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How to Start Your Own Blog (When You Know Nothing About Blogging)

How to start your own blog

Starting a blog. Sounds like a good idea, right?

I mean, everybody has a blog now. I have one. Your friend has one. Even your grannie is probably blogging herself away now too, putting content online and thumbing her way through Facebook.

So why not start your own blog yourself?

As easy and lucrative as this idea sounds, there are a lot of things to keep in mind before you jump in. I started my own blog back in 2015, as a way to distract myself from, well, myself when I was living in Ecuador. I also wanted to get myself into digital marketing, so I thought maybe blogging could teach me something useful. 

And it did.

Now I can safely say that:

  1. I understand the ins and outs of the digital landscape way better
  2. I got some extra useful digital skills (like: basic HTML, WordPress, SEO, content marketing, etc)
  3.  I have something really good to show off on my CV (my blog actually got me my first job — as well as my second job. And my third job)
  4. I made new friends through travel blogging (like Maria from Traveling Buzz and Amelie from Mostly Amelie — I love you guys ❤️)
  5. I saw a few countries for free because hey, national tourism boards thought I was cool
  6. I sometimes get to earn a few cents off my blog
  7. I developed my own writing style, which is kinda nice
  8.  I get to be teased by my friends a lot (they now call me a “travel blogger” instead of my first name)

Now, if you also want to be called a “travel blogger” instead of your first name, read on! Because in today’s article I’ll walk you though creating and setting up your own own blog, step by step.

Sounds good? Then let’s not waste time, it’s going to be a massive read.

How to start your own blog (when you know nothing about blogging)

How to start your own blog: a step by step guide

Two things to keep in mind before you start: don’t expect to make a shitload of money. Also, blogging is a hell of a lot of work. In fact, the more you’re into it, the more work there is to do.

You begin, however, with this simple step:

STEP 1: Deciding upon a blog concept

What is your blog going to be about? Travel? Puppies? Fashion? Cocktails? Mocktails? Something else?

Originally, my blog was all about travel, for instance: I began writing about my Ecuadorian expat experience, and the purpose of my blog was to show Ecuador through the eyes of an expat.

Later on, when I moved back to Europe, I started adding other destinations, like Germany, Latvia, Bulgaria, etc.

After, I also began writing personal stuff, opening up about depression, personal struggles, and so on.

And most lately, I branched out into blogging itself, sharing blogging tips in articles like the one you’re reading now.

So basically, my blog is primarily a selection of travel guides, with the focus on personal storytelling, and the small addition of blogging.

To develop a concept for your own blog, I suggest you take something big, narrow it down, and present it from specific angles. 

For instance: if you want to create a blog about dogs, you can narrow it down to dog training, traveling with dogs, organic dog food, dog yoga, or any other specific interest that you have about the subject. Or, if you want to blog about linguistics, then you maybe would want to focus on a particular language or a particular aspect of it (like neurolinguistics).

In other words, make your blog concept specific enough to be geeky. Geeky is sexy, after all.

After you know what the concept is, proceed to Step Two:

 

STEP 2: Choosing the name

The Russian Abroad — what could sound easier, right? And yet, it took me about 1,5 months to come up with the name for my travel blog.

They say, the way you name your ship is the way it’s going to row. You have to choose a name that is:

Instantly understood
Easy (and catchy enough) to remember
Not too long (because then it won’t be catchy enough)
Tells what the blog is about (aka covers the blog concept)
— Has a personal descriptive element (aka has an angle)

Let’s take my own blog name, for instance: The Russian Abroad. First, it’s easy to remember, it has only three words, it tells you that it’s related to travel (“abroad), and it describes me personally (I’m Russian).

Or, let’s take Nomadic Matt: again, easy to remember, it is even shorter (just two words), it immediately explains that it’s related to travel (“nomadic”) and has a personal characteristic (Matt is the blogger’s real name).

Final example that I love: World of Wanderlust. It’s the same story again: the name is sweet and short, has an immediate reference to travel (“wanderlust”) and has a universal, wholesome characteristic (“world”), which made it easier for Brooke (the girl behind the blog) to create a brand out of her platform.

Take the time you need to choose a perfect name, better a bit more, than a bit less. Also, you should pick something that hasn’t been taken already. You can run a quick domain check on sites like GoDaddy, DreamHost or Name-dot-com, and they will tell you what’s still available. Opt for a dot-com end, unless you’re a non-profit organization (then it’s dot-org), a startup (dot-io), a university (dot-edu), or a pornsite (dot-net — seriously, who has dot-net?!).

Once you’ve done that, carry onto the next step:

STEP 3: Choosing your CMS

CMS, or a content management system, is basically a playground on which you’ll be building your blog. There are different CMS’es to choose from — wordpress.com and wordpress.org, Jumla, Drupal, blogger.com. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, but the most ultimate CMS that you’ll hear everyone recommend you choose is, of course, wordpress.org.

The .org version of WordPress gives you more power over your blog than the .com version, so I definitely recommend you use that one. You’ll have the power to customize your blog theme up to the littlest pixel and be the one who chooses your own web host.

My advice: don’t spend too much time on this step and just go for wordpress.org. You’ll never make a mistake with this one. 

After this, continue onto the next step:

STEP 4: Getting a web host

If the CMS was a playground for you blog, the web host is the landlord from whom you’ll be renting that playground. This is where you’ll host your beautiful www.blog.com, which, in other words, will be your postal address in the vast land of the Internet.

Now, choosing the right host is often the hardest task. There are myriads of them: Bluehost, GoDaddy, Dream Host — the list goes on and on.

When I started my own travel blog, I went with Bluehost, as, at that time, there were the only ones officially recommended by WordPress. However, Bluehost is a piece of shit (!!!) — they’re the worlds’ BIGGEST web host, but yeah, they’re also the world’s SHITTIEST one, too. I’ve been through a lot with Bluehost — crashed servers, poor technical support, horrible customer service, raised prices — and I finally decided to say good bye earlier this year and went to SiteGround instead.

SiteGround is also officially recommended by WordPress now, so it’s a good choice by all means. They also have the nicest (!) support team, which are polite, speak proper English (take no offense, Bluehost), and move their asses fast (again, no offense, Bluehost).

They’re easy to set up, too:

  1. First, you’d need to choose your hosting plan. Start with the cheapest — your blog is a brand new baby, so there’s no need to buy it expensive stuff as it will grow out of it soon anyways.
  2. 

Then, register your domain/blog name.
  3. 
Next, prepare some money, as buying a domain and getting a host will be your first monetary investment in your blog. (Congrats, by the way!)

How to start your own blog: choose the right web host!

On SiteGround, registering a domain costs 11.95 EUR — it becomes your property once you’ve registered it, by the way, and you can later on “take” it to any other domain if you choose to make a move.

The price for the hosting service is paid annually, which will be around 80 EUR per year.

So basically, you can have your blog hosted and maintained for about 100 EUR per year — the minimum you should have if you want to start your own blog.

Want to give SiteGround a try? Get it here! 😉


STEP 5: Installing WordPress

Okay, now that you have a host, you need to install WordPress within that host. 

You have two options: ask the nice peeps from SiteGroud to install it for you (for a fee, of course) or save money and do it yourself.

There’s a really good article on how to install WordPress on SiteGround, but here’s a short recap:

  1. Sign into SiteGround.
  2. Head over to “My Accounts” on the top navbar
  3. Click “Manage Account” under the appropriate domain
  4. Go to your cPanel
  5. Find the little WordPress icon and click on it
  6. Hit “Install Now”
  7. Customize your settings (Important!!)
  8. Complete installation
  9. Sign into Worpdress
    Via a link like this: http://www.yourblog.com/wp-admin”

THIS IS IT!

 You actually got a blog now! 👏 

If it doesn’t feel like it yet, though, it’s because you need to customize it and make it look like a blog.

For this, go to the next, pre-final, step:

STEP 6: Getting a theme & structuring your blog



Okay, so you’ve got a name, a registered domain, and a host. Now, it’s time to get a blog template.

A template would, of course, depend on your personal style — even though, however, there are certain associations to keep in mind. When I end up on a pastel, girly, pinky blog, I almost immediately associate it with a food or baking blog. If I arrive on a bold, strong, a bit corporate-looking theme (that often has either red or blue incorporated in it), I think of it as a marketing blog.

There are millions of way to design your blog.

You can build a template yourself, if you have the skills.

You can choose a free WordPress template and customize it.

Alternatively, you can also browse through places like Etsy or themeforest.net, which is my preferred resource for finding templates. You just need to keep in mind that the theme you buy will be:

  • 100% responsive
  • Clean and simple

Don’t get anything too complicated, that looks too ‘busy’ or heavy on the eye!

To really see the template in action, I suggest you put a few dummy Lorem Ipsum articles on your blog first, with stock photography (you can get it on Unsplash). Then it would be easier for you to see what works and what doesn’t.

Themeforest is bloggers ultimate resource for finding templates. Everyone I know (me included) bought a template there, one time or another. Click here to browse through templates! 


Also, this is the moment when you have to think about navigation on your blog, such as the menu bar and the widgets.

A good menu bar is one of THE most important things on your blog — and yet, it’s often overlooked. It needs to be found immediately and provide an opportunity for your future readers to easily surf through the content, find specific info, and receive a quick overview of what you’re writing about.

In other words, a good menu bar should add clarity to your blog and improve the navigation experience.

See the menu bar on my own blog?





The Russian Abroad, menu navbar exampleIt has 5 important categories:



  • An About page, where people can read the story behind the blog and also learn about who I am.
  • 

It has a Travel category, with several sub-categories devoted to particular places.


  • Then it also has a Blogging category, where people can find blogging tips or food for thought.


  • Finally, there’s Reviews, where you can read my experience from the tours, hotels, and various travel services, and a Work With Me page for any potential collabs.

Additionally, there are social media buttons for people to be able to find me on other channels (we’ll get to social media marketing next time), and, quite importantly, a search option.

It should be (relatively) easy to come up with proper categories for your blog, if you’ve fully developed a blog concept (see Point 1).

After this, go to the widget area of your blog.

The widget area (usually placed on the right side) is, again, the place to provide easy navigation. 

What you put there, will really depend on you. However, you’d probably want to include a little Hello, My Name Is note there, maybe provide a list of some of your most popular posts, maybe create an ad banner, or put an email subscription form there — or connect your social media accounts.

Speaking of which…

STEP 7: Connecting on social (optional)

But Olga, aren’t you rushing into this? My blog isn’t ready for the world to see yet!

Exactly, my friend — YET.

You DO want to be prepared for fame. What if you start blogging and your very first post goes viral? (Okay, that won’t happen, but still. Don’t you want to be ready?)

You don’t need to create a bunch of social media profiles for your blog just yet. But perhaps getting a Facebook page — which you can still keep private until your blog is officially launched — could be a good idea. This way, you’d just have it all set up from the ground, and, if the time comes, you could add more social profiles as you grow. 

This step is optional, though. If you choose, you can forget about social now and do it later — just remember that you’ll HAVE to do it at a certain point and include your your navbars.

And now, let’s proceed to the final step — installing plugins!

STEP 8: Installing essential plugins

I know you’re tired. But we’re almost done!

Now that you have a fully functioning blog with a beautiful theme, there’s one last thing you want to do. That is, installing some nice WordPress plugins.

A plugin is an extra add-on on WordPress that will expand the power of your blog. You never want to have too many of them — in this case, less is more. 

Without much ado, I recommend you just get these ones straight away:

W3 Total Cache (this plugin will speed up your blog)
AMP (this one will boost your blog’s mobile performance)
WP Smush and/or EWWW Image Optimizer (and this one will automatically reduce the weight of your images, which, in turn, will also speed up your blog)

Last but not least, you’d also want to install Yoast SEO, which is ultimately the best plugin to lay essential content-SEO foundations for your blog. But that, my friends, is a whole different story.

This is it!

You have a blog now! Excited?

At this point, you probably realized that starting a blog is more of a time than money investment. If you’re a complete blogging newbie, it might take you a few days, not hours, to set everything up. When I started myself, it literally took me two days to figure out how to navigate through WordPress alone — and I didn’t have anybody telling me about such things like “CMS” or “plugins” (plu-whaat?!).

I learned everything through trial and error, so I’m quite excited to be sharing with you this 2,5K-word monster of an article today! I do hope you found it helpful to start your own blog 😊 Good luck!

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