Updated September 13, 2017
Wondering how to start a blog? I’m so glad you’re here! I will explain the necessary steps for a successful blogging start, no technical experience required. (You’ll be surprised at how simple & quick it is!) This is the site I wish I had when I started over 13 years ago.
Disclosure: Some links below are my referral links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. Thank you for your support in this way!
Psst…want to skip the introduction? Click here to jump to the first step.
What qualifies me to teach this?
I created my first blog in 2004 with zero computer experience. It took me forever! This guide fixes that. It contains what I’ve learned along the way and is especially for those like me who want step-by-step instructions in an easy and simple format.
Today, I make a healthy full-time income as a blogger (working part time).
Why start a blog?
There are so many reasons! Here are a few common ones:
- Work from home. Making money blogging is hard work, but the barrier to entry is low, making it very low risk.
- Be an author. It’s no secret, these days publishers rarely work with authors who don’t have a blog (the main piece of a “platform”). Why? It’s a lot easier to sell books to people who already know you.
- Grow an existing business. A blog gives anyone–individuals or large companies–the ability to reach a world 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.
The 6 basic steps to start a blog
Here’s what we’ll cover. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you right through!
- Decide what to blog about. You probably have a good idea already.
- Choose a blogging platform. WordPress wins!
- Find a host. Here’s my vote.
- Pick a domain name & hosting package. Simple.
- Open WordPress. It’s starting to get fun!
- Make your site secure with HTTPS. So important.
- Design & use your blog!
Step 1: Decide what to blog about
If you’re an individual, pick a topic of your choice! If you’re a business or organization, your blog should be related to the product(s) or service(s) you provide, or the cause you promote.
- Pick a topic you truly enjoy. If you don’t care about your topic, writing about it will be drudgery and your readers will pick up on your disinterest.
- Pick something you can talk about for a long time to come. A blog requires a lot of content to get going and remain interesting.
The goal for any blog is to become the go-to resource for its topic or niche.
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.
What is the best blogging platform?
I use and recommend WordPress. It is by far the most popular blogging platform (source). This is for good reason—it’s easy to use, flexible and has a large community of people who share tools and ideas.
There are 2 types of WordPress blogs you can start (and one I don’t recommend):
- A free one on WordPress.com. I don’t recommend this option because your growth is limited (you get what you pay for, right?).
- A self-hosted WordPress site. This is my recommendation, and the subject of this post. You’ll have much more control and flexibility. (Sometimes this type is called a WordPress.org blog.)
This is where we get into the nuts and bolts…
Step 3: Find a host
A host makes your site available on the internet. There are many to choose from (and no host is perfect), but I’ve been a paying customer of Bluehost for over a decade. They are well-established, inexpensive and good for beginners.
Then hit the green “Get Started Now” button. (Hey, that’s me!)
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. Don’t worry, the process is the same.
Select a plan
Click one of the green “select” buttons to choose a plan. I typically go with the Plus or Prime plan because you get more unlimited features, but if your budget is tight choose the Basic plan. You can upgrade at any time.
Step 4: Pick a domain name & hosting package
A domain is a web address. For example, AmyLynnAndrews.com is my domain.
Enter a new or existing domain
On this screen, type in a new domain on the left side, or enter a domain you already have on the right side. If you’re just starting out, chances are you will need a new domain. (If you’re using an existing domain elsewhere, don’t worry, it won’t mess things up 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.
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.
- 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 based on how far in advance you want to pay.
Note: You’ll pay for one, two or three years upfront, 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 skip the other add-ons except Domain Privacy Protection. 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.
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.
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 “no thanks” at the bottom of the screen.
Locate & save your welcome emails!
Once you complete the setup process, you will be sent multiple 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: Open WordPress
Bluehost automatically installs WordPress for you so you can start working on your WordPress site right away. Click the blue log in button in the “Congratulations!” window 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.
Note: Your site will be on a temporary domain at first. This is nothing to be alarmed by. 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.
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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