Are you planning to start a blog and just want to know EVERYTHING there is to know about blogging? This guide to starting a blog is the best place for beginners. Learn to get from idea to profitable blog in no time!
Before we dive right into this guide to starting a blog, I want to answer a very common question – what gives me the experience and knowledge to share all of this with you?!
I’ve been a full-time blogger for the past 5 years. But, besides that, I also help entrepreneurs to turn their offline experiences into online income.
Which means that I HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS. More than once. Starting from the very beginning, working on different platforms, trying out plenty of blog monetization methods. I’ve done all of this, inside out, again and again.
I have plenty of experience to share and that’s why this blog – your full guide to starting a blog: from idea to successful blog!
Guide to starting a blog: Introduction
Q1: What is the difference between having a blog vs having a website?
There are some simple terms people keep mixing up. For example, is there really any difference between “having a blog” and “having a website”?
Having a website or starting a website means that you’re starting a site online – free or paid, on one platform or another – with any kind of an intention.
For example, you want to start an e-commerce shop and sell your products online. Or maybe you have a business and you need a website for that. You can also promote your portfolio and freelance services. AND have a blog on it too. So, in this case, we see that the blog really is a part of the website – the part where content is written. Not a separate entity. It’s just a type of the page.
Most websites have way more than just a blog on them, even if it’s just an About or Contact page.
However, when people talk about “having a blog”, there can be plenty of explanations. A blog generally is a place where you gather your own written articles. It can be set up on any of the free blogging platforms, it can also be a part of your website.
Technically, using the term “starting a blog” when we talk about setting up a website AND blogging, is not really correct. However, it’s a common practice online these days.
In this full guide to starting a blog, I have reviewed how to start a website with the blog being its main component.
Q2: Why to start blogging?
There can be plenty of reasons why people blog but here are some of the most common ones:
- Hobby blogging. Sharing your passion on a specific subject, sharing what you’ve learned and do. For example, gardening, interior design, cooking.
- Content marketing. Blogging to drive attention to your knowledge, to your business. This often includes focusing on being found on search engines (SEO) and writing keyword-rich content.
- Blog monetization. Many people choose to start blogs to earn income. Either with affiliate marketing, ad placement or selling their own products.
Q3: Is blogging worth the time investment?
Generally, yes. If you have a clear purpose, you enjoy writing it and have any kind of a positive outcome, it will never be a waste of time.
For most people, blogging is a great way to attract a new audience. Either you’re promoting your knowledge, your freelance services, your business, products or anything else most entrepreneurs find blogging great leverage.
Q4: It’s 2020. Is it still possible to stand out, get noticed, get readers in such a crowded online space?
It is absolutely possible and you’ll be able to read some of the samples on how to do it in this article.
Don’t make “everybody is blogging these days, what’s the point” your excuse.
Guide to starting a blog: Blog setup
Q5: What is the difference between having a free vs paid blog?
What most people understand with a free blog is something like myblog.wordpress.com. While the paid blog would be found on the domain myblog.com
The general difference is that free blogs have many limitations. A free blog can be used for hobby blogging or just to get started, maybe practice writing, writing for fun…
But it should never be your business website! Also, if you have ANY intention to monetize your blog or gain a good readership base – avoid using free blogs.
Website hosting isn’t that expensive. The most budget-friendly option would be to, for example, pay $4.99/monthly on Dreamhost. However, if you can afford to pay for the whole year instead, make sure to consider Siteground.
Q6: Hosting vs blogging platforms… What is the difference?
One other important thing to learn before you dive head-first into blogging is the term hosting vs blogging (or website) platform.
Bear with me in this one…
Hosting and blogging platform are two different things.
When it comes to YOUR real, professional website (self-hosted site) NOT free WordPress.com website, hosting is what you need to purchase BEFORE you even start blogging. It is a server that will hold all your backend info for the website, as well as give you access to your code, will let you create your personal email, subdomains and a lot more! I will give you more insights in the process later in this post.
Website hosting is the START of your website. Some of the hosting companies: Bluehost, Siteground, Dreamhost, Hostgator, LyricHost, etc. There are hundreds and probably thousands!
However, blogging PLATFORM is where you do the daily writing, where you set up the design, maintain your website. Some of the website platforms: WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, Blogger.
Hosting is what makes your site live, available for others, online. While Platform is the actual writing & publishing tool you’d use on a daily basis.
I’m no Wikipedia but I hope this makes sense!
Q7: There are so many blogging platforms… Which one to use??
Yes, there are plenty of ways to create a website or start a blog. Choosing which one to get started with can be quite a challenge.
As a website designer and blogger for 5 years, I have tried and tested most of the popular options and here’s a brief insight:
- WordPress is the market standard. Any legit website designer or long-term blogger will suggest using WordPress instead of any other platform. Yes, the learning curve is a bit bigger BUT there are many easy ways how to set up and maintain a WordPress website without any tech experience. Besides that, it’s the most customizable and flexible platforms by all means. Also, having a WordPress website will cost you a lot less than any other paid platform.
- Squarespace is the best option from “the easy website builders”. It is common for small business owners to set up their websites on Squarespace since it’s very intuitive and easy to use. However, if you want to focus on blogging,
- Wix and Weebly have equal features and both are equally unnecessary. I see no real reason why you should opt-in for any of these. They are less reliable and flexible versions of Squarespace and have way lower site quality when it comes to design.
- Blogger. Well, hello 2005. If you’re really still using or considering to use Blogger, make sure you have your MySpace account still active.
Squarespace, Wix, Weebly and many other website builders are, mostly, focusing on providing an easy to use website builders. Their focus is NOT on blogging. Therefore, if you want to build a successful blog, opt-in for WordPress right away. Believe me, I won’t be the only one telling you this.
Q8: Should I choose WordPress.com or WordPress.org
Neither. Yes, you should blog with WordPress but the setup works differently. Later in this article, I give you a more in-depth insight into a blog setup.
Ideally, you should opt-in for a self-hosted WordPress website. This means that you purchase a website hosting and then make the WP installation (one-click process!)
It DOES NOT require using .com or .org directly because everything is done through your hosting.
Q9: Why having a self-hosted website is so important?
Having a self-hosted website means that you have a website hosting + your own domain name.
There are plenty of reasons why having a self-hosted website is important. Here are some of the benefits:
- It’s legit. It’s the only way how you can own 100% of your content.
- You have full control over everything. Full flexibility when it comes to design, content and any other features.
- You can use unlimited features. WordPress plugins, custom development, etc. It’s all available to you, at any time.
Q10: How to start a self-hosted WordPress website?
Here’s a brief overview of the process:
(1) Choose your hosting. I strongly suggest going with Siteground. They have amazing customer support. However, if you want to pay monthly instead of yearly, check out Dreamhost. With the monthly plan, you’d pay $4.99/month
(2) Purchase a domain name. Depending on your chosen hosting, you can either purchase it along with opening a hosting account or buy it separately. Purchasing it on the spot will be more convenient.
(3) Follow the instructions provided by each specific hosting and Install WordPress. It’s usually a one-click installation and you’ll have your WP available to you.
It’s that easy!
You’ll find a full guide in Blog Creation Simplified where I provide step by step guide to self-hosted WordPress website creation.
Guide to starting a blog: Blog design
Q11: How to set up a website design on WordPress?
When you install WordPress, you’ll end up on a page looking something like this:
That’s how fresh, just installed WP website looks like.
So… where to go from here?!
There are several ways to set up a WordPress website design.
The first – most common and most talked about – is to choose a WordPress theme. There are some free themes offered by WordPress that you can check out right on the site by going to Appearance > Themes.
So what really is a WordPress theme? It’s a design setup, a look for your site. You can either install it directly from WordPress or by uploading a ZIP file if you have, for example, purchased the theme.
That WILL NOT give you a ready-to-use website but will preset design features you can use.
Most of the themes offer Demo content. This means that you can set up pages that will look exactly like on the sample from wherever you brought the theme. Then, you can adjust the content to yours.
WordPress Page Builders
The other option is to use WordPress page builders instead of themes.
Basically, most of the themes are built, based on a page builder.
A page builder is not a pre-made template. Instead, it offers you a clean slate to start with and blocks to build your page with.
So you literally have an empty page and options like “Banner”, “Headline”, “Gallery”, etc. And you drag them on the page, customize, add design, etc, and build your page, step by step!
Many page builders also offer templates to work with.
Q12: How to customize a WordPress theme?
This is one of the hardest questions to answer because most themes have their unique customization options.
However, here are a few steps to follow, to figure it out (after you’ve installed a new theme).
(1) Go to Appearance > Plugins. Make sure you’ve installed all of the recommended and must-have plugins. Most themes will require for you to activate plugins that will actually make it work. So if you’re stuck, the first step is to check what’s going on there.
(2) On the left-side panel, you might notice a special theme-named section. Click on it and check out what’s in the store. Often there’s a section called Theme Settings or Theme Options (or similar) where you can install demos and update general info, for example, fonts, colors, as well as layouts (how your blog page will look like etc).
(3) If there isn’t a specific theme panel or you don’t seem to find anything relevant on it, go to Appearance > Customization and see what opens up. Often, that’s where the theme’s customization options hide.
(4) Another way to find the customization options is to go to Pages > each specific page. And see what kind of editor is offered. Sometimes you’ll see “Edit with Elementor” or “Edit with WP Bakery” or similar. This means you can edit each page with this specific theme editor! Super common!
Q13: Should I choose a theme or a page builder?
While page builder might request a bit more hands-on action and you will need to spend some time learning how to use it efficiently, I think it’s not only a great time investment but also one of the best ways to build a site! For example, you can start with a page builder like Elementor – it’s for free and super intuitive!
However, if you’re not much of a creative yourself and would prefer something closer to a finished website, research and pick a theme instead.
Q14: How to find the most suitable theme or page builder?
There isn’t one magic path to finding the best fit. Since there are PLENTY of theme and builder options out there, I suggest, first, sticking to a simple strategy:
- Understand what pages you need. For example, will you need Portfolio page (therefore, you’d want a theme with nice gallery options) or you’ll be just writing so you need a beautiful blog layout. Once you know what you will and won’t need, you can clarify your focus.
- Keep it simple. It’s my favorite suggestion for almost anything. Don’t dive head-first into madly creative designs if you have no experience with WordPress theme setup. The more complicated is the design, the more headache you might have with the setup.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Your blog doesn’t have to be perfect to be successful. As a website designer, I have recreated my website at least 5 times in the past years… It’s always work in progress! Your chosen theme is not the one and only for forever.
Q15: What is THE EASIEST way to set up a design for your WordPress blog?
The most basic easiest option is to use WP offered free themes.
However, if you do want your blog to actually look nice, the easiest option is to use Elementor.
(1) Install a free theme. Either one of WP offered ones or something from this list. You need to install the theme first because free Elementor offers only page editing, not Header/Footer/Blog page. So those would be based on the theme while the rest will be based on your Elementor design.
(2) Install free Elementor plugin.
(3) Go to Pages > Create New. Choose to Edit With Elementor.
(4) From here, you can either use their offered templates to get started more easily or build your own site, step by step.
I consider Elementor the easiest option because when it comes to customization, it’s easy to understand the process and get the hang of this page builder.
Q16: What is a WordPress plugin?
Plugins are like website ad-ons.
Let’s say you’ve started a new WordPress website. You can upload their free themes, play around with some elements, write and publish blog posts. But that’s about it!
How to make anything else happen? With the relevant plugin!
Each plugin has its own setup instructions and details on how to activate and use them, just follow the instructions.
Q17: How to know which WordPress plugins I need?
If you’ve chosen to use a WordPress theme, most of them come along with plugin suggestions. Therefore, first, check out referred plugins and work from there.
Some of my plugin must-dos would include the following:
- Jetpack. A great plugin for stats! It’s the best way to see how many site visitors you get without leaving your WP admin panel.
- Wordfence. For site security.
- Yoast SEO or Rank Math. Plugins that will help you to improve your search engine optimization and give you guidance on how to add more value in your posts! (I prefer Rank Math but Yoast SEO is overall more popular)
- Elementor. For page building.
- MailerLite. The best free email marketing software. Great for starters!
- Pretty Links. A plugin to make affiliate links look nice and with your domain name!
When you need a new plugin, go to section Plugins and see what they have in store! You can just write down the keyword and you’ll see plenty of options.
Guide to starting a blog: Blog content
Q18: How to figure out what to write about?
This might be a tough cookie for many. But it’s also an important part of this full guide to starting a blog. WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT?!?!
I mean, if there is no fire burning in your pants about something, we might have a problem here.
The general advice I want to give when it comes to choosing blogs niche is to FOLLOW YOUR PASSION.
Don’t write about something just because other bloggers do the same… There’s an audience for everything, you’ll just need to find them.
Don’t be generic. Base your content on your experiences.
Q19: Do I need a specific blogging niche?
This depends on several factors.
Most long-term bloggers and those who are successful in their blog monetization will say that you definitely DO need a blogging niche.
It’s just easier this way. If you have a clear target audience and a specific, obvious goal, it’s a lot easier to attract more traffic and, therefore, make more sales.
Look at it from the reader’s perspective!
For example, if I’m researching the best cheesecake recipes, I’ll trust more someone whos blog is all about food and, even better, desserts. Instead of trusting somebody who seems to cover it all. A person focusing on desserts must’ve loads more time to perfect the recipe and really try out it all!
However, don’t restrict yourself if you do have more than one passion and, especially, if they go along with each other.
Write some blog posts, test and try. You don’t need to have a specific niche in the first day or blogging.
Q20: What are the best blog writing practices?
An important part of any guide to starting a blog should be the actual writing… What are the best posts writing practices among the most popular bloggers?!
There are some common blog writing rules to follow. For example:
- Use text formatting. This will make your post easier to read + improve your SEO. Text formatting includes using bigger font for headlines and subheadings, separating text in paragraphs, adding bold and italic formatting.
- Link to relevant content. Both inner and outside links are a must for valuable content! Link to other relevant posts or resources, add links to the tools, books or products you mention.
- Write at least 600 words, ideally – 1000+. 600 is the very least amount of words to use on your blog posts. It’s hard to provide loads of value in such a small amount of text! Generally, search engines support posts that have at least 1000 words
- Use Grammarly to detect any writing errors. It’s a great free tool for not only spotting your errors but also improving your writing.
- Add relevant pictures. For example, Pinterest graphics!
Q21: How to add more value?
Although there isn’t one perfect formula for an incredible article, there are several things you can follow to create valuable content.
- Set intention! What is the goal of your post? Who and how you can to help with it?
- Create an outline. This can include either questions to answer or the main headlines. This way, it’s easier to structure your writing and not forget important parts of the article.
- Add quotes, links to other websites. This will not only enrich your text but it’ll also help your search engine optimization where linking is an important part of the process!
- Ask other bloggers to share their opinion. It’s an amazing way to add more value, connect with other bloggers and, once again, improve your SEO. Especially, if you can share your opinion and get linked to their blog as well!
Q22: How many blog posts to write per week?
My general suggestion is to write more when starting out so you can pile up some content and people visiting your website see what your blog is all about.
When starting out, I’d write at least 2-3 blog posts per week. But make sure to make them valuable!
If you don’t have time for so many posts, write less but with more value!
After a month or two, when the main content is already established, I’d suggest writing once per week or maybe twice if you really have loads to share! (And have the time for that!)
Q23: How many blog posts do I need to write before I launch my blog?
I suggest launching as soon as you get started. It’s the best way to learn from the feedback, improve your direction, provide enough value and make sure you’re attracting the right audience!
However, many bloggers would suggest having at least 5 or so posts ready before you go public.
This will make sure that once someone gets on your website, they will have insight in the articles you provide and they can evaluate whether or not to keep following you.
Guide to starting a blog: Blog monetization
Q24: How can I earn money blogging?
Many readers visiting this guide to starting a blog might be hoping to monetize it as soon as possible. So how can you earn money blogging?!
There are many ways to go about this but here are some of the most common answers to this:
- Ads. Placing ads and earning ad revenue will require a good readership. Many ad networks require at least 10K monthly views. Therefore, this might not be the best option for starters.
- Affiliate marketing. This means placing affiliate links in your blog posts and earning commission once your reader purchases the product (may it be a physical product, an online service, e-course or anything else)
- Sponsored posts. At some point, you can start reaching out to brands to promote their products in sponsored posts. Once again, it doesn’t have to be a physical product, it can be an online platform, service, digital product, etc.
- Selling your own products/services. Either you’re a freelancer, have a business to promote or you want to create your own digital products, it’s an amazing way to earn income from blogging!
Most of the outcome will depend on the work you put in and the dedication you have for this.
Q25: What is the fastest way to earn money blogging?
I have to say that the fastest way how you could earn money blogging is with affiliate marketing.
By choosing niche-specific affiliate programs and reaching out to people interested in your topics, you could easily start earning affiliate commissions.
To be a successful affiliate you don’t need tens of thousands of blog readers. You just have to make sure that the products you promote are interesting for your readers!
Q26: How can I use my past experience to earn income blogging?
One of my favorite ways to earn income online – and to suggest for my clients – is to create e-courses or other digital products, for example, e-books or subscription services.
You don’t need to have the experience in teaching or digital world to turn your experience into online income.
Q27: How to monetize effectively?
My favorite tips when it comes to blog monetization is to FOCUS.
Choose one blog monetization method and do everything it takes to make it work.
My favorite for starters is affiliate marketing. Therefore, my tip would be to choose 2-3 relevant affiliate programs, create blog posts around them and reach out to the audience that is interested in the offer.
Then, even if you don’t have 10K blog readers per month, you can still generate great income! I started making money with affiliate marketing when I had around 100 daily blog views (which is easy to get with this Pinterest strategy!)
Don’t expect for money to come in right away! Blogging IS NOT the best way to earn instant income. It will take a while to develop your strategy and grow interested readership. But if you keep your focus straight, you’ll get there!
Guide to starting a blog: Blog promotion
Q28: How to get blog traffic?
There are plenty of ways to get traffic online. Most of them include being active on social media and sharing your blog there.
Here are some effective ideas:
- Pinterest. It’s my no.1 source of traffic and it’s easy to get started!
- Facebook groups. Participate in relevant Facebook groups, share your blog posts.
- Forums. There are plenty of online forums in different niches. Find your audience and share your blog posts there!
- Quora. Answer to Quora questions by sharing your blog posts.
- Instagram, TikTok, Twitter. Share your content, knowledge, advice, interact with your audience.
- SEO. Search Engine Optimization will help your blog posts to get noticed on search engines. (More about that further).
Q29: How to know which social media to use?
There isn’t one right path when it comes to choosing social media.
I’d suggest using social media that suits both – your audience and yourself the best.
For example, Instagram is a great way to gain traffic! But you need to be active, posts stories and photos, and the more real you are, the bigger chance of getting noticed!
Others prefer to stay a bit more low-key and use FB Pages or Twitter. There you’re not pressured to put yourself out there, you can share your posts, as well as make live videos or share other people’s content to get traction.
For field professionals, often LinkedIn is another great source of traffic. However, it’s the best option for those who are in the white-collar kind of market. Business, tech, money. Might not be the best spot for food bloggers…
Once again, try out and see what works best for you!
Q30: What is SEO and how can I optimize my blog?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is another great way to get more readers.
This means that you set up a keyword and optimize each blog post for that specific keyword so your posts can be found on search engine.
It’s a lot of hard work, however, each blogger should do SEO either it’s your main focus or not.
I’d suggest learning the basics of SEO, implementing them and then seeing what you can do from there.
Here are some of the optimization tips:
- Use Yoast SEO or Rank Math plugin for your blog posts. These plugins will help you to optimize your posts by showing the necessary upgrades.
- Make sure your content is valuable. SEO is not all about the right keywords. Optimizing for search engines means that your content will be valuable and useful.
- Choose long-tail keywords. For example, instead of using “food” as your keyword, pick something topic-specific so there’s a bigger chance to be found by those who need you. For example, “best picnic food ideas”, “food to put on Christmas table”, etc.
- Put the keywords in the text. Headlines and paragraphs. Don’t overdo it! The plugins will help you to understand how many keywords to publish.
- Add other relevant keywords. Even though you’d usually choose just one focus keyword (or more like keyphrase), it’s important that there are other keywords around it.
- Optimize your images. Add keywords in image descriptions.
- Optimize your links. Super important!
AND WE ARE DONE.
This took me a few days longer than expected…
But I hope this full guide to blogging gave you a good headstart to making your own blog happen!
Do you have any unanswered questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer 🙂