Friends often ask me how to start a WordPress blog properly and how to actually make money with it. The answer to that question is actually not that simple.
So I’ve decided to dedicate an article to this topic that you can use as a helpful resource in case you also want to start a WordPress blog of your own.
Running a blog for most people is not much more than a hobby. It’s a medium that you can use to share your thoughts, ideas and experiences with the rest of the world.
For others, a blog is a business that requires hard work. A good quality blog that attracts targeted traffic can indeed generate a full-time income.
HOW TO START A WORDPRESS BLOG:
How to Start a WordPress Blog in 10 Steps
Starting a WordPress blog is relatively easy, but growing your blog and ultimately reaching a large audience is where the hard work comes in.
Here is my detailed guide into starting a blog from scratch that will hopefully help and motivate you to start your very own WordPress blog.
In this article I will recommend certain products, but only products that I have used myself as a blogger and that I have been very satisfied with.
STEP 1: PICK A BLOG NAME
Perhaps the most important step in starting your own blog is choosing a name. The last thing you want to do is having to change your blog name one or two years down the track, because that carries risk and requires a lot of work.
The name of your blog typically is the same as your domain name. For example, if your blog is named “John’s Travel Adventures”, your domain would ideally be johnstraveladventures.com, or johns-travel-adventures.com.
The name that you will eventually choose, can be your personal name or a name that reflects what your blog is going to be about.
Don’t Go Too Narrow
It’s important to not be too narrow with your name. For example, if you’re going to Bali on holiday and you want to document your adventures on a blog, you could register this domain: johnstriptobali.com.
That can work, but if you’re going to Europe six months later then obviously your Bali blog isn’t a suitable place to document your Europe travels.
Keep It Short and Sweet
Short, catchy domain names with a maximum of three words usually work the best. They tend to be memorable (which is what you want) and easy to type into a browser.
It’s also a good idea to consider a potential abbreviation. For example, if you go for “John’s Travel Adventures”, you will need to think about the abbreviation “JTA” as well.
Ask yourself whether that abbreviation is catchy and not already being used in a different context. Lots of big websites use abbreviations rather than their full brand names so that people can easily remember it.
Using Your Personal Name
You may also want to think twice about using your personal name in the domain. It could make sense if you’re running a sole trader business that is all about you, or if you’re a writer and you want to promote your books.
But otherwise, a catchy and memorable name for your blog may work better in the long-term than using your personal name.
Avoid Commercial Brand Names
You will also need to avoid using – parts of – commercial brands in your domain because you may be violating copyrights.
For example, if you enjoy driving your new Mazda around in the city and want to blog about it, it’s probably better to use the word “car” rather than “mazda” in your domain, i.e. ilovemynewcar.com instead of ilovemynewmazda.com.
Long story short, don’t rush it when deciding on the name of your blog. Take your time, as this is one of the most important decisions. It should be a permanent decision so make sure it’s the perfect name that is a good reflection of what your blog is about.
Once you’ve decided on the name for your brand new blog, it’s time to register a domain.
STEP 2: REGISTER A DOMAIN AND CHOOSE A HOST
Register a Domain
Registering a domain name is easy, with lots of online registrars and hosting providers offering affordable domain registration services.
If you’re based in Australia, don’t make the mistake thinking that you need to register with an Australian registrar. You can register your domain pretty much anywhere you like.
I have several domains registered at DreamHost. Their registration process is simple, affordable and only takes a few minutes.
When registering a domain name, you can select a hosting package with the same provider, but it’s perfectly fine to have your domain registration and hosting in two different places.
If you’re just starting out with blogging though, it’s probably easier to pick one company for both your domain registration and web hosting needs. I would recommend you choose DreamHost for both registration and hosting.
See the next step with more details on that.
HTTP or HTTPS?
This is a no-brainer. When you start a new WordPress blog, always go for HTTPS straight from the beginning.
When you register a domain with DreamHost, you have several options to install an SSL certificate, both paid and free. Installing is very easy, and DreamHost can do this for you.
Choose a Website Host
Hosting a website nowadays is incredibly affordable. But choosing the right hosting company and a suitable hosting package can be quite overwhelming as there are so many hosting companies out there.
I have used several hosting providers over the years, and have found DreamHost to be the best. Most web hosting providers will provide similar hosting packages, but for me DreamHost stands out when it comes to reliability, support and server performance.
If you’re a new blogger, you will most likely choose a shared hosting account. This means that your website will be hosted on a server that is shared with other websites. The drawback of this is that you won’t get the most powerful hosting.
But with technology evolving so fast and competition in the world of web hosting getting tighter, shared hosting usually is of very decent quality.
Signing up with DreamHost is easy!
- Go to DreamHost (40% discount offer)
- Create a DreamHost account
- Choose your domain
- Select your preferred hosting plan (shared hosting)
- Select additional options (i.e. SSL certificate)
- Submit payment details
If you’ve never used WordPress before, you can get DreamHost to install WordPress on your new website for you.
When your website is growing and you get more visitors every day, you can consider switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS). This simply means your website will get its own dedicated server resources, with better performance but also a higher price tag.
Don’t go for free hosting with WordPress, Weebly, Wix or any of the other platforms that offer free hosting. If you have a domain with free hosting, for example yourname.wordpress.com, or yourname.wix.com, or yourname.weebly.com, you don’t actually own the website and in theory your website could vanish overnight. It also lacks professionalism and credibility to have a domain that isn’t yours.
STEP 3: INSTALL WORDPRESS
Did you know that WordPress powers almost a third of the Internet?
By far the best framework for blogging is WordPress. There are others out there, such as Wix, Weebly and Joomla, and while they are all good, WordPress stands out in terms of customizability, ease-of-use, robustness and support in the blogging community.
There are two ways to start blogging with WordPress. You can choose the all-in-one option, including domain and hosting, but this means your domain will end with .wordpress.com.
As mentioned, this is really not a good idea, because you don’t actually own your website and it doesn’t look professional.
The best way to use WordPress is to register your very own domain and to install WordPress. Web hosting providers like DreamHost make this very easy for you.
With the push of a button, they will install WordPress for you, and you’re ready to start blogging right away.
STEP 4: CHOOSE A PREMIUM WORDPRESS THEME
Once you’ve installed WordPress and your blog is live, it’s time to find a suitable WordPress theme. You can choose between a free themes or a paid theme. The benefit of a free theme is that you don’t have to pay anything.
Most free themes are actually quite good, but they have a very basic look and feel and a limited set of features. If you’re just starting out, a free theme with limited features may work really well.
A paid premium WordPress theme however typically offers more features, such as widgets and customization tools. There are literally thousands of premium themes available and selecting the right one is not only challenging but also time consuming.
I have purchased several WordPress themes over the years and I am by far most satisfied with GeneratePress, a free WordPress theme + Premium plugin that is super lightweight and allows for unlimited customization.
GeneratePress is highly regarded in the blogging community and some of the biggest Internet marketing blogs out there use it.
This website, Blog Pioneer, previously used the popular FocusBlog theme developed by Thrive Themes, but I recently switched over to GeneratePress after reading all the good reviews.
It’s a super fast theme, very easy to configure and it includes features that actually add value, features that you can choose to turn on or off yourself.
Why choose GeneratePress?
- Built for speed
- Lightweight with unlimited customization options
- Compliant with latest PHP, HTML and CSS coding standards
- Regular on-going updates
- Excellent technical support
Choosing a WordPress theme is a very important decision. A theme can make or break the success of your site as it has a huge impact on what your blog will come to look like.
In addition, some themes offer too many features that you don’t need. This can make your website load slower and more difficult to configure.
Avoid these problems right from the start by choosing a theme that is clean, has good reviews, and offers continuous updates. Stay away from themes that haven’t been updated in the previous twelve months.
STEP 5: INSTALL WORDPRESS PLUGINS
Once you have a WordPress blog up and running, you will soon notice that there are gazillions of plugins available that can solve all of your WordPress problems.
Some plugins are essential, and other plugins are plain unnecessary.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Below is a list of plugins that I use myself. All of these plugins are free, but they do have premium versions available. You can easily install these plugins via the Add New Plugin page within the WordPress dashboard of your website.
Securing your site is absolutely vital and installing an SSL certificate is simply not enough. You will need a firewall, a scanner and protection against brute-force attacks to make sure your WordPress blog does not get hacked or even attacked. There are several good quality security plugins available but I recommend Wordfence as they offer a good set of features with a friendly user interface.
- Yoast SEO:
My favorite SEO plugin that helps you to optimize individual web pages so that Google and Bing likes them too. Please note though that SEO is quite complicated, and Yoast is really just a good start. If you want to be serious about blogging, I strongly recommend you learn a thing or two about SEO.
- Social Warfare:
My favorite social media sharing plugin is Social Warfare, a popular lightweight plugin that adds lightning-fast social share buttons to your WordPress blog or website. The paid version is very affordable and comes with a few more options.
- W3 Total Cache:
Your new WordPress blog needs a plugin to improve site-speed. One of the better plugins to help improve your website performance is W3 Total Cache. It has a bit of a learning curve but it works really well.
- Contact Form 7:
This one is optional but it’s good to have a contact form on your WordPress blog. Contact Form 7 is a plugin that helps you configure simple web forms and integrate them into your pages and posts.
Be very conservative when it comes to installing WordPress plugins. Each installed plugin has the potential to slow down your site and make your site more vulnerable from a security perspective.
I always recommend to only install plugins you really need and never install any plugins that you can do without. It’s also important to always update your plugins to the latest versions to avoid security and compatibility issues.
STEP 6: BRAND YOUR BLOG
Just like choosing a blog name is important, creating a good logo and color scheme for your blog is also a crucial step in the process. You want your logo and the colors on your blog to be recognisable. You want it to represent your brand in a positive way.
If you have good design skills, go ahead and create your own branding. Make sure you choose a good color scheme and font type that you can use throughout your website. Buttons, widgets, headers, they all need to adhere to the same look and feel.
Great tools for creating logos and headers are Canva and PicMonkey. They have free and premium versions, but you’ll find that the free versions are actually really good. As your blog grows, you can always upgrade to the premium versions if you’d like to take advantage of the extra features.
Another good tool is Adobe InDesign, but it’s much more expensive.
You can also outsource this bit of work if you’re not the best designer yourself. Outsourcing is actually very common in the blogging community.
We simply can’t do everything and we don’t always have time to do all the work ourselves. So if outsourcing sounds hectic, don’t worry, it’s not.
Make sure you check reviews of candidates and communicate clearly to avoid disappointments. Also, don’t choose the cheapest option, as you’ll typically get what you pay for.
A good logo is important but keep in mind that a logo can always be changed. Don’t spend too much time creating a logo, instead focus on making sure that the content on your website is top notch. It’s the content that will ultimately create an audience and generate traffic, not the logo.
STEP 7: CREATE A SITE STRUCTURE AND START WRITING
Before you start writing any content, it’s good to start thinking about a logical structure for your WordPress blog. You can do this be defining categories, with each category containing several articles that cover topics that fit within that same category.
For example, in Blog Pioneer I have a category named WordPress with several articles that are related to WordPress. Sounds really simple, but as your blog grows, you will find that creating a good structure for your site can actually be quite challenging.
From a user perspective as well as from a search engine perspective, a logical site structure will help you to attract more visitors in the long term.
Once you have a logical blog structure in mind, you can start writing articles (Posts in WordPress) and assign them to the appropriate categories.
Also make sure you have an about page, in which you explain what your website is about, and a contact page with a form where visitors can submit their questions or other types of feedback.
In WordPress, an article is a Post, a page is a Page and a category is a Category. WordPress also uses Tags, similar to an index at the end of a book. A Post can have multiple Tags and by clicking on a Tag, you can find other Posts with that same Tag.
I personally find Tags confusing and unnecessary and therefore I don’t use them. Instead I focus on using Categories properly.
STEP 8: SET UP SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
In this era of social media, a blog without at least one social media account can hardly be considered a blog.
Even if you’re not a social media fan, it is still recommended to explore Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other major social media channel.
Why Social Media?
Social Media can help your blog in three ways:
- It’s a fun way to engage with, and grow, your audience.
- If you manage your social media channels properly, this will increase the credibility and trustworthiness of your blog or brand.
- Active and engaging social media accounts will also have a positive impact on your search engine visibility which means more traffic.
You shouldn’t feel pressured to get involved in all types of social media. Managing social media can be quite time consuming with relatively little return, especially in the beginning.
I recommend you start with just two social media accounts, and sign up for another one or two down the track if you feel it can benefit your blog.
It’s easy to get sucked into social media thinking that you need to have thriving social media accounts to make your blog a success. Whilst social media certainly is important, the quality of your blog is much more important.
Focus on your blog and slowly build up your social media presence as the content on your site grows. If there is hardly any (quality) content on your blog, your social media channels won’t get much traction either.
STEP 9: START TRACKING YOUR WEBSITE TRAFFIC
When your blog is up and running, you will want to know who visits your site, where they come from, how long they stick around for, and much more. You can get these types of data by installing Google Analytics in your WordPress blog.
Sign up here, follow the steps to verify ownership of your web property and install a piece of script in your blog. Google Analytics is easy to master and can help you get some great insights into your audience.
Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) gives you technical feedback related to the overall quality of your WordPress blog. It will tell you when there are issues that you should resolve.
For example, if your sitemap isn’t configured properly or not at all, Search Console will tell you this. Search Console will also tell you if there are HTML errors that you would otherwise never know about.
Bing (powered by Microsoft) has a similar suite of tools, called Bing Webmaster Tools. I do recommend signing up with them too.
Keyword Research Tools
When you blog is slowly picking up more visitors and you are willing to invest more time and money into growing your blog, it’s worthwhile purchasing a license for a keyword research tool. Especially when SEO is high on your list of priorities.
Not only does a good keyword research tool tell you how your website is ranking, it also helps with finding new topics and associated keywords for your blog to write about. In addition, a keyword research tool helps with continuously optimizing your content so that your search engine rankings go up.
My favorite keyword research tool is SEMrush, a web-based tool that helps bloggers and Internet marketers find keywords that their websites are (not yet) ranking for and what competitor websites are ranking for. If your budget is a bit lower (SEMrush is a big investment), perhaps the much cheaper KeySearch is a tool to look into.
STEP 10: MONETIZE YOUR BLOG
This is the most exciting part! A lot of people don’t realise that you can actually make money with a blog.
There are some very successful bloggers out there who make a living with their blogs and social media channels.
The two most common ways to make money with your blog are advertising and affiliate marketing.
By far the biggest advertising network is the Google AdSense program. Signing up is easy, as long as your blog is of good quality and receives a certain amount of traffic.
They have strict guidelines so make sure you read them before signing up and placing ads on your brand new website.
Once you reach a certain amount of traffic, you can apply to join a dedicated ad company such as AdThrive or Mediavine. They are usually able to achieve a better advertising RPM than AdSense. Check out my in-depth review of Mediavine if you’d like to know more.
Affiliate marketing means that you promote other people’s products on your website. If you manage to sell one of these products, you then receive a percentage of the sale price.
For example, in this blog post that you’re currently reading, if you purchase a product via one of the links, I will receive a small commission (thank you!).
It’s important to be open with your audience about affiliate marketing and only promote products or services that you personally trust and believe in. There are several affiliate marketing networks out there where you can sign up and find products to promote.
One of the most popular affiliate networks is Amazon Associates. Amazon is an internationally trusted seller where you can find pretty much all kinds of products, including products that fit within the niche of your blog.
Other Monetization Methods
But there are other ways to make money with your blog. For example, a business that fits within the niche of your blog can request to write a sponsored article with the aim to promote their business. In this case you will need to disclose to your audience that the article is sponsored by a third party.
Similarly, a company can ask you to test one of their products and write an honest review about it on your blog. Depending on how much traffic your blog receives each month, you can charge decent amounts of money for these types of sponsored articles and product reviews.
Don’t focus on monetisation when you start your blog as this never works. Work hard to get your blog up and running, publish good quality content, drive more traffic to your website, and once you have established a big enough audience, only then should you start monetising.
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If you’re new to blogging then the whole process may be a bit overwhelming. But hopefully this guide explaining how to start a blog does help you in finding your way online and establishing your very own blog.
Once you have your blog up and running, make sure you keep updating your WordPress installation and plugins to the latest versions as this improves both security and performance.
Starting a blog from scratch requires a lot of work and patience. Don’t expect huge crowds of people to visit your site in the first year. The more quality content you publish and the more you promote your blog, the more visitors you will get.
If you have any questions or if you get stuck at any of the steps, feel free to email me as I am always happy to help. Good luck!
Affordable domain registration and hosting.
Top quality WordPress theme and plugin.
Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools):
Technical website insights offered by Google.
Essential website tracking statistics.