How To Start A Blog – An Easy And Simple 8 Step Guide
You’re here because you want to learn how to start a blog and that is exactly why we have put together this ultimate guide on how to start a blog. When we first started Toques & Boots we had absolutely no idea what we were doing, but we decided to take the plunge and follow our dreams of travelling and sharing it with others in hopes of inspiring them to follow their own dreams, whatever their dreams are. Maybe you’re here because you want to know how to start a travel blog, perhaps it’s a finance blog or maybe even a lifestyle blog, whatever brought you here we are glad it did!
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to start a blog and even though it may seem a bit intimidating it’s not and you will learn a lot along the way. If you’re starting a blog just to make money, stop here. Because while making money blogging is totally possible and many bloggers make a living on just their blog income that shouldn’t be why you start a blog in the first place.
Why? Because at that point it’s not about passion and giving your audience the content they want and need and if you don’t have a true passion behind it that will come across to your audience and your blog will fall flat. So before you go through our guide on how to start a blog, ask yourself over and over again why you want to start a blog.
Build yourself a mission statement, a set of values that you promise to provide your audience to help guide them and entertain them.
Our mission statement is to live a life we will remember in places we won’t forget and our values are to provide honest and open content with our audience that is only backed by things we actually enjoyed and loved. We started our blog because we wanted our friends and family to be able to follow our adventures through New Zealand, but we found a lot of people were asking about it so we decided to make it more public or others. It wasn’t a way to make an income or become ‘insta-famous,’ it was a place for us to get our voice out there into the world to encourage others.
People will probably tell you how ridiculous it is that you are planning on starting a blog and potentially in the future hoping you can grow a loyal audience that loves what you have to say. If they do, ignore them. Blogging is an incredible way to connect with people around the world and it is extremely rewarding.
We receive so many e-mails for people telling us how much our guides for travelling through Banff have helped them, or how incredible the blue lakes of Banff were, or how easy it was to buy a campervan in New Zealand thanks to our guide. It brings us a lot of pride and joy knowing that we made a difference in at least one person’s life because of this little hobby we love.
So if you feel like you have a calling to blog and share your voice with the world, don’t let anything stop you! Start that blog, write those posts, takes those photos and just do what you love.
Before we get into exactly how to start a blog we recommend reading our post about the 10 things no one tells you before you start a blog. It’s a post all about some of the thing we learned along the way after we had started Toques & Boots. But otherwise, let’s dive into the 8 easy steps that will teach you how to start a blog the right way!
When looking at how to start a blog you might be thinking, well I already know my niche! You may have an overarching idea about what your blog niche will be but you need to get more granular than that. for example, we are a travel blog but we focus on adventure travel. Which means we do more adventurous activities wherever we go, that could be hiking in Banff, going zorbing in New Zealand or snorkelling in Fiji.
Find your niche and then narrow it down a bit more. Keep in mind the internet is saturated with blogs so you need to find something you can be an absolute expert in. Narrowing down your niche also helps set your audience because someone who travels in luxury isn’t going to be interested in a guide to staying in a hostel and a backpacker isn’t going to care about the best 5-star hotels over $1000 a night because they’re different audiences. Setting a refined niche will help you determine what you should write about for a specific audience and will give you guidelines that help you stay within them to gain and keep an active audience.
Here are some examples of great blogs with really good niches:
Adventurous Kate: Kate focuses on Solo Female Travel http://www.adventurouskate.com/
Goats on the Road: Nick and Dariece focus on staying financially stable while travelling https://www.goatsontheroad.com/
Hektic Travels: Dalene and Pete revolve their blog around housesitting your way through the world http://www.hecktictravels.com/
Travelling Canucks: Cam and Nicole blog about travelling with a family https://travelingcanucks.com/
When you start a blog it might take a little while to truly feel like you’ll find your niche. That’s okay, take your time with it. If you’re still finding your niche just make sure what you are posting to your audience is still creative and interesting so they are engaged. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what you yourself would want to get out the stuff you’re writing.
This is arguably one of the most fun and difficult parts when you looking at how to start a blog. You want to come up with something that is both creative and memorable, yet different and unique. You also want something that isn’t already a registered domain name.
What is a domain name?
It’s essentially the address of your site. For example, ours is toquesandboots.com and will stay that way provided that we continue to pay our domain registration fees. Yes, there are fees! No, they are not overly expensive and typically are paid through your hosting (which we will go into more detail in our next point).
If you’re taking your blog very seriously from the moment you are reading this guide on how to start a blog we would recommend just paying for a domain and hosting right away. But if you’re looking at it for more of a hobby than anything else there are a few free platforms you can use like; WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Blogger.
However, these free platforms do come with a few disadvantages in the world of blogging.
- Search engines don’t usually favour these types of blogs. So your hard work on that recent post might not be as visible on Google, Bing, Yahoo or whatever other search engines as you want it to be. Blogs with set domains are more likely to have an easier time ranking in search engines.
- Monetizing your site won’t happen. You aren’t allowed to have any ads on your site when using a free blogging site, but these hosts can place ads on your blog. Which means you could lose out on potential income in the future.
- You are limited. There are very few themes, plugins and whatever else you may want to use to create your site. These plugins and themes will help to optimize your blog and make it look exactly the way you want it to. Without them creating a unique site may be more difficult.
- Your blogging platform can delete your site and content if they ever think it violates any of their terms and conditions. Which means you can kiss all your hard work goodbye, which is not the purpose of this article about how to start a blog! We want your blog to be around for a long time.
- You may not be seen as a professional. Even if your content is out of this world, brands and potential advertisers don’t always see free platform bloggers as 100% professional. Which means you could again lose out on potential income or future projects.
- Your blog URL is a lot longer and harder for an audience to remember. Free platforms will always show a URL somewhat like this: ‘yourtravelblogname.theircompanyname.com. While your own registered domain would simply be yourtravelblog.com – which one is easier for the audience?
- When you start a blog on these sites, you never have full ownership of your blog. You are essentially a part owner of your site. All of your photography, information, and articles will partly be owned by the free platform you chose. Which gives them part control of your creative content.
You can definitely start a blog on a free platform and switch to a self-hosting domain later, but it can be quite a hassle.
So if you are thinking about how to start a blog that will last you for a long time start with self-hosting right off the bat. There are just so many more benefits for a self-hosted blog! But before you decide that you still need to pick a name, here are some tips for coming up with one:
Create something that is memorable.
You want people to remember your blog. You’re going to have a rough time gaining an audience when you start a blog if your name isn’t memorable or easy to spell/say.
Things to take into consideration:
- What it potentially looks like in a URL. Numbers, hyphens and any other weird characters you can somehow fit into a URL are not going to be user-friendly. Making it difficult for your blog’s name to spread like wildfire.
- Make it easy to spell and pick words people know. We can be the first to admit that it is was difficult to start a blog with a unique word like ‘Toque’ in our name, not very many people can spell it regardless of even how many people in Canada say it every day. Regardless we focused on SEO and Pinterest strategies and our blog is out there, so don’t be too turned off by a more difficult or unique spelling.
- Write it in one sentence without spaces to see what it looks like together. There would be nothing worse than combing two words to find out they accidentally spell something unwanted or inappropriate.
- Circle your name around your niche. Finding your niche is an important part of how to start a blog and ensuring your name circles around that is just as important. If you are a travel blog it should reflect something travel related so people know what your blog is about. However try and be clever about it and avoid some of the most commonly used words like ‘vagabond,’ ‘adventurous’ and ‘wanderlust.’They’ve been used plenty and aren’t going to make you stand out from the crowd. But again, don’t get too caught up in trying to revolve your name around your niche, Toques & Boots doesn’t reference anything really about travel and our blog is still found by readers.
- Make sure your name is timeless. If you pick something with ‘backpacker’ or ‘luxury’ in the name you are going to pigeonhole yourself into that niche when you start a blog. But in the future, if you want to switch from backpacking to luxury you may lose a significant amount of your audience. Be careful about including countries in your name too as people may assume your blog is only about that one destination…unless it is, then go ahead!
- Make it something you are proud of and love! This is going to become your baby and a potentially a huge part of your life. So, create a name that you are proud to tell others about.
Check if it’s available.
Once you’ve come up with something (this could take you a while, we know it did for us) you’re going to want to make sure it’s available! Both for a domain name on the web and within social networks. There are a few ways to do this:
- Straight up Google it. You can either just type it directly into the URL with a .com on the end of putting it in the Google search bar in quotations. Then just see what comes up!
- Go to SiteGround’s Domain Name Services (don’t worry you aren’t registering or paying for anything yet) and type in the name to begin setting up a site. SiteGround will tell you if the name is available.
- Go to KnowEm and search for the name. This will tell you which social sites your name is available on.
Once you’ve found a great name that you love it’s time to buy your domain! Hosting services are services that give you a home on the internet and holds all of your blogs data, posts, photos, and whatever else you’ll need for your site! So when someone goes looking for it your hosting service quickly delivers that information.
There are tons of hosting services out there and everyone has a preference, so honestly just do our research. Most bloggers will recommend the host they are currently with, in our case it’s SiteGround.
Bluehost is one of the most popular ones, but we honestly do NOT recommend going with them. We were hosted with them for over two years and have experienced from pretty terrible customer service and had a lot of issues talking with them when we finally did switch to another service. They continued to bill us after we had cancelled with them! So we switched to SiteGround and THANK GOODNESS we did. It’s been nothing but smooth sailing.
Here some reasons why we (already) love them:
- Quality hosting at a very affordable and reasonable price. We haven’t experienced any outages with them (which is amazing) and they have some great security protocols with great loading times for websites. Their prices are amazing too and can be as low as $3.95(USD) per month!
- Extremely user-friendly AND great for beginners. Everything is laid out for you so there really is no question as to where things are. There is also a large resource of information that can help newbies (and sometimes vets) and answer any questions.
- If you can’t find what you’re looking for their customer service is out of this world! You can ask them whatever you want, we have even asked them questions unrelated to hosting and they’ve been answered and dealt with. They have a quick and easy to use Live Chat feature that is open 24/7 so if you’re doing some late night blogging and get stuck, they’ve got your back! We have never waited more than ten minutes to talk to someone, which is a huge improvement from BlueHost.
You can find our 4 steps to starting a site with SiteGround here. It’s super easy and there are four different plans available.
4) Install & Set-Up WordPress
Are you thinking, “Wait I thought we were self-hosting and not using a free platform?” We are! There is a WordPress.org and a WordPress.com. One is for self-hosting (.org) the other a free platform (.com).
In our how to start a blog guide we recommend going the self-hosting route using .org. WordPress is going to be your Content Management System (CMS).
There are two ways to install WordPress from their website and from SiteGround. You can check out our post on setting up a site with SiteGround here and it details how to set-up WordPress at the bottom of it. WordPress is one of the best tools most guides on how to start a blog will recommend using, and there is a good reason for it.
It doesn’t take a long time to get accustomed to the platform and even huge sites like CNN and the New York Times use WordPress as their CMS. It features one single sidebar with all of your options for plugins, posts, pages, appearance, absolutely everything. You can also create separate accounts for individuals with various access to certain things on the site if you want to have more than one author on your blog.
Great for potentially opening up space for guest bloggers!
After you have set up WordPress and have a little base, we recommend immediately going to your Siteground Cpanel and installing the SSL certificate. This gives you a secure site which is great for SEO. Honestly, in this how to start a blog guide and in our personal experience we recommend doing this right away and avoid losing social shares and confusing redirects when you switch URL’s from http to https.
Siteground has a guide on how to do this here.
5) Choose A Theme And Customize Your Site
This is arguably our favourite point on our guide on how to start a blog because it is definitely the most fun. Themes and plugins are tools that give you a customized look and feel for your site but also help with some of the reorganizations on the back end of your site. Basically, they are the foundation of a functional and beautiful website and an important factor in how to start a blog.
Where can you get them from?
After you install WordPress there is a bit of a shortcut, just go through your left-hand menu and click Appearance – Themes – Add New. This will pull up an extensive list of themes you can test to see if you like and download if you do, most of these themes are free and pretty basic.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something a bit more in-depth and perhaps not so free, we recommend places like ThemeForest and ElegantThemes, these are two of the more popular places to get themes. If you do get a theme from a third party you will be sent a link to download the .zip file which can then be uploaded in the Appearance – Themes area. Downloading a .zip file also means you can keep your theme on your computer saved in case something happens to it in the future.
A guide on how to start a blog isn’t complete without recommending getting a logo. You’re not only going to want a logo, but we highly recommend having one as a way for your audience to recognize your content. We had a friend design ours so we sort of got lucky there, but you can make your own logo at Logo Design or hire someone if you want.
You could even check in blogging Facebook groups if there are people willing to make logos for a low price! Blogging communities are the best.
Do you need plugins? Yes, you do! Why?
Because not only do they help you customize your site, but they help your site run efficiently and smoothly for you and your readers. Here are a few free WordPress plugins we highly recommend you add to your blog. You can do this by clicking Plugins – Add New on your navigation dashboard. Once you get there you can either load a .zip file or type in the plugin name, find it and click install.
- Jetpack – This plugin is packed full of features like related posts, automatic social sharing, and site stats.
- Akismet – protects your website from spam comments
- WordPress SEO by Yoast – helps you optimize your site for Google. This helps readers organically find your blog when their search something in the engine. There are plenty of tutorials on their website that help you make the most of SEO.
- Google Analytics – You really should set this up from the get-go! Google Analytics is a great tool that helps you measure and analyze any traffic that comes to your blog. Future advertisers could also want to see your site stats before they work with you, you’ll want to have a full record of those. Register through Google first here, then install the plugin to integrate tracking to your website.
TIP: The more plugins you have, the more likely it will slow down your website. Be very selective!
Siteground has a plugin that helps speed up your load time called ‘SuperCacher.’ You have to first turn on ‘Static Cache’ (you can find instructions for that here). After you complete those steps you can enable ‘Dynamic Cache’ (steps found here) and then you’re good to go!
6) Create The Basic Pages & Your E-mail List
What do we mean by must-have pages? Well, there are a few pages you’ve probably noticed every blog usually has and for very good reason.
These pages are completely separate from your basic blog section, which is a collection of your posts. You’ll want pages like:
- About – Introduce yourself to your audience. Make it engaging and honest so your audience can get to know you and relate to you. That way they will actually want to follow you.
- Contact – Perhaps show your e-mail address and social media channels on this page. If you have a place people can send mail you could certainly add that as well. It’s not a bad idea to use a contact form either, we use Ninja Forms. It’s easy to use and we have never had a problem with it.
- Disclaimer – You’re going to want to protect yourself from any liabilities. This lays out all of that legal stuff you should go over with your audience. You can find ours here or another example is from Adventurous Kate.
- Others – There are other pages you may want to consider adding to your blog. Pages like categories of old articles, FAQ, a ‘destinations’ page, and in the future a press page to show your stats to future potential clients.
Sidebars & Footers
Your sidebar is usually placed along the edge of your blog posts and even pages if you want. You can add whatever you want in your sidebar that you think suits your blog and your audience. This area can be accessed by going into your Widgets section via Appearance on the WordPress left-hand menu. Appearance – Widgets. But here are some things we recommend you have:
- About – Don’t make this too long, a brief little paragraph is all you need. You should include a photo too so your audience places a face to your blog. Then link this area to your about page.
- Newsletter – We are going to touch more on this in a second. But you’re going to want to have something in your sidebar that is obvious and allows people to subscribe to your updates. We recommend Mailerlite.
- Social Media Links – This is super important because you want to promote your social accounts. These help you increase your audience on all your channels and give you more platforms to engage with them on. We use the free version of Sumo share buttons.
- Popular Posts – This helps increase the likelihood visitors will check out other articles. You can find a few of them on WordPress’ plugin search, select the one you like best or try this one.
Like we mentioned you’re going to want to have a mailing list right from the start, it’s an important step in how to start a blog that will retain an audience. Try to start this from the beginning so you can begin capturing e-mails from the get-go. We personally use Mailerlite (you can sign up for ours on our blog sidebar!) and have tried others in the past.
Ultimately we found Mailerlite a bit easier to use and design. You can start with a free account and as it builds eventually you’ll have to opt into a paid service, but they’re pretty reasonably priced. Try and pick one you’re going to want to stick to for a while if not ever because changing it and switching your e-mails over could be a pain and you may lose some in the process.
So why is this important?
Well, you want to keep your engaged audience in the loop. It’s also technically another sharing platform so your audience could have the option to send it to their friends, which increases your audience. You can track when your e-mail is opened, the clicks, and conversions which will give you data as to what your audience likes.
Set Up Your Social Media Accounts
Social media is probably one of the single most important aspects of starting a blog. Social Media is going to be a huge platform for growth for your blog, it’s a place for you to promote your material and grow and engage with your audience. Your blog will eventually grow on its own with good SEO practice but it’s always good to be getting traffic from multiple sources instead of relying on just one.
Ideally, you want all of your social handles to match your blog name (which is another reason name is an important factor when looking into how to start a blog). Having your blog name across multiple platforms helps with brand recognition and makes it easier for your audience to find you on all channels. Register your name on all the name channels like Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube (if you decide to do video), Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
Now that you’ve gone through most of the major steps of how to start a blog it’s time to create content. This is obviously the meat of your blog and the reason realistically that you started this journey, so you could write engaging and original stuff!
- First Post – This is a great chance for you to write about who you are, where you live, what you blog is about, and maybe even how you got to where you are. It’s also perfect for telling your audience where you are in your journey and perhaps where you hope to end up. This starts that relationship you want with your audience and brings them right into your journey with you.
- Future Posts – Now it’s time for you to post about current trips and tips or even future trips, inspirational posts, maybe even photo journals, and so so much more. All of these things depend on you and where you want to take your audience but make them TRULY YOU. Write about things you love within your niche, this will feel a lot more authentic to your audience than just writing a bunch of stuff you don’t care about.
- Post Regularly – You want to start posting quite regularly at the beginning to build that audience and your voice. It also helps your Google rankings by telling their systems that you exist, write posts regularly, and have up to date content. Google loves blogs that are constantly updating information.How often you post at the beginning is honestly up to you, but we wouldn’t recommend any less than two times per week at the beginning just to get a plethora of content. These old posts will also most likely become the most viewed because they will be on the internet the longest. You can always go back and update them too, which either way we recommend.Eventually, when your blog grows you can choose to post once a week or more or less, it’s up to you! Right from the beginning, it’s important to start a solid SEO strategy to help your blog grow. If you don’t know a lot about SEO and good practices we recommend reading every article you can find about it!
- Quality Over Quantity – You can write a thousand posts, but if they all suck and have no meaning to your audience you aren’t going to get traffic. The more you write, read and research the better your posts will become. We look back at some of our old posts now and are always surprised to see just how much our content has grown, evolved and improved – so we make sure to update those posts too from time to time.
- Get Someone To Read Your Content Before You Post – Whether it’s family or friends, or even someone from a blogging community you are apart of. They can give you feedback on your writing and let you know what they think of it. They can also catch any grammatical errors you may have missed.
- Read Other Blogs – This can help improve how you write and can open your eyes to blog formats that seem to be working. It’s also a good idea to get involved in the blogging community by writing comments on their posts or joining Facebook groups in your niche.
- Write about things you are passionate about – Like we said before if you write from the heart your audience is more likely to participate in your blog.
- Use Grammarly – Readers aren’t going to take your blog as seriously if they constantly see spelling and grammatical errors. Grammarly helps you pick those out and fix them, in turn making you a better writer.
Over everything, just remember that success won’t come overnight.
If you haven’t read our article about things you should know before you start a blog, we recommend you do! You can read it over here. It might give you some insight on what you’re getting yourself into. It takes hard work and dedication.
8) Get Your Content Out There
Now that your blog is up and running, you’ve gone through and know how to start a blog, you need to promote your blog and get your content in front of people. SEO and social media both play a role in getting your content out into the world for people to read and for your audience to grown. At the beginning, most of your traffic will probably be from social channels like Pinterest and Facebook because Google will be in the process of indexing your posts and ranking your pages, they won’t rank highly at the beginning that part will take time so be patient.
Social media is so important for promoting your material and a lot of people go looking on social channels like Pinterest right away when looking for information on a variety of different things, it’s an import aspect of how to start a blog. Social media is also all about sharing with friends and family and the more your post are shared the better. So make sure you are signed up for all your social accounts and actively promoting your material and getting it out there.
With that being said, don’t just promote your own material. No one likes just seeing one persons blog posts on Pinterest all the time or the same information being repeated on Facebook over and over again. You should think about how to start a blog and how to incorporate that blog into the blogging community, while it is highly competitive it is also very helpful and a close-knit community.
If you do plan on using Pinterest as your main platform we highly recommend using Tailwind.
It’s only $10USD a month and allows you to schedule all of your pins ahead of time which is going to really help because posting 10-20 times a day on Pinterest throughout the day takes a lot of time. Not to mention that’s only ONE of the social channels you have to navigate and post to regularly. We found within the first 2 weeks of using Tailwind our sessions increased by almost 18% and it continues to help grow our traffic.
While our Pinterest monthly sessions went from 24k to 89k in only two weeks! You can sign up for Tailwind here and try out a free trial!
The Blogging Community
Joining Facebook groups and other communities can do two things: give you the opportunity to interact with other bloggers and gives you an immediate audience for your blog. Other bloggers in these groups could be more established than you which means they could be great resources for helping you. Fellow bloggers are also interested in reading blogs, which means you are sending you material directly to a potential audience member.
If you ever have questions about how to start a blog or what you should take as your next steps on your blog these groups are amazing. A lot of them have been blogging for a long time and really know their stuff.
Not to mention these groups typically have special days of the week where you can share and promote your content. These promotional opportunities can come in the form of shares, blog comments, Instagram follows, and so on and so forth and you often have to reciprocate. It’s not a free ride!
Just be careful with some of these groups, because we found that while we saw an increase in Instagram followers…our engagement wasn’t going up. So definitely don’t rely on them because ultimately they may not be your target audience and aren’t organic followers who are engaging with your stuff. There are pros and cons to using these types of groups, however, they are amazing for answering questions and connecting with like-minded people.
This can seem a little scary at first, but it can open your work up to a much wider audience and fast! Some of the blogging communities you join will have people who post looking for collaboration posts, guest posts, or maybe even interviews. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people too and ask if they are looking for guest posts or not, you’d be surprised how many blogs are.
We do, however, recommend checking their website thoroughly before approaching them. A lot of blogs will state somewhere if they accept guest posts or not. You might consider submitting some of your work to sites like Huffington Post or BuzzFeed Communities (where you can submit articles to be seen by moderators who could potentially help make content go viral). Don’t be heartbroken if you don’t achieve that or get rejected, it’s fine because you shouldn’t be relying on these sources anyway, they are just additional avenues to help you grow.
If you’re looking at how to start a blog you should also be looking at how to grow your blog and guest posting can play an important role in that.
Hopefully, this guide about how to start a blog has helped shine some light on the process and has allowed you to even start your own! Starting a blog isn’t an overly complicated process but keeping it updated, running and growing an audience is more of the challenge. Having a blog should never be a chore, it should be something you genuinely look forward to working on.
If you keep it as a hobby that could eventually turn into a career you’re going to have a much smooher and more enjoyable experiene and relationship with your blog. You can’t expect to always love doing it and you might not always love working on it, but don’t give up on it if it’s something you really love doing.