How to Start a Blog in 2023
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Starting a blog is easy. Starting a blog and growing that blog into a money-making machine isn’t quite so easy.
But it’s possible if you give it time. How much time?
It depends on a few factors but typically it takes about two years to generate a decent monthly income. With that said, you can expect to start making pennies from around month six of your blog’s life.
After that, hopefully, you’ll see steady growth each month until you reach the point where your blog is generating enough to replace your full-time wage.
But nothing is guaranteed in the world of blogging.
The reason I’m telling you this at the very start of the article is that blogging, from the outside, looks simple. Sitting around all day, thinking about ideas and writing content sounds great, doesn’t it?
But there’s more to blogging than that.
Running a blog requires hard work and determination. You’ll have technical issues to deal with and mental hurdles to climb over. But the rewards are there – if you stick at it long enough and keep working on the right things.
Still want to do this? Great.
In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about how to start a blog. We’ll look at choosing a domain name, deciding where to host your blog, the best software to use for blogging (HINT – it’s WordPress, IMO), and how to make it look good.
Before we get started, I should let you know this is a guide for creating a self-hosted blog on its own web server.
I should also let you know this method isn’t free. You’ll need to buy a domain name and hosting but you don’t cost a lot when you’re starting out. I recommend Namecheap for buying domains and starter US hosting, and Guru for hosting in the UK.
If you prefer to start blogging for free, and with fewer technical issues to deal with, check out my article on the best free blogging platforms.
What should you blog about?
One of the first decisions you need to make is what to blog about.
The topic you choose depends on your goals.
If you’re blogging to promote your business, you should blog about the stuff that answers your potential client’s questions.
If you’re not using blogging as a marketing strategy, and want to generate income from affiliate sales, ad revenue, sponsored blog posts etc, you can choose pretty much any topic you like.
With that said, you should choose a topic that:
- You enjoy writing about (this is a long journey that could last several years)
- Has the potential to generate revenue
Tap into your areas of expertise
Many successful, full-time bloggers write about the things they did in their previous life.
By that, I mean their offline jobs and careers.
So somebody with a financial background might blog about personal finance. Somebody with a skill for playing the bass guitar might blog about playing the bass guitar.
If you want to get into an over-crowded niche like travel or food, pick a niche or write in a way that helps you stand out.
Here are a few ideas for niching down in the travel and food niche:
- A specific location – city, country or continent
- A certain demographic – singles, LGBT, under 30s, over 50s
- Method of transport – car, train, plane
- Lifestyle choices – veganism, low carb, real foods
- Meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, slow cooker
- Ingredients – tomatoes, pasta, steak, chicken
If you choose to niche down, try to avoid choosing a domain name that lets you broaden your topic choices in the future.
Choosing a domain name for your blog
Now you have some topic ideas floating around your head, it’s time to choose an awesome domain name. The chances of grabbing the first one that comes into your head are probably zero. But never fear, with some creative thinking, you can find a suitable alternative.
Choose a domain that’s relevant to what you’re going to be blogging about. Try to include one keyword so people get it right away. Here are a few suggestions for domains that may or may not exist (I’m not checking!):
- superblogging.com (super blogging or superb logging?!)
If you’re looking for a global audience, buy a .com domain. If you’re looking for an audience from a specific country, choose that country’s domain extension. For example, .co.uk is for UK sites and .fr for French sites.
Registering and managing a domain name
When you decide upon a domain name, the next step in the process is buying it. The average cost for a domain is around $10. But you can get them cheaper, as you can see in the screenshot below from the company I use, Namecheap.
Typically, you register a .com domain for one year at a time, but you can register them for longer. If this is your first time, don’t bother registering your domain for longer than a year.
Once you register a domain, remember to renew it when the time comes!
A lot of hosts provide an automatic renewal service so you never forget to renew a domain. This is a good thing for many, but can also be a hindrance if you buy a lot of domains or you discover blogging isn’t for you.
I switch off this feature and instead rely on reminder emails or memory.
Choosing and buying web hosting
This is where things start getting a little tricky.
It’s a lot of fun and exciting choosing a domain name for the first time, but looking for a suitable web hosting company isn’t.
There are tons of companies to choose from. And loads of technical jargon to get your head around.
Here are a few words you’ll come across:
- Cloud hosting
The list goes on.
When you set up a website or blog, it’s a good idea to choose one of the well-known hosting companies. If you find it hard to make a decision, ask a friend or associate for a recommendation.
Whatever you do, don’t ask in a Facebook group! I’ve seen this happen so many times. You end up with a million different answers with people loving and hating the same company.
As you learn more about running a blog, if you don’t like the hosting company you signed up with, you can move your site to another provider.
Many hosting companies offer a free migration service. They move your site from your old host to the new one.
Typically, changing hosts shouldn’t affect your search rankings as long as both servers provide the same experience.
Page loading time is a ranking factor, so if you move from a fast server to a slow one, your rankings might drop. Not overnight, but over a period of time. So keep checking your analytics data.
And if you move from a slow server to a fast one, your rankings might improve.
One of the most popular hosting companies is US-based Namecheap. They provide a reasonably priced shared hosting service good enough for most beginners. It’s the company we use to host this site and it’s the one we use to buy all our domains.
Here’s a mind-blowing statement for you: WordPress powers 43% of all websites, including some of the largest brands in the world*.
That’s because it’s easy to use, practical and backed by a huge community of creators developing ways to make it better.
Yes, there is a learning curve at the start but once you grasp the basics and get to know how it works, it’s a walk in the park.
When you’re a beginner you’ll need help understanding how WordPress works. So check out the Learn WordPress page for sites and resources you can use.
Instead of walking through the process of creating a WordPress blog with Namecheap, take a look at this video to see how easy it is.
Making your new WordPress blog look good
Once you’ve installed WordPress on your blog, the next step is making it look good.
You do this by installing a ‘theme’. A theme is a bunch of files that create the design and default styling.
WordPress comes with a few default themes pre-installed. Each one is named after the year it was published.
Anything prior to Twenty Twenty-Three is a good starting point, but a better option is a theme like Kadence. It’s easy on the eye and can be used without any customizations.
It’s the one used on this site.
If you install Kadence (or any other theme), you can customize the various settings using the Customizer in the WordPress admin area. Here’s a screenshot from the Kadence theme – others will vary.
As you can see, there are a lot of customization options available to you. And this is for the free version of Kadence.
Focus on content
At this stage of your new blog’s life, it’s easy to get caught up with making your site look amazing. I get that, but I recommend focusing on creating content until you’ve published about 20 posts.
When you reach that point, you’ll have a better idea of which theme works best for your content.
Finding a new theme
You can choose from thousands of free themes from inside the admin area of your new blog. All you have to do is navigate through the available themes, choose one you like and go through the simple installation process.
Once you’ve done this, you can run the live preview to see how your blog looks using the new theme.
To find a new theme, navigate to Appearance > Themes and click on Add New.
Starting a blog is so, so easy. It really is.
The hardest part comes after you’ve passed the setup stage. Now it’s time to start creating content, generating traffic and making money from your blog.
I’m sure you’ve read the blogging success stories you find all over the internet and you probably feel inspired by them. Take heart in realising that all successful bloggers started somewhere, often with an audience of zero. But as time passes, through a lot of hard work, focus and networking, they saw traffic and income grow to the point where they could support themselves and their family.
It’s all up to you.
Hey, I build websites for small businesses in the UK. I also run a few websites of my own, including WordPress Made Easy, which is aimed at beginners and newbies.