So you want to learn how to start a blog. Not just a casual personal blog, but something with the potential to allow you to become a professional blogger. I started my ESL (teaching English abroad) blog back in 2017 and within 2 years grew it into a $30,000 per year income source from Amazon Associates and Google AdSense.
In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through each step of the way on how to get started blogging the right way. Let’s be honest, most advice is dated or is from a blogger who started a decade ago. In this guide I’ll show you what works. It’s not complicated and anyone of reasonable intelligence who’s serious can do it.
First, can a blog really make money? Yes! Words, images and video all put together can become a very valuable and profitable asset:
Given the right content and audience, a high traffic blog can make money. It’s simple, but not easy. Let’s get started.
How To Start a Blog Made Easy
This “how to start a blog” tutorial will cover a variety of topics you need to understand in order to build a successful blog. What we’re going to be doing in this tutorial is creating a website and then adding a blog to it. I’ll show you how to design your blog and what type of content you should publish so you can get search traffic.
With traffic and attention you can then make sales of products you’ve created or products you’re promoting as an affiliate, grow your email list and get social shares to expand your reach.
Let’s get started blogging:
- The best blogging platform
- Choose Your Blog Topic
- Create a website and start your blog
- Blog design inspiration
- Install a WordPress Theme
- WordPress Plugins
- SEO for Bloggers
- Writing Blog Posts Correctly
- Content Marketing
- How Blogs Make Money
The Best Blogging Platform
With starting a blog you have three options – self hosted, website builder or a free platform. Self hosted means you have your own hosting account with an open source content management system (CMS). A website builder you own your content, but are using a proprietary CMS and a free platform you don’t own your website in any way.
The advantage of self hosted is that it’s cost effective and you can install WordPress for free which is an open source CMS. Website builders are a good option too, but you’re paying for a closed source CMS and it’s difficult to move your site away from them.
Free platforms are fine for casual use, but let’s assume you want to build an asset for yourself. WordPress is the top recommendation everywhere because it is designed for blogging and content creation first and foremost. But it has the flexibility to be used for any type of website.
What about Blogger.com, WordPress.com and other options?
WordPress is both a CMS you install on a shared hosting account (found at WordPress.org) but they also offer their own dedicated website builder option to compete with Wix and Squarespace found at WordPress.com. In this tutorial we’re going to use WordPress on a shared host, not WordPress.com.
Blogger.com is a great platform for casual use but not ideal for building a sellable asset. Blogger blogs are difficult to rank and get search traffic, difficult to sell and you don’t own the platform. Squarespace is an outstanding website builder a good option too, but it can get very expensive.
Last is Ghost.org. Ghost is an open CMS too, but it’s much more technical to setup and is strictly focused on creating a paid subscription around your blog content. With WordPress you get more flexibility with features and design so it has a wider appeal than Ghost for more aspiring bloggers.
Why Does Everyone Use WordPress?
WordPress is open source, easy and free to install on any shared hosting account while being feature rich with the ability to create any type of website from an ecommerce site, to a blog or even a membership website. Here are WordPress’s main selling points:
Easy to use. Creating content, adding products, pages, images, videos and links to your website is so easy with WordPress. WordPress is used by some of the biggest brands in the world like CNN and the BBC to manage their content publishing.
Total control over your blog. WordPress comes with some excellent tools so anyone can learn how to use to create a beautiful website. WordPress themes make designing your website the way YOU want an easy and fun process.
Excellent support community. WordPress is has a thriving community so you can always get help and advice for any aspect of your blog.
WordPress is secure. It’s constantly updated and supported so you never have to worry about running software that is out of date.
Great SEO – WordPress can be setup with ease for proper SEO. There are also countless SEO tutorials you can follow and all assume you’re using WordPress.
Choose your blogging topic
Do not be a money chaser. Too many people start websites and blogs on topics they are currently consuming but have no deep knowledge on. What they end up doing is creating blogs that are simply echos of more popular blogs. Instead, think about what you’re really interested in and can provide value on.
Here is how you pick a blog topic:
1 – What are your skills? What do you know how to do that other people don’t know? What do people ask you for help with or advice on?
2 – What can you talk about and write about effortlessly? For a blog, you should confidently be able to write 100+ topic ideas.
3 – How will you make money? What do people pay for in your topic? You need to have a monetization strategy.
4 – Are you interested in starting a long term project on this topic? You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be a step above your audience and willing to learn. This also helps with content creation.
5 – What is your content angle? Does your topic have a lot of questions to answer as well as low competition phrase you could rank for quickly? How is your blog going to be different or better?
6 – Are there similar sites on your potential topic? You want competition. Where there is competition there is money to be made. Ideally you want to find smaller sites as with larger website you’ll need a budget to compete.
7 – Are there high traffic, high value keywords? Low hanging fruit is fine, but if you want to make money you need to rank for competitive topics that get traffic and can be monetized with affiliate marketing, ads and so forth.
While money chasers are spinning their wheels creating low quality blogs about making money online, crypto currency or yet another generic tech blog promoting Amazon Associates, wondering why they don’t have traffic and looking for short cuts – instead ask yourself these questions and create a great blog on a topic others can’t easily compete with you on.
Start a blog with WordPress
Now we need to create a website so we can start blogging. For this we will get a domain name, a web host and then install WordPress in three simple steps.
Bluehost – The #1 recommended host for self hosted WordPress
Bluehost is the #1 recommended web host for WordPress by the team behind WordPress. They are an excellent shared web host and provide all the tools, support and resources you need to grow your website to 50,000 pageviews or more per month.
In addition, you can also get your domain name fee waived for the first year with any purchase of a 1 year hosting package:
Bluehost comes with four different pricing plans:
- Basic – Too limiting, can only have one website.
- Plus – Ideal for growing a website to around 1000 visitors a day and 30k monthly pageviews.
- Choice Plus – Perfect for growing medium sizes websites to 2000 visitors a day and around 60k-80k pageviews.
- Pro – For large, established websites.
The Plus and Choice Plus plans are the best. In general, most bloggers should go with Choice plus and buy a 2 or 3 year hosting package to lock in the low, introduction rate.
Get your domain name
Once you decide on a hosting package to purchase you’ll first have to add a primary domain to your account. All shared hosting accounts need a primary domain so here is where you’ll register your .com.
Select the hosting package you want, you’ll then have to setup your domain. On this page click on “create a new domain.”
Here you will need to register your domain name. A domain name is the web address for your website. Try to get a .com as it’s the legacy extension of the internet and has the most resell value.
Next carefully fill out your payment information and proceed through the on-boarding process. On the payment page you can uncheck all extras. You also get a bigger discount the longer your package term is.
Once you submit payment and choose a domain name Bluehost will begin a easy to follow on-boarding process where you’ll be asked some questions about the type of website you wish to create. These questions influence what WordPress plugins are installed.
Finally, you’ll be presented with your Bluehost dashboard:
Make sure to check your email as Bluehost will send you a welcome email with important information regarding your account as well as your receipt.
Verify your domain
In addition to the welcome email, once you purchase a domain name through Bluehost you’ll have to verify the domain in order for it to be active. All hosting account need a primary domain on the account and ICANN regulations stipulate that you have to verify your domain.
So check your email to activate your domain:
Bluehost automatically installed WordPress
You’re all set! When purchasing a hosting account and domain name through Bluehost the on-boarding process will actually install WordPress for you. You can log into your website simply by clicking on “sites” then clicking on your website and the clicking the log in button.
Navigate to “users” in WordPress
Once you click the “log into WordPress” button navigate to the “users” tab. Here you will find your WordPress account information. The email will be the same email you used to sign up to Bluehost.
You can click on your profile and if you scroll down you’ll see something called “account management” which is where you can change your password as the Bluehost on-boarding process created one for you.
You have now created a website and are ready to start blogging.
The #1 recommended webhost for WordPress. Quick, easy installation of WordPress and quality hosting. Perfect for beginners.
How To Log Into WordPress
You can log into WordPress from your Bluehost dashboard (by signing into your Bluehost account) or you can log in via your WordPress installation.
To log into your blog through your WordPress installation all you need to do is visit example.com/wp-admin and you will see the following page:
From here use the email associated with your account and password. I showed you previously how to update your password to something you can remember. If you did not update it, your password will still be a long and complicated (which is quite secure) string of letters and numbers Bluehost generated for you.
Going forward this is how you will log into your website. Either by logging into Bluehost or going to your website and navigating to the wp-admin page.
Verify your SSL certificate is working correctly
With your Bluehost account you get a free SSL certificate installed on your website. That means you should see a little “lock” icon in your web browser. If not, contact Bluehost support and they will fix it quickly and easily.
In order to check your SSL certificate:
- Log in to your Bluehost portal.
- Click on the “my sites” tab.
- Find your website and click on “Manage Site.”
- Go to the “Security” tab.
- Under “security certificate,” you will find your “free SSL certificate” status.
It does take a few hours for SSL certificates to be up and running but after a 12 hours if your site does not have an SSL active please contact support and they will address this issue immediately
Welcome to WordPress.
What will My Blog Look Like?
For the professional blogger, there are a few layouts that work (check out our successful blog examples).
- Visual Menu
The blogroll simply means to use your blog archive page as the homepage. This layout shows your latest posts first and the rest of the posts in chronological order.
This setup is good because it allows readers to find your latest content very easily. It’s weak though on introducing people to what your site is about.
If you lack design skills or your website does not have a lot of content, then go with the blog roll layout. If your strategy is strictly to build out a site that has blog posts that rank for keywords and you don’t intend on doing any sort of email marketing, then the blog roll layout is for you.
If you lack design skills or your website does not have a lot of content, then go with the blog roll layout.
A visual menu homepage layout works because you show the best in class content you have for different, relevant categories. This is helpful for the end visitor to find content they are looking for and to be introduced to a wide variety of topics.
You can also consider adding in a call to action to subscribe to an email list at the top and bottom of the homepage as a way to build out a very effective homepage.
Influencer / Personal brand
The influencer style blog leverages a homepage with you front and center with a clear call to action to subscribe to an email list. While your blog obviously has blog posts, design the homepage to be optimal for getting people on your email list.
The end goal being to get organic search traffic with your blog posts to then converting that traffic into email subscribers you can help out with your content and products.
How to create a homepage with WordPress
I would start a blog using the blogroll layout. Once I have published 10 pieces of content, I would then create a dedicated homepage. In order to do that first create two pages with WordPress. I would call one page “home” and the other page “blog.”
Next go to “settings” in your WordPress dashboard and click on reading.
Here is where you can set your a page for the homepage and another page for the posts page.
Your next task is to design the homepage. We have numerous video tutorials on how to design a blog. Checkout our TwentyTwenty theme tutorial on YouTube.
The best permalinks for blogs
Permalinks are the URL structure of your blog post. In WordPress you have a few different options:
/Post-Name – Perfect for smaller sites that are never going to have more than 50 pages of content.
/Category/Post-Name – Perfect for large websites that will have 1000+ pages of content and multiple categories.
/Date/Post-Name – Perfect for time sensitive content like news.
/blog/Post-Name – Best URL structure for most websites. Go with this one in most instances.
Let’s change it to something more helpful and logical. Here’s how to change it:
Settings >>> permalinks
What Is The Best Permalink Structure?
For most blogs, the ideal URL structure is this to have /blog/post-name type setup. Simply click on custom structure and set your permalinks as follows:
It helps give a nice structure for search engines and it helps separate blog posts from pages and affiliate links.
If you want to nerd out and learn more about the why, read the best permalink structure guide.
Install a WordPress Theme
Themes are frameworks you can install to easily design your website. Themes can be a broad, general purpose theme with multiple layout built in or they can be specifically designed for a singular purpose. Theme for WordPress are either free or premium.
When you’re in your WordPress dashboard, go to appearance, then “themes” and then click on “add new.” Here you will see a wide variety of free themes you can install. Don’t forget that you can also filter by most popular and most downloaded as a way to narrow down your search.
Click on the theme you want to install. It will be downloaded and installed right from the WordPress directory. Make sure to click “activate” to make it go live.
These are themes you have to buy. They are not listed in the free WordPress directory. You buy them from a theme design shop. To install a premium theme:
Go to appearance, themes, add new then you have to UPLOAD the theme you just bought and downloaded.
Choose the ZIP file you want to install (your theme) and then click “install now” to install the theme.
Leave it as a zip file after downloading it. You can only upload compressed ZIP files.
The most popular premium themes:
In the WordPress community there are a few premium themes that are currently the most popular. Most themes incorporate some type of block or drag and drop editing. No theme is best. Themes are just tools. Pick a premium theme and learn it. Then you’ll be able to design whatever you want.
Astra – The Astra theme is the most downloaded theme for WordPress. The free version is feature rich and allows you to easily create a blog or website. You can also use the Astra Sites plugin to download pre-made websites (free and paid).
DIVI – DIVI is one of the most popular themes in the world. It has a front end page builder allowing you to have a lot of control over the look and feel of your website.
Avada Theme – This is the best selling theme on Theme Forest. It’s a theme that comes with the ability to customize various aspects of your theme however you want as well as coming with different templates you can download and use.
Hello Theme – Made to work with the pro version of the Elementor plugin, this theme is a “blank slate” plugin that allows you total control and flexibility over your website.
To view the current most popular free themes simply navigate to “appearance” then “themes” and sort by popular.
Essential WordPress Plugins
A plugin is a a piece of software that acts as an extension for WordPress, giving it new features and functions. There are thousands of plugins you can install. What plugins you install is dependent upon what you need.
You can install plugins that add social share buttons, affiliate link management, contact forms and so much more. To add a plugin to your website is a simple process. Simply navigate to plugins and then click add new.
The most essential plugins for any WordPress blog are:
- Rank Math – An SEO plugin.
- Smush it – Image optimization.
- W3 Total Cache – Make your blog faster.
Checkout my list of essential WordPress plugins.
Rank Math is an on-page SEO plugin. That means that by installing this plugin you have the ability to adjust the meta description for your blog posts and pages.
This is important when creating content that is targeting a keyword phrase you wish to rank for as you can now “optimize” your content to have the best chance of ranking.
With it you can give an dedicated SEO title, a meta description, you can enable breadcrumbs on your website and Rank Math will give you an overall score as to how well optimize your content is for a specific keyword.
Smush – Image optimization
Smush It is a WordPress plugin that compresses your images upon upload to your website. It reduces the file size and thus makes your website load faster.
While you should be using a .webp image format whenever possible sometimes you’ll need to upload .jpeg or .png files. This plugin is very helpful and making your website load quickly.
W3 Total Cache – Makes your site load more quickly
W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your website by increasing the performance of how quickly your website loads while reducing load times for different aspects of your website.
A cache plugin is a must have for all blogs. Your website needs to load as quickly as possible and that’s exactly what this plugin helps to accomplish.
WP Rocket is a paid alternative that is much better, but to get started W3 Total Cache is sufficent.
How to write a blog post
Writing content for a blog is not the same as a paper for school. There are a few things you need to know.
When writing a blog post title make sure it has a searchable keyword or phrase in it. Like if I was tying to rank a post for “best cheap headphones” I would make sure to have “best cheap headphones” in the title of the blog post.
I would also add something extra on it to make it more click worthy. Something like “best cheap headphones for introverts” is a much more specific. Again though, related it your topic. If headphones and introverts makes no sense for your blog topic don’t publish irrelevant content.
For your blog post titles and your header tags you’ll want to choose a distinctive font. This helps style your blog and makes your content scannable.
For the body, choose a Google web safe font that’s readable. Also select a larger font size overall. Small text is difficult to read which has the opposite effect you want as a blogger.
Don’t make massive paragraphs too. No one wants to read a wall of text. Write 3-4 sentences then hit that enter button. This helps reader retention, time on site and again makes for a easier, more enjoyable reading experience.
It’s also fine to have an orphan sentence like this one.
Pictures and video
Every blog post should have at least a feature image. Within the content only select images if they help to demonstrate something. Never choose an image for decoration purposes.
Don’t steal pictures! You can find many places to get free, high quality pictures by checking out this page that is part of our resources. If possible, try to upload images in a .webp format as that format is light and fast.
Videos should be used in the same way, to demonstrate something. Even better if it’s your own videos.
Inter-link your own content and link to other websites regularly. You can and should go back into older blog posts and link to newer content when it makes sense.
Also link out to other websites as it helps build credibility with your own blog post. A piece of content that does not link out looks suspicious to a search engine.
Correct header tags
In online publishing, you can choose between H1 – H6 tags. You can select the tag you want to use here:
H1 is for the title of the page. The title you put here should already be marked as H1 by your theme. You should never use H1 for your actual content.
Next, use H2 for your main topics, then H3 for sub topics and H4 for topics within the sub topic and so forth.
Tags are important because it tells search engines what’s important and it gives a logical structure that helps search engines understand you content but also make it much more easy for visitors to scan.
Check Your Grammar
No one is perfect but a lot of mistakes makes you look dumb and it turns people off from trusting you. Check and double check your writing.
Make sure your titles and meta are done correctly
With any SEO plugin you can change the way the title and meta description is presented to Google. Make sure to custom edit each SEO title and meta description.
Focus on providing, helpful and valuable content
Value is not copying other more popular websites. Value is being a small part of the solution for someone else. Maybe you create a piece of content, a buying guide or a tutorial that helps someone in some small way.
Your goal with content marketing with a blog is to be very helpful and to then elegantly convert your traffic into email sign-ups and customers.
Create content on topics people are actually searching for
Write what people actually want. You do this through keyword research. While you can create a post on something like “how to make your story shine through being authentically you” that’s not exactly something people are looking for.
So use tools like Keywords Everywhere, Google’s auto fill feature and aHrefs to find topics people are searching for. Then, think about the point of your blog posts. Some will be aimed at making affiliate sales, some will be more for growing your email list and others are a good fit for display ads.
Build a Brand
Brands stay on topic and become the trusted authority in a given area. A good blog should be a brand and that brand should have relevant, related content. Google and your readers want to box you in. A website with content about travel, finance, dating is all over the place.
You’ll struggle to rank and built authority on a given topic because Google wants to rank and index brands, a blog about multiple, unrelated topics is not an authority.
How to Start a Blog Conclusion
So that is it for our “how to start a blog” beginners guide. If you found it helpful make sure to share and bookmark this page as it’s constantly updated. Starting a blog is easier than ever and you should be up and running in a day. If you want an advanced guide, take a look at our course.
Want to learn how to make money with a blog? Checkout our dedicated guide on how to make money blogging.
Resources used in the tutorial video:
- Bluehost – They are the #1 recommended web host by the team behind WordPress.
- Namecheap is our domain name registrar where we suggest getting your domain names.
- Base WP is our theme in this video but you can use whatever theme you like.
David UtkeDavid Utke is a professional blogger, YouTuber and a highly rated user experience consultant. He and his team create helpful tutorials, software reviews, videos and more based on real-world experience. Join over 30,000 monthly readers and 27k+ YouTube subscribers!
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