Starting a blog is now easier than ever. You can pretty much start blogging instantly using a number of options we will look at in this article on how to start a blog.
The first question you should answer is:
What are you going to blog about?
Choose a subject
Is your blog going to be:
- A personal blog? – like an online diary.
- A place to write about your favourite hobby? – maybe travelling, sports teams, video games or anything else that floats your boat!
- A place to promote a business? – people often want to know how to start a blog and make money. It could be your own company or one that you work for. You will want to monetize your blog if this is the case by displaying ads or selling products. Or at least push customers to where they can buy from the business.
Whichever of the above it is, one thing is very important. You should be passionate about the subject you are blogging about. This is important for several reasons:
- If you are passionate about a subject you will enjoy writing about it. It should never feel like a chore when writing about your subject.
- People reading your blog will see how much you care about the subject and will respect your opinion more.
- You will be able to engage enthusiastically with visitors who comment on your posts.
- You will be able to provide good knowledge on your subject.
- For areas you are not an expert in you will be willing to do research to find out more.
Once you have your subject picked you should have a good look at your competition.
Literally millions of blogs are online and it’s highly likely your chosen topic is already being discussed.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t join the party!
Research your subject
Google your subject and see what pops up. The blogs you find might not be very impressive. Great! This is your opportunity to corner that market. Maybe some of the blogs are brilliant. But you can still offer your own take on your subject or look at it from a different angle.
Go to Google Trends, enter your subject and have a look at what people are searching for in your niche. You can filter your search for different demographics to narrow it down. This will let you know which areas of your subject are interesting people right now. It will also throw up some great blog post ideas.
There are some other great ways to find popular searches for your subject. These will help you decide what you want to write about and will shape the content of your blog:
- Quora – Find out what questions people are asking relating to your topic.
- Social Media – Have a look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all of your favourite social media channels. Search for your subject and find out what people are talking about.
- Blogs – As mentioned above, check out your competition. This will give you some great ideas for your blog.
- Uber Suggest – Type in your keyword phrase and Uber Suggest will let you know how many people search for that phrase every month. Better still it will give you data on other related keywords.
- SEMrush – Similar to Uber Suggest, SEMrush provides you with lots of keyword and competitor data.
Gather as much information as you can on your chosen subject. This will help you build your content which is the most important part of any blog. Now we need to find a way of getting your great content out there.
Choose a blogging platform
If you want to know how to create a blog for free then you are spoilt for choice when picking a platform. There is a plethora of free (and paid) options available. Let’s take a look at how to start a blog using one of these popular platforms:
WordPress.org is a free Content Management System that allows you to set up blogs and websites with ease. This is by far the most popular option out there and powers over 30% of ALL websites online today.
It’s popularity is down to the flexibility it offers the user. Unlike other popular platforms, with WordPress.org you own your website. You can choose your own domain name and pick a hosting package that suits your needs.
Thousands of design templates (themes) and addons (plugins) are available to download free. For a blogger this means you have tonnes of design and functionality options to choose from.
Adding posts, pages, images, navigation, contact forms, SEO and everything else you need in a blog is an absolute breeze with WordPress. It also has a massive user community which really helps if you are in need of support.
With this being a self hosted option the costs can be very low. You will need a domain name and hosting to get your blog online and sites such as GoDaddy and Bluehost offer packages for as little as a few dollars per month.
Because WordPress.org is by far the most popular choice for blogging we will look at this platform in more detail later in this article.
WordPress.com shouldn’t be confused with WordPress.org. They are both based on the same technology. But while the .org version is self-hosted and free, the .com version is hosted by owners Automattic and will involve a monthly payment for most options. A free option is available but limits your storage space. You do get a free domain but you have to use a wordpress.com domain name.
The paid versions offer a good option for the casual blogger as the set up is easy and because it is WordPress it is simple to use. Plans range from $5 to $40 per month.
Wix is a very good online web builder. It has some excellent features such as drag and drop page elements, pre-made templates and a load of design options. Like WordPress.com, your website is hosted on the platforms server and it will cost if you want some of its better features.
It has a basic free option with similar storage and domain name limitations as WordPress.com. Wix paid plans range from around $5 to $25 per month.
Like the options we have already looked at, Squarespace can be used to build any type of website. But it has some helpful built in tools specifically for blogging. When creating a new page you simply pick the blog page option and you are ready to go. It has blog settings for SEO, RSS, media and some more advanced blog options.
Squarespace also has some really nice premade blog templates that save you time designing your blog. It has four pricing options ranging from a basic plan costing $12 per month up to an advanced ecommerce plan for $40 per month.
Weebly is a website builder with over 12 million registered users. It is known for its ease of use and quick set up. A free version is available along with a few paid versions ranging from about $6 to $22 per month.
For the average blogger, the free version should have enough on offer to get you going. If you want your own domain name, more space and eCommerce options then you will have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Blogger is one of the oldest blogging platforms on the market having started out in 1999. It has since been bought over by Google and continues to be a good free option. Fans of other google tools may see Blogger as a secure option that already integrates with the other tools.
However, Blogger doesn’t quite stand up to the other blogging platforms in terms of design and options. It has less templates and design features than most blogging platforms. But it is still a decent option if you want to create free blogs that are lightweight and simple to use.
Medium has a good reputation in the blog industry as a solid platform with a strong community base. Signing up and using Medium is similar to signing up to a social media network and publishing posts. You can’t use your own domain name and instead will have an address similar to your twitter or facebook url i.e medium.com/@yourname.
For those who are not interested in designing a site and just want to write content then this platform is for you. If you need lots of design flexibility and your own domain name then you are probably better passing on Medium.
Tumblr is pretty much a social network platform. When you sign up you are given a tumblr.com web address. It is very easy to use and a good option if you are well versed in writing posts on social media. You can upload video and photos with ease.
This option is fairly limited though when compared to the competition. So it really depends if you want a blog that you can fully control and own. Or you just want somewhere where you can quickly post up your content for people to see.
Hosting and domains
If you are going down the WordPress.org self hosted route then you will need a domain and hosting.
As mentioned in the previous section this doesn’t have to be particularly expensive. Hosting companies such as GoDaddy and Bluehost offer domain name and hosting packages for around a few dollars per month. This can include packages specifically for WordPress websites. The hosting company installs the software for you so you can start your blog right away.
You can also install WordPress manually onto your server by downloading the zip file from the WordPress website and by following the instructions.
Picking a good domain name can be tricky. Millions have already been registered meaning you will have to think of something really unique or pay a little more through a domain name auction site like GoDaddy Domain Auctions or Sedo.
While you are looking at domains and hosting I also highly recommend you look at either purchasing or manually installing a SSL certificate for your blog. This provides extra security for your website and if nothing else gives your visitors peace of mind that they are on a secure website. A small padlock is added before your URL in the browser address bar to show you have the certificate. Your URL also changes from http to https (s standing for secure). This is essential if you are looking to sell products on your website.
Your hosting company can do this for you for a reasonable price or you can install a free SSL certificate using a website such as SSL For Free.
We discuss this further in our “What is a URL?” article.
Setting up your blog
Setting up your blog on the platforms we looked at earlier is pretty straight forward. But the amount of options at your disposal will depend on the platform you have chosen. Some will allow you to pick a premade design and that will pretty much be it. All You have to do is start adding your content.
Those who need more flexibility and the option of lots of addons will likely pick WordPress.org as their blogging platform. Out of the box WordPress is ready to use. But you will probably want to add a nice theme (design) and some extra functionality (plugins).
Thousands of free WordPress themes are available to install and this can be done with one click in your WordPress dashboard area. Go to your WordPress admin > Appearance > Themes. Any theme you have installed will appear here. Normally by default the latest themes developed by WordPress will already be here. Click install on whichever theme you want to switch to.
To install a new theme click on “Add New”. You will see the WordPress free theme library with filters for latest,featured, popular and favourite themes. It is also possible to filter by features such as “blog” or you can search the entire library by using the theme search.
Here are just a few excellent free themes you can install:
After installing your theme your design will change to that theme instantly. Some tweaks are still required however, with each theme having its own customizer options. Go to Appearance > Customize and you will be taken to a live design editor. Although this varies from theme to theme, most will give you the options to change fonts, colors and layouts. The customizer will also allow you to add your own logo or site title. If you have any additional CSS you wish to add then that can also be done here.
There are even more free plugins than themes available to install. Again this is a very simple process. In your admin area go to Plugins and you will see all of the plugins already installed on your website. If any need updated then you will be prompted to do so here.
To install a new plugin click “Add New”. This opens the free plugin library where you can look at featured plugins or search for something more specific to your needs. Click “Install now” then “Activate” and your plugin is installed. Each plugin has its own options which can be accessed in your WordPress admin menu.
Some of most popular free plugins are:
- Yoast – An excellent SEO plugin that helps you optimize your content for search engines.
- Smush – This plugin compresses all of your large images, reducing your page loading speeds and keeping Google happy!
- Elementor – Page builder plugins are huge on WordPress now and they make building great looking web pages so easy to do. Elemetor is probably just about the leader in the market.
- Contact Form 7 – Contact forms are essential for communicating with your website visitors. This plugin has millions of active installs due to its ease of use.
Other Admin Settings
The admin area of your WordPress website has other very important settings that need to be looked at before you begin adding your content. In your admin go to settings and you will find:
- General Settings – This is where you can set your site title, site address, admin email, language, time formats and membership settings.
- Permalinks – WordPress allows you to set your URL structure. This is where you can make sure your website has nice web addresses.
- Reading Settings – This is where you set how your homepage and blog displays. You can also edit your search engine visibility here.
The WordPress admin has many more options available. To familiarize yourself I would recommend looking at the support documentation at WordPress.org.
Prepare and create content for your blog
Now that you have everything set up, it’s time to move on to the most important part of your blog – the content.
UX Design (User Experience Design) methods can help you prepare your content by allowing you to understand your audience better. It should be noted that for smaller blog sites some UX methods may not be needed. There are many UX design techniques than can be used but some of the most useful are:
You will likely have more than one category for your blog articles. Possibly lots. You might also need sub categories or pages then pages for products and so on. Before you know it you have a website that can be confusing for visitors to navigate.
Card sorting is a simple process of writing all of your page titles onto little notes and laying them all out on a table or up on a wall. Sort out what should be at the top level, then second level and so on. This gives you a clear picture of how your navigation should work.
Customer journey maps
A visual representation of how a visitor moves around your website will help you identify navigation or layout issues. On a large sheet of paper you can map out how a visitor gets from one point to another on your site. If there are any pain points for the visitor then your map should show exactly where these occur.
Grab a pencil and a few sheets of paper. Draw where you want your logo, menu, blocks of content etc to go on your web pages. No need to think about colours or any design elements at this stage. Wireframes help figure out where different elements should be based on user needs.
Wireframes are great for figuring out how your website will work for the user before you actually start to build anything. This can save a great amount of time and effort in the long run. It’s much easier to change things around on a bit of paper than changing lots of code or web page layouts.
At this point you should have a good idea of what you want your website to do.
Researching key phrases for your topic using SEO tools will help shape your content further and help you write articles relevant to your audience.
Creating content relating to your niche should come naturally. If you have done your research you already know your audience and the type of content they are interested in. But just writing the content isn’t always enough. Your content should be readable and it should be optimized for search engines.
A fantastic tool that helps you achieve both is Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress. When you are creating or editing pages and posts Yoast adds additional options below your content. You can add in your keyword and Yoast will tell you how to optimize your content based on that keyword.
Additionally, Yoast also scores your content readability and gives you instructions on how to improve it. It’s all very simple to follow advice and achieving a good score for your SEO and readability will vastly improve your performance in Google searches.
Add content to your blog
Adding Pages and Posts
Adding pages and posts are pretty much the same process in WordPress. One important difference with posts is that you can create categories for your posts. Editing pages and posts is as simple as adding content to a Word document. You can add text, images, embed videos with ease. The new Gutenberg editor makes it easier to create blocks of content.
Alternatively, if you want more complex layouts you can use a page builder plugin such as Elementor or Beaver Builder. Page builders have premade templates and a host of design options to enhance your web pages.
Navigation is going to be important to your website visitors, particularly if you have a large website with lots of varied content. Thankfully, adding navigation menus to your WordPress website is very straight forward.
In your admin area go to Appearance > Menus. All of the pages, posts and categories you have created can be dragged over to create a new menu. You can then sort them into top level or sub page items.If you set this and save it as your Primary menu then this will be your websites main navigation. Some themes options for further menus if necessary such as a social media menu that you may want to add.
Marketing your blog
Adding great interesting content to your lovely looking blog is a great start. But it’s not enough. Getting people to your blog is not easy especially if you have lots of strong competition. A marketing strategy is a must if you want your blog to succeed.
A good start to marketing your blog is setting up Google Analytics. This needs to be set up right at the start so you can gather useful data from the off. It’s a free tool that will help you understand your visitors much better. You can find out where in the world your website visitors come from, what technology they are using and what source they come from i.e google, other websites or social media channels.
Setting up Google Analytics is as simple as adding a small piece of code to your website…..
Google Console gives me more detail about my website visitors coming from google search. You can find data on the exact phrase people are typing into Google to get to your website. This is a great way to see how well your SEO is performing and where you rank for your keywords.
Seeing as you are going to be writing relevant content for your blog, you will be essentially doing content marketing already. But many other content marketing strategies should be used in conjunction with your blog. Some popular methods are:
- Guest Blogging – Writing blog posts for other highly visited blogs is a great way to promote your own blog. Many blogs invite guest posters to submit content. Just make sure you add a link back to your own blog.
- Social Media Marketing – A great way to connect with your audience is through the popular social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Millions of potential customers use these media platforms all the time. So make sure they are aware of your blog.
- Video Marketing – Video is the fastest growing media platform online with YouTube receiving over 2 BILLION logged in users each month. Post some great helpful videos that lead back to your blog and you will see the benefits.
- Email Marketing – sending emails to customers is a great way to leverage your content marketing campaigns. Customers who have opted into your emails have already shown they have an interest in your blog.
Increasing the number of inbound high quality links to your website is a factor for improving a website’s search engine ranking. It’s a good idea to wait for natural links where another website likes a piece of content on your website and links to it. There are other methods for building links such as asking for them, leaving comments on blogs or forums and writing blog posts as mentioned above.
We hope you have found this article on how to start a blog useful. Blogging has grown massively in recent years as businesses see the opportunities it offers. It also remains a great tool for the casual blogger. As it popularity grows, the amount of great blogging tools and platforms increases, making it easier all the time for us to create great blogs.