How to Start a Blog in 2021: A Guide for Beginners

Start A Blog with WordPress

How to Start a Blog in 2021: A Guide for Beginners

Table of Contents

    So, you want to start a blog?

    First, before we start a blog, there are some decisions you need to make. We’ll talk through each of these in more detail as we go:

    • Why do you want to start a blog?
    • What blogging tool should you use?
    • Hosting?
      • What is it?
      • Where can you get it?
    • Domain name?
      • What is it?
      • Where can you get one?

    Disclosure: Articles on this site contain affiliate links. For more details, see the full disclosure.

    Why do you want to blog?

    Why do you want to start a blog, and how seriously do you plan to take it. This is an important factor in determining what kind of content you want to produce and what blogging platform is right for you. 

    Ask yourself these questions:

    • Do you want to be taken seriously as a blogger/content creator?
    • Do you want to make money from your blog?
    • Do you want full control of your blog and all its content?

    If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then I highly recommend that you start a blog that is self-hosted.

    Why Self-hosted?

    If you start a blog on a free platform, it will limit your ability to monetize your blog (make money from it). Your target audience may not take you as seriously, and you won’t have full ownership and control of your content. 

    If you intend to secure sponsored blog posts with big companies/brands you want to appear professional and be taken seriously, you need to show you’ve invested in your blog with a self-hosted blog running on your own personal domain. 

    Self-hosted blogging also means all your content is under your full control; you own all of it. I hear you: “But surely I own the content I publish on free platforms, right?”

    Wrong!

    Free blogging platforms can shut your blog down without notice if they believe you’ve violated their terms of service in even the smallest way. You could wake up one morning and find all your hard work gone, deleted without warning.

    Even if it turns out to be a misunderstanding you may not be able to recover your content.

    RELATED: WORDPRESS.COM vs. WORDPRESS.ORG

    The same applies to platforms such as Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, etc. This is why having your own platform to produce content for is so valuable; it acts as a central hub where your audience know they can always find you and your content.

    First and foremost, I highly recommend WordPress; I’ve been using WordPress for blogging and site-building for over 10 years and can’t fault it. However, for fairness, here are some of the other platforms out there should you wish to explore your options:

    • Blogger
    • Tumblr
    • Medium
    • Squarespace
    • Wix
    • & more…

    As I said, I highly recommend WordPress (wordpress.org, the self-hosted version). However, if you are not looking to monetize your blog, you are not too fussy about how your site looks, don’t want a custom domain, and just want a platform to express your thoughts and put your writing in the public eye, then Medium is a great free option for you.

    Why you should choose WordPress?

    WordPress is the world’s No.1 content management system. Ask other bloggers what they are using; I guarantee 9 out of 10 will name WordPress as their blogging platform of choice. It’s used by bloggers and as a general website builder by many developers, companies, agencies, and big brands. In 2019 WPBeginner listed 40 top brands using WordPress for their businesses. So you can rest easy knowing that as a WordPress user, you are in good company.

    Let’s look at the five top reasons people choose WordPress to start your blog:

    1. WordPress is easy to use

    WordPress is one of the easiest to use blogging platforms and content management systems available even for beginners. Installing WordPress can usually be performed through your hosting provider’s dashboard with a single click. Don’t worry if it can’t; the manual installation takes just 5 minutes! 

    Once installed, the platform is so easy to use, you can be creating your blog posts and pages within minutes (I’ll show you how.)

    1. It’s flexible and adaptable.

    Big brands and millions of people worldwide use WordPress for their blogs, websites and business because it can do so much. It is one of the most powerful free tools available on the web. 

    With thousands of plugins available (free and paid), you can do so much, from opening an eCommerce store to creating your own social network/community. There is a plugin for almost everything, and if there isn’t a plugin, there will almost certainly be a developer happy to help you make your plugin idea a reality (see no. 5)

    1. The theme possibilities are endless

    Like plugins, there are thousands of themes available for WordPress, free themes, paid themes, custom themes. Themes are customizable once installed, so you can change and tweak the look to suit you.

    1. WordPress Sites Rank on Google Easier.

    Don’t get me wrong, you will need to learn some basic SEO techniques (I can help with that), but WordPress gives you a great base to start from. Blogs are regularly updated which Google loves, and there are some fantastic SEO plugins available to help you along the way.

    1. A Great Community of Users.

    The WordPress community is vast and spans the whole world. If you ever need to do any WordPress troubleshooting, Google will help you find so many people out there who’ve likely had the same issue and can tell you how they fixed it.

    In fact, that’s one of my aims with this site. I want to help you solve your WordPress problems. Members of the Blogger Tech Support Facebook group are WordPress users and happy to help, myself included.

    RELATED: WHAT IS WORDPRESS? IS IT ONLY FOR BLOGGING?

    If this seems like a lot to take on board right now, why not sign up for my ‘Get Started’ Email course and receive this content over 5-days direct to your inbox in bitesize chunks. Work through at your own pace to start a blog of your own:

    Step 1 – Buy Your Domain & Hosting

    The first step towards hosting your own blog requires you to have web hosting and a domain. Don’t worry if you don’t know what these are or how to get those; I will explain everything as we go. First, we need a quick overview of how websites work:

    Websites101

    In its simplest form, a website is a collection of files written in a language called HyperText Markup Language (HTML). When you navigate these files in your web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.), your browser reads the HTML files. It translates the HTML into what you see as a web page, displaying the text, graphics and images without displaying the code holding them together.

    Let’s be clear, for blogging; you won’t need to write any HTML because WordPress will handle all that for you, but I do feel it’s important to have a basic understanding of how the web works, to help you along the way.

    What is Web Hosting?

    Web hosting is the place on the internet where your website files live. Much like a folder on your computer, you can add files, folders, and subfolders. Your hosting is where your WordPress files will live, along with any images, videos and other items you upload to your blog.

    What is a Domain?

    A web domain is essentially the address people will use to identify and reach your sites, such as bloggertechsupport.com or beckiebrown.com. Every domain must be unique, so if someone already has the one you want, you will need to look at other variations or alternative ideas. As most regular words and names have been taken over the years, unless you have a very unique name or brand, your first choice is unlikely to be available. You may need to think outside of the box.

    If you are determined to obtain an already registered domain, you can hire a domain broker to negotiate the purchase of the domain from the current owner; however, this can become quite costly, both in broker fees and the domain itself.

    How do I find suitable Web Hosting and a Domain?

    There are many web hosting options out there, and the choice can be overwhelming. Many hosting providers can also supply a domain, and many starter hosting packages include one. 

    Don’t make this decision lightly. Changing hosts at a later date once your website is established is not straightforward without the assistance of a developer or migration service.

    What to look for when seeking recommendations…

    1. Do they experience much ‘downtime’? This is a period of time when your website is unavailable. Ideally, you want to find a host who has little to no downtime.
    2. Does their website load at a good speed? Although many factors could affect site speed, some cheaper hosting services overload their servers, leading to a slow website.
    3. Is the support system/team good? If your friends/family have had issues, how often do they occur, and how quickly do they fix it or help you fix it.
    4. What are they paying? Do they feel they are getting value for money?
    5. How easy was it to purchase and get started with the hosting? Did the host make it all quick and easy for them?

    My Personal Recommendation (UK)

    • Eco Web Hosting, I’ve been using Eco Web Hosting for over 5 years with my clients. I have never had any significant downtime with them, and their support has always been great when needed. Their WordPress hosting packages start at £5.99 per month. If you buy the annual package (£59.99), your domain name for the first year is included in the price. Use my affiliate link with the following discount code to get 20% off managed WordPress hosting: 20AFMWP

      (The setup screenshots featured throughout this tutorial are using Eco Web Hosting)

    My Global Recommendations

    • Get a domain with Namecheap, name cheap supply top domain names for as little as $0.99
    • SiteGround, offer a managed WordPress service. They develop many powerful solutions for WordPress in-house such as the WordPress Starter, WordPress Migrator, SG Optimizer and more. Both WordPress.org and WooCommerce recommend them as one of the best WordPress hosting providers.
      Get started with SiteGround for as little as $6.99/mo.
    A side note on encryption:

    All these services include free SSL encryption, I won’t go into too much detail about this, but it is a security certificate your site will need. Your host must use this service as, without it, Google won’t serve your site up in search results. Since 2019 Google now prefers secure websites.

    What if I already have a domain or bought one separately?

    Not a problem. You will need to contact your hosting provider to find out the server names you need to give to your domain registrar. Log in to the control panel for your domain name; there will be somewhere you can manage Nameservers; this is where you will need to enter the nameservers that your hosting provider gives to you.

    How to Start a Blog in 2021: A Guide for Beginners 1

    If this seems like a lot to take on board right now, why not sign up for my ‘Get Started’ Email course and receive this content over 5-days direct to your inbox in bitesize chunks. You can work through at your own pace to start a blog of your own:

    Step 2 – How to Install WordPress

    The second step to setting up your self-hosted blog is installing WordPress.  

    If you chose a managed WordPress hosting package, your WordPress installation was likely completed as part of your hosting purchase and will be ready to go. Skip ahead to Step 3. 

    If not, you can install WordPress on your new hosting package in one of two ways:

    Ok. You’ve purchased your hosting & domain, you’ve installed WordPress (or it’s been installed for you). You’re almost ready to start blogging. Yes, you could start right now, but there are probably a few more things you want to get set up first.

    Step 3 – Theme

    Choose a WordPress theme

    It’s hard to know where to start choosing a theme; there are so many options out there. Your WordPress blog will have the latest WordPress theme installed by default; explore this a little with the customizer (see Customize your theme).

    Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Customize.

    If this theme does not suit your needs, then head to
    Dashboard > Appearance > Themes.

    Hit ‘Add New’ at the top of the screen and from there you can browse free themes available from WordPress.org

    If none of the free WordPress themes takes your fancy, then you will need to start searching elsewhere for a theme. Themes from third party sites will come in all shapes and sizes. You will find free themes, paid themes, and themes with various style and layout options; there is so much choice out there.

    There are some popular themes that come with all the bells and whistles. Here are a few popular examples:

    As always, do your research, if you can, get recommendations from fellow bloggers. Try asking around in the Facebook Group: Blogger Tech Support.

    Once you’ve found your theme you will need to install it. 

    Installing your WordPress theme

    If you have chosen a theme from WordPress.org via your blog, you can click the ‘Install’ button on that theme whilst browsing. Simple!

    If you downloaded or purchased a theme from another site, you should have received your theme as a zip file. Go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add New (top button) > Upload Theme (top button). Here you will have the option to browse your computer and upload the theme zip file. DO NOT UNZIP the file; upload it as a single zipped file. 

    Once installed, you will see the theme in your ‘Installed Themes’ with an Activate button and a Preview button. You can go ahead and activate immediately or preview it first before you activate. Whilst in preview mode, you will also have the ability to customise. 

    RELATED: HOW TO INSTALL A WORDPRESS THEME AND DELETE THE OLD ONE

    Customize your theme

    To customise your theme go to Dashboard > Appearance > Customise.

    NOTE: The customisation options available are dependent on the theme and will be different from theme to theme. Some themes will have a lot of customisation options, some will have more limited options.

    Typical standard customisation options within the customiser include:

    Site Identity – Customise your logo, Title, Tagline and Icon.

    Menus – At a minimum, this will allow you to set up your main menu but may also have options for other menu positions if any are included in your theme.

    Homepage Settings – Here, you can set which page will be your home page, either your latest blog posts (the default) or a specific individual page chosen by you.

    Additional CSS – This is where you can make aesthetic changes to your theme that aren’t controlled anywhere else in the customisation. This is a more advanced customisation tool and requires some basic knowledge of CSS.

    Some themes will also include customizer panels for color schemes, font choices and more.

    Step 4 – Plugins

    Recommended WordPress Plugins

    Here is my list of recommended plugins I install on all the WordPress sites I run or manage for others:

    • Rank Math SEORank Math makes SEO easy for anyone!
      (Free, with additional paid features available)
    • WebP Converter for Media – Converts and loads images in WebP format when possible to speed up page load times.
      (Free)
    • Smush – Compresses your images to speed up page load time (a good backup for when your reader’s device can’t use WebP)
      (Free, with additional paid features available)
    • UpdraftPlus Backups – a great back-up tool to regularly and automatically backup your site if anything happens to it during updates, etc.
      (Free, with additional paid features available)

    All of these plugins are free to install; however, some have paid versions with additional or extended features. I highly recommend sticking with the free versions until you establish how beneficial the plugin is to you and whether you really need the paid upgrades.

    Other Plugins I Use

    These are some really useful plugins but probably not necessary for everyone:

    • CookieBot – Cookie & Data Privacy Pop-up. If you have readers in Europe or California, this can help you ensure you meet the data privacy requirements for those regions.
      (Free, with paid Pro version for sites with more than 100 pages)
    • Elementor – Page building plugin, great for creating advanced page layouts with an easy to use drag and drop style tool. Elementor is a great tool for building professional-looking landing pages.
      (Free, with paid Pro version available)
    • Smash Balloon Instagram Feed – A great plugin for displaying your Instagram feed within your WordPress site.
      (Free, with paid Pro version available)

    How to find and install WordPress plugins

    Similar to how we looked for themes, you can browse WordPress.org plugins directly from within your blog. Most plugins can be found this way, I don’t think I’ve ever needed to go elsewhere to find a plugin.

    Go to Dashboard > Plugins > Add New.  

    Search and browse the available plugins, clicking the ‘Install’ button when you find what you are looking for and clicking the ‘Activate’ button once installed to get started with that plugin. 

    Some plugins (such as Rank Math SEO) will take you through a setup wizard after you hit ‘Activate’; others will simply activate, and you will need to navigate to the settings page manually if necessary. Some plugins require little to no setup; every plugin is different. If you need help with a particular plugin, head over to the Blogger Tech Support Facebook group to ask if/how others are using that plugin.

    Congratulations! 🥳

    You should now have everything you need, set up and ready to get your blog launched.

    If you haven’t already, hop over to Facebook and join the support group ‘Blogger Tech Support‘ where you can share your new blog with fellow bloggers, as well as get tips and advice.

    There’s just one thing left to do…

    Step 5 – Start adding content

    To hit the ground running with your blog, I recommend having a minimum of 10 posts ready to launch. Launching your blog with no posts and writing them on the fly one or two a week will significantly delay your blog’s growth. But by starting yourself off with a good content base, your initial readers will have several articles to browse. 

    If this seems like a lot to take on board right now, why not sign up for my ‘Get Started’ Email course and receive this content over 5-days direct to your inbox in bitesize chunks you can work through at your own pace to start a blog of your own:

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    Beckie

    Beckie

    It’s my personal mission to help people get started blogging and creating their own website, no matter how inexperienced they are with websites, blogs or technology. If you’re looking to start an online business, build an email list, create a blog or just get a better grip on social media, I’m here to help you!

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    your new Blog!

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