Blogging has been popular for quite some time now and is one of the many ways people use to communicate via the Internet together with forums/communities, emails, vlogs (video blogs), social networks, etc. But how do you make a blog? Where do you need to start from and what is the correct process?
In this guide, I’ll show you a viable approach on how to start a blog by using some fantastic tools that will make the process easy and smooth for everyone and that will help you run a blog in no time – all of this by spending the least amount of money possible.
Here is the structure of this 5 steps guide on how to start a blog so you can jump easily from one point to another:
- Self Hosted WordPress Blog vs Free WordPress.com Blog
- Where to Host a Blog
- How to Choose a Domain Name for your Blog
- How to Register a Domain Name for your Blog
- Domain History – How to Check the History of a Domain and the Most Important Factors to Consider
- Domain History Check – Whois
- Google Adsense Check
- Backlinks Check for a New Domain
- How to Check your Website’s History
- Domain Name Registration Services
- How to Make a Blog – Final Steps
Self Hosted WordPress Blog vs Free WordPress.com Blog
First of all you need to decide where you want to host a blog, that means where your blog will physically be located, there are basically two options:
- a free hosting environment (such as mywebsite.wordpress.com if you host it on WordPress.com)
- a self-hosted solution (such as www.mywebsite.com using WordPress as a platform)
Hosting your blog on a free hosting environment gives you some pros and cons, for example you will be able to set it up in literally just a few minutes, it will be moderately secure and it will be automatically maintained by the free hosting provider (for example wordpress.com). On the other side it will give you less flexibility, a shared domain name and a much less professional look.
This is why I always suggest to have your own self-hosted WordPress blog, where you have full control on what goes on it and you will be able to choose your very own personalized domain name that you wish to use (plus many other aspects that can help you rank better on Google and therefore receive more visits).
Where to Host a Blog
If you’re just starting out with your first blog or even if you already have some experience working on the web but don’t want to invest too much money and time right from the beginning you should choose a simple and cheap solution.
I’ve personally tested many hosting companies and have had both positive and negative experiences which have also led to a significant loss in terms of time and money when the hosting wasn’t working as expected…this is why choosing a professional service is critical also if you’re just starting to blog.
Regarding this matter let’s remember that Google doesn’t “like” a website which is going down every once in a while or returns errors on a frequent basis – this is quite obvious since it leads also to a very poor user experience which is exactly the opposite of what Google wants to deliver to each single visitor.
Ok, so what hosting do I recommend? I’ve been using Bluehost for a while now and I’m really impressed by how it works – it provides one of the simplest ways to go online and set up your blog in no time (and contemporarily spend a very little amount of money): at $3.95/month you get a new domain name, hosting with unlimited bandwidth, 1 click blog installation and 24/7 support. Not bad 🙂 If you want to give it a try simply click here to check it out.
There are also other solutions out there that offer different features and might be suitable if, for example, you’re handling multiple websites and/or are thinking of a cloud solution (Rackspace Cloud Sites is a great example that I’ve been using for many years, now that product “Cloud Sites” has transitioned under LiquidWeb and it’s still working perfectly) – but that is another level (also from a price point of view) that you’ll want to think about when you’ll be receiving thousands of visitors per day: let’s start small and aim big!
How to Choose a Domain Name for your Blog
Besides the hosting – which is where your website will be on the Internet – you also need to choose a domain name (e.g. www.mywebsite.com). Depending on which hosting you choose you may either have to register a domain name on your own or it might be already included in the offer – as we saw with Bluehost.
Choosing a domain name is quite a tricky but fun process, it’s the moment during which you start feeling that your website is coming alive – so be creative and think about what you’d like to call it and how people can easily associate it with your content: your brand.
How to Find a Blog Name (or generate one)
There are a few services online that can help you find a blog name and that will even generate website names by mixing up 2 or more words from a list or by making up the whole name.
Among the first type, there is Name Mesh which, as you can imagine from the name, does a mashup up of two words and looks for any available domain name. It also has a very useful feature that creates domain names with similar words to the one chosen.
While if you have no idea on how to name your website, you can generate one by going to Dot-o-mator – where, with a click of a button, you’ll be presented with very modern names (web 2.0 style) generated automatically – give it a try!
How to Register a Domain Name for your Blog
Registering a domain name is very simple and takes just a couple of minutes. You just need to find a name (as we saw above), check if it’s not currently in use and register it. Simple as that! 😉
Remember to choose also the appropriate TLD (top level domain) such as .com, .co.uk, .in, .fr, etc. based on where your target audience is located – in general .com is the best solution, but you might need to create a .co.uk domain name if you’re targeting the UK. The pricing of the domain changes too based on the TLD, also there are some restrictions and additional requirements for the country level TLDs – if you need any advice simply let me know in the comment section below, I’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
Domain History – How to Check the History of a Domain and the Most Important Factors to Consider
While registering, another important step is to check the history of any domain you’re about to purchase. Why? Simply because each domain name has a sort of fingerprint that if new and has never been used, then is totally neutral, while if it has been registered in the past might influence your online success under many aspects.
So a few things to consider are:
- How is it evaluated and perceived by Google?
- Has it been banned or penalized?
- Is Google Adsense allowed?
- What content was previously displayed on that domain name?
- What audience was it targeting?
- What is it’s backlink profile?
I understand some of these aspects may be difficult to find out or understand, especially if you’re just starting out with your first blog – but I’ll help you on this.
Domain History Check – Whois
The first thing that you need to check out is if your domain name has a “history”, simply head to a whois website (e.g. whois.domaintools.com) and search for your domain name. Something like the following will appear:
If the record is totally clean you’ll see this indicating that nobody has ever used that domain name.
Otherwise, this which tells you that someone had previously registered that domain name, but then had canceled it.
So, as you can see if a domain appears to have had already some previous owner in the past, there will be obviously some sign of it on Google’s side.
Let’s see what can influence your performance: Adsense and backlinks.
Google Adsense Check
There’s one fantastic tool that can help you out and see if Google Ads are allowed to run on your website: the Google Adsense Sandbox – Preview Tool by Amit from Digital Inspiration.
Simply type in your domain name and if any ad appears then you’re sure that it will be possible to run Google Adsense on that domain name and no ban has been applied. Fantastic! 🙂
Otherwise, if you don’t see any ad, well it would be a wise choice to look for another domain name (if you want to make any money from Google Adsense of course).
This is slightly more tricky and involves using some SEO tools which tell you how many links and what kind of links might be pointing to your website or have been pointing to your website in the past.
We’ll use Majestic in this case – one of the richest and most comprehensive tools for backlink analysis on the web.
Once you input your domain name inside Majestic, you’ll be shown a new screen where you can see if your website has had any kind of incoming links (backlink history).
If none appear, then you’re good and can simply proceed with the registration – your website is at a 99% confidence level totally new.
If you see something like this:
it means your website probably had a “previous life” and it would be good to understand if and how this might influence your online success.
The easiest way to verify this is to look at the backlinks and see what they are, from which websites they’re coming from and if they look spammy or not.
If everything is clean and doesn’t look “fishy” you might even benefit from having some old backlinks! So that could be the other positive side of the story. 🙂
How to Check your Website’s History
Ultimately you may want to check your website’s history by looking at the content that was previously hosted on that domain name.
Wayback Machine and Internet Archive
In order to do this a very quick and efficient way is to simply use the Wayback Machine also know as Internet archive.
Basically, if you go to the archive.org and insert your domain name in the empty field you will be able to view your domain name on different moments in the past. This can be very useful if you want to understand the content that was previously hosted on that website and that can influence your rankings on Google or at least the perception that Google has of your domain name.
I probably wouldn’t go crazy after this because it is well known that Google after a while doesn’t consider anymore the content and authority of a website if it hasn’t been hosted or registered for a long period of time. But it is something that you might want to keep in consideration if you’re building your business around that domain name.
SEMrush – Historical Rankings
A very powerful and effective way to check the content and the keywords that were ranking on Google in the past is by using a tool called SEMrush.
SEMrush is an extremely strong and robust platform that can give you fantastic ideas about any website by analyzing organic research, paid advertising, display networks, keyword tracking which overall gives you a comprehensive competitive analysis.
In our case we can simply use SEMrush to analyze our domain name and see if any keyword, in particular, was ranking in the past. Simply fantastic!
You can even test SEMrush by using this tool below:
Domain Name Registration Services
Also for the domain names registration there are many services out there available from which you can choose from – differently from the hosting providers you really don’t have to carefully select the service based on the bandwidth or on the usage of your website since the purpose of a domain name is to only record a name and associate that to your hosting so you can show your website, nothing more.
A few domain name services I recommend and that I’m using too are Godaddy.com and Namecheap.com – both extremely trusted and cheap (with many coupons available online too, so make sure to check at the moment of purchase!).
How to Make a Blog – Final Steps
Ok, so we have a domain name and we have a hosting provider now we simply need to create our blog!
Let’s see how we can do that using Bluehost.
Nameserver Configuration using Namecheap
If you registered your domain name with the hosting provider (for example together with Bluehost) this step isn’t required and you can jump to the next “WordPress Installation and Login“.
If you registered your domain name using Namecheap or another domain name registrar, you need to go to the “Dashboard” and then to the “Domain List” by clicking on the left menu. Once the list appears simply click on the domain name you just purchased and set up the “Nameservers” as from the image below.
Make sure you select “Custom” and then “ns1.bluehost.com” and ns2.bluehost.com” – in short, this will indicate where your website is hosted. In our case on Bluehost’s servers.
This operation might take up to 24 hours but usually for a new domain should be quite quick and after a few minutes, the domain should be mapped correctly.
WordPress Installation and Login
Now simply head to your domain by typing it in the address bar of your browser. Once there you’ll see a screen like the one below.
Yes! WordPress is installed! Isn’t that fantastic?!? You just need to click on the “admin login” button or go to yourdomain.com/wp-login and insert your WordPress username and password in the empty fields.
Where can you find your username and password? You should have received an email from Bluehost with your initial username and password – you can change them later if you want. In case you haven’t received that email you can retrieve it from the “Lost your password?” link on the same screen.
And voila! Here is WordPress fully installed and operational on your brand new website.
How to Create a Blog Post with WordPress
Now that everything is setup correctly, in order to create a blog post with WordPress you simply need to click on “Posts” and “Add New”.
There you’ll see a new screen such as the one below, which looks very similar to a page like Microsoft Word where you can create your blog post, insert images, add videos and any kind of content you wish!
The first empty space is for the title of your blog post and the bigger area below is for the main content which you can format as you wish by using the options right above.
Any content and edits will be automatically saved in draft mode by WordPress itself, while if you want to save your post for later you can click on the “Save Draft” button. This way allows you to save the current post in a safe way so that you can re-access it in another moment to complete any changes.
When you’re ready to publish your post simply click on the blue “Publish” button on the right sidebar: congratulations you have just started blogging!
Remember, you can always come back and edit your post, update it with new categories, tags and so on.
In another post, we’ll see also how to optimize your WordPress posts from a Search Engine Optimization point of view in order to achieve top rankings on Google. For now, enjoy your brand new blog and have fun writing!