How to Start a Blog

Congratulations on deciding to start a blog. As technology professionals, it is really a no-brainer that we should have a blog to build our brand and to potentially build a business. With over 3 billion people online, there’s a lot of people who may be interested in your content.

Less than even ten years ago, it was more difficult and expensive to start a blog. Since you’re reading my blog, you likely know how to develop your own blog. However, I actually encourage you not to code it yourself because starting a blog is about writing not coding. I find myself looking for ways to always improve my code and find this distracting from writing. If you code, you are likely similar.

You can start a blog in under 30 minutes using WordPress and host it for less than $100 with Bluehost, a leading web hosting company. Bluehost was created in 2003 and operates its servers in-house in a 50,000 square foot facility in Utah.

How to Set Up Your Blog

Here is my step-by-step instruction guide on how to set up your own WordPress blog in 30 minutes or less.  Along the way I include some pieces of advice based on experience. At the the end of this page, I include some ideas on monetization and growth.

By the way, WordPress is the best platform to use because it is the easiest to use, most used, and also what I use too!

1) Sign Up For Hosting

Bluehost offers three main types of hosting plans:

  • Shared hosting <- Start with this option to save money
  • VPS hosting
  • Dedicated hosting

Shared hosting is the way to go when you’re starting out. It just makes sense to start small and work your way up. Dedicated hosting is the most expensive option. I don’t have dedicated hosting because my blog at the time of this writing has thousands of pageviews per month and not millions.

Start with the $3.95 plan on BlueHost and scale up as needed.

Bluehost plan prices for shared hosting.
I’d select the plan on the left for $3.95.

2) Choose a Domain Name

Bluehost provides a free domain name for one year to everybody who signs up. When selecting your domain name, here are some tips:

  1. Choose a domain that is unique, fun, and easy to remember e.g. CodingHorror.com
  2. Choose a name with a phrase or key word that is often searched for e.g. “coding for kids”
  3. Choose a domain name that is completely unique or spelled differently.
  4. Choose a shorter domain name because it is generally easier to spell and get right than a longer domain name e.g. DZone.com vs. WritingCodeInPHPJavaAndDotNet.com.
  5. Choose a domain name that ends in .com for more credibility. If the .com version isn’t available, consider .net.

3) Hosting Options

After you’ve selected the basic package and found an available domain name that you like, you’ll come across this part of the sign up page with a variety of different options. If you want to keep your name anonymous if someone checks the site ownership, click Domain Privacy Protection. The Codeguard Basic for $2.99 a month may be a good idea as well because you get to conveniently back up your work and you may not want to back it up yourself. I personally wouldn’t consider any of the other options.

bluehost package options

4) Install WordPress

WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) for bloggers and for good reason. It’s easy to set up, use, and very customizable. As I mentioned, even though we are tech professionals and can develop our own blogs, writing a blog, in my opinion, is enough work without the distraction of development and maintenance. 

Installing WordPress on Bluehost is as simple as clicking install once. 

5) Choose Your Theme

WordPress comes with various built-in themes and other free ones can be found in their theme marketplace.  To see themes, on the left-hand navigation menu, click Appearance -> Themes. Choose add “Add New” to see their marketplace. 

How Much Money Can You Make?

The sky is really the limit in terms of how much money you can make online. Once you start your site since there is no limit to how many people can visit your site 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, unlike a physical store.

The main ways to make money with your website include the following:

  1. Consulting opportunities.
  2. New full-time work opportunities. Many employers like being able to see a potential employee’s writing, likewise for consulting.
  3. Selling your own product like an eBook or online course.
  4. Selling someone else’s great product with an affiliate program (CPA)
  5. When someone clicks on an ad. This would be Cost Per Click (CPC), like Google Adsense.
  6. When someone views your banner add. This would be cost per impression (CPM).
  7. When someone pays you to publish a sponsored post of theirs

Advice On Growing Your Blog

1) Write interesting content based on experience. Does your blog post solve a problem? It’s much better to write from experience because when people are searching on the Internet for answers they want a reliable answer. If you have experience with a topic, you can clearly articulate your answer. If you are guessing or just filling your article with SEO keywords, people will realize this and avoid your site. Google’s Search Engine Rankings are quite sophistictated in rewarding quality content and are always getting better. So, really, it is best to write content that it is good and that you are proud of. 

I don’t get a million views per month, but I do get a steady stream of traffic on my limited number of articles about Spring. I wrote some of them because there were no answers to my problems readily available on the Internet. A few times when I was working through a problem I forgot what to do, so I searched for the answer on Google and my article came up! I had very mixed feelings about this. I felt happy my article came up on Google, but I also felt stupid for not remembering my answer!

2) Work with larger blogs or sites. Guest posting on larger blogs used to be a great way to build backlinks to your site, but based on what I’ve read black hat SEO has devalued this substantially. However, it can be still be a good way to get referrals if the audience is similar to your target audience. 

I have had the most success in terms of traffic by getting my articles syndicated on websites such as Dzone and JavaCodeGeeks. Some would say that the fact my content is getting posted again devalues my original content. I’m not sure if this is true or not if only happens a few times, but I do get a number of visitors from those sites.

In general, the more exposure you get, I think the better. You will find conflicting opinions about strategy, but I think most agree you just need to get exposure. 

3) Build a relationship with your readers. Some of my favorite blogs include CodingHorror and Financial Samurai. The two blogs are completely different in terms of topics; one is a blog about development, while the other is about personal finance. However, both of them, in my opinion, create a connection with the reader by including personal anecdotes and other humanizing tidbits. 

Building a relationship with the reader leads to a community that wants to read your content. 

5) Write consistently. This is something I’ve been really bad at, but want to be better about. I’ve noticed that the more I publish, the more readers I get. I think pretty much all websites about blogging tell you to write consistently and on a schedule. They’re right! 

In Stephen King’s book On Writing, he talks about his discipline in writing every day. If you want some motivation to write, I suggest reading his book. There’s also a lot of great material about how to be a better writer, which I wish I retained. 🙂