In addition to running a daycare, I’ve been blogging for more than ten years and love every moment of it. Blogging helped me to earn money on the side. When I meet other moms, I encourage them to start a blog too. Even if they enjoy their job, a blog can be a great hobby and many find that they enjoy blogging more than their 9-5 job. Some even are starting to earn more than their job!
When I was learning how to create a blog back in 2008, it took me some time to find all the right information online, and I had to look for it on different websites. That’s why I’ve created this free 5 steps to creating a blog guide to teach beginners how to make a blog fast and easy. It’s not as complicated as many people think.
5 Steps to Starting Your First Blog
1. Pick your blog’s name and niche
First, it’s time to pick a name and niche for your new blog.
The name of your blog is what readers will see first (like yourblog.com), so it should ideally represent topics you’ll be writing about—or it could be your own name, that of your business, a clever combination of words, or otherwise.
What is a niche?
Your blog’s niche is the general topic area that you’ll be focusing your content around. Examples include topics like travel, food, fashion, lifestyle, technology, etc. When you figure out your niche, incorporate a word or two that clearly tells what your content is about, within the name of your blog.
How to choose a niche for your blog
To become a successful blogger, you will have to choose the right niche and work on attaining the highest form of knowledge within that topic. So pick the one that appeals to you—the one you are passionate about and most interested in. Strive for success, happiness, and recognition. By choosing the niche of interest and having your own point of view, you’ll be able to differentiate your personal blog ideas from the competition.
2. Get your blog online (web hosting)
The second step in starting a blog, is getting your blog online. That’s what a web hosting company will do for you. In this step, you’ll be selecting the blogging platform and web hosting plan you’ll use to get your blog online.
What I personally use (and that most other bloggers use) is a WordPress blog, hosted by Bluehost. WordPress is a free publishing platform that’s been around since 2003 and now powers more than 60% of all blogs on the Internet. Bluehost is one of the most established, reliable companies in the blog hosting industry. I have switched almost all my blogs over to Bluehost. Since I recommend Bluehost for any beginner blogger, this is the hosting that I will use for this guide.
Now, let’s get your hosting set up.
—> Click here to head over to Bluehost and hit the green “Get Started Now” button
Choose your plan
First, you’ll select a hosting plan (inputting your blog name comes next). Personally, I recommend choosing the Choice Plus plan because it comes with Domain Privacy, which will protect your personal information (your full name, email address, phone number and home address) from being published anywhere online.
Choosing your plan will look like this right here. Just click the green “Select” button on your plan of choice:
As I said above, I recommend choosing the Choice Plus plan, so that you’re getting the Domain Privacy feature that’ll protect your personal information online, but any of these plans will do as you’re starting your blog—and you can add the domain privacy in later during the checkout process for around $1/mo.
Pick your blog’s domain name
Next, you’ll get to the page where it’s time to choose your blog’s domain name:
Once you get to this step in the checkout process, just type in the name of the domain name that you’d like your blog to have.
If your domain name of choice isn’t available, you can either try another option that comes to mind—or (what I recommend) select the option to choose your domain name later after getting the rest of your account squared away and taking a little more time to think the name through. After all, the name of your blog is very important!
Here’s where you can click to choose your domain later (it’s a popup that will appear if you hover on this page for long enough or move your mouse up toward the top of the page):
After either choosing your domain name or opting to select it later, you’ll be taken to the final step in the sign up process—creating your account.
Create your Bluehost account
Start by filling in your account details like your name, email address (it’s super important to use an up-to-date email address because this is where your login details and account information will be sent) and address. If you don’t want to enter your information manually, you can connect your Bluehost account with your Google account. Either works!
Select the right hosting package
This is where you’ll choose an account plan based on the price you want to lock in and how far in advance you’ll pay.
Note that Bluehost only offers options for you to pay 1, 2, 3 or 5 years upfront. They don’t offer a monthly payment option (because most hosting companies that do offer monthly payments tend to charge a bit more). Even still, with whichever plan you choose, the price works out to be a great deal for starting your own blog and getting it online today.
Which pricing plan is best to start a blog with?
Personally, I recommend choosing the “Prime 36 Month Price” if you want to lock in the lowest possible price for your hosting. That’s what I use. And it secures your blog hosting at their lowest rate (and gets you domain privacy) for the next 3 years. And because this low pricing for new customers only applies to the first payment you make, if you were to choose the 1-year plan, your pricing may go up after that first year.
That’s why if you choose the 36-month plan, your pricing will be locked in at this rate for 3 years. For that reason, I recommend going with the longest duration plan that your budget can spring for.
Choosing the right package extras (skip all but one)
I recommend keeping the Domain Privacy Protection extra, but you can get away with skipping the rest. Later on in this guide, I’ll show you the many free and cheap plugins & tools you can use for things like SEO optimization, additional security and site back-ups, rendering most of the other package extras not necessary.
As I mentioned earlier though, having the domain privacy extra keeps all of your personal contact information (your name, email, phone number and address) private. Now, if you chose the Choice Plus Plan on the previous screen, then your Domain Privacy Protection will be listed as “Free” just like this screenshot above shows—it’s included in that plan.
If you chose a Basic or Plus Plan, then you’ll want to check the box to add Domain Privacy Protection to your order for around $1/mo.
The total you’ll now see is the amount you’re going to pay today. Remember though, you won’t have to pay again for 1, 2, 3 or 5 years depending on the package you chose. Plus, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee in case things don’t go as planned with your blog.
Enter your billing information
Now you’ll input your billing information, check the box that you agree to Bluehost’s Terms of Service and then hit the green “Submit” button.
Woot! Woot! Pat yourself on the back-You’ve officially completed the first major step in starting a blog!🙂
With the initial signup process complete, it’s time to move into the next stage of getting your blog fully setup and optimized.
On the next page, you’ll be guided step-by-step through the process of getting WordPress installed on your blog through Bluehost.
3. Design your blog with a free WordPress theme
Now that we’ve gotten through the crucial setup phase of starting a blog, it’s time to have a little more fun.
Designing your WordPress blog is when you might start to feel a little friction with this process though (if you’ve never worked on a blog before), but I promise this won’t get too technical.
Plus… the last thing I want is for the very minor technical side of starting a blog to derail your progress today.
If you want to start a blog and make money from it, WordPress is your only smart option.
Now, one thing you need to be careful of, is that WordPress comes in two very different platforms. There’s WordPress.com and WordPress.org. They have almost the same name, but there are very big differences between the two:
- Is free to use (with heavy restrictions)
- Doesn’t let you pick a custom domain name (i.e. 👉 yoursite.wordpress.com)
- Has very limited monetization options (you can’t sell your own ads)
- Doesn’t let you upload plugins (for email capture and other things)
- Has limited theme support so you’re stuck with very basic designs
- You have to pay to remove WordPress branding and get your own domain like yoursite.com
- Limited SEO and analytics
- Fully customizable design, unlimited plugin options, and no branding
- Total control over your own monetization efforts
- Powerful SEO features (so people can find your site easier)
- Let’s you start or add an eCommerce store or membership site
- Small monthly fee (from the web hosting company you choose to host your blog)
While the choice is yours, if you want to take full advantage of your blog, be able to have it grow with you and eventually make money from it, WordPress.org is the way to go when learning how to start a blog (and the exact process we’ve followed throughout this guide). It’s the CMS of choice that’ll sit in the background and power your blog.
How to install WordPress (and configure your blog settings)
Here’s a step-by-step video walkthrough of how to install WordPress on your new blog and configure the right settings:
Choosing the best (free) WordPress theme for your blog
When you’re just getting started, I don’t usually recommend buying a paid WordPress theme right away. Once you have some traffic and can justify the investment, then it’s smart to choose a premium, paid theme with more features and options. For right now though, a complex theme will be a distraction from your most important priority of actually bringing readers to your new blog.
WordPress comes with a ton of free themes to choose from, so start with one of the options you like in Appearance > Themes > Add New Theme > Popular without spending much time on this for now. You can always come back and change it later.
I like these two WordPress themes because they’re both crisp, clean, simple and will get you to a great starting point without needing to invest in a paid theme as you’re starting out. Later, you can evaluate more of the other WordPress themes out there.
Why design is so important when learning how to start a blog
Even if you don’t really care about design, your readers will. In a 2012 study from Google and the University of Basel, researchers found that users judge a website’s aesthetic beauty and perceived functionality in 1/20th — 1/50th of a second. Plus, thanks to a little psychological bias called the Halo Effect, people will extend that judgement to all aspects of your blog.
What this means, is that in less time than it takes to snap their fingers, a reader has decided whether or not to trust your blog.
Alright, we’ve covered the basic foundations of getting your WordPress settings dialed in. Now, let’s dig into creating a few of the main pages on your blog.
Creating the main pages of your blog (about and contact)
Every blog needs to showcase some basic, foundational information. Who you are. Why people should listen to you. How they can get in touch with you if they have questions or want to work with you.
These pages are all pretty standard, but they’re also a great way to have some fun and let your readers get to know you. In fact, I use my About page to not only introduce who I am and tell my story, but to let potential parents about our daycare.
You might not think much about it, but your About page can quickly become one of the most popular pages on your blog.
Use your about page to show the value you’re creating for your readers—and work hard to earn that attention. No matter how you craft your about page, don’t forget to think about the context of the person you’ll be talking to there.
Another often overlooked page that you’ll want to include on your blog is a simple way for people to contact you.
While mine goes into more depth, your Contact page can be as simple as having your email and social media accounts listed on a page. Or, if you’d rather not have your personal email out there for anyone to find, you can include a contact form.
Think about what types of communication you want your readers to use and for what. You can use your Contact page to set those expectations right away.
4. Write your first blog post
You don’t read a blog because it looks nice or because they publish frequently. (Although those both help).
You read a blog because you care about what it says. Creating strong content is what will bring you readers and help you to eventually make money blogging.
Before you get too far down the road of planning out your content roadmap and writing your first blog post—you need to answer one simple question… Why?
- Why do you care for the topic you’re blogging about?
- Why should other people listen to what you’re saying?
- Why is this a topic that you can add value to?
Now, if you’re unsure, or if no niche comes to mind right away, that’s OK. We can coax it out with a few questions.
Ask these questions to determine a smart niche to start a blog in:
- What’s an interest or dream from your childhood that you find exciting?
- What’s the absolute best part of your day?
- Do you have any hobbies or hobbies that you want to learn?
- What is a deeply held value of yours?
- What’s one achievement that you’re incredibly proud of?
Right away, you should have an idea or two for a clear niche you could start blogging about. It’s ok if your niche grows, evolves and changes over time.
5 ways to come up with clever blog post ideas
Here’s a simple process I use for coming up with the specific blog posts I write for my own blog.
- Brainstorm topics and write them all down: Start by writing down as many ideas or keywords that you can. Aim for things you know your ideal audience would find valuable. What questions are they asking? Where do you have expertise and can help fill in the blanks?
- Use a keyword research tool to gather even more ideas: We want a lot of blog post topics to work with at this stage, so let’s use a keyword research tool like Ahrefs (pictured above), Twinword Ideas(free), or Moz to help us fill it out. These tools basically just show you terms and topics related to the ones you’ve already come up with, as well as how much traffic those terms are getting (to show that your audience cares about them!)
- Lump similar ideas together: Your list should be growing by this point. So take all those terms and start to refine them. Are there duplicates that you can lump together? Do some just not look right now? Refine and edit it down.
- Put your ideas in a spreadsheet and prioritize: Ok, let’s get this list a little more organized now. Start a spreadsheet and include your keyword, estimated search volume, difficulty, and opportunity (You should be able to get all this info from the keyword tool you use). Looking at all these, assign a priority to each one either on a scale of 1-5 or a basic High-Medium-Low. Join my free course to grab a copy of my editorial calendar template.
Now you’re ready to write your first blog post!
Once you’ve decided on the first blog post you want to write, you’ll navigate to the “Add New Post” section from your WordPress Dashboard.
Go to Posts > Add New. Next, you’ll be taken to a brand new article page that’ll look like this (a totally blank canvas 🙂):
Writing a blog post headline that encourages readers to click through
One of the reasons you chose to start a blog was to attract readers, right?
Well, it pays dividends to put some time and concerted effort into writing headlines that’ll be interesting, engaging and most importantly—deliver on the promise of what your blog posts are actually helping the reader to accomplish.
So let’s say after doing some keyword research, you’ve determined that your hiking blog should start by breaking down some underrated hikes in Northern California.
You’d click into the “Add Title” bar on your new post page and type in a title.
When I first learned how to write a blog post, I had no idea how to craft compelling headlines. Today, I’ve developed a formula that includes several key traits that work very well for attracting readers in my niche of blogging tutorials. My essential elements of writing a successful blog post headline are:
- Lead with a number (like 10, 32, 55 or 101) to capture a reader’s attention
- Use a blend of emotional, common, uncommon and powerful words to make the headline flow nicely
- Place a part of the headline within parentheses to make it stand out more
- And most importantly… make sure your headline matches the intent of what your reader is hoping to achieve
If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve written a strong headline, take it for a test drive by using the free headline analyzer tool from CoSchedule. It’s super cool—you just paste in the headline you’re thinking about using, and it gives you a score on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 100 being a truly perfect headline), based on their analysis of millions of headlines.
Crafting a compelling introduction to your new blog post
You have one or two sentences to convince readers your new post is worth their time. Here’s a sample blog post introduction I just wrote in less than two minutes for our hiking example:
The easiest strategy for writing a compelling introduction is to answer the who, what, where, when and why as soon as possible. This may sound counterintuitive, but another trick is to start with your conclusion first. In the age of short attention spans, people have grown tired of wasting time on clickbait blog posts that go nowhere.
The quicker you can establish relevance to your reader, give them a strong reason to believe they’ll find what they’re looking for in your blog post, the more likely they’ll be to dig into your piece and share with others.
Optimizing the design and layout of your blog post
Ultimately, what looks “good” is subjective and up to you—based on what you think your (future) readers will resonate most with.
Free blog photo resources
One of the easiest ways to add some design elements to your blog posts, is with images.
While the words “stock photography” might make you think of cheesy photos of awkward people in a fake office with their thumbs up… in recent years, there have been a number of much higher quality sites pop up that offer incredible photography that’s completely free to use for your blog. Here are my favorites:
Hitting publish on your first blog post
Once you’ve written your first blog post (and ideally get it to the 1,000+ word range) you’re almost ready to publish!
Take a few minutes to double check on the Yoast SEO suggestions and ensure your blog post is SEO-friendly, which will give you the best chance of ranking well in organic search.
After your SEO settings are dialed in, choose which “Category” this new post will fall under and tick that box.
Then, you’re ready to hit publish!
And boom! It’s that easy ! 🎉
5. Commit to a regular publishing schedule on your blog
If you want readers to consistently come back to your blog, you need to give them a reason to.
Consistency is one of the least celebrated, yet most important aspects of starting a successful blog.
There are a couple of reasons why consistency is key. Writing consistently:
- Sets expectations with your readers: People know when to come back and check out your blog and will check in regularly for new content.
- Sets expectations with yourself: It can be easy to get out of the habit of publishing regularly if you miss a couple days. However, if you decide on and commit to a schedule, you know when you have to publish. We all do better with a few deadlines in our lives.
Not only this, but publishing consistently helps you test and understand what types of content work with your readers. As Grace Moser of Chasing Foxesshared with me during her interview, they grew their blog to millions of monthly readers by putting out 4–6 pieces of content a week for several months in a row before getting real traction.
Just like when you’re working out at the gym or investing money in the stock market—the more consistent you are with investing time into your blog, the bigger returns you’ll get.
How to Start a Blog in 2020: Final Takeaways for New Bloggers
Ultimately, growing a successful blog all boils down to being excited and engaged with your new blog. If you want people to read what you’re writing, you need to give them a reason to.
Write exciting content, connect with people in your niche and enthusiastically share what you’re working on.
The traffic, monetization and everything else will follow.
Wow. I know. We got through a lot here.
I wrote this guide because starting a blog has been one of the most empowering, life-changing decisions I’ve made in my life.
And I hope that by now you feel confident enough to go out there and start a blog of your own.
Disclosure: Please note that when you purchase hosting using my Bluehost affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps me make this ultimate guide to starting a blog free of charge to you. Know that I also use Bluehost hosting, and I would never recommend a product, tool or service I don’t personally use & advocate for. 🙂