Did you know that you could start a blog and have it up and running in 20 minutes or less? And even more surprisingly, without any help?
I know this might sound impossible, as it did to me at first, especially if you’re not a techie. However, starting a blog has never been easier.
In fact, the developments have been so remarkable such that all you may ever have to do to create a blog is merge a number of pre-made blogging tools.
I’ve put this post together to help you through the whole process - from picking a domain name to publishing your first blog post. And as I’ve mentioned, no technical skills are required.
But, before we get to the nitty-gritty, have you thought about why you need a blog? What do you hope to achieve with it?
If you are a freelance writer like me, you want your blog to be the platform you use to showcase your writing skills and attract freelance writing clients.
As a prospective blogger, your aim is to use your blog to express yourself to a larger audience on a subject you are both knowledgeable and passionate about and hope that by doing that, you’ll be able to make money online.
And if you run a business, a blog is the tool you use to market your products and services to online buyers.
Your domain name is your unique identifier on the web that sets your site apart from other sites in cyberspace.
It’s what makes it possible for search engines and online visitors to find your blog online, the same way your first-time home visitors need your home address to find your house in your neighborhood.
Having said that, there is more to a domain name than just being an identifier. It’s crucial to the success of your blog and a lot of thought should go into choosing one.
So, how do you arrive at the best domain name for your blog? Here are a few tips.
Firstly, Use keywords in your domain name because they are both user-friendly and search engine-friendly.
For instance, my domain name is www.writingdoozy.com. From the word “writing” a search engine or an online searcher will immediately tell that my blog has something to do with just that—writing.
Secondly, stand out by making your domain name unique and catchy, hence brandable. It’s not easy to be unique, especially with so many domain names already taken. Research all domain names in your niche so that you can be in a position to angle yours differently.
Thirdly, make it short. A short domain name is more memorable.
Fourthly, don’t use hyphens. Hyphenated domains are suspect because they have been associated with spam and phishing scams in the past.
Finally, stick with .com as your domain extensions. The newer extensions like .tech, .fashion or .review are not as credible.
To find a domain name, there are various registrars that sell them for a small fee of between $9 and $24. I recommend Bluehost for domain names.
As part of a special thank you to my readers, however, you get a domain name for FREE! Read on to find out how in step 2.
Check below to see if the domain name you want is available.
Once a domain name is in place, you need to find a reliable web hosting service.
In a nutshell, web hosting is what makes your site accessible over the internet. A web hosting provider uses a server to host your site’s files so that they can appear online when people search for them.
I bolded the word “reliable” to underscore how much you need to get web hosting right.
The brute fact is that not all web hosting companies offer reliable services. Choosing the wrong hosting company can cost you in the following 4 ways:
I’ve personally tried several web hosting companies but the one that stood out for me has been Bluehost. They offer excellent service and their customer support is unparalleled.
WordPress too recommends Bluehost. To get Bluehost hosting, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Visit www.bluehost.com and click on the “Get Started Now” button.
Step 2: Select the “basic” hosting plan on the new page. I believe the basic plan is okay when you're just getting started (unless you already have a ton of traffic).
Step 3: In the “sign up now” window, key in your domain name under “new domain” to get it for free and then click “Next”. I assume that at this point you have a domain name in mind.
If you already have a domain name, key it in under the "I have a domain name" and click next.
Step 4: On the next page, provide your account information
Step 5: Provide your package information. I recommend that you go for the 36 months option because it is the best value.
Step 6: Add your billing information. Read the terms of service in the fine print before you confirm and submit your details.
Step 7: Finally, once the transaction has been completed, you’ll be required to create a password.
With a domain name and a hosting plan in the bag, it’s time to select a blogging platform.
Blogging platforms are the core blogging software that builds and power sites and can be grouped into 3 categories.
I’ll briefly describe each and then explain why WordPress is the best fit for you.
In this option, both the platform and the domain name are totally free. However, that is as far as the positives go.
You have little control over a free site, customization is limited, and blog monetization options are highly reduced.
Unless you want to be a hobby blogger, this is not the right platform for you.
Here, you start paying a monthly subscription fee for using the platform after your trial period expires. The company host your site and gives you a domain name (you may use your registered domain name).
Although a freemium platform has more and better features than a free platform, you still don’t get the control, flexibility and functionality that you would want in a blog.
It’s also not the best platform for building a brand.
As the name suggests, you download the blogging platform and host it yourself.
Whereas you’ll need to register a domain name and pay for hosting, you have total control of your site and you can tailor it to your taste.
WordPress.org is by far the most used self-hosted platform and from experience, I can’t think of a better platform that I’d recommend.
WordPress.org is not only free and user-friendly, but also flexible and friendly to search engines.
You can create a WordPress platform from your Bluehost account.
Assuming that you’ve created your password in Step 3 above when you finish signing up for a Bluehost account, a “Congratulation!” page will appear with a “log in” tab at the bottom.
When you log in with your new password, Bluehost will display a number of themes on the new page. Pick one to install WordPress.
After installation, a “Start Building” tab will appear. When you click on it, you’ll be redirected to your WordPress site.
Check your email account for your WordPress site login information.
I mentioned that you could choose a theme later. This may be the right time to do it - after you've log into your WordPress dashboard.
WordPress has an impressive collection of both free and paid themes, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular.
To choose a free theme, sign into your WordPress account to access your blog dashboard and then hover over the “Appearance” tab and choose “Themes”. A number of themes will appear including the one you chose when you were installing WordPress.
Peruse them and click on activate when you find something you like.
Having said that, free themes are too basic. They lack the aura of a professional and sophisticated theme. I would advise you to go for a premium WordPress theme. I personally have used and like the Genesis Framework.
You should only use free themes when you're on a tight budget.
All in all, a good WordPress theme should have the following features.
To determine whether your theme is responsive, access your website using different devices and see how it looks.
After your theme is active, it's now time to add important plugins to your WordPress website.
Without plugins, your site will lack important features and functionalities. If your site was a smartphone, the plugins will be your apps.
WordPress has thousands of these plugins in its directory and several third-party sites also create and sell WordPress plugins. What plugins you need depends on the specific features and functions you wish to add to your site.
You can access WordPress plugins from the “Plugins” tab on your WordPress dashboard.
I could recommend lots of plugins. However, I’m only going to recommend a few that are most important to help you get started.
Your visitors won’t find out much about you or your products by just visiting a blank website. That is why you need to create separate web pages. Here are important pages that you should seek to create:
To create these pages on WordPress, click on the “Pages” tab on your admin dashboard.
Since a “Contact” page is different, you’ll need a plugin like contact form 7 from the WordPress directory to create one.
At this point, you should be ready to find blogging ideas, start writing and publishing posts!
And don’t forget that your first post is your most important post. You never get a second bite of the cherry with many online visitors. Therefore, make it so good that they’ll keep coming back.
I’ve written a detailed article on how to write blog posts that I’m sure you’ll find useful.
How easy was that?
As I said, you can create your blog in 20 minutes or less. I hope that this guide will help to finally actualize your dream of starting a blog. If you have any question, please contact me or comment below.