Want to start your own blog? You’ve come to the right place.
Claiming your place in the blogosphere is easy, and there’s no limit for what you can do. Want to work from home? Jumpstart a freelance career? How about your first (or next!) novel? Or maybe you just want to connect with others who like what you do. Whatever your motivation, the possibilities really are endless. Blogging is an entrepreneur’s playground.
So what are you waiting for? If you have 30 minutes to spare, you could have your own blog in just 4 basic steps. It’s all outlined below!
(Disclaimer: some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase through those links. These are all products I have used and personally recommend unless otherwise noted.)
4 Steps to Starting a Blog
(Use the links below to jump around in the guide)
This guide runs a little long with pictures and words. If you’re the type that just wants to know where to go and what to do without all the fanfare, look for these boxes for the TLDR (“too long didn’t read”) versions at the bottom of relevant notes or steps. You can always scroll back up for more info if you need it.
Out of all the steps to getting your food blog up and running, picking a name will be the most fun – and the most challenging.
The name of your blog will be part of your identity online, just like a username or handle on social media. Your readers will identify the name with you and the type of content you can bring them. Overall, the “best” names are the ones that trigger positive thoughts to your readers, whether it be enthusiasm for your topic or a funny play on words.
Some examples to get you thinking:
- Play on words: Pinch of Yum, Cheeky Kitchen, Oh My Veggies
- Enthouisam: Sally’s Baking Addition, Dinner: A Love Story
How long this first step takes will be entirely up to you and what feels like a good fit for your blog. Maybe you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for a while and you already have the perfect name picked out – that’s great! But if you’re struggling to come up with that perfect name, there’s no need to force it. If you need more time, just bookmark (or pin!) this page, take a few days to think it over, and pick back up here when you’re ready. The good news is that you can change your blog’s name down the road, but you’ll usually only do this once a year (unless you’re willing to spend a little cash). I’ll talk more about that in the Domain & Hosting section.
Once you have a domain name picked out, head on over to GoDaddy to see if it’s available. There’s a domain search box right at the top of their page.
Pick a name for your site that is a good fit for you and the content you’ll be posting on your blog. Once you’ve picked a name, head on over to GoDaddy and do a domain name search to make sure it’s available for registration.
Now that you’ve got your domain name picked out, you need to get it online. This requires choosing a company to register your domain name and renting space to store the files for your website.
If you’re anything like me and like the nitty gritty details, I’ve written out some explanations below about what all of this entails and what companies you can use. However, if you feel you’ve already got a handle on this part, you can skip on down to the step by step instructions. You can always scroll back up here if something doesn’t make sense down the line.
Alright then, first things first – now that you’ve got your domain name, what do you need to do with it?
- Register it! This will make you the owner of the URL you’ve chosen for a set period of time. Typically you will register your domain name for 1 year, costing about $14 for 12 months. You’ll make this payment in advance for the upcoming year. You can continue to renew the same domain name for as many years as you want. If at any point you want to change your domain name, you can register a new name instead of renewing your old one on the registration anniversary. If you wish you change your domain name before the year is up on a previously registered name, you can register a new one, but you won’t be refunded for the name you’ll no longer be using. You’ll own both domain names until the registration time runs out.
- Pick your hosting package! This will determine how much space you’ll have to store all of your files (like food photos!) and how fast your site loads. Think of this as like renting a storage unit – you’re paying a company to allow you to store your stuff on their property, and the company makes sure you’re stuff stays put in a secure place. A hosting company will essentially do the same thing, just with your website. This is typically a monthly bill, but the prices will vary depending on what features and services you pick. They typically start around $3-$4 a month and go up from there.
Sound like a lot? It’s really not that bad, especially since most website companies will guide you through both parts at the same time.
You need to register your domain name (roughly $14/year) and rent space to upload your files (starting at $4/month).
But speaking of website companies, which one should you trust your new site with? I’ve got three options for you:
- GoDaddy: This is the hosting company I started out with, and what the step by the step-by-step instructions below are written for. GoDaddy is local to me (I’m in Phoenix) and I’ve met many of their employees. Their customer service has always been very helpful whenever I have an issue. Their hosting plans start at $3.49 / month.
- Blue Host: If you were to take a tally of the food blogs out there, many of them use BlueHost. BlueHost is one of the oldest and most reliable hosting companies out there. I have not tried them personally, but I’ve heard nothing but good things. They are a solid alternative if you want to go a different route than GoDaddy. Their hosting plans start at $3.95 / month.
- Media Temple: Once Homemade Hooplah started to receive a decent amount of traffic I moved my site over to Media Temple (or MT for short). MT offers a Premium WordPress service, which means their support team will make sure your website runs as smoothly and as efficiently as possible so you can focus on creating great content. If you’re serious about your blog (or if you just have the extra cash and want a more “hands off” experience with the technical aspects) then Media Temple is the way to go. I’ve been extremely impressed by their support thus far. These extra services come with a higher price tag, though, ranking in around $29.99 / month.
All three options have their strengths and no shortage of endorsements. You’ll be in good hands with any of these companies.
Got all that? Great! It’s time to get our hands dirty and secure your space on the web.
Now that you’ve chosen your domain name and confirmed that it’s available via GoDaddy domain search, the next step is to select it for registration. GoDaddy routinely offers sales and discounts for their services, so you might snag a cheaper price than what’s listed below.
Also, just to note: I highly recommend you go with a .com URL if one is available for the name you’ve chosen. Don’t worry about purchasing additional extensions. You can do that down the road if you want.
As I mentioned above, the domain registration is a yearly fee that is paid in advance. In the below screen shot, I will pay $12.99 to register my domain for a year (on sale from $14.99).
When you’re ready to move on, click the “select” button next to the domain name of your choice.
Then click the “Continue to Cart” button near the top right.
The next page will give you options about privacy, hosting, and email.
I’d highly recommend springing for the Privacy Protection option in Step 1. This will keep your personal information (such as address and phone number) from being displayed in public domain records. Like domain registration, the Privacy Protection service is a yearly fee and will be paid upfront.
Step 2 goes over the Hosting options available to you. As mentioned above, this will determine how much space you have for your site and how fast your site loads. For a new blog, the Economy package should be a good fit for your needs. If you find you need more resources later on, you can adjust your package option at any time.
Note: Don’t worry about the Web Builder stuff on the left. We’ve got that covered below.
Step 3 gives you the option to add Email services to your new domain, which lets you create custom email addresses (like [email protected]). This isn’t necessary to start out with and you can always add it on later if you find you have a use for it.
Click the “Continue to Cart” button at the bottom. You’re almost done!
For a new blog, select the Privacy Protection in Step 1 and the Economy hosting in Step 2. You do not need the Website Builder or Email.
Before you move on to payment, double check that everything looks to be in order for your domain registration & hosting. GoDaddy is a business and like most businesses, they might try to automatically upsell you for longer registration periods.
For example, when I was creating this tutorial, GoDaddy automatically set my domain registration for 5 years. This significantly increased my total cost, far beyond what anyone should have to pay to start their very first blog. You can pick whatever length of time you’d prefer – just make sure it’s something you would have chosen.
If you couldn’t tell by the below graphic, I highly recommend a 1 year registration for your first domain (the minimum amount).
Finally, there’s one more thing to check before you move on to payment. Below the yearly registration, you’ll see a section that looks like this:
Make sure that “Economy Linux Hosting with cPanel” package has already been chosen. “cPanel” is essentially the Operating System of your domain – but in the web word, it’s called your Admin Panel – and it looks a little like the icon navigation system on your phone. It’s important to note here that Linux rules the blog world, not Windows. So even though there is an option for Windows Hosting with Plesk in the dropdown, do not select it. Linux is the best choice for your new blog.
Like your hosting package, using cPanel has a monthly cost associated with it. And like the domain registration, make sure you’ve selected a monthly plan that works for your budget and that GoDaddy did not try to upsell you. When I arrived at this page, the 12 month option was selected for me by default.
For HomemadeHooplah.com, I chose the monthly bill. What can I say, I just like smaller fees.
And that’s it – you’re done! Proceed to checkout and complete the purchase for your very own plot on the internet.
Before proceeding to checkout, confirm that your domain registration is set for 1 year (or whatever amount of time you’d prefer). Also, confirm that that Economy Linux Hosting with cPanel is selected and that it is set for 1 month (or whatever amount of time you’d prefer).
To get your blog up and running you’ll need what’s called a Content Management System (or CMS). This is the interface you will use to manage your posts, comments, images, design, and just about everything else that makes a website a website. In the blogging world, WordPress is by far the best CMS you can find – and it’s free to install. If you’d like to read more about WordPress and what they’re all about, you can get all that info and more on their official web page.
So now that you know you need WordPress, how do you get it? With just a few clicks you can install it on your domain via your brand new cPanel.
You need to install a Content Management System (CMS) on your new domain called WordPress. You can do this via your site’s cPanel.
Using the confirmation emails you received from GoDaddy and the account credentials you chose, log into your account at GoDaddy.com.
In the list of options, click the green Launch button beside Web Hosting.
Then click the Manage button in the lower right hand corner.
Welcome! You just arrived to your brand new cPanel!
This the command center of your website, but don’t feel overwhelmed – in the grand schemes of things, you won’t be visiting your cPanel very often. Once you install WordPress, that will be your go to place for the day-to-day management of your blog.
Go to GoDaddy.com and log into your account. Select the Launch button beside Web Hosting, then click Manage to access your cPanel.
To install WordPress, scroll down to the section titled Web Applications. WordPress will likely be the first icon in the list. Go ahead and click it!
The next page will give you some information about WordPress and some screen shots of their interface.
When you’re ready, go ahead and click the install this application bottom located in the top right corner.
The next page will provide you with a bunch of options for your WordPress setup. The list can seem a little overwhelming, but thankfully only a few need your attention.
Below I’ve highlighted options that you could to change (labeled “optional”) and others that you should change (labeled “required”). Everything else can be left to the recommended values.
Note: Some data on this page is private and sensitive to your blog, so be careful who you share it with.
- Optional – Domain: This will determine whether your site starts with www or not. Depending on what you select will depend on how your website publishes it’s address. For example: If you chose to add www, and someone entered your address into their browser without the www, then when your site loads it would automatically add the www in front. The opposite would be true if you chose to omit the www. In the long run, this setting has absolutely no impact on your site or how people access it. It’s just your personal preference.
- Optional – Automatic Update: This is personal preference. Like most services, WordPress will need to be patched or upgraded occasionally. You can manage all of these updates directly through WordPress. You can dictate now these updates are handled, whether it be manual or automatic. For me personally, I like the control of updating manually, so I select “Do not automatically update.” If you’d rather not micromanage your updates, choose the (recommended) “Create a backup and update to new minor versions and security releases” option. However, you will still need to manually update WordPress for major updates.
- Optional – WordPress Plugin Automatic Update: Plugins are additional features or services you can add to WordPress. And like WordPress, they occasionally need to be updated for bug fixes & improvements. As with WordPress updates, I’d recommend selecting “Do not automatically update WordPress plugins.” You can manage these updates within WordPress.
- Optional – WordPress Theme Automatic Update: Themes are a handy way to change the design, look, and feel of your site. Like the above two options, they’ll occasionally need updates. Again I’d recommend the “Do not automatically update WordPress plugins.”
- Required – Administrator Username: You are the administrator of your new blog, and this will be the username you will use to log in. Keep it secret!
- Required – Administrator Password: Pick a strong password for logging into your blog. And, of course, keep it secret!
- Required – Administrator Email: With your new blog, WordPress will occasionally send you helpful email announcements, such as when someone comments on your blog or if it detects that you site went down. You will not be sent any newsletters or spam. Be sure to enter a valid email here.
- Required – Website Title: You can type out your domain name here, either the full .com or add spaces without the .com. For mine, I entered “Homemade Hooplah.”
- Required – Website Tagline: This is a fun little snippet to compliment what your site is about. If you have no clue what to put for your tagline, you can always add it later on, but I highly recommend choosing a tagline at some point. You can also change your tagline if you decide you don’t like it later on. For Homemade Hooplah, I use the tagline “all the hype made easy.” Just have fun with it!
- Optional – Two-Factor Authentication: This is a new feature that adds an extra level of security to your blog. If you enable it, you’ll need to download the Clef app on your mobile device. Once activated, the app will provide you with a code that you must enter every time you log into your WordPress blog. This adds an extra level of security, as no one can log into your blog unless they have your username, password, and the code from your personal phone. It’s personal preference if you’d like to enable it.
In cPanel under Web Applications, select WordPress, then click the “+install this application” button. On the next page, most of the options can be left on the (Recommended) settings. The only things you should change are the Administrator Username, Administrator Password, Administrator Email, Website Title, and Website Tagline.
If everything looks good, go ahead and click the + install button at the bottom.
On the next page, your WordPress installation will have a blue loading bar as GoDaddy gets everything situated. It should only take a few minutes.
Once it’s complete, you’ll see a summary of your new WordPress installation, and within it will be a very important link: the URL of your WordPress Admin Panel. As I’ve mentioned before, this URL will now be the primary place you manage all aspects of your new website. Because as of right now, your website exists! The hard part is over! That wasn’t so bad, right?
To get started, locate the Admin Panel URL. It should be the second link in the list provided, ending in /wp-admin/. Go ahead and bookmark this page – you’ll be going here quite often!
On the page that loads, go ahead and use the information you chose for your Administrator Username and Password to log in.
Note: If you opted to use the Clef authentication service, you’ll have a few additional steps to hook up Clef to your blog. Just follow the instructions on the screen. Also, going forward, your blog’s login page will have an additional field where you’ll enter the Clef code from your mobile device.
Second Note: If you click on the WordPress Admin Panel link directly from your cPanel (like above), it may skip you past the above page and automatically log you in. Convenient!
WordPress has a very sleek and straight forward interface that is very user friendly. Feel free to poke around and see what all the menu items do! If you have any questions about navigating WordPress itself, at this point I have to hand you off to the pros. WordPress has amazing support and has some great articles to get you up to speed on running your new blog. Check them out!
Once the WordPress install is complete, click the link for your new WordPress Admin Panel (URL ending in /wp-admin/). You’re ready to start posting!
One of the best things about WordPress is how easy it is to add features (called plugins) and the power to radically change the design of your site (called themes). There are thousands of easy ways out there to make your blog look and work better. But while all those options are great, it begs the question – which ones do you choose? Where can you get more information on how to maximize the potential of your new blog? Below are some of my top recommendations!
Update June 2015: Since writing this guide, I’ve created a whole page full of resources to help you get the most out of your blog. You can check it out here: Resources To Better Your Blog.
Have More Questions? Ask Me!
I believe every tutorial is a work in progress, so if have any questions about starting your blog, or have any requests of more tutorials you’d like to see, please feel free to ask me about it in the comments! I’d love to help you get your new blog off the ground!