This guide on how to start a blog from scratch in 2020 (and make money from it) is great for beginners! You’ll get step by step instructions on picking hosting, installing WordPress, and finding plugins to help you with SEO optimization and social media. Great ideas for lifestyle, mom, or travel blogs – start in as little as 15 minutes!
Have you ever read your favorite bloggers’ posts and wondered how to start a blog for yourself? Today’s your lucky day!
Each year, I love to kind of detail to my readers how to start your own blog from scratch. It’s not very difficult – it really just requires following a detailed set of steps to make sure your blog starts with the right set of tools and resources that will allow you to reach as many readers as possible. I absolutely love sitting down to write this post because it might allow someone to have the success with their blog that I’ve seen over the years!
I started out my own blog on the Blogger platform in 2009. When I began, I was really just doing it to document our lives – so many of my friends were starting blogs just to keep up with day-to-day happenings, and I thought it would be a fun hobby! What has happened in the past 10+ years is beyond my wildest dreams. This blog has allowed me to stay home with my children while contributing to the finances in our home. It’s also been an amazing creative outlet for me. I truly get to wake up to my dream job each day! I pinch myself thinking about what this blog has become and what a blessing it has been to my family.
In June of 2016, I switched my blog from Blogger to WordPress. It’s a move I had debated for a long time, but I couldn’t be happier with the switch. I still think Blogger is a great platform that works really well for casual/hobby bloggers. As a matter of fact, I moved my old personal blog posts back to that platform last year, making this site all about home how-to’s. But, if you’re really looking to do this professionally in today’s market, I truly believe you need to start out and stay on WordPress. It’s the only platform that allows you to optimize and publicize your posts to really be competitive for search rankings (on both search engines and Pinterest). Plus, it’s just easier to integrate so many cool features with WordPress plugins!
The main reason I debated the move from Blogger to WordPress for so long is complete and total intimidation. I had been on Blogger since 2009…it was easy and familiar. I knew the ins and outs of the platform, how to troubleshoot issues, the coding – and I was comfortable. But comfortable isn’t always the right place to be in a business. I finally decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone and take a risk to give my blog the independence and technical features it needed to really succeed. So, one random Friday night in June (right before a product launch, not my smartest idea ever), I buckled down, researched hours of Youtube tutorials and website troubleshooting on how to start a blog on WordPress, and successfully transferred my own blog from Blogger to WordPress.
I think my biggest takeaway from the experience is that, whether you are a new blogger or switching platforms, getting started with (and using) a self-hosted WordPress blog really isn’t all that difficult at all! There are just a particular set of steps that you really need to follow in order to ensure a successful blog launch. So, right after I finished my own transfer, I published my how to transfer from Blogger to WordPress and my 2017 guide to how to start a blog from scratch. I’ve published a couple of updated guides to how to start a blog since that time – the technology and steps occasionally change, so I like to keep my tutorials fresh. That leads us to today – let’s walk through how to start a blog in 2020!
I am incredibly passionate about helping people that want to get into the blogging business get started. This business has changed my life and I know there are so many people out there would love the flexibility and creative outlet that this job gives me. If I can give that to someone else, I want to help. The best part is – learning how to start a blog is so easy! You could be done with this “how to start a blog” tutorial in less than an hour…isn’t it crazy that less than an hour of work could change your life? Excited? I am – let’s get going!
How to Start a Blog in 2020
(Affiliate links used in this post. Read more about my affiliate link use here.)
1. Set up your blog hosting and site domain name.
Your hosting is where your files/photos/blog content/basically anything that’s on your blog will be stored. There are a few amazing options out there that aren’t expensive at all!
I did so much research about what host I wanted to use before switching to WordPress. There are plenty of inexpensive options, but I really wanted to go with a host that I could use long-term and would give me as few headaches as possible. Ultimately, I chose Siteground as my host. I’ve been incredibly pleased with the host in the over 3 years I’ve been with the company. They also have a wide variety of packages available to suit many traffic and storage needs. And, while they’re offering their packages for 60-70% off the regular price, it’s a great time to sign up!
Once you follow this link to Siteground, click on the link that says Managed WordPress Hosting. Scroll down just a little to see the options for your hosting needs – you should see something like the screen shot above. If you’re a new blogger, the StartUp package will probably be your best bet…that covers up to 10,000 hits per month, and offers 10GB of web space (I had over 1,600 picture-heavy posts when I moved to WordPress and didn’t even come close to 10GB, so that should be plenty unless you’re storing a ridiculous amount of files). As your blog grows, you can always upgrade to their larger packages if needed. (But, one perk of picking a bigger package right now is that you can lock in that discounted price for up to 36 months. If you upgrade later, you would pay the full monthly rate.)
If you think you’re going to need a little bit more storage right off the bat or are starting more than one website, the GrowBig or GoGeek packages might be for you. Both of these accommodate more monthly visitors (the GrowBig up to 25,000; the GoGeek up to 100,000) and have double and triple (respectively) the web storage space of the StartUp pack. They also have some nice perks – both of these come with Priority Support (so Siteground’s support would be even quicker) and a SG Optimiser solution that makes site load time as much as several times faster (which is great for user experience and search engine rankings).
All blogs have different needs, so it really just depends on what you’re wanting to do with your site. All three options are relatively inexpensive (especially with the current discount they’re offering) and offer incredible speed and service.
Click the “Get Started” button below your package, and you’ll be taken to the next page…
Select “Register a New Domain” (unless you have a domain for some reason…chances are you don’t if you’re just starting your blog). Your domain is your web address…i.e. whatever you’re going to type in when you go to your blog (www.yoursitenamehere.com). This is something you’ll pay a company to register each year as yours (and is different from hosting, which is where you store all of the content on your blog).
Put in your information at the top…
Your hosting package should already be selected (probably the StartUp plan if you’re a new blogger…possibly GrowBig or GoGeek if you will have more hits or have more than one site that needs hosting), but can be changed by clicking that square next to the plan name. You’ll also choose the the amount of months you want to pay for today. You can select 12, 24, or 36 months…I did 12 so I could lock in the discount for a full year. Even if you think your blog is going to eventually grow to over 100,000 hits, don’t worry – Siteground has a Cloud storage option (what I currently use) for bigger sites. And upgrading to a bigger plan later is incredibly easy.
You’ll see a couple of extras you can add on…from my experience, you’ll definitely need domain registration if you need a domain (i.e. www.yoursite.com) for the blog and maybe the domain privacy option. Domain privacy just makes sure your personal information as the owner of your domain (including street address) isn’t listed in online search directories. It isn’t 100% necessary (I didn’t get it) but, if you blog anonymously or are very private, you might want to consider it. I did a little bit of research about the SG Site Scanner before ordering, and from what I read, it isn’t a really necessary addition.
Once these options are selected and you click “Pay Now,” you’re all set! You now own a self-hosted website! Let’s turn that website into a blog.
2. Install WordPress to turn your website into a blog.
Don’t think of WordPress so much as your blog…think of it as the software that makes your site function as a blog. In this step, you’ll be putting it on your site to essentially turn it into a blog.
Go to “My Accounts” once you’ve purchased hosting and logged in to your Siteground account, click “cPanel” under your site’s address, and select the WordPress icon on your cPanel page (as seen above). Once you select that, you’ll be taken to a page that explains what the software is all about…click “Install Now” on that page. Put in your blog info (names can be changed later if needed) and desired WordPress login info, and that’s it…you now own a self-hosted WordPress blog!
3. Log in to WordPress.
Once WordPress is installed, go to www.yoursite.com/wp-admin (replacing yoursite with your domain name) and you should see the screen below. This sometimes takes a few minutes after you complete step 2, so don’t worry if it isn’t showing just yet. Once you get this page pulled up, sign in with the login info you just entered when you initiated the WordPress install.
4. Get WordPress ready for your blog posts.
Once you’re in WordPress, you should see your dashboard. Get used to this – you’ll be controlling most aspects of your blog through these pages!
If you click your blog name at the top of the page and click “Visit Site,” (or just type in www.yoursite.com), you’ll see what your site currently looks like. This is what mine looked like shortly after signing in to WordPress for the first time. If you’ve registered through Siteground, there are a couple of default posts that will show up.
Go delete those posts by going to “Posts” on the left-hand side of your WordPress dashboard, checking the posts, selecting “Bulk Actions,” then Delete. If you’d like to go on and add your first post, go for it…this is where you’ll publish your posts in the future! Just click “Add New” at the top and get to writing if you’d like. That’s totally optional for right now, but it does help make sure your page formatting is working appropriately in the next steps.
Do a teeny little bit of housekeeping in WordPress by going to “Settings,” “General,” and putting in “www” before your URL in the WordPress Address and “Site Address” fields, just to make sure your address points to the right place.
5. Set up your mobile responsive WordPress theme.
This is a fun part…setting up the look and functionality of your blog!
I did a ton of research on this aspect too, because there are so many options out there for what framework to use to set up your WordPress blog. To shape what features your blog will have and its overall layout, you’ll need to purchase a theme. The theme is what gives your blog the functionality of a blog and generally just makes it easy to add customizations. Many, many bloggers I know and love use the Genesis framework as their theme…it’s super-solid coding that many readers are familiar with (to make for easy navigation) and allows for a lot of customization. Think of Genesis as the foundation, bricks, and framing of your new house…it gives a solid structure that has great, optimized, mobile-responsive coding. It’s one of the most popular themes for a reason!
To purchase that, click here and complete the checkout process. Once you get a download link, make sure to right click and select “download linked file” (or some iteration of that) to download Genesis (don’t just click it to download – file needs to stay zipped to be able to upload it to WordPress, as do all themes and plugins you’ll upload). You might also want to download an additional version that you can unzip on your computer for future use.
Now, go back to WordPress, click “Appearance” on the left-hand side, and click “Themes.”
Now, select “Add New” at the top of your page, upload the zipped file you just downloaded…and voila, you have Genesis! Easy peasy.
You could stick with Genesis as your look, but as is, it’s kind of boring. Great coding, but kind of boring. So I chose to add a child theme that makes it pretty. A child theme is the collection of design elements that shape how the blog looks. Think of the child theme as your new home’s furniture, paintings, and accessories. There are SO many options for child themes out there…I went with Pretty Darn Cute designs because I’ve heard great things about their solid, mobile-responsive coding and I fell in love with their Pretty Happy child theme.
This follows the same process as purchasing/installing the Genesis theme…purchase here, download the zipped file using the right-click method explained above, then go to your WordPress dashboard and click “Appearance” on the left-hand side, and click “Themes.” Now, select “Add New,” upload the zipped file you just downloaded. You should see your child theme when your blog is loaded now. After you do this, you can go to “Appearance” then “Customize” to change around your child theme’s colors, sizes, etc…you can make it yours! If you have any questions about the customization process, Pretty Darn Cute has an incredible customer service email that I’ve had to use a few times. They are always quick to get back to me with a (usually easy) fix. There’s also a great Facebook group that lets you troubleshoot with other PDC users.
I’ve also heard amazing things about Restored 316 Designs…it’s a similar business that has gorgeous, feminine-themed WordPress themes that have solid coding and great support. They were definitely in the running when deciding on my theme!
6. Add WordPress plugins that will make your life so much easier.
One of the big reasons I made the switch to WordPress was the vast (and I mean vast) collection of plugins that adds just about any functionality you can think of to your site. You name it, and there’s probably a plugin for it. I have been blown away by the number of super simple plugins that took hours of work off of maintaining my blog!
Here are a few of my absolute favorites…
- EasyRecipe: This plugin allows you to construct beautiful and printable recipe cards for your blog posts. Highly recommend if you’re a food/recipe blogger!
- Wordfence: This is a security plugin that protects your site from malware that can infect your files and from hacking attempts. I get an email every time there is a login attempt on my WordPress account and often have emails letting me know about ways to optimize my site.
- Social Pug: I used another company’s version of this plugin for a couple of years, but after a few security scares, I switched to Social Pug for the social share buttons you see at the top of my post. I couldn’t be happier – the coding is great and super secure!
- Pretty Link: This allows you to format commonly-used links with your domain. So, for example, I can link to my long siteground affiliate link as “http://www.lambertslately.com/siteground”…it still links to their site, but just makes that link really pretty and customized to my own site instead of one ugly, long link. (NOTE: I’ve had issues in the past with my SSL certificate redirecting pretty links, so I took these off for now…as long as you don’t have any security certificate issues, you probably won’t run into this!)
- Updraft Plus: This is what I use to back up my site nightly. You can link it to lots of different types of file storage accounts and set it to automatically back up your site in specified intervals.
- Genesis Simple Hooks: If you’re using the Genesis theme, this is an absolute must-have. It allows you to add code to specified sections of your blog when you know next to nothing about coding or theme files. This plugin breaks your blog down into sections and gives you a box to add code for each section, making it super easy to customize your blog if you don’t know what you’re doing! Simple Hooks also makes it very difficult to mess up your theme files (which, trust me, can be easy otherwise…I’ve had to re-upload them many times).
- CommentLuv: This is how you allow commenters on your blog to add their recent post links to their comment, making it much more likely you’ll draw in commenters for your posts.
- Akismet: A very easy plugin that wards off spam comments (which you will get tons of)!
- Yoast SEO: You will grow to love and hate this plugin. 🙂 This shows you where you can improve in the SEO and readability department…it’s super picky, but that’s a good thing! It also allows you to customize how your page looks in Google search results.
- Google Analytics by MonsterInsights: Easily add your Google Analytics info so you can track your page hits and trends. Google Analytics is the gold standard for website analytics…you will absolutely need it if you’re going to be blogging professionally!
- WP Rocket: A big goal of mine for the past year or so is to speed up my site. This helps user experience and can help your Google SEO rankings. One big thing I’ve done to aid this along was installing WP Rocket for my blog. It optimizes load time and is very user-friendly!
With all of this being said, don’t bog down your blog with plugins! They can significantly decrease the load speed of your blog, so use sparingly (and make sure you disable/delete plugins that aren’t being used).
7. Start your email list on a solid platform. (Yes, now.)
I held off on starting my email list for the longest time, and it’s one of my biggest regrets in my blogging career. By holding off, I missed out on a golden opportunity to convert so many one-time visits into dedicated, long-term readers. I can honestly say that my email list is my most effective (and by far my most profitable) method of networking with readers.
I have used Convertkit as my email service for almost 4 years now. It is an incredibly powerful and innovative platform that allows me to segment readers by interests, send out multiple automated follow-ups and email series, and even test out email titles on a segment of my audience before sending the most effective one to the whole group automatically. I love its ability to send email sequences with very little babysitting. I’m also using the Convertkit plugin on my blog to customize my opt in forms to the type of post I’m writing…check out how this post has a blogging-specific opt in at the bottom!
If you’d like to check out Convertkit for yourself, click here! They have a very reasonable pricing structure that allows you to pay based on your number of subscribers, so if you’re just now starting your email list, you will start out with a package that is just $29 a month (and allows for unlimited sent emails).
8. Set up social media accounts.
From the beginning, start social media accounts that can promote your content and connect with readers. I’ve chosen to keep my social media handle consistent across all four big platforms – you’ll find me at @LambertsLately on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. That, in my opinion, is the easiest way to let readers find you. Some bloggers opt to go with an iteration of their name (to gain more name recognition on social media than blog recognition). That’s really a personal choice – either way, I recommend keeping it consistent and not having different versions of the same name if possible. For example, you wouldn’t want one account to be @lambertslately and another to be @lamberts_lately. Be consistent!
9. Set up your custom email address.
This is so easy with Siteground!
Once you’re logged in to your Siteground account, go to the “My Account” tab at the top, choose the red button that says “cPanel,” and you’ll see the screen above. Click Email Accounts.
This screen will come up. All you’ll do is put in a simple name, along with a password for your email, and that’s it! I went with “leslie” as my email name, but some people like to do something more general like “hello” or “admin.” Again, that’s just really personal preference, but I do recommend making it simple.
And just like that, you have a self-hosted WordPress blog…congratulations!
Can you believe you learned how to start a blog that quickly? You just gave your blog so much functionality and power (not to mention rock-solid coding). Enjoy your new self-hosted WordPress blog!
Alright, I know how to start a blog. Now, how the heck do I make money from it?
Well, luckily for you, I have a few resources that detail how to do just that! Click the links below to go to each one of the posts in my Basics of Blog Monetization series.
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: An Introduction
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Ads on Your Blog
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Using Affiliate Links on Your Blog
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Creating Sponsored Content
- The Basics of Blog Monetization: Selling Your Own Product(s)
I also have a comprehensive post of my favorite blogging resources I use to make my job easier on a daily basis- click here for that one. You can also, click here or use the form below to sign up for my email newsletter to get a peek at how I use this powerful method of communication with blog readers!
I hope this post showed you how to start a blog the easy way. It really is simple if you follow these steps.
Happy blogging, friends!
Disclaimer: By following this guide to how to start a blog, I am not suggesting you’re going to make a huge profit, especially immediately. Blogging is not a get rich quick scheme – it takes a lot of work and perseverance! My results aren’t typical, but could be possible through a lot of hard work (and maybe even a little bit of luck).
Graphics from a previous version of my how to start a blog post…
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