In this guide, you’ll learn how to start a blog in a few minutes no matter your background, technical know-how or prior experience. No coding and design skills required either.
I’ll introduce you to things you need to create a great looking blog design, publish amazing content, attract a passionate audience and make money blogging too. Let’s get started.
Ingredients you need to get started
To start a blog the right way, you need the following ingredients:
- Blogging platform so that you can build a nice looking site and manage your content. This is where you do your day to day blogging.
- A domain name such as yourname.com so people can find you and access your site. This is the address of your site.
- Webspace on a server so the content that you post is available to be viewed by others. This is the computer that hosts and delivers your content when requested by a visitor.
- It’s easy to start a site but it takes much more to make it a success. You need time, passion and commitment to a topic that you care about and that you are motivated to share with the world.
There are hundreds of domain name registrars, web hosting services and blogging platforms. To keep things simple, I’ll focus on those that I use and can recommend to all the beginners.
A blogging platform that I recommend
For your platform, I recommend self-hosted WordPress. I use it daily, have done so for more than 10 years and love it. Here’s why I think it is a great choice for you too:
- It’s completely free to use and is here to stay. It’s not a commercial organization that may run out of business or that might make some decisions in favor of their investors or shareholders and against the people that use it.
- It’s the most popular blogging platform used to host more than 35% of all sites. Very flexible and extensive so it’s used by everyone from institutions such as The White House and NASA, corporations such as Facebook and CNN to independent sites such as my one.
- Open-source with a large community of people using it, loving it and contributing to it. You benefit from this by having access to thousands of free designs that can change the look of your site with a click and tens of thousands of plugins to add any feature or functionality.
- Any problem or issue you might have is easy to find a solution for using resources such as my site or one of the many WordPress communities.
- Easy to start with and maintain it even for people who have no coding skills and who have no prior experience building websites and publishing content.
These reasons show you why WordPress is a great blogging platform to use to create your own permanent home online. A home that you fully own, fully control and that you can depend on.
If you’re not sure about WordPress, I have a full list of all the best blogging platforms.
How much does a blog cost?
There is no cost to use WordPress itself. It’s free. You do need a domain name and a webserver to install and host WordPress on. These are the services you need to pay for.
There is a lot of competition between the hosting companies which makes the cost affordable. It costs $35 to get your unique domain name and a hosting account for an entire year.
Choose a pretty WordPress theme
By default, you’ll have the official Twenty Twenty design theme that is made by the people who created WordPress. It’s a great starting point. Clean, modern, fast to load and beautiful to look at on all devices.
How do I change my WordPress theme?
If the official theme is not something for you, there are thousands of other free (and even premium themes) for you to choose from. Start by exploring the available themes in the official themes directory and test those that you like.
WordPress makes it easy to change your design without affecting any of your published content. In your Appearance menu within your WordPress dashboard, simply choose and activate a theme to change the design. Like this:
Here’s also my list of some of the most popular WordPress themes.
Create your About page
Make an introductory page where you share a bit of info about yourself and what your site helps people with. Tell people what your purpose and mission are. Don’t be shy. Include a picture of yourself.
Your “About” page isn’t about you at all, it’s about your audience. Convince them to stay and explore more. The more concise and kick-ass your story, the easier it will be for your audience to like you, subscribe and share with their friends.
Your about page should answer these questions:
- Who are you?
- What do you do for your audience?
- What makes you qualified to post about a particular topic?
Add a contact form to your About page
Let people get in touch. This will be very useful to get feedback and to get connected to your readers. It’s very simple and effective to add a contact form.
Jetpack plugin has a contact form feature. Enter the page where you want to add a contact form, then add the “Form” block like this:
Customize your site and make it awesome
Here’s a to-do list that I go through as soon as I install a new WordPress site:
1. Remove the generic content that comes with WordPress
WordPress comes with several default items such as an introductory post, a welcome page and some pre-installed plugins. You can safely get rid of all of them to have an even cleaner space to work with.
2. Make permalinks short and pretty (In Settings > Permalinks)
Your permalinks are the URLs of your articles. You don’t want your URLs to be something as generic as yourname.com/123456. Change it in your WordPress settings to spell out the name of your post by selecting the field called “Post name”.
Your post URL’s will now be yourname.com/post-name. It’s a well-structured, short and search engine friendly permalink.
3. Create a navigational menu (In Appearance > Menus)
Your navigational menu is normally placed in the header of your design theme. It usually consists of items such as the “Home”, “Start Here”, “About”, “Contact” and similar pages.
Your menu can include anything you want. Any page or post that you have published or any other link in general. Go into “Menus” within “Appearance” to create your navigation menu. Place your home page and the “About” page in there for now.
Essential WordPress plugins
There’s a WordPress plugin for anything. You can have any feature or functionality that you can think of. All without any tech know-how. Most plugins work out of the box. You can explore the official plugins directory and here are some ideas for you to start with:
Akismet comment spam blocker
Many spammers use WordPress comment areas to promote pages where they sell dubious products. You don’t want these in your own comments area. Luckily, the solution is simple with one of the spam blockers such as Akismet. Created by the team behind WordPress.
Jetpack, the mother of all plugins
Jetpack is another plugin created by the team behind WordPress. You can look at it as an “all-in-one” plugin. I recommend it for any new blogger. By installing Jetpack, you stand to benefit from many features including:
- Downtime monitoring to be alerted if your site server is down
- Brute force attack protection to block the suspicious-looking sign-in activity
- WordPress.com log in to require two-step authentication for logins
- Sharing buttons to add social media buttons to your content
- Site accelerator to speed up image load times and static file load times
- Lazy loading for images to boost your site loading time even more
Here’s my list of some of the best WordPress plugins that I recommend.
SEO things to do to drive visitors from Google
SEO stands for search engine optimization. Search engines are one of the best traffic sources for sites. SEO is the process of making your site friendly to Google and other search engines. Doing this can help you drive visitors from the search results.
Add the SSL certificate to your domain name
SSL certificate activates the https protocol and establishes a secure connection between a visitor and a hosting server. It’s the padlock you see in a browser next to the domain name.
It protects your visitors and their sensitive details such as credit card info, usernames, passwords, contact form messages and more.
Google’s Chrome browser flags sites on the http protocol and there is some SEO value in having the secure https connection.
Choose the “Let’s Encrypt SSL”. It’s the free and most widely used version. That’s the one I use on my site too. To finish, simply click on the “Confirm and create” button.
It may take up to an hour for your domain to update, but when it does your URL will start with https instead of http, your visitors will be safe, Google will be happy and might send you extra traffic.
Activate the WordPress SEO plugin
Yoast SEO plugin is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin. Activate it to get these features:
- Ability to edit SEO title and meta description of your posts
- SEO and readability analysis of your content with suggestions on things to improve
- Integration of Open Graph data so when your content is shared on social media it gets featured with the correct information and imagery
- Creation of a sitemap. Having a sitemap helps Google (and other search engines) learn more about your content, rank it in their search results and send you traffic
- Integration with Google’s Search Console
Add your site to Google’s Search Console
Search Console is a great free tool created by Google. It helps you track the progress of your site in Google’s search results. You can see which of your posts rank for which keyword phrases and in which positions. Google also gives you feedback on what you can improve.
- Create your Search Console account and verify your site
- Submit your XML Sitemap link directly to Google
What to post about: Finding your niche topic
You need to figure out what you want to post about. You can find your sweet blogging spot by interlinking your passion and personality with a topic that has a demand from a market.
For instance, if you love fashion, have an eye for it and spend a lot of time on Instagram, you should look into becoming a fashion blogger.
Determine your content strategy
Posting valuable content that your target audience wants is the most effective thing you can do to generate visitor interest. Answer their questions in your content, solve their issues and help people live better lives.
Every other step you can take to attract visitors relies on the quality of articles that you publish. Publishing quality content does require extra time and effort but it will deliver great results too.
Great content that people love builds that recognition for you and can help you get discovered in social media and search engine rankings.
Content that gets shares and links
This is a tough one for everyone. It’s so difficult to get any attention online these days. There’s just so much content and everyone has so many options for what they want to spend their time on.
You need to work hard on figuring out what can make you stand out in the crowded world. What makes you different from the other sites in your industry.
This can take a long time and may need a lot of testing and experimentation. Here are some ideas on how you can start:
- Look at what’s working well right now in your industry. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Discover content that’s shared the most in social media or content that works best for similar sites. This will give you an idea of what people want and you’ll have a list of topics to work on.
- Publish original research. Look at the data you have access to that others don’t. Do surveys. Use industry data. Or even Google trends or keyword trends. Find new ways to approach all the data and create some interesting data-driven content.
- Talk about your day-to-day work. Share your journey with the audience. How are you going about building your product or running your team or your company? What actions are you taking to grow your business? What’s working? What’s not? What are your future plans?
Content that sells and is based on users from search engines
Despite all the buzz around social media sites and startup marketing opportunities there, you will find that most of your target audience will discover you in search engines.
People are using search to get educated, to find answers or to get more information.
You need to know the pain points of your audience. Get good at understanding and recognizing ways that your target audience searches for use cases that your product solves and build content for it.
It helps that you think like the audience you’re trying to reach, that you’ve had a similar experience or been in a similar position and that you can be in their shoes.
You can also get to the right topics by doing research. What keyword phrases are people using in search engines? What questions do your competitors do best with? See how you can incorporate those too. Take a look at my detailed guide on WordPress SEO.
Publish a compelling first post
You now have a pretty looking and optimized site, but starting a site is much easier than creating and publishing the first post.
More than 50% of all sites never publish a single post. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen to you. Get into the WordPress post editor, compose the best post that you can and publish it.
Be realistic. Your first post will most probably suck. Only your mother might like it. You will have no visitors and no clicks on that Facebook like button.
Don’t just give up if you feel like you haven’t reached your high expectations. Manage your expectations better. Even the most popular writers published posts that sucked early on.
By taking all of the steps outlined in this post you will already do more than most people do. You have started a site and are actually in the field working and trying to get visitors.
You have published that first post despite being fearful of the feedback. Other people keep talking and dreaming and you are not one of them.
Commit to posting more quality content
When it comes to content, you should focus on quality and not quantity. People are bombarded with too many choices for things to click on.
One excellent article with a remarkable and irresistible post headline and nice graphics will bring you so much more traffic than several dull and uninviting posts.
There are very few core, fundamental keys to blogging, and consistency is definitely one of them. The reason most blogs fail is simply that the author stops updating them.
The hardest part is the initial hurdle, so decide now that you’re going to keep at it. Make a promise to show up again tomorrow. Commit and post on a regular schedule.
Put in the effort, work towards reaching smaller goals and you will create momentum. Blogging is a lot of work, takes up a lot of your day and is hard to get away from. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is a long road ahead and you should enjoy it!
How to promote your site
Visitors won’t just come after you publish your first post. You will have to go out and get those first visitors. If you don’t do this not many people will know about you. Get comfortable about reaching out to people and promoting your content.
A good idea is to have a marketing routine that you go through every time after you have published a new piece of content. This can include actions such as:
- Sharing the article on your social media channels
- Sending the article to your email audience
- Syndicating the article to Medium and other popular sites
- Sharing the advice from the article on Quora and other niche communities
See how to promote your content and get visitors.
How to make money blogging
Blogging is not going to get you rich quick. Big things are possible and you should dream about reaching them but don’t expect it to happen overnight. No matter what you’ve heard.
The good news is that by following the previous steps of publishing great content and taking massive action to attract an audience, you’re well on your way to start making money from your site too. There are many ways you can make money blogging:
- Placing banner advertising on your site
- Affiliate marketing is where you make money by recommending relevant products
- Charging for premium content such as courses or e-books
- Selling your product or service
- Accepting donations and subscriptions from your fans
Here’s my advice on how to make money blogging.
That’s it. My complete guide on how to start a blog and make it a success. Happy blogging!