How to start your own blog

Posted on September 10, 2015

start a blogHave you ever wanted to start your own blog but don’t know where to start? Do you have an awesome idea or message that you want to share with the world but don’t have the technical chops or know-how to start your own blog?

Most people assume that starting their own blog is some insurmountable task that can’t be accomplished. Like nailing jello to a wall. But I have a little secret to share, it’s not as hard as you think!

Let me take you through the exact process I followed to get this very blog up and running in just a few days. I’ll cover everything you need to get started; from coming up with a concept to writing your very first post and everything in between.

So take a deep breath, tell yourself that everything is going to be OK and let’s get started.

1. Figure out the concept/topic for your new blog

This step probably seems obvious, but it’s one of the most important. Before you do anything else, you need to figure out what you want to write about on your blog. The concept of your blog will impact every other decision you make down the road. Give it some serious thought.

So how do you figure out what to write about? Ask yourself some of these simple questions:

  • What topics do you know a lot about?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • What do your friends/family think you’re good at or ask you about?

If I had to answer those questions for nerdfully.com, the answers paint a pretty clear picture of the type of blog I should start.

  • What topics do you know a lot about?
    • Computers, the internet and startups. My mother taught me how to use a computer when I was a kid, I have a M.S. degree in Computer Science, I’ve been developing websites for over 10 years and I’m trying to launch my own startup (read: huge nerd).
  • What are your hobbies?
    • Besides the topics listed above? CrossFit, Olympic lifting, pizza and beer. Somehow I don’t think those topics would make sense on this blog.
  • What are you passionate about?
    • I love building websites that are accessible to people all over the world and help solve real problems. I like finding ways to make life less complicated. I’m constantly finding ways to be proactively lazy.
  • What do your friends/family think you’re good at or ask you about?
    • I’m constantly being asked to fix computers or how to do things on the internet. Why doesn’t my internet work? How do I build a website? Can you help me design a logo? IT NEVER ENDS!

By answering those questions, it became obvious the direction I wanted to take my own blog. So I’m setting out to create a blog about everything nerdy in life that makes me happy. Computers, internet, building/managing a tech startup and whatever else comes to mind.

The most important thing to remember is that the topic of your blog should be something you’re passionate about. It should be a topic that makes you happy. Don’t pick a topic just because it’s popular or you think it’ll make easy money. If you do, I promise you’ll burn out before it makes you rich.

Got a topic in mind now? Sweeeeet 🙂

2. Find a unique & brandable domain name

All the good domains are taken

I have to be honest, this is going to be the most infuriating step of this entire process. Coming up with a creative, unique and brandable name for your blog is hard enough, but the battle doesn’t end there. Oh no.

Why is this so tough? Well, theoretically there are only so many domain names available, so that’s the first problem. The second issue is that people who find good domain names either keep them for themselves or they sit on them in attempt to sell for profit. So unfortunately it’s a little difficult to find a good domain name at times, but there are some tips, tricks and tools we can use to help.

Another thing to consider when coming up with a blog name is the availability of social media accounts with the same/similar name. Social media is an incredibly valuable and FREE tool for building your business.

You’ll want to register accounts on the major social media sites with a similar name to your domain name. I recommend starting with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but you should also register on any that are specific to your niche. For example, if you’re starting a blog about hot new music you’ll probably want to register on SoundCloud and any other social media sites related to music.

Here are the resources I’ve used for coming up with domain name ideas, registering my domains and finding available social media accounts.

GoDaddy – The domain name registrar I’ve used for over 10 years. They always have great deals on domains and excellent customer service. GoDaddy always has promo codes available, so don’t ever pay full price for the initial registration or renewal! A quick google search will turn up the most recent promo codes.

GoDaddy Auctions – A great resources for finding domain names people are selling. If you have a couple ideas of keywords you want in your name, you can search for available domains for sale with those keywords in it. This is how I found the domain name for nerdfully.com. Bought it for $12 on auction! CHA-CHING!

Namechk – By far the best tool I’ve ever found for figuring out if a domain name and social media account names are available. Type your desired name into the search box and it’ll tell you where that name is available and where it isn’t.

Flippa – A website where people auction existing websites and domain names. Think Ebay for website and domain names.

Namepros – A forum where people who are interested in domain names go to hang out. There are a few sub forums where people sell domains for a fixed price, auction them off or even provide lists of domain names that are available to register.

Here are a few tips on what makes a great domain name:

dont be this guy

Don’t be this guy.

  • Shorter the better – Nobody wants to type in a 50 character domain name. If you have multiple words in your name, try to stick to less than 3.
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens – Even though they’re technically allowed in a domain name, avoid them. Every once and a while numbers will be alright in a name, but don’t ever use a hyphen. Seriously. Don’t.
  • .COM .COM .COM – Register your domain name as a .com! You may be tempted to register one of the less common extensions because it’s available in the name you want, but be cautious. Most user’s first instinct is to type .com.
  • Easily pronounceable – Your domain name should flow off the tongue and be easy to pronounce.
  • Easy to spell – When someone hears your domain name, it should be easy for them to spell out.
  • “Brandability” – Try to come up with a name that is brandable. Google. Uber. Twitter. They are all great memorable brand names. MySuperAwesomeOnlineTechBlog, not so much.

Finding a great name is a process, so don’t try and rush through it. Take your time, consider a variety of options and find one that you love.

It took me almost 3 days to come up with ideas before I found the ‘nerdfully’ domain name and social media accounts. Be patient. A good name will be worth the time you invest!

bought a domain name

3. Website hosting & installing WordPress

This is where things start getting a bit more technical.

I’ll try to be as detailed as possible. But the truth is, every setup is going to be a bit different depending on the domain name registrar, hosting company and set of software you choose. If you go with the services I recommend in this article, you should be able to work through this fairly easily. If you blaze your own trail (which there’s nothing wrong with doing), the details are going to be different, but the concepts should be the same.

Whichever route you choose, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments below!

There’s basically two options to choose from when it comes to hosting a small site for beginners. They each have their pros and cons and which you choose depends on how technical you are and how much control you want.

Shared Hosting

The first option, which is great for non-technical folks, is shared hosting. With this option, a service provider manages just about everything on your server for you. They create the server for you and send you the details you need to login to a server that’s ready to install software on.

The shared hosting provider I highly recommend is HostGator. Their prices are reasonable and their technical support is amazing!

HostGator Web Hosting

I advise people to start out with their business plan. It allows you to have a dedicated IP address for your blog which is required if you ever want to secure the site using SSL.

Once your server is up and running, you have two options. You can either install WordPress via cPanel or do it manually. Which option you choose completely depends on your personal preference and if you want to get your hands dirty.

Click here for the instructions on installing WordPress via the QuickInstall tool in your cPanel.

Click here for the instructions on installing WordPress manually.

Shared Hosting Pros Shared Hosting Cons
  • Price – Starts around $10 per month
  • Server is managed by hosting provider
  • Quick setup time
  • Does not scale at higher traffic
  • Limitations on what you can / can’t change
  • Shared IP address

Custom Virtual Machine

The second option, is building and setting up your own virtual machine and hosting the blog yourself. If you don’t know what SSH is, have never touched a command line or know what LAMP stands for, this isn’t the option for you.

When it comes to launching my own virtual machines, there’s only one place I recommend: DigitalOcean.

Click the banner below to get $10 in free credit towards your virtual machines.

digital ocean

DigitalOcean makes it stupid simple to configuring and launching your own virtual machine or “droplet” in under 5 minutes.

Once you register for a free account, follow these steps to create your droplet:

  1. Login to your account dashboard
  2. Click “New Droplet”
  3. Pick a name for your server. This can be anything you want, but meaningful names are best.
  4. Select the size of the droplet you want to use. The small $5/$10 plans are perfect for getting started. You can easily re-size it later when you start building up traffic.
  5. Pick which geographical region you want your droplet created in. This depends on where your target users are located. If you don’t know where that is, pick the region closest to you.
  6. Pick an operating system. I’m a big fan of CentOS7.
  7. Install LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)
  8. Under Applications, you can select LAMP and have everything automagically installed for you.
  9. Or you could be a man and install it yourself. Here’s the tutorial I followed.
  10. Under “Available Settings”, select “Backups”. Backup service costs an additional 20% of the server costs, but you’ll be glad you have it if your server ever crashes and burns.
  11. Add an SSH key if you have one.

Awesome, now you have your own virtual machine all set up and ready to go! :high five:

Now you just need to install WordPress. Here’s a tutorial on how to install WordPress on your DigitalOcean CentOS7 droplet.

Virtual Machine Pros Virtual Machine Cons
  • Easy to scale for higher traffic
  • Complete control – no limitations
  • Dedicated IP address
  • More work to setup and manage
  • No tech support for configuration issues

YAY! Now you’re setup with your very own server and have installed WordPress. I told you it wasn’t THAT bad.

4. Make your blog pretty

Now it’s time to make your blog visually pleasing to your viewers. A lot of people freak out at this stage because they know nothing about web design and couldn’t even tell you what HTML is. But what did I say at the beginning of this article? Relax! There are ways to make your blog pretty without knowing anything about web design or coding.

Quick caveat here. If you’re setting up this blog for personal use and have no intent on sharing it publicly, you can probably skip this step and just use one of the pre-installed themes that come with WordPress.

If you’re intentions are to share this blog with the world and try to make a business out of it, for the love of all things web design, don’t use the pre-installed themes. Sure they look nice, but EVERYONE uses them. Please, don’t do it. Be different.

So you know nothing about designing a website, what do you do?

It’s simple. Purchase a premium pre-made WordPress theme and customize it to fit your style and requirements.

ThemeForest is the marketplace that I purchase all my premium WordPress themes from. I’ve used them for just about every site I’ve set up.

theme forest

Head on over to the ThemeForest website. In their menu, select WordPress -> Blog / Magazine. Here you’ll see thousands of premium pre-made themes that you simply purchase, install and customize!

Tips on purchasing a great theme from ThemeForest:

  • Find a theme that has been purchased by others and has good ratings. The easiest way to find the best themes is to sort by ‘Best sellers’ and ‘Best rated’.
  • Only purchase a ‘Responsive’ theme. The term responsive means that the website will properly adapt to being displayed on different types of devices (desktop, tablets and phones).
  • Just to stress how important finding a Responsive theme is, I’m saying it again.
  • Look for themes that have more options than you need to start with. Sure, you may not need an about me page, an image gallery or a online store. But someday you might!

Every theme is created by a different developer, so you’ll have to follow the installation instructions they provide to install the theme in WordPress. Once you have the new theme installed and activated, it’s just a matter of customizing it to match your style and requirements!

5. Write your first post

You’ve made it! You have your very own blog! Now it’s time to start writing.

I know that this is an exciting moment in your life. You’re about to start a new adventure, but I have to burst your bubble. Setting everything up was the easy part. The real work is what’s coming next. Writing content, building your brand and growing your subscriber base is where the real work is at. It’s the part I always struggled with.

Now I won’t act like I know all the tips and tricks on writing awesome contents that will attract a million viewers and go viral. Like you, I’m just getting started with my very own blog adventure.

But there are tons of great resources out there to help guide you along. Here’s a post written by Noah Kagan, Chief Sumo at SumoMe.com:

Why content goes viral. What analyzing 100 millions of articles taught us.

In the post Noah talks about what makes a great blog post, what aspects increase social shares and what makes a post go viral. It’s that article, and many other on Noah’s blog, that inspired me to start this blog and write such a ridiculously long first post.

I hope that this post was helpful in teaching you how easy it is to get your very own blog started. If there’s anything I missed, let me know in the comments below and I’ll be sure to add it.


2 Replies to "How to start your own blog"

  • Adrian
    September 16, 2015 (7:06 pm)
    Reply

    My GoDaddy registrar is my boulevard of broken dreams of failed or never launched projects.

    • Joe
      September 16, 2015 (7:30 pm)
      Reply

      Adrian, I second that. I have at least 5 domain names just hanging out in GoDaddy from projects I haven’t started or bailed on. From a business that would sell hoppy smelling candles to a crossfit e-book and a few startup ideas.


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