How to Start a Blog in 3 Easy Steps
Learn how to make a blog with our simple 3 step guide for beginners using WordPress, the best blogging platform trusted by both businesses & individuals.
Have you ever wanted to start your own blog? Whether it be for your business or just personally as a hobby, blogging is an incredibly beneficial and fun activity. All it takes is a little technical know-how, some decent writing skills, and strong dedication.
In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know to start a blog. We'll show you what platform to use for blogging, how to build your blog, and then how to set it up so you can start writing your first post! So let's get started!
What is a Blog & Why Do You Need One
Let’s start with the basics. First, what is a blog? According to Wikipedia, a blog is technically a discussion or informational website published on the web containing informal diary-style text entries (“posts”).
The term comes from humble beginnings when it was known as a personal web log. Like a digital diary, this is where an individual would journal about their day, and the term web log was soon shortened to blog.
Marketers quickly saw the potential in this new way to communicate online and the trend soon took off big time.
DID YOU KNOW? Blogging has been around since the nineties and today there are more than two million blog posts being published each and every day!
There are many great reasons for starting a blog, especially for your business, including:
- It’s great for engagement
- It boosts your site’s search engine traffic
- It builds trust and shows your expertise
- It attracts leads and customers
- It is a long-term system with continuous benefits
How Do I Make a Blog?
Now that you know why you should start a blog, let’s dig into the practicalities of how to do so.
Blogging, itself, is relatively easy. The hardest part, is getting the blog setup. This is the most confusing and overwhelming part of the process simply because it requires a little technical know-how.
The good news is, you won't need to learn any programming! However, you will need to learn a little bit (the basics) of website best practices and how to use the right software to setup and manage your blog. Think of it like using a computer for the first time. You don't need to know how to program anything, but you will need to learn how to use it. Starting out, this might feel like you’re drowning in an overload of information, but that's why we're here and that’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide for you. You can always contact us if you have any questions along the way.
Learn to Make a Blog Following These 3 Simple Steps
To make this as easy as possible, we've broken this guide into 3 simple steps. To get your blog up and running, you're going to need to do the following:
Step 1: Choose a Platform
Choose a blogging platform that you will use to build your blog with.
Step 2: Get a Domain & Hosting
Register a domain name and web hosting so people can see your blog on the web.
Step 3: Setup Your Blog
Setup and customize your blog so it looks and behaves the way you want it to.
That's it! Those are the 3 simple steps every successful blog requires. Of course, accomplishing this is easier said than done. So without further ado, let's continue!
Step 1: Choose Your Platform
The first step is to choose the platform you’re going to run your blog with. This is essentially the software that allows you to build and manage your blog without coding. It is technically known as a Content Management System or CMS for short.
CMSs make things easy so you don't have to know any programming. A CMS will automatically generate all the code your blog needs for you so that your blog is instantly built. Each CMS then has some sort of back-end control panel where you can login to manage your blog. This is where you would add new posts, edit or delete existing ones, and tweak your blog settings.
There are plenty of CMSs out there, but WordPress is by far the most popular (now over 28% of all websites on the web use it) and in our opinion, the best choice for starting a blog. It's so great we use WordPress ourselves!
As you can see below, this graph from W3Techs.com shows the market share of 30 popular CMSs – and WordPress is by far used the most.
Why Use WordPress for Your CMS?
As we mentioned above, there are numerous CMSs you can choose from, but WordPress is the route to go. Without getting into too much detail, here's why:
- WordPress is FREE – The CMS itself is completely free and you never have to pay for a license to use it commercially.
- WordPress is MOBILE & FLEXIBLE – WordPress is not only used for blogs, but can be used to build fully fledged websites that are responsive & mobile friendly.
- WordPress is POPULAR – It used by 28% of the web! Both small and large businesses use it. Large brands like BBC America, Bloomberg, Sony, Forbes, CNN, and many others all use WordPress.
- WordPress is EASY TO USE – This may be a bit misleading, but compared to other CMSs, WordPress is easy to use. However, you should remember that all CMSs can be confusing at first for any beginner.
- WordPress is OPEN SOURCE – This means that anyone can view the code used to make WordPress and report any bugs or security issues to its open source community, ultimately making it safer and better.
- WordPress is easy to get HELP & SUPPORT – Since it has such a huge community, there are plenty of places you can go to find help. Many forums and blogs continually publish tips and tricks to help you better use WordPress. And of course, WordPress itself has a huge resource to help you.
WHICH WORDPRESS? If you start to do any kind of research about WordPress, you'll soon discover that there are two versions of WordPress! One is WordPress.com and the other, is WordPress.org. These are two very different options – and in this guide, we're only referring to the latter option (.org). The .org option is the recommended way to go. You can learn more about WordPress.org vs WordPress.com here.
Now that you've decided which platform to use for your blog, it's time to move on to the next step!
Step 2: Get a Domain Name & Web Hosting
The next step is to get a domain name and web hosting. You'll need these to have a blog. But what exactly are they?
What is a Domain Name?
You probably already know what a domain name is. A domain name is the address of your website. This is what people will type in their browser's address bar when they want to go to your site. For example, our domain name is HowToGetOnline.com. Every website/blog needs a domain name so you can easily & conveniently visit it.
What is Web Hosting?
Web hosting is a service offered by a company that gives you online storage space for your blog, essentially making it accessible on the World Wide Web. The company is known as a web host and they’ll save your blog on a web server, kind of like an online hard drive. Without it, people on the web wouldn't be able to view your blog.
QUICK RECAP: Both a domain name and web hosting are required for any website or blog.
Why Does WordPress Need These?
The .org version of WordPress (the free version we mentioned above) requires web hosting to work. In fact, every website in existence does and so does the .com version of WordPress as well. The .com version simply provides its own web hosting, which part of the reason why its not free. Remember that WordPress is essentially software and it needs to be installed on a web server that can run it properly and allow users on the web to see it. Fortunately, almost all web hosts make it very easy to install WordPress in a matter of minutes.
Where Do You Get a Domain Name & Web Hosting?
Now that you know why you need a domain name and web hosting, where do you get it?
You typically would get a domain name from a company that offers domain name registration and web hosting from a company that offers web hosting services. Fortunately today, most web hosting companies offer domain name registration as well so you can conveniently get both from the same spot. We have a list of the best web hosting companies for WordPress that you can use, but HostGator is one of the highest recommended web hosts for blogging and the one we will use in this guide.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? As a general rule, you can expect to pay around $5 per month for web hosting plus $15 per year for your domain name. This is the base cost to have your own blog.
Purchasing a domain name and web hosting is fairly quick and easy and it is a must if you want to have a professional blog. Let's walk through the signup steps very quickly.
Visit HostGator.com and go to their entry-level web hosting plan to get started. We worked with HostGator to get you a special 60% off discount if you follow our link!
Click the yellow signup button to proceed to checkout. This plan will contain everything your blog will need in terms of web hosting for the next few years.
On the checkout page, you'll need to register a new domain name. Type in the domain name that you wish to register. It's important to pick a good domain name and we have a helpful guide on doing so that you can review first. Needless to say, a good domain name is important for your blog.
Next, you'll need to choose a web hosting plan (package type). Keep it on Hatchling (which should be selected by default) as this is a great entry level plan. We also recommend 36 months for the billing cycle as you'll save the most and can still cancel at any time.
Next, enter your billing information which is all pretty much straight forward. After that, you'll come to the section with additional services. Deselect all of them as these are addons that your blog probably won't need yet. You can always add these on later if you do.
After that, confirm all your information on the page and click the yellow order button. You now have web hosting and a domain name! Now let's prep your web hosting account and get it ready for WordPress!
Prepping Your Web Hosting Account for WordPress
It may take HostGator several minutes to set everything up for you. You should receive an order confirmation email with details on how to login to your new web hosting account with HostGator. Once you login, your main dashboard (they call it the Customer Portal) should look something like this:
Click on the Packages button from the menu (highlighted in the screenshot above) and then login (there should be a blue link with the name of your web server to right of the text “Login”) using your username and password that were emailed to you. You should now be within your web hosting control panel that looks like this:
FUN FACT: You are now logged into your control panel, which is essentially sitting on the actual web server your hosting company (in our case, HostGator) is providing you with. If you look at the URL in your browser's address bar, you'll see something like “gatorXXXX.hostgator.com” somewhere in there. This is the web server's name that HostGator gives it. Your blog will be installed on this particular web server, but all you have to do is type in your blog's domain name to access it (once your blog is installed, which we'll get to in a moment).
Once you're in your control panel, don't be overwhelmed by the number of options you have. Web hosting control panels offer a lot of features and functionality as they must support a wide variety of website functions. Simply look for the WordPress – 1 Click Installation option (as shown in the screenshot above) to begin the process of installing WordPress on your web server. You'll see the HostGator WordPress installation page:
Ignore the pro options that cost money and simply select the domain name you chose at signup (see screenshot above). Leave the directory field blank and click the Next button.
Next, you'll need to fill out the fields highlighted in the screenshot above. Don't worry about focusing on your blog's title at this point. You can always change this later. For the Admin User field, we recommend using your first name in all lower caps. Most people use “admin”, but this will make it easier for hackers to try to guess your login. Click the Install button to install WordPress onto your web server.
You should see an installation complete message (something similar as shown above). Congratulations! WordPress is installed on your web server and you officially have your first blog! You can verify this by going to your domain name and viewing it. It should look something like:
It's a very basic blog with a basic design, but WordPress is highly customizable and this brings us to the next step – which involves the final step, setting it up!
Step 3: Set Up & Customize Your Blog
The final step is to setup and customize your blog. You'll need to login to your WordPress' back-end administration to do this. Simply type “/wp-admin” at the end of your blog's URL. For example:
If you've just finished your WordPress installation from the step above, you can simply click the orange Login button from the installation complete screenshot. HostGator will also email you instructions on how to login to your WordPress site/blog.
When you login to WordPress, you'll first see the Dashboard page. This is all part of the back-end or administration side of WordPress. Like a control panel, this is where you can edit all of your blog's posts and settings. The dashboard page should look something like this (note that HostGator adds their own intro wizard screen that we've disabled and you can do so to):
The administration of WordPress may seem daunting at first but you'll need to get familiar with it and learn how to use it. This will take some time. On the left side, you'll see the main navigation menu (shown vertically above) that provides you with everything you need to setup and customize your blog. Let's quickly discuss this:
- Dashboard – This is the default landing page that you're taken to whenever you login to WordPress.
- Posts – This is where you go to manage your blog's posts. You can add, delete, and edit every post your blog has from here.
- Media – This is where you go to manage your images. You can upload images and manage existing images that were previously uploaded.
- Pages – This is where you go to manage your blog's pages. Just like posts, you can add, delete, and edit all your pages from here. To learn the difference between a WordPress page vs a post you can read this.
- Comments – This is where you go to manage your blog's comments. From here, you can view every comment added on your blog to essentially approve, edit, or delete them.
- Appearance – This is where you go to manage your blog's appearance. WordPress uses themes, which are basically like templates that change the design of your blog.
- Plugins – This is where you go to manage your WordPress plugins. WordPress Plugins add additional features and functionality to your blog. They are very powerful and beneficial and can greatly enhance your blog's functionality. Note that you'll find numerous plugins already added on your WordPress installation. HostGator, along with many other web hosts, pick and choose certain plugins that they feel will be beneficial to your site. You can of course, deactivate and delete these plugins and choose your own.
- Users – This is where you go to manage your blog's users. By default, there should only be one user, yourself. And your user account should have admin roles applied. However, if you want to have other people writing and posting to your blog, you can create an account for them under here.
- Tools – This is where you go for certain advanced features that you most likely wont need yet.
- Settings – Lastly, this is where you go to manage your WordPress settings. There's a variety of settings you can tweak from here.
QUICK TIP: Explore the above WordPress administration options and play around with it. Get familiar with the way you'll manage your entire blog!
Making Your Blog the Way You Want It
Now that you're familiar with the WordPress administration, it's time to start setting up your blog the way you want it! Although managing and tweaking your blog is really a continual process, here's some basic tasks to focus on first:
- General settings – This is one of the first things you'll want to configure for your blog. In WordPress administration, browse through Settings and adjust things like your blog's title, tagline, permalink structure (post name is recommended), number of posts to show per page, etc. These are all fairly self-explanatory and you'll want to review these settings to fit your needs.
- Appearance – Another task to focus on is customizing the appearance of your blog, which is controlled by a WordPress theme. You can keep your existing theme in place (if you like) or search online for other WordPress themes. ThemeForest is a great place to go to find premium themes. In addition to your theme, you'll want to work on branding – such as uploading your logo, custom image headers, and any color schemes your business may have.
- Functionality – Next you'll want to add WordPress plugins to improve the functionality of your blog. You can add things like social sharing buttons, email sign-up forms, caching, search engine optimization, and other useful functionality for your blog via these plugins.
Finally, it’s time to actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start blogging!
Congratulations, you have a blog!
Blogging is a long game and, if you want to see results, you have to keep at it. A huge percentage of bloggers give up after a few weeks or months, but it’s important to regularly post new articles and keep the blog going. Make sure your blog is up to date, both technically (your plugins, theme, and WordPress itself) and content (all your blog posts and information you've written) so that it's always relevant.
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