How To Start A Blog

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I spent weeks setting up my first blog because I didn't know what I was doing. Now I can get one up and fully functional in a few hours.

Also, before we get started...

We have a scholarship we offer to all our readers who are about to start a Wordpress blog. If you use WPEngine (which we talk about below) to build your blog, we'll give you $75 you can use to pay for themes or plugins to turbo charge your new site!

All you have to do is sign up under our unique link to be eligible - so tell us where to send your link by clicking here!

Before we begin, here are two examples of people who took advantage of our scholarship:

Kathryn used her scholarship on advertisements.

Susan used her scholarship on a training course to learn web design.

Alright, on to the tutorial!

Updates:

September 2019: Offering a Wordpress Builder Scholarship for free to all ExpertSumo users.

Products & Services Needed to Start a Blog

There are a few things you'll need:

  • Hosting. All of the files and data and code for your website has to go somewhere. Your hosting provider stores all of this for you and makes sure everyone who visits your website gets to download or see all of the information they need. As an analogy, if this was the real life, it would be like picking a plot of land for your business and saying "I will build here".

  • A domain name. This is what people enter into their browsers to find your website. Another analogy, if this was real life, this would be like adding your business address to google maps, map quest, the yellow pages and putting up signs so that it is easy to find your plot of land (aka, where your hosting has all of your website stuff stored).

  • A platform. This is the actual code of the website. Back in the old days there weren't really many (or any) platforms and people had to code up websites themselves. Now there are lots of 'pre-built' platforms (some of them free) that you can use so your website is already built... all you have to do is style it up. In real life, this would be like having a construction company build your building instead of manually needing to pick up a hammer yourself.

  • Themes and plugins. The platform gives you the very basics of the site. If you want to add functionality to the site or change its appearance without manually editing the code, you install or add themes and plugins. This is like changing the interior design or appliances of your building.

  • Monetization and marketing software. Finally, you'll want a way to connect or make money from your visitors. Things like email forms, or ad networks or social media outreach tools will be needed to turn your blog into a profitable website (if you're even interested in that). This is actually very similar to real life - tools help new visitors discover you, help old visitors return, and help you make money.

Domain Name: Yes or No?

First, before you do any of this, ask yourself how much of a business you want this to turn into, and how much control you really need. Sometimes, it makes sense to use free tools like Medium, Twitter or Facebook to get your message out, especially if you anticipate this to just be a small hobby.

But if this has potential to scale beyond a small hobby, you need to buy a domain name. I buy 80% of my domain names from Namecheap. They are inexpensive, and beginner friendly.

More details about signing up on Namecheap in the checklist.

Platforms:

For me, there are two main platforms you should consider:

1. Wordpress

Pros:

Wordpress is free. Enough said.

Wordpress is extremely popular with big AND small sites, it powers almost one-third of all websites on the internet. This means there is a ton of expertise, support, and Wordpress-specific help and products out there.

Wordpress is customizable through nearly one hundred thousand plugins and themes that can do almost anything you could imagine.

Cons:

Wordpress is only a platform. It doesn't do hosting. So even though it's free, you'll still need to pay for hosting somewhere.

Because Wordpress is so popular, it makes it a popular target for hacking. Hackers constantly scan for themes or plugins that have security breaches they can take advantage of. This requires you to make sure you're constantly keeping an eye out to update your themes or plugins when new versions come out ASAP.

There are also Wordpress services that focus on security issues that you can pay for (one of them I mention below in hosting since they do both).

2. Wix

Pros:

Very secure. Because Wix manages the hosting as well, they are in a better place to watch out for security breaches.

Doubles as hosting. When you pay for Wix, you get your website platform AND your hosting together.

Cons:

Wix isn't free. BUT... remember that it isn't just a platform, but it is hosting as well. Make sure to compare the combined costs when making your choice.

Hosting: Price vs Security?

If you decide to go with Wordpress, there are two services I've used that I suggest:

Bluehost: the "price" option

Pros:

Bluehost is very inexpensive, which makes it great for new sites on a budget.

They are also VERY integrated with Wordpress. Getting Wordpress set-up on Bluehost literally is as easy as clicking a button. They do the rest.

Cons:

I've had several hacking attempts made on my Bluehost Wordpress sites.

Support is actually not bad, but it doesn't compare to WPEngine.

WPEngine: the "service and security" option

Pros:

WPEngine (short for, obviously, Wordpress Engine), is custom built hosting specifically for Wordpress. Everything they do is built specifically for your type of site.

WPEngine prides themselves on service and security of your Wordpress site.

They also have pre-installed plugins to help your site with both speed and SEO.

Cons:

Much more expensive than Bluehost. If your site starts to scale, you will eventually end up switching over to something like WPEngine, but it could be a little difficult for your budget to start with them

Themes:

There are tens of thousands of Wordpress themes.

Once your Wordpress platform is ready, you can install free themes from Wordpress or purchase premium themes from places like ThemeForest.

Also, WPEngine has 37 premium themes they give to all their customers for free when they sign up - details here.

Specifics:

Coming soon: There are a few themes, plugins and tools you should be aware of if you are one of these specific types of blogs.

We are in the middle of writing detailed breakdowns for each of these categories, but until then, if your site matches any of these categories, reach out to us with the contact bubble in the bottom right corner and we can give you our recommendations

  • Starting a Food or Cooking Blog

  • Starting a Music or Video Blog

  • Starting a Book, Writing or Poetry Blog

  • Starting a Beauty or Makeup Blog

  • Starting a Lifestyle, Personal or Mommy Blog

  • Starting a Sports, Political or News Blog

  • Starting a Travel or Fashion Blog

  • Starting a Fitness or Weight Loss Blog

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