Updated January 18, 2019
Are you wondering how to start a blog? I’m glad you’re here! In this post, I’ll show you exactly how to create your own blog, no technical experience required. (It’s easier and faster than you think.) Plus, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions and share some of my protips along the way. This is the site I wish I had when I started blogging 15 years ago!
I created my first blog in 2004 with zero computer experience. It took me forever because I had to google my way through. But you are not doomed to the same fate! This how-to guide contains what I’ve learned, and is for those who want step-by-step instructions in a simple format.
The 7 steps to start a blog
- Set up your blog.
- Get started with WordPress.
- Decide what to blog about.
- Publish your main pages.
- Write your first post.
- Customize your blog design.
- Get traffic & make money!
Don’t worry, I’ll walk you right through. Your new self-hosted WordPress blog (by far the most popular and recommended kind) will be up and running in less than 15 minutes. Then you can follow along and finish the rest of the steps at your leisure.
Want to skip the introduction? Click here to jump to Step 1.
What is a blog?
A blog is a type of website with posts (articles or entries) displayed in reverse chronological order. That is, the most recent posts are at the top.
Why start a blog?
There are many reasons to start a blog. Here are a few popular ones:
- Make money while working from home. I make a full-time income blogging. Many others do the same. Making money as a blogger is hard work, but it’s low risk, low overhead and low barrier to entry.
- Become a published author. 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 and most effective places to start.
- Get more exposure for your existing business or organization. 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.
Simply put, a blog is an online home you own and control. Use it to develop the brand or reputation you desire, establish yourself as an authority in your field, connect with customers or find other like-minded people.
How much does a blog cost?
The method I outline below is budget friendly. It works out to less than $10 a month. I blogged for years on this budget. As my blog and income grew, I eventually started paying for more premium tools and services, but they are not required to start.
I’m not very tech savvy. Can I do this?
Absolutely! I specialize in simple. Thousands of people follow this guide every year — of all ages and walks of life — many of whom have no prior web building knowledge. I like non-tech-savvy types. After all, I started with no computer background myself.
Can I start a blog for free?
After doing this a long time, here’s my advice: a free blog is fine if it’s a hobby, but if you want to make money from your blog I don’t recommend starting a free blog.
Why? A few reasons:
- Limited monetization. Some free services limit monetization (i.e. making money) unless you “upgrade” to a higher level. You’ll have to pay for that upgrade of course, so it defeats the purpose of having a free blog in the first place.
- Lack of support. Companies don’t offer free blogs out of the goodness of their hearts. They still want to make money somehow. If you’re only using their free service, they’re not making money from you. Therefore, they don’t have a lot of incentive to keep you happy. Sometimes this means you’ll have little to no support. Other times it means you’ll be badgered with offers for their paid-for products.
- Only basic features. This might not be a problem at first, but as you grow, you will almost certainly feel the pinch. Expandability and flexibility are key, both of which are limited with free blogging services.
- Switching isn’t easy. If you ever want to switch to a better service (very common among those who start a free blog), it’s a hassle and can be costly. Doing it yourself takes a lot of time and know-how. Hiring someone to do it correctly costs hundreds of dollars.
- Can’t use others for inspiration. You might not be able to do what your favorite bloggers are doing. This happens to new bloggers all the time. They start a blog for free. Soon they notice cool features on other blogs which they want too. The problem is, it’s not possible on their free service.
- Accountability. In general, we value things we pay for. Blogging is hard work. One way to keep yourself accountable is to pay just a little bit for it.
If those common pitfalls don’t convince you, or a free blog is truly your only choice, I would go with Blogger.
Why don’t you recommend Wix, Weebly, HostGator, SiteGround, GoDaddy, Squarespace or ___?
There is a dizzying array of blogging platforms, like WordPress, Squarespace, Blogger, Wix, Weebly, etc.
There is also a dizzying array of hosts, like Bluehost, WPEngine, GoDaddy, SiteGround, HostGator or hundreds of others.
I’ve been living and breathing blogging a long time. Believe me, I’ve tried many of the above. My thoughts:
- Some I would never use or recommend because even though they make it dead simple for a blogger to start a pretty-on-the-outside blog, the code underneath is so bloated your site speed and SEO will likely suffer.
- Others I actually love and would use in a heartbeat…if only they offered more functionality and expandability.
- Others are either too new or too limited in their infrastructure to make me confident they’ll be around for the long haul or have the capacity to handle a virus, outage, sudden swell in customer support, etc. (which happens to all of them at some point).
- Others may be great, but I simply haven’t tried them.
The point is, all platforms and hosts have pros and cons. All have glitches at times. Just like in life, there is no perfect solution (beware of those who tell you there is!).
The setup below is not perfect either, but it’s the one I have personal experience and success with and has, in my opinion, more pros than cons for the new, budget-minded blogger.
Here are my easy-to-follow steps to start a self-hosted WordPress blog, no technical experience required.
Step 1: Set up your blog
To start your own blog, you’ll need two things: a blogging platform (to get your words in blog form) and a host (to get your words live online).
The beginner, budget-friendly combination I’ve used, paid for and recommend is a WordPress blog hosted by Bluehost. You’ll get a discount if you use the links below (and I’ll get a commission because they are my referral links). It’s simple to set up and there’s a money-back guarantee.
–> Click here to go to Bluehost and hit the green “Get Started Now” button.
By the way, images may vary, and it will look slightly different if you’re on mobile, but the process is the same.
Select a plan
If your budget allows, I recommend the Choice Plus (a.k.a Prime) plan because it’s got more unlimited features and domain privacy is included. I highly recommend domain privacy as it keeps your personal contact information hidden from the public.
If you choose the Basic or Plus plan, you’ll have the option to add domain privacy later, for about $1 a month.
Enter your domain
On the next page, you’ll choose your domain name. Your domain name is your web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain name.
If you’ve never registered a domain name before, enter your desired domain name in the “new domain” box.
If you have registered a domain name in the past that you’d like to use for this new site, enter it in the “I have a domain name” box. Don’t worry, doing so won’t mess it up if it’s currently being used elsewhere. Entering it here is simply a way Bluehost identifies your account.
Not sure about a domain yet? No worries. Just click the link to choose later at the bottom.
For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use a new domain. If you are choosing later or using an existing domain, the process is nearly the same so you can still follow along easily.
What if the domain name I want isn’t available?
No worries! You can easily choose one later. Simply click the link at the bottom of the page that says, “Choose later!” as I explained above. Or, you might see a “Choose Free Domain Later” popup box. Both do the same thing.
Choosing later will allow you to get familiar with WordPress while thinking of the perfect domain. When you’re ready to add it, find the simple instructions near the end of this post.
Protip: Put some thought into choosing a domain name instead of choosing one quickly. A domain is much harder to change down the road. That’s why I really like Bluehost’s choose later feature. After your blog is set up and you’ve nailed down your niche (we’ll talk about that in a minute), you’ll likely have more ideas for a domain.
Create your Bluehost account
On the next page, you can connect your Bluehost account to your Google account, or enter your account info manually. Either is fine. Just make sure you use a working email address because this is where your login information will be sent. Save those emails!
Select your package information
Choose an account plan based on how far in advance you want to pay. Bluehost bills 1, 2, 3 or 5 years upfront. They do not offer a monthly payment option (hosts that do often charge double or triple). As you can see, it works out to be a very reasonable monthly amount. Not bad for your own blog or website, right? It’s a great deal.
Protip: The low pricing they offer to new customers applies to the first payment only. In other words, if you choose the 12-month plan, your pricing will be good for only a year and may go up after that, but if you choose the 36-month plan, your pricing will be good for 3 years. So, I recommend choosing the longest plan your budget allows.
Skip the package extras except…
Choose Domain Privacy Protection. I skip the rest. As I mentioned earlier, this keeps your personal contact 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.
Note: The Domain Privacy add-on is only available for new domains, so if you opted to choose a domain later or you entered an existing domain on the previous page, you won’t see the option for Domain Privacy. (For existing domains, domain privacy would be handled by the company where you registered it in the first place so contact them.)
The total is the amount you’ll pay today. You won’t have to pay again for 12, 24, 36 or 60 months, depending on the package you chose. Remember, there’s a 30-day money back guarantee as well.
Enter your billing info
Next, fill in your billing information, confirm that you agree to the fine print and click Submit.
Skip the upgrades & special offers
Once you submit your billing info, you’ll be asked about upgrades or special offers. I skip them by clicking the “no thanks” link at the bottom. Most of these can be added later if desired.
Set a password
After your purchase is complete, you’ll be asked to set a password for your Bluehost account. Just click the “Create your password” button.
Note: This is the password to your Bluehost account, not your WordPress blog password, but you can always get to your WordPress site by logging in to Bluehost first.
After your password is set, click the “log in” button.
Skip the free themes
Next, Bluehost gives you the option to pick a free WordPress theme right away. Unless you are familiar with one listed, I recommend you click “Skip this step” at the bottom of the screen.
Because many free themes are not kept updated. Outdated themes leave holes in your site that hackers can exploit. It’s not worth the risk.
The theme that comes pre-installed will suffice for now. I recommend switching to a different theme once you’re set up and more familiar with WordPress. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
Note your temporary domain & “Coming Soon” page
At the top of the next screen you’ll see a notification indicating your site is on a temporary domain to start. This is normal, so don’t be alarmed if the domain (or URL) in your browser’s address bar looks funny initially, or doesn’t match the domain you entered above.
If you entered a new domain at the beginning, it takes 2-24 hours for it to become fully registered. When it’s ready, Bluehost will switch it for you automatically. If you used an existing domain or opted to choose a domain later, you can set it up when you’re ready. (If you’re unsure how to do that, call Bluehost support and they’ll walk you through.)
In the meantime, you can go ahead and start working on your site now!
If anyone happens to stumble on your site while you’re working on it now (unlikely), they will see a “Coming Soon” page that looks something like this:
When you’re ready to remove the “Coming Soon” page and make your site visible on the internet, you can do so at the push of a button. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Congratulations, you have a site!
At this point, your Bluehost account is set up and WordPress is installed (it was done automatically).
This means you are an official site owner. Woohoo!
At any time from now on, you can type your domain (first temporary and then permanent) into any browser address bar and your site will appear. (Be aware, if you’re not logged in, you’ll get the “Coming Soon” page so be sure you’re logged in.)
I’ll warn you though, it’s not going to look like much at this point. Don’t panic. Let’s keep going so we can make this site your own.
IMPORTANT: At this point, you will have two sets of login information — one for Bluehost and one for WordPress. To log in to Bluehost, you can go to Bluehost.com and click the Login link in the top right corner. To log in to WordPress, you will go to yourdomain.com/admin (or yourtemporarydomain.com/admin).
Step 2: Get started with WordPress
WordPress is by far the most popular blogging platform (source), and for good reason. It’s flexible, functional and has a large community of users who share tools and ideas.
Beginner and veteran bloggers use WordPress, as well as big companies like The New York Times, BBC America, Time Inc. and Mercedes Benz (source).
In this step, we’ll get familiar with WordPress and configure some important settings.
Welcome to the WordPress Dashboard
Once you’ve opened WordPress, you’ll see your Dashboard. The black column on the left is a good indicator you’re in WordPress. It will look something like this:
This is the nerve center for your WordPress site. You’ll spend a lot of time here! From here you’ll publish your blog posts and manage all aspects of your WordPress site.
I recommend skipping the blue buttons in the middle of the screen (Business & Personal) and choosing “I don’t need help” instead. Why? I prefer to start with a clean slate and explore on my own.
Configure your settings
Before publishing anything on your blog, I highly recommend making some tweaks to your WordPress settings. Doing so will set you up for smooth sailing going forward (and could save you a lot of hassle later!).
Sidenote: As you move through your Dashboard, you may see offers for add-ons at the top. I skip those by closing out the boxes. They can always be added later and I like to hide them while I’m working.
Change your username from admin
The first setting I recommend you configure is your username. Right now, your username is likely “admin.”
Hackers have been known to use admin user accounts to break into WordPress sites, so this setting is important to address.
Think of it like this: if a hacker wants to hack into your site, they’ll need your username and password, right? But because they know “admin” is a default username many people don’t bother to change, they’ll already be halfway to their goal.
To change it, go to Users > All Users.
Are any of the usernames admin?
If you don’t see admin in the list, you can skip the rest of this section; you’re good to go. If you do see an admin username you’ll want to remove it, so read on.
WARNING: If your blog is not new and you have already published posts or pages, DO NOT DELETE the admin username without attributing all posts and links to a new user first.
Alright, here’s how to remove the admin username…
Hover over the admin username on the list. A few links will appear underneath.
Do you see a delete link?
If you do see a delete link when hovering over “admin” (unlikely if you’ve followed my steps above), make sure you are logged in as “Administrator” under a different username (in the “Role” column). If you are, click delete, attribute content to a different user and skip the rest of this section.
If you don’t see a delete link when hovering over “admin” it means you are currently logged in as the admin and you can’t delete yourself. We’re going to add a new user, then come back and delete the admin user.
Heads up: You will (briefly) need an email address different than the one you used for the admin user. If you don’t have one, you can get a free one from a site like Yahoo.
Alright, first, add a new user by clicking “Add New” under “All Users” in the left column OR by clicking the button at the top of the page. Both do the same thing.
Next, fill out the new user information:
- Enter a new username of your choosing.
- Enter your email address. Use a different one than you did when you signed up. Don’t worry, you can change it in a minute.
- Select a password. Take note of the password that goes with this new username by clicking the “Show password” button OR enter a strong password of your choosing. (You’ll need this in a second.)
- Select the “Administrator” role. Choose it from the dropdown menu next to “Role.” This is very important because it gives you the highest level of privileges in your WordPress account.
- Click the “Add New User” button.
Now, log out of WordPress. To do so, hover over your admin username in the top right corner of your screen until you see the option to log out.
You should be at the WordPress login screen which looks like this:
Now, log back in using the new, non-admin user you just created and the password you just noted or created.
Go to Users > All Users and hover over the admin username in the list just like you did above. This time, a “Delete” link will appear as an option. Click “Delete.”
You may be asked what to do with content owned by the user you’re deleting. Assuming your blog is brand new, you can delete since you have not written any posts yet. However, if you want to be safe, attribute the existing content to the new username you just created.
From this point on, you will use your new, non-admin username and password when logging in to WordPress.
Optional: Now you can change the email address associated with the new user if you want. Go back to Users > All Users > hover over the username > Edit > scroll down and enter your main email > click Update User. The change will be pending until you confirm it via the email confirmation link sent by WordPress.
Change your site title & tagline
The next settings to configure are some General settings.
First up is your site title and tagline.
Your site title and tagline can be changed anytime, but it’s nice to have something a little more personal than the placeholders that come pre-installed.
From your Dashboard, hover over the Settings link in the (black) left column, then click General.
Enter the title you want readers to see. It doesn’t have to match your domain, but it likely will.
For your tagline, “Just another WordPress site” is something you definitely want to change. Think of a short phrase that describes your site or your mission well. Include keywords if you can do so naturally, but again, you can come back and change this after you have completed the steps below too.
Don’t change your URLs!
You may be tempted to change the WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) at this point, but don’t! It will mess things up. You need to wait until you get your domain settled and you’re not on your temporary domain.
Enter a working email address
Also in Settings > General, if your main email address is not entered here, go ahead and put yours in. Notifications will be sent to this address.
Set your timezone
In Settings > General, set your timezone appropriately.
Not having it set correctly won’t break anything, but it does make a difference when you start scheduling your posts. Scheduled posts publish according to this setting, so if it’s not set correctly, you’ll wonder why your posts aren’t going out at the times you expect!
You’re on a roll! Lets keep going…
Delete the default content
When you start a new WordPress blog, some of things that come pre-installed by default are best removed so as not to muddy up your fresh new site!
Even if you can’t see them on your site, if you don’t delete them, they may still be found by searching.
As an example, here’s a picture of what it looks like to delete the Sample Page in a new WordPress install:
To get here, I clicked on “Pages” in the left column on my WordPress Dashboard. Then I hover over the name of the page I want to delete. In this case it’s the Sample Page. When I do so, the links below appear. Click “Trash” to remove it.
The same process applies to posts, but you’d click “Posts” in the left column instead.
Note: When you send a post or page to the trash, it’s not deleted entirely. It will be held in the Trash folder. You’ll know you have things in the Trash because a “Trash” link will appear to the right of All / Published / Drafts / Private near the top of the window. You can restore something from the Trash if you’d like by clicking on the “Trash” link, hovering over the item you want to restore and clicking the appropriate link.
These are the things I always remove from a new WordPress installation:
- The “Sample Page” page. As I explained above, go to Pages > All Pages. Hover over the page title and click the “Trash” link. You can delete it entirely by emptying your trash.
- The “Hello World!” post. Go to Posts > All Posts. Hover over the post title and click the “Trash” link. You can delete it entirely by emptying your trash.
- Unnecessary plugins. Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins. You’ll see a list of plugins, all of which I delete (the only plugin I might keep at the beginning is the Bluehost plugin). A plugin must be deactivated before it can be deleted. So, if you hover over a plugin you may have to choose “Deactivate” then repeat the process to see the “Delete” link. As I explain later, plugins can slow your site down and make things glitchy so I use them very sparingly. I only add a plugin when I have a clear reason to do so. I’ll give my plugin recommendations in a bit.
- The Meta widget. Having the meta widget on your site screams newbie. It looks like this:To delete it, go to Appearance > Widgets in the black left column of the Dashboard. Find the “Meta” widget box on the right side of the screen, expand its box by clicking the tiny down arrow and click the delete link. Make sure your change is saved!
Set your permalink structure
This is one of the most important settings to configure because your permalink structure will directly impact your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Good SEO means you are in good standing with the search engines and we all want that!
Your permalink structure determines how your URLs will look for each of your posts.
For the record:
- Domain = AmyLynnAndrews.com
- URL = https://amylynnandrews.com
A permalink is the unique URL attached to any page on the web. For example, the permalink for the post you are reading now is:
You can see it in your browser’s address bar at the top of your screen like so:
Here’s another example of a permalink on my site:
See how the main domain name is the same (amylynnandrews.com) but there are additional words at the end? Those additional words correspond to the individual post or page.
Permalinks make it easy to find specific & individual webpages. It’s sort of like dialing a specific phone extension to get to a specific person when you’re calling a big company. It wouldn’t be so fun if you had to be routed through the main phone number every time!
Could you imagine having to scroll through an entire site to find the specific post you’re looking for? Good thing each one has its own address (URL), or permalink.
Now that you know what a permalink is, let’s talk about your permalink structure.
Go to Settings > Permalinks.
WARNING: If you have already started publishing posts or pages on your blog, do not change the permalink structure now. It may result in broken links. If you want to change your permalink structure, I recommend you get professional help from a developer.
Your permalink structure is the standard format WordPress will use when naming your individual posts or pages.
“Post name” is the permalink structure I recommend for most blogs.
Unless you have a very good reason (unlikely), do not use the Plain or Numeric structure. They don’t play well with Google and other search engines because search engines use words, not numbers, to understand what your posts and pages are about. Search engines will be more likely to send people to your site when search words match the words in your permalinks.
For some, time-related permalinks might be a good idea. Here’s when you might want to opt for something other than Post name (but if you can avoid it I would):
- Day and name. Good for multi-author blog or single-author blogs with many posts per day or blogs that may have duplicate post titles.
- Month and name. Good for single-author blogs who post daily or less, but may have duplicate post titles.
Once you’ve chosen your permalink structure, don’t forget to save your changes!
Protip: Your post or page title (i.e. what your readers see) does not have to be the same as your permalink (i.e. what appears in the search bar). Your post title should be easy to read by humans, whereas your permalink can be easier to read by computer bots. For example, I titled my page Tools I Use & Recommend but I edited my permalink to simply “tools” which you can see in the address bar at the top of your screen). The shorter permalink can be easier to link to and advantageous for SEO.
Install important plugins
Plugins expand the functionality of your WordPress site. That’s a fancy way of saying they let you do more cool stuff on your blog.
When used correctly, plugins are extremely powerful, but in my opinion, they are overused by a lot of bloggers and site owners.
Every time you add a plugin to your site, you add more computer code to the back end. And more code means more for the search engines and other computer-y things to wade through. And more to wade through often means a slower site. No one likes slower sites, not readers and especially not search engines like Google (which we are all trying to please so they send visitors our way!).
So, my theory on plugins is to not add them until you know exactly what they do and how they will help you.
You’ll find a lot of “must have” plugin lists online, but much of the time they are must have plugins for the person writing the list, not ones you may ever use yourself. Add plugins as you need them.
By the way, the same goes for my favorite plugins list. I list them only because people ask me what plugins I use. I don’t list them to necessarily encourage you to use the same ones!
Suffice it to say, I have a love / hate relationship with plugins. You can read more about that in my plugins tips post.
Still, there are two plugins I would recommend installing right away because they help with two universal, important blogging issues. They are:
- Yoast SEO to help with SEO. Yoast SEO is widely recognized as the SEO plugin.
- Antispam Bee to fight spam. Antispam Bee is (in my opinon) a better alternative to Akismet, the standard spam plugin for WordPress.
To install plugins via your WordPress Dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New. In the search bar up top, enter the name of a plugin you’re looking for. Find it in the list and click “Install Now.”
Once it’s installed, you have to Activate a plugin before it will start working. Otherwise, it lies dormant on your site in its deactivated state, which is not ideal. Either activate or delete a plugin. A present but deactivated plugin is just wasted space.
To activate a plugin, in your WordPress Dashboard simply go to Plugins > Installed Plugins. Click “Activate” under the plugin name.
Once your plugin is installed and activated, you will be able to access its features as you write your posts (like Yoast SEO), unless it’s a plugin that runs in the background (like Antispam Bee).
Also once activated, configure a plugin’s settings if needed. You can often tell if there are settings for a particular plugin by going to Plugins > Installed Plugins and looking for a Settings link under the plugin name. You might also see a plugin listed in the black left column of your Dashboard. Yoast SEO is accessible this way.
Most plugins come with a default configuration which is fine to start with. If you want to dive into configuration, Yoast has a Configuration Wizard you can find under SEO > General and Antispam Bee has a Settings link under Plugins > Installed Plugins.
What if I can’t find the plugin by searching in WordPress?
No worries. Some plugins need to be uploaded via a zip file.
Simply go to the appropriate website where the plugin can be purchased or downloaded in its zipped form. Save it to your computer (note the location) and don’t unzip it.
Next, go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New. Click “Upload Plugin” at the top of the screen. Click the Choose File button, find the zipped file and click Install Now.
Again, you’ll need to Activate the plugin to use it.
Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS
This is another important configuration.
The S in HTTPS (vs. HTTP) indicates a secure site. This gives visitors peace of mind. It also keeps your site on Google’s good side.
This option is only available once your domain registration is fully completed and you are no longer on your temporary domain.
You’ll know this is the case when you type your chosen domain into any browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and your domain works without forwarding to your weird looking temporary domain in the address bar.
If your site is still using a temporary domain, put a reminder on your calendar to come back in 2-24 hours to finish this step.
To complete this step, you’ll need to activate an SSL certificate. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy term.
The following link with instructions only works for domains you entered in the “new domain” box above. If you are using an existing domain registered elsewhere, check with that company about getting an SSL certificate.
Click here for the instructions to secure your site in your Bluehost account. After doing so, give it a little bit of time to catch up. Eventually, when you type your domain into a browser like Chrome, you’ll see a secure icon:
An insecure site will have an “i” with a circle around it like this in Chrome:
How can I see what my site looks like?
Simple. At any time, from your WordPress Dashboard, hover over the house icon in the top left corner of the screen. Click “Visit Site.”
Note: Make sure you’re logged into WordPress, otherwise you’ll see the “Coming Soon” page!
Can I change my blog design?
Yes, but I would wait just a tiny bit longer.
Many are eager to start tweaking their blog design at this point, but I suggest getting some content in there first. Otherwise, it’s just plain frustrating. It’s easier to see what your design will look like with it filled out a bit. It’s kind of like how it’s easier to see the design on a balloon once it has some air in it.
Another reason I recommend waiting is because Gutenberg gives you some options in the way of page and post design, and might cross off some of the things on your design wish list.
No need to load up your site unnecessarily with design customizations yet!
How do I log in to WordPress once I’ve logged out?
To get to your WordPress login page, type your domain name (or temporary domain name) + admin into your browser’s search bar. For example, this is what I would type to get to my WordPress login screen: https://amylynnandrews.com/wp-admin/
If you changed the Admin user as I explained above, you’ll use the new, non-Admin username and password you created to log in.
If you don’t remember your login info, find the welcome emails sent to you after you set up your site initially. Also, you can always log in to WordPress by logging in to your Bluehost account first.
What’s the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org?
I use and recommend WordPress, but not through WordPress.com. Confusing? Let me explain…
If you choose WordPress, you have two options: hosted or self-hosted.
- Hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.com blogs, are free but limit your income potential.
- Self-hosted WordPress blogs, sometimes called WordPress.org blogs, cost a little money but give you much more control, and do not limit your income potential.
This guide teaches you how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog, the platform preferred by me, as well as beginner and veteran bloggers alike.
Note: Even though a self-hosted WordPress blog is sometimes referred to as a “WordPress.org” blog, you are not limited to a .org at the end of your domain name. You can still use .com, just like I do for AmyLynnAndrews.com.
Step 3: Decide what to blog about
My guess is you have a general idea of what you want to blog about. That’s great, but don’t write whatever comes to mind. Be focused.
Unless your blog is strictly for your own enjoyment, you’re probably hoping to gain readers so it’s important to consider what others might want to read.
Pick a niche
Write around a general topic. This is called your niche. Not only will it be easier to stay on task, it’ll be a lot easier for readers to track with you.
Examples of popular niches are food, decorating, memoir, homeschooling, fitness or weight loss, parenting and photography.
Once you’ve picked a niche, niche down. By that I mean, focus your topic even further.
You see, the goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource in its topic or niche.
If your blog’s topic is too broad, it will be hard to compete with — and stand out from — all the other blogs and websites in your niche.
Find a topic with a good number of interested people and plenty of potential subtopics, but a topic that not as many other people are writing about.
For example, “photography” is a very broad niche. It would be very hard to become the go-to resource in that niche (who wants to compete with National Geographic?). “Black and white photography” is better. “Black and white photography in National Parks” is niched down further and might be better. See what I mean?
Keep in mind, there is such a thing as niching down too much! If your topic is too narrow, the pool of interested readers will be too small to gain traction. For example, “things to do in 50-Person Town, USA” doesn’t give you a very large audience pool and may be limited in subject matter.
Protip: Back in the day, when there weren’t so many blogs online, you could almost pick any topic and run with it. Now, not so much. There are definitely niches that are really, really full and therefore difficult to break into. How do you know? If you can easily find several dozen popular blogs on the topic, you might rethink your topic. On the other hand, just because a niche is big doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to choose it. After all, a large niche means there’s a market for it! In that case, you’ll have to find a really unique angle. Spend time watching the main players. Knowing your way around will help you fine-tune the “thing” that will make you stand out.
Tips for choosing a topic
If you’re part of a business, company or organization, 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 when choosing a topic. I talked about it here, but the main things to remember are:
- Blog about something you enjoy. If you aren’t excited about your topic, writing about it will be drudgery. (And who wants that?) Also, readers won’t be enthusiastic if you aren’t.
- Blog about something with plenty of room for discussion. A blog requires a lot of content to get going and remain interesting. You’ll be at this a long time so make sure you have plenty to talk about.
- Choose a niche in which you can establish yourself as an authority. You probably won’t be the first person to blog about the topic you choose. Don’t fret about this, just come up with a unique angle. Do you have a reasonable chance of making your blog better than others talking about the same thing?
A lot of new bloggers fail to think beyond their own interests when starting a blog. Your blog should undoubtedly be an extension of you, but if you’re not writing for the benefit of others at the same time, you might as well just keep a diary.
I’ve been watching the blogosphere for years. Below are five overarching areas that seem to attract the most readers.
- Readers want to solve a problem. What do people get frustrated about? Do you have a solution? This is how my blogging took off. I talked to a lot of bloggers who loved to write but got frustrated with the techy side of blogging. I knew I could help solve this problem by sharing blogging tips, tools and tutorials in a simple way.
- Readers want to relieve their fears. What are people afraid of? How can you help ease those fears? Maybe you’re a parent who has lost a child. It’s a real and valid fear for a lot of parents. Sharing your story of hope and healing could be very helpful for many people. Or maybe you can offer help to those facing job loss or financial disaster.
- Readers want to learn something new. What would people love to do if only they knew how? What do you know that you could teach them? Maybe you’re a whiz at crocheting, you have a knack for writing or you have a unique way of teaching math that makes it easy to understand. Teach them.
- Readers want to reach a goal. What are common goals people have? Have you set and reached some significant goals? Can you spell out how you did it and inspire others on their journey? Fitness and weight loss come to mind here, as well as getting out of debt. Pursuing big goals can be disheartening and lonely. Knowing someone else has been there does wonders.
- Readers want to be entertained. Do you have a fascinating story? Do you lead a wildly interesting life? Are you outrageously funny? Everyone needs down time and plenty of blogs exist purely to entertain. With all the available entertainment these days, the key is providing something totally unique. As a bonus, you could be entertaining and helpful at the same time. For example, if your quirky family raises llamas, talk about how you raise llamas not just that you raise llamas. Entertaining + helpful = a great combination.
Most of all, remember, the goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource in its topic or niche.
What if I can’t decide on a blog topic?
Start anyway! A common beginner mistake is thinking you have to be sure of a topic to start. If you’re like most of us, you’ll either switch topics or settle into something as you go. Start with a good idea, don’t wait for the perfect idea.
Is my blog idea a good one?
I get many emails from people asking me if I think their blog topic idea is a good one. What they’re really asking is if there are people who will read it.
I completely understand. After all, who wants to put time and energy into something that gets no visitors?
The first thing to know is, there are blogs on almost every topic imaginable — from awkward family photos to jello mold recipes and everything in between — that have plenty of followers.
In other words, the topic itself is usually not the problem.
Blogs have trouble getting visitors, usually due to one or more of the following:
- Lack of passion or excitement on your part. If your enthusiasm about the topic is infectious, others will be drawn to you.
- Lack of content. It takes most bloggers a long time to gain traction…and then once they do, they have to keep going. So, you have to be in it for the long haul. Like years.
- Lack of a unique angle. Stand out in a creative way so you are a breath of fresh air in a sea of similar blogs!
- A too-small audience. Choose a topic that’s not so narrowly focused there are only a handful of people in the world who are interested.
Will I be able to make money writing about ____?
I also get a lot of emails from people asking me if their chosen topic will make money.
I completely understand this as well. Who wants to put time and energy into something that makes no money?
Again, there are blogs on almost every conceivable topic making money. The topic itself is usually not the problem.
Blogs have trouble making money usually due to:
- Unrealistic expectations. You won’t have hundreds of thousands of followers or make a full time income within a few months. If you’re like most of us, you’ll be at this a year or two before you really start reaping significant financial benefits.
- An audience that can’t, or won’t, buy what you promote. Maybe your products are overpriced or your audience can’t afford what you offer. For example, if you blog about high-end luxury products but your audience is mostly college students, you might have a problem making money. Are other blogs in this niche earning money? If so, how?
- Lack of creativity. In blogging, you must stay ahead of the curve. If everyone in your niche sells a DIY ebook and so you do the same, it will be hard to make money. Instead, sell something new or different.
- Always asking. We’ve all experienced those bloggers or companies who are constantly selling or promoting something instead of providing useful information or helpful advice. Give more, ask less.
Protip: A quick way to tell if others are making money in a particular topic or niche is to do a Google search. Do ads show up at the top of the search results when you type in main keywords for that topic? If so, people are making money in that niche (otherwise they wouldn’t spend money on advertising) and there’s potential for you too. But do note, the absence of ads doesn’t necessarily mean you couldn’t make money in a particular niche. Dig deeper and you might find sites do make money but don’t choose to advertise on Google.
Step 4: Publish your main pages
Alright, now that you are all set up, your settings are configured properly and you have a good idea of what you’ll blog about, let’s put your own information on your site by publishing some content!
Your WordPress site is made up of Posts and Pages.
Posts are what we commonly think about when we think of a blog. These are individual articles on specific topics. For example, if you have a recipe blog, you might have posts like “The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies,” “Rosemary Meat Loaf” and “Raspberry Lemonade.” Each post would feature one recipe.
When we talk about adding new content to our blogs, we are usually referring to publishing a new post. And when we scroll through a blog, we are usually scrolling through the posts.
Pages, on the other hand, contain more permanent or unchanging information. Pages don’t show up in the blog portion of the site alongside the posts. Instead, they are usually accessed through direct links in the the navigation bar, sidebar or footer.
Some Pages are common on all blogs, like a contact page and an about page, but some bloggers include other pages as well.
Before you start writing your posts, it’s a good idea to get your basic pages set up. That way, when you start getting visitors, they’ll have access to more general information about you and your site. This helps your blog look more credible and trustworthy.
The Pages I recommend setting up first are:
Some blogs list their posts on their homepage (or main page). Other blogs, like mine, have what we call a “static” homepage. (Go to my homepage to see what I mean.)
A static homepage usually provides an overview of the site and includes a link to the blog (where the posts are listed), as well as links to other parts of the site.
Now that you know the difference, what do you want on your homepage? Blog posts or a static page?
If your current theme makes your blog posts show up on your homepage and that’s how you like it, you can skip this section. Visit your homepage to see. From your Dashboard, hover over the house icon in the top left of the screen and click “Visit Site.”
If your current theme makes your blog posts show up on your homepage, but you want to use a static page instead, make these simple adjustments:
First, create the page you want to serve as your homepage. To do so, go to Pages > Add New.
Title your page. Your title will show up at the top of your homepage, so keep that in mind. In my case, the title is “Hi, I’m Amy.”
Now, write the content for your homepage underneath your title. It doesn’t have to be super fancy; you can easily change it and fancy it up later.
Publish your page by clicking the Publish button in the top right of your screen.
Next, from your Dashboard go to Settings > Reading. Under “Your homepage displays” choose the “A static page” button and select the page you just created from the dropdown menu.
Save your changes.
Visit your homepage to make sure you’re good to go! Hover over the house icon in your Dashboard > Visit Site.
If your homepage is a static page, you’ll need a main page to list your blog posts.
To do this, go to Pages > Add New. Title it “Blog” or something similar. Do not type anything in the post window.
Next, go to Settings > Reading. Under “Your homepage displays” > “A static page” select the blog page you just created.
You can test to make sure it’s working by adding “blog” (or whatever you titled your blog page) to the end of your URL in the address bar. For example, to see my blog page, I’d go to amylynnandrews.com/blog.
How do I change the number of posts displayed on blog pages?
Limiting the number of posts that show up your homepage or blog pages is often a good idea. Doing so can make your site load faster, especially if your posts are image-heavy.
Also, fewer posts can make it easier for those reading on mobile because it cuts down on scrolling.
Plus, if you have important elements that show up below your posts — such as links to your products, ads, or other things in your footer — they won’t get lost at the bottom of the page beneath the long list of posts.
To change the number of posts that display on your blog page, go to Settings > Reading > “Blog pages show at most” and set the number you wish. Mine is set to five.
While you’re here, you can also choose to have your blog page display an excerpt of your posts instead of the entire posts by choosing “Summary” instead of “Full text.”
Don’t forget to save your changes!
Your About page is one of the most important parts of your site and is often one of the most visited pages. It’s also one of the first places a visitor goes to decide whether or not your blog is worth their time. Writing a good one is essential.
I have a whole post on writing a killer about page, but I’ll summarize.
Make sure a visitor will know within the first few lines of your About page how your site will help them. Don’t launch immediately into information about you. They’ll want to know why they should stick around.
Then, once you’ve told them why they should read, next show them what to read. Anticipate what a new visitor would want to know. Provide links to other pages on your site (once you have them of course).
Only then should you actually tell them about yourself.
Providing contact information to your visitors is important. Blogging is a form of social media and building relationships is key. Being contact-able (is that a word?) is a must.
I set up my contact page FAQ-style in an attempt to avoid emails I get repeatedly. However, when you’re just starting out, you might welcome all emails from your readers! This gives you a chance to make meaningful connections and start building those relationships.
Your contact page doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple listing of where you can be found on social media, your email address and perhaps a short blurb encouraging them to reach out is excellent.
Protip: If you look at my contact page, you’ll notice I don’t put my email address in standard form with the @ and . signs. Instead I write it out like this: AmyLynnAndrews at gmail dot com. I do this to cut down on spam. The idea is to throw off any bots crawling the web hunting for the standard email format, harvesting it and blasting me with unwanted emails. Honestly, I’m not sure how well it works. It might just be a holdover from my younger blogging days. I should research this again. 🙂
Should I use a form on my Contact Page?
You can of course, but I choose not to, for a couple of reasons.
Using a form usually requires a plugin and I really try to avoid plugins, as I mentioned above. There are well-coded form plugins that won’t significantly slow your site down, but still, I simply don’t want any unnecessary weight. Plus, a glitch in even a well-coded plugin can botch an entire site. It’s just not worth the risk to me.
Also, I have a theory that a contact page without a form cuts down on time-wasting emails. That’s because a lot of people will see a form and use it immediately before reading the information on my contact page. By providing my email address at the end of my contact page, I’m hoping their question(s) will be answered before they get there, thus saving us both time in an email exchange.
If you do use a form on your Contact page, make sure you test it regularly to make sure it works!
The following are additional pages you might consider creating, although you could hold off on them until you get a tiny bit further along in the process.
- Tools I Use. Here’s mine. Many of your readers will appreciate a list of tools and resources you use and recommend. Additionally, this is a great source of affiliate income (my favorite way to monetize).
- Email list signup page / Almost Done / Thank You. These pages are used when someone signs up for your email list. Here’s my Useletter signup page, for example. I highly recommend them, but not until you get your email list set up. You can read more in my email marketing post.
- Disclosure Policy. When you start making money, you must have a disclosure policy. Mine is here. You can use a disclosure policy generator like this one to create this page when you’re ready.
Step 5: Write your first post
Now that you’ve got your main pages set up, you’re ready to start posting!
Writing and publishing a post in WordPress is pretty straightforward. Here are the basic steps, as well as some handy tips.
Ideas for your first post(s)
Don’t do what a lot of new bloggers do, including me, and start with a flimsy post about how you’re about to start a blog (e.g. “This is my first post!”).
Instead, kick off your blog with a really meaty, useful post. The goal is for readers to get lost in the content (not lost as in they can’t figure out what you’re saying, lost as in totally engrossed and enthralled, LOL).
Follow up your first post with a handful of equally meaty posts.
I recommend having 2 or 3 really thorough, in-depth posts when you launch, and 7-15 more posts in various stages — drafts to be edited, outlines to flesh out and topic ideas ready to write.
It’s good to have solid content available if visitors find you, but at the same time, don’t get bogged down writing a dozen or more posts before you publish anything.
Yoast, the SEO guy, calls these posts cornerstone content. They are also referred to as evergreen posts (because they are timeless) or pillar posts.
Whatever you call them, the point is to make them exceptional.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your first post, type your main topic or niche into Google and see what others have written.
Don’t copy of course, but use those posts as inspiration. Make your post even more thorough and in depth. This is a common technique called the Skyscraper Technique explained by Brian Dean.
For even more ideas, on the Side Hustle Nation podcast at 28 minutes, Nick Loper talks about a definition post and a fishbone post:
- The “definition” post. This is good if your topic is slightly obscure or unfamiliar to most people. What is your main topic? Write about it in depth. Cover all the possible questions a beginner might have about it.
- The “fishbone” post. This is an “epic list post of skills or ideas that are critical to your primary topic.” Explain each, and link to high-authority sites on the topic. (You might also let those site owners know you did.) Over time, as you write more posts on the topic, replace the external links with your own internal links.
Alright, now that you have some ideas for your first post, let’s get writing!
Open the Add New Post window
Make sure you’re logged in to WordPress (simply type yourdomain.com/admin in your browser to log in).
From your Dashboard, go to Posts > Add New in the left column. Alternatively, you can hover over the “+ New” link at the top of your screen and choose “Post” from the dropdown menu that appears.
What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is a significant update to WordPress that went live in mid December 2018. It introduces a significant change to how content is entered into WordPress.
Before, writing posts and pages was entered into WordPress much like a text editor. Formatting options were usually hand-coded or tweaked using a plugin.
With Gutenberg, a block system was introduced into the content creation process.
Gutenberg blocks accommodate certain type of information. For example, you can use an image block to insert images into a post or page, or a file block to insert PDFs.
Each block has its own styling options which makes it easy to make your posts and pages look just how you want.
Add a title
My tip here is to title your post what people will search for to find it.
For example, I titled this post “How to Start a Blog” because I figured that’s exactly what someone would type into Google if they wanted to know what I’m explaining in this post.
Check your permalink
Before publishing your post (not after, otherwise you may break your link!), check and edit the permalink if you’d like.
Use keywords and make it as close to the way someone would search for your content on Google.
If you want to change the permalink structure of a post or page, simply click the “Edit” button next to the automatically generated permalink on your post or page and change it to what you want.
Compose your post
You can write directly in WordPress, but a lot of people choose to write in a text editor and then paste their completed post into WordPress when it’s done.
A major benefit to this is not slowing down your site while WordPress constantly autosaves as you go.
Add images, quotes, videos, PDFs or other media
To add something other than regular text to a post, like an image, put your cursor where you want it to go and add a block by clicking the + icon. This is Gutenberg!
Be sure to read my tips for using images on your site to make sure you’re preparing your images properly, and not violating anyone’s copyright.
There are also blocks for files (like PDFs), videos, quotes and more.
Add a link
To create a link in your post, highlight the text you want to be the link and click the link icon (looks like a chain link) in the formatting options box.
A popup will appear where you can paste the URL of the page you want linked.
If you want the link to open in a new window, click the 3 dots and toggle the switch.
Select the category (or categories) and tag(s)
On the right side of your screen, you’ll have the option to select or add new categories and tags for your post.
Categories are used to define the general topics on your blog and tags are used to drill down a bit further into your content.
Ideally, your blog will only have 5-7 categories so choose them thoughtfully.
Well-chosen and well-used categories can make a reader’s experience on your blog a pleasant. They also provide a basic structure or “outline” for your content.
Tags are more specific — too specific to be categories themselves. Many people don’t use tags (I don’t). If you do, use as many as is necessary to keep your information organized without getting messy.
When should I use categories & tags
Let’s say I have a website about fashion. I would organize my posts into a handful of categories into which most of my posts would fit nicely. They might include:
- Wardrobe Must-Haves
- Outfit Ideas
Let’s say I write a post about a great dress I found at Nordstrom last weekend. I might write a post about it and add it to the category “Shopping.” I might also tag it “Nordstrom.”
This way, a reader could click on my “Shopping” category and find all my posts about my shopping excursions.
However, if they wanted to know more specific information about what kinds of things I buy at Nordstrom, they might click on the tag “Nordstrom.”
Making a special category for Nordstrom would be impractical as I would then have to make separate categories for all the other stores I shop at.
Once you’re done writing, see what your post will look like by hitting the Preview button in the top right of your screen.
Save, schedule or publish your post
WordPress has an autosave feature which automatically saves your writing every few minutes.
If you’re working on a post that isn’t ready to go live yet, you can keep it in Draft mode and come back to it later. You can see all your drafts by going to Posts > All Posts.
If your post is ready to be published, you can publish it immediately or schedule it to be published at a future day and time.
To publish it immediately, make sure “Immediately” shows next to Publish in the Status & Visibility box. Then hit the Publish button at the top of the screen.
To schedule it to publish later, click “Immediately” next to Publish and choose the day and time you want it to go live. Don’t forget to set your timezone first (Settings > General)! Also, setting the date and time is not enough. You must also click the “Schedule” button at the top of the page.
You have other options in the Status & Visibility box as well. You can make your post public, private or password protected.
Public is normal and makes it available to all. Private keeps it, well, private, allowing access to only site admins and editors. Password protected means anyone who wants to see the post has to type in the password you set before seeing the post.
Step 6: Customize your blog design
Now that you’ve got some content, you may want to change your blog’s design.
In WordPress, this is done by installing a new WordPress theme. Here’s how to choose a WordPress theme (and what I use).
A lot of new bloggers get really excited about all the design options available. There are a lot! However, it’s easy to go overboard.
Less is more. Start with a minimal theme. The more fancy your theme, the more moving parts. The more moving parts, the more there is to break.
That leads me to speed and mobile responsiveness.
Your site should be fast and should work well on all devices, from phones to tablets to desktops. Again, less is more. Fortunately, most reputable themes ensure this from the get-go, but it’s still important to keep tabs on this yourself.
Also when considering a new theme, take note of your blog’s basic elements and where you want them on the page. Do you want a large image on the homepage? No sidebar? A footer? Do you want your posts on the right or the left of the screen? Do you want your main navigation menu at the top of the screen or under your header?
Try to look past colors, fonts and other easily changeable things. If you can find a theme with the elements in the spots you want them to start, it’ll be a lot easier to make the switch.
Where to find a new WordPress theme
I always recommend purchasing a premium theme (I use and recommend Genesis). Premium themes are better maintained, often have helpful documentation or tutorials and usually offer support. Find the theme you want on its own site and purchase it. You’ll be given instructions to download it to your computer after purchase.
You can also find new themes from your WordPress Dashboard by going to Appearance > Themes. Search if you know the name of your desired theme, or click the “Add New” button at the top of the page to browse.
Install your new WordPress theme
Installing a new theme is straightforward.
If you found a theme via your WordPress Dashboard, simply click the Install button.
If you purchased a premium theme elsewhere, it will come packaged in a zip file.
(The zipped file is what you will need for the following step, so if your computer automatically unzips zipped files, locate the zipped version on your computer before moving on.)
In your WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New > Upload Theme. Find the zipped file and upload it.
If you are working with a 2-part system like Genesis, you’ll need to upload both the Genesis Theme Framework and the child theme of your choice. Again, read my post about choosing a theme for an explanation of this preferred type of system. If you try to upload your child theme and you do not have the Genesis Framework installed, it will not work. I recommend you upload the Genesis Theme Framework first, then repeat the process with your child theme.
After your theme is uploaded, activate it. In the case of a 2-part framework like Genesis, you’ll activate the child theme, NOT the Genesis Framework.
To activate a new theme, go to Appearance > Themes. Hover over the theme you want and click Activate.
Customize your theme
Once your theme is activated, go to Appearance > Customize. If the Customizer doesn’t work with your chosen theme, I would not use it as it’s probably not kept updated.
The Customizer will allow you to tweak things like color, fonts, and other things. Options will vary depending on your theme.
Set up widgets & menus
WordPress widgets allow you to easily put chunks of information in your sidebar, footer or other places on your site.
Your options for widgets will depend on the theme you use.
Go to Appearance > Widgets. Drag and drop widgets from the left side of the page to the sidebars and footer on the right side. Use the tiny down arrows to edit the content within. Always save!
Menus are used to put navigation bars on your site. They can also be found by going to Appearance > Menus.
Again, menu options will depend on your theme. If you’re using a premium theme, consult the help documentation for instructions to set your menus up.
Are there any good free themes?
As I mentioned, a premium theme is usually worth the cost since the creators have incentive to keep their customers happy and usually offer support.
However, I realize a premium theme is not in everyone’s budget. Other than the pre-installed theme that comes with WordPress, there is only one free theme I recommend. It’s called GeneratePress (my referral link). Add-ons are extra, but the base theme is a good place to start.
Should I hire a blog designer?
For most bloggers, I don’t recommend hiring a designer to start.
Good designers charge thousands of dollars for a new design which is prohibitive for most.
But it’s also very likely the design you think you want at the beginning may not be the design you want in a few months.
If you’re like most bloggers, it will take you a while to get into a groove and establish the best look and feel for your blog.
Waiting will help you better direct a designer when you’re ready. It will also save you from having to make costly tweaks and revisions.
A nice looking blog is great, but excellent content is greater. Concentrate on your content, especially your cornerstone content, first.
Protip: I keep a running “branding list” with notes about what I want to change in my current design. It covers everything from blog headers to facebook templates. Next time I’m ready to change the look of my blog, I’ll be sure not to miss anything.
Where can I hire a blog designer?
A word of caution is in order here. There are plenty of “designers” who can make your site look nice on the outside, but the coding underneath is horrible.
Bad code is horrible for SEO so be careful who you hire.
Word of mouth is a great way to find a designer, as is noting who designed well-known blogs in your space (many times this will be noted in the footer, or you can simply ask the blogger for a recommendation).
Another option, if you use Genesis, is to hire someone from their Developers list.
Step 7: Get traffic & make money
If you’re still following along, well done! You now have a good handle on the basics of blogging and how to get started.
There are many directions you can go at this point, but the main things to focus on are creating excellent content and building genuine relationships.
Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy source of information, others will begin to visit your site.
Once you have a steady flow of traffic, you can brainstorm ways to monetize so you can make money.
Build an email list
Your email list will be an invaluable tool for getting traffic and making money. I recommend you set one up as soon as you’re able.
What’s so great about an email list? It gives you more control.
Armed with your readers’ email addresses, you can go to them when you want to highlight your content or promote a product, instead of waiting for them to come to you.
I cover this topic in depth and offer my suggestions in my post Email Marketing 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Building an Email List.
Tips for getting traffic
I can’t stress enough the power of good content. Excellent content gets suggested by Google, passed around social media and shared by others. Make your blog the best in its class.
Hang out where your target audience hangs out and build relationships, no strings attached. Where do they spend time online? Facebook? Instagram? YouTube? Hang out there too, and make friends.
Don’t be THAT blogger always promoting their own thing. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to mention what you do and where people can find your blog if you think it will be truly helpful to them.
How do people make money blogging?
There are many ways bloggers make money. Most bloggers make money both directly from their blogs and indirectly.
Direct forms of monetization include affiliate marketing (mentioning a product or service in posts and earning commission when readers click through and take action) and display ads (not very lucrative until you have a lot of traffic).
Many bloggers, especially beginners without a lot of traffic or money to invest in developing their own products, use their blogs indirectly to get clients for a service they provide, like virtual assistance.
I go into much more depth about ways bloggers make money in my post How to Make Money Blogging.
How long does it take to make money as a blogger?
Blogging for profit is hard work and certainly will not happen overnight; it’s just like starting any other business.
There are always exceptions, but I’d say on average, most of us started making coffee money after about 6 months, a solid part-time income took at least a year and a full-time income, 2+ years.
If you’re willing to do the hard work in the beginning, it can really pay off down the road.
You will feel overwhelmed, especially at the beginning. This is normal.
When it comes to starting a blog, there is a steep learning curve, but don’t give up! Push through! Most of us have been in that very spot too. If you want some encouragement, read my post 18 Tips for New Bloggers.
Need help? If you encountered something unexpected during setup, contact Bluehost technical support. Calling is better than live chatting. If you’re in the US, call 844-213-7846. They have access to your account (something I don’t have) and should be able to get you unstuck. If you want help with WordPress specifically, use Bluehost’s free Blue Spark service.
How do I get my domain to work with my new blog?
Activate your new domain. If you chose a new domain in Step 1, check your email inbox to find the domain activation email. Click the button inside to complete the activation process.
Point your existing domain. If you opted to use an existing domain in Step 1, make sure it’s pointed and working properly before you launch your blog. If you’re unsure how to do it, call Bluehost and have them walk you through.
Assign your chosen later domain. If you opted to choose your domain later in Step 1, your account was credited for the amount of a free domain.
So, when you’re ready to choose your domain name, log in to your Bluehost account. Go to the “Domain” section (an option in the left column) and search for the domain you’d like.
At checkout, you’ll see the balance as zero because the credit was automatically applied. Also at checkout you can add domain privacy (which I definitely recommend).
Once you have the domain, it will be listed under the “Domains” section in your Bluehost account. Choose the one you would like to use.
On the right side of the page under the tab titled “main” scroll down to “cPanel type.” Click “Assign.”
Your blog will be updated to the new domain name. This could take up to 4 hours.
Set up an email list. An email list is invaluable and should be set up as soon as possible. My Email Marketing 101 post has much more on this subject.
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