Updated November 17, 2017
Are you wondering how to start a blog? I’m glad you’re here! I’ll show you exactly how to create your own blog, no technical experience required. It’s easier (and faster) than you think. I wish I had this site when I started blogging over 13 years ago.
It took me forever to start my first blog in 2004, but the following how-to guide saves you from the same fate! I specialize in simple, step-by-step instructions. I’ll answer a few frequently asked questions along the way too.
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 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.
- Get started with WordPress.
- Design & use your blog!
Step 1: Decide what to blog about
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. Not fun! Also, why would readers be interested 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. It’s almost guaranteed someone else has thought of it before you. Don’t fret about this, come up with a unique angle. Do you have a reasonable chance of making your blog better than others talking about the same thing?
The goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource for its topic or niche.
FAQ: 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. My advice is, use the tips above, set up your blog and write.
Step 2: Choose a blogging platform
If you want to cook, you need a kitchen; if you want to blog, you need a blogging platform.
There are many blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress, Blogger, Squarespace, Wix and Weebly are a few. All have pros and cons, but WordPress is by far the most popular (source), and for good reason. It’s flexible, functional and has a large community of users who share tools and ideas.
I use and recommend WordPress. I bet many of your favorite bloggers use it too. It’s an excellent choice.
If you choose WordPress, you have two options: hosted or self-hosted. Hosted WordPress blogs (a.k.a. “WordPress.com blogs”) are free and you cannot make money with them. Self-hosted WordPress blogs (a.k.a. “WordPress.org blogs”) cost a little money, but give you much more control, and you can make money with them.
This guide will teach you how to start a self-hosted WordPress blog.
FAQ: I want .com, not .org, at the end of my website address. If I choose a self-hosted (WordPress.org) blog, do I have to use .org?
No, you do not have to use .org. You can use .com. My site, AmyLynnAndrews.com, is a self-hosted WordPress site. I know it’s confusing, but your web address (e.g. AmyLynnAndrews.com) is your domain. Your domain is different than the type of WordPress hosting you use (i.e. hosted or self-hosted). Keep following along. I think it will become clear as we go.
FAQ: I thought a .org site means you are a non-profit. If I have a self-hosted WordPress.org blog, can I still make money?
Yes, you can still make money. You do not have to be a non-profit to have a self-hosted WordPress.org blog. “WordPress.org” refers to the site where WordPress offers their free software; it does not refer to your site at all.
Step 3: Find a host
Disclosure: As a paying customer for over 10 years, some of the links below are my referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.
A host provides server space for your site. When your site lives on a server, others can find it on the internet.
Click here to go to Bluehost and start your own blog. (The link will open in a new window so you can reference these instructions as you work.) Click the green “Get Started Now” button like so:
Note: 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 by clicking one of the green “select” buttons. I typically go with Plus or Prime because you get more unlimited features. Domain privacy (highly recommended) comes included with Prime. If you choose Plus, you’ll have the option to add it later for about a dollar a month.
Step 4: Pick a domain name
A domain is a web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain name.
You may or may not already have a domain. If you do, you would have previously registered it with a domain registrar, like GoDaddy or my personal favorite, Namecheap. If you want to use it for your new site, enter it on the right. (Don’t worry. It won’t mess things up to enter it here. It only identifies your Bluehost account for now.)
Need a new domain? Enter your desired domain on the left. If you’re not sure what domain you want to use yet, take advantage of Bluehost’s option to choose it later. Click the “Choose Free Domain Later” button in the popup that appears and looks like this:
Note: For the purpose of this tutorial, I will use a new domain. If you are using an existing domain, the process is nearly the same. You can still follow along easily.
Quick 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.
- Ideally your domain name will be be available on all social media platforms as well. Use a tool like Namechk to check.
- Read more tips here if needed.
FAQ: What if the domain name I want isn’t available?
This is common since many domains have been snapped up by others. It happened to me. The domain I really wanted wasn’t available so I settled for my whole name (it’s way too long for my liking).
If you’re having the same trouble, take advantage of Bluehost’s option to choose a free domain later (see image above) and take the time to come up with other options. In the end, it’s better to have a blog with a less-than-ideal name than no blog at all!
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.
Choose an account plan based on how far in advance you want to pay. Bluehost bills one, two or three years upfront. They do not offer a monthly payment option, but as you can see, it works out to a very reasonable monthly amount. Not bad for your own blog or website, right?
I skip the other add-ons except Domain Privacy Protection. (It’s only available for new domains. If you selected the Prime package, it’s included.) This protection keeps your 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.
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.
Note: If an annual payment plan is not workable, there’s another host I’ve used with monthly payment plans. Unfortunately the monthly price is significantly higher so Bluehost is a much better deal, but I wanted to give you another option!
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 skip them by clicking the “no thanks” link.
Locate & save your welcome emails!
After completing your purchase, you will be sent multiple welcome emails. 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.
Activate your domain
In one of the welcome emails, you need to activate your domain (if you chose a new one). 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: Get started with WordPress
Bluehost made some major updates in September 2017. WordPress is now automatically installed so you can start working on your WordPress site right away. Yay!
Click the blue login button in the “Congratulations!” window to get started with WordPress!
Should you choose a theme now?
Bluehost gives you the option to pick a free theme immediately. If you’re not sure about the theme’s reputation, I recommend you skip this step for a few reasons:
- Use free themes with caution since many are not kept updated. Outdated themes can leave holes that hackers can exploit.
- The free theme that comes pre-packaged and automatically installed will suffice for now. You can always add a new theme later. Another free theme I recommend is called GeneratePress. (Read How to Install a WordPress Theme to set it up.) You can also read about the premium theme I use (and why) in this post.
You can click “Skip this step” at the bottom of the screen to move on and deal with your theme later which is fine too. Then you’ll be prompted to start building your site.
Note: Your site will be on a temporary domain at first. Don’t be alarmed. For new domains, this is because it takes 2-24 hours for your chosen domain to become registered. Go ahead and start working on your site. When the real domain is ready, Bluehost will switch it for your automatically. If you used an existing domain (in Step 4), you can contact Bluehost support or look in the help section when this site is set up and you’re ready to point your existing domain to this new site.
Start building your WordPress site
You have two options on this screen, the blue “Start Building” button and the link underneath, “Or, go to my Bluehost account”:
The latter is self-explanatory. Clicking the “Start Building” button will take you to your new WordPress site like so:
The black column on the left indicates your WordPress dashboard, a place you will become very familiar with.
At this point, I recommend skipping the blue buttons (Business & Personal) and choosing “I don’t need help” instead. Why? I prefer to start with a clean slate.
Step 6: Design & use your blog!
Congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a self-hosted WordPress site. There are many directions you can go at this point. You will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed, especially at the beginning. This is normal. The best way to learn how to blog is to simply start. Tackle new things as you can. You might be interested in my post, 18 Tips for New Bloggers.
Important things to do before you publish your first post
There are a few things I recommend doing before you hit publish on your first blog post.
- Change your permalinks. I explain why and how in this post here.
- Change your username from “Admin” to something more secure. Read about that and find instructions here.
- Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS. This is another good choice for security. Read my instructions here:
How to switch from HTTP to HTTPS on Bluehost
Take advantage of Bluehost’s 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.
Put 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. 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?
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?
Do this 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. Select the “hosting login” tab if it isn’t already. Use the login information you received via email immediately after signing up with Bluehost in Step 4 above.
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. Turn on the Free SSL Certificate by toggling the switch:
That’s it! Give it a little bit of time to catch up. When you type your domain into Chrome for example, you’ll see a secure icon:
An insecure site will have an “i” with a circle around it like this in Chrome:
Do you want to learn more 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 to understanding permalinks.
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 to keep up with the latest blogging news?
Sign up for The Useletter®. I wade through the internet and send out bite-sized tips every Saturday morning, so you don’t have to. It’s completely free and very popular.
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