How To Start A Blog: Beginners Guide

So, you want to start a blog?

Alright, I will teach you how to do that.

Firstly, you should know that there are different types of blogs that you can start, but you want to choose the right type.

What’s the right type?

Hold on mate, let’s take a second to cover the wrong type of blogs.

Sites, like Blogger, Tumblr, and some others allow you to start a free blog in minutes.

If you just want to share funny cat pictures, then it’s a good choice, but for a serious blog you don’t want to choose them because you won’t be in full control of your blog.

On Copyblogger, you can find an in depth explanation why it’s a bad idea to start a blog on these platforms, but the main reasons are these:

  1. The platform can shut your blog down for violating their terms of service (happened to me twice, argh…)
  2. You don’t have full control of how the blog looks and functions.
  3. The platform can disappear.
  4. The platform can become uncompetitive.

So, now let’s talk about the right way.

How To Start A Real Blog

The right way is to use a self-hosted blog. What does it mean self-hosted? You buy a domain name and a hosting account and you own your property and have full control of your site.

Just like there are plenty of free platforms, there are several self-hosted blogging platforms as well. Instead of listing them all for you, I’ll just tell you which one you need.

WordPress.

Why?

  1. It’s the industry standard.
  2. 61% market share in the content management system (CMS) industry.
  3. 23,9% of all the websites on the internet use WordPress
  4. There’s a gazillion plugins to customize your blog the way you want.

How To Start A WordPress Blog

If you would go to Google and search for WordPress this is what you would see:

Screenshot 2015-06-01 17.07.05

 

First results are obviously ads, then #1 is WordPress.com and #2 is WorrdPress.org.

Confused?

I sure as hell was when I started out. WordPress.com is a free blogging platform like the ones mentioned before (blogger, tumblr) and WordPress.org is the free content management system that we want to use.

Before we do anything, let’s back off a bit.

What Forms A Blog?

A blog is just like any other website and all websites require two main things hosting and domain name when you have these two you can then build your website/blog.

If we would use the common house analogy, hosting would be our digital land on which we build our house/website and the domain name would be the street address for our house.

We obviously need both of them and it’s best to start with choosing our hosting, because the hosting provider usually can give discounts on the domain name and when you buy a domain name through your hosting provider it will be automatically configured with your host so, one less thing to worry about 🙂

The Best Hosting For Your Blog

If you are anything like me when I got started, I wanted everything for free and I mean everything. Free hosting? Yes, I tried that, multiple times.

The experience, of course, was horrible, nothing works properly on free hosting, your website will be down at least an hour every day and most definitely at the time you get the most visitors.

So, please I beg you don’t use free hosting. If money is tight and you’re just experimenting use a free blogging platform.

Once that’s out of the way let’s talk about what kind of hosting you should pick. If you would google something like “best hosting”, you would find lists of hundreds of hosting providers.

I don’t even recommend going that route. Let’s keep it simple. I’ll give you two options and you pick the one you like most.

So, are you ready?

Hostgator and Bluehost.

I personally use Hostgator and I do recommend them and I also recommend Bluehost because I heard a lot of good things about them, they are actually owned by the same company.

It really doesn’t matter which one you pick, even if you decide to go for hosting X. They all are pretty much the same these days offering similar prices and features.

Okay, so go now and register an account. I’ll wait 🙂

Registering A Domain Name

You should now be registered for a hosting account of your choice and you should have an email sent with all the login details. I want you now to login to your cPanel.

If you used HostGator, then at the very top you should see something like this:

domain

 

This allows you to register a domain name.

Before you do buy one, I recommend to really think good about it. Ideally you want to find a good .com domain name, because people are used to them and when someone types in a website name they automatically assume it’s .com.

Still, if you can’t find a good .com domain, then don’t worry too much. According to Matt Cutts, other domain extensions rank just as well.

The Hostgator’s domain registration menu is good for just that – registering domains, but it doesn’t help with research.

So, go to http://www.domainsbot.com/ to research available domains. You type in the keyword you want, it then shows the available domains for that keyword and give you additional suggestions.

Once you have found a domain you like, head back to your host and register it. It usually costs $10+ for a year.

Installing WordPress in 1. 2. 3.

Let’s get back to the cPanel.

Screenshot 2015-06-01 19.05.57

 

It’s actually hard to miss the WordPress installation when using Hostgator. If using a different host you can look for the quick installs icon.

You should land on the MOJO Marketplace (you don’t need to register an account with them) that currently looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-06-02 17.49.50

You should clearly see a big blue button that shouts “Install WordPress”.

Screenshot 2015-06-02 17.49.59

 

Once again click the “Install WordPress” button and you will land on the configuration page.

Screenshot 2015-06-02 17.51.32

Let’s cover the options that you have here.

Firstly, you need to choose the domain name you want to use.

Next, you can choose a path for your blog. 9 out of 10 times you will leave it empty, but if you already have a website and want to add a blog to it, then you can enter a path “blog” and your blog will be accessed by going to domain.com/blog, if you leave it empty then at domain.com.

All other fields are self-explanatory. Admin email is where your password will be sent, blog title is the name of your blog which can be changed later on. Admin user is your login name that you won’t be able to change.

Lastly, your first and last name will appear as your author name.

Once you filled all the magic fields click yet another “Install WordPress” button and the digital elves in a few minutes will have a brand spanking new WordPress blog installed and ready to roll.

Congratulations On Being Awesome

At this point, I could congratulate you, shake your hand and wish you good luck because you just got a blog started, but if you stick around I will reveal to you several more little secrets 🙂

Picking A Theme As Hot As Kim Kardashian

When someone visits your blog you want them to think “Man this is hot, I wonder what this hotty has to say.”.

For that to happen you need to get a really great theme.

In your WordPress dashboard go to appearance>themes>add new>feature filter.

Screenshot 2015-06-02 21.32.55

Make sure to check “Responsive layout”, this is important to make your blog look sexy on mobile devices. I talked in depth why it’s important here: Google’s new update!

You can pick other filters as well to narrow your search. Once done click apply filters and start looking for that perfect theme.

There are thousands of free themes out there. Yet you might still have trouble finding what you want. In that case, I recommend checking out two more sites:

MyThemeShop and ThemeForest.

I got my theme from MyThemeShop, they offer both free and paid themes that look very awesome and professional.

If you are looking strictly for premium themes, then go to theme forest. It’s probably the biggest marketplace of premium themes, but I have to say that the prices there are quite high.

These 3 places should keep you busy at least for a day. If you can’t find anything that appeals to your eye, then start saving money for a designer…

We’re Not Done Yet

So, you have chosen a theme that you love or at least one that doesn’t suck. The exterior is taken care off so to say, but we now need to work under the hood of WordPress.

What I mean is we need to turbo charge our engine with plugins. To install a plugin go to your WordPress dashboard> Plugins> Add New

Screenshot 2015-06-03 11.01.43

 

From here you can either upload a plugin you have bought or search the free library of plugins where you will find all that you need.

So, what do you need?

Here’s a short list of plugins or categories of plugins that are necessary to have:

  • Anti-Spam: It’s crucial to have an anti-spam plugin installed. When, your blog becomes just a tiny bit popular spam bots will start targeting your blog and leaving comments about the newest diets, deodorants and other nasty crap. I recommend installing Akismet it should be already in your plugin list, you just need to activate it. If you notice that Akismet doesn’t handle everything, then install some additional plugins.
  • Broken Link Checker: You want to provide a great user experience to your visitors and broken links can definitely harm that experience so, go and install Broken Link Checker.
  • Social Sharing: When you write a badass blog post, you want people to share it and without sharing buttons that’s very unlikely to happen. Some themes come with built in social sharing buttons, you might need to configure them, but if it doesn’t or you don’t like how they look, then you can install a plugin to add them. I use Digg Digg floating buttons, but there are hundreds of other plugins you can choose from if you search for social sharing.
  • Security Plugins: There will always be hackers trying to mess with your blog, more so when you start to get more and more traffic. There’s a couple plugins that I recommend: Limit Login Attempts, which blocks bots from trying to guess your password. Online Backup for WordPress creates regular backups of your WordPress blog so, if anything would happen to your blog, whether you get hacked or something broke, then you would have a backup of all your content. There are many more plugins in this category, but these will provide the basic security for now.
  • Related Posts: Okay, okay this isn’t necessary to have, but it’s very helpful. When a person reads your blog post, you don’t want them to leave, you want them to read another post and another. A related post plugin helps you do that very efficiently. I personally use Related Posts by Zemanta.
  • Building An Email List: I would feel bad, if I didn’t mention it, but it’s very important to start building a list as soon as possible. If you are clueless about list building, then I recommend to read this blog post by WpBegginer. Anyways, back to the plugins I currently use the free version of SumoMe it allows to show a popup to your visitors asking to subscribe, one of the most effective ways to get a lead. Also, I use Q2W3 Fixed Widget that allows a widget follow your visitors as they scroll down, it can be used for many purposes, but I use it to show an optin box.
  • Tracking or Analytics: You do want to know how many people visit your blog, right? There won’t be much at the beginning, but you still want to know. I recommend using either Site Stats by Jetpack (Jetpack is developed by the same team of WordPress), which provides a simple analytics page, but if you want something more robust, then install Google Analytics on your blog. 
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): WordPress is out of the box search engine friendly. However, I still recommend using a plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast. It’s a fairly complicated plugin so, read this tutorial for how to set-up yoast.
  • Cache: No, not cash yet, cache. Caching is a technology that helps your blog to load faster for your visitors and that’s all you need to know about it 🙂 I recommend using W3 Total Cache and again it’s a plugin that can mess up your blog if configured incorrectly so, here’s a tutorial for installation.

Summary

We added a few extra cylinders to our engine and a whole lot of horsepower. Guess what, we are ready to roll. Your blog has gone through the basic set-up and you can now start publishing blog posts and sharing your ideas with the world.

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please share it with your friends who aspire to become great bloggers 🙂 

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