How to Start a Blog in 2021: The Ultimate Guide
If you’re wondering how to create a blog, you’ve come to the right place. As a blogger myself, I can tell you it’s a rewarding way to hone your writing skills, explore new ideas, and build an online presence that revolves around your passions and expertise. You’ll get the chance to inspire, educate, and entertain your readers - and as your blog grows, you can even start making money and turn it into a full-time job.
In other words, blogging is the first step toward finally pursuing your dream job or favorite hobby, so you really can’t go wrong. While starting a blog might seem daunting, I’m going to walk you through every step to make it as smooth as possible. The process is actually quite easy, and you’ll have your blog up and running before you know it.
In this step-by-step guide, you’ll find all the guidance and tools you’ll need to start a blog. You’ll learn how to get your website off the ground, write your first blog post and draw in loyal readers. Sounds exciting? Let’s dive in.
How to start a blog
Choose a blogging platform
Pick a hosting platform
Find the right niche
Select a blog name and domain
Set up and design your blog
Brainstorm blog topics
Write your first blog post
Create an editorial calendar
Promote your blog
Make money blogging
In this complete A to Z tutorial, we’ll cover everything from choosing your blogging platform to making money from your written work. With a little bit of guidance, you can get your blog online in 30 minutes or less.
This is going to be the most comprehensive advice you’ll find on building a blog from scratch. If you want to start a blog fast, though, feel free to use the numbered steps above as a quick cheat sheet. You can go directly to the step you need the most help with, or grab a cup of coffee and read it all the way through.
Here’s how to start a blog, from ideation to publication.
01. Choose a blogging platform
The first step in starting a blog is to select a blogging platform for publishing your content. A quick Google search will show you that there are several different sites available that suit bloggers from all industries. I recommend Wix because it’s a good all-around blogging platform that satisfies most needs.
Wix’s blogging platform is fairly straightforward to get the hang of, and it offers a variety of attractive design options and templates to work with. In addition, it comes with features to analyze your blog’s performance and monetize your content, which will come in handy as you build your readership.
How much does it cost to start a blog?
When researching how to start a blog, one of the biggest questions people have is how much it costs. On many platforms, starting a blog is completely free.
You can decide at any point whether you’d like to upgrade to a variety of different plans, depending on your budget and needs.
02. Pick a hosting platform
Once you select your preferred blogging platform, you’ll need to choose a hosting platform. A blog, like other types of websites, requires a host. This essentially stores websites on a server under a unique address so that visitors can easily reach them.
On some blogging platforms, hosting is already included, so you won’t need to find a separate web host. In that case, you can skip this step and move to Step 3.
With other website builders, such as WordPress, you will need to find and pay for a separate hosting platform. Some popular options include:
If you’re not sure which hosting platform to choose, take into account these factors:
Uptime: The amount of time that the server hosting your website is up and running. A strong uptime rate (99.95% or above) is a good indication that the host’s servers perform well.
Bandwidth: The amount of data your website can transfer to visitors over a certain period of time. This factor is based on the size of your website pages as well as the amount of traffic you expect. This quick bandwidth calculator can help you determine your site’s bandwidth.
Customer support: Customer service you can contact in the event something goes wrong. Ideally, your hosting provider should offer an online help center, offer callbacks and respond to questions and concerns on social media.
Once you’ve chosen your blogging platform and hosting provider, you can start coming up with your blog idea.
Don’t worry about picking and registering your domain name just yet - we’ll walk through that process together in Step 4.
03. Find the right niche
Let’s move away from the technical and dive into the more theoretical. Take a step back and think about the main element that will form the foundation of your blog, from its URL and domain name to its content and design: your blog’s niche. What, exactly, do you want your blog to be about?
There is virtually no limit when it comes to your choice of subjects. The most crucial thing is that you select a specific topic area that will be the central focus of your entire blog.
Possible blog types range from fashion blogs to marketing blogs to food blogs. Because there are lots of other blogs focusing on the same subjects, you’ll need a way to stand out while still writing about what you love.
Here are three simple steps for choosing the perfect blog niche - one that not only is in line with your passions, but one that you can also monetize and grow:
Narrow down your interests
Research your audience
Check if it’s profitable
Narrow down your interests
When you start a blog, think long term. To motivate yourself to blog regularly, you’ll need to write about something you’re genuinely interested in. If you choose a topic solely on the basis of its being popular or profitable, your efforts will peter out pretty quickly.
If you aren’t sure right off the bat what you should be blogging about, that’s okay. Begin with a simple brainstorming session about subjects you like. What do you get excited talking about? What are you eager to learn more about?
Now, write down the first 5-10 interests that come to mind. For the sake of example, let’s say:
Next, think about your more specific interests within these subject areas and add them to your list. Your additions might look something like this:
Backpacking in Southeast Asia
Indie rock music
Hiking in the Rockies
Don’t worry about these niches being perfect just yet. You’ll research them more thoroughly in the next steps.
Research your audience
The next step of starting a blog is to learn which topics people are interested in reading about. If your blog gains traction, you can eventually start making money from it and become a full-time blogger.
You can determine the demand for any given niche with a bit of market research. Begin by taking a look at Google Trends, which shows you how many people are searching for a particular topic. The more searches a topic gets, the more public demand it has.
For instance, let’s type “vegan recipes” into Google Trends. In the image below, you’ll see that there’s a relatively stable level of interest in this topic, so it’s a good candidate for a blog niche.
“Paleo recipes,” on the other hand, has a much lower degree of interest. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea - some bloggers prefer to write for a more specific crowd if they have a unique specialty - but it does mean there are fewer people interested in that particular subject area.
If Google Trends reveals that interest in a subject area is either very low or declining, then that topic is unlikely to gain traction.
Check if it’s profitable
Whether you run a personal blog or a professional one, it’s a good idea to check whether your niche is profitable. Even if you’re starting out as a hobby blogger, you’ll want to think about future monetization options in the event that your blogging efforts evolve into a career.
There are multiple ways to earn money as a blogger, but one of the most common methods is affiliate marketing. As an affiliate, you’ll work together with a specific company, providing a link to their products within your blog, and earning a commission for any sale made through your site.
Considering whether you could blog as an affiliate is a good way to figure out if your niche is profitable. Think about the kinds of “best of” or “how to” posts you might write - for instance, “Best kitchen appliances for easy cooking” or “How to make carrot cake in 10 minutes.” In both instances, you could include an affiliate link to your favorite food processor or electric mixer and make money for each purchase made through your blog.
You don’t need to plan out your money-making strategy just yet, but thinking generally about profitable opportunities can help you choose a niche. For now, focus on starting your blog - we’ll talk more about making money blogging in Step 10.
04. Select a blog name and domain
As you think about how to start a blog, the question of what to name it is probably lurking somewhere in the back of your mind.
There are three main routes you can go with your blog's name. These include:
Your first and last name
The name of your business (if you have one)
A creative new name
When choosing your blog’s name, you should also think about the personality you want it to reflect. Should it be formal and professional? Sweet and romantic? Edgy and offbeat? If you’re stuck on names for your blog, this blog name generator is a helpful source of inspiration.
Once you decide, you should also go ahead and choose your domain name. Also referred to as a URL, a domain is a site’s address on the web (this website’s domain name, for example, is www.wix.com). Typically, your domain name will be the same as, or at least influenced by, the name of your blog.
05. Set up and design your blog
Choose a blog template
Decide which pages to include
Get indexed on search engines
Create a blog logo
At this point, you’ve chosen a blogging and hosting platform, domain name and blog niche. You’re now equipped with all the basics for setting up your blog. Here’s what to do next:
Choose a blog template
The first part of setup is selecting a template. Like your blog’s name, its look and feel will be an important part of its personality.
The most efficient way to get your blog up and running is to choose a pre-designed blog template. Afterwards, you can customize it based on your preferences.
Be sure to pick one that conveys your blog’s subject area. There are website templates for bloggers of any genre, whether you’re a food blogger, photography blogger or business blogger. As you browse, think about the mood you want your website to communicate, for example. whether it’s classic, modern, rugged or minimalist.
You should also take that into account as you further personalize the template with your preferred colors. Color psychology plays a huge role in forming your audience’s impression of your blog. As you choose a color palette, keep in mind the feelings and attitudes that different colors evoke. Blue, for instance, tends to evoke dependability and trust, while yellow evokes energy and joy.
If you’re unsure of which templates to choose, these blog examples serve as a helpful source of design inspiration.
Decide which pages to include
Once you’ve chosen a template, think about which pages to include. Most blogs include more than just a section to display their posts. They might also include an online store, as in the image below, or a contact page.
Here's an overview of the different options:
01 - Contact page: This is a place to put your email address so that fans and potential business partners can reach out to you. You can also include a contact form so that people can send a message directly through your site.
02 - About page: This tells visitors who you are, what you do, and why you do it, providing some context behind your blog and humanizing your content.
03 - Online store: You’ll also want to add a separate online store page if you’re thinking of selling items related to your blog. You can call this page “Products” or “Shop.”
If you want to beef up your blog with even more pages, a Tutorials page, Now Trending page or Author’s Pick page are all popular options.
Furthermore, some blogs opt to place their posts directly on the homepage, while others keep their homepages and blog pages separate. If you do this, make sure to include a navigation menu so that visitors can easily access your blog as well as any other pages.
There’s no right or wrong way to set up a blog, so play around with different options to see what best suits your style and personality. Keep in mind that you can always add or remove pages over time as your blog evolves.
Get indexed on search engines
Another part of starting a blog is making sure it’s visible on Google and other search engines. This is crucial if you want your content to pop up in search results, so you’ll want to take care of this step right away.
First, make sure your site is indexed on Google. Essentially, this means giving Google a heads up that your blog exists. You can do this by submitting your sitemap to Google Search Console.
Pro tip: Google Search Console is not only important for indexing your site, but it’s also a valuable platform that you’ll be using throughout your blogging journey. It tells you important data about your blog’s site visitors and clicks, which you can use to improve your content.
To find out whether your site is already included in Google’s search index, do a quick site search (a site search uses your homepage URL and takes the form of site:yourblogname.com). If your blog pops up in the search results, then your site is already indexed.
Create a blog logo
Finally, polish off your site with an attractive blog logo. This is another way to add personality to your site, and it’s an essential step if you want to start a blog that evolves into a recognizable brand.
One option is to design your own or outsource the task, but you can also use an online logo maker. These tools give you plenty of room to customize your logo with your preferred colors, fonts and icons, and tend to be quicker and more affordable than hiring a professional designer.
Once you create your logo, place it in the upper left-hand corner of your website, and link it to your homepage. This will help brand your content while improving the navigation experience for readers.
06. Brainstorm blog topics
On the technical side, your blog is now ready to go. It’s time to start thinking about which topics you’ll get started with.
Begin by thinking about your experiences, successes, failures or discoveries related to your niche. What insights can you share? What ideas are you looking to explore in-depth?
As you think of topics, try to get into your readers’ heads. Here are some questions to guide you through the brainstorming process:
What characteristics does my target audience possess?
What subjects does my target audience get excited about?
What challenges does my target audience face?
You can also come up with ideas using the topic cluster model. Essentially, this is a tightly organized system that strings together related posts using a series of internal links. While this process is usually considered part of SEO, you can also think of it as a mind map for coming up with ideas.
By this model, think about a broad topic - say, recipes - and then divide that up into smaller subtopics, like dinner recipes or brunch recipes. Then, divide those up into even more specific topics, like 20-minute dinner recipes, mimosa recipes, and cake decoration ideas. Any of these topics could be its own blog post.
If you’re still stuck, this list of blog ideas can help jumpstart the brainstorming process. They include:
A 30 before 30 list (also 40 before 40, or 50 before 50)
Your sources of inspiration
A challenge you’ve faced
Use these ideas to guide you, but feel free to add your own creative twist based on your niche.
07. Write your first blog post
Start with keyword research
Come up with a blog post title
Outline your main points
Write engaging content
Optimize for SEO
Edit and publish
Now that you’ve come up with ideas, you’re ready to dive into the writing. Let’s go over how to write a blog post from start to finish:
Start with keyword research
Finding the right keywords is crucial for getting people to read your posts. By targeting certain phrases with your article, you increase thechances of your blog appearing on search results pages for those queries.
Let’s say, for instance, that you want to share a carrot cake recipe in your blog. You’ll want to target keywords such as:
Carrot cake recipe
Best carrot cake recipe
How to make carrot cake
Depending on your topic, some keywords may be more obvious than others. You can refine your keywords using free keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Answer The Public, or you can use more robust paid options like SEMrush or Ahrefs.
Next, you’ll need to strategically target your selected keywords throughout your article. This means two things: First, you’ll need to sprinkle those phrases throughout your post (but try to do so as organically as possible - no one likes unnatural keyword stuffing). Second, you should structure your article based on the format you see in the top 10 search results for those keywords.
Let’s say, for example, that you want to write an article about your favorite carrot cake recipe. Start by checking your competitors - the top 10 search results on Google for the keyword “carrot cake recipe.”
When you type that phrase into the search engine, you’ll notice that the top results are written as numbered steps, rather than as a story. You can therefore assume that most readers prefer the list format for these types of posts. In order to provide valuable content to your readers - and to rank high on Google as a result - you’ll want your own post to assume a similar format.
Likewise, you’ll want to touch on all the main points covered by your competitors. This doesn’t mean you can’t be be creative - it’s just to say that in addition to sharing your own original insights, you should cover all the bases.
To continue with our example, let’s assume that when you look up “carrot cake recipe,” the top search results include a section about how to make cream cheese frosting. This is an indicator that many readers find this content helpful. In addition, it shows that Google has a preference for articles including that detail. You’d be wise, then, to touch on this idea in your own article.
Outline your main points
Keyword research gives you an idea of the best format for your blog post, as well as which sections to include. This naturally segues into the outline stage of the writing process.
First, choose which type of blog post you’d like to write. Will it be a how-to guide? A product recommendation? An op-ed? Whichever blog post template you choose, you’ll want to have a clear idea in mind before structuring the outline.
Then, use headers and subheaders to break up your content into organized, bite-sized chunks. Beneath each heading, make bulleted notes of the main points you’ll include in each section. This will be the skeleton of your first blog post.
Feel free to use this downloadable blog post template to help with your outline. All you need to do is fill in the blanks:
Come up with a blog post title
The next part of starting a blog article is coming up with a strong title. You can come up with your blog titles at any stage of the planning process, but the best ideas often arise as you build your outline.
A blog title is a small but mighty piece of content. Often, it makes the difference between whether or not people click on your article.
To make your blog titles catchy and compelling, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Think about what might interest and excite them, and try the following strategies:
Be clear and direct
Appeal to your readers’ emotions
Pique their curiosity
Use humor, alliteration or wordplay
Here are a few fill-in-the-blank blog title ideas to help you:
Here’s more information on how to write a headline that stands out. If you’re curious about diving more into what makes a headline a success, Buzzsumo’s shared headlines study is also an insightful resource.
Write engaging content
Now, it’s time to start typing away. Keep in mind that you’ll need an introduction, body text broken up by headers and subheaders, and a conclusion (optional).
In the introduction, grab your audience’s attention with a captivating anecdote, a compelling quote or statistic, or an interesting fact. Then, share a brief summary of what the article is about, making sure to grab the interest of your readers.
Next, write the body text, using your outline as a guide. This is where you share your knowledge and expertise as a blogger. Be sure to avoid fluff; writing for the sake of writing is one of the biggest blogging mistakes. Instead, make sure each sentence is meaningful, and dive straight into sharing your original insights and actionable tips. You should also use a tone of voice that resonates with your audience, whether it’s funny and casual or serious and formal.
Finally, wrap up the post with a concluding section. While not every blog includes this final bit, it’s a nice way to tie your ideas together and share your closing thoughts.
Keep in mind that writing a blog post can take several hours, and it’s a process that shouldn’t be rushed. Set aside at least half a day to write your first draft.
As you start your blog, remember that your choice of images can strengthen readers’ overall impression of your article. Whether you add photos, screenshots or illustrations to your articles, they should be functional as well as beautiful. Make sure they convey your main points and highlight important examples in the post.
If you don’t have your own images, begin by browsing free stock photos on the web. Pexels and Unsplash are both popular sites for gathering visual material. While you might eventually want to use photos you take yourself, stock photos are a quick way to get your blog started.
Optimize for SEO
Once you create your content, there are a couple things you’ll need to take care of before hitting Publish. These steps primarily revolve around strategy, from improving your blog SEO to generating conversions through your article. Here’s a quick post-writing checklist to guide you:
Double check your keywords: Quickly search your content (CTRL+F) to review your use of keywords. Did you include all the keywords you intended to? If not, check to see whether there are any other opportunities to incorporate the keywords throughout your article. (Keep in mind that keyword stuffing is considered a bad practice, and search engines can penalize you for it. Incorporate them naturally into the text, rather than forcing them in.)
Add internal links: One trick up every bloggers’ sleeve is to link between their blog posts - also known as the practice of internal linking. This helps improve your posts’ SEO, and it also encourages your readers to browse your other articles. Rather than linking randomly, you should link between primarily related blog posts; this is better for SEO, and it also makes the links more valuable to your readers. If you’re just starting a blog and don’t have much content yet, don’t forget to go back into your posts and add in the links later.
Incorporate CTAs: The next trick in the book is to include calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout the article. These little snippets of content often take the form of phrases such as Buy Now, Subscribe, or Read More. By placing call-to-action buttons in your article, you can direct readers to buy your products, subscribe to your newsletter, or click for further reading.
Use alt text: Because Google can’t read photos, bloggers often add a short description to each image (ideally using keywords) to help the search engine understand what is being displayed. This description, called alt text, helps your images show up in Google image searches.
Write your post’s metadata: Metadata is the term for the text used to display a web page in Google search results. This includes the meta title (also known as the title tag) and meta description. Sometimes, the meta title is the same as the title of your blog post, while other times, you’ll want to choose a slightly different title for displaying your post. There’s no right or wrong here, so long as your title is engaging and includes your most important keyword. The meta description, which is the short snippet of text beneath the meta title, should also include your main keywords and should preview the article’s main points.
Choose your URL: Every webpage has a dedicated URL, and your blog posts are no different. A strong URL helps your articles rank high on search engine results pages, and typically contains a keyword. Blog post URLs often take the form of www.yourdomainname.com/blog-post-keyword or www.yourdomainname.com/blog/blog-post-keyword. If you’re unsure, set aside time to browse this guide on how to properly structure URLs. Most blog posts will generate a URL for you automatically, but it’s good to know that you can go in and customize the URL for each blog post as needed.
Edit and publish
You now have everything you need for your first blog post. Give it a couple reads, and share it with family members or friends to review. It’s always helpful to have a second, third, or fourth pair of eyes.
When you think your article is ready to go, upload it to your blog. Your blogging platform will also have a place for you to type in the metadata and URL. Once that’s done, hit Publish and let the celebrations begin.
08. Create an editorial calendar
Whew! You’ve just written your first blog post. Take a break, and when you’re ready, plan out the rest of the month’s posting schedule.
Creating an editorial calendar is an important part of starting a blog. It’s an effective way to ensure you publish content consistently, letting you hold yourself accountable as a writer and ensuring you don’t deviate from your blogging goals. Your readers want new content, and you need to deliver. Plus, search engines take into account how frequently you publish when determining your site’s overall ranking.
You probably already have a handful of topics from your brainstorming session in Step 6. If not, use the same process to come up with new ideas. Once you have at least 10 or so ideas, start building a content calendar.
Your calendar doesn’t need to cost a thing, and it certainly doesn’t require the use of unfamiliar tools or platforms. Open up Excel or Google Sheets, and start building a schedule from there. The columns you use are completely up to you, but you’ll probably want to create different sections for the publishing date, blog title, main keywords, article status and comments.
Pro tip: If you know you’re prone to procrastination (aren't we all?), open up a Google Calendar and fill in your deadlines there. You can even set aside blocks of time in your calendar for writing.
How often should you blog?
When learning how to start a blog, a big question people ask is how often they should be publishing new content. As a rule of thumb, the more often you blog, the more traffic you get. There’s no black-or-white answer for exactly how frequently that is, but studies have pointed us to a few important statistics:
11 or more posts per month yields a noticeable increase in traffic. Among small companies of 10 or fewer employees, those who published at least 11 blog posts a month had twice as much traffic as those who published 2-5 blogs a month.
Small companies also found that publishing at least 11 posts per month yields twice as many leads as those publishing 6 to 10 monthly articles. This is important if your goal is to obtain subscribers, sell products or work as an affiliate (more on that in Step 10).
How often you blog also depends on your goals. If your main goal is to generate brand awareness, start with 1-2 new posts per week. On the other hand, if you’re primarily aiming to increase traffic to your site, you should ideally be writing 3-4 new posts per week.
Keep all this in mind as you create your editorial calendar, but make your goals small and achievable. If you set unrealistic deadlines that you can’t meet, you’ll get thrown off course and even discouraged.
You can always ramp up your efforts once you get used to publishing and make it a habit to stick to your schedule. In addition, remember that you can always bring in guest contributors to up the quantity of published content each week.
09. Promote your blog
Share on social media
Create a blog newsletter
Write for other sites
Reach out to an existing community
Participate in question and discussion sites
Invest in paid ads
Try new content formats
At this stage, you have everything you need to start a blog. These last couple of steps will focus on how to spread the word about your blog and grow it into a serious monetization tool.
In order to get readers, you’ll need to find creative ways to drive traffic to your site. While improving your SEO is an important step, the following methods can also help you promote your blog. Note that most of them are completely free, while a few (like advertising) are paid.
Share on social media: Social media is an excellent place to post your content and draw attention to your blog. Whether you promote your blog on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, it’s a great way to reach new readers,
Create a blog newsletter: Send out a weekly email newsletter to engage your readers and get them coming back to your blog for more. This will help you sustain a loyal fan base. To get subscribers in the first place, include a prominent Subscribe button in your website’s navigation bar, footer, and within your blog posts.
Write for other sites: Strengthen your reputation as a writer and expert in your niche by publishing content outside your own website. Consider opening a Medium account and making a name for yourself there, or post articles on LinkedIn. You should also keep an eye out for guest blogging opportunities, which are offered by publications such as Forbes and Entrepreneur.
Reach out to an existing community: Facebook groups, forums and LinkedIn groups are gathering places for people interested in a particular topic. If you find an online community that’s relevant to your blog niche, share your website with them and network among their group members.
Participate in question and discussion sites: Sites such as Quora and Reddit give you the opportunity to highlight your blog in discussion threads. Use one of your blog posts to answer a question or follow up on a comment, but be sure to come across as helpful and informative rather than promotional.
Invest in paid ads: In addition to sharing posts on social media, you can boost your posts with a paid promotion so that they reach more people. Likewise, you can pay for Google ads and reach new users through the search engine.
Try new content formats: Expand your reach even further by trying new content formats. These essentially repurpose the same information provided in your posts. For instance, you can turn your blog posts into videos and start a YouTube channel. You might even create a podcast or offer a webinar. The sky's the limit.
10. Make money blogging
Advertise within your blog
Offer paid subscriptions
Write sponsored content
Sell e-books and merchandise
Provide consulting services
If you’re looking to start a blog with a large readership, chances are you’re also aiming to make money from your blog’s popularity. We touched on affiliate marketing earlier in the article, but let’s talk more about this and other money-making strategies.