How to start a blog (NZ)? (A comprehensive step by step guide)
Updated: 12 January 2023
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 getting things done with minimal trouble.
Screenshots and short videos are provided to avoid confusion. You will have a professional-looking blog by the time you reach the end of this page.
Table of Content
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 your 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!
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. The 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 an 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 levels 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.
What makes a good domain name?
When finalising a domain name 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?
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 built 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 log in to an existing account. If you are new, click on the Sign Up link.
You can sign up with an email address or your Facebook account. If signing up with an email address then provide the details required.
There is certain information that is required to complete the purchase. This is also important as it will confirm ownership.
The information also appears when someone does a Whois search on your 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 a business, then further information is required.
Once you completed the details click on Continue Order.
On 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 a few minutes to process and activate your domain.
You will be notified via email when the domain is ready. In the meantime, we will go ahead and sort out the web hosting. Now let’s move to the 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 a web hosting plan there are a few factors that MUST be kept in mind.
You do not want to fall into 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 to use the service.
Shared hosting is when the resources of a server are 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 take 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 a few minutes in this case.
Why you shouldn’t choose shared web hosting?
Throughout our blog, we do not recommend cheap and shared hosting for websites. They are mostly traps. Here is a 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 a 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 does work properly for WordPress.
For this blog, we will sign up for an account with Cloudways. Cloudways is a platform where you can rent the 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 the 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.
Cloudways is not a web hosting company. It is a platform that allows you to manage a Virtual Private Server (VPS) without any technical skills.
Cloudways brings the world’s most renowned 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 the Launch button to start.
Select application > WordPress
Name your application. This has got nothing to do with the public it is for your reference only.
Name your server.
Select or create a project. The purpose of the project is to categorise websites if you have one too many.
Select Vultr from the list of providers. The 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 are ready, move to the 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 the Crazy Domains account to update the DNS settings. Follow this step-by-step guide.
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 the Update (2) button.
Once updated, anyone who enters your domain will be sent to your website on Cloudways. DNS propagation does take some time – up to 48 hours in extreme cases. If it is taking too long reach out to Cloudways support.
Some final setup before we can start working on your blog. This includes, first set up your domain on your blog. Second, secure your blog with an SSL certificate.
Setting up your domain name on the blog has two easy parts. 1. On 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
The link will take you to the WordPress login page. Enter the email and password.
When you are logged into the WordPress dashboard, we will update a few things.
Click on Settings
Enter your 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 to log back in unless we complete the next step in the process.
Cloudways Setting to Update Domain Name
We have updated the domain on WordPress now same needs to be done on Cloudways.
Click on Domain Management
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 see the website address has been 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 an SSL certificate.
Cloudways make it very simple and take the responsibility of auto-renewal as well. To install an 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
Then 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 in to WordPress (Your new blog)
WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system (CMS). Over 36% of the website on the internet is built 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 a 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 to your blog posts can be viewed here.
When you publish a post. Your visitor may comment on them and ask questions. This is where you see all the comments. One 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 adds functionalities to your blog. We will learn how to install plugins below.
WordPress Theme (The Looks and Feel)
Let’s start with the design of your blog. There are hundreds of thousands of WordPress themes available. There are marketplaces 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
Next click on Add New
Then search your niche i.e Travel blog, cats blog
The search will list all the themes available on the 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 the installation is complete click Activate.
Customise the theme
It may not look too good at this stage. You will need to change a few things to make look how you want.
The WordPress Customizer allows editing the theme. To get to the Customizer go to Appearance > Customize
The 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 the customizer.
These may differ from theme to them but the idea is the same.
This section allows you to add a logo to your blog. Change the name and tagline.
Change font and your blog background color.
The large image is on the top of the page.
The image is used as the background of the blog.
Menu items on the top. Usually links to other pages such as contact us.
The Widgets are shown on the sidebar 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 a theme-specific setting. This allows making changes to your blog front page.
Again theme-specific options.
CSS is 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 some time understanding what does what.
Any changes you make appear instantly on the blog and appear on the live website when you click Publish. Play around and move to the next step when you are happy with the 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 to 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 as many 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 the + icon as needed.
Click on Preview to see the changes you made without applying to the 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 the free version.
Click Save Form
Then click on Settings & Integrations
Under Settings & Integrations
Click Email Notifications
Enable Admin Notification Email. This will email to you as soon as someone submits the form on your blog.
You can change settings by clicking on the 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 are no 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
Start typing and adding pictures.
Add blocks, this allows you to add a new block to your page. You can all types of blocks such as texts, heading, images, and other elements.
The title of your blog post.
The content area is 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 are an easy way to categories your blog posts. For instance, I can have a category called South Waikato where I will add articles about South Waikato.
A featured image is the image that appears on top of blog pages mostly, in the blog article lists, and in other thumbnails.
Discussion, here you can enable/disable comments on the blog post.
Preview changes and Publish when it’s ready.
The best way to see what each one does is, to try them. If you break it starts again. In a few attempts, you will know what is needed.
Install and Setup plugins
Plugins are small software that adds 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 them.
Mailing list plugin
Security & Backup
Performance & Analytics
Mailing List Plugin
A very important part of blogging is building an audience. There is no other better way than a mailing list. We will set up Mailchimp via WP Fluent Forms that was earlier installed on the blog.
Note: This article doesn’t include any instruction on how to set up a Mailchimp account. You can do this by going to the website mailchimp.com. The following instruction applies, assuming you have a Mailchimp account.
We will create a signup 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
Now let’s create a signup form.
Click New Form
Add a New Form
Click Newsletter Signup under Basic pre-made templates
Click Save Form
Let’s add the signup form to our blog post
Go to Posts
Click on the post you would like to add the signup 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 it’s ready.
Automated Backups (Last step of How to start a blog)
The internet is an ever-changing place. Every day you will be 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 a 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 backups. You can change backup settings and frequency on the Cloudways platform. We have a detailed review of the service here.