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Nick Schäferhoff
Editor in Chief
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How to start a blog

In 2020, it’s easier than ever to start a blog.

Even if you are a complete beginner who doesn’t understand anything about coding or web design.

With a little bit of guidance and the right tools, you can have your very own personal or professional blog up and running less than 30-minutes. Writing blog posts can take much longer, though.

We’ll walk you through every part of the process while helping you avoid the common mistakes new bloggers do.

Sounds good? Then let’s dive in and get started.

STEP 1) Decide: Free Blog or Self-Hosted Blog

The very first thing you need to do is choose whether you are going to build a true, self-hosted blog on your own domain name or a free blog.

We highly recommend going for the “self-hosted” route, as it gives you much more flexibility and control. Having your own domain name like www.YourNewBlog.com will make you look more serious than having a domain like YourNewBlog.FreeBlogService.com

Of course, if you are tight on budget, you can sign up with any free blogging platforms and start testing the waters. Know that your blog will be very limited, will display ads of the blog platform provider and you will have no control over your blog. This means that if it violates the TOS, they can delete your blog.

That’s why we recommend avoiding free blogging services. If you want to look serious and you are willing to be committed, we suggest getting a domain name and web hosting first and then launching your blog – see step 2 below:

STEP 2) Get a Domain And Web Hosting (Self-Hosted Blog)

To get started with a self-hosted blog, you’ll be going to need two things:

  1. Domain name – The web address of your blog (our’s is www.websitesetup.org) ($10/month)
  2. Web hosting – A server to store your blog files and keep it online for others to browse and read at all times. ($3-$5/month)

Whichever web hosting company you choose, make sure it has “quick installs” for blogging platforms such as WordPress. This will make your set up process much easier.

Whichever domain name you choose, make sure it’s easy to remember and preferably brandable. You can also use your name as a domain name. For domain endings, we suggest going with .com, .net or .org.

Full disclosure: WebsiteSetup is affiliated with Bluehost and earns a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links. Thanks for your support!

We’ve been recommending Bluehost.com as a blog hosting and domain registrar for years.

There are a couple of reasons for that:

  1. Bluehost is the no.1 recommended host by the WordPress project itself.
  2. They’re tuned for WordPress, offer WordPress-friendly setups, and even the option to have WordPress installed for you in a single click. Plus, they have good customer service that’s available 24/7.
  3. They throw in personal, custom email accounts along with the server. For example, you can have an email like [email protected] – way more professional than a generic Gmail or Yahoo email address.
  4. Bluehost is really affordable. We’re talking in the range of $3 per month.

Step 1. Go to Bluehost

(Note: if you already have a domain name and hosting, you can skip this part)

Since we’re using Bluehost – and have been for a long while – we’ve negotiated a special discount for all websitesetup.org readers – 67% OFF.

Use the following link to get the discount: go to Bluehost.

Bluehost homepage

Step 2. Choose a Blog Hosting Plan

Once you click on that big “get started now” button at Bluehost, you’ll be able to select the hosting plan (aka. a web server) of your choice.

choose your hosting plan

We went ahead and selected their “basic” option, which is a great plan for new blogs. Plus, using our link you can get it for $2.75 a month, instead of the standard $7.99.

Don’t get us wrong, the “plus” and “prime” plans are great, we have nothing against them, but you don’t really need them at this point. Plus, you can easily switch plans, later on, should your blog grow enough to require the extra processing power.

Just save your hard-earned cash and opt for the cheapest package for now.

Step 3. Pick a Domain Name

Here’s what you’ll see when you select your hosting plan with Bluehost:

Bluehost WordPress install

If you already have a domain name, just enter it where it says “I have a domain name” and click “next”.

If you need a new domain name, here’s an easy starting point:

  • If you’re making a blog for your business, your domain name should match your company name. Plain and simple. For example: YourCompanyBlog.com
  • If the blog is to promote your own personal brand or if it’s a passion project, you can go with your own name. Like: JohnSmith.com

Although domain names usually end with .com, .org or .net, you can also opt for something more exotic, like .shop, .online, .nyc and others. Our best advice, though? Avoid the weird extensions and stick with either .com, .net or .org. They’re the most intuitive and will, therefore, make your whole blog address easier to memorize.

Just input the domain name that you want to register where it says “new domain” and click “next”.

Step 4. Fill in Your Details

This next step is very straightforward, only requiring you to provide your personal information – in order for Bluehost to be able to finalize setting up your account.

Bluehost account information

The fields are pretty self-explanatory – with things like your first name, last name, country, street address, city, ZIP code, phone number, and email address (your receipt will be sent to that email address).

5. Check Your “Package Information” And Finish Registration

Double-check that your “package information” is correct. As we mentioned earlier, the one we recommend is called “basic”. Also, you can save some money if you opt for a 60-month activation period right out the gate – this gives you the price of $2.75 per month.

Bluehost package details

This screen is also where you can (but don’t have to) add extras to your account. For instance:

  • Domain Privacy Protection. This is only $0.99 per month, and for that price, you can hide your personal information from anyone trying to do a WHOIS lookup on your domain name. If you don’t enable that, all your personal data will be available to the public (name, address, etc.).
  • All the other extras – Site Backup Pro, Search Engine Jumpstart, SiteLock Security, Comodo Private SSL – are not really necessary.

6. Create Your Password

Finally, the very last step!

When you complete your purchase, Bluehost will send you a confirmation email, and you’ll also be able to set the main password for your account.

Bluehost account creation

STEP 3) Install WordPress

As you’ve probably noticed, we didn’t actually instruct you to download WordPress directly at any point in this guide (so far). And, here’s the kicker, we’re still not going to.

See, the great thing about WordPress and its popularity as a CMS is that if you sign up with a quality web hosting company – such as Bluehost – they will install it automatically (read: no need to install WordPress manually and get your hands dirty).

Here’s what you do exactly to get to your WordPress account:

  1. Log in to your user profile at Bluehost.
  2. In the “Home” page click on the blue button “WordPress”.
  3. that’s all!

Bluehost main page

We should note that your domain name install might take 5 to 10 minutes, so don’t freak out about the weird looking temporary domain name.

Bluehost will allow you to choose your admin login and password for WordPress when it’s done installing.

STEP 4) Get to Know WordPress And Settings

Once you have your admin account for WordPress all set up (the previous step), you can proceed to visit your new dashboard:

Just go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and input the access details for your admin account. Once you log in, you’ll see this:

WordPress dashboard

Even though WordPress is already 100% operational, there are still some settings that you should go through:

(a) General Settings

Start by going to the left sidebar and clicking on Settings → General.

WordPress general settings

This is where you can set:

  • “Site Title” – effectively the name of your site. The title is particularly important since it’s what every visitor sees first, and also a big part of how search engines determine your rankings. Make sure that you have your business name there.
  • “Tagline” – think of it as the summary of what your blog is about, in one short sentence. For example: “Recipes that even a beginner cook can handle.”

In this section, you can also check if your blog address (URL) is in order, set the timezone you’re in and your preferred language.

Another important thing to note is that Bluehost has a Coming Soon feature in the last section of General Settings. Once you’re ready to go live with your blog make sure to turn this feature off.

Bluehost coming soon feature

(b) Visibility in Google

The next, super-important thing that you must do is make sure that search engines such as Google can index your new blog.

To do that, go to Settings → Reading (again, from the main sidebar) and make sure that the field labeled “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” remains unchecked. Like so:

WordPress search engine visibility

If you don’t do that, your blog might end up literally invisible to Google.

(c) Permalinks

The “permalinks” settings define how WordPress will go about creating individual URLs – webpage addresses – for each of your individual blog posts or sub-pages. Though the idea might sound a bit advanced, setting this is very simple.

Just go to Settings → Permalinks. Once there, set your permalinks to the “Post name” variant, like so:

WordPress permalinks

This is the most optimal setting of the ones available and also the one preferred by Google and other search engines.

STEP 5) Choose Your Blog Design (Theme)

Another great thing about WordPress is that even though you might not be a skilled designer yourself, you can still get a top-shelf look for your blog.

How? Thanks to thousands of WordPress themes that are available out there on the web. Best of all, many of them are free, and you can customize them easily (without any coding knowledge).

But let’s start at the beginning. Here’s what your site looks like on the default theme that comes pre-installed with WordPress:

WordPress starting page

You can see this design if you simply point your web browser to your main domain name: yourblog.com.

Not too bad, this default design, but we can do better! Here’s how:

Go back to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance → Themes. Once there, click on “Add New”:

WordPress add a new theme

Then, switch the tab to “Popular”:

WordPress popular themes

What you’re going to see are the most popular free WordPress themes in the market. And the best part is that you can install any of them with just one click.

Go ahead and spend a while browsing through this list to find something that really suits your business and the main purpose behind your new blog.

Once you do see a theme you like, you can get it installed onto your blog by clicking on “install” next to the theme’s name, followed by “activate”:

activate theme

Note: What you’re doing here is just changing the look of your blog. You’re not erasing any of your content. You can change your themes as often as you want, without having to worry about your pages vanishing.

STEP 6) Customize Your Blog Design And Layout

Even though the WordPress theme that you’ve decided to use already comes with its specific pre-configured design, you can still change parts of it to your liking.

This is all done if you go to Appearance → Customize. What you’ll see is the WordPress Customizer:

WordPress Customizer

Depending on your current theme, you’ll get a different set of options in the sidebar menu, but the most common ones will include:

  • “Site Identity” – this is where you can set your blog title again, plus add a logo image and a site icon (aka. favicon).
  • “Colors” – for adjusting the basic colors used throughout the design.
  • “Header” – for setting your header graphic or image.
  • “Background” – for setting your background graphic, image, or color.
  • “Menus” – more on this later on.
  • “Widgets” – more on this later on as well.
  • And other, theme-dependent settings.

Let’s start with the first option:

1. Add Logo And Favicon

WordPress site identity

Since you probably already have your site title and tagline set up, what you’re going to be doing here is adding your company logo and favicon. Both are quite easy to do:

To add your logo, just click on the “Select logo” button. On the next screen, WordPress will let you know what sort of graphics are acceptable for logos.

WordPress add logo

After uploading your logo, you should see it inside the live preview window.

To add your favicon, click on the button labeled “Select image” under the “Site Icon” section:

WordPress add favicon

The process is quite similar here as well – WordPress will tell you what sort of an image it’s expecting. However, the thing that’s different here is that once you do add your favicon, it won’t actually get displayed anywhere in the preview. To see it, look at the main top bar of your web browser, next to the blog title. An example from this site:

favicon

2. Change Blog Colors

WordPress choose your colors

Depending on the theme you’re using, you will see a different set of options in this section of Customizer. Here’s an example from the default theme:

WordPress set colors

Just a couple of settings here, granted, but playing with these can still help you make your new blog look unique and more in tune with your brand.

3. Add Custom Header Graphic

WordPress header

This is another section that’s highly dependent on the theme that you’re using. Though, the most common setting that you’ll stumble upon is the ability to add a header graphic/image, or perhaps even a header video. To set your header image, just click on “Add new image”:

add new image

You can pick basically whatever image you wish for your site header, as long as it’s of sufficiently high quality. WordPress will let you know about the minimal requirements for your header image right on the upload screen.

4. Change Background

WordPress background image

Some themes come with the ability to set the main background for your whole website.

Most commonly, these options will allow you to set a custom image or a solid color to be in the background. Either way, you can get quite interesting effects if you experiment with this long enough.

STEP 7) Add New Blog Posts And Pages

With all of the above already done, you’re ready to start creating content for your new blog.

If you are building a blog, you’ll likely need at least some of the following pages:

  • Blog – this one section WordPress creates for you automatically. By default, all your latest blog posts are going to be listed right on the homepage.
  • About – to tell your visitors what the blog is about and who’s behind it.
  • Contact – to let people contact you directly.
  • Services / Products – to list your products and/or services and tell people why they should buy them.
  • Testimonials – from your previous customers.
  • Portfolio – your body of work presented in an attractive way.

1. Create New Pages

Now that you have an idea of what sort of pages you might need, let’s talk about how to actually go about creating them.

Luckily, the process of creating a new page in WordPress is the same no matter what sort of page that is.

To do that, go to your WordPress dashboard and then to Pages → Add New. What you’ll see is the main page editing screen of WordPress:

WordPress sample page

Here is a great overview of how adding posts and pages works on WordPress.

As you would imagine, once you click the “Publish” button, your page becomes visible to the public.

2. Add Blog Posts

The blog functionality is one of the core elements of the WordPress CMS. That’s why WordPress has a whole separate section devoted to creating and publishing blog posts.

You can find it if you go to Posts from the main WordPress dashboard sidebar:

WordPress posts

Creating new posts works exactly the same as creating new pages. The only difference is that your posts are going to be displayed automatically on your homepage, while your pages need to be added to a menu if you want anyone to find them. Here’s how to do that:

3. Add Menu

Menus have a very special task in WordPress. Basically, they are your best tool for making sure that the pages you’ve created can be found by your readers.

Typically, your blog should have one main menu that’s placed in the main navigation bar. Most visitors will expect to find something like that on your site.

To create a new menu, go to Appearance → Menus. Once there, look through the list of the available pages (the pages you’ve created so far) and click the checkboxes next to the ones that you want to have in your new menu. Then, click on “Add to Menu”. You’ll see your pages listed in the section on the right.

WordPress add pages to menu

At this stage, you can also drag-and-drop those pages to realign them. When you’re done, you can also select one of the checkboxes under “Display location” (see below). Most commonly, your main navigation location should be listed there – in our case, it’s “Top Menu”.

When we click on the main “Save Menu” button, my menu is going to be set. This is what it looks like on the live site:

WordPress menu

4. Change Your Blog Sidebar And Footer

Depending on the theme that you’re using, you might have anywhere from zero to a handful of sidebars available + maybe a customizable footer as well.

To tune up what’s displayed in all those areas, we’re going to use WordPress widgets.

In simple terms, widgets are small blocks of content that can be displayed in various places throughout a WordPress blog.

To see what this is all about, just go to Appearance → Widgets.

WordPress widgets

What you see here are all the different widgets that WordPress gives you. Just to name a few:

  • Archives – a list of all your past blog posts
  • Image – an image of your choice
  • Categories – a list of all your blog categories
  • Recent Posts
  • Search – a search bar
  • Text – a piece of custom text
  • and a lot more

What you can do with all those widgets is place them in one of the predefined widget areas – usually within the sidebar or the footer.

For example, we can drag-and-drop the “Recent Posts” widget to our “Footer 1” widget area, like so:

add widget

You can do the same with any of the other available widgets. Just grab them from the section on the left and drag-and-drop them onto any of the widget areas that your theme gives you.

Note: The widget areas that you see in your admin panel depend on the theme that you’re currently using.

You Are Ready to Launch Your Blog!

Congratulations. You can now launch your blog.

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If you get stuck or have any questions about this step-by-step guide, leave a comment below.


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8 comments

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  1. Avatar

    Hello Nick,
    This was really helpful thank you. Have got a few questions. Am hoping you’d clear me on them.
    1. I don’t need to add the “-blog” part in yoursitenameblog.com, just yoursite.com is okay right? I mean I find adding the “blog” too long and sometimes boring. Is this okay?
    2. My friends and I are keen on launching a blog soon and we picked the 3-year choice plus plan on Bluehost. Now am bothered about the payment. Can we pay for the plan monthly on Bluehost instead of an upfront just like the plans on Freelancer.com?

    1. Avatar

      Hey Gideon, thanks for your excellent questions! Here is my feedback:
      1. You absolutely do not need to include “blog” in your URL. If you look around the web, you will see that most people don’t. Visitors will immediately understand they have landed on a blog when coming to your site. If you want to target “blog” in your SEO somehow, you can include it in the title tag.
      2. Hosting providers all have different ways of handling payment. Some ask for the money up front, others allow monthly payments. Bluehost uses lump-sum payment, so you can not pay on a monthly basis. If that is a deal breaker for you, you can still cancel your plan within the first 30 days.
      Hope this was helpful!

  2. Avatar

    Hello, so I should have researched before doing anything, buuuut I didn’t 🙂 I made a WordPress account to start a blog and paid $48 for the year. However, I never used BlueHost or anything else, only WordPress and I am very confused on what to do. As I was customizing, I realized that all of the tutorials looked like yours, because I am assuming it came from BlueHost. What should I do?

    1. Avatar

      Hey Rylee, if you want to switch to a self-hosted WordPress site, the first thing I would check is if you are still within the grace period to cancel your WordPress.com account. After that, you just need a hosting account and a domain and you can get started. The article above is a good place to begin. If you already have some content on your WordPress.com site, you can find a tutorial on how to change here: https://move.wordpress.com/

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    I don’t understand the payment part. Like when registering, can i pay only for that month or is it compulsory that I pay for the whole year?

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    Will this allow me to add links to things like news stories, or YouTube sites, things like that? Also, will I be able to transfer my contacts from facebook to my blog so I can send private information to specific people on my list?
    Thanks

    1. Avatar

      Hey Ted, yes to news stories, YouTube videos, etc. but no to transferring your Facebook contacts and private chats. That’s not really how blogs work. They are more like websites where you can write articles and publish them. You can, however, set up a forum and invite your contacts if that is something you would be interested in.