When you read blog posts about how to start a blog, they generally follow one of two approaches:
- Choosing your niche, how to write your content, how to get traffic, etc OR
- The practical steps to starting a blog (purchasing your domain, hosting, etc)
This post is going to combine the two, so you are set up for success from the beginning.
We’re going to start with choosing your niche, how to write great content, and how to start getting traffic. Then I’ll share with you 3 simple steps to get your blog set up.
A little note about this post… I will be referencing a different blog during this guide, Balance + Lift. It was and is my first successful blog that generates an income. My husband and I started One Smart Family to be something him and I can do together. I want to share with you that you can start a blog in many different niches and still create an impact and a business.
What Is Blogging? What Makes A Blog – A Blog?
A blog is a type of website, generally focused on the main subject, where content is presented and updated regularly. The content is referred to as “blog posts”.
A blog is always a website, but a website isn’t always a blog.
You can have a website for your business, that has pages for “Home”, “About”, and “Contact Us”. It pretty much stays the same.
A blog, however, is regularly being updated. Blogs are generally run by an individual or small group of people, to present information on a particular topic in a conversational style.
Like this blog, for instance. I decided to start a health blog. I talk about healthy eating and exercise.
Blogs can be part of a bigger website (a company can run a company blog, for example).
Blogs used to be used as a sort of personal journey, with people sharing their lives with readers. It has evolved quite a bit since then, and now is a viable way for people to actually earn an income!
My Blogging Story
Around 2014 I started seeing all these people talking about blogging and how they were making money from blogging and it really piqued my interest. I mean, people actively making money from just writing things and putting them on the internet?
I was hooked and ready to learn more. Over the next few years, I started and ended roughly four blogs before settling on this one. In hindsight, I could have kept one of them and it would have been successful, but I think all things happen for a reason.
In June 2018 I started a blog, Balance + Lift, and haven’t looked back… ok, maybe a few times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t and that site is still alive today.
This blog is one of the best things I’ve created and I’m excited to see where it’s going to take me. I get to write about all the things I love and that right there is exciting.
Even though I love that little blog, my husband I decided to start One Smart Family because we’re on the “get out of debt” path and want to share our journey getting out of debt but also living our lives well.
Choosing A Blogging Niche
No joke, this has got to be hands-down one of the most difficult parts of blogging.
It gets people frozen for ages. Or jumping back and forth between ideas. Or trying multiple blogs at the same time to cover all the niches.
If you’re feeling confused and unsure when it comes to choosing your niche, know that you are not alone.
Why “Write About Your Passion” Is Bad Advice
If you’re here, reading this post, I’m going to take an educated guess and say that you want to earn money with your blog?
That is great! But it does mean that you will need to be careful about choosing what you write about.
If you want your blog to earn you money, then you should treat it as a business.
Not all passions are suitable for earning money.
Your passion may be making lace doilies for dollhouses. Cool passion. But there just isn’t enough interest for it to be a viable way of earning money through your blog.
Now, I’m not saying you should pick a niche you don’t enjoy, just because it will make you money. If writing about clothing and outfits bore you, and you’re happy to wear the same style of black leggings and sweatshirts every day, then a fashion site is just not going to work.
Choosing A Blog Niche
When choosing a niche for your blog, you should try to combine your interest, with one of the blog niches proven to make money.
Blog Niches That Make Money
Here are 7 popular blog niches that make money:
- Food & Recipes
- Health & Wellness & Fitness
- Personal Finance
- Make Money Online
- Fashion & Beauty
I took my interest in low-carb eating and weight lifting to create my health & fitness focused site, Balance + Lift.
If you’ve just started working a corporate job, and want to learn (and share) how to better manage your money, you could create a personal finance blog tailored at young professionals just getting started in the working world.
Or perhaps you’re a young mom who loves making healthy meals from scratch for your littlies – you can start a food blog with recipes, aimed at other young moms of babies and toddlers.
As you can see, it is quite easy to take one of the niches that are already proven to make money, and combine it with an interest (or interests) of yours, and make a blog that is unique while still having the ability to get traffic and make money.
Preparing Your First Posts
You may be surprised that I recommend that you write posts before setting up your site, and before choosing a name even.
It may seem like the wrong way around. But trust me – I have a good reason! Actually two good reasons.
Firstly: It will give you an idea if you actually enjoy writing about your chosen topic. You may have liked the idea of it, but when it comes to actually “doing” the writing, you may feel different.
In this case, you can go back one step, and look at some of the other niche ideas you had.
Secondly: It will give you a great kick start for when you do actually set up your site.
Picture a little bit into the future – you’ve followed the 3 simple steps set out below and set up your blog. Yay! But you don’t have any posts on it yet – or maybe you just have one. It can be hard to keep the momentum going.
Now compare it to setting up your blog, and publishing your first 5 posts, all on the same day. You have a site that looks like a real, functioning blog, that you can start sharing right away.
With the second approach, it is easier to keep on going (and a little more exciting, too!)
How To Know What To Blog About
Whether you know a lot about your chosen topic, or you’ve just started to go through the journey yourself, the best thing to do is to start at the very beginning.
What would an absolute beginner need to know about your niche or topic? Think of what questions they would ask.
Answer The Public is a great tool for this sort of research – as it gives you the actual topics and questions that people are searching for.
You can also use Pinterest as a research tool.
Type the topic in the search bar, and Pinterest will suggest options to add on to your search term, to narrow it down more.
If you write about the keto diet, this would look like this:
- What is the keto diet?
- What are the benefits of the keto diet?
- How to start the keto diet?
- What to eat for breakfast on the keto diet?
If you wrote about beauty, it would look like this:
- How to determine your skin type
- Best skincare routine for women in their 20s
- How to choose a flattering shade of red lipstick
These are all the different types of questions/topics that ‘beginners’ would need to know. This is a great way to start, and once you’ve got a good amount of content that targets beginners, you can start progressing and provide more advance posts.
I recommend getting 5 posts ready to go before actually creating your blog, of around 1000-1200 words each.
There have been many studies trying to determine the ideal blog post length. And while there is no magic number, longer posts (1000-3000 words) tend to perform better on every level.
But that doesn’t mean you can write fluff to fill up space and it will perform well.
Your focus must be on useful, actionable content that actually helps your reader.
Related Post: Time Management Strategies For A Chaotic Life
Choosing Your Blog Domain
Now that you’ve picked your niche, and written your first few posts, you get to the fun part of choosing your domain!
Now, before you start on this step, I want to say – your actual domain doesn’t matter as much as you think it does!
Don’t worry about choosing the ‘perfect’ domain name, or spending a lot of money because you’ve spotted a domain you want but someone else already owns it. Just choose something else.
As long as it doesn’t end up saying something dodgy (the domains for Pen Island and Kids Exchange could easily go very wrong, for example), then you’re good to go.
For example – Chasing Foxes gets loads of traffic, and is a very popular lifestyle site. But what does ‘chasing foxes’ mean? Nothing, actually. And it doesn’t really matter.
For the TLD (Top Level Domain – i.e. .com or .net or .org), a .com is always first prize. If that isn’t available, you can look at .co
I wouldn’t recommend .net – for some reason, these tend to be associated with unprofessional or even scam sites.
To see if your domain is available, you can use the site of any domain name provider.
But – I recommend taking it one step further.
If you’re registering a domain, you will probably want your social media handles to match.
Namevine will check not only if the domain is available, but it will also check across multiple networks to see if the social media handles are available also.
Test out a few options, and choose 2-3 of your favorite.
You don’t need to actually purchase the domain at this point.
It’s easy to get stuck on this step and to stress about finding the best name for your blog. But remember – it doesn’t matter that much.
It is more important to have valuable content that keeps people coming back to your site.
Preparing For Traffic
While you are still in the process of setting up your blog, you can start preparing your blog for traffic.
One of the easiest ways to get traffic as a new blogger is through Pinterest.
While you’re writing your first few posts, I recommend setting up a Pinterest account, creating boards related to your niche, and to start pinning 3rd party pins.
This will give your account some time to be recognized by Pinterest, and for the algorithm to see what kind of content you share.
This way, when you are ready to start sharing your posts from your blog, it isn’t from a ‘brand new’ Pinterest account, but an established one.
How To Start A Health Blog In 3 Simple Steps
Ok, so you now know your niche, you have chosen your domain name, and you have written a few posts.
You are officially ready to set up your blog!
You can use Wix, Weebly, Squarespace – but for blogging specifically, I recommend WordPress.
WordPress is easy to set up, it offers the most flexibility for design, and is the easiest to monetize.
My steps below are based on you using WordPress as the platform for your blog. (Side note – WordPress actually powers 30-40% of the entire internet! You can’t go wrong.)
Related Post: How to Start Freelance Writing With Elna Cain
Step 1: Purchase a Domain and Hosting Plan
Generally, I recommend keeping your domain and hosting separate – i.e. use two different service providers.
This may sound like extra work – but I have a good reason.
If at some point down the road, you decide to change hosts (either because your blog is blowing up and you need “managed hosting”, or because you aren’t happy with the service), then it will be much easier to make the switch if your domain and hosting are separate.
All you’ll have to do is switch hosts, and then change the nameservers for your domain. It’s relatively easy and saves you from swapping your domain over every time you change hosts (if you swap a lot).
I’m going to take a guess that you’ve seen a certain host with blue as its main color, recommended everywhere?
While there are bloggers who are genuinely happy with the service, it can’t be denied that one of the main reasons you see that host being recommended is because they are known for rather large commissions.
I’m going to recommend the host I personally use and love, Siteground. And yes – I will get a small commission if you do sign up through my link. But – I would recommend them even if I got nothing.
Why? Apart from being reliable, they have excellent customer service. I have had to ask for help from their customer service many times, and it has always been a great experience.
To sign up for your hosting plan, click on this link here to get the discounted price of $3.95 per month. (Please note, the special price is applicable if you sign up for a minimum of 12 months, and pay in full. It’s seriously the best price.)
After clicking on the link, select the far left button – under “Reliable Web Hosting”.
You will be taken to this page with the package options.
I recommend signing up for the smallest plan to start with – the StartUp plan. The StartUp plan is suitable for 1 website, has up to 10GB Webspace, and around 10 000 monthly visits.
It is really all you need at first. If you decide you want to add more sites at a later stage, you can upgrade. But there is no need to spend more than you need!
Once you have chosen your plan, you’ll get taken to this screen.
Click on “I already have a Domain” and enter the domain that you bought from Namecheap.com. (I’m assuming you bought your domain elsewhere… if not, then register for a new domain and follow the process.)
Click “Proceed” to go to the next screen. This is where you will enter all your personal details, and process the payment.
Towards the bottom of the page, below the hosting plan details, you will see “Extra Services” where Siteground offers SG Site Service for $19.80/year. This is not needed. Between using Siteground as your (very reliable) host, and installing a particular security plugin that I’ll mention a bit later, you will be covered in terms of security.
Once you are signed up, you are now ready to actually create your blog!
Step 2: Set Up WordPress
Now that you have your domain and hosting, you are ready to install WordPress – your platform.
Luckily – Siteground makes this process really easy.
Once you’ve purchased your hosting, you will also have your login details to get into your Customer Area.
When you login to the Customer Area for the first time, you will see the navigation bar and it will say “My Accounts”.
Click on the Installations tab and then “Add Installation Manually” and fill out the information.
SAVE YOUR USERNAME AND PASSWORD SOMEWHERE SAFE.
Make sure your password is a strong one.
Hackers will try to access your site. This is a given. Make it harder for them by using login details that are not easy to figure out, and by installing a good security plugin (more on that a bit later).
The next page is a confirmation page that shows your URL and the WordPress admin URL (usually it’s your domain with /wp-admin behind it – https://mydomain.com/wp-admin). That URL is where you’ll login to your new site and setup WordPress.
And there you have it – you set up WordPress for your very own blog!
Step 2: Setup WordPress
Now that you have WordPress installed on your site you’ll need to go to your WordPress Admin login area.
To login to your brand new blog, you can access it via Siteground, but the easiest way is to just use the direct link.
It will look like this: mydomainname.com/wp-admin
(I recommend bookmarking your domain link so you can access your site quickly.)
That /wp-admin at the end is how you will take you the login screen – it will look like this:
Enter the details you saved earlier, and click login.
You will be taken to your dashboard – which will look something like this:
Once you’re logged in that’s where the magic happens.
You will notice that there is a ‘menu’ going down the left side of the page. This is your navigation around the dashboard. It may feel a bit overwhelming at first, but you will quickly get the hang of it!
Under “Appearance” is where your “theme” or what gives your site its appearance lives. The WordPress Twenty Nineteen theme will already have been installed for you.
You can definitely change this down the line, but for now, I want you to keep the momentum going and get your first post up!
Open up one of the posts you prepared earlier on.
Step 3: Create Your First Post
Going back to your dashboard, search for “Posts” in the navigation, and hover over it. A sub-menu will pop up. Click “Add New”.
You will be taken to the WordPress Post editor page. If yours looks different, with blocks – this means that you have the Gutenberg editor. You will need to install the “Classic Editor” plugin. (Unless of course, you want to use the Gutenberg editor.)
On this page, you will see options for the “Post Title” (the name of your post), and “Post Content” (where your blog post goes).
Copy and paste your blog posts title into “Paste Title”, and then do the same with your content.
On the right, there is a blue button with “Publish” – click that button, and your post is now live!
Click “View Post” to view the live version of your blog post.
Alternatively, you can go to the front page of your website, and you’ll see it there.
Now, there is so much more you can still do, to get your blog properly ready. But you have started! And that is the most important part.
The next steps you need to do to finish setting up your blog are:
- Install and activate your chosen theme
- Customize your theme with your chosen colors and logo (though a logo is not required)
- Install necessary WordPress plugins (I recommend installing Wordfence at a minimum, for security)
- Review and update settings
- Create your pages (Home, Blog at a minimum)
- Create a menu
Are you ready to get started? Sign up with Siteground to start your blogging journey!