Starting a blog can feel a bit overwhelming, especially, when you don’t have a lot of web design or tech experience. Lucky for you, I didn’t either when I first started out, so I’ve written this article in plain English, so people who are starting with little background knowledge will see how easy the process can be! I will take you through step-by-step and, by the end, you’ll be able to start your very own blog, from scratch, in no time at all! Let’s get started!
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- Choose a Platform
The first thing you need to do is choose a platform for your blog. Platform was a word I heard a lot before I started blogging, but never quite knew what it was until I became a blogger myself. The definition is actually very straightforward. A blogging platform is basically just a fancy term for the software you will use to publish your content online. Ever heard of WordPress? Yup, that’s a platform. And one of the more popular, reliable ones at that. Nearly all the bloggers I know, myself included, use WordPress as the platform for their blogs. I highly, highly recommend WordPress for any blogger—it’s super user friendly and extremely functional. Other blogging platforms you may have heard of include Blogger, Medium, and Wix. I’ve heard mixed things about these platforms. If you want a professional blog with easy-to-navigate admin features, I think that WordPress is definitely the best choice.
Now, there’s a distinction you need to understand within WordPress itself. There are two different types of WordPress blogs: hosted and self-hosted. Hosted WordPress sites (often referred to as wordpress.com sites) are exactly what they sound like: they are hosted by WordPress. A wordpress.com url looks like this: alyssa.wordpress.com. This means that you will be extremely limited in what you can do with your blog. You won’t be able to use custom themes or plug-ins or make money from placing ads on your site.
If you want a professional blog that can later be monetized, you’ll have to go with the second option: a self-hosted or wordpress.org site. You will use the WordPress software (which is still free) to create your blog, but you will have to pay for your own web hosting. Web hosting fees are nominal and they are 100 percent worth it, if you’re planning on blogging long-term. You’ll have your own domain name (in my case, abiteofinspiration.com) plus a lot more flexibility with your site. You’ll be able to download countless plug-ins to help your blog become more functional and help it run more smoothly (don’t worry if you don’t know what a plug-in is right now, I’ll teach you all about those later), monetize by putting ads on your site, and use custom themes to make your site super pretty.
So, in summary: If you want to blog as a hobby and don’t want to pay for hosting, go ahead and sign up for a free wordpress.com site and get started now! You won’t need any of the other information in this post. WordPress will guide you through the rest. BUT, if you’re interested in blogging as a potential part-time or full-time career and you are prepared to invest in a self-hosted wordpress.org blog, keep reading. Read on to step 2 BEFORE you sign up for wordpress. You’ll be able to sign up for wordpress later on after you sign up for hosting.
- Choose a Host
Now that you’ve decided on a self-hosted WordPress blog, your next step is to choose a host. The host is what makes your website accessible through the World Wide Web (aka people can visit your site!) There are several different hosts out there that work well with WordPress sites. I recommend Bluehost for those first starting out because it’s very affordable and easy to set up. They are an official “WordPress recommended” hosting provider and have 24/7 customer service. They also have 1-click WordPress installation making the process of setting up your blog easy and seamless. You can have your very own website with Bluehost for just a few bucks a month, plus you get a free domain name.
If you’ve decided on Bluehost, click on the banner below to get started!
You’ll be directed to a page where you can select your plan. If money is tight, feel free to go with the basic plan. It’s perfect for new bloggers and you can always upgrade it later. I personally use the prime plan, which is a good value, if you can afford it. Plus, domain privacy is included with the prime plan and that is a MUST. If you don’t add domain privacy, the contact information you used when registering will be easily available to ANYONE. So, unless you want your home address publicly associated with your blog, pay the small extra fee to protect yourself. As I said, domain privacy is included with the prime plan, but if you go with the basic plan, you can add domain privacy protection for $0.99 per month. This can be done at the end of the account creation process under “package information” right above where you put in your payment.
Right after you choose your plan, you will be directed to choose your domain name. Choose your domain name carefully—it’s the url people will come to associate with your website. The best option is usually to just use your blog name and then add .com to it (case in point: abiteofinspiration.com). You’ll put your domain name into the box and then click next. Bluehost will let you know if that domain name is available and give you similar suggestions if it’s not. After you choose your domain name, you will be directed to the page where you enter your account information, confirm your package information, and pay. After you complete this, Bluehost will send you an email with your login information. Go back to the Bluehost site and click the login button in the top right corner of the home page. Log in and you’ll be directed to your cpanel. Go to install WordPress under “website builders” and start the installation process! WordPress will guide you through the rest. It’s very straightforward, but if you have any issues, feel free to comment below or get in touch with me through the “Contact Us” page.
And you’re done! Congrats! You are now the owner of your very own self-hosted WordPress blog! See? I told you it was easy. No tech knowledge required.
- Design Your Blog
You have your blog, so now comes the fun part! You get to make it pretty and personal! The theme determines the appearance of your blog. WordPress has plenty of free themes you can use (you can find them here), but if you want to make your blog REALLY stand out, you should consider investing in a premium theme. StudioPress Themes makes the prettiest, most functional themes, in my opinion. Plus, they’re super easy to use, which is a huge advantage for non-techies like me.
All StudioPress themes include what’s called, the Genesis Framework. Genesis provides the basic foundation for your blog appearance and functionality. You can get just the Genesis Framework, or you can get one of the many, many themes StudioPress offers, which all include the Genesis Framework.
I’m going to explain this next part in detail because it really confused me at the beginning. Genesis is what’s called a “parent theme”. It’s the foundation of your blog. It’s highly functional, but not super exciting, so most people choose to add a “child theme” as well. A child theme is basically the appearance of your blog. StudioPress provides screenshots of what a blog with that theme looks like. I use the Foodie Pro Theme. Click the link and check out the screenshot StudioPress has on display for it. Look familiar? That’s right. It’s more or less the exact layout of my website, A Bite of Inspiration. So, basically whatever child theme you choose will be the general layout of your blog, but the whole thing will be customized and personalized by you. As I explained before, when you purchase a child theme (i.e. Foodie Pro) from the StudioPress website, it automatically includes the parent theme, Genesis.
These themes come with a lot of great perks. First of all, they’re gorgeous and there’s so many different ones to choose from. Second of all, they’re really easy to use. StudioPress has a ton of tutorials you can watch, so no matter how little web design background you have (in my case, it was none), you’ll be able to work with your chosen theme easily. It was honestly so user friendly that I didn’t even have to watch the tutorials to figure it out, but it’s nice to have that option if you get stuck! Another really important thing is that all of the themes on StudioPress are mobile responsive, which means your website will be optimized for every device (tablets, smart phones, etc). This is extremely, extremely important if you want your blog to be successful. Free themes don’t tend to have this feature and making your site mobile responsive on your own is very difficult. Since a large chunk of your site visitors will be looking at your blog from different devices besides a standard computer, this feature is a must.
If you’re interested in a StudioPress theme, click the banner below to view their themes and get started!
Once you’ve chosen a theme, implemented it, and customized it to your liking, your blog is ready for content! Woo hoo! Congrats on your brand new blog! Stick with me and, I promise, I’ll teach you everything you need to know to make it a huge success! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with me personally by dropping a comment below or through the “Contact Us” page. I’m here to help!