How To Start a Blog – Your Step by Step Successful Launch Guide

How To Start a Blog - Your Step by Step Successful Launch Guide

I had no idea how to start a blog. “What’s the difference between a domain name and blog hosting? Where do I get hosting? And what is HTML?” When I started my home design blog Home Tree Atlas I was pretty clueless about all of this.

The thing is, it is a lot easier than most people think. Nope, you don’t need to be an IT wizard or have any special skills. It’s as easy as creating a Facebook or Pinterest account. I’ve learned a lot since starting Home Tree Atlas, which now has been featured on Huffington Post and Apartment Therapy. Here I’ll show you, step by step, everything that you need to know to set up a blog.

I would like to send out many MANY thanks to Jacob. If you are thinking about setting a blog up and have no idea where to start–go to him! He is so incredibly helpful. Thank you, thank you Jacob you are such a dear – Joelle

4 minutes, that’s all it takes to get your blog up and running. I’ll also give you tips on how to make your blog look good, and how to create your first custom pages.

First I’ll give you a quick walk through of all the things you need to do to create a successful blog, then I’ll go through in detail the steps for setting up your blog.

The 2 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Your Blog

The 2 Things You Need To Know Before Starting Your Blog

1. The Tools You’ll Need – What is A Domain and Hosting? A domain name is your address on the web i.e. www.mynewblog.com.

A hosting account is a place where you store all of your blog’s files (photos, text, the theme). Every time someone visits your site, your host sends the files to their computer. All you need to do is sign up with a hosting account (I use Bluehost) – then you can just log into your blog and write posts, while your host does everything for you.

2. A Free vs Paid Blog: A lot of people wonder if they should just use a free blog. It all really depends on what you want to use your blog for. If you just want a travel blog to keep friends and family updated back home for a few months, then I say keep it simple and use a free blog.

But, if you have high ambitions for your new blog, whether that be anything from a fashion blog, travel blog, advice blog, to a food blog, photography blog, a video blog, a family blog, a running blog, or a personal blog, then you’ll want to avoid starting a free blog. If you want your blog to become something bigger – like it having a shop, having a large number of visitors, wanting to learn how to make money blogging (from ads, affiliate sales, and your own products), having your own domain name, and be in complete control of your site (which you won’t be with a free blog) – then you’ll need to go with a paid blog. This means signing up with a top blog hosting service – like the one I use. This will cost between $3-5 a month. I’ll show you how to start a blog website on a hosting account in the steps below.

Note: Home Tree Atlas and Ministry of Canvas are both hosted with Bluehost. For only $3.49 a month, Bluehost will host your blog, give you a free domain, and install WordPress for you – Ministry of Canvas is an affiliate partner with Bluehost.

A Quick Beginners Walk Through – How To Make a Blog in 4 Steps

How To Make a Blog in 4 Steps

Step 1. Setting Up Your Blog in 4 Minutes – Domain Name and Hosting: I’ll walk you through how to get a .com website. The first thing we need to do is set up a hosting account on Bluehost. Here you’ll get a free domain included with your account and Bluehost will install WordPress for you.

The cost of your account will vary from $3-5 per month depending on the length of your plan (12-36 months). You’ll be paying this upfront to save you money. But if you decided later on that you want out, Bluehost will give back your money for the months you haven’t used.

If you don’t have a name for your blog yet, check out my post here for creative ways of brainstorming one

Step 2. How to Install WordPress on Your Domain: Once you have your hosting account, you can then get Bluehost to install WordPress on your new domain. You can find the steps of how to do this below.

Step 3. How to Design a Blog with WordPress Themes: WordPress themes let you easily change the look of your blog. Installing a theme is one of the first things I did when I started my home design blog, and I’ll show how to do it and where to find good looking themes.

Step 4. I’ll go over the first 5 things you need to do when you’ve set up your blog:

  1. Permalinks: Changing your posts URLs (uber important!)
  2. General Settings
  3. Tidying Up Your Blog
  4. Set up New Pages (About, Contact, etc.)
  5. 2 Plugins I Always Install Straight Away

I’ve recorded a video that show you the steps for starting your blog and getting set up with WordPress. Or if you would rather read through the tutorial, the step by step guide is written out below.

 

The Full Guide for Starting a Blog

Step 1. Setting Up Your Blog in 4 Minutes – Domain Name and Hosting

So once you have your blog name, you’ll want to go here to the Bluehost sign up page. Go with the “Starter” plan:

How To Start A Blog - Hosting Plan

Then type in your blog’s name into the “I Need a Domain Name” box:

Blog Set Up

The next page is where you’ll enter your account details.

In the “Package Information” section you’ll get to choose the account plan. The longer the plan, the cheaper it is month to month. For example the 24 month plan is $3.49 a month vs. $4.49 for the 12 month plan.

This is all paid upfront to save you money. You are not locked in though. If you want to cancel after 5 months, Bluehost will refund the months you haven’t used.

The only add on you’ll need is the “Domain Privacy Protection”. This is so your address and contact details are not made public.

Wordpress Blog Set Up

You’re are now done creating your blog’s hosting account, with a free domain. Now we need to get WordPress onto your new blogging website.

Step 2. How to Install WordPress on Your Domain

This next step is easy since Bluehost will do it for you.

You need to login to your Bluehost account and click on the “Install WordPress” button:

Installing WordPress On A Domain Name

On the next page click on the “Install” button:

Wordpress Blog Set Up

Then click on the “Check Domain” button:

If a warning comes up saying “installation directory is not empty” check the box for “OOPS! Looks like something already exists there!”

Wordpress Blog Set Up

On the next page go ahead and click on the box that says “Show Advanced Options”. Enter in your blog’s details. Then check the “I have read the terms and conditions” button, and then click the “Install Now” Button.

Bluehost in now installing WordPress’s blogging software onto your domain. In a few minutes you can visit your domain and you’ll see your new blog.

Step 3. How to Design a Blog with WordPress Themes

Now that I’ve shown you how to start your own blog, let’s start building your new website so it’s looking good. If you want to change the look and feel of your blog, you’ll want to find a theme that you like. To do this, log into your online blog by typing /wp-admin after your blog’s url – so www.myblog.com/wp-admin.

On the left side you’ll see a tab that says Appearance – hover over it and then click on “Themes”. Here you’ll find a collection of free blog templates. If you click the “Add New” button you’ll see a lot more themes. You can use any of these themes by hovering over the one you want and clicking on the Activate/Install button.

If you want a premium theme that comes with added features and better designs, I would recommend searching through the themes over at ThemeForest. Check out their best seller, The X theme.

If you buy a theme, you’ll be given a zip file to download. Once you have the file downloaded, go back to the theme section on your blog. Click the “Add New” button at the top, then the “Upload Theme” button to upload the zip file. You’ll then need to activate it.

Warning: Beware of free themes from unknown websites. There are a lot of free themes out there that will have code that will give someone access to your blog website so they can make changes.

Step 4. The First 5 Things You Need To Do When You’ve Set Up Your Blog

The First 5 Things You Need To Do When You've Set Up Your Blog

  1. Permalinks: Changing your posts URLs (uber important!)
  2. General Settings
  3. Tidying Up Your Blog
  4. Set up New Pages (About, Contact, etc.)
  5. 2 Plugins I Always Install Straight Away

1. Permalinks: The number one thing you need to do as soon as you have your blog set up is change the permalinks. This is the URL WordPress creates every time you write a post. The default setting is a number. So if you were to write a cooking blog post on mac and cheese, the url would be www.mynewblog.com/p232 which isn’t good, especially when it comes to getting visitors from search engines. We need to change this so that your url will be something like www.mynewblog.com/mac-and-chees.

To change it, log into your blog (www.yourblog.com/wp-admin) and go to the “Settings” tab on the left side. Then click on “Permalinks”.  Here you’ll want to click on the “Custom Structure” circle and paste this into the box: /%post_id%/%postname%/

Wordpress Permalinks

2. General Settings: Head on over to the “Settings” tab on the left side of your blog’s dashboard. Then click on the “General” tab. Here you’ll want to enter the “Site Title”, “Tag Line”, and “Email Address”.

Next click on the “Discussion” tab (we’re still under the “Settings” tab). And under the section “Before a comment appears” check the “Comment must be manually approved”. This helps stops comments from spammers show up on your website.

3. Tidying Up: When you first create your blog website, WordPress includes a few example posts, pages, and widgets. I get rid of these so that I have a fresh, clean blog to work with. Click on the “Posts” tab. If you hover over the post’s title you can click on “Trash”. Do the same over on “Pages”.

On your online blog you have a sidebar full of irrelevant items. To get rid of these items, hover over the “Appearance” tab when you are logged into your account and click on “Widgets”. To get rid of a widget, you simply drag it from the right side to the left side. I get rid of everything except the “Search” widget.

On the left side under “Available Widgets” you’ll see one named “Text”. Drag this across to the right side. Now you can write a little bit about what your blog is about and title the widget “About”. This will help visitors to your blog instantly know what your blog is about.

4. How to Set Up Your Own Pages in WordPress: Say you want to create an “About” page, or “Contact” page – to do this go to the “Pages” section and click on “Add New”.

In the Title section write “About”, then in the big box write a little something about yourself and your new blog site.

Now you need to add this page to your blog’s menu bar. To do this head on over to the “Appearance” tab and click on “Menus”. You are going to need to create a new menu. Once you have done that, just select the pages you want (i.e About) then click on the “Add to Menu” button. Now you’ve added your About page to your blog’s menu.

5. The Power of Plugins: Plugins let you add powerful features to your blogs. There are plugins that let you install a music player onto your blog, a photo slider, or help you create an online shop. The two plugins that I installed first let me create a WordPress contact page, and stopped spammers from messaging me and commenting on my posts.

Head on over to the “Plugin” tab on go to “Add New”.

How to Create a Contact Page: In the plugin search bar type in “Contact Form 7”. Now go ahead and click on the “Install Now” button for the Contact Form 7 plugin. Next you’ll have to click on “Activate” to use the plugin.

Once it is activate, head back to your “Plugins” section and you’ll see that “Contact Form 7” is installed on your blog. Click on “Settings” under Contact Form 7. Then click on “Add New”. You can play around with the settings if you want (remember to include your email address so the messages are sent to you), but when you are done, click on the “Save button”.

At the top it will say “Copy this code and paste it into your post, page or text widget content.”. Copy that code, and then go and create a new page titled “Contact”. Paste in the code into the page to create your contact page. To add this page to your blog’s menu bar, you’ll need to go to “Appearances” –> “Menus” and add the page to the menu.

Blocking Comment Spammers: You will get a lot of spam comments. The plugin Askimet will block these comments. If you go to your “Plugin” section you should see that Askimet is already installed. You do need to activate it, and get a special key from the Askimet website. It is simple to do. You just need to create a account, which is free. They will give you a key code which you copy into the “Settings” under Askimet on your “Plugin” page.

Moving Forward

If you’ve reached this stage, you’ve got yourself one powerful blog set up. Now all it needs is your voice and your posts.

Where to go from here? Now that you know how to start a blog, and have yours set up, let’s keep the momentum going. Here are some of my other posts that will help you launch and build a memorable and successful blog:

  • Where to Get A Blog Logo/Header Made [Coming Soon]
  • Your First Month of Blogging Checklist [Coming Soon]
  • Take a step back and read this one: Before Starting a Blog – Read This [Coming Soon]
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