How To Start A Blog - Easy Guide For Beginners
Most people fail with blogging because they quit. Success is pretty much impossible if you don't publish regularly. But in this chapter, we will only talk about how to start, since it's the first step and it's pretty important.
The bare minimum of what you need
There are only two things you need to start blogging for your digital marketing project: a domain name and hosting.
The domain name will be the part you see in the top bar of your browser. It will look something like "myblog.com", and you will have to pick the name yourself.
Hosting basically means renting computers that are prepared to keep and serve your blog to your audience. There are a lot of hosting companies, and there are in fact quite a few good ones. One of the best hosting companies today is Bluehost, they offer very cheap options that are great for beginners, and still provide great service and support.
Picking a domain name
It is best to pick a domain name that is relevant to the product or service you are going to write about. Don't overthink this though, as it's not that important as many people may have led you to believe. These are two great tips to keep in mind when buying a domain name:
- the .com domains are by far the best, find a name that has the .com domain available even if it's not the perfect name
- the easier the name is to read, type and pronounce, the better, try and not make it too long
Registering a domain on a trusted yet cheap site like Namecheap will cost you about $9 for a year.
Different hosting providers will have different plans and prices. It's best to start with a cheaper option, since most companies let you (and want you to) upgrade your plan. Start small and scale up if needed. Providers like Bluehost charge about $60 for a year of hosting on the initial plans, and providers like Kinsta are amazing when you want the best performing servers or want to scale up.
Many hosting providers will let you choose the physical locations at which you want your website to be hosted. They have servers in many locations, so choose the one that you think will be closest to your target audience. After buying the hosting, make sure to note the username and password they will provide you with.
The easiest way to get started blogging by far is with Wordpress. It is a content management system that makes it easy for you to publish every day. There are a lot of other content management systems out there, but Wordpress has been around for very long, they have a great product that they keep improving every day, and it is the most trusted system as about 40% of the Internet actually runs on WordPress.
Installing it should be a matter of a few simple clicks right after you purchase your hosting.
After the installation, log in with the username and password that the provider gave you.
In your dashboard, you may need to make some changes so that your blog is optimized for SEO. Go to Settings -> Permalinks -> change the default URL to Post Name (so that your URLs have the best structure, which is myblog.com/my-post-name)
Then head over to Appearance -> Themes and click the Add New button. Pick a free theme if you find one you like, but make sure it is popular, good web design and has a great rating and a lot of reviews, since otherwise it may be a slow or buggy one. Free themes are not as good as paid ones, but they are great for starting out. If you can't pick one, try one of the following:
- Thrive Themes
- Ocean WP
Remember, you can't improve what you don't measure. You need to keep track of your website visitors, where they are, how long are they staying on your blog etc. The best way to do this is with Google Analytics.
Head over to https://analytics.google.com and create an account if you don't already have one.
There are two ways to connect your website to Google Analytics.
One is by manually installing the piece of code that Google gives you:
The other one, which is much more beginner friendly, is to install it via a plugin called Monsterinsights. Head over to your dashboard and go Plugins -> Add New. Search for Monster Insights, install the free version, and just follow the steps in their wizard.
Google Search Console
It's also very important for your website to be indexed by Google, and to know how your blog ranks in Google search results. To find this out, you will need to connect your website to the Google Search Console. Make sure to finish the above part first and connect your website to Google Analytics, this will make the process below much easier.
- head over to https://search.google.com/search-console and create an account if you dont have one already
- click the Add Property button and enter your domain name
To make the job of crawling your website easier for Google, you will need to have a sitemap. The best way to do this and keep it up to date is through a plugin called Yoast.
Install it and then head over to SEO -> General -> Features tab -> XML sitemaps -> click the "See the XML sitemap" link. This will take you to the URL of your sitemap.
Copy the url, and head over to the Google Search Console. Click on the Sitemaps tab, and submit your sitemap URL.
Those are all the essential things you need to get started.
While there are a lot of good WordPress plugins, most are a waste of time that slows down your website. Keep in mind that every plugin you install is a potential tradeoff for performance, and website speed is very important for ranking well on Google.
Besides the plugins mentioned above, you will generally not need lots of others. Here are some great ones that you can install:
- W3 cache : for speeding up your website by caching images
- Smush : for optimizing images
- Sucuri : for increased security of your website
- A3 lazy load - for lazy loading images and improving performance