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Blogging

How to Start a Blog – A Beginner’s Guide

How to Start a Blog

One question I always get from readers is: “How to start a blog?” It’s not easy to explain everything in an e-mail, so I thought I’d share it on my blog with all my readers.

I used to be a newbie blogger too. I started my first blog on Blogspot eight years ago, and I knew nothing much about it. After months of trials and errors, I’d finally learnt what a blog was all about, and the process of setting-up and maintaining it.

I don’t consider myself to be an expert, but I certainly know the basics from my eight years of experience and self-learning. So, this guide will be written in a simple and easy-to-understand manner – that’s why I call it a beginner’s guide.

Now, let’s get it started.

A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog

I summarized this process into FIVE main steps:

  1. Choose your blogging platform
  2. Choose between free-hosting and self-hosting
  3. Choose a name for your blog
  4. Design and set-up your blog
  5. Launch your blog

It’s going to be simple and fun. So, let’s start with Step 1 now.

Pink bulletStep 1: Choose your blogging platform

There are few decisions you need to make in the process of starting your blog. The first and most crucial one is to choose your blogging platform. There are more than ten blogging platforms available in the market today. WordPress and Blogger are by far the most popular ones.

I started blogging with Blogspot on Blogger. It’s very easy to set-up and it has everything you need on a blog. Most importantly, Blogger hosts it for you, so you have zero set-up and hosting cost, which is great if you don’t want to spend any money to start your blog.

You can also purchase your own domain name through Blogger. With your own domain, your blog will appear as ourlittlesmarties.com (for example), instead of ourlittlesmarties.blogspot.com. It sounds more professional to have your own dot com. Here’s a great tutorial to help you set up your domain name with Blogger.

WordPress is the platform that I’m currently using. It’s the biggest blogging platform with countless plug-ins and add-ons, and almost infinite ways to design and lay-out your blog.

Note that there are two different WordPress – the fully-hosted WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version at WordPress.org. You can read about their differences here. For the latter, it takes a bit of knowledge in coding and design, but you have more flexibility to do what you want with your site.

Here’s a quick comparison table covering some important points:

Description WORDPRESS.ORG WORDPRESS.COM BLOGGER
Cost Free software but you need to pay for your own domain and hosting fees. FREE FREE
Level of customization allowed FULL: You have full flexibility and freedom with your site. You can install your custom theme or build your own with PHP and CSS. MEDIUM: You can choose from the hundreds of themes available on WordPress. You can customize the CSS file by purchasing an upgrade at $30 per year. You cannot run a custom theme. FULL: You can transform your site to look like a webpage or blog but the capabilities are more limited.
Advertising No limitation. Image ads or third-party advertising networks such as Nuffnang Ads and Google AdSense are not allowed. You can run almost all kinds of advertising as long as you abide to their Content Policy. The easiest way is to use Google AdSense.
Software Updates You have to manually update the software and plug-ins. You’ll get a notification on the dashboard when an update is available. It’s very easy to update. Automatic updates for the software but no plug-ins are allowed. Automatic updates – usually you’ll be notified on the dashboard when new features are added.
Support Widgets Yes No. Does not support 3rd party scripts or most html codes. Yes
Custom Domain Yes. You must have your custom domain. www.domainname.com Yes. You can link your domain (www.domainname.com) to your blog with a SMALL FEE. Your default URL is something like this: www.yourblog.wordpress.com Yes. You can link your domain (www.domainname.com) to your blog for FREE. Your default link is something like this: www.yourblog.blogspot.com
Suitable for 1. Advanced bloggers who want more control and flexibility on their sites. 2. Individuals who want to build their personal brands or blogging for profits. 3. Small companies. 1. New bloggers who are not too interested in tweaking their blogs. 2. Bloggers without the resources to manage a custom installed blog. 3. Hobby bloggers with no plan of monetization in the long run. 1. New bloggers who are not too interested in tweaking their blogs. 2. Starter businesses that require a web presence but without the resources for a hosting plan. 3. Hobby bloggers with no plan of monetization in the long run.

I hope you’re still with me. It’s a lengthy description here because this is the most important decision you have to make before we go to Step 2. So, please take your time to consider.

To wrap things up: 1) If you’re considering to start a blog with serious aspirations and plans of monetization in the long run, I would recommend you to go for a self-hosted WordPress.org. 2) If you’re a hobby blogger with no plans of monetization and very little knowledge in coding, I would recommend you to go for Blogger or WordPress.com.

Pink bulletStep 2: Choose between free-hosting and self-hosting

You’re ready to go to Step 2 once the biggest decision in Step 1 has been made. I’ve mentioned about web hosting in previous step. If you’re still confused, I’ll explain in details now.

Web hosting is basically a business of providing the storage, connectivity, and services necessary to serve files for a website. A company that provides web hosting services is called a web host, and their detailed offers of storage, connectivity, and services are called web hosting plans.

Now, you need to decide whether to pay for your blog or grab one for free. Free-hosting is just like it sounds – FREE, and your web address looks something like this – www.myblog.blogspot.com or www.myblog.wordpress.com. Too long? Don’t like it? I know.

There are also some other limitations with free-hosting such as you can’t fully monetize your blog; you have a limited amount of bandwidth, video time, and memory space; and you have less control over your blog.

Basically, you don’t own your blog because it’s hosted on someone else’s web property and they can delete it if they want to. This means all your hard works on your blog might be vanished within seconds.

On the other hand, with a self-hosted blog and your own domain name – you are the REAL owner of your blog. You’re able to name your blog whatever you want, as long as the domain is still available. You can also end it with .com, .net, .org, or virtually any other web suffix that you like.

Of course all these benefits come with a fee. But the good news is – hosting can cost at just SGD5.99 per month! It’s really a small fee to pay for a more professional look (no more wordpress or blogspot on your web address), security, and more functionalities.

In short: 1) If you’re just blogging for fun, then by all means start with a free blog! 2) If you want to make money with your blog, then you’ll definitely want to do self-hosting.

Pink bulletStep 3: Choose a name for your blog

After all the tough decision makings, it’s time for some FUN now – let’s choose a domain name for your blog! It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you have a clear idea of the content you want and how it will relate to your blog’s name.

Once you decide, you can register that domain at a registrar such as godaddy.com. Domain names cost roughly SGD10 – SGD20 per year. You can also purchase your domain with your hosting company.

Most bloggers nowadays link their social media accounts with their blogs. It doesn’t matter if you think you might not use Facebook or Instagram or whatever else right now, do register for them anyway. Otherwise, someone else might have taken your blog’s name in the future.

The top social media sites that I suggest are Facebook Page, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. Having the same name across all your platforms enhances your brand presence, and it will also make it easier for people to find and follow you.

Pink bulletStep 4: Design and set-up your blog

This step begins right after you’ve registered your blogging platform (for free-hosting), and purchase your web-hosting and domain name (for self-hosting). The blog design is always my favourite part!

If you’re starting out with Blogger, they have lots of pre-made templates that you can choose from. You can also buy beautiful pre-made templates with customized blog headers and social media icons on sites like Etsy.

If you’re on self-hosted WordPress, your design possibilities are limitless. You can either use a free theme on WordPress, or upload your own premium or custom theme. WordPress also has this awesome feature that allows you to change themes with just a few easy clicks. You can conveniently switch to a new theme without losing any precious content or images.

Most importantly, your blog design should reflect your blog’s content and your personality. There’s no point having a food-orientated theme if your blog is all about automotive. Get what I mean?

Good design is subjective and always in the eye of the beholder – it means everyone likes different things. Clean lay-out, big images, focus on content, or a responsive theme – it’s really up to you. Ideally, it should be easy to navigate if you want your readers to stick around.

Pink bulletStep 5: Launch your blog

Once everything is ready to go, you can launch your beautiful new blog for the world to see. Spread the news on social medias too! Good luck and enjoy your new blog!

Remember – bloggers come to the blogging arena from different background and experiences, but all of us started as a newbie and made mistakes. There’s always room for improvement and continuous learning, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran. That’s what I like about being a BLOGGER.

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In my next post, I’ll share with you 10 reasons why I blog and why you should too. To download a printable version of this tutorial, click HERE.