How to Start a Blog – The Ultimate Guide

How to Start a Blog - The Ultimate GuideAre you thinking about learning how to start a blog?

A splendid idea.

Creating a blog has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. It has changed my life.

I started this blog in late 2009. It has since grown to around 60,000 visitors per month and over 10,000 subscribers.

So what you’re about to read comes straight from personal experience.

In this guide you’ll discover what has worked for me, and what hasn’t. I’ll also share the tools I use and recommend.

In short, you’ll learn:

  • Why you should start a blog
  • The most important factor for building a popular blog
  • How to get a domain name (and how domains work)
  • Why you should avoid starting a free blog
  • The 3 web hosts I use and recommend
  • How to pick the best web host for you and your budget
  • How to start a blog (and get everything set-up)
  • The premium WordPress theme I recommend and use
  • The biggest blogging mistakes you must avoid

This is an in-depth guide, so grab your beverage of choice and let’s get started. You’re about to read some of the best information you’ve come across on getting started with a blog.

I know I’m biased, because I wrote this, but you’ll see what I mean when you’re done reading ;)

[Please note that some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means I will get a kickback if you buy something. This in no way affects your price. In fact, it makes the deal you get better, because I’ve gotten exclusive discounts for my readers. I also ONLY recommend what I use and love.]

Why You Should Start Blogging Today

Here are the core reasons why you should learn how to start a blog today:

  1. Excitement. If you’re interested in blogging, you should do it. You don’t need a better reason. If you feel like it, start now. Don’t let anything hold you back.
  2. Story. You have a story to share. It doesn’t matter if you think you don’t have anything to say because you do. If you secretly want to blog, you should blog.
  3. Challenge. Blogging is a challenge. There’s a lot to learn. It’ll stretch your mind and impact other areas of your life. Let the fear be there and take action anyway.
  4. Growth. When you step out of your comfort zone, you grow. One day, you will be dead, so why not take a chance? Why not challenge your assumptions and create a blog?
  5. Connections. When you start blogging, you’ll naturally create connections with like-minded people. This alone may change your life, just like it has mine.

There are many other reasons, but these are my core reasons. Don’t let fear stop you. Start small. Think baby steps. And start listening to that whisper inside you.

The Most Important Factor for Building a Popular Blog

As you read this guide, there’s one thing I want you to focus on, and that is taking action.

If any of the information you read here doesn’t resonate with you, discard it. Your goal should be to move forward, not to get things perfect.

What I’ve written here comes from my experience. It should serve as an example of what is possible. There are no rules you have to follow.

Things will never be perfect before you start your blog. You just have to start, and you have to start now.

The process is extremely simple and affordable. There are no excuses, unless you truly don’t want to do this, but if you’ve read this far, I think you want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, don’t you?

Alright, let’s begin.

How to Get a Domain Name

What is a Domain Name Anyway?

A domain name is a signpost. It directs people to your website, but it is not your website. It’s just like a sign that says “Stockholm 25 Miles.”

A domain name simply makes it easier for your visitors to find and remember your blog.

So the first step in starting your blog is to get a domain name, but wait…

Most web hosts include a domain name in your package, and one of the web hosts in this article gives you a domain name free for a year.

So you don’t have to get a domain name separately. Some people may argue that you should, but it’s not important when you’re starting out.

Now you may get stuck on trying to come up with the PERFECT domain name, so let’s solve that problem before we move forward.

Your focus should be on coming up with a domain name that is good enough, because you can always change it down the road.

Technical wizardry can be used to easily change your domain name later if you want to, so you don’t have to get it perfect right away.

With that said, let’s come up with a domain name that’s good enough, shall we?

How to Come Up with a “Great” Domain Name

When I started trying to come up with the name for Wake Up Cloud, I started seeing clouds everywhere.

No, not just in the sky, but cloud-painted cars, articles about clouds, and many other cloudy things I can’t even remember now.

That’s when I thought, “Hey, maybe I should use the word cloud in my domain name? I like the colors blue and white.” And that’s what I did.

I tried different names, such as Cloud Connection, but they were all taken. Finally, I landed on Wake Up Cloud. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.

Here are three strategies I used for brainstorming my domain name:

1. Wordplay

I started writing down words related to my topic. This blog started out about personal development before people discovered that I was making a living online, so I wrote down things like:

  • Freedom
  • Play
  • Liberation
  • Potential
  • Wake Up
  • Stop Sleeping
  • Purposeful Living
  • Meaning
  • Happiness

And the list went on and on.

So grab a pen and a piece of paper, or open a document on your computer, and start writing down anything and everything that comes to mind about your topic.

2. Examples

Look at your favorite blogs and websites. How are their names structured?

I’m not talking about using their exact names, but look at the structure of their names. Are they using two words? Do they use one word together with a made up word? What’s going on?

Examples of sites with great domain names are:

  • Nerd Fitness
  • Zen Habits
  • Think Traffic
  • Smart Passive Income
  • Copyblogger
  • Marks Daily Apple

What are some of your favorite sites? Write them down and look at how their domain names are structured.

3. Name

If all else fails, simply use your name, or a variation of it.

You may not like your name, but it’s often good enough. If you get so stuck on coming up with a domain name, just use your name.

Remember, focus on getting started, not on achieving perfection.

Coming up with a domain name is hard, but remember, you can always change it down the line. Don’t get stuck on coming up with the perfect one. Just focus on finding one that’s good enough and then start blogging!

Now let’s move on and look at why you should avoid starting a FREE blog.

3 Reasons You Should Start a Self-Hosted Blog

It may seem enticing to go with a free WordPress platform such as Blogspot or Tumblr. And if you just want to write a personal journal, you may not need a self-hosted setup.

But if you’re at all serious about blogging, and want to potentially make a few bucks, or build a popular blog, then self-hosted is where you need to go.

Here are a few reasons why:

1. Control

If you go with a free blogging platform, you don’t have control over your content, and in most cases, you aren’t allowed to put up advertising.

There may be other restrictions. These differ from service to service, so you’ll want to read the fine-print. Free is never free. It comes with a cost.

And if you read the Terms of Service on these sites, you’ll notice that many of them say that they have the right to shut down your blog at any moment, or use, host, store, reproduce, modify and distribute your content.

This is a problem. That’s why I recommend you go with a self-hosted setup.

2. Design

There are plenty of free and premium themes available when you self-host, compared to getting a free account.

Yes, you can get some sweet looking designs with a free blog, but they usually come with restrictions, and there are fewer designs to choose from. This means that more people will be using the same designs.

So when you start a self-hosted blog, and get a nice WordPress theme, you’ll stand out from everyone else, which increases your chances of standing out.

3. Plugins

With a free blog, you can’t upload your own plugins, which means that the functionality of your blog will be limited.

Now, if you don’t need the functionality, no problemo. But I will say up front that being able to use the magic of plugins is glorious.

It’s like Luke Skywalker before he became a Jedi compared to Luke when he became a Jedi. That’s the difference we’re talking about here.

There are many other reasons go to create a self-hosted blog, but I just wanted to give you a quick taste.

Let’s move on to the web hosts I recommend.

3 Reliable Web Hosts I Recommend

Approved Web HostsYou need a home for your website, but not just any home.

You need a quality home that will stay up when there’s a storm, and that will get help when a window breaks.

In simple terms, you need a web host that has great:

  • Support
  • Value
  • Uptime

I don’t recommend what I don’t use, so I’m only going to share three web hosts that I currently use and love.

Let’s take a quick look at each of them.

1. Web Hosting Hub

Web Hosting Hub is the #1 web host I recommend if you want great support, value for money, and a WordPress blog that stays online.

I’ve also secured a sweet discount just for Wake Up Cloud readers, so you can grab a hosting package for just $3.99 per month if you go through this link.

With Web Hosting Hub, you have to pay upfront. So if you want the lowest price, you have to pay for three years, which comes to about $140.

I personally think it’s worth it, and that’s exactly what I did when I signed up with them. It saves me money, and I don’t have to worry about payments.

Now if you don’t want to pay upfront, I have another alternative that I personally use, which is HostGator.

2. HostGator

I’ve been using HostGator for several years and have never had any trouble with them. They have great support and my sites have always been up.

The catch is that HostGator is pricier compared to Web Hosting Hub. The good news is that they will allow you to pay month to month if you don’t want to pay for one, two, or three years in one chunk.

And yes, I have a special coupon code that will give you your first month for $0.01. Just use the coupon code ‘WAKEUPCLOUD1ST’ when you checkout.

Or if you want 30% OFF your total order, use coupon code ‘WAKEUP30′.

So if you want to pay month to month, go with HostGator.

3. WP Unboxed

Last, but not least we have WP Unboxed, which is what I use to host Wake Up Cloud.

The reason I use them for this blog is because:

  • I get a lot of traffic
  • They take care of site security
  • They backup my site every night
  • They update my site
  • They fix things if the site breaks

In short, WP Unboxed saves me a lot of time and worry, because if something were to happen to Wake Up Cloud, I would stand to lose a nice chunk of income.

So if you have a website that gets a lot of traffic, or if you’d like a bit more support, go with WP Unboxed. They are pricier at $19 per month, but well worth it.

How to Choose Your Web Host

Alright, so you have three choices.

This may seem confusing, but it isn’t, because it depends on what you need. And remember, you can always SWITCH web hosts down the line.

Here’s everything broken down:

  1. Best Value = Web Hosting Hub. If you can pay upfront for a few years, Web Hosting Hub is what I recommend you go with. I’ve had nothing but great experiences with them so far.
  2. Month to Month Payments = HostGator. If you still want good value, but want to pay on a monthly basis, you can’t go wrong with HostGator.
  3. Hands-Off Expertise = WP Unboxed. If you’d rather get more help and pay a bit extra, or if you have a larger site, I recommend you take a look at WP Unboxed.

Pretty simple when we break it all down, isn’t it?

With that out of the way, I’ve created a video for you on how exactly to create your account and get your WordPress blog up and running below.

How to Start a Blog (And Get Set-Up)

Are you ready to learn how to start blog?

In the video below, I take you from start to finish on how to create your hosting account and get your WordPress blog up and running.



The Premium WordPress Theme I Use

If you’re not satisfied with using a free WordPress theme, you can always go premium, which will give you a professional looking design and help you stand out from the crowd.

And if you pick a good WordPress framework, you’ll get a faster, cleaner site that just works and that search engines love.

My go to WordPress framework is Genesis, which has dozens and dozens of professionally designed themes you can pick from. Wake Up Cloud runs on Genesis and uses a custom version of the Focus theme.

And many of my newer websites run on Genesis because it makes my life easier, and I can always trust the fine folks at StudioPress (the creators of Genesis) to help me out if I have trouble.

I’ll just leave it at that, if you want, you can check out some of the themes they have available by clicking here.

5 Blogging Mistakes You Should Avoid

Before I let you go, I want to share some of the blogging mistakes you should avoid.

I’ve fallen into many traps, and spent $10,000+ on get rich quick schemes, so hopefully these tips will help you save some money and time.

  1. Giving Up. Blogging takes time. Don’t expect to see overnight success with your blog. Let it grow at the pace it grows. If this is one of your first blogs, then you’re still learning and experimenting. Let yourself have fun with the process. Let go of the seriousness, because, well, it’s no fun.
  2. Rigid. Allow yourself to change directions. I did so several times with this blog. Listen to your audience and your interests. Remember, there are no rules for building a popular blog. One blogger might tell you to do X, while another says Y. It doesn’t matter. Pick what resonates with you and take action.
  3. Trust. Put your audience first. Don’t spam them with offers just to make money, but give them tips that will help them. When you build trust, everything else falls into place.
  4. Hiding. Tell your story. Be yourself. People want to connect with you. You don’t have to be an expert or anyone other than who you are. I see so many bloggers try to fake it until they make it, and while that can work, it doesn’t resonate with me. Just be yourself and enjoy the process.
  5. Promote. A big mistake beginning bloggers make is not promoting their blog. You should spend 80% of your time writing guest posts, commenting, and doing other things to get people to your blog, then spend 20% of your time crafting great content for your own blog.

Takeaway

Remember what I said in the beginning of this post?

Focus on taking action.

There may seem to be a lot of details to deal with, but you only have to take one step at a time.

If you’re just getting started, follow the video above. It’ll show you exactly what you need to do to get started. And if you get stuck, ask support and they will help you out.

Think baby steps and you’ll do just fine.

Any Questions?

Drop them in the comments below, or email me. I’ll keep updating this post with more content depending on what you need.

And if you enjoyed this guide, remember to share it with your friends!

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Comments

  1. Most helpful thank you Henri, sound and simple advice and suggestions – I began last year with wordpress.com, but am seriously considering wordpress.org in future!
    Sandra

  2. David Anderson says:

    Henri,

    One of your most useful posts yet! Love the continuous progress on your site.

    #5 on Biggest Mistakes is the main take away for me. Moving forward, I have a better idea of how much time I actually need to spend on the promoting side.

  3. A most interesting, helpful and encouraging post. Thank you.

  4. A family member referred me to this resource. Thank you for the details.

  5. A great post for the new kids. :)
    To anyone planning on starting a blog if at all possible pick something you’re passionate about. Regardless of how smart or good of a writer you think you are it’s going to be at least several months to a few years before you’re able to make a living from your blog. You’re unlikely to make it past the dip where you don’t see results coming in if you don’t care about what you’re writing about.

  6. Thanks for the video!
    I was just wondering is the setup similar with HostGator and WP Unboxed. Not sure which one I choose yet, But I’d like to make payments monthly.

    Thanks a many!!

    Tuukka

    • HostGator is pretty similar to Web Hosting Hub. You sign-up, go to your control panel (cpanel) and install WordPress there. If you go with WP Unboxed, they will install your blog for you, and make sure it’s always up and running.

  7. Hi Henri!

    I just discovered your blog a few days ago, and already I’m learning a lot. Thanks for all that you do!

    I have a question about guest posting and other efforts to promote your blog. How much content should you have on your blog before you start doing a lot of promoting? If new people come to your blog and see that you have three posts, they might think “Eh. Not much here.” I would think that you need to have a certain amount of valuable content there waiting for them.

    Thanks in advance for your advice!

    • You don’t have to have any content at all. You could just have a newsletter sign-up box that says, “Awesome stuff coming, sign-up for goodies released on X date.”

      I wouldn’t worry too much, though. Just make sure your site doesn’t look like it’s under construction, start guest posting, and go from there. I think I started when I had 3-5 posts, so that’s plenty.

  8. Thanks Henri, great info there. :-)

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