One of the most common questions I receive on Mashup Mom is: How can I start a blog of my own? So, I thought it might be useful to write up some basic step-by-step instructions for blogging beginners to help you get started — I’ve had so much fun with it over the past 7 years, and you should, too! Whether you’re looking to blog as a hobby or as a business, the basic steps for how to start a blog are the same.
If you are, however, thinking about blogging as a business you might also want to check out this post on how to monetize a blog.
Step One: Choose a Topic
Choosing a topic is easier said than done, right? Keep the following in mind while brainstorming topics:
- What are you passionate about?
- What else is out there on your topic, and what unique twist can you offer?
- What do you see yourself writing about every week for a month, a year, five years? Is there enough to say on your given topic to sustain your blog indefinitely?
- Are you going to pick a broad subject or a narrow specialty?
- Who’s your target market? Who are you writing to, and who will want to read it?
- What are your reasons for starting a blog? Do you want to promote an existing business? Make a little money on the side? Just share your opinions and stories?
Pick something that you’re interested in, but also think about what your readers will be interested in. The best blog topic will combine both. On Mashup Mom, for instance, my tagline is “real food meets real life” — with a broader focus of frugal living and healthier eating on a budget. Try to pick a topic that gives you lots to talk about, but a clear focus.
Step Two: Choose a Web Host
You’ll need to pick a web host, or a place to store your blog. This is where your blog will live, and you can think of it kind of like your blog’s home on the Internet. Start out someplace like Bluehost or HostGator, which will help you get going easily — and at the time of this post either starts as low as just $3.95 a month.
You can go ahead and pick the Basic Bluehost plan if you’re on a tight budget, because you can upgrade at any time — the Plus plan, however, offers more features and won’t hit limits as quickly.
Step Three: Pick a Domain
A domain is just another word for web address: Your blog’s name on the Internet, or what people will type in their browser to come visit your site. For instance, MashupMom.com is my domain here. You’ll want to pick something that is not too long, easy to say, and easy to spell, and the best domain name will be easy to remember and reflect your blog’s name or message.
Bluehost offers you a free domain (for one year) when you sign up and walk you through the process of claiming it (or using an existing domain if you have one already). You might want to use GoDaddy to research whether your preferred domain name is available before starting the Bluehost signup process, so that you’re ready to go and not on the spot to pick. Use a .com domain name if possible, because that’s what’s most familiar to people.
Step Four: Set up WordPress
There are a bunch of blogging platforms around, but for the best standardization, functionality, community, and versatility you’re going to want to use WordPress. WordPress is also great for beginners, and has tons of free themes available to help you personalize the look of your blog.
WordPress does offer hosted and self-hosted options:
- Hosted Blogs: Wordpress.com will host your blog for free — but you’ll be more limited in what you can do, work with no support, and they’ll show ads on your blog and keep the revenue. (Most importantly: If a third party hosts your blog for free, you don’t own your blog, and they can shut you down at any time, for any reason. Here’s a recent example of just that on Google’s Blogger platform.)
- Self-Hosted Blogs: Recommended, and what we’re talking about here. You get what you pay for, sometimes. 🙂
If you sign up with Bluehost, they offer one-click WordPress installation (as shown above) and 24/7 support, which is one reason to go with them for your first blog. After you sign up and receive your login information via email, just log in to what they call your cpanel to get started. Pick the “hosting” tab, log in, and click the “Install WordPress” icon to get going. They’ll walk you through all the steps from there.
- Note: Whatever web host you go with, make sure they offer one-click WordPress installation!
Step Five: Write!
If you’ve used a word processor or email program, the basics of WordPress will look pretty familiar to you. Go ahead and play around with it and publish some test posts before announcing your new blog to the world — and be sure to show it to friends & family first to get input.
Hope this was useful!
If these beginning basics have been useful to you as you think about starting your own blog, watch for further installments in this series and more advanced tips on how to start a blog — and how to run a successful blog — in the future. 🙂