How to Start a Blog in 2018 (the Only Guide You Need + Videos)

How to Start a Blog in 2018 with Videos

A few days ago, one of my friends, who has a startup, asked me to help him set up his site on WordPress and then set start a blog on it.

It took me a few hours to set everything for him, where a major part of my time was spent explaining each step to him.

When you first start a blog, it could be overwhelming (especially if you're doing it on our own).

So, I thought it would be a good idea to create a simple checklist that one can follow when starting a new blog.

To make it even easier, I have recorded videos showing you the exact steps to take when starting a blog/website. For most sections, there is also an FAQ section where I list common queries I hear about that topic.

So here are the exact steps to follow when starting a blog (in the given sequence).

Note: This guide is for people who want to start a self-hosted blog or a website. This would require you to invest in the necessary tools and services. If you're looking for a free blog, this article is not meant for you. 

1. If you don't have a domain, buy one

This is the first step when you want to start a blog or a website.

Your domain name is what your website URL that will be used to access your site. 

You can buy domain from NameCheap or Godaddy (as these are relatively cheaper). Remember to get privacy protection for your domain, else your email would be visible to anyone who does a domain lookup on Who is. On NameCheap, you can get privacy protection for free.

While there is no restriction on what domain name to choose, it's better to have a name that reflects what that website/blog is about.

I booked the domain name CraftOfBlogging.com for this site as it's about blogging.

Also, it's better to have a domain name which is short and easy to remember. 

Below are some common queries about getting a domain name.

Which domain extension should I get? (.com vs others)

Are there any SEO benefits to having a .com domain? Does it rank better?

For how long should you register the domain name?

What if I am targeting a specific region/country? Should I get the extension of that country?

2. Get a Reliable Hosting

Once you get a domain name, you only have an address to a website.

For your website to work, it needs to have content (articles/videos), images, and many other things that we will cover later.

You need a place to store all these files. And that's what hosting does.

When you take hosting space, it allows you to host your website (and all the files related to your site) on a server.

It's important to choose a hosting service that is reliable and safe. After all, you don't want your website to be unreachable or slow (or worse - hacked).

When I started my blog 5 years ago, I took shared hosting from GoDaddy. As my traffic increased, I realized Godaddy was not going to work for me. My blog was often unreachable and sometime painfully slow.

I still remained with Godaddy for a few years as I worried about the technical challenges of moving away from one hosting company to the other. I had on clue how to migrate a site and what to do in case anything goes wrong.

Until SiteGround came along.

SiteGround made it look so easy - easy to a technically challenged chump like me. It took only a few hours for them to migrate my site (and there was no downtime at all).

Now all my sites are hosted with SiteGround (earlier I had some hosted with BlueHost and HostGator as well).

I recommend getting the hosting from SiteGround as the hosting high-quality and their support is world-class.

If you already have a blog, you can migrate it to SiteGround for free (when you take there GrowBig or GoGeek plan).

Click here to get 60% OFF on SiteGround hosting.

Below is a video where I show you the options available in SiteGround and how to go about getting the hosting from it.

Below are some of the common queries I hear about web hosting.

Would a good hosting improve my site speed?

What are the things I need to know when buying hosting?

What does shared hosting mean?

3. Install WordPress

WordPress is a content management system that allows you to manage your blog.

Let's say you want write a blog post, where do you do that? You need a place to write those words... right?

WordPress give you an interface where you can manage your blog and add content to it. 

With WordPress, you can create new posts and pages, add images and videos, change the look and feel of your site, add plugins to get enhanced functionalities (as we'll see later in this article), etc.

Once you have the hosting, you need to install WordPress (it's FREE).

In the video below, I show you how to install WordPress in case you have the hosting from SiteGround. The process would be the same from any hosting provider. 

Below are some of the common queries I hear about WordPress.

Are there any alternatives to WordPress?

Should I have www in my website URL? 

4. Install the SSL Certificate

An SSL certificate has gained importance in the past few years. It makes your website/blog be seen as safe. 

Once you install an SSL certificate, you'll see a green padlock when opening your site.

Start a Blog - Green Padlock

Now it's not just about the green padlock. The world is moving towards sites with SSL and sooner or later you'll have to get one.

And this is specially important if you collect payment information or email address on your blog.

Apart from this, it's also a ranking factor (not a big one, but one nonetheless).

The good news is that with SiteGround, getting an SSL certificate is as simple as clicking a button (literally).

Watch the video below on how to enable SSL on your site:

I have experience with Godaddy and Hostgator, and installing an SSL certificate was a pain with these hosting companies. I had to pay for the SSL, there was minimal help available, and the process seemed complex.

Another area where SiteGround excels (as the SSL certificate is free and has one-click installer).

Does having an SSL certificate impacts ranking?

I already have a blog. Would adding SSL (moving from http to https) impact my rankings?

5. Configure WordPress Settings

When you install WordPress for the first time, there are a few settings you need to specify.

This is a one time activity, and once done, you're all set.

Below is a WordPress walk-through video where I cover the basic settings to do and the stuff you can do in WordPress:

6. Get a Good Lightweight Theme

A theme is what decides how your blog looks and works.

When you install WordPress, you get a default theme to begin with. While there is nothing wrong with it, it's not very friendly and it's the default theme (so everyone who's lazy to not change it has it).

Since a theme has a huge impact on how your site looks and the speed of your site, I recommend making an investment in getting a good light-weight theme.

I have experimented with a lot of different themes, and my favorite one is GeneratePress.

It's super simple to use and loads extremely fast.

In the video below, I cover how to install the GeneratePress theme and how to customize it.

Click here to get GeneratePress

While I highly recommend getting a premium theme like GeneratePress, in case you're not in a position to make this investment, you can install and use their free version. It allows some customization and can get you started.

Does a theme have an impact on site speed?

7. Install the Essential Plugins

WordPress is an open-source content management system.

While it's quite basic when used in isolation, there are a lot of plugins (Free and Paid) you can use to enhances WordPress functionalities.

Related: How to o install a plugin in WordPress.

Here is a list of some essential plugins that you should consider installing as soon as you have WordPress installed.

1. Akismet

No one enjoys going through thousands on spam comments and identifying the genuine ones. But that's what you'd have to do if you don't do anything about it.

Akismet applies a protection that filters out spam comments.

It's a free plugin and all you need to do is create an account and add your site to it.

2. Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is a free plugin that helps you make your article search engine friendly.

This works as a compass guiding you in the right direction when writing articles. There are specific factors it checks for, and tells you whether you've done it right or not.

Note that you don't need Yoast to rank in search engines. Also, you don't need to get everything right every time. It could become an obsession to get all the dots green, but you shouldn't try too much. If something looks good to you and Yoast disagree, feel free to ignore it. I rarely get all the dots green myself.

Apart from assisting in writing   SEO-friendly articles, Yoast plugin also helps you in many other ways:

  1. It generates sitemap for you site (we will see later in this article why this is useful and what to do with it).
  2. It allows you to specify what to be shown in search engines and what to hide. For example, you may want to hide Privacy Policy or Contact Us pages from indexing and showing up in search engines.
  3. It helps you construct how the post looks like when shared on Facebook/Twitter.

3. WP Smush

WP Smush is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to reduce the size of your images.

When you upload a heavy image on your page, it will lead to a higher load time. Wp Smush automatically reduces the size and helps you load your site faster.

While this is a good plugin, I recommend you don't just rely on this plugin to do all the smushing.

Before uploading an image to WordPress, try to minimize the size of the image. I use a free service - TinyPNG - to make my images lighter.

4. Easy Table of Contents

This plugin allows you to quickly create table of contents in an article.

It goes through all the headers (H1, H2, H3..) that you have in the article, and automatically generates a table of content. 

This plugin allows a lot of customization. For example, if you only want the H2 and H3 to appear in the table of content list, you can specify that. 

You can also change the text of a heading so that it shows something different in the ToC.

These are just some of the plugins to start with. Based on what you need, you can use plugins made for it.

Before installing a plugin, make sure you check that it has a sizable number of downloads and have been updated recently. 

Read More: Creating Table of Contents in WordPress Posts/Pages.

Is there a limit to the number of plugin I can install?

8. Add Google Analytics Code to Your Site

Google Analytics allows you to keep a track of how many people are visiting your site, which pages are getting most traffic, what country is the traffic coming from, what channels are sending the traffic, etc.

This is a free service from Google and all you need to do is place a simple code in your site to start the analytics going.

9. Add Your Site + Sitemaps to Google Search Console

 A sitemap is a collection of links of all the content on your site.

  • A post sitemap would have links to all the posts.
  • A page sitemap would have links to all the pages..
  • A category sitemap would have links to all the categories.

You get the idea.

Google Search Console is again a free service from Google that allows you to accurately keep track of search engine analytics.

Within search console, you can check what pages are getting traffic, what keywords are these pages ranking for, what position are these ranking for a keyword, etc. (allow it a few weeks to get the data when you add your site for the first time)

As your site grow, this information becomes a goldmine. You can use this to improve existing articles or create new ones.

Adding a site to Google Search Console may seem a bit complex for someone who has just started a blog. 

Here is a video where I show the exact steps on adding a site to Google Search Console.

Conclusion

I have tried to cover a lot of ground in this article (and the videos).

While the entire process to start a blog and setting it up is quite straight forward, if you're new to this world, it may feel overwhelming. And to add to it, there are always multiple options available for all tools and services.

I truly believe in the tools and services I have recommended and I use these on all my sites. But I still encourage you to look at alternatives (if you have time and you want to) and make informed decisions.

If you think this tutorial lacks something obvious or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments section.

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