Wondering how to start a blog? This post will walk you through the process step by step, from choosing a domain name and hosting to installing WordPress and learning how to grow your following!
How do I start a blog?
Not all that long ago, I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. I was searching for a creative outlet and a place to funnel my brain power, but I had no idea where to start. It would have been so nice to have someone come alongside me and say, “Here it is. This is how to start a blog. Here is everything you need to know.”
In my eBook and course Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook, I tried to do just that. I wanted it to feel like you and I were just hanging out, drinking coffee (hot chocolate for me!), and chatting away about blogging. Since I myself have a slight fear of technology, though, (and I’m a blogger…ironic, right?) I wanted to make sure the technical part of starting a blog wasn’t the thing that held anyone back from sharing their heart and their talents with the world, so I decided to post this piece of my book on my blog as well so everyone could check it out. If you’ve ever wanted to start a blog but haven’t taken the plunge yet, no more excuses! Today is your day! I’m going to walk you through it step-by-step– let’s do this!
Starting a Blog: A Step-by-Step Guide
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
I recommend starting with a self-hosted site using WordPress.org. Why? This type of site will give you the most freedom and the most control over your blog. There is a small cost involved, but it will be worth in in the long run to have total control over your own site. The first thing you’ll need to do to set up your self-hosted blog on WordPress.org is select your domain name and hosting package.
1) Select a domain name and get it registered.
You’ll want to do some research before you choose a name for your blog. You want something that fits you, your blog, and is unique and will help you stand out in a positive way. If you need a little help in this area, check out Bust a Name. It allows you to type in some key words you want to use in your domain name and suggests available combinations. It’s also fun entertainment when you’re stuck at home on a Friday night. 😉
Since you have the perfect name, you now need to register it so no one else steals it. You could choose to register it where you purchase your hosting package. We’ll talk about setting up hosting in a minute and give you an example of registering both parts together. Another option would be to purchase your domain name separately from your hosting package, which some would say adds an extra layer of security but can also complicate things a little. We started out with both our domain name and our hosting package at the same host, and then switched hosting to Synthesis a few months ago while our domain name stayed at our original host, so we’ve done it both ways. If you want to register your domain separately from your hosting, we recommend using Hover for your domain. Their site is super user-friendly, and the prices are really affordable. If you’re just starting out, I recommend you keep things as simple as possible and take advantage of the free domain name with Bluehost.
2) Decide which hosting provider to use.
You want to pick a trustworthy host because if they have problems, you have problems. Your host is where your blog “lives,” so it affects your site speed and accessibility. Support is also an important factor to consider when choosing a host. You want to be able to call when an issue arises and have it fixed right away to avoid blog downtime as much as possible.
There are a few hosting services that Donnie and I have used and recommend. If you’re just getting started and want an amazing combination of price, speed, and reliability, I recommend Bluehost. It’s a big company but we’ve had a great experience with Bluehost.
How to Start a Blog and Install WordPress
We recently recorded a screencast to show you how to get set up with a domain name and hosting and install WordPress! You can watch this 10 minute video or if you’d rather read through it, a full tutorial with screenshots is below.
Setting up Hosting at Bluehost
We’re going to walk you through the steps of getting started with Bluehost. Don’t be intimidated by the fact that there are 20 steps– that just means we’ve broken it down to make it really easy for you! Here we go!
1) Navigate to justagirlandherblog.com/bluehost. You’ll be re-directed to Bluehost through my affiliate link and you may get a few additional perks for signing up through my code. (Thank you for your support!) Click the big green “Get Started Now” button.
2) You’ve already decided on a domain name at this point. To register your domain name with Bluehost, enter it under the “new domain” box and click “next.”
3) Enter all of your account and contact information.
4) Continue down to the “package information” section. You get the cheapest monthly rate by selecting 36 months. It’s important to note that Bluehost charges you for the full the 36 months upfront. You are prepaying for the hosting. That’s one of the reasons they are able to offer great hosting at such a small price. They always have that money-back guarantee, though, so you won’t risk losing your money.
Related: How Does Bluehost Pricing Work?
There are other services available on this screen but don’t worry about those yet. You can always add them later. (We would recommend setting up some sort of backup system for your blog somewhere other than with your host so that you don’t lose all of your hard work if your site would crash or your host would have a problem. When I first started, we backed my site up to Dropbox using a plugin called WordPress Backup to Dropbox. When we outgrew that, we moved to Vaultpress for a while and were pleased with them. Their packages start at $5 per month.)
5) Enter your billing information, agree to the service agreements, and then click “next.”
6) Again, there are some additional options you can purchase here, but I wouldn’t. These could be added later if you need them. Click “complete.”
7) Congratulations! You officially have a Bluehost account. Next you need to create your password.
8) On this screen, you’ll create your Bluehost account password. Don’t forget it! (And of course make it a strong password so no one can hack your site!)
9) Now that your password has been created, you can log into your account for the first time! Make sure you’re logging into “hosting” and not “webmail.”
10) When your account opens for the first time, you’ll see a helpful little welcome message. Fortunately I’m walking you through the process, so select the “close this welcome message and don’t show it again” button. 🙂
11) Once you close that window, you’ll be in your account dashboard. You will get very familiar with this page. First things first– you need to install WordPress. Click the “install WordPress” button at the bottom of the screen.
12) On the WordPress Installation screen, click “Install.”
13) Click “show advanced options.”
14) Name your site (you can always change it later), create a username for the WordPress install, and create a WordPress login password. You’ll want to make sure that “Automatically create a new database for this installation” and “I have read the terms and conditions of the GPLv2” are checked as well. Click “Install Now.”
15) Watch the little bar at the top of the next screen turn green. That means WordPress has been successfully installed.
16) Now check your email, and you should have something from Mojo Marketplace. This email is important, so make sure you save it! It includes your website URL, your WordPress admin login URL, and your WordPress login username.
17) From the email in the previous step, click the Admin URL. It will take you to a site that looks like the one below. Enter your username.
18) To retrieve your password, navigate back to your Bluehost tab and click the very bottom “view” to see your WordPress password. Remember, this alert expires after 12 hours, so make sure you get the password within that time period.
19) This page shows everything you need to start using WordPress. I like to take a screenshot of this page and save it somewhere that I’ll be able to access easily if I forget my info. (Not that I’m forgetful or anything…. okay, just don’t ask my husband about that. 😉 )
20) Now that you have your password, you can log into WordPress and you’ll be presented with your WordPress dashboard. You will learn to love this. Spend some time going through the various settings. It may be confusing at first, but in no time it will all be second nature.
Make It Pretty: Choose Your Theme
You did it! Yay!!! Now you want to make your blog pretty, right? In order to do that, you will need to choose a theme. Your theme will determine many of the visual aspects of your blog– my background, colors, fonts, navigation bar, and the social media buttons in my header are all part of my theme.
(photo of my previous blog design)
Because I’m not a web designer and I don’t know code, I chose to go with the Genesis Framework, which gives me the main building blocks I need to build a strong site. Then, to make it pretty, for my former design shown above, I chose the Delightful child theme by Restored 316 Designs, which gave me all of the beautiful, feminine visual elements of my blog. If you are a woman and you are a blogger (or would like to be a blogger), you must check out Restored 316. Not only are all of their designs gorgeous and lovely and feminine, but Lauren, the designer, is also the sweetest and most helpful person you will ever
meet email. She’s truly the best ever. So go look at her designs. And then buy one. 🙂
If you decide not to go with a child theme from Restored 316, you can also check out child themes by Shay Bocks, who created my current child theme, Lindsey from Pretty Darn Cute Designs, who also makes beautiful, well-designed child themes, and StudioPress, the creators of the Genesis framework. Since each theme will be different, there’s not one blanket tutorial I can give you for all of them, but all of the themes I mentioned above come with excellent service and support, and they will be able to help you get set up in no time.
And that’s how to start a blog! You can totally handle the technical side of blogging– don’t let it intimidate you! Sure, you will do a lot of learning as you go along, but once you have the basic building blocks in place, you are a lot closer to getting to do the fun stuff: creating amazing content!! If you’d like to learn more about starting or growing a blog, be sure to check out my eBook, Building a Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook! It truly covers all the bases from which plugins to use and the essential elements you need to include in your blog to how to work with brands and make money!
Now that you have a domain name, hosting, and a theme, you may want to check out our extensive guide to starting a blog in 2016. It includes some extras that aren’t in this tutorial like Google Analytics, site security, site speed, and custom email addresses.
We also have a brand new 7 lesson email course that goes into even more detail about starting your blog the right way and how to make it stand out from the crowd.
Related: Launch a Blog that Thrives
We hope these free tools have been helpful for you in learning how to start a blog, and we can’t wait to see what you do with your site! Now go out there and rock the blogging world!!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.