How to start a blog
Today is the first International Start a Blog Day founded by ProBlogger, which has been one of my favorite go-to resources as a blogger for more than a decade.
The following is just a basic guide to help you get started on your own blogging journey. This guide will help you start a WordPress blog with your own domain name (www.yourblognamehere.com) These are the decisions that I would/could/have made, and the best advice I can give you.
These decisions are based on my personal blogging experience and the ways in which I’ve succeeded as a blogger for the last ten years. Throughout and at the bottom of this post are several more resources to help you out, and as always, if you have any questions, please either comment below or email me at rukristin at rukristin.com.
#1 Figure out why you want to start a blog
The correct answer should be: because you have something to say. You should have some idea of what you want to say, and who you want to say it to. There are a lot of people talking on the internet, and if you don’t have a firm grasp of why you want to blog, what you want to say, and who you want to say it to, you’re going to have a tough time standing out in a crowded field.
#2 Choosing a name
One of the first things you’ll have to do is choose a name for your blog. Without a name, you’ll be hard-pressed to start the rest of the blogging process. You’ll need a name in order to purchase a domain name (www.yourblognamehere.com) and to start moving forward in producing content for your blog.
#3 Choosing a blog service
There are many blogging services out there. I used Blogger (the free Google blogging service) when I first started blogging in college. The one I recommend above all others is WordPress.org. It gives you the most freedom to grow, it allows you to own your content (an absolute must), and it’s used by more than 20% of websites on the internet.
There is a little bit of a learning required to do the more complicated things, but because it’s so widely used there are a ton of resources out there to help you along the way. If you want to learn how to DIY it, there are tons of courses, videos, books, and more. There are also pre-made themes, or plugins, or some code to make your site look a certain way, or do something extra cool, that you can purchase, that’s easy. If you want to hire some help, there are tens of thousands of developers out there just waiting for your call.
Learning WordPress, the basics of coding and the architecture of websites, is an investment of time and energy in yourself. If you don’t feel like that’s something you can take on right now, there are a lot of good all-in-one solutions to building your website, including Squarespace, Wix and lots of others.
#4 Buying a domain name and hosting services
A domain name is your website’s address – www.yourblognamehere.com – for example. The domain name points to your images, words, and ideas on your blog. That content needs to be stored on a server so that people can access it from anywhere, anytime. Hosting services give you access to a server that you can store your data and content on.
In order to have your own personalized domain name, you need to purchase it from an authorized seller. You may have seen ads on TV for GoDaddy.com, which is a popular domain name seller. However, if you are purchasing a domain name for the purpose of creating a WordPress blog, many WordPress hosting services (we’ll get there next) will offer you a free domain name with the purchase of your hosting service, so hold off on purchasing your domain name until you decide on your hosting service as well.
I use GreenGeeks for my hosting services. I’ve had great interactions with their customer service team, their prices are on point, and I love that they build their platform to be energy efficient and invest in renewable energy.
With GreenGeeks you can sign up for WordPress hosting, and get a free domain name all in one. You’ll get your own email address at your website.com, you’ll be able to install WordPress with one-click, and they’ve got excellent support to help you along the way.
All-in-one solutions like Squarespace do all of this for you behind the scenes, in exchange for a more limited amount of customizability and freedom.
#5 Making your blog look good
The most important part of making your blog look good to the outside world is your blog’s theme. A theme is a template that structures the way your blog looks and functions. There are tens of thousands of themes to choose from, and it can be an overwhelming process.
My best advice is to look at a few of your favorite blogs and take notes on the three things you like most, and the three things you like least about each one. Then see if you can find a theme that does what you’re looking for. Remember that you’re not looking for perfection, you can always grow, make changes, and hire help if needed.
Here are a few theme resources:
Once you purchase a theme, you’ll have to download it to your computer, and then upload it to your hosting service and install it on your WordPress blog.
Here’s a more in-depth resource for installing a premium WordPress theme: https://www.shoutmeloud.com/install-wordpress-theme.html
Once your theme is installed, there is plenty of customization to do on the backend. You’ll be able to add your logo and/or photographs to make your blog instantly more you. You’ll be able to change the colors, fonts, sizes, and more. Here’s another in-depth resource for customizing your WordPress blog: http://www.wpexplorer.com/choose-premium-wordpress-theme-customize/.
Again, all-in-one hosts will have a selection of themes for you to use and customize, but WordPress will always provide you with the freedom to do anything you want. Some of the links above are paid themes, but outside of the cost of hosting and your domain name, there are PLENTY of free WordPress themes, plugins and code snippets for you to learn and discover.
#6 Adding content
Now you’re ready to add content to your blog! The two most common content types are posts and pages.
Posts are the most commonly used content page for a blog. They’re sorted by date and can be categorized by categories and tags. Posts are seen in reverse chronological order, and meant to be timely, and encourage conversation.
Pages are stand-alone urls and are used more as single pages on your blog. These contain evergreen content that will continue to be relevant to your blog and your readers as time goes on.
Of course, you can start out with any posts and pages that you’d like. My advice: start with an about me page, a welcome post, and a few posts on your chosen subject matter.
#7 Keeping it up
Blogging consistently is hard work, but if you have something to say, say it. Keep blogging. Keep writing. With every post you write, your blog becomes more valuable. Don’t worry about the numbers game. Write consistently, write about your thing, write to the audience you want to have. They’ll start coming to you.