How to Start a Blog: The Complete Beginners Guide
Are you looking for a free step by step guide to show you how to start a blog and beyond?
You’re in the right place.
Blogging has come a long way since it first started. It’s now amazingly easy and cheap to start one. Not only that, no technical skills are required.
In this guide we will take an A to Z approach. We will be covering but not limited to:
- What is a Blog?
- Why start a Blog?
- How do you start a Blog for free?
- How to start a paid Blog (Paid)?
- Customizing WordPress
- Adding Content to WordPress
- Post WordPress Cleanup and 6 changes to make now
So before we continue, we need a good foundation.
What is a blog?
“A blog is a discussion or informational website published on the World Wide Web consisting of discrete, often informal diary-style text entries (posts).” – Wiki
A blog is a type of website normally dedicated to writing articles (blog posts) on a subject and listed in date order.
The articles in a blog are referred to as posts and are organized with the most recent at near the top (or left) and the oldest at the bottom (or right), almost like pages in a book.
It is also common nowadays for a static website to include a blog. So we can expand the definition to be a type of or a section of a website.
- Reverse Chronological Content. The articles in a blog as usually organized in reverse chronological order. That is, more recently created articles appear near the top. This makes it very easy to see when new items are added.
- Dynamic Content. The content is normally added on a regular basis. Regular pages on a website might occasionally be updated or added. But for the most part, they are static.
- How Blog posts are archived. Blog posts have and are organized by date. But they normally also have an author, categories and tags. Blogs allow you to retrieve and filter blog posts by these other attributes.
- Comments. It is common for blog posts to have a comment section at the end of the article. Comments allow interactions with the author about the given post and helps grow the community.
What does blog stand for
Blog is short for weblog? Back in the 90s when blogs we just starting, they were used mostly as online (web) journals (logs).
The modern blogging evolved from these online diaries where people kept a running log of the events in their personal lives.
Blog vs website
A website is simply a collection of related webpages while a blog is a section of a website. So all blogs are websites and therefore if you start a blog, you also start a website.
It is possible, but uncommon these days, for a website to not have a blog, for example Flexbox Froggy.
This website’s only purpose is to teach you how to use css flexbox.
It does not have a blog or even that many pages as a matter of fact.
Pages on a website, that are not part of the blog, are normally static. Meaning that they aren’t changed or updated often. A good example of this are About and Contact pages. Other than when the website site owner might want to change the design, they are more or less the same forever.
Pages (posts) that are part of a blog, on the other hand, are changed or updated more often by comparison. For example, an article on the ‘Top 10 most comfortable female shoes 2018’ would be placed on a blog. This author would want to update this article to keep it from being outdated.
How much does it cost to start a blog?
When it comes to a paid or self hosting blog, the absolute bare minimum cost would be for a domain name and web hosting.
Domain name $10 per year
Web hosting $60 for the first year.
This will be fine for most just starting out and can be upgraded as needed. Web hosting can go upwards of $120 a month, and even more for custom setups.
Everything else needed for starting a self hosted blog can be done for free or yourself.
How hard is it to start a blog?
Short Answer, not hard.
The initial setup process is very straightforward. Modern Content Management Systems along with Page builders make it effortless to add content and design blogs.
While starting a blog is not as hard as it was years ago, blogging requires a bit of work to be successful.
Bluehost vs Wix
Bluehost vs Wix is an apples to orange comparison.
Bluehost is mainly a web hosting service, storing your website and making it available to everyone on the internet.
Wix is a combination of a web hosting service and a CMS. The Wix CMS is proprietary and can ony be used with the Wix service. This is different from Bluehost, which gives you the option to install many other CMS such as Joomla, Magento, Drupal and the ever popular WordPress.
Bluehost vs Squarespace
Bluehost vs Squarespace is exactly like the Bluehost vs Wix comparison.
Squarespace is another all in one web hosting service that comes with a company unique CMS.
Squarespace and Wix are similiar in that they aim to simplify the website building process with their own web unique systems.
Why start a blog
Blogging, along with search engines, have made a lot of head ways since the 90s when they were first conceived.
Search engines have changed dramtically over the years. Making them better than ever at finding and indexing new web pages.
So it is easy for your content to be instantly accessible by anyone on the internet.
This rise in the accessibility of information has made blogging very attractive for individuals and businesses alike.
There are a lot of benefits to having a blog. But its mostly subsets of the following:
1. Making money online
The average person is looking to escape the drudgery of the 9-5 job. They hear stories about bloggers making 6 figures, they look into it and figure why not try it out.
Making money from blogging means that they would be earning an income and also have the ability to work from anywhere. This appeals to almost anyone, which is why this is the main reason people get into blogging.
This only gets better as you dig deeper and realise how many ways people are making money with their blogging efforts
- Affiliate Marketing
- Ecommerce Store
- Selling own products/services
- Membership website
- Selling advertising real estate
2. Attracting targeted leads
Running a business is hard work and getting new clients to grow your business can be even harder. And if you’re a small fish in a big pond, it will be even harder to stand out.
As it turns out though, there is a way.
Traffic from search engines (mostly Google) makes up most of the traffic for blogs/websites and with 5.5 billion searches a day I would say that there are plenty of opportunities for a business to place themselves in front of new people.
Adding content, relevant to the business, to a blog will attract visitors who over time might become more familiar with the business and be future customers.
3. Learning New Skills
Having a blog is a starting point for numerous digital marketing skills such as:
- Graphics Design for Web
- Search Engine Optimization
- Content Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- Email Marketing
Being good at each necessitates practice and there is no better place to practice than in your own space.
Many of these skills can lead to high paying jobs.
4. Improve Writing
Writing is a very vauable skill. And being a good writer requires practice.
The more you write, the better you become at it. So even if you didnt set out to improve your writing, it was naturally happen.
Blogging is about writing.
The process of researching topics and writing for a targeted audience will improve writing over time.
How do you start a blog for free?
This is the first question anyone has. And of course, it is natural.
I mean, you’re starting something new and you want to do it at the lowest cost possible with minimal downsides.
There are many free blogging services available. Some of the most famous include:
The signup process is simple. Basically you enter your name, email address, and a chosen password. Hit sign up and you’re all set.
You then get access to a back end where you can create and publish pages, add content and beautify your blog. Your blog is now live for anyone to see. Your address looks something like this.
These limitations are there with the hopes that you will pay for an upgraded service for additional features.
How to start a Blog (self hosted)
While not as easy as setting up a free blog, this is still a beginner friendly process.
10 years ago you would have needed to know HTML and CSS, at a minimum, in order to make your own web page.
You can get by perfectly fine without ever having to learn a single line of code.
We need three things to start a self hosted blog:
- Domain Name
- Web Hosting
- Content Management System
Want to know the best part?
We can get all three from the same company, which makes the process very easy for anyone.
But before we assemble all three pieces, an explanation of each is needed to help us understand how everything works together.
If you just want to begin the set up process, feel free to skip to here.
1) Choose a domain name
If you have ever typed in your favorite website, then you’ve seen what a domain name is.
- amazon.com from
- newegg.com from
A Domain Name is your unique online address. So that means once you have one, noone can use that domain name without you.
Domain names are part of the Domain Name System which points domain names to IP addresses. All websites addresses are actually IP addresses. It is very hard to remember many IP addresses. So the DNS exists and convert IP addresses into human friendly names.
Icann helps coordinates the domain name system. To get a domain name, you register your domain with a domain registrar. ICANN accredits all domain registrars.
Domain registrations are not forever. But are yearly.
So if you forget to renew it, after a grace period, anyone can claim it.
Domain names can be purchased not only from domain registrars but from web hosting companies. This can be confusing because domain registrars can also provide hosting while web hosting companies also sells domain names.
So how do you tell them apart?
The difference is subtle and it comes down to specialization. A good marker for a domain registrar is the amount of extensions available.
How to choose a domain name
Choosing a name is an important step. A name is your identity. There is no one size fits all guide to create the perfect name for everyone. But there are a few guidelines that will give you an advantage over guessing.
- Make it Brandable. Having a brandable name is important to long term success. It’s a name that people can positively associate with you and what you do. A brand name tend to be unique and memorable.
- It is easy to type and pronounce. If it is easy to pronounce it will be easier to remember. It will also be easier to spread via word of mouth. This also means avoiding hyphens and numbers. Both are harder to clearly describe outloud.
- Keep it short. Shorter names are easier to remember and write since they are concise. Short names are more like to be ‘catchy’ and stick in someones head. The ability to linger in the head of visitors is an advantage.
- Avoid Trademarked names. Apart from simply causing confusion to users who might interact with both entities, there could also be legal issues. It is safer to avoid these type of problems especially with larger names.
- Make the name intuitive. It really helps if upon seeing your name, your target audience can tell what you do or are about. Try to avoid keyword stuffing as this looks spammy.
There are over 339.8 million domain names taken. Ouch. So there is a strong chance that a name you were thinking of using is already taken. In this case we have three options:
- Add a modifier. The name of blog doesn’t have to exactly match your domain name. It helps the closer they match but you will have to decide how much you want to compromise. eg If caketaster.com is taken, you can check if thecaketaster.com is taken and use that instead.
- Use another TLD/Extension. If you came up with a name that you must have, but the .com version is taken, then considering another TLD such as .net or .co.
- Contact the owner. As a last resort and only if you cannot live without this name, you can try and buy it. This can be challenging as its not always easy to find the owner and then a price will have to be negotiated. It’s easier to just find another name.
2) Find a Good Web Hosting Service
This is a service that allows you to store and manage the files that make up your website/blog.
They ‘host’ your website on their servers and make your content available to everyone on the internet.
Equipment maintenance and overheads are taken care of by the web host and all you do is pay a monthly fee, just like rent.
Types of Web Hosting
There are different types of web hosting services and one web host can provide multiple.
The most common ones are:
- Shared hosting is the most popular and cheapest hosting option. A single server is used to host websites for multiple customers. The resources are shared so one site experiencing a traffic spike can negatively affect others. Customers have a limit on the amount of service resources that can be used.
- Dedicated hosting is the most expensive hosting option but you get full control of an entire server to use and configure as you please. More technical knowledge will be required with this hosting plan. Not only do you have to manage and set up the website but also the service itself.
- VPS hosting is a virtual private server. A server is divided into virtual slices and each slice houses a hosting plan. Each slice also acts like a server with its own dedicated resources. This means that one site cannot infringe on the resources of another. VPS hosting is a mid way between dedicated and shared hosting.
- Cloud hosting is a virtual server that is made up of many servers combined as one. Resources can be scaled up or down on demand, allowing for spikes in traffic. This flexible scaling also makes it cheaper to upgrade as these upgrades can be done in small increments.
Managed Hosting is typically an improved version of any of the previously mentioned hosting options. This means you can have regular Cloud hosting and then managed cloud hosting.
- WordPress optimized servers
- Automated backups and updates
- Premium Support
- Staging Areas
How to choose a web host?
For a web host to do its job properly, our web pages need to be readily available to any user who request them. This means the most important factors to look out for are:
- Reliability (Uptime)
- Speed (Load Time)
Consider this, there are 365 days a year, if a web host’s servers have a 99% uptime, that means for 3.65 days on average per year, your web pages would be unavailable.
This is more detrimental to blogs and websites that make money or generate leads for business. But it is overall bad, the greater the downtime.
This is why most hosts boast a 99.9% uptime.
This means lost users and potential revenue, especially for businesses.
In fact, Amazon reported a 1 second page delay cost them over 1 billion in annual sales. The bottom line is speed matters.
Other factors to consider when choosing a webhost include:
We all make mistakes and sometimes bad things just happen. When this happens you’re going to want to have great support available to answer questions and help fix technical issues. Look out for 24/7 chat, email and phone support.
Cpanel is the most common interface/control panel used by most shared hosting plans. It is very easy to navigate and use and highly recommended.
SSL allows you to use https:\\ in your url which adds a layer of security and is also a small ranking signal in google. Most browsers give a visual cue by showing a padlock, letting you know you are safe.
Another use of having a domain name is the ability to use custom email addresses. Most web hosts offer free email accounts allowing you to take advantage of this. I would strongly recommend taking advantage of it if you aren’t planning to set up email with another service.
Free domains are sometimes offered as a bonus with hosting packages. Remember, you can always get a domain name from another provider. So the benefit of this comes down to:
- Savings. How much will you save
- Convenience. You only have to interact with one company
Free site transfer are sometimes a plus, if you are coming from another web host and are not a technical person this can be a huge time saver. While doing it yourself, is in no way hard, not everyone will want to undertake such a task.
Automated back ups can be a lifesaver for when things go bad. There are plugins that make it easier to back up your site, but having it done automatically by the web host can add some extra peace of mind.
Finally, the most important thing that ties everything together, price. If we could have the fastest server, 100% uptime and every feature possible for $2,000 a month, most people would not be interested.
And you probably already realised why.
It just wouldn’t be for everyone. The price is simply too high, especially for what a new blog would require.
But what does a new blog need?
Most web hosts offer deep initial discount on first time hosting purchases. The duration of these services are one, two and three years. You fully pay for the entire duration upfront and you get a discount, normally increasing based on the duration. At the end of the duration, services renew at the undiscounted prices.
Why do they do this?
The idea is, by the time the initial duration is over, you would have invested time and effort and would continue using their services.
This is why it’s important to not only look at the initial price you pay upfront but also the monthly renewal price.
Disclosure: This guide contains some affiliate links. If you purchase any service through one of these links I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.
Recommended Web Hosts for new blogs
As a new blogger you start at zero. You have no traffic and loyal return visitors. So your hosting priorities will naturally be different from, lets say, a business blog that has been around for years and has a lot of long time customers. We would favor reasonable speed and reliability while prioritizing low prices.
New blogs almost always start with shared hosting and then scale up as needed. The prices are the lowest of all plans and reasonable performance is achievable. Recommendations are made based on these needs.
- Excellent Reliability (Uptime)
- Decent Load Speed
- Low Introductory Price
- Free Domain Name
- Free SSL
- 30 day Money Back Guarantee
- No Monthly Option
- Backup only with paid addon
The most stand out features of bluehost are the decent uptime and speed and their starting low price of $2.65 per month for 3 years ($95.40). This package renews at $7.99 per month.
Is this to say that Bluehost is the best? No.. Bluehost simply provides a very good cost/performance value, for those just starting a blog, with their shared hosting plans.
The other recommendation would be from Siteground.
- Excellent Reliability (Uptime)
- Fast Load Speed
- Managed WordPress
- Automated Daily Backups
- Free SSL
- 30 day Money Back Guarantee
- Limited Space
- Traffic Cap
Siteground has an excellent reputation for delivering premium speed, uptime and features, making it an objectively better option. It being better is reflected in its price which is slightly higher at $3.95 per month for three years ($142.20). This starter package renews at $11.95 per month.
Siteground unfortunately does not offer a free domain. They do sell these for 15.95 per year, which will add to the yearly cost.
You can, however, opt to purchase a domain name separately.
While this option is slightly cheaper, it will require the extra step of pointing this domain name to the web host. This might not be an attractive option, as it may appear technical to some users.
Two things are interesting in this price comparison:
- For 1 year Siteground is about the same price as Bluehost or cheaper if the domain name is purchased separately. This would make Siteground the obvious choice between the two. Signing up for only a year will appeal to those on a budget or those who want to test the waters a bit first.
- For year 2 and year 3 with Bluehost, the prices are almost identical. So do not make the mistake of signing up for two years or you will miss out on a free year.
Both web hosting providers are good choices for new blogs.
You cannot go wrong choosing either provider. You are also free to use another provider, these are merely my recommendations. The choice is yours.
3) Pick a Content Management System
A content management system, normally known as a CMS, is software that helps users easily create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge.
With a CMS you can manage a website with any coding knowledge at all.
A CMS sits on a web server which is provided be a web hosting company or yourself if you choose to make your own server.
You interface with the CMS and through it, you manage your website and its content.
What is WordPress
And according to w3tech, that percent is increasing.
WordPress is open source and under its GPLv2 license, users can freely modify it as they please.
In other words, wordpress makes website building easily accessible to users who aren’t developers.
WordPress vs WordPress.com
Often a source of confusion for those new to blogs and website building is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.
- WordPress.org, also known as self hosted wordpress, is free open source software that is used with a domain name and web hosting to make a website that is fully yours.
- WordPress.com, is a freemium service that uses a version of open source version from WordPress.org. Flexibility is limited and any blogs created with WordPress.com are not fully yours.
Most of the time when WordPress is mentioned, it is towards WordPress.org, the self hosted version.
Both versions make it easy to create a blog or website. The biggest difference between the two is that WordPress.com exchanges flexibility or customizability for simplicity. This makes WordPress.com more ideal for hobbies than anything serious.
Some companies combine their content management system with web hosting. In other words, they are basically married together. To have one you have to have the other.
Examples of this are:
For these services, the only other thing needed is a domain name. You can purchase from a domain registrar separately or even from the same company. Some packages from these services even offer a free domain.
Set up your Blog
So now that you have an understanding of all the pieces required, how do we put them together?
Fortunately, most web hosts to offer seamless set up of each, in one process.
I will walk you through the process using Bluehost.
1) Click here and select Get Started.
Next, Choose a hosting plan that’s appropriate. The decision to make here is whether you believe in the near future you might ever want a second blog/website. The basic plan will ok for most of us. However, you can also upgrade your plan later by contacting customer care.
If you were unable to choose a domain name or your desired one was unavailable, don’t worry. Select I’ll create my domain later and then you can take care of it later.
A confirmation email will be sent to the address submitting with account information to keep on file.
6) Enter a secure password. Put some effort into making this secure. What I mean is, make it long 10+ characters and use a mixture of symbols, letters and numbers. Agree to the terms and select Next.
A quick word on WordPress security. WordPress itself is very secure. As long as you:
- Keep WordPress updated
- Use reputable plugins and keep them updated
- Use a secure password and keep it safe
WordPress itself is very secure. The WordPress team quickly fixes core WordPress issues very quickly. So keeping WordPress update is very important.
Plugins are more prone to exploits. Which is why using plugins from reputable developers will ensure exploits are quickly patched with updates.
Related Is WordPress secure
That’s it, you’re done. We have now successfully acquired a domain name, web hosting and installed WordPress.
You just started a blog. Congratulations.
This your WordPress dashboard or backend. This is where you control all the content on your blog that a visitor will see. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the menus.
Thinking of making another blog after setting up your first? No problem. Provided your web hosting package supports it, the only thing extra that would be needed is another domain name.
Once your new domain name is purchased. Add to your web hosting plan from your cpanel then point the domain name to your web host using the settings provided by your web host.
WordPress has come a long way over the years but even so, the default look leaves a lot to be desired.
To truely make your blog your own, you’re doing to have to customize it. The main way you do that is with Themes and Plugins.
What is a WordPress Theme?
A theme essentially adds a skin to WordPress, changing its appearance to visitors. But unlike a skin that you would place on your cell phone, themes allow you to also change/adjust/move the design elements.
The logo for example could be centered at the top or aligned to the left and the header could be semi transparent or hidden when the page is scrolled.
WordPress theme is a collection of css stylesheets and templates (php) files, grouped together, which allow you to easily change the design of website elements.
While outside the scope of this article, it is important to understand that all changes that you can make with a theme, can be done directly by modifying WordPress default template files and adding custom css. It is just much easier to find a theme that does everything you like than to do your changes manually.
How to choose a WordPress Theme
It can’t be that hard to choose a theme, can it?
So let’s go through the WordPress repository:
Going through themes with no plan won’t be an efficient way to find a suitable theme. Instead, let’s use a framework to narrow our focus and filter out themes based on our needs.
But, does that mean there is something wrong with free themes? No.
What matters most is if it does what you want it to do.
Your budget here will be the determining factor here. If you can only do free, you’ll know your choices are pretty much limited to the WordPress repository.
If a premium theme is on the table, you can try out places such as ThemeForest and filter by price.
2) What is your niche/goal? What type of blog are you making? Food? Travel? Well, there are a lot of themes out there made solely for a particular niche.
Try and think of what you might need in the future, not just today. Would you want to sell products later? If so, you’ll need to make sure the theme is compatible with woocommerce. Are you thinking of having a multilanguage site, then you will also need to consider that.
3) Check credibility. Whether its a paid theme or a free theme, you will more likely to get a quality and feature-rich one if you check the history. Look out for:
- Number of Sales
- Number of Positive reviews
- Frequency of Updates
- Author Reputation
These can give you a good indication of what kind of experience you will likely have.
4) Check what you can customize. Most themes allow you to preview a demo page. Use that opportunity to poke around and see what you can change. You probably already have an idea of layout you would like to use. Try and consider:
- Blog post layout eg Masonry, One Column, Two Column.
- Typography, e.g. What fonts are available
- Header, e.g. How many header options? Can you use sticky or transparent header?
Even after narrowing down what kind of theme you want, it can still be tough searching. Why try and reinvent the wheel? Let’s just follow what your competition is using.
Go to https://whatwpthemeisthat.com/ plug in a site that you found in your niche that looks good, and see what theme they are using.
- Simplicity. Aim for a theme that has the minimum design and layouts needed without being overly complex. Themes with unnecessarily complex design elements can be hard to use for new users. Also because they are trying to do multiple things at the same time for different types of users, the code used can often be bulky and make pages load slower.
- Responsive Design. Mobile users have been on the rise for years. In fact 63% of all google searches come from mobile devices. Google has even switched to mobile first indexing in 2018.
Responsive design is now mandatory meaning the same url serves all devices and dynamically adjusts the information on the page based on the user’s screen size.
- Fast Load speed. Page speed has been a ranking factor in google since 2010. Google also indicated that 53% of users will abandon a page if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. Having pages load in 2 seconds or lower is a good guideline.
Themes are intended to control design and aesthetics of your website and plugins for functionality. Some themes come adding functionality and or bundled with plugins. If in the future you decide to switch to another theme, there might be issues carrying over the same functionality.
How to install a Theme
There are three ways to install themes
- Free theme from WordPress theme directory
- Upload zip file to WordPress Dashboard
- Copy Theme folder using FTP
We are only going to cover the first and second as the third is a little harder and is for the most part unneeded.
1) How to install a free theme from WordPress Theme directory
All themes from the WordPress repository are free. The easiest way to install one is from your WordPress dashboard in the backend.
1) From your WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes.
From there you can filter the results based on:
2) How to install Theme manually from zip file
Any theme acquired from third party developers will have to be installed manually. These are in zip file formats.
1) From the WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Themes and click Add New.
2) Next, click Upload Theme.
The theme is now installed, you can select Live Preview if you want to see how the theme looks on your blog.
Lastly, select Activate to enable the Theme.
What is a WordPress plugin?
A WordPress plugin is an extra block of code that ‘plugs in’ to your wordpress website. It either adds a new functionality or enhances an existing one.
Plugins can be both paid and free. Paid plugins tend to have better features and support. But this isn’t a rule.
As a result of WordPress large ecosystem we have tens of thousands of plugins available to us.
We have these many options because WordPress is open source which means anyone can create a theme or plugin. Yes, this also includes me and you.
The best places for plugins come from:
- WordPress.org. This is the official WordPress plugin directory. A large directory of free plugins. This directory can be accessed directly from our WordPress blog.
- Code Canyon. A large directory of premium plugins and themes.
There are also third party developers who sell their plugins on their own website.
A word of warning though, for when looking at third party plugins. Bad Plugins are there and should be something to look out for. They can cause problems ranging from causing errors on your site to installing malicious code.
As a guide use plugins that are:
- From reputable developers
- Well reviewed
How to install a WordPress plugin
One of the easiest things to do is to install a plug in from the wordpress dashboard.
1) Go to Plugins > Add New
3) After the installation is complete. Select Activate.
This is not the only way to install plugins. We can also do so using a zip file. This will be the main method for plugins purchased from Code Canyon.
1) From the same Plugins section. Select Upload Plugin > Choose File
Done. Also easy.
It would be pretty amazing I could hand you a list of all plugins you will ever need. By in large, the plugins you will need depends on your niche and goals. There is not a true one size fit all list for this.
The good news though is that I can recommend a short list of types of plugins almost everyone will need. This is In keeping with my goal to give you a huge advantage over other bloggers just starting out.
We will briefly go through the type of plugin,why its essential and provide a recommendation.
If you’re doing anything type of serious blogging then you’re going to come face to face with SEO. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the practice of increasing relevant traffic to your website from search engines. Search engine traffic is also called organic traffic.
About 60% of all traffic on the web starts from google alone. This is more, if we include other search engines.
Combine that with 90.88% of pages receive no traffic from Google means that even if we do a tiny bit of SEO then we will be leagues above our competition.
Yoast SEO is without a doubt the most popular SEO plugin. Can it do all on page SEO for you? No. No plugin can ever do that. But having it makes your life much easier. Doubly so, if you’re a beginner. In case that isn’t convincing enough, it is also free. There is a premium version but we can get by perfectly with free version.
The features most useful for those just starting out are:
A sitemap is a website map. It is a map of all Posts and Pages. This helps search engines efficiently crawl and index your website.
Yoast automatically creates sitemaps for you so you’ll never have to think about it. These sitemaps are updated as soon as add or delete a post or page. This sitemap is not physically created but on the fly.
2. Editing Title Tag and Meta Description
These are sections that appear in search engine results.
3. SEO analysis
Shows below each post or page. This gives a list of helpful SEO related suggestions based on anything added to the current post or page.
4. Readability analysis
Writing for the web is different from old ink and paper. It is beneficial to keep your readers engaged and have them absorb your content completely. This tool helps tremendously with that.
- All in One SEO Pack
- The SEO Framework
Yoast SEO is a great tool but is not the be all and end all. If you’re looking to level up your SEO game, try these resources.
What is caching? As an example, what is (5734 x 123) – 5282? Yes, you can use a calculator.
If you got 700,000, you were correct. Now, let me ask you the same question again. What is (5734 x 123) – 5282? 700,000, Right? The second time the question is asked, you already knew the answer and could provide it in a much shorter time. Thats Caching.
Caching is storing information in a temporary location to make it available faster.
Everytime a visitor loads your webpage, the web server has to process and load all your files and code. That means, if we can make some of this content static, then we can reduce our page load time.
WP Rocket is a paid plugin that has been around since 2013. Somehow this plugin has survived all these years among its main competitors who offer free versions of theirs.
- W3 Total Cache
- W3 Super Cache
It’s easy upon installation to see why continues to thrive.The interface is simple,elegant and most importantly its works out of the box. There is nothing to configure for it to start working. This is fantastic for new users who have no experience.
Caching plugins nowadays do more than caching. They should better thought of as speed optimization plugins. WP Rocket is no exception. Other notable speed improvement features included:
- Lazy Loading
- Minify HTML and CSS
- Combine CSS
- Combine Google Fonts
Earlier I told you that no coding knowledge is required to start a blog, now it’s time to talk about why.
Page Builders are another type of plugin (We will talk about one partial exception further. They allow you to easily design web pages for your blog.
Designing web pages used to require the services of a Web Designer and Web Developer even for very simple pages.
This was costly. Because web designers and developers have to work in html and css, even simple changes took longer than anyone thought they should.
How do they work?
Page builders come with pre-made blocks such as text, video, image, carousels and columns.
You can then drag and drop these on a page as you please. Because of this, they are sometimes referred to as visual builders.
There are menu options so you can style, format and resize each block as desired.
WordPress itself, comes with a basic visual builder in its most recent versions. Third party page builders are however more advanced.
Some allow you edit the header and footer for your website. Others come with a massive library of templates which mean it extremely easy and efficient to set up a new blog.
Recommended Page Builders
The two most popular page builders are:
- Divi Builder
Divi and Elementor both have a paid version but only Elementor has a free version. I am personally using Divi but you cannot go wrong with either.
Divi has both a WordPress theme and a Plugin. Both come with the page builder function.
Both are excellent choices and are easy to use. Not only that but because of their popularity, if you have a problem, chances are someone has a solution online.
Adding Content to WordPress
Having great content is how you keep visitors engaged and keep them coming back. WordPress has two default ways to add web pages to your blog.
“Posts are what make your blog a blog — they’re servings of content that are listed in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest) on your blog’s front page.” – https://en.support.wordpress.com/posts/
A WordPress post, also called a blog post, appears on the blog page. Each post forms a blog entry. So if you go to your favorite website, which chances are is using WordPress, then each article you see is a blog post.
How to create a post
1) From the dashboard, go to Posts > Add New.
- Title Area: This sets the title of the Blog post. Below this, you can change the url of the post.
- Add Media: Allows you add media such as gifs, pictures, videos or any other accepted media to your posts.
- Main content area: This is where the main body of the post is added using the formatting tools.
- Other Sections: Here you can change the tags and categories for the post and also upload and set the featured image. Plugins can provide more sections with extra features.
- Publish: Change the status of the post or its visibility to visitors. The time when the post is published can also be scheduled here.
Once you are done with the post, hit Publish to make it alive.
Pages are very similar to Posts. They are created using a similar interface but they are used for static content. This means for anything that will not be updated regularly.
Pages are used to make web pages such as, about us, contact and services page.
How to create a page
1) If you want to create a page, from the WordPress Dashboard go to:
Pages > New Page
Posts vs Pages
Aside from posts are for frequently updated content and pages are for static content, there are a few other notable differences.
Pages can be arranged in hierarchies or groups which means pages can have a parent child relationship.
Both posts and pages have a publish date and an author when they are created. A key difference though is that only posts show these to visitors.
Post WordPress Cleanup and 6 changes to make now
It’s easy to make mistakes or miss something early on when you’re learning something new.
This is no different.
We are going to avoid a lot of early on mistakes and do a few post-WordPress installation clean ups.
1. Permalinks format
Permalinks are short for permanent links.
Go figure huh?
They are the full url of any post or page. For example:
The permalink contains the domain name (example.com) and the slug. This is the part that comes after the domain name.
You can change the permalink structure by going to Settings > Permalinks
This is the most seo-friendly url. Using https://ahrefs.com/blog/youtube-keyword-research/, as an example:
You can immediately tell what this page will be about. Meaning if someone sees this in a search engine they are more likely to click on it. This is as opposed to our initial alternative….
Anytime we make a change to wordpress that involves altering the URL of any page or post, we want to do it once and not change it. EVER.
Visitors use your URLs to visit your pages and most importantly use it to link to your website. This is called a backlink or an external link.
Backlinks are the most important metric for ranking in search engines.
If you change the URL the backlink no longer points to a valid page. This is now a broken link.
Benefits from such links are lost, unless the connection is restored or bridged (redirects).
2. Default URL
To change or set our default URL, go to Settings > General. From there we can update the following:
- WordPress Address (URL). This is address of your blog
- Site Address (URL). This is the address of your core WordPress files.
Both of these URLs should match unless WordPress is being given a folder in a separate location.
So the only decision to be made here is:
www vs non-www
If you have been using the internet for a while, you might have noticed them. Some domains use the www subdomain and others do not.
Unfortunately, for us there is no real difference for our purposes. Pick one that you like. But once you do. Stick with it!
3. Add category change default
Categories in wordpress are sub topics for your blog. These help you organize blog posts based on themes. If you had a fitness blog some categories you could create might be:
Categories aren’t only useful for you, they help users find related blog posts for topics they want to see.
To add/remove categories, from the wordpress dashboard, go to Posts > Category
The default category is named ‘uncategorized’. If you leave it as is, new posts fall under this. Depending on your theme it will look like this:
- looks unprofessional and doesn’t help users find what they are looking for.
- Is confuses readers as to what type of content the website produces
- Makes finding similar content on your website harder.
To fix this, you are going to rename this for now.
Hover over the Category > Edit
Edit the Name and Slug to a topic you plan to write about and select Update.
4. Set home page
There are two options here:
- Have your home page be a listing of your blog posts
- Set a special page to be your home page
Most pages on the internet are of the variety 2. We see this pretty much everywhere.
Option 1 looks like this, where blog posts cover most of the main page.
The default option is Latest Posts.
If you choose to use ‘Static Pages’ then you would first have to create pages for your Home Page and Blog. For simplicity, we can name these Home and Blog.
Once this is set, www.yourdomain.com will now show the page you set as home. You are free to customize it from there, under the Pages section.
I recommend selecting Static Page as your choice.
The main reasons for this are:
- You can quickly explain who you are and what you do. Someone landing on your homepage can judge, at a glance, if what you have to offer is for them.
- You can help control your audience journey. Strategic placement your most important items will assist in controlling where users click.
5. Site title and tag line
Site title and tag line are important titles that help identify your site. They let visitors and search engines know what your site is about. These sometimes appear beside each other in the browser tab description.
Site title: Name of your site. Eg. Newegg, Hubspot, Pizzahut.
Tag line: Short a sweet description of what your website is about. You can also think of this as a slogan.
Settings can be found at Settings > General
6. Remove default content
WordPress comes preinstalled with a few sample items. This includes a ‘Hello World’ post and a ‘Sample Page’ page.
To remove the same post, from the WordPress dashboard, go to Posts > All Posts.
You should also clean up unused plugins and themes. But we will discuss each at length a little bit later.
To do later
Those small icons you see in your browser window tab are Favicons. It is short for favorite icon. Favicons don’t directly affect your website’s appearance in search engines. But, it does help with brand awareness.
When one of your pages are bookmarked, the favicon appears on the bookmark. A well designed one can stand out among other bookmarks. This can lead them to revisit your site.
Here’s an example in your browser
We have three ways to add these to our website:
- Theme customizer
- Using plugin
Theme customizer is the easiest and will be all you need. After you have your favicon ready, go to:
Appearance > Customize
Select your chosen Favicon then confirm with the Select button.
If you haven’t uploaded one already, you can upload it here and then apply it.
Custom 404 page
This is an internet staple and a missed opportunity for a lot of blogs.
A 404 page, also known as, 404 Not Found, Page Not Found, or Server Not Found is an http status code. You get this page when the browser was unable to find the URL entered.
- We made an error, we mistyped the URL for the page we were looking for.
- We have the correct page url but the page has been moved/deleted.
So, a visitor who runs into this page will often abandon their search. A visitor was just lost before they even started.
The opportunity here lies with a custom 404 page.
This is one of Amazon’s 404 pages.
This is a branded page so at least user knows the website is working. There is a search bar, so a user can attempt to search for what they were looking for.
How to create a Custom 404 Page
The easiest way to create a custom 404 page with a plugin.
Using the same method described before.
1) Go to Plugins>Add New.
2) Search for “404page – your smart custom 404 error page”.
4) Next, go to Appearance > 404 Error Page.
5) From there, you can select page that is already created and select Save Changes.
This plugin does something important, where it does not redirect to a static page (eg example.com/404) but rather shows your custom 404 page dynamically. This is best practice according to google.
The 404 error tells search engines that the page is no longer there and should be removed from their index.
So you’ve finished designing your blog, you’re pouring your heart out writing blog post after blog post.
How do you know how many people read it? or where most of your users are from? Also, if you cannot measure any of these things, then how can you know when you’re improving or getting worse.
Thats where a web analytics service comes in and for most of us, that will be Google Analytics.
What is Google analytics?
Google Analytics is a free analytics platform offered by google. It is the most popular analytics platform, used by 55% of all websites.
With Google Analytics, businesses and website owners can answer two fundamental questions:
- Who is visiting your website
- What are they doing your website
This is done by tracking each time a page loads and recording information. The information is compiled into easy to read reports in real time.
It also seamlessly integrates with other Google Marketing Products such as:
- Data Studio
- Search Console
- Google Ads
This is another reason that makes it most people’s first choice.
While google analytics is mostly associated with web analytics. It also have tracking options for android apps.
Things you can check with Google Analytics
Out of the box Google Analytics comes with four  default category of reports:
Each helps to provide different information on the users of your website.
The fourth report requires set up and dependent on the goals of the website.
Where do my visitors live?
Are mobile users using the website differently to desktop users?
How many people visited my website?
What websites refer traffic to my website?
What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?
How does my social media presence translating into website visits?
How many pages do visitors read on average?
Which pages on my website are the most popular?
Which blog posts drive the most traffic?
What blog content do my visitors like the most?
How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?
How do my users convert into leads or customers?
Which marketing activities drive the highest quality traffic?
Are my marketing campaigns profitable?
Limitations of Google Analytics
Google Analytics is free but there are limits on each account.
- 10 million hits per month per property
- 20K hits per user per day
- 500 hits per session
- 100 user accounts per login
- 50 properties (websites, apps) per account
How does Google Analytics Work?
Google analytics only tracks page views and its related information out of the box. But it can be further customized to track events and click interactions on each page.
- Facebook pixel
- Google Tag Manager
- Google Ads Conversion tracking
- Google Ads Remarketing
How to set up Google analytics
Although this might sound intimidating the set up process is fairly easy. And we will get a disproportionate reward for a little bit of work. So, we are going to need to do two things:
- Create a Google Analytics Account
- Install Google Analytics Tracking code on our blog
Create a Google Analytics account
We need to create an account first so that we can have our own tracking code to put on our blog.
- Go to Google Analytics sign up page. You will be asked to sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have one, create one.
- Once you sign in with your gmail account, you can click ‘Sign up’ to create a Google Analytics account.
- Account Setup. Next, choose an account name. This should be the name of the business or blog. No need to think too hard on this, as this can be changed later. Select ‘Next’ when you’re done.
- Select ‘Web’ then click ‘Next’.
- Property Setup. Enter your blog name. As you got web hosting with a SSL certificate, select ‘https’ then enter the full URL of the blog. After that, select your time zone. Reports in google analytics will be reported with the time you select here. Next select ‘Create‘.
- You will then have to select each checkbox agreeing to the terms of service then finally ‘Accept’.
- The next window that appears has our tracking code. When ready, copy the entire block of code.
How to install Google analytics
Now that we have the tracking code, all that is left is to apply it to all web pages on our blog. We have three main ways for us to install the tracking code on our pages.
- Install Google Analytics using a plugin
- Install Google Analytics manually
- Install Google Analytics using tag manager
Tag manager will be discussed further on in this post as it deserves a section of its own.
What if you had 1,000 web pages on your blog when you decided to install google analytics. Would that mean that you would have to install the tracking code on each page, one by one? Oh No!.
Fortunately, WordPress doesn’t work that way. The pages in WordPress aren’t static, meaning that if you had 1,000 blog posts/pages you don’t have 1,000 complete pages on your blog. Instead, WordPress dynamically generates sections of each page, when requested, using templates.
So whether we are using a plugin or installing google analytics manually, the tracking code is inserted into one of these templates (header.php) and gets dynamically added to each web page.
1) Install Google Analytics using a plugin
There are many options here as many plugins can do the same thing. Google analytics specific plugins allow you to install the tracking code, using only the tracking id. But I prefer using a header & footer plugin and it’s more versatile.
- From the WordPress dashboard, go to Plugins > Add New.
- Type ‘Head, Footer and Post Injections’ into the search box. You should see Click ‘Install Now’ to install the plugin and then click ‘Activate’.
- With Head, Footer and Post Injections now installed, we can finally add our tracking code. From the WordPress dashboard, go to Settings > Head and Footer.
- Now paste your Google Analytics tracking code into the section that says ‘<HEAD> PAGE SECTION INJECTION’ then select ‘Save’ at the bottom of the page.
Google analytics is now set up and installed properly. Once you start getting traffic to your blog, you will start to see stats in your dashboard.
2) Install Google Analytics manually
If you prefer to do it the manual way, we can add our tracking code to the header.php template. It is important that if we are installing the code manually, that you use a child theme. This is because once you update WordPress, the changes can be overwritten.
- From the WordPress Dashboard, go to Appearance > Theme Editor.
- Select ‘header.php’ from the right side of the screen.
- Paste the entire Google Analytics code right before </head> tag.
Google Search Console
What if there was a way to check the activities and the health of your blog in google? Turns out there is a way.
What is Google Search Console
Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) is a free service from Google that helps you monitor and troubleshoot the appearance of your web pages in their search results.
Why use Google Search Console?
- Confirm that Google can find, crawl, and index your blog
- Check if google can properly crawl and index your blog
- Troubleshoot and resolve crawling and indexing issues
- See websites linking to yours (backlinks)
- Submit sitemap
- See search queries users use to find your website
- Compare website performance in google between different periods
Google Analytics vs Google Search Console
Google Analytics is user oriented, providing information on users and their actions on your blog. Reports in google analytics allow you to measure user interactions on your blog. Through measurement, interactions and goals can be improved.
Google Search Console, in contrast, deals with the technical aspects of your blog and getting it to show properly in google.
In terms of the source of data, Google Analytics relies on the tracking pixel to generate all reports. Google Search Console, on the other hand, gets data directly from google.
Google Tag Manager
What is Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a tag management platform that makes it easy to deploy and manage tags on your blog.
It is also the most popular tag manager platform and makes up 99.1% of all websites that use a tag manager.
But what is a tag?
Tags are another name for tracking codes or pixels. So a tag that you would be familiar with (from the last section), is the Google Analytics tag (tracking code).
Google Tag Manager (GTM) does not replace Google Analytics. Instead, they work together to make your blogging life and marketing efforts easier.
A good way to describe their relationship would be Google Analytics would be a key and Tag Manager would be a key ring. On this key ring you could have multiple tags and easily use them as needed.
Did I forget to mention that Google Tag Manager is also free?
Why use Google Tag Manager?
- Ease of Use
- Easy Updates/Future Proof
- Version Control
- Build in tool to test and debug deployed tags
- User Permissions
- Easier deployment of event tracking
Google Tag Manager is semi-optional. So, what’s an easy way to decide if you should bother using it? Ask yourself a few questions.
- Will I be trying out two or more ad platforms or services with their own tracking pixel?
- Am I interested in event tracking?
If you answered yes to any of these, then Google Tag Manager is for you.
Someone lands on your website and found a reason to reach out to you, this will be the first thing they will look for. Even if your contact information is in the footer or header of every page, people are still conditioned to look for it.
You probably realised it..
But this page is that much more important depending on the type of blog you have.
For example, a website for a law firm. Each person visiting the website is a potential high paying client. It is important they can easily make contact should they need services. As this is lost revenue.
As not everyone likes to communicate across the same medium, it’s good to have multiple ways to reach out to you. I personally prefer email but maybe you might prefer social media.
So,at a minimum, a contact page should it include
- Contact form
- Email address
- Social media
And if this is for a business then also:
- Phone/fax number
- Business Hours
And if this business has a walk in location:
About us page
Who is this blog for? Why should someone read your blog? What type of posts are written here? Why are you credible? How or why was this blog started?
People look for answers to these questions when looking at an About page.
An About page is a page on a where your readers/visitors learn more about you. It is also an opportunity to show why you’re right for them and why they should come back.
Blog Monetization (How to make money blogging)
Of all the reasons people get into blogging, making money is the most common.
Running Ads on your website is one of the most common and simplest ways to monetize your blog. In fact, it might be the first way everyone thinks of when trying to do.
They look like this
You set this up by applying to an ad network. Once the account is set up, you will receive a html code which you have to place on your blog.
From there ads will be able to run on your blog automatically through their network.
There are two sides to each ad network, a buyer and a seller. In this case, for your blog, you are the seller, and someone else is buyer. The buyer pays through the ad network for the ability to display ads on your blog.
The ads that are shown are often related to the content on your blog and its page. So if you have a blog about cars, you tend to have car or insurance ads.
Payment for these ads are done either by how many people click on the ads (Cost per click) or by the amount of impressions (Cost per mille/Cost per thousand), which is the amount of times the ad was viewed.
Google Adsense started running in 2003 and is Google’s ad platform for media creators (publishers) like you.
Google Adsense allows you to have ads placed on your blog and also on youtube videos on your channel.
Want to money online but don’t have your own goods or service? I present to you Affiliate Marketing.
Affiliate Marketing is the process of earning a commission for helping to sell other companies’ products.
In more detail, this is how it works.
You will act as an Affiliate. That means you sign up for an affiliate program related to your blog’s niche or focus. The affiliate program gives your own unique link for each product. You then promote the product.
You can promote the product by writing review articles or other helpful articles involving the product.
Everytime someone makes a purchase through your link, you receive a portion of the sale as a commission.
The affiliate helps sell products he does not own and receives a commission for his hard work. The owner of the product gets someone to market his products to other people in exchange for sharing the revenue.
A shoe company might have an affiliate program for its entire collection of shoes. An affiliate network on the other hand, might have affiliate programs for many different companies and a wide range of products. So if you’re just starting out an affiliate network might have just what you need. Two of the most popular affiliate networks are:
- Amazon Affiliates
As you can see, starting a blog isn’t complicated. But this was a lot of information to take in.
My final recommendation? Start today! With a low barrier to entry, there is nothing to lose. Also, everything ive shown you will seem even easier when you are doing it yourself.
If you found this guide helpful leave a comment down below or share with a friend. Also, let me know what you plan to blog about.