How to Start a Blog in 2020: Ultimate Guide to Blogging Success
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Are you ready to turn your amazing idea for a blog into a reality?
Even if you have no idea how to start a blog, I’ve got good news for you: Starting your blog is the easy part. You definitely don’t need to be a tech wizard to register a domain name or design an eye-catching website.
Of course, sticking to a regular publishing schedule can be a different story (hello, procrastination!). But getting your blog up and running online is easy and doesn’t take much time at all.
If you’re ready to join the community of bloggers who write and make money online, read on to learn how to start a blog, step by step.
How to start a blog in 4 easy steps
Maybe you love writing, but you’re not sure about the tech side of starting a blog. Or perhaps it’s the other way around.
Wherever your starting point, you can definitely improve your skills as a writer and/or learn the tech side of blogging.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about starting a blog, or use these jump links to head straight to a specific section.
- Figure out your niche in the blogging community
- Choose a user-friendly web hosting service
- Install WordPress on your website
- Pick a theme and design your website
I’ve attended a number of content marketing conferences, and the speakers always stress the same point: Know your niche.
Identifying the specific topic you want to write about is important for a few reasons.
For one, it helps you figure out who your audience is. Once you know who your readers are (or who you hope they’ll be), you can write content that will pique their interest.
Second, you want a topic that resonates with you. If you’re bored by your topic, you’ll struggle to post regularly. All your momentum might grind to a halt if you don’t care about what you’re writing.
Third, there are countless blogs out there, and it’s important to differentiate yourself. By narrowing down your idea to a specific niche, you won’t have a ton of competitors already writing about the same thing.
And finally, having a niche will help your blog grow traffic and be successful. If you cast too wide a net, you’ll have trouble retaining readers. They say, “In niches there are riches,” so if you’re looking to monetize your blog, try to stake out your small corner of the internet.
All that said, don’t let pressure to define your niche paralyze you. If over-analyzing is stopping you from getting started, throw this idea out the window and figure out your niche as you go. Not everyone is a planner, so you might be better off experimenting until something fits.
Now that you’ve honed in on your killer blog idea, it’s time to move on to the tech sides of starting a blog (don’t be alarmed!).
To get started, you’ll need a hosting service to host your website and register your domain name.
If you don’t want to spend any money on hosting, you could go with Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, or WordPress (the basic hosting plan, not the blogging platform; I’ll explain the difference more below).
However, there are some drawbacks to free hosting. You might not be able to choose a customized domain name, and you typically won’t have as many options for tools, design, or customization.
If you’re not looking to grow traffic or monetize your blog, a free hosting service could be fine. But if you are hoping to turn your blog into a side hustle or even full-time job, I recommend paying for a hosting service.
Of the various hosting services, Bluehost is my favorite. It’s easy to use, integrates seamlessly with WordPress, and has great customer support reps available 24/7 to answer your questions along the way.
Here’s how to get started with Bluehost hosting, step by step.
Click on “Get Started Now”
First, head to Bluehost.com and click “Get Started Now.” Don’t worry if the site looks a little different than the image below; they update pretty often!
Choose your Bluehost plan
Bluehost offers three plans: Basic, Plus, and Choice Plus.
The basic is a good deal for most beginning bloggers. It will hold your domain and up to five registered emails. But while it probably has enough space for you at the beginning, it doesn’t offer extra perks that come with the Plus or Choice Plus plans.
The Plus plan has unlimited website space, and you get a designated Spam expert to help you kick out spammers when they start leaving annoying comments on your site. You’ll also get a $200 “marketing offer,” which is a credit you can use to promote your site.
Finally, the Choice Plus plan also has the perks of the Plus plan, along with domain privacy and CodeGuard Basic. With domain privacy, your private information won’t show up in connection to your domain. And CodeGuard works behind the scenes to add more security to your site.
If you’re a newbie and only need one blog, the basic plan could be fine. But if you’re looking to start a couple of blogs or want the unlimited space or marketing credit that comes with the Plus plan, it could make sense to upgrade.
And if you’re looking to really spread your wings, opt for the greater security and bandwidth that goes with the Choice Plus plan.
Pick a unique and memorable domain name
Your next order of business is to choose a unique domain name for your website.
If you haven’t chosen one yet, you can continue on in the Bluehost setup process and add your domain name later. But you’ll want a domain name eventually so your website can get up and running.
Coming up with the right domain name can be the hardest part. You want something memorable and unique, short and snappy, clear but creative.
If you’re struggling to come up with a meaningful name, I recommend sitting down with a piece of paper and doing some free word association.
Set a timer and write down words related to your topic. Don’t self-censor; just jot down whatever comes into your head.
Once the time is up, look for unique combinations that stand out to you. If you’re still coming up short, try these domain name brainstorming tools.
Once you’ve landed on one or more possibilities, make sure it hasn’t already been taken by typing it into InstantDomainSearch.com or a similar site.
Even if it hasn’t been taken, I’d recommend Googling blogs that focus on similar topics as yours to make sure there’s not too much overlap.
While you want a user to clearly understand what your blog’s about based on your domain name, you also want to stand out from the competition.
Enter your personal details
Your next order of business is providing account information, including your name, address, and email. Make sure to provide an email that you check regularly so you’ll receive any communication you get from Bluehost.
Choose your hosting package and any add-ons
Next you’ll choose your hosting package, including how long you want hosting for. You can choose 12, 24, 36, or 60 months of hosting. A longer term means you’ll pay slightly less per month.
You can also add on extras, such as SiteLock Security and CodeGuard Basic. SiteLock can be useful because it scans your site for malware. But you could also do this with a different (free) plug-in, such as Wordfence.
Same goes for CodeGuard. It will backup your site on the cloud on a daily basis, but you could find other ways to do this for a lower or no cost.
Enter your billing information and choose a password
Your final step is to enter your billing information and choose a password for your account. Make sure to choose a strong password and keep track of it somewhere safe.
If Bluehost asks about any other upgrades or add-ons at, feel free to skip them. At this point, you’ve completed setting up your website hosting — congratulations!
Note that your domain name might take up to 24 hours to show up, since it can take some time before it’s fully registered.
By the way, if you encounter any issues along the way, you can use Bluehost’s instant chat or call customer support at 1-855-984-4546.
Once you’ve set up website hosting, it’s time to install a platform to hold all your lovely content.
Most bloggers recommend WordPress — myself included. Most blogs I’ve ever worked on, including ones with millions of readers, use WordPress as their blogging platform.
In fact, WordPress powers 32% of all blogs and websites on the internet!
WordPress is free, user-friendly, and, if and when you have some coding skills, easy to customize to your specifications. Plus, you can add various plugins for tracking traffic or evaluating the “SEO strength” of blog posts (more on this later).
What’s more, Bluehost makes it incredibly easy to install WordPress on your website.
Before I explain how, a quick note to clear up any confusion you have around WordPress: It can be both a hosting company and a blogging platform.
I do not recommend using WordPress to host your blog (even though its basic plan is free).
But I do recommend the free WordPress platform, which easily integrates with Bluehost or other hosting services.
To install WordPress on Bluehost, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Bluehost account with your user name and password
- Scroll to the “Website” section of the control panel
- Click on “Install WordPress.” The next page might have the same option, so click “Install” again.
- Choose your website’s domain name
- When you have the option, click on “Advanced settings” and add your website name, admin user name, and admin password. If you don’t do this, WordPress will create a default name and password for you, which might not be as secure as one you choose yourself.
- Agree to the terms and conditions and click “Install Now”
- If a window appears asking you to choose a theme, feel free to skip for now. You can choose a theme later.
At this point, WordPress should be fully installed on your website! Again, reach out to customer service if you run into any roadblocks.
Otherwise, pat yourself on the back for getting through all this initial set-up. Now you can turn your attention to designing your site!
So you’ve set up hosting, registered your domain name, and installed WordPress. Now comes the fun part — designing your blog!
WordPress comes with a number of free and paid themes, each with their own look and feel. Play around to see which one resonates with you.
If your blog will feature a lot of pictures, you might go with a theme where photos are front and center. If you’re writing about a serious topic, consider one with a more business-like feel.
Along with choosing a theme, you can also create various pages, such as an About Me page, a Contact Me page, and of course, your blog page where your blog posts will live.
Each theme will have some pages ready to go, but you can change names and add or delete pages as you like.
If you have questions, contact Bluehost customer service or post them on the forum associated with your WordPress theme. You can also often find YouTube tutorials that explain how to make the most of your theme.
By the way, no one will see your blog while it’s under construction. Bluehost will set up a “Wordpress site coming soon!” message until you choose to publish your site.
Once you’ve finished your design, written up your bio, and perhaps even added a few blog posts, you can deactivate this plug-in and let your blog go live once again to the world.
Once you do, congratulations! You’ve just turned your awesome idea into a fully functioning blog!
Attracting readers: How to create a content strategy and promote your blog
Creating your blog is a big achievement, and you should celebrate your success. But at the same time, be careful not to lose momentum.
After you’ve done the initial set-up, the challenges aren’t over. Now it’s time to figure out what you want to write about and update your blog on a regular basis.
Google likes active blogs that publish at least three times per week. If that’s a stretch, strive to update your blog at least once per week.
As a content marketer, I’ve learned a lot about what makes content successful. Here are some tips for planning your blog posts, creating a publishing schedule, and attracting readers to your blog.
Keep a running list of topics to write about
Right after you start your blog, you’re probably bursting with ideas. But if you don’t plan for future articles, your idea well could start to dry up.
Fortunately, you can keep the idea tap flowing by setting aside time for brainstorming. Designate a time specifically for planning out future articles.
Where can you find ideas? Everywhere! Here are a few tips:
- Draw on your own personal experiences. Think about challenges you’ve overcome, successes you’ve had, or questions you’d like to learn more about. Use your own life as inspiration for blog posts.
- Think about your audience’s needs. Who is your “ideal reader”? What do they want to know more about? What obstacles can you help them overcome or problems can you help them solve?
- Elicit questions from friends and family. Bring up the topic with the people in your life, and find out what questions they have. This could spark an advice column, or you could even do a “success story” feature on someone you know.
- Do SEO research. If you’re looking to rank for certain keywords that people search for, you’ll need to learn a bit about SEO. An easy way to start is to search for keywords and see what pages come up. At the bottom of your search results page, Google will also show you some similar keywords people search for, all of which could spark article ideas.
- Check in with your competition. See what similar bloggers in your niche are writing about. Of course, you don’t want to copy others, but staying informed about your topic could spark new ideas.
- Set up RSS feeds to stay up to date on news or blog posts. Check in with media outlets for new information, surveys, or studies on your topic. If you cover products, follow stores to learn about their sales or product launches. Dive into your community so you can stay informed about what’s going on and share any updates with your readers.
Hemingway said he would end his writing in the middle of a good idea, so he could start right back up the next day. Keeping a running list of article ideas will make sure you similarly keep up your blogging momentum.
Instead of hitting a wall, you’ll have a list of articles waiting to be written.
Sharpen your SEO and storytelling skills
If you’re hoping your blog will rank highly on Google, you’ll need to learn a bit about how Google works.
Learning the basics of SEO is a good start. I’d recommend Udemy courses such as SEO 2018: Complete SEO Training + SEO for WordPress Websites, SEO Training: Get Free Traffic to Your Website With SEO, or How I Hit #1 on Google: The 2019 Complete SEO Course.
For keyword research, use Google’s Keyword Planner to see how often people search for certain terms. Although this tool no longer gives specifics, you can still see estimates of search frequency.
Once you have a target keyword, search it to see what’s already ranking highly. If the competition looks relatively weak, you might be able to write a stronger piece of content that has a chance of ranking highly.
Pro tip: The Yoast plug-in is a great way to check that you’ve used your keyword multiple times throughout the article, title, and meta-description. If the Yoast light turns green, you know your article is SEO-approved.
Although keywords are important, good storytelling is still paramount. Google’s algorithms are getting smarter and smarter, so it’s more important than ever to deliver a solid piece of content to a reader.
Thorough content tends to rank better, as do articles that are unique. For instance, if you can offer new data or an awesome infographic, you can stand out from the crowd.
To brush up on your writing skills, consider online courses such as,
- The Strategy of Content Marketing from Coursera
- Content Marketing Certification from Hubspot
- Get Paid to Write Online course from Elna Cain
- How To Write Better Headlines – For Content, Email & Social from Udemy
Whenever you sit down to write, think about how to hook your reader’s interest and keep it throughout your article. Acknowledge their problems and offer a solution, or at least a note of hope.
Note that getting your article to rank can take months, and SEO is complicated (backlinks from reputable websites help, too). In the end, though, writing awesome content is the best way to drive traffic to your blog.
And if ranking highly on Google isn’t your priority, don’t worry about SEO strategies. Just share your unique voice with the world, and you’re sure to attract readers who appreciate it.
Promote your writing on social media
Another way to attract eyeballs to your website is through social media. You know the usual suspects: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
Invite people to like your page, and post consistently. Make the most of hashtags so your posts show up on search results. Connect with others in your community, and share their content too.
Remember, what works on Facebook might not work on Twitter, and vice versa. Although you want to be consistent, you can also experiment with different messaging and promotional strategies, since each social media channel is unique.
Contribute guest posts to other websites
Another way to get your blog out in the public eye is by contributing guest posts to other websites.
Check out other blogs in your niche and inquire if they accept guest posts. You could even pitch your idea for a post (for more on how to write a pitch, check out this guide to freelance writing).
You could also interact with people in online forums, such as Quora or relevant Facebook groups.
Getting your name out there will plant a seed that could eventually grow into more traffic for your blog.
Ready to monetize? How to make money off your blog
If you’re thinking in terms of SEO strategy and traffic growth, you’re probably eager to make money off your blog.
Of course, you should never sacrifice quality or transparency for the sake of income. The only way to gain and keep readers is to offer honest, authentic, and useful advice that you can truly stand behind.
But as long as you keep to your mission, you can also turn your traffic into money. Here are two main strategies for monetizing your blog.
Affiliate marketing and ads
Affiliate marketing involves referring customers to other stores or service providers.
For instance, I have an affiliate relationship with Bluehost, so if you click on my Bluehost link and buy a hosting service, I’ll make a small commission off of it.
But circling back to authenticity, that’s not why I’m recommending Bluehost. In fact, I have access to affiliate programs with other hosting services. I chose to feature Bluehost because I think they have an awesome service, especially for people creating a blog for the first time.
You can gain affiliate links by signing up for partner programs, such as FlexOffers, Rakuten Marketing, or Amazon. Some companies also offer their own affiliate programs, which you can sign up for directly through their websites.
Along with using affiliate links, you might also include in-line ads or banner ads on your posts or homepage. These work in a similar way; you’ll make a small amount of money off of each customer who clicks through and buys a product.
By the way, you’re not limited to using affiliate links on blogs. You can also incorporate them into social media posts to share with your audience.
Selling services or products
Besides affiliate marketing, you could also create and sell a product or service, such as an e-book or course. Or you could advertise your writing (or design, marketing, SEO, etc.) skills on your blog and have clients come to you.
When it comes to making money off your blog, the sky’s the limit. But in most cases, you don’t have to worry too much about a monetization strategy until you’ve started your blog, written some great content, and attracted readers to your awesome website.
Turn your blogging dreams into a reality
Blogging is one of the best ways to work as a writer from anywhere you want. Whether you want to work from home or travel the world as a digital nomad, blogging gives you that flexibility.
It’s also a great avenue for expressing your creativity and honing your craft as a writer. Plus, you can find a community of people who share your passions.
That said, the blogosphere is a competitive world, and you can’t expect overnight success. There’s a lot to learn along the way, whether about SEO, website design, or media outreach.
But if you keep an open mind, you can sharpen your skills and acquire new knowledge. By publishing regularly, you’ll slowly but surely attract a community of readers to your blog.
Whatever your blogging goals, stay the course, even when the road gets bumpy. By sticking with it, you’ll be well on your way to being your own boss as a successful, location-independent blogger.