How To Start a Blog in 5 Steps – A beginner’s guide

me-blogging
Blogging on a lazy Sunday afternoon

Why blog?

Blogging had a huge benefit on my personal and professional life. I thought of sharing with you the mechanics of blogging, since starting a blog is easy, straightforward and a lot of fun.

Why blog? One of the benefits blogging gave to me was when I started writing about my work as a software engineer. I wrote a few technical and non-technical articles on specific technologies, how-to guides and lessons learned from different workplaces (startups vs big companies etc). This led to people reaching out to me with useful feedback, door openings without much effort, 2 conferences speeches, a proposal for starting a new business and many friendships along the way.

Had it not been for blogging, I’m not sure I’d now enjoy such a high salary.

It also made me a better writer, which led me to create this new personal finance blog with much more confidence this time!

I know other people use blogging as a way to document their life journeys and hold themselves publicly accountable. They set goals like benching 200 lbs or saving X number of money this year. It’s much easier to lie to yourself, but not to hundreds of readers in your next article. Other people make a full-time income by showing advertisements or promoting products. You can even create and sell your own products!

Anyway, enough about the benefits of blogging. That could (and probably will) be an article on its own. Many people think blogging is hard work, or that they don’t have the necessary technical skills to start with. Let me tell you this.

Starting a blog is a piece of cake for non-technical people and requires only one thing to get you started: A Personal Computer.

Step 1: Choose a name!

If you’re a person with fantasy, congratulations, you’re much more privileged than I am!

It took me almost 5 days to come up with the “inevitablyrich.com” idea, only to decide FoxyMonkey is better in the end. So yeah, this was not an easy task for me!

Try to choose a name that is quirky and short so that people can remember it. If you want to build a blog about biscuits, avoid using something like “deliciousbiscuitsinallflavours.com”. Find something uncommon, something that people cannot easily forget, maybe a bit funny. “cookieparadise.com” is taken, but “savedbycookie.com” is not…

The technical term for the name is the domain name. Choose your domain name carefully, as this cannot easily change. Especially if you’ve built a brand around it. If possible, try to make it represent your blog’s topic. That’s not very important but it certainly helps.

Got a name? Great, this was the hardest step! Hold this name for a moment.

Why WordPress?

The first thing that comes to mind once you’ve decided about your name is probably “where do I start?”.

You start by choosing a blogging platform. In other words, a tool that will provide you with an online editor to write and publish your articles, manage comments, add themes to your website to make it fancy etc. It turns out there is already a tool for this job, and almost every blogger on the planet uses the same. It’s called WordPress.

WordPress helps you do all the above, completely for free. It has an outstanding community that adds features to it every month and it’s the tool I’m using right now for this blog you’re reading. You can highly customise it, add advertisements, pictures of your cat and what not. Did I mention it’s free?

It comes with a ton of features such as easy menu building, ready-made contact forms, sidebar author widgets, strong security and spam prevention to name a few. You don’t need any of that right now, but assume you’re in good hands 🙂

Usually, every popular hosting platform you’ll end up using will offer WordPress. Oh yes, hosting platforms.

Step 2: Sign up to a hosting platform

All the websites on the internet exist on one or more computers.

When hitting a URL (say google.com) from your mobile phone or laptop, your browser asks for the website information from the hosting computer and then displays it on your screen. That’s all.

Now your blog needs to be hosted somewhere in order to be available to all the internet users.

A great hosting company that makes blogging very straightforward is Siteground. I chose this platform after a lot of research because it’s easy to setup, it’s fast, it comes with great customer support and it’s quite affordable (£3.50 per month plus a one-off £9.95 to register your blog’s domain name). They also specialise in WordPress, which we already agreed is awesome for blogging.

Clicking on WordPress from the Siteground WordPress menu we’re presented with these 3 plans:

Siteground WordPress plans to start a blog
Siteground WordPress plans

I went for the StartUp package because I was just starting. I currently have about 2k monthly readers and the startup package is more than enough to cover my needs.

The startup package includes free e-mail accounts (think [email protected]), a WordPress 1-click install, daily backups, automatic WordPress updates and in short, it’s just perfect if you’re starting out.

Siteground also comes with a free SSL support. Ever wondered what this little green lock next to this website top bar is? This shows that all the information sent to this website is private and encrypted, It generally shows a higher level of trust and Google loves that.

Siteground-register-domain
Enter your blog’s domain name and choose .com or some other extension if you want to make your blog more region-specific.

After clicking on the Proceed button, step 3 will ask for your personal information. To get the full discount, I paid £33 for the 12-month plan, plus £9.95 for the domain name. That’s £4.29 per month, including VAT. Compared to other hosting websites, this is a very good deal.

Siteground-step-3-purchase-info
Purchase info – Click to enlarge

You may choose to pay an extra £9.00 per year for domain name privacy if you don’t want people to know the name and address of the person behind your blog. Otherwise, this is publicly listed. I didn’t bother adding a SG site scanner as I only use trusted and popular tools on my blog.

Siteground-account-success
Account successfully created!

Step 3: Install WordPress

Setting up WordPress is a matter of a few clicks. After logging in to the customer area, click on the right-hand side to install WordPress.

Siteground-Wordpress-auto-installer

The first step is to select WordPress as shown below. This is a huge win because it saves us a lot of time and hassle.

siteground-website-type-wordpress
Select Personal / blog and WordPress for the blogging software

Second step: WordPress login username and password. CHOOSE SOMETHING STRONG! I cannot stress enough the importance of a strong WordPress password. Seriously. You don’t want to get hacked. This is more important than getting an SG site scan every day. CHOOSE A VERY STRONG PASSWORD FOR YOUR WORDPRESS.

Login-details-wordpress-setup
WordPress Login details setup – Choose a strong password

You don’t have to select a theme right now, we will cover themes in detail at Step 4. Even if you do, you can easily change it later. Congratulations! You’re all set. You are now the owner of an internet blog!

Wordpress-all-set-successfully
Congratulations, you now have a blog!

Step 4: Make your blog fancy with a Theme

Now that you have WordPress set up you can start expressing your thoughts on the internet. But before you do that, you may want to make your blog look beautiful.

You can change the appearance of your blog by applying a Theme! A theme is what a cover and a background image are to your phone. The content stays exactly the same, but the look & feel is totally different.

After logging in to WordPress, we see this somewhat chaotic screen:

Wordpress Starting Screen
WordPress starting screen – you can find it on www.<your_domain>.com/wp-admin

This place is where you will do almost everything that has to do with your blog, like writing posts, building menus, installing plugins and changing themes.

Click on Appearance -> Themes and you have my favourite playground. This is where you select how you want your blog to look like. You can “Add New” themes and select from the thousands of available themes. You can preview themes to see if they match your preference or just browse popular ones on the WordPress.org theme page.

Twenty twelve wordpress theme
Just activated the Twenty Twelve theme (under the Popular category) and wrote a simple Post. What a modest blog name Michael…

You can also upload your own themes found on the internet like I did, but be careful. You should absolutely trust the source, otherwise, you risk getting affected by malicious software.

Some reliable sources (that have premium themes for sale) are the Elegant Themes and the Theme Forest. For $89 per year, Elegant Themes gives you have access to thousands of themes. They also provide a Divi customizable theme where “what you see is what you get” where you can make changes visually. Divi looks promising but I haven’t used it yet.

Elegant Themes

I can spend thousands of hours looking at different choices and never deciding on one. I know myself. Don’t be like me!

This blog is using a theme called ionMag which is a little bit more complex for a beginner. It’s a new theme which is actively developed by an independent company. It comes for free unless you want additional features so you can buy the Premium.

If you want my advice, focus on a theme that can express your blog core topics better. For example, if you’re creating a photography blog, you may want a theme that focuses on highlighting images, not text, such as this one. If you’re building a business website or featuring one product then OnePress (free) may be better for you.

On the other hand, my blog focuses more on writing, therefore I chose a theme that is clean, crisp and optimised for text. OnePress is flexible, it can be perfect for a writing-focused blog too.

Once you’re happy with your theme, activate it and visit your website! I was quite excited when I did that for the first time! But every blogger knows the theme is just a fancy cover. Content is what matters the most.

Step 5: Start blogging

The world is your oyster! You can start writing posts right away. Just go to Posts -> Add New.

Sure, in the beginning, you will not have that many readers but day-by-day the numbers will get better. In March 2017, Foxy Monkey got around 3,500 pageviews from 1646 different users! Not bad, given this is the 3rd month and I have not been actively promoting it. No ads, no promoted facebook posts or anything. You can do it too!

Google Analytics Foxymonkey
Google Analytics blog stats Jan – Mar 17. You can probably tell that spikes are when I publish a post, the biggest one being about financial independence!

I find that great content is key to a blog’s growth. I’d rather spend more time creating quality posts than churn small posts out without doing much research. Quora and Reddit are the only ways I’ve promoted the blog by providing useful answers. Sometimes, when the question permits, I link back to my blog for more details. This has worked very well so far since my traffic comes mostly from these channels.

Try to connect all your social networks to your blog and reach out to people once you have some content.

Other people will promote your blog for you once you have some good posts. This is ultimately the goal and there’s nothing better than organic growth. As your blog matures, Google will also show some love to your posts and send readers your way.

You may want to check out some helpful plugins. I deactivated Jetpack because it’s too big and added the following: Akismet Anti-spam, SG Optimizer, WP Super cache, Yoast SEO, and Comment Reply Email Notification. I will write in more detail about all the tools I use on this blog soon. For now, your priority should be to publish some content.

“But I have nothing to write about”

Try to build a blog on something you’re passionate about. It can be anything, from a climbing to the benefits of yoghurt! If your goal is only to make money then don’t bother. It requires passion to keep a blog alive and eventually make a lot of money. But if you find yourself loving something, then you’ll have plenty of stuff to write about AND make a good income out of it. Make it personal. Think about the problems people have and how you can help them solve them!

For example, I realised I’m passionate about personal finance, side income jobs and little life hacks that can increase my income, save more money and achieve financial independence. Although some friends have criticised me for always optimising for efficient spending/earning, I love it! I can’t help it! I also like helping people do the same. So who knows, maybe one day this blog will become a must-read on the topic! I can even launch a podcast, free online videos, or compile it into a book.

So who knows, maybe one day this blog will become a must-read on the topic! I can even launch a podcast, free online videos, or compile it into a book.

Note that you can always get a free blog on WordPress.com or Blogger and not pay a penny. However, the options are quite limited. If you ever want to install plugins like Google Analytics, make it a business or look fancy with thousands of themes then you have to go “self-hosted”. The cost is simply too low compared to the benefits of owning your space and this is what I’ve chosen for my blog too.

Here’s the Siteground link, in case you choose to support this blog while creating your own.
(It doesn’t affect your price, and many thanks if you do!):
Siteground web hosting

I hope I motivated you enough to start a blog! Let me know your blog’s name in the comments. I’ll be more than happy to take a look and offer suggestions.

Happy blogging!

3 COMMENTS

  1. I have a question. If I use WordPress, completely free version to start, will it let me post affiliate links?

    • Depends. If it’s self-hosted like the post above then yes, I actually make some money from affiliates. But if it’s free on WordPress.com then I don’t think so.

      Going self hosted is the way to gogo if you plan to make some profit as you cannot place ads on the free ones.

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