So you want to start a business, move to paradise and get paid to change the world?
Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those hyped up pitches claiming you can make $30k a month in just a few short months with little to no work involved.
But don’t you think it’s wild that we even have the opportunity to reach millions of people all over the world, thanks to the internet?
Technology never fails to blow me away.
Starting a website is the first step for most people when getting started online. Perhaps you’re looking to build your affiliate marketing empire, start a freelancing business or write about your favourite hobbies just for fun.
The core link between all this is connecting with people from all walks of life. And it’s the internet that allows us to do that.
Whatever the motive, you need a website to bring your creation to life – and this post will walk you through, step-by-step on how to start a blog from scratch!
Why start a blog or a website?
This goes without saying, a website is the backbone for most businesses all over the world.
We live in a time where our cars, fridges, and TV’s are connected to the internet – the digital revolution is in full swing and a website is a powerful tool that anyone can use to connect with thousands, if not millions of people globally.
It’s also a tool of influence. Your core business could have nothing to do with blogging but your website can be used as a space to add testimonials and showcase your services.
An example of this could be a freelance writer. Strictly speaking, writers don’t need their own website to start taking on clients but having one can be a great way to showcase your portfolio, demonstrate your skills and display your testimonials from previous project work.
Five Steps to an Amazing Blog
Learning how to start a blog isn’t hard. By the end of this post, you’ll have all the tools and information you need to build a website as beautiful as this one 😜
The setup process itself only takes a few minutes, if you rush through it – but realistically speaking, getting yourself set up properly will take a good few hours of your time.
This won’t be the fastest guide to starting a website from scratch, but I can assure you it’s one of the most detailed ones you’ll find on the internet.
It’s important not to rush the foundations and I’ve left no stone unturned so you have everything you need to get started with minimal issues.
Let’s get cracking!
Bonus: Want a handy-dandy PDF version of this entire guide that you can save and refer back to? Download the PDF guide here.
Step 1: Defining your vision
Before we dive deep into the technical aspects of building a website, it’s important to identify what you want out of it.
Ask yourself, what purpose is your website going to serve for you or your business?
Above and beyond just that, if you’re looking to monetise your future traffic, which business model will you be using?
You could become an affiliate, create your own course, offer consulting/coaching services or operate a dropshipping business.
The possibilities run far and wide so it’s important to really nail down your focus and at least have a rough idea of the things you want to do.
Perhaps you aren’t really sure how what type of business you want to run from your site, and that’s okay at this point because you’re just getting started.
There’s plenty of content on this site to get you going and if you’re on my email list, you’ll be learning lots about the various online business models available to you over the coming weeks.
But right now, it’s the perfect time to focus on mastering the basics of starting a blog. Most people get totally overwhelmed because they’re bombarded with so much information at once in the online business space.
You can’t expect to be focused when you’re trying to learn email list building, content marketing and website creation all at the same time! By focusing on one thing at a time, we can minimise overwhelm and maximise efficiency!
Step 2: Decide on your blogging platform
What is a blogging platform?
It’s the content management system of your website. It’s like the operating system that your website runs on. Think Microsoft Windows or Mac OSX for personal computers, except for your blog!
Oh and don’t worry, this isn’t as complex as learning how to use an entirely new operating system so don’t panic!
There are two types of blogging platforms, “hosted” and “self-hosted”.
Hosted websites are owned and operated by the parent site they are hosted on. Some examples of these platforms are Blogger and Tumblr. Typically you’ll notice a hosted blogging platform through the domain name. These websites usually include the parent site in the domain name.
Starting a website on these platforms is super easy and straight-forward but unfortunately, the drawbacks practically make this option a non-starter for most people…
Lack of ownership – owning a hosted domain means you don’t really own your domain. Because they’re free, they’re all owned and managed by the parent website – at any point in time, they could take down your site and jeopardise all your hard work, without notice.
Tight restrictions – if you’re thinking about monetizing your site through affiliate marketing, you can forget it! Most hosted blogging platforms do not allow affiliate links. Period.
Unprofessional – for people looking to build a serious business, having a self-hosted blog is just not an option. It looks rather amateur having “.blogspot” at the end of your domain name. Anyone that checks out your site will know it’s a free website.
You also don’t have much choice when it comes to design. Most hosted platforms lock down their custom design features so you’ll be stuck with the absolute basics.
Avoid avoid avoid!
A “self-hosted” blog is something that you host yourself through a domain name that you’ve purchased.
It’s the way to go for serious bloggers and aspiring business owners alike.
These blogs offer all the flexibility and customization you need to create a stunning website, monetise your traffic and build an awesome brand.
With “self-hosted” blogs, you have a number of options available to you…
Self-hosted website platforms
Three self-hosted website platforms make up the majority on the internet…
WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!
WordPress now powers over 26% of all websites on the internet with Drupal and Joomla powering less than 5%. IT’s by far the most popular choice for bloggers and business owners worldwide.
A recent study found that for websites in the top 1 million of the world, WordPress powers five times more business websites, compared to news sites.
Some big brand WordPress sites include:
Why is WordPress so popular?
WordPress is winning in the content management space because they cleverly combine power with simplicity. It’s not only flexible, easy to use, modern, and fully customizable but also reliable and, for the most part, secure with huge support from communities globally.
WordPress has massive functionality and support with over 29,000 plugins and counting. These plugins help you tweak and add new features to your site without (usually) having to mess around with any code.
There’s a plugin for everything, from adding custom contact forms to stopping spam and speeding up your site. This is something that sets WordPress apart from the rest.
Step 3: Choosing your hosting solution
Your website hosting is the piece of land you rent on the world wide web. It’s the thing that enables you to install a CMS like WordPress on your site.
Going back to the personal computer analogy, your hosting is the hardware of your Windows or your Macbook machine. Powerful hosting can speed up your site, minimise downtime, backup your data and keep you safe from hacker attacks.
There’s a huge variety of hosting services out there. I’ve personally tried many of the cheap (but not so cheerful) options and have had some pretty bad experiences.
123-reg previously powered this website on $7 a month hosting but we suffered from dead-slow server response times and their customer support was awful. 😤
It took me weeks to get simple problems resolved with those people.
Customer service is extremely important, especially for people that are new to all this website stuff.
When it comes to web hosting, you really do get you what you pay for and it’s worth spending a little more for a better service.
Why I use WordPress Engine
WP Engine is a managed WordPress hosting provider. They specialise in hosting for WordPress websites and are well-known for making blogs run at blistering speed.
A few months ago, I’d just about had enough of my botched 123-reg hosting package and was looking for something better. I noticed that the slowness of this website was affecting the bounce rate (people hitting the back button because they had to wait for ages), so naturally, I had to find a solution.
Bounce and page slowness is also an SEO ranking factor with Google. If people are leaving your site because it’s so damn slow, you’ll have trouble ranking high for the keywords you’re targeting.
A friend recommended WP Engine so I decided to check them out, after performing my research, I think it’s fair to say I was impressed. They offered so much more than my previous hosting providers and I immediately discovered that their customer service was awesome!
I’ll be honest with you, the process for migrating my site across was a pain in the ass but their customer service made it so much less painful than it could have been. Migrating your website is always a bit of a headache but it’s important to have the right hardware powering your business!
Many of you won’t need to worry about migrating your site as you’ll be purchasing your first one from scratch!
The fastest hosting for WordPress
WP Engine is the only hosting provider that focuses solely on self-hosted WordPress websites, and because of this, the speed of service is second to none.
I managed to improve our page load time on Bengu by around five seconds – In the internet space, this is huge.
Here’s a screenshot of a page speed test I ran a few months ago from within the WP Engine user portal:
It provides a detailed breakdown of the page rendering speed from start to finish, compares it to previous tests and give you an overall “cache” score.
They also provide useful recommendations for improving your site speed further…
This may be a little on the technical side for some of you but these are important things to learn. The implications of page speed are shocking. Amazon found that a tiny one second slow down on their website would cost them $1.6 billion in sales each year!
You can find out more about how page-speed affects your website and your business here.
Keeping your data safe and secure
The world wide web is a beautiful place where we can share information, build wildly profitable businesses and connect with amazing people.
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides.
30,000 websites are hacked every single day – and shockingly, most of these websites are small businesses.
It’s easy to assume that hackers only go for large corporations or government organisations. I thought this myself as we see these big companies getting hacked all the time on the news. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cybercriminals use automated scanning tools to find vulnerabilities they can use to deploy their malicious code. In most cases, they’re happy to target anyone. From small personal blogs to agency websites and large corporations – they’ll infect anyone they can to progress their illegal hacking campaigns.
Thankfully WP Engine takes care of your website security for you. They use custom tools and proprietary processes to scan for malware 24/7, perform patches and keep your website up to date.
They block over 2 million hacker attacks for their customers every single day.
How to setup your hosting account
I’ve created a step-by-step video walkthrough showing you exactly how you can get your hosting setup with WP Engine. It’s so simple, you’ve got no excuses!
Here’s the video:
PS – You can save 20% on the WP Engine personal plan through my affiliate link. They also offer a 60-day risk-free guarantee so if they suck, you can get your dollars back.
Step 4: Pick your domain name
Your domain name is an essential part of your brand. It’s important to come up with something that you’ll use for the long-term as you can’t change your domain name once you buy it.
Domain names aren’t expensive though, we’re talking an average price of $10 per year so it’s not the end of the world if you want to make a change.
What sort of domain are you looking for?
Many personal blog owners use a variation of their name for their website. Benguonline.com is a shortened version of my surname, “Benguesmia”.
That said, thinking back, I wish I had bought the domain “bengu.com” instead!
Anyway, that ship has sailed and I’m not changing domains now!
A “TLD” stands for “Top Level Domain” – it refers to the extension of a domain name such as “co.uk” “.com” or “.org”.
New top-level domains released a few years ago enable better domain and brand descriptions.. Some real-life examples of descriptive domains extensions include:
These custom TLD’s are typically cheaper than traditional “.com” domains and can be a great way to provide insight into what you do.
Registering your domain name
For domain registration, I use a service called Hover because it’s simple, easy and straight-forward to use. You don’t get bombarded with upsells, unlike many other domain registrars (Godaddy is shocking at this). You also get free WHOIS privacy.
WHOIS privacy is recommended to protect your personal information. Without WHOIS privacy, your personal details attached to your domain name are accessible to anyone, through the WHOIS directory.
Here is a simple, step-by-step video of me purchasing a domain at Hover that you can follow:
Step 5: Connecting your domain name with hosting + setting up WordPress
This is really where the rubber meets the road.
I’ve walked you through deciding on your blogging platform, choosing your hosting solution and picking your domain name. Now we can connect these things together and create a beautiful blog!
I really like shooting these little video walk-throughs for you guys – it’s faster for me and makes life so much easier for you as you can see exactly how things work. A win-win!
Sticking with the theme of shooting these videos, I’ve created another one for you outlining the steps to connect your domain name to your hosting as well as install WordPress…
Final tips and recommendations
At this point, you should be a WordPress expert – just kidding! But seriously, you have all the information you need to set up a brand new domain from scratch. It really isn’t that difficult to get yourself up and running online even if you’re a total newbie. I hope the above videos have helped you understand how to piece things together for your blog.
I’ve got some final tips and recommendations for you that will help you save time and get the most out of your blog.
Picking the right theme for your blog
I cannot stress how important site design is these days.
Anytime I come across a site that looks outdated, I feel repulsed and usually head straight for the back button! 😷
The great thing about WordPress is that you literally have access to thousands of free themes that’ll make your site stand out from the rest.
In the last video, I showed you how you can search for themes from within the WordPress dashboard, but there are some really cool sites that list excellent free themes available for download.
Some of these sites include:
40+ best free WordPress themes of 2017 (CodeinWP)
30 stunning free WordPress blog themes (Justfreethemes)
So there you have it, enough free themes to make your brain explode! These themes are great to slap on to your site and get something up and running in a short space of time. But thinking long-term, you probably want to invest in a premium theme.
Why you need a premium theme
Free themes have their limitations. They normally look gorgeous but fall short in terms of customisation options.
Many free themes have the option to upgrade to a “pro” version where you get access to more features and benefits. I’d say it’s definitely worth investing in a premium theme over the long-term as this will give you more flexibility and simplicity when it comes to customising your website.
Something I’ve noticed about free themes is that simple customisations sometimes require tweaking the theme’s coding (which can quickly get quite technical!). And besides, premium themes cost almost nothing. The theme we use on this website is called Avada (the most popular WordPress theme) – and it set us back around $50 bucks which is hardly a lot of cash.
Avada is great because it’s insanely customisable. I’ve honestly never come across a theme with so many features and variations in terms of layout and design.
Here are some popular premium theme websites you can check out:
Bringing it all together
So there you have it! A step-by-step walkthrough on creating your first website and piecing everything together. If you’ve taken action and created your first blog – big high-five! 🖐
I’ll finish off by saying I know how daunting things can be when you’re first starting out – trust me, I’ve been there! There’s a lot to learn and overwhelm feels like your new best friend you never wanted.
But stick with this. This could be the start of a life-changing journey for you if you choose to take this seriously. People start side-projects that end up replacing their full-time income all the time. And we have this wonderful opportunity to create passive income online in this day and age without the traditional drawbacks that come with starting a business.
If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, what are you waiting for? Your wildly profitable online business awaits.