How To Start A Blog (7 Steps Checklist For Beginners)
(Welcome to the seventh article of the series which aims to teach how to start a blog. This article will show you step by step how to start a blog using WordPress with a custom domain name and hosting package.)
When thinking how to start a blog, most people interested in blogging have some or all of the following questions in their minds:-
- Why should I start a blog?
- How to start a blog with little investment?
- What topic should I blog about?
- How to choose and register a domain name?
- From where and how to buy web hosting?
- How to setup and run the blog once it is hosted?
If you are a beginner, you must be having some or all of these questions in your mind.
You might even be having questions other than these. I had these issues in my mind too, but you can see that I’m blogging right now. Robin Sharma has something to say to you.
I used to wonder how to start a blog of my own. But I managed to start a blog with little knowledge. I knew how to write an article, so I thought I was ready to start a blog.
However, I realized with time that there’s more to blogging than just writing articles.
I learned more and more about blogging, deleted all my articles (that I had written with quite an effort), and started following the recipe of a successful blog. You can read my full story here.
If you’re not sure how to start a blog, there’s no need to worry. I’ve combined my knowledge and experience to write a series of blogs posts which all focus on how to start a blog.
This blog post will serve as an answer to all of the questions above.
I’d like to request that if you’re not familiar with the terms regularly used in blogging, please go through the following articles first.
So you’re still reading this. Would it be fair if I suppose that you’re looking for the answers to these and many other questions?
Are you interested in learning how to start a blog?
Yes? Let’s begin then!
Table of Contents
- 1 Step 1: Define Your Purpose
- 2 Step 2: Select A Blog Niche
- 3 Step 3: Choose A Domain Name
- 4 Step 4: Buy A Hosting Package
- 4.1 Which Hosting Package Do I Use?
- 4.2 What Happens If The Hosting Is Not Good?
- 4.3 How To Pay For Domain Name & Hosting?
- 5 Step 5: Install WordPress
- 6 Step 6: Write Your First Blog Post
- 7 Step 7: Customize Your Blog
- 8 Now You Know How To Start A Blog!
Step 1: Define Your Purpose
People have different opinions about the purpose of blogging, but making money is the most common notion.
I see money and earning questions all the time on various blogging platforms. As a blogger, the most common question I receives in the inbox is, “How much do you earn from your blog?”
While it is true that blogging can make money, and it can make a lot of it, it’s not a great purpose for starting a blog.
If you’re more interested in knowing how to make money from blogging than understanding why and how to start a blog, I’m afraid you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Other than money being the prime motive, there are many businesses which use blogging to enhance user experience and increase sales.
For more clarity on purpose, go to this article and jump to What do blogs offer? and How do blogs make money? parts using the Table Of Contents that I add to each of my articles.
Passion is one major reason why many people blog. And passion is the best reason to start a blog.
I started because I always wanted a blog of my own where I could write. I firmly believe in the power of the internet, so I do anything I can to promote IT in my circle. This blog helps me make new bloggers who can follow their passion and eventually have an online income.
I do all that by writing which is another strong passion of mine. My blog posts teach people how to start a blog, so the passionate teacher inside me is happy too. What’s your passion?
Step 2: Select A Blog Niche
Niche is the particular portion of a broader topic that your blog is going to cover.
Do you want to write about UEFA Champions League updates? If so then sports is your general topic. It narrows down to a particular game called football. Then you’ve zeroed in on a particular tournament (UEFA Champion s League) as your niche.
If you’re interested in knowing how to start a blog, then the most important decision for you before starting a blog is the topic or niche selection.
No one else can suggest you a niche. Choose a niche that you can continue blogging about, and it should be in line with your passion.
You don’t have to be an expert in your niche when you start your blog, but you should be passionate enough to master it in the near future.
Don’t choose niche only for money because you’ll lose interest. Pick a topic that lights your inner creativity up.
For deeper and more practical understanding of niche selection, you must read the Blog Topics Selection 101: How To Choose Blog Topic article.
(Warning: – The article is 4500+ words long and of the highest quality.)
Step 3: Choose A Domain Name
Domain name is an important part of blogging. It’s not free (unless you’re setting up a free blog).
A domain name is your property for the period of registration (generally one year) and remains so if you keep paying annual renewal fees.
It comes at a cost but luckily it’s not that expensive. You can buy a domain name of your choice from any provider that suits you.
Most of the time, your hosting provider also registers a domain for you. So you can purchase a domain and webhosting from the same company without having to go through two different transactions.
I bought my domain name (ilyastarar.com) from my host (pawnhost.com) in $15/year. That’s roughly an investment of $1/month. Not much of an investment for a personal .com domain if you ask me.
You can get a domain name at lower prices or even free with some hosting offers. Check them out by searching Google.
Key Points In Choosing A Domain Name
- Try to keep the domain name short. Shorter the better. However, due to the registration of millions of blogs and websites every month, it is very hard to find a one-word domain name. Trying using a combination of suitable words to find a great domain name. Check availability of your desired domain name on any of the above websites.
- If domain name indicates your niche and contains your keyword, it can give you a competitive edge in SEO and help you rank better in Google search results. For example, www.vlogging.pk is a recently launched blog run by my friend Hassaan Khan. It’s all about vlogging for Pakistani audience. Perfect!
- I like .com but if your blog is Pakistan specific, .pk is a good option. Choose any one that you like according to your needs. Propakistani.pk is a good example of a .pk domain name.
Step 4: Buy A Hosting Package
Hosting is a service that a webhosting company provides you with. Your website/blog is hosted on your company’s servers. Which means in simple words that all your content and files are stored on your hosting company’s server.
Hosting can be bought from various web hosting companies. Most of the domain registration companies also provide hosting packages.
For comparison of big hosting companies, search on Google for best webhosting companies and visit a few search results to have an idea.
Which Hosting Package Do I Use?
I use Pawnhost’s $3 Hosting Plan which is economical ($36 per year) as well as ideal for the beginners.
I’ve got unlimited hosting space, paid via bank transfer, high-grade servers which ensure fast and secure website.
If you’re looking for more advanced options, you can explore all available hosting packages on my hosting provider’s website as well as all the other hosting companies.
Choose what suits your needs no matter what the company.
What Happens If The Hosting Is Not Good?
Buying webhosting from a wrong or a too cheap host means on something essential.
For a basic level understanding, know that your site rests on your host’s server.
If the server is down or slow, your site will go down or remain slower. Neither people nor Google like blogs which are slow or dead.
Since all our content is for people and Google (prefer to write for the people, not Google), our blog will fail if our hosting is of bad quality.
Another factor to look for is customer/technical support. See if it is readily available and fast.
Read reviews. Ask for experienced people’s opinion. I’ll invite an expert in near future to guide you on how to choose webhosting and what factors to look for in a company and the hosting packages it offers.
How To Pay For Domain Name & Hosting?
One thing I should clarify here is that to buy a domain name and hosting from a global company; you would require a payment gateway like PayPal or Credit Card.
Knowing how to pay for purchasing your domain and hosting is important just like knowing how to start a blog.
Since PayPal isn’t available in Pakistan and credit cards are not so common, payment gateway becomes a big hurdle in buying the domain name, hosting or anything that requires online payment.
At the time of buying this domain for me, I didn’t have a Credit Card or a PayPal account. As a matter of fact, the only payment solutions I had were the bank transfer and EasyPaisa. Then how did I manage to buy this domain and hosting?
Luckily, I met Khurram Shezad who’s CEO of PawnHost which is a webhosting company and offers domain registration as well.
The day he told me that I could buy the domain and webhosting without PayPal or Credit Card, I decided to buy from PawnHost.
My problem of not having a Credit Card or PayPal didn’t stop me from having my blog online.
Since I’m sincerely inclined to solve your blogging problems, I’ll suggest all the possible solutions for you to decide what suits you the best.
I’m supposing that you want to do the transaction yourself. Here’s what you can do.
Buy From A Company That Accepts Bank Transfer/EasyPaisa
That would be just like I did. I purchased this domain and its hosting package from PawnHost.
Till now, I’m quite happy with my choice, website’s speed, and performance on their server and the customer/technical support. I’d recommend it to you too.
The whole package contains everything a beginner needs. I bought the domain for $15 and hosting for $3 per month. I had my blog online for just $51.
Since I paid in Pakistani currency, I converted $51 to PKR exchange rate of that day and transferred the PKR amount to their bank account. The whole transaction was seamless.
There are other Pakistani companies too who provide such a solution, but since I have first-hand experience with PawnHost and I know and trust its CEO well, I’d not recommend any other company right now.
If you think another company is trustworthy and provides excellent webhosting services, you can go for it.
Get Your Payment Solution
Another way of looking at the problem is to solve it by getting your payment solution. This approach will take some time but will benefit you in the longer run.
Since PayPal isn’t officially available in Pakistan, I’ll not include it in the possible solutions.
Note: – Most solutions are suggested for Pakistan. If you’re outside Pakistan, you can get PayPal, Payoneer, Credit Card on any other solution available in your country of residence.
Here’s what you can do about online payments.
Get a Payoneer Card
Go to *Payoneer.com and sign up to create your account.
* If you sign up from this link, you’ll get $25 for FREE but only after you receive $100 in your account (nobody tells that).
Your account details will be reviewed and approved by Payoneer so wait for it.
After your account is setup, order your Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard. You’ll receive it in approximately a month. Use that card for online payments.
Do check for fees here before making a decision. Payoneer is especially beneficial for those who want to receive global payments against freelancing work.
Get UBL Wiz / MCB Lite Card
These two are popular choices for Pakistanis these days because they work on most online platforms and solve the online payment issue efficiently.
You don’t even need to have a bank account to get these cards, which is fantastic. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on one of these as well because online things can not be bought without an online payment gateway.
Get MCB Debit Card
MCB has recently enabled all MCB debit cards for online shopping for the duration of 15 days at a time. After 15 days, you’ll need to contact customer support number to reactivate your debit card for another 15 days and so on.
Get a Credit Card
To own a credit card, you need to be an account holder of a bank. If you have a bank account, get your credit card issued. For details, contact your bank.
Step 5: Install WordPress
You’re done with choosing and registering your domain name. You’ve bought your hosting package. Or at least you know how to do that.
Now, the next step is to setup your blog. We’re going to use WordPress as our CMS.
I’m also using WordPress (the best platform for blogging due to multiple reasons), so that’s what I’m going to cover here.
To compare the best blogging platforms, read this article from WPBeginner: How to Choose the Best Blogging Platform in 2016 (Compared)
The Blessing That An Auto Installer Is!
One of the most useful softwares in Control Panel is an auto installer, a software that installs WordPress or any other script on your website automatically in a matter of few minutes and clicks.
I used Softaculous Auto Installer from my cPanel to install WordPress. Fantastico is another favorite auto installer.
Thanks to these installers, you and I don’t need programming knowledge or skills to start a blog.
Hosting account comes with a control panel which is used for website management. All hosts give you some sort of control panel and its username/password.
My hosting included latest cPanel with all features readily available. Link to your control panel login page, username and password will be provided by your host on the purchase.
Make sure you check your email and keep the information safe.
How To Install WordPress?
Now comes the WordPress part of the ‘how to start a blog’ guide. To setup your WordPress blog, log in to your control panel.
You’ll probably be asked to take a tour of your panel. Take that tour to see how things work.
Softculous is available in the cPanel. Like always, I’ll direct you to the best available content on authority blogs for the solution of your problems.
I could have done it myself, but these guys have done a great job. If you have any question, you can ask me in comments.
See on WPBeginner how to install WordPress using Softaculous.
Enter your details according to the fields (do check the link above to understand the whole procedure) and click on WordPress to install it automatically.
You can choose from available themes. Choose anyone that suits your needs. Don’t bother too much about theme selection because you can always change it from your Dashboard.
Watch this video to see how auto installation works.
If you face any problem during the entire process of WordPress installation, contact your host, leave a comment her or seek help from experienced people from blogging groups.
After installation of WordPress, your blog is now online, and you’re ready to write your first blog post.
Step 6: Write Your First Blog Post
This is next phase of how to start a blog because you’ve already bought your domain name and hosting. You’ve installed WordPress too.
Once you’re done with setting up your blog, next thing you need to do is to start writing blog posts.
While writing, you can avail a variety of tools available in WorPress editor to make your post readable, attractive, and shareable.
The success of a blog relies hugely upon the quality of blog posts. Content is king. You must respect this blogosphere commandment.
Due to sheer importance of content writing, I’ll cover how to create blog posts in the next article.
However, I’ll go through the necessary procedure with following pictures to get you started on writing blog posts:-
Image # 1: How to create a blog post.
That’s enough for a basic introduction. Next article will cover each aspect writing a blog post in detail.
Step 7: Customize Your Blog
WordPress is the most popular blogging platform because it offers a lot of free resources which help not only in the management of a blog but also in enhancing its quality and reach.
The best thing about WordPress is that there’s a lot that you can do without any web designing or programming knowledge.
Here’s a list of free themes that you may like. Change themes and see which one you like more.
One thing I’d suggest is that when you apply a new theme, go to Google’s Website Speed Testing Tool and see how mobile-friendly and fast your blog is with this theme.
Choose the theme which has high scores in this test and looks great too.
See this great list of free plugins, including their purpose, that you can use to tweak your website. I’d suggest you install some essential plugins for now.
- Contact Form 7 is a simple contact form plugin that adds contact forms on your blog. It is up to you where you wish to place your contact form, but it should be there on your Contact page. See my contact page. You’ll get the idea what it does.
- Yoast SEO is one of the best SEO plugins. Start using Yoast SEO while editing your posts. Read the suggestions and apply corrections. Yoast brings two fields below the post editor. Readability and Keyword. See real-time feedback and implement recommendations accordingly. I’ll soon post a complete Yoast SEO tutorial as well.
- Shareaholic is a social sharing plugin which adds social sharing buttons to your posts and pages. There are other alternatives too, but Shareaholic is one of the most utilized options.
- Akismet prevents spam. It is one of the best spam protection plugins, and you must have it.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com is a jetpack (obvious from the name) which contains a lot of functions including social sharing buttons. You can turn these features on and off at your will.
- Above The Fold Optimization enables to achieve a Google PageSpeed 100 Score. In simple words, it helps make your blog fast. By being fast, it means that the page will load without delay.
When you create a form, go to your form and copy this code. After copying, create a new page (Dashboard>Pages>Add New), name it Contact or Contact Us/Me, paste this code in the editor and publish.
You have a contact page with a contact form now.
Do not use too many plugins. They’ll slow down your website. Use only the essential ones.
To add plugins, go to Dashboard>Plugins>Add New. See the picture below.
Knowing about (the use of) great WordPress plugins and other online tools is necessary to make your blog successful.
Therefore, a separate blog post (coming ahead in this series) will cover the essential tools and plugins that you must know about and use effectively. Stay tuned and do subscribe.
Widgets are great tools to use prominent places on your blog, mainly the sidebar, header, and footer.
Go to Dashboard>Appearance>Widgets to add and edit widgets. Essentially, have a sign-up widget which can get subscribers.
Why subscribers are important is a topic which needs detailed discussion, so there’s going to be an article about it in future too. (Have you noticed that I’ve got every problem of a beginner noted for future as well?)
View the picture below to see how widgets work. Drag and drop widget of your choice to the area of your choice.
Now You Know How To Start A Blog!
Is it difficult to start a blog of own? Do you know how to start a blog now? Are you happy with the fact that you don’t need programming or web designing knowledge to do it?
It’s great that everything is automated these days and even people having no programming experience can operate a blog.
Remember, you know from reading, but you learn only when you do it yourself.
You can follow these 7 step checklist to blogging to create your blog right now or whenever you’re ready to dive in. Do leave your questions and feedback in the comments.
The next article is another incredibly simple tutorial on how to write a blog post.