How to Start a Blog?
Do you have friends who are bloggers and you want to blog like them? Or do you know what exactly is a blog? How to start a blog yourself? Before we start, let’s have a brief overview here first.
What is a Blog?
Definition: Blog is originated from the word “Web-log” which is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries (“posts”) typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first).
In simplest words: a blog is about sharing information on a particular topic by a person or group through the internet.
Our Easy Dummy Proof Guide on Blogging…
Alright, to get things simple, you can actually start your very first blog as soon as you finished our 4 straightforward steps below:
- Pick a topic.
- Choose free or paid blog hosting.
- Install and design your blog.
- Start blogging.
Step 1: Pick A Topic
The key is to blog something that you’ll be interested to read if you’re the reader. If you’ve no ideas yet, think about what you feel like sharing in your blog. There are no hard and fast rules on what you should write, but it’s advisable that you start with what you’re interested in.
It doesn’t really matter if you’re not an expert in that area as you’ll definitely learn and become an expert while blogging regularly on the topic that you’ve passion in. Every expert begins through learning. You will reap what you sow!
These are some ideas that you can consider:
- Educational blog (e.g. advise others on topics like accounting, graphic design skills etc)
- Product / service review blog (e.g. electronic gadgets review, food review etc)
- Food blog (e.g. sharing of cooking recipes, nice food stalls around your areas etc)
- Travel blog (e.g. sharing of interesting attractions, tourist spots etc)
- Household blog (e.g. sharing of great sales/discount available for household products etc)
- Lifestyle blog (e.g. sharing of your personal or your pet’s lifestyle, pictures, diary etc)
Step 2: Choose Free or Paid Blog Hosting
Typically, there are two options to start your own blog. That is, either signup for a free blog hosting account or self-host (paid blog hosting) your own blog.
First thing first, ask yourself how do you want your blog to look like? Err…is this a tough question? Well, I think the few points below would help:
- Is the blog important to you?
- Do you want a unique professional web address (i.e. domain name) for your blog? Examples of professional and free domain name would look like this:
- Professional: www.yourwebsitename.com
- Free: yourwebsitename.wordpress.com
- Do you want to have greater flexibility (e.g. no limitation in the content, images, video, design etc) in managing your blog?
- Do you plan to monetize your blog?
If you just want to have a platform to blog as a hobby and don’t mind the limitations on free blog hosting, go for the free option. If your answer is YES for any of the above, then the free option may not be suitable for you.
Which Free Blogging Platform to Choose?
There are a lot of blogging platforms available nowadays like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger, you name it. But, which is the best? In my opinion, WordPress is currently the most flexible and powerful platform to use.
In fact, WordPress is more than just a blogging platform. It’s a Content Management System (CMS) where you can also build a website like eCommerce, forum, classified, directory and so on. (Note: this website is also built on WordPress platform).
The typical WordPress dashboard looks like this:
The navigation bar on the left is quite self-explanatory, right? Let’s take a deeper look at the pie chart below and see which platform is the most popular among the top 100 blogs identified by Pingdom.com in 2013.
See… WordPress is the clear winner (52%) from the statistic above. You get it? Okay, we shall move on. You may skip to Step 3 if you’re not interested in self-hosting your blog.
How to Self-Host? What Do I Need To Do?
For self-hosted blog, you need to:
a) register a domain name (e.g. www.yourwebsitename.com); and
b) get a web hosting provider. In other words, you rent a server from the web hosting provider to host your blog 24/7 on the internet.
Bear in mind that web hosting providers do not host blogs for blogger only, they also host for webmasters who run an eCommerce website, corporate website, forum and classified, to name a few. Therefore, there are different hosting plans such as Shared Server, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Dedicated Server Hosting and so on offered by web hosting providers to cater for different webmasters’ needs.
You may want to read our separate post on what is web hosting for moe details on the pros & cons of each hosting type.
As a general rule of thumb, for a new blogger, I’d suggest to go for the shared server hosting plan (this is the most basic plan among others). You can upgrade your plan anytime at the later stage, if required.
How Much Does It Cost?
For domain registration, you may register with NameCheap or GoDaddy. They are currently the most popular domain registrar among the industry. The cost is about $10 per year for a “.com” domain name. (Note: personally I prefer to register domain ending with “.com” or “.net” or “.org” as these are the most common and popular Top-Level Domains (TLDs))
For web hosting plan, the price varies from one provider to another. As I mentioned earlier, start from the basic shared hosting plan and upgrade later when needed. That’s what I did when I first started and I felt that was the safest way to test the water.
Based on my research, there are a number of highly rated web hosting providers like Inmotion Hosting, BlueHost, HostGator, SiteGround, Ipage and so on. I believe they are great as some of my friends have also provided good feedback on their services.
For my case, I first started with iPage as it was highly recommended for budgeted web hosting by the industry reviewers. Their most basic plan is about $67 per year inclusive of domain registration and recommended protection add-ons. Frankly, I had to say that their hosting features and customer support services were beyond my expectation for the price that I had paid for.
Step 3: Install And Design Your WordPress Blog
If you’re using the free blog hosting option with WordPress, your WordPress will be ready once you signup with them. For self-host option, you’d need to install WordPress from the control panel of your web hosting account.
The process is simple with just a few clicks. Check out my post on How Do I Self Host My WordPress Blog for detailed steps on the whole process from domain registration to WordPress installation.
I Have No Coding Experience…How To Design?
No worries, the interface of WordPress is very user friendly and you don’t need to have coding experience to navigate on the platform. Also, there are a lot of free templates and plugins available in WordPress.
All you need to do is to find the theme template and plugins that suit your taste and activate it.
How to add new template?
- Go to “Appearance”;
- Choose “Themes”;
- Then click on “WordPress.org Themes”;
- Then use the search function to search for the theme you want.
Do not expect a lot of the fancy features in the free default template downloaded. The template is just a skeleton for your design. You need to install some powerful plugins to beautify or add functionality your blog.
I’ve sorted out 13 free useful WordPress plugins below to help you build a more than a simple blog, you may install them according to your needs.
Shortcode Ultimate – You can easily create tabs, buttons, boxes, different sliders, responsive videos etc by inserting the shortcode in your page/post.
Meta Slider – Easy user interface for you to create more than simple slideshows.
GC Message Bar – A sticky message bar displaying your message and a Call To Action button to the top or bottom of your website. It grabs your visitor’s focus easily.
Ultimate TinyMCE – This plugin will add over 40 new buttons to the default visual tinymce editor (e.g. font, font size, color, styles etc) giving you the power to visually create your pages and posts without knowing HTML and CSS codes.
MailPoet Newsletters – Create newsletter subscription form to build your mailing list (free up to 2000 subscribers).
Contact Form 7 – Create contact form on your website. You can customize the form and the mail contents flexibly with simple markup.
Captcha – It allows you to implement a super security captcha form into your web forms and protects your blog from spam by means of math logic, easily understood by human beings.
Shareaholic – Very useful, nice and creative tool in getting your readers to actually discover and submit your articles to numerous social bookmarking sites (e.g. button to share on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and a lot more).
WordPress SEO – It helps you to write better content and have a fully optimized WordPress site using the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast.
Akismet – Protect your site from spam. Akismet checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. That’s mean, you do not have to create a sitemap yourself and submit to search engine for indexing your website.
W3 Total Cache – The only WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) framework. It helps to improve page speed for visitors to your website.
Google Analytics For WordPress – The Google Analytics for WordPress plugin allows you to track and review your website easily with lots of metadata (e.g. number of unique/returning visitors, average visit duration etc).
How to add new plugin?
- Go to “Plugins”;
- Choose “Add New”;
- Then use the search function to search for the plugins you want.
Step 4: Start Blogging
Now you’ve your WordPress template and plugins ready. Just go ahead to create your first post and start blogging.
How to add new post?
- Go to “Posts”;
- Choose “Add New”;
- Then you can start writing your post.
I hope my sharing above give you a clearer insight on how to start a blog and can get your first blog up and running now.
If you’re looking for more tips on blogging for dummies or new bloggers, the following posts might be of interest to you too:
- 11 tips on how to pick the right web hosting provider
- What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- How to blog like a professional blogger when you are a newbie
- How to backup my WordPress site for FREE
- 18 hand-picked FREE images sources for bloggers
Thanks for following through and I hope to see you around!