Start your own blog in 2019 with this Blogging For Beginners guide!
Being a blogger has many advantages in the times we live in. In school it could provide you with extra credits, in your career it could help you in job interviews and in your personal life it could be a great hobby to let off some steam.
Heck, you could even TURN YOUR BLOG INTO YOUR CARREER.
That’s what I did. I started this very blog in 2015 as a hobby, after having a couple of other hobby blogs that I ended up abandoning. I was in college and I spent my free time writing about my favorite lipsticks and whatnot.
It was an innocent hobby that provided me with some free beauty products here and there and that was 100% worth it to me. But as I am typing this, I am blogging full-time. For a living. Isn’t that amazing?!
Blogging with a different mindset
How did I manage to make this change from hobby to career? I started blogging with a different mindset. I stopped writing about what kept my own mind busy and I started writing about what my audience wants to read. I learnt about SEO and started applying it wherever I could.
I remember back in the days of hobby blogging I joined lots of Facebook groups in which other hobby bloggers would convince each other that you should only be a blogger if you genuinely enjoy it. You should NEVER do it for money. Blogging for money was almost taboo. So that was my mindset back then.
But honestly, why wouldn’t you do it for money? I would rather work from home blogging than being in a 9 to 5 office job working for a company that isn’t my own. The homebody in me is LIVING!
Suggested read: 11 Reasons Why Working From Home Is Great For Introverts
Sure, I don’t always write about my favorite makeup products anymore, but I do write about other things that I enjoy. And these things happen to answer questions that my readers struggle with.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this too? Wouldn’t you love to create your own dream life and make money by doing something you enjoy and can do from the comforts of home?
But where to begin? The internet is a big world that might be a bit overwhelming. What are you going to blog about? How will you stay consistent and how are you going to create this blog to begin with?!
In short, you are asking yourself this question:
I want to blog, but where do I start?
Ever wondered how to start a blog? We’ve all been there.
Setting up a blog can be very overwhelming. Especially when you have no real experience in building websites. It can be a real challenge.
But I am here to guide you through the process!
We are tackling this one step at a time. Just to make things a little easier to understand, right? Let’s set up your blog and launch your dream career NOW!!
How to start a blog for beginners
Learn how to start a blog in 17 steps following these steps:
- Find your niche. What do you want to write about?
- Pick a name. Choose wisely here!
- Pick a CMS. I highly recommend WordPress.
- Pick your hosting. Self-hosted blogs perform the best.
- Pick a theme and customize. Create an easy to navigate layout.
- Adjust your permalinks. NEVER forget to do this!
- Set up security. Make sure your blog is protected.
- Install the right plugins. The less plugins, the better.
- Connect to Google. Makes it possible to view your analytics and performance.
- Learn about SEO. Search engine optimization is where it’s at!
- Plan your categories. Draw it out on paper!
- GDPR. Settings and legal pages to protect your readers’ privacy.
- Create a content planning. Make sure you stay consistent!
- Work on your branding. Logo, images, color schemes.
- Set up and connect social media accounts. Let’s promote!
- Make money blogging. Choose a way to monetize your blog.
- Start creating and sharing content. The fun part!
Let’s go through every step together, so you will understand everything you need to know to start your own blog.
Step 1: Find a niche
There’s some debate on whether or not you should have a specific niche. Personally I think you have a better chance at becoming a full-time blogger when you’ve chosen a niche, but some lifestyle blogs can manage a great income as well. However it is a fact that it is easier to get there as a niche-blogger. Let me explain why.
Say you have a blog about dogs – or even better, about a specific dog breed. That’s a niche. All the content on your blog is about labradors for example, so it’s easy for Google to understand. Do people search for a Labrador-related question? Your blog is likely to show up in the search results, which drives constant traffic to your blog.
However if you are a lifestyle blogger and you write about topics such as fashion, beauty, health, fitness, food, family and more – it’s more difficult for Google to pinpoint your blog. Therefore you’ll have to work a bit harder for good results. But it’s not impossible.
Related: How To Find A Niche For Your Blog
Step 2: Pick a name
Finding the right name is never an easy thing. But it’s SO IMPORTANT!
You want your blog name to sound appealing, look good without spaces (because you don’t want the URL to be misread), fit your personal style, fit your niche AND be still available!
When I created this blog it was all the rage to use your first name and middle name for your blog. I chose to follow that trend because I quite liked the sound of Denise Joanne. However if I had to come up with a name now, I wouldn’t have picked it again. I would have gone for something that includes an important keyword. In my case I’d include a variation of the word ‘homebody’.
But once you have established a ‘brand’ and some decent search results on important keywords, you don’t want to change your name. Your rankings will drop and you will have to make tons of redirects. That’s why it’s SO important to think about what you want to name your blog long and hard!
Step 3: Pick a CMS
A content management system or CMS is the platform on which you build your blog. It’s the backend. The backstage area. The admin environment. The dashboard that can only be accessed by username and password.
I would highly HIGHLY suggest using WordPress. There’s other platforms such as Blogger, Wix, Squarespace and many others you and I probably haven’t even heard of. But I see bloggers from all over the world migrating to WordPress after a while. And it’s not easy to move your blog from one CMS to another. You’ll need professional help to make sure everything goes smoothly and you don’t lose rankings or forget important redirects.
I’ve always worked with WordPress and it’s honestly the most professional and versatile CMS out there. So many features, so many possibilities, so many themes, so many plugins. You can build your dream website on there.
One thing you should be aware of is that there’s a difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. ALWAYS PICK WORDPRESS.ORG! Otherwise you won’t be able to host your website and use all the features that WordPress offers.
Related: The Difference Between WordPress.Com and WordPress.Org
Step 4: Pick your hosting
One you have decided to use WordPress.org, it’s time to find your web hosting platform. This is where you buy your own domain. Your own little space on the internet.
A great pick is Siteground, as they offer great service and hosting against reasonable prices (your first year is cheaper, the prices go up after renewal). Their WordPress Hosting allows you to install WordPress on your domain so you can build your blog in the WordPress CMS.
Another good hosting which I highly recommend is Lyrical Host. Their pricing stays the same with every renewal, so no surprises there! I am actually waiting for my current host to expire so I can move my website to Lyrical host. That’s how much I love them! If you’re interested in this hosting too, I can offer you a 10% off code for your first hosting plan payment.
Use code DENISE10 on Lyrical Host to save some buck!
Step 5: Pick a theme and customize it to your liking
Once you have bought your hosting and installed WordPress on there, you’ll find that your new blog looks exceptionally empty. No fun colors, no cute fonts. Very basic indeed. This is because you need to install a theme!
WordPress offers both free and premium themes, but I’d refrain from getting any of these as they are usually outdated and aren’t protected from spam bots and other intruders. BIG FAT NOPE! Instead I would invest in a safe, diverse and well-built theme from a trusted source.
The Genesis Framework makes sure the foundation of your blog is strong and safe (and very easily readable by Google! Perfect for SEO, which we will discuss in step 10), while the child theme makes your blog look fun, welcoming and fitted to your brand.
My personal favorite child themes that run on the Genesis Framework are:
- Foodie: Perfect layout and features for a food blog.
- Infinity: Very professional looking, perfect for a business.
- Elegance: Made for photography websites.
- Mai Lifestyle: Typical for lifestyle, fashion and beauty blogs.
- Essence: Could work for anything, especially travel or health.
- Magazine: To create that glossy magazine or news-website look.
- Refined: My personal favorite! Cute, feminine and welcoming.
These are just my personal picks. For more options, check out all their WordPress themes!
Related: How To Install The Genesis Framework Plus Child Theme
If you can’t find anything you like, you could have a look around the WordPress themes on Creative Market as well. Do read the descriptions well, as some of them are built on the Genesis Framework also, and so require you to purchase that first. But you’ll also find some pretty themes that you can install directly to your blog without the Framework.
Once you have picked and installed a theme, you can customize it as much as you’d like. You can change fonts, colors, images, widget placements and much more. SO FUN! Just look at the previews for inspiration, but try to make it your own!
Step 6: Set your permalinks
Setting permalinks should be one of the first things you do after logging into your dashboard for the first time and installing your theme.
A permalink is the URL to your posts and pages. It is extremely important for SEO to include keywords in your URLs (further explained in step 10), so your permalinks should always be double checked before you start creating pages or posts.
These are the options WordPress offers in terms of permalinks:
As you can see, I have set my permalinks to ‘Post name‘, which means the title (or keywords) of my blog post or page will appear directly after the first slash.
The standard setting is ‘Plain’, meaning that all your posts and pages will have a random code assigned to them which shows in the URL. That’s bad for SEO! As you can see in the image above you also have the option of displaying the publish date, but this just makes your URLs unnecessarily long. Just stick to ‘Post name’. Or maybe pick ‘Custom structure’ if you want for example the category to show before the post name.
Permalinks should NEVER be changed. That’s why it’s SUPER IMPORTANT to set them BEFORE publishing content. If you change your permalinks later on, you will lose all your Google rankings. Unless you redirect everything but that is A LOT OF WORK!!
You can find your permalinks in your dashboard under ‘Settings’ > ‘Permalinks’.
Step 7: Secure your blog
Hackers and spammers are EVERYWHERE. It is sad, but true. That’s why it’s very important to secure your blog from both spam and intruders.
Luckily, WordPress gives you the ability to install countless different kinds of plugins (which we will discuss more in depth in step 8), including safety plugins. Here’s a list of all the plugins I am using to protect my blog:
- Akismet. Protects your blog against spam.
- Stop spammers. An extra precaution against spam.
- Change wp-admin login. Changes the login url from /wp-admin to anything.
- Limit login attempts. Locks out IP addresses after too many failed login attempts.
These plugins have successfully protected me for all these years, and I use them on my other blog as well. I think it’s pretty secure this way!
Step 8: Install the necessary plugins
I have a love-hate relationship with plugins. I love them for what they do for my blog – they add extra features and provide me with security. But in general they also slow down a website. And if they’re not regularly updated by the creator, they might end up causing issues as well. Not good!
That’s why the rule “less is more” is super applicable when it comes to plugins! Only install the NECESSARY plugins. Not any more, not any less.
These are the plugins I think are necessary (along with the security plugins I mentioned in step 7!):
- Yoast SEO. This is the most important SEO plugin in my opinion!
- Cookie notice. For GDPR compliance (will be discussed in step 12).
- Elementor. Optional, but I love the Elementor builder for my pages.
- Simple social icons. Makes your social media easy to find for your readers.
- WooCommerce. In case you want to sell products!
To install plugins you can download them from the links I mentioned above. Then login to your dashboard and go to “Plugins” > “Add New” and click “Upload plugin” in the top left corner. Select your downloaded file (make sure it’s compressed to a .zip file) and hit install!
Depending on your theme you’ll probably need some extra plugins to make all the features work, but that’ll be mentioned in your theme instructions.
Step 9: Connect to Google
If the internet itself had a homepage, it would be Google. It’s as if the whole world wide web revolves around it. And so do we.. the bloggers.
There’s several benefits to connecting your blog to Google. First of all you can have a gander at your analytics, which tells you A LOT about how your blog is performing, how and where to improve and what kind of audience visits your blog (and how they find you!).
Then there’s also the possibility to upload your sitemap to Google, so it’s easier for Google to read (or crawl) your blog. You’ll be notified when errors occur and you can find some wonderful statistics.
To make all of this possible, I suggest you make a Google account (or use your existing one) and connect all your blog-related accounts to it.
Related: How To Connect Your Website To Google Analytics And Search Console
Step 10: Learn about SEO
SEO stands for search engine optimization. So you are basically optimizing your blog for search engines. Google being the priority, as about 99% of the population uses Google for their searches (obviously a made up number, but you get the gist!).
You want Google to fully understand what your website and your individual posts are about, so they can suggest it as a search result to the right people. This obviously drives traffic to your blog. That’s exactly what we want!
If your goal is to attract readers, you will have to invest some time into learning about SEO.
BUT! The world of SEO is a big one and professionals have published whole books on just the basics of it. Besides – as Google likes to be mysterious and all, we will never FULLY understand how it works. But we have come far and we sort of know how to work the algorithm now.
Make sure to apply the principles of SEO to every page and blog post you publish. And don’t forget your homepage! The Yoast SEO plugin I mentioned in step 8 will be a great help in this.
Suggested read: All About Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Step 11: Plan out your categories and pages
Now that you’ve learned something about SEO, you’ll understand how important it is to make a clear path of pages, categories and sub-categories so that is easy to understand for Google. And by path I mean some sort of tree. Like a family tree, you know? Let me explain.
When I start a new blog, I grab pen and paper and draw out all major topics I want to cover. These will be my categories. Try to come up with around 5 categories, and then provide them with sub-categories. These (sub-)categories are where your blog posts will go.
Suggested read: How To Pick And Organize Blog Categories For Good SEO
Once you have sorted out your categories and pages, it’s time to create them. For pages, log into your dashboard and go to “Pages” > “Add new“. For Categories, go to “Posts” > “Categories” and add them from there.
Step 12: GDPR compliance
I’m not gonna lie – this is probably the LEAST exciting part of building a blog. But that makes it no less important!
GDPR stands for ‘general data protection regulation‘ and is a part of the EU law on data protection and privacy. This concerns all citizens of the European Union. Even if you aren’t located in the EU yourself, a portion of your (potential) readers will! Which means your blog has to be GDPR compliant.
You must also set a cookie popup, so every new visitor is made aware of the fact that you collect cookies (for Google Analytics or affiliate programs, for example). You can do this with the ‘Cookie notice’ plugin I mentioned in step 8.
Lastly, you might have to adjust some settings in Google Analytics. You can read all about that in their ‘best practices to avoid sending PII“.
If you are using affiliate links (we will discuss this in step 16), you should also add an affiliate disclosure page and make sure to VISIBLY mention the use of affiliate links and link to your disclosure on top of every blog post that contains these types of links. Like I did on top of this blog post you are reading right now!
Step 13: Plan your content
This is an optional step, as some people like to just wing it. But TRUST ME when I say that creating a content planning helps you in more ways than one. It forces you stay consistent AND makes you do keyword research!
Everyone has their own way of planning out their content, so I can’t reveal the PERFECT way to do it. But I can definitely share a summary of how I plan mine.
Basically I just open an excel sheet and create a tab for every category and sub-category. Then I think of some keywords I want to be found for per (sub-)category and note them down.
The next step is to open any kind of keyword research tool and look up all the keywords I wrote down and their synonyms. You’ll find content ideas and inspiration, all based on actual searches from ACTUAL people. Time to list all your blog post ideas under every category, so you’ll have lots of topics to choose from.
After that I just plan everything in a calendar or planner. Keep in mind that seasonal topics should be written about a month or two before the season hits (so I’d write about Christmas related things around October / November) so the posts have time to rank before people start searching.
For a FULL explanation of how I do my keyword research and planning, check out this related post:
Related: How To Do Keyword Research And Plan Your Blog Content
Step 14: Branding
Branding is something that I personally really enjoy. Because I love working with images, graphics and colors. But it’s more than just that. Your brand is the overall feeling that your blog radiates, your way of writing, YOUR personal touch.
Sure, people will initially come to your blog just to get their questions answered. But what keeps them coming back and ultimately convinces them to follow you on social media is because they feel a connection with YOU. They like how YOU answered their question and are interested to hear more.
That’s why it’s important to stay true to yourself. Let your personality shine through. Because that’s what makes your blog UNIQUE and stand out from the millions of others.
But like I mentioned earlier, branding is also visual: your logo, fonts, colors, images and so on. Not just on your website, but also on the connected social media platforms.
Related: Social Media Image Sizes, Thumbnail Dimensions & Aspect Ratios
That’s why I suggest thinking of a color palette that consists of a handful of colors that compliment each other. These are the colors your are going to stick to in the majority of your graphics. Keep your targeted audience in mind here. If you are starting a tech blog, you should keep the colors clean and professional, like a combination of black, white, grey and red (always have that one pop of color!).
On this blog you are reading right now I am targeting a more feminine audience, so I am sticking to pastels. Whereas on my other blog (about Shiba Inu dogs!) I am using a palette of neutrals, as it compliments the fur of my dog that appears in the majority of the pictures.
Speaking of pictures – how are you going to provide your blog with images? Lots of professional bloggers use (premium) stock photos from sources such as Pixabay. Others purchase their images from Canva. Personally, I am a fan of taking my own pictures. That’s part of my BRAND and I genuinely enjoy doing it!
Sure, it takes some extra time. But I know for a fact that ALL my images are unique.
Step 15: Social media
You either love it or you hate it: social media. If you are planning on blogging for an audience, you’ll have to dive in. Or at least dip your toe into the deep and dark waters of social media. Because social media plays a huge role in the blogging world.
It’s how people can follow you and stay up to date on your blogging endeavors. Additionally it’s a way of reaching NEW audiences, by using appropriate hashtags, getting shared and interacting with other content creators in your niche.
If you are new to social media, I would focus on one platform at a time. Take some time to get used to it. I do suggest creating profiles on as many platforms as possible, just to claim your username. But leave them be, until you feel you are ready to invest your time into it.
The social media platforms I personally suggest are:
- Pinterest. I put this one first for a reason. Pinterest is not just a social media platform – it’s a visual search engine! Sort of like a second Google, but just images. This is the platform I suggest you get familiar with first, as you can get TONS of page views from here!
- Instagram. Another visual platform. Which requires a completely different approach. Growing on Instagram is not easy, but it is FUN! Use Instagram to post about your new blog posts, to interact with other creators and to create a more personal following. And don’t forget to utilize Instagram stories!
Related post: Complete Instagram Story Guide: All Built In Features
- Facebook. Facebook is one of the platforms I personally struggle with. But other bloggers really thrive on there! On Facebook you can create a page dedicated to your blog that people can like and follow, but you can also create a group in which you offer help or advice to your members.
- Twitter. Twitter is a place where your tweets have the potential to go viral, possibly driving some traffic to your blog.
- YouTube. I’m actually not entirely sure if YouTube is considered a social media? It’s a video platform on which you can upload videos and build an audience of subscribers. Using YouTube for your blog is a great way to enrich your blog posts (yay SEO!), but don’t underestimate the time that goes into creating and editing videos!
If you are using the ‘Simple social icons‘ plugin I mentioned in step 8, you can easily display your social media icons on your blog so your readers can follow you if they’d like.
Suggested read: How To Create A Cohesive Instagram Feed That Attracts Followers
Step 16: Monetize your blog
Well isn’t this the most exciting part? MAKING MONEY BLOGGING! What a dream career, right?
There are several ways of monetizing a blog, so let’s go over them:
- Ad revenue. This is probably the easiest way of passive income. You apply and get accepted into an advertisement program such as Google AdSense, Monumetric, MediaVine or AdThrive and have them put advertisements on your blog. Every time an ad gets loaded onto someone’s screen, you earn a tiny revenue (and I mean TINY). But when your monthly page views go up, you’ll find that you earn more and more each month. That’s why it’s so important to work on SEO and build an audience on social media!
- Affiliate links. Affiliate links are links to webshops or individual products with a little code added to it so they can tell you are the one that referred the person who clicked the link. When this person buys something through your link, you’ll earn a small percentage of commission for the sale. To be able to create affiliate links you’ll have to apply and get accepted into one or more affiliate programs first.
- Sponsored posts. Eventually brands will approach you (or you can pitch to a brand) for sponsored content on your blog or social media. When you do this, ALWAYS make it clear that it concerns a sponsorship.
- Sell a product. If you can find some spare time to create a product, such as a set of useful printables, an e-book or a course, you can sell it on your blog. Make sure to use your social platforms to promote your products!
- Monetize your YouTube channel. If you are on YouTube, you can monetize your channel when you meet the requirements. This way you’ll earn ad revenue, which works the same way as ads on your website: every time an ad plays on someone’s screen, you’ll get a little money added to your balance.
Suggested read: How To Monetize A YouTube Channel And Make Money Creating Videos
I just want to put out there that it all sounds GREAT, but making money blogging is a long and usually slow process. It requires a lot of hard work and you’ll have to invest a lot of free unpaid time in the beginning. The road to success is a long one, but all the more rewarding in the end!
Related: How To Monetize Your Blog And Make Money
Step 17: Create and share content
Now, finally, the actual BLOGGING begins! This is why you’ve started this process in the first place, right? I’m assuming you were looking up how to start a blog because you enjoy writing about topics that interest you. Well, I sure hope you like it. Because you will be doing LOTS OF THAT!
The trick to blogging is to be consistent and to keep pumping out new content. You can have just one post that ranks SUPER well in Google, but that will only take you so far. Now imagine having over FIFTY posts that rank well and drive lots of traffic. Now we’re talking!
Suggested read: How To Write THE Perfect Blog Post
Blogging is also something you get better at in time. If you start today, you will probably cringe at your first post in a year or two. I know I do. But that’s actually a good thing! It means you’ve improved! So keep writing, keep publishing, keep learning and KEEP IMPROVING! Like I mentioned before, blogging a long progress. But it’s worth it if you stick to it.
So, what are you waiting for?! Go to your dashboard and click “Posts” > “Add new” and write your first blog post! Practice your SEO right away by applying all SEO tricks that you know to the first post and HIT PUBLISH!
Related: X Easy Steps To Make Your Blog Posts SEO Friendly
Now don’t forget to share your posts to your social media platforms. And maybe with your friends and family? They’ll be your first official readers! Make ’em proud!
Guys, THAT’S IT! You’ve set up and started your own blog! Congratulations!
There is one more thing that I’d like to discuss in this article, which is:
Should you start building a mailing list right from the start?
I have joined lots of helpful blogging groups on Facebook and I’ve noticed almost everyone there PREACHES mailing lists. They advice everyone to start building their list IMMEDIATELY after launching their blog.
I think it’s optional. Blogging is overwhelming, especially in the beginning. And getting the gist of mailing lists isn’t easy. It’s a steep learning curve which took me some time to get into. So it’s really up to you if you want to invest time in it right from the start.
I’d suggest you get used to blogging and working with WordPress first. Make sure to have some strong content on your blog with a sturdy base in terms of SEO. Then find some time to learn about mailing lists and to create freebies or other resources to offer your readers when they sign up. I like to use MailChimp to build my list and send e-mails.
Suggested read: Remove Your Address From MailChimp Footer & Confirmation
The benefit of a mailing list? You can link your (old or new) posts in it to have your subscribers read them in case they missed it. You can also use it to promote your social media and add some relevant affiliate links. And most of all – it’s a good way to build a connection with your audience.
Is there also a con? YES! I personally find it difficult to come up with interesting topics that people WANT to see in their mailbox. I don’t want to be another annoying spammer that gets redirected to the junk right away, you know? So that’s a challenge. But I am working on it!
If you are interested to see what I include in my mails, why don’t you sign up for my mailing list?
Join the mailing list
AND GET INSPIRED
Okay, now I REALLY think I have shared everything that I know about this topic with you. So you can start your own blog and work on your dream career from home!
If this guide was somewhat useful to you and you set up your blog, do share your link in the comments down below! I’d love to see what you built! And of course you can always ask questions if something wasn’t clear.