So you’re thinking of starting a blog? Fantastic idea! Blogging can be both fun and rewarding if done right. There are two primary ways to go about blogging. One way is to simply include a blog section within your website and the other would be to make your entire website a blog. For now, we’re going to focus on the latter.
Blogs are relatively easy to set up from scratch, and pretty much anyone with basic computer skills can start their own blog within a few hours. Keep in mind though that just because you started a blog doesn’t mean you’ll be successful with it.
There are many factors which go into having a successful blog, and probably the two most important are to have a clear vision as to what the focus of your blog is going to be and to set your blog up the right way from the start (we’ll get into other blog success factors in later posts).
Setting Up a Blog
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to take to get your blog started:
Step 1: Choose a name for your blog
This kind of goes without saying, but if we didn’t say it, you might end up with a nameless blog.
Step 2: Purchase a domain name for your blog
A domain is the unique web address that you type into a browser to visit a site. Your domain name doesn’t have to be the same name as your blog or your business, but it should be as close as possible for the sake of consistency. For example, maybe you’ve decided to name your blog “Amanda’s Amazing & Awe Inspiring Cookies”. Your domain could be www.amandascookies.com or www.amandasamazingcookies.com. Remember that sometimes people have to type a domain name into their browsers and making it too complicated can lead to problems.
Domain names can be registered for just 1-year or you can choose to go 2-years or more. Depending on which domain registrar you choose to use, the cost should only run about $12 per year. If you choose to have your “Who Is” information private, it will cost you a little more.
Find a domain name at Domain.com for only $9.95/yr.
To see more about choosing a domain name, check out this post.
Step 3: Choose a blogging platform
A blogging platform is a software or service that allows you to create and publish your blog posts without the need for any coding skills. There are basically two types of blogging platforms, free or self-hosted. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type, but in our opinion the advantages of using a self-hosted platform such as WordPress.org far outweigh those of using a free platform such as WordPress.com or Blogger. With a self-hosted platform, you’ll have to pay for hosting, but that’s only about $10 per month and is well worth the small investment.
Here are some of the disadvantages to using a free blogging platform:
- You do not own your blog as it is hosted on the providers’ website – www.yoursite.blogspot.com vs. www.yoursite.com (which means they can choose to suspend your site if they believe you have violated their terms of service)
- Provider can limit or not allow you to run ads on your site
- You have less control over your blog with regard to add-ons, theme selections, design and functionality (this is important as your blog grows in popularity)
- Your blog may not rank as well in search engines
Blog Hosting platforms:
- WordPress.org (self-hosted) – highly recommended
- WordPress.com (free platform)
- Blogger (free platform)
- Tumblr (free platform)
- Medium (free platform)
- Joomla (self-hosted)
Step 4: Choose a hosting provider or service
A web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the World Wide Web. Basically, it’s the place that houses your website and it’s where you’ll install WordPress. Most hosting service providers offer easy to install WordPress wizards to make the integration between your hosting service and WordPress fast and easy. Expect to pay around $10 per month for hosting, depending on your bandwidth needs and server requirements. One of the best hosting companies that flies under the radar is A2 Hosting. While not as famous as some of the other large hosting companies, A2 knocks it out of the park with service and support and has a great reputation among blogging sites – A2 Optimized WordPress Hosting.
HostGator and Blue Host are also popular among bloggers. If you plan on using WordPress as your blogging or site platform, make sure your hosting company is WordPress friendly.
Here are some other hosting services you can choose from to host your blog:
- Host Gator – HostGator has made WordPress a breeze! Optimized WP Packages for as low as $9.95 a month!
- BlueHost – See How You Can Set Up a WordPress Blog in 15 Minutes
- InterServer Hosting – Managed VPS Platform. Phone Support. Prices starting at $6.00 per month
- iPage Hosting – iPage Web Hosting for only $1.99/Month
- FatCow Hosting – Web Hosting by FatCow – Affordable and E-Commerce Enabled
- Web Hosting Pad – Get 15% off on all webhosting packages! Use code 15off.
- IX Web Hosting – Webhosting HOT Deal: Now ONLY $3.95 per month on IX Webhosting!
Once you select a hosting provider, just follow the instructions for WordPress installation. If you need help, most providers have a chat feature available 24/7.
Step 5: Configure your WordPress dashboard
Once you have WordPress installed and hosting all set up, it’s time to configure your WordPress dashboard. Your dashboard is essentially your content management system. It’s where you go to design and edit your blog or website. To access your dashboard. type your new domain name into the browser window and add “wp-admin” following your url. So it reads “http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin”. Then you’ll be taken to your login page where you enter the WordPress user name and password you set up when initially installing WordPress with your hosting company. Note: your blog or website will come pre-installed with the default WordPress theme. You can choose to stay with the default theme or choose one more to your liking.
Step 6: Choose a theme
Assuming you’ve decided to go with WordPress.org, you will be given the option of choosing a theme for your blog. A WordPress theme changes the design of your website, often including its layout. Changing your theme changes how your site looks on the front-end, i.e. what a visitor sees when they pull up your site on the web. There are thousands of WordPress themes available to choose from. Each has different features with regard to things like how many columns your site pages will have, header types, font, color, widgets and other design elements. Many themes are designed specifically for blogs. Most themes will have descriptions of what they include and most do have consumer ratings. There are some very good free themes available and some not so good. So pay attention to the reviews. We’ll discuss themes in more detail in future posts. You can always change your theme, so don’t fret too much if the one you selected isn’t working out for you.
To search themes, hover over “appearance” in the left side navigation menu of your dashboard and select “Themes”. The click the “Ad New” button in the upper left section pf your dashboard. From there you can search themes, apply feature filters, or sort by the most popular or the latest themes. Check out our top 15 list of the most popular WordPress theme here.
Step 7: Add your first blog post and publish!
That’s it. Those are the basic steps to launching your own blog. You may want to add a pinch of salt for taste, but other than that and some tweaking here and there, you are good to go. Side note: one great benefit of using WordPress.org, is that there is always help available through online forums and directly through WordPress, so you’ll always be able to find answers to your questions. Good luck with your new blog and shoot us a message once you’ve made your first post!