How to Start a Blog in 2019: The Ultimate Starter Guide (Beginners Only)
Starting a new blog is tough, especially when you have no effin clue what you're doing.
Well, I'm here to tell you that it isn't. In fact, I'll even show you how to start a blog from scratch.
I know you're probably a little nervous. I was too. But don't worry. You'll get better at this whole blogging thing in no time.
Before you know it, you'll be creating blogs left and right. And, you'll be able to do it in minutes. Literally.
You gotta start somewhere, right?
So let's do it!
HOW TO START A BLOG FROM SCRATCH
STEP 1: PICK YOUR NICHE
You're probably wondering what a niche is. Essentially, it's what you're website will be based on. The main topic or idea. If you take this site for example, our niche is blogging. More specifically, helping people build profitable blogging businesses.
So, how do you choose your niche?
If you're thinking of going with something that just popped in your head, you'll have to put a little more thought to it than that. Although, having ideas popping up to mind is a good start. You can't just go with something random.
So here are a few guidelines that'll help you make your decision:
i. Stick to what you know.
I've created dozens of websites over the past few years. Not all of them have gone to become successful.
One of the biggest reasons why is because I didn't know much about the niche. Also, I wasn't very interested in it, so I had no desire to learn. You know?
Most experts recommend that you pick something you're passionate about. I agree. Especially for your first website.
When you know a lot about your niche, or at least want to know a lot about it, it's easier to become an expert in it. And when you're recognized as one of the experts or influencers, it'll be easier to build your audience and generate revenue.
ii. Be specific, but no too specific.
Going specific helps your site become a go-to resource much quicker than you would with a broad idea. The broader you go, the more competition you'll have. And that's not good.
With that said, there is a such thing as going too specific.
Some pros suggest the narrower you go, the easier it will be. This is mainly because of not having to beat out large competitors.
However, there's a major flaw to this...What if you go so specific, there's no possible way to expand?
For example, let's say you're in the gaming niche. Specifically, customized Xbox 360 controllers. That would be way too niche because you'd be stuck talking about one specific type of controller. Forever. And since it's console-based, you could become obsolete when the new systems come out, Xbox One for instance.
You see what I'm saying?
But if you chose "custom controllers" instead, you would be able to talk about all types of controllers. Present and future console generations.
iii. Make sure there's a real market.
Another mistake made by myself and countless aspiring website builders and bloggers is not doing the necessary research to find out whether a niche is actually profitable.
To do this, you can start by searching if any online communities exist. And if they do, are they active?
Social media groups, forums, and QnA sites are great places to look.
You can also look at some of the popular brand and even your biggest competitors to see if they have a large social media following.
This is a great indicator of a real market.
There's also keyword and topic research. This is where you would use a tool like SEMRush or Google Keyword Planner to see how many times a given search term/query gets entered into the Google search box.
If you're not sure what to pick, perhaps my little niche-picking system will help.
Here's how it works:
Let me give you an example.
First, you write up a quick list of stuff that interests you. Try not to write topics that are too broad.
The next thing to do is to rate them from 1 to 5 (three times).
The first thing to rate is your knowledge and/or interest level. If you're not that interested in something, rating would be a 1. A 5 would mean you're very interested or you know nearly everything about it.
The second thing to rate is how specific or niche it is. If it's broad or too specific, the lower the rating. If it's just right, the higher the rating.
Too broad would be sports equipment or video gaming in general. Too specific would be ice hockey skates for big feet or PS4 controller chargers.
The last thing to rate is the niche's popularity. 1 is low, 3 is somewhat, 5 is high. To find your rating, combine the number of Google searches and how active people are in online groups and communities.
Here's what my list looks like:
So when you find your perfect niche, you can move onto step 2.
STEP 2: FIND YOUR DOMAIN AND HOSTING
i. Your Domain Name
Your domain name is the thing that looks like this: yourdomain.com. For example, ours is bloggingaid.com.
Domain names are typically matched with the name of your website or brand.
If you're having trouble coming up with ideas right now, look through expired domain lists for inspiration. And you never know, you might even find one that's aged at like 10 or so years (aged domains tend to do better in Google search rankings).
You can go to ExpiredDomains.net/domain-name-search and search for a term related to your niche.
When you start to come up with ideas, use Namecheap's domain search to see if your idea is available.
So go ahead and work on that for a bit. I'll leave you with some tips.
ii. Your Web Hosting
If you don't know what web hosting is, it's basically a service that gives your website a place on the internet. It works by putting your website in a machine that is called a data server.
Some of the best choices include Hostinger (highly recommended!) SiteGround, and GreenGeeks. Both have great pricing plans, a free domain, and easy WordPress installation (WordPress is the software/platform you'll use to create and maintain your website/blog).
All web hosting services give the same process when starting your website:
If you're having trouble getting setup, contact your hosting support. Sometimes they'll do the whole thing for you.
When you're done, you can move onto the next step.
STEP 3: GET STARTED WITH WORDPRESS
After you've purchased your domain name and web hosting and made sure you have installed the WordPress CMS, you will be redirected to your WordPress Admin Dashboard.
So, the first thing you'll want to do is to delete all the default junk. This is the 1 page, post, and comment.
First off, click on the Posts link. This is the format you'll use for 90 percent of the content you create for your blog.
But first, let's delete that "Hello World!" blog post. We don't need it.
When you hover your cursor around it, you'll notice 4 links will popup. Click on the trash link. This will also delete the 1 comment. (Note: Comments are for mostly Posts.)
But let's not worry about that right now. Let's just delete the "Sample Page."
When you're done with that, go to Settings > General in your main admin menu (the left side of your screen).
This is where you'll edit your site title and tagline and your timezone.
Your site title and tagline will appear in the browser tab and be used as your logo replacement until you get one. So you might want to write something that makes sense.
Your site title will most likely match your domain name and your tagline should complement it.
All the other settings should already be pre-configured.
So the last thing you'll do before moving onto the next step is to update your user profile. Go to Users > Your Profile.
It's usually all left blank for you to fill. So that's what you'll do here. Including a little something in the bio section. At least one or two sentences that say something about you.
When you're done, hit the save button and you'll have something that looks like this:
STEP 4: INSTALL THE ESSENTIAL PLUGINS
The WordPress CMS platform is a website building system. Plugins are pieces of software that add features to your website/blog.
They're free and you can set them up right from your admin dashboard.
To start, let's install the half a dozen or so "essential" plugins.
Installing is easy. It only takes a click or two. Some plugins, though, are more complicated than others in the configuration process. But we'll walk you though.
Let's get started.
#1. Yoast SEO
This is a plugin that helps with your Google search rankings/presence. Google will be a big part of your traffic. So this one's important.
The installation of a plugin, like I said, is pretty easy. I'll only show you here this once, because we have 7 plugins to show you and we can't go through the same installation process over and over again.
Here's what to do:
Go to Plugins > Add New - from here, look towards the right side of your screen and look for the search box. Enter the plugin's name and it should come up.
Click the INSTALL button.
When it's done, you'll see the blue ACTIVATE button. Click that and you're done.
You've just installed your first plugin. Easy, right?
Now, let's get it all set up.
a. SEO > Dashboard - you'll see a new item at the bottom of your main admin menu. Hover over and click on the Dashboard link first.
The first thing you'll probably see is this big error warning right at the top. It'll suggest a fix. So FIX IT!
Now, under the General tab, there's the config wizard. This will walk you through the entire process. You can use this if you want. It's up to you.
If you want my go-to config settings, let's keep rolling.
First off, go to the Your Info tab and fill some of it in. Here's an example from mine:
Then, go to the Security tab and make sure the setting is ENABLED.
b. SEO > Titles & Metas - these settings affect how your site will look in the Google search results. Most of it is all good. But here are my recommendations:
The first two tabs are good (General and Homepage). Under the Post Types tab, there are three sections. Posts, Pages, and Media.
There's only one thing to do under Posts. Turn HIDE into SHOW for the "Data in Snippet Preview" setting.
The Pages section is all good.
For the Media section, have all three settings set to the right option.
For the three other tabs, all I want you to do is change every INDEX setting into a NOINDEX. This will ensure your site won't have a bunch of low quality and useless pages in the search engines.
c. SEO > Social - these settings will help you enhance your social media presence.
You might not be ready now, because you just started, but the Accounts tab is where you would enter all your social links.
For the Facebook tab, you can enter your site title and tagline into the Title and Description boxes. You can also find or create an image later and put it into the image field. (It's not that important right now.)
Under the Twitter tab, you can change the SUMMARY into SUMMARY WITH LARGE IMAGE so your tweets will be more engaging. Tweets with a large image tend to get more engagement.
d. SEO > XML Sitemaps - these settings will affect which of your pages get indexed by Google. Meaning which pages Google can and cannot put in their search results.
There's only one tab you'll need to go to here, and that's Taxonomies. Turn all three settings to NOINDEX.
All the other SEO settings are good. It's time to move onto the next plugin.
This is an anti-spam plugin. It gets rid of all the spam in your comments and more. It's useful because, eventually, you'll get hundreds of spammy things on the daily.
Setting up the plugin is easy. It isn't like Yoast SEO, so don't worry.
So first off, install and activate it. You know what to do!
When it's ready, a big old green bar/box will show up telling you to setup an account. Click its blue button.
You'll be redirected to the API KEY page. Click the blue button (again).
You'll be redirected, again, to the Akismet website where you will, again, click the blue button.
If you don't have a WordPress.com account, you'll have to create one. It's easy. Name, email, etc. When you're done with that, you might have to go back and click the blue buttons again (hehe).
When you get to the Akismet pricing page, select the BASIC plan...
You're at the checkout page...first, slide the slider to the left until it hits $0.00 and then click the blue button (I know).
A box will popup when you arrive at the next page. Go ahead and click the "Activate..." link.
Hit SAVE CHANGES and you're good to go. Done!
#3. Comet Cache
This is a caching plugin, which helps boost your website's performance. Meaning it loads your pages faster.
Go and install it now.
When it's ready, click this link:
Comet Cache is one of the easiest plugins to setup. There are only 2 things to do...
First, the yellow activation button...
Then, the GZIP Compression, which is way at the bottom of the settings page.
When you have them setup as YES, save the settings and you're done.
#4. Wordfence Security
Wordfence Security prevents your site from getting hacked. If you think it'll never happen, you could be wrong. Sites get hacked everyday.
So go and install it now.
When it's ready, a box will show up on top. Hit the button that says CLICK HERE TO CONFIGURE.
Next, there's a blue button that says RECOMMENDED in it. Click it.
There should be another popup thing at the top that basically says it'll take a minute to start working properly.
You can leave it there for a few days. If, for whatever reason, it doesn't work the way it should within a week or so, take a look at this guide for help.
This is plugin that basically makes copies of your entire website and keeps them in files like a secretary person. But instead of filing them into cabinets, they go somewhere like Google Drive or Dropbox.
Setting up is easy. First, go and install it real quick.
Now...under Settings in your main admin menu, go to UpdraftPlus Backups.
Then, click on the SETTINGS tab. This is where you'll schedule your backups (for both files and database). I'd suggest scheduling them weekly for your first couple months. You can have them more frequently when your site gets bigger. (Note: Don't forget to save changes.)
The next thing is picking where your backups go. I'd recommend Dropbox or Google Drive. They're both free. (There's also your email.)
When you've chosen and saved your settings, this box will popup where you'll need to give the plugin permission for sending files to your account. Click it and you're golden.
#6. Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
This plugin cleans up all the junk in your website's backend. Junk like trashed comments and other stuff like that. It keeps your database from slowing down your site. Slow sites = BAD.
Anyway...after you install it, there's not much to it.
First, find them under Settings in your main menu.
Then...just check all the boxes. There's also a scheduler and some other things.
Just copy what I do and you'll be alright.
#7. Social Pug
There's a lot of social sharing plugins for WordPress. When you're just starting out, it's overwhelming. You see one you like and then another right after. It's tough to choose.
So, instead of going through dozens of plugins, I chose one that is user-friendly but also gets the job done.
Getting it setup is a walk in the park.
After it's installed, you'll have a choice between the floating buttons and the normal kind.
The floating sidebar is cool and all, but I'd stick with the normal inline buttons for now.
You'll have a choice of adding any 4 major networks. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. You should probably choose them all.
As for the buttons' settings, here's what I'd go with:
Note: To show Twitter share counts, go to Social Pug > Settings for the instructions (click the question bubble).
#8. Contact Form 7
To be able to receive emails from your website visitors, you'll need a contact form. There are a bunch out there, but this is one of the better plugins.
It's easy to setup, too. Once it's installed and activated, it's pretty much ready to go. It creates a contact form right off the bat.
Basically, all you'll have to do is go to the form settings, copy the code and paste it into your page (you'll learn more about this later).
STEP 5: CREATE YOUR FIRST PAGES
Right now, all you still have is a blank WordPress website (blog). But since we've got everything ready, it's time to fill our sites with some great content.
The first thing to do before we start to create high-quality blog posts is to create our initial web page framework. This consists of 3 or so pages:
You can also create a Terms page, but I suggest you put that off until you're comfortable with WordPress and content creation.
With that, why don't we get started with our About pages. Go to Pages > Add New.
i. The About Page
This will be one of your biggest pages in terms of traffic. When someone lands on your site, they'll usually take a look at your About page also.
So, it's important to create a nice page your visitors will enjoy.
However, you're just getting started. When you're just starting, it's better to just getting everything ready. So we're not going to focus on creating the best About page today.
You don't even have any traffic or an audience yet, so we'll put that off until later.
First, we'll create an OK About page. When you're comfortable with content creation, you can come back and make the best page you can.
So for now, let's just give a small introduction about ourselves. Let's get started.
The first thing to do is to add the page's title. A simple About Us and About Me will suffice.
The next thing is to write a brief introduction. 3 to 5 sentences is good.
Next, write a few sentences about why you created your site and how you can help your visitors.
Then, tell them how they can get started. I know you don't have any content right now, but be hypothetical. And then cap it off with a sentence on how to contact you.
You can also add a fake link like I did (don't worry, you can edit it when your "get started" page is ready).
Do this by highlighting the text you want your link in and click the link icon in your toolbar. Like this:
When you do, a small box will popup right under the text. Enter the # and click on the apply button.
The last thing your About page needs is a nice photo of yourself. Typically, most people start out with a simple social media profile pic. You can too.
To add it to your page, first make sure that there's a line of space for it right at the top of your content. Move your cursor to right before your first word, click, and hit enter.
Now, click on the Add Media button above the text editor. This is where you can add your photos and images by dragging them or by selecting their files.
When your image is ready to go, it'll look like this:
Before you add it to your content, look toward the right part of your screen and scroll down to the attachment display settings. From here, change the alignment to RIGHT and image size THUMBNAIL. This will make it look a little better.
When you're done, hit the blue INSERT INTO PAGE button and it should show up like this:
Publish the page and move onto number two.
ii. The Contact Page
The Contact page is one of the easiest pages you'll ever create. It's basically just a quick one or two sentences and a copy n paste code.
So let's get started. Pages > Add New.
First, you need your contact form's code. Right click on the CONTACT link in your main admin menu and open it in a new tab. This is where you'll copy your code so you can paste it later into your contact page.
Next, go back to your add new page and enter in your title. Contact Me or something.
Now you can paste your form's code into the text editor.
One thing left to do before publishing your page. And that's the one or two sentences.
So do that and you're good to go.
This is another easy page to create. It's simply a copy n paste and a few edits.
So let's get started. Pages > Add New.
Next, go to our Privacy page (here) and copy the whole thing and paste it into your WordPress page editor.
Then, you'll have to change my domain and email into yours. There are like 10 or so all together.
(Note: Don't forget to change the date and link to your Contact page at the end.)
And finally, put some headings in there. I recommend the Heading 3. You can use my privacy page to see where your headings need to be.
When you're done, you can hit the publish button.
Let's create your site's main menu!
Your main menu will sit right at the top of your site and it'll help your visitors navigate.
Some sites like to have menus with lots on them. Some only like a few links (me too). And right now, you'll only have 3 or 4 too.
The first thing to do is to go to Appearance > Menus in your main admin menu. From here, click the create a new menu link.
Now it's time to add some links into your menu.
First, add your About and Contact links by checking their boxes and your Home link via the CUSTOM LINK tab.
Now, make sure your menu links look like this...(if they're not edit them).
Make sure it looks like this.
If they don't, change them.
When you're all set, save your menu. But make sure the Primary Menu checkbox is checked.
STEP 6: GET YOUR SITE READY FOR SEO
Now that you've got the essential plugins installed and page framework built, it's time to get even more ready for SEO. Yes, the Yoast SEO plugin isn't enough.
There are 3 more things left to do
All these are free. All you need is a Google Account (which is also free). So if you don't have one, sign up here.
Alright. Now let's get started.
i. Setting up Google Analytics
The first thing to do is the signup process.
So, go to the Google Analytics page, and in the top right corner, you'll see a drop-down menu. Click the ANALYTICS link to get started.
Signup like you would with any other application.
From here, you'll be sent to a page that looks like this:
Click the SIGN UP button toward the right of the page.
Then you'll have to enter in some of you and your website's details. So do that and you're done the signup stuff.
Quick Note: Make sure you have the correct website URL. Including the HTTP and HTTPS. If your site is HTTPS, you'll see it in the browser address bar (it's green). If not, then you're HTTP. Also, if your URL includes www, then it should be included also.
When you're done, you'll end up here:
You can read the text in that grey box, if you want. It'll tell you what GA is all about.
Scroll down to your tracking code and copy the whole script (text).
Next, go back to your site and in your main admin menu, go to Appearance > Editor.
Then, find the THEME HEADER (header.php) and click it.
From here, look for the <head> tag. Right below it, paste your GA tracking code and hit the Update File button.
To find out if it's working, go back to the GA site. Right on your tracking code page, there should be a button that says Send test traffic. Click it and a small window will pop up with your site.
If it worked, meaning your site did pop up, then you're good. Even if you don't see anything in your traffic stats.
It may take a little while to get it all going. So let's move one...
ii. Setting up Google Search Console
First off, click this link to sign up.
When you're done, you'll end up here:
You can watch that quick video first.
When you're ready, copy your website URL from your browser's address bar, paste it into the field, and hit the red button.
You'll be redirected to a page that asks you to verify your ownership.
The "Recommended method" should be Google Analytics. But if it isn't, you can find it under "Alternate methods." And since you just finished setting up your GA account, verifying this should be a cinch.
If it worked, it'll look like this:
If it didn't, don't worry. Sometimes, new GA accounts takes a while to get settled. One time it took nearly 3 hours to get mine going.
But when you're ready, there's one more step.
Quick Note: If your verification did not work, kill time doing something productive. Perhaps come up with some ideas for your first blog post.
iii. Submitting an XML Sitemap
The first to do is to find the Sitemap page. You can find the link in the left-side menu under Crawl.
Next, click the red ADD... button and paste your sitemap's URL. You can find it in the Yoast SEO settings under XML Sitemaps.
All you'll need is the bit after the forward slash (sitemap_index.xml).
You can test it out first...
...and then submit it when it's all good.
When you're done, it'll look like this:
Even though it'll say pending for a little bit, it's all set up. Especially since there's a couple pages ready inside your sitemap (ex: About page).
So what's next?
THE NEXT STEPS
Building a successful blog/website takes a lot of work. There is still a ton of stuff to be done.
I would recommend you focus on creating high-quality blog posts and search engine optimization (SEO).
Here are 3 SEO resources I'd highly recommend you read/bookmark:
When you understand what SEO is and how it could benefit your blogging business, you'll need to get started on creating some blog content.
Now, don't worry. We've actually got a nice little collection of guides that'll help you with this. Check them out:
Yes. I know it's a lot. But building a blogging business is too. These are all resources that will help you jumpstart your blogging career. So when your blog is up and running, get to reading! 😉
If you have any questions, email us via our contact page or leave a comment below.