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. Once you learn how to start a blog, you’ll be able to keep it running for years to come. Let’s get started with our step-by-step instructions!
What You'll Learn...
- What Is a Blog?
- Why You Should Start a Blog
- How to Start a Blog in 8 Easy Steps
- Step 1: Choose Your Niche
- Step 2: Name Your Blog
- Step 3: Create your editorial calendar
- Step 4: Choose your blogging platform
- Step 5: Purchase web hosting
- Step 6: Build out your new blog
- Step 7: Start writing!
- Step 8: Publish your first post
- Make Your Blog SEO Friendly & Setup Google Analytics
- Closing Thoughts
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 massive blogs like the Huffington Post. Blogs stand out from other websites in that they’re primarily made up of blog articles.
However, 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 create a popular blog and work from home on your own time.
To start a successful blog you don’t need to be that great of a writer. Everyone has to start somewhere. But, when it comes to writing for the web the simpler and more conversational you write the better. There are also many tools to help you write like a pro as well.
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.
However, there is one non-negotiable requirement for starting a blog. Without this trait, it’ll be very difficult to continue publishing when your audience is small. And it’ll be hard to make a name for yourself and grow your site when you run into eventual setbacks.
What is this requirement? Passion.
Bloggers need passion, especially if they are working on a personal blog. Passion will fuel you and help you stand out from the hoards of other bloggers out there. Starting a blog can be hard work and time consuming, especially if you work full-time and are starting a blog as a side project. You’ll need that passion to keep you motivated when you’re short on time and creative lustre.
But, when you genuinely care about the topic, this will show and come through in your writing. Plus, with immense interest in your niche, you’ll be able to create new topics with ease and find new ways to delight and inform your audience.
How to Start a Blog in 8 Easy Steps
Starting a blog is easy! Just follow these steps:
- Choose your niche
- 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
Step 1: Choose Your Niche
The niche you choose will help to make or break your success as a blogger. 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 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 don’t have any idea of what you’re going to blog about, then spend some time with the following questions:
- What do you deeply care about?
- When you go to a bookstore, which sections do you spend time in?
- What kinds of blogs do you currently enjoy reading?
- What are your hobbies? How do you spend your time?
- What topics can you talk about late into the night?
- What areas have you had success in your life?
- What challenges have you overcome?
- What do people commonly come to you for advice on?
The questions above should give you a general idea of what kinds of niches you can focus on.
For example, do you spend all your free time camping and backpacking? You could create a site that speaks to your experience, offers tips, and reviews your favorite gear.
Or, maybe you’re obsessed with photography. You could create a blog that helps aspiring photographers level up their skills.
Whatever you choose it’s important that you care about the topic, and there’s actually an audience of people who will read what you’re writing. Finding other blogs and competitor sites in your niche is actually a good thing and a sign that it’s a viable market.
Step 2: Name Your Blog
The name of your blog should spring out of your topic. It should be descriptive and memorable, so your readers will immediately know what your blog is about.
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:
However, it’s also important not to get hung up on the name of your blog. Once your blog becomes large enough the name won’t matter that much.
To keep things consistent you’ll want your blog’s name and your domain name to be the same. This will help to keep your site congruent. 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 it’s time to make sure that the domain is actually available. This step will narrow down your list of potential ideas even more.
First, head over to HostGator’s domain search tool, input your domain name and click search.
On the next page, you’ll be able to see if your domain of choice is available, including the 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.
If your domain isn’t available under one of the more common domain name extensions it can be tempting to pick up .info, .biz, or a different extension entirely. However, this usually isn’t recommended as some extensions can come across as spammy, and it won’t bode well for the future of your site.
Once you’ve found a domain name that’s available and has your desired extension, then complete the rest of the steps to purchase and set up your domain.
Step 3: Create your editorial calendar
Now that you know the niche you will write about and your blog name, let’s plan out some content.
First, start out by deciding the main topics or “buckets of information” that you will write about. It’s sorta like starting a business and focusing on a product or niche. 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. Focus on a small set of topics you’re really knowledgeable about or topics you are really 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, let’s create an editorial calendar. A what?
An editorial calendar is a publishing schedule. An editorial calendar can be used 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, especially considering timely events and seasons.
How to create a blog editorial calendar
- Make a list of all “holidays and observances” that are related to your blog. For example: if you’re starting a cooking blog, you’ll definitely want to feature some soup recipes in January for “national soup month.”
- List your main topics and begin “brainstorming” articles for each topic. Keep writing down blog article ideas until you run out of ideas. Make note – are any of these related to a certain time of year, season, or event?
- Look for magazine editorial calendars for inspiration. Consider this – 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.
- “Schedule” these topics on a calendar – you can use a digital calendar document or a good ole fashioned paper calendar works well too. The point is to schedule these blog articles for an appropriate time of year and begin to fill in any gaps.
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. No matter if you are a ‘digital junkie’ or a self-proclaimed “paper person,” your editorial calendar should help keep you organized so you can stay on schedule and create timely blog articles.
Step 4: Choose your blogging platform
There are several software and platform options you can choose for your new blog. There’s no such thing as “the best option.” It truly matters what will work for you. Take the time to research:
- Which platform will be easiest for you to use?
- Which platform will support your blogging goals long term?
- Which platform offers the most features that are important to you?
The first option would be using a “drag and drop” website builder. Here you’ll be able to select a template, quickly customize your site, and start publishing blog posts. This approach is built for speed and will require zero technical skills to get your blog up and running.
The second approach would be using WordPress. WordPress is a content management system that allows you to build your blog and manage your content. It’s more sophisticated and will have a steeper learning curve than the website builder above.
However, once you get past the initial learning curve you’ll be able to do a lot more with your content. Plus, HostGator offers a tool called one-click install which will let you install WordPress on your site in a few minutes.
Want to know more? Check out this video about the benefits of each platform.
Step 5: Purchase web hosting
If you want to have a blog that’s live on the internet, then 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.
When building out your first blog, you’re going to have several different hosting options to explore. The type of hosting most well-suited for your blog will probably be shared hosting.
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.
To sign up for shared hosting, head over to HostGator and select your preferred hosting package.
Click ‘Buy Now’ and follow the succeeding steps to complete your purchase.
Step 6: 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.
If you decided to go with HostGator to host your site, then you’re going to have a few different options for building out your blog. The approach you take depends on your short-term and long-term needs.
HostGator has web hosting packages for both a website builder and WordPress. In step three, you already decided which option is best for you. So jump down to see the set up steps for Gator Website Builder or WordPress.
1. Building Your Blog with GATOR Website Builder
If you’re looking for a website builder that’ll allow you to build your blog in the shortest amount of time possible, then check out GATOR website builder.
This tool is very beginner-friendly. You can create your own blog without having to touch a single line of code. Plus, you’ll find plenty of blogging-oriented themes you can choose from.
To select your blog template and start building your site, you can search via keyword, category, or simply browse through the entire collection until you find the perfect theme.
You’ll notice that some themes are better suited for creating a blog than others, like those listed under the ‘Blog category. If your main focus is going to be blogging, then you’ll probably want to select one of the templates from this section.
Once you’ve found the perfect template just hover over it and click ‘Select’.
The next screen will bring you to an editor that will allow you to customize your site with the drag and drop builder.
It might take a few minutes to get comfortable with the tool, but once you get a handle on it, you’ll be amazed at what you can do. Once you click on a certain element on your website you’ll see a drop-down list of customizations you can implement.
2. Building a Website Blog With WordPress
If you’ve decided to host your site with HostGator, then setting up your WordPress blog will be incredibly easy.
First, navigate to your web hosting control panel, known as cPanel, and look for a logo that’s called ‘Softaculous Apps Installer’.
On the next screen, you’ll select WordPress and then enter all of your relevant website details.
Once you’ve named your site and entered your login information click ‘Install’ and the software will install WordPress on your site and create all of the necessary files.
Now, it’s time to build out your blog. Login to your WordPress dashboard via a link that looks like ‘yoursite.com/wp-admin’. All of your relevant login details will be emailed to you automatically.
Once you’ve successfully logged into your site navigate to Appearance>Themes, then click ‘Add New’.
Here you’ll be able to select your site’s theme. Your theme will form the foundation for how your site looks and functions. Since WordPress is primarily a blogging platform you’ll find that most themes are equipped with extensive blogging-related features.
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.
Step 7: Start writing!
You might consider publishing several blog posts before you really start promoting your blog. After all, a website with only one article won’t seem very interesting. But, if you have a bunch 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 choose 2-3 articles for the month when you want to publish (or go live with) your website. Sit down and start writing!
A great blog article should have the following:
- A catchy article title
- Interesting photos that illustrate the topic
- Short but informative paragraphs
- A call to action (A “call to action” might be to sign up for your blog email list.)
- Links to additional helpful information
How long should blog articles be? That’s really up to you. An average blog article length is about 1,000 words, but for search engine ranking purposes, our most successful blog articles are at least 2,000 words long.
Step 8: Publish your first post
By now you’ve decided to go with the GATOR website builder or WordPress to manage your blog, and you’ve built a pretty solid foundation. Now it’s time to publish your first post.
Here’s how you can publish a post on each of the platforms.
1. Publishing a Post with GATOR
Publishing your first blog with the HostGator builder is very simple. All you have to do is click on the ‘Blog’ section on the left-hand editor, then click ‘Add New Post’.
On this screen, you’ll be able to enter your post title, author name, meta tags, featured image, and finally your post’s content.
Once you’re satisfied with your first blog post just click ‘Save Post’ and you’re all set.
2. Publishing a Post with WordPress
Creating a blog post in WordPress is also very easy to do. First, head over to your WordPress dashboard. Then 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, add social media, and any post metadata.
Once you’re satisfied with your blog post click ‘Publish’ and your post will be live.
Make Your Blog SEO Friendly & Setup Google Analytics
When you are setting up your blog, you will want to use on-page and off-page SEO best practices to ensure your blog can be found on search engines. If you’re using WordPress, consider using SEO plugins like Yoast SEO.
If you want to track your blog’s performance, adding a Google Analytics tracking code is highly recommended. With Google Analytics, you will understand how your blog is performing and which posts are driving the most traffic.
The process of creating a blog and sharing your thoughts or expertise with the world can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you are starting a personal blog or one for business, all you need is the right hosting plan and a little knowledge to start blogging.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of why you’d want to create a blog, how to choose the perfect niche, how to choose the right platform, and finally, you have what it takes to build out your blog and publish your first post.
Whether you decided to go with a website builder or WordPress for the base of your blog you’ll have a solid foundation to work from to make your blogging dreams come true.
Whether you want to make money, create brand awareness, or reach like-minded people through your online platform, HostGator can help you get there.