Hi! If you’ve landed here, then you are probably ready to start a blog (or are at least thinking about it).
This post is going to show you how to set up a professional blog from the start. When you go live, no one is going to know you’re a newbie, because you’ll have a remarkable setup!
There are affiliate links within this post. That means if you end up purchasing anything I’ll get a kickback, at no additional charge to you. It just helps me keep the lights on around here.
Here’s what to expect: First I’ll talk about things to think about before setting up your blog. Next, we’re going to go through the step-by-step process of setting up your blog in the internet world. This includes picking a domain name, purchasing hosting (a location where your blog exists online), installing WordPress (your content management software) and a setting up a theme.
That’s usually where most How to Start a Blog tutorials end. Not this one though. Like I said earlier, we’re going to get you set up like a pro and ready to go live. I will cover things like setting up Google analytics, adding a personalized favicon, how to write a good post, how to let search engines know your blog exists and more.
Let’s get your blog started.
1. Decide on a topic for your blog.
A lot of bloggers start out blogging about everything. That’s not a bad route to start out with – until you discover what it is you really want to focus on. Deciding what to blog about was one of the hardest parts of starting a blog for me. I’ve tried my fair share of blog topics, and I now blog about what I am most passionate about. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you narrow in on a blogging topic.
- What am I passionate about?
- What am I already doing?
- What do I have to offer that others can learn from?
- What do I talk to my friends about?
- Read this post if you need a little more help deciding what to blog about.
2. Set up your site
I use WordPress to create my blog/site. There are a lot blogging platforms but WordPress is the one I know and use. I find that it has the most flexibility and options. WordPress requires a host. For new bloggers, I recommend hosting your blog with BlueHost. They have affordable hosting for WordPress bloggers and make it super easy to install WordPress. Get up to a 40% discount when signing up for hosting by using the links on this page.
Select your hosting plan
The starter plan is usually sufficient hosting for new blogs. If your blog grows quickly (hopefully!) and you get mounds of traffic you can upgrade at any time. Of course, you could also start with the plus plan, if that is what you prefer.
Select a domain for your blog
The domain for your blog is what you will name your blog. You can either sign up for the free domain that is included in your hosting package or if you already own your domain name you can transfer it to BlueHost.
3. Determine a name for your blog (step 3 is inside step 2)
The name for your blog will become your brand. It is how people will recognize you. It sets expectations and the mood for your blog. Think of a few names that could work for your blog.
Before you settle on a name, make sure to check the various social media platforms to ensure that your name is available. Consistency is best. You want your audience to be able to recognize and find you easily. If you have a long domain name, you can shorten it up for your social media accounts. For example, sallysbakingaddiction.com uses @SallysBakeBlog as her social media name. Just make sure to be consistent.
Continue on with setting up your site:
Fill in all of your information
This part is pretty self-explanatory. Make sure all of your information is accurate and then head on to the next step.
Go over the package information and fill out the billing section
As for the extras, it’s up to you to decide what you want to spend your money on. I love the security of the site backup because I am frequently tinkering (and breaking) my blog code. The backups save me all the time.
I don’t feel like the search engine jump start is necessary – especially since I’m going to show you how to submit your site to Google.
The domain privacy protection replaces all of your personal contact information with BlueHost’s contact information.
Confirm your account and set up a password.
4. Install WordPress
If you didn’t use my links and WordPress wasn’t set up automatically for you, then you will need to use the following method:
While logged in to your Bluehost account, go to your cpanel. Scroll down to the section titled website builders and click the Install WordPress icon.
By clicking to Install WordPress a new tab will open. Click Start a brand new install.
Select which domain you would like to install to.
The installation process t will give you the option for www.yourblog.com, yourblog.com, or a temporary URL. It’s up to you whether or not you want the www. to show up with your URL. It doesn’t really matter which, just pick one and stick with it.
Fill out your information
You cannot change your username once you get WordPress set up, so make sure it is secure and something you like. It is not a good idea to have your username be “admin”. Your blog is more likely to be hacked that way.
After you’ve filled out the information for your blog, click install now.
Wait a minute or two and… TADA! You have WordPress on your site!
You now have two places to access your blog content: Your Cpanel, which hosts all of your files, and WordPress, which organizes and presents all of your files, and gives you the ability to compose new posts. It is rare that I find a reason to log into my Cpanel after WordPress is set up.
Login to your WordPress dashboard for the first time!
To log in to your WordPress account, go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and enter your username and password.
Welcome to your new WordPress blog. This is the WordPress dashboard:
5. Upload a theme to your new WordPress Blog
There are a lot of things you can do next, but my favorite is to install a theme. A WordPress theme adds structures, functions, and visual displays to your WordPress Blog. The appearance is the first impression readers have of your blog. I know your mom always said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I think we all have a hard time with that.
There are a lot of free themes for WordPress if you are not ready to spend money on premium options. To find a free theme that fits your needs and desires log into your WordPress dashboard and navigate to Appearance > Themes and start your search.
If it’s in your budget, I highly recommend purchasing a premium theme for your blog. I love and use Genesis themes because they are beautiful, responsive, HTLM 5 current, and SEO enhanced. If you need help choosing a theme, read my tips for picking out the ideal theme for your blog or, check out my top 10 favorite Genesis Child themes for bloggers.
How to Install a Premium Theme for WordPress
Once you have purchased your theme and downloaded the .zip file, it is time to upload it to your WordPress account. Head over to your WordPress dashboard at yourdomain.com/wp-admin On the left-hand side, navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New
Next to Add Themes, click Upload Theme Click Choose File and then browse your computer to find the .ZIP file you downloaded when you purchased your theme and then click Install Now.
Once the upload is complete, hit activate and your theme is live. Follow your theme setup instructions to get everything looking the way you want it. Have fun with this part! You now have your site set up and can work on getting things ready to go live.
Here are the next steps I recommend completing before announcing your blog to the world.
(Just click the underlined link to go to the full tutorial).
First, set up a coming soon page and work on getting followers. That way, when you go live people will actually read your blog. Keep that page up while you work on the next steps:
6. Adjust general WordPress settings & take a tour of WordPress. These two tutorials will help you set up your new blog and become familiar with WordPress.
7. Protect your blog from spam New blogs are prone to comment spam. Set up this plugin to prevent the spam from coming. Since spam comes from auto-bots you’ll start noticing it before you ever go “live” with your blog. That’s why this is at the top of my list.
8. Set up pages Pages exist outside of your blog feed. This tutorial shows you how to set up various types of pages.
9. Write your about page This is one of the most important pages on any blog or website.
10. Write your first post Here I walk you through writing a successful blog post in WordPress. Write a handful of posts before you go live – but don’t publish them! The biggest mistake I made when I started Blog Ambitions was publishing my posts before I went live. I wanted to look established but what resulted is some of my key posts being overlooked. It is much harder to get traffic to old posts than it is new posts.
11. Create and upload a Favicon A favicon is that little icon next to your site name in the web browser tab. Adding your own icon is a simple step to branding your blog.
12. Create a Gravatar This is a picture of you that will show up next to your blog comments. Another way to help you brand yourself and your blog.
13. Create an Author box I love author boxes (boxes at the end of your post with a short bio). They are a quick way for readers to learn who wrote the post and where they can learn more about you or connect with you.
14. Set up social media accounts Go ahead and set up social media accounts for your blog. You can even start interacting with people and let them know your new site is coming soon.
15. Set up a newsletter Social media is a great way to connect with your readers, but establishing your own subscriber list is even better. Follow this tutorial to set up a newsletter using MailChimp.
16. Install google Analytics Google Analytics allows you to track visits to your blog. You can see how a person got to your site, what page they landed on, host much time they spent, and more. Google analytics is a blogging must!
18. Create a Sitemap A Sitemap is a page on your blog that lists every page on your website. Having this sitemap makes it easier for Google and other search engines to crawl (find) pages on your blog. This step is necessary before completing the next step.
19. Submit your site to search engines Google isn’t going to magically know you’re there – you need to tell them. Do this step right before you’re ready to go live.
Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’re ready to go live with your blog. Sing it to the world, “I have a blog!”
Publish your first post and let your friends, family, and new social media followers know that you have a blog.
Lastly, stay updated by email with my latest post. I know it’s a plug, but I post blogging tips every week to help you improve your blog. From making money blogging, to blog post ideas, and SEO tips – you’ll want to stay in the loop!
Please leave a comment below or send me an email (hello@blogambitions) with any questions you have while setting up your blog. Or just say “Hi!” I like friendly chat. Don’t forget to come back and leave me your blog URL when you go live so that I can be your fan from the beginning.
Note: I am an affiliate for some of the products/services listed in this post. While I do receive a commission when you use my links to sign up, I only recommend them because I have used and trust BlueHost and StudioPress.