blogging Blogging 101

How to Start Your Own Blog – A Beginner’s Guide

June 5, 2017

If you’ve been following our blog and thinking we have the best job in the world, you may just be right!

Travel blogging is certainly more work than it may look on first impression but there’s little better than playing a role in helping people live out their travel dreams to see the world.

We love it and you just might too!

If you’re thinking of starting your own blog – whether it’s travel, lifestyle, fitness, food or anything at all – we’ll talk you through the basics and have you on your way in no time.

If you have a message worth sharing (and yes, you do), we’ll help you find the platform to do so.

1. Decide on a Name

If you’re going to put yourself out there as a brand, you want to ensure it’s catchy, represents you well and will grow with you.

Will your brand still represent you in five years time?  

Will it work if you decide to move countries or have a change of lifestyle?

Does it clearly relate to your chosen field? 

Are people likely to misspell it and end up somewhere else?

Whatever brand you decide to go with it should last the test of time and make a great first impression with potential visitors.  Before anyone gets to know you, they’ll first come across your brand name – you want it to be awesome!

2. Lock-Down Your Social Media Accounts

Once you’ve got a name for yourself, take a look at various social media sites and check that your accounts at still available.  In an ideal word, you’ll want to have the same username for everything.

For example, regardless of whether you check on Pinterest or Facebook, you’ll find we’re Exploring Kiwis.  The same goes for all of our social media accounts.

Having the same name throughout all of your accounts makes it easy for people to find you and helps your brand look professional off the bat.

We suggest you start off with a Facebook business page along with a Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest account.  You don’t have to use them all right away but you don’t want someone sneaking in and snapping them up before you.

What if your accounts aren’t available anymore?  If you’ve got another brand option that was a close second, I’d suggest reconsidering that one.  If you’re set on your first choice then consider adapting your social media username – we could have been @exploringkiwistravel, for example.

3.  Stake Your Claim on the Web

What’s a blogger without a blog?

Though there are lots of platforms out there, you’ll hear a few names mentioned time and time again – WordPress, Blogger and Squarespace, most commonly.

I’ve used Blogger outside of travel blogging and though it is easy to use it doesn’t have anywhere near the level of flexibility that WordPress offers.

Remember, whatever you decide, you want it to be able to grow with you.

For this reason, we strongly suggest signing up with WordPress – it’s free to do so and super straight-forward.  Before you do this though, you’ll want to read the next step…

4. Find Your Blog a Place to Live

Once you’ve decided on WordPress (because you have, haven’t you?), you’ll need to figure out whether you want to be hosted on their servers (.com) or if you’ll decide to be self-hosted (.org).

If you’re planning to blog for an audience, you’ll want to be self-hosted from the get-go.  Doing this means that you’ll be able to host ads on your site when the time comes, you’ll have access to a professional looking email (which will be vital if you decide to reach out to companies seeking sponsorship or a collaboration) and you’ll be able to load up a variety of themes and plugins to customise your new blog.

When we first started Exploring Kiwis, we signed up for hosting with BlueHost based on the recommendation of some of the bigger bloggers.  Knowing what we know now though, we couldn’t make this recommendation ourselves to anyone.  Our site was frequently down and the customer service team wasn’t particularly helpful.

Based on the recommendation of our more down-to-earth blogging friends, we made the move to SiteGround and couldn’t be happier!

Web Hosting

We signed up to the StartUp plan and the team helped us every step of the way, transferring our blog over for us and, later, helping us transfer from http to https.  When you start with them, be sure to load up your https certificate right away (you guessed it, they’ll help with that) to give your site the best chance of being picked up by Google.

Psssst: If you’re ready to sign up, you can get 60% off hosting by using our SiteGround link!  The StartUp plan is normally USD9.95/month but for you guys it’s only USD3.95/month.

All you need to do is sign up to the plan you want through SiteGround by following these steps…

First of all, choose the plan that will serve your initial needs – for most people that will be StartUp.  Don’t worry if you plan to grow your blog, there is flexibility with the page views and it’s easy to upgrade when the time comes that you need a bit more grunt.

Next up you’ll either need to supply them with your existing domain name or register for a new one.   It’s much more professional to have a custom link (like https://exploringkiwis.com than .adding wordpress into the mix) so again, set yourself up for the long term – do it once and do it right.

If you already have an established blog, hosted elsewhere, SiteGround will take care of the transfer for you at no charge – honestly, this team was a godsend when we came to do our transfer.  They made the whole process so easy!

With those steps completed, all you’re left to do is to decide on how long you’d like to sign up for, enter your payment details and go ahead and load up Word-Press with their 1-click installer.

Too easy!

If you’re not technically inclined then drop SiteGround a message through chat – they’ll help you through the process of adding WordPress to your account (whether it be through their 1-click installer if you’re setting up a new blog or a transfer for your existing one).

5. Fine-Tune Your Blog

Now that you’re set up you can have some fun choosing a theme, adding an ‘About Me’ page, setting up your author profile and just generally getting your site looking great.

Themes and styles are easy enough to change so don’t get too caught up this – find something that will do the trick for now and have a go at making a simple logo to represent your brand.  We chose a font we liked the look of and made a logo ourselves – it doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy.

Before you start publishing posts, we do suggest you take the date format out of the URLs – apparently Google prefers this and you want to do everything you can to start growing your organic traffic.  It’s a slow game but one you want to start working on from day one.

To do this head into Settings and then Permalinks – set this to the post name option.

In addition, to get your blog functioning well we suggest you also add the following free plugins:

  • Yoast SEO – Get a head-start on making your blog Google-friendly.
  • Akismet Anti-Spam – This will prevent spammy comments from overtaking your site.
  • Contact Form 7 – Add this to your contact page so people can easily message you (you don’t want to miss out on that sponsored post, after all!)
  • SumoMe – Here you’ll find lots of options to help you convert readers to potential subscribers and help generally spread the word about your awesome new blog!
  • Ultimate Nofollow – When you do eventually work with brands, it’s important that you use ‘no-follow’ links so your site isn’t penalised by google.  This plugin makes doing so super easy.
  • WP Smush Pro – Help squash all of your big photos into internet-friendly versions, speeding up your site.

6.  Get Blogging!

With your brand name decided, WordPress self-hosted with your own custom URL and your social media accounts safely locked away, it’s time to get started.

Anybody that knows me well will tell you that I’m a great starter but not the best finisher in the world.  This might just have served me well in blogging though as getting in and giving it a go really is a great place to start.

Don’t get caught up on perfecting your posts right away.

Don’t worry about how many people are reading your posts.

Make a start and learn as you go.

There’s lots of information out there to help you on your way and as you find your own voice and learn the ‘best’ way of doing things, your style and methods will evolve.

When I look back at my first few posts, I can’t help but laugh.  Without them though, we wouldn’t be where we are now so as much as I cringe, I don’t have even an ounce of regret.


Keen to start your own blog but not just yet?  Pin this post for later…

A practical guide to help you open your own travel blog. Hosting, URLs, social media, plugin suggestions, post basics and more - if you want to start travelling the world and writing about it, this guide is for you!

This post includes affiliate links – it doesn’t cost you a cent to use them but doing so will help us keep Exploring Kiwis running.  We only recommend companies that we stand behind 100% and have happily been using ourselves.

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