What’s the #1 way to find happiness in life?
Work harder? Buy something? Win a competition?
Experts tell you that if you do what you love, you’ll be happy because you never work a day in your life.
Know what they don’t tell you?
That happiness actually comes from sharing what you love like wildfire with an audience.
Think about it; you can play guitar, cook exotic desserts and make cute cat videos all you want, but how far will it get you if you do it all alone? An audience, on the other hand, gives your work a sense of fulfillment, ownership and pride that no one can take away.
That’s why you need a blog.
A blog is your place to share; it can take you from nobody to somebody if you do it right. It’s cheap to set up, grows alongside you, and generates new streams of revenue.
So whether you arrived here through Google or some other website, are a student, businessman, entrepreneur or whatever: Welcome! It’s the perfect place to get started with blogging.
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Where Your Blogging Begins…
(Please click to jump to a section!)
- 3 Simple reasons you need a blog TODAY
- Examples of blogs
- The biggest questions in blogging (and my thoughts)
- How a self-hosted blog works
My advice? Jump around, have fun, and definitely hit bookmark. This article comes in #1 for several hot Search phrases, so a lot of people stop by everyday – join them in the comments before you leave.
Why this guide? Because after 100s of questions from friends, family, and folks like you on how and where to blog, this just made sense – and I wish someone had told me all this when I began way back.
So sit back, just not so far that you spill your coffee, and enjoy!
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3 Simple Reasons You Need a Blog TODAY
It’s 2013 and it seems everyone is doing something with blogging. Corporate, personal, hobby, travel, you name it. Time for you to catch up.
1) With a blog you can create a brand for yourself. Most everyone has a Facebook and Twitter these days, but a blog is a place you can create your own logos, own vibe, and say whatever you want. Don’t pay for an expensive expert course on branding; figure it out yourself!
2) Armed with new brand, you can sell products on a blog. Right reviews of products then earn commissions from Amazon, or create your own seasons fragrant candles and sell through lovely images and rich video, all housed on a blog.
3) Lastly, a blog is the greatest networking tool ever. Meet people like you, doing what you love – then learn from them. All this can hopefully help you leave your job and do more of what you love doing.
I’ve met hundreds of smart people in blogging; they’ve offered me lucrative writing gigs for sites I worship, products to review and trips around the globe. I’m positive exactly none of this would have happened without a blog.
So, yeah partner, today is your day!
Plus, you don’t even have to “get off the couch” as they say!
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Some Examples of Blogs: Excited to begin?
I would certainly hope so!
To show you a a couple examples, here’s a glimpse back in time at the first blog I started out of college. I began writing one article and ten desperate emails a day. The blog now has over 50 guest writers, paying advertisers, even it’s own internship.
Here’s another example – it’s my friend Chris’s video portfolio site, and it might stretch your view of what a “blog” looks like.
Before we continue, I want to say I’ve worked for literally months on this guide, editing and revising until wee hours each morning.
It’s a long article, but it will take you from zero to legit blogger, and that I think is worth it.
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The Biggest Questions in Blogging
The biggest questions we all face as we start blogging are…
- Which platform do I choose?
- Should I blog for free, or self-host?
Now, this can be a major headache…I’ve seen countless bloggers struggle with these decisions early on. Pretty soon the chaos of life resumes, and the blog goes un-started, which to me is sad.
Let me clear things up so you can pick the best place for your needs:
If you want to just blog casually, try out a free-hosting site like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress.com. These sites are a good intro to blogging and if you’re feeling a bit shaky about being online, I would definitely try this route.
Here’s some personal advice – I would stay away from places like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Quora etc as these communities have been dwindling for the past years. Happy to explain more in the comments; you just won’t find much support, help forums, and more.
An Introduction to Self-Hosting
Personally, I recommend everyone get a self-hosted blog. It’s not scary or more work; just a couple more steps up front. If you can setup a Facebook account or make a purchase on Amazon – you’ll be just fine.
The benefits are just through the roof these days.
I’ve embedded a video below, but before that – here are a few concrete reasons I personally like self-hosted blogging over the free blog-hosting sites.
- Earning potential
Self-hosted blogs have an easier time getting into Google Adsense (my recent payment) and other earning networks (like Affiliate Marketing) because Google understands you’re committed enough to get your own domain and hosting space.
- Rankings in Google Search
You get your own domain name, which helps rankings in Google (like mine). You also get plugins (like this one), that automatically inform Google whenever you publish something new.
- Style (ya know, your look?)
I want your blog should stand out. Free blogs just look like blogs, which might be fine, whereas self-hosted blogs start simple but can be tweaked to look like the NYTimes or something else amazing, practically overnight.
Still with me? If so, check out what my good friend Thomas Frank says to new bloggers:
@gregnarayan out of every platform out there, WordPress has the best combo of ease of learning, control and flexibility, and community.
— Thomas Frank (@TomFrankly) May 24, 2013
It is more of a challenge to self-host, but I recommend it, and it the end result is you actually have your own website. A free blog can be taken down; this can’t. But, even with the advantages, if your budget is tight you should know the free blogs (like WordPress.com) are quite fun and good for an introduction.
I should say right here that if the above has helped you make up your mind, awesome. The community here will help you blog – wherever you end up. If you’re ready to take on the challenge of getting a self-hosted blog, I’ve posted instructions below. Enjoy!
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How to Make Your Own WordPress.org Blog in Under 10 minutes
In this tutorial, you will learn how to:
- Get a cheap domain name and website hosting setup rather quickly.
- Install a WordPress.org blog and start designing, editing, and publishing your work with no previous coding knowledge needed whatsoever.
- Upload a new theme to totally change your blog’s appearance.
- Publish your first blog post with an image and some links.
- Super-charge your blog with SEO plugins, clickable Facebook and Twitter buttons, and traffic stats.
Bonus: I’ve also added epic sections on how to get traffic and find out where it’s coming from (see below), and how to setup your own blog newsletter (coming soon).
Total setup time: 10min to 1hr, depending on how super-chargey you make things.
What you need to use this guide:
- A computer
- A web browser, like Chrome or Firefox
- The ability to follow directions
What you don’t need to know:
- Any specific computer processes at all. If you can setup a Gmail account or a Facebook, this will be a breeze.
What you should do before starting up:
- Get a nice coffee drink
- Get relaxed, you’re about to learn the secrets to getting online and getting ahead!
Aright, enough chit-chat, let’s get started!
Note 1: If anything all doesn’t make sense as we through this, just post a comment below, hit me up on Twitter, or shoot me an email.
Note 2: If you do decide to use the option for a domain and hosting plan I describe in this guide, I’ll earn a small commission at zero cost to you. This helps me stay online providing good advice, but do you own research before buying anything. Not only do I recommend HostGator, but I’ve learned a heck of a lot about their services and can help you use their features (see comments) to get the best blog possible. If you do decide to buy through one of my links, thanks for your awesome support! Drinks are on me!
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Part I: Get a Domain Name and Hosting
This is the part where we select a good place to register our domain name and host the new blog aka your new website.
I know other bloggers have written long reviews on where the best blog host is. I’ll cut to the chase for you – it comes down to price and support – and you’ll probably want to register things for at least 1 year.
Check out this comparison of the top two blog hosts today:
HostGator isn’t just the cheapest; they’re the largest. The most people on the planet who run blogs and websites from home trust them. They’ve been good to me for several years, and have a 24/7/365 chat system where I can go annoy their support with endless questions, and they always have to be nice!
That said, there are other good hosts too that may suit you better depending on your budget or location or personal preference. Do your homework. If you’re considering HostGator, I’d definitely encourage you to read some comments below, as my readers often drop in reviews of HostGator after signing up!
Note to your wallet: A domain name and hosting space isn’t free, but that doesn’t mean it’s expensive. HostGator’s $3.96 per month deal this is the cheapest I could find and I’m happy to update this guide should I find a better hosting price.
Part II: I Can Help You Chop Prices
Despite HostGator’s low prices, I’m still not satisfied.
For starters, you can use my long time customer discount coupon “dearblogger25″ for 25% off, which is 5% MORE than the normal coupon. Then, each year when you fill out taxes, mark down this cost as a “cost of entry to doing business.” This can be a tax reduction for those who work for themselves.
Okay, now that we know about hosting and pricing, let’s focus on your new domain name.
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Part III: Naming Your Site (Sexy Domain Names!)
In other words, what’s your domain name going to be. The domain name of my blog is www.dearblogger.org, and the blog is called Dear Blogger. Ideally, you want these two things to be the same, it’s way easier for visitors to remember and understand what’s going on.
Update: New post on domain names! Read it here.
For example, you visit collegehumor.com to read College Humor, and visit ebay.com to buy/sell on Ebay.
I made a little running list of things to keep in mind when picking your perfect domain name:
- GoDaddy.com has a great tool to search around, but don’t buy through GoDaddy, we’ll do that with HostGator below.
- Your domain should be balanced; that means simple, memorable, and catchy. For a really sexy story, check out how “Twitter” was chosen.
- The .com, .org, and .net extensions are the most common and most respected – try to stick to these and avoid dashes, numbers and other symbols that can confused your readers.
- Don’t make your domain name too long, for darn sake. People simply won’t remember it, type it in, and you’ll have harder time verbally communicating it at blogging events, conferences and more. This is a major reason I’m against the .blogspot and .tumblr domain names!
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Part IV: Video Guide to WordPress Blogging
Okay, if you’re ready, so am I – it’s finally time to setup your blog via the self-hosted route. We’ll begin at our blog host of choice and end up at WordPress.
To make it all really easy for you – and because I can’t guess how you learn best – I made a video where we register a domain name at HostGator, create a WordPress blog, then publish a post in well under 10 minutes time!
Check it out:
To prove to you how legitimate and thorough this guide is, we make an entire demo blog you can view here called the “First Try blog”.
Quick note on the video: Make sure to use the QuickInstall tool at 4:20 for the best possible WordPress setup. This is the recommended way to get your own copy of WordPress.
Part V: How about a Manual Screenshot Guide?
I’ve posted manual instructions below as a result of countless requests over email.
Head over to HostGator and then click the button that says View Web Hosting Plans in the middle of the screen.
This will take you to the next setup page at HostGator, which is where you select the hosting plan you’d like. I recommend going for the Hatchling plan at 1 year, to reduce the price/month.
Choosing 2 years would actually reduce your price even more, and since most bloggers stick around at HostGator, that’s not a bad option either.
Once you’ve selected a good hosting plan, you’re taken to this page below. This is where it get’s exciting; it’s time to put in your domain name of choice.
If you put in a domain someone has already registered, you’ll get a little error message like this. And if you need any help, really at any point, just click on Live Chat where my arrow is pointing above.
Once your domain name is locked and loaded, it’s time to get the annoying parts out of the way. That includes:
- Confirming your package type and billing cycle
- Creating your Username and Security Pin
- Scrolling down and unchecking all the hosting addons. You don’t need any of these for your site to run flawlessly.
Then comes the part where you get to save some money. Enter my coupon code “dearblogger25″ for a 25% discount. This discount is actually 5% more than the original coupon HostGator has plugged in, so definitely use this if you’re going with HostGator.
Once that’s done, fill in all your billing information and pay for this baby. Make sure to hit Create Account.
You’re all done with setting up your domain and hosting, and next is where we’ll install WordPress. In the off-chance you know a coder who wants to manually code a template to your site, you can skip WordPress installation. I’ve seen some folks go this route for very simple websites, but you’ll miss out on thousands of features.
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Part VI: Installing WordPress in 1-click
Time to install WordPress as your blogging software. The first step is to check your inbox, where HostGator will have sent you a message titled “HostGator.com Your Account Info.”
Inside this email you’ll find your:
- Control Panel Link
- Nameservers (If you registered your domain name with GoDaddy or someone else, you need to enter your nameservers there to point your blog to HostGator. Common process, one I do often. A nameserver looks like this (there are two of them): ns###.hostgator.com
Click on the Control Panel Link, then enter your username and password then boom, you’re now in the HostGator back end. Look at you, all techie. First, make sure to uncheck any pop-ups that appear.
Now, scroll down to Software/Services and click on the blue timer icon called QuickInstall. This is your WordPress 1-click install tool.
Once inside, you’ll see HostGator actually offers a wide array of Content Management Systems (CMS) installs. For now, we’ll stick with WordPress.
WordPress has a tremendous community, and over the last 5 years has become a mammoth in terms of funded research, development, and support. It’s on quite a run.
Click on WordPress on the left then hit continue.
Now, hope you’re excited, it’s time to execute your 1-click WordPress install. Here are the complete steps so you know you’re doing it exactly right (see image below to help).
- Click the drop down and select the domain name you want to install WordPress onto (if this is your first time, there will only be one domain).
- Leave the white box under your domain name empty.
- Uncheck Enable Auto Upgrades. I recommend you update plugins and themes in WordPress manually as you go.
- Enter your email, a blog title (you can change this later), your new WordPress username, and your first and last name (also can change).
- Take a deep breath and…
- Click Install Now! Once the installation completes, you’ll see a confirmation message with an assigned password, your username of choice, and your login link.
Congratulations, you should now have a completely functional WordPress blog!
Bookmark that login link, write down your password in a Google Doc so you’ll always have it handy, and head over to your new blog!
Note: In some rare cases it can take up to 24 hours for the web host to setup your account. This can happen if your domain was registered elsewhere or if you are in a remote location with weak internet. If you experience any delays, just engage the HostGator 24/7 chat or post a comment here. I’m around every morning to help out.
Now, let’s take a walk through WordPress.
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Part VII: Exploring WordPress
Did you log in yet? Great! Things probably look pretty new, which means now is a great time to jump back up and watch that video above.
We literally cover everything; make sure to comment and hit thumbs up, too.
If you can’t watch, here’s a screenshot to help explain some of the features in your new WordPress back end. I’ve numbered some hotspots you’ll want to click on first.
This screenshot shows you:
1) The WordPress software version you have installed (most current)
2) Posts – click to see everything you’ve written, drafted, published
3) Media – where your images, videos, spreadsheets, charts, and infographics stored
4) Appearance – this is where you go to edit the code your widget around
5) Plugins – awesome, free tools to make your blog do crazy things
Writing a new post
Now let’s take a good long look at the New Post Editor. That’s where you’ll be spending a lot of time – it’s a great tool for writing drafts, or just spinning some code for a new widget.
The arrows point to some buttons you’ll be using a bunch. Save Draft for example saves whatever you’re writing into Posts, in the left hand column. If hit Publish, your post will go live on your homepage right away, however it currently stands. Preview is a great tool, it opens your post in a new window that is not live but just a demo.
Screen Options literally lets you decide which Post Editor widgets you want to look at and use as you write, While Add Media is where you upload and insert images for blog posts, or for any part of your blog.
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Part VIII: Get Your First Blog Traffic
Ok, so your blog is brand new. Having been there before – this stinks. Let me offer you a few methods to change this:
- Submit your blog to Google
This makes sure Google robots start “crawling” your blog and indexing your articles with the other stuff that appears each day, each second. Hello, Google!
- Setup Google Analytics
This takes about an hour to figure out – and there’s a bit of code copy-paste involved – but it’s worth it. You’ll learn more and more about traffic each time you log back in. Now that I think of it, this is a great way to kick of your knowledge of code.
- Post views plugin for WordPress
This lets you publicly display how many views each post is getting.
- Visit Alexa
Meet the beautiful, sexy, powerful Alexa. Alexa is the global internet Web site ranking tool for understanding how well you rank among other sites in your own country, and others!
So, shall we look at some applications?
The WordPress post views plugin lets you analyze your traffic from your dashboard. Whoa – one of my posts just cracked 20,000 views!
Some posts have definitely done better than others – that’s because of several events like organic SEO, links pointing to a post, mentions by other bloggers, or even a simple tweet. Yep, one tweet can bring in massive traffic all at once.
Here’s a snapshot of my Alexa standings as of June, 2013:
All totally free, Alexa provides you with:
- Rank: global traffic
- Reputation: # of links pointing to you
- Regional rank: traffic ranking in your country
Lower rankings are better, and you have to get your ranking below 100,000 globally to start using the advanced tools in Alexa suite. Who knows, maybe you’ll get there before me?
Now, check it out. Here’s a screenshot of how many views and unique views this blog is getting. By looking back at this each month, I can track, tweak and optimize my efforts for the best performance.
So ya know, I can meet you!
Part IX: Let’s Make Money With Blogging!
But read this note: The methods below to make money will work best on self-hosted WordPress blogs. They really will. That’s not to say they won’t work on other blogs; then can. But, you might face limitations, not be able to advertise, or get suspended for earning elsewhere. You’ve been warned!
Okay – I figured we’d save the best for last. Let’s monetize!
If you’re totally new to money-blogging, you should check out one of the first posts ever published here, on how to make money from blogging.
Some of it gets pretty advanced though – so I figured I’d show you three methods a new blogger can latch onto right away.
The most widely accepted and known way to monetize a blog or website is signing up to Adsense, then placing ads around your blog. That said, there are more profitable ways to do it than others.
Personally, I’ve found the header space and the top of blog post space to be the most converting – that means they get the most views and clicks. A view won’t make you much, so you need lots; a click however, will – at first, you make about $1 per click.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at my college community blog.
Note: I’ve exceeded the amount of image MB in this page for now; fixing now – please click the links to open images in a new tab! Oofda!
The highlighted areas show where I’ve placed ads. The above post position sits right by the social media buttons readers often use – it’s a clicking hotspot.
As for the header, it’s less clicked but great for maxing views. If someone shows up – they definitely see that ad, but maybe not the one I have in my footer.
Right below all the comments on this post we have my footer ad. Oddly enough, this ad gets the most clicks – perhaps because Google selects richer content for this size of ad.
Wondering how much you can make via Adsense? Here’s a screenshot from my most recent payout. It’s really not much – I focus mainly on other earning opportunities – but it covers the overhead costs of a domain name, HostGator hosting and my premium WordPress blog theme.
Starting a newsletter on your blog can bring in consistent revenue through email marketing. You want to build subscribers first – then deliver the best content you can – then sprinkle in product offers where appropriate.
It basically works like this:
- Create epic newsletter
- Strategically position 1-3 forms on your blog (like those you see here on the homepage)
- Someone subscribes!
- Welcome message arrives
- Newsletter 1: Good stuff
- Newsletter 2: More good stuff
- Newsletter 3: Good stuff building on other good stuff
- Newsletter 4: Engagement, ask for something…
- Newsletter 5: Good stuff
- Newsletter 6: Goog stuff
- Newsletter 7; Remind them amount previous offer!
- And so on and so on…
You can find a couple good resources off the bat for starting your newsletter. Make sure to check them out, and refer to the comments (and add to them!) for some great knowledge:
Great eh? Have fun with it!
Affiliate marketing is a tremendous way generate long term, sustainable income. The idea is simple – you start a blog in a specific niche. This first step is a must. Then, you head over to a review site community and select a few products to review – you can even just pick one product.
Write long-form reviews on your blog, the type that rank well in Google, then link your readers to the products you recommend. Beware – this isn’t easy – and your articles need to be darn good.
That said, there are plenty of communities that pay impressive commissions. I’ve ranked them based on where I have found it easiest to earn – that said, the most lucrative option is a good mixture:
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Part X: Is it Really Time for a Conclusion?
I love blogging; it wasn’t easy ending this, and you can expect me to update this Ultimate Guide anytime I find new and useful information I think you’ll like.
In the meanwhile, I hope your blog setup is going really well, and if you have any questions remember you can always find me on:
Or, you can simply post a comment here – the comments are easily the most fun part of this blog!
To great blogging!
p.s. If you found this page helpful, please click on the “PLUS ONE” button below. To fill you in – I’m running a case study now to see how much “+1s” impact Search results. Even with just the support so far, the results are fantastic – I’ll post on this soon! Thanks!