I’ve been blogging for just over 4 years now. It’s been a journey and I’ve learned a lot. That’s what led me to write this post. To share my story and help you with starting a blog.
You’d probably be shocked to hear that my blog didn’t actually start making me money until about a year ago. Then it wasn’t until 6 months ago that it started making enough money for me to live off of it. You hear stories on bloggers all the time, starting their blog and making $10k in the first 3 months. That was not my story. That is not how it worked for me.
Why did it take me so long to turn a profit? For a really long time, I was too afraid to put myself out there. I was worried that people wouldn’t like what I had to share or what I was writing and that no one would read it. Once I got past my fear of internet rejection, I simply wasn’t blogging correctly. I wasn’t using the right affiliate links and I wasn’t doing appropriate keyword research.
This resulted in my blog never being seen online and my affiliate links never being clicked. It took me a long time to master blogging. It truly is a lot of work, but if you start a blog right from the beginning, you’ll be a lot better off than I was.
That’s what I want to help you with today. This guide isn’t just going to walk you through starting a blog, but it’s also going to walk you through how you can be profitable from the start. If you want to know how blogs make money, check out this post.
Step 1: Naming your Blog
I don’t want you to stress too much about the name in the beginning. Naming your blog can be hard and it can stop you from taking the first steps to start a blog. You can always pick a name after you’ve started getting things set up.
However, for choosing a name, these are some of my favorite tools. If you are going to want the social media handles to go with it, you should use this handy tool called namechk.com. You can type in the name that you had in mind, and it will tell you what’s still available and what’s not. This can help you decide how you are going to brand yourself and whether or not your name is available everywhere.
Another great tool for choosing a name for your blog is on Domain Scope.
Believe me, nothing is more frustrating than when you have a great idea for a name and it’s been taken by somebody else. With domain scope, you can find other variations of what you were looking for to prompt some newer and better domain ideas.
The best part is, Domain Scope shows you different trends and popular keywords, as well as domains that have expired recently. People will often let domains expire if they never ended up using them. I have bought some awesome domains in the past that didn’t turn into anything, so I let them expire for someone else to use.
Like I said though, you can always start a blog and come back to the name later. I’ve purchased at least 20 domains for blogs I thought would be great and I’ve also changed the name of my blog several times. Don’t let choosing a name hold you back from success.
Be unique: There’s a lot of blogs out there these days. You want to choose a name that’s going to stand out and be unique.
Keep it Easy to Remember: Pick a name that’s short and catchy. I have a hard time with names because my name is spelled weird, so I always have to tell people that it’s Justyn with a Y and that makes me harder to remember.
Avoid Confusing Words and Punctuation: Hyphens can be so confusing. If your name has a hyphen in it and someone else has a blog without the hyphens, chances are people are going to type their name in instead of yours and you’ll lose traffic.
Branding: Avoid having different names for your website and social accounts. When I first started blogging I had my social names as justynjen on every platform except my blog which is the number one reason I decided to change my blogs name to justyjen.com
Think About the Future: Pick a blog name that can grow and evolve with you. Are you always going to want to write about budget travel? Or Keto diets? Name your blog something that can change with you.
Step 2: Hosting
Starting a blog might seem like a huge commitment because you do have to pay for a lot of things up front. There are ways to do it cheaper though. With Bluehost you can get a domain name for free and hosting for as low as $2.75 a month! They also offer you a 30 day money back guarantee if you start out and decide it’s not your time.
I’ve personally used Bluehost since I started my first blog. I like it because it’s easy to use and I love their customer service. If I ever have a problem with my website or hosting, it’s so easy and quick to talk to one of their representatives in the live chat. Since I travel so much, it’s not always cheap for me to be calling support numbers. With Bluehost’s Live Chat, you can get any issue resolved easily.
Today I am going to be walking you through setting up a blog with Bluehost. However, if you don’t want to use Bluehost, choosing another hosting provider will be about the same process.
To get started, go to Bluehost. There you’ll see that they have the offer to start a blog today for as low as $2.75. You can start by clicking on ‘Get Started’ and it’ll bring you to this page with their various packages.
Choosing the best package for you
If you’re just starting out, and you want to start a blog on a budget, then I highly recommend simply choosing the cheapest option. It’s going to be plenty to get you started and as your blog grows, you can upgrade to more storage if you need it.
Once you’ve chosen your plan you need to set up your account and buy your new domain and hosting. You might notice a couple of other things added onto your bill. They’re going to ask you if you want domain privacy, this just means that no one can see who owns the domain and contact you for website services. It’s pretty cheap so that might be worth having, but that’s up to you.
The other thing that have to offer is Code Guard. This one I always say no to, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you as to whether or not you want it.
Once you’ve clicked purchase, wallah! You’re well on your way.
Now that you’ve gone through the instructions, click here to start your blog.
Step 3: Choosing a CMS
Your CMS is your content management system. The best out there for bloggers is going to be WordPress. It’s open source and has been around for bloggers since the beginning of time. There are so many WordPress Developers out there, which means if you have an issue, finding someone to help you will be easy. When you’re first starting a blog, WordPress is the top option I would recommend.
A few other examples of CMS systems that you could choose are Shopify, Squarespace, Craft and Wix. My biggest word of advice, don’t choose Shopify unless you are planning on starting a full blown store. WordPress has Woocommerce which can sell anything you need for you. My other hot tip, don’t use Wix. Wix is just not well designed. It’s not built out the same way that WordPress is and it’s not coded well.
Step 4: Setting up your WordPress Blog
Once you’ve purchased your hosting, go ahead and login to Bluehost. Inside you’ll be able to go to ‘My Sites’. In the corner you will see an option to create a new site. You just click create site, walk through the steps and then it will log you into WordPress directly.
Go ahead and click that blue button that says ‘Create Site’ And it’s going to ask you to choose your domain.
After you’ve added in the domain, you will be taken to enter the final details to start your WordPress blog.
This saves you the trouble of having to setup WordPress.org on your own, because Bluehost is doing it for you. You want to make sure that you are using WordPress.org instead of WordPress.com because with .org you can be self-hosted (meaning you can use everything you just purchased with Bluehost).
While WordPress does have a bit of a learning curve when you are just starting out, keep in mind that it’s also full of tutorials. When I get stuck, I always find the answers that I need at WPBeginner.com. They have everything. Plus with WordPress, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are already loads of plugins and themes for you to choose from, making it easy to set up virtually anything you need.
To log into your site moving forward, type http://yourdomainname.com/wp-a... into your browser, and you’ll see this screen:
To login, simply type in your username and password and you’ll be taken to your Dashboard.
The Dashboard might look intimidating but there’s only a few things that you need to know from the start.
Posts is where you’ll draft and publish your blog posts
Pages is where you’ll find and build static pages on your site, like an About Me or Contact Page
Comments is where you’ll approve, spam, or reply to comments on your blog posts
Appearance is where you’ll alter the appearance of your blog, from installing a new theme to adding graphics, to changing fonts, editing your sidebars, etc.
Plugins is for installing and updating plugins (additional features) for your blog
Settings is here you can alter your site settings, tagline, etc.
Step 5: Google Analytics
You’ll want to set up Google Analytics right away. With Google Analytics you’ll get better insights about who’s visiting your site, where they are coming from and what pages are the most popular. If you need help setting up your account, the Google Analytics Homepage will walk you through the steps.
Step 6: Choosing a theme & Setting it up
When you’re starting a blog on WordPress, you need to choose a theme. WordPress has hundreds of thousands of themes that you can choose from. However, they aren’t all created equally. I’ve used loads of different themes during my time as a blogger. Something that was important to me was that my blog always stood out. You’ll start to notice that a lot of bloggers seem to be using the same theme.
I started out on a theme like that. Now, for most of my blogging I use a theme called Divi. It’s from Elegant Themes and the reason I like it is because you don’t need to have any coding experience to use it. It’s literally drag and drop which means you can make your site look so unique by simply dragging and dropping various elements onto your pages.
It uses a plugin editor which comes with the theme when you buy it. You can learn more about Divi here. If you want to get started with Divi, simply go to Elegant Themes. Click on, unlock the power of Divi. Here they’ll let you try Divi for free, this way you can see if you like the way it works. If you’re happy with this theme, click up on pricing.
Now, I know that Divi is a more expensive theme option for those just starting a blog, however it’s really intuitive and there’s a lot of opportunity for your blog to look unique. Plus, you can actually buy Divi once and create an endless amount of websites. If you become really good or you really enjoy Divi, you could set up websites for other people. This could be your in to working online as well.
If Divi is out of your price range or simply not what you are looking for, there are plenty of themes to choose from. I recommend checking out Envato for themes. You can search directly for blogs and find a theme you love.
Tips for choosing a great theme:
Pick a theme that’s easily customizable. It’ll help you design the blog of your dreams without having to hire a developer.
Pick a theme that you are going to want to stick with. I went through a lot of themes before finding one I liked. I recommend that instead of being like me, take the time to pick a theme you love.
Dig a little. You want to try to stand out with your blog. This means that you should do a little digging. Don’t just pick the first theme that you see. Search for one that speaks to your brand
Look on Etsy. Etsy has a lot of really cute themes that people have developed and are selling themselves. It’s a great place to find something more unique.
Make sure you buy a responsive theme that offers customer support in case you run into any trouble with setup.
Setting up your theme
Once you’ve purchased your theme, you need to install it. Installing your theme is fairly easy. You need to download your purchase. Go into the folder first and see if your theme has a parent and child theme. If it does, then you want to install both. Keep the folder’s zipped and go into your WordPress Dashboard. Under appearance you’ll find themes. Click into themes.
In there you’ll see some themes already. Don’t use any of those themes. Believe me, it’s not worth it. Instead, at the top click add new and from there you can choose to upload a theme.
Drag and drop the zipped parent folder here. Once the install is finished, drag and drop the child theme (zipped folder) here. Then back under themes you’ll have those two as choices. You want to activate the child theme.
If you’re theme doesn’t have a parent and child then just upload the single folder and activate that.
Why a parent and child theme?
I’m no developer but I did learn that you should use the Child theme if you have the option too. If you’re interested in learning more about these, I recommend reading about the difference on WP Beginner (I’m telling you, they cover it all!)
Customizing your theme
Once you have your theme successfully installed, you can customize it. You’ll always be able to customize your theme further through Appearance → Customization.
When you’re customizing your theme you’ll be able to choose your logo, colors and general layout. It’s important to think about your users when you are setting up your site. You want to make sure that they can easily navigate the site and find all the amazing content you’ll be filling it with.
For the homepage, think about what you want your users to be seeing first and focusing on. You want the homepage to be engaging and flow well. For my homepage, right now I just have blog content. I did this because I want users to land on my homepage and see the various posts I have to offer. As I build out the site though, this might change.
Don’t overthink it. At the end of the day, it’s better to just keep it simple and user friendly.
Don’t bog your website down with loads of plugins. This can make your site slow and give it bugs. You only want to use trusted plugins and only download them if you need them. Here’s the plugins that I recommend for those starting a new blog:
Insert Headers and Footers. This allows you to easily insert code into the head of your website. This is important for setting up things like Google and Pinterest Analytics.
Askimet Anti Spam. Automatically catches and deletes spam comments so you don’t have to.
Yoast SEO. Yoast makes it easy to see the readability of your website as well as track the keywords you’ve chosen to write about. It gives you a good baseline and let’s you know where you can improve so that you are always ranking on google.
Those are the only plugins that I recommend starting out with. There are some good plugins for social sharing and you should have one for your email provider (so that you can grow your email list from the start) but like I said, don’t get overexcited and bogged down with hundreds of plugins.
Now that you have your website all setup, you can start filling it with content. Here’s some helpful resources to get started as a successful blogger:
Drop your blog in the comments after you’ve set it up so that I can check it out!
This page contains useful resources to help you live and work while traveling. Nobody’s paid me to include anything, they’re just the things I use everyday, however I do receive a small commission if you buy something via these links (at no extra cost to you!) It all helps me run this site, thanks for your support!