STEP 1: Choose your Blogging Platform
Learning how to start a blog in this day and age is very simple and doesn’t require any technical or web development experience (like it used to years ago). To get started, you need to choose a platform for your blog.
A blogging platform is what your blog is built on, often referred to as a content management system (CMS) that allows you to easily create your blog & write content (blog posts).
It’s top priority to select the correct platform from the beginning.
The graph below details the use of blog platforms in 2016. As you can see, more than half of all bloggers go with WordPress, something I highly recommend you doing as well.
For beginners looking to start a blog, WordPress is the way to go
Without question, it’s the most simple platform I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, and according to ManageWP, the data doesn’t lie.
It’s also flexible and easily customizable that almost everyone from small business owners, to bloggers, all the way to professionals and freelancers, just can’t stop raving about WordPress.
Here are a few reasons why:
- It’s Free – That’s right, it’s not a gimmick. The WordPress platform is actually 100% free.
- It’s Super Beginner-Friendly – WordPress has features called plugins that are designed for non-technical people, and they are free to use on your blog. With plugins, you can add contact forms, comment boxes, image galleries, videos and almost anything you can imagine.
- Large Community of Help & Support – Since everyone else is using WordPress as their blogging site, it’s quick and easy to find the help you need. WordPress also offers an incredible library of free resources on their site and video tutorials on Youtube.
- Mobile Responsive – Don’t you hate those blogs that you visit on your phone where you have to pinch the screen to zoom in? WordPress will automatically make your blog ‘responsive’, which means it’ll work on all cell phones and tablets people use to visit your blog.
- Big Brands Love It – Did you know that even the biggest brands in the world use WordPress as their platform? Sony, MTV, CNN, Ebay, Best Buy and even ESPN all prefer WordPress over the rest.
You can get started with your very own WordPress blog, a hosting provider and a domain name for $2 – $5 a month. Don’t worry – I’m going to show you how to get a domain name for free and your hosting at a discounted rate.
STEP 2: Choose a Domain Name & Host
Now that you’ve selected your blog platform, you’re going to need two critical things to get your blog online:
- A domain name (you know, one of those addresses like www.mattbannersdomain.com, that people use to find you online)
- A hosting provider (the service that keeps your blog on the internet)
How do I get my domain name and hosting?
I’ve always put my sole trust in www.Bluehost.com as my main web hosting and domain provider for my personal and client web development projects. I’ve tried every hosting service out there, and no one is as reliable as Bluehost.
Their web hosting service costs less than a gallon of milk and they will give you a domain name for FREE (saving you $10 per year).
That’s not all though:
When you get your free domain name with Bluehost, you’ll also receive a personal email account: firstname.lastname@example.org – which looks so much more professional than a generic Gmail or Hotmail address.
Finalizing your Domain Name Choice
Here’s how to do it:
- What blogging topic are you most passionate about? Check out other similar blogs to see what people are choosing for domain names.
- If you’re making a blog for your business, your domain name should be your business name (www.YourBusinessName.com)
- If you’re creating a blog for yourself, then your domain name should be your own name. My first blog was called MattBanner.com.
I chose OnBlastBlog.com as the name of this blog because I wanted to help people blast off with making a website and growing it to new heights.
Domain names typically end with .com, .net or .org. Recently domain extensions (the end of the domain, like .com) have opened up to include more words such as .us and .sports.
When choosing a domain name, what would I advise? Don’t waste time with anything but .com, .org or .net. Those other crazy domain name extensions aren’t widely known so it will be harder for customers and readers to find you.
Before moving forward, follow these next steps:
#1 – Set up your Blog (click button below, it will open in a new tab)
#2 – Use the Step-by-Step Instructions below to continue the process
to Making a Blog & Getting it Online
Follow along with the images I have provided for you below and you’ll be set up in no time.
First, click this link www.Bluehost.com to open in a new tab.
That’s the Bluehost homepage where you’ll be able to see some of their offerings, such as additional 24/7 support and their money-back guarantee .
Click on that huge green button that says “get started now”.
Now you’ll see a page (like below) where you’ll be able to choose your hosting plan.
Select the basic package for the cheapest offer.
After choosing your hosting package, you’ll be on a page where you can check to see if the domain name for your blog is available. Use the box on the left to do so.
If it’s available, click “next”.
Already have a domain name from GoDaddy? You can use the box on the right to transfer your domain name.
If the domain name you chose is available, you’ll see a “congratulations” message on the next page. Now you can begin typing in your account information like you see below.
After typing in your account information, scroll down a little bit to select your hosting plan. A 3-year plan might be too much for a beginner, but keep in mind that you can cancel with Bluehost at any time and get a full refund for the remaining months in your plan.
The 3-year package is the cheapest per month, which is what I recommend for everyone to save some dollars.
After your plan has been selected, and you’ve unchecked the unnecessary features, simply put in your billing information.
When you’re done, click the green “submit” button to move forward.
Your purchase for your new blog is now complete.
Click the “create a password“ button to select a password that will be used to login to your Bluehost control panel.
Now you can use your new password to login to Bluehost. Type in your domain name and password and then click “submit”.
Next, click on the icon “Install WordPress” to set up your blog.
When you’re ready, click the green “start” button to install.
On the next screen, you’ll see your new domain name there.
Click “Check Domain” to move forward.
Last step! Simply put in the name of your blog (I put in ‘OnBlastBlog’) and choose the username and password you’ll use to login to your brand new WordPress blog.
Click “Install Now” and it’ll be done in a few minutes.
That’s it! How long did that take? About 9 minutes for me!
Haven’t started? Click the yellow button below to access my instant discount.
Prefer a Video Tutorial?
Check Out this Video That Details the Quick Process:
(Over 50% off through this EXCLUSIVE link).
Stuck? Email me & I’ll do it all for you!
Do you prefer the instructions for setting up your blog written out over visual images?
Here are the steps you should follow to complete the installation of your WordPress (this option will be similar on all the major web hosting company portals):
Now that you’re all signed up with Bluehost, you will find the “one-click-installation” option in your account control panel.
- 1. Enter the BlueHost portal by logging into your hosting account -Go ahead and log in to your hosting portal using the login information you just created.
- 2. Navigate to your control panel -When you’ve logged into the Bluehost portal, you should be taken directly to the control panel.
- 3. Click on the “Install WordPress” icon -This is where you can begin the “one click installation” process.
- 4. Select the domain name that you want to install your blog on -Select the domain name you chose from before on the drop down menu. Then choose a username and password to log in to WordPress.
- 5. Click the “Install Now” to access your brand new WordPress blog –
Now you can go to www.[mybloghere].com/admin and log in with the WordPress login information you just created. Once you’ve logged in, you can start customizing your new WordPress blog.
How to Configure your WordPress Blog to a Different Host (only if needed)
A fair warning to anyone reading this portion of the article: this is the advanced course.
To ensure your blog installation is correctly synced with the host of your choice, it needs to meet certain qualifications:
- MySQL 4.2 or higher
- PHP 4.0 or higher
- 1GB of Free hard drive Space
When you’re certain that all of this checks out, head to the WordPress download link and download the files.
You’ll need to first unzip and extract the files, moving them all to the new file.
Now, open that file and change these lines:
- define(‘DB_NAME’, ‘database_name_here’);
- define(‘DB_USER’, ‘username_here’);
- define(‘DB_PASSWORD’, ‘password_here’);
- Define (‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’); – This one usually doesn’t need anything changed
Fill in the database, by inputting the information for each field. If you don’t know some of them or any of them, contact the host’s customer service to receive them. Once you’ve made the edits, click “save” and close the file.
The next step is to make the connection between you and your host’s FTP account. You’re going to need a client program to do this, like FileZilla for example. You’ll need the hosting company’s login information here again here so you can upload and deliver files directly to the host.
Uploading them directly into the primary root directory will allow your blog to be accessed through this URL: www.yourdomainname.com. If you are uploading the files to an individual folder, then the URL will be www.yourdomainname.com/myblog.
Double check that there aren’t any other index files in the there like .html, .htm files. The “index.php” file is the only directory you can use.
Now that your blog is set up, let’s talk about getting it off the ground.
1. Free Means You Make a Blog Without Your Own Domain
The first thing to understand is that while you can customize part of the blog URL, you won’t have full control over the name of the domain because it’s being hosted by someone other than you.
What if this blog was called OnBlastBlog.Blogger.com?
Not as cool, is it?
Starting a blog for free might sound like a good idea because it’s a way to get started without any risk.
It Gets Worse:
Your blog “IDontKnowHowToStartABlog.Blogger.com” isn’t on a platform that’s built to generate revenue.
This may seem like a minor inconvenience, but keep in mind that people should be able to recall your blog’s URL off the top of their head, otherwise they’re going to forget the blog.
You can purchase a domain name through the company to fix this issue, but you’re still not in total control of the blog as a whole, so it only plugs the leak.
2. You Won’t Have Options for Themes, Layouts, and Plugins
Opting for a free blog through one of the sites mentioned above, or others out there, doesn’t give you a whole lot of options when it comes to customization.
Think of it this way:
It’s like getting a burger for free, but you’ve got to pay a premium for each condiment and topping (and the bun!)
3. You Have No Control
When using a free blog hosting blog, you have to consider the fact that while the blog has your name on it, you don’t own it.
This is crazy:
Going the free route gives you absolutely NO control over your blog
For me, that’s a deal breaker.
The blog that is running the blog for you owns it, and if they decide they don’t like it, all it takes is the flip of a switch to send your blog to the big blog in the sky – for instance, starting a Facebook blog.
If the owners of the blog (blogger, Tumblr) decide that your content doesn’t jive with the feel they’re going for, they can delete all of your posts and make your blog disappear.
4. You Cannot Create a Blog That Earns (enough) Money
Granted, you didn’t pay for your free blog, but did you know that many people make money on their blogs?
What’s the bottom line?
If you’re using a free hosting site, you won’t be able to make much money, if any at all.
Some sites will let you set up a paid advertising plan, but they’re going to take a cut of everything you make. We’re talking 50% or higher.
Again, if you are just starting out and you’re running on a tight budget, I would recommend using WordPress as your main blogging platform.
You can run to Tumblr, or blogger, but when you decide to purchase and host a domain of your own and URL, you will most likely continue using WordPress because of its intuitive design and ease of use.
After 72 million downloads and counting, WordPress has become the gold standard for blogging platforms, regardless of it being used as a free or self-hosted platform.
These are a couple of reasons why I recommend WordPress:
- There are a number of free layouts and themes available
- Writing posts, adding pictures, and embedding video is very easy and intuitive
- You can create custom menus and organize your posts by category
- Visitors can leave comments and also share your blog on their social media network profiles (check out this handy social media cheat sheet here)
Now that we’ve covered the free options, let’s discuss self-hosting your blog.
STEP 3: Customizing your WordPress Blog
By now you’ve learned how to start a blog, but we’re not done until you’re 100% confident with how to proceed next. Before we can started with our first blog post, let’s get familiar with our shiny new WordPress blog and customize it to perfection.
Let’s take a deeper look at the WordPress dashboard when you first arrive on your new blog:
Quick Overview of The WordPress Dashboard
Once you’re on the WordPress dashboard, you’re going to see some options:
- Adding New Content – This is where you add posts and pages, to begin your first post, just click “post” and then “add new.”
- Layout and Themes – Modify the layout and design of your blog. All you need to do is find one you like and click “install.”
- Settings – Here you’ll be able to edit the blog’s title, its tagline, and the email address associated with it.
- Plugins – We’ll discuss these in more detail in a future article, but essentially these are tools you can put in your blog like newsletter sign-ups, contact forms, and other features
These options can seem overwhelming, but that’s a word that I never want you to associate with the WordPress blogging platform. I’ll be showing you how to use and familiarize yourself with all of the amazing features WordPress has to offer.
So, let’s dive a little deeper and make sure you have everything you need.
How can I find a theme that works for my blog?
Below, you’ll find the default WordPress theme for 2016. It’s nice and clean, but it’s not exactly unique. Take a look:
A Theme is a layout and design that tells WordPress exactly how your blog should look and function.
Here’s the best part:
There are thousands of these. Some of them are free, some of them come with a one-time fee or a membership to the service.
Here’s How to Find a Theme You Like:
Step One: Login to WordPress
It’s time to customize your WordPress blog. Head to your web address and add /wp-admin to the end of the URL to reach your login page (http://www.yourblog.com/wp-admin/). Log in with your newly created username and password.
Once you’ve done this, you should see a screen like this one:
Step Two: Head to the Themes Marketplace
Click the paintbrush symbol which is labeled Appearance. This will take you to the page where you can browse and choose from the numerous themes WordPress has to offer.
This is what the page will look like:
The search function here is very robust. You’ll have plenty of options for how you want to narrow the results.
Step Three: Choosing Your Theme
Regardless of your blog’s niche, these are the things you want to look for in your WordPress theme:
What Do I Need in My WordPress Theme?
- Look for something that is stark and simplistic. Anything too complicated will overload the viewer’s senses and confuse them when they arrive.
- It absolutely must be a mobile responsive design. A vast majority of your visitors will be using mobile devices. They should have an equally user-friendly experience as people who visit on desktops. If you’re not sure, check the theme’s description and run the demo page through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.
- Make sure the theme clearly states that it’s compatible with all of the major web browsers: Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and so on.
- The theme should support just about any and every plugin you want to install. If there’s any doubt on this front, ask the developer or research the specific plugin you’re concerned about to be sure.
- Look for multilingual support in both different versions of your blog and for different multilingual plugins.
- If you’re a beginner, consider looking for themes with website or blog builders included.
- Finally, look for themes with plenty of reviews and options for ongoing support.
Step Four: Install Your Chosen Theme
The Final step is to install the theme you’ve chosen by selecting it and clicking the Install Now button.
An important note:
Change your theme as often as you’d like in these early stages. It’s best to find the perfect option for your site before you dive into everything. If you decide down the road that you want to try something different, remember this: changing your theme does not delete any posts, pages, or content.
How Do I Add Content And Create New Pages?
Adding new content in WordPress is simple and easy. Thankfully, if you’ve ever used a program like Microsoft Word in the past, you’ll be right at home here.
Click on Pages orPosts and then Add New.
Adding and Editing Posts
Let’s take a look at the content creation layout for WordPress:
In the image above, I’ve labeled all the major elements you’ll see on the create page and create post screens. Let’s break down each of these so you understand what everything does:
- 1. Title (H1) – This box at the top of the page is where you’ll place the main title of the page or post.
- 2. Add Media – This button takes you to the tool where you can upload, customize, and insert images into your content.
- 3. Toolbar – Here we have the various formatting options available to you. Everything from the option to bold text, underlining, italics, and even your header styles can be found here.
- 4. Visual/Text Tabs – This tab switches between the visual “front end” of the content and the text “backend.” The only time you’ll need to look at the text tab is when you need to add custom codes or short code.
- 5. Publish Box – This is where you’ll find the options you need to save the draft, publish the post, or update it with new content.
- 6. Content – This is where the magic happens. All of your content, including images and links, go here.
Adding Pages to Your Menu
When you’ve created pages such as the “About Us” or “Contact Us” options, you can add them to your navigation bar. To do this, click Appearance on the left side of your dashboard, followed by Menus.
Once you’ve reached this page, follow these steps:
- Find the page you want to add in the list on the left.
- Check them off.
- Click “Add to Menu.”
Creating Categories and Organizing Your Posts
Now that you’ve made a blog, you may be asking: “How do I start a blog?”
You just need to start producing consistent content related to your niche and your audience. The various articles and guides you create will be added to your new blog as “posts.”
To keep your blog organized, you may wish to organize your posts into categories. If you have a static web page, a separate category can be formed to house your blog posts.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Option #1 – Create your new category by going to Posts -> Categories.
- Option #2 – When you’re writing a post, you can create a new category on the right side of the page and your post to it.
Remember to add your new categories to the navigation bar and you’ll be all set!
Settings and Tweaks Within WordPress
This section’s purpose is to perform the “housecleaning” that any new blog owner should do after they’ve set up and created their blog. These things will add the finishing touches to your blog’s foundation.
Changing Your Blog’s Title and The Tagline
It’s important that you customize both the title and tagline of your blog. Otherwise, it won’t look very professional in search engine results. This is also important for search engine optimization (SEO) as it gives you an opportunity to include your main keywords.
To change these things, head to Settings -> General and fill out the fields below for the site’s title and tagline.
Hitting a creative roadblock?
If you’re not sure what to place here, here are some tips to help you decide:
- At this point, you’ve already registered a domain, so you have some idea of what your blog is going to be called. For branding purposes, you can make the name identical or similar to your domain.
- Ask yourself: “What’s my blog’s purpose?” What are you trying to accomplish?
- Use descriptive language or phrases that describe you.
- Misspell something on purpose or create a new term that describes what you do.
- Balance the title between professional and personal, depending on the nature of your blog.
Disabling Comments on Your Posts and Pages
Depending on the page/post, or the nature of your blog in general, you may not want comments. If that’s the case, for specific pages, you can follow these steps to disable comments:
- When you’re working on creating a new page or post, look for the “screen options” button in the top right corner. Click to open it.
- Next, click the discussion box and you’ll see another box appear for “Allow Comments.”
- Un-tick this box to disable comments on that page only.
Would you rather disable comments altogether?
This is also easy to do:
Go to Settings -> Discussion and un-tick the option that says “Allow people to post comments on new articles.”
Creating a Static Homepage
A static page is different than a blog page. In the case of a static homepage, it never changes. If you want your homepage to stage the same, regardless of what’s going on in other parts of your blog, follow these simple steps:
- Go to Settings -> Reading
- Choose a page you’ve created to become a static page for your site. “Front Page” is the homepage page, while “Posts Page” is the front page of your blog.
- If you don’t choose a static page, WordPress will use your latest posts and show them on your homepage. So, it may be important to create a static page, based on the goals of your blog.
Editing The Sidebar
When you’re choosing a WordPress theme to get a new blog online, they will almost always have a sidebar on the right side (some cases it’s on the left). This feature is great for user-friendliness, but often the default sidebar includes things you don’t need.
To edit your sidebar and customize to your liking, follow these steps:
- Go to Appearance -> Widgets in the dashboard.
- Use the drag-and-drop feature to add and remove different boxes from the sidebar.
- Don’t worry about the HTML box, this is for using custom code.
What Should I Put in My Sidebar?
- When you’re making a website, your sidebar should be organized from highest to lowest priority.
- The top element depends on what you’re blog is trying to accomplish. For some, this is a widget with your About Me information.
- For other blogs, a short opt-in form is the top element of their sidebar so they can collection email subscribers.
- Other elements beyond these include your latest posts, social media buttons, and additional navigation.
- You should stay away from posting awards, a ton of social fees, and archived posts. There are better places for these.
Installing Plugins to Maximize Your WordPress Experience
Here’s a question you may be having:
What’s a plugin? Trust me, it’s easier to understand and use than you might think.
Plugins are the name given to programs that add additional functions to the base version of WordPress. Think of them like a blogger apps. They give you the option to add features quickly and easily.
Without plugins, you would have to set up a blog for yourself, along with all of the little features you want it to have. These offer a much easier way to add functionality.
Here are just a few of the things plugins can do for WordPress:
- Track your visitors and their behaviors
- Modify and monitor your SEO efforts
- Add contact forms and opt-ins for your email list
- Speed up your blog
- Backup your blog
- Add a comments platform to your blog
- Protect your blog from hackers
How to Install Plugins on WordPress
Installing plugins on WordPress is as simple as installing themes:
- Go to Plugins -> Add New
- Search through the thousands of available options
- Click install and activate to finish the process.
What to Look For in WordPress Plugins
- Make sure it’s something you need. Installing unnecessary plugins can slow down your blog.
- Look to see if it has a large number of reviews.
- Make sure it was updated recently, and consistently since it was created.
- Check to see that the plugin is compatible with your version WordPress.
- If you have any questions, reach out ot the developer before you purchase or download the plugin.
Essential Plugins For WordPress
As you get started with plugins, you’ll probably find a lot of them that you want to download. Here are some handy tips to keep in mind before you download anything.
Let’s start with the most crucial ones first:
1. Yoast SEO
This plugin singlehandedly demystifies SEO for new WordPress bloggers. Once you’ve installed it, you’ll find the widget beneath your posts. It will give you the opportunity to customize the URL, Title Tag, and meta description of the post or page right then and there.
You can also input your main keyword to get a detailed analysis of how well it’s used across all the on-page elements. These are just the basic features as well, so it’s easy to see why this plugin should be first on your list.
2. Google Analytics
Tracking the number of people who visit your site, how long they stay, and what pages they visit are the beginnings of a robust analytics approach. This plugin makes it easy to connect your blog with the Google Analytics
This will allow you to understand how your blog is performing and eventually use that data to improve your marketing and your usability.
3. Contact Form 7
It’s common to have a contact form on your About Me page, and this plugin allows you to set one up with ease. Using this, you can give your visitors the option to send you a message without having to open their email software or leave your blog to do it.
WordPress security is a hot topic right now, and it always will be. Hackers are constantly looking for new ways to get into blogs. By downloading a security plugin, you can protect your site from harmful visitors and software.
5. W3 Total Cache
The last plugin I would recommend to have from the very beginning is W3 Total Cache. This incredible plugin immediately gives you a speed boost. While it has a lot of advanced features, simply installing and activating it will make a difference in an of itself.
The best thing you can do from here? Explore and check out the options. Here’s a useful list of the top 100 plugins to use.
When you’re putting together your post, check out the various fonts, tools, and the useful “Add Media” button to put pictures in your post and embed videos.
Again, these plugins you see above are just the very basics you’ll want to have installed on your brand new blog.
Further Reading for your new WordPress Blog
Now that you know how to create a blog, I want to show you a few practical strategies you can use immediately to build a successful blog.
From blogging best practices, to dummy-proof WordPress SEO tips, to link building guides, all the way to getting direct insight from other industry experts, I’ll personally show you how to make your own website and make money through blogging.
Thank you to everyone for going on this journey with me. Spread the word, share this page with others and show them how to start a blog. Everyone deserves success and happiness and by forwarding this resource, you’ll be sharing the knowledge.