Learning how to build a blog correctly is crucial if you plan on being successful in the long term. Follow these essential steps to create a website that will give you the solid foundations upon which to build your blogging empire
Essential Steps to Create a Website – Learning how to build a blog the right way!
‘Building a website’. It’s a phrase that can strike fear into many new bloggers. When we think of building a website, particularly if we have no experience, it’s easy to imagine being sat at a computer, reams of ‘Matrix’-esque code scrolling down the screen, furiously typing with one hand and quickly drinking coffee with another.
Unfortunately, building a website is something every blogger will need to come to terms with. Fortunately, it isn’t anywhere near as hard or scary as it can seem at first. In fact, it’s extremely enjoyable.
There are a lot of moving parts that go into building a website successfully, and if you’re looking for a quick answer on how to build a blog, there sadly isn’t one. Luckily, many of the things you’ll need to tackle have been streamlined and made very user-friendly over the years, and now it’s not really a question of ‘if’ you can build your own blog – you’ll need to set aside some time to come to terms with everything, but there’s no rush.
Why not bookmark this page, and check back in when you can, to go over each element step by step? This article will look at everything from choosing your domain name to installing analytics. Here’s how to build a blog from scratch.
How to build a blog – Where do you start?
The main question on every new blogger’s mind when it comes down to how to build a blog is ‘where do I begin?’. It’s not just your actual website you’ll need to think about either, and in fact we’d recommend taking a look at a few of the other articles we’ve written first, such as the one on ‘building your brand’ as these go over a few of the most important basic steps you’ll need to consider.
Assuming you have a solid idea for your name, and a plan for how you’ll manage your time and a strategy in place for how you’ll be creating content (as well as at least a vague idea of how you’d like your blog to look…), you can get going with creating your actual site. Usually, the most important things you’ll need to sort out first and foremost will be hosting…
What is domain hosting?
The concept of hosting might be a bit of a strange one to newcomers at first… Surely you just pay for your website outright, and then you’re done? Well, not quite…
A good idea is to think of the internet kind of like a giant bank, which stores information rather than money. Think of each website a bit like a safety deposit box, but instead of precious items, the things being stored are blog posts, images, videos etc.
These are all arranged however the owner of the storage box would like, and this person also has complete control over who can access the stored information to look at, but crucially, the box doesn’t belong to this person.
Instead, the safety box belongs to the bank, and the bank charge a fee for the use of their space. This is hosting – you pay a hosting provider a (usually) fairly small amount of money, and they then agree to provide enough ‘space’ for you to host all the data of your website, and display it however you’d like.
Different types of web hosting
There are a few different kinds of web hosting available to site owners, which vary depending on how much storage you’ll need, and the kind of tasks your website will be performing. There are a lot out there, but a few stand out as both the most common, and, to a blogger, the most useful:
Shared server hosting
‘Servers’ are supercomputers which house all of the data of the internet, and then ‘serve’ it up to people when they try to access a site. A shared server hosting package does exactly what it says on the tin: it provides a hosting platform which you share with a large number of other sites.
This makes it one of the most affordable options out there, but it also means the speed of your site will be at the mercy of how much demand there is on the other sites on your server.
This usually won’t be too much of a problem for a blogger though, as you won’t be placing huge video or audio files on your site – you’ll likely be storing articles, which take up hardly any storage room, and can be ‘served’ to your viewers quickly.
Using the technology of cloud sharing, it’s now possible to rent server space from multiple servers at once. Their power is accumulated into a powerful, much larger ‘cloud’ server, which uses the power of multiple machines.
This makes it easy to upgrade and adjust the amount of server power used as required, and makes cloud-based hosting a more flexible option than simple shared hosting. It does also make it more expensive, but if your site is going to start needing to meet higher demand (i.e more people using it often, fighting over who gets ‘served’ efficiently), then it’s the logical next step from the a shared server.
VPS (virtual private server)
A VPS is one step between a shared server and having your own personal dedicated server (see below). Your site will still be hosted on a server that’s used by multiple sites and people, but instead of sharing resources, you’ll pay for a specific allocation of that server’s power, which will remain yours alone. This makes your website an awful lot faster and more powerful, but it does also up the price tag significantly.
Dedicated web servers
The ‘big dog’ of the server world (at least for us mere mortals), a dedicated server is precisely what it says: a server that’s dedicated to your site and your site alone. This is the fastest, most powerful option, but it’s also one of the most expensive (and can cost over £100 every month…)
You’ll also need to consider that in renting a physical server of your own, you’ll also have complete control and responsibility for managing it. This means you might need to pay for a server administrator if you don’t know how to manage this yourself (which there’s no shame in – few people do!).
How to Choose a Good Web Hosting Provider
So, you have your name, your ideas, and you’ve decided you want to go for a simple shared server hosting plan (usually the best starting point.) Brilliant! Now what? The next step is to choose your web hosting provider…
Your web hosting provider arranges your server rental for you. Most providers such as GoDaddy or Bluehost provide a comprehensive service, and as a newcomer to building sites, there are a few things you should look for:
Ease of Use
This one is vital, but it’s usually best to opt for the most user-friendly system out there. When you’re just starting out, you want a provider whose service is simple and straightforward. You don’t want to be navigating complicated backends, you just want a simple, clear interface, on a clean, efficient website. First impressions here are usually correct!
Not to suggest you need to ‘cheap out’ necessarily, and you should spend as much as you’re comfortable with, but when you’re first getting started it’s a good idea not to invest too much of your hard-earned cash until you’ve got a bit of experience. Weigh up the various costs of a few providers (although for their most affordable packages, most providers are fairly competitive with their pricing.)
It’s no longer unusual for a web hosting provider to also offer a number of additional services included in their price, such as the purchase of a domain name, and some website templates included (all of these will be explained shortly!)
Do a few comparisons, and make sure you don’t end up paying the same amount for less! Finding a good hosting company is very important and is a key step in the process of learning how to build a blog the right way.
At Roaming Spices, we use Bluehost, so we thought we’d use our own experience to run you through what it’s like setting up a new site using this service. We really rate Bluehost, and if you’re new to the scene we think it’s the perfect platform.
Bluehost allow you to choose and purchase your domain name as part of their service, and their prices are extremely competitive. For just a few pounds a month you can get a site up and running, with plenty of storage, and an SSL certificate included in the price (we’ll explain what that means in a bit!).
Using Bluehost, or any similar hosting provider, it really is as simple as clicking the pricing package you want, entering your chosen domain name, and making payment. You’ll then need to install WordPress, which will all be explained to you as part of a ‘one-click’ setup scheme. Before that, you’ll need to have a good think about names…
How to Build a Blog – Choosing a Good Domain Name
Your domain name is the actual name of your site, the one that appears in the search bar at the top of the browser (ours is www.roamingspices.com), and when you first set up hosting, you’ll be asked to choose which domain name you’d like.
Your domain name choice is vital, because you won’t be able to change it easily once you’ve set it up. You’ll need to pick something you’re happy to stick with indefinitely, so don’t rush into anything!
There are a few boxes a really good domain name should tick. These tips on choosing a good domain name should set you on the right track:
A good domain name is ‘catchy’ enough that users will be able to remember it after hearing about it or visiting it just once. Simple words that aren’t difficult to spell or pronounce are vital!
A great domain name isn’t too long. If it takes ages just to type your website’s name into a search bar, people won’t want to do it – and there’s also more room for error, which leads to people abandoning their search in frustration. One or two words is usually best, and it’s not often good to invent words unless they’re really catchy.
.com, .co.uk, .org etc.
There are lots of different ways to end a domain now, aside from the traditional .com… In most cases, however, a blog will usually just want to go with this option. This ensures your domain is globally discoverable, and isn’t country-specific.
When you’re making your plans for your blog’s name and your branding, always come up with a few different ideas if you can. There are a LOT of websites out there, and many domain names are taken – come up with a few backup ideas to avoid being disappointed and sent back to the drawing board if the idea you wanted to go for originally has already been taken.
It’s also worth pointing out that you can purchase domain names individually and separately. If a domain name is available, you’ll be able to buy it outright (for a varying fee, depending on the name itself), and keep it as yours to do with what you will.
You don’t have to use a domain name you’ve bought, you can simply buy one up to ‘reserve’ it, ensuring no one else snatches it up before you can get your site up and running.
It’s also a good way to make sure people don’t get confused (for instance, you could buy ‘www.myfirstblogproject.org or ‘www.myfirstblogproject.ie’, and then redirect these to your main site if someone typed these in by mistake…)
What is an SSL Certificate and do I Need One?
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is basically a way of securing your site through some clever layers of encryption. When you view a site in your browser, and it says ‘https’ with a little padlock symbol, this means the site is employing an SSL certificate, and accessing this site will be safe. SSL certificates protect users’ data becoming vulnerable from anyone forcing their way into a server (a rare but frustratingly prominent problem).
When you have an SSL in place, and your site is running on https, it’s also favoured by search engines, meaning you’re more likely to be discovered when someone searches for something relevant to your content.
Unsecure sites are now flagged as ‘unsafe’ by several browsers and search engines, so there’s really no reason not to set one up – particularly seeing as Bluehost and many other hosting services provide one as part of your package anyway!
Why Choose WordPress For Your Website?
A CMS, or ‘content management system’, is kind of like the control panel for your website. It’s where you’ll actually upload things, and go about changing the way your site looks, what it says, how it’s structured etc. When it comes to various CMS choices, there are a lot of options, but the vast majority of bloggers use WordPress, and for good reason.
WordPress is by no means flawless, but it’s very easy to use for newcomers. There are countless tutorials out there, and through the use of ‘plugins’ you can customise your site in any number of ways. WordPress offers a good range of tools for everything from updating images to performing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO – although that’s a topic for another day…)
WordPress works through ‘templates’, which also make it one of the most flexible content management systems available, and it’s provided through Bluehost and most other services free of charge, and installed extremely quickly.
We absolutely swear by WordPress and have used the platform for many websites over the years, long before we launched Roaming Spices. You don’t have to take our word for it; just check out these global WordPress statistics and see for yourself just how big this CMS really is! If you want to learn how to build a blog, we can not recommend WordPress highly enough as your platform of choice.
Choosing a WordPress Theme for Your Blog
When figuring out how to build a blog, the way your website looks will be a top priority for many people, and this is where your WordPress theme choice will be important. Themes are kind of like ‘skins’ that your website fits into, and they dictate everything from the colours and shapes of your boxes to the fonts you can use.
Theme choice is important, and for the most part, it’s a very personal choice. Have a browse of as many different themes as you like, and be aware that many of these are free, so you can always install a couple and see what you think about how easy they are to use, and how they look.
Once you’re sure you know what you’re looking for, however, it’s usually a good idea to purchase a premium theme, as these will offer you far more customizability, and are usually a lot more functional. They’ll be updated more often, and will, in general, look more professional. As an example, we use the premium theme from https://wp-prosperity.com.
What Should I include on My Website?
When you’re planning how to build a blog that not only looks great but also works great, you’ll need to come up with a solid structure for your various pages and elements. It’s a good idea to draw out a physical flow chart for this, as this can help you get your head around how your site will be structured.
Assuming you’re opting for a simple template with a ‘bar’ across the top with links to your main pages, you’ll likely need to include:
This is the central hub of your site, which can include things like your latest blog posts, some artwork, a brief description of who you are, a video etc… It’s the page that people will see when they first land on your site, so make it look good! You should also ensure that the home page offers links to every other significant page on your site quickly and easily.
‘About Us’ Page
It’s nice to offer people a little insight into who you are and what you do, particularly if you’re a personal blogger. You don’t have to give people your life story here, but it’s nice to tell people a little about the site they’re visiting. It gives your blog a ‘human’ element and helps people feel like they’re getting to know you.
If you’d like your readers to be able to get in contact with you, it’s a good idea to include this page with either a form for users to fill out or a contact email address. If you’re pursuing any social media channels such as Twitter or Instagram, it’s also a good idea to include links to these here (or ideally, throughout the whole site at the bottom of each page)
The main event. This is the section of your site that will host your blog articles, and act as an archive so people can search for things you’ve written easily. The way your blog is laid out and organised will be entirely up to you, so don’t feel any pressure to conform here!
When it comes to how your site actually looks – the images, text etc, you’ll need to employ the method of trial and improvement. Try something, if it doesn’t work, improve it. Part of the fun of running your own website is gradually trying things out, seeing how they look and moving them around if they don’t.
Most templates will provide some tutorials, and there are countless videos and articles with advice for specific templates and platforms out there – whatever you choose, there will be a wealth of support if you need it!
The good news is you don’t need to hire a solicitor – a quick Google search can result in a number of great templates for all kinds of sites and situations, which you can download, fill in, and then host on your site for people to look at.
How to Build a Blog – the Importance of Using Analytics
While blogging is a creative and inspiring hobby, there is also a more analytical side to it. If you want your blog to succeed, you’re going to need to be able to analyse what does and doesn’t work for you – what do your readers enjoy? What do they steer clear of? When do they visit your site the most? How easy do they find it to navigate?
You don’t need to go full ‘Sherlock’ with this, but it’s a good idea to get a few tools in place to help you understand how people are interacting with your site. The most important of these is without doubt ‘Google Analytics’. This is the go-to tool for analysing your site, and it’s very easy to install and setup.
You’ll need a Google account, but this is very easy to organise, and Google offer plenty of guides and advice themselves on how to get Analytics working. Discover a world of support at the free Google Analytics Academy.
Once it’s up and running, you’ll be able to see how many people visit your site, from which channels (are they ‘googling’ you and finding you, or are they coming to you directly?), how often, how long they spend on the site, what they look at, for how long… The list is practically endless.
This gives you a great idea of which pages do and don’t work for your users. If one blog post, for instance, gets three times as many reads as any of your others, and people look at that page for three times as long, you can use this insight to figure out what it is about that post that drives so many people to it.
Don’t be afraid to try and test new things with your blog, but when you do, make sure you use Analytics to note what did and didn’t work better!
SEO Tools – SEMRush
We won’t go into too much detail about search engine optimisation here, as there are literally books and books out there on this topic, and there’s no way we could even offer a simple introduction to it here.
Instead, what we’ll say is that the most successful bloggers take SEO seriously. You don’t need to be an expert, but it’s a good idea to gradually try to come to terms with the very basics. For this, we’d recommend using a tool like SEMRush.
There are lots of tools out there like this, but SEMRush is very easy to set up and use. It can track how well your site is appearing in search engines, and produce a bespoke, comprehensive list of suggestions as to how your site can be better optimised for discovery.
It offers tools for social media marketing as well as everything you could possibly want for on-site improvements. We use this software and the data it supplies us is invaluable. If you really want to learn how to build a blog the right way, SEMRush is a must have software package.
How to Build a Blog – a Step By Step Run Through
We’ll do our best not to repeat ourselves here, but we thought it might be useful, after that rather lengthy rundown, to provide a simple play-by-play:
- Choose Your Blog’s Name
Come up with several domain name ideas, with a few variations.
- Choose and Pay For Your Server Hosting
Using a service like Bluehost, pay for your hosting and domain name, and install WordPress
- Choose a WordPress Theme
Have a browse of available themes, and try a few out before making your final choice
- Start Piecing Together Your Site
Develop a simple structure, and upload the various images and copy you want to include. See what works and make changes as you like.
- Install Analytics Tools
Including Google Analytics, get a few tools set up so you can see who’s visiting your site!
- Upload Some Blogs!
With everything else in place, get some of your top-quality content up on your site! Make it look nice, and get the ball rolling by sharing it on social media and letting your friends and family know.
- Make Mistakes
Possibly the most important step. Things will go wrong. Things will break. But importantly, all of it is a learning curve. If you want to know how to build a blog, here’s the secret: you don’t. You don’t ‘build’ it.
You gradually piece it together, making errors, learning from them, trying things, breaking things, and stitching it all together with a lot of time, hard work, and passion. The result? A blog that is entirely and authentically a result of all your work. And that is priceless.
How to Build a Blog – Summary
Learning how to build a blog properly takes a great deal of time and a bucket load of dedication. There is a crazy amount of information to absorb but do not try and take it all in at once or it will literally fry your brain.
Prepare yourself for a substantial amount of reading and learning. Become an organised student and build your knowledge and your blog bit by bit. It is not a race and you can only do as much as your calendar dictates; So, organisation is crucial!
Follow the advice and tips that we have set out in this article and you will be well on your way to discovering how to build a blog that you will be proud of.