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How to Start a Blog Step by Step for Beginners
*Updated 9/14/19 to account for Siteground’s new interface.
Blogging for Beginners; when you don’t even know the blogging terms.
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at blogging but unsure about the technical side of things? Or, even unsure of how to set up a blog to begin with?
Well, it’s really not that hard. Just follow my 8 step guide that will get you from not knowing a thing about blogging to starting to write your first blog post!
Don’t worry, there’s pictures, and everything is laid out in plain English in case techie stuff isn’t your forte!
Blogging Resources – MUST READ!!!
5 Things You Must Have to Start Your Own Blog
8 Benefits of having a Blog as a Mom!!
Want to Remember This? Pin How to Start a Blog: Step by Step for Beginners to your favorite Pinterest Board!!
Step One: Choose a Niche or Create an Avatar
Before paying for hosting, or even choosing your blogs name, you’ll want to consider a few things; such as, what you’re going to be writing about, or who you are going to be writing for.
If you want your blog to be successful and resonate with others, you can’t just write about everything and anything under the sun; you have to narrow down and focus on a single topic, or niche, to write about.
Or, you could focus on writing to a specific type of person, and avatar, and write about things they may find useful. For example, I write for stay at home moms of young children who may want to better their health or their children’s health, and want to stay sane through out the day. So, there may be more I can write about, but it’s written to appeal to a specific type of person.
Before moving onto the next step, answer one of the questions below:
What niche do you want to write in and what will you write about? (Maybe come up with some categories for future blog posts and title ideas.)
Who is your avatar? (Be as specific as possible….a lot more specific than my example above. I want you knowing this person better than you know yourself.)
Step Two: Choose your Domain Name
Alright, don’t run away because you don’t know what a domain name is; it’s simply the website address. My domain name is stresslessbehealthy.com
That was not always my domain name, though. The first domain name I had was thatscalledlife.com, I wasn’t sure what niche I wanted to blog in, or who my avatar was, so I chose a general domain name that I regretted within a year of getting it. So, if you haven’t finished the first step of choosing a niche or knowing who your avatar is, go back and do it. NOW!!
A rebrand and change of domain name is possible, and could be fun, but getting it right the first time would have been much better! (Less stress, less wasted time.) You can always have the fun of a rebranding, change of site design, graphics and style of site, without changing your domain name. There’s too much tech work, or possible costs, that go into changing your domain name after getting a few months in.
If you simply want to start a blog NOW and unsure what you’ll be blogging about, you could always use your name as your domain name. I’ve never spoken with a person who has regretted doing that.
But, if you don’t want to use your name, try to come up with a domain name (that’s available) that makes sense for your niche or avatar. It doesn’t have to be super specific, but don’t make it too general either. Your readers should know what you blog is about between reading your domain name and tagline (if you choose to have a tagline). I’m not going to go over taglines in this post, if you’d like an example of a tagline mine is “Living Life; One Tantrum and Green Smoothie at a Time”.
At first, I’d also recommend to come up with a few domain names, just in case the one you want is already in use.
The way I came up with my domain name; I took the problems I wanted to solve for my readers and came up with a clever name. I’m a health nut and write about eating well, and I’m a mom who studied psychology who wants to help other moms stress less. So, stresslessbehealthy.com seemed like a good fit. It’s broad enough that I can keep writing on it my entire life and not come to a halt and change my domain name when I’m no longer a mom of young kids; I’ll simply rebrand when needed. But, it’s also not so broad that I can write about anything and everything. For example, I can’t turn it into a fashion blog; the closest I can get to that is a post about decluttering your closet or something about stressing less with choosing clothes to wear.
Now, once you have chosen an available domain name, you can check if it’s available at https://www.name.com/, or check through a hosting company like SiteGround; then you’ll want to check all of the social media channels to see if the same name is available.
At the very least you’ll need to check Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Those seem to be the big 4 social media channels used by bloggers to market, or promote, content. (You may want to check Google+, too. I heard having Google+ and having your posts on that platform is good for google seo, but I don’t remember where I heard that. Rather be safe than sorry.)
Checklist for Step Two:
- choose domain name
- check if it’s available (if not, choose a different one)
- check if same name is available for social media channels
- claim social media handles
- claim domain name (or claim during next step)
If the domain name you want isn’t available, then you’ll have to find something else. As for the social media handles, you’ll want to get those as close to your domain name as possible. They may not be the exact same, but they should be very close so people can search for you on them. (For example, Twitter only allows a certain number of characters, therefore my twiter handle is @stresslessbh)
Step Three: Purchase Hosting
Now, you may be wondering if purchasing hosting is right for you, or if you should simply choose free hosting like wordpress.com. And, it kind of depends on what your goal is for blogging and how much control over your site you would like to have.
If you want a fairly small amount of control over your site and use it to simply write to your hearts desire and not expect anything in return for all your hard work; then go ahead and opt for the free hosting.
However, if you would like to have your site how you want it to be, and possibly, eventually, make some type of income from your blog, then you need to pay for purchasing. It’s one of the only investments you’ll be making at the beginning. In fact, it very well could be the only investment you make in the beginning, or until you have 1000 email subscribers.
If you’re unsure what hosting is, or why you need it; it’s basically paying for your share of the internet.
I have used two hosting companies since I started blogging and would highly recommend Siteground, which is my current hosting company. I DO NOT recommend Bluehost, which was the first hosting company I had. And, sure, you may see a lot of other bloggers recommending you to get Bluehost, and how they are cheap and simple to use….but, that’s only because Bluehost pays well for their commissions. (Meaning those bloggers make money when others purchase hosting through their links.)
Now, I’m not going to lie, I am an affiliate for Siteground, but it’s only because they have impressed me as a hosting company. Their customer service is outstanding! They are knowledgeable and will go out of their way to help their customers. Plus, they have a hosting plan specifically for the back end of the website that I recommend; wordpress.org.
And, to tell you the truth, Siteground is just as affordable as Bluehost. When I was a year into blogging and had to choose between staying with Bluehost for another year or switching hosting companies (because I was having issues with Bluehost taking money out of my bank account without my authorization). I checked the price of both; Bluehost wanted over $200 to renew for one more year, and I ended up paying less than $100 for my first year with SiteGround. It was a really simple choice at that point. (For all fairness, the first year with Bluehost was less than $200; it was around $140 after all the extra fees…)
SiteGround makes choosing the hosting plan super simple, too! Check out the screenshots below to walk you through setting up hosting through Siteground.
First, choose the right hosting plan for you. I’m currently on their StartUp plan, but am planning on upgrading very soon to their GrowBig plan as the traffic to my site increases!
Then, choose your domain name, or if you bought it on name.com, you can transfer it to SiteGround for free. I simply started with checking my domain name through SiteGround, just check the ‘Register a New Domain’ button. If you purchase your domain name through another company, simply check the ‘I already have a Domain’ button; there’s no fee to transfer a domain.
And, review how long you want to pay for hosting, review, and pay. I would not recommend choosing anything less than one year of hosting when starting out. Blogging takes a lot of time and patience, and you’re not going to want to have to remember to renew hosting every few months.
Luckily, with SiteGround, you get the discounted price no matter how long you choose to pay for. (When I had Bluehost and chose 1 year instead of 3 years, they jacked the price up so I wasn’t getting as much of a discount as if I was committing to 3 years up front; I’m so thankful I DID NOT commit to 3 years with them.)
Once you have your hosting set up, go on to the next step.
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Step Four: Set up WordPress
*I currently only have access to the demo for SiteGrounds new interface, so the images below are from the demo.
Once you are in Siteground it should look like this, except it’ll have your name, not mine:
Click on websites at the top of the page to bring up your new site within your hosting plan. Then click ‘Site Tools’ for your website.
Next, click where the first arrow is in the picture below (it will show 3 horizontal lines before clicked on). Then click on ‘WordPress’. And, then ‘Install and Manage’.
When you click on ‘Install and Manage’ you’ll be given two options; wordpress or wordpress + woocommerce. Unless you know woocomerce will come in handy for you, just choose wordpress. And, then finish going through the set up on that page. I only have WordPress, not woocomerce.
(Woocommerce is something to sell things through, but there are better ways to do this, such as with shopify.)
To log into your WordPress site, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you should see where it says ‘Managed Installations; click on the icon on the left of the 3 dots, on the right hand side under actions.
That will take you right to your wordpress site. Which is where you’ll be spending most of you time when working on your actual site.
(Now would be an excellent time to start using a spreadsheet for your blog to keep track of all the information you will need. Trust me, you will thank yourself later on down the road by starting this spreadsheet now!)
Step Five: Set up Your Email
I use the format firstname.lastname@example.org. You can do this, as well; or choose email@example.com.
To set this up, in your site tools, click on either ‘Email Accounts’ or click on the 3 lines at the top near ‘SiteGround’ to bring up the side menu, click on ‘Email’ then ‘Accounts’. If you’re not on the home page for site tools, you’ll want to use the side menu to bring it up.
Choose what you want your email and password to be. Then click ‘create’. It gives you the option to generate a random and secure password for your email. I would honestly choose to use that rather than create my own, and then simply copy and paste it into my blogging spreadsheet to keep track of it.
To access your email through your hosting after you created it, click on the three dots to the right of your new email under ‘Manage Email Accounts’. Then click on ‘Log into Webmail’.
Next, sign into your email in roundcube with the username and password you chose.
Your email should like like the picture below.
If you never want to have to use that type of email application, because it’s ancient and no one wants to read their emails in an application like that. Go back to Site Tools, in the left side menu and click on ‘Forwarders’.
Type in your new email at your new domain name as the address to forward from (red arrow), and then type in the address you want to receive your emails at (green arrow). Click ‘Create’ and you’re done with ensuring that emails get forwarded to the email you want to receive them at.
Then you’ll want to make sure you can send, or reply to emails from your new email through your regular email. If you have gmail, it’s not that difficult to set up!
Go into settings → accounts and import → send mail as: click on ‘add another email address’.
Then go through the guided set up. When you have that set up, you’ll want to make sure the button ‘Reply from the same address the message was sent to’ is checked.
That may seem like a lot of information and screenshots, for simply setting up your new email, but I have been in a lot of groups of new bloggers. Setting up a new email address seems to frustrate a lot of them and they seem to get stuck at that point. And, I don’t want you to have to go through the same frustration as they did, or feel stuck.
Once you feel comfortable with your new email, and maybe send yourself an email to your new blog email address from your personal email, and can reply to your old email with your new email address; you’re ready to go onto the next step!
Step Six: Set up your Email Service Provider
This is how you will get that magical email list that other bloggers speak so highly of!
Ever see an opt in where you have to enter your email to get a freebie or receive a Newsletter? The email service provider is where all of those emails are held and how the blogger is able to make sure the freebie is automatically sent to you, without them having to be on their email to send it to you. It’s also how those weekly, or monthly, newsletters are sent out to everyone on the email list.
When I first started blogging, my brother, who went to school for IT, told me to use mailchimp…..do yourself a favor, don’t use mailchimp.
There are two wonderful options that I have personally used as email service providers, and they both work pretty much the same way. The only real difference is price and the feel.
Both have different types of opt in forms you can use, will automatically send emails if someone subscribes or provides an email address, send welcome series emails (or email funnels/automations), and allow you to send one time emails to all subscribers or a segmented list of subscribers. There are more features as well, but that list was getting pretty long!
The two I recommend are Convertkit or Mailerlite.
Convertkit is a little fancier, and every once in awhile they have free trainings and masterclasses. In Spring 2017, I went through their Product Creation Masterclass, which was pretty awesome; they had speakers every week teaching on different parts of the process, and assignments to complete sent through email. This past year was a 30 day landing page contest/challenge with awesome prizes! (I didn’t win, but that’s ok.) They’re a great company to have for email service.
However, they are the ones that cost every month, and like most email service providers; the price is dependent on how many subscribers you have. To start off, it’s $29/month. But, they usually have a 14 day trial so you can check it out before committing to it and paying. It is absolutely worth the money if you have the money to pay for it.
Mailerlite, on the other hand, is free to start off, and is free until you have 1,000 subscribers on your email list. So, if you’re pressed for money, or don’t think you’ll have many subscribers for a few months; you may want to consider starting with Mailerlite.
It’s better to start off free with Mailerlite to build your email list, than to not build an email list at all and wait til you can pay for Convertkit.
Once you choose an email service provider, simply set up your account with them, then you’ll want to either create a form for readers to sign up your email list or sign up for a freebie. Usually, freebies are found inside blog posts. We won’t be getting into how to set up an email form in this post.
Step Seven: Choose a Theme
A theme is the core design of your website.
It’s basically just how it looks; where the menu(s) are, how the top of the site looks, things like that. A lot of the design can be edited with plugins, as well. (Plugins allow you to do more, or have more, on your site than what your theme offers, along with helping with other useful things.)
So, to start off, and until you get comfortable using WordPress; you may want to just use a free theme.
Remember how to log into your WordPress site? Go to the home page on SiteGround, click on ‘Websites’.
Click on the little icon to the right of your url. This will bring you to wordpress.org.
You’ll be sent to the Dashboard in wordpress; to choose a theme, go to ‘appearance’, then ‘themes’.
There should be a few themes already installed, possibly the twenty seventeen and twenty sixteen themes. The twenty seventeen theme really isn’t that bad, I used it for the first 10 months I was blogging. You can also search for themes at the top of the page; just know that not all the themes are free.
I may be a bit cheap when it comes to paying for a theme; my current theme was a bonus to The Genius Bloggers Toolkit I bought in Fall 2017. Which, if you ever get the chance to buy The Genius Bloggers Toolkit bundle from Ultimate Bundles, I highly recommend that you do; it is completely worth it with all the blogging resources it includes!
Unfortunately, it’s not on sale right now. If you sign up for my email list, I’ll let you know when it becomes available!
Move onto the next step once you choose a theme; don’t worry, you can change your theme whenever you’d like, just choose something for now.
Step Eight: Create an Editorial Calendar and WRITE!!
You did all that hard work, and all you want to do is write….don’t worry, most of your tech work is done (for now), and most of what you’ll be doing for the next little while with blogging should be writing and finding your voice.
I highly recommend creating an editorial calendar. This is basically just coming up with blog post ideas and scheduling in a calendar, or word doc, when you want to have the posts published by. One important thing for bloggers to remember in the beginning is to be consistent!
Do what you can, but schedule out your posts so that they are being published on the same day, or days, of the week. If you can only manage 1 post every two weeks, do that, but on the same day of the week every two weeks. If you can manage a few posts a week, do that, but on the same days every week. I currently publish posts on Sunday’s, Tuesday’s, and Thursday’s. (I like to write, what can I say!)
To help you stay consistent, download the plugin ‘Editorial Calendar’. First click on plugins, on the left side menu on wordpress, and click ‘add new’, at the top.
Then search ‘editorial calendar’, the first one should be ‘editorial calendar’. Click the install now button (in the picture below the button will be where the faded ‘active’ button is, since I already have the plugin). Once it’s installed, click activate.
Once activated, ‘calendar’ will now show up under ‘posts’. When you click on it you will get your editorial calendar, where you can add new posts and schedule them to publish in the future. You’ll have access to all of your posts here in an organized fashioned and showing on the date they were published, or will be published.
If you want to get more comfortable using wordpress.org quickly, and without having to figure everything out for yourself, I’d recommend this FREE course: Understanding WordPress – How to Navigate Self-Hosted.
After you have a few blog post ideas and know what day(s) you want to publish your posts on each week; go ahead and start writing your posts!!
Don’t forget to have fun and remember why you started this blogging journey!
Not Too Hard to Start a Blog
See, that wasn’t too hard, was it?
Alright, so at the beginning, there is this huge learning curve. But, after the initial setup, you won’t have to deal with too much technical stuff, unless you want to. In all honesty, I hadn’t signed into SiteGround since setting up my email for my blog, until I wrote this post. So, that just goes to show you how often you’ll have to deal with hosting.
And, it will take some time to get traffic to your new blog, and a lot of promotion. But, there’s so much info that goes into getting traffic, I couldn’t possibly fit even all the basics into one post. So, once you’re done with the steps above, simply focus on writing your posts and helping others.
It could take some time for you to find your voice and for it to resonate with others.
When you’re ready, feel free to share your posts with friends and family, on Facebook, Pinterest, or other social media channels.
And, now that you know how to start a blog step by step, what’s your first post going to be about? Share in the comments.