So you’ve decided to start a blog— congratulations. There are a few factors to consider, such as your hosting options, getting the domain right, and making your first blog post.
It’s easier than it sounds. Use our ultimate step-by-step guide to launch your new blog.
How To Start a Blog in 5 Steps
Creating a blog may seem like a lot of work, but we’ve broken it down into five key steps:
- Identify your blog’s niche and domain name
- Choose a blogging platform
- Select a web host
- Customize your blog
- Manage and monetize your blog
If you’re new to blogging, you may consider hiring someone to set up your blog. But creating it yourself saves you time and money. Your blog will also be online faster, and you’ll maintain control over its look and feel.
1. Identify your blog’s niche and domain name
Before putting in the time and effort to set up your blog, make sure you clearly understand three things:
- Your blog’s purpose
- Why you’re the expert on this topic
- Your audience
While your blog evolves, having this foundation will guide your blog’s initial look and tone and help you find and grow your audience.
It’s also important to consider your blog’s title and domain name. GoDaddy allows bulk domain searches so you can find and register up to 500 domain names simultaneously. Research what existing blogs cover similar topics to understand your competition and possibly give you some ideas for a title and domain name.
What is your blog’s purpose?
Having clarity about your intentions will make it much easier to define the look and feel of your blog and help you find an audience once it launches. It will also give you something to return to if you ever feel uninspired.
Also, consider why you are the best person to blog about this topic — do you have expertise in this area? Is it something you are passionate about? Do you have a unique perspective on the topic you want to share?
There’s no right or wrong answer. This exercise is more about developing the idea behind your blog and giving people a compelling reason to visit it.
Your audience is another important component of your blog’s niche. Who are you writing this blog for? What kind of readership can you expect, and what will your readers expect from you? The ideal way to grow your blog is to balance creating content that makes you feel fulfilled while keeping readers engaged.
Selecting your blog’s domain name
A domain name is the web address where people can find your blog. Ideally, it is the same as your blog’s title or at least contains your blog’s title. A good domain name is unique, relatively short, and easy to remember. This is how people will find your blog, so it needs to be as accessible as possible.
Since you can’t use a domain name someone else already owns, brainstorm a few options in case your first choice is already taken. A quick internet search will reveal if any names you are considering are already claimed.
Generally, if you choose a free web host for your blog, the hosting company will provide you with a domain name. But a host-provided web address tends to be long and more difficult to type. It may also include the name of the host site rather than just the name of your blog.
While it may be tempting to go with the free, host-provided domain name, if you want your blog to be as professional and accessible as possible, purchasing your domain name is worth the investment.
2. Choose a blogging platform
A blogging platform is the content management system (CMS) through which you will publish your blog online. Some platforms, like WordPress or Blogger, are designed specifically for blogging. Others, like Wix and Squarespace, have more robust features for creating whole websites besides blogs.
While some platforms are more popular than others, your unique needs will guide which one is right for you. It’s worth exploring a few different options before deciding. Below, we outline some tips for choosing a blogging platform.
Tips for choosing your blogging platform
- Make sure it’s easy to use
- Look for customization options
- Confirm it matches your budget
- Ensure it has monetization options
- Select one with excellent customer support
Make sure it’s easy to use
If you’re new to blogging, you may think you need to learn to code but fear not. Most blogging platforms are designed to be simple and intuitive without specialized coding knowledge.
Look for features like drag-and-drop, which lets you add elements like photos and videos to your posts with a few simple clicks. Rich-text editors, which allow you to adjust fonts, headings, text colors, and more without using HTML, are another must-have.
Look for customization options
Your blog needs to stand out and truly reflect you and your topic — that’s where customization comes in. Look at the platform’s options for themes, plug-ins, widgets, and other customization tools. Even if you’re unsure what elements you want in your blog, choosing a flexible platform for customization is best.
It should be in your budget
A big consideration for bloggers is how much, if anything, to pay for your blogging platform. Most platforms offer multiple monthly plans, ranging from free to around $15 to $20.
Depending on your long-term goals for your blog, investing some money into an upgraded plan can pay off in the long run. A custom domain name for your blog is usually a premium feature but will make your blog more legitimate and accessible.
A paid plan gives you more customization tools, customer support, and monetization options. Figure out your budget, shop around, and choose the platform and plan that gives you the best value. Many blogging platforms also offer trial periods, letting you cancel and receive a refund within a certain time if you’re unsatisfied.
Ensure it has monetization options
Speaking of money, consider using your blog as a source of income. This affects which blogging platform you use, as some are more friendly to monetization than others.
When researching platforms and plans, dig into their ads, e-commerce, and branding options. As with domain names, monetization options are typically only available to bloggers who choose a paid plan.
Seek excellent customer support
Even if a platform is easy to use, you may sometimes need assistance, whether it’s for a design question or a technical issue. Look at what kind of customer support the platform offers and if there are differences between free and paid plans.
Also, the internet is a constantly changing ecosystem where new tools and trends are always introduced. Your platform should regularly update its features to help your blog grow with the changing internet landscape.
3. Select a web host for your blog
After you’ve picked your blogging platform, select a web hosting company that provides the servers. This is where the information that makes up your blog lives. If your blog is a house, the platform is the architect. The web host is the land on which it exists, and the domain name is the address where people can find your house.
Types of web hosting
When choosing a blog host, you have two options: free hosting and self-hosting. Like free versus paid blogging platforms, each option has advantages and disadvantages.
Free web hosting
With free hosting, the main advantage is you won’t have to pay out of pocket to operate your blog. This can be a decent option if your budget is limited or you’re considering blogging as more of a hobby than a professional venture.
However, there are some significant drawbacks. You do not get to choose your domain name; it may be clunky, long, and hard to remember. This can limit your ability to grow your brand and audience.
There will also be more rules about what you can and can’t do with your blog, particularly in terms of monetization. Typically, if another site is hosting your blog for free, the creator will slap its ads and branding on it and limit your ability to make money blogging.
Also, if you are hosting your blog somewhere free, you don’t technically own it. Platforms like Blogger or WordPress.com will host your blog at no charge. But they exert much more control and can suspend or even delete the blog if they believe it violates the service terms. This can mean losing all the content and work you put into your blog, with limited recourse for recovering it.
Self-hosting, on the other hand, gives you a lot more control for a (usually) small financial output. Hosting plans typically range from as low as $3 per month for basic personal plans to $15 per month for more powerful plans for larger businesses.
The term “self-hosting” can be a bit misleading. You don’t own the servers where your blog’s data lives. Rather, you work with a third-party web host to store your blog’s data on a shared server. This is the cheapest way to get started if you want to self-host your blog.
Web hosts divide a server into separate chunks of disk space and other resources. Each customer gets their allocation, but they share the server. Your files are private — no other customer can access them.
Other advantages of self-hosting include choosing your domain name, which gives your blog a more professional look, and the freedom to monetize your blog in more ways.
Whether you should go with free hosting or self-hosting depends on your intentions for your blog. Free hosting is probably sufficient if you are interested in blogging as a hobby and not necessarily looking to grow a large audience or make money.
However, suppose your blog is a professional endeavor and something you hope to monetize immediately or in the future. It’s probably worth the investment to purchase a domain name and find a third-party web host.
4. Customize your blog
Ideally, you’ve spent time thinking about your blog’s appearance. If you browsed through the templates and themes, this might have even been a factor in your chosen platform.
Your blog’s unique purpose and tone should guide your blog’s design and what custom features would make it useful and attractive to your audience.
Tips for choosing a blog theme
- Keep your purpose, topic, and audience in mind
- Stay away from coding if you’re not experienced
- Use updated themes frequently
Usually, the first step of blog customization is choosing a theme, which is a matter of taste and functionality. Thousands of free and premium themes are available for different types of sites.
Most sites, including WordPress, will allow you to install and uninstall themes, so try as many as you like before finalizing one. When considering your options, use these tips:
Keep your purpose, topic, and audience in mind
When you start a blog, you have complete freedom to use any theme you like, but remember your purpose, topic, and audience to align your theme with these elements. For example, if your blog focuses on professional development and career advice, avoiding overly cutesy or whimsical themes is best.
Avoid coding if you’re inexperienced
Customizing a theme can be difficult. If you don’t know how to code, diving into the files and hacking the theme is not a good idea. You could break your site completely. If you want to play around with different colors and fonts, look for a theme with a control panel.
Use frequently-updated themes
Old themes are vulnerable to hacking, which can wreak havoc with your site. If you don’t detect the problem early, your domain could be blacklisted. For security, it’s best to use themes updated frequently by the developer.
A note about free themes
Depending on your blogging platform, you can choose between free and premium themes. All free themes contain the basic components needed to build a blog.
Starting with a basic free theme is ideal for getting your blog off the ground. You’ll have some time to get used to the platform and figure out what you need from a paid theme in the future.
Over time, your free WordPress theme may limit your progress. For a price, premium themes offer more flexibility and may include direct support from the theme developer. This can be helpful when you’re trying to resolve issues with the layout or appearance of your site.
Choosing plug-ins for your blog
If you want to extend your blog’s functionality beyond the basics, plug-ins allow you to add new features. Sites like WordPress have a repository of thousands of free plug-ins.
Adding widgets to your blog
Widgets are small, self-contained modules that add content to your site without writing code. They can add social media links and updates, calendars, menus, lists of popular blog posts, and more. By placing widgets in the sidebar or footer of your blog, you can break up text and make the site more visually interesting while presenting more useful or interesting content to your visitors.
If you’re building your blog through WordPress, you’ll have a selection of built-in widgets. You may have additional widgets from your theme developer or installed plug-ins. Other blogging platforms may have widgets or allow you to get them from third-party developers.
5. Manage and monetize your blog
A poorly maintained blog can be a magnet for spam and malware. It’s also less likely to attract visitors. If you create your blog through WordPress, the site will provide updates by itself. But you must still understand how to manage your pages, categories, tags, and media.
It’s also a good idea to optimize your blog for searches, promote a mailing list, and bring in visitors from social media by embedding sharing buttons. That will bring a lot more traffic and help to build your audience.
Blog pages and posts
Pages are for your static content (like your About Me page), and posts form the basis of your blog. You’ll likely have only a few static pages, but eventually, you’ll have written thousands of posts.
Pages and posts can have comments and share the same editing and formatting controls. You can embed media in either. But posts and pages differ in a few important ways:
- You can have parent pages with several child pages underneath them. Posts are organized by tag or category instead.
- Posts are shown in your Archives and RSS feed, while pages are not.
- Posts contain the time and date of publication, while pages are evergreen.
Categories and tags
In WordPress and most other blogging platforms, you can file your posts under tags and categories. It helps to understand the difference between the two:
- Categories let you group posts according to theme or topic. For example, a fashion blog might create one category for each season or trend, letting readers quickly access posts on the same subject. You can nest categories inside other categories. Some plug-ins also use categories to display varying groups of blog posts differently.
- Tags let you describe posts using one or more keywords. This gives you much finer control over their categorization.
Should I use categories, tags, or both?
In WordPress, all blog posts must have at least one category, even if it’s just the default “uncategorized” one. The category is like a folder for all the blogs on a topic.
Optional tags let you get down to specifics and describe your post’s content or keywords. For example, if we write a fashion blog about tennis shoes, we can assign a “Fall Fashion” category to group it with similar posts. Then, we could use specific tags relating to the content — “sneakers,” “Converse,” and “hi-tops” — to make it clear what the content of the post is.
Social media sharing
When readers find a likable piece of content, they’ll probably want to share it with friends. Social media can be an important way to boost traffic to your blog.
It makes sense to encourage sharing by providing social media buttons on each blog post. Visitors can click the buttons to quickly post the link to the content on their social timelines.
Adding a social sharing plug-in on WordPress
There’s no shortage of sharing plug-ins on the WordPress plug-in repository. For the cleanest and most user-friendly result, we recommend you use one plug-in to display all the sharing buttons side-by-side.
Any popular platform is a target for hackers, and blogs are, unfortunately, no different. Malicious users are constantly trying to hack into sites and wreak havoc.
Most big blogging platforms like WordPress are secure, but you can never assume you’re 100 percent safe. Out-of-date code or a weak password could be a gift for a hacker looking to distribute malware via your server.
Why change the WordPress administrator username?
If you used WordPress as your platform when you initially installed the software, you may have been assigned the username “admin.” Hackers know that most WordPress bloggers use this username to log in. That makes it much easier to launch a brute force attack knowing half of the credentials they need.
You can change your WordPress admin login with these easy steps. (If you are using a different platform, check its knowledge base for how to change the admin login.)
- In the WordPress dashboard, go to Users
- Add a new user, ensuring you set that user’s role to Administrator
- Log out of WordPress, and log back in as the new user you just created
- Return to the Users screen, and delete the original Administrator account
- Choose which user to attribute the old Administrator’s posts to
- Click Confirm Deletion
As a blogger, you need a way to keep in touch with readers who visit your site. Adding your email address would be an easy way to achieve this. But publishing your email online, without obfuscation, is an invitation for spammers to abuse it.
A contact form is a viable alternative. Your visitors can fill it in without needing to see your email address, and the messages get delivered straight to your inbox.
Monetizing your blog
Making money off your blog isn’t a necessary part of blogging, but it’s a nice perk if you want to explore that option. Learning how to monetize your blog is a topic in and of itself, but here are some basic tips to start making money from your blogging experience:
Sell ads on your blog
This is one of the most popular ways to monetize your blog, especially since it doesn’t require a ton of work beyond bringing in consistent traffic. Google AdSense is a popular choice for bloggers who want to run site ads.
Write sponsored posts
You’ve probably seen posts on other blogs that promote certain products or services. If you can build your audience and authority in your niche, advertisers may reach out to write a sponsored post in exchange for money.
Participate in an affiliate program
Similar to sponsored posts, affiliate programs allow you to earn a commission for promoting and successfully selling products through your site for an affiliated retailer. This is a good money-making strategy for trusted blogs with a lot of traffic. However, it is best practice for bloggers to notify their site visitors that they use affiliate links.
Sell merch through your blog
If your blog attracts a loyal following, it’s likely fans may want to buy products or services associated with your blog. Use your creative or entrepreneurial spirit to make branded merchandise you can sell through your blog, utilizing the plethora of available e-commerce plug-ins.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can a beginner start blogging?
The first step is to clarify the blog’s purpose and content. Then you can decide on a domain name so readers can access your blog.
To set up the blog, choose one of the many platforms that make the process easy for beginners. We also suggest customizing the blog to suit your needs. Finally, several blogging platforms also offer the option of monetizing your content so you can earn some income from your writing.
How do I start a blog with no money?
Most blogging platforms have free plans with the basic functionality to get your blog off the ground. Initially, you will likely not require the platform’s full range of functionality.
A basic plan is a good option for anyone wanting to dip their toes into blogging. You can consider switching to a paid plan when your blog grows, and the basic plan’s features are insufficient for your goals.
How do bloggers make money?
There are multiple ways to get paid as a blogger. The easiest way is to display ads on the blog.
You can also work with others to write sponsored posts promoting a product or service or join an affiliate program and earn a commission every time someone purchases the links on your blog. For more established bloggers with dedicated readers, selling merch is another option.