If you are reading this, you might have read this post on why you should start a blog. I hope you have made the decision to bite the bullet and start one! You might still be on the fence, so let me know and I can talk you through it! Now I am switching gears to show you how to start a blog. This is a post that I wish I wrote a long time ago because I know these types of posts are very helpful.
When I first started my blog, I was always searching “how to start a blog” on Google and Pinterest because I didn’t have any blogger friends or anyone to help me. I finally figured it out through trial and error, though! This is a very long post, but it is very detailed! Let’s go ahead and start making your blog!
Find your niche
As a first step, you need to decide on your niche. Your niche is what your blog is going to be about. For Sweetly Sally, I would say that my focus is lifestyle. This includes college life, beauty and fitness, but I enjoy writing about beauty and devotionals the most. It is important to have a niche so that your readers aren’t confused about your blog. I have had trouble in the past with this one, but I think I’ve finally found my specialty.
Have a blog name
This might be one of the hardest steps in starting a blog: Figuring out the name. For me, it just clicked and I immediately knew that I wanted my blog to be named Sweetly Sally, but for others, coming up with the name for your blog is the toughest part.
Here are some things to remember:
- Make it short and sweet. You want your viewers to remember your blog name. Having a long and confusing blog name won’t do you any good.
- Don’t include numbers. This is just a personal preference, but just like Instagram usernames, I think that numbers make the name look like spam and I think it can look tacky if not done the right way.
- Make it catchy. My favorite way to make something catchy is to use alliteration- that’s why I came up with Sweetly Sally. It is easy enough to remember and people won’t have a hard time with it.
- Have the name relate to your niche. If your niche is running, maybe make your blog name something to do with fitness or exercise. Having your blog name correlate with your niche is very important for your potential readers.
What is self-hosting?
Next, you are going to need to decide if you want a free website or if you want to pay for one. A paid website is one that is self-hosted, like wordpress.org while a free website doesn’t have as much freedom and flexibility, like wordpress.com. You can purchase a domain on either website, but you have to decide if you want to self host or not. Most of the time, if you don’t self-host, your blog or website will have a (.wordpress.com) or a (.blogspot.com) after your blog name.
I currently use wordpress (.org) so I am self-hosting my website. That means I have access to better themes and more features. Just remember that if you decide to self-host, the costs are probably going to be higher.
Here are some reasons why you should do self-hosting:
- You have more creative freedom so that your website can be unique to you and your style.
- You won’t have the .wordpress or .blogspot
- Your blog will look more professional. This is important if you want to be taken seriously.
- You are in control of your content and you own it. If you use a free website to host your blog, they have full rights to all of your content… That’s not cool at all.
- You can partake in sponsored and paid campaigns. Some websites and affiliate programs won’t let you join unless you host the blog yourself.
Don’t do self-hosting if you are not serious about blogging. It is a pain and a half to pay for hosting when you don’t even use your blog- it is just a waste.
Register your Domain
What is a domain?
Next step is to register your domain… You might be wondering what the heck is a domain. Well, a domain is the name and address of your blog- it is the destination.
How do I register my domain?
Registering your domain is the key to starting a website or a blog. You simply can’t start one without registering it (I don’t think…). In order to register your domain, you first need to find a hosting site. Most of the time, domains and hosting go hand in hand. I recommend buying and registering your domain under the same company to make things easy. Let’s move right on to hosting.
What is hosting, again?
As I mentioned earlier, hosting is how your site is run. You can self-host or you can use a free website to host your blog. If you choose to self-host, you need to choose a website to actually “host” your blog.
Here are some hosting sites I like and recommend:
GoDaddy: This is who I use. They have really great prices and they have 24/7 phone support. If you ever need help with anything, just call them and they can help you.
BlueHost: This is a great option for beginners as they offer you a free domain name if you register with them and if you are just starting out. If I were to start a blog again, I would probably use this hosting site.
WP Engine: This is a good one if you are a little more advanced. The prices are more expensive, but you get more bang for your buck. You get included security and other features that are great. Just remember that this hosting site is only for WordPress users- that’s what makes this hosting so good.
Flywheel: This is a hosting site that offers free migrations if you are transferring hosting sites and they are also a WordPress dedicated hosting website.
Remember that there are a lot of hosting websites and you need to do your research. Some offer more resources than others and some are more expensive than others. Do. Your. Research.
How much does it cost to host my website?
It will depend for each hosting website, but some websites run promos for the first few months that you use their hosting. Again, do your research and make sure that the price you sign up with will carry on and not increase with time. If you ever have any questions, email the hosting website and they can explain their prices to you and they will answer your questions.
Can you take me through a step-by-step tutorial on how to step up my blog?
Yes! For the sake of this post, I am going to use Bluehost to explain how to set up a blog. So go ahead and go to Bluehost’s website. This is what you’ll see when you first land on their page.
First thing you notice is the pricing.
In small lettering, it says that this is only a special intro offer. If you click on that, you will see that the prices for you will switch back to the normal prices when it auto-renews. So basically, it won’t always be $3.45 a month- the prices will eventually increase.
You are going to click “get started now.” Seems pretty simple, right? This website is awesome because it is very user friendly.
Next, you are going to need to select the plan that you want. This is where I would do my research. Try emailing the company, explain your blogging needs and the sales rep will instruct you to which plan would be best for you. Remember that the prices shown are the introductory prices and they will go up after some time.
I personally would go with the most popular plan because it is only $3 more and it has unmetered website space and bandwidth. This means that you won’t be restricted as to how much data you use on your website. This is smart to have so that you can cover your bases. You can usually upgrade in the future, but downgrading might be against the company’s policy so read into that, too.
I clicked on the “plus” package and I am left at this page.
If you are starting from scratch, aka you don’t have a domain, you will enter the domain that you want for your blog.
You can also choose which ending you want- .com, .org, .net, etc. I think .com is easier to remember. So go ahead and enter your blog domain! You have to take into consideration that your preferred domain might be taken. Have a few ideas up your sleeve just in case!
You will then be taken to a page where you make your account and enter your preferences and payment information!
There will be some things on the package page that the hosting site will try to get you to buy. These options are automatically checked, so research those before you hit submit. You get your domain for free, but you need to pay for a year of hosting upfront.
After you have entered your payment info, you officially have registered domain!
Setting up the Hosting
If you don’t use Bluehost or you don’t set up your domain through this site, your hosting will not be set up. If this is the case, you will take the step where you enter in your already owned and registered domain on the right side of the screen.
Because we did it all at once through Bluehost, we can skip this step- yay! If you set up your domain and website through a website like Godaddy, the process can be more difficult. You will need to link your hosting and your domain. I don’t remember how I actually did this, so calling the 24/7 customer service will be helpful.
The next step to this process is to install WordPress if that is the website type that you want. There are many different websites, but WordPress is probably the most popular as it is the most customizable.
- Once you receive your welcome link by email, go to your dashboard or homepage, known as cPanel.
- Head over to MOJO Marketplace.
- Click on the button that says, “One Click Install.”
- Find “WordPress” and it’s icon. This is located under the “blogs” category. You might have to go to the next page.
- Once you find “WordPress,” click on “Start” to start the installation.
- The screen will prompt you to choose which domain you are connecting with WordPress. Click on the domain that you want (most likely the one that you just purchased).
- You should see a menu that says, “Advanced Options.” This is where you create your login for WordPress so that you can access your website’s dashboard. Make sure to pick something that you will remember, but make sure it has a strong password. I also recommend changing your password every few months for security reasons. Having a unique username is smart, too.
- Click the option that creates a new database, too.
- Then click “Install.”
Now you finally have your WordPress blog!
How do I access my blog to write posts and customize it?
You will probably get an email with your login information, but for me, I access my page by entering in my domain (www.sweetlysally.com) followed by /wp-admin. Some blogs and logins might be different, though. This takes me to the login page for my website. When you first log in, you will be taken to the dashboard. You can add features like “Quick Start” to quickly jot down a post idea or Analytics to see your blog stats. Your dashboard is like your homepage. On the sidebar, there will be a long menu with items like “Posts,” “Media,” “Pages,” etc.
What are those tabs on the side?
Posts: This is where you create your content. You just click on “add new” and you can start typing away!
Media: This is where all of your photos are stored, similar to a library. I rarely use this as I insert my images directly into the post.
Pages: This is where you can make new pages and menus. This is where I create my “About Me” page, the “Contact Me” page, etc.
Comments: This is where all of your comments will show up- I don’t typically use this feature either. I use Disqus for my commenting system. Future post on that, coming!
Appearance: This is where you can finally customize your blog. You can search for themes under “Theme” and you can click on “Customize” after you choose a theme in order to set the colors and further customize other features. You can also make menus and navigation bars. This is also where you find your widgets- the items that you can add on- like the search bar and the About Me excerpt that appears on my sidebar.
Plugins: Plugins is definitely my favorite section. This allows for so much customization. You can add features like commenting, security, Instagram, recipe cards, etc. here. I have so many plugins installed… I need a separate post for that!
Users: Users won’t be an important tab for you if you are the only contributor. I wouldn’t worry about this.
Tools: You can export your website here (do this frequently to keep a backup of your posts, etc.). Some installed plugins might appear here, too.
Settings: Just play around with this tab. Settings is pretty self explanatory and it has basically just general settings like how things are displayed.
How do I write a post?
This is the most important part of having a blog! You need to write content in order for people to read your blog!
- Head to your dashboard (homepage)
- On the left hand side, there will be a sidebar. Click on “Posts.”
- On the top of the page or in a hovering tab, click, “Add New.”
- Start writing! Make sure that your post is on the tab “Visual” so that you aren’t writing in code. This is how I am writing this post right this second! You can also use the toolbar to use bold, italics,
The next most important part is having a theme. A theme is what gives your blog character and personality. It is important to have a theme that reflects you!
Should I use a free theme or buy one?
This option is totally up to you! If you search on Google, you can find a bunch of free themes that are so great and very customizable. For the first year of blogging (maybe more), I used a free theme through WordPress and loved it. After a while, I headed over to Etsy to find something a little more customizable. Once you find your theme, install it under “Appearance” and then “Themes.” After installation, make sure to activate it!
What is a Child Theme? Do I need that?
A Child Theme is a what is says- it’s like a baby theme that stems from the mama theme, Genesis. Genesis is probably the most popular theme out there and it runs for about $60 I want to say. Genesis is highly responsive (aka it forms to your needs and works on mobile devices) and it has endless possibilities. Once you buy Genesis and install it, you can buy a “child theme” to install for further customization. I currently use Genesis and I have a child theme.
What are pre-made themes?
You can also buy a pre-made blog layout where everything is all ready and set for you. This is great if you love the way the pre-made theme already looks. These usually don’t have a lot of freedom and customization, though.
What are plugins?
Plugins are where you can install features to improve your website. Security, analytics (website stats) and commenting systems are included here. Plugins and widgets go hand in hand.
Which plugins do I need?
You don’t necessarily need plugins, but I highly recommend them. Some people say that too many plugins will slow your website down, but I haven’t had issues with that yet.
Here are the ones I love:
Disqus: Disqus is a commenting system that installs on your blog posts so that your readers have an opportunity to comment. You have to make an account with Disqus, but it prevents against spam comments and it is all centralized on the Disqus website.
YOAST: If you don’t know what SEO is, it stands for Search Engine Optimization. This ranking is basically how you show up on Google. The better your ranking, the higher up you are on google and the more exposure you get. This helps you formulate your posts to be the best they can be.
Limit Login Attempts: You know how some websites get hacked (AHEM. Mine!)? This plugin works to prevent robots from logging into your website and messing everything up.
Jetpack: One-stop shop is what I think about when I see this plugin. Jetpack has everything you need to make your website better. You can activate subscriptions, comments, analytics, and more through this plugin. This is also how you set up the social media sharing button for each post.
Pin It Button for Pinterest: This is a must have if you love Pinterest. This allows you to have the “Pin It” button show up on your photos whenever a reader hovers over a picture. This is so helpful for getting exposure and more traffic.
Google Analytics: I am telling you now- set up Google Analytics. This is where you get all of your blog’s traffic information. You can figure out how old your main audience is, how many page views you get, how many users you get, what your bounce rate is (how long a user stays on your site- the lower the number, the better) and more.
Now that your blog is all set up, you can now start writing and sharing your beautiful thoughts with the world! Here are some final steps you should take.
Make sure that you are enjoying your blog. It is hard work, but it is so worth it. Know that everyone started somewhere and it might take a while for you to get viewers, but that’s okay! It wasn’t until recently that I started getting more traffic. The wonderful thing about loving to blog is that it doesn’t feel like work- it is more of a hobby. Love what you do and you won’t work a day in your life!
If you are serious about blogging, try to be consistent. I try to post twice a week, but most people make it by posting 2-4 times a month. Whatever floats your boat! Whatever your schedule is, be consistent or else you won’t get the viewers that you want. It’s the worst when a blogger forgets to post for 3 months and then all of the hard work and traffic is gone.
Scheduling can be your best friend. This is where you can pre-write a post in advance so that you can be consistently posting. You get to this by first writing your post on the “Add New Post” section. Once you complete it, instead of clicking “Publish,” on the right hand toolbar, click “edit” next to the “Publish Immediately” text. You can then pick which date and time works for you. Once you press okay, the “Publish” button will turn into “Schedule.” Click this and you’re all set!
Y’all, I am totally beat. This ended up being over 3,200 words (still counting) and I seriously did not think I would even reach 1,000 words. I hope y’all found this helpful! If I can add anything or write a blog post on something particular, reach out to me please! I am so happy I finally sat down to write this post! Confession: I have been avoiding it like fire because I knew it would be time intensive but I am so glad I did it. I will be happy to answer any questions for you if you have them! Happy Blogging!