How to Start a Blog in 2019

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How to start a blog guideIn 2019, it’s easier than ever before for anyone to start a blog and make it profitable.

This is true even if you aren’t tech savvy, don’t know how to code, or understand the first thing about web design.

With a little bit of guidance and some basic resources, you can have your very own personal or professional blog up and running less than 30-minutes after you finish this article. (But there’s no need to rush it).

I’ll hold your hand and walk you through every part of the process while helping you avoid the common mistakes that stop most new bloggers dead in their tracks.

Sound good?

Then let’s dive in and get started.

P.S.  If you’re curious about how much it will cost to start and maintain your blog, the simple answer is $0 to $60/year. I highly recommend that you opt for paid domains and hosting, but you have the option to start for free to test the waters. 

Why Start a Blog? What’s In It For You?

When I first started this blog, my aims were simple.

I wanted to teach people how to navigate the tricky (and often less-than-ethical) world of blogging and web development.

With time, my site began to pickup steam, attracting new clients for my company and giving me the opportunity to quit my day job and pursue blogging full time.

However, there are a myriad of different reasons you might decide to start a blog, beyond making enough money to hand in your two week’s notice.

For example:

  • A consistent blogging habit will make you a better writer
  • If you find the right niche, you can make a full time passive income
  • A high-traffic blog makes an excellent addition to your resume
  • You have an opportunity to share you knowledge and expertise
  • You can make important connections and grow your network
  • It’s FUN!

I could drone on and on about the benefits of blogging until the sun sets and the moon rises, but I think you get the idea.

The bottom line?

Blogging is awesome and it has the power to change your life.

Assuming you want to take the plunge and start your blog today, here are the exact steps you need to take to get started. 

Step 1: Decide – Create Free Blog or Self-Hosted Blog?

Blogging platformsAs I mentioned in the introduction, starting and maintaining an average sized blog will cost between $0 and $60 a year.

So yes, you can start your blog for nothing. However, as with most things in life, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Let me explain…

Yes, you can create a blog for free on many different platforms, such as:

But before you go smashing the above links and clicking “sign up”, read the rest of this section! 

Sure, these platforms are great for testing the waters and solidifying some of the ideas you might have regarding content and design.

However, if you are serious about starting a profitable and successful blog, you should avoid these platforms at all costs.

Here’s why:

These “free” blogging platforms have crippling limitations and totalitarian authority over your content.

They are, first and foremost, businesses. Their main only purpose is to turn a profit by using your website to sell ad space while placing limitations on your account, so you are eventually forced into a “premium” or “unlimited” blog plan.

Plans that are, more often than not, wildly overpriced and woefully under-equipped.

Without their expensive upsells, your account will be limited to a handful of generic designs, a “maximum” number of daily visits, limited storage, and all but nonexistent customer service.

And let’s not forget that these platforms have total control over your content.

So if you post something that one of your friendly neighborhood website moderators doesn’t like, your entire site (and all of your data) can be deleted in an instant.

Think about that for a second.

You spend months hustling and grinding to grow your blog. Slowly but surely, you acquire a decent number of loyal visitors and subscribers. Then the money starts to roll in from sponsored posts, paid ads, or your own products.

Things are going great. 

Then you accidentally violate your free web provider’s Terms of Service (see all limitations for Blogger.com and WordPress.com) and your entire online business is irrevocably lost to the trash bin of the interwebs.

Blogger the blog has been removed

Or

WordPress.com blog has been removed

Do you really want to deal with this?

I hope not.

This is why all of the most successful bloggers started their own self-hosted blog. 

It’s cheap, grants you access to your own personal domain name (e.g. myepicsite.com vs. myepicsite.blogging-platform.com), and you’ll have no limitations.

Oh, and you’ll also have access to premium website templates and design plugins to ensure that your new site looks like something created by a pro.

The bottom line?

Bite the bullet and fork over a little cash to get your blog started the right way.

A few months from now, you’ll be glad that you did.

Step 2: Get a Domain Name, Web Hosting & Setup Your Blog

With all of the anti-free-blog preamble out of the way, it’s time to get down to the good stuff and go through the exact steps you need to follow to build and launch your self-hosted blog today. 

To get started, you’ll only need two things:

  1. A Domain name – The web address of your blog (mine is www.websitesetup.org)
  2. Web hosting – A server to store your blog files and keep it online for others to browse and read at all times.

And with a few quick clicks you can purchase and setup both of these things as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Sign up with Web Hosting

Full disclosure: To keep my site up and running, I use affiliate links for some of the products mentioned in this guide. This means that I earn a small commission (at no extra expense to you) anytime you make a purchase using one of my links. Thank you for your continued support! 

Of the countless web hosts on the market, only a small handful are even worth considering.

Of those, only 3-4 offer truly exceptional services for the price.

And of those, Bluehost is the only hosting service that I recommend to first-time bloggers.

The reason is simple.

Bluehost is cheap, fast, reliable, and armed to the teeth with a slew of free goodies that will streamline your blogging experience and make your life infinitely easier.

Not only do they power more than 2,000,000 websites worldwide, but all of their packages come with a 30-day money back guarantee, exceptional 24/7 live support, and a free SSL certificate (a $60+ bonus).

Oh, and they also offer one click installs, making it dead simple to get your blog launched in a matter of minutes.

You can sign up with Bluehost here.

Bluehost homepage

Simply click on the “Get Started Now” button and choose a domain name.

2. Choose a Domain Name

Unlike many of the more profit-centric web hosts who charge upwards of $14.99/year for a new domain, BlueHost gives new customers a free domain name for the entire first year of their web hosting service.

choose a domain name

If you’re serious about building a strong online presence and visitors from all over the world, you’ll want to get a domain name with a .com, .net, or .org, extension (here’s a guide for choosing a domain name).

For those of you who are unable to claim your first choice of domain name, spend a few hours brainstorming ideas with friends and family. Think out loud and experiment with different words and variations to find the most brandable domain name for your new site.

3. Choose a Web Hosting Plan and Finish Your Registration

Now that you’ve decided on your domain name, it’s time to select your web hosting plan, finish your registration, and begin your forays into the wonderful world of blogging.

As a general rule of thumb, I recommend that you opt for the BlueHost “Prime” plan, since it comes with a free SSL certificate from “Let’s Encrypt”.

This will keep your visitor’s information secure, improve your engagement (no one wants to spend time on a website plagued by a giant “Not Secure” warning), and earn you a few extra brownie points with Google.

Choose your web hosting plan

Since the renewal prices for BlueHost’s Prime plan are a bit pricier than their introductory rate, I recommend that you purchase as long of a subscription as possible to make your budget go as far as possible.

Once you’ve chosen the plan that best suits your needs you can finish off your registration and checkout using a credit card or PayPal.

And there you have it! You are now ready to launch your blog instantly (instead of waiting 2-3 days for activation like you would with many of their competitors).

UPDATE: I also made a step-by-step guide for signing up with Bluehost for those who need that.

4. Setup and Launch Your Blog

Once you’ve completed the registration process, it’s time to setup an admin panel (or cPanel) password–make sure it’s as strong as possible to keep hackers at bay–and login to your Bluehost admin panel via my.bluehost.com.

Once you are there, you should be able to see this screen:

Bluehost welcome to WordPress

Congratulations! If you see this, it means that your blog is already setup.

However, there are a few things that I’d recommend you do to ensure that it’s visible as soon as possible…

  1. Go to Settings > General (left sidebar)
  2. Add Site Title and Tagline (your blog name and tagline)
  3. Change your site address to your domain name. In my case, I’m using websitesetup-start-blog.com
  4. Add your email address (so you can reset your password later)

WordPress General settings

Once you’ve completed this, launch your blog by clicking “Coming Soon Active” at the top of WordPress dashboard and then “Launch Your Site”:

Bluehost launch your blog

Now that you’ve launched your blog, you’ll be able to see what can only be described as a skeleton of a website.

This is where it gets fun.

With your domain name, web hosting, and blog setup, it’s time to get down and dirty and start customizing the aesthetic of your website.

Step 3: Design Your Blog and Make it Look Awesome!

The fastest and easiest way to customize your blog and make it look absolutely awesome is to use the free themes provided by the WordPress theme library.

1. Choose a Theme and Layout You Like

To install a new theme, go to your website’s dashboard, then go to Appearance > Themes, then click Add New from the top.

theme selection

From the search results you can test out each theme to see how you like it by clicking on “Live Preview”.

Once you find the perfect theme for your new blog, you can activate it from either the Live Preview (just click “Activate the Theme”) or from the main search area by clicking the “Activate” button.

As soon as the theme is activated, it will be installed on your site.  You’re now ready to start posting viral content and generating raving fans.

P.S. If you don’t know which theme to choose, I’ve compiled a list of most popular WordPress themes.

2. Manage Your Blog’s Content (Blog Posts & Pages)

When you’re first getting started your site will be adorned with little more than the default “Hello World” post.

To add your first post navigate to Dashboard > Posts > Add New.

From here, you can add the title and start writing amazing content for your new blog.

WordPress add new post

With the new Gutenberg editor, you can add different types of content blocks into the editor by clicking on the “Add Block” icon.

Since I don’t have the time to cover every type of block included in the new editor (there are quite a few of them), I implore you to try it for yourself as most–if not all–of them are self explanatory.

Next, you’ll want to add a featured image to spruce up your post and add some visual flair for your readers. To do this, simply click the “Featured Image” box on the right hand side of your screen, upload your image, and click “Save”.

Once you’re satisfied with the quality and layout of your post, hit the publish button, sit back, and prepare to take the blogging world by storm.

You have officially published your first post!

If you want to add a welcome page on the homepage of your site instead of a list of recent blog posts, all you need to do is go to Pages > Add New and then add the title and content.

Then rinse and repeat this process to create another page for your blog list. Choose an appropriate title (like “blog” for example), and then hit publish.

With both pages created, go to Dashboard > Settings > Reading, then in the “Your Homepage Displays” option, check “A static page”, select your welcome page in the “Homepage” setting and your blog page in the “Posts page” setting, then hit save.

Your welcome page will now be published and ready to greet your new visitors as they arrive.

3. Create a Menu

One of the most important aspects of good user experience on any new blog is navigability, a.k.a. the ease with which your new viewers can find the content for which they’re searching.

And the most important part of navigability is a well designed and up to date menu.

Luckily, creating a menu inside of WordPress is pretty straightforward.

To get started, simply go to Dashboard > Appearance > Menu.

From here, create and add a new title for your main menu and then, in the left pane of the menu editor, check the pages you want to appear on your new menu. Click “Add Menu”.

The checked pages should appear on the right pane of the editor and you can now rearrange their order by dragging the labels up and down.

WebsiteSetup menu

Once you’re happy with your menu’s structure, you can display it on your website’s main header by checking the “Primary” location checkbox (the name depends on the theme you previously selected) in the menu settings and hit save.

4. Install Plugins (They’re Free)

Plugins are one of the simplest (and cheapest) ways to extend your website’s functionality and increase the traffic and profits you generate each month.

Luckily, there are (quite literally) thousands of free plugins and libraries inside of WordPress and countless more on other external sites.

Let me give you a quick example with one of the most important plugins that you can download for your new site… A contact form.

First, you’re going to go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add new and search for “Contact Form 7.” Then, click “Install” and activate the plugin from the search results.

WordPress plugins

Once the new plugin is activated, it will create a new menu called “Contact” in the dashboard. Click it to access the contact forms generated by the plugin and then click “Contact Form 1” from the list to edit the new form.

At this point, the contact form is effectively up and running, however, you’ll want to make sure that the mail template is properly functioning so that you actually receive emails sent from the form.

To do this, go to the “Mail” tab and change the “To” value to the address where the email should be sent.

Next, you’ll need to copy the “shortcode” found just under the contact form’s name… It should look something like [contactform-7 id=”25″ title=”Contact form 1″].

After you have copied the shortcode, create a new page called “Contact Us,” and simply paste the shortcode in the content.

Then click “Publish”, sit back, relax, and check out your new content form in all of its glory:   

Contact form

If you are looking for more plugins that will improve the use and functionality of your blog, here’s a list of best plugins.

5. Customize Your Blog

To really add another level of flair and personalization, you’ll want to download another plugin that will allow you to change your website’s fonts.

Repeat the same steps listed above for the plugin “Easy Google Fonts” and then go to the theme customizer.

The customizer gives you the ability to customize your theme and preview it in real time.

Whether you want to change your site identity, colors, menus, widgets, homepage settings, or additional CSS, the customizer gives you almost total control over your website’s design.

With Easy Google Fonts installed, you’ll notice that there is a new option in the Customizer: Typography.

This setting allows you to change the fonts on your site to your liking and grants you a greater level of authority over your site’s aesthetic.

I encourage you to spend some time playing around with the Customizer until you have a strong grasp of the options available to you. Then, once you’re happy with the new look of your site, click “Publish,” and double check the changes in a new tab.

WordPress site customizer

To make it easier for your readers to share your articles on their favorite social media channels, you’ll also want to install a social sharing plugin that will allow your viewers to seamlessly promote your new content from your posts and pages.

Just do a quick search in the plugins page with the keyword “social share” and you’ll be presented with hundreds of results. Install any plugin that strikes your fancy and set it up by going to its settings in your dashboard.

If you want to further customize your blog, read this WordPress Customization Guide.

6. Create a Personal Email Account

Having a domain-based email account like [email protected] boosts the professionalism of your website and increases authority with your readers.

Luckily, BlueHost includes the ability to create a custom email account from your domain as a part of your web host account.

To access this feature, simply login to your BlueHost portal, click “Email & Office” in the left menu, scroll down and find “Basic Email”, and then click “See Options”.

From here, you can create your custom account in a matter of seconds.

Bluehost e-mail

Once your email account is created, click Email Accounts > Access Webmail to access the webmail application.

After confirming your credentials, you’ll be off to the races and you can now manage, send, and receive emails from your new domain-based account.

I’d encourage you to create an “About” page and add your new contact information so that all emails sent on your new site will be sent to the account you just created.

If you get stuck, here’s a guide for creating a custom email address for your blog.

Congratulations, You’ve Made It

Phew!

That wasn’t so difficult, was it?

At this point, you should have your very own fully functioning blog up and running.

But this is just the beginning.

Use the other content on my website to take your new blog to the next level and be sure to take few days to learn all the ins and outs of your new WordPress blog.

If you get stuck, don’t hesitate to email me and I’ll do my best to help you out.

P.S. If you liked the guide, please don’t hesitate to share it on Twitter or Facebook. 


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36 comments

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  1. Avatar

    I am a rock and roll in thusiast born after World War II and have a particular interest in analyzing rock and roll songs as pertain to my personal Spiritual interests. My blog will be to Share insights and thoughts about rock and roll narritave. I want to have a blog that can contain the actual songs and their printed words that i am Analyzing . Can I include those songs and narratives in my blogs for people to listen to and read with out encroaching on copy rights? how do I add those videos or songs to my blog so the music can play and friends can listen to the song? I am an Amazon music subscriber if that helps.

    • Avatar

      Hey Harry, songs and their lyrics are protected by copyright. If you want to use them on your blog and make money with them, you likely have to get a license. If you only want to use them for educational purposes, you can often do so under fair use. I recommend you read up on it and see if it applies to your particular plans.

  2. Avatar

    Hello. Just starting my blog experience and going back and forth between a wordpress.com site and wordpress.org self-hosted site like you are encouraging us to do. Two major things you didn’t mention with your own doing your own thing – security and backup. And I could probably throw in some other important things that I would have to do on my own without any previous knowledge. Why didn’t you mention these important issues? I am not saying I COULDN’T learn to do them, just they seem to be very important and I wouldn’t want to screw something up and get hacked, lose my content, etc.

    I asked a long time friend who has created and maintained many blogs and sites over the years, a real “wordpress nerd” and he told me, without hesitation, go with a standard wordpress.com site. He told me to concentrate on quality content and not all the other ongoing things associated with a custom site. Any comments about this?

  3. Avatar

    Hi,

    Great article. There is something I don’t understand though.

    You said not to use WordPress as a blog, but then we are setting up the blog with WordPress?

    Also, can I do it from GoDaddy, which is where I bought my domain?

    Thanks so much!

    • Avatar

      Hey Hector, your confusion comes from the fact that there are two different version of WordPress: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. You can learn more about the difference here: https://websitesetup.org/wordpress-com-vs-org/.
      As for GoDaddy, you should definitely be able to set up a WordPress blog with them. They might even have one-click installation as shown in the tutorial. Good luck!

      • Avatar

        Hey Nick Schäferhoff, I love the way you explain. But I’m not a techie person. I think need a developer to create a blog site. This guy offered me he will create a blog site only for $5. Should i try it?

  4. Avatar
    Isabel van Zuilen

    Hi! Probably a silly question but… if I click ¨Publish Blog¨ but the site is not live yet, nobody can yet read that blog yet right?

    I can first make sure it looks good on the website before I make the website live?

    Thanks so much 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • WebsiteSetup Editorial
      WebsiteSetup Editorial

      Hi Isabel, that’s right – nothing will be visible until you launch the site, even if the post is “Published”.

  5. Avatar

    Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the post. Very helpful. My question is, is it possible to incorporate a paypal smart button on my website? if yes, can you give me a step by step guide.

    Thanks.

    • Avatar

      Hey Chidi, it is absolutely possible to include a PayPal button on your site by adding a piece of script to it. However, the implementation depends on what kind of site you are running. Therefore, I can not give you specific advice without knowing your setup. However, you can find more information here: https://developer.paypal.com/docs/checkout/.

  6. Avatar

    Hi Nick

    Thanks for the above article – very helpful. I have a quick question which you may or may not be able to help with. I am launching a product in the next six months and want to get a head start by starting a blog to get some regular traffic around the topics that this product supports. My question is, should I be launching my blog on the domain I have for the product (which the product name) or should I launch a separate domain focused on the topic areas and then use that to convert customers as and when my product launches?I felt it would be a bit random starting a blog under a product brand which no one has heard of, but I am just conscious of any SEO equity that I may lose by not having users on the site directly.

    Hope that makes sense!
    Thanks
    Kim

    • Avatar
      Nick Schäferhoff Verified

      Hey Kim,

      thanks for the detailed comment. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

      I would suggest to start the blog under the main domain name that you will use in the end. This way, you will generate SEO value for it and not for a separate entity. I also personally find it a bit weird when a company’s blog presence is on another domain than their main site. It gives an incoherent impression. If you are not sure about using the product name as your main domain, you could consider using a company name.

      Hope this helps!
      Best,
      Nick

  7. Avatar

    Thanks for this write-up. Please I want to know if i can use use WordPress.org on a .com or .net domain. OR is it mandatory for me to buy a .org domain to be able to use WordPress.org?

    • Avatar
      Nick Schäferhoff Verified

      Hey Joyful, you are free to use any domain you want with WordPress. WordPress.org only refers to the self-hosted version as there are two different kinds (the other being located at WordPress.com). WordPress is a CMS that anyone can download (on WordPress.org) and build a website with on their own server. The server, on the other hand, can be connected to any domain that you own. I hope this clears things up.

  8. Avatar

    Hello,

    I can’t sign up with BlueHost and receive the following error when I try to : “result.code.harddecline”. Do you have an idea what might be wrong?
    I ll be grateful if you answer me!

    • WebsiteSetup Editorial
      WebsiteSetup Editorial

      Hi Wiss, sounds like your payment was rejected. Get in touch with Bluehost’s customer support and they’ll be able to tell you more.

  9. Avatar

    Hello I’m little bit confused how I can earn money by blogging ???
    Because I’m entirely new to this field and have no idea about this..
    I’m a student and interested in running these kinda articles ..
    Just let me know, is earning possible???

  10. Avatar

    Hi

    Thank you for this detailed guide. I am a little confused and would love if you could help clarify the following points:

    You end step 1 by recommending not using the free options, instead we self-host the blog. Then by point no.4 or so, in step 2, we are using bluehost, which is also showing all snapshots of wordpress. So, we’re still using wordpress under bluehost?

    I’m quite confused by that and am really sorry if sounds like a stupid question. It would really help to understand that bit a little more in detail, if possible? Apologies if I’m making you repeat yourself through the lack of my understanding and I truly appreciate your time, if you are able to get back.

    Thanks and best wishes 🙂

    Shaeemaa

    • WebsiteSetup Editorial
      WebsiteSetup Editorial

      Hi Shaeemaa,

      No worries! The confusion comes from WordPress having 2 separate versions – the free website builder at wordpress.com and wordpress.org, which is self-hosted & more powerful.

      • Avatar

        Would you recommend setting up first on WordPress.org and incorporate it into bluehost?

        I’m also confused by this but that’s because we aren’t on your level of knowledge!

        Many thanks

        • WebsiteSetup Editorial
          WebsiteSetup Editorial

          Hi Josh,

          You can’t really set it up on wordpress.org because it needs hosting to work. So the first step is getting a hosting plan and then installing WordPress through the host.

  11. Avatar

    Please help me out… Am very good with HTML and CSS coding and I want to start a blog with it without making use of WordPress…
    How possible is this??

    • Avatar

      Hey Ernest, you can absolutely set up a blog with HTML and CSS if you update it manually. However, you will not be able to use functionality like commenting and other dynamic features that make blogs more interactive. A system like WordPress includes all of this out of the box and also makes other things about starting and running a blog easier. But the choice is up to you.

  12. Avatar

    Hi, I’m not savvy ok but here’s my question. You started off saying that WordPress can drop you if u violate their terms yet BlueHost that you recommend uses WordPress. Im confused. I thought you recommended not to use WP? Also, yes, also lol, if I were to start a blog via BH and WP, is it still my property? Like if I were posting pics of my art for example, would they then own that content?

    • Avatar

      Hey Tara, thanks for the question. Your confusion stems from the fact that there are two different versions of WordPress – WordPress.com and WordPress.org. You can learn about the difference here: https://websitesetup.org/wordpress-com-vs-org/. The version you install in Bluehost is the self-hosted version that gives you the freedom to do anything you want with your site. It is also completely your property and anything you upload to it stays yours and does not become property of the host or anyone else. Btw, the latter is also true for WordPress.com. They don’t get ownership of your work either.

  13. Avatar

    Bluehost with WordPress is a greater combination suitable for Bloggers who wish to start blogging. Your article has all the necessary details required for a newbie to start their own blogging. One thing I want to add here is, Mention the list of important plugins like Yoast, Akismet, WP-Optimize, W3TC, WP Forms so that visitors can easily get to know the important things to complete their blog setup.

  14. Avatar

    Hey, how do I create a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page. How do I know what information to put in there that would be legal or not or is it just standardized information, even though am from the Caribbean and want to start my own blog.
    I love the content you have prepared here and is very vital information and as soon as I get my Blog up and running can’t wait to share your info with my audience. Await your reply.

    • Avatar

      Hey Ayanna, there are generators for both available online. Unfortunately, I only have experience with a German service but I’m sure you can find the right solution for you.

  15. Avatar

    Hello,

    I am curious about a blogging career but I am suffering to my financial problem and I am not able to invest anyone bucks to start a blog with a paid platform. So currently, I am using blogger to express my expertise of writing skill.

    My question is how this helps for me or not.

    Thanks

    • Avatar

      Hey Dhirenda, it might help build your skill set and make you a better writer. You might also be able to use your existing posts as a portfolio to apply for blogging jobs. However, I would advise you to consider moving over to WordPress.com. The free plan also lets you blog for free and you can later export your content to a self-hosted site once you can afford one. Best of luck!