How to Start a Blog – a Step by Step Guide

People often ask me how to start a blog such as Best Sydney Walks. The answer isn’t that simple actually, so I’ve decided to dedicate an article to this topic that you can use as a helpful resource in case you’re keen to start a blog of your own.

Running a blog for most people is a hobby. A blog is a medium that you can use to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with the rest of the world. A blog is something you own, it’s your little corner in the huge online community called the Internet.

For others, a blog is a way of making money, whether it be a modest little side-income stream, or a full-time income that pays all the bills.

Starting a blog is relatively easy, but growing your blog and ultimately reaching a large audience is where the hard work comes in.

 
 
No time to read the whole article? Here’s the short version quick start guide!
 
1. Register a domain and buy hosting:
My preferred domain registrar and web hosting provider is DreamHost. Use this link to sign up with a 40% discount on a shared hosting package that includes 1 free domain. Follow the simple steps to get your new blog live in minutes.
 
2. Install WordPress:
You can get DreamHost to install WordPress for you during the signup process or you can do it yourself from within the DreamHost admin panel. Too easy!
 
3. Purchase a premium WordPress theme:
My preferred theme developer is Thrive Themes. For Best Sydney Walks I use their FocusBlog theme and I am super happy with it. Excellent features, clean code, great performance and regular updates. Click here to browse their collection of premium WordPress themes.
 
4. Install WordPress Plugins:
Plugins can easily be installed from within your WordPress admin panel. I personally use these plugins: Akismet, Yoast SEO, W3 Total Cache, Contact Form 7. These are all the plugins you need to get started!
 

How to Start a Blog – Step by Step

So here we go, here is my detailed guide into starting a blog from scratch that will hopefully help and motivate you to start your very own blog.

In this article I will recommend certain products, but only products that I have used myself as a blogger and that I have been very satisfied with. You can be assured that these products are of good quality and will make your life as a blogger much easier instead of harder.

 
 

Step 1: Pick a Brand and Domain Name

Perhaps the most important step in starting your own blog is choosing the name of your website. The last thing you want to do is having to change your blog name one or two years down the track as that will require a lot of work and also money.

The name of your blog typically is the same as your domain name. So if your blog is called “John’s Travel Adventures”, then your domain would be johnstraveladventures.com, or johns-travel-adventures.com. The name you will eventually choose can be your personal name or a name that reflects what your blog will be about.

Don’t Go Too Narrow

It’s important to not be too narrow with your name. For example, if you’re going to Bali on holiday and you want to document your adventures on a blog, you could register this domain: johnstriptobali.com. That can work, but if you’re going to Europe six months later then obviously your Bali blog isn’t a suitable place to document your Europe travels.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Short, catchy domain names with a maximum of three words usually work the best. They tend to be memorable (which is what you want) and easy to type into a browser.

It’s also a good idea to consider a potential abbreviation. For example, if you go for “John’s Travel Adventures”, you will need to think about the abbreviation “JTA” as well. Ask yourself whether that abbreviation is catchy and not already being used in a different context. Lots of big websites use abbreviations rather than their full brand names so that people can easily remember it.

Using Your Personal Name

You may also want to think twice about using your personal name in the domain. It could make sense if you’re running a sole trader business that is all about you, or if you’re a writer and you want to promote your books.

But otherwise, a catchy and memorable name for your blog may work better in the long-term than using your personal name.

Avoid Commercial Brand Names

You will also need to avoid using – parts of – commercial brands in your domain because you may be violating copyrights. For example, if you love driving your new Mazda around in the city and want to blog about it, it’s probably better to use the word “car” rather than “mazda” in your domain, i.e. ilovemynewcar.com instead of ilovemynewmazda.com.

Don’t Rush

Long story short, don’t rush it when thinking about the name of your blog. Take your time, as this is one of the most important decisions. It should be a permanent decision so make sure it’s the perfect name that is a good reflection of what your blog is about.

HTTP or HTTPS?

With Internet security becoming increasingly important, you may want to consider installing an SSL certificate in your brand new website. An SSL certificate simply means that any data sent to and from your website is encrypted. This is particularly important when you open an e-commerce site, but perhaps not as important for an informational site.

However, I do recommend you install an SSL certificate right from the start as this will become the standard in the very near future. In addition, changing from HTTP to HTTPS when your blog has matured is quite a bit of a hassle.

When you register a domain with DreamHost, you have several options to install an SSL certificate, both paid and free.

How to Register a Domain?

Start a blog with DreamHost domain registrationRegistering a domain name is easy, with lots of online registrars and hosting companies offering domain registration services.

If you’re Australia based, don’t make the mistake thinking that you need to register with an Australian registrar. You can register your domain anywhere you like.

I have domains registered at DreamHost, Namecheap and GoDaddy. I’ve had the best experiences with DreamHost and Namecheap as their registration process is simple, affordable and only takes a few minutes.

Start a blog with Namecheap domain registrationWhen registering a domain name, you can choose a hosting package with the same company, but it’s perfectly acceptable to have your domain registration and hosting in two different places.

In fact, this is quite common practice for bloggers who own multiple websites. But if you’re just starting out with blogging, it’s easier to pick one company for both your domain registration and web hosting needs.

However, if this is the first blog you’re setting up, I’d recommend you choose DreamHost for both registration and hosting.

See the next step with more details on that.

Important tip!
 
If you’re Australia based and you want your domain to end with .com.au, .org.au or .net.au, it is a mandatory requirement to have a registered ABN. This is administered by the auDA, .au Domain Administration Ltd. It is recommended for Australian businesses to choose a .au domain as this will generate trust and credibility, also from a search engine perspective. However, if you’re a blogger, you don’t necessarily need to choose a .au domain, even if your blog is focused on Australia.
 
 
 

Step 2: Choose a Hosting Company

Hosting a website nowadays is incredibly affordable. But choosing the right hosting company and a suitable hosting package can be quite overwhelming as there are so many hosting companies out there.

I have personally dealt with DreamHost and Namecheap and I can definitely vouch for them. As with most web hosting companies, they are quite similar in regards to the range of hosting packages they have on offer.

Shared Hosting

Typically, if you’re a new blogger, you will choose shared hosting. This means that your website will be hosted on a server that is shared with other websites. The drawback of this is that you won’t get the most powerful hosting which means that the performance (website speed) is not always the best.

Having said that, with technology evolving so fast and competition in the world of web hosting getting stronger, shared hosting usually is of very decent quality.

Signing up with DreamHost is an easy process:

  1. Go to the DreamHost site (40% discount offer)
  2. Create a DreamHost account
  3. Choose your domain
  4. Select your preferred hosting plan (shared hosting)
  5. Select additional options (i.e. SSL certificate)
  6. Submit payment details

If you’ve never used WordPress before, you can get DreamHost to install WordPress on your new website for you.

 
Use this link to get a one-time 40% discount when you purchase a 1-year shared hosting package with DreamHost including one free domain.
 

Virtual Private Server

If your website is growing and more and more people are visiting your corner of the web daily, you will need to consider switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). This simply means your website will get its very own server with better performance but also a higher price tag.

I recommend buying a shared hosting package at either DreamHost or Namecheap. What’s awesome is that DreamHost offers one free domain per year if you purchase hosting with them.

Important tip!
 
Don’t go for free hosting with WordPress, Weebly, Wix or any of the other platforms that offer free hosting. If you have a domain with free hosting, for example yourname.wordpress.com, or yourname.wix.com, or yourname.weebly.com, you don’t actually own the website and in theory your website could vanish overnight. It also lacks professionalism and credibility to have a domain that isn’t yours.
 
 
 

Step 3: Install a Blogging Framework (WordPress)

Did you know that WordPress powers almost a third of the Internet?

By far the best framework for blogging is WordPress. There are others out there, such as Wix, Weebly and Joomla, and while they are all good, WordPress stands out in terms of ease-of-use, customisability, robustness and overall support in the blogging community.

How to start a blog with WordPressThere are two different ways to start blogging with WordPress. You can go for the all-in-one option which includes domain and hosting, but this means your domain will end with .wordpress.com.

As mentioned above, this is not a good idea, as you don’t actually own your website. The best way to use WordPress is to register your very own domain and to install WordPress in your brand new site.

Web hosting providers like DreamHost and Namecheap make this very easy for you. With the simple push of a button, they will install WordPress for you, and you’re ready to start blogging.

 
 

Step 4: Choose a Premium WordPress Theme

Once you’ve installed WordPress, the next step is to find a suitable WordPress theme. You can choose between free themes or premium themes. The obvious benefit of a free theme is that they are free! Most free themes are actually pretty good, but they often have a very basic look and feel and a limited set of features. If you’re just starting out, a free theme with no bells and whistles may be just fine for your blog.

A premium WordPress theme however typically offers more features such as funky widgets and special customisation tools. There are literally thousands of premium themes available on the market and picking the right one is not only difficult but also very time consuming.

Thrive Themes

I have purchased several WordPress themes over the years and I am by far most satisfied with the themes offered by Thrive Themes, a WordPress focused software company that develops top quality themes and plugins.

Thrive Themes is highly regarded in the blogging community and some of the biggest blogs out there use a WordPress theme developed by Thrive Themes.

Start a blog with Thrive Themes

This website, Best Sydney Walks, uses the popular FocusBlog theme by Thrive Themes and I can honestly say that this is the best theme I have ever worked with.

It’s fast, easy to use and includes some very useful design features that allow me to create appealing layouts without the need for complicated HTML code.

Thrive Content Builder

Thrive Themes also offers Thrive Content Builder, a revolutionary WordPress content editor that allows you to create visually appealing web pages in very little time.

Start a blog with Thrive Content BuilderIf you’ve ever used WordPress (or any other blogging platform) before, you will know that the editor can be a bit limited in regards to styling and structuring a blog post.

Thrive Content Builder solves that problem by providing an editor within WordPress that allows you to easily configure the layout of a page or blog post. It contains numerous widgets, tables and other content elements that you drag and drop onto your page and see real-time what it will look like.

In addition, Thrive Content Builder generates perfectly clean and well-structured HTML that the search engines will love. Click on this link to see a demo of TCB.

Why choose Thrive Themes?

  • Built for speed, readability and clarity.
  • Includes features that add real value.
  • Excludes unnecessary features that you simply don’t need.
  • Compliant with latest HTML and CSS standards.
  • Comes with regular on-going updates.
  • Free one year technical support.

If you do choose a premium WordPress theme with Thrive Themes, you can purchase either a single license or a multiple license that allows you to install the same theme in more than one website. If you don’t have any plans to start a second or even a third site, the single license is more than enough.

I do recommend purchasing Thrive Content Builder, either down the track once your site is up and running or right from the start. Thrive Content Builder makes creating visually appealing web pages so much easier while saving you a lot of time. Having said that, a theme with Thrive Themes works perfectly fine without TCB.

Here are two other well-known stores that offer top quality premium WordPress themes:

  • MyThemeShop:
    A highly successful shop that sells premium WordPress themes as well as popular WordPress plugins. All their themes are fully mobile responsive, have great performance and come with regular updates. In addition, they provide 24/7 technical support should you need it.
  • ThemeForest:
    Part of Envato Market, ThemeForest has one of the biggest collections of premium WordPress themes and useful templates. They also provide handy online tutorials to enhance your digital skills such as web design, HTML & CSS and WordPress.
Important tip!
 
Choosing a WordPress theme is a very important decision. A theme can make or break the success of your site as it has a huge impact on what your blog will come to look like. In addition, some themes offer too many features that you don’t need. This can make your website harder to load and more difficult to configure. Avoid these problems right from the start by choosing a theme that is clean, has good reviews, and offers continuous updates. Stay away from themes that haven’t been updated in the previous twelve months.
 
 
 

Step 5: Install WordPress Plugins

Once you have a WordPress blog up and running, you will soon notice that there are gazillions of plugins available that can solve all of your WordPress problems. Some plugins are essential, and other plugins are very unnecessary.

Essential WordPress Plugins

Here is a list of plugins that I recommend you install and use. All of these plugins are free, but they do have premium versions available. You can easily install these plugins via the Add New Plugin page within the WordPress dashboard of your website.

  • Akismet:
    The best WordPress anti-spam plugin available. As your blog grows, so will the amount of spam comments. Akismet does a great job at filtering these out.
  • Yoast SEO:
    My favourite SEO plugin that helps you to optimise individual web pages so that Google and Bing likes them too. Please note though that SEO is quite complicated, and Yoast is really just a good start. If you want to be serious about blogging, I strongly recommend you learn a thing or two about SEO.
  • SumoMe:
    SumoMe offers a suite of tools that will help you to increase your traffic and boost your social media presence. See those social media share buttons on the left (or at the bottom if you’re on mobile)? They are SumoMe buttons. Go ahead, and try them out :).
  • W3 Total Cache:
    One of the best plugins to help improve your website performance is W3 Total Cache. When your site grows bigger it becomes essential to have a critical look at the performance of your website, as a slow website will push visitors away. W3 Total Cache has a bit of a learning curve but it works really well.
  • Contact Form 7:
    Your website needs a contact form like Best Sydney Walks does. Contact Form 7 is a plugin that helps you configure simple web forms and integrate them into your pages and posts.
Important tip!
 
Be very conservative when it comes to installing WordPress plugins. Each installed plugin has the potential to slow down your site and make your site more vulnerable from a security perspective. I always recommend to only install plugins you really need and never install any plugins that you can do without. It’s also important to always update your plugins to the latest versions to avoid security and compatibility issues.
 
 
 

Step 6: Create a Blog Logo

Just like choosing a brand and domain name is important, creating a good logo for your blog is also a crucial step in the process. You want your logo to look good and recognisable. You want it to represent your brand in a positive way.

If you have good design skills, go ahead and create your own logo. Make sure you choose a good color scheme and font type that you can use throughout your website. Buttons, widgets, headers, they all need to adhere to the same look and feel.

Design Tools

Great tools for creating logos and headers are Canva and PicMonkey. They have free and premium versions, but you’ll find that the free versions are actually really good. As your blog grows, you can always upgrade to the premium versions if you’d like to take advantage of the extra features.

Another good tool is Adobe InDesign, but it’s much more expensive.

Outsourcing

You can also outsource this bit of work if you’re not the best designer yourself. Outsourcing is actually very common in the blogging community. We simply can’t do everything and we don’t always have time to do all the work ourselves. So if outsourcing sounds hectic, don’t worry, it’s not.

Some examples of websites where you can outsource some of your work are Fiverr and Freelancer. Simply sign up, post your job and get the work done. Make sure you check reviews of candidates and communicate clearly to avoid disappointments. Also, don’t choose the cheapest option, as you’ll typically get what you pay for.

Important tip!
 
A good logo is important but keep in mind that a logo can always be changed. Don’t spend too much time creating a logo, instead focus on making sure that the content on your website is top notch. It’s the content that will ultimately create an audience, not a logo.
 
 
 

Step 7: Create a Site Structure and Start Writing

Before you start writing any content, it’s good to start thinking about a structure of your site. You can do this be defining categories, with each category containing several articles that cover topics that fit within the category.

For example, in Best Sydney Walks I have a category named Coastal Walks that contains several articles that describe different coastal walks in and around Sydney. Sounds simply and logical, but you will soon find out that creating a good structure of your site is actually quite hard. But from a user perspective as well as from a search engine perspective, a logical structure will help you attracting more visitors down the track.

Once you have a structure in mind, you can start writing articles (posts in WordPress) and assign them to the appropriate categories. Also make sure you have an about page, where you explain what your website is about, and a contact page with a form where visitors can submit their questions or other types of feedback.

Important tip!
 
In WordPress, an article is a Post, a page is a Page and a category is a Category. WordPress also uses Tags, similar to an index at the end of a book. A Post can have multiple Tags and by clicking on a Tag, you can find other Posts with that same Tag. I personally find Tags confusing and unnecessary and therefore I don’t use them. Instead I focus on using Categories properly.
 
 
 

Step 8: Set up Social Media Accounts

Set up Social Media for your new blogIn this era of social media, a blog without at least one social media account can hardly be considered a blog anymore.

So even if you’re not a social media fan, it is still recommended to get your feet wet and get social with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whichever channel you prefer.

Why Use Social Media?

Social Media can help your blog in three ways:

  1. It’s a fun way to engage with, and grow, your audience.
  2. If you manage your social media channels properly, this will increase the credibility and trustworthiness of your blog or brand.
  3. Active and engaging social media accounts will also have a positive impact on your search engine visibility which means more traffic.

You shouldn’t feel pressured to get involved in all types of social media. Managing social media can be quite time consuming with relatively little return, especially in the beginning. I recommend you start with two social media accounts, and then sign up for another one or two down the track if it can benefit your blog.

Important tip!
 
It’s easy to get sucked into social media thinking that you need to have thriving social media accounts to make your blog a success. Whilst social media certainly is important, the quality of your blog is much more important. Focus on your blog and slowly build up your social media presence as the content on your site grows. If there is hardly any (quality) content on your blog, your social media channels won’t get much traction either.
 
 
 

Step 9: Start Tracking Your Website Traffic

When your blog is live, you want to know who visits your site, where they come from, how long they stick around, and so forth. You can get access to these kinds of statistics by installing Google Analytics in your website.

Sign up here, follow the steps to verify ownership of your site, install a little piece of code in your site, and start tracking! Google Analytics is very easy to understand and can help you get better insights into your audience and how to serve them better.

Webmaster Tools

It’s also wise to sign up for Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). Search Console gives you technical feedback around the overall quality of your website and will tell you when there are issues that you should resolve. For example, if your sitemap isn’t configured properly, Search Console will tell you about it. In addition, Search Console will tell you if there are any HTML errors that you would otherwise never find out.

Bing (the search engine powered by Microsoft) has a similar suite of tools, called Bing Webmaster Tools. I recommend signing up with them too.

 
 

Step 10: Monetise Your Blog

Monetise your new blogThis is the most exciting part! A lot of people don’t realise that you can actually make money with a blog.

There are some very successful bloggers out there who make a living with their blogs and social media channels.

The two most common ways to make money with your blog are advertising and affiliate marketing.

Advertising

By far the biggest advertising network is the Google AdSense program. Signing up is easy, as long as your blog is of good quality and receives a certain amount of traffic.

They have strict guidelines so make sure you read them before signing up and placing ads.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing means that you promote other people’s products on your website. If you manage to sell one of these products, you then receive a percentage of the sale price. For example, in this blog post about water bottles, if you purchase a product via one of the links in that post, I will receive a small commission.

It’s important to be open with your audience about affiliate marketing and only promote products or services that you personally trust and believe in. There are several affiliate marketing networks out there where you can sign up and find products to promote.

One of the most popular affiliate networks is Amazon Associates. Amazon is an internationally trusted seller where you can find pretty much all kinds of products, including products that fit within the niche of your blog.

Other Monetisation Methods

But there are other ways to make money with your blog. For example, a business that fits within the niche of your blog can request to write a sponsored article with the aim to promote their business. In this case you will need to disclose to your audience that the article is sponsored by a third party.

Similarly, a company can ask you to test one of their products and write an honest review about it on your blog. Depending on how much traffic your blog receives each month, you can charge decent amounts of money for these types of sponsored articles and product reviews.

Important tip!
 
Don’t focus on monetisation when you start your blog as this never works. Work hard to get your blog up and running, publish good quality content, drive more traffic to your website, and once you have established a big enough audience, only then should you start monetising.
 

Conclusion

If you’re new to blogging then the whole process may be a bit overwhelming. But hopefully this guide explaining how to start a blog does help you in finding your way online and establishing your very own blog.

Once you have your blog up and running, make sure you keep updating your WordPress installation and plugins to the latest versions as this improves both security and performance.

Starting a blog from scratch requires a lot of work and patience. Don’t expect huge crowds of people to visit your site in the first year. The more quality content you publish and the more you promote your blog, the more visitors you will get.

If you have any questions or if you get stuck at any of the steps, feel free to email me as I am always happy to help. Good luck!

 
LIST OF RESOURCES
 
DreamHost:
Affordable domain registration and hosting.
 
Namecheap:
Affordable domain registration and hosting.
 
ThriveThemes:
Top quality premium WordPress themes and plugins.
 
Thrive Content Builder:
Revolutionary WordPress content editor.
 
MyThemeShop:
Premium WordPress themes.
 
ThemeForest:
Premium WordPress themes.
 
Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools):
Technical website insights offered by Google.
 
Google Analytics:
Essential website tracking statistics.
 
 
Use this link to get a one-time 40% discount when you purchase a 1-year shared hosting package with DreamHost including one free domain.
 
 
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