Ever wondered how to start a blog? You are not alone, a few people do.
Blogging is an excellent way to let the world know about your passion. I love WordPress so I started this blog.
You may love cats (not judging) you can write about them. As long as you love writing and know it is a massive commitment. You can do it.
This is a very comprehensive guide and provides everything you will need. Every section provides a step by step guide to get things done with minimal troubles.
Screenshot and short videos are provided to avoid confusion. You will have a professional looking blog by the time you reach at the end of this page.
A Quick Overview
We will first find and register a domain name for your blog. Then get a web hosting service that will take your blog live on the world wide web.
Together we will find a theme that will fit your niche. Installation of plugins that help you run your blog. Write and publish first blog post. Then tips on how to market your blog.
There will be much more and we will get to the details in due time.
Without further ado, let’s start a blog!
Table of Content
Find a domain name
There are billions of websites on the world wide web. The domain name is what helps find them in the crowd. Domain is something you type in the browser to get a website.
Before jumping into buying a domain, we need to understand which extension? You may have seen domain names always end with an extension. Such as, .com, .co.nz.
All of those extensions have a meaning and a purpose. Each organisation/individual should get extension that best describes them.
For instance, a business should get a .co.nz domain extension. Where a not-for-profit organisation goes for .org.nz extension. It is important to find the right extension to avoid wasting money and time.
The level are also important to understand in order to find the right domain. There are three domain levels. The .nz, .co and wpcube in the example above.
In New Zealand it is now possible to register second level domains as well. Such as business.nz or someone.kiwi.
This image will help you understand the purpose of the extensions.
The above extensions are for New Zealand only. If your blog is going to target audience worldwide then go for the generic extensions.
What makes a good domain name?
When finalising a domain it is great to keep the following in mind.
- Picking something relevant that makes sense. You will be writing about cats and choose a name that in no way relates to cats.
- Make it short and sweet. Something easy to remember rather than ilovewritingaboutcatsandtheirneeds.co.nz
- Always avoid numbers and dash symbols
- Use a relevant domain extension. If it is a personal blog go for .co.nz / .nz / .kiwi. Going for .org.nz is not sensible.
- You will be writing the blog so choose something that will well present the blog.
- Think tomorrow. Would you still stick by that name tomorrow?
- Avoid names that already are well-known.
Read our detailed article about what domains are and how find the right one.
Check domain name availability
Now that you have finalised a domain name, let’s check if it is available.
- Go to Crazydomains
- Enter your desired name in the search box
- Hit enter
Is it available? Skip to next step of how to start a blog. Not available? Keep reading.
What if the domain name is taken? Don’t panic. There are few things you can do get either the desired name or something similar or better.
- Go to the website and see if there is any content on it. People buy domains and resell them for profit. They usually put a message on the website that domain is for sale.
- If there is content, check if person/business is actively managing/updating it. If there has not been an update for over a year – good chance they don’t want/need it anymore.
- The website is active. I say, nothing is wrong with asking nicely. You never know they might say they don’t need it anymore.
- No website, no details. Try the domain name marketplaces to see if it is listed there. Like SnapNames, Sedo, Flippa
- Try other extensions – if .co.nz is taken try .nz or .kiwi or .kiwi.nz domain extensions.
- Add/remove/replace a word or character – sometimes you can get away with names like 12100.co.nz instead of 1to100.co.nz
How to purchase the domain name?
Unlike other domain extension not all domain registrars can sell .nz domains. There are very few .nz sellers. We will be purchasing from Crazydomains, the cheapest among all.
Some of the reasons we are going with Crazydomains to purchase the domain.
- Cheapest price, starting at $17.95 NZD per year
- The price doesn’t double up after first year
- Good live chat support
- Phone support available 0800 number
First step to how to start blog is to purchase a domain.
- Go to Crazy Domains
- Enter your desired domain name in the search bar.
- Hit search
- It should come back with ‘Good News your domain is available!’.
- Double check the address you entered. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes. If there are any mistakes click Search again
- It comes up as 10 years by default. Change it as you need.
- Then click Add to Cart button. Then Go to Cart.
On the next page review what you are buying. They may also offer some free stuff, take it or leave it, up to you.
They offered me a Free Website Builder which we don’t need. This blog will be build on WordPress therefore that builder is of no use.
They also offered a free domain extension .site for one year. If you believe you will need it you can always take the offer. Remember, you will need to pay after a year to renew it.
If everything looks fine click ‘Pay Securely‘.
You will have to create a new account or login to an existing account. If you are new, click on Sign Up link.
You can sign up with an email address or your Facebook account. If signing up with email address then provide the details required.
There are certain information that is required to complete purchase. This is also important as it will confirm ownership.
The information also apprears when some does a Whois search on you domain. Fill out the details
- Your address, can be either physical or postal (PO Box)
- A contact number is required
- A contact email address
- User type: Personal or Business
- If business, then further information is required.
- Once you completed the details click on Continue Order.
One the next page you will see some add-on offers. We do not need those for this blog so click Continue Order.
One last time review your order. Enter payment details and click Pay and Activate.
You do not need domain privacy as it cannot be done for .nz domains. Once you complete the payment it may take few minutes to process and activate your domain.
You will be notified via email when the domain is ready. In the mean time, we will go ahead and sort out the web hosting. Now let’s move to next step of How to start a blog.
Setup Web Hosting (How to start a blog continued)
Web hosting is where the files, that make up your website, are stored. When signing up for web hosting plan there are a few factors that MUST be kept in mind.
You do not want to fall in the trap of shared hosting $2.95 per month unlimited everything. That is basically giving them that money for no reason. As you will not be able use the service.
A shared hosting is when resources of a server is shared by many users. Depending on how many are sharing it with you and how much traffic their websites get. You are looking at websites that takes a few seconds to load.
Now that doesn’t sound too bad, a few seconds. The website load times should be in milliseconds not seconds. Therefore a few seconds is more like few minutes in this case.
Why you shouldn’t choose a shared web hosting?
Throughout our blog we do not recommend cheap and shared hosting for websites. They are mostly traps. Here is list of reasons why we do not recommend cheap shared web hosting.
- For $3 per month you will NOT get something reliable.
- You will have to pay at least a year in advance.
- As soon as you add few extra plugins they struggle to load.
- Slow speeds do not let you rank on Google search engine
- Those plans have no security in place – fair enough it’s $3 per month.
The list is endless.
In short, do not expect performance, security and reliability for $3 per month. They need technology and technology costs money. The more you pay the better service you get.
This is a WordPress blog. We only recommend web hosting that do work properly for WordPress.
For this blog we will sign up for an account with Cloudways. Cloudways is platform where you can rent world’s top reliable cloud servers for as low as $10 USD per month.
How to setup web hosting at Cloudways
Cloudways offer a free 3 day trial. This is enough time to wander around and learn the ropes. You will not have to pay a year in advance and get stuck with them.
Their pricing is based on Pay as You Go. If you are unhappy with the service or shut your blog down in next couple of months. Maybe find another better web hosting. You can stop the service.
Let’s sign up for Cloudways – no credit card required.
- Go to Cloudways
- Click on Start Free button on the top right.
- You can sign up with social media accounts or
- Enter your details
- Read and agree to terms
- Click Start Free button
Cloudways is not web hosting company. It is a platform that allows you manage a Virtual Private Server (VPS) without any technical skills.
Cloudways brings world’s most renown cloud hosting companies to you. Google, Amazon, Digital Ocean, Vultr and Linode are leading when it comes to cloud web hosting. They are massive companies with all the infrastructure and resources needed to provide the best in the industry.
When your account is ready click on Launch button to start.
- Select application > WordPress
- Name your application. This has got nothing to do with public it is for your reference only.
- Name your server.
- Select or create a project. The purpose of project is categorise websites if you have one too many.
- Select Vultr from the list of providers. Reason we are choosing Vultr the server location is Sydney which is closer to NZ. The closer the better.
- Server size 1 GB. You can always increase when your blog grows.
- Location: Sydney. Review pricing then
- Click Launch Now
It will take approximately 7 minutes to deploy a server and install WordPress on it. When your server and blog is ready move to next step.
Phew! you have successfully completed the hard part of how to start a blog.
Connect your domain to web hosting
Connecting a domain to Cloudways is very simple. Follow this step by step guide.
- Go to Cloudways account
- Click on Applications > Then click on your blog
- Copy the Public IP address provided.
We need to go to Crazy Domains account to update the DNS settings. Follow this step by step guide.
- Go to Crazy Domains account dashbaord.
- Click Manage
- Click on your domain name
- Scroll down to DNS Settings
- Hover your mouse over your domain name to make Modify option appear on the right side.
- Then click Modify
- Enter the Public IP address from Cloudways in both boxes.
- Click Update (2) button.
Once updated, anyone who enters your domain will be send to your website on Cloudways. DNS propagation does take sometime – up to 48 hours in extreme cases. If it is taking too long reach out to Cloudways support.
Some final setup before we can starting working your blog. This include, first setting up your domain on your blog. Second, securing your blog with a SSL certificate.
Setting up your domain name on the blog has two easy parts. 1. On the WordPress itself and 2. On Cloudways platform.
WordPress Setting to Update Domain Name
Cloudways allocates a long domain name to your WordPress automatically. We will change it to your domain name. Follow these steps
- Log into your WordPress blog by click the Admin URL link. You can find them on Cloudways.
- The link will take you to WordPress login page. Enter the email and password.
When you are logged into WordPress dashboard, we will update few things.
- Click on Settings
- Enter you Site Title
- Enter a Tagline
- Update both WordPress Address (URL) and Site Address (URL) to your domain name.
- Update the Timezone.
- Scroll down and click Save Changes.
These changes will log you out of WordPress. You may not be able log back in unless we complete the next step in process.
Cloudways Setting to Update Domain Name
We have update the domain on WordPress now same needs to be done on Cloudways.
- Click on Domain Managment
- Enter your domain with www in the primary domain
- Under Additional Domains add your domain without www
- Click Save Changes
This will update your domain on Cloudways. If you click on Acess Details you will the website address has updated
Install SSL Certificate
This is very important as websites without SSL certificate shows up as insecure. To gain your readers trust you must have a SSL certificate.
Cloudways make it very simple and takes the responsibility of auto-renewal as well. To install a SSL certificate follow these steps.
- Click SSL Certificate
- Select Let’s Encrypt from the list. It is a free service.
- Enter your Email Address
- Under Domain Name enter your domain with www
- The click Add Domain
- Under Domain Name 2 enter your domain without www
- Click Install Certificate
When the SSL certificate is installed you will see a prompt. It will ask you to enable HTTPS redirection. This will change any page on HTTP to HTTPS (secure version).
This officially completes our setup of how to start a blog. Now let’s start work on the fun part – the blogging.
Log into WordPress (Your new blog)
WordPress is word’s most popular content management system (CMS). Over 36% of website on the internet is build on WordPress. Therefore, if you need help with anything Google it.
Let’s get familiar with your WordPress dashboard. This is where you control everything related to your blog. We will cover the ones that you will need to run a blog successfully.
WordPress receives updates on regular basis. It is very important that you stay on top of it. Heard of people getting hacked? If it is not up to date it becomes vulnerable.
When you see a notification, back up your blog and update. The update can be for WordPress itself, themes and plugins.
This is where all your blog posts live. You want to update, delete or add a post – all can be managed from here.
All the pictures that are uploaded on your blog posts can be viewed from here.
When you publish a post. Your visitor may comment on them and ask questions. This is where you see all the comments. Once place to manage comments on your blog posts.
As the name suggests this section allows you to change the look and feel of your blog. See below for details.
A plugin is a tiny software that add functionalities to your blog. We will learn how to install plugins below.
WordPress Theme (The Looks and Feel)
Let’s start with design of your blog. There are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes available. There are market places for it but for this blog we will use free themes.
Find a theme that is a good fit for your blog.
- Go to WordPress dashboard
- Click Appearance
- Then Themes
- Next click on Add New
- Then search your niche i.e Travel blog, cats blog
- The search will list all the themes available on WordPress repository. All these themes are free, however some have limitations.
When you find the theme you would like to use for your blog. Simply click on it for preview and more details.
If it looks great, then click on install. When installation is complete click Activate.
Customise the theme
It may not look too good at this stage. You will need to change few things to make look how you want.
The WordPress Customizer allows editing the theme. To get to the Customizer go to Appearance > Customize
Customizer will let you change the logo, menu, images and colors. You can also change the theme color to something that better represents your blog. Here is a brief intro to most of the items in customizer.
These may differ from theme to them but the idea is the same.
This section allows you add a logo to your blog. Change the name and tagline.
Change font and your blog background color.
The large image on the top of the page.
The image that is used as the background of the blog.
Menu items on the top. Usually links to other pages such as contact us.
Widgets that are shown on the side bar of the blog. You choose to show links, images or text in the widgets. You can reorganise their locations.
This setting decides what should appear as the main page of your website. It is usually a static page or list of your blog posts.
This is theme specific setting. This allow to make changes to your blog front page.
Again theme specific options.
CSS what makes websites beautiful. You can add yours here.
These options allow a wide range of changes to the looks and feel of your blog. It is strongly recommended that you spend sometime to understand what does what.
Any changes you make appear instantly on the blog and appears on live website when you click Publish. Play around and move to next step when you are happy with looks of your blog.
Add a Contact Us Page to Your Blog
When running a blog you may need at least one page to allow your visitors contact you. This page usually includes a contact form and contact details.
In this article we will create a Contact Us page. This page will have a title and a contact form. You can add much details as you like.
- Click on Pages
- Click Add New
- Enter a Title. Make the title short and precise. It will appear in the URL.
- To add blocks click on + icon as needed.
- Click on Preview to see the changes you made without applying to live website.
- When ready click Publish to save the page.
Add a Contact Form
Before we can add a contact form to our page we will need to install a Form plugin. For this blog we will install WP Fluent Forms, a free form plugin.
If you want more functionalities you will have to purchase a pro version which only costs $65 NZD ($49 USD) per year.
- Go to Plugins
- Click Add New
- Search for WP Fluent Forms
- Click Install Now and Activate it when installed.
- Click on Fluent Forms
- Then Click Add a New Form button
- Choose Contact Form under Basic. These are pre-made forms
- Next, you can add or remove fields with the drag and drop interface.
- You may not be able to do much customisation on free version.
- Click Save Form
- Then click on Settings & Integrations
- Under Settings & Integrations
- Click Email Notifications
- Enable Admin Notification Email. This will email you as soon as some submits the form on your blog.
- You can change settings by click on blue gear icon.
The contact form is now ready. Let’s add to the Contact Us page we created earlier.
- Go to Pages
- Click Contact Us
- Enter a Heading
- Enter the WP Fluent Form
- Click Preview to see the changes
- Click Publish to make the page live
Create and Publish Your First Blog Post
Among everything on how to start a blog, creating and publishing a blog post is the easiest. There is not technical aspects to it. You will not need to install anything.
To create and publish your first blog post is similar to creating a page. Follow this step to step guide to add a new blog post.
- Click on Posts
- Click Add New
- Starting typing and adding pictures.
- Add blocks, this allows you to add new block to your page. You can all types of blocks such texts, heading, images and other elements.
- The title of your blog post.
- The content area where you add all your content. You can add all the blocks such as heading, text, images and so on.
- Visibility, when published do you want it public or keep it yourself.
- Categories, an easy way to categories your blog posts. For instance, I can have a category called South Waikto where I will add articles about South Waikato.
- Featured image is the image that appears on top of blog pages mostly, in the blog article lists and other thumbnails.
- Discussion, here you can enable/disable comments on the blog post.
- Preview changes and Publish when its ready.
Best way to see what each one does is, try them. If you break it start again. In few attempts you will know what is needed.
Install and Setup plugins
Plugins are small software that add functionalities to your blog. For instance, if you want to collect email addresses you will need a plugin for it.
We will go through must have plugins for a blog. Install some of them and learn how to use.
- Mailing list plugin
- Security & Backup
- SEO plugin
- Performance & Analytics
Mailing List Plugin
A very important part of blogging is to build an audience. There is no other better way than a mailing list. We will setup Mailchimp via WP Fluent Forms that was earlier installed on the blog.
Note: This article doesn’t include any instruction on how to setup Mailchimp account. You can do by going to the website mailchimp.com. The following instruction apply assuming you have a mailchimp account.
We will create a sign up form using WP Fluent Forms and connect Mailchimp to collect emails. Then we will add this form to the posts.
First enable the Mailchimp integration.
- Go to Fluent Forms
- Click on Modules
- Enable Mailchimp
Now let’s create a sign up form.
- Click New Form
- Add a New Form
- Click Newsletter Signup under Basic pre-made templates
- Click Save Form
Let’s add the sign up form to our blog post
- Go to Posts
- Click on the post you would like to add the sign up form to
- Add a new block
- Search for WP Fluent Form
- Select the Sign Up form we just created
- Preview the changes and click Publish when its ready.
Automated Backups (Last step of How to start a blog)
The internet is an ever-changing place. Everyday you will prompted to update stuff. Update WordPress, update themes and update plugins.
Most of the time, they do go smoothly. Sometimes they break the blog.
There are a few bad people on the internet as well. They try and hack websites and blogs.
Imagine, working on your blog for days and suddenly it is gone. Yes, it happens more often than one would like.
In short, backups are MUST. You never know what is going to happen with your blog. If something ever goes wrong the backups will save your hard work.
Cloudways provides automated backups. So we will not need to worry about back ups. You can change backup settings and frequency on Cloudways platform. We’ve a detailed review of the service here.