So you’ve decided to start a blog and you’re ready to dive in. Well done! This is one life decision you certainly won’t regret.
To make sure you don’t miss any essentials, I’ve put together this 15 point Starting a Blog Checklist.
Starting with the first step of getting your domain name, this checklist will take you all the way through the essentials for launching a fully fledged, professional quality blog into the wilds of the Internet – ready to make money!
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Your Starting a Blog Checklist: 15 Essentials For Success from Day 1
#1. Get a great domain name
Yes, your blog’s domain name is important. But you shouldn’t waste too much time obsessing over it.
Our #1 goal is action.
Top tips for choosing a good domain name:
- Make it as short as you can
- Avoid using any hyphenated versions
- Use your own full name, if it’s available
- Always use the dot com version (if necessary try different permutations of your name)
For more, check out my detailed guide on how to choose a domain name for your blog.
#2. Set up fast web hosting
When starting a blog to make money, it’s really important to make sure it’s fast.
One of the best ways to do that is by investing in good quality, dedicated web hosting from the very beginning of your blogging career.
Yes, it will cost more than the standard shared hosting, but it’s money well spent.
I’ve been using WPX to host my blogs for over a year now. They’ve been with me along most of my journey to replace my full-time income with a blog. WPX hosting plans are extremely fast, reliable, and come with tons of handy features.
What’s more, the WPX customer support team is available 24/7, by email or web chat. They’re super responsive and do their utmost to help you with everything blog-related. I’ve lost count of the number of issues they’ve helped me solve.
If you’re truly on a budget, then instead you can grab a low-cost plan for just a few dollars per month, for example, Bluehost. But I recommend that you upgrade to a better quality provider like WPX, as soon as you have more budget available.
Here’s my full round up of popular month by month web hosting plans
#3. Make sure you’re using WordPress
If you’re starting a blog as a beginner, you should be using WordPress. There’s no question about it.
Over 43% of all websites on the Internet use WordPress, including major brands such as Bloomberg, Nike, and The New York Times.
You might be tempted to start blogging on something else, such as Medium, Blogger, Wix, Squarespace or the inbuilt blogging platform from your domain name provider (e.g. GoDaddy).
But don’t do it.
None of these platforms have the flexibility and power of WordPress. They don’t have as many features. No one is building such a wide range of plug-ins for them.
Plus, most will host your content for you, which means you don’t truly own your blog.
WordPress is the best way forward.
You can download a copy on the WordPress website, or get your host to install it for you – making the whole process a no-brainer.
#4. Install a great theme
By now you should have a brand-new, WordPress blog ready to go.
When you first install WordPress on your domain, you’ll start off with the default theme, for example Twenty Twenty Two (for the current year).
One of your first task is to install a great theme and make your blog look fabulous.
My go-to theme is Kadence.
It’s solid, super fast and lightweight, with lots of great looking starter templates.
The free version of Kadence is all you need to get started. You might want to upgrade to Pro later down the line.
#5. Choose a starter template
Using a starter template is the fastest way to launch your new blog.
A starter template is a pre-built set of images, layouts, and text which you install on your new theme.
Starter templates make life really easy. All you have to do is replace existing content with your own images and text.
Kadence WP has a great set of starter templates. Head over to the Appearance section in your WordPress editor, and you’ll find them on the dropdown menu.
You may have to download the starter templates from the plugins library. Search there for Kadence Starter Templates, and install the plugin.
Then, choose your favorite template, click install, and your starter template will show up – all ready to edit.
With Kadence, you can easily customize your starter template with whichever colors and fonts you you like best.
#6. Set your permalink structure
Permalinks are the unique URLs that represent the pages and posts on your blog (for example, samanthanorth.com/starting-a-blog)
Each post and page has its own unique permalink.
It’s important to properly set up your permalink structure before you publish any posts or pages on your new blog.
Google likes simple, short and readable URLs. Your permalink structure should reflect that.
A new WordPress blog comes with a default permalink structure, which usually contains a string of symbols and numbers.
This isn’t ideal, so one of our first tasks is to define a better permanent structure that will be more SEO-friendly.
This great video from RankMath will explain exactly how to do it (skip straight to 02:23 for the WordPress instructions).
#6. Set up your core pages
Once you’ve got your permanent structure set up, you can start creating pages for the blog.
A new blog typically needs just a few static pages. You can always add more later as your blog grows.
But it’s best to keep things simple at the beginning.
I recommend starting with just an About page, a Contact page, your Blog page (the archive where all your blog posts will live), and your homepage.
WordPress will automatically generate a blog archive page. Every time you publish a new blog post, it will show up on this archive page.
If you look at the top menu on this blog, you’ll see the static pages that I’ve put there.
#7. Write a compelling About page
Next to the homepage, the most important page for your new blog is the About page.
This is a good place to share your personal story. You can talk about things like your journey from your previous career into blogging, how you help people with your blog, and what your main goals are.
It’s also a good idea to include a photo of yourself. As the About page should help your readers to get to know you, consider using an informal photo, rather than a professional headshot.
#8. Set up your plugins
Plug-ins are small pieces of code that extend the features of your WordPress blog.
Thousands of plug-ins are available, but don’t go crazy with them. You should avoid installing too many.
It’s best to stick to essential plugins only, to avoid your site getting bloated or risk crashing due to a faulty plugin. I advise always checking a plugin’s reviews before deciding whether to use it.
For starters, download and activate these plugins:
- RankMath (free) – for managing your blog’s SEO
- Akismet (free) – for keeping spam comments away from your posts
- ShortPixel (free) – for optimizing your blog’s images
- WP Rocket (paid) – for speeding up your blog
- Kadence Blocks (free) – for adding additional customization to your posts and pages
#10. Set up Google Analytics
Having Google Analytics set up properly is essential for tracking all the traffic that lands on your blog.
Make sure you prioritize it in your starting a blog checklist.
You can add Google Analytics manually in your WordPress theme, by inserting a piece of code from into your header.
Or you can use a WordPress plugin to link your site to Google Analytics without having to use any code.
Whichever option you choose, Google Analytics will soon become a key part of your profitable blogging strategy.
#11. Set up Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) differs from Google Analytics (GA), because it only tracks your blog’s performance in organic search.
For example, GSC wouldn’t track the activity of somebody who bookmarked one of your blog posts and then returned to it again and again. But Google Analytics would. The tools work effectively together to give you a 360° picture of your blog’s performance.
GSC is an essential part of your SEO tool kit, because it’s where you’ll get the best sense of how your blog is performing in Google search results.
#12. Find keywords for your first 5-10 blog posts
With a new blog, I always like to start by having the first 5-10 posts mapped out before I start writing.
That’s where you’ll start doing your first round of keyword research for your new blog.
Every blog post you write should be focused around one keyword (later, you can target additional keywords, but let’s keep it simple in the early stages).
Writing your blog posts around specific keywords makes it clear to Google what your posts ar about. That makes it easier for Google to rank them.
It’s important to evaluate keyword competition, especially as a new blogger. If you target highly competitive keywords, then you’ll struggle to rank for them.
I always start by targeting long tail, less competitive keywords. These are typically the ones consisting of four or more words, such as questions. Including long tail keywords in your SEO strategy has a lot of advantages.
Targeting ‘how to’ questions is a really useful approach at the beginning. Find some of these in your niche, then write blog posts to answer them.
That way, you’ll help your audience solve a problem, while also building topical authority with Google.
To find long tail question keywords for free, give Answer The Public a try.
#13. Draft your first post
Another vital step on your starting a blog checklist is actually getting your first post drafted and published.
Drafting a good post starts with the outlining. I like using the free tool Dynalist to quickly and easily outline all my posts.
Once you’ve got the outline in place, the way ahead becomes much clearer. You can then start to fill in the details of each paragraph.
Don’t worry if you’re not a fast typist. Neither am I.
I use voice typing on Mac for all my online writing, and I highly recommend you do the same (there’s also a Windows version).
Once you’ve drafted the full post, I recommend giving it a once-over with Grammarly.
#14. Optimize the post for SEO
Next, make sure your blog post is set up for maximum SEO potential.
If you’ve installed the free RankMath plug-in, you’ll have a sidebar in the WordPress editor which tells you how to optimize the post.
Aim for a score of at least 80%, but don’t stress too much about getting it perfect.
You can always go back later and further optimize the post.
As a bare minimum, focus on the following:
- Main keyword in the title
- Main keyword in the URL slug
- Main keyword in the first 10% of the content, plus several times in the body
- Include a featured image
- Include at least one external link
- Include at least one internal link (preferably more)
For more, check out my guide on how to make money with SEO
#15. Plan a week’s worth of posts
The last item on our starting a blog checklist is to make a publishing plan.
Increasing your content velocity will help to push it forward in the Google rankings. The more content you post, the more frequently Google will crawl and index your site.
So I strongly recommend posting a new blog post every day for as long as you can. This is the best approach for building a profitable blog fast.
But posting every day is hard work. If you really can’t manage it, then start by planning out your first week of blog posts. This will help keep you on track and begin building the publishing habit.
I hope you found this 15-point starting a blog checklist useful.
Following its steps will help ensure you set up your blog properly from day one. You’ll put yourself in the best position for ranking well in search and making money later down the line.
You’ll also build solid and consistent publishing habits, which will stand you in great stead throughout your profitable blogging career.
For detailed steps on what to do in the first 90 days of your blog, check out my Blogging for Beginners guide.