How To Start A Blog (A Brutally Honest Guide With No Affiliate Links)
How To Start A Blog: I have been a professional blogger for the past four years. But the oldest blog that I have is more than 10 years old. Back in those days, there was little information available online to guide you about how to start a blog.
Today, if you google \’how to start a blog\’, scores of articles will pop up in the search result.
Unfortunately, most of them do not provide complete details and are mostly written for affiliate marketing – getting budding bloggers to purchase expensive hosting plans and stuff without even considering their requirement.
We have to understand that a vast majority of people who want to start a blog do not have a huge budget. Even $40-50 is very high for them.
As knowledgeable bloggers, it is our responsibility to educate budding bloggers about other options, where they won\’t have to invest so much on something which may or may not work for them.
This is why, I have written this article – to explain how to start a blog. This will cater to everyone – from people with zero to minimum budget to someone who is ready to invest.
How To Start A Blog? Wait, Why Do You Need A Blog?
Before getting into the details of how to start a blog, you have to understand your requirement.
Why do need a blog? What\’s the reason for you to start a blog? What is it that you want to achieve with blogging?
There could be various reasons:
- Just for fun, nothing serious.
- I just want to express myself.
- I want to create a portfolio and network with others.
- I already have a business. I want to create a blog for the same.
- I want to start a blog and monetize it – become my own boss and make money.
From a practical point of view, you should invest on blogging only if No. 4 or No. 5 is your reason to start a blog. Otherwise, the various free options available will do.
In this article, we will mainly focus on how to start a blog if you already have a business and want to create a blog or if you want to start a blog to make money. And I will explain how to set up your blog with minimum investment.
What Do You Need To Start A Blog?
To start a blog, you need two things:
a. a domain name
b. a hosting service
Now, if you want start a blog just for fun or to express yourself or to create a portfolio that you want to share on your social media account, you can go for:
a. a free subdomain offered with the free plan of most of the blogging platforms,
b. free hosting services (like WordPress, Blogger, etc.)
But if you are more serious about blogging, if you want to create a professional blog, either for the purpose of monetizing it or to support your existing business, the minimum thing that you need is a custom domain.
You can purchase a dot com domain (which is the most preferred domain extension) for as low as $10, even less than that.
As for hosting services, you can start off with any of the free services available but eventually, you will have to move to a paid hosting plan.
Ok. Let us now move into the details of hos to start a blog.
How To Start A Blog (A Step-wise Guide)
The process of starting a blog involves various stages. These are as under:
Step 1: Pick A Profitable Blog Niche
What do you want to blog about?
If you want to create a blog for a already existing business, you can skip to the next step. Of course, your blog will be related ton your business.
But if you are just starting a blog and you want to make money from it, you have to think carefully before deciding what your blog is about to be.
You have to understand that when it comes to blogging to make money, you cannot just write about anything you want. Bloggers make money mainly by showing ads and/or through affiliate marketing. The amount of money you make through either of the two ways is directly proportional to how many people click on the ads that you display on your blog or make a purchase by clicking on the link shared by you.
This again is proportional to the the number of visitors that land on your blog.
So, you have to pick a niche that has a certain demand, a market; people should be looking for it. If you write things that people are looking for and get ranked, more people will land on your blog and there will be more scope of earning as there will be more chances of them clicking on the ads or making a purchase through the links you shared.
Some of the most profitable blog niches are:
Each of these niches or categories has many sub-categories and you can start a blog about any of those sub-categories.
For example, education is an extremely broad category. With thousands of courses/programs, colleges/universities, admission exams, etc. there is no dearth of topics to write about.
But rather than trying to write about everything, as a newbie, you can focus on a sub-category of education, say, MBA or Engineering. This will also help in SEO ranking of your articles.
Basically, choosing the right blog niche is extremely important. You should do enough research before picking one.
Step 2: Select A Domain Name
A domain name is the unique address of your blog. If you are serious about blogging, you must purchase a custom domain right at the beginning.
Now, why do you need a custom domain name?
For serious blogging, a custom domain name is a must because:
- It looks more professional.
- People trust examplesite.com more than examplesite.wordpress.com or examplesite.blogspot.com.
- examplesite.com is shorter than examplesite.wordpress.com. Hence, it is easier to remember.
- Custom domains get better exposure in search engines. Since, you want to monetize your site, this is extremely important.
- Having a custom domain increases the chances of getting Google AdSense approval.
So, what should you consider before buying a domain name?
There are a few things, actually.
- It should represent you. I mean you can always come up with a creative name for your blog but there should be a connection between it and your blog niche. That\’s why it is important to decide the blog niche first.
- The domain name should be short, simple, memorable, pronounceable, and easy to spell.
- Try to include keywords in the domain name. For example, Search Engine Land (searchengineland.com) is news website about Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). The domain name, as you can see, has \’search engine\’ in it. Likewise, MBAUniverse (mbauniverse.com) is a site about MBA Courses, Colleges, Exams, etc. The domain name has \’mba\’ in it.
- Check if social media handles for the selected domain name are available. This means if you have selected \’myexampleblog.com\’ as the domain name and it is available, you should also check if the handle \’myexampleblog\’ is available on Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media sites. the spelling should be the same across all the platforms so that your visitors do not get confuse.
- Try to get a dot com domain. dot com is one of the oldest and most popular domain extensions. When people type in the domain name of a site in the browser, they tend to use dot com at the end. So, it is good to have a dot com domain name.
But as you do your research, you will find most of the dot com domain names are already taken or are damn expensive. In such cases, you can go for other extensions depending upon your niche or even the country you are targeting.
You can use the free business name generators/blog name generators available online to search for a professional and creative domain name. Two of my favourite name generators are:
Once you decide the domain name and extension, and check availability of social media handles, it\’s time to purchase it. While choosing the domain registrar, check the following:
- Whether or not the registrar provides free domain privacy – some registrars charge you for that. What a shame!
- What is the renewal price? For some registrars, the domain registration price is low but the renewal price is extremely high.
Also check the overall review of the registrar.
I would recommend you go to tld-list.com and search for the domain name. If it is available, it will list out the domain registrars along with the price, renewal price, and other necessary details.
Step 3: Choose A Web Hosting Service
So, you have decided your blog niche and purchased a custom domain name. Now, you need to create your blog. For that you need a hosting service.
See, if you are a beginner and have no budget or if you are not sure about investing at this point, go for a free service. There is nothing wrong in that. You can always move your blog to a paid hosting service later.
And if you can afford it, go for a paid one from the beginning.
Let\’s look at each of these options.
Free Web Hosting
Many articles will scare the shit out of you saying why free web hosting services are bad if you are a serious blogger.
They will say things like:
- Free web hosting services provide limited storage.
- They provide limited bandwidth.
- There is almost no support for free hostings. So, you need to be technologically sound.
- There is no one-click WordPress or other app installations.
You can check out this detailed article on why these things do not matter when you are just starting. But here is a brief of the same:
- You don\’t need unlimited storage when you are just starting. You are not hosting a video site. In all likelihood, you will just have text files and images. If that\’s what your blog is going to have, it will take months to utilize even 1 GB of storage which many hosting services provide for free.
- You need unlimited bandwidth when a) your webpages are bloated and b) there are tens of thousands of visitors coming to your blog every month. You can always optimize your site and keep your web page size low.
And as for visitors, unless you already have a well thriving business, you won\’t have many people visiting your site when you have just started. Your posts should rank high enough to get visitors.
This takes time – most of the times months, sometimes even more than a year. Until then (and maybe even after that), you don\’t need unlimited bandwidth. Even 100 GB of monthly bandwidth will do which many provide for free.
- When you have just started, it is actually good to face technical issues once in a while.
First of all, if it is just a blog, you are not likely to face any high-level complicated issue that would require the intervention of a professional.
Second, at this point, you have nothing to lose. You can afford these technical issues. With scores of free tutorials and troubleshooting videos/articles available online, you can fix most of the problems on your own and learn a lot of the technicalities yourself.
This might sound like too much of hard work. But trust me, most of the things are not rocket science. And it will be helpful to you in the longrun. Even when your blog grows, you will be able to fix most of technical problems yourself. You won\’t have to rely on anyone and spend extra money on things that most of the times will keep you half satisfied.
- It is true that around 30% of all websites are powered by WordPress. It is the most popular CMS because:
a. It is easy to add/update content and manage the site using WordPress even for a layman. You barely need any technical knowledge.
b. WordPress allows to add plugins for every feature (like SEO, Membership, etc.) that you want to have in your site.
c. There are thousands of free themes in the WordPress theme repository.
d. There is an active community of WordPress users and developers. So, there is no dearth of support and documentation.
I am a big fan of WordPress. At the same time, I am also critical of it.
In the name of simplifying things, a huge business has been set up around WordPress (even though the software itself is free). WordPress has been marketed in a manner like it is the only feasible solution if you want to run and manage a site with having to deal with the technicalities.
With this particular belief becoming popular came in various solutions to host a WordPress site. It\’s true that you can install a WordPress site on a Shared Hosting plan of $3 per month. But in all likelihood, your site is going to be slow.
WordPress, with its server side scripts (it\’s powered by PHP) and tons of plugins that you end up using even though you don\’t need them, makes the site bloated. The result? It takes more time to load which is bad for SEO.
Of course, you can optimize your site to some extent. But the core technology powering WordPress remains unchanged. And coupled with it is the fact that the resources and infrastructure of Shared Hosting are shared by multiple sites.
So, not much can be done.
What\’s the solution then? You move your WordPress site to a VPS, Dedicated or Cloud Hosting Plan. You also go for a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Basically, you end of spending tonnes of money every month.
Do you want to go through all these when you are just starting your blog?
WordPress is a great CMS, but for smooth and speedy running of your WordPress site, you need to have a certain budget. I would recoomend you move to WordPress when you start earning through your blog.
What should you do then?
If you are just starting off and you don\’t have a budget, go for static site generators. There are many blog-friendly static site generators, like Jekyll, Hugo, and Gatsby. You can install them up on your computer (i.e. locally) and set up everything. Then you can upload all the files to a GitHub repository. It\’s free and each GitHub repository can have 1 GB of files.
Check Out The List Of Best Static Site Generators Of 2020 Here
Then you can connect your GitHub repository to a free static site hosting service providers, like Render or Netlify both of which provide 100 GB of monthly bandwidth.
When it comes to adding or updating content, you can do it directly on GitHub and the changes will be reflected automatically on your site.
This process might not be as user-friendly as using WordPress or any other CMS. But your website will load faster than than WordPress site hosted on a Shared Hosting plan. And I have tested it with multiple hosting providers.
Alternatively, you can connect your domain to your free blog on Blogger. However, Blogger sites do not look very professional.
Paid Web Hosting
Going for a paid hosting plan as a beginner makes sense only when you have a business well set up and/or you have a budget.
There are tonnes of options when it comes to paid hosting services. Since you are paying, you should consider the following before choosing one:
- Web Hosting Storage & Bandwidth: Make sure you get unlimited of both of these.
- 24X7 Customer Support: Make sure they are available 24X7 for technical and non-technical support via chat or phone. Also, check the customer support review.
- Malware and Spam Protection
- Easy Site Builders/One-Click WordPress/Other App Installation
- Automated Backups
- Uptime Guarantee
- Free Domain Name, Domain Privacy, SSL Certificate: If you are paying for an entire year, you should get all these for free.
- Money back Guarantee: If you feel (within a certain time) that the hosting service doesn\’t suit your purpose, you should be able to cancel your plan and get a refund.
- Monthly Plans: Let\’s say you realize it after the money back period that the hosting service doesn\’t meet your requirements.
I have personally used the following Web Hosting solutions:
- Cloudways: It is a managed cloud hosting platform. I used it for hosting a WordPress site and was extremely satisfied with it – it\’s fast and reliable. The plans start at $10 per month (billed monthly) and depends upon which hosting service you use (you can choose from Digital Ocean, linode, Vultr, AWS, and Google Cloud and they will set up everything for you).
- Digital Ocean: This is another cloud hosting solution that provides one-click installation of Content Management Systems like WordPress and Ghost. The plans start at $5 per month.
The problems with these two solutions is that you need to have a little technical knowledge to set up things. But I think it\’s worth learning because the sites hosted with these solutions are very fast.
- Hostinger: Of all the Shared Hosting plans I have used till now, Hostinger is the best. There were little issues in terms site going down or even low speed. In fact, Blogsperia, before moving to Ghost-Digital Ocean, was hosted on Hostinger. Never did I experience any downtime.
However, their customer support is pathetic. Their Shared Hosting plans start at $0.99/month for 48 months. The monthly plan, however, is quite expensive – $9.99/month.
- Namecheap: One of the oldest web hosting providers, Namecheap provides some of the cheapest plans. Their Stellar plan comes at $2.88/mo (billed monthly).
However, the sites hosted with their Shared Hosting plans could load terribly slowly at times. On the bright side, their customer support is extremely good.
Step 4: Create Your Blog
Shared Hosting plans come with cPanel from where you can install WordPress and various other CMSes, like Joomla, Drupal, etc. simply by clicking a few buttons.
However, you cannot install Ghost on a Shared Hosting plan.
If you go for a Shared Hosting plan, you will be given the credentials to access the cPanel once you make the payment.
Log in with the credentials and do the following:
- Click on the relevant option for one-click installation of apps. Namecheap cPanel looks like this:
Click on \”Softaculous Apps Installer\” under \”Exclusive for Namecheap Customers\”.
2. Click on the app that you want to install (WordPress, Joomla, etc).
3. Click on \”Install Now\”.
4. A new page will open. Enter the details in the necessary fields, like software version, installation URL, name of the site, email ID and password, etc.
5. Scroll down and click on the \”Install\” button at the bottom of the page.
It will take some time for the installation to complete. Most of the hosting services sends a mail to your registered email ID once the installation is completed.
a. The process may slightly vary from one hosting service to another, from one CMS to another.
b. If you have purchased the domain name from some other registrar (let\’s say you purchase the domain name from Namecheap and you are hosting your site on Hostinger, then first you have to point your domain name to Hostinger by changing the nameservers from your Namecheap dashboard).
For installing Ghost on Digital Ocean, read this detailed article on how to set up your Ghost blog on Digital Ocean. The article provides all the steps in details along with screenshots.
Step 5: Set Up Your Blog
Once your blog is created, visit the admin URL and log in with your credentials.
If it\’s an WordPress site, do the following:
- Set up your site title, tagline, WordPress address, site address, language, timezone, date & time format, and permalink structure (to Post Name)
- Upload favicon
- Delete the default content (Sample Post, Sample Page)
- Choose a proper theme for your website and delete unused themes and plugins.
- Install and set up Yoast SEO plugin.
- Create an XML sitemap.
- Set up Google Search Console.
- Set up Google Analytics.
Check Out The Important Things To Do After Installing WordPress
Most of the other Content Management Systems (CMS) give control over some these settings. The process may vary though. Otherwise, the default settings are like this.
For example, Ghost automatically create the sitemap of your site. The permalink structure is, by default, the post name.
Step 6: Start Creating Content For Your Blog
Now that your blog is up and running, start writing content for your blog. Here are a few tips for writing great blog posts:
- Do keyword research before starting to write. You need to know the target keyword – the exact phrase people are looking for and for which you want your article to rank.
- Do proper research on the topic before you start writing. Understand the search intent of your audience and make sure your content provides the exact information that your target audience is seeking.
- Know and implement the best on-page SEO techniques, like keyword rich titles, headings, sub-headings, meta description, alt tag (for images), etc.
- Use properly optimized images/GIFs/infographics in your content.
- Write short paragraphs and sentences. Make sure the readability is high.
- Use tables, bullet points and numbered lists wherever possible.
- Use SEO-friendly URLs.
- Add outbound links in your content.
- Link internally, i.e. to other pages on your blog. Use keyword rich anchor text.
- Use LSI keywords and secondary keywords.
Step 7: Promote Your Blog
Creating quality content alone is not enough. You have to promote them as well. So, create social media pages for your blog and share your articles. Share them from your personal social media accounts as well. Interact with other bloggers and your audience in the process and build authority.
So, this mostly covers how to start a blog. I hope the article answers questions that occur to most of the budding bloggers.
I understand certain portions of this blog need more clarity, like setting up a free blog using static site generators or setting up Google Search Console/Google Analytics for your blog. All these are covered in separate articles the links to which are provided here.
I will keep on updating this article with new article links relevant to it. So, you can bookmark this page.
I hope the article gives you a clear idea about how to start a blog. If you face any difficulty, feel free to contact me. I will be happy to help you out.