While it’s easy to start writing with a pen and paper, starting a blog can take quite a long time, especially if you’re unfamiliar with technology. From hosting to choosing a CMS, installing and configuring your blog can be incredibly confusing.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to start a blog, from the basics of installing WordPress on your server to advanced strategies for styling your blog, attracting loyal readers, promoting your posts and generating an income from your blog’s traffic.
Ready to start? If you’re completely new to things like domain names, web hosting and transferring files to a server, you must learn How to Build a Blog on WordPress to familiarize yourself with the logistical basics of starting your own blog.
Choosing a topic – from business to hobbies – to blog about
Everyone wants to be a blogger, but few people can come up with creative ideas for blog posts on a regular basis. Many people start a blog without any idea of what they want to write about and ‘burn out’ after a few weeks and stop publishing new posts.
Before you start finding a web host, registering a domain name and choosing a CMS for your blog, you need to pick a topic. Will your blog be a personal branding effort designed to promote your services, or a place for you to publish creative writing?
Blogs come in a wide variety of styles, and there’s no ‘best’ topic to blog about. From poetry to marketing tips for small businesses, choose a topic that you know well and love to write about to make sure you don’t burn out as a blogger.
Are you starting a blog for your business? Learn the secret to coming up with great blog post ideas that connect with your target audience and promote your brand in our course, The Blog Writing Workshop.
Choosing a content management system for your blog
Every blog, from ultra-popular websites like The Huffington Post to personal blogs, is built using a content management system (CMS). Think of your CMS as the technical structure of your blog – it lets you choose the theme and easily create new pages.
A variety of blog CMSes are available, ranging from popular and user-friendly CMSes like WordPress to powerful, commercially-focused blogging CMSes like Drupal. As a beginner blogger, you’re best of choosing WordPress to manage your blog content.
WordPress comes in two versions – an open source version that you can download and host on your own website, and a free version hosted on WordPress.com that’s supported by third-party advertising.
If you want to get your blog started as quickly as possible and don’t mind it serving ads, use WordPress.com. However, if you want more customizability, you’re better off using the self-hosted version of WordPress with your own server and domain.
WordPress is updated frequently to fix security issues and provide additional tools for bloggers. Make sure you download the latest release of WordPress for your blog from the official website at WordPress.org.
Installing WordPress isn’t overly complicated, but it requires some knowledge of web hosting and file transfer. Learn how to easily install WordPress on your blog and customize it to suit your needs in our Easy WordPress Installation course.
Buying a domain name and web hosting account
In order to host WordPress on your own website, you’ll need two things: a domain name that readers can use to access your blog, and your own web hosting account for the WordPress files and any content you post to your blog to be stored on.
Your first step should be finding a web host that suits your blogging needs. If your blog is aimed at a niche audience, you’ll be able to host it using a basic shared web hosting service that hosts your website on a communal server.
Search Google for “web hosting” and choose an affordable package. Hosting for a WordPress blog should cost between $5 and $10 per month. Make sure your host meets the WordPress requirements and uses the latest versions of PHP and MySQL.
Some web hosting companies might give you a free domain name as part of your hosting package. If yours doesn’t, you’ll need to register a domain name for your blog from a domain registrar and configure it to point towards your server.
Can’t think of a good name? Learn how to choose a good name for your blog in our blog post on thinking up good blog names. Once you’ve thought of a name, it’s time to register your domain name and configure the DNS to direct it to your server.
There are hundreds of domain registrars, and the process of configuring DNS can vary from one to another. Learn how to register your domain and configure your domain name servers with ease in our First Steps Online course.
Uploading and installing WordPress on your server
Once you’ve bought web hosting, registered a domain name and configured the DNS settings, it’s time to upload and install WordPress. You’ll need an FTP application – a special type of file transfer program – to upload WordPress to your server.
A variety of FTP applications are available, some of which are free. Good options for beginners include FileZilla – a free FTP program – and SmartFTP. Learn more about the technology behind FTP in our blog post on the FTP and SFTP transfer systems.
Uploading and installing WordPress is quick and simple. You’ll need to unzip all of the WordPress source files from the archive, then upload them to your blog folder inside your hosting account using your FTP application.
It can take several minutes for the WordPress source files to upload to your web hosting account, especially if you have a slow connection. Once they’re uploaded successfully, you’ll need to follow the WordPress installation instructions.
Sound complicated? Don’t worry – the basics of FTP and WordPress installation are easy to learn. Enroll in Step-by-Step WordPress to access a step-by-step guide to uploading, installing and customizing your WordPress blog.
Customizing your WordPress blog with a theme and plugins
While the default WordPress theme is far from ugly, it’s certainly not as exciting as many other blog themes. Before you start publishing content, customize your blog using a third-party WordPress theme and a variety of plugins.
Themes are styles for your WordPress blog – complete sets of images, style sheets and code that customize the way your blog looks for users. There are thousands of WordPress themes available, from online magazines to imitation paper notepads.
Picking a WordPress theme can be tough, especially with so many available. If you would like your blog to be easy for mobile users to navigate, it’s important to only use themes that are Responsive and designed for multiple screen resolutions.
WordPress themes can be downloaded from hundreds of websites and come in free and paid varieties. Can’t decide on the right theme for your blog? Read our blog post on the best WordPress themes to find out what you should be looking for in a theme.
Beyond the look of your blog, you can also customize the way your blog acts. This is done using WordPress plugins – free or paid snippets of code that add new features to your blog, such as search engine optimization or the ability to sell products.
Choosing WordPress plugins can be difficult, especially as a beginner. Learn the best WordPress plugins for a personal or business blog, as well as how to install and use them, in our WordPress for Beginners course.
Promoting and monetizing your WordPress blog
Once you’ve installed, styled and accessorized your blog, it’s time to start publishing content and attracting readers. The best blog content is different from print writing, both in its form – it’s generally shorter and easier to skim read – and its style.
The best blogs attract readers through a combination of great marketing and quality content. Striking the best balance between promotional and informational is a tough task for writers, especially those trying to monetize their blog or sell a product.
Do you want to learn how to write engaging posts that attract readers to your blog and help you earn income from your traffic? Learn how to generate traffic for your blog and monetize your content with Blogging Success Program.
Learn more about becoming a successful blogger
Some of the biggest blogs in the world – from industry giants like TechCrunch and Mashable to personal blogs – have grown from nothing to publishing dominance in just a few years.
From getting your first AdSense click to scaling to millions of readers, learn how to monetize and promote your blog in our blog posts on monetizing your blog content and promoting your blog using social media, forums and search engines.