Starting a blog can be an intimidating experience—especially if you’ve never built a website before.
Fortunately, starting a blog can be simpler than you think. In a couple of hours, you can go from having never built a website before to having a fully functional blog.
In this article, we’ll show you how to find a blogging niche, how to choose the right blogging platform, name your blog, choose a hosting provider, build out your site, publish your first post, and more.
What You'll Learn...
- What Is a Blog?
- Why You Should Start a Blog
- How to Start a Blog in 10 Steps
- Step 1: Choose Your Niche
- Step 2: Research Your Space
- Step 3: Name Your Blog
- Step 4: Create your content calendar
- Step 5: Choose your blogging platform
- Step 6: Purchase web hosting
- Step 7: Build out your new blog
- Step 8: Start writing!
- Step 9: Publish your first post
- Step 10: Promote your blog
What Is a Blog?
A blog is a website that focuses primarily on written content. Each of these pieces of written content are known as blog posts.
You’ll find blogs on basically every topic imaginable—ranging from personal blogs to business blogs, and even blogs that are the center of big media businesses, like Buzzfeed. Blogs stand out from other websites in that they’re primarily made up of blog articles.
A lot of successful online businesses have been built off the backs of quality blogs. Blogging has the advantage of allowing you to build up a targeted readership, which you can then sell products, services, or courses to. With the right web hosting package and content, you have the potential to turn a blog into an online brand.
Why You Should Start a Blog
There are a multitude of reasons to start a blog. Whether you’re looking to generate traffic for your existing site, share your perspective with the world, brand yourself as an expert, or gain enough of a following to monetize your blog via ads or affiliate links.
To start a successful blog you don’t need to have Faulkner-level writing skills. And actually, Faulkner’s writing style wouldn’t be a great fit for blogging, where the simpler and more conversational you write, the better. People don’t turn to blogs to read textbook-like prose or great literary writing. Instead, they want down-to-earth practical information that’s based on real-life experience.
If writing isn’t a strong suit now, consider trying out some tools to help you write like a pro or finding a writing course or coach to help you build your skills. Writing can be learned, and you’ll inevitably get better as you get more practice (just ask any successful blogger how they feel about the earliest posts they wrote 😬).
The main prerequisite you need to consider starting a blog is a mix of knowledge to share, and curiosity to learn more as you go. After all, you need to make sure you have something valuable to say, or what will all your blog posts be about?
How to Start a Blog in 10 Steps
Running a blog will take a lot of time and work, but starting one is relatively easy. You can get your new blog in place by tackling these ten steps.
- Choose your niche
- Research your space
- Name your blog
- Create an editorial calendar
- Choose your blogging platform
- Purchase web hosting
- Build out your new blog
- Start writing
- Publish your first post
- Promote your blog
Step 1: Choose Your Niche
Before you get into naming your blog and building your site, you’ll want to decide what you’re actually going to write about. This will be your niche.
A blogging niche is more than just a topic or segment of a market. It’s about how you’re going to address this topic, your unique background, and the audience you’re speaking to. Your niche will give your blog a focus, help guide the design of your site, and illuminate the unique value you’re giving to your visitors.
If you’re starting a blog to help promote your business, then your blog niche needs to be directly tied to what you sell. A pet store starting a blog about football doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If you’re wanting to create a personal brand, then think both about what you’re interested in, and what your goals are. Do you want your blog to help you get a job or find clients? If so, make sure you’re covering topics that will be relevant to the type of businesses and people you want to work with, and what you hope to get hired for.
If you want to start a blog to share your thoughts on a topic you’re passionate about, then you don’t have to think as strategically (unless your ultimate goal is to monetize it). But still sit down to work out the main types of topics you want to cover and point of view you want to represent. Adding one more blog to the world about food isn’t likely to attract as many followers as figuring out a more specific point of view, like how to make allergy-friendly food that kids will eat. There’s a specific audience out there looking for that content—they’re more likely to find you than the much larger audience of people who eat food.
Step 2: Research Your Space
Even if you’re an expert in the niche you’ve chosen, it doesn’t mean you understand what makes a successful blog in your space. Take some time at this stage to learn what blogs are already out there in your niche, and what the most successful ones are doing now.
Start googling topics you aim to cover on your blog to see what comes up. Pay particular attention to the blogs that have articles come up for multiple related topics. Spend some time on each of these sites and pay attention to:
- The main topic areas they cover (a lot of the time you’ll see these listed as categories on the blog’s menu, in the footer, or along the side)
- How long their blog posts tend to be
- If the headlines follow any common structures
- How the blog posts themselves are structured (how many sections the blog posts have, how often they use bullet points and numbered lists, etc.)
- Any other types of media they tend to incorporate (videos, images, infographics)
- The blog posts that are the most popular (some blogs will highlight these in a sidebar, sometimes you can tell based on the number of comments)
As you check out your competition, look for any gaps in what they have to offer. Can you provide something none of these other blogs do? But at the same time that you think about how to differentiate, make note of what they’re doing that’s working. Look for trends in the types of posts, headlines, and content types that audiences (and search engines) seem to like most.
Step 3: Name Your Blog
The name of your blog should spring out of your topic. Ideally, you’ll want to choose something descriptive and memorable, so your readers will immediately know what your blog is about. This can be tricky though, as you need to choose something that hasn’t already been taken.
Take some time to jot down keywords related to your niche, as well as any random words that come to mind. For example, a travel blog doesn’t need to have the word “travel” in the domain. You could use related words like voyage, wanderlust, expedition, touring, flying, and more.
For example, Pat Flynn’s blog is called Smart Passive Income, which readily describes what the site is about:
To keep things consistent you’ll want your blog’s name and your domain name to be the same. This helps keep your site congruent, and makes it easier for people who like what they read to remember and find you. That means you’ll have to choose a domain name that matches the premise of your blog from the very beginning.
Once you have some ideas, start using a domain search tool to research what’s actually available. The search tool will show you if your domain of choice is available and if it’s not, will provide some related suggestions that are. That includes showing you various domain name extensions that you can purchase. The most common domain name extension is .com, however successful blogs have been built using a variety of extensions like .net, and .co.
Once you’ve found a domain name that’s available and has your desired extension, go ahead and register it. You don’t want someone else snapping it up while you’re still in the planning stages.
Step 4: Create your content calendar
Now that you have a general idea of what your blog will cover, time to get specific. Getting your blog going will be a lot easier if you create an editorial calendar in advance. Knowing what you’ll be writing about will help you get some momentum going so you don’t fall off before you even really get started.
Start by deciding on a few main topics or “buckets of information” to write about. Unless you’re ready to be the Walmart or Amazon of blogging, you can’t possibly know or write about everything. Narrow down your focus to the most important topics within your niche—the ones you’re really knowledgeable about or interested in learning.
Narrowing down your focus will do a few things:
- It will help you identify blog articles to write
- An organized website will help your readers quickly understand your blog theme so you attract repeat visitors
For example, if you’re starting a lifestyle blog, your main topics might be travel, fashion, and party planning. Or if you’re starting a blog about fishing, your main topics might be deep sea fishing, bay fishing, and equipment reviews.
Now that you know your main blog topics, create a content calendar.
A content calendar (sometimes called an editorial calendar) is a publishing schedule. You can use it to track assignments, due dates, content types, distribution channel, and publish dates. Ultimately, an editorial calendar is a planning tool that helps you publish content on a regular schedule, and consider timely events and seasons as you plan.
How to create a content calendar
Follow these four steps to create your blog content calendar.
1. List your main topics and begin “brainstorming” articles for each topic.
Creating some foundational posts on evergreen topics makes sense when you’re just starting out. A blog focused on vegetarian cooking may want to include posts on reasons to eat more vegetarian food, and some of the main staples to keep in your kitchen. These will help you establish your point of view and show that you know what you’re talking about before you get into more specific topics. But at this point, the more ideas the better.
Don’t stop at the foundational topics, keep writing down blog article ideas until you run out. The more you have down, the longer it will be before you run out and need to do more brainstorming.
2. Make a list of any holidays and observances related to your blog.
For example: if you’re starting an ecommerce blog, you’ll probably want to make sure your blog touches on Black Friday and other big shopping holidays.
3. Look for magazine editorial calendars for inspiration.
Your niche research probably gave you some ideas of other blogs to look to for inspiration, but also consider checking out media websites and magazines. If your blog has topics similar to Better Homes & Gardens, go to their website and look for their annual editorial calendar. This is usually under an About or Advertising section.
You could consider similar monthly themes so you’re on trend with what’s going on in your niche.
4. Create a schedule of the topics you’ve chosen on a calendar.
Go with whatever format feels right to you here—a spreadsheet, a digital calendar, or even a paper calendar (whether you go for one with pictures of cute puppies or not is up to you). Creating a schedule in advance will help you stick with blogging, since you’ll always know what to write about and have set deadlines to stick to.
Keep your editorial calendar in a place where you can easily reference it. Maybe even add a section where you can jot down ideas for new blog posts when the creative lightning strikes. Whatever format you use, your editorial calendar should help keep you organized so you can stay on schedule and create timely blog articles.
Step 5: Choose your blogging platform
Luckily, you do not need to know how to code to start a blog. There are several software options you can choose that will let you design your blog and publish posts without needing to learn a programming language.
The most popular choice for bloggers by far is WordPress. Our blog here at HostGator is a WordPress blog. WordPress is a content management system that allows you to build your blog and manage your content. WordPress is popular because:
- It’s free and open source
- It’s relatively easy to use
- You can find lots of themes to choose from, which makes building your website easier
- There are tons of plugins, which extend the functionality of WordPress
- There are resources galore to help you learn how to use WordPress and get the most out of it (whole blogs are devoted to nothing by using WordPress)
WordPress does require a bit of a learning curve, especially when it comes to getting your design just right and learning how to work with different themes and plugins. But it’s designed specifically for blogging, so once you have your main blog design in place, adding and editing new posts moving forward is easy.
If you want an even easier option, look into a website builder that’s designed for beginners. You can potentially get your website up and running faster, without a learning curve. But while website builders win on being fast and easy, the tradeoff is that they’re usually less powerful. You’ll have fewer options to make your website look just the way you want. If your needs are pretty simple, that may not ever be a problem though.
Want to know more? Watch our Web Pros break down the pros and cons of each option:
Step 6: Purchase web hosting
If you want your blog to be live on the internet (which is kind of the whole point), you’re going to need a solid web host behind you. When you sign up for a hosting plan you’re renting server space which will give you a place to store your site’s files. Without a hosting company, you’ll have a domain name with no website.
Shared hosting allows you to keep your hosting costs low, while still giving you the necessary server resources to grow your site. If your site continues to scale, you may need to upgrade hosting in time, but a shared hosting account will give you a solid foundation to work from.
WordPress hosting, like it sounds, is a hosting plan that specializes in websites built on WordPress. That means you’ll never have to worry about compatibility issues, your web host will usually take care of keeping things up to date for you, you can expect fast speeds, and you can count on security features that work well with WordPress.
Shared hosting is the cheaper option, so if your main priority is saving money or if you’re building your website with a website builder rather than WordPress, it makes the most sense. And for most personal and small business websites, shared hosting will provide everything you need. But if you are using WordPress to build your website and are willing to spend a little more, WordPress hosting can mean a bit more speed, security, and ease of use.
Step 7: Build out your new blog
With your domain and hosting account setup, it’s time to actually build out your site. Building out a blog is similar to creating any other kind of website, except you’ll need to ensure the platform you choose has blogging functionality.
1. Building a Blog With WordPress
The first step to setting up your blog in WordPress is to install WordPress with your web hosting account. If you chose a HostGator web hosting plan, this step can be completed with one click.
Simply log into your Customer Portal, click the Create Website button, then click Get Started.
From there, you’ll be able to build your website within WordPress itself. The easiest way to create a website that looks good within WordPress is to find a theme that has a design you like. Designers have created a lot of great looking WordPress themes, so spend some time browsing what’s out there to find one you like. If you’re not sure where to start, we have a list of some of the most popular WordPress themes for blogging.
Once you’ve chosen a theme you like, activate it by logging into your WordPress account, navigating to Appearance>Themes, then click ‘Add New’. Perform a search for your chosen theme’s name, then click Activate, and Customize.
Your theme will form the foundation for how your site looks and functions. It will provide most of your website’s base design, so once you have it looking how you want, you can just focus on content. To further customize your site navigate to Appearance>Customize. This will give you a wealth of different options you can choose from to edit your site.
For more step-by-step details on this process, check out our post on How to Add a Blog to WordPress.
2. Building Your Blog with a Website Builder
If you decided to go the website builder route, the details of creating your blog will depend on the website builder you choose. In most cases, the process will either start with choosing a template (which is kind of like a theme in WordPress) which provides the basis of your website’s design, or providing the website builder with some basic information about the website you’re building and having the tool use AI technology to build it for you. (Yep, we are living in the future. Beep boop 🤖).
For specific details on how to create your blog within the website builder you chose, look to the resources provided by the company. If you go with the HostGator Gator Builder, follow this guide to creating your website.
Step 8: Start writing!
You want to have a body of content before you really start promoting your blog (even if it’s a small one to start). A blog with only one article won’t give people much of an idea of what to expect or why to come back. If you have a number of interesting posts already published on your site, visitors are more likely to read, enjoy your articles, and decide to come back later for more.
Refer back to your editorial calendar and get started on the first few pieces scheduled.
A great blog article should have the following:
You’ll generally want to structure that information in an easy-to-read format, which means breaking it up with headings and subheadings and including lists and bullet points where it makes sense. Where relevant, you may also want to include links to further helpful information (including internal links, once you have enough blog posts up for that to be an option).
And for any blog that has a clear goal—like helping to promote a business, or gaining enough of a following to monetize—you’ll also want to consider what action you want visitors to take and include a call to action (CTA) as well. Some examples of CTAs you might consider are signing up for your email list, setting up a call, or checking out a product.
Make sure you always proofread your blog posts before publishing. Embarrassing typos or sentences that don’t make much sense can drive first-time readers away, when your goal is to keep them coming back.
Step 9: Publish your first post
Writing the posts is the hard part. In comparison, publishing them is pretty easy!
How to Publish a Post with WordPress
Within WordPress, select Posts>Add New from the left-hand menu.
This will bring up the post editor screen where you can enter your title, your post content, and any media you want to include. Once you’ve got the content in place, you’ve got a couple extra steps you want to take before hitting that “Publish” button:
- Add relevant tags to your post, and select relevant categories for it
- Select your featured image
- Add a meta description, which is a brief description of your post meant to show up in search engines (and ideally help convince people to click). Note: you’ll probably want to add an SEO (search engine optimization) plugin to WordPress to make this part easier.
- Click the Preview button in the top right corner of the screen to see how your post will look once it’s live. Take a minute to make sure everything looks right.
Once you’re satisfied with your blog post click ‘Publish’ and your post will be live.
Step 10: Promote your blog
If you’re planning to treat your blog as a personal journal and you don’t care if anyone else reads it, you can skip this step. But if you actually care about your words reaching people (which is probably why you’re publishing them on the web), you can’t press “Publish” and hope for the best. You have to work to make your blog post easy to find.
There’s not one right path to promoting your blog. Instead, there’s a long list of tactics you can try out to find the right mix that works for you and your audience. A few to consider are:
- SEO – SEO is about doing what you can to get your website showing up higher in the search engines for relevant terms. SEO is competitive, but with the right strategy, you can increase your visibility and drive traffic.
- Social media – Promoting your posts on social media is a good way to get them in front of the people who are already interested enough in what you have to say to follow you. For an extra boost, consider paid promotion on social media.
- Email marketing – Encourage visitors that like your posts to sign up for your email list, and you can ensure they hear about every new post you publish right in their inbox.
- Guest posting – Reach new audiences by pitching guest post ideas to related websites. If you impress their audience, some of them could follow you back to your blog and become regular readers.
- PPC advertising – Showing up in the search engines is one of the best ways to get found (hence the value of SEO), but organic results are really hard for new blogs to land. You can take advantage of search engine visibility a lot faster if you invest in PPC advertising. For businesses with a budget to spend on the blog, this is a smart way to show up for new readers in your early days.
The process of creating a blog and sharing your thoughts or expertise with the world can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you’re starting a personal blog or one for business, all you need is the right hosting plan and a little knowledge to start blogging. Get started today with a web hosting plan from HostGator.