are many more features and advantages of the X-Theme than I can mention here. No wonder that X-theme is the best premium WordPress theme in 2016! It’s the last theme you’ll ever need.
STEP III: Buy the X-Theme – one of the best premium WordPress themes with incredible support.
6. Install essential WordPress plugins
What are WordPress plugins and why do you need them?
When I started this blog, I had not the slightest idea of what plugins are and what they do. In human language, plugins are software, little programs, apps if you want to, that add different functions to your website. For example, I use a plugin to extract my 10 most popular posts, to see how many visitors I get and what posts they read, or to protect my site from illegal login attempts.
There are tens of thousands of free and premium plugins available. And while it might be tempting to install one for every feature you want, keep in mind that they slow down your site and can create conflicts, etc. So only install the plugins you really need. And don’t worry too much about it in the beginning – you’ll learn more along the way and you’ll know which plugins are best suited for your blog. You can always delete a plugin and/or add a new one.
Which plugins to use when starting a website?
STEP IV: Install Best free WordPress plugins.
As I said, I’m not a technical person and I’ve learned most of the things along the way. So this post is basically a summary of months’ of research, tips and recommendations from web designers and tech geeks who use WordPress and create websites on a daily basis.
Here are some features you really should consider using from the very beginning. All the plugins I mention here are FREE and can be easily installed from your WordPress dashboard. I use each of them myself. In fact, I use quite a few more, but this is the basics, the plugins you need in t-from the very beginning when starting a new blog.
- Wordfence Security plugin. Protect your website from illegal login attempts. This is a must! This plugin also takes care of caching (=making your site faster) and that’s an added bonus.
- W3 total cache is another highly recommended caching plugin, but if you use Wordfence, it might be unnecessary.
- UpdraftPlus – WordPress Backup/Restore plugin. It’s the easiest way to always keep a recent backup of your site. Sign-up with Dropbox to keep your files on their cloud service and configure this plugin in such a way that it takes care of automatic backups. It only takes a couple of minutes of your time. You really should have a backup as you never know when things go wrong or you make a mistake somewhere. I’ve used mine several times already! Most hosting companies (SiteGround included) also keep at least one recent backup of your site, but it might be a bit more tricky to get access to it or to control when the backups are made, so I still recommend using this plugin.
- Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions. This plugin helps you to keep the size of your website under control by cleaning up the older versions of revised posts, etc.
- Yoast SEO. If you know nothing about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but want readers to find your new blog on Google and other search engines, this plugin will help you do just that.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights. This plugin allows you to track your blog’s statistics easily and always stays up to date with the newest features in Google Analytics.
- Akismet. This plugin helps you deal with spam comments.
You know your blog is out there when you start getting spam comments. Sometimes tens a day, even if your blog is new. You need this plugin from the start.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com. It’s a multi-functional plugin with a huge variety of functions. It’s already installed when you first install WordPress, but it’s up to you if you want to keep it or not and which functions you want to use. I like their stats function to be able to quickly see what people read, etc.
7. Do some blog planning and start building your new blog
STEP V: Start writing – time to actually start to blog!
You may want to start with at least a few pages on your blog before your website goes live. Home page is important as are About and Contact pages. Start with this and create new pages as your blog grows. To create a page, login to your WordPress account and choose Page – Add New.
Before your blog goes live, try to write at least 2-3 blog posts so that people have more to read than just the initial post they came to your site for. To create a blog post, login to your WordPress dashboard, then go to Posts – Add New.
Decide how often you want to publish and stick to your schedule. Be realistic about what you can actually do and keep in mind that researching and writing a good blog post takes lots of time. Unless you have no other work- or family commitments, blogging on a daily basis is just not feasible. You should try being consistent as your readers will have certain expectations. It’s better to publish less articles on a regular basis than to publish 10 articles one week and nothing the next one. You can write your posts when you have time and use the WordPress post schedule function to publish it later.
8. Other tips and advice for beginners starting a blog
What you should know about image optimisation when starting a website
Beautiful images are very important for any blog, but it’s especially the case for a travel blog, a fashion blog or a food blog. Photos sell your story. If you are not very good in photography, you may want to invest in professional-quality images for your blog (Google ‘stock images’) or take a photography course. As a start, you can check my post for simple tips that will improve your travel photos immediately.
One of the most common beginners mistakes is using high resolution big size images on your website. It increases your website size tremendously and slows down your site. Do some research about image optimisation for web use and make sure all the images you upload are optimised.
I use Photoshop software to edit the pictures and to resize them for my travel blog. Most images I use on this website are 878 x 578 px. Before uploading them, I use the TinyPNG software to decrease the size of the images even more. This free software strips all unnecessary digital information that has nothing to do with the picture itself and helps you save 30-40% in image size.
Website speed is a very important factor, but it’s often overlooked. Speed up your website and get to the first page of Google!
Create social media accounts for your blog
You may not use them (all) in the beginning, but it’s advisable to reserve an account on social media with your blog’s name as soon as possible.
Social media is the best way to connect with like-minded people and create a community. Facebook is important, but I get most traffic to my bog from Pinterest and I wish I had started with it earlier. I also use Instagram and since a few days Twitter as well, but to tell the truth I have difficulties keeping up with it all. Social media is important, but it takes tremendous amount of time and effort. In the beginning it’s really overwhelming, so concentrate your efforts on the social media that makes most sense for your blog and grow from there.
Pinterest is my biggest traffic referrer and it grew dramatically since I started scheduling my pins to be pinned at the best possible times. So start the right way from the start – sign up with Tailwind! It’s the best small investment I made in my blog so far! It’s FREE for up to 100 pins a month, so give it a try!
Started a blog – enjoy the ride!
Enjoy it! There is no point in figuring out how to start a blog and investing your time, money, and energy into it if you don’t love it. Don’t expect an easy ride, certainly in the beginning. You will have your share of difficulties and frustrations and there will be times when you’ll feel like quitting, but if you are passionate about what you do, you’ll get there! If you are interested, you can read my observations after six months of blogging in my older post.
9. How to monetize your blog? Learn from the very best!
Do you want to start a successful blog and make money right from the start? Learn from the best!
- One of the most successful bloggers, Nomadic Matt, has created a Superstar Blogging Course that will teach you all you need to know about starting a blog. It’s the most complete guide to starting a blog you can find. Superstar Blogging is a multifaceted school teaching you all aspects of running an online travel website. It includes courses on travel writing, photography, videography, and most importantly, the business of actually running a blog. While this course is mainly tailored for travel bloggers, anyone who is new to blogging will benefit from the course! After all, the main principles of blogging are the same, no matter what sector you’re in. If you are serious about blogging, don’t be afraid to invest in it. It’s the fastest way to grow quickly! These courses are an investment in your future that will help you leap beyond the competition and will give you more value for less money than any other program out there!
- Make sure you also sign up with Webfluential. Webfluential is one of the best platforms to connect with brands and advertisers.
- Open AffiliateWindow and ShareASale accounts and sign up for several affiliate programmes that are a good match with your blog. It won’t be much in the beginning, but it offers a lot of possibilities. Many established bloggers get the most of their income via these platforms.
STEP VI: Make your blog an instant success – take the best blogging course from the start!
TIP: If you found this article helpful, I suggest that you bookmark it and/or save it on Pinterest for future reference. It might be very useful to consult it later on.
Save this post for later reference – pin this image! Not on Pinterest yet? Sign up right away – Pinterest is the biggest traffic referrer to mine and many other blogs.