How to Start a Blog…and be successful with it
Starting a blog is easy and don’t let any tech problems stop you from it!
With the information here, you will understand everything about it very quickly and be able to go as fast as you want.
Believe it or not, the biggest hindrance to starting a blog isn’t technical, it’s usually human related.
We have a habit of telling ourselves negative things like it’s not good enough, I’m not smart enough, It’s too difficult, etc…
We all do it.
But don’t listen to the negativity.
Keep on going regardless and you will succeed.
Another tip: Don’t be a perfectionist.
With technology, something always goes astray… Margins aren’t quite right, colors aren’t exactly what you wanted, the font doesn’t look exactly like you thought it would, etc…
Don’t spend a lot of time trying to make your blog perfect because if you do, you will never get started.
Most visitors to your site really don’t care if your blog isn’t perfect, as long as what you SAY helps them solve their problem or teaches them something they wanted to know.
Now lets take a look at what you need in how to start a blog:
1. A domain name
What is a domain name?
The domain name is the name of your site that you can type into the URL bar of any browser and you will be taken to your site. So, example.com is a domain name. So is google.com.
What should you call your site?
Many times somebody just starting out wants to create a brand and use that as their domain name.
That’s a nice idea, but unless you are a known brand, people don’t search for you in Google by your brand name.
People search for Purina pet food since they are already a well known brand, but ‘YourBrand.com’? Not a chance.
I think its better to create a domain based on the niche you are in. Lets say you have a brand called ‘Xavier’ dog food. I would definitely use the Xavier name and logo on the site, but the domain name I try to get would be betterpetfood.com or petfoodfordogs.com (you get the idea).
That is because people would actually go to Google and search for pet food for dogs. Unless you are well known, nobody would search for Xavier.
One final tip: Try your hardest to stick to a .com suffix.
These days there are tons of suffixes, like .info, .shop, .tv, .live, .vip, etc…the list is pretty long… I admit it can be pretty tempting to get a suffix that is directly related to your niche, but remember, you want people to find you.
People EXPECT .com, they don’t remember (easily) any other suffix, except maybe .org, .edu or .net. But try your hardest to get a .com.
Where do you get a domain name?
There are literally hundreds of ‘registrars’ that sell domain names, and most are pretty similar. Perhaps the most well recognized is godaddy.com.
I don’t recommend using Godaddy though, since they are usually more expensive than many others and they tend to be pretty aggressive at trying to sell you everything under the sun while all you really want is a domain name.
I recommend namecheap.com.
They have been among the cheapest registrars when buying a domain and they’ve always been pretty good for me. Their support is fast and helpful, and you get the first year free of ‘whois guard’. (Whois guard prevents people from finding out your name and contact info based on who owns the domain.)
Domains cost (usually) around $9.00 – $15 a year, renewable every year.
Here is what I mean. Two exact domains … one at Namecheap.com and the other at Godaddy.com
Remember, this also includes one year of whois guard for free.
If you buy the same domain at Godaddy.com you’ll pay (as of today):
$2.99!!! Ha ha ha!!! Look at the fine print. You only get $2.99 for the first year if you buy two years registration, otherwise its $17.99,
But you say, thats still really good. Is it? Nope.
For two years that comes to $20.98. Divide that by 2 and we find that it comes to $10.49 each year. But its even worse. Why?
Because you don’t get a free year of whois guard (domain privacy). Instead, if you want it, you have to pay an additional $9.99.
But even worse, if you keep your domain for any length of time, each subsequent year you’ll pay $10.98 at namecheap to re-register it, and you’ll pay $17.99 at Godaddy. FOR THE SAME THING!!
Feel free, though, to use whichever registrar you feel comfortable with.
Here are a few others:
Google offers a domain registrar service, too, but they aren’t the cheapest and my feeling is they already know too much about you anyway. I don’t use them unless I absolutely have to.
Blogging for Free
These are probably the two most common platforms for free blogs. The upside is that you won’t need to buy a domain name or pay for hosting, but the downside is that you do not control it. Your domain will be something like www.wordpress.nameofmyblog.com
Most people will look at the domain www.wordpress.nameofmyblog.com and not take it as seriously as they would if it were www.nameofmyblog.com
You have to use the ‘Themes’ and designs that they offer you. Many are nice, but you are still limited to what they offer.
Also, they will have advertising on your site which you don’t control.
If you decide to go this route, as soon as you can, move it off to your own site that you control.
How to buy a domain name:
Video of how to buy a domain name:
Now that you’ve got your domain, whats next?
2. You’ll need a hosting account to host your site.
What is hosting?
Websites are really nothing but files stored on a web server somewhere. There are lots of web servers that are owned by companies that basically rent out space on their server to store your files. They all have several different types of plans based on features that you might need or want.
Most of the time a shared hosting plan will work fine for you (especially if you are just starting out) and when you outgrow it, at that point you can move to a plan that has more options.
The four things you need to have when you get a hosting account are:
2. good support
4. good uptime
Speed matters. If a person goes to your blog and its slow, or it takes forever to load a page, the person will just click back and go to a different site. Your site needs to be fast. You probably already know, but Google will rank your page lower if your site is slow. So, speed really does matter.
The reason I say good support is important is because you will have problems eventually and you’ll need to contact support. Granted, in a perfect world you’d never need support because everything would always work perfectly, but we don’t live in a perfect world.
Ideally, what you should look for is if the hosting company has an online chat session with support. Read reviews about hosting. You might not hear about really good hosting companies, but you will certainly hear about bad ones.
Uptime is the length of time your site stays visible to the world. Ideally, you’d like 100% uptime, but thats not real life either. However, you can get pretty close to it.
Finally, you want all this at a price you can afford. The first year, almost all hosting companies have specials, so take advantage of them. Make sure you know how much the company will charge in subsequent years. Also, if you pay for a year or two in advance, you can get your hosting at a lower charge, than if you pay monthly.
The only way I would pay monthly is if you aren’t sure you’re going to keep on blogging. If you think you may not need it after a few months, then by all means sign up for the monthly plans.
Both of those are really fast, have great uptime and their support is very helpful and both have chat sessions.
However, they are a little bit more expensive than hosts like Namecheap or Bluehost.
Any of the four will be a good choice. Really. But whats the difference?
A2 and Siteground you should choose if you have or intend to have a large site, that could mean having a lot of images, products, videos etc… or if you think or know you will have tons of traffic or tons of simultaneous visitors. Also, if you intend to have many, many sites, not just one or two, then go with the higher priced hosting.
Bluehost and Namecheap you should choose if you know this is a beginning for you, you won’t have tons of traffic at first, and you intend to build out your site slowly, or perhaps the site will never really be that big.
Because they are reliable and economical: your up front costs are lower and your subsequent annual costs are also much cheaper.
They both also allow for having unlimited sites, MySQL databases, space on the server, emails etc….
That’s a good thing.
But since they are less expensive plans, they won’t perform as well if you develop a site that is massive, or has tons of traffic, or is video intensive (assuming you store the video on your server – not in youtube), etc…
It will take time for your site to grow in terms of content and traffic, and if it were me, I’d go with Bluehost first and then deal with moving it (or moving to a better plan within Bluehost) later on when my site got bigger. It usually has taken me about 5 years to outgrow a hosting account.
The reason I am on A2 and SiteGround at all is because my biggest sites are there, and they are very big. One is an ecommerce store with over 10,000 products and the other is a real estate site that is extremely image intensive with thousands of properties.
I use Namecheap and Bluehost for my smaller sites and they both perform just fine.
Read my reviews of them here, where I go in to more depth about why I like them and can with a clean conscience, recommend them.
Some hosting I cannot recommend, like Hostgator (they treat their customers badly) or Godaddy (in their effort to simplify everything, they make it more difficult) and I think they are unnecessarily expensive.
Now that you understand a bit more about what hosting is, you can expect to pay approximately around $100 the first year for the faster/pricier hosting, and a little more thereafter. (Remember also, it’s cheaper to pay the whole year in advance than it is to pay month to month.)
Once you pay for your hosting account, the hosting company will send you a welcome email with all the info you’ll need to get started. If you aren’t really familiar with hosting, it can seem a bit cryptic at first… here’s what you need to pay attention to:
They will send you a link to your cpanel.
The Cpanel is the ‘dashboard’ you need access to in order to control your account. Its there that you can create emails, mysql databases, add-on domains, etc… Read my article on ‘What is a cpanel?’ to learn more in depth about it.
Make a note of your cpanel link, username and password.
When you first open your hosting account, you had to tell them (or buy) what will be your primary domain.
Once they set up your account, you’ll be able to access the cpanel by going to https://www.myprimarydomain.com/cpanel
Put in your username and password (that the hosting company sent you) and you should be able to access a screen that looks like this or like this:
Old style cpanel:
New style Cpanel:
The style of the cpanel doesn’t matter at all. They do exactly the same thing.
At this point you are ready to load the software that will be your blogging software on your domain in your hosting account.
WordPress is that software and it is the best, open-source, reliable, widely used and free software for blogging that there is.
A huge percentage of every website on the internet is using WordPress, and there are thousands of YouTube video tutorials on just about everything you’d want to know about it.
There are two ways to load WordPress onto your domain.
1.) The first is within your cpanel, you’ll find an icon called ‘Softaculus’ whose sole purpose in life is to load software. (Read this tutorial on Softaculus).
Once it finishes, you should be all set to start blogging.
2. ) The second way to get WordPress is to download the wordpress software from wordpress.org onto your computer, then upload it to your hosting account using an ftp client.
Not sure what an ftp client is and why you might need it? Read my quick tutorial on ftp clients and what they are for.
Is there any advantage to loading WordPress by using Softaculous or by doing in Manually with FTP?
The end result is the same.
But here are the differences.
If you load WordPress by using Softaculous, Softaculous does all the work.
There are three things WordPress requires in order to use it.
1. a database
2. a database user
3. a password
If you choose to load WordPress by means of Softaculous, it will create the database, the username and the password for you. You won’t have to mess with doing it manually in the cpanel.
The Softaculous install WordPress screen looks like this (or similar to this):
The Admin account section above refers to the WordPress Admin area (the username and password to log in to WordPress once it’s loaded onto your hosting account).
It is NOT the same as the Database username and password I mentioned above.
At this point, once you click Quick Install, WordPress should be loaded and operable. Make sure you make a note of the username and password for the ‘Admin Account’.
If you want to load WordPress manually, then here is how to do it.
- Download WordPress from wordpress.org to your computer desktop
- Unzip the WordPress file you just downloaded
- Open the FTP Client you use and log in to the server (see above)
- Open your Cpanel
- In your cpanel, create a new mysql database, along with a mysql user. Then attach the mysql user to the mysql database and give it ‘privileges’
Open up Cpanel, then choose MySQL Databases
Then put in a name where it says ‘New Database:’ Click Create Database.
Now scroll down the page and you’ll see a section called MySQL Users. Create a name, then a password and click ‘Create a User’.
Then in the ‘Add a User to a Database’, choose the user you just created and the database you just created, and click ‘Add’.
Once you attach the user & the database, it will take you to the last screen (Manage user privileges) where you can add the privileges for the user:
Just click on All Privileges, then Make Changes… You’re done with setting up the database info that wordpress needs.
6. Go to your FTP Client and now upload all the files in the unzipped wordpress folder. There will be around 19 files in the unzipped wordpress folder (this could change depending on the release date)
You will upload these files to the folder or directory in your hosting account that is located in /public_html/mysitedomain.com.
(replace mysitedomain.com with whatever domain you have).
NOTE: IF this is your only domain on the server, you will probably upload the wordpress files to /public_html, since you won’t see your domain name there. Why?
Because its your ‘main’ or ‘principal’ domain on which your account info is based. Its treated special.
Every other domain you buy will be added to your account (by you) as an Add-on Domain in your cpanel. It will be automatically created when you do this in the /public_html/mynewaddondomain.com directory.
Once all the files have been uploaded to the server, and you’ve created your msql database, database user and password, and given the privileges, you are ready to install wordpress. Uploading the files is NOT installing wordpress. They are two separate things.
To install WordPress:
Go to your browser, and in the url field at the top, type in www.mynewsitedomain.com
If everything was done right, this screen should pop up:
Fill in all the info, except leave ‘Database Host’ as localhost.
The last field, ‘Table Prefix’ you can change to some other prefix than wp.
It is a small change that can make your site more secure against hackers.
You aren’t required to change it, but I think its a good idea.
Once you click submit, follow the screen prompts and you’ll be done!