When I first decided to build a blog, I didn’t really know where to start. It didn’t matter, though. Six years ago I simply decided on starting a blog as a tool to share my stories with friends back home. I didn’t want to tell every last person the same tale, so it was easier to write them all in one place. That way everyone could follow me without my retelling the stories five billion times. How to start a blog? I didn’t really care. I just winged it, and did the very basics.
Where to Begin With Starting a Blog
Things shifted a few years back, however, when I started trying to monetize my blog. Obviously, I had to make some changes. There were a ton of things I had never even thought about when starting a blog. To this day I’m learning new things, and it’s a royal pain to go back and edit old posts. It’s especially painful if you have around 300 of them. I basically really only go back to the ones I really want to show up in the search engines. But you could have everything show up from the beginning if you follow these guidelines on how to start a blog.
Stand Out from the Crowd!
There are so many blogs online, how do you stand apart from the crowd? How to start a blog the proper way?
I teamed up with a good blogging friend to help you create a blog the right way. With the help of my brain and hers put together, you’ll be on your way to starting a blog. Of course, new things will always come up, and you’ll have to implement new strategies. The good news is if you follow our advice, you’ll have the groundwork set from day one that many successful blogs use. And don’t worry if it all sounds overwhelming. We’ve organized this in a way that you can start from step one and gradually make it through each step. Don’t get bogged down thinking it’s all too much. It’s super easy with our advice on how to start a blog. You’ve got this!
Please note: We are not doing this for money. No links that you will find are affiliate links. We are merely sharing the information that we have gained through our own trials and tribulations blogging. We want you to be starting a blog the right way!
Starting a Blog: The Basics
So you’re wondering how to start a blog? These are things that are absolutely crucial to starting a blog. You really can’t do anything without them. Here’s a full walk through of how to start a blog, from the ground up. Starting a blog isn’t nearly as hard as you think!
Finding a good domain name is the first step in starting a blog. A name you merely like – or even love – might not be enough. For example, I went with likeridingabicycle.com. I dig it, but really I chose it because my mom had some random domain names she’d bought. She said I could have it if I liked. As I’m terrible at coming up with names for things, I went with it.
Now if you Google “like riding a bicycle” I may well come up as one of the first results. That’s all fine and good, except when you realize that not many people are Googling that phrase. To boot, anyone who is Googling it probably isn’t looking for a travel blog. Fail. So finding me organically through my homepage probably isn’t going to happen. If I’d looked up domain name research and how to start a blog from the get go, I wouldn’t have this problem.
Think of a name that people would actually Google. Have a term in there that people might search. It’s not a bad idea to do some keyword research for the actual domain name itself when you have a few ideas. Find something that both represents your brand, and might be picked up by the Google gods as well.
Domain names cost around $10 a month, and are available from heaps of providers. I personally use Namesilo, but there are many other options. Yes, you can get a free domain using something like .wordpress or .blogspot, but then you won’t have your own domain name. If you ever want to monetize your blog, and if you want people to find your blog easily, fork up the $10 a year. This is how to start a blog the right way.
My last piece of advice on this portion of starting a blog is to go with .com. Sure, you may be from Canada and want .ca. Or your desired name might not be available on .com. But the truth is if you tell someone your website’s name, they’re going to assume it’s .com. And that’s what they’re going to remember.
Hosting Provider and WordPress
Choosing the right hosting provider is important when starting a blog because it’s the space where your blog will literally live. So you need something good and fast that can take the load of your content and also the images. A hosting provider should have good and free support in case there are any issues. There are a lot of big names out there, but always choose the one which is fast and cost effective and has a good support. On average, hosting is about five dollars per month.
Make sure you also enable SSL, that is making your site start with https instead of http. It makes your site more secure, and Google cares. Your hosting provider should be able to help you out with this.
Almost all the well known and big web hosting companies have a feature of one click install for WordPress. If your hosting provider doesn’t have this, WordPress is a very simple process to install that takes less than 5 minutes to complete. It’s usually on the cPanel settings where all the options are listed from your host.
Choosing a Niche
The first and the most important question to ask yourself when starting a blog is what are you passionate about? You need to think of your main blog topic. I truly believe that passion is the most important and the key factor for success in blogging. We feel motivated to write and blog about something long term if we are truly interested in it and passionate about it. The reason I started PandaReviewz is because I am passionate about food and travel. I also love being critical at times when it comes to eating at a restaurant or staying at a hotel, so this is perfect for me. When thinking about how to start a blog, consider what you’re interested in writing about.
Theme and Organization
The thing that took me the longest to do when starting a blog was picking a theme. There are so many free themes to choose from, not to mention premium themes. It’s hard to know where to start. First off, no, you don’t need a premium theme for it to be faster or better in any way. You just need to carefully select your WordPress theme. You want something that speaks to you as well as to the message you want to convey.
There are tons of WordPress themes you can browse through. Take your time. It’s much easier to pick the theme and then do everything else than switch your theme later on, as things can get quite messed up.
Next you’re going to have to decide how you want everything organized on your site. Do you want a static homepage that doesn’t change, or one that has new posts pop up? What’s your menu going to be organized like? Where will your social media icons go? Will you choose a pretty big photo at the top, or a more sleek style?
Whatever you decide, you want everything to look clean and appealing to the eyes. Imagine yourself as one of your users. Is it easy to navigate? Can you find everything you’re looking for (don’t forget to include a search bar)? If you wanted to find hitchhiking tips on my website, but the only way to get to them was through one of my destinations, they’d be a bit difficult to find, wouldn’t they? Think about these sorts of things, and organize accordingly.
Oh plugins, how many times have you saved my life? Since starting a blog way back six years ago, I’ve used more plugins than I can tell you. Over the years I’ve narrowed it down to what I really need. Plugins are basically like apps that help you do different things on your blog. Want a different gallery from the default? Plugin. Need some extra help with your search engine optimization (SEO)? Plugin. Looking for a way for users to rate your posts? You guessed it, plugin. I don’t know how to start a blog without them, unless of course you’re a programmer.
Plugins are super easy to install. Just go to Plugins on the left sidebar in WordPress, add new plugin, search, and click install. You can also go directly to the plugin page, download it, and then upload it in the plugins section. Then you just need to activate it. Some plugins require configuration, while others just do their thing.
Be careful how many plugins you use, and which ones you select. Using too many plugins can drastically slow down your site. Using the right plugins, however, can speed it up and improve user experience.
Whenever testing a new plugin, I highly recommend you make a backup of your site first. Yes, there’s a plugin for that. Make sure to deactivate and delete any inactive plugins as well. Also, don’t forget to update whenever there’s a new version available on the plugins you use.
Here are some plugins I highly recommend when starting a blog:
- Yoast: This helps you with your SEO and readability. It will display underneath each post.
- UpdraftPlus – Backup/Restore: Backup before making any big changes, so that you can easily restore your site to where it was beforehand should things go awry.
- BJ Lazy Load: Loads images and other slow items after the rest of the content. This provides the user a better (and faster) experience.
- W3 Total Cache: Caches pages making them load faster the next time someone visits your site.
- Wordfence Security: Protects against hackers and spam.
- kk Star Rating: This uses Google rich snippets. Users can give the article a star rating. If you’re lucky it will display in Google search results.
- AMPforWP: We’ll get into this in the advanced tricks for starting a blog.
- Schema App Structured Data: This will also be discussed in the advanced tricks.
How to Start a Blog: Advanced Tricks
Does everyone use these from the get go? Hell no! But you came here to learn how to start a blog the right way. Should you use these if you want to start a successful blog from the ground up? Yep, and you’re here to learn how to start a blog, so do it right. I’m just doing some of these things now, struggling to go back through past articles. I absolutely wish I’d known all this when starting a blog. Do these things from day one, and you’re going to have great success.
How to Grow Your Social Media:
- Post consistently
- If possible post at the same time each day. You can post, for example, at 5 pm daily or 8 pm on every Wednesday, etc. Figure out what you prefer and the frequency you desire, but keep it consistent. Try out a few different times and days to see when your audience responds the most.
- Post not what you like best, but what your audience might like.
- Never spam. Don’t over promote yourself.
- Don’t opt for bots to grow up numbers, and never buy any followers.
- Talk about the trending topics.
- Social media helps you with branding as well.
- Lastly, don’t just post for the sake of posting. Engage with your audience.
Bonus Tip for Growing Your Audience
It’s a good idea to also give readers the option to subscribe right from the get go when starting a blog. You can make an email list with each email address collected. This way, you can contact your subscribers with new articles or promotions. This gives you another avenue other than social media to get to your readers.
Six years into blogging I realized that page speed matters. I checked out my speed on Google PageSpeed Insights and was horrified. My page speed was 12. That’s 12 on 100, guys. That is not good. That is not good at all. So if you’re starting a blog, you want to consider this from day one.
You want to check your page speed on both mobile and desktop using this tool. It gives instructions on what you need to improve, but they’re not the easiest to follow without programming experience. You can Google what these things actually mean, and in many instances there are plugins to help you.
I highly recommend backing up your site before trying any of these plugins. Some very reputable ones completely screwed up my site. Others actually made it slower. Finally, configured correctly, a couple made it faster. I now have the green light from Google. I won’t be recommending any specific plugins here, as you can find that elsewhere, and honestly, which one works for you will highly depend on your site, theme, plugins, etc.
But how much does page speed actually matter? I mean, it plays a factor, but what’s more important is your load time. For this, head on over to GTmetrix. If you load in 1-2 seconds, you’re gold. If it takes more like 6 seconds, you have some work to do. Think about it: you’re sitting on your phone researching this or that. Are you really going to wait 6 seconds for each page to load, or are you going to get annoyed and head to a different website? Exactly. When you’re learning how to start a blog, this is a crucial step. A slow page speed and load time means a lower ranking in Google, and we don’t want that.
Things that can slow down your page speed and load time:
- Certain plugins
- Your theme
- Large images
- And heaps more – look at the advice from Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix for more on this.
Note: It’s not good enough to just look at your homepage. For example, my homepage doesn’t have any ads, but my posts do. It takes considerably longer to load an individual post on my site than to load the homepage. Check out some random posts as well as your homepage for an accurate idea of where you’re at. This is crucial when starting your blog so you can monitor what things slow down you site later on, and remove them if possible.
Keyword research is absolutely crucial if you want your posts to rank in Google’s competitive search results. Once you come up with an idea for an article, you need to find an appropriate keyword to focus on. While you can use several keywords, you want one main keyword or keyword phrase to focus on. If you want to know how to start a blog the right way, you’re going to want to implement keyword research from day one.
There are several tools to do this, but in essence you want to find the keyword with the highest volume but lowest keyword difficulty score. This can be easier said than done, depending on your topic.
How to find your keyword:
Google Keyword Planner is not the most accurate tool as it provides vague results, but it is free. You can also use Ahrefs or SEMrush for the same thing, but they are paid tools. There are heaps of other tools out there to keyword research. You just need to find the right one for you. The essence of picking a good keyword is finding one with a high search volume and low competition.
Starting a blog without the proper keyword research is essentially useless if you want to be found. Here’s a video from SEMrush explaining how to use their Keyword Magic Tool. This is my preferred method of finding keywords, but the program does cost $100 per month. It does way more than just find you keywords though. Its SEO advice has helped me up my traffic by more than 10 times!
Make sure to put the keyword:
- Title: The first word(s) of the title should be the keyword.
- Body: Use the keyword(s) several times, but don’t overdo it either. It’s a fine balance, and no one knows the exact percentage of your text that should include the keyword. Use Yoast SEO to see what your keyword density is. A good rule of thumb is between 0.5% and 1%, but sometimes Google wants more, and sometimes they want less. There is no hard and fast rule on what percentage to go for.
- Heading 1: Make sure to use your keyword(s).
- Heading 2: Try to use your keyword(s) in at least one. This is not essential, but great if you can swing it.
- Image alt text: Use keyword(s).
- Meta title (you’ll find this in Yoast): The first word(s) should be the keyword, just like in the normal title.
- Meta description (also in Yoast): Use the keyword(s) once in your meta description.
Oh yeah, Google seems to care about how easy your text is to read as well. Again, Yoast has a readability tool to help you. But making all the lights go green on the Yoast plugin isn’t sufficient. Let’s say, for example, Yoast says the following:
“9% of the sentences contain passive voice, which is less than or equal to the recommended maximum of 10%.”
It gives you the green light. Does this mean it’s as good as it’s going to get? Nope. You can still make it better. Click on the eye next to this sentence in Yoast. It will now display all instances you’re using the passive voice. Make fewer of them passive.
Next, there’s the Flesch-Kincaid readability score. This also displays in Yoast. Fairly easy to read is a score of 70 or higher. Is this sufficient? It can be, or it cannot be. Try to get it as high as possible. But how?
Improve Your Readability
- Look at each item Yoast mentions, and try to get the percentage as high or low (as the case may be for that particular item) as possible.
- Use shorter sentences.
- Use shorter paragraphs.
- Limit the use of long words.
- Use sub-headings.
- Use points (like these!)
Starting a blog right means getting readability and SEO done properly from the get go. If you want to know how to start a blog properly, save yourself the trouble of having to go back through old posts, and do this from the start.
AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
Back when I was starting a blog AMP wasn’t even a thing. It matters these days. AMP, or accelerated mobile pages, is basically a different version of your website shown on organic mobile search results. It’s lightening fast, providing the user a better experience. Google has indicated they will start favoring pages that have AMP, so why not set it up from day one?
To set up AMP, download the plugin AMPforWP. Go through the wizard, and your site will be set up. There can be some conflicts with certain plugins you already have. Keep that in mind. You may also detest how your page looks. It’s nothing like your normal design, I know. We can only hope this gets better as AMP becomes more used, and they update the plugin. To see how your site will now display to mobile users who have found you in organic search, type in yourwebsite.com/amp.
Of course, there are ways to set up AMP without a plugin. So if you’re a programmer, go right ahead and do it your way. We, however, are not. This is way out of my realm, so I highly recommend the plugin if you’re looking on how to start a blog without programming knowledge.
Lastly, once you are AMP enabled, you need to get the plugin Glue for Yoast SEO and AMP. This will assure that your meta titles and descriptions you’ve put into Yoast transfer over to the AMP version as well.
I was so confused when I started researching this, and it was long after starting a blog. I won’t lie, it was only last week. After a few hours of research, thinking oh my god, this requires a coding level I certainly do not possess, I realized something. This is actually super easy to implement.
Schema.org is basically a code that tells Google key things about your post that they might not otherwise realize. If enabled, you may get rich snippets and rich cards.
You know when you search for something, and you find a search result with a photo, or ratings, or anything extra like that? These are rich snippets, and they make you stand out. You want them. Rich cards are essentially the same thing, except instead of displaying as a normal search result, it will show a “card” or a box with your results.
Setting up Schema.org does not guarantee anything. In fact I read one place that it can take anywhere from a few hours to never for Google to turn your posts into a rich card. You read that right – never. Note that at this time Google only accepts five types of rich cards – Recipe, Course, Movie, Jobs, and Fact Check. Of course, this will expand, so put the groundwork in now. Structured data will still help you with rich snippets if you aren’t in any of the above categories.
Set Up Schema
To set up Schema.org install the plugin Schema App Structured Data. Go to settings to configure it, and make sure you pick organization rather than person. Now underneath each post there will be some code. After you publish each post (it will not work when they are just a draft) click on, “Test with Google”. If there are no errors, you’re good to go.
If there are any errors, you can easily fix them. For example, I had an error that a video had no description. Simply copy the code in the Schema.org box, and click the pencil in the bottom right to edit. Paste the code. Now search for whatever the error was – in my case, description. I simply found video description, and it said, description=””. There should be something in between those quotation marks. Add a description. Save. It’s that easy. Now retest with Google, and there should be no errors.
Useful Tools and Resources for Starting a Blog
Of course, starting a blog becomes much easier with the right resources to help you out along the way. Here are some great resources. Some help answer the question of how to start a blog, while others are key companions to other sections written about above.
Resources We Love:
- Google Analytics: Check out how your website traffic is doing.
- Google Search Console: You can do heaps of things with Search Console. One of the main benefits is being able to submit your sitemap, making Google crawl it faster. It has loads of other functionalities worth checking out too.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: Test how fast your blog is on both mobile and desktop.
- GTmetrix: This does much of what Google PageSpeed Insights does, but it goes a step further. Check out your loading speed and other factors here.
- Canva: Helps you create good images and graphics for social media, logos, etc.
- Hootsuite: Schedule your social media posts in one place.
- SEMrush: This tool is pricey at $100 a month. But it’s so worth it. It helps you find keywords, audit your site’s health, get advice on how to improve your search rankings, and much more. In less than a month of using this tool my organic desktop website traffic has gone up by ten times.
- Google Keyword Planner: While SEMrush has a much better keyword planner, Google’s is free. It doesn’t give the most accurate information, but can at least give you ideas.
- Yoast Blog: Yoast has a ton of tips and advice on SEO optimization. I recommend signing up for their newsletter – and I hate newsletters.
- Make Traffic Happen: If you’re looking to step up your traffic game when you have everything in place, this is the site to go to for heaps of advice.
Of course, all this is just the beginning of starting a blog. You’re going to want to make sure you get your website traffic and domain authority up as well – fortunately we have just the article you’re looking for! Check out this article by bloggers for bloggers on how to increase traffic and DA! How to start a blog? It’s never been easier. Take it step by step, and feel free to ask us questions in the comments below!