Did you know that anybody can start a blog? You don’t need to be a fantastic writer or an expert in your industry to get started. You just need to have a passion for writing and a goal to work towards.
You really can write a blog about anything, whether it’s:
- Health and Fitness
- A hobby (photography/crafts/reading)
- Personal musings
Blogging is so popular these days that everybody is getting on board to share great content with the world.
You can be a part of that!
If you want to start a small blog just for personal use or for somewhere to keep family and friends up to date on what you’re up to then you can create a blog for free over at WordPress.com. It’s super easy to get started and you can be up and running in minutes.
For those that want a more professional appearance, with a proper domain name and to reach a wider audience with the aim of turning it into a business then you need to have your own website or blog on your own web hosting account.
Read on to see how to can start your own blog quickly, easily and cheaply.
Choose a name and a niche for your blog
Before we get started with building the blog you need to pick a name and a topic for your blog.
Will you be writing about your travel adventures?
Will you be writing about your journey to a healthier lifestyle?
Will you be writing about your business?
Whichever you choose you also need a name to go with it which will help in deciding which domain name to get.
Choosing a name for your blog shouldn’t be a quick decision. This name will be your branding and what you tell people to type into their browser when they want to find you. Try to go for something short and snappy without being complicated. Let’s take the following example:
Clive’s 1 Year Travel Memoirs – clives1yeartravelmemoirs.com
This isn’t an awful name but it is a bit long and a pain to type in to the browser. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. It also has “1 year” in there. What if Clive decides to travel for 2 years? You can’t just rename a blog and carry on as normal. Let’s try something else:
Carry On Clive – carryonclive.com
Now that’s more like it. Not only does it sound good when you tell someone about it, you’ve also placed yourself in the “carry-on luggage” niche or even “carry on” as in “carry on travelling”. Whichever way you use it you can be sure that it will be easy to type and easy to remember.
(Psst, if your name is Clive then snap this up quick. At the time of writing, this domain is available.)
Getting a domain name
Now that you’ve chosen a name for your blog it’s time to go out and get the domain name.
There’s a lot of domain extensions (the bit on the end) out there such as .net, .com, .org etc. Generally speaking you want to choose one that will target your audience.
Define your audience
If you want to target a global audience then a .com or .net will work for you. Always try to go for .com first in this case as it’s the most widely known.
If you want to target an audience in a particular country then pick the domain relevant to that country. For example, .co.uk is relevant to an audience in the United Kingdom.
Avoid confusing domain names
Try to avoid hyphens and numbers as this can get confusing for people to remember.
The next stage of this guide will show you how to get hosting which comes with a free domain name however if you just want the domain for now then you can register one at these places:
Buy web hosting for your blog
In order to have your blog online and accessible to the world it needs to be hosted by a web hosting company. That is, you’re essentially renting a small space on the internet to put your blog.
Finding a reputable company is important and with the many thousands of web hosts out there it’s a monstrous task to decide which one to use. I won’t bog you down with details about bandwidth, add-ons and data centre locations but know that if you’re just starting out then most plans will be suitable for you.
For those just starting out, I recommend Bluehost. They’re a widely used and recommended company with good quality hosting, stellar customer service and they offer a free domain with their cheap hosting plans.
To get started, head on over to Bluehost and click the pretty green “get started now” button.
Next you need to select the hosting plan you require. Honestly, the cheapest “Starter” plan will more than likely be sufficient however the larger plans are still great value for money. Once you’ve chosen your plan, click “select”.
You will now be asked to enter a domain name. If you already purchased one then type it into the box “I have a domain name”. If you want to take advantage of the domain name that BlueHost offers then go ahead and type the domain name you want into the “new domain” box.
Once you’ve done this, click “next”.
You will now be told whether the domain is available or not. If it is then you are asked to enter your account information. Enter your personal details, choose the features you want and enter your payment information.
On the “package information” section you will see optional extras. These are:
- Account Plan – Ensure the plan you require is selected. A longer term such as 36 months may be selected so make sure you pick the one you’re comfortable with. The 12 month one is usually sufficient to see if you want to continue blogging or not
- Setup Fee – This is free. Nice!
- Primary Domain Registration – Free again! This is your domain name to be registered
- Domain Privacy Protection – This is recommended. It’s only a small amount extra per month however it will protect your personal info. By default, anybody can search who owns your site and will find your name, address, email and phone number. Protection will give your domain some generic info not associated with you
- Site Backup Pro – Backing up your site is very important. It’s up to you whether you should choose this however I will go over ways to backup your blog for free later in this guide
- Search Engine Jumpstart – This is essentially an extra that will submit your site to search engines and help you with SEO. Again you can get this if you want but I’ll go over a free way to get your website listed in Google for free later
- SiteLock Security – Find – This will give you malware scanning and a layer of security features. I’ll say again, feel free to go for it however I will mention free ways to protect your website later on
- Google Apps for Work – This added extra will give you access to use Google Apps with your domain name such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive. It’s up to you if you want this but it’s not necessary
Once all your details are added go ahead and click next to confirm payment.
One of the most popular, easiest and fastest ways to setup your blog is to install WordPress. WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows you to manage your blog using a swish interface and doesn’t require you to know how to code.
WordPress itself is free and most bloggers use it. It’s versatile, easy to use and can be used as pretty much anything with its thousands of plugins and themes helping you to create a beautiful and functional site in no time.
You should now be on your BlueHost Dashboard. Under the “Hosting” tab, click on “cPanel” and find the “WordPress” button under “Website Builders”. Click this and you will go through a quick and simple setup process.
When asked which domain you want to install WordPress on, choose the one you entered when you signed up, e.g. carryonclive.com.
That should be all there is. You should now have WordPress installed.
Now you can log on using the username and password plus the URL provided. The URL is usually the domain followed by “wp-admin” for example;
Log on and you will see the WordPress Dashboard for the first time:
Get your permalinks sorted
Before you go any further you want to make sure you get your permalinks sorted. A permalink is a “permanent link” which is essentially the link to a page or post on your blog. By default, a link to a WordPress post looks like this:
This type of link is not informative at all and refers to the ID of a post. Let’s fix this:
In your WordPress Dashboard, go to Settings -> Permalinks:
It’s up to you which type of permalink you choose here. To be honest, this is a hotly debated subject and I won’t go into it. On Couple Castaway we use the Post Name options. This will create a link like the following:
That’s much better! Click Save and your link structure will be ready to go.
Install a WordPress theme
OK now we’re at one of the sexy bits! Be aware however that choosing a theme is very hard to do due to the amount of quality themes out there.
You have a few options here. You can:
- Find a free theme in the WordPress Repository – In your WordPress Dashboard, click on Appearance -> Themes -> Add New. You can then to a search of all the themes available for install which have been approved by Automattic (the makers of WordPress). These themes are all free so browse away!
- Buy a theme from ThemeForest or MyThemeShop – ThemeForest has a collection of premium WordPress themes available which have many more features and are usually much prettier than free themes. MyThemeShop is a company that specialises in beautiful themes that are fast and optimised for advertising and lead generation (great for niche sites)
Once you have found a theme you like, go ahead and install it! If using the WordPress Theme Repository you can just click Install on a theme you like and it will be installed for you. If you have downloaded a free or premium theme from elsewhere then click Upload Theme and add the theme through the upload interface.
Note – Be sure to look for a responsive theme. A responsive theme is one that will automatically resize depending on if you’re using the site from a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Most themes will advertise themselves as responsive making it easier to choose. Get 50% off any theme from MyThemeShop using code – COUPLE50
By now you have WordPress installed with a theme you like. Now we’ll look at plugins.
Which WordPress plugins to use
I’m going to start this by saying that the following plugins are recommendations. You may not need all of them and there are certainly many alternatives to the plugins listed below. I only recommend these as I use them myself and can say I’m happy with the way they perform. Also this list is a basic list of plugins to get you started. It’s not a comprehensive list of plugins you critically need or a guide on how to configure them.
OK here are my recommendations (they’re all free by the way):
- Antispam Bee – Simple and popular spam fighting plugin which is regularly updated
- Broken Link Checker – Checks your blog for broken links and missing images
- Contact Form 7 – An easy to use form builder for contact forms, signup forms etc
- Digg Digg – A social sharing plugin so readers can share your posts to social networks
- Google Analytics by Yoast – Helps to add Google Analytics to your blog. Google Analytics is a comprehensive traffic analysis tool (which is free) which can help you to see what keywords are working and where your traffic comes from
- W3 Total Cache – Highly popular plugin to help speed up your blog and increase performance
- Wordfence Security – A comprehensive anti-virus and firewall plugin to protect you from malicious activity
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – The most popular Search Engine Optimisation plugin for WordPress. This is an important plugin and helps Google to index your site properly as well as adding a sitemap
You can install these by going to Plugins -> Add New on your WordPress Dashboard and searching for the plugin names.
There are premium alternatives to the plugins mentioned above but they’re probably not needed just yet. However if you’re curious then the following are very popular:
- Monarch Social Sharing Plugin by Elegant Themes – An all-in-one social sharing plugin to help your readers easily share your content. This plugin has powerful features such as pop-ups, widgets and beautiful buttons
- Sucuri Malware Detection – Professional malware protection and detection with secure monitoring and clean-ups. This is by far the best security plugin and service you can buy
- BackupBuddy – Highly recommended backup plugin to easily and quickly backup and restore your blog
A little house-keeping
I know you’re keen to get started but there’s just a couple more things that I recommend you do before you unleash your blogging goodness to the world!
Change your default blog category
By default when you publish a post in WordPress is becomes part of a category. Categories are used to bunch together related posts. For example you could have a category of “Destinations” and your travel destination related posts could be categorised under this.
Upon installation WordPress creates a category called (oddly enough) “Uncategorized”. You can and should rename this to something more friendly such as “Travel Blog”. This is just to get you started, later on you can create more categories such as “Travel Tips” and “Reviews”.
In your WordPress Dashboard go to Posts -> Categories. Click on “Uncategorized” and change the Name and Slug fields. For example:
Note – A slug is what is added to the end of the URL to display the posts in your category. This cannot have spaces and should not have capital letters. Lower-case and hyphens work well for slugs.
Delete the sample page and comment
Upon installation WordPress will add a sample page and comment so you can see what they will look like. You can now safely remove these as you will be adding your own content.
Click on Pages -> All Pages. Hover over Sample Page and click Bin.
Click on Comments and do the same to the sample comment. If there is no comment there, move on.
Change default admin user
When you installed WordPress you should have either specified or been given a decent username and password. If your username is “admin” then you need to change this as it presents an easy target for hackers.
Go to Users -> Add New and add the details of a new administrative user. Give it a username which is NOT admin. Your name is sufficient or you can go all super secure and use a combination of random numbers and letters. Choose a strong password and create the User.
Now log on as the new user, go back into Users and delete the admin account. You will be asked to delete or attribute the existing content to a different user. Choose your new user and confirm deletion.
Make sure your settings are correct
I won’t go into too much detail here as it’s pretty straight forward. In the Settings menu, go through each item (General, Reading, Writing etc) and ensure you’re happy with the settings. Anything you’re unsure about? Leave a comment and I’ll help you out.
Go forth and blog
It’s time, young apprentice.
Go ahead and click on Posts -> Add New to start unleashing your blogging goodness all over the world! May your posts be viral and shared relentlessly! May you be amazingly popular and remember this guide when you’re a super famous blogger!
You can now start adding pages, posts and images till your heart’s content.
Please do leave a comment or contact us if you have used this guide to create a blog. We’d love to keep up with your progress!
BONUS EXTRA TASKS FOR EPIC BLOGGERS
The above guide will get you started in creating your own blog and helps you to build a solid foundation to work upon. But what if you want more? Read on to find out how to supercharge your blog to the next level!
Utilise Social Media
Chances are that you have a Facebook and Twitter account for your personal life. Have you thought about having accounts for your blog too?
Building a successful blog will need to have a social media presence and a following. By using your accounts to share other peoples amazing content you will also have the pleasure of others sharing your content in return. Follow like-minded people and those in your target audience. Interact with them and build a following in order to build your empire.
I can’t tell you which social network to sign up to as only you know what works best for your niche. A travel blog for example absolutely should be on Instagram. A butcher? Not so much. Some of the top social networks are:
Build your audience – Start an email list
If you’re already thinking of turning your blog into a business then you need to get started on building up your email subscribers. Building an email list and sending out newsletters is easier than ever and for this we highly recommend Mailchimp.
In order to get a sign up form on your blog and link it to Mailchimp you can use a plugin called WP Subscribe from MyThemeShop or a freemium alternative – MailChimp for WordPress Lite.
Both are excellent plugins and I can vouch for them as I currently use them both.
Add your site to Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Do you want to know how people find your site and where they come from? Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools will give you this information.
Head on over to the Google Analytics page and sign up or sign in using your Google account. The site will walk you through adding your site to your Google Analytics Dashboard but in summary, you will be given a tracking code that you need to add to your blog.
When you have the code, go to your WordPress Dashboard and click on “Analytics” (if you haven’t already installed Google Analytics by Yoast then do so now).
Add your tracking code and click save. Then go back to Analytics to verify and you’re done. Wait a few days for the data to accumulate and watch your traffic (hopefully) grow!
Do the same on Google Webmaster Tools to get your site listed there too. Verification in Webmaster Tools is simple if you’re setup in Analytics first.
Using these tools together will give you a massive tool-set for finding errors in your site and helping you to track your keywords and finding where your traffic comes from.
BACKUP YOUR BLOG
Yeah, I used caps there. This is extremely important as there are many ways you can lose your blog to corruption or deletion. You could be victim to:
- Dodgy plugin or theme updates
- You broke something (it happens)
- Your host loses your site
If you lost your blog and haven’t taken a decent backup, can you really be bothered to start again?
Taking regular backups is important so you know that in the event of a disaster, you can restore it.
You can always use a premium industry leading plugin such as BackupBuddy however there is an excellent free alternative called BackWPUp which I also recommend. Their free version of the plugin will allow you to schedule full and database only backups to several locations including Dropbox.
Get a backup system in place and configured as soon as you can to protect yourself against data loss.
Phew… I think that’s probably enough for now. Are you still reading?
If I can offer one last piece of advice, it’s to:
Keep up the momentum. Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.
You need to post regularly and consistently with good informative posts to get anywhere in blogging. Keep at it and don’t fall at the first hurdle. You won’t get a lot of traffic immediately and likely for months. But don’t lose hope. Everyone seems to blog these days and although it’s difficult and takes a long time to stand out from the crowd, you will (if you post great content) get your well-deserved traffic eventually.
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