Since I have become a digital nomad and travel the world permanently, many of my friends have asked me how to start a blog and make money online. When you look at the blog of a famous travel blogger, it is sometimes hard to imagine that you could do this, too. But it is possible for everybody who has decent writing skills and a hobby that he or she is passionate about to become a successful blogger.
Are you passionate about travel, fashion, food, photography or any other special hobby that you would like to write about? Then start your own blog now! Starting a blog is much easier than you think! And it is also relatively cheap, considering that you are starting a business with the potential to earn you thousands or even millions in the future. But to get to this point someday, as with every big thing, first, you have to start. And this is probably the hardest part.
It can be a little bit overwhelming to think of all the technical stuff you have to deal with when setting up a blog and it might take you a few weeks to get really into it and find out what possibilities you have in terms of web design and coding. But one doesn’t need to be a technical genius to figure it out. After all, I have done it, so I’m sure anyone else can, too!
Start your own journey as a blogger today!
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea if you don’t like coffee), turn on your favorite “let’s do it – music” and just go through all the steps until you are done! Setting up a blog can be done within 20 minutes if you are a quick decision maker. Don’t let doubts or fear of failure stop you. If you really want to do it, give it a try! It is much easier than you think!
These are the 4 steps that you need to complete when you are setting up a blog for the first time:
Starting a blog is a bit like building a house (but luckily it is muss cheaper!). First you need to buy land to place your house upon, which is your domain. The url of your domain (e.g. www.something.com) is the address of your house.
You need not only land, but also rooms to live in, so you buy hosting space from a provider, the landlord, who rents you not only his land (the domain) but also a house to put your things in.
Next you need to install electricity and water etc. in the new house you just bought. Installing a website building software (e.g. WordPress) on your website is pretty much like that, because after that you can start to create specialized rooms (pages) like a kitchen or bathroom in your house.
Your house is still pretty grey, so you hire a painter and a decorator to make it look beautiful. Choosing a theme for your blog in the customizing menu of your website builder would be the equivalent action in the virtual world.
After this, you buy some household appliances like a vacuum cleaner, curtains, tools and a lawnmower to enable you to further enhance things in your house. This would be the plugins that you can download separately from other websites and install them on your blog to be able to add more functions like buttons, galleries, newsletters, comment sections etc.
In the following guide I will explain in detail how to do each step and which things you should consider while you are doing it.
Are you ready!? Let’s start!
1. Decide what to blog about
You probably already have a topic in mind that you would like to start a blog about.
A very important thing to consider when starting a new blog is whether to write about a broad topic or to settle into a special niche. If you want to write about “travel”, for example, you will have the problem that many other people are blogging about the same subject, too. You will have to compete with them about keywords in google search results, about readers who are generally interested in travel and so on.
However, if you pick a niche topic, like “budget travel with children”, you can become the specialist of that niche and gain top positions in search results for this particular subject which is still of interest to a broad audience but more specifically tailored to the interest of a certain group of travelers.
2. Come up with a name for your blog
Your name should be unique, easy to remember and associated with the topic of your blog.
An easy way to come up with a good name for your domain is to brainstorm all words related to your topic and try to combine two words or one of this word with your name, or to take half of an easily recognizable word and give it another ending to create a neologism.
For example, I chose the word “explore”, because that is what my travel style is all about and added the ending “tic” by mixing it with some easily associated adjectives with a positive connotation, like “fantastic” or “artistic” to conjure up the unique name “exploristic”, which no other travel blogger had yet thought of using.
To check if the name you want to use for your blog is still available, you can use Knowem, a free to use online tool that checks all domains, email addresses, social media accounts and so on and tell you if that name is already used by somebody else or f it is still available.
If most social media accounts with your name are already occupied, it might be better, to think of another name.
You want to use your proper blog name for all accounts associated with it and not something like travelblogger123456, because names like that are hard to remember, look unprofessional and will get mixed up with other results if somebody searches in google for your blog. So be creative and choose wisely.
3. Decide whether to buy your own domain or use a free blogging network
While it is possible to create a blog on a free blogging platform like blogger, tumblr, wordpress, or yahoo, I recommend taking the extra effort to get your own domain and hosting, especially if you are serious about turning your blog into a business at some point.
There are 2 simple reasons why you should get your own website instead of a blogging space in a free blogging network:
a) If your blog is hosted on a such a platform, it does not really belong to you. It is part of someone else’s domain and belongs thus not to you, but to them. If you have a blog on a free network, they can delete or sell your blog whenever they want, because it is hosted on their domain. It is like building a house on someone else’s property. If you want to monetize your blog later, you might have to pay a share to your blogging network, or worse, they simply don’t allow you to do this.
b) It does look unprofessional if your blog is just one of many in a network of amateur-bloggers. The free blogging platforms are made for people, who just want to give blogging a try without investing much time or money into it. You can only choose between some default templates to customize your blog visually and are limited to the few plugins that come with it. With your own domain, you can install different themes, plugins from other companies and other tools to create something new and individual that looks professional and interesting.
If you decide to go for a free blogging network, you can skip step 4 and 5, but remember, even though this might save you some work today, if your blog turns out to be successful and you would like to go professional after all, it will be a lot more work to transfer all the content you have already created from the network to a proper domain.
4. Register your domain name and buy a hosting package
Next, you need to register your unique domain name, before somebody else does! Act quickly, or you will have to start the whole process of coming up with a unique, fitting, easy to remember name that nobody else yet thought of again.
To register your domain name, you go to a website of a hosting provider of your choice and buy a domain name and some space on their server (hosting) to put your content online.
Again, you have to make a choice here, whether you want to have it quick and easy or if you are willing to learn one or two new things in order to have more freedom to make your blog more individual and special later on.
My blog is hosted by 1&1, which had a special offer for starter packages for bloggers going on at the time. Other providers I can recommend nowadays are Weebly, Glowhost or WPEngine that are very popular with most other bloggers I know.
You can choose one of the three providers below to buy a domain and hosting space:
Weebly is the easiest option out of those three, perfect for blogging beginners.
Starter packages from only 10$ a month.
You get the domain for free when you buy a hosting plan
You get unlimited storing space on their server
The plans come also with a drag & drop website builder, which is an easier option to build a website than using WordPress.
They manage all the technical stuff for you.
You have less choice in terms of themes and design, as Weebly only uses their own plugins whereas any website built with WordPress can use a variety of third-party plugins and tools that give you more possibilities in designing your blog.
I recommend you go with Weebly if you want to have a professional blog, but are terrified of anything to do with coding and just want to start writing as quickly as possible.
Check the availability of your desired domain name here with their domain name finder: Discover the best domain for your brand
Your second option is Glowhost, which is another provider that offers cheap starter packages for new bloggers with domain and hosting included.
Their deals start at very affordable 4,95$ a month for a domain with hosting package.
Unlimited storage space & unlimited bandwith
With the starter package you get a 75$ Google Adwords credit
Free basic website building tool included that is also compatible with WordPress plugins
You can get 2 months for free with my coupon code, including also a 91 day money back guarantee.
It takes some time until your new account gets activated, usually about 1 hour according to user reviews
I recommend to choose Glowhost if you want to start blogging easily without investing too much money, but with the possibilities of an independent WordPress blog.
Check their plan options here: Plan Options Glowhost
Last but not least is option number 3: WPEngine. They offer domain+hosting from 29$ a month for a personal plan.
Most professional bloggers go with WPEngine, as their technical support is very reliable.
More technical options.
WordPress included in package, easy to install with one click
Option to buy a second website or extra speed with the starter package without choosing a higher plan
You can get 2 months for free and 20% off with my discount link
Their plans are more expensive than Glowhost or Weebly plans.
You get only 10GB of local storage
Limit of 25000 visitors a month
If you want to start out more professional building a blog using WordPress, going with WPEngine probably gives you the best technical options and advanced possibilities. Only the limited visitors can force you to upgrade to a higher plan at some point. However, to be honest, it will take a long time until a new blog gets that much traffic, so before your first year ends, this will hardly be an issue (unless you are a genius entrepreneur, who knows? ;))
With a referral from my site you can also get a 20% discount and 2 months for free if you buy your first annual plan going through this link: Discounted personal plan.
5. Find the right theme for your blog
Once you have completed the WordPress setup, it is time to customize your blog by choosing a theme.
This decision is most important for the future of your blog since the theme determines which plugins and design options are possible on your website.
The best course of action is to choose a theme from a popular developing company that will continue to optimize their themes with updates so it will be able to work with the newest plugins.
I took one of the free themes included in my WordPress package called “Colormag” by Themegrill, because it supported automatic display optimization for mobile phones and tablets and included the option to display lots of photographs.
Think about what you are planning to do with your blog when deciding on a theme.
- Does this theme visually fit with the image of my blog? Does it look fancy/happy/serious and does that fit with the topics I am going to write about?
- What options do I have to customize it? Can I put pictures in the places I want to? Can I change the color? The font?
- Which plugins does it support?
- Will it make my blog look like any other blog or can I make my blog stick out from the masses with certain features?
If it is a wordpress theme it will most likely support all plugins you can download from the wordpress store. But if you plan to do something special, google first if that is possible with that theme, since there are certain limits for each theme.
If you want more choice than just the default themes, you can check out Cyberchimps. They offer a big variety of themes for wordpress that can make your blog special: CyberChimps All Premium WordPress Themes Package.
6. Install plugins and try out some blogging tools
After choosing the theme you can browse through the plugin section and start installing some basic plugins to teach your website certain skills, like displaying a gallery, adding social media follow-buttons, creating a newsletter, adding a comment-section etc.
It might take some time to think of all the things you want your website to do. Best start by looking at your favorite blogs and make a list of things you want to have on your website. Then google which plugin can make it possible e.g. “how to add a gallery to WordPress X theme” and install the plugins you need. You don’t have to do that all at once. I added plugins little by little while already writing my blog.
After all, content is the most important thing about your blog, so as soon as you have wordpress installed and are able to post something, don’t be afraid to just start and fix the aesthetic problems later. It will take some time anyway before your blog will be ranking high enough in google search results for people to find it by accident when you are not actively promoting it, so during your first weeks, you can experiment with the settings without worrying that someone will see the mess before your blog is ready to be seen by the public.
Write your first blog posts and take your time to figure out the possibilities of your theme by changing settings and formats, adding plugins and widgets until your blog starts to look the way you want it to.
Don’t worry if you don’t master all the technical aspects from the beginning.
I think all bloggers started by reading many tutorials and failing several times before getting it right. Always remember that the most important thing about your blog are your words. If you can write about things that interest you and your readers, looks don’t matter that much.
If you are too impatient to figure out wordpress and want your blog to be perfect right away there is also the option to hire a technical assistant who can set up everything for you the way you want it. Go to Fiverr or Upwork and post a request for what you want to have done and get someone to do it for you for 5-10$ an hour.
This is it. You are done! You have created your own blog! Congratulations!
I can’t wait to hear all about your business-babies! Show me your new websites by linking to them in the comments and feel free to ask me (not too difficult) questions about anything related to starting a blog! I am always happy to help if I can. 🙂
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