Welcome to my guide on how to start a successful blog. And congratulations on taking this first step in building an online business you love.
Every blog begins with an idea. A desire to share your thoughts with an audience. Whether you’re passionate about crafting, parenting, health, business, finance, or just about any other topic. You can build a rewarding and profitable business by starting a blog.
Blogging is a way to share your passion with others and make money doing what you love.
But every successful blog must be built on a solid foundation. Which is where this article comes in. Many would-be bloggers stumble at the first step. Why? Because the technical side is not easy.
There are decisions to be made. Which blogging platform to use? What host? How much does it cost? What’s a widget? A page? A post?
On top of that, when you google “how to start a blog” you get thousands of results. And they all make different recommendations.
Which is why I’m writing this article. I’m a research geek and have a technical background (I worked 18 years for companies like Merryll Lynch, Blackrock, Barclays and Lloyds of London).
I believe in keeping things simple. And selecting the best solution that gets the job done.
So, if you want to…
… start a successful blog for less than $100
… build your blog the right way and on a reliable platform
… have the potential to grow your blog in the future
… and want clear, simple steps to get the whole thing done.
Then this article is for you. Let’s dive in!
Overview: How To Start A Successful Blog
We’ll start with the big picture. It helps to know where you’re going and how far along you are in the process.
But before I dive in, I have one word of caution.
Please, don’t let the technical side of starting your blog overwhelm you. If you follow this guide and take one step at a time. You will get this done.
It breaks my heart to see how many people give up because they are overwhelmed by the technical side of building a blog. Which is why I’ve also created a free workbook to help you track your progress.
The workbook covers the steps in this post. You can print it and check off the steps as you complete them. Plus, you get email access to me.
I want you to succeed. If you hit a problem, then email me back. I’ll help you get unstuck. Sound good? If you’d like to download the workbook click below.
One more thing. In this article I’m going to show you how to create a blog on WordPress.
Wordrpress is a content management system. It allows you to customize your blog and add content. There are other content management systems available, but I recommend WordPress.
It’s what most bloggers use, and it’s popular for a reason. Since many bloggers use it, there are thousands of themes available. You can easily find technical support. It’s also very customizable and flexible.
Ready to get started? Here are the high-level steps to build a successful blog:
- Step 1: Buy a domain and hosting. I explain exactly what these are below.
- Step 2. Install WordPress and select a theme. This determines your blog’s look and style.
- Step 3. Customize your blog by installing plugins and widgets. Don’t worry I’ll show you how!
- Step 4: Create static blog content in the form of website pages.
- Step 5: Create a main menu so visitors can find information on your blog.
- Step 6: Create regular articles in the form of blog posts.
See – it’s not so bad. There are only six steps to start a blog!
Though each step involves making some decisions. And a number of technical things can go wrong along the way. So be sure to follow my steps exactly. We’ll have your blog up and running in no time.
Step 1: Buy A Domain and Hosting
Your domain is your blog’s address. When visitors head to your blog, they enter the domain into the address bar. For example, the domain for this site is: sallyannmiller.com.
Hosting is where the files (images, code, etc.) related to your website live. Your hosting company makes it possible for visitors to see your website. When a visitor goes to your blog, the host delivers the information to them, so they can view your site.
A domain typically costs $10-20 a year. And hosting starts at about $2.99 a month (though most hosting companies expect you to pay for a full year upfront).
But I’m going to show you how to get a free domain for life with affordable and reliable hosting.
The hosting company I recommend offers one free domain for life. Which is a great deal.
I spent a long time researching web hosts. There are a lot of options and not all hosting companies are created equal.
For example, you may have heard of BlueHost. They were one of the first popular hosting companies. But over the years new organizations have appeared that are faster, more stable, and offer better support.
So, although I started out on BlueHost I no longer recommend them. I’ve heard too many stories from bloggers whose websites have, slowed down, been hacked, and worse.
After weeks of research I settled on FastComet as the best host for someone starting out. My reasons are threefold:
- They are fast.
- They provide excellent support.
- They offer an affordable starter plan and a free domain for life.
For this post, I went ahead and created a new website hosted with FastComet. Here’s how you can do the same:
- First, click here to go to FastComet.
- Click the “Start Now” button.
- Select the $2.95/month plan.
- In the next window, type in the domain name you want. For example, my new website is called simplelifesuccess.com.
- Then click the “Use This Domain” button.
- On the next screen, fill out your account information. Make sure you note down your password. If you’ve downloaded my workbook (which I recommend) note your password in the “Important Information” section. Your FastComet username is your email address.
- You can also select your billing frequency. I selected annual. You could select monthly, but the total amount paid over the year will be higher. Or you could pay for three years upfront and your monthly cost drops to just $2.95 per month.
- Under Add Ons, I recommend selecting the Privacy Add On. When you register a domain, you must legally give your name, address, and phone number. This information is then available for people to see unless you select the Privacy Add On.
- Finally, enter your payment details and click the “Create Account” button. You will receive a client confirmation number sent to the email address you provided.
- You can now click to go straight to the client area. Here’s what you’ll see:
- Since you’re new to FastComet, you may want to take the Welcome Tour. This walks you through the main areas of your FastComet client dashboard. But please don’t worry if you find the walk through confusing. In the rest of this guide I’ll show you exactly what to do to finish building your blog.
- IMPORTANT: You’ll receive another email from FastComet with the subject “Welcome to FastComet”. Make sure you save this email somewhere safe. It contains important information about your hosting and how to log in to your website.
Congratulations, you now have hosting and have secured your domain name. You may want to take a break at this point and celebrate your achievement. When you’re ready, proceed to step two.
Step 2: Install WordPress and Select a Theme
It’s time to install WordPress and select a theme. Your theme determines your blog’s look and style. Here’re the steps:
- Start by finding the FastComet welcome email I told you to save. Open it and click on the link to open your Control Panel URL. Your Control Panel (or cpanel) is where you manage aspects of your hosting service for a specific domain. This includes things like installing WordPress (you only need to do this once) and managing account information. Once you have everything set up you probably won’t need to log into the cpanel more than once or twice a year. When you click on the link you see this screen:
- Enter the login details from your FastComet welcome email. The user id is usually the first characters in your domain name. Then click “Log In”.
- Once you’re inside the cpanel, scroll down to “Software” and click “Softaculous Apps Installer”. This tool makes it easy to install software on your website.
- On the next screen, hover the mouse over WordPress and click the “Install” button. This opens a configuration screen. You can leave most of the settings as the default values. I changed the following (note you can always change most of these again later):
- In Directory: delete “wp” so that this field is blank. You want to install WordPress directly in this location: http://mydomain/.
- Site Name: your website name.
- Site Description: a brief description of what your blog is about.
- Admin name: a user name for the person who will administer your blog (which is probably you).
- Admin password: a password for the admin user – it’s IMPORTANT to change this and use a strong password. Also make sure you write down the admin name and password somewhere safe (you can enter them into the “Important Information” section of your workbook). You’ll need these to log into your WordPress site once it’s installed.
- Admin email: assuming you’re the administrator, enter your real email address here.
- Select a theme: this is where you can pick a free theme for your site. You can change this later if you decide you don’t like the theme you select now. You can also upgrade to a paid theme. But this isn’t necessary. The free themes give you everything you need to get started and look professional. You can use the arrows to scroll through the options. Hover over a theme and click the demo button to view the theme in another tab. For my new blog, I picked the theme “Writee”. I like it’s clean and simple design.
- Finally, click the “Install” button at the bottom of the screen. This installs WordPress on your website and may take a few minutes.
You’ve now completed the second step. If you need, take a break and come back tomorrow to start customizing your blog.
IMPORTANT: a special note about user ids and passwords.If you followed the above steps, you now have three different sets of login details. This can get confusing. So, let’s take a moment to re-cap what they are:
Fastcomet login details
This logs you into the FastComet client area where you can buy new website domains, renew a domain, and get support from the hosting company.
Cpanel login details
This logs you into the control panel to access the back-end of your domain. This is where you installed WordPress.
WordPress login details
This logs you into the WordPress installation for your website. This is where you’re going to spend most of your time. For example, customizing your website, publishing new blog posts, and managing comments on your blog.
Step 3: Customize Your Blog
Okay, ready for step three? It’s time to customize your blog. Make it look exactly how you want it to appear.
You do this inside WordPress. So, you’re going to need your WordPress login details. Note your website still isn’t published. If someone visits the url for your website, they will see a default FastComet page. Anything you do in this step won’t be visible to other people until you publish your website.
Here’s how to customize your blog:
- Open your web browser and go to the following url: yourdomainname.com/wp-admin
- Then, enter the user name and password for WordPress. These are the login details you created in step 2, point 4 above. This opens your WordPress dashboard.
- Click the big blue button: “Customize Your Site”. This opens a screen where you can change aspects of your website and see how your changes will appear. The customize screen looks slightly different for every theme. Below are the options I customized for the “Writee” theme.
- Under Writee Options -> Layout Options I changed the website option to “No Sidebar”. This is because I want a simple, clean site with minimal distractions.
- Under Writee Options -> Slider Options I changed “Display Slider” to OFF.
- Under Writee Options -> Theme Colors Section I changed the primary color to match the green used on my main site.
- Under “Site Identity” I updated the blog name and description. These are set to the values you entered when you installed WordPress in step 2, point 4 above). But you can change them here if you want to.
- The default “Home Page Settings” for this theme is to display your latest blog posts. If you prefer, you can change this to a static page which allows you to create a custom home page. I left the default to display my latest blog posts. If you change the home page to display a static page, you need to configure more home page options. And that can get a little more complex.
- As I mentioned, each theme has different options. You can play with options and see a live preview of how your changes will appear when you put them live. Feel free to test things out and see what happens. When you’re done, click the gear lever next to the blue “Publish” button and change the Action to “Save Draft”. You’re not ready to publish your website yet. So, this will save your changes but not put your website live.
Once you’ve saved your changes you can click the “X” button to close the customization screen.
- You’re nearly done with customization. There are just a few more steps I recommend you take. The first is to change the default permalinks on your blog posts. A permalink is the URL address created for each new blog post. I talk more about the difference between a post and a page below. To change your default permalinks, go to Settings -> Permalinks in your WordPress dashboard. Then select the “Post Name” option. Then click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page. This means that each time you create a new blog post, the default url will be based on your post title and not the current date or a sequential number.
- You also want to install some plugins to your site. A plugin adds functions or features to your blog. There are tons of plugins available, but we’re going to start with the basics. To install a plugin, navigate to Plugins -> Add New on the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard. You can search for a specific plugin by typing the plugin name into the search box. When you find the plugin you want, click “Install Now”. Or if it’s already installed then click “Update” to make sure you have the latest version. Finally, click “Activate” to put the plugin live on your site. Here’re the plugins to add for now:
- Askimet Anti Spam – If you allow comments on your blog then install this to help you manage spam comments. If you don’t want comments, you can turn these off by going to Settings -> Discussion. Make sure you click “Save Changes” after changing your discussion settings.
- Contact Form 7 – This makes it easy to add a contact form to your site. I show you how to add a contact form in the next step. For now, you just want to install the plugin.
Step 4. Create Blog Pages
Phew! You’re doing an amazing job. You now have a domain, a hosting service, and an installed website with a free theme. It’s time to create content for your blog. You want to create two types of content:
- Pages – Pages are static website pages. This means you create them once then rarely (or never) change them. Example are your home page, about page, and contact page.
- Posts – This is where you write and publish regular articles on your blog. As a blogger, you may be publishing monthly, weekly, or even daily blog posts. The article you’re reading right now is an example of a post.
Let’s start with pages. You already have a home page. You customized this in the previous step. The other pages you need are: an about page, a contact page, and a legal page. Here’s how to create these:
- On the left-hand side in the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Pages -> All Pages.
- If you haven’t already done so, delete the sample page by selecting it and clicking “Trash” underneath the page title. Sample data is created when you select a theme for your website. You want to delete all sample data.
- Next, click “Add New” to create your first page. Give your page a title, e.g. “About”. In the content area write information about yourself and your blog.
- You can preview a page by clicking the “Save Draft” button on the right and then clicking “View Page” at the top.
- When you’re done, click the blue “Publish” button. This puts your new page live.
Note: Laws change over time and are based on location. The information in this post is not legal advice. If you have questions, always seek advice from a qualified professional.
You also need to disclose certain information to your readers. For example, if you’re using affiliate links and receive a commission when readers purchase through your link, you need to disclose that.
The final page you want to create is your contact page. Here’s how to create a contact page using the Contact Form 7 plugin (which you installed in the previous step).
- On the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard, click “Plugins”.
- Under Contact Form 7, click “Settings”.
- You should already have a sample contact form created with the correct information. Make sure the “To” field on the “Mail” tab points to your correct email address.
- Next, copy the short code to your clipboard and create a new page by going to Pages -> Add New.
- Enter a title for the page, e.g. “Contact”.
- In the content area, click “text” to switch to the html editor. Then paste the short code from your clipboard into the page content area.
- Click the blue “Publish” button. Then preview the page and send yourself a test message to make sure the contact form is working.
Step 5. Create Main Menu
You now have the main pages for your blog. Next, you want to add them to the menu at the top of your site. To do this:
- In your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance -> Menus on the left-hand side.
- If your theme didn’t automatically install a main menu, add one now by clicking the “create a new menu” link.
- On the left, select the pages you want to add to your menu then click the “Add to menu” button.
- On the right side of the screen, you see your menu layout. You can drag items to change the order they appear on your menu. You can also click the arrow on the right of a menu item to change the navigation title.
- When you’re done, click the blue “Save Menu” button.
Step 6. Create Blog Posts
Fantastic, if you’re still with me, you’re ready to start blogging!
As a blogger, you want to publish regular content for your readers. You do this by writing and publishing blog posts. Before you start sharing your blog, I suggest you publish at least three posts. This gives your blog visitors something to read.
Here’s how to publish a blog post (this process is very similar to publishing a page):
- Start by cleaning out any sample content that was created when you installed your theme. In the WordPress dashboard, go to Comments. Delete any sample comments by selecting them and clicking “Trash”. Repeat this process for posts, by navigating to Posts -> All Posts.
- Start a new post, by going to Posts -> Add New. Give your post a title and type or copy your post content into the content area.
- When you’re done, click the blue “Publish” button to put your post live.
Congratulations, you now have a blog and some content for your readers to enjoy. If you haven’t already done so, publish your blog as follows:
- Go to Appearance -> Customize on the left-hand side of the WordPress dashboard.
- Click the gear icon and select “published”.
- Click the “Publish” button.
Once you do this, people can see your blog on the internet by typing the url for your domain.
If you’ve followed all these steps, you deserve a rest. Learning how to start a successful blog takes time. But once you’ve mastered the basics you’re good to go.
You can then focus on creating amazing content for your readers. Writing great posts is a whole other topic and out of scope for this article. But if I can leave you with one last piece of advice, it’s this…
… create content that is interesting, useful, or entertaining.
Make sure your readers keep coming back for more.
And please don’t let the desire for perfection hold you back. You can always change any aspect of your blog later. But if you don’t start, you’ll never realize the benefits of being a successful blogger.
Finally, don’t forget to download my free workbook below. It steps you through the entire process to start a successful blog. You also get email access to me in case you get stuck.
Good luck and happy blogging!