Starting a blog is one of the most effective ways to accelerate your learning. You develop your writing and thinking skills, you have to analyze different topics, get new perspectives on life, as well as clarify your own thoughts and beliefs, and structure knowledge. I have been blogging and writing articles for years and it helped me advance in my knowledge really fast. Thus lets look at how to start a blog.
Starting a blog is an extremely quick and easy thing to do. A much bigger challenge is marketing your blog. There are more than 200 million blogs on the World Wide Web. More than 2 million blog posts are published every day. This means three things. As already mentioned, (1) it’s extremely easy to start your own blog. (2) It’s only right that you decided to join the trend, to stay competitive and on the cutting edge. (3) It’s quite hard to stand out in the crowd of millions of blog posts.
And there is one more thing. Expecting to earn a lot of money after a few blog posts is naïve thinking. Nevertheless, if you are able to produce extremely good and frequent content, blogging can become a way of living with adequate income. But as mentioned before, there are many other intellectual benefits of blogging. In order to encourage you to start blogging and accelerate your learning in the fields you are interested in, I decided to write a simple and to-the-point guide for how to create your first blog.
There are two main options for how you can open your first blog:
- A self-hosted blog (a few more minutes of work, but a much better option)
- Hosted blog solutions
A self-hosted blog
With a self-hosted blog, you will have your custom domain name (www.yourdomainname.com). Setting up a self-hosted blog will not take more than 15 – 20 minutes of your time, especially if you have a clear idea about your blog’s appearance and content structure. But even without a clear picture and by staying flexible, it’s really easy to create your new self-hosted blog.
Just take the following steps:
Select the right software
This one is a no-brainer. You should use WordPress.org as your self-hosted blogging software (don't confuse it with WordPress.com that is hosted option). It is used by both the most popular news/magazine/other websites and thousands of bloggers. You don’t have to do anything in this step, since you will install your WordPress blog with one click at your hosting provider, you just have to remember that WordPress is the best option for you by far; a reliable, customizable and easy-to-use content management system with thousands of themes, plugins and options. People just love WordPress.
Select your domain name
Maybe the hardest step in this process is selecting your domain name. Just kidding, but it is quite a challenge. Most cool domain names are already taken and you will probably have to use either more than two words or a new fictional name for your domain. It’s not recommended to use dashes in your domain name (www.firstsecondword.com is better than www.first-second-word.com).
If you are thinking about writing a global English blog, it is recommended that you register a .com domain. If you will write the blog in your local language, you can use your country’s domain ending (.de, .co.uk).
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It’s important what kind of a domain name you register, but choose something that you will like as well. At the end of the day, quality content will contribute much more to your success than a domain name.
Here are some ideas on how to choose your domain name:
- Main keywords regarding your chosen blog topic (the best option)
- Your name and surname or your nickname (if you want to build your personal brand)
- The brand name of your company
- A new made-up word
Write down some ideas on a piece of paper or in text editor. You can check the domain name availability with your hosting provider, so after writing down a couple of domain name ideas, just follow the next step to check the availability of the domain name.
Don’t get frustrated or surprised about how many domain names are already taken. You will definitely find an available domain name that will suit you perfectly sooner or later. Just stay open-minded and creative.
You can help yourself with tools that will give you suggestions based on your keywords:
You can register your domain through your hosting provider. Many host providers will provide you with free domain in their hosting packages. Just make sure the domain is registered under your name. If you will choose of the popular hosting providers, you have nothing to worry.
Very simply stated, hosting is a place on a server (a very capable computer constantly connected to the internet), maintained by a hosting provider where your website will be installed, stored and available to your visitors 24/7. It is basically a storage place you rent that makes your site accessible on the internet.
There are thousands of hosting providers, but you want to go with the most reliable and popular ones. The most popular hosting providers are stable, affordable, will give you support if needed and offer one-click installs and automatic big updates for blogging software like WordPress.
Nearly every hosting provider offers you four options:
1. Shared hosting
It’s cost-efficient hosting where you share server resources (disk space, CPU speed, RAM…) with others. That is the option for hosting your blog page at the beginning. Sharing resources presents no real danger to your account.
2. Virtual private server
The offer consists of web hosting resources allocated only to you. There are still more hosts on the same server but they are separated virtually. You use the same hardware, but from the aspect of user experience, it seems like you are using a computer dedicated to you only.
3. Dedicated hosting
Dedicated hosting means that you rent a server that’s entirely yours, having no virtual private server separations or any other hosts that would use your resources. It’s an expensive option for enterprises and advanced users.
4. Cloud hosting
It’s a cost-efficient option for when you need advanced hosting options with good scalability and resiliency. You don’t need that for your blog.
Shared hosting is the way to go in the beginning; the best price performance you can get.
As mentioned, it is okay to register a domain with your trusted hosting provider so you won’t have to bother with entering domain settings and so on.
Selecting your hosting provider
If you are prepared to invest a little bit more into your hosting, especially in order to speed up your blog and have really good support, I suggest you choose Traffic Planet Hosting. I am hosting my blogs on their servers and I am not migrating to any other provider, despite the higher price. They offer such a good support, reliability and speed. It costs me around $25 per month.
If you want to save some money, especially in the beginning, I would recommend DreamHost to you. DreamHost is one of the most popular hosting providers. It is highly recommended to use their services. They have been in the business for more than 16 years and have more than 350,000 clients and some impressive performance results regarding their servers (downtime, speed etc.).
You can go to their website and select Shared Web Hosting. You will have unlimited disk storage, bandwidth, number of domains hosted, number of e-mail accounts and so on. They also have their own custom dashboard that’s very simple and easy to use.
They always have some promotional special offers. The official monthly price for shared hosting is a little bit lower than $11, but with special promotions, you can get a big discount for the first year, one free domain and so on. They also have 14-day trial periods, so you can cancel their service for any reason you like.
I suggest you select:
- Traffic Planet Hosting if you are prepared to invest a little bit more of your money into quality hosting (speed, support,…). The cost is from $24.99 per month.
- DreamHost if you want the best value for price. The cost is from $10.95 per month or even less.
Here are some other popular hosting providers:
- GreenGeeks – if you are looking for an environment friendly hosting
One-click WordPress install
After you select your hosting provider and register a domain name, it takes a few hours for your domain to be registered. You will get a notification to your e-mail once the registration is done. Since you registered the domain with your hosting provider, everything will be set up automatically. After you get the notification that your domain has been registered, it’s time to install WordPress.
Most of the best hosting providers have a one-click WordPress installation process. For example: DreamHost provides 1-click easy installation. You just log in to your DreamHost account following the instructions you have received to your e-mail. On the dashboard, you will find several options like Manage domains, Manage e-mail (to set up your e-mail), Manage Users etc. They have excellent tutorials for how to use all their services.
Among the options, you will find One-Click Installs and you should select this option. You will see WordPress among the installations and click on it. A pop-up will open and you should just click Custom Installation. Your installation process will begin, but no worries, because it’s really simple.
You will have to select a domain (if you registered your first domain, it will be the only option) and where to install the WordPress software. You can leave it empty, if you want to open your blog directly when typing your domain name in the browser (www.yourdomainname.com). If you want to have a WordPress blog on a subdomain, you can add the name of that subdomain, for example /blog. (www.yourdomainname.com/blog).
Then click “Install it for me now”, enter the blog title and your e-mail address, and you are done.
Log in to your WordPress site
You will get notification e-mail that your WordPress blog has been installed, accompanied by all the details for your first login. You will have to select your username and password, and you will be redirected straight to your WordPress dashboard.
After that you can log in to your WordPress dashboard at “www.yourblogdomainname.com/wp-admin”. It’s good that you bookmark your WP login page, so you will have easy access.
Don’t forget to customize
You will see that using WordPress Dashboard is really simple and intuitive. After successfully installing WordPress, it’s smart to do the following things:
Change general WP settings according to your preferences about posting, commenting, reading etc. Add the description of your blog and some other additional data.
Select your favorite theme
In the appearance section, you will find thousands of free and payable themes. Select your favorite one and install it with a single click. You can always easily change your theme if you want to and new themes are constantly being added.
Customize your page
You will find many options for how to additionally customize your selected theme. Upload your logo, pictures, change fonts and colors etc. Every theme has different options for how much it can be changed.
It’s wise to have a clear idea about your blog’s appearance and content structure before setting it up. It will be much easier to select the theme and enter some general content and menu structure. You should edit menus, write some permanent pages (about this blog etc.), add categories, tags and so on.
You should install the most popular plugins for search engine optimization, spam filters etc. You will find them among the popular plugins under the Plugins section on your WordPress dashboard.
Here are some plugins that I use:
- TinyMCE Advanced – for more advanced Visual Editor
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – for Search Engine Optimization
- Google Analytics – to add Google Analytics code
- BackWPup – for backup
- Contact Form 7 – for contact forms
- iThemes Security – for additional security
- Mailchimp for WP – for mailing list
- OnePress Social Locer – for locked content that you pay with a tweet, like,…
- Scroll Triggered Box – to boost e-mail conversion rates
- Digg Digg – floating bar for social sharing
- Pretty Links – for affiliate links
Smartphone or tablet application
You can find a WordPress app for your tablet and smart phone, for both iOS and Android. It will help you manage your site, post blogs, approve comments etc.
You are ready to go write your first blog post. After that don’t forget to update WordPress software and plugins regularly. Do regular backups for what you can find differed plugins. Keep your blog professionally maintained. And don’t forget that really good content is the best way for your blog to become popular.
Reasons to select a self-hosted option for your blog instead of the hosting option:
- Custom domain name (www.yourdomainname.com)
- It looks more professional and you can build up your personal or business brand more easily
- There are many more customization options and the flexibility is much better. There are thousands of free and payable themes for your self-hosted blog. If you choose the hosted version, you will have a more boring selection.
- You have more control over your site and the content you post.
- You can add plugins and other applications, like MailChimp for the newsletter, plugins for search engine optimization, analytics etc. You can choose from among thousands of plugins. On the other hand, you only have a few plugins available for your hosted site.
- And the most important reason: you will learn a lot more by selecting a self-hosted blog.
The downside is a slightly bigger investment of your time and mental effort, and it’s also a little bit more expensive (we are talking ca. 10 dollars per month), but that cannot be compared to all the benefits you will get. You will also have to take care of your backups and upgrades, but nowadays hosting providers are automating as many things as possible. Anyway, go for the self-hosted option.
There are only five easy steps:
- Go to DreamHost or Traffic Planet Hosting and select shared hosting (All Services -> Shared Hosting)
- Choose your domain and sign up
- Install WordPress with one click
- Customize WordPress and install plugins
- Start blogging
Hosted blog solutions
If you decide for a hosted blog solution, you will have a subdomain, for example name.wordpress.com if you choose WordPress’ hosted blog solutions.
You can basically open your blog just by selecting your username, password and blog name. But a big disadvantage is that your blog will be on a subdomain, as mentioned before (e.g. yourblog.wordpress.com) and you will have fewer customization possibilities. Your hosting capacities will also be limited and if your blog is really successful, it could happen that you will have to make an upgrade and pay for it, of course.
In the long run, it’s much better to have a self-hosted blog because of the custom domain name (www.yourdomainname.com), more flexibility and customization options. It takes just a little bit more energy, but it’s definitely worth it. If you decide for a custom domain name, go back to the previous section.
If you are not ready to invest additional energy and some more money, and just want to start writing now, below are the instructions for what you should do. The installation process shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes and the basic hosted service is free.
Below, the three most popular hosted blogging platforms are listed. Select the option that suits your goal the best, open an account and start blogging:
Blogger.com it’s owned by Google, so it’s simple and reliable. There aren’t many options for advanced customization but it’s really easy to create a blog and start blogging. You can use your current Google account (Gmail etc.) to log in. If you don’t have a Google account, you can easily open one. Just don’t forget that you can also use other Google services with this account.
After creating the account or logging in, you just create a new blog with one click, enter some general information, select the template and start blogging. It couldn’t be easier.
It’s also connected to Google AdSense, a system for showing ads on your page, so if your blog is really successful, you can easily start monetizing it. Choose this option if you want to invest as little energy as possible into having a decent blog.
First of all, don’t get confused. WordPress.org is a software for your custom domain blog and WordPress.com is an option for your hosted subdomain blog. It’s probably the most popular and powerful hosted blog option.
There are some additional options for customization compared to Blogger. It’s extremely easy to open an account: just select a username, password and your blog subdomain. You select the template and some other options, and your blog is up and running. After that, you can connect your blog to your social network accounts, do some additional theme editing and invite your friends to start reading your blog. A few clicks and you can become a professional blogger.
The third very popular option is Tumblr.com. The concept of Tumblr is a little bit different. It is about micro blogging with focus on posting pictures, infographics, videos, quotes and other interactive materials. It has a strong component of being a micro blog platform and a social network at the same time.
If you plan on publishing more pictures, photos, videos and other multimedia material rather than text posts and you are more of a social networking than a journalist type of person, Tumblr is probably the best option for you.
Opening a Tumblr micro blog is also very easy, done by entering your e-mail, the desired password and a blog name. You then select the template, do some customization and you can start blogging.
These options are the best for you to start blogging. They are all really simple and you can have your blog up and running in a matter of minutes.
How to start a blog? Choose the option that best suits your goals
Select a self-hosted WP blog if you are serious about blogging in the long term and would really like to customize your blog. A hosted WP option is also a very good choice if you are not prepared to pay for hosting and are willing to accept a subdomain and fewer options for themes, plugins and customization.
Select Blogger if you don’t care about customization or a subdomain and would just like to start blogging as quickly as possible.
Select Tumblr if you are more of a social network type of person and would like to post more interactive content like pictures, videos, quotes and so on.
Going from being a consumer to being a producer is a big shift in life. Going from shopping and watching TV to reading and writing and producing is a big positive change. Starting your own blog may be the first step on this road. “You only live once” should not be connected to hedonism but to the legacy you will leave on this planet.