How to start a blog in 2021: a step-by-step guide

By Navid Jafari  |   21 Nov, 2020  | 0
Affiliate link disclosure: NeatCue receives compensation at no additional cost to you, if you use referral link(s) on this page to make a purchase.
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If you want to start a blog, then listen up! You are not alone, and the competition is real. Starting a blog in 2020 takes time and real effort. The days of launching a blog, sitting back, and watching people come to your doorsteps are mostly gone.

Building a successful blog requires a steadfast commitment. You’ll need to be prepared to work hard and consistently commit to learning new things and new ways.

There are no shortcuts.  None. 

Let me begin by sharing my journey. I have been in marketing for 17+ years. I am a marketing exec in Silicon Valley, and I’ve been fortunate to work alongside some incredible people over the years. I started this blog to share my passion for marketing and help others go after their dreams.

Many people helped me to get to where I am, and I’ve always done everything that I can to help the folks that come after me too.

I’ll be honest. I began this blog without committing consistent time because, well, I have a day job. It failed to gain traction and failed to get consistent traffic. No surprise there.

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However, I started really focusing on making it successful around 18 months ago (still with a day job). I’ve worked most weekends and some evenings when time permits. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I am grateful for the opportunity to build a community and help others.

Why start a blog

We all have our reasons. But here is the thing: don’t start a blog unless you are planning on solving real problems or helping others. The internet is full of content, and if you think you are just going to write a few blog posts and cash large checks, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work like that.

Pageviews alone aren’t going to make you successful. People are. Building a community is. Focus on that first.

Many start blogs because they want to share what they know with others. I am one of those people. It is fun; it is inspiring when I get a comment from someone who appreciates my content. That’s why I do it.

Many more start blogs as a side hustle. Nothing wrong with being a part-time blogger! Again, I’m one.

Whatever your reason might be, commit to it. Believe in the process and believe in your hard work. There are no guarantees that it will pay off. Nothing in life is guaranteed, but that’s life! The future is, well, in the future.

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Picking your blog topic

So, you’ve decided to start a blog. Congratulations! But before you can move forward, you have to pick a topic or niche.

Your blog niche is significant. It needs to stem from your passion and experience first. You will be potentially writing tens if not hundreds of posts on this topic, so your depth of knowledge and passion will be critical on your path to success.

Now, just because you are passionate about a topic, it doesn’t mean that it can make you money. Maybe you are not in it for the money, and that’s absolutely fine, but if you want your blog to be profitable, then pause and think about profitability as well.

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Therefore, what makes a niche profitable is a combination of focus, passion, and a community willing to support your endeavor. To test potential profitability, ask yourself a simple question: can you sell a product or service alongside your content? Will anyone need it or buy it?

Although the niches in today’s blogosphere are many, there are some common themes that are popular and profitable. These include (in no particular order):

  • Fashion
  • Health
  • Fitness
  • Food, cooking, and baking
  • Travel
  • Design, arts, crafts
  • Marketing, internet business
  • Finance

This is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list. I am simply giving you a few examples.

And if you think that many thousands of blogs already exist on these topics, you would be right. Here is the thing, however: there are many food blogs because there is potential there.

If a niche didn’t have potential, do you think so many entrepreneurs would jump into that niche?

You are right to think that the blogosphere is a crowded place, and it would take serious effort to stand out. But that’s the thing: if it were easy, then everyone would be doing it!

Remember my comment above about determination and commitment?

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How much does it cost to start a blog?

Compared to most other kinds of businesses, starting a blog doesn’t cost very much. In fact, you can start a blog for free at Medium, Blogger, and WordPress. But, like anything else, there is a catch.

A free blog is a great place to start and learn, but not the best way to go about building a business. Here’s why.

First of all, some of these free platforms do not allow you to run ads or even place links in your content. This pretty much limits how you can make money. Additionally, there are challenges with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as well.

So, I recommend launching your own website. Here are the things you need to build your own website:

  • A domain name (affiliate link)
  • Website hosting
  • A blogging platform

Building your Website

Now that we’ve established that you need to build your own website, you have a couple of options. You can either do this yourself or go with a turnkey solution to build your website (affiliate link).

In this article, I am going to cover the first option: building your own website.

Step 1: Get a domain name to start your blog

Just like how you and I have a name, your website needs one too! This is typically the first step in setting up your website. Domain names cost around $10/year for common endings (e.g., .com, .net, .org) and a bit more for other Top-Level-Domain (TLD) endings.

Popular Domains for just 99 Cents at Namecheap! (affiliate link)

You can purchase a domain name with your hosting as well—more on this below.

Here are a few things to consider before picking up that new (shiny) domain name:

– Keep in mind that your desired domain name may not be available. So keep searching until you find your desired domain name.

– Before registering a domain name, I suggest you look on social media platforms to see if that handle is available. It’d be helpful if your domain and your social media handles matched.

Example: NeatCue.com is @neatcue on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.  This makes building a brand a lot easier.

– Don’t rush this part. Research your name to make sure it is available and what you really want. Potentially this domain name will be with you for the rest of your online journey.

Start a blog: get a domain name

Popular Domains for just 99 Cents at Namecheap! (affiliate link)

Step 2: Host your website

Now that you have a domain name (in mind or purchases), you need to think about where you want to park your website.

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If you want to know how this works, here is the basic description: your website needs to be stored on a server accessible via a unique address (IP address). Once your domain name is linked to this hosting location, anytime someone punches in your domain name into their search bar, a Domain Name Server (DNS) points them to your website’s location (IP).

Alright, enough geeking out over how the internet works!

When it comes to hosting your website, you have a lot of choices. For a blog starting off, I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot of money on hosting. Typically, this should not cost you more than $100/year.

Two popular companies are Bluehost (affiliate link) and SiteGround (affiliate link) (where this site is hosted). NeatCue has an affiliate relationship with both companies. I’ve been with SiteGround for years and love their service and support.

Step 3: Install WordPress

WordPress is the dominant option when it comes to running your website using a Content Management System (CMS). You can certainly pick another CMS option, but WordPress is really an excellent choice.

From this point on, I will focus on installing WordPress.

Now, let’s start with the basics of what WordPress is and what you can do with it.

WordPress is an open-source platform that provides a website’s basic functionality: posting content, running a blog, a business website, and much (much) more. I’d describe WordPress as the chassis (or platform) of a car: it provides the engine, frame, wheels, suspension, etc.

If you want your “car” to look a certain way, then you add your own body on top of it (a WordPress theme).  Furthermore, you can add more functionality to your “car” by installing WordPress plugins as well.

Now, installing WordPress is a fairly straight forward process. You download WordPress from WordPress.org, upload it to your server, create a database, and click install. However, there is even an easier way.

Both Bluehost (affiliate link) and SiteGround (affiliate link) offer automatic installation of WordPress. This means that you can install WordPress in a few simple steps once you sign up for your hosting account.  No need to download anything, set up a database, or do anything else.

Divi WordPress Theme
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Step 4: Buy and install a WordPress Theme

There are thousands of high-quality WordPress themes out there. Some are actually free. Many amazing developers and designers have spent countless hours building these amazing themes that you can buy rather inexpensively.

You can generally buy a very premium theme with tons of customization and built-in functionality for around $50-$100. Of course, there are more expensive themes, and there are much cheaper themes, too.

It really depends on what you want, but what is important to highlight here is that you are generally going to get a very nice theme developed by professionals for a fraction of the cost of what you would have paid a developer to build you a website.

As I said, there are many ways you can go about purchasing a theme. Two of the best options that I’ve always gone to are Themeforest (affiliate link) or ElegantThemes (affiliate link).  I’ve used both services and really like the themes that they offer.

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With ElegantThemes (affiliate link), you’ll pay an annual fee that gives you access to a bunch of themes (and updates while your membership is active).

Their most versatile theme is called Divi (affiliate link), and it is a masterpiece!

You can build a website or blog with Divi; however, you want using drag-and-drop features and page builders. The theme is gorgeous, and I’d be surprised if anyone’s needs surpass what Divi offers (at least at the beginning).

With Themeforest (affiliate link), you get to purchase a theme from a library of amazing themes. On Themeforest, you can search amongst a variety of themes that present different functionality and styles. Again, I’d be amazed if one didn’t find a suitable theme here.

Step 5: Start your blog by writing your first blog post

If you’ve made it this far down this long post, well, congratulations!

By now, you’ve picked your domain, hosting, installed WordPress, and purchased and installed your theme.

There is only one thing left to do to get this party started: write your first post!


Affiliate link disclosure: NeatCue receives compensation at no additional cost to you, if you use referral link(s) on this page to make a purchase.


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