How to Start a
Blog in 2020

Follow this step-by-step guide to get hosted, get
building and get your story online today.

Start Blogging
How to Start a Blog

Introduction: Take
Your
Story Online

You have stories to share: small stories, big stories, meaningful stories. But not knowing the exact steps to take, you've been hesitant to start a blog.

If you've never gone through the process, it can seem intimidating to design your blog, find the right host, create content, and become fluent in SEO.

But once you know the process, there's a straightforward path. So much so that there are hundreds of millions of blogs in the world, many with active bloggers posting at least once a month.

The only downside to blogs being so easy to create and update is that they are all vying for a limited amount of attention. This means that you will need to create a beautiful blog with insightful content in order to stand out.

And, that content needs to be posted regularly because people are drawn to the newest and most relevant blog posts available.

By taking the process step-by-step, you can quickly grow your audience and share meaningful content with the world.

Introduction

Choose a Domain Name

Before you design a killer blog, you need to choose a domain name — and find a place to host it. A domain name is what users type into the address bar to get to your website. It's your home base for your entire brand.

The best domain names are not the funny ones or the flashy ones; they are the domain names that people remember easily. Good domain names also help Google know what your blog is about.

For example, "ToddTalksThaiFood" for a blog about Thai food is better than "SawasdeeFromSiam". Though the second domain name connects with the local language and is "clever", people will struggle to figure out how to spell sawasdee &mdash plus, the name doesn't tell what the website is about.

Through Bluehost, you can both purchase your domain name (actually make it yours) and make use of their web hosting services.

Choose a Domain

Choose a Web Host

Once you've got your domain name selected, you need someone to host it. Though there are dozens of options out there, you'll ideally want to choose a hosting provider who specializes in WordPress — the most popular blogging platform in the world.

Backed by a large community of dedicated users, WordPress is open-source, which means you directly benefit from all the hard work its loyal following puts into the platform.

There are thousands of free plugins and theme designs that you can choose from, providing a template and the tools you need to ensure your blog is on-point with your brand or content.

However, WordPress isn't just for home-based bloggers. It's powerful enough for some of the world's biggest corporations — so, it's probably going to have enough giddyup to also keep your blog running smoothly.

Bluehost offers a range of WordPress hosting packages, from a standard plan for first-time bloggers, to a fully-managed hosting plan for those planning on creating a business around their blog.

For more information on web hosting, read this blog post.

Choose a Web Host

Choose a WordPress Theme

When you're figuring out how to start a blog, a vital step to designing a successful one is choosing the right theme.

Your theme is the overall look, feel, and style of your website. This includes things like the color scheme, layout, and style elements. In essence, your website theme is a direct representation of your brand and has a direct impact on your users' experience.

With thousands of themes to choose from, the process of selecting the right theme for your blog can become overwhelming. Thankfully, you can use the WordPress feature filter to narrow down your search.

The theme filter feature allows you to sort by subject (in this case, you'll want a blog theme), as well as the layout and other important design aspects.

These include (but certainly aren't limited to):

  • BuddyPress
  • Custom Background
  • Custom Logo
  • Flexible Header
  • Front Page Posting
  • Post Formats
  • Sticky Post
  • Translation Ready

Once you've found the perfect theme for your blog, it's time to start customizing it, so it stands out from the crowd as uniquely yours.

Theme

Design Tips for Customization

You'll want to customize your blog for functionality by adding various WordPress plugins. But at the beginning, following some basic design guidelines will benefit you in the long run.

Increase White Space to Decrease Clutter

We're decades past the early days of web design. Remember the flashing buttons and cluttered websites? That's not how to start or design a blog.

You don't want to create a website that distracts viewers from the heart of your content. The best way to keep people focused on exactly what you're saying in your blog is by creating what's called white space.

White spaces are the empty spaces around your copy and images that will keep your website design clean, simple, and effective.

Don't Use Stock Photos — They Do More Harm Than Good

The reality is that stock photos don't do your blog any favors. You absolutely want to include additional media with the text in your posts, but using someone else's images doesn't allow your blog to be unique.

If you have the money (or skills), including professionally-taken images is the best way to go. Of course, that can get expensive.

Thankfully, your phone is now powerful enough to capture images that can complement your blog posts. This is the easiest solution when you're first figuring out how to start a blog and what to post.

Consistency With Icons

The devil is in the details. Though your average blog visitor isn't going to consciously notice if you have chosen your social icons from a variety of places, unconsciously, it will impact how professional they think your blog is.

You will not only want all your icons to be using the same design and font, but you'll want to keep all the fonts on the entire website within the same category — with only a couple exceptions.

Strong Colors

Though you will want to rely heavily on white space, when you do use colors, they should be highly contrasting. A well-designed blog makes it easy for someone to use, read, and share.

By using contrasting colors, you increase readability and retention.

Don't Go Crazy With Design

There are a number of basic design conventions you'll want to use when figuring out how to start a blog. You don't want to make your website so eccentric and quirky that it falls short of the basic functional expectations of a user.

There is still plenty of room to be creative within these basic parameters of web deisgn. But when you're just getting started, you're best off working within "the box", rather than thinking outside of it.

Some standard blog conventions to make use of include:

  • Headers
  • Footers
  • Seach bars
  • Sidebars
  • Social media shares
  • Author attribution
  • Subscription options
Design Tips

Create Content

Now, it's finally time for sharing content!

No matter what your blog is going to be (unless it's a for-family-only sort of affair), there are going to be similar blogs already out there. They won't have your voice or insights, but they likely will be tackling similar topics and targeting similar audiences.

Given this, you need to create unique, powerful content that grabs readers' attention and keeps them coming back for more.

Here are a few ways to stand out:

  • Create compelling headlines to make them click
  • Use attention-grabbing introductions to keep them reading
  • Share meaningful advice to draw them back again and again
  • Include sub-headers and bullet points for easy scanning
Create Content

Bad Headlines Bog Down Blogs

If your blog post headlines aren't compelling, nobody is going to read far enough to realize how awesome the rest of your content is. Your headline is your one chance to entice a reader into clicking on the post and exploring your thoughts on a topic.

The best headlines promise your readers answers to exactly the problem they're trying to solve at that moment. This is one reason "How to" articles are so effective.

If you're not sure what the subject for your next headline (and blog post) should be, there are a few different ways to determine what content will resonate most with your target market:

  • Check out the comment sections on your posts (and on other similar blogs). What are people talking about? What are they asking?
  • Take advantage of content insight tools such as BuzzSumo. These can show you the most popular posts in your market.
  • Ask your subscribers. Those most loyal to your blog and brand are often willing to share their wants and desires when it comes to content.

Once you've got your topic down, you'll want to focus on crafting a headline with punch. The key to a sizzling headline is using active, dynamic verbs. In general, adjectives will weigh down a headline, while verbs drive it forward.

You will also want to tease your readers without satisfying them completely — leave that for the bulk of the post. Too often, headlines are written in such a way that the casual reader doesn't even need to read the lead sentence to have their curiosity cured.

However, don't deceive your readers. You might get a lot of clicks at first with deceptive headlines, but you will ruin your reputation and brand — as well as earn you the label of "click-baiter".

Write Attention-Grabbing Intros

Once your headline has pulled a viewer in, don't let up. The fact that you've got them past reading the headline is huge — a vast number of Americans only read headlines.

But, you've managed to beat this pitfall. So now all you have to do is keep them engaged.

Which, of course, isn't easy.

The key is to tell your readers why what you're writing about is important: not a big intangible kind of important, but something that's important to them specifically — right now.

That's right; it not only has to be important, but there also needs to be an immediacy to it.

A common mistake people make when writing their first blog posts is erring on the side of being too academic or too fluffy. You do want real facts in your introduction — otherwise, why should people listen to you? However, very few people want to read an academic lecture on whatever topic you're exploring.

"It's a balancing act. But you can do it. Just find your voice and trust it."

Bad Headlines Bog Down Blogs

Make your Content Meaningful

Unlike YouTube content, which is a blackhole for users (especially late at night), it takes a lot more effort to engage with a blog. This means you must make it worth your audience's effort.

The best way to do this is to follow through on that promise your headline made — provide the solutions and advice you said you would.

The goal is to make your solution (or advice) to whatever problem your readers are facing (not knowing how to make a good Thai curry, for example) simple and impossible to ignore.

Format Scanning-Friendly Posts

Even your most dedicated readers are going to start scanning your blog posts for the information that is most relevant to their situation.

There are two primary ways to help them do this: subheads and bullet points.

Because you don't know what your readers already know, it's often important to include background information about your topic.

For readers who are already neck-deep in the issue you're tackling, subheads help them skip background information to get to what's new and important to them.

You'll want to use subheads every time you shift to a different subtopic within the blog posts — every few paragraphs is often a good pace for most readers.

There are a few subhead pitfalls you'll want to avoid:

  • Overly clever subheads. Subheads are supposed to help readers scan your post and quickly find the information they need. Given this, don't get so clever that nobody knows what you're talking about.
  • Boring subheads. Think of writing your subheads like writing mini-headlines. You'll want to use the same principles to help keep readers engaged.
  • Spoiler subheads. Even with your subheads, you'll want to keep an ace up your sleeve. Remember, these are designed to help readers scan your blog and find what section they need to read — but make sure they take the time to read the section.
Make your Content Meaningful

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Now that you have a gorgeous blog, with killer content, hosted on a top-flight service, you just need people to find it.

Barring any of your promotional social media posts going viral, organic searches will result in the majority of the traffic headed to your site. This is especially true if you don't plan on spending any money marketing your blog with paid ads.

This means that it's vital that you implement an SEO strategy for your blog. SEO is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization — it's what helps your blog show up when your target audience searches relevant topics online.

The goal of good SEO is for your blog posts to rank well on search engine results pages (SERPs). These are what show up after you search a query on Google and hit the enter button.

Search Engine Optimization

The Black Box of SEO

Google and other search engines (yes, there are other search engines) don't want bloggers and marketers to game the system. The goal of a search engine is to deliver the best, most relevant content for any given search to a user.

If the companies explained exactly how they did this, marketers would exploit weaknesses in the system and undercut the search engine's primary service goal.

To the best knowledge of anyone who isn't part of creating Google's algorithm, there are more than 200 search ranking signals. As Google relies more heavily on artificial intelligence and machine learning, some of these signals are becoming more dynamic.

When you're just trying to wrap your head around how to start a blog, this all might sound like a lot to keep track of.

However, there's no need to get stressed about it. Despite the complexity of SEO as a whole, for the sake of starting your first blog, there are a few key pieces to understand and implement.

Powerful Core Tenants of SEO

Despite the nearly daily changes in Google's search algorithm, as well as regular overhauls, the core tenants remain mostly the same.

The foundation has always been (and will most likely always be) quality content. Most of the adjustments to Google's algorithm are actually the company trying to do a better job of identifying quality content that is relevant to a query.

To support Google finding your blog, you'll want to focus your SEO efforts in three areas:

  • Content
  • Backlinks
  • Website technical structure
SEO-Friendly Content

The best way to make your content SEO-friendly is by using keywords. Keywords are single words or phrases that are likely to be included in queries that are relevant to your blog post.

Long gone are the days you would want to awkwardly stuff a keyword into your text as much as possible. If you can naturally work one or more keywords into a 500-word blog post a few times (including in the headline), then you're doing a great job!

To ensure you're targeting the right keywords in your posts, you'll want to do keyword research.

There are countless tools out there to help you do this (some of them are even free). One of the best paid options is Ahrefs.

Long-tail keywords are keywords that involve multiple words and, as a result, represent more specific search queries — and qualified search traffic.

When coming up with long-tail keywords, use some of Google's own search features to help flesh out your use of related (semantic) keywords and potential subheadings to use. For example, use Google Autocomplete when you're typing in your keyword to see popular variations on the search.

Then, click enter and look for more insights under the "People Also Ask" section and the "Searches related to" section at the bottom of the SERP.

Though the strategic use of keywords is incredibly important for coming up in relevant search, you'll find that if you write quality content, it will often naturally include keywords that are helpful.

SEO Friendly Content
Building With Backlinks

A backlink is basically a clickable portion of text on a website that takes a viewer to your website.

"The more backlinks your website has, the better."

This is because search engines assume that other entities wouldn't be linking to your website unless your site has value.

Ideally, you'll get backlinks to your blog from websites that Google recognizes as having authority in your niche.

If the New York Times gives your blog a shoutout with a backlink, you better believe it's going to have a real impact on your SEO. However, if a website that is considered to have little value links to yours, it doesn't do a whole lot for you.

Working With Website Structure

There are several factors in how your website is technically structured that will impact your efforts with SEO.

However, these three aspects of your website's technical structure are exceptionally important ranking signals:

  • Page speed
  • HTTPS
  • Mobile-responsiveness

If you think people have become more impatient, you're right. It turns out that if it took one second longer for Amazon's pages to load the company would lose $1.6 billion in sales.

That's right; within that time frame, most users would click away from the site.

Because of this, you want to keep the load speed of your blog below three seconds. And that's really the absolute maximum amount of time it should take.

To do this, optimize high-resolution photo files, don't auto-play videos, and don't use too many WordPress plugins.

In the past, you wouldn't have had to worry about an SSL certificate when figuring out how to start a blog because you likely aren't handling sensitive personal information of visitors that needs to be encrypted and protected. However, now that HTTPS is an official ranking factor, you'll want to consider installing an SSL certificate.

"It's absolutely vital to ensure your blog is mobile-responsive."

People are increasingly becoming reliant on their phones for more than quick Google searches — they are spending more time reading content, listening to music, and watching videos on their phones.

Google recognizes this and ranks websites that are mobile-friendly higher than those that are not (all other things being relatively equal) to ensure a better user experience.

Working With Website Structure

How Do You Start a Great
Blog? Just Get Started

Don't let starting a blog overwhelm you. If you take a deep breath and slow down, it's easy enough to work your way through the process step-by-step and figure out how to start a blog.

The best thing you can do is remember that the whole process — from coming up with a domain name to improving your SEO — is creative. And, if you end up not liking your blog design or are struggling with the SEO side of things, you can always make adjustments and grow.

No blogger jumped into the deep-end and got everything right on the first go. Be patient with yourself and enjoy the process. Your loyal blog followers will be glad you did in the long-run.

Start Blogging
How Do You Start a Great Blog