Here’s the deal:
Starting a blog can seem daunting.
But it doesn’t have to.
Today you’re going to learn how to start a blog without spending thousands of dollars.
But wait, there’s more. 🙂
I’ll ALSO show you how you can get a free domain for your blog.
- Choose Your Domain
- Get It Up
- Make It Your Own
- Get Your Plugins Together
- WordPress Configuration
- Vital Pages
- Your First Post
[Full Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links, that means at no extra cost to you, I receive compensation if you purchase through these links, and in some cases you’ll receive exclusive discounts. 🙂]
How To Start A Blog: Choose Your Domain
The first thing you need to start a blog is a domain name.
Like your house needs an address for people to find it in the real world.
Your blog needs an online address, a domain name, for people to find it online.
Here’s how to choose a brandable domain
Make it broad enough
Your domain should be broad enough to allow you to expand your website in the future, instead of staying a small niche site forever.
If you choose a domain like:
You can expand your site to anything related to fitness.
You can post about any workout, diet, cardio, supplements. The possibilities are endless.
Instead, if you choose a domain like:
You will restrict your website to only pushups, pullups, or squats.
No matter how sexy your pushups are, it’ll be too challenging to grow into a colossal fitness site.
So I recommend before you choose a domain, think about the future.
How huge do you want this site to be?
All the big brands use a .com domain, and there’s a reason for it.
People tend to trust a .com domain more than other lower-tier domains like .co, .net, .org.
It’s because we’re used to it.
If you promote your .co domain through a podcast or a youtube video, people are more likely to type .com, and you’ll miss on that traffic.
Also, it’s extremely tough to rank worldwide with a local domain like .co.uk, .in, .fr.
If your site is going to target only a specific country, then feel free to choose a local domain.
But remember that you’ll have to start a brand new site if you ever want to rank worldwide.
I recommend that you choose a .com domain from the start, if possible.
Short is Better
Your domain should be NEAT:
Hyphens and Numbers in domain names have super low trust, look spammy as hell, and people will forget the hyphens while typing your domain.
Are you more likely to visit:
- or H3a1thy-And-5tr0ng.com?
Finally, Don’t Overthink
I know it can be hard to think of a good domain name, but if you overthink, you’ll never start a blog.
If you’re still having trouble, look at your competitors’ or your favorite websites for inspiration.
Then try to combine their names in different ways. That’s what I used to do before.
Follow the guide below to get a free domain, and hosting.
How To Start A Blog: Get It Up
After you choose your domain, the next thing that you need to start a blog is a reliable hosting with WordPress installed.
WordPress is a free publishing platform that powers more than 65% of all the blogs, and more than 35% of the websites on the internet.
They’ve been around since 2003.
And they’re the best blogging platform.
Most of the bloggers use self-hosted WordPress for their blogs, hosted on Bluehost.
You can use thousands of plugins and themes with WordPress.
It not only helps you create blogs but almost any kind of website you can imagine.
Some of the most famous Fortune 500 sites use WordPress, including TechCrunch, Wired, Vogue, The White House, and many more.
The way hosting works is: you pay a hosting company to store your WordPress blog files and keep it online on their servers. When someone visits your blog, the server sends the blog files to the visitor.
If you host your blog on your PC then:
- You’d be relying on your internet connection.
- Your computer will always need to stay on.
- It all becomes a big hassle.
Nowadays, almost no one hosts their blog on their PC.
You’ll need to hire a hosting company.
If you’re ready to begin this incredible journey, I, as well as WordPress officially recommend Bluehost.
They have been in this game since 2003 and now host more than 2 Million websites on their servers.
- Store your website files on their server.
- Keep your website safe and online.
- Allow your visitors to access your website.
- Support you if there’s any issue 24/7
I know when you’re getting started, the budget can be a big issue, and hosting isn’t the only investment you’ll have to make.
You also need a domain, and that can cost anywhere between $10-20 a year.
That’s why when you sign up with Bluehost, they’ll give you a FREE DOMAIN for a year and Free SSL as well.
And all that for less than a cup of coffee.
Head over to Bluehost (63% discount, exclusive)
Click on Get Started Now
For now, their Basic Plan will be more than enough for you.
Select your hosting plan.
Enter your domain in Create a new domain
Then enter your billing details.
Now, like any other good business trying to make money, they’ll try to upsell you some services.
I recommend you uncheck Codeguard Basic and SiteLock Security.
I strongly recommend keeping Domain Privacy as it’ll hide your personal information from others who might want to know about you.
Finally, check the box to agree to Bluehost’s Term of Service, then hit Submit.
After you sign up, it might take awhile before you can log in.
Install WordPress on Bluehost
Bluehost automatically installed WordPress when you signed up.
After logging in to your Bluehost account, you can find your WordPress blog under ‘My Sites’.
You can go to your WordPress dashboard by clicking ‘Log into WordPress’.
If WordPress didn’t successfully install, then you can install it manually.
Click on My Sites, and then Create Site.
Now you have to provide your blog title and optionally a tagline and hit Next.
Then select the domain and directory for your website, you can leave the directory empty and click Next, and the installation will start.
After the installation finishes, save the username and password that Bluehost shows.
Finally, test your WordPress blog by visiting your domain. It’ll look something like this:
You can access your WordPress dashboard by adding /wp-admin after your domain.
You can log in using your username and password that you chose earlier.
Wham! You’ve finally started your WordPress blog.
I know it isn’t the most beautiful thing in the world.
But don’t worry, you’ll customize it to your liking in the next section.
How To Start A Blog: Make It Your Own
The fact is: first impressions matter online as-much-as in the real world.
Users decide whether to trust your site or not in less time than it takes them to blink their eyes.
And because of The Halo Effect, they will extend that judgment to every aspect of your site.
You can make your blog look professional with the help of themes.
What makes a good theme?
There are three main things you need to worry about while choosing a theme:
- Site Speed: Your theme should load as fast as possible and have a lightweight and clean source code.
- Mobile Responsiveness: The majority of people use their smartphones to read blogs, and Google also favors mobile-friendly sites.
- Customization Settings: Finally, your theme should have proper customization settings to personalize it to your preference.
I’m going to use the premium version of GeneratePress.
This AWESOME theme is developed by WordPress developer Tom Usborne, who’s been working with WordPress for over 10 years.
GeneratePress is one of the fastest, lightweight, responsive WordPress theme with a LOT of customization settings. It meets all of our requirements.
It’s premium version comes with a site library of more than 50 importable demo sites, which will make your site look professional from the start… without much effort.
It’s used by more than 300,000 website owners and is rated 5 out of 5.
Not only that.
It also has the best support.
I use GeneratePress in many of my sites, including Kickass Blogger.
And if you ever have any questions you can ask it on their TOP-NOTCH support forum.
Overall, GeneratePress is a great theme for beginners as well as advanced users.
Install Your WordPress Theme
First, visit GeneratePress, and hit ‘Install’.
Then, download the free theme.
I highly recommend that you get the premium version of GeneratePress, which you can use on unlimited websites. (optional)
Scroll down to get GP Premium.
(EXCLUSIVE 10% discount for Kickass Bloggers. Get GeneratePress Coupon.)
Enter your details and hit ‘Purchase’.
Visit your WordPress dashboard and click on Appearance ⇒ Themes.
Click on Add New.
Click on Upload Theme.
Hit Choose File and select your theme.
Click on Install Now.
Finaly, hit Activate.
After you successfully activate the theme, your blog will look like this:
If you got the premium addon, then download it from your GeneratePress dashboard and copy your license.
Now, you need to upload the GP Premium addon by visiting Plugins ⇒ Add New from your WordPress dashboard.
After activating the GP Premium addon you need to visit Appearance ⇒ GeneratePress and enter your license.
Customize Your Theme
If you don’t like the default look of your theme, here’s what you can do:
- Use the Site Library.
- Customize the theme from scratch on your own.
- Use the Site Library and customize it.
I recommend the third option because it will give your blog a professional look, without having to customize your theme from scratch, which can be inconvenient if you’re a beginner. And it also allows you to fine-tune it to your needs.
You’ll need GP Premium to use the Site Library, but don’t worry if you don’t have it, I’ll cover customizing your blog manually in the next section.
Use The Site Library
GeneratePress has built more than 50 demo sites and you can import their design to make your site look like them.
First, visit Appearance ⇒ GeneratePress and activate the Site Library module.
Then, go to the Site Library tab.
Now, hover over any site design that you want your site to look like, and click on details.
I liked the Marketer design, so I opened it’s details.
Finally, click on the Import Options button.
You can also import demo content to get an idea of how your blog will look with your awesome blog posts, or you can skip this step.
Note: You should only import demo content if your blog doesn’t have any blog posts, and you should delete them before you post your articles.
After it finishes importing, your blog will look like the design you chose.
And you can also customize it manually to make it perfect.
Customize It Manually
Now, I’ll show you how to change some important settings.
But I recommend you to play around with different options and watch how it affects your site in real-time.
If you don’t like it, you can change it.
First, go to Appearance ⇒ Customize to access the customization settings and…
Add a Logo
Visit Site Identity ⇒ Select logo to add the logo.
If you don’t have a logo ready, you can:
- Keep your Site Title in place of the logo
- Use Canva to create the logo yourself
- Hire a freelancer for the job
Widgets are those content boxes that you usually see in the sidebar or footer.
The mistake most folks make is that they have too many damn widgets that don’t do anything useful, other than slow down their website.
In the beginning, I recommend you not have any widgets if possible.
Focus on your content and making it awesome because you want your visitors to remain focused on the content.
The more they fixate on your content, scroll down, and click on things inside the content, the more Google will start to rank you.
But if you want to add them, here’s how:
Click on Widgets and select the location of the widget.
You’ll see the active widgets, which you can edit, remove, or reorder.
If you want to add a widget, click on the button and select it from the list of available widgets.
You can install more widgets via plugins, which I’ll cover below.
To delete a widget, click on the enabled widget and hit Delete.
To rearrange the order of widgets, you can drag-n-drop them.
Don’t forget to publish the settings.
How To Start A Blog: Get Your Plugins Together
You use apps on your smartphone to increase its capabilities.
Likewise, you can use plugins to increase your site’s performance.
But the problem is that there are thousands of them.
And if you don’t use the right plugins or use too many of them, they’ll only slow down your site and eat your storage.
The fewer plugins you have, the better.
What most of the beginners usually do is that they install a lot of plugins to have a lot of functions that they don’t need.
Later they stop using these plugins and forget to uninstall them.
Then some of these plugins stop receiving updates and make your site vulnerable to hacks.
Simple Rule: Install the ones you need and uninstall the ones you don’t.
If you want to install a plugin from the WordPress directory, you can search the name of the plugin in the search box, and click Install Now, after selecting the plugin.
To install a plugin that you downloaded from the outside:
- Visit Plugins ⇒ Add New.
- Click Upload Plugin.
- Choose the plugin you want to install.
- Hit Install Now.
These are the five must-have WordPress plugins for your new site:
- RankMath: Rank Math is a free SEO(Search Engine Optimization) plugin that slaughters some of the paid ones. You can use it to optimize your content and make it easy for people to find it through search engines.
- WordFence: WordFence is the most popular security plugin for WordPress that protects your website from common security threats, such as malware, hackers, DDoS, brute force attacks, among others. It has a free version, which is powerful enough for smaller sites.
- MonsterInsights: It allows you to easily install and see all your Google Analytics stats directly in your WordPress admin area, that will help you better understand your user behavior and grow your website.
- UpdraftPlus: It allows you to create a complete backup of your WordPress site and download it directly to your computer or save it on the cloud, so when things go wrong, you can quickly restore your site.
- WP Rocket: It is a caching plugin that reduces the size of your files, caches your pages, and does much more to give your users a great experience, and you have a faster website with better Google rankings.
Free alternative: W3 Total Cache, but it falls short compared to WP Rocket.
How To Start A Blog: WordPress Configuration
Change Your Site Title and Tagline
When you chose your website’s title during the WordPress installation, it automatically added your site’s tagline as: “Just another WordPress site.”
But you’re not ‘Just another WordPress site,’ you know it, I know it, but others don’t.
To show it to the world, go to Settings ⇒ General, and change your site’s tagline.
Your site title is the name of your website like Kickass Blogger, and your tagline is a single sentence that describes your site.
Now think about what describes your site?
If you don’t want to think about it, you can leave the tagline empty.
Don’t forget to save the settings.
Optimize Your Permalinks
Permalinks are the permanent links to your posts and pages. You can see them in your address bar after the domain name.
WordPress has a weird way of permalinking by default.
Visit Settings ⇒ Permalinks to change your permalinks to ‘Post name’.
Changing Author username
Your site will show your username as the author of the post.
Mine shows “harveylstark”, yours will be whatever username you chose or admin.
Go to Users ⇒ All Users to change it.
Finalyy, hit Edit to change and display your display name. You’ll need to confirm your email.
Don’t forget to update the settings.
Moderate Post Comments
Your users’ as-well-as spammers can comment on your posts using WordPress’s built-in comment system.
How can you stop the spammers?
Well, you can moderate the comments to only show the comments that you approve of.
Visit Settings ⇒ Discussion and enable ‘Comment must be manually approved, and save the new settings.
How To Start A Blog: Vital Pages
You can create two types of content with WordPress: posts and pages.
You can think of posts as the articles that you read on other sites, and that you’ll write on your own.
You will create those pages in this section.
How do you create a page?
Go to Pages ⇒ Add New
You’ll see something like this.
Every page needs a title, for example, Privacy, About, Contact, and you can enter that inside ‘Add title’.
You’ll enter the main content of your page in the big block below.
You can enter text, images, audio, embed videos, etc. in the main content box.
After finishing your page, you can either:
- Save Draft – to edit it later without publishing it.
- Preview – to view how the page looks on your site without making it live.
- Publish – if you’re satisfied with the page and want to go online.
These are the essential pages that every website needs:
As the name suggests, an about page tells your story or the story of your website.
You should always have an about page, even if you don’t put much information in it.
It will help:
- You structure your website.
- The visitor, understand your site better.
- And give your site more authority.
I know it can be hard when you’re starting and don’t have the content for an about page.
In the beginning, you don’t need to dwell too much into it, and as you grow, you can add more information to the page later.
Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes while writing your about page.
If someone is visiting your about page, it’s most likely that they’re new to your site and want to know how you can provide value to them.
Tell them how!
After that, tell your visitor what to do next.
Do you want them to:
- Follow you on Facebook?
- Sign up for your newsletter?
- Read your latest content?
You don’t want your visitor to feel lost and not know where to go from here.
I’ve found that the best Call-to-Action(CTA) to build engagement is to point them to your best content or the content that your new visitor is most likely to be looking for, instead of asking for a follow or their email.
When I first started building websites back in the day, I used to copy someone else’s Privacy page, edit the relevant details, and paste it on my site.
I’m sure most of the beginners still do the same.
If you’re thinking of copying my Privacy page, hold on.
There are some big problems with copying someone else’s Privacy page, the most important being that it may not apply to your site.
Do you need to hire a lawyer and empty your pockets for a single page?
Well, you will eventually, when you’re a big company.
You can google them or use the one mentioned below:
Enter necessary details on the sidebar
WordPress Contact Form
You want people to be able to contact you in case they have any questions or want to get in touch for any reason.
You can use a free plugin like WPForms to create a simple contact form.
Go to Plugins ⇒ Add New search and install WPForms
Don’t forget to activate it.
Go to WPForms ⇒ Add New
Enter your form name and select ‘Simple Contact Form’
The default form is ideal for beginners, but if you want to add or edit any fields, you’ll have to drag it from the sidebar or click an already active field.
Don’t forget to save the settings.
When someone submits the form, you’ll receive that message in your admin email, but you can visit Settings ⇒ Notifications to change that or add multiple addresses.
Your replies will go to the email that your visitor submitted in the form.
Now, to add the Contact Form in a Page, you will have to:
- Create a new page
- Enter the title
- Optionally, enter a description.
- Select the WPForms block
- Select the form that you created
Don’t worry if that felt like sorcery, you’ll learn about the editor in detail in a later section.
This is how the form looks live on site:
Adding Navigation Menu
Your visitors want to navigate to different sections or pages of your site, and you can make it easier for them by creating menus.
WordPress has a powerful navigation system, but it’s on your theme to utilize it. GeneratePress supports both a primary and a footer menu.
Visit Appearance ⇒ Menus, name your menu, and Create Menu.
WordPress will create an empty menu for you, select the pages you want to show on your menu, and hit Add to Menu.
You can drag the pages to rearrange them.
Save your menus and watch it live on your site.
Your menus can also show posts, custom links, or categories, which are extremely useful to organize your posts, and we’ll create them in the next section.
Feel free to take some time to tweak and experiment with your site, because you won’t often need to do the things that you did above.
But what you’ll do regularly is post AMAZING content.
How To Start A Blog: Your First Post
Yours truly, as well as many others, write their posts on an external editor.
I use Google Docs.
After writing my post, I paste it on the WordPress editor and make some final changes there. When I need to update a post later, I do that directly from the WordPress Editor.
Now there are two types of WordPress editors people use:
The classic editor was the only editor a few years back, and this is how I started with WordPress.
Some people still use it with the help of the Classic Editor plugin; I also did until recently.
This is how it looks.
WordPress will officially end its support for the Classic Editor at the end of 2021.
I won’t cover it here because it’s high time now to get used to Gutenberg.
Gutenberg Block Editor
In December 2018, WordPress introduced Gutenberg, the block editor, that you’ll see by default when you add posts or pages.
Some people love it, others hate it, especially those who are used to the Classic Editor.
I was in the latter group until recently, but then I started using it regularly, and it turns out that this bad boy has some powerful features.
First, let’s start by adding a simple post and explore from there.
Go to Posts ⇒ Add New to create a new post, and Posts ⇒ All Posts to view all of your posts.
How To Use Gutenberg Editor
When you hit Add New, you’ll see an interface similar to when you created Pages earlier. This is Gutenberg, the mighty block editor.
You need a name to identify you, so does your post require a title to be identified.
You can enter that title in the top block, which reads ‘Add title’.
Then you can start typing your main content after the title, and as you do you’ll notice that a border appears around your text, this is a paragraph block.
And after you press enter to start typing a new paragraph, then that text will be surrounded by another paragraph block as well.
Now, as you can see, both the paragraphs are inside blocks, and it’s not only text, but any type of content you add in your post will be inside its own block.
- An image will be inside an image block.
- A list will be inside a list block.
- Audio inside an audio block.
- Video inside a video block.
- Yada Yada – you get the point.
Many popular plugins will also add their blocks like WPForms, that we used to create the Contact Form.
You can make your text Italic, bold, or add a link to your post by using the paragraph block options in the top-left.
This is how it looks live on the website.
To view all the blocks at your disposal, click on the + icon in the top left, and select the block you want to use.
For instance, If you click on Image, then an image block will appear in your post, and you can upload, select, or link to the image.
You can also add an image by dropping it right into your post.
You can write the caption below the image.
You can also change the settings belonging to that block from the sidebar because it’s an image block, it allows you to change the image size, enter alt text, etc.
Sadly you can’t add text next to the image with the image block, even if you decrease the size of the picture.
But you can do that with a ‘Media & Text’ block.
As your sharp eyes may have noticed, the sidebar now allows you to change the settings of the Media & Text block.
Whatever block you might select, the sidebar will allow you to change settings of that particular block.
You can use embed blocks to add videos to your site.
WordPress allows you to embed content from many popular sites.
While you can use the video block to upload the videos to your site, you shouldn’t because it will slow down your website and might even crash it.
Now you don’t want that, and I don’t want that.
Instead, upload your videos to a popular site like youtube and embed them.
I recommend that you play around with these blocks, and when you get used to it, you can use a shortcut to add the blocks without even touching your mouse.
Now that’s pretty cool.
Type / and the block name, and press enter to choose.
Categories and Tags
You can use categories and tags to organize your posts and make it easier for your visitors to find what they’re looking for.
They also help with SEO.
You’ll use categories to group your posts and tags to describe the micro details of your article.
For instance, if you have a personal blog where you post about yourself.
Your categories could be Fitness, Music, Travel, and Books.
Now when you post about working out, you’ll add it in the Fitness category, but use tags like burpees, squats, pullups, etc.
One of the significant differences between categories and tags is that you must categorize your posts.
If you don’t, then it’ll be categorized under the ‘Uncategorized’ category.
Most people rename the default ‘Uncategorized’ category because you can’t delete it.
You can choose not to use tags. I don’t use it much.
You can see the categories and tags meta boxes in the right sidebar under Document.
You can create new categories or select the ones you’ve created before from the categories meta box.
Although you can select more than one category per post, I recommend against it because you’re using categories to neatly organize your site for your visitors and yourself.
If someone wanders on your site and sees the same post everywhere he looks, well, that’d be a real turn-off, especially when you don’t have many articles.
To maintain your categories, you’ll have to visit Posts ⇒ Categories.
If you don’t enter any custom slug, then WordPress will automatically assign it from your category name.
Slug, like permalinks, appear in your URL.
You can also create subcategories by selecting the parent category from the dropdown.
For example, if you’ve created a Sports category but want to be more specific.
You can create categories like Football, Baseball, and choose Sports as their Parent category.
You don’t need to worry about the Description for now because most people don’t use it, and most themes don’t show it.
If you hover over the category name, you’ll see the option to edit or delete it.
As you can’t delete the ‘Uncategorized’ category, and if you don’t select any category for your posts, they’ll end up here, it’s better to rename it.
When you visit your category page on your site, it’ll show you the posts that it contains.
If you use tags, you can visit Posts ⇒ Tags to organize them; the page is similar to the categories page.
After you create some categories, you can show it on your site with the help of menus.
If you’re using GeneratePress, then I recommend setting your Main menu with static pages like About, Privacy, Contact at the Top, and your categories at the Primary location.
How To Change Post Permalink
You can think of your post permalink as your post slug.
Like your categories’ slug appears on your URL, it will appear there as well.
WordPress will automatically assign your post title as the permalink. However, that looks ugly most of the time.
You can change it from the Permalink tab under Document.
You can also click the post title and hit ‘Edit’ to change it.
Now your post URL looks clean and awesome, and it’ll help you with SEO.
Add Featured Image
You can add a featured image to your post from the Featured Image tab under Document.
You can think of it as your post’ thumbnail that’s used to represent your posts, duh.
When you do that, it’ll show on your website’s homepage, blog archives page, wherever your post title shows, the image below is from the homepage.
Add Custom Excerpt
In the image above, below the featured image, I’ve marked something called the ‘default excerpt’.
An excerpt is a summary that most themes automatically generate from the starting lines of your post for your visitors to have an idea of what they’re getting into.
However, the default excerpt may not be the most exciting thing about your post.
It can seem dry to your visitors, and even though you’ve spent days, if not more, writing the article, especially for them.
Well, nothing matters if they don’t open the post and read it.
To make the excerpt more eye-catching and useful, you may want to enter it manually in the Excerpt tab.
Turn Off Comments On Post
You can turn off comments or trackbacks for individual posts from the Discussion tab.
Pingbacks & Trackbacks were meant to allow you and other sites to notify each other when new content is published, but now they’re mostly used by spammers who use bots to leave their links on sites where trackbacks are not monitored.
I recommend entirely disabling it by visiting Settings ⇒ Discussion and unchecking the box before ‘Allow link notifications from other blogs (pingbacks and trackbacks) on new posts’ under the Default post settings.
Publish Your First Post
If you want to see how the post looks on your site without posting it, hit Preview.
If you haven’t finished your post, you can Save Draft, which will save it in its current state without publishing it, and you can finish it later.
After you’ve finished it, click on the Publish button in the top-right to go LIVE.
Wasn’t that exciting?
Congratulations on going live with your first post.
I am sure you’ll continue to post excellent content for your visitors.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you found this step-by-step guide to start a blog helpful.
Now I’d like to hear from you:
Did you successfully create your first blog?
Or maybe you got stuck somewhere?
Either way, leave a comment to let me know.
Also Read: 101 Best Tools For Bloggers [2020 Update]