Are you ready to start your blogging journey?
This starter guide will walk you through the entire process step by step!
I know it's scary. But you don't have to worry.
Back in 2014, I started my very first website. I had no idea what I was doing.
I remember getting the site up and running, but I have no idea what platform it was running on.
I put in a whopping 6 hours into the project. I didn't write a single blog post.
Looking back, the reason I failed was because I had no guidance. I simply searched Google and clicked a link that said "build a free website and make money".
I will not let that happen to you.
In this guide, I will walk you through the entire process and provide you with expert advice on starting a blog the proper way.
QUICK TIP: If you have little-to-no knowledge about starting a blog, read our guide where cover the basics of blogging.
HOW TO START A BLOG FROM SCRATCH
Find Your Perfect Niche
If you're going to make blogging a real business, you're going to have to pick a niche. Don't get scared. This only means your website's main topic. The main idea. Women's fitness or owning dogs, for example. Click for more info.
Pick the Best Blogging Platform
There is a large selection of software known as blog building platforms. They help us make site management easy. This is where you will work on your blog content and such. Click for more info.
Setting up WordPress
WordPress is the most popular blog management platforms for bloggers and digital marketers. If you have no experience, this can be scary. We will make the setup process 10x easier on you. And with time, you'll become a WordPress pro! Click for more info.
Get Ready for SEO
SEO is what you do to get your blog in front of people who Google stuff. If we did a Google search for "best lamps", the results on the first page are from sites that are great at SEO. We will get you ready so you can get tons of Googlers on your blog. More info.
STEP 1: FIND YOUR PERFECT 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 that want to build successful blogging businesses.
If you're thinking of going with something that just popped in your head, you will have to put a little more thought into it. Having ideas popping up to mind is a good start. However, doing some research will help you find an idea that will put some money in your pocket.
With that said, keep the ideas you've got at the top of your head.
Here are a few guidelines to help you make your decision:
i. Stick to what you know.
I've created so many websites over the years that did not make a single dime. In fact, all my failed projects lost hundreds of dollars. Thousands, even, if you count the man hours I put into them.
How can I avoid this, you ask?
Most experts recommend that you pick something you're extremely interest in. I agree. Especially for your first website.
Some even say to go with your passion.
When you know a lot about your niche, or at least want to know about it, it will be much easier to write blog posts and work on your site, in general.
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 is not good. More competition means more work.
With that said, you shouldn't go too specific. Going too niche has a lot of downsides.
There are people that suggest the narrower you go, the easier it will be. This is mainly because of not having to beat out large competition. You could also become an authority in the niche must quicker, in the eyes of Google.
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 will become obsolete when the new systems come out, Xbox One for instance (which is now being upgraded with a newer version of the Xbox system).
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 across all platforms (Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, etc.).
iii. Make sure there's a real market.
Another mistake made by myself and countless aspiring bloggers is not doing the necessary research to find out whether or not 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 brands in your niche to see if they have a large social media following.
Going back to the custom controller example, if you searched for controller companies on Facebook, you would see that there are brands with hundreds of thousands of followers on there.
This is a good indicator of a real market. And that's only one example from one social network.
Another way to find out if people are actually interested in your niche is through keyword research.
A great way to do this is to search for keyword terms people would actually search for. These are going to be great for blog article ideas.
Here's an example:
Let's say you want to start a blog about cats. They're lovely pets. Every other household has one.
What would cat owners search for?
How about "cat names" or something?
Ubersuggest, one of the best keyword research tools, says there are about 880 Google searches per month for "cat name ideas" in the U.S.
As you can see from the screenshot, there are hundreds more searches from a bunch of other terms that are versions of the main search idea.
That's only one topic!
There are other ideas for a kitty blog you'd be able to research. Toys for cats, kitty litter, cat trees/towers.
Lots of ideas to research. That goes for any niche.
Another way we mentioned was social media and forums. Online communities. Take Reddit, for example. One of the largest communities on the web.
Let's go back to our kitty example.
Look at the hundreds of people that have engaged with these posts in the last couple months:
Are people into this niche? Most definitely.
Niche research is much more than plugging in a phrase or two into a keyword tool. If you want the best results from this, you must dig deeper. Especially if your goal is to make money with your blog.
If you want to research a niche like a pro, visit our definitive guide where we go in-depth. You will learn how to find the perfect niche with the best monetization options and the best keyword + article ideas that'll drive tidal waves of visitors.
STEP 2: PICK THE BEST BLOGGING PLATFORM
When you have chosen the right niche, you're on your way to building a successful blog.
This next step is extremely important.
There are several great choices when it comes to blog platforms. There are "free" and paid versions. Self-hosted and hosted.
A hosted system is usually free. Some options include:
With free hosted platforms, however, you will run into restrictions.
Most of them give you free domains and web hosting. But you'll only have a sub-domain (e.g. myblog.ourdomain.com).
They will also restrict you from monetization, in most cases.
So if you're going into blogging because you want to grow an online business, free blogging platforms would be a mistake.
If you're serious about building a blogging career, a high-quality platform is in your best interest.
WordPress.org is the cream of the crop when it comes to website/blogging platforms (also known as content management systems or CMS for short).
This is the go-to software for more than 40% of ALL websites globally. It also holds 64% of the market share for CMS's (blogging platforms). That's essentially two thirds!
WordPress.com is an open-source self-hosted system, which means you'll be able to do everything you want with it.
That doesn't mean you'll have to learn how to write advanced code.
WordPress has such an enormous community that there is a marketplace on the web for tools that help you customize and enhance a WordPress website/blog. These tools are called themes and plugins. And there are hundreds of companies online that create and sell these.
Most, however, are free to use. In fact, you'll be able to find free WordPress themes and plugins that offer the features and functions you'd like to put on your site. There are plenty sites out there that only run free tools but still find success. If you are on a budget, you can, too!
STEP 3: FIND YOUR BLOG/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 exactly with the name of your website or brand. Nike's domain name is nike.com, for instance.
However, it isn't necessary.
The University of Pennsylvania, for instance, doesn't actively use universityofpennsylvania.edu. Their domain is much shorter. It's what most people refer to the university as: upenn.edu.
There are many websites out there where the name doesn't match the domain. But I'd still recommend you get your domain name to match your brand name.
So now the question is...
What should I name my blog/brand?
If there is nothing coming to mind right now look through expired domain lists for inspiration. And you never know, you might even find one that's aged a few 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.
You shouldn't just go with anything. There are a few best practices when it comes to choosing your domain name...
4. Grab a Web Hosting Account
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.
There are a lot web hosting companies out there that provide high-quality services. However, there's also the fair share of low-quality web hosts.
A few great web hosting choices include:
They all offer the essential services. They all have different payment plans and different features within those plans.
The web hosting provider I'd recommend is BlueHost. BlueHost is one of the biggest web hosting companies out there and their services are amongst the best.
There are plans for a few different types of hosting.
Most beginners typically run with shared hosting. I'd probably do the same. It's cheaper but still offers great value and WordPress installation is simple.
There are FOUR plans.
The Basic plan is ideal for beginners. You can get it for $3.95/month USD on a 36-month period, $4.95/month for 24 months, and $5.95/month for 12 months.
Is this the one for you? Perhaps. But if you're going to be blogging badass you'll likely outgrow this plan before the 36 months. The plan only allows for a single website. You will most definitely get the itch to create more sites in the future. Even within your first year.
The 50GB SDD storage, which stores all your site's data, is plenty. However, the more content you create the bigger your site will get. You can definitely outgrow this storage space.
The Plus plan is closer to what you want. The pricing is $2 more for each term - $5.95/month for 36 months, $6.95 for 24, and $7.95 for 12.
You'd get hosting for unlimited sites, unlimited SDD storage, and a free trial for Office 365.
But for a dollar per month more...
The Choice Plus plan. You'd get everything in Plus, but with more security (very important). You'd also get automatic backups daily. This will make life easier if you accidentally tweaked the wrong thing and crash your site.
The Pro plan is about double the price. But that's because it's for sites that are bigger. Meaning they get tons more traffic. You won't have to worry about this for a while.
WordPress Hosting is another great option. The pricing is about the same. The plans are about the same. Basic, Plus, Choice Plus. The difference lies in the term. All three plans are based on 36 months. There is currently no option for anything lower.
If you're ready to commit to 36 months, I'd highly recommend the Choice Plus plan!
Managed WordPress hosting can also be a great option for you. They take care of the security side of WordPress. They offer some additional resources.
But it's only for single sites and it's about double the price with 36-month terms.
The BlueHost and WordPress account setup process is pretty straightforward. You fill a box here, you will a box there.
But to make sure you get it done...
Take my hand. 🙂
The first thing is to commit to a hosting plan. I've already made my recommendations, but in the end, it's totally up to you. This is where you choose.
Once you've thought it through and clicked a button, you'll find yourself here:
There's only one thing to do here. Type in the domain you're going to be going forward with. Take a moment if you need to. Think hard but not too hard. I'm sure you've got a great domain idea.
The next thing is the account info. I'm sure you've done this dozens of times. Your name, billing address, payment details, etc.
Under PACKAGE INFORMATION, make sure you've got your hosting plan correct. It's the dropdown menu.
In the next set of options, you'll see your total, savings, and some of the boxes checked.
You can uncheck these options and save around 50 bucks. (Example above)
You can also leave it checked and be at ease with premium site security. It can stop all malicious attacks on your site from hackers.
There are also WordPress plugins that could help with this later. Some of them are even free.
After you pay for your hosting you'll then create your actual BlueHost account. Click the blue button.
Create your password and then log into your new BlueHost web hosting account. 😀
The next few steps aren't important right now. They won't determine your future success or anything.
When you reach the section where it asks what you want to name your site, fill in the boxes. You don't necessarily have to. You can do this inside WordPress later. But if you feel comfortable doing so, do it.
And you can check the first circle on the left for your comfort question.
If you're asked to choose a THEME, I'd skip it for now. You can do it later. Unless there's one that immediately catches your attention, then by all means.
From here, you're about two minutes away from seeing your WordPress dashboard (aka your behind-the-scenes work area).
By now, you should be seeing this...
See how easy that was?
Now it's time to introduce yourself to WordPress. There's a blue button that should be in the top right corner. That button will take you to your WordPress dashboard!
STEP 5: SETTING UP YOUR NEW WORDPRESS WEBSITE
You have a website. 😉
The next thing on the list is to clean up all the default WordPress junk and settings. Go to your WordPress dashboard.
The first thing I like to do is delete all the default junk. This is the 1 page, post, and comment.
First off, click on the Posts link. This is where you'll create about 90-95 percent of all content on your blog. Something to remember for later.
Anyway, let's delete that "Hello World!" blog post. We don't need it. The world will know we exist soon enough. 😉
When you hover your cursor around it, you'll notice FOUR links will pop up. You want to hit the one that says TRASH. Smack him in the face. This will also the 1 comment to go bye-bye. (Note: Comments are for mostly Posts.)
You probably got a lot more clutter than I did in the screenshot above.
Don't worry. You can ignore all that. It's mostly just plugins BlueHost added automatically. They're suggesting you use these tools. But you don't need them right now. You're practically a baby. Those plugins are for big kids. Wait until you complete kindergarten. 🙂
"Sample Page" does not belong in that crowd. He ain't cool enough, you know?
When you're done blowing that page to smithereens, go to Settings > General in your main menu (the left side of your screen).
This is where you'll edit your site title (name) and tagline, if you haven't already. You can also change the timezone setting.
All the other settings should already be good to go.
A couple more tasks to complete...
Go to Settings > Permalinks. This should be the one and only time you'll have to change this. Unless you mess something up. I mean, some people have 5 one and only's. At least that's why my uncle says.
Anyway, the thing to do here is change the permalinks to CUSTOM STRUCTURE. This will let you customize your links when it's time to hit the magical publish button. We'll talk about that later.
The last thing to do is to update your user profile. Go to Users > Your Profile.
Your first and last and nickname to start. Then you'll select your display name...which will be...yup! You guessed it! The name that'll be displayed all over the site.
There's a couple more things after this. Including a bio. Have fun with that.
When you're done, you'll have something like this:
INSTALL THE ESSENTIAL PLUGINS
WordPress is an open-source program with giant community of users that create these extensions that enhance your site called plugins.
Some plugins have become quite essential to a blogger's success. But some are wastes of time and could do harm to your site.
Now, don't worry. We'll show you our favourites. They have never caused any trouble to our sites.
Note: In the future, you'll fall in love with your own list of plugins. Changing plugins is an easy process.
To install a plugin on your site, go to Plugins in your main menu (the left one) and hit Add New.
From here you can access to hundreds of thousands of WordPress plugins.
To install a plugin you can search for it in the top right corner. From there you hit Install Now and then Activate.
When you activate a plugin it'll automatically send you to its onboard or setup page. From here, you have two options: try and figure out the setup process OR skip it for another time. We'll have a guide on it for you.
i. SEO - Rank Math
SEO, or search engine optimization, is going to be immensely important. Getting go Google's good side will result in ginormous waves of traffic. The L.A freeway will have nothing on you. Especially if you do SEO so good your blog shows up on Google's first page of search results.
Rank Math will help Google find your site and all the great content you'll publish. It's going to be a magical relationship.
ii. Page Builder - Elementor
WordPress comes with its own content editor. It's good enough to create good blog content.
However, there are plugins called page builders that enhances both the content creation process and the content itself.
Elementor is the most popular page builder. It's free. And it provides you with all the essential features, which you'll soon find out as you learn about blogging.
iii. Security - Wordfence
Security is an important feature for a website. While your hosting provider handles a lot of the heavy lifting, you will still need someone to stand guard of malicious attacks. A security guard.
That's where Wordfence will come in. The plugin will run security scans of your website and do all that security mumbo jumbo.
iv: Backups - UpdraftPlus
Backing up your site means to have backup files of your entire site in case something goes wrong.
Maybe one day you get curious about the coding aspect of WordPress and decide to tweak something. But oh no! You did something you weren't supposed to and now your site looks like your child drew on it with permanent marker.
UpdraftPlus would have backups of your site and with some magic, voila! You'd be able to revert back to a previous version of your site.
v. Performance - WP-Optimize
Website performance is a crucial aspect to your blog's success. Let me elaborate...
When a visitor comes to your site, your site will have to load completely before they hit the exit button. In fact, if your site doesn't load with a few seconds you may lose your visitor.
There are multiple factors that go into website performance. These include: cache, images, database, and more.
The further along you are into your blogging journey the more you'll want to learn about things like your website speed.
To start you off, there's WP-Optimize. It covers the three items above and more.
vi. Anti-Spam - Anti-Spam Bee
When I started blogging I was surprised with how much spam I got. Particularly in my comment section. I may have thought my site was popular at first, but I eventually caught on. No one named Massage Services India loved my blog post.
I was probably getting a dozen spammy comments every other day. I can't imagine how much spam a site gets that have millions of daily visitors.
Anti-Spam Bee will take care of this. It's what we use on this site and we rarely get spam in our comments section.
There are other types of plugins you may need in the future. In fact, I know you'll need more. You will find plugins you like and plugins you hate. Eventually, your list of plugins will be unique.
CREATE YOUR FIRST PAGES
At this moment, your site is emptier than the Mojave Desert. Was that a tumbleweed?
No worries. Let's get you started.
There are three pages that are staples on every website:
There's also the Terms page, but you can wait a while until you have to worry about that.
To start off, 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. People like to know about the site their visiting.
So, it's important to create something nice.
However, you're just getting started. When you're just starting out, it's better to just getting everything ready. So we're not going to focus on creating the best About page today.
When you're comfortable with content creation, you can come back and make the best about page ever.
So for now, introduce yourself. Tell your readers why you created your blog. Talk to them. Talk about your goals and your interests.
ii. The Contact Page
The Contact page is fairly easier to create than other pages. There's actually a plugin that does all the heavy lifting.
I know I got you to install a bunch of plugins, but let's do another one.
There are many contact form plugins these days. They're all great. But the one that has caught my eye is Forminator. Not only does it have the best name, but it does more than contact forms. And the forms it creates are very appealing. Modern.
The other features will also be helpful later.
Let's focus on your contact page.
It's time for Formination. 😀 Install the plugin now. You won't have to tweak any settings. It's ready to go.
When it's installed, go to Forminator > Forms and hit CREATE.
Choose the one you need and give it a name. Contact Form will do.
The next thing you'll want to do is remove the phone number field from the form. We don't need people's digits right now.
Now you're ready to publish it!
When the tool is done creating the form, you'll see something called a shortcode come up on your screen.
You will need this. Copy it!
Now you can go to Pages > Add New.
From there, you can type Contact into the title.
You can also add some generic wording like what I've done below:
Remember to paste your shortcode at the end.
Now you can hit the magical publish button and voila.
Your privacy page is an important part of your website. Every site has one.
To create yours, you can go back to Settings in your main menu and go to Privacy. This is where you can CREATE your page.
This done-for-you version is OK for now. It'll get the job done for a while. You can change it a bit later.
For right now, it only needs a little editing. You can go through the content and remove the parts that say "Suggested text:".
It's ready to be published.
Let's create your site's main menu!
Your website's main menu will sit right at the top of your site and it'll help your visitors navigate from page to page.
Your navigation menu will be small, but that's only due to you having only a couple pages. As you grow, the more options you'll have with your menu.
Creating a menu starts by going to Appearance > Menus in your dashboard. From here, click the create a new menu link.
Add your contact and about pages to the menu by checking their boxes and hitting Add to Menu.
Under Custom Links, copy and paste your website link (https://yoursupercoolblog.com) into the URL box. Then enter Home into the box that says Link Text and then Add to Menu.
Now, make sure your menu links look like this:
If they don't, change them. You can do this by dragging them.
When you're all set, save your menu. But make sure the Primary Menu box is checked.
If you've followed this guide all the way so far, you've built a blog.
It may not have any content on it yet, but you're getting there. This time tomorrow, you can have one or two blog posts ready for your visitors to read.
Before you can start creating blog articles, there's one big step to take...
STEP 6: GET YOUR SITE READY FOR SEO
It's time to get your site looking good for search engines (which is mainly Google these days).
To get your site looking sharp, there are three items on the to-do list:
They're all free!
To gain access to these tools, you'll need a free Google account. So if you don't have one, sign up here.
Now let's get started.
i. Setting up Google Analytics
First thing's first...
You need an analytics account. If you're signed into your Google account, great. If not, you'll need to.
Start by going to the Google Analytics page and look for the signup button.
If you're signed into Google, like I said, you'll be good. But make sure you're on the ADMIN page. You can find the link on the left-side menu all the at bottom.
The next thing to do is to find the little button that says CREATE ACCOUNT.
Enter your full name then your blog name, the category it's in and everything else.
It'll then ask you to set up a data stream. This means what type of data you want to track. And since you care about your traffic, you'll select WEB.
Enter your blog details and create stream.
You're almost done.
Scrolling down to Tagging Instructions and Add new on-page tag. Copy this bit of code. This is what you will put in your website.
Adding this is easy. Peanuts.
Back in your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance > Theme Editor. Under Theme Files, find the one that says header.php. It usually has Theme Header above it.
Now be very careful not to do anything but the following.
First, make sure your analytics code is copied. You're going to look for the <head> tag within the WordPress header code and paste your analytics tag on there.
Update the file and you're good to go!
ii. Setting up Google Search Console
The Google Search Console is a free software that tracks all your search presence. Without it, it'd be tough to know how your SEO efforts are going.
To get started, follow this link and sign in if necessary.
You'll see a page where you've got two options, Domain and URL prefix. The Domain feature is newer and it'd be good for a larger website with subdomains (mystore.mycoolsite.com).
We don't need that yet. Besides, it's a little more work.
You're going to use URL prefix.
URL is another way to say website links. It means the whole link, in fact. For example, https://myblogisbetterthanyours.com/how-to-be-a-badass/.
To make sure we get this correct on the first try, go to your web browser address box and copy your home URL (https://yourblog.com).
Paste it into the URL prefix box and hit continue.
You see should something like this:
By setting up your Google Analytics in the previous step, your site's Google Search Console will automatically verify your ownership. You may now use your search console.
You're doing great!
iii. Submitting an XML Sitemap
To help Google read your website, an XML sitemap is used so that it may navigate through your pages.
To set yours up, go to your WordPress dashboard. Under Rank Math, go to Sitemap Settings.
Rank Math usually does a good job at having all the settings pre-configured and ready to go. However, let's check them out and make sure.
Starting from GENERAL, make your way down the list and confirm the following configurations:
This is the basic configuration. You can make changes in the future when you're more comfortable with doing things on your own.
The next step is to go to your search console and submit your sitemap.
But first, grab your XML sitemap link. You'll find it in the General section of Rank Math.
Copy it and go to Google Search Console.
The menu on the left will have Sitemaps. This is where you want to go. From here, you can paste your "sitemap_index.xml" into the box and submit.
It should now be added in the submitted sitemaps section.
You're good to go!
THE NEXT STEPS
Blogging can be unachievably difficult. Especially if you have no guidance.
So what's next?
Your blog is going to need some content.
Here's some other guides that'll get you started.
If you have any questions, email us via our contact page or leave a comment below.