How to Start a Blog from Scratch (2020): A Practical Step by Step Guide

Do you want to start a blog from nothing, but don't know how or where to get started? If that sounds like you, you are at the right place. 

I have written this 5000+ words blogging tutorial keeping the beginners in mind. I have tried to explain each step in detail by incorporating appropriate screenshot images when and where necessary. 

In this step by step guide, I am going to show you how to start a blog from scratch by starting one myself. This guide has been updated for the year 2020. So if you are searching for the perfect blogging guide in 2020, this is it.  

Now, let's jump right in and start building a blog together. 

Here's how it is going to work.

We are going to follow a step-by-step blogging success blueprint to start a blog on WordPress today. This is the same blueprint which enabled me to build my blog business online and make money with it.

This is what I have been doing for several years now to build multiple blogs online. And this is how many successful bloggers of today, started their blogging journey.

Step-by-step we are going to accomplish each of the things mentioned in the blueprint and build a blog together. 

But before that, there is one thing left to do.

And that is to understand the basic principles of blogging. Without a strong foundation, it is going to be difficult to start a successful blog online. 

To make the concepts of blogging clearer for you I have given below a bunch of frequently asked questions about blogging and their answers. Click on the question to expand it and read the answer.

What Is a Blog?

A blog is basically a website where the articles/posts are arranged in reverse chronological order. Meaning, your latest article will appear on the top and the oldest one in the end. A blog is dynamic in nature and is updated regularly unlike websites which tend to be static. Also, the content included in a blog is mostly written in a conversational style.  

Should You Start a Blog?

Absolutely. We believe everyone who wants to make an impact online should start a blog. Whether you want to grow an audience, gain loyal customers for your business, or earn money online, blogging is the way to go about it. Blogging is easy and powerful. 

Should You Start a Free Blog?

Of course not. Free blogs don't look professional and can hurt your business. Also, the content you publish on a free blog, can be deleted by the hosting company anytime, without asking for your permission or giving you any reasons.

A free blog also comes with many other limitations that will hurt your growth. There is no reason to opt for a free blog in today's world when you can get a self hosted blog solution for less than $10 per month. 

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Blog?

The money you need to start a blog varies depending on the type of web hosting, themes, plugins, and other services you choose for your blog. In this demo we are going to show you how to get started with a blog for less than $100/year

Is Blogging Dead in 2020?

Of course not. It is more alive than ever. Just because people like watching videos it doesn't mean that they have forgotten how to read. Trust us. People still love reading. In fact, most people like to read and understand about a product just before making a buying decision. So blogging is still a powerful way to build a business online and make money in 2020. 

The Blogging Success Blueprint

I hope that answered some of your basic questions. Now let's get started with the action plan that is going to help us start a blog from scratch and make money with it. Here are the steps we are going to accomplish in this tutorial. 

  • Choose a topic for the blog
  • Register a domain name
  • Register a web hosting
  • Connect the domain name and web hosting
  • Install WordPress
  • Initial Site Setup
  • Installing plugins and themes
  • Customising the WordPress theme
  • Creating Menu
  • Publishing posts
  • Connect Google Analytics
  • Connect Webmaster tools to the blog

Tools Needed to Start a Blog and The Expenses

Before we start building a blog it is important to have a look at the tools and resources we are going to need for this tutorial, their importance and the expenses involved. 

I have tried to keep the requirements as minimal as possible considering the fact that most people who read this article are beginners and may have a limited budget. Here is how much you are going to need to start a blog. 

Domain Name

Domain name simply means the name of your website or blog. It is a unique name that you need to purchase from a domain registrar. For example, Smartwebpreneur is the domain name of this blog. Similarly, you are going to need a domain name for your blog. 

For this blogging tutorial, we are going to register a domain name at NameCheap. It will cost you approximately $9 per year.

Web Hosting

Web hosting is the service which provides you with the server space to host your websites and blogs. Meaning, your website files will be hosted on these servers and will be made available to your web visitors around the world 24x7. This is how your website remains online and is always accessible.

The web hosting we are going to use for this blog tutorial is SiteGround. SiteGround is one of the best web hosting solutions for bloggers. It is easy to use and has all the features necessary for a beginner blogger. The SiteGround hosting is available in 3 plans. 

If you are planning to get web hosting for one blog SiteGround is going to cost you $6.99 per month. If you want web hosting for unlimited websites it is going to cost you $9.99 per month. Remember that these charges are applicable only when you buy the annual hosting plan. 

WordPress

WordPress is the content management system we will be using in this tutorial to build our blog. It is a free CMS and can be easily installed on your domain name using SiteGround. 

Although there are different content management systems available to build a website or blog, WordPress is the most popular choice of bloggers and web designers around the globe.

Now let's see how to start a WordPress blog from scratch. 

Let's Start a Blog on WordPress Step By Step

Choose a Topic for Your Blog

Let's start the blog building process by choosing the topic for your blog. This process is also called as the 'niche selection' process. A niche is a small section of a big market. For example, if you consider 'health' as a market, 'health tips for women over 40' can be called a niche.

It is always a better idea to choose a niche for your blog rather than going after a big market because it is easier to rank that way. 

If you go after general topics like health, wellness, money, and sports, it is going to be very hard for your new blog to outrank big corporate websites like Forbes, Healthline, CNN etc. who have been at the top of search engines for many years for keyword-searches in these industries.

What Are The Big 3 Markets?

Health, wealth and relationship are considered the big three markets online. 

Why Not Go After Big Markets?

If you go after general topics like health, wellness, money, and sports, it is going to be very hard for your new blog to outrank big corporate websites like Forbes, Healthline, CNN etc. who have been at the top of search engines, like forever. So it is a better idea to start with a small niche and then widen your interests once your blog starts growing.

Why Choose a Niche?

Because it is always better to be a big fish in a small pond. Here are the benefits of choosing a niche.

  • Big Markets Are Too Competitive
  • Easier to build a target audience
  • Relatively Easier to rank on search engines
  • Creating a product is easy

How To Choose a Niche?

  • Make a list of things you love to do  based on your skills, knowledge, and talent.
  • Make sure the niche has buyers online. Also, look for profitability.
  • Choose a moderately competitive niche. This can be found out by doing keyword research and competitor analysis using a keyword research tool.

Some Niche Ideas

  • Astronomy
  • Virtual Reality
  • Mom Blog
  • Fishing
  • Weight Lifting
  • Travel Hacks
  • Travel gears
  • Woodworking
  • Sewing / Knitting
  • Restaurant Reviews
  • Running Equipments
  • Weight Loss Motivation
  • Make Money from Pinterest
  • Calligraphy
  • Herbal Teas
  • Pencil Drawing
  • DIY Crafts
  • Homeschooling
  • Best TVs
  • Virtual Reality Gears
  • Health Care Devices
  • Hair Fall Prevention
  • Acne Treatment
  • Blog About Religious Beliefs
  • Wedding Videography
  • Food Photography / Food Videography
  • Watercolor
  • LED lights
  • Music systems
  • Law of Attraction
  • Relationship Advice for Single Women
  • Relationship Advice for Single men
  • Make Money Online as a Work at Home Mom

You can read my article about niche selection, if you want to learn the exact niche selection process. Have a look at my how to choose a niche step by step article. 

'Weight loss diet recipes' is the niche I chose for this blogging tutorial. I will first search for the availability of a domain name that represents the niche and then build a blog on that domain name. 

Choosing and Registering a Domain Name

I have already mentioned above 'what a domain name is'. The domain name is the name of the blog we are going to build. We want a domain name that represents the niche we have chosen. 

Types of Domain Extensions

You may already know that there are numerous domain extensions available online. One of the most popular domain extension is .com. Other than that there are .net and .org domains. These three are the most popular domain extensions.

Then there are other TLDs such as .info, .website, .review, .site, .xyz, etc. There are also country specific domain extensions such as .in, .ca, .us, .de etc. You can read our article about domain names if you want more information. 

Is a Dot Com Domain Better?

There are no reports to show that a dot com domain extension is superior to other domain extensions, SEO wise. But a dot com domain definitely ranks superior when it comes to brandability and popularity. 

Domain Selection Guidelines

Here are the things you need to remember when registering a new domain name.

  • Choose preferably a .com domain name.
  • Pick brandable domain names
  • Pick shorter domain names
  • Don't be too specific
  • Be creative, if the domain you want isn't available
  • Availability of the name on social media sites (optional)
  • Be careful about TRADEMARK issues.

If you want to learn more about the domain selection process, read my article titled How to Choose and Register a Domain Name.

For this demo, I want to get a domain name with the keywords 'weight loss' or 'weight loss recipes' in it. 

Of course, I won't be able to get weightloss dot com or weightlossrecipes dot com because both of these are long gone. So I will need to get creative and search for an alternative domain name.

After searching for the desired domain name for almost half an hour and getting creative, I was able to register the domain name 'weight loss park dot com'. Yes, I got the dot com domain with the keyword 'weight loss' in it. The 'park' is where I got creative :-).

Here's how I registered this domain name step by step. You can follow along and register your domain now. 

To begin the domain registration process we need to select a domain registrar. Now, there are many popular companies online who are authorized to act as the domain registrant. But the one we choose is NameCheap.

They offer some of the cheapest domain registration prices online and also give the 'domain privacy protection feature' free of charge.

Now we can go ahead and start the process by visiting the NameCheap website. 

Once there, we will look for the availability of the domain name of our choice by entering the name in the search box and then clicking search. If the domain name is available, there will be a tick mark along with the price in front of the domain name.

Looks like the domain name we want is available for registration. As you can see in the picture above it will cost us $8.88/year to purchase and own this domain. To continue further we need to click on the 'add to cart' button.

Looks like the total fee we need to pay for registering this domain is $9.06 which includes the ICANN fee of $0.18.

As you can see in the image above, we are being offered WhoisGuard, free forever. This is the privacy protection service which usually costs upwards of $15 per year on other domain registrars. 

Now let's click on the 'confirm order' button and proceed further. On the next page, we need to create a new NameCheap account if we don't already have one. 

Let's just enter some personal details here and create the account. 

Click on the 'create account and continue' button to move forward.  Now on the next page, we need to update our contact information. 

Enter the contact information and then click on the 'continue' button. 

On the next page, we need to choose a payment method and finish the payment.

Once the payment is processed successfully we will be able to see the domain name we just registered in our dashboard.

Also, an email will be sent to the address you just submitted when creating the account. This email contains a confirmation link clicking which you need to confirm the ownership of the email address. Only after your confirmation, the domain registration will be complete. 

Now we have completed the first step of the blog creation process. Next, we will have to buy a web hosting account for the blog. 

Signing Up for Web Hosting and Installing WordPress

As mentioned earlier, the hosting company of our choice is SiteGround and that's what we will be using today. 

To get started, visit the SiteGround web hosting page using the link below. 

Now choose the web hosting section and click on 'get started'. 

On the next page, there are three web hosting packages to choose from. As a beginner blogger, your top choice should be either the 'StartUp' plan or the 'GrowBig' plan. With the 'StartUp' plan you can host only one of your websites whereas with the 'GrowBig' plan you can host unlimited websites (depending on resource availability).

As ours is a demo blog, we will be signing up for the 'StartUp' plan which is going to cost us $6.99/month, when we sign up for the annual plan. If you want to sign up for the 'GrowBig' plan that is going to cost you $9.99/month if you sign up for the yearly plan. 

Choose the plan you want and then click on the 'Get Plan' button to continue. 

On the next page, we have the option to either register a new domain name or enter an already existing domain name that we own. As we have already registered a domain name, we can enter it here.

If you want to register a domain name on SiteGround it is going to cost you an extra $15.95/year. Remember, we paid only $9.06 to register a domain name at NameCheap and that's what you should do as well.

Let's enter the domain name we registered earlier and click on the 'proceed' button. 

On the next page, we need to fill in personal information like the name, email address, postal address, phone number, etc. We also need to choose a password here, which will be the password for our new SiteGround account. 

We also need to enter our card details here, which will be used for processing the payment. Here, we have one final chance to change the hosting package, the billing duration, and the data centres. 

I chose the US data centre and the 'startup plan' for 12 months. You also have the options to choose data centres in Asia, Europe, United Kingdom, Germany, and Australia. Just choose a data centre that is the nearest to your target audience. 

Now there are some extra services offered on this page like the 'SG Site Scanner'. You don't need to worry about that right now. So leave it unchecked, click on the confirmation box given below and proceed to the next step by clicking on the 'Pay Now' button. 

If your payment was successful, you should be seeing the success message as given in the picture below. 

Now you need to click on the 'proceed to customer area' button to move forward. On the next page, you will be greeted with a welcome message, as shown below. 

Now click on the 'set up site' button to move forward. On the next page, we have an option to 'start a new website' or migrate an existing one. As we are starting a brand new blog, we will choose the 'Start a new Website' option.

Now we will be given an option to install the application of our choice, which in this case is WordPress. Just select 'WordPress' and enter your email address and password in the 'set up login' section. These are the login details you will be using for your upcoming blog.  

Now we need to click the 'continue' button to install WordPress on the new blog. On the next page, we will be given a final chance to add 'SG site scanner' to our hosting plan. Adding or not adding this service is totally up to you. I chose not to use this service. 

Let's click on the 'finish' button to complete the WordPress installation process on our new blog. Once the installation has been successfully completed, you will get the following message.

And that's it. We have successfully started a new blog from scratch.

Now, as you can see in the picture above, we are given new name servers  in the 'point your domain' section, to which we need to point our domain name. By doing this, we will be connecting our domain name with the SiteGround web hosting.

Note down and save your nameserver details somewhere safe. You are going to need it later.

Your name server details and other important information will also be mailed to the email address you provided when signing up for the new hosting account. 

Signing Up for Web Hosting (Video)

Connecting The Domain Name with Hosting

To connect your domain that you have registered at NameCheap to the SiteGround hosting, log in to your NameCheap account and then click on the ‘Manage’ tab in front of your domain name.

Now go to the Name Servers section and choose ‘custom DNS’ as shown in the image below. 

Now enter your SiteGround NameServer details (the one you got when you signed up for the hosting account) and click on the ‘tick mark’ as shown in the image above. 

And that's it.

You have successfully connected your domain name registered at NameCheap to your SiteGround hosting account.

The change in NameServers may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours depending on various factors.

Connecting Domain Name to Hosting (Video)

You can check your blog status by going into your SiteGround hosting account dashboard. If the NameServer changes have not been completed, you will see the following message. 

It took approximately 5 minutes for the DNS changes to be complete, in my case. Now my demo blog is live. 

To check your blog status just visit your blog URL. You can also refresh the SiteGround dashboard to see the live DNS status. If your DNS changes are successful the message that is being shown above (in the picture) will disappear. 

And that's how to start a blog from scratch, step by step.

If you have come this far, congratulations to you on your first blog. Let's not stop here. We will move forward and complete the initial site setup. 

Setting Up Your WordPress Blog

Installing SSL

If you take a closer look at the picture above, you will notice that there is a 'Not Secure' symbol just before the domain name. This is happening because the WordPress blog I just created doesn't have an SSL installed. 

SSL means secure sockets layer. In simple terms, having an SSL certificate installed on your website or blog makes it trustworthy in the eyes of your readers because of the establishment of a secured connection.

If a site or a blog has SSL installed, a lock/padlock symbol appears just before the domain name. Have a look at this website for example. There is a lock icon just before the domain name smartwebpreneur dot com.

A padlock icon, or lock icon, displayed in a web browser indicates a secure mode where communications between browser and web server are encrypted. Now let's see how to install an SSL certificate on your domain name in SiteGround, absolutely free. 

To get started, go to SiteGround dot com and login to your account. Once inside, go to the 'websites' section and then click on the 'site tools' button in front of your domain name. See the image below. 

On the next page, choose the 'SSL manager' tab in the security section. Now there are three types of SSL certificates you can install on your domain. Choose the Let's Encrypt SSL and click the orange 'Get' button.

Once the SSL is successfully installed, you will get the following message.

Finally, choose the HTTPS Enforce option and enable it. 

And that completes the SSL installation process on your new blog. Your blog is now secure and ready to receive visitors. 

Launch Setup

Now its time to log in to our WordPress blog for the very first time and complete the initial setup process. To access your WordPress blog's login page you just need to go to the following URL.

Yourdomainname/wp-admin

In this demo, to access my new blog log in page, I will need to visit weightlosspark.com/wp-admin. And then I need to use the log in credentials which I set-up when I installed WordPress on the domain name, during the hosting signup process. 

You will see the screen shown in the image above, on your WP log in page. Just enter your credentials to log in. Once you log in, you will be greeted with a page as shown below. Just click on the 'start now' button to proceed. 

On the following pages, you will be presented with a bunch of options to install WordPress themes, add plugins etc. 

For now, just hit continue without installing any of the addons. Once you finish all the steps, there will be a message waiting for you, as shown in the image below. 

Now your site is ready.

We can move ahead and start the basic site setup process. We need to make our WordPress blog SEO friendly. We also need to install a theme and a few plugins. We need to learn how to add pages and the menu to our new blog and some other interesting stuff. 

Now, to continue, click on the 'Go to Dashboard' button to access your WP dashboard. 

Installing And Deleting Plugins

A plugin means a piece of software that is intended to add certain functionality to your WordPress blog. 

One of the first things we like to do when setting up a new blog is to deactivate and delete all the unnecessary plugins that are installed on our blog by default.

It is always better to keep a minimum number of plugins running in the background. Because more the plugins, more load on the site and servers and lower the speed of your website.

We are going to keep only the SG Optimizer plugin and remove everything else that was installed by the hosting company. And then we will add a few plugins that are important for us to keep moving forward. 

To add a plugin just click on the 'Add New' button next to the text 'plugins'.

And then enter the plugin name in the search box. In the search results, click on the 'install now' button next to the plugin and then 'activate' it.

For now, we will be adding two plugins. The 'Insert Headers and Footers' plugin and the 'Yoast SEO' plugin.  Install these two plugins now and then we can move on to the next step. 

Permalink Structure

The next thing we need to do is set the Permalinks structure for our site. A permalink or permanent link is a URL that is intended to remain unchanged for many years into the future, yielding a hyperlink that is less susceptible to link rot.

This is the complete URL you see and use. It is very important to set this right at the beginning itself. 

To set it properly, go to the 'settings' section and then click on 'Permalinks'. Make sure that 'post name' is selected under the common settings section.

If it is set to 'post name' by default, let it be.

Some hosting companies set the Permalinks to 'custom structure'. That is not good for SEO. It always should be set to the 'post name'.

Adding Themes

Now let's add a WordPress theme to our blog. The theme is basically a template which helps us design and customize our blog easily. One theme we use almost on all our blogs is the 'Astra theme'.  It is free to use, is blazingly fast and is SEO friendly. 

I use the pro version of this theme, which gives me more customization options. The pro version is not free.  

The process of adding a theme is similar to adding a plugin. Go to the 'Themes' section on the left and then click on 'Add New'. Now search for the theme you want to add. And then install and activate it. 

Connecting to Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster tools is a web service provided by Google which helps webmaster (which is you) to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites.

To access webmaster tools, visit Google webmasters page. And then sign in using your Google account. If you don't have one, sign up for a new account. 

Once inside, enter the URL of your blog under the 'URL Prefix' section and click 'continue'.

Now we need to verify the ownership of our website. To do that we are presented with different options. We need to choose the 'HTML Tag' verification method. 

Now copy the tag shown and then come back to your WordPress dashboard. Go to the 'SEO' section on the left panel and then click on 'General' settings. Then choose 'webmaster tools' as shown in the image below.

Now add the webmaster tag you copied earlier into the 'Google verification code' box and then save the changes.

Now go back to the webmaster's account and then click on 'verify'. You should be seeing the following screen after verification.

Your blog is now successfully connected to the Google webmaster tools.

Connect Google Analytics With WordPress Blog

Now let's connect Google analytics with your site. Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports your website traffic.

To do that, head over to Google analytics webpage. And then log in using your Google account.

Click on 'start measuring'.

On the next page, give your account a name. This account can have multiple tracking ids.

Click on 'next' to move forward. 

On the next page, choose what you want to track. In our case its web analytics. So let's select that and move on to the next step. 

Finally, we need to enter the property details. A property can be a website, blog or an application. Let's enter our website details into the property section. Also, choose the reporting time zone and the industry. 

Click on the 'create' button to go to the next step.

On the next page, we need to accept Google's terms and conditions. Do that and move forward.

Now you will get your analytics tracking id which you need to insert in your website's/blog's header area.

To do that, copy the analytics tracking code and save it somewhere safe. 

Now go to your WordPress dashboard, click on the 'settings tab' and then choose 'insert headers and footers'. And now simply copy and paste the Google Analytics code into the 'scripts in header section' and then save it. 

And that's it.

You have successfully connected Google analytics with your WordPress blog. 

Adding Pages and Posts

Creating pages and posts in WordPress is a relatively easy process. Go to the 'Pages' or 'Posts' section and then click on 'Add New'. 

An editor will open up. 

This editor contains all the important elements you need to create a great article. You can just click on the '+' sign on the left top corner to open all the available blocks/elements. 

Now whatever element you want to add, just click on that particular block. Meaning, if you want to add an image, click on the image block.  It will be automatically added to the main editor. 

If you have written a piece of content but don't want to publish it yet, you have the option to save it as a draft. Once ready, you can make your article live by clicking on the 'publish' button.

Adding Menu

To add a menu to your blog, go to 'Appearances' and then click on 'Menus'. 

Then give your menu a name. 

You can choose the menu items from the left side, as shown in the image above. You can add a post, page or a custom URL to your blog's menu. 

Once you have added all the menu items, choose the 'primary menu' option in the display location section. 

Finally, save the menu to make it live.

Conclusion

This brings us to the end of this 5000+ words article. I have tried my best to show you how to start a blog on WordPress from scratch, step by step. I have included a maximum number of images and screenshots possible, to make you understand the concepts of blogging clearly. 

If you found this article useful please share it with your friends and family who may be eager to start a blog of their own. Also, if you have any question or doubt regarding this blogging guide please don't hesitate to contact us