How to Start a Blog: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide (2018)
Updated March 19, 2018
So you want to Learn How to Start a Blog...
You want to build it into a business and start making money fast, right? It all sounds easy and it is, but that's the problem.
It can be too easy to start a blog.
There's the easy way and there's the right way.
There are millions of blogs online right now, but only a fraction of them are actually making money. Why? They probably thought all they had to do was install WordPress or use some other DFY blogging platform and that would be it.
Bam! I'm now a blogger.
There are several critical steps you MUST complete when setting up any new website or blog and I am going to go over each one of them Step by Step below.
Seasoned professionals understand why starting a blog can impact their long term success. Blogging is a critical element in what we call content marketing and it helps deliver your business' message, brings in traffic, and allows you to sell affiliate products, and your own products; but you can't do this successfully unless you follow the right steps.
Why should you listen to me?
I have been creating blogs and businesses online since 1998 and I started my first blog in 2003.
I started my online career blogging about how to beat Google with Auto Blogs and making money from those blogs. I have built hundreds over the years.
IN 2008 I released my first online course called the Auto Blog Blueprint with subsequent updates to the course scattered over the last 8 years.
Thousands of blogs using my blog blueprints are hosted and making money across the web right now.
The bottom line is this: I know how to create blogs and I know how to build them to rank in Google and bring in traffic.
More importantly, I know how to build them into a business that profits. You can too by following the Guide here.
With more than 18+ years of experience doing this, I know a thing or two about blogs, blogging, content marketing, and SEO. If you want to know create a blog the right way, the answer is right here in this guide.
The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is when you are starting a blog, you should always have a plan. It doesn't have to be overly complicated. In fact, a simple plan is the best.
Ok, now that we've got that out of the way, let me show you the 13 Steps required to Start a Blog that will make you money.
How to Start a Blog: The Ultimate Step by Step Guide
I have outlined the 13 Step Process you should use for starting a blog below. Follow this step by step guide and you'll have your new blog up and running in no time at all. Good luck!
Want to learn the 13 Steps for Starting a Profitable Blog? Check out the Tutorial here now!
1. Pick Your Niche
a. What Do I Want to Blog About?
The questions I always get asked is "What should I blog about?" or "What kind of business should I create with my blog?".
The list here is endless, so its not an easy question to answer.
The most important thing is your blog and business need to be something you are passionate about. If you don't love what you're doing, your business won't last very long.
Pick something you really like and even better, pick something you know a lot about.
You don't have to be an expert.
Never worry about that. Be conversational. Talk about your passion and build it into a business.
Blogs can be about anything.
You can create Product Review blogs, you can blog about hunting or fishing, you can teach people how to knit, or you can blog about politics, movies, or music.
The list goes on and on.
Some blogs will make money through advertising and affiliate programs while others will sell online courses or physical products.
The bottom line is this, You have to WANT to do it and love doing it. because this is what will make your blog successful.
b. Is My Idea Worth Pursuing?
Sometimes it is hard to figure out if a blog idea is worth pursuing. That's why I normally create a Facebook Page to go with my blog. I like to use Facebook as a way of gauging if my blog idea has enough interest.
Building a blog about something you are passionate about is important, but if you want to be a successful blogger, then you need to build a blog in a niche other people are passionate about as well.
If you want to find a niche and establish a keyword plan for your site, a great tool to use is Long Tail Platinum. You can get a 7 Day Trial for Just $1 and it has some of the most accurate Keyword Difficulty (KD) and Keyword Competition (KC) data I have found in a tool like this online.
Tools like this make the job of finding the perfect niche fast and easy.
Tools like this will give you insight into the interest people have in your niche idea and if it is something you can make money with. The data is there, you simply have to pick which one fits.
Don't be discouraged if you find that a lot of other blogs and businesses exist in the niche you want to work in. This kind of competition simply means there is a lot of interest and passion in the niche, but even more important that that, it means there is a lot of money to be made in the niche too.
All of these things are important things to consider before you buy a domain name or begin to set up your blog. Choosing a niche you are comfortable with and can be profitable are important components to starting a successful blog.
2. Select Your Domain Name
The domain name you choose should coincide with your niche, but it doesn't have to be keyword specific.
Years ago it was essential to get a domain name which had the exact keywords of your niche in it to be successful.
This is no longer the case.
What is important now is that the domain fits the brand you are trying to create. Some of the biggest blogs on the web like Mashable have names which aren't keyword specific, yet show off a unique brand which is easily remembered. This is important when starting any business, not just a blog.
I still like to use the big three when it comes to buying domains (.com, .net, and .org), but if you find domain you like and it has branding built in, use it.
I normally purchase all of my domains through Godaddy, but Namecheap is a viable option as well. Both are quality registrars you can trust. I have been using Godaddy for almost 12 years, so I can honestly say they are a resource you can trust.
Either way, make sure you thoroughly research your domain name before you buy.
The Secret Power of Aged Domains
One of the most powerful ways to jump start any new site is to purchase an Aged Domain Name. Aged domain names can be a powerful catalyst for ranking because they already have built in Domain Authority and Page Authority.
These types of domain names have already been used and left to expire by the owners or are being sold by the owners and they can Rank your new blog in Google quickly.
An aged domain with the right branding and authority can give your site a huge boost in the rankings and in some cases, allow your site and blog posts to be indexed by Google and rank quite highly in just a few days.
You can find these diamonds in the rough using free tools like Domain Samurai and ExpiredDomains.net. I have purchased over 200 aged domains over the course of the last 12 years. This is a great way to jump start your business online and I highly recommend these tools as an easy method for finding quality aged domains.
I recommend always sticking with 2-3 word domains (or less) and do not use Hyphens "-" in your domains. If you are creating a personal brand, don't be afraid to use your name or a variation of it.
Remember, once you get your domain, you won't want to change it later, so picking the right one in the beginning is important.
3. Get Website Hosting
Website hosting is one of the most critical elements of your business and one which is taken for granted by a lot of new website owners.
I tell beginners and advanced users this all the time and most people end up learning this the hard way. I can't stress enough how important a good hosting provider is for the success of your business. It is critical that you pick a good hosting company or you and your business will suffer for it.
A good website hosting provider will allow you to forget about hosting and concentrate on your business and running your blog. You won't think about it and this is good. That means you have a good host.
A bad website hosting company will cause your site to have non-stop problems and can even make you lose your site if things are not done right (no backups, up-time issues, server crashes, poor security, etc.). If you are always dealing with hosting issues you are not focusing on your business and this is bad.
For Beginners and/ or new sites which don't have any traffic, the best place to start a blog is with a solid WordPress web hosting solution like SiteGround (see my Review here).
With SiteGround you can get Unlimited Hosting, an Email Address for your business, a One-Click installed Managed WordPress site, Control Panel (cPanel), and even a Free SSL Certificate and Free CDN with Supercacher for just $3.95 per month. Plus, you can scale with them as you grow. They are a solid company with super fast and reliable WordPress Hosting and hundreds of thousands of customers.
For Intermediate and Advanced Sites with established traffic, I recommend the new Managed WordPress Hosting from Liquid Web. This is highly optimized for WordPress, yet gives you the flexibility of using cPanel for email and other advanced requirements or you can just stick to a WordPress only setup which is extremely easy to use.
Liquid Web provides a fully managed service, which means they do everything, and they provide 24/7 Support (which is the best I have ever had from a web host). You can get a free Let's Encrypt SSL Certificate installed on your sites there too. This is one of the best hosting companies you will find online. I guarantee it.
*There are other good hosting companies out there, but the two above are the ones I recommend the most.
Get a Free SSL Certificate
When setting up your hosting account make sure you also setup your SSL Certificate for enhanced security. Wordpress is pushing to make SSL's an essential part of every WordPress setup. Both the recommended hosts above have free SSL options. Take advantage of them.
I am guilty of not being as on top of this as I should. Don't make the same mistake, get your SSL setup right when you are setting up your hosting and domain in your hosting account. If you need hosting support to help, that is find. That's what they are there for.
Remember, you can get a Free SSL Certificate from Let's Encrypt if your host doesn't provide it for free. This is probably the best free option there is and I highly recommend using it if you are not currently using an SSL on your site.
Blog Post Getting a Little Long?
4. Install Your Blog
For your Blog, I recommend using WordPress. Wordpress is the world's most popular blogging platform and it powers some of the web's biggest and most popular blogs.
It is a powerful blogging tool and it can be used to create any kind of site you want. In fact, I have built hundreds of sites using WordPress and frankly, there isn't a better blogging platform for building a blog online.
Membership sites, online stores, photo galleries... The list goes on and on.
You can do almost anything with WordPress.
There are a few different ways to install WordPress. Back in the Web Hosting section we talked about the One-Click WordPress Install options which are included with SiteGround and Liquid Web. These kind of tools make it extremely easy to install and create a blog quickly.
If you have other types of hosting you may not have the same WordPress Install options and you may need to install WordPress manually. This will include creating a MySQL database and installing WordPress to your server via FTP.
All of this can be quite detailed and technical, so watch the video below to see how to do it Step by Step.
WordPress is extremely easy to use, but it is important to understand how it works in order to maximize its effectiveness. If you don't know how to use the basic functions and aren't familiar with its settings, layout, etc., stop here and join my Free Starter Membership below (it will only take a few seconds).
You will then be able to learn everything you need to know with my WordPress 101 Tutorial Videos and you will be on your way to success. *You will need to subscribe for the free unlimited access password.
5. Perform Initial Setup
Knowing how to use WordPress is important as I detailed above, but knowing how the WordPress Dashboard is setup and how to set your base settings for your site is extremely important.
Here is a brief video overview of the WordPress Dashboard if you are not familiar with it.
a. General Settings and Permalink Structure
The first thing you should do after installing your WordPress blog and logging in is setup your General Settings.
This is where you name your site (Site Title and Tagline), set your URL preferences, and set the time zones.
It is important to note that if you want visitors to be able to access your site using "www" in front of your domain name, this is where you need to set this. I like doing this and setting my domain so visitors can find my site with or without the "www".
You can also choose if you want anyone to be able to register and signup as a user on your site. In a lot of cases you might want this, but it also opens up your site to a lot of SPAM if you are not ready for it.
You can set your General Settings by going to Settings > General as shown in the image below.
The next thing you should do is set your site Permalinks.
This will establish the link structure for the posts and pages on your site and by using this setup, it will also make your site links SEO Friendly.
The other thing setting your Permalinks does is it sets and establishes the rewrite conditions for your site links in your .htaccess file. This file is critical part of the process for how your links are seen and what happens when they are clicked. The .htaccess file does a lot more than this if needed, but for right now, this is all the file will do for you.
Set your Permalinks by going to your WP Admin sidebar menu. Go to Settings > Permalinks and change the settings to "Post name" as shown in the image below. Make sure you click the "Save Changes" button after you are done.
b. Setting Up Your Categories
The next thing I like to do is set a few base Categories. To do this go to Posts > Categories.
I also like to change the "Uncategorized" Category to a different name. You won't be able to delete this category, but you can change it to a different name which should be done right away.
*You can add or remove categories on your site any time you want, so don't get bogged down in this now. This is just to get you started.
c. Setting Up Your Essential Pages
When setting up a new site it is always important to add a few essential pages.
The following pages are essential and your site needs then to establish credibility and authority for your visitors, Google, and your other social media properties.
- About Us - This page tells your visitors what you and your site is about. It lays the framework for your site and can include a mission statement and more.
- Contact - Every site needs a Contact Us Page. It shows you can be contacted and have an open line between you and your site visitors. Google considers this to be a must have and you won't get approved for a lot of different services without one.
- Affiliate Disclaimer - If you are going to promote products on your site through Affiliate links, the FCC in the USA requires that visitors know this and that the policy page is able to be found via any page on your site.
One thing which confuses a lot of beginners is the dynamic of Posts and Pages.
Posts in WordPress are dynamic and can be considered temporary or time dependent, while pages are static and are considered a more permanent part of your site.
To understand this dynamic a little better, watch the video below.
Now that you've done all that, its time to add a little bit of flair to your site with a WordPress Theme.
6. Install a Theme
Now that you've gone through the WordPress Tutorial Videos (or are already an experienced WordPress user) you can work on the design of your blog.
Understand this can be as easy or as complicated as you want it to be.
Your blog design depends on the theme you choose and how you want it to look. Your site logo, the color scheme, etc. Customizing your blog can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.
The WordPress Theme you choose and the options it offers will decide most of this.
Don't worry though, there are thousands of WordPress Themes, free and paid, and you can change them anytime you want as often as you want.
Get started by going to your sidebar menu and clicking on Appearance > Themes.
*Remember to review the "Lesson 14: Changing the Theme" tutorial video in our WordPress 101 Tutorial Video Series.
When choosing a theme, make it an extension of your brand. The look and feel of the theme will say as much about you and your business as your business/ domain name.
Simple sells, so don't get too complicated with the design. Content sells a lot more than a fancy design. In fact, some of the most productive and profitable blogs online have extremely simple and plain looking designs.
When picking a theme I also focus on quality coding and support. If I need help, I want to make sure I can get it and I want the theme to work without complication. Things happen, but we want to minimize issues by making a good decision at the start if possible.
It is also very important to pick a theme which is Mobile Responsive and looks good on all devices like desktops, tablets, and mobile phones.
I have a couple theme companies I work with more than any others and I highly recommend the ones listed below. In all cases you get a huge package of themes and plugins, not to mention great support and incredible looking themes.
You can also find some great themes at Themeforest, but each one has a different developer and the support and/ or quality for each theme can be very different so tread lightly when picking themes there.
Your Site Logo and Favicon
Don't forget to create a logo for your site or have one created for you. This is a big part of what you do in your site design as well as branding. Having a professional looking logo is very important.
Logos don't need to be complicated or fancy, but they do need to communicate effectively. A logo is a critical element for branding your site. Make sure you pick something you like to promote. It helps a lot in making people trust your site when you use something you like too.
I get a lot of my logo work done by LogoNerds. You can get a 25% Off Discount with them by using the coupon code: SAVEBIG. They are cheap, fast, and do great work to your specifications. It doesn't get any better then that.
You should also create a Favicon. A Favicon is the small icon shown in the browser URL bar and it shows off and identifies your site as a professional entity and it also helps with branding too.
When visitors see your favicon in their browser, it shows you are special and people remember that. Little things like this can make a big difference to some people.
You can create a Favicon from almost any image using free online Favicon creators like this. You can see ours in your browser right now (unless you are on mobile).
Set Your Blog Reading Settings
Once your Theme is setup in accordance with the Theme creator's instructions and you have your site logo and Favicon installed, you need to set your blog's Reading Settings.
You can do this by going to Settings > Reading.
Depending on your Theme, you will want to set your Front Page (Home Page) as either "Your latest posts" or you will need to create a Home page and a posts page to display your blog posts.
A lot of themes have pre-installed Home Page templates, but in some cases you may have to design this yourself. Remember this when choosing the theme you want as your skill level will determine what you can do here and the right theme can help a lot.
This is why I like both Thrive Themes and My Theme Shop as described above. They come with a lot of options for creating a great home page easily.
When you create your Front (Home) page you can name it anything. When you are done with it, simply go to the Reading Settings page and select it from the drop down menu and click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the page.
When you do this your Home Page will then be set to the page you chose.
For the "Posts page" you need to create a blank page, publish it, then select it for this option. Wordpress will automatically add your latest posts to it when you are done.
That being said, it is important to note that some WordPress themes come with pre-installed blog post page templates which can be chosen to give your posts page a custom look. Be sure to check your theme's documentation for this.
7. Install Essential WordPress Plugins
The engine that really powers advanced functions in WordPress are the plugins you can add. Plugins allow you to add almost any functionality you want to your WordPress blog and there are thousands of them.
To add new plugins to your site, go to Plugins > Add New. You can add them either directly from the WordPress Plugin Repository or you can use the Upload function to add plugins you have purchased or downloaded elsewhere.
Must Have Plugins
- Akismet - This is one of the web's best Anti-SPAM tools and an essential element to add for any site.
- Yoast SEO - The single best SEO plugin available for WordPress. Use its onboarding wizard to go through the setup process step by step. The Yoast SEO plugin will help to optimize your blog for SEO. *See my full WordPress SEO tutorial here.
- WP SpamShield - A quiet addon for comment SPAM which will also allow you to install a SPAM protected Contact Form on your Contact Us Page without any visible Captcha's. Its invisible protection is awesome.
- WP Optimize - This will help keep your database clean and keep the junk off of your site. Set it up to run automatically and keep your site running smoothly. It is a great tool to have.
The Plugins above are essential, but there are a few plugins I highly recommend for all of your WordPress Installs as well. These plugins will help take your sites to the next level.
- W3 Total Cache or WP Fastest Cache - Increase the speed of your site via advanced caching. Both of these plugins require a little advanced knowledge but can be setup by following one of the numerous tutorials you can find on the web. WP Fastest Cache is the easiest option and great for beginners.
- MaxCDN - While this isn't a plugin, using a CDN to serve static site content like images and theme files can increase the speed of your site massively. Both of the caching plugins listed above have built in integration for MaxCDN and they work seamlessly together. This will cost you pennies each month, yet make your site super fast.
- Wordfence Security - Wordfence is the most popular security plugin for WordPress and it provides a wide range of security features in the free version here along with even more advanced in the Pro Version here. The feature set can be quite complicated, so make sure you follow their installation guide before you install.
- Backup Buddy - I have been using Backup Buddy for years. It is the single best plugin for ensuring your site is backed up to the cloud so you can restore it immediately if something goes wrong or if you are hacked. This is one of those plugins I think are a must, but you be the judge. How important is your blog to you?
- Pretty Link Lite - This link cloaking plugin will allow you to use and track affiliate link promotions on your site and do it in a Google friendly way. Use the "NoFollow" setting when creating links with a 301 redirect.
- Thrive Leads - We will talk about this more in the email marketing section below, but one of the most critical things you can do when starting or running a business online is to have a way to build a mailing list and market to your subscribers. Thrive Leads is the single best plugin available online for doing this bar none and its a tool I run on every site I own.
- SEOPressor Connect - If you want to take your Blog's SEO to the next level, then this Plugin is the single best way to do it. SEOPressor can import your Yoast SEO Plugin settings and make the transition extremely easy. There is no other SEO Plugin available which does anything close. This is the end all/ be all of SEO Plugins for WordPress. Yoast is great for free, but this Premium plugin will only cost you $9 per month for all your sites and be worth every single penny.
- Social Warfare - One of the most critical elements on your site is its ability to socially share your content. No plugin does it better than Social Warfare. For just $29 per year you get the most advanced social sharing plugin available online and if you change your site from http to https (SSL Encrypted), it will recover any lost social shares you might have from the change. Can you say awesome!
8. WordPress SEO
While adding the Yoast SEO plugin or SEOPressor Connect plugin is great for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), there is a process inside and outside of those plugins you must follow if you want your site to rank in search engines like Google and Bing effectively.
One of the most important parts of setting up your new WordPress blog is making sure you optimize it for WordPress SEO. This process will allow you to get the most out of your site with higher rankings and free organic traffic from Google.
Make sure you follow my Beginner WordPress SEO Tutorial when you are setting up your WordPress blog for SEO and installing the Yoast SEO plugin. It will show you everything you need to do to get better rankings in search engines like Google from Day 1. Don't know what WordPress SEO is? See my post here.
9. Setup Google Analytics
Google Analytics is an essential part of your blog's development and can be used for tracking your traffic, traffic sources, best posts, goals, and audience demographics just to name a few.
It can do a lot more.
The key here is understanding that the only way you will be able to know what content is producing results and what isn't is by tracking and analytics. Google Analytics is the tool here and its an important part of starting your blog's online journey.
From Social Media to email campaigns, you can only truly succeed if you understand what works and see how well its working.
For WordPress you can install and use the free Google Analytics plugin by MonsterInsights or you can add your tracking code directly to your theme's settings. This really depends on the theme, but you can always just use the plugin regardless.
If you are not familiar with how to setup and install Google Analytics in WordPress, get started with our comprehensive free course on using Google Analytics with your blog here.
10. Setup Social Media Accounts
Back in the Plugins section we talked about the plugin Social Warfare and how important Social sharing can be for generating traffic.
Social Media can also be an incredible communication tool between you and your audience. It can also aid in branding your business.
This, along with a host of other reasons (like SEO), is why you need to create social media accounts which are specific to your business.
I highly recommend creating a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, a Google Plus account, and a Pinterest account. You can learn how to do all of this for Free here.
Once you have these sites setup, be sure to add links to them to your blog (most themes have something for this). *Also remember to add them to your SEO Plugin in the Social portion of the plugin settings.
Building an audience will help you build a permanent audience on your blog. Using social as a conduit to your blog's content should be an essential part of any blog's content marketing strategy since it will drive both traffic and build relationships with your subscribers/ customers.
11. Setup Email Marketing
Continuing on the audience building trend, one of the most important parts of starting a blog is building an integrated system for collecting email subscribers. In other words, creating a system for building a mailing list of dedicated blog subscribers.
Developing an integrated email marketing strategy is an essential part of your blog and any business online. This is a must have element for marketing and remarketing your blog and its products.
This is why in the plugin section we recommended the Thrive Leads plugin. This plugin uses multiple ways to collect subscriber emails on your site with different forms, popups, lightboxes, and much much more. It is one of the most powerful lead generation tools you will find online and I use it exclusively here at starteracademy.com.
With a plugin like this you also need to use an email marketing service to collect and email your subscribers. The service I recommend to use for collecting Subscribers and conducting your email marketing and/ or sending email newsletters is called Drip.
This is really the perfect email marketing service for beginners because of their Forever Free Plan. This plan allows you to have an account with them for Free up until you have 100 Subscribers.
This means you can learn how to use the service as you begin to build your list without the pressure of having to pay for anything. More importantly, the service is dead simple to use, yet it's highly powerful too.
The integration between Drip and Thrive Leads can literally create a lead generation machine for your site. The ability of these tools to work together to help build your business is incredible and one you will use for years to come.
You don't have to use this duo. There are other great services and tools out there and I use a few others as well. If you are just getting started though, these tools are something I definitely recommend. They work extremely well and come with great support.
12. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy
Once everything outlined above has been accomplished, it's now time to begin with the content creation process.
You don't need to post every day, in fact I barely post every 2 weeks. Focus on quality, not quantity when it comes to your blog posting schedule.
I recommend mapping out a plan of action for what content you want to create and when you want to post it. I recommend using an Editorial Calendar to make sure you are releasing content at times and dates which maximize its effectiveness.
This also helps you keep a regular posting schedule.
When we setup our blogs here at the Starter Academy we map out our content and blog organization using our Blog Setup Blueprint and you should too.
I recommend doing the same thing with your social media properties. Identifying the best times to release content to Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Pinterest can provide you with optimal traffic and optimal returns. Don't just post to post. Make sure you have a plan.
The same goes with your email Subscribers. Mail them about your latest content, but do it at optimal times where you get the most email opens and clicks. This won't be something you identify instantly, but it will become more apparent as time goes on.
The content you create and the overall marketing strategy you create will rely largely on the niche you are working in and the target audience you are working with. Each one is unique.
There is no one size fits all, but there are a lot of techniques which can help you profit from your blog quickly. You can find a lot of these techniques here at the STARTER Academy.
Always focus on producing high quality content your audience wants and needs and you will succeed.
13. Launch Your Blog
Following the right steps when you starting a blog can make or break you. The life of your blog and your business count on it being setup correctly.
The Final Step in the process is to "officially" launch your blog. Let people know about it on Social Medial and if you already have a mailing list, let your subscribers know too.
There are a lot of ways to launch your site. You can go big or you can do a soft launch and let your blog grow before you do any grand announcements with Press Releases, etc.
The bottom line is your blog is here and its ready to go.
Now that you have learned How to Start a Blog, make sure you bookmark this post or share it to Facebook. You will need to come back to this post often as you go to remind yourself of the Steps you MUST take when starting a new blog.
If you want a detailed Checklist to take you through the Step by Step process of building and launching your blog, download my Free 30 Day Blog Launch Cheatsheet with the Blog Launch Startup Pack below and get started now!
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