I’m Marko Saric and I’m here to help you start a blog. Whether you want a casual blog for a group of friends, a place to showcase your creativity, or a commercial blog with the aim of getting customers for your business.
I’ve been helping people start blogs since October 2008. Always with simple, clear and practical step-by-step instructions.
You’ll learn how to start a blog no matter your background, technical know-how or prior experience. No coding skills or design skills required either.
Join thousands of people who have started successful blogs with my free guide.
Are you ready?
What you need to start a blog
To start a blog the right way, you need to have:
- 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.
- Domain name such as yourblogname.com so people can find you and access your site. This is the address of your site.
- Web space 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.
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 personally and can recommend to all the beginners.
Blogging platform that I recommend: WordPress
For your blogging platform, I recommend self-hosted WordPress. I use it daily, have done so for more than 10 years and really love it. Here’s why I think it is a great choice for a blogging platform:
- 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 34% 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 blogs 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 sites such as my blog 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.
How much does a blog cost?
There is no cost to use WordPress the blogging platform itself. It’s free. You do need a domain name and a web server space to install WordPress on. These are 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 own unique domain name and a hosting account for an entire year.
How to install a blogging platform
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. This helps support my blog and allows me to continue making guides like this. If you click my link and make a purchase, I earn a commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote products that I truly believe will be valuable to you.
Which host should you use? There are so many capable and affordable hosting providers.
For domain name registration and hosting, I recommend GreenGeeks. I’m a paying customer myself and use them to host this blog. Here’s why:
- GreenGeeks is an independent company based in Los Angeles, California with more than 10 years of experience, 35,000+ customers and 300,000+ websites hosted.
- 24/7/365 customer support over live chat, phone and email. I’ve never had to call them but I’ve emailed a handful of times and live chatted multiple times. They’re fast, responsive and solve the issues for you.
- Specialized in WordPress so you get a fast loading site, automatic updates, automatic backup, a free domain name secured with SSL, unlimited SSD disk space and unlimited bandwidth.
- Environmentally friendly. If the Internet was a country, it would be one of the largest polluters in the world. Your blog will be 100% carbon neutral and even carbon reducing. Energy efficient hardware is used and they purchase wind energy credits for three times the amount of energy they consume.
- There’s a 30-day money back guarantee in case you’re unhappy about anything. There’s a 99.9% uptime guarantee too.
How to sign up for hosting and register a domain name
Step 1: On GreenGeeks WordPress hosting page, choose your plan.
I use Ecosite Pro at $5.95/month as I want to host more than one blog. For those who only plan to run one blog, Ecosite Lite at $2.95/month is the best value.
Click the big green “Get Started” button on your chosen plan.
Step 2: Now you need to register your domain name. GreenGeeks gives you the domain name for free. Type your chosen domain name and click on “Check Availability“.
Step 3: Fill in all your personal details under “Account Information“.
Step 4: Under “Package Information” you see the summary of your chosen plan. To get the best value monthly price you need to sign up for 3 years. This is pretty standard for all hosting companies.
3 years of hosting on Ecosite Lite is billed $106.20 total. If you wish to purchase one year only, the total price will be $59.40.
You can choose your “Server Location“. The default is United States. The other options are Canada and Europe. Pick the server location closest to where the majority of your target audience is.
“Coupon Code” with the highest value is automatically applied. You always get the best possible deal.
“Domain WHOIS Privacy” at $9.95/year is selected by default but it’s possible to deselect it if you wish.
Every domain name registered has a publicly viewable database which includes the contact info of the owner. This option protects your personal information with an anonymous registration.
Step 5: Fill in your credit card details and click on the “Create Account & Get Started” button. You’ll get an email with your account login details.
Wondering what to name your blog?
These are the three main approaches you can use to come up with a memorable domain name for your blog but you’re free to be as creative as you want. Choose the name you love the most.
How to install your WordPress blog
Now it’s time to install a WordPress blog on your brand new domain name.
Step 1: Login to your shiny new and green GreenGeeks account and click on the “CPANEL” button.
Step 2: Start typing “Soft…” in the top box to locate the “Softaculous Apps Installer“. This is your easy way to install a WordPress blog.
Step 3: Click on WordPress and on the next page click on the “Install Now” button.
Explore the settings presented.
Step 4: Under “Site Settings” type your Site Name and Site Description. You don’t want your blog to be “my WordPress blog” or “just another WordPress site”.
That doesn’t tell your visitor much about what you care about. Fill in your title in “Site Name” and explain what your blog is about in the “Description”.
Don’t worry too much about this as you can change it at any time.
Step 5: Under “Admin Account” select a new personal username and a strong password. Do not use the default “admin”. These will be your login details for your WordPress blog.
Step 6: Click on “Advanced Options” and choose to Auto Upgrade WordPress to “Any latest version available”.
Tick also to auto upgrade both plugins and themes. Set “Automated backups” to “Once a week”. These are the best practices to secure your WordPress blog.
Step 7: On the next stage you can “Select Theme” that you like. By default, you’ll get the great and modern Twenty Nineteen theme.
Note that you can change to a new theme at any stage so it’s not something you need to perfect now.
Step 8: Click the “Install” button and wait until your blog has been set up.
Step 9: Now you can log in on yourblogname.com/wp-admin/ with your WordPress username and password. You’re ready to blog!
Blog design: Choose a pretty WordPress theme
By default, you will have the official Twenty Nineteen design theme that is made by the people who created WordPress. It’s a great starting point for a new blogger.
Twenty Nineteen theme is by far the best official theme that has existed in the 10+ years that I have used WordPress. It looks great, it’s lightweight, fast to load and mobile friendly too.
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 blog design with a blog and without that 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 a list of the most popular WordPress themes.
Action Point: Choose the theme that you love and move on to the next steps. You can always come back and change a theme. It’s simple and doesn’t affect any of the other work.
How to create your About page
Make an introductory page where you share info about yourself and what your blog helps people with. Tell people what your purpose and mission are. Don’t be shy. Include a picture of yourself.
Your “About Me” page isn’t about you at all, it’s about your audience. It should convince them to stay and explore more.
The more concise and kick-ass your story, the easier it will be for your audience to get to like you, subscribe and even 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 certain topic?
Add a contact form to your About page
Let people get in touch. This will be very useful to get feedback, to get connected to other bloggers and maybe even attract sponsors.
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:
Action Point: Create a page with more info about yourself and what you plan to contribute with. Add a contact form to the page so visitors can reach out.
How to customize your blog and make it awesome
Here’s a to-do list that I go through as soon as I install a new WordPress blog:
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 from.
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 yourblogname.com/123456.
Change it in your WordPress settings to actually spell out the name of your post by selecting the field called “Post name”.
Your post URL’s will now be yourblogname.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 blog theme. It usually consists of items such as the “Home” button, “Start Here” page, “About” page, “Contact” page and similar.
Your menu can include anything you really want. Any page or post that you have published or any other link in general.
Go into “Menus” within “Appearance” to create your own menu. Place your home page and the “About” page in there for now.
Action Point: Follow this list of optimizations before you start publishing content. Five minutes well spent.
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.
Activate 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.
Activate Jetpack, the mother of all plugins
Jetpack is a plugin created by the team behind WordPress. You can look at it as an “all-in-one” plugin.
It’s a plugin I recommend for any new blogger. By installing Jetpack and activating some of its features, you stand to benefit a lot.
Activate these Jetpack features:
- Downtime monitoring to be alerted if your blog 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 sharing buttons to your content
- Proofreading to have your content checked for spelling and grammar before it’s published
- 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 a list of best WordPress plugins that I recommend.
Action Point: Explore the world of WordPress plugins and activate a few. Remember that it’s simple to install a new plugin at any stage.
SEO things to do to drive visitors from Google
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It’s the process of making your blog friendly to Google and search engines. Doing this can help drive more 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. GreenGeeks provides the SSL certificate for free so do take couple of minutes to add it to your domain name.
Log in to your GreenGeeks account, choose “Security” in the menu and click to “Add SSL Certificate”. Select your hosting plan and the domain name you’d like to add the SSL certificate to.
Choose the “Let’s Encrypt SSL”. It’s the free and most widely used version. That’s the one I use on this blog 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 and 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 blog traffic
- Integration with Google’s Search Console
Add your blog to Google’s Search Console
Search Console is a great free tool created by Google. It helps you track the progress of your blog in search engine 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 blog
- Submit your XML Sitemap link directly to Google
Action Point: For many blogs, Google is the main source of traffic and installing an SEO plugin and adding your blog to Search Console are the first steps to getting on Google.
What to blog about: Finding your niche topic
You need to figure out what you want to blog about. You can find your sweet blogging spot by interlinking your passion and personality with a topic that has 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.
Action Point: Some experimentation will be necessary to find your niche. Be more liberal with what you post in the early days and see what the reaction is before deciding.
Blog 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 in search engine rankings.
Publishing 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 really 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 actually 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 blogs. 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?
Publishing 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 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 blog SEO.
Publish a compelling first blog post
You now have a pretty looking and optimized blog, but starting a blog is much easier than creating and publishing the first blog post.
More than 50% of all blogs 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 biggest bloggers 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 blog 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 a 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!
Action Point: It’s important to think about the audience you are targeting when publishing your content. Make sure that each post that you publish creates value to a real audience.
How to promote your blog
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 blog content and get visitors.
Action Point: Create a marketing to-do list for after publishing a post and follow it for each and every post. In the early days, this is the only way to get traffic and attention.
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 blog 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 own product or service
- Accepting donations and subscriptions from your fans
Here’s my complete guide on how to make money blogging.
Action Point: You need an audience to make money blogging. This is why you need to publish content that makes a difference. Focus on that first and money will come.
That’s it. My complete guide on how to start a blog and make it a success. Explore the rest of my blog for deeper details into some of the other blogging aspects. Happy blogging!