Blogging for Dummies: How to Start a Blog in 2022


So You Want to Start A Blog?

This is part 1 of my Blogging 101 Guide for those who are serious about starting a blog and perhaps making a living out of it. In this article, we will look at the needed steps to setup a functioning blog using WordPress.

Once you are done, remember to also checkout:
Finding the right niche for your blog
Things you can do to improve your blog
How to grow your blog traffic
Practical ways to make money from your blog

Starting a blog is easy.

Sure, it could get very tricky in the later stage; but generally speaking, blogging is do-able for everyone who has a computer with an Internet connection.

If you are new to the blogging world, I will walk you through all the basics in setting up a blog online to writing your first post on this page. Here are the six steps to follow:

  1. Register your blog domain
  2. Signup for a web hosting account
  3. Point your domain DNS to your host
  4. Install and login to WordPress
  5. Design your blog appearance
  6. Add functionality to your blog

Let's get into the details of each step.

1. Register Your Domain Name

Your domain is the name of your blog. It is not something physical that you can touch or see; but merely a string of characters that give your website an identity – like the title of a book or a place. Your domain ‘tells’ your visitors what sort of blog that they are visiting.

You can choose and register your domain names via a domain registrar.

GoDaddy, NameCheap, Hover are some of the popular ones.

Personally, I use NameCheap to manage my domain registrations mainly because they are usually cheaper and offer free-for-life domain privacy protections. But any other reputable domain registrars should be just fine.

2. Signup for a Web Host

Web hosting is the physical place where you store your blog content – words, blog themes, images, videos, and so on. To own a web hosting, we rent it from companies who setup and manage web hosting servers.

There are different types of web hosting in market and there are tons of things to consider when choosing a web host. I am not going to cover those details in this article – if you are curious, feel to click in those links to learn more.

For new bloggers, start small with an affordable shared hosting.

Hostinger ($1.99 per month) and A2 Hosting ($2.99 per month) are cheap, reliable, and offer sufficient features for most of the blogs. I highly recommended them for starters.

Hostinger is one of the cheapest web hosts around, especially during the honeymoon signup period. Despite being a budget hosting company, they offer tons of premium hosting features that are suitable for new bloggers > Order Here.

3. Point Your Blog Domain DNS to Your Host

Next, you'll need to update the Domain Name System (DNS) record at the domain name registrar (where you registered your domain at step #1) to point to your web hosting DNS Nameserver. Details of your web hosting DNS Nameserver is usually emailed to you when you first signup to your hosting.

DNS stands for Domain Name System and it is used to direct any incoming user towards the IP address of the server. So, when a user enters your domain name (ie. example.com) in their browser, the DNS records will fetch the IP address of your web host and serve your blog to the user.

Example – To change your domain DNS at NameCheap, go to Domain List > Manage > Customer DNS.

In case you need help, here are the step-by-step instructions on updating your blog DNS at Namecheap.

4. Install WordPress to your web host

To start blogging, you will first need to install a “blogging software” into your web host.

There are plenty of “blogging software” in today's market but WordPress is by far the most popular system. It is free, popular, well-developed, widely supported by open source community, and newbies-friendly. Statistically, more than 95% of the blogs in United States are built using WordPress and there are over 30 billions blogs run on WordPress.

WordPress can be installed manually to your web host; or installed automatically using one-click installation app. Both methods are fairly simple and can be done easily.

WordPress Manual Installation

In a quick glance, here are the steps you need to do:

  1. Download the latest WordPress package here.
  2. Create a database for WordPress on your web server, as well as a MySQL user who has all privileges for accessing and modifying it.
  3. Rename the wp-config-sample.php file to wp-config.php.
  4. Open wp-config.php in text editor (notepad) and fill in your database details.
  5. Place the WordPress files in the desired location on your web server.
  6. Run the WordPress installation script by accessing wp-admin/install.php in your web browser. If you installed WordPress in the root directory, you should visit: http://example.com/wp-admin/install.php; if you installed WordPress in its own subdirectory called blog, for example, you should visit: http://example.com/blog/wp-admin/install.php
  7. And you are done.

WordPress One-Click Installation

Most bloggers do not install their WordPress manually.

With the support of one-click installation services like Softaculous (available with most web hosts), the installation process is very straight forward and can be done in just a few simple clicks.

For your reference, the following images show where you can find the auto-installation feature on you Hostinger dashboard. To install WordPress, just click on the circled icon and follow the dummy-proof instructions – your WordPress system should be up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Things might look different for different web hosts but the process is basically the same. So don’t worry if you are not using one these hosts I am showing here.

Hostinger WordPress auto installer
Example – You can install WordPress to your web host in just a few clicks using Hostinger Auto Installer (visit Hostinger here).

Login to Your WordPress Admin Page (Backend System)

Once you have got your WordPress system installed, you will be given an URL to login to your WordPress administrator page. In most cases, the URL will be something like this (depends on the folder you installed the WordPress):

http://www.exampleblog.com/wp-admin

Go to this URL and login with your preset username and password; and from there, you will now be at the back-end (dashboard) of your WordPress site – this is the part of the blog where only you as the administrator can access.

By the way – It is a good idea to bookmark your WordPress wp-admin login URL since you will be coming in here very often.

create new blogpost
Creating a new post in WordPress.

The latest version of WordPress at this time of writing is version 5.9.3 – by default you will be using WordPress Gutenberg as the block editor. Gutenberg brings a lot of flexibility to the WordPress platform. This is especially useful for beginners since many things like setting background colors and more no longer require coding. The block system helps with article layout management as well.

To write and publish a new post, simple navigate to the left sidebar, click ‘Posts’ > ‘Add New’ and you’ll be directed to the writing screen. Click ‘Preview’ to preview how things look like on the front-end (what your readers will see), click ‘Publish’ once the post is complete.

Hola! You now have your first blog post published.

5. Design Your Blog Appearance with Pre-made Themes

Now that we have the bare WordPress ready, it's time to take a deeper dive. Like all Content Management System (CMS), a WordPress blog consists of 3 main elements:

  1. CMS Core – the system that we installed earlier using auto-installer,
  2. Themes – the “front-end” of your blog, this is where you control how your blog looks like, and
  3. Plugins – add-on that gives you control and functions on your blog (more about this later)

To design or customize a blog outlook, all we need to do is to customize a set of PHP and CSS files that are usually located in /wp-content/themes/ directory. These files are separated from WordPress core systems and you can change them as often as you want.

Most individual bloggers do not create their own blog themes from scratch. Rather, what most of us do is to pick a ready-made theme (or a raw theme) and customize it according to our needs. There are endless numbers of beautiful WordPress themes around the Internet – a simple search on Google will lead you to millions.

If this is your first time establishing a WordPress blog, my suggestion to you is to start with a ready-made theme and tweak it along the way.

Here's where you can get ready-made WordPress designs:

  1. Official WordPress Theme Directory (free)
  2. Professional Designed WordPress Themes ($50 – $800)

We will look into each option below.

Official WordPress Theme Directory (Free)

WordPress Themes Directory (Visit Here).

WordPress Themes Directory is where you can get all the free WordPress themes. Themes listed in this directory follow very tight standards provided by the WordPress developers, hence, in my opinion, this is the best place to get free, bug-less theme designs.

Professional Designed WordPress Themes (Paid)

Another way to get high quality WordPress themes is to subscribe to WordPress Theme Clubs or pay for a professional designed theme.

If this is the first time you heard of Theme Clubs, here's how it works: You pay a fix amount of fee to join the club and you get various designs offered in the clubs. Themes offered in Theme Club are usually professionally designed and updated regularly.

Elegant Themes, Studio Press, and Artisan Themes are three WordPress Themes Clubs I recommend.

There are a lot more others out there – some clubs even cater to a particular industry, such as realtors or schools; but we will only cover three in this article.

Elegant Themes

Elegant Divi Themes – There are more than 800 premade layout and designs available, click here to view actual theme demos.

Website: ElegantThemes.com / [icon tag] Price: $89/year or $249/lifetime

Elegant Themes is arguably the most popular WordPress theme club in the industry. With over 750,000 happy customers, the theme site offers Divi Builder with more than 800 pre-made layout and designs to choose from. It also lets you download premium plugins that will supercharge your online business. The subscription on Elegant Theme is affordable enough. You can enjoy access to all themes on unlimited sites for $69/year. If you wish to use the plugins too, you must pay $70/year. If you love Elegant Themes, you might as well purchase the lifetime plan for a one-time payment of $199.

My experience with Elegant Themes was overall positive and I have no issue recommending them.

It is affordable and easy to use, and the customization options are pretty much endless. Whether you are a casual blogger or an experienced businessman, Elegant Themes is not only a great way to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your website, it also helps to make your site navigable and more user-friendly, which is good for attracting more traffic and boosting business.

StudioPress

studiopress themes
WordPress themes at Studio Press.

Website: StudioPress.com / [icon tag] Price: $129.95/theme or $499.95/lifetime

If you’re a long-time WordPress user, then you’ve probably heard of StudioPress. It is popular for its Genesis Framework, the minimalist and SEO-friendly WordPress framework for all StudioPress themes.

StudioPress offers flexible pricing based on your needs. The Genesis Framework with a child theme is available for a one-time payment of $59.99. The premium theme, which includes the Genesis Framework, cost $99 each. If you want access to all the themes, you can pay $499.

Artisan Themes

ready made sites
Ready made sites offered by Artisan Themes.

Website: ArtisanThemes.io / [icon tag] Price: $129 – $389/theme

Artisan Themes is not your usual WordPress theme club. Instead of downloading themes with pre-made layouts, this theme club lets you build a theme from scratch using over 20 modules (calls to action, tiled displays, portfolio elements, etc.).

You can unleash modules on its themes. Two of its most functional and contemporary themes are Indigo and Modules. Unlike other WordPress theme sites, you can only buy the themes individually for $129 each.

Ready Made Sites is perfect for people who don’t want the hassle of customizing a WordPress theme. Simply choose the theme that best describes your business so you can set it up in a matter of minutes. You can only use the Ready Made Sites if you have installed the theme from the shop as specified.

6. Add Blog Functionalities with Plugins

A plugin is an add-on application that run on top of WordPress and add new features and functionality to a WordPress blog. There are almost 60,000 free plugins in WordPress.org official plugin directory right now and tens of thousands more available in other market place.

Bloggers use plugin to add all sort of functions to their WordPress blog. For examples, you can:

In case this is your first time using WordPress, here are some essential (and free) plugins to begin with:

Plugins for Security & Spam Protections

Akismet WordPress plugin

For security and spam protection, check out AkismetVault PressWordFence, and iThemes Security.

Akismet is one of the oldest plugins that come along with your WordPress by default. This plugin helps check all your comments against its service to see if they are spam. It collects all the spam and lets you review it under your blog’s ‘comments’ admin screen.

Vault Press, on the other hand, is a real-time backup and security scanning service designed by Automattic. This plugin gives you the functionality to backup and synchronizes all your posts, comments, media files, revisions and dashboard settings on the servers. WordFence and iThemes Security are plugins that combine all necessary WordPress security features. The main function of this plugin is to tighten a blog’s security without having to worry about conflicting features or missing anything on your site or blog.

Plugins for Blog Performance

W3 total cache WordPress plugin

You need a number of performance optimization plugins to speed up your blog. Thankfully you can cover most of these optimizations with free plugins.

For caching – W3 Total Cache, WP-Optimize, LiteSpeed Cache, Swift Performance, as well as Autoptimize are the well-known options. A cache plugin is a must-have in modern blogging world – it improves the user experience greatly by increasing the server performance, reducing the time taken to download and increases page loading speed.

For content delivery network (CDN) – Cloud Flare offers a free plugin that intergrates everything in a few clicks.

Also – if your blog has lots of images in it – consider adding EWWW Image Optimizer. It is a one-click image optimizer that able to optimize the image files in your library. It also has the automatic image compression feature to reduce the size of images while uploading them. By optimizing images, you can reduce the page load times and result in faster site performance.

Plugins for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Yoast SEO WordPress plugin

Although WordPress is a SEO-friendly blogging platform, there is quite a lot more to do to improve your blog SEO score and rank better in search engines.

WordPress SEO developed by Yoast and All In One SEO Pack developed by Michael Torbert are two very good (both are free!) additions in your blog plugin list.

Plugin for Gutenberg Blocks

Custom Gutenberg Blocks

With the introduction of Gutenberg editor in WordPress 5.0, bloggers can now create content using a block-based editor. By default, WordPress offers a set of basic content blocks such as a paragraph, image, call-to-action button, shortcode, and so on. By adding in Gutenberg Block plugins, you get to add more engaging elements (for examples – FAQ, accordion, author profile, carousel, click-to-tweets, GIF blocks, etc) to your blog.

Stackable, Ultimate Blocks, and CoBlocks are three easy and free Gutenberg Block plugins to try out.

Final Thoughts: Setting Up Your Blog is Step #1

So there you have it – your very first blog. As I promised – easy peasy.

But creating your blog is just the first step. Once your blog is ready, you need to start growing and improving it. Utilizing the right set of data, choosing the best tools, and applying the best strategy all makes an impact on how successful your blog will be.

To continue your journey check out the my other guide in this series.

A Little More: Why Read My Blogging Guide?

I founded this site, Web Hosting Secrets Revealed (WHSR), back in 2008, and thanks partially to a great welcome by the blogging community we have gone from strength to strength.

Since then, WHSR has grown to become one of the Net’s leading sites for web hosting advice, and I have attracted to the brand some of the strongest voices in contemporary blogging – all of whom have fed their input into this book and the site, making it the go-to resource for anyone starting down the self-hosted blogging route.

With this no-nonsense guide, I will be providing you with some of the quickest, easy-to-understand and above all effective solutions to your blogging problems – culled from my own experience and from the minds of people who enjoy what they do.

“Me” in Blogging Scene

My problogger author profile page
My author profile page at Problogger.net – I published regularly at the site between 2014 – 2017.
Speaking at Local WordPress Event
Speaking at WordPress Meetup Kuala Lumpur, 2019.

So… Is Blogging Still Worth it today?

The phrase “worth it” can be very subjective. Blogging is something highly versatile, possibly beneficial for making money, business promotion, or simply to occupy your time. To be completely honest – the true value of blogging depends on the individual.

1. Making Money Online

There are many ways for blogs to earn money and today, opportunities for the capable are even greater. Consumers today increasingly look towards influencers as a source of trusted information. Companies have realized this as well.

Established food bloggers have been making thousands of dollars every month.

Brands have shown their willingness to work closely with popular bloggers. For instance, Somersbys worked with Polish bloggers in their recent marketing campaign. The result was a success for both brand and bloggers.

As another example of this WPX Hosting designated Matthew Woodward of SEO Bloggers as their ‘official mascot’ for product promotion. Your opportunities will lie in the niche you’ve chosen, as well as the strength of your audience.

2. Business Promotion

Many businesses make the mistake of thinking that a great-looking official site is enough of a digital presence. However, evidence has shown that companies that blog get, on average, 55% more visitors and 434% more indexed pages in search engines.

More indexed pages means a higher chance of ranking well in search, leading to greater traffic volume. The more visitors you have, the higher your volume of conversion will typically be. In fact, many B2B marketers are convinced blogging is the most important type of content online.

3. Just for fun 

Everyone needs a hobby and if you don’t take things too seriously, you can basically blog at no cost at all. There are a number of decent free web hosting providers, many of whom will even provide a free subdomain for use.

Even if you want something that performs a little better, this can be achieved for under $100 a year. Not only can you share information to a wide audience, but there’s a high chance you will pick up supporting skills as well – image editing, SEO, and more.

Useful Blogging Tools We Like

Even though useful free tools and web services do exist online, the trouble is picking up them among all other junks or/and outdated tools. To save your time, here's a list of handy tools we use all the time at WHSR.

Writing 

Image Editing

  • Fotor – Edit and design beautiful images tool for social media posts, posters, invitation, etc.
  • Canva – Design pretty images and social media posts.
  • Cartoonize – Instantly create, edit, and personalize your photo into aartwork.
  • Design Wizard – Create pretty images using free templates and ready-made images.
  • JPEG Mini – Reduce size of .jpeg files.
  • Tiny PNG – Reduce size of .png files.
  • Skitch – Taking image notes.
  • Pic Monkey – Award-winning image editing tool.
  • Pik to Chart – Simple infographic creation tool.
  • Pixlr – Image editing tool.
  • Favicon.io – The best favicon generator, ever.

Free Stock Photos & Images

References & Researches 

Social Media, Marketing & SEO

  • Bing Webmaster Tool – Bing's free site diagnostic tool.
  • Google Webmaster Tool – Google's free site diagnostic tool.
  • Follow – Stalk your competitors
  • Majestic SEO – Free version allows you to check a site link profile (CF/TF) quickly.
  • Engage Bay -All-in-one marketing, sales & service automation platform
  • Similar Page Checker – Check for duplicated pages on your blog.
  • Like Explorer – Check social metrics of your (or competitors') content.
  • Tweet Deck – Mange multiple Twitter account in one dashboard.
  • Buzz Sumo – Find popular content and influencers on major social media networks.
  • Tag Board – Social media market research.
  • IFTTT – Publish content on multiple social media platforms easily.

Web Analytics & Productivity 

Website Speed Testing 

  • Bitcatcha – Check site speed from 10 locations.
  • Webpage Test – Check webpage speed in detail.
  • GT Metrix – Test and track webpage loading speed in detail.

Frequent Asked Questions in Blogging

How much does it cost to start a blog?

The estimated costs to start a blog which includes a domain name and a web hosting is below $100 a year (less than $10 a month). This cost is based on a self-hosted blog (using WordPress). The break down of the cost would be: $15 annually for a .com domain name and about $60 annually for web hosting fee.

How do bloggers get paid?

To get a better picture of how bloggers get paid, I categorized them into 2 types – one is where you deal directly with customers or advertisers while the other is where you join a program offered by a company or network. When you are dealing directly with customers or advertisers, you have more control over the pricing. You can earn money by selling premium content (membership site), direct advertising, selling your product, and more.

How to start a blog for free?

There are numerous platforms where you can start a free blog today, this includes WordPress.com, Tumblr or Blogger. To create a free blog, all you have to do is to sign up and you can start publishing your content.

What is the catch behind a free blogging platform?

Nothing comes for free in our world. There are a number of disadvantages with a free blogging platform. There are rules laid down by each platform that you need to observe. The domain name of your blog appears to be a subdomain such as “myblogname.wordpress.com” or “myblogname.tumblr.com”. There are limited functionality, plugins and theme selection you can make to your blog. Last but not least – usually, free platforms limit the opportunity of monetizing your blog. I strongly suggest you start your blog using a self-hosted WordPress.org (as what I've covered in this guide). Besides overcoming the limitation of the free blog, the potential growth of your blog is limitless.

Photo of author

Article by Jerry Low