How To Start A Blog (The Definitive Guide)

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Starting A Blog

Welcome to the definitive guide to starting a blog. Click a link to jump to a specific step, or read the full guide on how to start a blog.

So you want to start a blog? You’re in the right spot. Learning how to start a blog is a question I get quite a bit and instead of answering pieces here & there, I decided to take everything I know about starting a blog and create a definitive resource to reference at any time. I’ve built multiple blogs (beyond just the Impossible Ventures) with traffic ranging from 10,000 and 900,000 visits/month. In addition to my own sites, I also run an online marketing agency that has built and optimized sites for dozens and dozens of clients.

But, more importantly, I know how hard it is to start a blog in the first place.  When I first wanted tried to teach myself how to start a blog,I knew absolutely nothing. I deleted my database 3 times simply because I had no idea what I was doing. Needless to say that I used up a lot of time and cuss words trying to figure out how to start a blog on my own. I know what it’s like.

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However, over the past 3 years online, I’ve actually learned quite a bit about how to start a blog. I no longer randomly delete databases (hooray!) and I’ve even made some money off of the blogs I have started. In fact, over time, I’ve slowly started to figure out what I’m doing and I’ve actually created a systemized checklist to use to save me time every time I create a new blog.

After getting lots of requests on how exactly I go about starting a blog, I took my checklist, polished it up, and decided to share this definitive guide with a wider audience. So, if you’re looking to learn how to start a blog from scratch – here’s your step-by-step guide. Lets get started.

Blog Quickstart Guide

If you want to skip the “how to start a blog” tutorial and just grab the tools I use to get started with blogging, here are the top tools and resources I recommend. You’ll find them again at the end, so feel free to read the entire post first before coming back to these. Important: don’t become obsessive over the tools of blogging. HOW you write is just as important as WHAT you use to write. Remember that.

Domain Name: Get Your Free Domain with BlueHost Hosting

Hosting Provider: Bluehost Hosting Special – $3.95/month (56% off)

WordPress: Genesis Framework | Genesis Child Themes

Plugins: Yoast SEO | Gravity Forms | Lead Pages | Pretty Link | WP Super Cache

Email Newsletter: $1 AWeber Trial | Infusionsoft

Coaching Course: Start A Blog That Matters

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If you’re ready to jump into the world of writing & blogging, start reading!

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Starting With WordPress

Recommended WordPress.org Self Hosted

If you want to build out your blog or other platform, just use WordPress. If you want to know how to start a blog, WordPress is hands down the easiest and simplest way to build a site. Don’t over-think things here. Yes, there are free alternatives, but WordPress is the best system out there and it’s used by the majority of bloggers for a reason. If you’re serious about creating a site or a long-term web presence, WordPress is really the only option worth considering. For that reason, the rest of this guide on how to start a blog assumes you’ll use the WordPress framework.

How To Set Up Your Blog

Blogging Tools & Resources

Find A Killer Domain Name

First things first, in order to start a blog, you need to brainstorm domain names.

If you can, keep your domain name short (Impossible HQ is much easier to remember than Blog of Impossible Things). Unfortunately most one word domains are taken at this point in time. Don’t fear, there are still plenty of good domains out there.

Free services like LeanDomainSearch or Bust A Name can help you generate domain ideas and see if they’re available. Trust me, I know – I’ve got nearly 100 domains (I may or may not have a problem). If you can, get a .com, .net, or .org. A .com is obviously preferred, but any of the top 3 are fine.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you absolutely need a .com domain. Two of the biggest blogs on the internet (ZenHabits.net and GetRichSlowly.org) both have non-dot-com domains and they’re some of the most trafficked in the world – so it’s not the end of the world if you can’t get a .com. It’s more important to find a domain name that’s memorable and easy to spell. I’ll show you how to find and buy an awesome domain in the video tutorial below.

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How To Find & Buy An Awesome Domain Name Video Tutorial

Buy Your Domain Name

Get Your Free Domain with Bluehost

Once you decide on a domain, you need to pony up the cash and register it. GoDaddy is probably the most well known place to register domain names because it has terrible commercials like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-3j4-4N3Ng

Because it’s so well known, it’s where most people start. I started there but I (like everyone I know) soon got out as quickly as possible. The user experience is horrible and they’re always trying to sell you on something that you don’t need. On top of that, they have terrible commercials and their CEO poaches elephants. I’m not a fan of PETA, but overall the company is not one I really want to be giving my money to.

Don’t play games, but if you register to host your blog with Bluehost (we’ll talk about this in a second), you can setup a domain with them for almost no hassle. You can pick up a .com/.net/.org domain will cost you $7-10/year which is dirt cheap, and no-brainer investment if you’re really serious about starting a blog.

Get A Hosting Provider For Your Blog

Recommended Choice: Bluehost Hosting

Once you buy a domain name, you need somewhere to store your files. If you think about your website like a house, the domain name is the address, but the hosting service is the house itself – it’s where you put all the stuff. Now, there are a ton of different hosting options out there for your brand new blog, but I use Bluehost & I convinced the team over there to hook up IMPOSSIBLE readership with a 56% discount on your hosting package (just $3.95).


For the sake of transparency, I started out hosting my sites with BlueHost. Since then, I’ve gone back & forth, but host 90% of my websites with Bluehost (serving over ~900,000 visits in a month).

Install WordPress For Your Blog

Install WordPress

The WordPress install can be done in a few different ways, depending on your hosting provider (but they’re all really simple still). I recommend you use Bluehost. Here’s a quick video on how you install WordPress on your Bluehost hosting environment.

How To Install WordPress In Less Than 5 Minutes (with Bluehost Hosting) Video Tutorial

Installing WordPress is really, really simple. In fact, it’s so easy that WordPress calls it the “famous 5 minute install.” However, if you really don’t want to deal with any of this, you can call up your hosting support with Bluehost and have them install it for you. You can also watch the quick video tutorial above and watch me walk you through exactly how to install WordPress yourself (because, lets face it, you’re a go-getter), and want to get started on your blog straight away.

How To Install A WordPress Theme & Child Theme Video Tutorial

Install The Genesis Framework for WordPress

Recommended Choice: Genesis

Genesis is the framework I wish I would have known about when I first learned how to start a blog. It’s a rock solid basic framework and the foundation for a lot of great child themes and custom designs. It also comes with a solid SEO codebase and a responsive theme (one that displays well on mobiles, tablets and desktops right out of the box). With the influx of new devices on the market, this is absolutely mandatory for anyone starting a blog. I start all new sites, projects and blogs based on the Genesis framework and will be transitioning all remaining ones onto it in 2013.

How To Install The Genesis Framework For WordPress

Get A Solid Child Theme For Your Blog

You can use the Genesis framework to build your blog right out of the box but, if you want to add a little design flair to your site, you’ll want to get a child theme. There’s a bunch of genesis wordpress themes you can check out here. If you want to get off the ground quick, this is your ticket. And don’t worry, the Genesis theme and the child theme combined will run you less than $100 combined. That’s a pretty solid deal when you consider that starting a blog with a custom responsive theme can run you over 5k on its own.

Dig around with a bunch of genesis child themes and go nuts!

Set Genesis Up To Suit Your Needs

Once you’ve got Genesis installed and you’ve chosen your child theme, you can start playing around with the theme settings to create a blog that is 100% yours.

A Guided Tour Of The Genesis Framework For WordPress Theme Settings

Install Essential WordPress Blog Plugins

Plugins are a tricky territory. On the one hand, they can expand the functionality of your site tenfold if you use them effectively. On the other hand, it’s easy to go overboard and install a bunch of plugins that either do the same thing or don’t add much to your site other than bloat your code and slow your site down. You can waste a lot of time and energy on these if you try to wade through them yourself when you’re first learning how to start a blog. It can take a lot of time & a lot of coffee to figure it all out.

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You’re in luck. I’ve taken the guesswork out of this equation. After 3 years of installing and uninstalling hundreds (even thousands) of plugins, I’ve filtered out the good from the bad and settled on a few plugins that I can’t live with out – my essential WordPress plugins for starting a blog. I use these plugins on every single one of my site setups. If you want a quick primer – check out the best wordpress plugins here:

How To Install A WordPress Plugin Video Tutorial

Yoast WordPress SEO

Yoast WordPress SEO is hands down the best SEO plugin out there (and it’s free). It gives you a super simple way to understand and evaluate SEO on your posts (with a simple red/yellow/green mark) without having to delve into a masters course on title tags and meta descriptions. This is the best way to do a quick SEO evaluation of your sites without wasting hours and hours of your time trying to figure out your keyword density on a page.

Gravity Forms

There are a ton of contact forms out there, but Gravity Forms is the only one I use now due to its simplicity in setting up. Because some other form plugins don’t work with every theme – I bought a developers license and just use Gravity Forms across the board now.

Even though Gravity Forms is a paid plugin, it’s absolutely worth it. It’s rock solid, it won’t break & the support is great for any questions you do have. It makes form building easy again. Simply build the form, post it on the page like you would a photo or video and bam. There’s your contact form. Dead simple. Use it.

Simple Social Shares Plugin

Social plugins make it simple for people to share your content. This one is coded up the one & only Brian Gardner (the guy behind Genesis). This social plugin is the fastest, cleanest plugin I’ve seen out there. I use it here on Impossible and you can see exactly what it looks like at the bottom of this post. Pretty slick! Oh yeah, it’s free.

Pretty Link

Pretty link allows you to create quick, “pretty” links that redirect to wherever you like. You can use this for making short links to different content or off-site links that you want to track. It comes in a free (lite) version and a pro version if you need a few more features. This is absolutely the easiest way to make short links and redirects that’s easy to make & trackable.

Lead Pages

If you need to create landing pages in order to drive email captures or sell something down the road, Lead Pages makes things stupid simple. I used to use Premise, but Lead Pages has made it obsolete. It’s replaced Premise, Launch Effect & Optimize Press across all my sites. It’s even got a “Welcome Gate” plugin for free that is a non-annoying variation on a pop-up. It seems a bit pricey at first ($200), but if you sell anything of any magnitude, it more than makes up for it. It’s created the highest converting landing pages for me that I’ve ever had & it’s not only simple to use, but you also get an end result that looks pretty good too and integrated directly with wordpress. It’s also responsive – so the pages show up great, no matter if you use a desktop, tabler or mobile device.

Akismet

If you like getting notified about “great deals on gucci purses” or free offers to grow your nether regions, don’t install this. If you’d rather not get spammed to high heaven, install Akismet and forget about spam forever. If you want to start a blog, you’ll want this one (if you’re not sure why, just wait until the spam starts coming).

To activate Akismet, you’ll need a personal API key which you can  pick up below for free:

WordPress Super Cache

Along with having a good host, a solid caching plugin will do the second most important job in keeping your site up during a traffic spike. A caching plugin basically reduces how much data your blog has to load every time one of your site’s pages loads. That reduces bandwith and can keep your site online if you ever get a burst of traffic that’s over your server’s head. While traffic spikes sound awesome in theory, when they crash your site and you get a huge influx of visitors who can’t see anything, it’s significantly less awesome.

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Start An Email List

If you’re learning how to start a blog, you need to get an email list.

Other than simply starting to blog, this is the most important thing you must do.

You need to create an email list. Now. Like seriously now. Click this link, start a trial for $1 & go do it.

This will cost you if you don’t do it.

I know, because I’m the idiot who didn’t do this the first time he tried to start a blog. Look:

  1. The first blog I ever set up, I neglected to set up an email capture for the first 9 months. 0 subscribers for 9 months. Oops. BAD
  2. The second blog I made, I didn’t have an incentive offer for my email and got ~200 subscribers in 6 months. SLIGHTLY LESS BAD, BUT STILL TERRIBLE.
  3. The third blog I created, I finally learned my lesson, set my email list up from the get-go and got 1,000 subscribers in a month. GOOD!

Get the picture? MAKE AN EMAIL LIST. It’s that important.

So how do you actually go about making an email list? Well, which email provider should you use? Here’s how I usually break it down.

Mailchimp

  • Mailchimp is free for the first 2,000 users. If you want free – go with MailChimp.

AWeber

Infusionsoft

  • If you’re a baller who needs to cross-sell, up-sell and do crazy things with your contact database, choose Infusionsoft (Infusionsoft is pretty expensive but worth it if you have 10k+ subscribers and 3 or more products).

I’ve used all three for both myself and for clients who are starting blogs. Mailchimp is good for trying things out. AWeber makes sense as you get more serious and Infusionsoft is really awesome if you’re willing to spend the time figuring out the complicated aspects of it.

How To Write A Great Blog

Now, if you’re going to start a blog, you’re going to want to make sure it’s actually good. Here’s how you go about starting a blog that doesn’t suck.

Write

This is the hard part. You actually have to write! Shocker, right? This is the part where most wannabe bloggers fall off. They don’t blog! They’ll create and set up a dozen half-baked ideas, but when it comes down to writing, they never execute.

Execute. Write. Repeat.

Over and over and over again.

Create A Schedule

Create a schedule and stick to it.

I’d almost go so far as to say this is mandatory for new bloggers who are trying to learn how to start a blog. Once, twice, or 3 times a week. It doesn’t matter. Just pick a schedule and stick to it.

People say “it doesn’t matter”, but it does. If you want to form a new habit (and blogging is a habit), you need to set a schedule and stick to it.

Yes, you will suck at first. Yes, you will probably have zero readers. But having a schedule will make you commit to focus on executing, which in turn will help you get better, which in turn will help you gain more readers.

Make a schedule and stick to it!

Be Interesting

The first mistake that most people make when learning how to start a blog is that they’re terribly boring. Seriously.

Don’t write about your cat. Your cat is probably awesome, but nobody cares about your cat.

If you want to write interesting things, be interesting yourself. Do something interesting with your life. Then write about them. People are drawn to good (read: interesting) stories. Live one, then write about it.

Don’t Be Uninteresting

Seriously, if you bore people, they will leave. I can’t emphasize this enough.

Solve Problems

Nobody cares about your cat, remember? So, instead of writing about stuff that only you care about (i.e. your cat), write about stuff that other people care about as well. Find out what problems people have and figure out how you can help them solve their problems.

You have to give people a good reason to stay on your site and read your words, and the best way to do that is to answer a specific question that they’re asking. Once you do that, you start to become trusted and your readers might even come back to read more!

Answer Questions

If you’re confused about what sort of problems people need solving, ask questions and then answer them.

Tell A Good Story

People love a good story. Stories have the ability to connect with people and relay truth like nothing else. If you tell a good story, you won’t have any trouble being interesting.

Be Honest

Make sure to be honest. Storytelling is great, but making up a work of fiction and pretending it’s fact is not only lame, but stupid.

Be honest.

You don’t want to build a reputation based on deceiving people. People can spot a liar from a mile away. Even if you somehow manage to evade their B.S. detectors, it’s not worth it. You will be found out. It’s also way easier to keep your stories straight. Get this right when you first start your blog and you’re way ahead of most people.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything. - Mark Twain

 

Keys To Starting A Successful Blog

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I’m not the biggest blogger in the world, but after doing this for several years, I feel like I’ve figured out a few things that work. They may suffer from survivorship bias, but these keys to successful blogging are still worth considering, in my opinion, if you’re really serious about learning how to start a blog.

Don’t Give Up

If you like to quit things as soon as they get hard, just go find something else to do because blogging takes a long time. The main differentiator between those who start a blog and succeed eventually and those who don’t is whether or not they keep going (screw blogging, this is true in almost everything in life). If you want to know how to start a blog, there’s one thing that’s really important: don’t give up.

Seriously Don’t Give Up

Blogging isn’t for quitters.

Get Some Thick Skin

Get used to these words: gay, dumb, stupid, lame, suck, and a bunch of more profane ones. If you’re going to start a blog, you better grow some thick skin to deal with this one simple fact: some people will not like you. If you’re going to get hurt over that, either stop or get over it quick.

Grow some thick skin and realize that being insulted is better than being ignored. Keep going anyways.

Follow Through: Do What You Say

If you say you’re going to do something, just do it.

Get Good Photos

Attention new bloggers: If you want to start a blog and do one thing to make you blog really stand out, you need to get good photos.

Good photos can make or break a site design. Great photos can turn a stock theme that everyone and their brother has into a semi-professional looking site that’s instantly recognized as yours.

So many people neglect this area, but putting a little effort into nailing this can be huge in setting your site and you apart as you learn how to start a blog.

I can never understand how people are willing to spend $5,000 on a custom site design and unwilling to spend a couple hundred bucks getting a decent photo of their mug (Instagram selfies don’t count). Get good photos – people will notice.

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Blog From Your Life

If you want to start a blog, your blog should flow out of what you actually do. This goes along with being honest and congruent about what you say and what you do.

Your blog should be an extension of your life, but it shouldn’t be your whole life. If you really want to know how to start a blog, this might be the most important piece of advice you read.

Some Bad Blogging Advice

There’s a lot of different advice out there when it comes to blogs. A lot of it is bad. Here’s some bad blogging advice that you’d do well to avoid.

Just “add value” and write “EPIC” content about “stuff that matters” and readers will come in droves.

No one quite knows what this means and everyone says it. It’s relatively annoying, especially when you’re first learning how to start a blog. Ignore this.

Better advice: Answer questions, give direction, provide resources, solve problems.

Make Sure You’re On Every Social Networking Site Known To Man

Make sure you set up every single social media page available. I hear this “social” stuff is gonna be big.

Better Advice: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest. These are all promotion outlets, not creation outlets. Create content first (stuff worth sharing), then move on to worrying about promoting it later. Instead of jumping on 20 social networks at once, focus on 1 or 2 avenues and do those really well. Also, don’t take any advice from this guy.

Focus All Your Effort on SEO

SEO is powerful, but if you spend all your time focusing on writing SEO content, your content will probably suck, and no one will want to read it. If you’re first learning how to start a blog, it’s best not to focus too much on this and simply focus on writing.

Better Advice: Write for people first and search engines second.

Completely Neglect SEO

At the same time, there are people who brag about being ignorant of SEO. I think it’s a little disingenuous and a little dumb to be careless about this once you’re a few months into blogging and can actually see which terms people are using to find your site. SEO is hugely powerful and changing one word can sometimes have huge implications if you’re just learning how to start a blog.

Better Advice: Be aware of SEO opportunities, and capitalize on them when possible, but don’t obsess over them or scoff at them.

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Essential Blogging Tools Overview

In case you forgot, here’s the super quick overview of all the blogging tools you need in order to learn how to start a blog:

Domain Name Registrar: Get Your FREE Domain with Bluehost

Hosting Provider: $3.95 Bluehost Hosting (56% off) + a FREE Domain

WordPress: Genesis Framework

Plugins: Yoast SEOGravity FormsLeadPages | WP Super Cache

Email: $1 Aweber Email Trial

If you have any more questions about how to start a blog, leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to help!

Now that you’re ready to start a blog – get out there & start blogging!

More Blogging Resources

If you want more resources on starting a blog, check out 25 Blogging Tips for New Bloggers. You can also download this guide in a handy How To Start A Blog pdf download for easy reference anywhere you go.

For a couple good reads on making money from blogging:

Honest Hosting Reviews

It’s hard these days to find solid reviews of various web hosting companies. I’ve worked with a lot of them – you can find my reviews of them below.

Special Hosting Discount


BOOM

Boom.

There you go. That’s the definitive guide on how to start a blog. You should be all set to start your blog & get writing. Any questions? Leave them below & I’ll do my best to answer them.

Bonus Blog Tip (The Best One You’ll Ever Get)

No matter what – whether this is the first time you’re learning how to start a blog or the 20th one in the making, make sure you have fun with it all. Life’s too short to take things too seriously. Have fun out there & start blogging!

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Free Blogging Alternatives: WordPress | Blogspot | Tumblr

Comments

  1. Angela says

    Like many people, I probably have to start out with as many free programs as possible, until I can afford everything else…So – is it easy enough to convert my whole “free” blog later on by just copy/pasting text/images into the “paid” blog later on? Or would that just be a complicated nightmare? Your Advice?

    • says

      Nightmare. It can be done, but when the total cost to starting a real blog is only $100/year (what most people pay for cable or their phone in a single month), if you’re serious about starting a blog – it’s definitely worth paying the money up front.

      • Angela says

        Thanks for your advice – I figured you’ve been there, done that and would know. The information you have provided on this website is spectacular – and easy to understand, even for a very beginner. I appreciate all your hard work!

  2. Aileen says

    Is the content of the blog protected in any way from being copied and pasted all over the internet? Such as if I create my own knitting patterns and want to sell them on my site? Or writing short stories?

    thanks

    • says

      Aileen,

      Unfortunately there is no way to prevent others from copying and pasting your unique content all over the internet. But that shouldn’t be a major concern for you.

      Just concentrate on consistently providing your visitors with high quality content. Google knows that you produced the content first, so your website won’t get negatively impacted by someone else taking your content and pretending that it’s there’s.

  3. Michael Lynch says

    Are you suggesting Genesis for beginners – can you explain your thinking. Surely it’s complete overkill. They’d need months just to figure out genesis, never mind start a blog.

    • says

      Hey Michael,

      Genesis is a solid framework and gives them something solid to work on right out of the gate. I’m not suggesting people start learning to develop or create custom themes – they can grab one of the genesis child themes & be up & running in less than a day.

  4. Juan Romero says

    Hey Joel, great post. I have a question regarding the difference between hosting and website building. I started a website with WIX however, it offers its own way to upgrade to having a personal domain name and such. What is the difference between upgrading, and having a host? Any clarification will be useful.
    Thanks,
    Juan Romero

    • says

      Hey Juan,

      Something like wix is a hosted platform – basically they host all your content, etc and you don’t have complete control over it. You *can* do that, but I don’t recommend that at all since I like actually controlling my content (plus a lot of Wix sites are run in flash which is basically unusable on mobile). If I were you, I’d switch to WordPress.

  5. Ashish says

    Hi Joel,

    Great post man. I’ve been contemplating starting a blog for sometime now and impossibleHQ was the kick that finally pushed me off the edge and provided the incentive to just go ahead and do it. I’d like your advice about one matter though. I didn’t research enough initially and I got my domain name from GoDaddy. Now, if I start hosting with bluehost, they offer me a domain name which is free (for 1 year, I think). So should I buy another domain from bluehost or use the godaddy one only? Which is better, in your opinion?

    Thanks :)

  6. Cynthia Church says

    Hi Joel,
    Thanks for your great stuff. Uncle Mori and I have an IMPOSSIBLE challenge for you. You will have to call us! Your an amazing man!! Love you Aunt Cynthia

  7. says

    I love this blog post. I am brand new to the blogging world. I have recently launched a blog style website that includes contributors beyond myself. I have run two businesses prior to this, but this is a whole new bag. Your words about sticking with it are very inspirational…I don’t think one can know how hard it is to ‘get out there’ until they get started. Thanks for the exceptional tips and I will revisit this post whenever I am havin’ a bad day :)

  8. Neha Mehra says

    Thanks a ton Joel for sharing this.I was about to give up on blogging but now i feel like i shouldn’t.This article has really motivated me and i am all set to give this a try once again with a new improved way.Thanks a ton man

  9. Cassandra Alley says

    I am thinking about trying to start a blog, preferably for a little bit of profit, and I am wondering about taxes. How do you handle your taxes in relation to your blog income? Thank you!

  10. says

    Really well written and insightful article. I just started my blog a week back and as you mentioned, the first thing I am focusing now is writing good content and creating a list of emails. Its grows up to be a huge advantage in long run. I am strategically designing my blog to collect emails like this one. Probably next thing I ll do is backlink creation. Thanks for this resourceful post! :)

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