Updated October 13, 2016
So, are you wondering how to start a blog? I’m so glad you’re here! My goal is to explain the necessary steps to get off to a good and successful blogging start, no technical experience required.
I created my first blog in 2004 with zero computer experience. It took me forever to figure it out. (Let’s just say I googled until I nearly lost my eyeballs.) This guide contains what I learned along the way and is especially for those who want step-by-step instructions in an easy and simple format.
Why start a blog?
There are many reasons you might consider it. Here are a few popular ones:
- Make money while working from home. I make a full-time income blogging and many others do the same. Making money with a blog is hard work, but the barrier to entry is low, making it very low risk.
- Author a book. It’s no secret. These days, publishers rarely work with authors who don’t have an online presence. The reason is simple: it’s a lot easier to sell books to people who already know you. A blog is one of the easiest places to start.
- Get more exposure for your existing business. A blog gives anyone, from individuals to large companies, the ability to reach a large number of people at very little cost.
- Just write. If you want to write, share your story, encourage others and build a community, a blog is a great place to do that.
Do you see yourself in any of those? Can you see how you would benefit from a blog? Let’s get you up and running!
The 6 basic steps to starting a blog
These are the main sections we’ll cover. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you right through.
- Decide what to blog about
- Choose a blogging platform
- Find a host
- Pick a domain name
- Install WordPress
- Design & use your blog!
Step 1: Decide what to blog about
If you’re part of a business, company or organization, this step will be easy to determine. Your blog should be related to the product(s) or service(s) you provide, or the cause you promote.
If you’re an individual, you have more flexibility with topic choice. I already explained in detail how to decide what to blog about, but the main things to remember are:
- Blog about something you enjoy.
- Blog about something with plenty of room for discussion.
- Most importantly, choose a niche in which you can establish yourself as an authority.
The goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource for its topic or niche.
Step 2: Choose a blogging platform
There are many services you can use to start a blog or website. You may be tempted to use a free service, but know you’ll be limited, and in some cases, quite severely. You get what you pay for, as they say. Using a paid-for service isn’t expensive. It’s a no-brainer in my opinion.
Of the many blogging platforms out there, WordPress is, by far, the most popular (source).
I use WordPress myself and appreciate its flexibility, functionality, ease of use and large community of people who share tools and ideas. It’s an excellent choice. And don’t worry, if you want a website without a blog, WordPress makes it easy.
Caution! Within WordPress, you have two options. People are often confused by the two so I’ll mention them here:
- Hosted WordPress blogs are often referred to as “WordPress.com blogs.”
- Self-hosted WordPress blogs are often referred to as “WordPress.org blogs.” (recommended)
This guide outlines the steps to start a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Step 3: Find a host
A host provides server space for your site. Put simply, this allows others to find your site on the internet.
Disclosure: Because I am a paying customer for over 10 years, some of the links below are referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.
Ready? Start by clicking here to go to Bluehost (this link will open in a new window so you can reference these instructions as you work). I have been a paying customer of theirs for over 10 years.
Once the page opens, click the green Get Started Now button.
By the way, the images you see here may vary slightly from the ones you see on your screen. This is because Bluehost never stops making site improvements. Don’t worry, the general process is the same.
Select your plan
Choose the plan you’d like to start with. I typically go with the Plus plan because you get more features that won’t tap out as quickly. Note that all plans come with one free domain (for one year only) which is good. I’ll talk about choosing a domain in a minute.
If your budget is super tight (I’ve certainly been there!), go ahead and choose the Basic plan. You can upgrade at any time.
Click one of the green “select” buttons to move to the next step.
Step 4: Pick a domain name
A domain is a web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain. You may or may not already have a domain. On this screen you’ll either choose a brand new domain or enter your existing domain.
If you don’t have a domain, enter a new domain name on the left. (See tips for choosing a domain below). Make sure .com or the correct extension of your choice is selected from the drop down menu beside it.
If you’ve already registered a domain name, enter it on the right (don’t worry, it won’t mess things up if you’re using the domain elsewhere, this only identifies your account).
Click the blue Next button.
Tips for choosing a domain name:
- Go with a .com whenever possible.
- Make it easy to say and spell.
- Don’t include hyphens, numbers, obscure terms or confusing strings of words.
- If you’re not sure what to use, your name is a safe bet to start.
- Be creative and try a phrase if you’re having trouble finding an available name.
- Read more tips here if needed.
Enter your account info
On the next page, enter your account info. Make sure you use a working email address because this is where your login information will be sent.
Select an account plan
Under Package Information select your Account Plan. Choose a package based on how far in advance you want to pay. Please note, Bluehost bills one, two or three years at a time, but as you can see, it works out to a very reasonable monthly amount. Not bad for your own blog or website, right?
Should you choose extras?
I always skip the other add-ons except Domain Privacy Protection. This protection keeps any personal information private. The only time I would skip domain privacy is if you are using a business address and don’t mind if it’s visible to anyone who looks up your domain. If you’re using your personal contact info (home address, phone, etc.) to register your domain, I highly recommend domain privacy.
Note: the Domain Privacy option only shows up if you registered a new domain above. It will not show up if you used a transfer domain.
The total is the amount you’ll pay today. You won’t have to pay again for 12, 24 or 36 months, depending on the account plan you chose.
Enter your billing info
Fill in your billing information, confirm that you’ve read the fine print and then click Submit.
Skip the upgrades
Continue on to complete your purchase. You’ll be asked if you want to add any upgrades. I just skip them.
Check your email for login info
After completing your purchase, check your email. You’ll find a welcome email from Bluehost with your control panel (cpanel) login info. Keep this information for future reference.
Log in to your Bluehost cpanel
Go back to Bluehost and click the login button in the top right corner of your screen. (Alternatively, you can use the link to your cpanel contained in the welcome email you received above.)
Enter your cpanel login info from the welcome email. Select the “hosting” tab if it’s not selected already.
Step 5: Install WordPress
Once logged into your cpanel, click the Install WordPress icon under Website Builders.
Start the WordPress install
Next you’ll get a window that looks something like this. Click the Install button (it may say “Start”) to begin the WordPress installation process.
Choose where to install WordPress
Choose your domain from the dropdown menu if it’s not already chosen for you. Leave the directory field blank unless you have a good reason to create a subfolder, which is unlikely if you are just starting. Click Check Domain.
Enter your WordPress user info
Check the box next to Show advanced options. Enter your Site Name or Title (e.g. Amy Lynn Andrews, Dave’s Blog, Sally’s Song Factory, etc.). This is different than your domain which ends in .com or something similar.
Choose an Admin Username (do not use “admin” as your username). Choose a password. These will be what you use to login to WordPress once it’s installed.
Enter your email address (again, all site information will be sent here). Read and agree to the terms. Click the Install Now button.
Note your WordPress login credentials
After WordPress has been installed, you should see the “Status: success” indication. Take note of the information to access your new WordPress site. This information will also be sent to you via email.
At this point, you will have received two welcome emails. The first is the login info for your Bluehost hosting account. The second is the login info for your WordPress account. Keep both, although from this point forward, you’ll be using your WordPress login information much more frequently.
Did you register a new or existing domain in Step 4?
If you registered a new domain in Step 4…
You (or anyone) can now type your domain into a browser and your WordPress site will appear.
Clicking on the Site URL link in your WordPress welcome email will take you to your brand new, live website.
Clicking on the Login URL link will take you to the WordPress login page where you can enter your WordPress username & password and get into the back end of your WordPress site. This is where you will write your posts.
Skip down to Step 6 for next steps.
If you used an existing domain in Step 4…
Your existing domain will not display your new site until you change your name servers wherever your domain is currently registered. Changing your name servers points your domain to this new site.
IMPORTANT! As soon as you change your name servers, your domain will bring visitors to this new site. Therefore, if you are currently using your domain on another site, do not change your name servers until your new site is set up and ready to go. In the meantime, you can still access your new WordPress blog via a temporary URL. You may have received one in your welcome email from Bluehost. If you didn’t, simply call them and let them know you need a temporary URL for your new site.
To change the name servers where your domain is currently registered, first note your new Bluehost name server information:
Next, go to the registrar where your existing domain is currently registered (Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc.). You will need to enter the above information in the appropriate place. This varies among registrars so I recommend you call them if it’s not clear.
Whether you registered a new domain or transferred an existing one, you will know you have been successful if you can type your domain into any browser and your site appears.
Step 6: Design & use your blog!
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a self-hosted WordPress site. There are many things you can do at this point. Blogging is about learning as you go and tackling things as you can. Here are some things you might want to explore.
Do you want to learn WordPress basics?
Visit my Contents page for an organized list of all my tips, tools & tutorials. Check out the WordPress section in particular. If you work your way through this list of articles, you should have a good handle on the basics from publishing a post, adjusting your settings, understanding permalinks and more.
Do you want to tweak your blog design?
If you’re like most, you’ll want to customize your design a bit. Here is my post about choosing a WordPress theme and what I use. You might also want to check out my post about blog design dos and don’ts.
Do you want to learn how to get traffic to your blog?
I’ve written many suggestions in this post.
Do you want to make money blogging?
Do you want help keeping up with all the latest blogging news?
Sign up for The Useletter®. It’s hard to keep up with the latest info about blogging, online business and social media. I wade through the internet and send out bite-sized tips every Saturday morning. It’s completely free and very popular.
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