Are you looking for an easy, step-by-step guide on how to start a blog in 2021?
If you follow this guide thoroughly, you’ll be able to create a blog today for as little as $20USD.
Starting your very own blog can seem really daunting, but trust me, it isn’t.
I could entirely create and customize 2 blogs by myself without any prior experience. You only need yourself and a laptop/PC to get started, as well as a small amount of money.
By the end of this blog post, you should be able to have an entire blog customized to your liking. This post includes many pictures, tips, and videos that are especially handy as a beginner.
Let’s get started on building your dream blog!
You can also skip to any relevant section below if you want. I highly recommend reading through the entire post if you’re a beginner.
This post is 3788 words long, meaning it will take around 15 minutes to thoroughly read.
Click on this pin to save it to Pinterest 🙂
Disclaimer: Some links below are affiliate links, where I may receive a small commission on purchases at no cost to you. All of the tools are ones that I thoroughly recommend for all bloggers. You can read my full affiliate disclosure here.
Should you start a blog?
I recommend if you have the idea of wanting to start a blog, take the plunge and get it started today. I was someone who procrastinated for ages; I bought web hosting but didn’t get anything started until 9 months later (not this blog).
There are so many great reasons to start a blog, here are several:
- Make money: Bloggers can make really good money. It all comes down to persistence, hard work, and sacrifice, but you can achieve exactly the same as them. All it takes is an idea.
- Share your ideas: You have your own platform that is basically yours. You can share your ideas, thoughts, opinions, how-tos, or really anything.
- Be your own boss: Build your blog to the point where you’re self-employed, work from home and work however many hours you’d like (doesn’t that sound like a dream).
- Be hands-on: As a blogger, you’re a writer, a photographer, and manage multiple social media platforms. You can be hands-on in the entire creative process and do whatever you’d like.
- Have fun: Blogging is fun, yes it’s hard work, but it’s actually so much fun writing, doing keyword research, figuring out trends, and so much more! I have found the entire process so much fun, and I think you will too.
If you want to create a blog, just do it. You may think you’re too late to start one, but you are not.
Blogging is one of the best ways to make money online. The most significant difference between blogging to a ‘regular job’ is that there’s no cap on how much money you can make each year.
If you are willing to make sacrifices, be accountable for how many hours you work, and put in a lot of effort, you can make a lot of money with blogging.
How to start your own blog
Setting up a blog is exciting; below is a list of what will be covered in this post. Hint: Skip to any of these sections by clicking 🙂
- How to choose a niche
- How to pick a domain name
- Blog platform: WordPress, Squarespace, Wix?
- Web hosting to choose: Where your website and its content gets hosted online
- Customizing your blog: (themes, plugins & color themes)
- Important pages to include
Click to save this infographic to Pinterest.
Let’s get started on this journey to build your blog together!
Step 1: Pick a niche
To start a blog in 2021, you need to choose the correct niche for your blog.
Make sure to ask yourself a couple of these things before choosing a niche for your blog:
- Are you passionate about your niche? Will you be able to write blog posts for years in the selected niche without being bored of it?
- Do you want to monetize your blog? Or, are you more or less just writing as a hobby?
- Does the selected niche have an audience behind it? You have to make sure that there’s an audience big enough for the niche.
I’ll break these three questions down now.
Are you passionate about your niche?
Is the niche you want to choose directly related to a hobby of yours? To select a good niche in 2021, you first want to write passionately about the topics in the niche.
I love photography and have a blog (that is starting to make money 3 months in, woohoo!)
As a photographer, I never wanted to choose a niche like makeup. Why you may ask? Because I’m not passionate about the niche at all.
You must remember that you will be writing in this niche (not getting paid) for months/years and will burn out if you don’t like what you’re writing about.
Do you want to monetize your blog?
Quite simply a yes or no question.
Do you want to make money from your blog, or do you only want to write as a hobby?
Either option is acceptable, but if you want to make money, there needs to be an audience (that’s big enough) to allow you to earn money. This goes onto the next question.
Does the selected niche have an audience behind it?
When creating a blog for monetization purposes, you can’t write about anything you’d like. You have to make sure that there’s an audience behind it.
An excellent check search volume (of niche) on Google is by using Free Keyword Research Tool by Wordtracker.
Simply search for whatever keywords you’d like.
The tool will then spit out 50 keywords for your search term. As we can see below, ‘photography’ gets 317,000 Google searches a month in the US alone.
Just rinse and repeat until you find a niche that gets enough search volume to be profitable.
Step 2: Choose a domain (blog) name
A domain name is the website’s name, aka strivingblogger.com.
Although quite an important factor, do not spend weeks figuring out the domain you want for your blog.
After you’ve picked the niche you want for your blog, it should come quite naturally to you.
I recommend sticking with your full name if it’s for a personal blog.
Just your firstnamelastname, com can work perfectly. Sticking with a com domain is also essential, as it’s a worldwide known extension.
If you want to target more country-specific traffic, you could choose a country domain like AU or UK domain.
Your full name might already be bought from a domain registrar. If so, I recommend adding a word from your niche on the end.
Here are some examples:
– Photography niche: [fullname]photography.com | [fullname]photo.com
– Digital marketing niche: [firstname]social.com | [firstname]blogger.com
If you don’t want your personal name attached to your blog, that is perfectly fine. Try to come up with a few words from your niche that make sense together and are catchy.
Still can’t come up with a domain name? Try this
Go onto Pinterest and search up keywords from your niche.
Look at the account and domain names of people high up in the search results, this could get the ball rolling, and some ideas could sprout.
I recommend going onto Thesaurus and looking at synonyms for some of your favorite words you’ve chosen so far.
For example, I wanted this blog to be called ‘aspiring blogger‘ because I felt the name suited the niche. I searched it up in a registrar, and it was taken. I then searched up ‘aspiring’ on Thesaurus and found the word ‘striving.’
Bingo!! I love the word striving so much more! The ‘striving’ definition is to “make great efforts to achieve or obtain something.”
That definition is what sold me. Blogging isn’t just about writing a few posts, and that’s it. It’s about putting in the hard work and sacrifices for months to achieve results.
So this is my advice to you, don’t throw in the towel just because your intended domain name is already taken, keep searching, and the perfect one will find you!
Where to buy domain names
I buy my domains through GoDaddy; they have more than 20 million customers and are really easy to purchase (it takes about 5 mins).
The domain should cost around $10 a year. If you buy multiple years, you will also maintain the ‘first-year discount.’
I was able to purchase this domain strivingblogger.com for 2 years for $10.50/year.
Step 3: Choose a Blogging Platform
After choosing your niche and domain name, the next step is to choose a blogging platform for your blog.
I recommend choosing the self-hosted WordPress as it’s the one I use with my blogs (and in this guide)
WordPress.org platform is entirely free. You just need to buy hosting for your blog.
If you want complete control of your blog for monetization purposes, WordPress is my 100% recommendation. You can place ads, affiliate links, services & products however you’d like.
WordPress is also used by 455+ million websites which are 20% of all self-hosted websites (source: Netcraft).
To use the WordPress platform, you need 2 things. A domain name and a web-hosting provider. I recommend using Cloudways as your web host; it’s $10/month (the plan I’m on) and has these features:
– Free SSL
– 1-click WordPress installation
– 24/7/365 customer support
– Month-to-month billing (no lock-in contracts)
– Free migration from another web host
– Multiple websites on one server
– Superfast hosting (my blog loads in 1 second)
→ Join Cloudways Today ←
To make things clear, you install WordPress after you buy your web hosting plan. This will be included in the following steps with screenshots to help you step-by-step 🙂
Step 4: Buy Hosting For Your Blog
After selecting the niche, choosing & buying your domain name, and selecting WordPress as your blogging platform, buying web-hosting is the last step needed to start a blog today.
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is basically the server where all of your blog and files are ‘stored.’ Without web hosting, you can’t access the back end of your WordPress blog or get visitors to the domain.
Web hosting allows people to visit your blog and a good web host determines the speed at which those pages load—fast page speed = fewer people abandoning the page and a happier audience altogether.
How much does web hosting cost?
It can be anywhere from a couple of dollars a month to hundreds a month.
At the start of my blogging (1 year ago), I chose Bluehost as my web host after reading about it everywhere.
I’ve since moved to Cloudways after doing a lot of research online, and my page speeds have reduced dramatically.
Why choose Cloudways as your web host?
– 1-click WordPress installation
– Month-to-month billing (no lock-in contracts)
– Superfast hosting
How to Start a Blog With Cloudways
Step 1: Sign up to Cloudways
Head over to Cloudways and click on the ‘Get Started Free’ button. This will take you to the signup page.
Fill in all your details and click ‘START FREE‘ (the 3 queries at the bottom are only for research purposes, so choose an option, it doesn’t really matter).
Step 2: Choose a Server
You’ll be taken to a page like this, it may seem super confusing at first, but I’ll run you through it.
Choose the latest version of WordPress (it will be at the top), name the app and server whatever you want.
Server: Choose Digital Ocean
Server Size: Pick 1GB (this option is enough for new bloggers, you can always scale this to 2GB+ when you get more traffic in the future)
Location: Choose somewhere in the US (or wherever you want the majority of your traffic to come, this is handy for country-specific domains like .co.UK or .com.au)
Cost: $10/month if you’ve chosen the settings above
This server configuration includes 25GB of SSD storage, which is more than enough for hundreds (if not thousands) of pages/posts. Once you’ve done that, click ‘Launch Now‘ in the bottom right-hand corner.
Your new web host server is launching. This can take around 7 to 10 minutes to complete.
Step 3: Launch WordPress
Head over to the ‘Applications’ tab at the top and click on the server you just launched. (I have 2 applications because I run 2 blogs on the same server. You will only have one).
This will then take you to your ‘Access Details‘ page. Simply tap on the link under ‘Application URL‘; it should have ‘WordPress’ in the URL. This will take you to your website.
Ta-da! This is your blog on WordPress.org! The following steps cover how to log in and connect your pre-purchased domain.
Step 4: Login to WordPress
After the URL, type in ‘ /login ‘ or ‘ /wp-admin ‘ and hit enter.
This will take you to a WordPress login page like below.
The login details are back on the ‘Access Details‘ under the ‘Admin Panel‘ section. It should have the email you signed up with and a pre-generated password (you can change the password with the pencil icon later on).
Copy the login details into the WordPress login page and click ‘Log In.’
Now you’ve logged into your WordPress dashboard and the backend of your blog (this is the place where you can download plugins, create new posts, filter comments, customize your blog & so much more!)
Step 5: Point your domain to Cloudways servers
After you’ve logged into your dashboard, we’ll next change the domain from the default ‘wordpress-5892379-cloudwaysapps.com’ to the domain you bought from GoDaddy or another registrar.
Go to the Domain Management tab in ‘Application Management.’ Enter your primary domain in the text box and click ‘Save Changes.’ You don’t need to put HTTPS:// into it the box, only like [yourdomain.com].
After clicking ‘Save Changes,’ it will take you back to the ‘Access Details‘ page, the domain name will have changed from the temporary one.
Next, we’ll point your domain names DNS to Cloudways servers (this is a crucial step).
Go to your registrar’s ‘My Domains’ section. In this case, I’d go to GoDaddy and click on the domain name.
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on ‘Manage DNS.’
It will take you to your DNS Management for the domain. Click on the pencil icon for the A-Type Record; this will allow you to edit the record. It should look exactly like the one below.
⚠ DO NOT CHANGE OTHER RECORDS, ONLY THE ONE HIGHLIGHTED ⚠
After you’re in the edit screen for the A-Type record, go back to the ‘Access Details‘ page on Cloudways and copy your Public IP.
Head to your domain registrar’s page and paste the IP address into the ‘Points to’ text box. Make no other changes and click ‘Save.’
After a short period, refresh the webpage that has your temporary domain. The temporary domain should now be changed to the purchased one.
Step 6: Activate SSL (the lock icon)
To activate SSL for your new blog, simply head over to the ‘SSL Certificate‘ section under ‘Application Management.’
Choose ‘Let’s Encrypt‘ SSL, enter your email address, domain name, and press ‘Install Certificate.’
A popup box will appear labeled ‘Enable HTTPS Redirection‘, click ‘Enable HTTPS‘.
That’s it! As simple as that, you’ve successfully secured your site 🙂
Customize Your New Blog
If you’re now stuck and confused on how to customize your new blog and theme, below are some videos on how to customize.
I’ve included two free themes that are great below. They are super lightweight (faster load times).
Get Started With Astra Theme (1+ million active installations)
Get Started With Neve Theme (200,000+ active installations)
Recommended read: 7 Popular WordPress Themes for Bloggers
Static Pages For Your Blog
This is a list of static pages to include in your blog. These are the pages in your menu or footer. As a recommendation, get these pages somewhat done and start writing. You can always come back to them and finish editing/customizing later.
Home Page – The initial page that comes up when people search your domain name. You can customize this page however you’d like; it could include a featured image, recent posts, your work, and lots more.
About Page – A quick little summary of yourself and your mission statement/intentions for your blog.
Blog – A page that holds all of your recent blog posts.
Contact – Create a simple page with a contact form to let people send you an email. It’s good to have for business purposes and a way to connect with your audience.
Important Static Pages
Disclaimer – Explains how you monetize your blog. If you include affiliate links, display advertising, or do sponsor posts, you need a page that explains it all.
This is merely a guide; research these topics and the local rules that apply to you in your specific country.
Essential WordPress Plugins
Below are some essential WordPress plugins to install on your new site. I currently use all of these plugins and highly recommend them.
Updraft Plus – A backup plugin that automatically creates daily/weekly backups for your blog. The backup gets sent straight to your email, so you never have to worry if your blog malfunctions or deletes. (Cloudways has automatic backups too, but I like to be extra confident that I have 2 places where my files backup, just in case anything deletes).
Yoast SEO – Rank higher in search engines by using Yoast SEO. The plugin allows for one main focus keyword (more in the PRO version). It basically reminds you of the best SEO practices to implement in your blog posts.
Site Kit – Official Google plugin for analytics, search console, ad sense, and page speed. Connect your Google Analytics account & Google Search Console account to it for optimal insights and statistics.
Grow Social – A social media sharing plugin by Mediavine that adds sharing buttons wherever you’d like. I choose to always have Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook share buttons at the start of every post.
WP Rocket – The best caching WordPress plugin. Make your site load super fast! When you install WP Rocket, you get 80% of the best web performances already applied, 24/7 customer support & an instant decrease in load times. It costs $49/year and is trusted by 1.4+ million blogs & counting.
Essential Blog Post Tools I Love
Here are the tools I always utilize when writing and creating a new blog post.
Grammarly – A grammar and spell checker tool that improves punctuation, sentence structure, and flow. I find it vital to write blog posts that are easy to understand.
Bulk Resize – Can resize large images to any width, height, or percentage you want. You can also do photo resizing in large batches.
Compressor.io – An image compressor tool to take the bulk out photos. It often reduces the image weight by 90-95%. Think about how much quicker a 28KB photo will load than a 350KB photo. As a blogger, you want your posts and pictures to load fast. This free tool helps me tremendously!
Mistakes I made starting my first blog
Spending too long customising my blog:
This is one of the biggest regrets I made with my first blog.
I spent way too long trying to entirely ‘perfect’ the blog’s look and make all of the pages 100% flawless. I still run the blog and love it, but it’s something I wish I had taken the plunge on a whole lot earlier.
If I had posted 2 times a week for those 9 months I was procrastinating and customizing, I would’ve had 72 posts done!
This is one of my biggest takeaways from creating my first blog. Don’t try too long to make your blog look perfect. Get the foundations built and start writing as soon as possible.
I launched this blog on 19th Feb 2021. In all honesty, I had so many pages that weren’t completed or customized. From owning another blog, I knew that I wasn’t going to be getting much traffic in the first month, so I focused many of my efforts on content writing + updating the blog design slowly.
I chose wrong hosting
I got sucked into the world of Bluehost, how it’s recommended directly by WordPress themselves and how it’s used by 2+ million blogs.
If you search on Google ‘how to start a blog‘. I can guarantee that 90% or more of the search results are Bluehost affiliates.
My first blog was slow with Bluehost; it took around 15 seconds to load. I did everything from minimizing CSS to trying every page optimization plugin.
The second I changed and migrated to Cloudways for my blogs, my sites became fast. It loads in 1 second for some pages. I also use the WP Rocket plugin, but if you don’t have a good foundation, your blog will not load quickly.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a Cloudways affiliate, but it’s because I want to help bloggers get their blogs started adequately and not buy hosting and leave after a few months (which also cost me $139 😳 ).
(Disclaimer: This is my personal experience with Bluehost, results may vary from person to person & a lot have had great success with Bluehost. I’m just a lot happier with Cloudways speed, servers & customer support. I bought three years from Bluehost and was a paying customer; this is my review).
I’ve been charged $20.16 from Cloudways in 2 months. I run 2 blogs on one Cloudways server, costing me $5 a month per blog. What a steal.
If you’d like to join (or migrate your web-hosting provider), click the link below 🙂
UPDATE: I made pretty literally the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made blogging and accidentally deleted this entire blog post (it’s taken me a good 15+ hours to write). I deleted all the content by turning it into a menu link. It removed all the content except for the featured image and title. After being sent into complete meltdown, I had a look at my backups on Cloudways, and holy crap, my site was backed up literally 15 minutes prior. 1 click of a button, and it was restored. This literally sounds like an ad for Cloudways, and I understand if you don’t believe me, but I’m so thankful for their daily backups.
So there we have it, a complete step-by-step guide on how to start a blog in 2021, fully completed!
I have to remind you that blogging can be challenging, and there will be times when you want to give up and quit, but don’t. Blogging is about the marathon, not the sprint.
If you want to make money straight away, I advise you to get a 9-5 job; you’ll have a better chance of making money in the first week than if you blog.
This isn’t to put you off blogging; it’s just real talk. The difference between a 9-5 job and blogging is that there’s literally no cap on how much money you can make with blogging.
If you’re willing to put in the hours, be a hard worker, do keyword research, come up with content ideas, manage multiple social media accounts & be alright with not making money for the first few months (or even a year), I reckon that you’ll be a successful blogger.
I hope you’ve learned how to start a blog smoothly with this guide, and you can now get onto what’s really important, writing content!
Ask me any questions about starting a blog below; I’d love to help!