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The Ultimate Guide to Starting A Blog will show you just how easy it is to start your very own blog. How easy you ask? Well lets just say you only need to follow 3 simple instructions. In 15 minutes you’ll have a registered domain, a hosting plan, and a beautiful customizable theme. I’m not just going to show you how to get the bones of the site ready – I’m going to get you to the point of writing your first post!
If you ever wanted to start a blog – any kind of blog, but don’t know how to get going, then this post is for you! If you already have a blog but use a free platform like wordpress.com or Blogger, then this post is also for you!
But before we get into details, I want to share with you why I started a blog. Back in 2008, I started a coupon website (similar to RetailMeNot.com) but on a tiny scale. It was before so many helpful tools became available for people with no code experience. However, I became frustrated with the early challenges I faced in getting the site functional.
HOW TO START A BLOG – 3 EASY STEPS
Step 1. Domain Name & Hosting
Step 2. Install WordPress
Step 3. Pretty it Up
Bonus #1. How To Use Your Blog
Bonus #2. How To Configure Your Blog
1) Domain Name & Hosting
This is the most important, and probably, the hardest step in creating a successful blog. A blog title should be relatable to your content and topics you intend to write about. Once you’ve decided that, think about who your target audience will be and the tone of your blog. Choose a name that catches the attention of your reader. Get inspiration from popular blogs in your niche. Jot down different ideas you come across and play around with the words to create a list of possible names.
When your choosing a blog name there are a few things to keep in mind. Make it easy to remember. A name that is clever and flows with the content your publishing will stick with readers. You also want your domain name to look trustworthy. Which is why I recommend having a “.com” domain. Domain extensions with “.net” are not as appealing and come off as more scamm-y. Believe me, people pay attention to that. I even changed my blog name to Forks ’n’ Flip Flops because Forks ‘and’ Flip Flops was already taken and I didn’t want a “.net” extension.
When you have your list of possible domain names, go to Bluehost to check if your preferred name is available:
Now its time to choose a hosting plan. My recommendation would be the basic plan and right now you can get this for the special price of $2.75/mo. This low price is offered as a lump sum instead of monthly installments, but this method saves you more money in the end.
Now, you’ll need to pick a hosting plan. If you’re not sure what the word “hosting” means, let me explain. Think of it as leasing a space on the web to show your blog to the world. Bluehost has the best rates out there, and if choose to host with them, they include a free domain!
After you’ve chosen your preferred plan, Bluehost will take you to the package information where you will be asked about other add-ons. Most of them are not necessary, but you will want to check one in particular. Domain Whois Privacy is the one you’ll want to leave checked. It hides your personal information. like your address and phone number from being displayed to the public.
Here is a screenshot of how the Bluehost Package Information portion should look:
2) Install WordPress
Once you’ve registered your domain name you will need to install WordPress. Please do not opt for other platforms like Blogger or Tumblr. They have restrictions on the configuration of your blog and are not suitable for use on a professional blog. WordPress.org is the cream of the crop when it comes to blog or business platforms. It is user-friendly and SEO friendly. It has amazing support staff available 24-7, and they support a wide range of customizable themes and plugins. I use WordPress. This site uses WordPress.org (not WordPress.com) and it truly is the best!
The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org (best option) is that “.com” is a free blogging platform that has quite a few restrictions and does not allow the source code modifications you would want in a professional blog, particularly with plugin configurations, which helps your blog run more smoothly.
WordPress can easily be installed through Bluehost – which is a one-stop shop for getting your site setup!
When your logged into Bluehost, go to the “Hosting” tab and click on your “cPanel.”
Once you’ve verified your admin username and email address, click on “Install”:
After your install is complete, click on the “View Credentials” button and your login details will appear. Write down your Admin URL, username and password. You can always change your login information later but, you’ll this when you first login to your site.
Your WordPress install is complete! Woo hoo!!!
3) Pretty It Up
You now officially have a blog! Congratulations!
Now lets make it pretty!
Go ahead and type your admin URL (/) into your web browser. You should see something like this (see screenshot below). Remember that username and password you jotted down? Type that information into the boxes.
I’m going to point out a couple things you can do to make your site more appealing to your readers, but first let’s start with the essentials – Choosing a blog theme!
When your in your WordPress dashboard, you’ll realize that WordPress offers a ton of free themes to choose from. However, these are basic or appear very generic. This is why I highly recommend a premium WordPress theme. Some people choose to hire a designer to create a custom-made theme for their site, but you can find a gorgeous theme on the web and customize it yourself and save money. I opted for the latter and have made my budget-friendly recommendations below:
- Tasteful Theme: This is the current premium theme I use for Forks ‘n’ Flip Flops. This theme can be found at Restored 316 Designs. It is an amazing theme resource and one I highly recommend! They have easy to follow instructions and lightning fast support if you need it!
- The Genesis Framework: This is the current framework Forks ‘n’ Flip Flops is using now. Genesis also has an amazing array of minimalist themes by Studiopress, like this Brunch Pro theme.
To install a theme, go to Appearance > Themes > Upload
After your new theme is uploaded, click Activate. Once the activation is successful, go check out your new blog!
Bonus #1: How To Use Your Blog
Now that WordPress and your theme are installed, I’ll show you how to start blogging. But first, you’ll want to configure a few settings to get your new blog ready to share with the world.
CHANGE THE BLOG TITLE
If you haven’t changed your blog title yet, you’ll want to do that first. You can do this by hovering over your “Settings” near the bottom of your menu column, and click “General”. Change the Site Title to the name of your blog and add a tagline on what your blog is about. Then scroll to the bottom of the page and hit the “Save Changes” button. Your changes will be immediately live on your blog.
WRITING YOUR FIRST BLOG POST
Here you’ll learn how to write your first blog post. On the left side of the menu, hover over “Posts” and click “Add New”.
You will see a post titled “Hello World.” It is just a default post included in every new WordPress blog. It’s not necessary to keep. Go ahead and delete it by clicking “Trash” under the post.
HOW TO ADD MEDIA
I include media in nearly all of my blog posts. Adding photos is a great way to enrich your content and break up verbiage. Most would say that adding media is necessary for blog niches that are primarily visual – fashion, food, beauty products. To add photos to your post, click on the “Add Media” button, and then click “Upload Files.”
If you want to preview the look of you post before Publishing to your blog, click “Preview”. This will open up a new browser window. After you have the post looking how you want it to, go ahead and click “Publish”. If you would rather save a draft and to revise it later, click “Save Draft.” (There is also an option to schedule your post to be published at a set time by clicking “edit” where it says “Publish immediately”)
Congratulations! You have your first post!!
HOW TO ADD A PAGE
Adding a page is as easy as adding a post. Pages are intended for static content like your “About Me”, “Contact” or “Disclosure” pages. It is not linked to your blog posts.
To add a new page, hover over the “Pages” in your left menu and click “Add New.”
You will notice that the page editor looks a little different than the post editor. The right column excludes the boxes like Categories and Tags. These selections aren’t necessary when your creating a page.
BONUS #2: How To Configure Your Blog
For this bonus section, I’ll show you more advanced changes you can make on your blog to customize it and make it more SEO friendly!
CREATE A MENU
It’s important to create a basic navigation menu so readers can easily locate the important sections and your categories.
To create a menu, hover over the “Appearance” tab and click on “Menus.” Then click the “Create a new menu” link.
Every website has at least 1 navigation menu. I have two menus. My primary menu is called “Main” which is where my posts are linked when I publish a recipe or lifestyle related post. My secondary menu is called “Informational” because I only use it for my Contact and Disclosure pages for now. You can name your menus anything you wish.
When your menu is created, you’ll want to drag and drop the pages and/or categories you want shown. Once you are satisfied with your selections, click “Save Menu.”
Now that your menu is done, it’s time to add the menu to your blog. Go to the “Manage Locations” tab. Use the drop down box to select the menu you just created (Main Menu) as the primary menu. Then click “Save Changes.” Done!
CUSTOMIZE YOUR BLOG DESIGN
Now that you have your blog design and menu setup complete, it’s time to customize it to your liking.
Go to your left menu and hover over “Appearance” and click, “Customize.”
When you click on one of the Customize options shown, your screen will look like the screenshot below:
Here are what some of the customizations you can do from this screen:
- Site Identity – We already changed the site title and subtitle in an earlier step. You won’t need to do anything further unless you want to change it again.
- Colors – You can change the color of your header and/or background color.
- Header Image – You can upload a header image you want to use.
- Background Image – You can upload a background image for your site.
- Navigation -You can choose your primary or secondary (if you created one) navigation menu you want to use.
- Widgets – Widgets lets you add features to different parts of your blog. It allows you to move, remove and add widgets from here. I prefer to use the widgets in the “Appearance” section of the dashboard menu.
When you’re done customizing, click the “Save” button.
CHANGING YOUR PERMALINKS
One of the important steps to make your blog more SEO friendly is to change your permalinks from the default url, http://www.yourblogname.com/?p=123 to a cleaner url, /. This will improve search engines to categorize your blog posts.
To change your links, hover over “Settings” and click, “Permalinks” and click on “Post Name” setting. Then click “Save Changes.”
Plugins are a great way to further expand the functionality of your blog. There are thousands of free plugins to choose from, including many premium plugins. Most people use plugins for adding social media buttons, tracking traffic growth, and adding SEO programs.
To add a plugin, go to Plugins -> Add New
I highly recommend the following list of plugins to use on your blog. These are the most important plugins every new blog needs.
- JetPack by WordPress.com– It adds a ton of simple features to Wordpress like site analytics, optimizing images, increased security, contact forms, and tons more! As you can see in the photo above, it’s one of the featured plugins with over 1 million active installs!
- Akismet– This plugin helps manage spam comments (Trust me, you’ll need this).
- Yoast SEO– I love Yoast! This is the plugin that is extremely helpful for SEO. It improves your blog’s SEO to increase rankings in search engines. It also analyzes your content as you write a post for readability and SEO. Yoast SEO has a number of other essential features like XML Sitemaps, Social buttons and loads more!
Now your ready to get started on your new blog!! You can do it!!!