How to Start A Blog
How do you start a blog, you ask? Below I will list the things that you need to do first. There are thousands of articles out there about starting a blog; it is not difficult to do. You don’t need to pay someone to tell you how to start a blog.
Have you ever considered starting a travel blog or any other blog? Many people have travel blogs, not all of them were that interesting to me. Others were interesting as it was not about what to see and do in every city. They were not “City Guides”; the better blogs were about things that went right and all the things that went wrong. No travel or vacation is perfect; something will not work out as planned. You may miss a flight, train, or even forget your passport like my wife did. That is what my blog is about: all of the great and not-so-great things that happen when you travel.
Is There Money in Blogging?
You have probably seen articles/videos on how to make a lot of money blogging. You can make a lot, but it is a lot of work and you won’t get rich overnight. Some great travel bloggers can make well over $10k per month, but they are putting in a lot of hours for the first 5 or more years and will require regular blog and social media updates to keep followers engaged. Marketing your site isn’t cheap or free; my marketing costs have only been on Facebook so far.
The first year for my blog was 2018. I earned about $1500 total for the year. After expenses related directly to the site and marketing (not including travel-related expenses to get content), I had a few hundred dollars maximum left over to apply towards my other expenses related to the business. A typical post on my blog will take 6-10 hours with content creation, picture selection/resizing, and proofreading the articles to make sure I didn’t write “to” instead of “too”. Some of that extra time is due to filling in the gaps on old trips from several years ago. Do you remember everything you did on a trip several years ago? Probably not; that is where my pictures are key to sparking a memory of something that happened.
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How to start a blog:
- What will your content be about?
- What domain name would you want?
- Find hosting for your blog.
- Log into your WordPress dashboard
- Find a great theme for your blog
- Start creating content for your audience
- Additional things to do after you are up and running
Step 1: What will your content be about? Coming up with a name!
What are you interested in sharing with your friends or the world? Write down a dozen or so keywords that describe that activity or subject. Now you need to start searching on Google or your favorite search engine for those terms. Do they show similar results to the content you want to write about? Are they unique enough and easy to remember for other people? Will this name still be valid to your content in 10 years? I did not think this part through very well. The Geriatric Backpacker may work for years to come, but I may have limited my audience with Over 50 and Thrifty. I do like the rhyme in the name but should have thought more about it.
How many 30-year-olds will read a blog about over-50 people? Interestingly enough, about 10% of my readers are younger than 40; many are 45 and over, the majority are 55+. Is this due to the name or just a coincidence? So think about it before jumping on the catchy name with a rhyme. I have no regrets about my choice, but it could impact your audience. You have to think of first impressions: keep your site professional and not about how to get lucky around the world, or the best places to get drunk or find drugs. The occasional picture or mention of a pub to have a beer is acceptable; just don’t make it your primary focus. Those sites won’t help you in the long run and may limit your audience. In short, keep it classy and you will receive a better response from visitors.
Step 2: Is the domain name you want available?
Now that you have a name, check with a domain registrar to see if it (or something similar) is available. Before buying the domain, you need to do some more research to see if the name is used somewhere else. You found a good domain name; now look around on all the social media sites you plan to use to see if that name is available. I had to use over50t for most of my social media sites; but if you have a longer domain name, you may need to shorten it for social media. That is not the end of the world for your blog.
If everything works out, buy the domain and get the ball rolling. If not, back to the drawing board to find something that works. Remember that .com domains are more common for most people, so it is the best choice for your primary domain. You can buy others that have a different ending such as .net, .org, and hundreds more, and point them to your site.
Step 3: Find hosting for your blog.
If you are just starting out, I would suggest an affordable option to make sure it is right for you. I used Bluehost for 3 years without any issues and they have had great support when I did contact them about some general information I needed. When I signed up, there was a special for 3 years of hosting on a plan that was in the middle of the price range.
Another option that is cost-effective is SiteGround. We switched to them in May 2021 as I want to grow the business and they have a faster server response. This is something that you need to consider as search engines rank faster sites higher. They are more expensive than Bluehost at about $10 a month for the mid-level package. The 3-year plan with Bluehost is a great way to start and get the feel of blogging without spending a fortune.
One thing to remember, most hosting companies will offer the first term pricing deal cheap and then drastically increase future prices. My Bluehost package that was $5 a month would go up to $17.99 per month on a new 3-year term. This is shown when you order as the normal or original price. My SiteGround pricing will go from $10 to $25 after the first year, they only offer a 1 year discount. Keep in mind, you can always suggest you are leaving at the end of the term to get a better renewal rate. Customer retention is huge in this market, so be the best consumer you can be.
Step 4: Log into your WordPress Dashboard
You will need to log into your dashboard. In your browser, http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin, type in your username and password and you are into the land of blogging and you can now see the dashboard with all the settings. This is overwhelming at first, but the following will help give you an idea of what each menu item on the left side does. Compared to other hosting options, Bluehost has an awesome dashboard; I was helping a friend remotely and couldn’t understand what they were seeing. They sent me a screenshot and it was obvious that they had a very basic dashboard.
- Posts (for writing articles for your readers, used for most posts)
- Pages (for static pages on your site; About Me or a Contact page are typical examples)
- Comments (where you can approve, spam, or reply to comments on your articles from your millions of fans)
- Appearance (where you can change the look of your site by installing a new theme and other visual changes)
- Plugins (for adding additional features to your site)
- Settings (where you can alter your site settings and layout).
Step 5: Find a great theme
There are a lot of free themes out there, most lack a lot of customization options. I purchased a theme for about $60 from ThemeForest called Travelista and so far it has been a great theme. You need to make sure it is a “responsive” theme so it can adapt to different devices. This means it will work well on a phone, tablet, or desktop. If you can’t find a theme you like immediately, don’t stress. You can always download one later as you will have a few free ones loaded already.
Themes will include instructions to install and how to make changes to the theme to help you customize the look of your site. ThemeForest allows you to download the WordPress theme installation file.
Once you have downloaded the file, log into your WordPress site (http://yourdomainname.com/wp-admin, type in your username and password). On the left side menu, click on Appearance -> Themes, choose Upload, and select the zip file that you downloaded from ThemeForest; it may take a couple of minutes to complete the theme upload and installation.
At this point, you have completed the WordPress setup and basic configuration and you are ready to start publishing your content.
Step 6: Start creating content for your soon-to-be fans
About Me: The first thing you want to create is a static page “About Me” so your readers will have an overview of who you are and what your blog is about. It lets readers know why they should follow you and care about what you are writing.
Create your first post: This could be an extension of the About Me page, just a little more detail, and is good practice for creating content. Alternatively, you can have more detail on your About Me page and start writing content on your first post. That was my choice and worked well for me.
Step 7: Additional things to do after you are up and running
Plugins to install
- Yoast SEO – This helps you drive more traffic to your site by improving your search result placement and provides tips as well on creating better content
- Blog2Social – This allows you to send your content to your social media sites easily.
Install Google Analytics
You need to know how much traffic is going to your site and information about your visitors. The information can be location, type of device used, and other basic data to see if you are reaching your demographic.
Install Google AdSense
I am not a fan of filling my pages with advertising and I avoided AdSense for the first year. My visitors came to read my content and not to see a bunch of ads. I do have several affiliations with companies that I have used and I support them via banner ads within the content and on the right side of my page. These are directly related to my blog and not some random affiliation to make a quick buck or two. I recommend this approach to keep your visitors engaged in your content.
Conclusion on How to Start a Blog
If you see another site and you like the features, you may be able to add it via a plugin. For example, the map I have for “Where I’ve Been” I found on another site. It is called “Interactive Maps”; it was not free but was reasonable at about $20. Your site and your content will evolve over time; don’t feel that you have to make everything perfect on day one.
Is a blog in your future? Not sure what to write about? Check out the blog my sister-in-law started just after I created mine, you can read her blog here. It is primarily about DIY projects and life in the US after immigrating from South Africa.
The following domain names are registered for my site and are hosted via a 3rd party DNS provider that has excellent reliability. I have been using them for about 10 years without a single hiccup in service and for under $30 a year for 10 domains. You can find out more about them here.
That is how to start a blog, super easy!
Affiliate Marketing Networks
Some of our affiliates use third-party marketing networks to manage their programs. These are a great place to find affiliates related to your content and they pay referral fees as well. We use the following networks for some of our affiliate links.