How does one start a blog?
It might be a lot easier than you think!
In this article, I’ll show you step-by-step how to start a blog from scratch. No need to know any kind of programming language or advanced skills. Basic computer literacy is all you need. I’ve seen people from all walks of life start a blog, and I know you can too.
There are numerous reasons why you might want to start a blog, including writing about something you’re passionate about, getting exposure for your brand, or keeping friends and family updated while abroad. Some people use their blogs as a second source of income, and others use it to expand their existing business online.
Whatever your motive, this guide will show you how to get started with any type of blog.
What do I need to start a blog?
Since a blog lives entirely on the Internet, there are not any physical tools required. All you need is:
- A computer with an Internet connection.
- An idea of what your blog should be about.
- A couple of dollars for web hosting and a domain name.
Armed with those three things and this guide, you’ll have a blog up and running within 30 minutes.
In this guide, I’ll show you how to:
- Find a good domain name
- Choose a reliable web host
- Install WordPress on your blog
- Write your first blog post
- Customize the look of your website
So let’s dive right in…
Step 1: Find a Good Domain Name
Your website must have a unique domain name (also called a URL) which users type into their browser to visit your blog.
For example, my blog’s URL is bloggingdegree.com. The name you choose will be unique to your own website.
Finding a good domain name can be tricky since most of the common names have already been taken. But with a bit of creativity and the right tools, you’ll find one that’s perfect for you.
Once you find the domain name you want, don’t order it yet! I’ll show you how to get one for free when you sign up with a web host in the next step.
What Makes a Good Name?
There are several guidelines for choosing a good domain name, but here are a couple of pointers you should follow:
- Choose a name that’s easy to remember and pronounce.
- Choose a name that reflects what your blog is about.
- If your blog is for a person or business, use their name as the domain.
- Try to find a .com domain name. Internet users are used to typing .com after a name.
- Avoid using hyphens at all costs (such as blogging-degree.com).
- Check that your name does not contain hidden words with a different meaning (for instance, kidswear.com has nothing to do with swearing toddlers, but everything to do with children’s clothing).
It’s important that you choose the correct name from the start. Moving a blog to a different domain name later on can be tedious, not to mention hurt your brand and search engine rankings. So, take enough time to explore all the possibilities and choose the best domain name now.
How to Generate Domain Name Ideas
There are several good tools that help you generate ideas for domain names.
The one I like to use is called Name Mesh. It generates hundreds of name ideas based on synonyms, and also checks the availability of each name so you don’t have to.
On NameMesh’s home page, type in one or two words describing your blog. For instance, if your blog will be about photographing cats, type “cat photography” into the search bar and hit Enter.
NameMesh generates a ton of ideas on the next page. All the names are displayed in grey at first as NameMesh checks their availability, but then they either turn green if available or disappear if taken.
I normally look only in the Common and Similar categories, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can use a name from one of the other categories as well.
Once you have a name, you can choose a reliable web host.
Step 2: Choose a Reliable Web Host
Your blog needs a place to live on the internet. More specifically, it needs a special kind of computer (a web server) that sends the blog files to any visitors who requests it via a web browser.
A web host is a company that allows you to rent such a server on their premises. They charge a small monthly fee to maintain the server and make sure it’s connected and powered up 24/7.
How to Sign Up with a Web Host
There are thousands of web hosts out there, some more reliable than others. Some of the more established ones are Bluehost, Hostgator, and InMotion.
The one I always recommend is Bluehost. I’ve been using them to host BloggingDegree.com since day one and never had a bad experience with them. They offer everything you need for less than $5.50 per month.
You can sign up for Bluehost by clicking the image below.
Note: I’m an affiliate with Bluehost, so if you purchase hosting using any of the links on this page, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps to keep BloggingDegree.com free for all.
On their page, click the green Get Started Now button to view the different price plans. You can choose the Basic option.
On the next page, enter the domain name you’ve chosen in Step 1 under “New Domain” and choose the correct extension for it. If you already have a domain name, you can enter it under “I have a domain.” Click Next.
Bluehost will check again if your domain name is available, and show a confirmation message on the next page. If not, they will provide you with several alternative suggestions.
Choose one you like or click “Show more” to get more suggestions.
Next, enter your account information and payment details. If you have a Google account, you can automate the whole process by clicking the Sign in with Google button to let Bluehost pull all these details from Google.
Under Package Information, you can choose between a 12, 24, or 36-month plan. The price per month gets cheaper when you select a longer time span. Choose the one that fits your budget.
Below that you’ll find a list of tick boxes with upsells. They’re not necessary to get your blog up and running, so you can untick them all. If you’re unsure, you can always add them later.
Finally, enter your payment information in the next section, accept the T’s & C’s, and hit Submit. The page might take some time to reload.
When it’s all done, you’ll see this welcome message:
Next, you need to setup a password for your Bluehost account by clicking “Create your Password”. Type your password twice, accept the T’s & C’s, and click Next.
And you’re done! Your web server is now set up and ready to receive the files that make up your blog.
Click on Log in to be automatically logged into your account.
By now, you would also have received the following emails from Bluehost:
- Welcome to Bluehost! – Contains your account information and a link to the Bluehost control panel. Keep this save for future reference.
- WHOIS Verification – Contains a link to confirm your email address for the WHOIS database (a global database of domain names and their owners). You should click this link within 14 days.
Now that your blog is set up, we can go ahead and install WordPress!
Step 3: Install and Setup WordPress
In this step, we’ll install WordPress. WordPress is a powerful content management system that allows us to edit our blogs from anywhere in the world using any web browser. It is by far the biggest CMS out there and powers more than 27% of all websites on the Internet.
The installation procedure is quite easy when using Bluehost as your web host. They provide an easy wizard that will help you do it.
To install WordPress, log into your Bluehost account with the username and password you’ve just created, click on the Hosting tab in the top left, and then click on the Home subtab. You should see a list of categories each containing several colorful options.
Scroll down to the Website category and click the “Install WordPress” button.
This will take you to Bluehost Marketplace (powered by MOJO), which is basically like an app store but for your server. It has all kinds of apps (free and premium) and most can be installed with a few clicks.
Once there, click on the green Get Started button.
Next, select the domain name on which to install WordPress. If you’ve been following along, this should be the domain you chose in Step 1. Choose the option without the www in front. Leave the directory as is for now. Click Next.
Bluehost now asks for some settings it needs to install WordPress. Enter the following items:
- Site Name or Title – The name of your blog which will appear in the title bar of a browser when someone visits.
- Admin Username – Choose a username you will use to log into the backend of your blog to make changes. Remember this for later!
- Admin Email Address – The email address where readers can reach you.
- Admin Password – Choose a password you’ll use together with the Admin Username to log into the back end of your blog.
Tick the three checkboxes at the bottom and hit Install.
Bluehost begins the installation and shows a “WordPress Is Installing” message. Mine took about 60 seconds in total.
During this time, Bluehost will prompt you to purchase a premium blog themes. Browsing these themes are optional, but I’ll show you how to get hundreds of free ones in step 5!
When the setup is finished, you’ll get a completion message like this:
And that’s it! WordPress installation is complete!
Logging into WordPress
If you go to your blog now (e.g. yourdomain.com), it will look something like this image below. WordPress has created a “Hello World” blog post and a sample page to get you started.
To log into the back end of your site, go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin where yourdomain.com is the domain name you signed up with in Step 2.
You should see something similar to this:
This is the page you’ll be coming back to every time you want to change something on your blog. I recommend you add it to your bookmarks or favorites right now.
Next, log in using the username/email and password you provided above. Tick the Remember Me box to avoid having to type in those details every time, and click Log In.
You’ll now see the WordPress control panel.
So let’s write our first post!
Step 4: Write your First Blog Post
With WordPress installed, you are now ready to write your first blog post.
To do that, go to Post > Add New in your WordPress Dashboard.
This is the WordPress post editor which you will come to know and love. It’s where you will craft every post on your blog. Here’s a quick tour (see the image for details):
- The Post Title box, where the title of your post goes.
- Add Media button, which you’ll use to add images, files, and other media.
- Formatting toolbar, used to format text and paragraphs.
- The Post Content box, where the main body of your post content will go.
- Toggle between Visual (word editor) and text (HTML code) views.
- Word count of words in the post.
Now click in the “Enter title here” box and type a name for your first post. How about “Welcome to My First Blog Post.”
Next, start typing the content for this post like you would in a normal text editor such as MS Word or Apple Pages.
There a several tools on the page that you can use, such as formatting text, applying a category to your post, and inserting a featured image. You should read my tutorial on how to use all of the features on this page, but for now let’s look at a few important ones.
Select some text and then use the toolbar across the top to format it. Clicking on the Toggle Toolbar button will expand the toolbar to show more options.
Hover over each icon with your mouse to see what it does.
Create headings by highlighting a portion of text, clicking on the Paragraph dropdown, and choosing an appropriate heading style.
To create a link to another website, select a portion of text and then click on the Insert/edit link icon on the toolbar. A popup will appear where you can either insert an entire URL (remember to include the http:// part in front) or search for previous posts you have created.
Press the blue button when you’re done.
To insert an image, position your cursor where you want the image to appear and click the Add Media Button above the toolbar.
This will bring up a popup you can use to upload an image or choose an existing one. Since this is your first post on this blog, you probably have not added any images yet. So click the Select Files button in the Upload Files tab, then select the image on your computer and click OK.
The image will upload and display when done. Click on Insert into post to complete.
This will insert the image into the post. To edit the image size, change its alignment, or add a caption, click on the image, and then on the Edit icon in the popup menu.
Add a Featured Image
Featured images are like thumbnails for your posts. They are used elsewhere on your blog wherever lists of posts are displayed. It is a good idea to always set a featured image for all your blog posts.
You can add a featured image to a post by clicking on the Set featured image link (towards the bottom of the right-hand sidebar). Then either upload a new image or choose an existing image like you did in the previous step.
Adjusting the Permalink
You might have noticed a line of text appear just below the post title box as soon as you’ve completed the title.
This is called a permalink, and it’s a unique URL for this blog post. It normally consists of your domain name followed by the words of your post title, separated by dashes (e.g. http://yourdomain.com/post-title-separated-by-dashes/).
WordPress already put together a permalink based on the title you entered, but you can change it by pressing the Edit button next to the permalink.
Publishing your Post
Once you are happy with the post, you can preview it by clicking Preview in the top right corner of the page. You can also click Save Draft to save your work and continue working at a later stage.
It’s a good idea to read the through each post at least once in Preview mode. This will help you catch and fix spelling and typos, image alignment, and other errors.
When your post is complete, click on the Publish button. You can now view it by clicking on the permalink right underneath the post title box.
Congratulations! You’ve just published your first blog post!
Step 5: Customize the Look of your Website
WordPress comes preloaded with a default look, but most people might not find it appealing.
Luckily, it’s fairly easy to change the look of your site at the click of a button, and it won’t affect the content on your blogs or pages.
WordPress appearance is controlled by themes which act like skins for your blog. Every theme comes with a particular color scheme, font type, and layout.
There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes available on the Internet. You can also search for themes right within WordPress.
To find a new theme, go to Appearance > Themes and click on the WordPress.org Themes near the top of the page.
You can now browse thousands of themes organized according to Featured, Popular, Latest, Favorites, and Premium (paid themes). You can also filter the themes based on features by using the Feature Filter, or you can search for themes.
Once you find a theme you like, you can preview the new design by hovering over it and clicking Preview. If you’re happy with the design, click on Install.
Your site will instantly be updated with the new design.
Each theme comes with several settings to tweak the design even more. You can access these options by clicking on Appearance > Customize.
This will open a special preview of your blog with a sidebar on the left on which you can make several changes. Once you are happy with the changes, click Save and Publish at the top of the sidebar.
Congratulations on starting your blog! This is a great step forward, and you’ve just accomplished something that very few people ever will.
But be assured that this is just the beginning of the road. This article was just an introduction, and there are hundreds of ways in which you can improve your blog even more.
For example, extend your blog’s functionality by installing plugins.