Today, I’m straying a bit from from what I typically write about to answer a common question that I get from readers, friends, and even people whom I just met who learn about my blog. The question is:
How do you start a blog?
When I first started out on my blogging adventure a few years ago (which coincided with the start of my professional organizing biz), I really had no clue about blogging. I just knew that it was something small business owners should do in order to establish a presence online. Little did I know how much I would grow to LOVE blogging as both a creative outlet, and as a way to help others. In fact, I became so passionate about blogging that I phased out my professional organizing business so that I could focus completely on growing the Refined Rooms blog.
Although I don’t consider myself to be a blogging expert by any means, I’ve definitely learned a lot during the course of my blogging adventure so far. If you’ve dreamed of beginning your own blogging adventure (as either a hobby or a biz), I’d love to help you get started by sharing the basic process you’ll need to follow to start a blog. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to learn that it really isn’t that difficult!
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HOW TO START A BLOG
Choose Blog & Domain Name (aka your URL)
Honestly, this is probably the most difficult part of starting your blog! Be sure to set aside some time to carefully choose the name (& URL) of your blog. It’s a real headache to change the name down the road, so believe me, you want to get this right.
As you choose your name, keep the following tips in mind:
- Make the name easy to remember and as short as possible
- Avoid using numbers, hyphens/dashes, or special characters if you can
- If there’s any possibility that you’ll grow your blog into a business, select a “.com” name (if the “.com” name is not available, you may want to consider a “.net” or “.me” version of your blog name)
- If getting found in the search engines is important to you, consider using relevant key words in your blog name (e.g., if your blog will feature DIY projects, use the term “DIY” in your name).
If you plan to create a business around your blog, you’ll need to become familiar with the rules on creating a business in your state. You’ll also want to make certain that no one else is operating a business under the name you’ve selected for your blog.
Need help choosing a name? Check out one of these blog name generators to get you started.
2. Register Your Domain Name
Once you’ve selected your blog & domain names, you’ll need to register/purchase the domain. You can choose to register your domain with the company you purchase your hosting package from (more on that in a minute). Some experts suggest purchasing your domain name separately from your hosting package, so that all of your internet “eggs” aren’t all in one basket. Although purchasing separately can help with site security, it can also make the process of getting up and running a bit more complex. The choice is really up to you.
When I started out, I purchased my domain with GoDaddy. Their customer support has been top notch over the years, and their prices are very affordable. If you want to keep things as simple as possible, then you’ll want to simply register your domain name with your hosting service. The hosting service that I’ve used and recommend for newbie bloggers is HostGator.
3. Choose a Blogging Platform
There are many blogging platforms out there to choose from. I highly recommend starting out with a self-hosted site using WordPress.ORG. Yes, there is a small cost involved (whereas many of the other platforms are free). However, this platform definitely gives you the most freedom and the most control over your blog.
Think about it like this:
With WordPress.ORG, you OWN your blog and have total control over your own site. If your blog lives on other free platforms, THAT company owns your blog and is in control. At any point, they can decide to no longer host your blog and simply pull the plug on it.
Imagine the feeling of waking up to find that your blog no longer exists. NOT GOOD.
Another huge plus for building your site on the WordPress.ORG platform is that it offers you the ability to:
- completely customize your site to your heart’s content
- include ads on your site in order to make a little (or a lot) of money down the road
Oh, and I should mention that you want to choose WordPress.ORG NOT WordPress.COM as your platform (confusing, right?). Click here if you want to read more about the difference between WordPress.ORG and WordPress.COM.
If you’re still on the fence regarding the platform decision, I’ll leave you with this thought. I come across bloggers who are in the process of migrating from their current platform (Blogger, Square Space, etc.) TO a self-hosted WordPress.ORG site on a daily basis. I’ve NEVER come across a blogger who is migrating FROM WordPress.ORG to somewhere else.
4. Choose a Hosting Service
So you (smartly) decided to use WordPress.ORG as your blogging platform. Now, you’ll need to choose a company to host your website. Your host provides the server on which your blog will live on the internet. When shopping for a hosting service, you should base your decision on several factors in addition to price. At the top of my list of criteria are: good customer service, reliability, and responsiveness. I chose HostGator when I first set up my blog, and I’ve remained there to this day.
HostGator not only offers super reliable hosting (and easy WordPress setup), it also provides awesome tech support at a very reasonable price. And because it’s one of the largest (and oldest) hosting companies, I feel confident that it will continue to stick around for the foreseeable future.
SETTING UP A BLOG THROUGH HOSTGATOR
Next, you’ll need to choose your hosting plan. If you’re a blogging newbie with just one website, the Hatchling plan is all that you need. Over time, as your blog traffic increases and you develop a hefty collection of blog posts, you may need to increase your plan. But for now, select the Hatchling Plan.
Next, you’ll need to tell HostGator your domain name. If you’ve already registered your domain elsewhere, choose the “I Already Own This Domain” tab. Otherwise, this is where you can purchase/register your domain via HostGator:
At this point, you’ll be given the opportunity to purchase domain privacy protection. I do recommend paying for this service, since it protects your privacy (unless don’t mind your name and phone number being made publicly available for all to see when someone searches for the domain owner).
Next, you’ll choose your billing cycle for your plan. You’ll get the least expensive monthly rate by choosing the 36 months billing option. Heads up: if you choose this option, you’ll be required to pay the full 36 months upfront. If making that kind of commitment seems scary, you can always go with a shorter billing cycle and just pay a bit more per month.
During this step, you’ll also be asked to create a user name and a security pin for your account.
In step 3, you’ll enter all of your billing information. After that, you’ll see the option to purchase additional services. Don’t worry about these services yet. You can always add them later.
Although I think it’s absolutely necessary to put a procedure in place to routinely back up your website, I prefer to maintain control of the backup procedure and store regular backups myself rather than rely solely on a hosting provider to maintain a back up (I use the Backup Buddy plugin to create a daily backup of my site that I store both locally and in a cloud storage site).
Next, there’s a spot to enter a coupon code (you can use the code 1CENT to purchase your first month of hosting for a penny, yey!). Once your review your order details, read and agree to the service agreements & other policies, click the “CHECKOUT NOW” button.
Congrats! You’ve got hosting!
We’re almost in the home stretch now! Ready to install WordPress on your new site??
After you’ve completed your hosting purchase, HostGator will send you an email container your cPanel username and password. Be sure to tuck this information away somewhere safe. This video walks you through the steps for installing WordPress using the QuickInstall option.
Here’s a summary of what’s covered in the video…
First, log into the cPanel, then click on the Quick Install icon located under the Software/Services section. In the left menu, under Popular Installs, click WordPress, then click Install WordPress:
Next, complete the form that appears. Enter the following information:
- The Base Domain for your installation
- The sub directory you would like the site to load from, if desired
Example: If you want your WordPress URL to be mydomain.com/site instead of just mydomain.com. Your site will always display this extension if you enter one
- For Admin Email, enter an email address where you want the admin password emailed to. Make sure this is a working email address
- For Blog Title, enter the name of the website. This is what will appear in the header as the name of your site
- For Admin Username, enter your preferred user name
- Your first name
- Your last name
- Click Install WordPress button
Once your WordPress installation is complete, the fun begins! Head over to your email inbox and look for a new email that contains a link to your new WordPress dashboard (your Admin URL), as well as your new WordPress username and password. This email is super important to keep, so be sure to save it somewhere safe!
Click on your Admin URL and you’ll be taken to a screen that looks like this, where you’ll enter your WordPress username and password:
Cue the choir of angels and behold, your very first glimpse of your WordPress dashboard!
This is where all of the blogging magic happens, my friend.
5. Choosing & Installing a Theme
The final step you’ll need to complete before penning your first blog post is to install a WordPress theme. Your blog theme sets the stage for the design elements of your blog, such as:
- Navigation/Meu Bar
Unless you have mad web designer/coding skills, I highly recommend using the Genesis Framework (which serves as the theme foundation) coupled with a child theme (which enables you to bling out your site with all of the pretty stuff). For Refined Rooms, I use the Genesis Framework, along with the Market Child Theme from Restored 316 Designs.
(I’ve customized my layout, colors and fonts within my child theme)
If you’re looking for gorgeous feminine blog designs, I highly recommend themes created by Restored 316. Not only are these themes beautiful, they’re well-coded too. Plus if you ever run into technical difficulties, the Restored 316 team offers amazing customer support.
If a feminine theme doesn’t make sense for your blog, you can alway check out the themes offered by StudioPress (the creators of the Genesis Framework), which have a reputation for being extremely well-coded (which translates into faster site speeds and less overall technical issues).
Once you’ve installed your theme, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and begin playing around within WordPress. It will seem a bit daunting at first, but before you know it, you’ll be developing some mad WordPress skills!
And that’s how to start a blog my friend!
I’m so excited for you! If you’d like to learn more about blogging, I’ve created a blogger’s resource page just for you. It includes a comprehensive list of tools and resources that I use to run my blog.
Be sure to come back here and leave me a link to your first post in the comments below so I can check out YOUR blog 🙂
Once you’ve started to get your blogging feet wet, you’ll want to check out these posts as well:
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