Updated September 13, 2017
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. This is the site I wish I had when I started over 13 years ago.
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.
- 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 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 start a blog
These are the main steps 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 & hosting package
- Open WordPress
- Make your site secure with HTTPS
- 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 with plenty of room for discussion. A blog requires a lot of content to get going and to remain interesting. You’ll be at this a while so make sure you have plenty to talk about.
- Blog about something you enjoy. If you don’t care about your topic, writing about it will be drudgery. Also, why would readers be interested if you aren’t?
- Choose a niche in which you can establish yourself as an authority. You will probably not be the first person to blog about the topic you choose. It’s almost guaranteed someone else has thought of it before you. Don’t fret about this, but ask yourself if you have a reasonable chance at making your blog better than all the others in your niche.
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.
What is the best blogging platform?
Of the many blogging platforms out there, WordPress is, by far, the most popular (source). This is for good reason.
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)
A self-hosted WordPress costs a little bit of money, but will give you much more control and flexibility. It’s absolutely what I recommend.
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, when your site lives on a server (instead of on your personal computer on your desk), others can 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 to start your own blog? 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. You might even catch them in a sale! 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 or Prime plan because you get more unlimited features.
Note that all plans come with one free domain (for one year) which is good. Your domain is your web address. 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 & hosting package
Like I said, a domain is a web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain. You may or may not already have a domain. To have an existing domain, you would have registered it with a domain registrar, like GoDaddy or my personal favorite, Namecheap.
On this screen you’ll either choose a brand new domain (left side) or enter a domain you registered previously (right side).
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 for now).
Note: For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use a new domain. If you are using an existing domain, the process is mostly the same. You can still follow along easily. You will only see minor differences in the choices on the screen, etc.
After entering your new or existing domain, click the blue Next button.
Tips for choosing a domain name:
- The goal is to make it easy to remember and easy to share!
- Go with a .com whenever possible. People always assume .com before other extensions like .net, .org, .co or others.
- 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 or 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. (If you selected the Prime package, it’s included.) 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 since you would have chosen it when you registered your domain initially.
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 & special offers
Once you hit submit, you’ll be asked if you want to add any upgrades or special offers. I just skip them by clicking “no thanks” at the bottom of the screen.
Locate & save your welcome emails!
Once you complete the purchase process, you will be sent a number of emails from Bluehost. If you don’t see them in your inbox, check your spam folder. It’s important to locate them because your login information is included.
You’ll receive a receipt for your hosting purchase. You will also receive login information for both your Bluehost account and for your WordPress account. Save this info for future reference.
Going forward, you will use your WordPress login info (credentials) more frequently as this is how you will login to your site, publish posts and make any changes.
Activate your domain
In one of the welcome emails, you need to activate your domain. As of this writing, the subject line includes “WHOIS Verification.” Simply open the email and click the button inside to complete the activation process.
Choose a password
At the end of your purchase, you’ll be welcomed and asked to choose a password. Just click the “Create your password” button to choose a secure password.
This password will allow you to login and get started.
Step 5: Open WordPress
Bluehost automatically installs WordPress for you so you can start working on your WordPress site right away.
You can click the blue log in button on the successful password screen to get started with WordPress!
Should you choose a theme now?
Once you’ve logged in, Bluehost gives you the option to pick a free theme immediately. I recommend you skip this step for a few reasons:
- Free themes need to be used with caution as many times they are not kept updated.
- The free theme that comes pre-packaged and automatically installed will suffice for now. You can always add a new theme later.
Just click “Skip this step” at the bottom of the screen. Then you’ll be prompted to start building your site!
Sidenote: Your site is on a temporary domain while you set up
You may notice a note at the top of your screen which says this:
For your information, we’re provisioning your WordPress installation on a temporary domain. We’ll update your site to [yourdomain] automatically as soon as it is ready.
This is nothing to be alarmed by. The reason your site is set up on a temporary domain is because it takes a while for your chosen domain to become registered and ready to go. This usually happens within a day or two, and sometimes much quicker. Go ahead and start working on your site and when the real domain is ready, it should work automatically.
Start building your WordPress site
You have two options on this screen:
Clicking the “go to my Bluehost account” under the blue button will allow you to see the info related to your Bluehost account. Clicking the “Start Building” button will take you to your new WordPress site like so:
The black column on the left indicates you are in your WordPress dashboard, a place you become very familiar with.
At this point, I recommend skipping the blue buttons (Business & Personal) and choosing “I don’t need help” instead. Why? Well, only because I prefer to start with a clean slate.
Follow along below for next steps…
Step 6: Make your site secure with HTTPS
I highly recommend you take advantage of Bluehost’s free SSL Certificate included free with your hosting account. This option is only available once your domain registration is fully completed and you are no longer on your temporary domain.
Therefore, I recommend putting a reminder on your calendar to come back in 2-24 hours and finish this step. (It takes some time for your chosen domain to get spread through all the internet (the fancy term is “propagation”). Usually this process is complete within 2 hours, but it can take up to 24.)
Once you are able to type in your domain into any browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.) and your domain works without forwarding to your temporary domain, you can complete this step.
HTTPS vs. HTTP
Until recently, website URLs typically looked like this:
However, there’s been a push recently to convert sites over to look like this:
Do you see the difference? It’s just an “s” after the http, but that s indicates a site is secure and less prone to hacking or prying eyes. That’s important.
Not only does this give visitors peace of mind, particularly if they enter any personal information on your site (such as their email address when they sign up for your email list or information related to something they buy from you), but it also keeps your site on Google’s (and others’) good side. That’s important too. Why?
Consider this: As of mid- to late-2017, Google may alert people when a site is insecure. No site owner wants a potential subscriber or customer to get a big fat warning that their site is insecure!
How do I make my site HTTPS in Bluehost?
Making your site secure is done via an SSL certificate. Don’t be intimidated by the fancy term. It’s easy to turn on in your Bluehost account.
Remember, this will only work once your chosen domain is working and you are no longer using the temporary domain. (The switch from temporary to permanent domain will be done for your automatically by Bluehost, so keep checking back!) If you’re worried you’ll forget, put a reminder on your calendar.
Alright, once you can type your chosen domain in a browser without it forwarding to the temporary one, follow these steps to make your site secure:
First, login to your Bluehost account. Do that by clicking on this link. Make sure the “hosting login” tab is selected. Use the login information you received via email immediately after signing up with Bluehost in Step 4 above.
Once you’re logged in, click on “My Sites” in the left column. Then hover over the thumbnail image of your site. Click the option “Manage Site” options that appears like so:
On the next screen, select the “Security” tab at the top. Then turn on the Free SSL Certificate by toggling the switch like this:
That’s it! Give it a little bit of time to catch up and then when you type your domain into Chrome for example, you’ll see a secure icon like this:
An insecure site will have an “i” with a circle around it like this in Chrome:
Step 7: 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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