You want to make a blog but don’t know where to start. For those of us who are not tech savvy, you’re in good hands! This is the step by step guide on how to start a blog that I wish I had when I first started. If you don’t know what a domain is, or what hosting is, that’s ok, I’ve got you covered. I’m going to take you from start to finish in just a few steps and I’ll show screenshots of everything along the way:
- Step 1: Pick a blog name
- Step 2: Get set up with Bluehost
- Step 3: Get set up with WordPress
- Step 4: Make your site secure
- Step 5: Get set up with a theme
- Step 6: Install plugins
- Step 7: Adjust settings
Step 1: Pick a blog name
You probably have an idea of what you want your blog to be about. Start by writing down topics that you plan to write about. Then expand that into words that are associated with each of those topics. Think about how your blog will be unique to you while not painting you into a corner. For example, if you are making a travel blog and you want to write about and review hostels around the world. That could be your name Hostels Around The World…but what if you find you no longer want to stay in hostels and want to write about hotels, B&Bs, and camping. That name you picked doesn’t quite work anymore. So you should consider naming your blog something that is wider reaching like The Guest House or Lily’s Lodges.
Consider how your blog name will look when it has no spaces. Let’s say you are making a cooking blog and want to name it The Sesame Seed but written out with no spaces it is thesesameseed which someone could misunderstand as These Same Seed.
An added benefit of picking a name that is unique is that it’s more likely to be available on social media as well. The name amberscompass was available on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest when I made my blog.
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Step 2: Get set up with Bluehost
I’m going to keep this simple. What is a blog host? It’s a business that houses your website. Basically, it’s like renting space on a computer to hold your website so that others can find it on the internet. I am a happy paying customer of Bluehost so that’s who I’m going to recommend. Start by clicking here to go to Bluehost. (It will open up in a new window so you can follow along as I walk you through the instructions).
On the Bluehost website, click the big green “Get Started Now” button.
Select a plan
All plans come with a free domain (for one year). What’s a domain? It’s the web address of your blog. My domain is amberscompass.com for example. Now if you’re having reservations about paying for a blog, let me quickly explain why it’s worth it. I’ve used some of the free blogging sites and I did not stay with them. There were several deciding factors that caused me to switch to Bluehost. The free blogging site that I had used can shut down your blog at any time, they do not let you monetize and don’t let you install plugins unless you pay for the expensive business package which was $24.92/mo, billed yearly at $299.04. Now compare that with Bluehost prices which include being able to monetize, and includes a huge range of plugin options.
Click one of the green “Select” buttons to make your choice and go to the next step. No need to worry, you can upgrade at any time if you want to start with basic.
Pick a domain name
Remember a domain name is your web address. Such as, amberscompass.com is my domain. If you happen to already have a domain name from another provider such as GoDaddy, enter it into the box on the right. For everyone else who still needs a name, put your chosen name into the box on the left. When possible, go with a domain that ends in .com, it’s what most people are familiar with.
For the rest of the tutorial, I’m going to assume that you didn’t already have a domain but the steps aren’t that different.
Create account, pick account plan, and fill out payment info
After picking your domain name, next you will create your account by providing your name, address, phone number and email. You can even sign in with Google. It’s straightforward and quick. On this same page, you’ll also pick your account plan and any addons. The drop-down will show prices options, the best deal being the longest term.
My tip to help you decide which plan to go with: If you’re starting a blog and really don’t know if you’ll be doing it after a year, then take the 12-month plan. However, if you are a serious blogger and recognize this an investment into your business then go with the 60-month plan. Nothing here is billed monthly, this means that if you pick the 24-month plan then you aren’t billed again for 2 years. Use the drop-down and pick your plan.
You can click the “More information” links which will open a popup explaining the services. They are all optional. The only one that I recommend getting is Domain Privacy Protection. Without this, your name, phone number, address, and email will become public which may result in you getting spam email and calls. But with Privacy Protection, anyone searching for contact info will only see Bluehost contact details instead of your personal info.
Next, you fill out your payment info and Submit!
Step 3: Get set up with WordPress
Once you’re all set up with Bluehost, you’ll need to install WordPress. Log into your Bluehost cpanel account. At the top you go to hosting, then cpanel, then in the website section, click “One-Click Installs” and then install WordPress.
Step 4: Make your site secure
Once you have WordPress setup, lets set up your free SSL certificate. But first I’ll answer some questions:
- What is an SSL certificate? The certificate has two functions. First to authenticate and verify to your readers that you are who you say you are. Second, it provides data encryption which means that sensitive information that is exchanged online (such as credit card numbers or email addresses) cannot be intercepted and read by anyone other than the intended recipient.
- How much does an SSL certificate cost? If you use Bluehost and WordPress, it’s FREE! I’ll walk you through how to turn it on.
Go to WordPress tools along the top then click Security. Turn on Free SSL Certificate.
You will then see this message:
When it is complete, you’ll receive an email confirmation of the free SSL Certificate for 3 months. After 3 months, it will be auto-renewed for another free 3 months and so on. You will not be charged for the free SSL certificate. Once your SSL is up and working, your website domain will change from HTTP to HTTPS with a lock showing your readers that your site is secure. I use Firefox but if you use a different browser then the lock may appear in a different location.
Feel free to continue on with the other steps while you wait for the SSL certificate to be finalized.
Step 5: Get set up with a theme
To browse the free themes, go into WordPress and on the left-side panel, select Appearance then Themes. The free themes tend to not look as professional as the paid themes, so I do recommend getting a quality theme. Again, think of it as an investment into your business.
The theme that I went with is called Semplice from Sculpture Qode. They are elegant, clean, and professional looking themes. Sculpture Qode has already created a step-by-step easy installation guide to walk you through installing your theme to WordPress. One reason I recommend them is their fantastic customer service. I wanted to make some advanced changes in the code and they provided me with the CSS code to do that. Another time I wanted to change the padding to make my site easier to read while on mobile, so again I contacted them asking how I could do that. Their customer service replied saying that they had contacted the developer and he will update the theme to all their customers once the update is live. That is huge, they liked my suggestion so much that improvements were made to the theme because of it.
Also get 20% OFF using the promo code: THEME20
After installing any theme, it won’t instantly look like the demo. You’ll need to go into Appearance then Customize to adjust it how you like.
Step 6: Install Plugins
As you use your new blog, you’ll find that there are features that you wish it had. Such as, you might want your blog to have a calendar or a popup, you can add new features by installing plugins. Many of them are free and all the ones I recommend here are free. I currently use 36 plugins on my blog but you don’t need to start with that many. In fact, I’ll only recommend a few and you should add more later on as you discover which features you want to be added to your site. Here are the WordPress plugins that I recommend:
- Yoast SEO: This plugin allows you to create a keyword per post, preview your posts before publishing, edit your post snippet and designate different featured images for Facebook and Twitter. Most of that may not make sense just yet but once you start creating posts and exploring the options, you’ll learn about them.
- Jetpack by WordPress.com: This plugin allows you to add sharing buttons and like buttons to your posts, to have a “related” section to your posts, as well as basic stats on your site such as the number of views, where your users were referred from and what they clicked.
When logged into WordPress, click Plugins then Add New on the left-side panel. The in the upper-right search for the plugin name then click Install Now then click Activate.
Step 7: Adjust settings
Before making any posts to your blog, you want to change one setting. Along the left-side panel, go into Settings then click Permalinks. Change the Common Settings to “Post name”. This is the setting that looks the most professional. Be sure to click Save Changes.
You are now ready to make posts and create amazing content! If you used my tutorial here, I’d love to know if you have any suggestions for how to improve it. Feel free to check out my blogging resources page, as well as my post on how I got my first paying blog customer.If you’d like to receive more travel tips, you can subscribe to the mailing list below or follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter.