Learning how to start a blog is easy. All you need to do is find a free blogging platform and publish your first post. On the other hand, learning how to start a blog and make money, is a little more difficult. There's a lot more you need to set up and worry about before you're able to hit publish.
You know you need a decent topic idea. Maybe you even know about the dozens of other things you need to worry about, but how do you get started? That's what we're going to cover in this post. From finding your niche and getting hosting set up to building up your website and producing content, we're going to cover everything you need to do start blogging on your own website in no time.
- Finding your blogging niche
- Choosing a blogging platform
- Registering a domain name
- How to start a blog with a WordPress host
- Blogging 101 – WordPress themes
- Recommended WordPress plugins to start a blog
- How to become a successful blogger
Finding your blogging niche
Find your niche and define your target audience before you pay a single penny for a domain and hosting. It'll leave you more prepared when you start building your website and adding content to it. You don't need to reinvent the wheel here or choose a blog topic that's never been written about before. You just need something original enough to generate traffic and revenue. The trick is to go for a new take on an oversaturated niche.
To do this, your blog needs to provide something other blogs in your niche do not. You need to connect with your audience and solve the problems other blogs gloss over. How do you do this exactly? Let's say you want to learn how to start a blog in the vegan food niche. The only problem is there are already dozens of successful food blogs in this niche and more and more people starting blogs in it everyday. That means publishing a simple recipe every week is out of the question. You need a different approach. Here are a few ideas:
- Specializing in offering quick vegan recipes.
- Starting a blog site on cheap vegan recipes.
- Focusing on simple vegan sweets and treats.
Here are a few examples of big-name brands who found success in oversaturated niches:
- Tesla Motors producing “sexy” electric cars people “actually want to drive”.
- Airbnb with real homes and apartments to book.
- Uber with cheap and efficient transportation.
Let's talk about choosing a blogging platform and why we believe starting with WordPress is the best way to go when you're learning how to start a blog.
Choosing a blogging platform
Choosing a blogging platform is one of the most important parts of learning how to start a blog. It determines whether or not you need to pay for hosting and what type of hosting you need to pay for. Unfortunately, making money starts with spending money. Free blogging platforms usually are way too restrictive for professional bloggers. They won't allow you to grow as quickly as you could, and they'll even try to control various aspects of your blog. That's why we recommend paying for a hosting plan and installing WordPress.
Why we recommend WordPress
WordPress (.org – the open-source project – not .com) powers 29% of all websites on the web. It's an open-source content management system, which means you can do a lot more than blogging with it. Once you're done learning how to start a blog, you can use it to build an entire website filled with premium features. You can add courses to it, forums, support portals, memberships, knowledge bases and so much more.
Using WordPress also gives you a sense of freedom of choice you usually can't get with free blogging platforms or all-in-one platforms. Don't like your hosting company? Change it. Not a fan of the comment system on your blog? Implement a different one. Want to change the look of your site? Choose from thousands upon thousands of WordPress themes. As such, we'll be discussing blogging tips in terms of how they relate to hosted WordPress blogs throughout the remainder of this post.
Registering a domain name
Your domain name is your site's identity. It's the URL your readers will use to access your site. This is why it's important for you to take a bit of time and care in choosing your domain name as you're essentially choosing your brand name as well. It's perfectly okay to choose a domain name that differs from your brand name, but it'll make it much easier for users to find your blog if they hear of you outside of it. Be sure to take these tips into consideration throughout the brainstorming process. Choose a domain name that's…
- Easy to spell
- Can't be confused with anything else
Make sure the domain you choose is truly the one you want before you register it. Changing domain names after your blog is already established is a messy game. Your brand's recognition and SEO are tied to it, and you may have trouble gaining them back when you change it. Let's talk about the technical side of registering a domain since this is one of the many things you'll need while you learn how to start a blog.
Choosing a domain registrar
A domain registrar is a service that allows you to register and manage domain names. They typically offer additional products and services as well, such as email hosting, SSL certificates and Whois protection. Domain registrars come in two different forms. The first is a dedicated registrar that specializes in this service. The second is your host that simply offers this service, typically a free domain, as part of your hosting package.
Unfortunately, registering your domain name with the same service that hosts your website isn't a good idea. If you ever decide to move away from your host, you'll need to transfer your domain as well. Domain name transfers can take as long as 15 days, which means 15 days of potential downtime for your website. Here are a few domain name registrars to choose from:
It's usually best to use a .com domain as it's the most popular option out there as well as the one the web is most familiar with. Be prepared to pay up to $15/year for your domain plus a $3/year fee for Whois protection. We recommend choosing a different domain name if yours is already registered as the owner may want hundreds, thousands and even over a million dollars for it.
Linking your domain name to your host
If you register your domain name with someone other than your host, you'll need to “point” it to your host before you can create a blog. Start by determining what your host's nameservers are. Search their knowledge base, enter “[host name] nameservers” in Google or simply ask them. Once you determine what they are, you'll need to manage your domain name, and enter the nameservers in the appropriate area.
How to start a blog with a WordPress host
There are many types of hosting but only two types of WordPress hosting. The first type supports WordPress but also supports other platforms. The second specializes in WordPress. They're typically referred to as “managed WordPress hosts”. Why do you need to learn about hosting? We're more or less going over the steps to setting up a website, which is something you need to know how to do if you want to learn how to start a blog and make money blogging.
Types of hosting you can use to build a blog
Here's a simple list of the types of hosting that exist:
We're only going to go over the first three options since this is a post on blogging for beginners and you don't need expensive hosting to know how to start a blog. Dedicated hosting and enterprise hosting are designed for big to enterprise-sized businesses. Reseller hosting is designed for developers, which means none of these options are suitable when all you need to know is how to start a blog.
Shared hosting is the least reliable option you have to choose from. It does, however, happen to be the cheapest option, which is why so many beginners use it to create a blog for the first time. The reason it's so unreliable is because you “share” it with many other websites. Every resource, from the CPU and the storage drive to the software the server uses, is shared by every website on that server. This means if one website goes down, they all go down. It also means slower speeds for you if another website uses too many resources.
VPS hosting, or virtual private server hosting, is a type of shared hosting. This type of hosting uses a virtual server application. This means every website shares the same hardware (physical resources) while having their own private space on the server. It also means one website cannot steal resources from another, making it a much more reliable option. VPS hosting is recommended if you expect that your website will have increased traffic.
Cloud hosting is one of the most reliable forms of hosting you can use. Unfortunately, this also makes it one of the most expensive forms of hosting you can use. This type of hosting uses a virtual, or “cloud”, server application that's connected to a network of machines, giving it a seemingly unlimited number of resources to use. This is called “scaling”. It means the server is able to draw on more resources as needed, keeping the website live no matter how much traffic or how many DDoS attacks hit it.
You may be overwhelmed by all these different hosting options. But don't worry! Choosing a hosting option doesn't need to be as complicated as learning how to start a blog. In fact, let's make things simple:
- Choose shared hosting if…
- You're short on funds.
- You don't plan on growing quickly.
- Choose VPS hosting if…
- You have more to spend upfront.
- You plan on growing quickly.
- Choose cloud hosting if…
- You plan on growing quickly with paid advertisements and press releases.
Recommended WordPress hosting companies
We recommend using the following WordPress hosts:
Bluehost is a popular hosting option for those who want to learn how to start a blog for the first time. They support multiple CMSs but offer plans exclusively for WordPress. This host also has cheap shared hosting plans that cost as low under $3/month and plenty of features for beginner bloggers, such as an option for installing WordPress with a one click install. They also offer VPS hosting and cloud hosting.
SiteGround is another host that supports multiple CMSs but specializes in WordPress. They offer shared hosting and cloud hosting plans for bloggers. The shared hosting plans are typically available at a 45% discount for your first year. They use the same control panel (cPanel) as Bluehost, so installing WordPress is just as easy with them.
Kinsta is a managed WordPress host. They handle everything for you, so they’re perfect for beginner bloggers. They're more expensive, but on the other hand you'll get high-quality hosting and top-notch customer support. Kinsta offers cloud hosting powered by Google Cloud Platform, which means plans start at $30/month.
Blogging 101 – WordPress themes
Your WordPress theme is an important element to consider when you're learning how to start a blog. It'll affect the way your site looks, and more importantly, how it functions. You could wind up with a website that's hard to navigate if you choose a theme that's poor in quality. Similarly, others may feel your business isn't as high in quality or as up to date as it could be if your style is poor as well. Let's go into more detail.
Types of WordPress themes
Bloggers have a few different WordPress themes to choose from, mainly:
Blogging WordPress themes
Blogging themes are one of the most popular types of WordPress themes available for WordPress. They're great for bloggers who are only interested in publishing a few pieces of content every month as well as a few simple pages. There are even several different types of blogging themes you can choose based on your personality and the type of brand you want to build.
Magazine WordPress themes
Magazine themes are a step up from blogging themes. They're designed for publications who publish several times a week in several different categories. Unlike blogging themes, a magazine themes' homepage features several different areas to showcase the latest content you've published in different categories. They also typically come with more advanced features, such as areas for advertisements, social media functions and multiple blog post layouts.
Business WordPress themes
Business themes for WordPress are also a great option for bloggers interested in blogging for money. These themes are well enough to turn your blogs into fully-fledged businesses with products, online courses, podcasts or else. You'll find business WordPress themes for almost any niche market. Business themes typically come with well-designed homepages designed to promote products and services alongside your blog.
You can even go for a hybrid and choose a blogging or magazine theme compatible with a page builder plugin. This ensures you're able to build more intricate pages when you need to. There also are powerful multi-purpose themes available on the market which can be used for almost anything. Though, keep in mind that these kind of advanced WordPress themes usually require a particular skill set. They may not be the best choice for beginner bloggers.
Places to find WordPress themes
Buying a WordPress theme is one thing you'll need to know how to do when you learn how to start a blog with WordPress. That includes learning about where to go to buy themes. WordPress' own theme repository is one place to look. It features high-quality free themes you can use to create your own blog.
However, free themes may not be the best route to choose. They typically don't come with the same set of premium features you're used to seeing on websites. They also don't come with premium support, which can be a problem at some point down the line, especially for a beginner blogger not experienced in web design. If you do decide to use a free theme, it's highly recommended you choose one that has a premium version you can upgrade to later on with ease. There also are multiple places to purchase premium themes. They come in two categories:
- Theme Marketplaces
- Developer Websites
Popular theme marketplaces to buy WordPress themes include ThemeForest, Template Monster and Creative Market. Developer websites are individual shops where developers sell their own themes on their own websites. You won't always have access to user reviews there, but quality and support may be better as the developer doesn't have to follow a marketplace's policies, which may not be the best.
Features to look for in a WordPress theme
Features, code-quality and security of WordPress themes are more things you'll need to consider when you want to start a blog with WordPress. Let's go over the general features you should look for in a good blogging theme.
- Mobile Friendly – Most WordPress themes are mobile friendly these days, but it's still a feature to look out for. Make sure the WordPress theme has a responsive layout and mobile options (a menu that functions on mobile, stripped-down website with no animations, etc.).
- Multiple Post & Page Layouts – This is an important feature for bloggers. There's a reason why major publications have been using layout boards to carefully plan the way pages are displayed for centuries. The way you present information is just as important as the information you present.
- Support for Major Plugins – Be sure the major plugins you want to use are supported by your WordPress theme. That includes Yoast SEO, caching plugins, contact form plugins and more.
- Premium Support – If you're purchasing a WordPress theme, make sure the developer offers premium support in the form of a live chat system, a ticket system or even a private forum available to paying customers only.
- SEO Friendly – Search engines want sites that function well and offer great content. However, none of this matters if your site is not SEO friendly, so make sure it has clean code and performs well.
- Great Reviews – Whether they're on the product page, on a review site or in a review published by an individual blogger, make sure the WordPress theme has decent reviews. Listen to your fellow WordPress users, and stay away from theme developers that seem to have trouble providing quality themes or reliable support.
- Updated Regularly – Has it been more than a year since the WordPress theme was updated last? This could be a red flag and a sign that the developer does not intend on keeping the theme up to date. Make sure to contact the theme developer before purchasing and ask about upcoming updates. This also is a very good opportunity to test how quickly the developers answer incoming customer requests.
How to start a blog with the right plugins
WordPress has one major advantage over other CMSs, and that's plugins. You can add nearly any functionality to your website with a simple click of a button using plugins. There's no need to code or pay a developer to add it for you. The tricky part is deciding which plugins to use. Let's start with the places you can go to find plugins first.
Places to find WordPress plugins
Similar to WordPress themes, learning where to find WordPress plugins is another thing you'll need to know when you want to learn how to start a blog with WordPress. Unlike WordPress themes, however, it's not uncommon to rely on a majority of free plugins. There are plenty of quality, well-supported plugins in the plugin repository.
You'll visit similar places to find premium WordPress plugins as you do WordPress themes. ThemeForest has a sister site called CodeCanyon that offers premium WordPress plugins. Creative Market also has a small plugin library. You'll typically purchase premium WordPress plugins directly from developer websites. However, so don't fret if you don't find what you need here. There are also a few safety tips you should follow for WordPress plugins:
- Only install plugins that have been updated in the last year.
- Only install plugins that have a decent star rating.
- Keep the number of plugins you install to a minimum.
Let's talk about a few essential WordPress plugins you'll need. This will be an overview of recommended plugins since some of you may be learning how to start a blog with WordPress for the first time.
Essential WordPress plugins you need to set up your blog
The types of WordPress plugins you use will change the more familiar you become with the platform. However, there are a few essential WordPress plugins everyone needs from the get-go. If you want to learn how to start a blog with WordPress, you need to know about these plugins as well.
- Security Plugins – Unless you choose a professional managed WordPress host, you'll need to handle security for your site yourself. Here at Array Internet we recommend Wordfence, Sucuri and Limit Login Attempts. Check out our post on the best security plugins for more plugin recommendations to secure your WordPress site.
- Backup Plugins – Nearly every professional WordPress host offers this service, but you should consider taking matters into your own hands as well. We recommend CodeGuard and VaultPress.
- Caching Plugins – You may not need to worry about this if you choose a managed WordPress host, but caching is an important feature for site speed. Try W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache and WP Rocket.
- SEO Plugins – Optimizing your content for search engines is a must nowadays if you want to be successful. Therefore, an SEO plugin is one of the most important plugins bloggers can use. We recommend using Yoast SEO.
Let's get on to other topics, such as producing content and making money from your blog.
How to start a blog and become a successful blogger
Let's go over how to start a blog and actually start producing blog posts! If you're not even sure where to start when it comes to choosing your first blog topic, research your audience. Find out where they hang out online (forums, subreddits, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc.), and ask them what they're struggling with in your niche.
The trick is to produce well-written content that provides value to the reader. There's no greater way to do that than to solve real-world problems members of your niche are having. If you want a strategy to use, try the cornerstone content strategy. It's a complex strategy, but here's a brief explanation of how it works:
- Think of three to five of the most important topics members of your niche need to know about.
- Produce a different piece of long-form content (well over 3,000 words) for each topic you come up with, and publish them as pages. These are your “cornerstone articles”.
- Keyword research is important here. Make sure you're using the top keywords you want your site to rank for. You won't be targeting these keywords anywhere else on your site.
- Link to your cornerstone articles from your regular blog posts on a regular basis. The more links pointing to them, the more Google will crawl and rank them for the main keywords you chose.
Publish awesome blog content that people will love
Producing cornerstone content is a great way to develop an SEO strategy. It's an essential part of developing an effective content marketing strategy to build a successful blog. Good and valuable content is what will make or break the visitors' decision to come back to your blog. If you want to become a successful blogger, you need to focus on high-quality content. Here are a few more tips that will help you produce awesome content your readers will love:
- Find inspiration – Make sure the topic you're writing about aligns with your interest.
- Know your audience – Before creating your content, you should have a general idea of who you want to reach, what their interests are, and what they like. Knowing this will help you come up with content that will keep your audience not only interested but engaged as well.
- Outline ideas – Although it might be tempting to immediately write down your article and publish it, take some time to create a strong outline. The outline will serve as your guidance when you actually go to write your content. This will help you produce high-quality content.
- Stick to your niche – Be on point, always. No matter which niche or topic you're dealing with, be consistent, otherwise you risk confusing your audience.
Aim for at least five high-quality and extensive published articles before you start promoting your blog. That way it doesn't look too empty. This will also help get your site indexed at search engines.
Final thoughts on how to start a blog with WordPress
Learning how to start a blog can be intimidating. However, it's actually the easiest part about blogging. Keeping up with a content schedule, generating revenue and creating a successful blog is the hard part. What's next? Your next order of business should be to start an email list to connect to readers through their email address.
Email marketing is an important element to implement ways to generate revenue. Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make money blogging. You can also try to land a few sponsorship deals and produce your own products, such as online courses. There's a lot we didn't cover in this post. If you have any tips on how to start a blog, be sure to share them in the comments below!
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