How to Start a Blog From Scratch: An Extensive Guide
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So you want to start a blog, huh? Awesome.
Not too long ago, I was sitting right where you are.
Except, I didn’t do much research beforehand. In fact, the only thing I really looked into before I started blogging was which hosting company to go with. So, I have to give you major props for learning the exact steps you need to take to make this whole blogging thing work.
You see, I thought creating a blog would be easy peasy. Sign up for hosting. Pick a free WordPress theme. Start blogging about whatever crossed my mind.
However, I quickly learned there’s so much more to blogging than that. Like, mind blowing amounts of steps and information about how to do it right. Especially if you want people to actually visit your site and start making money.
Since there’s a lot more to starting a blog than just those few steps mentioned above, I decided to write down every possible step and tip to help you out.
Because trust me, you’re going to need all the help you can get (but it’s all definitely worth it).
Reasons to Start a Blog
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of how to start a blog, I wanted to give you some encouraging reasons to actually take the plunge. Here are just some of the many reasons to start your blog:
• Your blog can serve as a creative outlet
• If you find yourself always watching Netflix instead of being productive, a blog can become your newest obsession aka hobby (this was me before my blogging days)
• Blogging makes you feel useful and helpful because you’re providing real people with answers to their questions
• It’s the best way to share your knowledge and experiences, whatever they may be
• Your blog has the potential to earn you extra income
• In some cases, you can even create a full-time income just from blogging (the ultimate work from home job). This means you can quit the job you hate and make money doing what you love
• Networking with other bloggers can help you build new, lasting friendships with people who lift you up
• You will (hopefully) become a better writer
So as you can see, there are many benefits associated when you create your own blog.
For me personally, blogging has become my first real hobby that I do pretty much every day. Before that, I would occasionally go rock climbing or just watch The Office on Netflix over and over again (which I still sometimes do….).
Honestly, blogging has become my favorite thing to do and it actually gives me purpose. My goal is to make it my full-time job so I can do something I love and ultimately be happier. 🙂
Now that we’ve covered why you should start a blog, let’s go over what you can blog about.
Choosing Your Blog Niche
If you’re new to blogging, you might not know what a “blog niche” is. Don’t feel embarrassed; I was in the same boat.
A blog niche is essentially a specific topic that you blog about. Sometimes a niche is very limited on things to blog about, such as journaling. In other cases, it can be super broad, with a niche such as parenting.
When it comes to blogging niches, the possibilities are pretty much endless. I’m serious. These are just some of the many different blog niches out there:
• Cooking or Baking (recipes)
• Health and Fitness
• Parenting (or a mom blog)
• Personal Finance
In some cases, people even combine several topics into one blog, making it a one stop shop.
So as you can see, there are so many topics you can blog about.
Now you’re probably wondering how to choose a blogging niche before you start a blog.
This is something that you should really put a lot of thought into. You want to make sure you choose something you’re interested in, care about, have knowledge in, among many other things.
Here are some tips to help guide you through this process.
What Is Your Goal?
The first step to picking a niche is determining why you want to start a blog.
Do you want to provide useful information to your readers based on past experiences? What about doing research on something you’re really passionate about that other people are interested in?
The reason I started Living the Brilaxed Life is because I want to share my knowledge on all things related to life! There are so many things we go through and it’s important people know they aren’t the only ones going through it.
Since I’m a 21 year old college student, I have plenty of things to blog about in regards to college, personal finance, and trying to live a healthier, happier life.
With those topics, it’s definitely possible to earn income through my blog through ads, affiliate marketing, and even creating my own ebooks for my readers.
Your job is to figure out exactly why you want to create a blog and what you want to get from it. Once you’ve determined this, everything else should fall into place.
Picking Your Domain Name
A domain name is the name of a website which is found in the URL bar. For example, my domain name is livingthebrilaxedlife.com.
Your domain name can be anything you want it to be (unless it’s already taken).
It’s important you choose a domain name that you like, though. You’re going to see it every day, other people will see it every day, and it’s going to be a prominent part of your blog.
I should also note you want it to be easy to remember. Don’t throw in random letters or numbers. The easier it is to type, the more likely it will be for people to remember your website. Otherwise, they’re stuck searching for your blog and might not find it.
Here are some ideas to help you choose your domain name.
Usually, you want your domain name to relate to your blogging niche. This makes it a lot easier for potential readers to know what your blog is about.
Another super simple option for choosing a domain name is making it your first and last name. Take me for example. I could create another blog called brianarichardson.com, assuming it’s not already taken.
That domain name could work for several different types of niches, such as blogging, lifestyle, and fashion.
Something More Creative
You can also think outside of the box!
Livingthebrilaxedlife.com doesn’t really mention anything about college, finances, health, fitness, or even blogging. But, it works since my blog is about teaching others the things I’ve learned so far in life, hence Living the Brilaxed Life.
Another fun domain name is thelazyblonde.com (this currently isn’t taken). It’s very representational of me, or maybe even you!
Ask People for Help
If all else fails, look for some guidance.
I spent hours upon hours trying to pick a domain name. Now I also didn’t fully know what I wanted to blog about at that point so it made the process more difficult than it needed to be.
That’s when I finally turned to Ian and asked him for help. After just a few minutes, he threw out “Living the Brilaxed Life” and I instantly liked it. All that time I spent trying to find one and he just came up with it in a few minutes – go figure.
So if you’re having difficulty coming up with your domain name, tell people what you want your blog to be about and what ideas you already have. You can see what they can come up with and they might even help you find the perfect one.
Once you’ve written down a few domain names that you like, you can choose your blogging platform. Make sure you actually write them down! Otherwise, you might forget them when you need ’em the most.
Note: Since there are plenty of active domains, your first choice might not be an option. I show you further down in the ‘How to Start a WordPress Blog on Bluehost’ section how to check if your domain name is available.
Picking a Blogging Platform
The next step to creating your blog is choosing which blogging platform you want to use.
A blogging platform is the place where you design your blog and write all of your posts. This is also known as your ‘backend,’ which is the behind-the-scenes of your blog.
Here is a screenshot of my WordPress backend (WordPress is the blogging platform):
There are several different blogging platforms to choose from.
Free blogging platforms, like Blogger or WordPress.com, are tempting to many people because they don’t come with a price tag. While these may seem like great choices to begin with, you should consider other options, like WordPress.org.
When you use a free blogging platform, your options are limited when it comes to controlling your site. This makes monetization and customization extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Why You Should Choose WordPress
I personally use and recommend WordPress.org, which is different than WordPress.com.
WordPress.com is a blogging platform that lets you create a free website or blog. Because it’s free, your options for themes and monetizing (aka adding ads for revenue) are very limited. In addition, your URL is www.yourblogname.wordpress.com. That URL doesn’t look very nice, and it’s more difficult for your readers to remember.
On the other hand, WordPress.org is a blogging platform that is self-hosted (more on this in the next section), giving you more opportunity to customize your website. It also allows you to place any ads on your site, meaning your earning potential is significantly higher than using WordPress.com. Your URL is also www.yourblogname.com, which is much cleaner looking and easier to remember.
Since I personally use WordPress.org for my blogging platform and it’s the only one I’ve used, my tutorials and knowledge are done using WordPress.
Trust me, WordPress is amazing. It’s fairly simple to use and you can get started with it right away. And when you purchase hosting (in the next section I talk about this), you get access to WordPress.org for free!
Another great thing about WordPress is how many resources are out there to answer any questions you have. In addition, WordPress has several plugins you can’t get on other platforms, including the infamous Yoast SEO (something you absolutely need!).
Now that we’ve covered reasons you should start a blog, how to choose a domain name, and why you should start a WordPress blog, we can go over hosting.
Choosing Your Web Hosting Service
If your goal is to make money from your blog or to get a lot of traffic, you definitely need to be self-hosted. That means you need to find an excellent web hosting service.
Now if you’re anything like I was, you probably don’t know what a web hosting service really is. Yeah, you might have heard the term around, but you don’t fully understand it.
A web hosting service is what allows your site to be seen by people on the World Wide Web. You pay a company to “host” your site. In doing so, they store all of your website’s information on servers. When someone goes to access your site, these servers deliver your content to them.
There’s more to it than that, but that’s the basis of web hosts.
Why You Should Go With Bluehost
As with everything else in the blogging world, the options you have for web hosting service providers are vast.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is the one thing I did a lot of research on before starting my blog. I ended up choosing Bluehost as my web host provider and I have absolutely #noragrets.
To break down my decision, here’s a little pros vs cons of Bluehost.
• Affordable: Bluehost is extremely affordable. Web hosting plans start as low as $3.95 a month, and since Bluehost is an excellent web host provider, it’s a great deal.
• Reliable: Even with over 2 million customers, Bluehost still manages very minimal downtime. This means more happy readers and less risk of losing sales. I haven’t experienced any downtime since I’ve been with them.
• Helpful 24/7 Customer Service: The Bluehost customer service team is very kind and extremely helpful. I’ve contacted them on numerous occasions with any questions I’ve had and they’ve always responded quickly.
• WordPress Experts: Bluehost has in-house WordPress experts to answer your every need when it comes to WordPress. This is extremely helpful if you’ve never used WordPress before!
• Freebie: Your first domain name is free when you signup for 12 months of hosting! Every bit of savings helps, right? Right.
• Can’t Email Customer Service: This is probably my biggest complaint with Bluehost. However, many companies have gotten rid of the email customer service system and replaced it with live chat. While this can be useful for quicker response times, being able to email customer support in some cases is important. I say this because somehow the Pinterest crawler got blacklisted on my site. I was emailing Pinterest and trying to relay the information in my emails to Bluehost via chat and it took way longer to resolve than necessary. However, the problem did get fixed and all is well.
• Too Many Options: When choosing a hosting plan, it can get very overwhelming with all the different options and add-ons, especially if you’re not tech-savvy. That’s part of the reason I created this post! I don’t want you spending money you don’t have to or not purchasing something that you need.
As you can see, Bluehost brings a lot to the table. Aside from the email-less customer service, you really have nothing to worry about when choosing Bluehost as your web host provider.
Now let’s go through the steps to setup your hosting with Bluehost and creating your (first) WordPress site!
How to Start a WordPress Blog with Bluehost
Now that we’ve gone through the steps you need to take before purchasing anything, we can start making a blog! Follow the steps below and you’ll be up and running in no-time. 🙂
Step 1: Select Your Hosting Plan
Bluehost has four different hosting plan options: Basic, Plus, Prime, and PRO.
This is where the “too many options” complaint comes into play, especially when you don’t know what most of it means.
This can cause you to choose the plan with the most options when you really shouldn’t.
The Plus and Prime options might seem like a good option for you if you have no idea what the different options mean. Especially since almost everything is either “unlimited” or “unmetered.”
Well I’m here to tell you all you really need is the Basic plan! Yes, it’s true.
The Basic plan is a lot cheaper than the other options.
This means there’s less upfront costs, which means more money in your pocket.
Since you’re just starting out, you don’t know if this is something you want to invest a lot of money into. Things might get crazy at work or with your family, thus leaving your blog on the back burner.
Website Space and Bandwidth
The basic plan comes with 50GB of website space.
Believe it or not, that’s plenty of space. A single web page only uses about 1-2MB.
To put that into perspective: 1GB is equivalent to 1000MB. Case in point.
A parked domain is a domain that redirects to a main website’s domain.
Say your main domain name is candy.com. You can create a parked domain, candy.net, and when someone searches for this domain, it sends them to candy.com instead.
Honestly, you’re probably not going to need this function. However, the basic plan includes 5 parked domains, which is plenty in case you do need them.
A subdomain allows a user to host multiple websites with a single domain name.
I actually listed one earlier in this post. Can you guess what it is?
It’s www.yourblogname.wordpress.com. Yup, that’s a subdomain.
Bluehost has a nice tutorial on how to create a subdomain with your Bluehost account. Chances are you won’t need this function either, but the basic plan comes with 25 subdomains.
With the basic Bluehost plan, you get up to 5 emails. This means you can create personalized email addresses for your blog.
Mine, for example, is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I only use one custom email address and it’s plenty for me. That means the option of creating 5 will work for you, too.
Now in terms of storage, you only get 100MB per email account you make.
If you don’t send massive amounts of images and files, this should be plenty of space. You can always delete emails that aren’t important and only keep what you need should you need more space.
The other plans come with extras, such as $200 worth of marketing offers, spam experts, domain privacy, and Site Backup Pro.
When checking out, you have the option to add domain privacy, Site Backup Pro, among many other things.
So as you can see, the basic plan is all you really need. If you find you need more space, you can always upgrade later on. But for now, the Basic plan will do.
Once you’ve selected your plan, it’s time to choose your domain name.
Step 2: Pick Your Domain Name
Hopefully you’ve already figured out what you want your domain name to be.
If not, that’s okay. At this point, you have two options.
Choose Your Domain Later and Proceed
The first is to choose your domain name later and continue to checkout. This option eliminates the stress if you haven’t found a domain name you like. Below is a screenshot of the popup that will occur giving you this choice:
All you have to do is click the ‘Choose Free Domain Later’ button and proceed to checkout.
Enter Your Domain and Proceed
The other option is to spend some time brainstorming ideas and write them down (if you haven’t already)! You’re going to want it to be a .com, as it’s the most common and easiest to remember.
It’s also wise to make your domain name reflect your niche. It helps people understand what your blog is about. However, you don’t have to do this. It’s just a recommendation.
Once you have some ideas, you can input them into the text box shown below and click ‘next’:
If the domain you typed in is already taken, you will encounter the below page:
You can either choose one of the suggestions or search the availability of one of your other domain name options. I highly recommend the latter, as you want to stick with a .com.
After you’ve found the perfect domain for your blog, it’s time to create your Bluehost account and pick the options specific to your hosting plan.
Hint: If the domain name you entered in is available, you will be taken to the ‘create your account’ page shown below:
Step 3: Account Setup and Package Information
This is where you create your Bluehost account and somewhat customize your hosting plan.
Once you fill out your account information, you can go over your package information.
There are four different options for your account plan.
The 36 month and 60 month plans are definitely a better deal, as they’re only $3.95 a month. If blogging is something you’re serious about, I suggest purchasing the 36 month plan.
Otherwise, the 12 month plan is your best bet, especially if money is tight.
Sometimes there’s an option to purchase monthly plans, and I highly advise against this. You risk not renewing your hosting on time, which can cause your blog to be down, which in turn costs you money. In addition, it’s just a hassle to deal with.
So make sure you purchase at least a 12 month plan. That’s what I did and it’s a set it and forget it kind of thing.
Domain Privacy Protection
This is the first of two add-ons that you need for your hosting plan. It essentially keeps your personal information, such as your name and address, private. I highly recommend you purchase this.
Attached below is a screenshot from Bluehost further explaining the Domain Privacy Protection. You can also click on the ‘More Information’ link under the Domain Privacy Protection option for further details.
Site Backup Pro
Your site absolutely needs to be backed up, but I don’t recommend using Site Backup Pro.
I have this with my hosting plan and I do not use it. I personally think it’s way too confusing to use for backing up my site, thus rendering it useless.
There is a free WordPress plugin called UpdraftPlus that I use to backup my site to Dropbox and I love it. So don’t purchase Site Backup Pro.
Search Engine Jumpstart
Search Engine Jumpstart provides tools and information for optimizing your site for SEO (search engine optimization).
There are plenty of free resources out there with information regarding SEO. It’s very important your site is optimized for search engines. This helps with credibility and can bring in thousands of page views a month once it’s done right.
Since I haven’t used Bluehost’s Search Engine Jumpstart, I can’t personally recommend it. However, if it’s something you’re interested in, I highly suggest doing your research on it to determine if it’s worth the price.
Otherwise, use free resources on the internet to help you out.
There is a great free WordPress plugin called Yoast SEO that can help you follow common SEO rules. I use it, among so many other bloggers, and it’s very helpful. Yoast also has a large collection of resources on their blog about optimizing your site.
SiteLock Security – Find
SiteLock is a security add-on for online businesses.
It verifies your credentials to show your customers you are trustworthy. In addition, it helps with basic spam monitoring, among many other things.
You shouldn’t need this add-on, as WordPress has some great free anti-spam plugins.
Comodo PositiveSSL Bundle:
It is important that your site is secure. With an SSL certificate, your website goes from an HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) to an HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol securectbl).
An SSL certificate is beneficial to both your SEO and to your customer’s security. Without it, someone trying to reach your blog may encounter an error saying your site is unsecure. Chances are, they’re going to close the tab and not go back to your website.
Along with the Domain Privacy Protection, I highly recommend purchasing the Comodo PositiveSSL Bundle. In the package information screenshot above, I have all the add-ons you should need.
Other than that, you should be all set!
Step 4: Creating Your Bluehost Account
The following will appear, prompting you to create a password for your Bluehost account:
Click the ‘Create your password’ button and you’ll be taken to the following page:
Make sure to pick a secure password and write it down. There’s nothing worse than forgetting a password! Once you’ve done that and checked the acknowledgement box, click the ‘Next’ button and you’ll see this:
Click the ‘log in’ button and head to step 5. It’s time to install WordPress and start blogging!
Step 5: Installing WordPress on Bluehost
This is the most exciting part about setup because it’s the last thing to do before you start customizing your site! I should mention that installing WordPress is absolutely FREE, making it even more awesome.
So here’s how you do it.
Pick a Theme
Once you’ve logged in, you will be taken to the page below where you’ll pick a theme.
Since you’re just getting started, don’t spend too much time picking a theme. Choose a free one for now and then upgrade to a nicer one once you’re done setting things up. Trust me, a theme you pay for is much easier to work with and is more aesthetically pleasing.
After you’ve selected a theme and installed it, you’ll be redirected to the following page:
Click on the ‘Start Building’ button and you’re prompted with the following:
This is your WordPress backend! Everything on the left is what’s used to add content to your blog.
If I remember correctly, choosing either the ‘Business’ or ‘Personal’ options costs you money, as someone else is setting up your site for you. I chose the ‘I don’t need help’ option, as figuring out WordPress isn’t that difficult.
If you have any questions, you can contact Bluehost customer service or do a quick Google search.
Once you’ve made your decision, you should see this page in your WordPress backend:
You should notice the box that says ‘Launch your site’ I have outlined in red. Once your site is up and running the way you want, you have 20-25 posts written up, and you feel confident in it, you can launch your site.
This will make it public so anyone can see it, as opposed to just you being able to see it.
I actually launched my site way before I was ready and I wish I wouldn’t have. It would have been nice to have everything the way I wanted it before letting other people see it.
That’s why I suggest waiting until you’re absolutely ready to launch your blog. Once you’re ready, you’ll be taken to this page where you’ll finalize your blog:
Pretty simple, right? Now you can start editing your blog!
I tried to incorporate everything I could think of when it comes to starting a blog with Bluehost and WordPress. If there’s something I missed, please let me know so I can add it!