So you want to start a blog…
Exciting! Many of our readers here at World of Vegan are passionate food lovers, have a story to tell, and are experts in their own right. You—yes, you—have great insights, opinions, and recipes that deserve to be shared.
I’ve heard from many of you who are eager to start blogging but don’t know how to begin. So friends, this “How to Start A Blog” guide is for you.
I started blogging in 2009, and started writing this very blog post way back in 2015. But it sat in my drafts unpublished until now, a half-decade later. I wanted to make sure that this guide will be massively helpful in making the blog-starting process easier for my fellow creative herbivores, will help prevent loads of frustration, and will help bring more vivacious vegan blogs into existence. I know a loooot more now than I did back in 2015 and I finally feel ready to hit “publish” and make this live. So buckle up and let’s dive in!
Step 1: Decide—How Committed Are You?
The answer to this question will help determine your blogging path, so it’s an important one.
For the Casual Blogger:
If you just want to explore blogging on a personal level and aren’t sure you’ll stick with it, you can set up a completely free blog using platforms like blogspot.com or wordpress.com. This is the easiest way to get started and doesn’t cost a cent. It’s a great way to forgo the tricky blog set-up stuff below and jump immediately into writing, sharing, developing your voice, and seeing if this is something you really enjoy and want to stick with long-term.
However, there are several downsides to this approach:
- You’ll have to use a subdomain, meaning your blog URL will be something like: yourblognamehere.wordpress.com or yourblognamehere.blogspot.com.
- You’ll be limited in how you customize the look and feel of your blog.
- Free platforms may run ads on your blog (you won’t have any control over these and the plarform profits off of them—you don’t).
- Your blog will have a less professional look and feel (and it may indicate to readers that you’re less experienced and less committed to your blog).
For the informal blogger, this may be a perfect fit! But if you want flexibility with design, a professional look and feel that will be taken more seriously, and your own website URL, you’ll want to set up a WordPress.org site (read on).
For the Committed Blogger:
If you know this is something you want to invest time and energy into over the coming years, you’ll want to set up a custom WordPress.org website with your own domain name: yourblognamehere.com. This is what we have here at WorldofVegan.com.
If you build your blog on WordPress.org, it will be relatively future-proof, because WordPress.org is the biggest and most widely trusted blogging platform in existence. If you want you to change your theme or totally renovate your website design—no problem. WordPress functions in a very flexible way that will make that process simple.
Ready to give this blog thing a go? Then continue on, my friend!
Step 2: Setting Up Your New Website
To set up a WordPress.org blog you’ll need four fundamentals:
- a domain name (www.yourblognamehere.com)
- a host (that keeps your blog running)
- a WordPress.org account (free)
- a blog template (free or premium)
Optionally you may also want the following:
- A nice recipe plugin
- Additional plugins
- A WordPress.com account (which you’ll need in order to use the WordPress.org forums, Akismet (spam filter), Gravatar (your avatar image that appears when leaving comments and beyond), and Jetpack (super useful plugin with many functionalities).
We’ll dive into all of these below!
Step 3: Choose A Blog Name
This is the fun part where you get to tap into your creativity. It’s also a great opportunity to practice your zen as you find that 90% of your brilliant ideas have already been taken by other creatives (or URL squatters). The blog naming process will almost certainly feel frustrating, but remember that there is always another name, and your next idea may well be better than the last! Keep at it until you find a blog name you love. And not just now, but one that you feel confident you’ll still love 10 years down the line.
If you’re really set on a blog name that’s taken, you do have a couple options to try.
- You can try adding simple or descriptive words like “the” or “the ultimate” to your blog name.
- Add dashes between words. For example: my-blog.com.
- See if the name is open with a different domain extension like .net or .org. or .info (there are many options, although I would only go this route as a last resort).
- If the URL is taken by someone who isn’t actively using it, try to reach out, let them know your aspirations, and see if they’d be willing to release their ownership of the URL (you can offer to compensate them or make a donation to a charity of their choosing).
Step 4: Snag Your Domain Name
To use your chosen domain name you’ll first need to own it. You can buy any available URL from platforms like Namecheap (my personal go-to) and GoDaddy (which is owned by people with very questionable ethics, and for that reason I don’t recommend them). You might recall years back the CEO of GoDaddy shot an elephant and posted a photo standing proudly next to it, which was one of many waves of “Boycott GoDaddy” campaigns.
Getting your domain name is simple. Once decide on the name for your blog, type it in here to see if that URL is available. It should cost around $10/year to purchase if it’s available. If it’s available, woohoo! Pop a bottle of champagne (or apple cider), because you’ve now achieved the hardest part of starting your blog.
Now, quick! Get it before it’s gone!
- Enter your desired URL and go through the steps to buy it. You will need to sign up for an account on NameCheap (or whatever site you decide to use to buy your domain), enter your payment information, and follow the prompts to complete the transaction.
- Note: they will try to up-sell you with several ad-ons that you’re welcome to consider, but aren’t necessary. Don’t buy hosting through this site—host quality matters, and if you want your website to run smoothly, it’s very important to choose a high-caliber host.
- You will have the option of purchasing additional similar URLs, such as yourblognamehere.net (in addition to .com). While you’re welcome to do this if you’re worried about someone copying your blog concept, it’s certainly not necessary.
- Now it’s yours!
Domain names are like property—once you register your domain name (URL) you own it for as long as you continue paying the annual fee for it—and nobody else can use it. If you ever stop paying for it, the URL will no longer be yours and someone else can come scoop it up. Just like a plot of land.
Getting your domain name is exciting, but the thrill quickly fades when you’ve purchased it and you go to visit your new internet web address and there’s nothing there. You’re close, but you’re not done yet! Now you need to purchase web hosting, set up your WordPress site, and get them all connected so when people visit yourblognamehere.com your gorgeous blog will appear!
Step 5: Choose Your Web Host
To run your website with your own designated URL, you’ll need a web host. All the content of your website needs to “live” on a server somewhere in order to appear on the internet, and that’s what your host does. It houses your content on their servers. This is a service you’ll need to pay for monthly, as long as you want to keep your blog alive. It can be as little as a few dollars a month and as much as $40+ a month if you have a huge high-traffic site.
There are all different types of host options out there—shared servers, designated servers, and beyond—offered at different price points. But beware—going with a lower-quality host can mean significant down time for your website, slow loading time, and more. If you want to minimize those shenanigans (trust me—you do), pay a couple more dollars a month to invest in a quality host that has your back.
I cycled through multiple website hosting platforms for World of Vegan before settling happily on SiteGround. SiteGround is the host I use today and have recommended to many fellow bloggers who now also love them. My site speed issues went away when I moved over to SiteGround and they have excellent customer support.
I’ve had bad experiences personally and/or have heard horror stories from other bloggers about the following platforms that I don’t recommend: Dreamhost, Bluehost, GoDaddy.
A little side story—for an entire year this website (World of Vegan) was loading reaaaaally slowly. I tried everything. I contacted my old host multiple times (a very popular web hosting company) and they assured me it wasn’t on their end. Finally, at my wit’s end, I sought help from my techie friend Henry who encouraged me to try switching hosts to SiteGround. I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a try. And all of a sudden World of Vegan started running smoothly, loading quickly, and I never had a site speed problem again. They’re great, and they seem to care so much more than other big hosting giants out there.
Spare yourself the struggle I went through. SiteGround is awesome, and they integrate seamlessly with WordPress. They have 1-click installation and are recommended by WordPress.org as one of the best WordPress hosting providers.
- Go to your preferred hosting platform’s website and choose your hosting package. If you are just getting started blogging, the SiteGround “StartUp” package should be perfect for you.
- Follow up prompts to purchase your web hosting. You’ll need to enter your registered domain name (yourblognamehere.com).
- SiteGround offers great support and how-to guides to get you all set up and connected with both your domain name and WordPress. Follow these steps, and when in doubt, hop on their support chat and they can answer your questions!
One last note about hosts. My host, SiteGround, includes daily website backups, which I recommend to everyone. Especially if you’re in any way tech-challenged. Here’s why…
In my ten years of blogging, I’ve yet to need website backup functionality—until today. Just minutes ago, while writing this article, I logged into my WordPress dashboard to find out the name of my blog Theme, saw that the theme needed an update, and clicked update. Innocent action, right? No. Moments later, World of Vegan was no more. My site was stripped to some other weird format, the content was gone, everything lost.
My heart dropped. Panicked, I wrote my life-saving web guru, Justin, who reminded me that SiteGround has daily backups that are stored for 30 days, and in a click I could have my site back, good as new. Thank you, Justin! And thank you SiteGround.
Step 6: Set Up WordPress
Good news: WordPress.org provides the blogging software you’ll use to build, write, and manage your blog and it’s a free open-source system that integrates beautifully with your chosen host and domain name above!
Head over to WordPress.org and click “Get WordPress.” They pride themselves on their easy installation that can take less than 5 minutes to complete. I will tell you that when I first started this blog, it took me well over 5 minutes, and a great deal of reading and re-reading the steps over and over because they seemed like gibberish to me.
This part—getting all the pieces of your blog (your domain name, your host, and your WordPress blog) connected and set up—can be painful. This is where most first time bloggers abandon ship and think: “forget it—this isn’t for me.” But I promise you, you can do this, even with zero tech knowledge. Lean on the SiteGround host support chat when you need to. Watch YouTube tutorial videos. You’re so close now—power though!
The exciting thing is that once you have this all set up, you can mostly forget about technical things forever into the future. Part of the reason why it’s taken me so long to write this “How to Start A Blog” article is because after setting up this blog a decade ago, I never thought about it again. I’ve since set up many more websites and now have the process down…but friend, just push on over this hump and you’ll be in glorious bloggerland!
You made it! From Googling “How do I start a blog?” to now—you have a blog! Now let’s make it awesome.
Step 7: Choose A WordPress Theme (Free or Premium)
Your blog “theme” is essentially the template that will determine how your blog will look. It creates the layout, format, and style.
How to Get A Free WordPress.org Theme:
Log in to your WordPress dashboard, click on “Appearance,” and then click “Themes.” To see thousands of free themes, click on “WordPress.org Themes” and look through to find your favorite. Look for a theme that meets your functional needs, matches your style, and is highly rated.
Note: You can always change themes in the future—that’s one of the beauties of WordPress.org! So if you find a theme you like but aren’t sure it’ll be “the one” forever, don’t worry. You can always switch it up down the road.
How to Get A Premium WordPress Theme:
If the free themes aren’t getting you giddy, you can find premium themes that you can install on WordPress to achieve the perfect look and feel for you. That’s what I did for World of Vegan. These can vary in price from as little as $10 to the $500 range (but if you’re going to spend that much you may as well hire a developer to create a custom site for you). We use a premium theme called “SuperNews” that I bought for $59 from ThemeForest.net.
Custom-Built WordPress Theme:
You do have one last option. This one is for the super-advanced and involved blogger with a bigger budget. You can hire a web developer to create the site of your dreams. Practically anything you can dream up for your blog, your homepage, and your blog functionality, a good web developer can build for you.
Step 8: Pick Your Plugins
Once you have your theme set up, you’ll likely want to install some plugins. Plugins are packages of code that can add specific design elements and/or functionality to your blog. They’re awesome. You can install them, turn them on or off in your WordPress dashboard, update them whenever updates are available, and customize them.
There are tens of thousands of free plugins, and others that cost money. We use more than 20 plugins for World of Vegan for a variety of specific things. Here are the most essential plugins that I’d recommend for everyone:
- Yoast SEO (this will help you optimize your blog content for search engines, so your content is more likely to be found when people search on Google or other browsers)
- WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache, or WP Rocket (pick one, any one—this will help your blog load faster for visitors! The first two are free, and WP Rocket is a premium paid option with extra performance benefits that we use at World of Vegan because we want our readers to have the best experience possible.)
- Akismet (a spam blocker that helps protect your comment sections and contact forms from intruders)
- A social media share icon plugin (we use “Social Media and Share Icons”)
- An Instagram feed display plugin (we use “Smash Balloon Instagram Feed”)
Have fun browsing through available plugins in your WordPress dashboard and finding those that best suit your needs!
Just beware: installing lots of plugins can affect your site speed. Think of plugins like apps on your cell phone—too much of a good thing is not-so-good, so only install and activate plugins that you really need. Also, be sure to check in and regularly update your plugins to ensure you’re running the latest versions.
Step 9: Choose a Recipe Plugin
If you’re creating a recipe blog (yay!) then you’ll need a recipe plugin. You can use free plugins like WP Recipe Maker (that’s what I used for quite a while), but they have their limitations. They will suffice if you’re a new blogger and not on a mission to get your recipe to rank on the first page of Google.
But if you want your blog to be the ultimate in style, functionality, and SEO friendliness, check out Tasty Recipes. It’s made by the creators of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast (which I also highly recommend).
We used free recipe plugins here at Word of Vegan for nearly 10 years, but we’ve finally upgraded to Tasty Recipes and we’re loving it. Although I will note—I now work with a freelance web developer (hi Justin!) who helped customize Tasty Recipes to our liking. If you’re just starting out, it’ll be easiest to start with a free plugin like WP Recipe Maker and know that you can easily transition over to another recipe plugin in the future.
Step 10: Create Graphics for Your Blog
Okay—now you have your blog theme, you have your recipe plugin, and you’re ready to start writing and publishing! You write your first post and go to publish it and realize it looks like it’s from the dinosaur age with absolutely no photos or graphics. You’re not a photographer or a graphic designer, so what now?!
Ideally every blog post you publish will have a cover image. Well—Canva has a template specifically for that (they call it a “Blog Banner”). If you need to use one of their images, you can purchase the license to use it for just $1 (that’s crazy affordable), or you can upload your own images to use for free. Canva is amazing in that it enables everyone to make their blog look incredible. We use it all the time.
“How Can I Get A Snazzy Logo for My Blog?”
A little secret: I actually got the World of Vegan logo designed before I started setting up the blog. I’m a very visual person and wanted to have that element of my site’s identity in place before rolling out the rest. But for most people, a logo isn’t a necessity to get started. This is personal preference. Here are your options.
Go Without A Logo:
If you’re just dipping your toes into blogging, there’s no need to create a logo before you launch your blog. But it can be fun to have this piece in place! If you do want a logo on your site, celebrating your blog name and making the whole thing seem more “official,” you can either make your own or hire a professional.
Make Your Own Logo:
If you want to try your luck at making your own logo, you can make one over on Canva. Play with fonts, text size, and graphics until you’re happy with your logo.
Get A Professionally Designed Logo:
If you want to hit the ground running without a “warm-up period,” you can get a professional logo designed for your website. I did this for World of Vegan before launching. I got my logo designed using 99designs. I’ve actually used 99designs for several logos for various projects, and love them. Their process is pretty rad. You submit your concept, and designers all around the world can submit designs. After the first round of submissions, you decide whether you want to keep going (at which point you commit to the payment), or if you’re unhappy with what you got, you can walk away with no loss. I’ve gotten over 50 design submissions for a single project before! It’s very cool.
Note: it’s helpful to have a square and horizontal version of your logo to use for different purposes. If you’re going with a professional designer, make sure to get both versions. You’ll also want to get a version in black, in white, and definitely in .png format with a transparent background. Save all those files somewhere secure because you never know when you’ll need them!
Congratulations—you’re ready to start blogging! I know this has been a lot of work to get your blog set up, but let that investment help keep you committed to using this incredible platform to share what’s important to you. Whether that’s vegan food, recipes, your personal journey, your thoughts, inspirational articles, whatever! Put your heart into it and see where it takes you.
If you do create a blog, I would love to see it. Shoot me an email at michelle (at) worldofvegan (dot) com and I’ll take a peek and send you a personal message of congrats!
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This “How to Start A Blog” article was written by Michelle Cehn, founder of World of Vegan. Many thanks to our vegetarian web developer Justin Lewis for helping advise, troubleshoot, and perfect World of Vegan. He’s available if you need support with your own blog! This “How to Start A Blog” guide is not sponsored by any of the brands or companies mentioned, and we only share products and companies we sincerely adore. This article does contain affiliate links, and shopping through these links helps cover the cost of running World of Vegan. Affiliate links above include Amazon, SiteGround (hosting), and Canva (free graphic creation). Thanks so much, and we wish you all the best in your blogging adventure!