I publish blogging advice and tips every single week, but this week it occurred to me that, in all of those words, I’ve never addressed the absolute basics of how to start a blog.
I’ve mostly been writing this series with established bloggers in mind, but I know there are lots of people out there who are just starting to think about getting into blogging, and who don’t know where to begin, so here´s my ten-step guide on how to start a blog…
How to Start a Blog in 10 Easy Steps
Work out why you want to start a blog, and what you hope to get out of it.
Before you find out HOW to start a blog, it´s important to figure out WHY you want to start a blog in the first place. Do you want to start a blog to make money? To make friends? To keep a digital record of your life? Because everyone else seems to be doing it, so you figure, why not? There’s no wrong answer to this question (Despite what some people might like you to think!), and there may not be one single answer either, but working out WHY you want to start a blog, and what you hope to gain from the experience will help focus your mind, and determine how you go about achieving those aims. Once you’ve worked out what you want to achieve from blogging, I’d recommend writing it down somewhere, so you have something to refer back to as your blog progresses.
Decide what you want to blog about
Once you know why you want to start a blog, the next question is what you’re going to blog about. My best advice here is to not get too caught up in the idea of trying to settle on a specific “niche”. It’s a good idea to know roughly what kind of topics you want to cover (and, again, I’d recommend writing them down: treat yourself to a pretty notebook if it helps!), but don’t be surprised if you end up changing your mind somewhere down the line: many bloggers do, and there’s nothing wrong with writing about a variety of different topics. If you don’t have a specific focus for your site, chances are you’ll fall under the banner of the “lifestyle blog” (they’ve never been more popular, so you’re in good company!), and the list of topics you just wrote down will become the different categories on your site. If you do want to narrow down your niche a little, my best tip is to first of all sit down and write a list of at least twenty ideas for blog posts. That might sound like a lot, but it´s less than a month´s worth of content for most professional bloggers, so if you can´t come up with 20 ideas, it could be a good idea to re-think your niche.
Related: Why I´ve given up on niche blogging
Pick a name for your blog
Picking a blog name is something that stumps many bloggers. This is obviously a really personal decision, but my main tips are:
- Don’t go for anything too specific, which will lock you into only blogging about a particular subject. No matter how sure you are that you want to write about beauty, for instance, I’d advise you not to choose a name like ‘Amber’s Beauty Blog’ (Especially if your name isn’t Amber…) because it means that changing your topic will also mean changing your blog name.
- Check to make sure there aren’t any other blogs or brands already using the name.
- Check whether the URL and social media handles are available for your chosen name.
On that last subject…
Register a domain name and social media handles
You don’t technically NEED your own domain to start a blog – sites like WordPress.com and Blogger will provide you with a URL, which will generally include the name of their site. (So, instead of ForeverAmber.co.uk, which is my own domain, I’d be foreveramber.blogspot.com, or similar) If you’re serious about blogging, however, I really recommend buying your own domain: it looks more professional, is easier for people to remember, and will also prevent someone else snapping it up from under your nose. Bluehost provide you with a free domain when you buy one of their hosting packages, and you can check to see whether your chosen name is available using the domain name checker below:
At this point, you should also sign up for social media accounts, using your chosen blog name, or as close to it as you can get. Some bloggers choose to use their own name on social media, rather than the name of their blog: whichever you go for, though, my advice is to choose one or the other, rather than choosing something completely different to either, which will make you harder to find, and could also be confusing to your followers. Which social networks you use most often will come down to personal preference, but I’d suggest grabbing your chosen name on Twitter, Facebook (you’ll need to start a fan page, and have a certain number of followers before you can have a custom URL), Instagram and Pinterest to start with.
Pick your blogging platform
The question of whether to host your blog yourself, or use a free service like Blogger or WordPress.com is one that could be the subject of an entire post on its own. I’m not the person to write that post, however, because my preference is for self-hosting, and I have very limited experience with Blogger, Tumblr etc. There are arguments both for and against each type of hosting but, for me, self-hosting (Which involves paying for your site to be hosted on your own domain, as opposed to on the Blogspot/Wordpress/Tumblr domains) is a good idea for those who want to turn their blog into a business.
With a self-hosted site you have complete control over every aspect of your blog, whereas with a free service, you’re essentially at the mercy of a third party. I much prefer the flexibility of hosting my site myself, but, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s the best solution for you – there are plenty of successful bloggers out there who use free services, so this isn’t a decision that’s going to make or break your blogging career. (It’s also worth noting that using a free service doesn’t mean you’re stuck with their name in your URL: most free blogging platforms do allow you to use your own domain name.)
Regardless of what you decide here, remember it doesn’t have to be forever: you CAN switch from free hosting to self-hosting (or vice versa) at some point if you want to: it’s not, however, always an easy transition, so it’s a good idea to do a bit of reading beforehand, and try to work out which will be best for you.
Find a web host and set up your blog
Assuming that you´ve decided to go the self’hosted route (if not, feel free to skip this section!), your next step is to find a web host, and actually set up your blog. This bit can seem a little bit daunting if you´ve never done it before, or if you aren´t particularly technically minded, but luckily most hosts do their best to make it easy on you, and will provide detailed instructions on how to start a blog using their service. I´m going to use Bluehost as an example here, but whichever host you use should be similarly straightforward – and if they´re not, you might want to consider shopping around a little longer!
So, your first step is to choose your hosting plan:
How to start a blog: choosing a hosting package
Bear in mind that you can change your package if you decide you´ve picked the wrong one, so don´t worry if you´re not totally sure which one to go for. Once you´ve made your choice, it´s time to either enter your domain name, if you have one, or to choose one if you haven´t already:
Next, it´s time to set up your account and enter your payment information. As you can see, this is pretty straightforward, and if you´ve ever purchased anything online, it should be a doddle:
How to start a blog: installing your blog with Bluehost
Next up, you´re going to have to install wordpress on your brand new hosting account. This is the bit where you actually get to create that blog you´ve spent all that time thinking about, and, again, it probably sounds a bit daunting if you´ve never installed a content management system before… which I´m betting you haven´t, or you wouldn´t be reading this post, would you? Exactly. What I´d say to you here, though, is that if I can do it, literally ANYONE can (And I really mean that, too), and all you really have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions Bluehost provide for you:
How to start a blog: installing WordPress
Aaaaand you´re done! OK, not quite: you still have… well, pretty much everything else to do, but the good news is that the hard part is over, and now you can move onto the fun stuff. (Well, I think it´s fun, anyway. I don´t get out very often, though, so maybe just take that at face value…)
Dress up your blog
So, you´ve got WordPress successfully installed on your new hosting account, but that installation probably doens´t look anything like the glossy, magazin-like blogs you´ve been seeing, does it? Or even like the slightly LESS fancy blogs you´ve been seeing either. That´s because you need a theme – or your blog´s clothes, to put it another way.
When you first access your blog, it’ll have a generic theme generated by WordPress/Blogger/Tumblr, or whichever blog platform you’re using. You can change that to whatever you like: where you find your theme will depend on which platform you’re using, but all three of the ones I’ve mentioned have a range of free templates you can choose from. If you’re prepared to pay a bit more, a quick Google will find you tons of ready-made and custom templates: I use ThemeForest for blog themes, but I know a lot of bloggers swear by Etsy. I posted some basic tips for blog designs here, but again, it’s really up to you how you want your site to look.
To install your chosen theme, just go to the “appearance” section of your WordPress dashboard, click on themes, and then select the “add new” option to upload your chosen theme. Personally, I find WordPress pretty intuitive (and I say this as a not-particularly-technically-minded person), so this part should be self-explanatory. If you´re having difficulties, however, either your web host or theme designer should be able to help you, so don´t be afraid to ask!
Once your blog is “dressed” it’s time for the final touch, which is to add your own logo and branding – the things that make your site more personal. This doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, either: you can choose to pay someone to create a logo for you, but you can also create one yourself, using any graphics programme. I use Photoshop, but there are lots of free online image editors out there which you can use. In terms of branding, you’ll want to choose a colour scheme, fonts etc, which will run through your blog design and also onto your social media channels, helping your site be more identifiable.
Set up your menu, categories and homepage
Your blog categories are the various different subjects your blog covers, and they´re also a handy way to organize your content. For instance, my blog has separate categories for fashion, beauty, lifestyle and blogging: each one of those categories has its own page on the blog, which allows readers to easily find what they´re looking for, and each one also has several sub-categories, to further filter the posts. How many categories your blog has is up to you, but it´s a good idea to choose just a few categories to put on your blog´s menu (Again, you´ll set this up through the “Appearance” tab in WordPress), to avoid confusing people. These are the main topics your blog will cover, so it´s important to choose them well, and make sure each category is something you know you´ll be able to write a lot of content for. Speaking of writing content…
Start creating content
Finally, after all of those steps, you can start creating content! I’d start off by creating an “about” page, or writing a short introductory post to let readers know who you are. After that, the world is your oyster! There’s obviously much more to say about how you can go about finding readers for the content you end up writing, but I can’t stress too many times that the content has to come first, and I’d recommend concentrating on that before you start to worry about traffic, followers, etc. It can be really disheartening at first to be writing content which no one is reading, but if you want readers and followers, there has to be something for them to read and follow: and that bit’s up to you! At this stage, I also recommend creating a dedicated “About” page, so that visitors to your site will know who you are, and how to contact you. This post is about how to start a blog, not how to write content, but you´ll find some more information in the links below:
Promote, promote, promote!
Congratulations: you´re now a fully-fledged blogger! Now you just need to persuade people to actually read what you´ve written… and figure out a way to earn money from it, if that´s something you´re interested in. The bad news is that working out how to start a blog was the easy bit: taking a brand new blog and growing it into a business – or even just something people will want to read – is hard. Like, REALLY hard. The good news, however, is that there´s plenty of help out there, should you need it. I publish blogging tips and advice here every Sunday (you can view the full archive of those posts here), and if you´re looking for even more information, in the form of a step-by-step guide, you can also purchase my book, My Blogging Secrets, on Amazon. Not only does it cover some more information on how to start a blog, it also aims to help you take that blog and turn it into a business: happy reading!
Got any tips on how to start a blog?
(´How to Start a Blog´image via Pixabay)