Build a WordPress Blog in 7 Easy Steps in 2021

This is a complete guide for creating a lucrative WordPress blog.

First, I’ll show you how to set up a WordPress blog within 30 minutes. No technical knowledge required.

And by the end of this guide, this is what we’ll have covered:

  • Setting up web hosting and installing WordPress
  • Picking a theme
  • How-to publish a blog post
  • WordPress plugins – which are the must-haves?
  • Earning money with your blog

If you’re looking to start a WordPress blog the right way, then this is the only guide you’ll need.

Are you ready? Let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Set up & web hosting

Every blog needs a CMS, web hosting and a domain name.

You’ll definitely want to choose the right options for any of these straight away. Having to change any of them at a later point is a tremendous hassle.

In this chapter, I’ll be discussing each of these.

Why WordPress is the best CMS for your blog

One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a blog is choosing the wrong platform. Although there are dozens of ways to get a blog live, WordPress.org will be the way to go in 99% of all cases.

Why is this the case?

Well, there are several advantages WordPress.org has over the alternatives:

  • It’s free to use
  • It offers full flexibility over your blog design
  • You can easily enrich your blog’s functionality through plugins
  • You can earn money without any restrictions

On top of that, WordPress powers over a third of all websites worldwide. This means it has a gargantuan online community. Around the world there are tons of developers who enrich the platform with plugins and other innovations.

You might be wondering, if WordPress is this awesome, then why is it free?

WordPress is free because you’ll have to sort out hosting and a domain name yourself.

A domain name is the web address of your website. Think WebsiteGecko.com.

Hosting refers to where your websites files are being stored. It is wherever your website lives on the internet.

There are tons of web hosting providers out there. And choosing one can be overwhelming. How do your pick the best web host for your site? Let me help you out by recommending the hosting prover we use for WebsiteGecko: SiteGround.

Here’s why I believe SiteGround will be the best web host for your blog as well:

  • WordPress officially recommends SiteGround as a web host
  • SiteGround is one of the most recommended web hosts out there and hosts over 2 million websites
  • The company has a ridiculously good customer support team. Don’t expect to wait more than a few minutes to get your questions answered
  • SiteGround is a perfect fit for a wide array of websites. Some of the largest blogs in the world run on SiteGround, while they also offer a bunch of affordable hosting plans perfectly suited for beginners

Setting up web hosting and registering a domain name

I’ll be now showing you how to set up web hosting and register a domain for your blog.

First, let’s head over to SiteGround. Choose WordPress hosting.

Choose a SiteGround plan for your WordPress blog.

Then, pick a plan that fits your needs. At this stage, the only relevant choices for you are probably the first two. GoGeek becomes a sensible option once you generate thousands of visitors each month. At that point you can always upgrade your plan.

If you’re planning to build one blog, then StartUp (1) is a solid choice. If you are looking to start a bunch of them, then pick GrowBig (2).

SiteGround shared hosting plans.

Next up, it’s time to choose a domain name. If you’re unsure about what domain name to pick, or if you first choice is taken, then check out this article on domain names.

In case you’ve already got a domain registered elsewhere, select I already have a domain. You’ll be able to easily connect this domain to SiteGround.

Pick a domain with SiteGround.

Finally, fill out your personal details and payment method, and you’re good to go. Just make sure the Data Center is set to wherever is closest to you. Just so you know, you can always change this later.

One last thing: you don’t have to buy the SG Scanner. SiteGround’s security is already rock solid which makes the SG Scanner a pretty unnecessary add-on.

SiteGround betalen voor hosting.

Congrats! You’ve now got yourself the necessary foundation for your blog.

Let’s go ahead and install WordPress.

Step 2: Installing WordPress

With SiteGround you can install WordPress in just a few steps.

You also want your blog to run through a secure connection via an SSL-certificate. This ensures hackers can’t steal your visitors’ personal details.

In this step I’ll show you how.

WordPress installation

To install WordPress, navigate to Websites and click on Add New Site.

Voeg een nieuwe website toe via Siteground.

Choose Existing Domain and select your domain name.

Voeg een domeinnaam toe via SiteGround.

Click on Start New Website and pick WordPress at the Choose Application section.

Set up your WordPress blog’s login credentials at Set Up Login.

Installeer WordPress op SiteGround.

Click on Continue, Finish, and within two minutes your site will be ready.

Website maken via SiteGround wachtscherm.

Installing an SSL-certificate

Pretty much any legit website has an SSL-certificate.

An SSL-certificate enables an encrypted connection. It ensures your visitors can safely share personal details, such as their email address, on your website. You can see when a site has an SSL-certificate through the lock icon in your URL-bar.

In order to install an SSL-certificate, go to the Site Tools section by clicking Manage Site.

Manage site in SiteGround.

Then, navigate to Security » SSL Manager and select Let’s Encrypt below Select SSL. Subsequently, click on the Get button. The installation of the SSL certificate will take a couple of minutes.

SSL aanzetten via SiteGround.

Even though the SSL-certificate has been installed, your site doesn’t realize just yet it should use an encrypted connection. We’ll make sure it does by heading over your site’s WordPress dashboard.

You can do so by keying in [your domain name]/wp-admin/ in your URL-bar.

You can also access the WordPress dashboard by navigating to WordPress » Install & Manage and click on the icon below Actions.

Login WordPress via SiteGround.

Fill out the email address and password you just used to set up your WordPress account. Once logged in, click on Exit to proceed to the dashboard.

SiteGround welkom op je WordPress site.

Next up, go to SG Optimizer, select the Environment Optimization tab, and click on the button right next to Enable HTTPS

Enable SSL through SG Optimizer in WordPress.

The system will now automatically log you out of your account.

Once you’ve logged back in, it’s time for something more exciting: I’ll show you how to pick a theme for your WordPress blog and how to publish your first blog post.

Step 3: Picking a WordPress theme

A theme determines the look and feel of a WordPress website.

Installing a theme is a pretty straightforward process. Picking the right theme for your blog though, is a bit more complicated.

In this chapter I’ll show you how to do both. I’ll also tell you which theme we use for WebsiteGecko and why we chose it.

Determining the looks of your blog

When you install WordPress, it comes with a pre-installed theme. But most of your visitors won’t be too thrilled by how it looks:

WordPress 2020 theme example.

Working on the design of your blog is one of the most fun aspects about running one. With the right theme, you can apply an incredible amount of custom-design to your blog.

Colors, fonts, spacing between various elements, drop-shadows or little subtleties such as rounding the corners of your images – with a customizable theme you can adjust all of these according to your own taste.

There are 1000s of themes you can install on your blog. Some of them cost you nothing, while others are premium themes which can cost a few hundred dollars.

You can install a new theme by heading over to Appearance » Themes in your WordPress dashboard.

Nieuwe theme toevoegen in WordPress.

Next, click on the Add New button.

On the next screen, you can check out thousands of free WordPress themes. You can filter these according to popularity, age and industry.

WordPress themes overview in the WordPress dashboard.

When you hover over a theme, a Preview button appears. Click it to check out what the theme will look like on your website.

WordPress theme preview knop.

One of the great things about WordPress is that you can change your theme without re-uploading your content to your website. So know that whatever theme you pick, you won’t be stuck with it forever.

The cornerstone of good design is simplicity. I recommend picking a theme which looks clear and calm, without too many bells and whistles.

Do consider the type of visitors you’re looking to attract. Yoga lovers will expect a different type of website than people looking for business insights.

Once you’ve found a theme of your liking, hover over it and click Install. The installation of your theme usually takes about a minute. The Install button then gets replaced by an Activate button. Click on this button to activate the theme.

Acticate a WordPress theme for your blog.

In order to adjust the theme, click on Appearance » Customize.

You might be curious to know what theme we’re using for WebsiteGecko. We’re using Divi, the most popular WordPress theme in the world. Divi isn’t free, but it has a few really cool things for it which make it a great choice for pretty much any blog.

  • Divi is more than just a WordPress theme. It is a complete website builder which lets you pretty much build any website you can imagine
  • The theme comes with over 800 pre-made website designs. Brand-new designs are launched weekly with free photos, icons and illustrations
  • You get to build your website with Divi in the frontend. They’ve got an easy-to-use drag-and-drop builder which ensures whatever you build appears on your screen straight away
  • Divi has phenomenal customer service. Their support staff goes above and beyond whatever you expect from them. Furthermore, it takes just a few minutes to get a hold of them through live chat

If you’ve got the budget for it, I recommend you use Divi.

Step 4: Publishing a blog post

WordPress has a super easy-to-use Content Management System (CMS). This makes publishing new content a breeze.

In this chapter I’ll show you how to publish your first blog post.

How to create a WordPress post

In order to create a blog post, click on Posts » Add New in your WordPress dashboard.

You’ll now enter the Gutenberg editor.

The Gutenberg editor works with blocks (such as titles, paragraphs and images). Gutenberg makes it easy to apply a beautiful lay-out to your blog posts.

WordPress Gutenberg editor.

How to publish a WordPress blog post

In the menu on the right, you can add categories, tags and a featured image to your blog posts.

I recommend you never use tags. What happens when you’re using tags is that your site gets automatically injected with a ton of extra pages: one per tag. This leads to page bloat which hurts Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Categories are useful, however. They refer to a broad categorization for your articles. For instance, if your blog is about career development, you might have a category about CVs and a category about job interviews.

At the Featured Image section, you can upload an image which appears on top of your post and as a thumbnail. You don’t have to use a featured image, but it does make your blog a lot livelier.

WordPress Gutenberg categories, tags and featured image.

While working on your blog post you can see how it’s shaping up at any time by clicking on the Preview button.

Once you’re happy with your work, hit Publish to make it available to your readers.

WordPress article preview and publish.

Step 5: Plugins and other important extras

Plugins are apps you add to your WordPress blog. They let you add functionality to your site without having to write a single line of code.

There are 10s of thousands of WordPress plugins available for free. Whatever functionality you’re looking to add to your site, there probably will be a plugin for it.

In this chapter I’ll go over a few must-have plugins. These plugins let you set up Google Analytics and help your blog rank higher in search engines (SEO).

Installing a WordPress plugin

In order to install a WordPress plugin, go to Plugins » Add New in your WordPress dashboard.

You can look for plugins through the Search Plugins field in the top right corner, either by name or keyword.

Click on Install Now to add the plugin to your blog. Or, if you’ve downloaded a plugin somewhere else, click on the Upload Plugin button in the top left of this screen.

Searching plugins in the WordPress dashboard.

Once you’ve installed a plugin, make sure to click the Activate button.

We’ll be now installing a bunch of must-have plugins which will be relevant for pretty much any blog out there.

Install Google Analytics through MonsterInsights

Google Analytics tells you how many people visit your blog, how many pages they visit, and more.

You’ll want to use Google Analytics from day one to track your visitor growth as accurately as possible.

Start out by going to Google Analytics and log in with a Gmail account. Once logged in, you can set up Google Analytics.

Google inloggen voor Google Analytics.

You’ll be asked for your personal details and your site’s URL. After, you’ll receive the Google Analytics tracking code.

If you’re coding your site from scratch, you’ll have to manually add this tracking code. As WordPress users, we luckily just have to install a plugin.

Head over to your WordPress dashboard and install the MonsterInsights plugin. If you chose SiteGround as your hosting, the plugin should be pre-installed. After you’ve activated MonsterInsights, go to Insights » Settings to set up the plugin.

MonsterInsights connection with Google Analytics.

In the Settings page, click on Connect MonsterInsights to hook up your Google Analytics account with your blog.

Follow the instructions on your screen to wrap up the installation. Once done, you’ll be able to access Google Analytics at Reports.

MonsterInsights statistics.

You’ll find that MonsterInsight’s free version is somewhat limited in its analytical capabilities.

This won’t matter that much for the first few months. But once your blog starts to get traction, you could consider upgrading to MonsterInsights Premium.

Alternatively, you could also log into your Google Analytics account and check out comprehensive stats about your blog over there.

SEO: Optimize your blog for search engines

The success of your blog will in many cases depend on the amount of search engine traffic you manage to attract. SEO, or search engine optimization, helps users find your blog through Google and other search engines. This is why you should make your blog SEO-friendly straight from the get-go.

I recommend you use Yoast SEO as your primary SEO-related plugin. This plugin is of tremendous help in creating SEO-friendly content. For every post you publish, Yoast gives a list of actionable advice to rank higher in search engines.

Yoast in WordPress dashboard.

Other must-have plugins

As there is an endless amount of WordPress plugins available, picking the right ones for your blog can feel pretty overwhelming.

Where do you start exactly?

Which plugins you need will very much depend on the functionality you’re looking to add to your blog. The plugins below, however, are must-haves for pretty much any blog out there.

  • Loginizer. Everyday tons of WordPress websites are getting hacked. Loginizer protects you against bruteforce attacks by blocking the IP-address of the attacker after a certain amount of login attempts
  • W3 Total Cache. If you’re not using a WordPress caching plugin, then each element of your site gets requested again and again. Even if the visitor has seen the content before. Using a caching plugin, your site gets faster, offers a better user experience and is more SEO-friendly. W3 Total Cache is the best free caching plugin out there. Some hosting providers, like SiteGround, already offer their own caching plugin. In which case you won’t need this
  • UpdraftPlus. This is the most popular WordPress backup plugin out there with over 2 million active installs. The plugin lets you send automated backups of your blog to Dropbox, Google Drive and more. In case your hosting doesn’t offer any (regular) backups, UpdraftPlus is a must-have

Are you looking for plugins which offer a more specialized functionality, such as hiding certain content behind a paywall? Then check out our WordPress plugin guide.

Step 6: Earn money with your WordPress blog

Unless you’re blogging just for personal reasons, such as informing your family about your travel adventures, you probably want to earn money with it.

A blog can be highly lucrative. But things aren’t as easy as writing a blog post every now and then and hit the publish button.

In this chapter I’ll explain what it takes to earn money with your blog.

Pick a niche

This is the most important decision you’ll ever make for your blog.

What you write about determines the potential size of your audience, the number of visitors you’ll be able to pull in, and your enthusiasm for maintaining the blog.

Can’t you just write about whatever comes to mind? You sure can. But this will make it much harder to build an audience and for Google to make sense of what your site is about. So in most instances, it won’t lead to a successful blog (though there are some notable exceptions).

Your visitors will expect a certain consistency in your blog’s content. If today you’re reading an article on WebsiteGecko about designing a blog and tomorrow you encounter an article about puppy food, that would be a bit of head scratcher.

Find a blogging rhythm

Maintaining a blog is more of a marathon than a sprint. Most successful bloggers maintain a sustainable writing rhythm they’ll be able to maintain for years. Indeed, blogging is definitely something for the long haul.

There’s not one approach that’s best here. Backlinko is a super successful blog on SEO which only publishes long-from articles (4,000+ words) about once a month. These articles are incredibly well-researched and are of very high quality. Hence, Brian Dean who runs the blog, gets away with publishing just once a month.  

Others find more success by putting out a blog post weekly.

And some bloggers – those who are writing full-time – publish 2-3 times a week.

Since you’re probably starting your blog as a side project, I recommend publishing a blog post a week. Aim for something of substance, which means at least 1,500 words. This is a good way to develop your writing style and establish a rhythm.

Once you get the hang of it and have some readers, see if it makes more sense for yourself and your niche to switch to doing long-form (4,000+ words) content and to publish less frequently. Alternatively, you can also stick with shorter content. Or, you can mix it up. It really depends on you and your nice.

This might sound a bit dissatisfactory, but there is not one approach that trumps all others. You’ll have to experiment and find out what works best for you.

How to earn money blogging

There are a ton of ways to earn money with your blog. Below I’ll explain the 3 most effective methods.

Affiliate marketing

One of the most popular ways to earn money blogging is through affiliate marketing.

Doing affiliate marketing you write about products which are relevant to your target audience. When a visitor buys the product you recommend, you receive a commission from the seller. The seller knows it was you who sent them the customer through a special tracking code.

For instance, the article you’re reading right now has recommended the products SiteGround and Divi. In case you went with these, we would have received a small commission (in which case, thank you! It’s through such commissions that we can offer the content on this site for free).

Affiliate programs come in many shapes and sizes. For instance, Amazon has one of the biggest affiliate programs in the world. But manufacturers also often offer their own affiliate programs.

In order to know whether there are any good affiliate programs within your niche, simply search for “[name of product] affiliate program” in Google.

Infoproducts

If you’ve developed a unique expertise in a subject that’s relevant to a bunch of people, some of these people will be willing to pay to gain access to this expertise. You could pack this knowledge in a format which you can sell online, such as books, podcasts, ebooks or online courses.

With these types of products there often is a proven demand of at least one: you. Entrepreneurs who build these types of products often do so because there’s nothing out there that offers the right insights and know-how.  

This is exactly how Bony to Beastly came to be. 99% of the fitness industry is geared towards people who are looking to lose weight. If you’re skinny, this doesn’t do you any good. That’s why the founders of Bony to Beastly – former skinny guys themselves – developed an online course which helps skinny men put on muscle.

A key factor in making this model work is to draw in people through great, freely available blog content. Once you’ve pulled visitors to your site, you should give them a good reason to sign up to your email list. From that moment onwards, you can start promoting your course through email marketing funnels.

Advertising

Although banner ads and similar online advertisement aren’t as effective as a couple of decades ago, you still encounter them on a ton of blogs.

Google Adsense is the best network for putting advertisements on your blog.

Keep in mind though: before banner ad revenue starts to become an attractive stream of income, you’ll need 100 of thousands of visitors. Plus, ads don’t exactly enhance your blog’s user experience.

Therefore, I’d say you’ll probably do much better with affiliate marketing or info products.

Step 7: Design your blog like a pro

Great blog design leads to more visitor engagement with your content, more returning visitors and more backlinks from other websites.

And still, design is something that to many bloggers push to the wayside. The good news is that if you do invest in design, you can easily set yourself apart from the competition.

Luckily, by following a few simple design principles you can easily whip up something that looks better than 90% of the internet.

Readability  

The readability of your content hinges on a few principles. These are the most important ones:

  • Pick a font size of at least 16 pixels. Font sizes work differently on the internet than they do in, let’s say, Word. While with Word a font size of 12 is perfectly readable, on a website this would appear miniscule. That’s why most websites opt for a font size of at least 16 pixels. For WebsiteGecko we use 18 pixels, and a platform like Medium is even using 21 pixels
  • Apply a generous line height. Our font size of 18 pixels is accompanied by a line height of 1.9em. Use a generous line height to ensure the lines in your content aren’t squished together. This will lead to a much better reading experience
  • White space, white space, white space. White space is a critical component of readability. I barely write paragraphs which are longer than 4 lines. You’ll encounter this with most experienced bloggers. Nobody likes to chisel their way through a thick wall of text. Using short paragraphs and heaps of white space makes your content a lot more palatable
  • Don’t use too many fonts. I recommend you use no more than 3 different fonts across your blog. Not only is this more manageable, it also makes your blog look more professional
  • Don’t pick your font sizes at random. Humans are attracted to beauty. And most beautiful things have perfect proportions. This also applies to font sizes. As such, make sure to use modular scaled font sizes. Type-Scale is a free tool which lets you do this   

Pro tip: in Google Chrome you can check fonts, line heights and more of any website. To do so, select a chunk of text, hit the right mouse button, and select “Inspect.”

You’ll then see something like this:

Use inspect with Google Chrome.

This an excellent way to glean some design insights from sites you like.

Images   

People are visual creatures. This why it’s important to endow your content with beautiful, relevant imagery. A website without imagery feels cold, unappealing and boring.

Besides the fact that imagery livens up your content, in many cases they also provide practical utility. Consider for instance the screenshots earlier on in this guide which explained how to use the WordPress dashboard.

If you wish to add images from the internet to you content, keep in mind that in most cases they’ll be copyrighted. Therefore, make sure to use a site like Pexels or Freepik for your decorative imagery. As long as you give them credit, you can use the images from these sites free of charge.

Keep It simple

Simplicity in design often leads to beauty. Whether it’s clothing, furniture or websites: simple design tends to stand the test of time.

As such, don’t add too many bells and whistles to your blog. Think Apple: keep it neat and clean.

Design a blog with Divi

If you’ve chosen the Divi theme for your blog, make sure to check our article on how to design a WordPress blog with Divi. It explains the process step-by-step.

Conclusion

I hope this guide on how to build a blog has been of help to you.

If you follow the steps from this guide, you should start to earn money with it over time as well.

Now I want to know:

What will you be blogging about? And is there anything else you’d like to know about starting a WordPress blog? Let me know in the comments below.

Frequently asked questions

Do I have to use WordPress for setting up a blog?

Not necessarily. You could use a website builder like Wix for instance. When doing this, you don’t have to set up hosting yourself. However, Wix and other website builders are much more limited in terms of design and functionality than WordPress. They are more expensive, too. And most website builders aren’t as SEO-friendly as WordPress.

Can I build a blog without any hosting?

A website can’t exist without hosting. Web hosting is where your site’s files are stored on the internet. There’s not a website in the world which doesn’t have any hosting. However, a website builder like Wix hosts your blog on their platform. If you start a blog through Medium, the same thing applies.

What does it cost to start and maintain a WordPress blog?

This really depends on your hosting and theme. For SiteGround you’ll be paying $180 a year. Divi costs $89 per year or $249 for lifetime access. If that exceeds your budget, check out Hostinger which is a much cheaper web host. There are also some pretty neat free themes out there as well to save money on you theme.
 

How do I change my WordPress blog’s language?

Go to Settings » General in the WordPress dashboard. Pick the language you fancy at Site Language en hit Save Changes at the bottom of the page.

Can I start a WordPress blog without any coding knowledge?

You definitely can. Although it’s possible to add custom-code to your blog, you can still build a great blog without writing a line of code.
 

How do I use a business email for my WordPress blog?

Most hosting providers offer a free email service which you can link to your blog’s domain. This gives you an email address which looks like this: [email protected][your domain].com. You can also use a dedicated email service like Gmail and link your domain to that.

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