I am so incredibly excited to be sharing this information with you. I’ve been wanting to write this article for quite some time but didn’t really feel that I was qualified as a fairly new blogger myself to be telling people how to start a blog. I mean, I’m no expert by any means, right? That being said, I’ve come to realize that because my blog is still fairly new, I’m still quite fresh to the process of starting up a blog. Both the excitement and the confusion are fresh in my mind! I want to share with you the core steps that I took when starting out my blog along with some tips I’ve learned along the way. Hopefully this will save you some of the confusion that most of us deal with in the beginning!
P.S. As I know that all of this information can get incredibly confusing, I’ve created a checklist for all of the things you need when starting a blog (plus a few extras that you might want to consider once you’ve been blogging for a bit!). You can get access to this checklist along with many other valuable resources here!
Choosing a Platform
I’m sure you’ve heard of WordPress if you’re interested in starting a blog. Did you know that there are different types of WordPress websites? You have a few options when it comes to working on WordPress. Here’s a breakdown of some different options and their features.
Free WordPress Hosted Website
- Included with the plan are hosting, security, backups, as well as features that are popular such as comments or sharing.
- You can integrate your social networks into your blog using this plan.
- You can find support in the free WordPress forums online.
- There are very limited customization options. You can choose from only certain themes and are unable to install plugins.
- Advertisements will be run on your website that you have no control over.
- You can’t easily monetize your website with a free plan.
- You must register for an account and abide by their terms and conditions.
Paid WordPress Hosted Website
- This is somewhat of an in between plan. Hosting, security and backups are still included but if you want a custom domain name you will need to pay for that.
- Ads are removed from your website when you pay for the upgrade.
- You can choose from the free themes or install custom themes. You also have the option to install some plugins, making this option more customizable than the free plan.
- Features such as commenting and sharing are still included.
- There is the option to seek support through live chat or email.
- You must register for an account and abide by their terms and conditions.
Self-Hosted WordPress Website (Recommended)
- This option has infinite customization opportunities. You install your own plugins and can choose from a huge variety of themes or install a custom one. You can also create your own theme if you have the coding skills to do so.
- There are support forums for self-hosted WordPress. You can also seek assistance through your hosting website (which we’ll talk more about in a minute) or via email.
- You can easily monetize your self-hosted WordPress website through a number of methods (ex. displaying advertisements of your choosing, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, etc.).
- You’re responsible for the maintenance of your site (backups, security, etc.).
- You have complete freedom over your website. No registration is required.
Which Platform is Right for You?
So that’s a roundup of the WordPress options, but which one is right for you? While I’m not claiming to be some genius about your life, I can speak from my own experiences. A Daynna Life was originally started on a free WordPress site with a non-customized URL and the whole shebang. The thought of starting a blog was on my mind for a long time but I wasn’t ready to commit to paying for hosting. In addition to that, the idea of coding terrified me (we’ll talk more about that in a bit, but as it turns out you don’t actually need to be a coding wiz to self-host your website).
I will say that I was glad to have had a couple of months experience blogging on the free platform. It gave me the opportunity to see if blogging was a good fit for me and if it was something I wanted to take to the next level. It also helped me find my voice without having a lot at stake. I was able to find my bearings in the blogosphere at a comfortable pace before jumping into it full force, which was great at the time.
What I didn’t like about the free platform was the major lack of customization options. Now that I’ve been self-hosted for a while, I can’t even imagine going back to the free plan. I also want to monetize my blog, which isn’t as easy when using the free platform. That’s why in February 2017 I decided to take a leap of faith and switch A Daynna Life over to a self-hosted website.
Why Self-Hosting was the Best Option for Me
Self-hosting was the best decision I could have made for my blogging journey. Since switching to self-hosted WordPress, I’ve been more involved in blogging than ever before! I have a website that I absolutely love with great support for the technical issues I don’t understand. I can make an income just by pursuing my passion. I’ve also learned so many applicable job and life skills just through hands-on practice. So many opportunities have already arisen in my blogging journey, and I attribute this success to the day I decided to make the switch to self-hosted!Having a self-hosted website allows me complete flexibility over every aspect of my website. I'm able to be much more involved in blogging than ever before! Click To Tweet
You may be wondering why I chose the self-hosted option over the paid WordPress hosted option. For me, it was a matter of flexibility that guided my decision. Having a self-hosted site allows me complete flexibility for every aspect of my website, which I absolutely love. I’m not saying that the paid WordPress hosted option is a bad one, but it just wasn’t the right one for me to invest money into. My only concern about going self-hosted was that it would have a lot of technical aspects to it, but that turned out to be a complete myth! I only ever use super simple code that’s easily accessible through a Google search. Almost everything is visually customizable, which is so much easier. If you’re serious about blogging, I highly recommend going the self-hosted route.
Getting Web Hosting
For the sake of this article, everything I refer to will be in reference to using a self-hosted WordPress website from here on out. One of the most confusing things in the beginning of going self-hosted for me was web hosting. I honestly just didn’t really understand what it was and why I needed it, so let me break that down for you.
A web host is essentially where your website lives. It’s the beautiful home of your beautiful child (your website… is that a weird reference? Probably). Your website’s host is where you will find all of the back end files and information for your website (A.K.A. all of that pesky code that none of us want to deal with). It’s home to all of those files and more, including your website’s email. Choosing a good web host is essential to the functionality of your website, as it’s basically the backbone that holds everything together.Choosing a great web host is essential to the functionality of your website. It's the backbone that holds everything together! Click To Tweet
Which Web Host Should You Use?
As I’ve been self-hosted for less than a year, I only have experience with one web host, so it’s the only one I can speak about. However, I can tell you all the details about my experience in order to help you make an informed decision. I am using Siteground to host the A Daynna Life website. Originally I was using Bluehost, which was fine, I didn’t really find anything terribly wrong with it in my experience. However, I’m incredibly glad I made the switch in hosting companies in hindsight. Siteground offers hosting packages for as little as $3.95 per month, which is an incredible deal for all that’s included with it!
Incredible Customer Service
One of the best things I found about Siteground when I switched was the customer service. While I loved the Bluehost 24 hour live chat support, I often found while support agents were friendly they weren’t always as helpful as I needed them to be. I even had a few instances where tech agents completely messed up my website (I had to jump through hoops to get my website working properly again).
With Siteground, they have 3 different ways of receiving customer service (24 hour live chat, ticketing system, and a phone number to call). The support agents in the live chat and ticket system (I haven’t used the phone line because home girl hates talking on the phone) are friendly and helpful! In the chat, they even have a profile that comes up where you can see their photo, how many clients they’ve served, and their rating on a scale of 5 stars based on customer reviews. The queue to talk to someone is also super short (like seconds). Finally, a huge plus for me is that they’ve all been fluent in English (something I can’t totally say was true for Bluehost support) so there’s no communication barrier.When it comes to #webhosting, especially if you suck at techy stuff, @Siteground is the way to go! Their customer service is like nothing else. They're friendly AND helpful, a huge bonus over other hosting companies! Click To Tweet
During the process of switching over, I was informed that my website had actually been hacked. I was shocked, as I do have a plugin that’s supposed to protect my website from hacking. Fortunately, although Siteground doesn’t do malware cleanup, the tech agent I was working with was kind enough to find an easy fix by deleting the folder where all compromised files were (nothing in the file was in use anyway and my site has been running much smoother ever since). As someone who knows nothing about code or techy jargon, I definitely appreciated that (shoutout to you, Georgi at Siteground)!
It’s also worth noting that when you purchase hosting from Siteground, it comes with a free SSL certificate which is now fully in effect on my website! That’s a huge bonus that will help prevent future problems with security!
Fast and Reliable
Now, keep in mind that it may have been because I was hacked that this happened, but in the recent months before switching to Siteground I felt like my website was loading a lot more slowly than usual. Since switching, however, I have actually noticed a change in loading time (whether it’s drastic or not is still up for debate, but there have been studies on it that confirm Siteground’s speed and reliability above other hosts).
Why I Recommend Siteground
Personally, nothing sways me more when dealing with a company than excellent customer service, and that’s all I’ve received with Siteground. The free SSL certificate after experiencing security issues in the past is also a huge selling point. I also want to point out that because I’m not good with techy code stuff, I thought switching over was going to be a lot more difficult than it was worth (and I think I made it that way for myself a bit too). Luckily, because I was willing to connect with customer service and tech support agents the process was a lot easier than expected. I know that if you don’t have a website already there is free WordPress installation included as well, which is awesome for beginner bloggers!
Choosing a Niche
I’m just going to be straight up with you. This will 100% be the hardest part about starting a blog, especially if you’re a perfectionist. I thought for years about what I would want to write a blog about before even starting one.
The key to picking the right niche is choosing something that you’ll enjoy writing about but will be beneficial to your readers. Think about who you want to read your blog – and I mean REALLY think about it. Go into detail about who your ideal reader is. How old are they? What do they need? What gender? Then, think about what information you can provide that will help this ideal reader with a problem they’re facing. It’s important to have an interest in what you’re writing about, and if you’re starting a hobby blog for yourself then that’s all that matters. However, if you want to monetize, blogging isn’t a selfish profession and you should always be thinking about providing value to your readers. What do all successful bloggers have in common? They provide valuable information and resources for their target audience.What do the most successful bloggers all have in common? Their focus is providing value for their readers through high quality content and resources! Click To Tweet
I can’t tell you what to blog about. Only you can make that decision. I do recommend doing some market research on niches that you’re interested in. Find out what the demand is. Is the niche oversaturated or unheard of? Can you provide something of value that nobody else is offering? If you want your blog to be profitable, you need to find a way to stand out among the many voices out there. Everyone has something unique to offer, you just need to find what that is for you.
Developing Your Brand
Once you’ve chosen a niche and have an idea of who your ideal reader is, developing your brand will be a lot easier. That being said, it’s by no means easy, and it takes a lot of time (I’m still making tweaks here and there to my branding). What do you want your blog to represent? Do you know what your blogging voice should be? What colours should you use to attract your ideal reader? These are all questions you should be asking when developing your brand.
If you have it in the budget, you may find it helpful to work with someone like a graphic designer to create a logo and colour scheme for your brand. While this is a great idea, the reality is that a lot of us don’t have the extra money to spend on such luxuries, especially in the beginning after just paying for hosting. The alternative to this is to create your own graphics and colour scheme. For this, I recommend using Canva. Its drag and drop feature is super easy to use and it makes it incredibly easy to create beautiful graphics with minimal effort.
For more information on branding your website, I really loved this article by Minimal Crafts, as she outlines the basic key aspects to creating a brand in a way that’s easy to understand.
Customizing Your Website
Alright, now for some fun! Believe it or not, WordPress actually makes it super easy to create a gorgeous, professional website. You just need to get your creative juices flowing! When first creating your website, make sure you have the basics covered: an about page, somewhere for your blog posts to live, and a contact page. If you plan on collecting information from visitors or monetizing your blog, you should also have a legal disclaimer (check out this post by Jade and Oak for great tips on how to create an effective disclaimer page).
As for themes, you have a couple of options. WordPress has thousands of free themes to choose from within its platform, which is great for those just starting out. Most of them are mobile friendly and optimized, which will result in minimal technical issues. That being said, I eventually found the free WordPress themes to be somewhat limiting. Thankfully, there are TONS of premium theme options from a variety of different vendors. For instance, a lot of people really like the Genesis framework and it’s child themes (which I don’t know a lot about but it may be something worth looking into if you’re interested).
When I decided to get a premium theme, I did a lot of searching but kept coming back to the one I’m using now – Isabelle by Bluchic. I love this theme because it’s optimized and mobile friendly, has great customization options, is feminine and on brand with what I wanted, and it’s easy to use and super cute!
When it comes to plugins, here is the starter pack that I would recommend:
- SEO by Yoast
- WooCommerce (if you’re planning to sell products on your website)
- Pinterest “Pin It” Button
- Better Click to Tweet
Of course, you can absolutely add to that list! These are just a few suggestions for great plugins to get you started (and they’re all free). You can find all of these within the WordPress platform just by searching within the plugins tab.
Promoting Your Blog
We all want as many unique visitors to our website as possible, right? Well then, all I can say is PROMOTE PROMOTE PROMOTE! Start telling people about your blog before it’s even launched. Get your friends and family excited about it. One thing I’ve read is that it’s a good idea to start building your email list before you’ve even launched your blog (something that I didn’t do and am now trying to catch up on). I think this is an excellent idea! One thing I’ve found is that people are more likely to act if you ask them personally. Send your friends a message on Facebook and invite them to an event for your launch date!Trying to promote your blog? Think about what your blog can offer your potential readers and use that to call readers to action! Click To Tweet
Keep in mind that you don’t want to seem spammy when promoting your blog. Think about what your blog can offer your potential readers and use that to call readers to action. By starting early, you’ll have gained some experience with social media marketing before you’ve even launched your blog. By the time you are ready to launch, you’ll be a pro!
Launching Your Website
Here’s my biggest advice to you. Launch your website when you’re ready. Not before, and not after. On one hand, you will want to have some content on your blog (think 3-5 posts) as well as have your pages set up in the way you want them when you launch. On the other hand, if you wait until everything is perfect you will be waiting forever. The best thing you can do for yourself is accept imperfection and grow from what you learn as you go along.
Thank you so much for reading this post! Seasoned bloggers, do you have any other advice for prospective new bloggers when they’re just starting out that I’ve missed? Prospective new bloggers, why are you interested in starting a blog, and what’s one thing that scares you about it? Let me know in the comments below and I will be sure to reply to each and every one of you! For more great content, be sure to check out the “you might also like” section below and make sure you’re on the email list to get access to tons of great resources (including the starting a blog checklist)!