In this post, I’m going to show you how to start a WordPress blog.
In fact, this is the exact process I used to start mine, without hiring anyone.
So if you’re a lone-wolf type of person like me, you’re going to love this guide.
Let’s jump right in.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you decide to purchase through my links, at no additional cost to you. But rest assured that I only recommend products I personally stand behind.
WordPress.com vs WordPress.org
Despite looking similar, WordPress.com and WordPress.org are two completely different beasts.
WordPress.com itself is a hosting service on which you can create a website for free, but with considerable limitations.
On the other hand, WordPress.org is an open-source content management system (CMS) that's free to use.
But a CMS alone doesn’t do much, you’ll need a web hosting service to host your website so you can publish content to the internet.
Granted, WordPress.com does offer paid plans that you can choose from if you need more customizations.
But really, if you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, nothing beats a self-hosted option where you have absolute control over your website…
… and do whatever you want with it.
In a nutshell, unless you’re blogging for a hobby or just need a place to host your online resume, WordPress.org is your best bet.
Pick a Niche & Domain Name
Picking a Niche
This is a tricky one, especially for perfectionists like me. In fact, I’d struggled with it for weeks.
I’m a tech and software nerd. I love tech gadgets and geeking out on software. On the surface, it’d be intuitive for me to start a blog talking about tech and stuff.
But let’s be real:
There are enough tech blogs and websites out there. If I’m starting one, I will need a massive team to help pumping out content constantly.
Or I won’t be able to compete with those big boys who started years ago.
And given that I’m super lazy and a lone wolf, I can’t convince myself to do just that.
Plus, just because I love geeking out over tech stuff doesn’t mean I love promoting or even selling it.
So, I decided to put up with my second best niche — internet marketing.
And lo and behold, the more I write about it, the more I realize that I’m equally, if not more, passionate about internet marketing than tech.
So if I had to give a piece of advice, I’d say stick to these three rules:
- It has to be something in which you have some knowledge or are interested in mastering a skill.
- There has to be enough demand in that market.
- People are willing to pay a good amount of money to advertise in that niche.
Let’s talk further about each of them.
1. It has to be something in which you have some knowledge or are interested in mastering a skill
You don’t have to be an expert to be able to blog about something.
Sure, if you already have some knowledge, your blogging life will be easier. But it’s not mandatory.
As you’re writing about something and researching about it, you’ll inevitably learn more and get better at it.
Here's the truth:
It’s going to take you a while to start getting traffic to your blog.
And by the time that happens, you should already have some knowledge in what you’ve been writing for.
And if you’re interested in mastering a skill in that niche, even better. That’ll accelerate your learning process and boost your confidence quicker than you would’ve expected.
2. There has to be enough demand in that market
Before start writing about something, you need to know there are people wanting to read it.
To do that, we’ll search for a few common keywords in a niche and see how many people are searching for it monthly.
Say you’re in the travel niche and you want to know what topics people are searching for.
First, pop the keyword “travel” into Ahrefs’ search bar and click “All keyword ideas“:
Next, skim through and see what stands out to you.
At a glance, there are a few topic ideas that I think would make great blog posts.
“Travel backpack” and “best travel insurance“.
“Best travel credit cards” and “best credit cards for travel“.
Not only do these keywords have great search volumes, but they also make great post ideas.
You can review and compare a bunch of travel backpacks or credit cards and refer them to purchase and earn a commission.
A general rule of thumb:
If most of the keywords have at least 10K monthly searches, you’re in good hands. Remember we just want to have a gauge of market demand.
3. People are willing to pay a good amount of money to advertise in that niche
Now that you know what keywords people are searching for, you want to see how much people are paying to advertise on those keywords.
We’re going to look at the CPC (Cost Per Click) of those keywords that you think would make great topic ideas.
If advertisers are willing to pay a higher CPC for a certain keyword, that means you can make more ad revenue by placing display ads on your blog…
… if you manage to rank for that keyword, of course.
However, I’m not saying that display ads is the only way to monetize your blog. There are plenty of other ways to do that, which we’ll talk about in a bit.
But I think the CPC of a keyword is a good way to gauge a particular topic's monetization potential before you even start writing it.
Let’s use the examples above again.
“Travel backpack” has a CPC of $1.50. Meaning the advertisers are only willing to pay $1.50 for a click to advertise on that keyword.
If that keyword is only worth $1.50 per click, guess how much you could earn with display ads on your blog? Pretty insignificant, right?
But with “best travel insurance“, advertisers are paying $7 for a single click. That’s a huge jump from $1.50.
Just by switching a blog topic to write, you significantly increase the ad revenue potential of your blog post.
Let’s look at another example from above: “best travel credit cards“.
Holy moly! The CPC is a whopping $25!
If you were to write a post for a travel blog, which of these three topics would you want to write about?
I hope you get the idea that I’m trying to convey here. And truth be told, there’s really no best niches to get into. Only one that suits you most.
And here’s the thing:
Nothing is set in stone.
If you start blogging in a niche and soon realize you don’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would, you can always make a switch.
You have absolute control over your blog, remember?
With that, let’s move to domain name research.
Domain Name Research
If you’re starting a personal blog, I recommend using a more generic domain name.
The easiest way is to use
That way, if a niche doesn’t work the way you want it to, you can easily switch to another niche.
But don’t fret too much about this step. You can always change your domain name down the road if you need to.
When you find the domain you want, if you click the domain, you’ll see two options:
The first option is to register now and create a site on WordPress.com, and the second one is to register now with Bluehost.
DO NOT choose either of them.
Let me explain:
If you choose to register with WordPress.com, you’ll be asked to create an account and subscribe to a premium plan because custom domain is a premium feature.
We talked about this earlier:
If you’re willing to pay a monthly fee, you might as well use the self-hosted option, which is WordPress.org.
If you choose the second option to register with Bluehost, you’ll be asked to create an account directly with Bluehost because all Bluehost plans come with a free domain…
(… and Lean Domain Search will get the referral commission without doing anything…)
So, don't do that. 🙂
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, most bloggers will suggest doing that.
But I personally don’t like managing my domains under a web hosting account. I prefer to have them separated.
Here’s the thing:
It might make sense to have everything under one roof, given the convenience of not having to manage different accounts.
But chances are you might want to move to another web host at some point down the road…
… and it could be inconvenient to migrate the domain from your web host to another.
So to avoid any unnecessary hassles, I always buy and manage all my domains with a domain registrar that has nothing to do with the web hosting company I use.
And whenever I want to build a website, I’d just log in to my Namecheap dashboard and connect the domain to a hosting plan for WordPress installation.
That way, I have absolute control over my domains if I ever want to make any changes.
Now, let’s search for your domain name on Namecheap and see if it’s available.
Add the .com one to cart and checkout. On the checkout page, you’ll see the WhoisGuard (again, privacy protection) is included for free forever, which usually isn’t the case for other companies.
PS: Choose a .com domain if possible. If the .com is taken, a .net or .co is fine. Don’t spend too much time on this step.
And with that, you have registered a domain name. Next up, let’s talk about web hosting.
Pick a Web Hosting Plan
WPX Hosting is great. I’m happily hosting with them so far.
But I think I’m going to switch to another host in the near future, so I’m not sure if I should recommend it. Plus, their pricing options are not as beginner-friendly as others.
SiteGround is great — they use high-speed servers and have great customer support.
(Though not so great from my personal experience.)
But their prices are also relatively higher than others.
Due to their prices and my personal experience, I wouldn’t recommend it.
But if you have the budget to play around, feel free to check it out.
Bluehost — The Best Web Hosting Company?
But it seems like ever since they got bought out by the conglomerate (EIG), their focus has been mainly on increasing revenue instead of improving their products and services.
I don’t have much real-life experience with them in recent years. If you ever think of hosting your website with them, I’d recommend checking out their Trustpilot profiles.
That said, I know every other blogger and their grandma out there is aggressively promoting Bluehost, so I won’t say never ever use Bluehost.
In fact, I walk you through further down this guide on how to create your website with Bluehost, apart from the two companies I recommend in this guide.
So in the end you’ll have three choices. Whichever you choose, it’s your call.
My Top Picks
PS: A day after I published this guide, I stumbled upon an article by Tom from Online Media Masters about how Hostinger creates fake reviews online and does a bunch of shady stuff to get people to use their service.
If that conflicts with your values, feel free to ignore my recommendation for Hostinger and go with NameHero (or Bluehost if you want). I only tested their performance and customer support for a short period, and I was pretty happy with what I found and their value for money.
As to Bluehost — frankly, there isn’t much good to say about them. I mean, they still use Apache servers to host their websites, which is relatively inefficient these days.
Just look at their hosting plans and you’ll notice everything is pretty much the same as years ago, they haven’t changed much even though their competitors are miles ahead.
They still require you to go with the Choice Plus plan to get free domain privacy protection.
As aforementioned, Namecheap has been offering that for free for a long time.
And please forget the Free CDN feature listed on their website. That’s actually Cloudflare’s CDN and anyone can create a free account and enjoy that feature.
However, I do think their foolproof Bluehost Portal is pretty well-designed. Especially for complete beginners to get their hands on.
But newbies won’t be a newbie forever. Once they get the hang of it, they probably won’t need all those superfluous features, no?
Anyway, Bluehost still is the most recommended web host out there. They offer the most affiliate payouts and do not require an application to become an affiliate, after all.
With all that being said, when it comes to web hosting, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Everybody has different needs.
And so, whichever you pick, I’m cool with that.
But before you make your final decision, I figure you might be interested in their refund processes and experiences.
Requesting a Refund
After finish creating this guide, I requested a refund from three of them. In short, they all agreed to process a full refund for me. But the experiences were a little different.
Overall, I'm pretty happy with all of them since they agreed to process a full refund for me promptly.
However, these are just my personal experiences. Please treat them as a reference and take them with a grain of salt.
If you decide to subscribe and for whatever reason have a bad experience with their customer support, no angry emails, please.
Here's a little comparison table to help you make your decision:
With that, let's move to the WordPress installation.
So whichever you chose in the previous step, I’ve got you covered. Now choose your preferred web host and get started.
There you go, you've successfully installed WordPress to your blog. Next up, we're gonna talk about how to configure your WordPress settings.
See you in the next step.
Configure WordPress Settings
Now that you’re logged in to your WordPress blog, let’s first set up some basic stuff.
In your WordPress dashboard, click Settings. You should now in the General tab.
- You should have your Site Title and Tagline configured during the WordPress installation. But if you haven’t, you can do it here.
- Make sure to change both of the URLs from http:// to https://.
- Make sure your Administration Email Address is correct for admin purposes.
- Configure your Site Language and Timezone if you need to.
- Configure your Date and Time settings if you need to.
- Then Save Changes.
Next, under Settings, click Reading.
Under Your homepage displays, the default option should be Your latest posts.
You can keep that option selected until you have a custom landing page designed for lead generation purposes, then you can change it to A static page.
But it’s perfectly fine to keep displaying your latest posts on your homepage. Many established blogs still do that.
Under Search engine visibility, make sure the box is unchecked. You want search engines to index your site.
Next up, let’s configure some settings to prevent spam. Under Settings, click Discussion.
- I chose to untick both of these options to avoid unwantedly linking to spammy blogs. You can have them ticked if you want to enable pingbacks and trackbacks.
- To prevent spam comments, make sure you tick this option to require comment authors to fill out their names and emails.
- I like to get notified whenever a comment comes in and is held for moderation.
- I highly suggest ticking both of these options to prevent spam.
Last but not least, move over to Permalinks and change the Permalink Settings to Post name.
You want your post URLs to be SEO friendly, so try to make it short and sweet.
Create a Menu
Now, let’s create a basic main menu so you have something to show on your blog.
In your WordPress dashboard, click Appearance then select Menus.
Then, do the following:
- Click create a new menu.
- Name the menu whatever you want. Others won’t see it.
- Choose where to display the menu. The options here may vary depending on your theme, but let’s just choose the Primary Menu for now.
I like to keep my navigation menu simple, so I only have four pages on it.
Now, let’s talk about how to create them one by one.
To add a link to my homepage, I used Custom Links.
Under Add menu items, click Custom Links to expand the section.
- In the URL field, enter the homepage of your blog.
- Decide the Link Text you want it to be on the menu.
- Click Add to Menu.
To showcase all my blog posts under one section, I created a category called Blog.
To do that, head over to Posts, click Categories, then Add New Category.
In the Name field, enter what you want to appear on the menu. In the Slug field, it should be the same as the Category Name.
But if your Category Name is longer than one word, then the Slug will have a hyphen between those words.
Now head back to the Menus, you should be able to add the Category that you’ve just created to the menu.
About & Contact
The last two on my navigation menu are About page and Contact page.
These are the easy ones. Just click Pages from the sidebar and Add New to create two new pages.
For the Contact page, I use the Form feature in Kadence Blocks. It’s free and a must-have — more on that later.
After you add all the items to your menu, you can rearrange them however you want by dragging them up or down.
And when you're done, click Save Menu.
With that, you’ve completed the basic WordPress settings. Great job!
In the next step, we’re gonna talk about WordPress themes and customizing the design.
Pick a Free Theme
If WordPress is completely foreign to you, I recommend you start with a free theme.
Here’s the thing:
If you’re a new blogger, being able to pump out content onto your blog is far more important than having your blog designed well.
In the beginning, probably no one will notice your blog, anyway.
(Except, of course, yourself and your mom.)
So a free theme is more than enough to begin with.
While researching for a free WordPress theme, I stumbled upon Kadence WP — a theme launched a couple of months ago and has been all the rage ever since.
I tried it out, and guess what?
I grabbed their Black Friday deal for the lifetime membership that’s inclusive of all of their products.
I spent a little over a day to customize the theme and let me tell you this:
I absolutely love it!
But to make it look amazing, I had to install many plugins to make all those customizations possible.
As a result, pages became really heavy.
Kadence, on the other hand, has many built-in features that I had to install plugins on Johannes — and other themes for that matter — to make those features work.
And Kadence theme and its features are optimized so well to work together.
Meaning I could remove a bunch of unnecessary plugins and still be able to optimize the page loading speed from these:
The desktop test might not be much different, but the mobile one is huge. Kadence is over 100% faster than Johannes on mobile.
The good news for you is that you can download Kadence theme for free. Or you could get the Pro version to unlock some really amazing features.
To install free Kadence theme, in your WordPress dashboard, click Appearance then Themes.
At the top of your screen, click Add New.
Type in Kadence to the search bar on the top right, then click the Install button.
Once the installation is complete, click Activate to activate the theme.
You’ve installed the best WordPress theme of 2020 (possibly 2021 too). Great job.
Now, I can’t show you every little detail about customizing your blog because design is a highly subjective matter.
What matters to me might not matter to you.
So I recommend playing around for yourself and getting familiar with the theme options and the entire WordPress dashboard.
If you ever feel stuck, feel free to visit Kadence’s Knowledge Base for guidance.
PS: If you're a Kadence Pro user, you can use their support ticket system, should you encounter any issues or need help in any way. Their support is phenomenal — personally tried and tested by yours truly.
With that, let’s talk about the essential plugins that you should have on your blog.
Install Essential Plugins
Plugins allow us to achieve results we wouldn’t otherwise be possible without knowing how to code or hiring a web developer.
But installing too many plugins on your blog is a recipe for disaster. Your site will get heavy and load slowly.
So to find a balance, you should only install plugins that you truly need and are essential.
Now let’s talk about a couple of plugins that I think you should have installed on your site:
With WordPress 5.5 update, the Gutenberg editor is getting much better. But Kadence Blocks gives you even more flexibility and functionality to customize your content.
The best part?
Kadence Blocks is optimized to work well with Kadence theme for optimal performance. So install it with peace of mind.
And it’s free. There’s a pro version if you need, but feel free to play around with the free one.
In fact, if you have Kadence Blocks Pro, you should be able to customize your pages however you want.
Meaning unless you want to do some really advanced stuff, you probably don’t need a full-blown page builder like Elementor, Divi, Beaver Builder, etc.
Pro Tip: Use the Form feature in Kadence Blocks to create a contact form for your Contact page. One fewer plugin to install on your site.
Rank Math SEO is the best free SEO WordPress plugin that helps optimize your posts, pages, and site for better Google rankings.
It also integrates with Google services to provide your analytics in one place to see how well your posts are doing within WordPress.
And a bunch of more other features, all for free.
PS: They've recently launched Rank Math PRO, but please do some research and see if you really need it. I use the free version and don't see myself upgrading anytime soon.
Sometimes you need to add a code snippet to the header or footer section of your site for verification or tracking purposes…
… this is a great (and free) plugin to do that without having to mess with the site’s coding.
Images are one of the main reasons why sites are loading slowly. This plugin automatically compresses images on your site without sacrificing the image quality.
Unless you compare the before and after side by side, I doubt you can spot any difference.
I used to manually compress images on Optimizilla before uploading them to my site…
… but after doing some tests, I realized ShortPixel could compress the images to smaller sizes while keeping them at a higher quality.
So I’d say ShortPixel is definitely a must-have plugin on your site.
If affiliate marketing is one of your monetization strategies, you’re gonna need this.
Essentially, what it does is it prettifies your long affiliate links that are full of random numbers and letters, so they look nice and clean.
For instance, my ClickFunnels affiliate link may look like this:
But after prettification, it becomes this:
Much better, right?
6. WP Rocket (Paid) / W3 Total Cache (Free)
Both WP Rocket and W3 Total Cache are great and allow you to tweak the settings the way you want.
I’ve compared the performance between the two, and honestly, the difference is insignificant.
But WP Rocket does offer more features that work pretty much out of the box, and for that, I like it better than W3 Total Cache.
If you’re willing to pay, I’d say go for WP Rocket. But if you want a free one, W3 Total Cache is more than enough to get you started.
7. (Optional) Akismet Anti-Spam
This is a great tool to protect your blog from spam. If you only have one site, you can choose the personal plan, which is free.
If your blog is new, you probably don’t need it just yet. So only use it if you need it.
Write Your First Blog Post
I have a confession:
As a new blogger myself, I’m still learning to write blog posts without judging my writing.
That’s precisely why there aren’t many posts (yet) on my blog — guiltily struggling with perfectionism.
But I want to keep this guide comprehensive and provide you enough value to help you get started…
… so, I decided to include content from two bloggers and marketers that I respect for you to learn from.
This definitive guide by Brian Dean covers everything you need to know to write your first blog post.
Brian Dean is my absolute favorite person in the entire blogosphere. I highly recommend subscribing to him everywhere possible.
Another one is Neil Patel. Though his writing style doesn’t stand out to me, I admire his authenticity and the amount of value he provides on his blog and YouTube channel.
And here’s one of his videos about writing a blog post:
How to Make Money from Your Blog
Honestly, there are just so many ways to make money from your blog that I don’t think it makes sense to list them all out.
So I’m just going to share a couple of my personal favorites based on my past five years’ experience in the internet marketing space.
1. Affiliate Marketing
This is hands down my absolute favorite way to monetize a blog.
If you run a personal or affiliate blog like me, affiliate marketing is undoubtedly your best bet.
In fact, the guide that you’re reading now is the real-life practice of it.
I researched and tested a bunch of web hosting companies and weed out those I won’t personally use.
Then I wrote a step-by-step guide to show you how to start a blog with the web hosting companies I recommend and would personally use.
And if you make a purchase through my links, I’ll make a commission.
(Did you click my links to purchase, though?)
The great thing is that I don’t have to deal with after-sale service.
Because I bring in new customers and revenue to the company, they happily pay me a portion of that revenue as a commission.
2. Partnerships / Sponsorships
Generally speaking, how this works is that you’re getting paid by a brand or company to promote their products to your readers.
To do that, you need to have already figured out who your audience is and have a consistent readership every month.
When you get to that point, you could add this to your arsenal of monetization strategies.
3. Display Advertising
This may not be the greatest monetization strategy in your arsenal, but it can still be a great source of income with the right implementation.
Ad networks like MediaVine, AdThrive, Google Adsense, etc., offer to pay you a certain amount of money per 1,000 impressions — aka Cost Per Mille (CPM) or Revenue Per Mille (RPM) — to display their clients’ ads on your website.
Depending on your niche, your CPM or RPM could be significantly higher or lower than others.
And suffice to say, to generate meaningful income from this, you need to have a tremendous amount of monthly readers.
4. Digital Products
Once you have developed expertise that people want to learn, you could start creating digital products like online courses and ebooks for sale.
Brian Dean used to be an affiliate blogger before launching Backlinko. When he eventually decided to go the authority route, he started providing insane amounts of value on Backlinko and only making money with online courses.
So these are the monetization strategies that I would personally use. If you need more inspiration, check out my post about more ways to make money online…
So… What Do You Think?
Now I want to hear from you.
What do you think of this step-by-step guide?
Which web hosting company have you decided to go for?
Let me know in the comment section below.