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How to start a blog

In this brief guide, I am going to tell you how to start a blog, introduce you to some of the essential tools you need and give you a brief overview on how to grow your blog.

I grew this blog from nothing to over 500,000 pageviews a month just 18 months.

This blog now funds most of our charitable missions and pays all our staff.

So how much can you make from your own blog?

The amount your own blog could make will depend on various factors such as how you monetize your blog, the niche you go into, the type of content you write and how successful you are at attracting users to your blog

In the end most blogs never see any real traction due to bloggers not having a clear focus on what their objectives are and how to achieve them.

So, before you start your blog you should think about the points I have just mentioned.

How you monetize your blog

The monetization of your blog is a very key element to how much your blog can make. Will you monetize it with a membership offer, a paywall for premium content?, ads from third parties or via affiliate marketing?

You have to consider these factors carefully and then make a decision. If you plan to monetize your blogs solely with ads then you should consider niches where the RPM(revenue per thousand pageviews) is suitable. 

This means it’s on the high side. $15+.

To get high RPMs you may also need to use a premium ad network such as Adthrive or Mediavine.

This means you will need to have content on your website which is considered advertiser friendly.

As you can tell, the planning stage before you even think about what your domain name could be is very important.

The niche you go into

Many people will instantly be drawn towards niches with high RPMs after reading the above paragraph but that would be wrong. 

RPMs are not the only factor that influence the niche you should start your blog in.

You should seriously consider your passion and interests before choosing a niche.

You can’t be successful in a niche you do not understand.

This is a blog about how to start a blog after all not an SEO tutorial so I will not dive deeper into the other points I mentioned but if you are interested to see how I grew this blog to 500,000 pageviews plus how I have grown other publications then get my free 7 day guided newsletter which goes into more detail about the considerations you should take before starting a blog.

The important thing when starting a blog is looking at it from a business point of view and not as a hobby. 

You have to think strategically and consider how to scale effectively.

It’s not too late to start a blog, maybe in 3 or 5 years it could be but you are right here , right now and right in time.

So, let’s forget all the thinking you need to do before you start a blog for a second. 

Let’s imagine you have already done all of that and you have come up with the perfect domain name.

Choosing a domain name

Already found a domain name? Then Let’s move onto the next step in setting up your website. Buying a domain name and getting a server to host your website.

Ready to launch your blog with Bluehost? Get started for just $2.95/month (63% off your hosting plan) with my link below:

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There are a few things you should consider

  • Is your domain name appropriate
  • The price of the domain
  • Domain name extensions.

Is your domain name appropriate

Your domain name is your business name. It is very vital. A complicated name to remember will reduce the amount of people who end up visiting your site. 

A complicated name to type in will also affect your traffic. 

Your domain name is your brand name and you should treat it with such importance.

Choose a name that reflects your niche but doesn’t tie your hands to a particular type of content.

Blogs evolve and you wouldn’t want to have a blog title Samsung galaxy 5 which ties you into writing only about a particular model which in 2 years will not be so popular anymore.

The price of the domain

You have to buy your blog’s domain name from a domain registrar company. It should cost you roughly $10/year. If you get started with Bluehost web hosting, you get a free domain name for the first year.

To get started with for just $2.95/month (and get 63% off your hosting plan), use my link below:

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Domain name extensions

Choosing a domain name extension is another very important part of choosing a domain name.

Domain name extensions are just as important as the location of your business. Are you located on the high street or down the alley?

.biz, .net and anything other than .com for an english blog is just not worth it as of yet.

There are some exceptions to this, depending on the type of blog you are creating. 

If your blog will primarily get traffic from youtube or other sources and not Google then by all means you could use a different domain name extension such as .tv.

In the end, the most trusted domain names end with.com

Here are a few extra tips to consider when choosing a domain name:

  • Avoid using hyphens in your domain name
  • Avoid using numbers in your domain name
  • Try and use a keyword related to your industry in your domain name
  • Avoid complex spellings

Choosing a hosting company 

Once you have found and purchased a domain name then the next thing you will have to do is to choose a hosting company and register your domain name.

You may be asking , what is a hosting company?  A web hosting company is essentially where your website and all is data lives.

Think of it like the land or building where you store all the items which you sell to your customers.

You pay a fee to a web hosting company and they host your website for you in the same way you pay a landlord who allows you to rent out an office or a shop unit.

Every website on the internet has a webhost.

Your web hosting provider is very important as it affects a lot of things to do with your website such as:

  • Your website speed
  • The security of your website
  • How often your website is actually up (and not down due to downtime issues from your webhost)

So how can you get all of this and still pay a reasonable price?

At this stage, your best option is a simple shared hosting plan. I recommend Bluehost as the easiest option when starting a blog.

Why should you use Bluehost?

  • Only costs $2.95/month 
  • It has great customer service
  • You get a Free SSL certificate (which means your website will be encrypted on the front end)
  • The servers are incredibly fast
  • You get a 99% server uptime
  • The dashboard is very user and beginner-friendly
  • There is an easy to use C panel dashboard
  • The entry price is low
  • You get a money-back guarantee
  • It has various hosting plans to choose from
  • Bluehost is very secure.
  • It has a 1 click WordPress installation
  • If you are using WordPress then Bluehost is actually recommended by WordPress.

Next, we’ll register your domain and choose a web hosting company to launch your blog.

Follow this step-by-step guide to register your own domain name along with your web hosting plan:

Step #1: Visit bluehost.com.

Click on the “Get Started” CTA button on the homepage.

Step #2: Choose Your Web Hosting Plan.

On the next page, you will see four shared hosting plans.

These plans include Basic, Plus, Choice Plus, and Pro.

While all these shared hosting plans are perfect for a new blog, I would personally recommend going for the Basic Plan.

For a step up, the Choice Plus Plan offers the Domain Privacy, which will help you protect your information and guard all your confidential details, including full name, email address, residential address, and phone number.

Step #3: Enter Your Domain Name.

So, you have already selected your name (as specified in the second step).

Now, after you choose your hosting plan, you will be directed to a new page where you will be asked to enter your custom name.

If you’ve already selected your name, then you can add the information here. And if you need a new one, you get your domain name for free for the first year.

If you need more time to come up with a website name, you can always sign-up and choose your domain later.

Next, you’re prompted to create your account, which is the final step of the process.

Step #4: Enter Your Details.

Here are the “Account Information” details you need to enter to create your account.

Make sure to enter the correct details, including your first and last name, business name if applicable, country, address, etc.

Upon scrolling down, you’ll see the “Package Information” section.

It includes selecting how long you want to opt for the plan and how much advance you are willing to pay.

It allows you to pay 12, 24, 36, or 60 months upfront and gives you better pricing for longer terms. If you are sure that you will be running your blog for a long time, then I’d say go with the “Prime 36 Month Price” to get the lowest possible monthly price. 

You can also get a low upfront payment by paying annually instead of monthly.

In the screenshot above, there’s another section called “Package Extras.”

You can uncheck Codeguard Basic and SiteLock Security. These are unnecessary and can be replicated with other free WordPress plugins.

Finally, pick your payment option. You can choose to make the payment via credit card or PayPal.

That’s all it takes to sign up!

Ready to launch your blog? Get started for just $2.95/month (63% off your hosting plan) with my link below:

Launch Your Blog with Bluehost

Step #5: You have successfully registered your hosting plan.

Congratulations – you’ve set up your hosting for the first time. 

You’re now signed up with Bluehost, which means you’ve completed a vital first step in starting a blog.

Let’s continue.

Step #6: Create your account and set your password.

You’re almost done. After receiving an email to confirm your account, enter your domain name, and create a password for your account.

Step #7: Log in to your account.

Use the password you just set to log in to your account. You can also sign in with Google if you prefer.

And you’re all set! Now that the web hosting setup is out of the way, it’s time to move on to installing WordPress and getting into your blogging dashboard.

Install WordPress as Your Blogging Content Management System (CMS)

After getting through the first phase of planning your blog and choosing web hosting, the next step is to choose WordPress as your blogging platform.

Your blog platform, also known as a Content Management System (CMS), is where you will be writing, customizing, and publishing your blog posts. Naturally, you are going to need something user-friendly, powerful, and affordable.

There are paid and free blogging platforms available to choose from.

Here are the top blogging platforms and their usage:

Most people run their blogs on WordPress, which is apparent from the stats above.

WordPress also offers multiple free plugins, themes, and various ways to extend the functionality of your blog. 

You also don’t need to have any coding knowledge to get started.

With most hosts, you simply use 1-click install WordPress, and you’re taken to your WordPress dashboard.

However, before you get started, you should know the difference between the .com and .org versions of WordPress.

WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org – Which one should you choose?

Here are some of the common differences between the two:

If your eventual goal is to make money through your blog, then think no further before selecting the self-hosted WordPress.org.

A blog is an extension of your brand and needs to be something that you own outright. You shouldn’t rely on a subdomain or blog site like Tumblr to host your blog.

The .com version has minimal options and doesn’t allow you to tweak settings or pick a custom domain name. (Eg: yoursite.wordpress.com). If you do want to use a custom name, you would have to pay extra.

It also comes with limited monetization and analytics options. On top of that, with the .com option, you can’t upload plugins and themes from outside of WordPress.

WordPress.org, on the other hand, gives you complete freedom to download tools and themes from different platforms and fully customize your blog’s design.

With Bluehost, you can install WordPress and run your own blog in a matter of minutes.

Here’s how to do it.

Install WordPress with One-Click Installation.

Bluehost automatically one-click installs WordPress right from your hosting dashboard.

After you’re done setting up your account password, you’re prompted to pick a theme.

There are plenty of attractive free WordPress themes to choose from, including free blog themes.

However, if you want to pick your theme later, you can skip this step for now by clicking on the “Skip This Step” option at the end of the page.

From here, you’re directed to a new page where you need to click on the “Start Building” option.

Next, select what type of site you plan to create, and WordPress will help you in the process with prompts. You can also just click “I don’t need help” to go right to your dashboard.

Finally, enter your “Site Title” and your “Site Description.”

From here, you are directed to a page to decide the layout of your blog. You can either create a custom home page with the page editor or simply host your recent blog posts on your homepage. 

From here, spend some time making yourself familiar with the functionalities of your new WordPress blog. Make sure to test out all the features and play around with different themes to pick the one that best suits you.

This brings us to our next step – choosing a theme.

Are you ready to start your blog? Get started for just $2.95/month (63% off your hosting plan) with my link below:

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Pick Your Blog’s Theme.

Now that you have a WordPress account, you need to choose your WordPress theme.

A WordPress theme is a collection of templates, files, and stylesheets that dictate the appearance and design of your WordPress-powered website.

Right now, your blog might look something like this:

This is the default WordPress theme, and on the left side is your appearance customization menu that helps you customize your theme.

While this base theme isn’t the best, it can be used to get familiar with the appearance editor. 

In the theme appearance editor, you can edit:

  • Site identity – your business name, logo and other navigation items.
  • Colors – you can choose the colors for fonts, buttons, blocks, and other items.
  • Menus – you can edit the placement of your menu navigation and which pages to include.
  • Additional CSS – this is a place where you can place custom CSS instead of messing with your theme editor files.

There are some blog design principles to keep in mind. 

For example, fonts should be between 14 and 17 points, legible, and easy to read. You should also have menu navigation that looks good on mobile and desktop.

Websites with a poorly organized layout are difficult to navigate and impair your blog’s user experience.

Remember, you don’t necessarily have to spend money to install a paid theme if you find a free one you like. However, make sure it looks nice, loads quickly, and readers can access information easily.

Finally, don’t overdo the design – a blog should be highly-functional and uncomplicated.

Install A New Theme For Your Blog.

Here’s how you can install a new theme for your WordPress blog:

First, log in to your WordPress account (admin page).

You can always access your WordPress login page by going to yourdomainname.com/wp-admin.

Next, add your WordPress login credentials. 

Once logged in, your WordPress dashboard looks something like this.

Here, click on the “Appearance” option from the sidebar menu.

Next, select the “Themes” option from the “Appearance” section.

To search for the theme options WordPress offers, click the “Add New” button at the top of the page.

As you can see below, there are a ton of free themes to choose from.

You can scroll down and preview as many themes as you want before picking one for your blog.

You can also filter out the themes based on three categories: “Subject,” “Features,” and “Layout.”

Here’s what the filter option looks like:

Apply the filters to narrow down your options. You can then click on a thumbnail and get an instant preview of what your final blog is going to look like.

If you like a particular theme, you can click on the “Install” button.

If you don’t want to use a stock WordPress theme, there are plenty of sites like GeneratePress, StudioPress, and CSSIgniter that offer paid themes you can buy. When you buy a theme, a zip file is sent to you via email. 

To install this external theme, all that you have to do is go to “Appearance” – “Themes” and click “Add New,” upload the zip file and click install.

Congratulations, you now have a WordPress site with a new theme installed.

Ready to launch your blog and follow along with this guide? Get started for $2.95/month and get 63% off your blog hosting plan:

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Extra Tips on Choosing the Right Theme.

  1. Read the descriptions of the various WordPress themes to get an idea about their features. This will help you get an idea of whether the theme will be compatible with your niche or not.
  2. Choose a responsive theme that works well on both desktop and mobile devices (most of them are).
  3. WordPress also allows users to give ratings to their themes – make sure to check out the reviews to get a feel for the quality of the theme.
  4. Before installing a theme, make sure to check its demo or preview to know what it’s going to look like.

You can also install a large number of WordPress themes from other popular sites, such as:

  • Themeforest.
  • StudioPress.
  • Thrive Themes.
  • Elementor.
  • Elegant Themes.
  • CSS Igniter.

Free, Premium, and Custom Themes.

There are many free blog themes available on WordPress. However, sometimes these come with limited design options.

That said, you can always start your blog with a free theme and then move on to a more personalized one after your content is up. As long as it loads fast and allows you to start publishing content, there’s no reason not just to get started and worry about your perfect design later.

Premium themes mostly come in the price range of $30 to $500 and you can find some great blog themes from a company like Themeisle:

If you’re looking for a custom-developed theme, you can hire a developer and expect to pay $500-5,000 for your new blog.

Let’s recap where we are so far in this how to start a blog guide.

  • You’ve selected your blog’s niche based on market factors, not passions.
  • You’ve chosen your blog’s name and registered it.
  • You picked your hosting plan and installed WordPress.
  • You installed your theme and have your blog’s framework ready to go.

That’s a lot of progress.

We’re about halfway through this guide and the following steps will cover setting up your blog for success and starting your content creation and promotion process.

Disclaimer: Please note that this post includes affiliate links which provide a commission to me at no cost to you. However, the links are for the best software and tools you need to start a successful blog. For more information, you can read my affiliate disclosure in my privacy policy.

Install Your WordPress Plugins.

Since WordPress is open-source, you can customize your site in an endless amount of ways.

And this starts with WordPress plugins.

These are sets of tools that integrate with your website and extend its functionality and feature set.

WordPress offers thousands of plugins with different functions, including everything from email marketing and calendar integration to opt-in forms and SEO tools. These tools make learning how to start a blog pretty easy, as they perform a lot of cool tasks without needing any coding knowledge.

However, it’s not recommended to install hundreds of these tools on your blog as they tend to slow down your site and can conflict with each other during updates.

Which plugins should you add to your blog?

I curated a list of the 15 best ones to help you enhance your new blog (and the exact ones I use):

1. Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster.

This plugin allows you to remove certain elements of code that aren’t necessary to load on every page. For example, my ecommerce HTML and CSS files were loading on every blog post even though I only needed them on two pages. With this tool, you can easily select which pieces of code to keep and which to remove based on pages, posts, and other types of content.

2. BigCommerce for WordPress.

This is the ecommerce tool that I use to sell my digital products. I tested WooCommerce first, but it installed four extensions, slowed down my site, and had an ugly checkout experience. BigCommerce for WordPress launched in December 2018 and runs via an API – so you handle all of your content in WordPress and your backend ecommerce in BigCommerce.

3. Classic Editor.

If you’re running into issues with the new Gutenberg editor, you can roll back to the Classic Editor.

4. Easy Table of Contents.

This plugin allows you to easily add a Table of Contents into any page or post. The plugin will appear underneath your pages/posts, and you can select if every H2, H3, or any other header should be automatically added to the Table of Contents.

Tables of Contents are important for a few reasons: they keep users engaged with the page (by clicking around) and help with user experience. I often have a Table of Contents at the top of my new posts going to each section, then a “Back to Top” widget in the bottom right corner so that users can easily go back to the Table of Contents.

5. Elementor Pro.

Elementor Pro is the best WordPress landing page builder, and it’s the tool I used to create my home page and a few other pages. They have a free version of Elementor, but the Pro version takes it to the next level with much better templates.

While the new Gutenberg block editor adds a lot of built-in functionality, if you’re struggling to build pages, Elementor Pro is a good option. You can get started with Elementor Pro for $49/year.

6. Extended Widget Options.

Widgets are areas on your WordPress site that aren’t directly pages or posts. For example, sidebars, footers, and homepage sections can be considered widgets. Extended Widget Options allows you to expand the functionality of your widgets to make them more useful.

For example, I use this tool to make some of my sidebar banners sticky so that they scroll down the page with the reader.

7. GDPR Cookie Consent.

This is a plugin that can make you GDPR compliant and make sure that you provide a popup highlighting how you use cookies to readers in the EU.

8. Mammoth .docx Converter.

I use this plugin to convert documents into WordPress posts automatically. Since I get a lot of my initial first drafts written for me, I download them as a .docx file and insert them into my posts/pages with this plugin. The Mammoth .docx Converter will appear underneath your posts/pages, and it’s as simple as uploading your file and clicking “Insert into Editor.”

One small detail is that you’ll want to make sure your document’s images have both names and alt text before uploading into WordPress.

9. OptinMonster.

OptinMonster is hands down the best email opt-in plugin on the market (and 100% how you joined this list). With the ability to create exit intent, modal popups, in-content opt-ins, and more, they are the reason that my email list is growing by about 60-75 users/day.

While I use their highest tier Growth Plan, you can get started with OptinMonster for just $9/month.

10. Shortcodes Ultimate.

This plugin allows you to create simple blocks of content by adding shortcodes to your site. I primarily use this to insert buttons quickly on my affiliate pages so that readers have very clear calls-to-action. Shortcodes Ultimate will appear in your WordPress page editor as a small button at the top (much like Bold, Paragraph Spacing, etc.), and when you click into it, you select your content block. With buttons, you can preview them in the editor and choose the size, color, style, and more.

11. ShortPixel Image Optimizer.

ShortPixel compresses all of your images so that they are smaller files and your pages load faster. I’ve tested lots of different image compression tools, and ShortPixel has been the best.

12. ThirstyAffiliates.

This is one of my favorite affiliate marketing tools. ThirstyAffiliates takes your random affiliate links (full of random numbers, letter strings, etc.) and cleans them up so that they look nice.

13. WP Last Modified Info.

One factor in search engine rankings is recency of content – especially if you’re in niches with new information coming out. This plugin allows you to easily show the date on every page/post so that search engines understand when it was last modified. For example, with WordPress, it’s easy to show a date, but it will typically show the Publish Date, not the last time you edited it.

By giving search engines an easy way to pull the Modified Date, you will see this date appear in your search results, and may see a rankings boost.

14. WP Rocket.

WP Rocket is an all-in-one site speed plugin that can do everything from minifying HMTL, CSS, and JavaScript, integrate with your CDN, reduce database bloat, and more. I’ve tried other speed tools like Autoptimize and had some issues with it. WP Rocket is the best, in my opinion.

You can get started with WP Rocket for $49/year.

15. Yoast SEO.

Yoast doesn’t need an introduction. If you’re not using it, then you’re missing out on a lot of great free features. I use Yoast to manage my sitemap, robots.txt, page titles/meta descriptions, and other add-ons.

Now that we covered the best plugins to install for your blog let’s move onto some unique settings to pay attention to.

Set Up Your Blog’s SEO.

A very important ranking factor is the URLs of your blog posts and pages. 

When you add a new page or post, you see the page editor and can choose the URL after dot com. Check out the link below:

This text after the .com is what a permalink looks like.

Permalinks are static hyperlinks that will lead your audience to a specific web page.

By default, your permalink is set to “yourdomainname.com/postID.”

This not only looks unattractive but isn’t the best from an SEO standpoint.

Before you start writing content for your blog, make sure to set a specific permalink structure.

From your WordPress dashboard, go to “Setting” —> “Permalinks.”

You can choose from a couple of options. Most high-ranking blogs follow the “Post name” or “Custom” structures below.

The main thing to know is that every post or page should focus on one target keyword, which should be in the area right after the dot com.

For blog posts, this permanent URL is the only thing that needs to remain unchanged. You can change a page or post’s title, meta description, content, and headings, but the URL needs to stay the same. 

This is because if you get inbound links to this URL, changing it would result in a 404 error and losing that link value. 

Finally, make sure to save the settings before exiting the page.

Also, make sure you set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These two tools are 100% necessary to index your blog and monitor your traffic. These can both be easily integrated with the Yoast plugin.

We’ve made a ton of progress so far in this guide.

You’ve learned all the technical set up of how to start a blog and have a functioning site inside of WordPress.

Now, it’s time to start creating content for your blog. Goodluck!

Ready to create your blog? Let’s do this! Get started for $2.95/month and get 63% off your hosting plan.

Try Bluehost

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Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.