Starting a blog on your own can be exciting and exhilarating at the same time. I remember how it was only a year ago when I found myself feeling overwhelmed with information as I read hundreds of posts on “How to Start a travel blog” online. God knows I never ever thought I would be able to get my website up and running on my own (but hey, never say never!).
With barely any prior technical knowledge and an ever-growing to-do-list, I often felt like I was setting myself up for a task that was meant only for a professional. Not wanting to empty my wallet to hire a web developer and driven by utmost passion, I instead spent days and days watching YouTube videos and re-reading the said blogs till I understood what I was meant to do. Or, at least enough to get going.
After heaps of trial and error and many sleepless nights, here I am, writing my own guide on starting a blog, for you. From the exact steps that I followed to all the plugins that I currently use, you can expect to find every piece of information that you are going to need as you go. If you follow this step-by-step guide on how to start a travel blog, you’ll be surprised to know how easy starting one can actually be. So, come, let’s go get you a beautiful website in no time!
Disclaimer: This article uses affiliate links. As a Bluehost Associate, if you buy anything through one of those links, I’ll get a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your continued support.
Pick a Blog/Website Name
Choosing a blog name is one of the most important decisions that you are going to make so spend lots of time thinking about it. It is going to be your online identity and should directly reflect the topic that you want to write about. For instance, I am passionate about traveling and my initials are CG so I chose “travelwithcg” to reflect both my interest and individuality
The best way to pick a blog name (according to me) is:
- Make a list of all the names that come to your mind and choose 3 favourites.
- Run a search for your chosen names on Google (yourdomain.com) and social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. to see if there is already an existing blog by the same or similar name.
- Eliminate those that are taken or can be mistaken for yours because of similarity.
- Sleep on your shortlist and see which one do you like the most the next day and would not get bored of after a year or two.
I see a lot of people not putting enough thought into this in the beginning and then regret having to change their blog name much later in the game. Not only does it take unnecessary time to do so, but you will most likely have to start your SEO relationship with Google all over again with a new domain. Now, we wouldn’t want that, would we?
CG’s tip: At this point, I also think it is best to sign up on all social media platforms with your chosen blog name. It is okay if you don’t want to use them right now, but things can change in the future and it might be hard to get it back once somebody else takes it first.
Pick a blogging platform: WordPress.com or WordPress.org
What is your reason behind making a blog? If you are doing it purely as a hobby then you can choose WordPress.com as your blogging platform. It is a basic service created by WordPress that is free to use and you do not even need to do any setup to begin with. However, it is important to note that it is barely customisable and should you wish to monetise it in the future, you cannot run any ads on it.
In fact, you would not even own your own blog and WordPress would have full control to suspend it if they notice any violations. If you choose to use this platform then your domain would most likely look like yourblogname.wordpress.com and If I am being 100% honest with you then I have to tell you that I don’t like the sound of that at all.
There are many more blogging platforms such as Blogger, Wix, Tumblr, etc. but I personally love and swear by WordPress.org. If you are serious about blogging for a living, then I think it’s important to start with something you own and see yourself using it long term. You can easily install WordPress.org free of cost with your hosting company and the best thing about it is that you can create anything that you want with it.
Being fully customisable, it is the world’s most popular blogging software and rightly so. I love that it comes with free themes and plugins and that I do not have to spend any money to have an aesthetically pleasing website. It is also search engine friendly, a feature that will come super handy to grow your blog’s traffic.
Get Web Hosting
As I mentioned before, web hosting is a space that you rent on the internet for your website. It is where all your information, data and graphics would be stored and thus, displayed every time someone types in your domain name in their browser. Choosing a right hosting company not only makes your job a little bit easier but can also enhance the end user experience in many ways such as fast loading speed.
It is true that there are an ample number of web hosting companies out there but having heard a lot about Bluehost’s impeccable service, I went ahead and registered with them for my blog in an instant. Being with Bluehost for more than a year now, I cannot tell you how glad I am of having made that choice.
Not knowing much about the technical side of things, I would often run into problems in the beginning (okay, I still do) and if not for their 24/7 customer support service, I have no idea where my website would be right now.
From solving plugin problems that don’t even have anything to do with hosting to installing a free SSL certificate for me (very important) and teaching me how to keep my blog secured in the long run, I only have good things to say about them. As someone who is more comfortable with texting than a verbal conversation, I really love how all my solutions are just a chat away with Bluehost.
CG’s tip: SSL certificate is how you safeguard connections from a web server to a browser and activate the little padlock that you see right before the domain address (see above where my website address is). It is what activates the https protocol for any domain and is super useful for SEO. So, don’t forget to take advantage of the free SSL certificate when you sign up with Bluehost!
How to Sign up with Bluehost
- You can sign up with Bluehost using my personal link that will give you an amazing discount where hosting with them would cost you only $3.95/month instead of the standard $7.99/month.
2. After you arrive on Bluehost’s landing page, click on the green “Get Started” button and select the plan that you like. I personally use the plus one because of unlimited storage, but you can always start with the basic one and upgrade as you go.
3. Type in your chosen blog name in the left box and choose an extension that you would like for your domain address. If you ask me, the standard .com always looks more clean and professional but please feel free to choose any other. And, in case you already have a registered domain address, then just use the box on the right and hit ‘Next’.
4. This section is mainly for personal information like contact details and account information.
CG’s tip: If you choose the 36-month plan for hosting, then you would get the cheapest monthly price from Bluehost. From my experience, I have found that not only it helps save some money but also keeps me motivated to write more often.
5. Coming to Package Extras, don’t forget to deselect all the things that you do not require. You can usually add them later on if you need, so it’s best to start with just the hosting for now.
6. And, finally, add in your payment details, accept the terms and conditions and click on ‘Submit’.
By now, you must have received an email with login details to your Bluehost control panel (aka cPanel) and just know that this is where you’ll be backing up data, getting support, emails and what not. Most importantly, it is also where you’ll do the one time WordPress installation for your blog.
Now that you have the domain and hosting sorted, let’s move on to WordPress and to getting you a beautiful website. As I mentioned earlier, it is better to have WordPress installed on a self-hosted website than to use it on its own (refer to Pick a blogging platform section above).
One of the best things about using Bluehost is that you can directly install WordPress from your control panel as soon as you log in. WordPress’ dashboard is where you will be writing all your blogs, designing your website, answering comments and so much more. To install WordPress, simply log in to your Bluehost account and click on the ‘Install WordPress’ icon on the homepage and that’s it. We are now ready to decide the layout of your blog and choose a theme on the basis of that!
Think of a Layout
Who are your favourite travel bloggers? Whose navigation do you love? Whose layout inspires you? Search the whole world wide web if you may but ask yourself these questions and think a lot about what layout you want. I still remember how it took me 3 days just to get my menu right.
From travel guides to blogging tips to Instagrammable spots, there were so many things that I wanted to write about (and still do) and I just couldn’t find a way to make them all fit in categories that made sense. You should aim for your blog to be easy to navigate through and for people to know how they can find the information they are looking for.
I, for one, knew I wanted a slider on my homepage that showed all my recent posts, followed by an ‘about me’ snippet that linked to a dedicated page for the same. As for my contact page, I knew I wanted a form in the end so anyone visiting can write to me without having to go look for my email. Similarly, I wanted a preview of my Instagram feed at the end of every page so I could maybe redirect my blog traffic to grow on social media platforms as well.
Once you have your layout figured out (or at least a general idea about it), you can then move on to getting a theme and plugins in order to bring it to life. As you go on and develop your pages, you’ll most likely become more confident in doing so and more ideas will automatically keep coming to you as you start a travel blog.
Choose a Theme
I really think that a good theme can make or break any website. With thousands of blogs out there, it is a perfect way to stand out from the crowd and be remembered for something more. Having a visually cohesive presence will not only translate your personality to your audience but can also make you look more professional to potential clients out there.
There are plenty of bloggers who use paid themes (I love and recommend GeneratePress) and that is completely okay if you have the budget for it. I personally didn’t want to spend any more money so I chose a free theme that you can download from your WordPress Dashboard. There are so many free options available today and with amazing page builders at our fingertips, why should we spend any more money than necessary?
CG’s tip: You can download any responsive theme like Ocean WP (I use this) and still customise the menu, pages, etc. as you like. I personally think that your style is going to change quite a bit as you grow so it’s better to invest in a theme when you are more sure of what you want. As for me, I am very happy with my current theme and layout and don’t see the need of upgrading anytime soon.
However, it is important to note that paid themes are wonderful if you don’t have a background in design or the time to learn. You can browse some designs on GeneratePress here!
How to Change a Theme
- Once you login to WordPress and go to your dashboard, you can easily change your theme by clicking on Appearance -> Themes.
- Have a look at the already existing options and then click on the Add New button to browse more.
- You’ll now be able to search through 7000+ free WordPress themes and choose any that you like. In order to not waste a lot of time (I should know, I spent 2 days just browsing), simply sort by feature filters (blogs, industry and so on) depending on what you want to display more on your blog.
- In case you are still unsure about your design, you can also sort by popular or latest features and move your cursor over to a theme and preview it for further clarification. I absolutely loved seeing previews of different themes for my website before sticking to one as it gave me a lot of ideas about what I did and didn’t want.
CG’s tip: A lot can still be customised after you choose a theme, so don’t waste too much time on deciding which one to get. The thing that I want you to focus more on is the general layout, typography and colours (although customisable as well). But most importantly, the reviews and its responsiveness to different devices, browsers and so on.
5. Once you find a theme that you love, click the Install button that should pop automatically when you hover over it. After the installation is done, you can notice that the Install button has been replaced with an Activate button. So, when you are ready, just click on activate and you shall have a brand-new looking website without any more hassle!
CG’s tip: In case there is anything that you would like to change or customise about your theme (could be a certain colour, design element, link colours and so on), just go on Appearance -> Customise and all the options will be there.
Plugins are additional features with the help of which you can customise, secure and design your website. If there is anything in particular that you want to add to your blog, chances are that there is an existing plugin made for it already.
And although easily available, it is important to keep a track of the plugins that you are using or planning to use. An error in a plugin could potentially cause your entire website to crash so please always make sure to check the compatibility and reviews before installing. Having said that, below are the plugins that I personally use (free versions) on my website and think are essential to start a blog:
Akismet Anti-Spam: protects your blog from spam comments and gets rid of them automatically.
All in One WP Security: overall website security plugin that I recommend.
Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd: to display a coming soon page on your website and start collecting subscriber emails as you build it.
Elementor: a drag and drop page builder that you can use with any theme and design. All the pages on my blog are made using this.
EWWW Image Optimizer: helps to reduce file sizes for images so your website can load faster and use less bandwidth.
Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights: to monitor how visitors find and use your website and keep a track of them.
jQuery Pin It Button for Images: shows a “Pin it” button on images when people hover on them. I cannot recommend it enough if you want to use Pinterest to grow your blog traffic (You must).
MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress: If you are building an email list using Mailchimp, then this is the plugin that you will need to get sign ups on your blog. There are similar plugins available from other newsletter companies like ConvertKit too.
Shareaholic – Grow and Engage Your Audience: to display social share buttons, related posts, floating side bars and so on.
Smart Slider 3: my favourite all-in-one responsive slider solution (Have a look at the slider on my homepage for example).
Smash Balloon Instagram Feed: the plugin that I use to display my Instagram feed at the bottom of each page and post.
UpdraftPlus- Backup/Restore: amazing to take automatic backups of your entire database and send it to you via email.
WP Content Copy Protection & No Right Click: protects your post content from being copied by disabling right click and download option from images and text.
WP-Optimize – Clean, Compress, Cache: to make your website fast and efficient. You can clean your revised versions, compress images and cache pages for a better user experience.
WPForms Lite: a drag and drop builder to make contact forms.
Yoast SEO: all-in-one SEO plugin that does on-page content analysis and tells you what is working and what isn’t. RankMath is another great plugin for search engine optimisation.
CG’s tip: I do not recommend going overboard with plugins and suggest finding solutions that include as few plugins as possible. Having said that, some are actually important to have and in case you do come across issues, you can simply disable them one by one to see which one is causing it and then just get rid of it.
Make important Pages: About, Contact and Home Page
Now that all the designing is taken care of, it is time to get into the writing mode. The first thing that you would need to write is an “About” page. You can keep it short or detailed depending on your preference, but I would suggest writing a few paragraphs about yourself and why or how you started your blog. This is also a great page where you can explain what people can expect to find on your website going forward and to answer some frequently asked questions.
CG’s tip: If you ask me, the more personal you get, the better it is. Also, adding a beautiful portrait of you here can help your audience connect a lot more with you and your story!
Once you are done with that, you should now move on to creating your “Contact” page. You could explain the best ways to reach out to you here, add your social media links or simply embed a contact form for people to fill in. If you are planning to blog professionally, you can also include a brief paragraph about the services you offer or a link to your media kit.
As for your “Home Page”, this is what your audience is going to look at for sure, so take a lot of time in making this. It should look visually appealing, give a glimpse of everything that you write about, link to other pages on your blog so people can navigate easily and should load fast.
CG’s tip: When writing anything on your website, make sure to always double or triple check the content. No one wants to read a blog that is full of spelling or grammatical errors and thus, its best to either install Grammarly or have a friend/family member cross check for you.
Writing Blog Posts
Your blog posts are going to be the reason why people keep coming back to your website so make sure to provide the best possible value in them. For instance, I always try to share everything that I know and give tips about travel, blogging or Instagram in all my posts.
To add a new blogpost, simply go to your WordPress Dashboard -> Posts -> Add New.
I really think that it is important to write at least three blogposts before hitting publish on your website. You would want people to have something to navigate through and not view it as a one-off thing. It is also a good idea to write regularly and maintain a blogging schedule so your audience knows when to expect a new post from you (I know, I need to take my own advice too).
Other than the general writing and adding photos, graphics or videos; there are other things that come handy as you go. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), being one of them, is something that I dedicated the most amount of time to learn and I cannot express how nice it feels to already start to reap the rewards of all that hard work.
I mean, my blogpost about The Most Instagrammable Spots in Kolkata was just added as a featured snippet on Google for that keyword and I will forever be thankful to Yoast SEO for creating resourceful videos explaining what works and what doesn’t work. In order to start a successful travel blog, I can only recommend you to learn SEO from the very beginning and save yourself from the trouble of having to revamp old posts a few years later.
CG’s tip: Make sure that all the images that you upload to your blog are titled according to the keyword (prior to uploading) and that you do keyword research before starting said blogs. Also, don’t forget to categorize all your blogposts and make a clear blog menu using those categories.
I could of course go on and on telling you about all the things that I have learnt in the process of starting my own blog. But, if you followed all the steps till now, then you should have a beautiful looking website that is ready to be published for everyone to see. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have it all figured out by this point and can always modify things as you move ahead as well.
CG’s tip: This is the time to join some blogging groups on Facebook and network with fellow bloggers that are out there. Trust me, it will not only help you immensely in growing your blog traffic but you will make some lifelong friends from all over the globe.
I really hope that this How to start a blog guide was useful to you. Should you have any questions at all, please remember that I am just a DM away on Instagram. If you prefer, you can even leave a comment below and I promise to get back to you at the earliest!
Good luck with your blog,
Want to keep reading? You might like “20 Ways to Make Money Online in 2021: A Full-time Blogger’s Guide” and “10+ Things That Might Be Harming Your Instagram Growth” too.
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This Post Has 14 Comments
I really liked it
Thank you, Gargy. I am glad you did 💗
This is such a descriptive guide. Thank you for taking the time to write this and the list of plugins. I am so excited to start my website now 👍🏻
Thank you for reading it! Glad to know that you found it of help 💗
Thanks a lot for all those insightful tips Charu! I even got some new ideas for my own blog thanks to your list of plug-ins!
Thank you for reading, Ophelie! I am so happy to hear that you found my list of plugins useful 💗
This is a great guide Charu. If I would have had it 2 months back, it would have saved a lot of my time browsing for a theme and plugins. I still have to write my legal pages though.
Thank you so much for reading, Suvarna. I have been meaning to write this for a long time now but better late than never 💗 Also, do write your legal pages soon- they are super important & required!
Its such a great guide Charu. Love the details. Keep up the good work.
Thank you so much, Swathi! I am so happy to see a comment from you here 😊
hi charu. what an amazing and helpful post! if i may ask could you please specify the name of the free theme you use from oceapwp; it looks lovely! Also i was wondering do you provide professional help to set up a website? please do let me know
Hi Debopriya, I am so happy to read that you found this post helpful. The theme itself is called Ocean WP and you can find it for free under WordPress themes. It is greatly customisable so in case you don’t find an exact replica of my design, it is because I have changed some settings within the theme 🙂 And yes, I do! Could you please email me to discuss that further? Thank you 💗
Hey Charu it was quite fascinating blog. The most valid point i liked most is to choose a proper domain name and do not get bored of it even after many years. Thanks keep inspiring.
Thank you so much, Amit. Changing domains can be such a hassle, I just think it is better to spend a good time to think the name through from the get go.