How to Start a Blog: The Ultimate Guide

Are you looking for a step-by-step tutorial on how to start a blog? If so, you're definitely in the right place!

I'll show you how to create a blog the right way, minus the confusing jargon or the need for any technical experience.

Who is this guide for? - Anyone who is interested in starting a blog the right way! No matter if you want to start a personal blog around a hobby or interest, or you're looking to start a business blog, this guide will show you step-by-step how to do it.

How long will it take? - I recommend setting aside about 30 minutes or so to complete the initial set up. Make yourself comfortable and let's get stuck in!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That said, I never recommend a product or service that I don't personally use for my business.

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Tip: Don't forget to bookmark this guide so you can come back to it later!

How to Start a Blog: The Six Steps

There are six key steps to follow if you want to create a blog.

Don't worry if this feels a little intimidating. This article will guide you through everything step-by-step to help you get your blog set up and ready to go.

This article also covers a number of the next steps that you'll likely be interested in once your blog is set up, including guidance on writing your first blog post, a brief overview of how to get traffic to your new blog, and how you can go about making money.

These tips will help ensure that you don't just start any old blog, but that you know how to start a successful blog that you can be proud of.

If you get stuck at any stage, don't worry, as I've included a detailed FAQ section at the bottom of this post to help you out. If you're still stuck, feel free to or ask a question in the comments section. I'm here to help.

Why Start a Blog in the First Place?

There isn't one specific reason why someone would choose to create a blog. The benefits of blogging are vast, and you don't need to fit a particular mold to be successful at it.

Regardless if you're looking to start a blog as a new business, to grow an existing business, or you'd like to start a personal blog around a hobby or interest, there's no reason why you can't experience all the benefits associated with blogging if you're determined enough and you stick at it.

Let's look at some of the reasons to start a blog today:

  • To Start a Business

    There are countless examples of ordinary people who run their blogs as full-time businesses.

    Provided you're committed to success, it's entirely feasible to be able to start a blog business that could eventually lead to the 'holy grail' scenario of quitting your 9-5 job to work from home on something you enjoy.

  • To Grow an Existing Business

    Blogging can help business owners leverage the power and scale of the internet to boost their brand's visibility and trust.

    These benefits don't need to be expensive either, as it's possible to optimize a blog to receive lots of free traffic from search engines and social media. By regularly posting valuable content that solves specific problems for your target market, a blog can be an excellent way to increase trust, respect, and ultimately sales from the people who connect with your business.

  • To Grow Your Reputation/Influence

    Over time, blogging can help you achieve expert status in a particular field when you regularly provide helpful insights and valuable content that solves specific problems for your audience.

    Growing your influence and reputation via a blog can help you stand out in your industry, and can lead to new and exciting opportunities such as better job offers, guest speaking invitations, the ability to become a published author, and being able to network with the movers and shakers in your industry.

  • To Improve Your Writing

    Practice makes perfect. The more blog posts you write, the better your writing will become. It's as simple as that.

  • To Express Yourself

    Blogging gives you the opportunity to share anything you'd like, for example, your story, challenges you've overcome, your thoughts on current affairs, or your progress learning a new skill.

    Whatever direction you choose for your blog, putting self-expression at the front of everything you do can help you meet new people, understand conflicting points of view, or become a source of inspiration for people experiencing difficulties in areas of their lives in which you've already succeeded.

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Step 1: Decide What to Blog About

Unsurprisingly, it's usually easier to decide what to blog about if you're starting a business blog, as the content should be closely related to the products and services that your company sells.

For personal blogs, though, it's often much trickier to think of a topic or niche.

Here are a few tips:

Tip #1 - You Should Enjoy the Topic

I've learned this the hard way, having started multiple blogs around topics for which I had no real passion.

Each time, without fail, I quickly became bored with the idea once the initial excitement wore off, once I hit an issue, or when I wasn't making money as fast as I'd (naively) expected. I'd then move on to the next idea, destined to make the same mistake over and over again.

Blogging isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out what works and what doesn't, and if you don't enjoy what you're writing and learning about on a daily basis, you'll be miserable. You'll also end up producing crappy content that no one wants to read because there will be 101 other things you'd rather spend your time doing.

Learn from my mistakes and pick a blog topic that you know you'll enjoy writing about one year (and beyond) from now.

Tip #2 - Choose a Popular Blog Topic

You need to choose a blog topic that's popular enough to ensure a large enough number of people are interested in it.

An excellent way to gauge popularity is by seeing how much competition there is for a particular niche. Now, this may seem like it goes against conventional wisdom, but you don't want to be the only blogger writing about a specific topic. Competition is important. In fact, it's a necessity, as it proves that there is a market for what you're offering.

(Don't let competition intimidate you, as you'll be able to stand out by offering a unique perspective, or by providing content that is better than what is already out there).

The more popular a blog topic is, the better chance there is for the following:

  • A high number of search engine queries about the topic (can lead to higher organic traffic versus less popular topics).
  • A large number of active influencers or already popular blogs in the niche (can increase awareness of your blog when they promote/link to your content).
  • A significant amount of social media activity related to the topic (can raise awareness of your blog, even more, when content is shared on social media).
  • Already proven ways of making money (for example, via advertising, or through a selection of trusted, well-known products and services that you can promote using affiliate marketing).

If you'd like some insight into specific blog topics, the following graph from ConvertKit shows the twenty most popular blog categories in 2017:

20 Most Popular Blog Categories

(The State of the Blogging Industry 2017)

Tip #3 - Keep it Focused...Just Not Too Focused

While it is possible to start a blog about anything and everything, these blogs usually aren't as successful.

For example, a blog dedicated to skiing will find it much easier to build a loyal following than one that covers the entirety of winter sports, including skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, and luge, etc.

Being focused and offering information on one primary topic allows you to leverage a reader's interest to keep them on your blog for longer, for example, by recommending more and more blog posts that they have a greater chance of being interested in.

When you swap between widely different topics, the likelihood of a reader being interested enough in both to continue reading your content becomes slim to non-existent.

It will also be much harder to build yourself as an authority or expert if you create content that's unfocused, hence why I recommend picking one topic and then working as hard as possible to be well-known in that particular area only.

It's important to strike a balance though. If it's too focused or specialized, you'll miss out on all of the benefits of popular blogs that I mentioned in the previous tip, and you'll probably end up running out of things to write about pretty quickly. Not ideal.

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Step 2: Pick the Best Blogging Platform

The next step is to choose the best blogging platform for your new blog, and there are many options available, including WordPress.org, WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Blogger to name just a few.

Before recommending a specific platform, it's probably a good idea to cover a general concept that I (and a LOT of other bloggers) agree on. If you're in any way interested in making money from your blog, either now or in the future, I don't recommend starting a blog for free.

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Why You Shouldn't Start a Blog for Free

It isn't difficult to find a blogging platform that offers a free plan, with WordPress.com (in addition to their paid plans), Tumblr, and Blogger offering these.

Despite the obvious attraction of a free blog, there are several reasons why it is a false economy;

  • They Aren't Intended for Serious Bloggers

    While a free blog may provide a taste of blogging at no real expense to you (other than the time investment of setting them up), it's worth remembering that they aren't intended for serious bloggers.

    If you're keen to provide valuable content, build a loyal following, and to make money from your blog, free blogging platforms feature too many restrictions to make this a reality, given that they're mainly suited to small hobby blogs and light personal blogs.

  • Very Basic Features & Functionality

    'Plugins' allow you to expand the basic functionality of your blog by adding new features. For example, WordPress.org has over 45,000 plugins available, allowing you to do almost anything imaginable from adding email opt-in forms to your blog, to helping your content load faster.

    None of the free blog options from WordPress.org, Tumblr or Blogger allow third-party plugins to be installed and used, severely limiting the functionality of any blogs using these plans.

  • Restrictions on How You Can Make Money

    The majority of the free blogging platforms have severe restrictions on how you can make money. Consider the following from WordPress.com's free plan, for example:

  • You cannot sell advertising unless your blog receive a moderate to high level of traffic (all free plans will still show advertising, but you cannot switch these off, and you don't receive any of the money these generate).
  • WordPress.com does not allow blogs where the vast majority of content is sponsored content.
  • You aren't able to add an eCommerce store to your blog (and you can't install a plugin to provide this functionality).
  • Limiting Terms of Service

    Looking again at WordPress.com's free plan for a moment, all sites must comply with their Terms of Service.

    Any violations of these and WordPress.com “may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately.”

    Any minor or accidental breaches of the terms and conditions could result in serious repercussions, for example leaving your blog at risk of downtime or being taken off you entirely for more severe offenses. If you're relying on your blog from a business perspective, this could be a big risk.

  • They Don't Look Professional

    There is another major issue for anyone looking to build their credibility or authority using a free blogging plan; these blogs usually look unprofessional.

    For example, WordPress.com can include adverts which you have no control over, both in terms of what is advertised and where these adverts get shown on your blog. These adverts could be distracting at best, and they could promote a competitor's product, service, or content directly from your blog at worst.

    Also, regarding layout, WordPress.com's and Blogger's free plans are hugely restrictive. You can't edit any HTML or CSS, meaning you can't do much to customize the look and feel of your blog. While you can purchase a premium theme to improve the appearance, this somewhat defeats the purpose of choosing a free blogging platform in the first place.

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WordPress.org vs WordPress.com

WordPress as a whole is the undisputed champion when it comes to hosting a blog, as it now powers over 30% of all websites on the internet or 60% of all sites that use a content management system (CMS):

Most Popular Content Management Systems

The eagle-eyed among you though will notice that there are two versions of WordPress; one with a .org domain and the other with .com.

So what's the difference, and which should you choose?

While they may look similar at first glance, they’re actually very different, and choosing the wrong platform could impact on your long-term success as a blogger.

Don't worry though, as it really isn't a difficult choice. I'll be covering the benefits of WordPress.org which will show why it is the version to choose when you start a blog.

Basic Differences

Most people fit into one of two camps when it comes to starting a blog. They’re either happy to sacrifice a bit of functionality if it means they can set up their blog quicker and more easily, or, they aren’t fazed with a bit of work upfront if it allows them to add more awesome features to keep their audiences engaged and entertained.

WordPress.com could be viewed as the simple option (with reduced functionality), as everything you need to get started is provided including the hosting you need for your blog.

WordPress.org, however, is often described as the more powerful option as there are very few restrictions or limitations, and it's the platform of choice for a large proportion of successful bloggers. It's up to you to find hosting (hence why it's referred to as self hosted WordPress), and a domain, however, but these can be very simple to get and set up.

Wait, what about a paid WordPress.com blog?

It's logical to think that if a free WordPress.com plan isn't a great option, then a paid plan would be better because it offers more of the functions you need to start a successful blog. While this may be true, I still don't recommend any of the paid WordPress.com plans.

If you're serious about growing your blog, it will cost substantially more for the first year of a WordPress.com site with all the features you'll need from the top Business plan ($300.00), as the lower priced packages don't have enough of the critical functionality you'll need.

This is in stark contrast to a WordPress.org blog hosted using Siteground's lowest price package (StartUp - from only $3.95 a month for the first year without domain registration), that would still provide you with all the features and benefits you need.

For this reason, I don't think there is enough value for money to be had from starting off on the WordPress.com platform.

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My Recommendation: WordPress.org

WordPress.org, aka self hosted WordPress, is the best choice when it comes to hosting a blog.

Here are a few of the reasons why it's my pick (and that of many beginner and experienced bloggers) of the best blog sites:

  • It's the Best Blogging Platform to Make Money

    There are no restrictions (provided it's legal!) on how you can earn money through your self hosted WordPress.org blog.

    Regardless if you want to make money via advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, eCommerce, or any other way you can think of, you have complete flexibility to do so.

  • It Offers Considerable Value for Money

    As mentioned, it will cost substantially more for the first year of a WordPress.com site with all the features you'll need from the top Business plan ($300.00 versus from $3.95 a month for Siteground's basic hosting package without domain registration).

    A number of the free blogging platforms allow you to pay for minor functionality upgrades, but this is still nowhere near as cost-effective as if you were to start a blog using WordPress.org in the first place.

  • It's Highly Customizable

    With WordPress.org, you have complete flexibility to:

  • Add custom themes or use any of the free/premium themes which are widely available online.
  • Easily modify the HTML/CSS of your selected theme to fine to change your blog's appearance.
  • Add any plugin to your blog, whether third-party or custom.
  • Use a custom domain on your blog provided your preferred domain name is still available.
  • It's Very Easy to Set Up

    Setting up and installing a WordPress.org blog does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. I've created a simple step-by-step guide on how to do in Step 4.

  • No Limiting Terms of Service

    Provided you’re not doing anything illegal (and provided you keep paying for your hosting!), your blog and its content cannot be taken down by anyone other than you.

    You are in complete control of your blog and the content you publish.

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Step 3: Pick a Domain Name

A domain name is simply the name given to a particular website, and it is what people will type into their browser to reach your blog directly. For example, this blog's domain is OnePercentIntent.com.

(This is different from a URL, which is the complete web address used to access a specific webpage. For example, the URL of this blog's homepage is https://www.onepercentintent.com)

If you've already registered a domain name that you want to use for your blog, you can skip this step. If not, keep reading to find out how to choose a domain name for a blog.

1. Choose a Domain Name

  • In the majority of cases, I recommend picking a .com domain. It's the most widely used, and it's what most people expect to use when entering a web address into their browser.
  • It should be easy to remember, and it shouldn't be difficult to spell, pronouns or understand.
  • Keep it as clean as possible - this means not adding hyphens between words where possible.
  • Keep it as short as possible, ideally three words or less.
  • Consider adding keywords to your domain, as this will be of benefit in terms of search engine optimization (SEO).
  • If you aren't using your name for the domain, ask yourself whether the domain name sums up exactly what your blog is about. If not, there are probably better options available.
  • Make sure your chosen domain name is future-proofed. For example, you may be writing about newborn babies now, but what if you expand your blog's content to include information about toddlers? Will your chosen domain name still work?

Still struggling?

If you're really struggling to think of a domain name, using your name can be a good option.

Don't spend too much time worrying about it, as at the start, OK is good enough. The most important part is actually getting started blogging, so don't let this step hold you up.

2. Make Sure Your Chosen Domain Name Is Available

Next, you need to make sure that your chosen domain name is available. You can check it's availability here.

I also recommend checking to ensure social media profiles are available which match (or are as close as possible) to your chosen domain name. Namechk is an excellent resource for this.

3. Make a Note of Your Preferred Domain Name

Once you've found a domain name that's available and that you're happy with, keep a note of it, as you'll be needing it in the next step.

Note: You don't need to register your domain name just yet, as you'll be doing that in Step 4.

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Step 4: Choose a Blog Host and Install WordPress

As I mentioned before, WordPress.org is often called 'self hosted WordPress' because it's up to you to find and set up the hosting for your blog.

While this may sound difficult, it doesn't need to be. This section of the guide will show you that it's pretty simple figuring out how to choose a blog host and installing WordPress.

My Recommendation: Siteground

I use Siteground hosting for my WordPress.org blog, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone wanting to start a blog.

Before I show you how to start a blog with Siteground step-by-step, it's probably a good idea to cover a number of the benefits you'll get from this popular blog host:

  • Super-Easy Installation - Thanks to their 1-Click Installer (included on all plans), it couldn't be quicker and more straightforward to install WordPress.

  • Autoupdates - Siteground automatically installs the latest version of WordPress for you each time an update is released, meaning you have one less thing to worry about as you grow your blog.

  • Ultra-Fast Loading - All Siteground plans come with awesome features to help your blog load as quickly as possible.

  • Officially Recommended by WordPress.org - WordPress.org has included Siteground in their selection of the best blog hosts available, giving you peace of mind that it is a trustworthy, reliable and favored platform to start a blog on.

How to Start a Blog with Siteground

Click here to check out Siteground's hosting plans.

(I started with the StartUp plan, but I now use GrowBig as I prefer the option of being able to create multiple blogs on the same hosting plan. It's very easy to upgrade when you outgrow a package).

Select the plan you want and click the Order Now button.

image showing the various siteground hosting plans available to choose when you start a blog

The next step is to choose the domain name that you'd like your blog to use.

You have a couple of options:

  • You can enter an existing domain if you have one registered already, or;
  • You can enter a new domain name if you chose one as part of step three.

Click the Proceed button once complete.

image showing where you can register a blog domain on a self hosted siteground plan when you create a blog

If you chose a new domain name as part of the previous step (and provided it is currently available), you'll see a congratulations message on-screen.

If your chosen domain is already taken, you'll need to go back a step and enter a new one.

Complete the form on this page, but don't worry about the extra services listed at the bottom of the form for now. I cover these below.

image showing confirmation message on siteground plan that domain is available to start a WordPress blog with

Siteground allows you to add a few extra services to your hosting package:

  • Domain Registration: This will automatically be selected if you're registering a new domain for your blog.
  • Domain Privacy: Typically, your personal details will be made publicly available in the WHOIS database when you register a new domain. This option prevents these details being from being available to the public and also makes the contact information you enter as part of the registration process private.
  • SG Site Scanner: This is a service from Siteground which lets you know if your website has been attacked by hackers, and informs you if any malware has been installed and detected on your blog.

(I chose to add both domain privacy and Siteground's Site Scanner to my hosting package to provide additional peace of mind. This is a personal choice though, and you can choose to remove these if you'd prefer).

image showing the various additional features available with each Siteground plan

Now that your registration is complete, you can log in to Siteground via the button in the top-right of your screen.

image showing the steps required to log in to Siteground

Once you're logged in, the next step is to click the My Accounts tab which should be located below the Siteground logo.

Next, click Manage Account.

(You'll notice that my hosting package contains two websites. Yours will probably only show the domain that you just purchased hosting for - this is normal).

image showing the steps required to log in to your Siteground hosting account

Click on the red button that says Go to cPanel.

image showing how to access the cPanel of a Siteground hosting account

Once you've reached the cPanel, scroll down the page until you reach a heading which reads AUTOINSTALLERS.

Click on the WordPress installer icon under this heading.

image showing the WordPress installer button in the cPanel of a Siteground hosting account

Click the blue button to start the WordPress installation.

image showing the installation button in the Siteground cPanel area that you need to click to create a WordPress blog

There are a few things to do on the next screen that appears:

1) Select which Protocol you want to use from the dropdown list.

(I selected HTTPS given that I use the free Let's Encrypt SSL certificate provided by Siteground. This provides greater website security and also provides a ranking boost by Google. You can opt for HTTP, however, if you prefer).

2) Check that the correct domain is listed in the Choose Domain box.

3) Finally, leave the In Directory field blank.

image showing the various WordPress installation settings that can be changed when you create a blog

Scroll down the page from where you selected your protocol (HTTPS, HTTP, etc.) and from where you checked your domain in the last point.

There a few important settings under the Site Settings heading that you'll want to update as part of the WordPress setup (these are shown with a star beside them in the image below).

  • Site Name: Enter a name for your blog, for example, John's Gardening Blog.
  • Site Description: Include a brief description about your blog, e.g., the type of content that you will be creating and sharing.
  • Admin Username: I recommend updating this from the default value provided by Siteground. Something memorable is ideal, for example an email address.
  • Admin Password: Again, I recommend updating this from the default value provided. Choose something memorable yet secure.
image showing the various WordPress site and admin settings that can be changed when you start a blog

Once the software has successfully been installed, take a note of the Administrative URL provided (this is circled for my particular site in the image below).

This is where you'll be building your blog from and uploading content to. It's a good idea to add this address to your bookmarks as you'll be using it regularly.

Helpful tip: Don't worry if you've skipped ahead or closed the window without taking a note of your Admin URL. Simply add “/wp-admin/” to the end of your chosen domain name (e.g. http://www.myblog.com/wp-admin/) and you'll be able to access it.

image showing that the WordPress software has been successfully installed
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Step 5: Choose a WordPress Theme

The next step is to figure out how to choose a WordPress theme for your new blog.

Don't underestimate the importance of this step; selecting the right theme will play a massive part in helping you create a blog that you're not only happy looking at, but that is as easy as possible to update and to add new content to.

I always recommend that beginners choose a theme that includes a visual page builder. The majority of free and premium WordPress themes don't come with this, but there are a couple of options available, for example, the Avada theme which I use and love, or the Divi WordPress theme.

The main advantage of a visual page builder is that it minimizes the amount of custom coding (e.g., HTML, CSS or Javascript) that you need to know and use to create a layout that you're happy with, and the drag-and-drop editors save so much time that they're a no-brainer in my opinion.

My Recommendation: Avada

I use the Avada theme for my WordPress.org blog for the following reasons:

  • Mobile Responsive - Avada is fully responsive and passes Google's mobile-friendly test with flying colors. It is super-easy to adapt your blog's layout to look great on smaller devices.

  • Easy to Create Custom Layouts - The Avada theme comes with the Fusion Builder, a visual page builder which you can use to create stunning layouts from simple, yet highly-customizable, drag-and-drop elements.

  • Easily Customizable - Avada's theme options make it a breeze to customize the look and feel of your site. You can quickly customize every aspect of your blog including its layout, color scheme, post or page content, sidebar styling and hundreds of other variables.

  • Well Trusted & Liked - Avada has been the number one selling WordPress theme six years in a row, having been purchased in excess of 450,000 times. At the time of writing, it has an average of 4.77/5 from over 20,000 ratings.

  • Stunning Pre-Built Layouts - Don't feel like coming up with a new layout from scratch? No worries! Avada includes dozens of page layouts that you can edit or use straight away to quickly get started.

Part One: How to Download the Avada Theme

You can purchase a copy of the Avada theme here.

(If you aren't registered, you'll need to sign up for a new account. Don't worry, this is super easy and only takes a minute or two).

image showing how to purchase the Avada WordPress theme

Once you've registered and purchased Avada, hover over your profile name on the top-right of the screen and click Downloads from the menu that appears.

image showing how to download the Avada theme following purchase

Click the Download button from the menu on this page. You'll be selected with a few options, click the option that says Installable WordPress file only.

image showing how to download the Avada theme following purchase

Part Two: How to Install the Avada Theme

Once you've purchased and downloaded the Avada theme, go to your WordPress website's admin window and click Appearance in the sidebar menu, followed by Themes from the sub-menu that appears.

image showing how to install the Avada theme - access themes from the menu of your WordPress blog's admin area

Click the Add New button on the top-left of your screen, followed by Upload Theme.

image showing how to install the Avada blog theme - click the add new button to continue
image showing how to install the Avada blog theme - click the upload theme button to continue

Click Choose File and navigate to and select the .zip file that you downloaded in part one.

Click Install Now to proceed.

image showing how to install the Avada WordPress theme - click the choose file button to continue

Once you've installed the Avada theme, don't forget to click Activate from the options that appear.

image showing how to install the Avada WordPress theme - click the activate button to continue

The next step is to register your installation of Avada.

(Registration is required to install premium plugins such as Fusion Builder and Fusion Core which are required to run Avada. Registering will also activate theme auto-updates which will leave you with one less thing to worry about).

Go to your WordPress website's admin window and click Avada in the sidebar menu, followed by Registration from the sub-menu that appears.

Now click Generate a Personal Token and enter the required details on the webpage that appears.

Once you've generated a token, return back to the Registration tab and enter and submit the token to complete registration.

image showing how to install the Avada theme - how to register your copy of Avada

Next, you need to install and activate the Fusion Core and Fusion Builder plugins.

Click Avada in the sidebar menu and you should see the warning message below. Click Go Manage Plugins to proceed.

(Note: If the warning message doesn't appear, click Plugins from the Avada sub-menu to reach the same location).

image showing how to install the Avada theme - click the 'go manage plugins' button to continue

Hover over both the Fusion Core and Fusion Builder plugins and click the Activate button that appears on each.

image showing how to install the Avada blog theme - finish installation by installing the Fusion Core and Fusion Builder plugins

Part Three: How to Customize the Avada Theme

There are so many customization options for Avada that I cannot go into them in any great detail here. Check out the following resource for a summary of each of the Avada Theme Options available.

You can access the change these options by clicking Avada in the sidebar menu, followed by Theme Options from the sub-menu that appears.

image showing how to access the Avada theme options menu

Part Four: Getting Started With the Avada Theme

The following video provides a good primer on how to get started using the Avada theme now it has been installed:

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Step 6: Install the Must-Have WordPress Plugins

Now that you've installed your theme, the next step is to install the essential plugins that make WordPress tick.

These are the top plugins that I rely on most heavily for this blog:

A plugin to help your blog
load quickly

Recommended: WP Rocket

A plugin to help grow traffic

Recommended #1: Yoast SEO

Recommended #2: Social Pug

A service to help you start your email list

Recommended: AWeber

A plugin to help you grow your email
list

Recommended: Thrive Leads

A plugin to help you track performance

Recommended: Analytics Dashboard

A plugin to help keep your blog secure

Recommended: Wordfence Security

A plugin to help your blog
load quickly

Recommended: WP Rocket

A plugin to help grow traffic

Recommended #1: Yoast SEO

Recommended #2: Social Pug

A service to help you start your email list

Recommended: AWeber

A plugin to help you grow your email
list

Recommended: Thrive Leads

A plugin to help you track performance

Recommended: Google Analytics Dashboard

A plugin to help keep your blog secure

Recommended: Wordfence Security

Make WordPress Load Fast
in a Few Clicks.

WP Rocket is a WordPress caching plugin that helps speed up the loading time of WordPress.org blogs. It features an easy-to-use dashboard that makes setup super-quick and simple, all without the need for any coding or programming knowledge.

Many new bloggers underestimate the importance of page speed, but it needs to be a top priority if you want to keep your blog's visitors happy. Need some proof? CrazyEgg saw the following all from a one-second increase in a web page's load time:

  • Page views decreased by 11%
  • Customer satisfaction decreased 16%
  • Conversion rates were reduced by 7%

They also found that 47% of people expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less.

WP Rocket is my plugin of choice to help ensure this blog loads as quickly as possible.

How to Install WP Rocket

WP Rocket isn't available through the traditional WordPress plugin search facility, so you need to download it externally and upload it to WordPress. Don't worry, this is very easy to do.

  1. Purchase a copy of WP Rocket from their website.
  2. Once purchased, you need to download a copy of WP Rocket from your Account page on the WP Rocket website.
  3. Once downloaded, go to your WordPress website's admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  4. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  5. Click the Upload Plugin button.
  6. Choose the zip file on your computer and click Install Now.
  7. Once installed, click to activate the plugin.
  8. WP Rocket can now be accessed via the Settings button of your admin area's sidebar menu.
Boost Your Blog's SEO
to Increase Traffic.

Yoast SEO is the most downloaded WordPress SEO plugin, with over 40-million downloads to-date.

The sole purpose of Yoast SEO is to help your blog, and it's content to rank in the search engines. It does this through an excellent 'traffic light' system which grades your content, for example, your keyword usage, title tags, meta tags, image alt tags, etc., to show you where you can make improvements.

It also provides other features such as automatically updated XML sitemaps to help the search engines understand your blog's structure, and the ability to add breadcrumb links to help with easier navigation between your blog's content.

Yoast SEO is available in both a free and premium format (I use the free version, as it does everything I need it to. I consider it to be one of the best free WordPress plugins available).

How to Install Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO is available through the traditional WordPress plugin search facility, making it super easy to find and install:

  1. Go to your WordPress admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  2. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  3. Search for Yoast SEO using the search bar in the top-right of the screen.
  4. Click the Install Now button beside the plugin's name.
  5. Once installed, click the Activate button.
  6. Yoast SEO can now be accessed via the SEO button in your admin area's sidebar menu.
Make Social Sharing Easy
to Increase Traffic.

One of the best ways to grow your blog's traffic is by making it as easy as possible for people to share your content. Social Pug is a WordPress social media plugin, and it's my plugin of choice for helping boost the visibility of my content by allowing my readers to share my blog posts on social media.

Social Pug is available in a free version which allows sharing via the leading social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+). This could be sufficient to start with, but I do recommend upgrading to the pro version ($29 for a single blog), as this adds additional social networks for sharing to, and also the ability to add a custom image, title, and description to each post that is shown by default when a user shares your content.

Another great feature of Social Pug pro is the ability to add social follow buttons to your content, allowing you to grow your social media following directly from your blog itself.

How to Install Social Pug

Free version:

The free version of Social Pug is available directly through the WordPress plugin search facility (click Plugins in the sidebar menu → Click Add New → Search for Social Pug → Click Install Now → Click Activate → Access the plugin via the Social Pug button in your admin area's sidebar menu).

Pro version:

  1. Purchase a copy of Social Pug Pro from the DevPups website.
  2. Once purchased, you need to download a copy of Social Pug Pro from your Account page on the DevPups website.
  3. Once downloaded, go to your WordPress website's admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  4. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  5. Click the Upload Plugin button.
  6. Choose the zip file on your computer and click Install Now.
  7. Once installed, click to activate the plugin.
  8. Social Pug Pro can now be accessed via the Social Pug button of your admin area's sidebar menu.
Take Advantage of Simple, Personalized
Email Marketing & Automation.

OK, this isn't strictly a WordPress plugin, but signing up to an email service provider is hugely important for any new blog.

Email marketing is the most effective form of mass communication available today (yes, more effective than social media), so any new blogger who wants to grow their online presence and who wants to make money from their blog will need to start and grow an email list.

With AWeber, you get all the email marketing tools you need to create and send engaging emails which deliver results, including:

  • Website opt-in forms - easily create and customize opt-in forms to capture email addresses on your blog or website.

  • Autoresponder campaigns - put your email marketing on autopilot by creating emails in advance which can be sent automatically while you concentrate on other parts of your business.

  • Easy list segmentation - send targeted emails to certain groups of your subscribers to boost conversion rates.

  • Mobile-responsive email templates - modify existing templates or create new ones using a simple drag-and-drop editor to create emails that look amazing on any device. No coding skills required.

  • In-depth testing and reporting - test different emails to see which works best, or quickly find metrics such as open rate or click-through rate (and many others) for a specific email to see what can be improved.

How to Get Started With AWeber

You can signup for a free trial of AWeber by clicking here.

Build Your Blog's
Mailing List Faster.

Thrive Leads is a WordPress mailing list plugin that will help you grow your email list.

It includes everything you need to design and add every type of opt-in form you'll ever need (lightbox, ribbon, in-content, slide-in, etc.) and there is no coding required thanks to the simple drag-and-drop editor that makes customizing new forms, or the many free templates offered, a breeze.

Thrive Leads allows you to take advantage of advanced targeting, meaning you can choose to show offers based on post type, specific categories or tags, and much, much more. There is also a reporting and testing function to help you see how you're performing over time.

Thrive Leads integrates easily with all of the major email service providers, although I use it with AWeber and I would highly recommend this combination.

How to Install Thrive Leads

Thrive Leads isn't available directly through WordPress, so you need to download it externally and upload it to your blog. This is very easy to do.

  1. Purchase a copy of Thrive Leads from the Thrive Themes website.
  2. Once purchased, you need to download a copy of Thrive Leads from the Member Dashboard page on the Thrive Themes website.
  3. Once downloaded, go to your WordPress website's admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  4. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  5. Click the Upload Plugin button.
  6. Choose the zip file on your computer and click Install Now.
  7. Once installed, click to activate the plugin.
  8. Thrive Leads can now be accessed via the Thrive Dashboard button in your admin area's sidebar menu.
Get In-Depth Website Stats
Right Inside Your WordPress Dashboard.

A Google Analytics WordPress plugin is a must for anyone wanting to track their blog's performance.

Google Analytics Dashboard for WP is my plugin of choice for tracking performance, and it makes it super easy to see a variety of stats including real-time visitors, sessions, how much traffic is coming from organic searches, the number of page views received, essential statistics such as bounce rate and load time, and much, much more.

The plugin adds a handy window to your WordPress blog's dashboard, meaning you can view the latest stats quickly and easily as soon as you log in to your admin area.

How to Install Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

This plugin is available through the traditional WordPress plugin search facility, making it simple to find and install:

  1. Go to your WordPress admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  2. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  3. Search for Google Analytics Dashboard for WP using the search bar in the top-right of the screen.
  4. Click the Install Now button beside the plugin's name.
  5. Once installed, click the Activate button.
  6. The plugin can now be accessed via the Google Analytics button in your admin area's sidebar menu.
Keep Your Blog Secure
with a Firewall & Security Scanner.

Wordfence is a WordPress security plugin designed to provide the best protection available for your blog.

It includes excellent features such as the Wordfence Firewall which stops your blog getting hacked, and also Wordfence Scan which alerts you quickly should your site be attacked.

Protecting your blog shouldn't be an afterthought, hence why I recommend downloading and installing Wordfence from the very beginning.

How to Install Wordfence Security

This plugin is available through the traditional WordPress plugin search facility:

  1. Go to your WordPress admin window and click Plugins in the sidebar menu.
  2. Click the Add New button in the top-left of the screen.
  3. Search for Wordfence using the search bar in the top-right of the screen.
  4. Click the Install Now button beside the plugin's name.
  5. Once installed, click the Activate button.
  6. The plugin can now be accessed via the Wordfence button in your admin area's sidebar menu.
how-to-start-a-blog-next-steps-icon

Next Steps: Blogging Tips for Beginners

Congratulations! If you're reached this stage, you now have a fully functioning WordPress blog.

To help you achieve success with your new blog, I recommend checking out the following resources:

Create Your First Blog Post

Start & Grow Your Email List

Grow Your Blog's Traffic

Start Making Money Blogging

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Initial Setup

  • What is a blog? What is the difference between a blog vs website?

    A blog (taken from the word weblog) is a type of website where content is regularly updated and displayed in reverse chronological order, i.e., the newest material appears first.

    There isn't a massive difference between a blog and a website (a blog can be a website by itself, or it can feature as a section of a more extensive website), other than the fact that a 'traditional' website usually isn't updated as often as a blog, and the content is organized into pages and sections as opposed to being shown in reverse chronological order.

  • How do you start a blog for free?

    Although there are a some free blogging platforms available (e.g., WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, etc.), I (and a lot of other successful bloggers) agree that it is not a good idea to start a free blog.

    There's no denying the obvious attraction to a free blog, but there are many reasons why it isn't a great option:

    • Free blogging platforms aren't intended for serious bloggers.
    • These platforms offer very basic features and functionality which will only hold you back in the long-run.
    • You will likely be (heavily) restricted on how you can make money with your free blog.
    • You must comply with the free blogging platforms' terms and conditions, or risk having your blog and its content taken off you.
    • They look basic, and in most cases unprofessional.

    You can view a more detailed answer here.

  • How much does it cost to start a blog?

    I recommend starting a self hosted WordPress.org blog, and the main expenses are as follows:

    • Hosting - This doesn't need to be expensive, for example, Siteground offers hosting from as little as $3.95 per month.
    • Domain Name - A custom domain name (e.g., OnePercentIntent.com) typically ranges from $10-20 per year.
    • A Premium Theme - I recommend avoiding free themes as they typically don;t offer great support/frequent updates. I use the Avada theme which is $60 and offers considerable value for money.
    • Paid Plugins - Depending on your preference, you may wish to add a number of premium plugins when you start a blog to increase functionality. This cost varies from plugin to plugin.
  • Why do you recommend blog hosting from Siteground?

    There are a number of reasons why I recommend Siteground vs Bluehost or other popular blog host providers:

    • Super-Easy Installation - Thanks to their 1-Click Installer (included on all plans), it couldn't be quicker and more straightforward to install WordPress.
    • Autoupdates - Siteground automatically installs the latest version of WordPress for you each time an update is released, meaning you have one less thing to worry about as you grow your blog.
    • Ultra-Fast Loading - All Siteground plans come with awesome features to help your blog load as quickly as possible.
    • Free Extras - Each plan includes free extras, for example a Let's Encrypt SSL certificate (to make your blog more secure) and a CDN from Cloudflare (to help your blog load quicker).
    • Officially Recommended by WordPress.org - WordPress.org has included Siteground in their selection of the best blog hosts available, giving you peace of mind that it is a trustworthy, reliable and favored platform to start a blog on.

    You can see how to start a blog with Siteground step-by-step here.

  • What is the difference between WordPress and a blog host?

    WordPress is a type of program known as a content management system, which is designed to allow you to design, create and edit a website and it's content. Any time you change something on your blog, for example, customizing the layout, adding an about page, publishing a new blog post, or replying to a comment on an article, you will be interacting directly with WordPress.

    A web host, on the other hand, is simply a company that 'rents' space on its servers for you to store all of the different files that make up the blog you created using WordPress.

  • What is the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org?

    Most people fit into one of two camps when it comes to starting a blog. They’re either happy to sacrifice a bit of functionality if it means they can set up their blog quicker and more easily, or, they aren’t fazed with a bit of work upfront if it allows them to add more awesome features to keep their audiences engaged and entertained.

    WordPress.com could be viewed as the simple option (with reduced functionality), as everything you need to get started is provided including the hosting you need for your blog.

    WordPress.org, however, is often described as the more powerful option as there are very few restrictions or limitations, and it's the platform of choice for a large proportion of successful bloggers. It's up to you to find hosting (hence why it's referred to as self hosted WordPress), and a domain, however, but these can be very simple to get and set up as shown here.

  • I have no coding experience. Will a self hosted WordPress blog be too difficult?

    No. As you'll see from the steps in this guide, there is little to no complex coding required when you first start a self-hosted WordPress blog, especially during the installation stage.

    If you don't like the idea of coding (e.g., HTML, CSS or Javascript) after installing WordPress, you can help avoid this by choosing the Avada WordPress theme. Avada is my go-to theme, and it includes a visual page builder that allows you to modify your blog's appearance using a simple drag-and-drop editor, an extensive menu of easily-customizable options and dozens of pre-built pages that you can start using straight away.

Customizing Your Blog

  • I have no coding experience. How hard will it be to get the blog design I want?

    For the majority of themes (especially free themes), there will likely be quite a bit of coding required (e.g., HTML, CSS or Javascript) to get the blog design you want.

    As mentioned previously, I recommend that beginner bloggers choose a WordPress theme that includes a visual page builder to minimize/remove any coding requirements.

    The Avada WordPress theme is my go-to option here, as it allows you to modify your blog's appearance using a simple drag-and-drop editor, an extensive menu of easily-customizable options and dozens of pre-built pages that you can start using straight away.

  • Why do you recommend the Avada theme for WordPress?

    There are a number of reasons why I use and recommend the Avada theme:

    • Mobile Responsive - Avada is fully responsive and passes Google's mobile-friendly test with flying colors. It is super-easy to adapt your blog's layout to look great on smaller devices.
    • Easy to Create Custom Layouts - The Avada theme comes with the Fusion Builder, a visual page builder which you can use to create stunning layouts from simple, yet highly-customizable, drag-and-drop elements.
    • Easily Customizable - Avada's theme options make it a breeze to customize the look and feel of your site. You can quickly customize every aspect of your blog including its layout, color scheme, post or page content, sidebar styling and hundreds of other variables.
    • Well Trusted & Liked - Avada has been the number one selling WordPress theme six years in a row, having been purchased in excess of 450,000 times. At the time of writing, it has an average of 4.77/5 from over 20,000 ratings.
    • Stunning Pre-Built Layouts - Don't feel like coming up with a new layout from scratch? No worries! Avada includes dozens of page layouts that you can edit or use straight away to quickly get started.

    You can see how to get started with Avada step-by-step here.

  • What are the best WordPress plugins for new bloggers?

    I recommend that you install six types of plugin when you start a blog:

    • A WordPress plugin to help your blog load quickly - Recommended: WP Rocket
    • A service to help you start your email list - Recommended: AWeber
    • A WordPress plugin to help you grow your email list - Recommended: Thrive Leads

    Click any of the links above to navigate to the relevant section for each plugin, and how to learn how to install them to your new WordPress blog.

  • Can you show me how to install WordPress plugins?

    No problem. I cover how to add plugins to WordPress in step six.

    These installation processes aren't unique to the plugins featured in this guide, as you can easily apply the process to any other plugins you wish to install.

Creating Content

  • What is a niche? How to find your niche?

    In blogging terms, a niche is when you choose to write about one topic exclusively.

    Many new bloggers make the mistake of wanting to write about anything and everything, which usually leads to them making little to no progress because their content is too unfocused. As the saying goes, you're better off going an inch wide and a mile deep (i.e., choosing one topic that you write as much useful content as possible about) than a mile wide and an inch deep.

    For example, you'd be successfully niching down if you chose to do any of the following:

    • Start a Travel Blog - e.g., showing people how to travel well on a budget.
    • Start a Fashion Blog - e.g., showcasing the latest trends in women's shoes.
    • Start a Beauty Blog - e.g., providing makeup tutorials for people with a limited budget.
    • Start a Fitness Blog - e.g., around a certain aspect of fitness such as CrossFit.
    • Start a Music Blog - e.g., dedicated to uncovering best new electronic dance music (EDM).
    • Start a Mommy Blog - e.g., showcasing awesome tips, tricks and hacks for new moms.

    I provide some tips here to help you find your niche.

  • I don’t know what to blog about. What should I do?

    Don't let this put you off starting a blog.

    A lot of bloggers change topics a few times before they find their groove, so don't get too hung up on choosing the perfect niche to start with.

    Nothing is permanent in blogging, so if you need to mix things up further down a line, it usually isn't that difficult to do so.

    Check out the following tips here to help choose a blog topic.

  • How long should a blog post be?

    There's no definitive answer here, and it's up to you how long you want each blog post to be. In general, I advise prioritizing quality over quantity.

    Having said that, a number of SEO experts have identified a link between a blog post's length and how well it ranks in the search results.

    Neil Patel points out that the average length of a top-10 ranked piece of content in the search engines’ results pages is 2000 words, while Brian Dean from Backlinko found that the average length of content ranked number one by the search engines was 1890 words.

  • How often should I post new blog content?

    As with the previous answer, it's important to focus more on quality than quantity here.

    The whole purpose of a blog is to post new content regularly, but it is up to you how you define this, i.e., a new post every week; a couple of posts a week; one post every month, etc.

    Whatever frequency you choose, though, stick to it. You'll achieve better results if you commit to whatever schedule you decide on.

Next Steps

  • Can you really make money blogging?

    Yes, there's no reason why you can't make money from your blog provided you work hard enough.

    Check out the following blog post for guidance: How to make money blogging.

  • How much money can you make blogging?

    There is no set limit to how much money you can make when you start a blog, as there are countless examples of bloggers that earn nothing from their blogs, all the way up to bloggers who earn as much as six- or seven-figures per year from their blogs.

    I'm sure you'd be more interested in specifics, however, so check out the following results from a ProBlogger study into the monthly income figures of 1500 bloggers:

    how to start a blog - image of graph showing how much money bloggers can make

  • How long does it take to make money blogging?

    Check out the following post which shows the results of a study into how long it took six bloggers to earn a full-time income from their blogs:

  • What is SEO?

    SEO stands for search engine optimization and it covers the steps that a website owner (or an SEO firm or employee of a company) completes to get a website to appear higher in a search engine’s rankings.

    The main reason why SEO is so popular is because, typically, the better your blog’s ranking for a particular search term, the more visible it will be within the results and the more visitors your blog is likely to get.

    Boost your SEO: I've produced a complete eBook on WordPress SEO which you can download completely free here.

  • How can I increase blog traffic?

    The following resources which will help you get traffic to your new blog:

  • How do I track visitors to my blog?

    A Google Analytics WordPress plugin is a must for anyone wanting to see how many visitors their blog is getting.

    Google Analytics Dashboard for WP is my plugin of choice for tracking visitors, and it makes it super easy to see a variety of stats including real-time visitors, sessions, how much traffic is coming from organic searches, and the number of page views received, etc.

    You can see how to install the plugin here.

I hope this guide has shown you that starting a WordPress blog doesn't need to be complicated or confusing. That said, if you do have any issues or concerns, let me know in the comments section, and I'll try to help you out as quickly as possible.

Good luck with your new blog!

Jonathan

P.S. If you found this guide useful, I'd really appreciate if you could share it so that others can benefit from it too. Thanks!

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