Welcome to How To Start A Blog 101! Since you’ve clicked on a link somewhere and landed on this page, I’m going to assume that you’re interested in learning how to start a blog or online business. Well, I have good news! There’s never been a better time than right now to create a website and build an online business.
The technology available now makes it so easy to get your site up and running. No learning HTML coding skills and trying to mash together scripts. Costs are reasonable. And you can find information online to help you learn whatever skills you need to run an online business.
And having your own website is exciting. You get to share your passions, interests, and hobbies with the world. Truth be told, I’m so excited for you! I’ve been running online businesses for over 20 years and I LOVE it. Kinda obsessed to tell the truth. And I’m thrilled that you’re allowing me to be a part of your process in this small way.
I can’t wait to see what incredible things you add to the blogosphere! (When you get your blog all set up, send me a link so I can do a happy dance with you! Emails from new bloggers makes my heart happy.)
Let’s set up your new blog!
I’m going to warn you…this article got incredibly long as I drew up the process and filled out the details, but I wanted to be sure that you had all the information you need to get your website started right.
So many articles on starting a blog leave out critical details, like how to secure your site from hackers or best practices that affect your SEO. I wanted this article to be different and more complete. You deserve all the information you need to get started on the right foot. Thus the length.
To help you work through the steps, I’ve created a downloadable checklist that I will send you right now if you want to have it by your side as you go through this process. It will help you keep track of what you’ve done and what you still need to do. Just enter your email below to get it delivered to your inbox immediately.
How Much Time Does It Take To Create A Website?
You can get your domain purchased and your site set up in about 20 minutes. But adding pages, content, and graphics may take you a few more hours or days, depending on how complex your plan for your site might be.
I recommend that you get your hosting plan and install WordPress, then take care of the security tasks in one sitting. After that, you can take a break and come back to the building of your full website as you have pockets of time.
Ready? Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Choose A Domain
If you plan to go into business for yourself, the first thing you will need to do is decide on a name for your business. Maybe you already have a name in mind. Maybe you’ve been operating under a business name doing local craft shows or selling at a store or gallery. If so, hopefully, you can obtain a domain name that closely matches that of your business.
If you don’t have a domain in mind, you’ll need to sit down and brainstorm some possibilities. Choosing a domain is an important business decision. You’ll have to live with this name for a long time, and your business name creates a first impression with the public.
WHAT TO CONSIDER when CHOOSING A DOMAIN
1. Captures the essence of your business
Your business is an entity with its own personality and style. You want a name that will represent you and your products accurately.
To help your site rank in the search engines, consider constructing your domain from key words that people might type into a search engine to find your product.
3. Easy to remember
The easier your domain name is to remember (and spell) the better it will perform. An easy-to-remember name will stick in people’s minds, and they’ll be able to remember how to find your site without bookmarks or links to prompt them.
4. Reasonable Length
Keep your domain as short as you can. A shorter domain is easier to remember, to spell, and saves time typing. (You’re going to be typing this domain a LOT. Trust me.)
There are several routes you can take as you choose your domain name. I’ve listed a few ideas along with the pros and cons.
A popular way to name a blog is to use your own name in the blog title and build your name into your brand. This might not work if you have a common name. LisaMills.com was already taken so that was never an option for me. Keep in mind, using your full name can also be awkward if you divorce or marry and your name changes.
You could name your blog along the lines of the topic that you will be blogging about. FunPhotography.com or CakeDecorating.com says everything you need to know about what that blog is about. This type of name has the benefit of including keywords that will help you rank in searches about that topic. The con is that if you decide to change your topic or pursue a different niche, your blog name will no longer be relevant. You’re locked into one topic with this type of name.
Your Name + Topic
Another option you could consider is to combine your name with your topic. BlogWithLisa.com or RecipesByLisa.com might be a great option for you (if your name is Lisa too. LOL) By using only your first name, you can avoid the last name changing.
As with the Topic option, you are locked into one topic for the duration of your blog. But you may be able to keep it general enough that you have some room to shift directions if necessary.
Fun Combo Of Words
You can also play with alliteration or rhyme to create a fun name for your blog. I have chickens so I like the-chicken-chick.com. The blog is fun and informative and the name says it all. Kathy is a chick who likes chickens. The name conveys her topic, is cute and playful, and has some nice alliteration too.
Rhyming names like TheBodSquad or SakeAndHockey create some interesting appeal and are easy to remember. Play with some combinations and see what you come up with. (I would seriously like to visit a site about sake and hockey. Please, someone go after that idea. LOL)
.com or .net or .other
When you go to purchase a domain, you’ll find that you have the option to purchase a domain with the suffix of .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, and about a dozen more. The one you choose can depend on the country you live in or the country you plan to target with your blog.
In the USA, the .com extension is the standard and most recognized. If you are a US blogger, I highly recommend that you try to find a .com domain, as they are the most common here and easier for your users to remember. In other countries, another extension may be preferable.
Social Media Considerations
If you plan to market your products on social media, you may want to investigate whether you can get a handle or page name that closely matches your website name so that you can build a consistent brand.
All of your online “names” don’t have to match, but it certainly helps your customers to remember you and find you on social media, which can help to boost sales in the long run.
If you want to research names available on social media before you purchase a domain, here’s what you do:
Go to namechk.com and type in your domain name handle, ie. “heartmylife”
Namechk will search all the social media platforms and a bunch of other sites to see if anyone has registered an account under that name yet. You can see at a glance where your name is available and where it’s already taken.
When you find an option that works across most of your accounts, then you can move ahead, buy your domain and finalize the setup of your social media accounts at the same time.
Purchase Your Domain
When you have some ideas for names that might work for you, you’ll need to go to a domain name seller and research your name options to see whether that domain is available. Here’s a tool you can use to check on the availability of your domain options:
Once you find the one you want, you can purchase it at a company like NameCheap that offers domains at an incredible price…just a couple of dollars most of the time.
Or you can purchase your domain along with your hosting package—which leads me to our next step.
Now that you’ve settled on a name, you should be ready to purchase a hosting package for your website. And you can get your domain for FREE at this point too!
HostGator, the hosting company I recommend, offers a free domain with your purchase of a year of hosting! FREE! Take advantage of that! I worked with HostGator on my latest website and I LOVE their service.
They’re incredibly affordable and their customer service is amazing. The way they have their interface set up makes it really easy for beginner bloggers to navigate through the process. That’s a huge WIN when all of this tech is new to you.
And did you notice, their little gator mascot is so adorable. 🙂
Here’s a link to their very affordable hosting packages.
So it’s time to purchase hosting and in this case, I think video will tell a better story than words. So I’ve created a short video that walks you through the process of securing your hosting package. Click below and watch as I walk you through the process.
Once you’ve completed the process of purchasing a hosting package, you’ll get an email with information on how to log in to your blog’s c-panel, which is the control center behind the scenes of your blog. From there you can set up your email accounts, do backups, and install WordPress.
Use the login information and web address in the email to log into your c-panel. Once there, you’ll find that HostGator’s c-panel-style dashboard is soooo easy to navigate! All the functions are labeled with icons and laid out in a convenient grid separated into categories that are very simple to understand.
The next step in the process is to install WordPress.
Yay! You just installed WordPress! It might take a couple of minutes for everything to populate, but you should be able to go to your domain and see your site. There will be some default content there to create a few basic pages. I’ll show you how to switch over to an under construction page in a minute.
Before you do anything else, I suggest that you adjust a couple of default settings and deal with security. You can’t be too careful!
Blog Settings That Help With Your SEO
When you set up a new WordPress account it automatically comes with some default settings, some of which are not ideal. (Most are great, but hey, nothing’s perfect, right?) So let’s make some changes.
If you’ve never blogged before you’ve probably never heard the word permalinks, so I’ll give you a quick definition. A permalink is the permanent URL that is assigned to every page and post that you create on your site. It’s the URL.
There are a handful of different ways that WordPress can create your page URL structure. It can use the date, the category, or a random number when it names your posts and pages. You don’t want that.
Ideally, you want to include keywords in your post and page URLs to give you a little boost in the search engine rankings. Since you will (hopefully) be using keywords in your titles, you want to choose a setting in your permalinks that adds those keywords to your permanent URL.
So go to your WordPress dashboard and click on Settings > Permalinks in the sidebar navigation. You’ll go to a page that looks like this:
You want to click on the tick box beside Post Name then scroll to the bottom of the page and Save Changes.
Now, whenever you create a new post or page, the title that you assign that page will be included in your URL. Remember to use keywords whenever possible to help your blog rank in search engines.
Install Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is a plugin that helps you optimize your page for search engines. It provides a way to quickly and easily add a keyword, a meta description, and it checks over your writing and the formatting of your blog post, then offers suggestions about how to make it more readable and user-friendly.
It also has the capability to build you a sitemap which helps the search engines and robots better understand the content of your site and the relationship between pages.
To install Yoast, you’ll want to go to your WordPress dashboard and navigate to the Plugins link. This loads a page that lists all the plugins currently installed on your site. You will see a few default plugins there already, but you’ll be adding many more over the next few days.
At the top of the page, you’ll see a button that says “Add New.” Click on that and a search screen loads.
Find the search field and type “Yoast SEO” in the field. The Yoast SEO plugin should pop up in the top row of your results. See it there? It’s the very first one!
Click “Install Now” then “Activate”. This will add the plugin to your website. If you return to the Plugin main page, you will see that the Yoast SEO is now added to the list of plugins installed on your site. Yoast has an install wizard that will help you adjust the settings that need to be addressed.
Write it on your “later this week or month” to-do list to really learn how to use Yoast and do some research on Search Engine Optimization. This will help you implement good SEO practices from the start, which will help your blog prosper in the long run. Here’s two articles to help you get started.
Security Measures You Need To Take On Your Blog
I hate that I have to say this, but you need to hear it. The minute you set up a website, hackers and spammers and shady types will begin trying to access your site and use it for their nefarious deeds.
We all despise them and all the extra work they make for us. (A pox on you, hackers!) However, they are there, so you have to take measures to combat them and their attempts to ruin your blog. Here are some important steps you need to take right away.
Change Your Public Display Name
One of the first things you want to do is change your public display name on your blog. WordPress will automatically use your login name as the default for your user name.
Unfortunately, this means that the minute you write a blog post or do something on your blog that displays your username, the hackers will have half the information they need to hack your site. Let’s don’t make it easy for them.
Go to your WordPress dashboard and click on Users > Your Profile.
Change the “Nickname” and then the “Display name publicly as” fields to something that is nothing like your login! It should look like this:
Now when you post a blog, the name that displays will be something other than your login. Shew! Hackers thwarted again! Score one for the good guys.
Limit Login Attempts
Another way to make it harder for hackers to gain access to your site is to limit the number of times they can attempt to log into your site in a period of time. By limiting them to three tries in 20 minutes, for example, you prevent them from running decryption programs that can crack your password after hours or days of throwing repeated attempts at it.
To thwart this type of an attack, you want to install one of these two plugins. Either one will work well.
WPS Limit Login Attempts or Loginizer
Like you did when you installed Yoast, you want to go to Plugins page then click Add New. Use the search function to find one of these plugins then click “Activate” and “Install.”
There’s a few settings you can adjust if you want to, but I find the default settings are perfectly fine.
WPS Hide Login
You should also consider installing a plugin that makes it difficult for hackers to find your Admin login page. You see, when you install your WordPress blog, your login page will automatically be located at yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Everyone gets the same login page.
Hackers know this and it’s the first place they look when they’re wanting to violate your site. To thwart them, we can move your login page to a different location that they can’t easily find.
Go to Plugins page then click Add New. Find WPS Hide Login then click activate and install. WPS Hide Login settings allow you to choose another address to locate your login. It might look something like this when you’re done: yourdomain.com/6Wms4$Trlop
Hackers ain’t gonna find that. Make it easy enough for you to remember, but hard enough that no one is going to guess what your new login page is, and this will add a nice layer of security to your site.
Install A Theme
Finally we get to the fun part…decorating!
Choosing a blog theme is an important step in the success of your blog. You want a theme that works for you and your business, promoting and highlighting what you’re doing to the maximum potential. Themes are often built with an intended user in mind.
Are you an artist or photographer who will want a gallery feature? Are you a crafter who wants to sell your wares in an online store? Are you a journalist who will be featuring your stories? Are you a public speaker who wants to highlight your message and use your blog to get speaking invitations?
The theme you choose should meet your needs and help you fulfill your strategy for building your online business.
I’ve written an article on my blog with more information on this topic. You can read it here:
Spend a few hours looking at websites and taking notes of the features that you like on the blogs you visit often. It doesn’t hurt to also list features you don’t like too. Then begin shopping for themes that might work for you. Here are some options:
If you have money in your blogging budget I highly recommend you purchase a premium theme from a reputable company. The basic structure of the theme is all set up, but you have the option to change colors, fonts, and add a variety of plugins and widgets to get your site running the way you’d like.
These theme providers are reputable and offer quality products and customer service:
- Thrive Themes
- Studio Press
- Restored 316 Designs
- ThemeIsle (This blog uses a ThemeIsle theme called Neve)
I use ThemeIsle themes on a number of my blogs and I LOVE them. Highly recommend. They are extremely customizable and versatile.
If you’re on a super tight budget and don’t want to pay for a theme, you can use a free one. Free themes are usually a little simpler than those you have to purchase and offer less features and customization options.
If you choose this option, I urge you to use a theme from a reputable source. Some free themes are put together by new or inexperienced designers and can have glitchy programming issues or coding loopholes that leave you open to security problems.
Also, keep in mind that changing themes can create a lot of work. If you can afford to purchase the theme you really want and need right out of the gate, you may save yourself time and headaches down the road.
If you absolutely do not have money to purchase a paid theme, WP Astra is a good free option. I’ve used this theme on some of my blogs and it has a clean, pleasant layout with a nice number of features. Down the road, you can upgrade this theme to a Pro version to gain extra features.
You can pay a web designer to set up a site for you with custom features and colors, creating the exact site you want and/or need for your business. Obviously, this is the most expensive option.
How to install your WordPress theme
To Install your theme, you will go to the WordPress dashboard and find Appearance > Themes. You will see that WordPress comes with a couple of default themes. These are pretty basic and plain, but you can use one if you want. Or let’s search for something with more personality.
Click on the Add New button and a screen pops up that offers you the options to Upload Theme or a search bar where you can look for an option within WordPress’s library.
If you are using a free theme like WP Astra, you can type Astra in the search field and locate that theme. Once you find it, you click Install.
If you purchased a theme from a theme provider like ThemeIsle, then you should have received a .zip file download. Click on Upload Theme and upload that .zip file containing your theme into WordPress. It might take a minute or two to transfer the file because there’s a lot of info stored in there.
Next, you want to customize your theme. Your theme provider should offer instructions and training on how to set up the theme. Visit their site and you should find a lot of tutorials and videos that will help you learn how to get your theme looking exactly the way you envision.
They will also give you a list of plugins the theme is designed to work with. You’ll need to work through their instructions until you have the site set up the way you want.
Set Up Your Key Pages
Every site needs a few basic pages. To create new pages on your site, go to your WordPress dashboard and click on “Pages.” At the top of the page, you will see a button that says “Add New.”
Click on that button and a new page form appears. Creating the page is as easy as filling out that form. Create a Title for the page then begin to add your content.
As for what to put on your page, do your research. Take some time to visit your favorite bloggers’ sites and take some notes on what they include on their static pages and how they present that information. This research will help you determine what you want on your site.
Here’s a few common pages that you’ll find on most sites:
Home or Start Here
You have the option to choose which page you want to be your home page. If you plan to blog regularly, you can choose to make your blog feed your home page to keep your latest content fresh on the home page. Some businesses are best served when they guide the customer through a journey, introducing new visitors to specific content first. In this case, it’s best to build a home page that serves that purpose.
Your visitors will be naturally curious about you, and the about page is one of the best ways to introduce your audience to your brand. This article by Neil Patel has some great advice about how to make good use of your about page. https://neilpatel.com/blog/how-to-write-the-perfect-about-page-that-drives-leads/
Be sure that your visitors have a way to contact you with questions or support requests. You can use a plugin like Ninja Forms to create a contact form so your visitors can easily send you messages. See below for info on how to set up your email account with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Create your first blog post
Now that you have the basic pages complete, let’s create your first blog post! Go to your WordPress dashboard and click on “Posts.” At the top of the page that loads you’ll see a button labeled “Add New.” Click on that button and a new Post form will appear.
Assign your new blog post a title, then add your text and images to the post. You can set up Categories for your blog posts, and you’ll also want to add some tags—keywords that relate to your content that will help your visitors find the info they’re seeking.
Posts allow you to add a “Featured Image” that will appear with the post on your blog roll. You can use a free service like Canva to create your blog post images.
Set up your menus
Once you have a few pages and posts set up, you will want to create a menu, which will allow your visitors to navigate around your site. To set up your menus, go to your WordPress dashboard and click on Appearance > Menus.
How to create an Under Construction page
FYI, if you want to create an “Under Construction” page or “Coming Soon” page as a placeholder while you build your site in the background, go to “Pages” and create a new page. You can use the Title field to write Coming Soon or whatever headline you want the page to have. Include a picture or a logo too if you have one ready to present to the public. You could also give an estimate of when the site will be ready and offer your visitors the opportunity to sign up for your email list. That way you can contact them when the full site is live.
Then go to Settings > Reading and use the dropdown beside the “Homepage” to choose your placeholder page. This will direct all your visitors to that page as if it were the home page.
You also want to visit Appearance > Menus and select the Coming Soon page and add it to your primary menus. If that is the only page you have linked in the navigation, it is likely the only one your visitors will find for now.
select your homepage and Posts page
Once you have your site completed and ready for the public to view, you’ll need to visit the Settings > Reading page again and choose the new Homepage and Posts page so your WordPress theme knows where to direct traffic.
You’ll also want to update your menus whenever you create new pages you want to link up in the navigation.
Set up your email account
Your hosting package should come with the ability to create an email address. In HostGator, setting up email is easy. Go to your c-panel dashboard and scroll down until you see the Email icon. Click on that button and a screen like this one appears.
Simply choose the name you want in front of @yourdomain.com and create a strong password. Click the button at the bottom and you’re all set.
Don’t forget to write down your password in case you forget!
Do a backup
If you’ve followed along this far, you’ve made an amazing amount of progress on your site! To make sure you don’t lose your work, you’ll want to back up your website. Go to your c-panel dashboard for this.
Look for the section labeled Files and the icon labeled Backup Wizard. This gives you the option to do a Backup or a Restore. Click Backup.
A screen comes up that looks like the one below. You can click the button to trigger a full backup download, or you can just backup your MySQL database, email accounts, or the home directory, which creates limited backups of your site info. Sorry that part is hard to see in the image.
This is how you create a manual backup. In the long run, it’s smart to set up an automatic backup to take place every day. This way you’ll always have a current backup if anything goes wrong with your site.
You can use a service like UpdraftPlus or BlogVault to automatically backup your site daily. Ideally, you want to use a service that allows you to backup the site onto an external server so that if something goes wrong with your server, you have a backup stored offsite.
There are a handful of problems you can experience. Hackers might get into your site and replace your content. You could accidentally pick up some malware that corrupts your site. Or you could accidentally push the wrong button or delete something critical and the only way to get it back is to restore from a backup.
What’s The Next Step?
Wow! You just did that, and it was epic! If you were following along, your WordPress website is up and running and you own your very own corner of the Internet.
Congratulations! Let’s do a happy dance together.
You’ve taken the first steps to creating a thriving online business, and in the weeks and months there will be much to learn and do. Sign up for my Blogging 101 Email series and you’ll get tips and advice about blogging from a 20-year veteran.
Learn how to:
- write great blog posts
- craft compelling titles
- find the best tools for the job
- make money from your blog and posts
- and sooooo much more!
I’d love to help you on your journey!