Learning how to start a WordPress blog can be both fun and profitable.
But if you try to create a blog without a little guidance, it can be easy to quickly get frustrated and quit. We don’t want that!
We’re going to run through how I would start a WordPress blog in 2020 – plus give you some additional options that are popular these days.
- Choose A Blog Topic
- WordPress Hosting
- Default WordPress Settings To Change
- WordPress Themes
- WordPress Plugins
- Create Required Pages
- Create Your First Blog Post
- Next Steps
There are a few different things you’ll need (which we’ll go through in more detail) in order to get your WordPress site online including:
- A topic or niche
- A domain name (the .com)
- WordPress hosting (where your site “lives”)
- A WordPress theme (how your blog looks)
- WordPress plugins (how to customize your site)
And of course, a little time to get things set up and modified (I’ll show you the default settings to change a little later).
Choose A Blog Topic
When choosing a niche, industry, or topic for your blog (or podcast), you’ll want to pick something that specific enough so it will resonate with your audience.
Because there are over 4 million blog posts published every day, it’s important to be unique.
But you also want it to be broad enough so you will have plenty to write about for the long term. Along those same lines, your blog’s name (and your domain name) should lean more broad so you can expand down the line.
You can search for a domain name right here:
Think about it this way: if you’re getting heart surgery, would you rather go to a heart surgeon or a general surgeon?
The answer seems obvious, yet so many people create a “general surgeon” blog.
So how do you choose a blog topic?
Maybe you already have some ideas, but you want to make sure your topic:
- Has plenty of content to write about (not too narrow)
- Is interesting – and you are interested in it (is exciting)
- There is an audience of other people who are interested
Here are a few ideas to brainstorm your blog niche:
- Think about what other people struggle with (what do your friends, family & colleagues complain about that you do easily)
- What do people compliment you on? (feel free to ask your friends)
- How do you people introduce you to others? What do they say you’re great at?
- What would you do if you had an extra 3 hours free? What would you talk about with a friend for 3 hours?
- What do you do on a Saturday afternoon?
- What are you excited about?
- What do other people do that you think is cool or interesting?
Take a few minutes and write out a bunch of ideas (good or bad, it doesn’t matter). Then narrow them down and combine ideas to find a topic.
Once you have your topic figured out, here are some tips on choosing a domain name.
Many different guides on how to start a blog recommend Bluehost for hosting.
They’re great when you’re getting started, and they make it really easy for beginners to get set up with their first WordPress site.
You also don’t need to “install WordPress” as this is done automatically when you create your account.
Quick note: I use Kinsta for my hosting company – learn more about them at the end of this WordPress Hosting section.
How To Start A WordPress Blog On Bluehost
Note: I negotiated a special rate just our readers when you follow the link below:
Bluehost includes a free domain name (the .com) when you sign up for a hosting plan.
If you want to see if your domain name is available before signing up, just use this:
Or simply follow these steps:
Go to the Bluehost homepage and click ‘Get Started’:
I like to experiment with new sites without affecting my main one, so I would choose ‘Choice Plus’ – but it’s up to you!
On the next screen, you’ll choose a domain name or enter the one you already have. If you are still trying to figure it out, just hit ‘Choose Later!’ at the bottom:
Then you’ll create your account. If you have a Google account (Gmail, YouTube, Android, etc.) you can use that to easily log in.
Below that you’ll choose your hosting package info:
The cheapest price per month is available when you select a 36-month plan, but if you want a shorter commitment, you can choose the 12- or 24-month plan.
Note: I pay more per month than you would pay for 2 years – just to give you some perspective on how great a deal this is.
I would uncheck SiteLock Security as well.
Below that, you’ll enter your credit card details, agree to terms, and click ‘Submit’.
You’ll see how to set up and configure your WordPress site further down this page. There are important settings you need to change right away!
Kinsta: The WordPress Host I Use
Because this site gets many thousands of visitors per day, I use Kinsta.
They are a premium managed WordPress hosting company based on the Google Cloud Platform.
Speed is crucial for your visitors and when you start getting a lot of visitors (traffic) to your site, you’ll need a hosting company that can handle it without slowing down.
There are a ton of other benefits including:
- 24/7 expert support (these people actually know what they’re doing when it comes to WordPress)
- Daily backups (no plugins or extra fees needed)
- Free CDN (again, no extra cost)
- Premium DNS (did I mention it’s included in the plan?)
- A staging server (one-click migrations)
And a ton more including one of the best dashboards around.
When adding a new site, you get the option to install WordPress and some useful plugins automatically.
Their blog is also an excellent place to learn all about WordPress as well.
See our review of Kinsta for more details.
It can be a bit of a pain to switch web hosting providers (transferring your database, DNS settings, etc.) so if investing $30/month for speed, security, support, and peace of mind doesn’t sound bad, I highly recommend hosting with Kinsta right from the start.
If you start a blog with Kinsta, you’ll need to get a domain name separately. Here’s a short guide on purchasing a domain. It’s written with podcasters in mind but the steps and tips apply for a blog as well.
The only reason I didn’t recommend them up top is that when you’re just starting out, the cost may be prohibitive.
WordPress.org vs WordPress.com
There is a difference between self-hosted WordPress.org using one of the hosting platforms I highlighted above and using wordpress.com.
You have full access to every feature of WordPress when self-hosting, but with WordPress.com you can only install certain plugins and themes on the Business plan ($25/month) or higher.
Because the names are so similar, there is a lot of confusion between the two.
Default WordPress Settings To Change
You’ll want to change a few settings right away – before you start customizing and creating any blog posts or pages.
Because this is really a topic on all its own, I would recommend opening this post from HostGator. It is detailed, well-written, and an excellent place to start.
The main ones I would start with are:
- Delete the default post, page, and comment
- Make sure you have a strong password (Users > Your Profile)
- Change your Site Title, Tagline, and Timezone (Settings > General)
- Change Permalinks to Post name (Settings > Permalinks)
- Change your default category (Posts > Categories)
Once you’ve configured the default settings, you’ll need to choose a theme. A theme controls how your WordPress blog looks.
Free WordPress Themes
There are many free themes you can search for right inside your WordPress dashboard:
You can also start with the included Twenty Twenty theme created by the team that built WordPress.
It supports the new Gutenberg editor (we’ll talk about that in the Create Your First Post section) and looks great.
Premium WordPress Themes
A premium WordPress theme will cost a little bit, but there are many benefits to going that route. The premium themes I use and recommend are:
- Updated regularly
- Well supported
- Coded well
- Secure, fast & SEO-friendly
- And much more…
WordPress plugins allow you to add functionality and features to your site.
Some allow you to add visual elements that your visitors can see (like contact forms) while some just work in the background (like caching plugins to speed your site up).
I have a separate post about recommended WordPress plugins, so for now, here are a few free ones to start with:
- Yoast SEO (walks you through getting the basics of SEO right)
- ShortPixel (automatic image compression makes your site load faster = happier visitors)
- BackWPup (create automated backups of your site – note: not needed with Kinsta, they have automatic backups)
- WP Rocket (makes your site load much faster and is easy to set up)
Create Required Pages
You should start with a few essential pages that nearly every website has:
You’ll want to create new pages for each one.
Here are some tips and suggestions for each:
Your about page should actually be more about what your readers can expect than you or your company.
Visitors should immediately know if your site is a good fit for them when they visit your about page.
Take a look at our about page for an example.
Another tip is to link to popular articles or answer common questions your readers might have.
After leading with the value your blog provides, you can go into any social proof you might have.
This might be sites you were featured in, testimonials, comments, or simply emails you’ve gotten from readers.
It’s OK if you don’t have any of this yet – but it’s something to strive for. Just remember to add it later!
Lastly, get personal.
Write about you, your history, or something relevant that your visitors might find interesting.
Your contact page should ideally have a form your readers can fill out to get in touch with you.
If you simply put your email address on your contact page, be prepared for lots of spam!
There are several plugins that make it easy to create forms of all kinds. I use Gravity Forms on this site, but WP Forms is my preferred choice these days (I just happen to have access to Gravity Forms from my WordPress agency days).
It’s helpful to tell people how long they can expect to wait for a response and why they should contact you (and maybe why not).
Ideally, you want a lawyer to help you draft your policy because every blog is different. It’s not as simple as copying mine and modifying the name.
That said, there are some great services that can help you with this so you stay compliant.
Create Your First Blog Post
What To Write About
Your first blog post doesn’t need to say “I’m starting a blog” or “welcome to the blog” anything like that.
You want to write blog posts that help solve a problem or answers a question that people have.
You likely already have a few ideas, but it’s a good idea to do a little research to see exactly how people are searching. That means doing some keyword research.
Keyword research basically means exploring the words and phrases people are already searching for.
There are many different tools to help speed up this search, and the better, paid tools will give you more accurate info on search volume (how many times people are searching per month) and difficulty (how hard it will be to rank on the first page of Google for a given phrase).
I use Ahrefs because it is the most accurate and has a bunch of great reports that make finding new blog ideas easier. Plus there is a bunch of other functionality in their suite of tools. It starts at $99/month probably puts it out of reach for most beginners starting a blog.
Doing good research will help you narrow down your blog post’s topic and help you include sections that would make for a complete and educational post.
You can also use a tool called Answer The Public to help you find other questions people are asking about a keyword or topic:
After you have done your keyword research, here is the basic process of creating your first blog post:
- Add a new post
- Give it a title
- Edit your Permalink
- Write your heart out
- Hit publish!
Quick Note: I used the Classic Editor plugin for the screenshots below. If you don’t install and activate it, WordPress defaults to the new Gutenberg block editor. You’re welcome to use either writing interface but I would recommend sticking with one.
Add A New Post
After clicking the ‘Add New’ button under ‘Posts’ you’ll see a blank post edit screen:
Give It A Title
When choosing a title for your post, think about what would spark interest in your readers while also being clear and descriptive of what they’re about to read.
Because many more people read headlines than the actual post, it’s important to put a little effort into this.
I would recommend writing several headlines and choosing the best one.
After you put a title in and select the main body screen, your permalink will automatically appear:
When you click edit you can change the part after your domain name (the .com) to whatever you’d like.
I recommend keeping it as short as possible while still being descriptive – 3 to 4 words max is what I shoot for. To separate words, use a dash – instead of an underscore _.
Because you never want to change this, don’t use dates or anything that will indicate your article is old in a year or two.
Write Your Heart Out
Write your blog post.
When writing for the web, keep your paragraphs short, add media such as images or videos to enhance your writing, and try not to use fluffy language or repeat yourself.
I wouldn’t recommend using stock images unless they specifically clarify a point you’re making.
Before you hit Publish, read through your article to make sure there aren’t any mistakes.
You should also click Preview to make sure everything looks as you expect. Resize your browser down to a mobile size to make sure everything looks good there too.
If you have multiple categories, choose the one that fits best or create a new one.
Once your spot checks are done, go ahead and click that Publish button! 🎉
You just learned how to start a WordPress blog, but what now? Keep writing!
You may also want to start thinking about email marketing so you can better engage with your visitors. See my favorite email marketing providers here.
I also recommend a couple of other “how to start a blog” guides from some people I know and trust: Pete’s how to start a blog guide and Ryan’s 10-step How To Start A Blog On The Side And Make Money tutorial.
And if you have any questions, just leave a comment below.