Start A Blog In Under An Hour – A Step-By-Step Guide

So you want to start a blog? Great! I started blogging about 14 months, primarily as a sort of online résumé. Since then it has grown to the point where I should really treat it as a proper business. The site is now making over $1,000 a month (EDIT: As of July 2016 it is up to $4,000 a month). A great result for a part-time hobby!

But even if you never make a profit, I still think everyone should start a blog. It helps with your writing skills, provides you with an online presence and connects you with people with similar interests.

Before we dive in, let’s cover a few key blogging terms:

  • Domain Name: This is the address that you type in to get to your website. They are typically of the form ‘www.something.com’. For instance, my domain name is www.arbing.co.uk. If you want a domain name, you don’t buy it. Instead, you register it for a period of time. Generally by paying a yearly fee. If you don’t renew your domain name when the time period expires someone else can register it. For the purpose of this article, we don’t really need to worry about this as most hosting comes with a free domain name. As long as you keep paying for your hosting you will keep your domain.
  • Hosting: Is what we call the physical place where your website is stored. You may have this idea that all the websites are somehow floating around in the clouds, but unfortunately that is not how it works. Rather, most websites are stored on a computer in a big warehouse along with thousands of other websites. All connected to the internet with a superfast internet connection. These computers are called servers, and you rent them through a host. To begin with your website running your website will only require a tiny portion of one of these servers. I use Bluehost for this site, it costs only $3.95 a month.
  • Blogging Platform: This is what actually runs your website. Gone are the days when you had to program a website from scratch in HTML. Now you just install a blogging platform with a few clicks and your website is up and running. For this tutorial, I will be using WordPress, which is the platform used on this site.
  • Theme: This is what your site actually looks and feels like. It is an add-on to your blogging platform that makes your website pretty and unique. There are hundreds of themes out there, including free and paid-for ones.
  • Plugins: These are extra things you can install on top of the blogging platform to make your website better. They are built by third-party developers and once again there are free and paid for ones.

Let’s get started:

Step One – Choose a domain name and sign up to some hosting

You can purchase domain names separately, but most hosting solutions give you one included with the price.

I use Bluehost for my hosting. It is a big company, which means they aren’t going to suddenly shut down. And they are cheap and reliable.

When doing my research before starting this blog I found that most bloggers start with Bluehost. The basic plan (which is all you need) is currently on offer for $3.95 a month.

Bluhost start a blog wordpress

When you are ready to start a blog, head over to Bluehost and click ‘get started now’.

Straight away you will be asked to choose a domain name. This is a very important step and shouldn’t be rushed. Your domain name will soon be the brand of your website and will be what people type in to return to your site.

You generally want your domain name to be as memorable and short as possible. Memorable being more important than short. For instance: www.greatbloggingtips.com is a better domain name than www.xhy33.com.

Unfortunately, most really good domain names have already been registered. But you may be able to get something that is personal to you.

I was lucky enough to get my name (Sam Priestley) as the domain name:

bluehost domain name start a blog

When I first decided I wanted to start a blog, I knew I was going to take it seriously. I really didn’t want the hosting to expire and end up losing my entire site by accident so I signed up for two years up front.

Once you have chosen your domain name, click ‘next’ and follow through the steps. It’s pretty straightforward.

Step Two – Install WordPress

Once you have signed up to the hosting you should be faced with the cpanel page. If you don’t see it right away, look for a menu item under ‘hosting’ that says ‘cpanel’ on it. The page should look something like this:

start a blog

It may look very complicated, but most of the features we will never touch. All you will probably use is the “Install WordPress” button and potentially the ‘Email Manager’ if you want to set up a personal email address with your domain name.

After you click on ‘Install WordPress’, you will be given the option to pay for someone to install it for you. It is ridiculously easy to do it yourself so I suggest not paying. Or at the very least, give it a go and if you can’t work it out only then pay for some help.

When given the option of where to install WordPress, simply select the domain name you chose when signing up to the host (it will probably be there by default) Then leave the ‘directory’ box empty.

bluehost install wordpress page start a blog

Next you just need to choose a site name, a username and a password.

WordPress will then install and once it is done your website will be up and running! Just type in your domain name into a new web browser window to access it. I bet you never thought it would be that easy to start a blog?

Here’s one I set up in about five minutes:

brand new wordpress site bluehose start a blog

Ok. That is a very plain and boring website… but it is a website that people can access! Time to improve it and turn it into a site we are proud of.

Step Three – Configure WordPress and install a theme

After you installed WordPress you may have been taken to a page that looks like this:

start a blog wp admin

This is the WordPress Administration page. If you can’t find it then you can access it by typing in your domain name followed by wp-admin. For instance: www.myblogsdomain.com/wp-admin. The username and password are the ones you entered when installing WordPress.

This admin page is where you will be spending a lot of your time. From here you will write your blog posts, choose how the website looks and monitor what the people viewing your blog are looking at. It is worth spending a bit of time looking around.

Try creating a new blog post:

bluehost wordpress first post

It still looks rubbish but at least there is now some content. The next step is to choose a good theme to prettify it.

On the wp-admin main page, hover over the menu item ‘Appearance’ and click ‘Themes’. Here you will find a lot of free and paid-for themes that you can install on your blog. Generally, I suggest just going with a free one to begin with until you really know what type of site you want.

Here I have just chosen one called Button and immediately the website looks 100% better.

button wordpress theme bluehost start a blog

A few little quick tweaks can have a large impact. In the next image: I have made the title a bit more attractive, added in social media links, extended the menu, and inserted a royalty-free image.

10 minute start a blog wordpress bluehost

Step Four – Get Writing!

There is a lot more you can do to improve your blog, but content is king! Once you have the bare minimum of a site that you are happy with, you should start writing and getting some content up there. After all, that is why you wanted to start a blog in the first place.

I suggest you stop reading now and go and play around with your new blog. Once you have a few posts up, please come back and read on.

Further material on how to start a blog

The plugins I use:

I like to think of plugins in WordPress as being very similar to apps on an iPhone. They aren’t normally created by WordPress but without them, WordPress wouldn’t be anywhere near as great as it is.

To install a plugin just click on the ‘Plugins’ menu in your wp-admin and select ‘Add New’. Then just search for the name of the plugin you want to install.

Don’t go too crazy with plugins. As a general rule, the more plugins you have the slower your website will run. So pick a few really good ones.

Here are my favourite plugins that I always install when I start a blog. They are all currently used on this website:

Disqus Comment System:

I use Disqus to manage the comments on my blog posts. Before I installed it I was getting lots of spam and it was a real trial to keep ahead. All that spam pretty stopped immediately as soon as I installed Disqus.

I think the extra effort needed to post a comment deters spammers.

disqus start a blog

Yoast SEO:

Yoast gives you real-time analytics on how readable and search engine friendly your post is. Here is a snippet from half way through writing this post:

start a blog yoast seo

I generally try and make each of my posts ‘green’ for search engine optimability. I don’t know if it has much effect, but it can’t hurt.

Google Analyticator:

A very easy way to add Google Analytics to your website. A pretty important step if you want to monitor how many people are visiting your blog and what they are doing once they arrive.

I am not going to talk much about Google Analytics here, but for anyone wanting to start a blog it is well worth researching.

Top 10:

A simple plugin that records how many views you get on each post. Apart from giving me a daily breakdown, it also helps me to keep track of what my most popular posts are.

SumoMe:

SumoMe is a great plugin that offers ways to help increase the number of people signing up to an email list. I have it setup with the email sender MailChimp.

When a user arrives at my site for the first time, after 45 seconds a little pop up will ask them if they want to join my mailing list:

sumome popup start a blog

Since installing it my daily sign-ups have over doubled.

Making money from your blog:

One of the main reasons you may want to start a blog is to make money from it. I don’t spend much time on monetization and am by no means an expert. But for my two cents I think that you have three routes:

How to get royalty-free images:

Unfortunately, you cannot just search on Google images and use any old picture you come across. That picture is someone’s property and if they don’t give you permission to use it then you could be in breach of copyright.

Once you start a blog, everything you post on it will be in the public domain. That means that the image owner could find your site and may potentially come after you for some compensation.

To get round this I use Flickr. On Flickr when you search for images you can filter them by ones that are allowed to be reused for ‘commercial use’ and ‘modifications’. If both are selected it means you can do whatever you want with the picture and use it on your for-profit blog totally legally.

Just head over to Flickr and after you have searched for something, use the ‘filter by license’ in the top left:

start a blog royalty free images flickr

Get some feedback on your new blog:

If you want to get my opinion on your blog or just want to help promote it to new readers, please feel free to put it in the comments below. I will try and find the time to take a look at it and point out any areas I think you could improve.

Best of luck, and I hope you find blogging to be just as enjoyable as I have.

  • Ash

    What software or app do you use for the screenshots?

    • I don’t use any. I use a windows computer and it comes with a print screen function. Then I cut the screenshot down to the right size in paint.

      • Ale_S

        Old school rocks 🙂

        • Evgeniy Baev

          Try Gadwin PrintScreen. It is really convenient application.

          • Cheers guys. I never realised there was so many options for screenshotting! I think I’ve heard of Gadwin before but never used it, will take a look.

      • Matt

        Paint is great but if you’re on windows 8+ I’d recommend the snipping tool, same end result but much quicker 🙂

  • Matt

    Thanks for the great guide Sam, I already have my own blog The Advantage Gambler.com but will certainly look into Sumome, looks like a great little plugin. For those looking for great free images I’d highly recommend unsplash.com all images can be used however you want and they’re excellent quality

    • Cheers, never heard of unsplash – I’ll check it out!

      Thanks for the link to your site (and also good to see you’re making good money with matched betting).

      First off, great job. Your site looks good, you are posting regularly (a lot more than me) and the content is very useful.

      Here are a couple of things you could do quite quickly that I reckon could really improve the user experience on your site:
      – Get a custom favicon. It’s a five minute job and will make your site much more recognisable.
      – I think you should look to get a new theme. That one has a few glitches particularly with the menu that I find annoying. Also the font size and spacing in the blog posts make them quite hard to read.

      Hope that helps!
      Sam

      • Matt

        Thanks that’s really useful, I have a look into it. I have been wondering about a new theme but been procrastinating due to the amount of work involved in updating it.

        Hope the move abroad is going well, I’ve just returned from 4 months in SE Asia (with my wife and 3 year old) I’m sure you’ll have incredible time. I look forward to the day when I can make the same leap, it gets slightly more challenging with a child.

        • Wow, four months abroad with a three year old. That’s amazing and must have been quite tough. I hope that I have the same opportunity when I have kids.

  • Paul

    Enjoy your blog, Sam, & the attitude behind it, which pushed me to start http://www.chumpwise.com based around the Grand National. My wordpress skills leave a lot to be desired but any feedback appreciated.
    Your Expert in a Year table tennis book was also interesting – I thought it provided some good general lessons that I will revisit.

  • Matched Betting Site

    This blog is very helpful and loaded with useful information which helped me start up and develop my own blog http://www.matchedbettingsite.com Thank You!

  • Hi Sam.
    I have a couple of queries about using images from Flickr
    How do you select both allowed for commercial use and modifications at the same time, it seems I can only select either commercial use or modifications?
    Also if I use the image in the blog post do I have to create a hyperlink to the actual source on Flickr?

    • If you search for something, then at the top of the search results will be a drop down that says “Any License”. If you click on that you should see the option for “Commercial use & mods allowed”.

      Whether you need to link back depends on what the person who uploaded the image requires. Here are the typical requirements: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

  • Virat Chhikara

    Hi Sam.
    Can I copy a portion of the content of someone’s blog without his permission to post it on my blog ? Is it legal ?
    There is a fair use policy that we can use in youtube videos. Does the same applies in blogging too ?

  • Reddy

    No mention of “have something to talk about”. You need a clear theme, nobody’s coming back to your blog if you don’t have one.

  • Income Sense

    Hi Sam,

    I have read your blogs for a few weeks now and it has given me the needed push to start one myself. Similar to you I have tried many business ideas but never documented them. Some have succeeded.

    I think my writing will need to improve but thought there is only one way and that is to take the plunge and learn as I go. Using Yoast is a constant reminder of my failings!

    Many of the plug ins I have used are the same as you have used. I will let you know how things develop as it is very early days (6)

    Keep up the posting

    Steve