It’s cheaper than ever to start a blog.
You can set one up for less than the cost of a Starbucks Venti Mocha Frappuccino. You can be up and running in literally less than 30 minutes.
Yet there’s a dizzying array of options, not to mention technical jargon that may sound like a foreign language to you. Fortunately, I’ve been through this before and can help you.
You see, I’ve owned a web hosting business for over 20 years. I’ve been developing websites for more than 25 years.
So I might know a thing or two about creating a blog.
I’ve helped Fortune 500 companies such as Chase, IBM, Minolta, GM, Comedy Central, LensCrafters, and Nielsen. BUT I’ve also helped thousands of individuals starting out… just like you!
I also know how to create profitable blogs, since I recently sold mine for $6 million.
But first things first. Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Let’s talk the first step in your journey and that’s starting a blog with this free guide.
How to Start a Blog TL;DR
I created this ultimate guide from my years of experience and formatted it in a way that anyone can understand.
- Pick Your Niche
- Get Web Hosting
- Install WordPress
- Install a WordPress Theme
- Install WordPress Plugins
- Create Content
Obviously, this how-to can’t cover every aspect of what it takes to create a successful blog, but at least I will get you started on the right path.
Taking action for anything in life (be it losing weight, starting a business or learning a new language) is taking action.
So take that first step in your journey and create your blog today.
If you’re looking to cut to the chase, I recommend Bluehost as the one-stop-shop for your free domain name and web hosting needs.
Step 1 – Pick Your Niche
In my opinion, picking what to focus on is the hardest part of creating a blog.
Especially if you’re just starting out.
If you’re even reading this, I’m assuming you at least have some idea. Otherwise, why are you here, right? I’m also assuming most of you reading this want to create a blog to make money. You want to start a side hustle.
But even if you’re just doing this for fun or another personal reason, what I’m going to tell you will still apply.
However, keep in mind blogging isn’t a business unto itself. A blog is a means to an end, not the end. You’re creating a blog to let the world know your expertise in whatever niche you choose.
If you’re creating a business blog, my primary suggestion is that you stay close to that niche. Don’t veer too far off that topic. So no stories about your cat on your fitness blog unless you’re somehow teaching cats to get buff.
Though perhaps you need some help on this subject. If so, I recommend the book Choose by Ryan Levesque.
It’s a Transformational Journey
The most popular topics for blogs involve transformation.
You’re writing to tell your story and help others learn how they too can transform from where they currently are to your end result.
Typically, these topics include:
- Health and Fitness
- Money and Finance (my previous business)
- Love and Relationships
You can also choose to write about business-to-business related topics, but most consumer-based blogs do better. They also tend to be more interesting than a post on some new widget from ACME Inc. that is 2 mm smaller and lighter than before.
How Do You Know You Have a Great Niche?
As in the 1967 movie The Graduate (yeah, I know the movie is old), it’s one word. But no, it’s not “plastics.”
If you’re doing research on your topic and find little to no competition, that’s a bad sign.
It’s time to do some market research. Using Google Search is a great sign to see if anyone is already writing about the niche you may want to enter. It doesn’t cost you anything to do this and you can immediately figure out who’s your competition.
Gone are the days of looking for that unique business idea that no one has ever done. If there are no other businesses in that space, it’s for a good reason. You won’t be able to make money from it.
While possible, rarely today will you find an untapped niche.
What you need to do is find a niche that is moderate to very popular and execute better.
- Be better at writing content than the competing bloggers.
- Be better at promoting your content.
- Be better at monetizing your blog.
- Be better at building an audience.
- Be better with your blog’s graphic design.
- Add value where others are not.
When I started my blog Investor Junkie, there were already many other investment blogs. In fact, I had a previous business partner tell me it was a horrible idea to start another investment blog.
His answer was “There are already too many”.
The fact was, all those other sites stunk. I knew I could execute better than them, and I did. Which allowed me to eventually sell my blog.
The competition spoke in technical terms that the average Joe or Jane couldn’t understand. So I created a website that could speak to that audience and educate them on the new investment services available.
Now that you have your niche sorted out, next up is to buy your web hosting and domain name.
Step 2 – Get Web Hosting
“Wait…You mean I should pay for hosting?!”
There are many free blogging options, and they’re fine… if you aren’t a business. But using one of these suggests you aren’t professional. It’s pretty much the same as putting an AOL email address on the side of your business van. Don’t do it! Don’t be Karl.
With the free blogging services you can’t:
- Use your own domain name.
- Run ad banners and limited how to make money.
- Look professional to your visitors.
- Get search traffic because Google won’t see it as a trusted source (most critical).
Successful bloggers pay for web hosting.
As I said at the beginning of this how-to, blogging costs about the same as going to Starbucks once per month. Skip that cup of coffee and invest in your business instead!
When I first started over 20 years ago, web hosting could have easily cost hundreds per month, taken hours to set up and required you to be a computer whizkid.
Today, you can buy a domain name and web hosting and be on your way in under 30 minutes.
Let’s now discuss the basic concepts of what exactly is a domain name and web hosting?
What’s a Domain Name and Web Hosting?
The best analogy is to think of a domain name as a phone number, and web hosting is renting an apartment.
You can rent a basic studio apartment in the city, but you can also rent a five-bedroom mansion out in the countryside with three acres of property.
If you’re just starting out, I recommend going with the studio apartment.
It’s going to be a little cramped, but you’ll save more money.
The first step then is to pick out a domain name for your niche.
Pick a Domain Name
What is a domain name?
Think of it as your calling card. It’s the modern “phone number” on the internet. No one in the world will have the same domain name as you have.
So make that domain name reflective of you and your ideas. It could be your own name (like this very website, LarryLudwig.com). It could be your company name (like mcdonalds.com). Or it could be some made-up name unique to any language.
It’s your choice!
Being creative and unique is key. You can use the tool below to begin your search.
Get Your Free Domain with Bluehost
Get your domain name FREE with your web hosting at Bluehost.
Enter a possible name without an extension (ie .com) to search multiple TLDs.
- Short and Sweet – Avoid AVeryLongNameThatNoOneCanRemember.com
- Avoid Hyphens and Underscores – Don’t buy domains with hyphens or underscores for your main address. However, I do recommend buying these in addition to your non-hyphenated version to make sure no one else steals your traffic.
- Go for the .com Extension if possible – There are many other domain name extensions (such as .co, .net, .info, etc.). Avoid them like the plague if possible for your domain, since they may confuse inexperienced internet users.
- No Spaces Allowed – You can’t have a space in a domain name.
- Easy to Spell – Is that with one “L” or two? People are horrible spellers; make sure your domain name is simple to spell.
- Easy to Remember – The domain should be catchy and something that others will remember.
- Make Sure the Domain Can’t Be Something Else – Therapistinabox.com (Therapist In A Box) isn’t a good domain name.
Examples of Bad Domain Names
The classic bad marketing story involves the Chevy Nova automobile. General Motors introduced the popular U.S. vehicle in Mexico but couldn’t understand why the sales were so bad.
They didn’t realize that “no va” in Spanish means “no go”!
Don’t be like GM and buy a domain name that can have alternative meanings.
Here’s a list of domains you do NOT want to emulate.
- Itscrap.com – IT Scrap
- Whorepresents.com – Who Represents
- Penisland.net – Pen Island
- Expertsexchange.com – Experts Exchange
- Speedofart.com – Speed Of Art
- Nobjs.org – North Of Boston Jewish Singles
- Gotahoenorth.com – Go Tahoe North
- Lesbocages.com – Les Bocages
- Americanscrapmetal.com – American Scrap Metal
- Masterbaitonline.com – Master Bait Online
- Therapistinabox.com – Therapist In a Box
- Teacherstalking.org – Teachers Talking
- Childrenswear.co.uk – Children’s Wear
If you found that perfect domain name and want to create a business around it, make sure it’s not already trademarked. Just because the domain is available doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already trademarked the name. If your business is based in the U.S., use the trademark search database.
It used to matter to Google what the domain name was for a topic. So if you wanted to write a blog about bowling balls you would have done best buying a domain name with those two words in it (i.e., bowlingballs.com). You also would have automatically ranked higher for the term “bowling balls.” Today, not so much.
So while it would make sense to buy a domain name related to the topic you picked, you no longer have to pick one just to make sure you rank in a Google search. You could use some made-up name.
My Web Hosting Recommendation
For the beginning blogger, I recommend going with what’s called “shared hosting.”
Think of shared hosting, just like renting an apartment.
You are sharing space on a web server with others. For you, the benefit is shared hosting is it’s really cheap!
For the blogger just starting out, I recommend Bluehost.
They have been around since 2003 and host over 2 million websites.
Bluehost offers these features:
- FREE Domain Name
- FREE SSL Certificate (otherwise known as https://)
- Automatic 1-click WordPress Install
- 24/7 Support
- 30-day money-back guarantee
Select the Basic Bluehost option to get the cheapest plan.
Step 3 – Install WordPress
In order to create content on your website, you need software that allows you to easily make new blog posts.
When I first started you literally had to build your own software to do this. But not today.
In internet-speak, software used to create and manage content is called CMS (content management systems). There are hundreds of free and commercial CMS programs. The problem is, which one should you choose?
I recommend using WordPress.
It’s very popular and free to use, has many add-ons and works with pretty much everything out there. In fact, according to WordPress, the software currently powers more than 32% of the internet.
When using Bluehost as your web host, setting up WordPress is easy! It’s a one-click install.
Bluehost can install WordPress with one click via your control panel. You can read up on how to do this in Bluehost’s online tutorial.
Step 4 – Install a WordPress Theme
If your domain name is your phone number and your hosting is renting an apartment, then your WordPress theme is your interior decor.
This is the front-facing portion of your site that everyone sees.
And as with meeting someone for the first time, first impressions count!
Studies show most users spend less than 15 seconds on a website before deciding if they want to stay there.
If you’ve surfed the web enough, I’m sure you’ve seen some very similar-looking sites. Why is that?
It’s because they’re using the same WordPress theme!
So be wary of picking a generic-looking or default WordPress theme. Choose one that stands out from the crowd. This is a simple but effective way to brand your site.
That’s why I recommend StudioPress, which makes the WordPress theme Genesis.
StudioPress offers many themes for many different types of blogs. You can tailor the themes to your specific needs and customize them to your exact liking (for the advanced user).
I’ve been using StudioPress themes for over six years. I recommend Genesis to everyone.
In fact, you’re looking at a Genesis theme right now on this very site. (It’s a customized version of Authority Pro, in case you’re wondering.)
StudioPress themes are easy to install and customize and very search engine friendly. They’re my go-to WordPress theme.
Step 5 – Install WordPress Plugins
WordPress out of the box is just OK. This is where plugins come into play.
There are literally thousands of WordPress plugins. In fact, I’ve developed a few myself.
Though, not all plugins are created equal.
Most are free to download and use, but in many cases, you get what you pay for. There are commercial plugins as well. Which ones should you use?
These are the plugins I recommend for all installs. (I also have a more comprehensive list of all the plugins and services I use.)
- Yoast SEO – A very popular plugin that helps with your SEO (Search engine optimization) and social media.
- MonsterInsights – You need to track the visitors to your blog. This plugin works with the Google Analytics free service to give you the valuable insights to improve your blog’s content.
- OptinMonster – If you want more signups to your mailing list (and who doesn’t?), then you must use this plugin.
- Social Warfare – Make it easy to share your posts via social media. This plugin helps your blog posts go viral.
- BackupBuddy – Don’t rely on your web hosting provider to make backups of your site! Make sure you are in control and have off-server backups. Don’t lose all of the hard work you did to create your blog. You’ll thank me later.
- WP Rocket – How long it takes to load your web page is a critical marker with Google… and your users! This plugin speeds up your website.
Step 6 – Create Content
The last and most important step. Start writing! You’ve gotten this far. Take action and create some content.
What specific content you should write is a whole different subject that I won’t cover here.
Like any new venture, this is a long game. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see instant results. I wouldn’t expect real results for the first two or three months until you get in your groove.
- Write to your audience’s needs, not yours (however, they might be the same).
- Research popular search terms.
- Write on a regular basis. Start off with a goal. I recommend a new post once a week.
- Focus on quality, not quantity. Write epic posts that have at least 2,000 words of in-depth insight, rather than a whole bunch of useless 400-word articles.
- Promote. If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Post on social media, figure out SEO and create a mailing list so your readers can receive updates.
How to Start a Blog FAQs
How much does it cost to start a blog?
How do bloggers get paid?
How much money can you make from a blog?
If you made it till the end, you are one of the selected few. You have completed the first step in a journey that can be life-changing for you.
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