So you want to start a blog but don’t know where to begin?
When I first started my travel blog in 2016 I knew nothing about the online, blogging, and everything in between. I just wanted to have a place where I could share my experiences and memories.
Fast forward to some years later, I’ve learned you can make some money on the side out of blogging, and some even make a living out of it.
However, I must admit I’ve struggled a lot in finding the right information out there.
Yes, there are plenty of articles about how to start a blog out there, but not all tell you everything you need to know if you really want to take this seriously.
That’s why I’m here to set the foundations and help you start a blog from scratch, the right way. This is not my main focus when it comes to blogging, I just think it should and it can be easier, and I want to help.
Skip all those steps I’ve been through, searching and testing, and have a good start.
Just one thing before we go. I won’t go through all the technical steps here, because there’s plenty of information out there, especially on the provider’s websites.
How to start a blog – a step-by-step guide
Establish your vision and your “why”
That’s pretty much the easiest part, but still something I haven’t thought about before starting my blog.
In a nutshell: “why do you want to start a blog?”
Each person has a different reason for doing that, and this reason might also change as time goes by.
As I’ve said, I’ve first started blogging because I wanted to share my experiences with the world. Especially my friends and family. And that’s how many travel bloggers have started out.
However, throughout the years, my “why” has changed. My focus has shifted to helping people that want to visit the places I’ve been to, the places I’ve lived in, or simply live happily by reading more, or traveling more intentionally.
Here are some things you might want to think about before you start your blogging journey:
What is your ultimate goal – set clear and actionable goals
What do you want to achieve with your blog – there are millions of blogs out there (as a matter of fact, there are about 70 million posts being published each month by WordPress users as reported by Optinmonster.com), and many bloggers give up in the first year.
That’s why setting goals and having a plan will help you stay focused.
What are you passionate about – it is so much easier to write about something you are passionate about, and you will also attract your audience when you talk about something you love.
How can you be useful – in today’s world, when people have less time, they look for that person (or blog) that can answer their question to the point.
Understand how can you be useful to your audience and what area you have more knowledge than others in.
Think really hard about all these things and put them on paper. I’ve learned it really helps me to have things in front of my eyes.
It is great to be organized and much easier to make a decision.
Choose your niche
What’s a niche, you ask?
A niche is a segment within a market that targets a specific group of people.
By looking at your answers to the questions above, you’ll find it easy to choose a niche.
Example of niches to choose from:
- books and reading
- blogging & online business
These are only a few that came to mind now, but there are plenty of others out there.
One thing that I strongly advise you to take into consideration is that the broader your niche is, the harder it will be to get your message across.
Thus, it is much more advisable to dig down and choose a specific area in one niche.
For example, in the travel niche, instead of focusing on the whole world, try to think about what area you are an expert on. Where do you live, how can you help tourists coming to your home town have a great stay?
The same goes for food blogging as well. Instead of writing about everything you cook, focus on baking, or paleo dishes, or low-fat dishes. You get the point.
Or you can start broader and focus on one area as you go.
Look at the competition
That’s the first thing you do when you start a business, right? So why shouldn’t you do it when you think about starting a blog as well?
What’s the point in starting something only to find out that the market is oversaturated and you cannot get your message to the people that you target? Or the market is too small and the effort you put into it won’t be worth it.
Once you have a few niche ideas, think about potential blog posts that you would write about and start researching what’s out there.
Start with Google and move on to Pinterest.
Look at what information is already out there. How powerful are the other blogs (look at DA and backlinks), what else can you bring to the table that would make a difference, how can you stand out?
If the answer to those questions is very, nothing, you don’t know, then you might probably want to move to the next niche you had in mind.
When you want to write for the world, and not for your friends alone, you need to look at your blog as a business.
And think strategically.
Figure out your target audience & their needs
A few years after I started out, I took an online training about the “buyer persona“.
That’s simply put your target audience.
They don’t need to buy stuff from you (even though you will want them to do it if you want to monetize your blog), but they need to find value in the information you provide. They need to be interested in what you have to say and think that you are an authority in the field you talk about.
In order to come up with your buyer persona, follow a few steps:
- come up with a few post ideas – something you will want to write about
- think about who would be interested in such a topic – whether they are people looking to travel to Europe, people looking to start a blog, or women who want a nice garden
- think about your “Buyer Persona’s” background, where do they come from, what is the demographic they are part of, what are their hobbies and interests
- drill it down and look at what are its pain points and challenges, and ultimately how can you help with your content
Come up with a great blog name
This will be your “little baby”, of course, you will want to come up with a great name for it.
But what is a great blog name?
Before choosing one, you must think about some things:
- It should be something catchy
- Not restrictive – something that will offer you the possibility to adjust your niche if further along the way you will decide to. For example, my blog name offers me the chance to write about anything I can consider to bring zen moments: traveling, books, meditation, or yoga
- Easy to spell
- Make it memorable – something people will remember and link to you
Also, before buying your domain, you should check out social media and see if the name is already taken. Look on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest.
Once you have made your decision, you will need to buy the domain.
There are 2 ways of getting around that:
- buy the domain alone from a cheap provider (it really doesn’t matter): I got mine from GoDaddy.com, but you can go for NameCheap.com, or Domain.com
- get the domain from your hosting provider for free, together with the hosting services
WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
That was one of the questions I asked myself at the beginning. And that was maybe the first mistake I did with blogging, but I don’t want you to.
Let’s start with a short introduction about both of the WordPress options.
- it is a FREE website builder
- you won’t have to invest in hosting
- comes with an upgrade to WordPress.com Business Plan where you can install your own theme and various plugins
- you cannot monetize through ads
- will need a hosting provider separately
- offers the flexibility to add the plugins of your choice
- you can upload or develop your own theme
- can be monetized through ads
See the full comparison and make your decision here.
From my experience, I would recommend skipping the first steps and going directly for the fully flexible WordPress.org option.
I’ve started with the free version, shortly realized I don’t have any flexibility after seeing people talk about plugins and SEO, upgraded to Pro, only to move to WordPress.org and spend more.
If you are committed to taking blogging seriously, and you don’t only want to write for your friends and family, I fully encourage you to go for self-hosting and WordPress.org.
Looking into free platforms will cost you more in the long run, and will chip your authority and brand.
Some of these can make also great blogging gifts!
With so many options out there, I bet it is hard to know which one is the best for your needs.
I know this was one of my challenges when I’ve decided to move to self-hosting and I’ve made some not very happy choices along the way.
I’ve made the mistake to go for a hosting service that offered the possibility to pay monthly, only to understand later on that it wasn’t the fastest service I could have chosen, neither related to speed nor customer service. On the other hand, I was paying 13 USD/monthly and spending much more than I should have.
After years of blogging, here are my top 2 choices today:
This was recommended to me on a really great bloggers group on Facebook and I’ve started using it and I couldn’t be happier with it.
They helped me move my website from the previous hosting provider and their customer support has always been prompt in answering my questions and helping me with any issues I had.
After switching to A2 Hosting my website’s speed improved, helping me out with my ranking as well.
I went for the Shared Hosting option, which offers a pretty nice deal for the size of my blog, with free SSL security included.
As I was doing research, this option showed up so many times that I had to look into it.
Some very experienced people have recommended, and many bloggers out there trust them with their websites. I think it is a great option especially when you are starting out and are looking for great value for money.
Bluehost is a great hosting option I would also recommend trying out, and here are a few more reasons to convince you:
- they have a 1-click WordPress installation process – you won’t have to think about the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes
- they are the Number 1 recommended hosting by WordPress.org
- prices are really cheap and offer the domain free of charge
- users say they offer great support – something you will need as you are at the beginning of the blogging adventure
- Bluehost offers free SSL security
Choose a Theme
In a nutshell, a WordPress theme is a collection of templates and stylesheets used to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website.
As soon as you install WordPress, it will come with a predefined free theme. I’m not saying that option is bad, I’m just saying it doesn’t offer flexibility and you won’t be able to customize your page as you would like to.
I know first hand because I’ve been there!
I’ve played for so long with free themes, wasted so many hours looking for the right one, that one that I would be able to customize into the shape I was dreaming of.
I had something in my mind, and I spent hours and hours looking for the theme that would transpose that into reality. For free.
You might understand that it was pretty much an impossible task. And I’ve only got to the point where I’m really happy with the look and feel of my blog since I’ve made the decision to invest in a Premium WordPress Theme.
I wish I had done that earlier because it really makes a difference!
And the biggest advantage is that I’m now working at something I actually love to see popping up!
I chose the Charlotte theme from 17th Avenue, but they have plenty of other girly premium themes perfect for any niche, especially fashion, online shops, lifestyle, or travel.
It was super easy to purchase and install. They have lots of tutorials and I just followed the steps and customized my page as I wanted.
Their customer service was super fast to reply and helped me with my questions.
You haven’t found what you are looking for or you want something more economical? Here are some other feminine theme options you will find interesting:
Install some useful plugins
The ultimate goal is to have as few plugins as possible because they would slow down your website. And that’s something that you just don’t want.
But there are some plugins you cannot do without ever from the moment you start your blog.
a3 Lazy Load – helps to speed up your site
Antispam Bee – because you don’t want spammy comments
GDPR Cookie Consent – an absolute must if you are targeting people from the EU
Yoast SEO – helps you with SEO, and it is a great guideline especially when starting out
ShortPixel Image Optimizer – you will want an image optimizer, and you should aim to upload pictures smaller than 300k (use Pixlr to resize all your images)
Every business has a brand, right?
It is important to have at least a logo and some color theme because it will look more professional.
Don’t be scared, you won’t have to break the bank and it is super easy to do it yourself!
That’s what Canva is for, and trust me when I say you will be using it much more throughout your blogging life. I go to Canva at least once every day!
Set up Pinterest
When it comes to driving traffic to your blog once you have started publishing various articles, one thing stands true: wishing and hoping are not strategies!
In order to be successful, you will need to have a strategy.
And while SEO is a great thing to work at constantly, its results will be felt in time. Sometimes even 6 months later.
I’ve started seeing great results shortly after learning about Pinterest marketing and using Tailwind Tribes.
How to make money from blogging
That’s one question I get asked so frequently especially by friends or people I meet.
In order to start making money from blogging, you will need to be a bit of a salesperson.
Of course, you won’t sell anything and everything. You will need to find those products or services you use yourself and are super happy about, and can also recommend to others.
However, that’s not the only way of making money from blogging. Here are a few options:
- affiliate marketing – recommend products and services and gain commissions from their sale
- ads – put ads on your website
- build a product – are you really good at something and can build an online product (ebook, training, guide, Lightroom preset) people will line up to buy?
- sell your services – Virtual Assitant services, Pinterest Marketing services, or anything you are good at and is linked to the blog
- brand collaborations
- write for other online publications
PIN FOR LATER!