The cheapest way to start a blog is by carefully selecting each component you need and not becoming distracted by the shiny objects that marketers will sell you.
Unlike most articles about blogging, mine does not contain any affiliate links or any promotions. This is for your peace of mind.
The problem with a free blog
The first major decision you must make is to use a free blogging platform or pay for one.
While there are many benefits of choosing a free blog, the main drawback is that you have very limited control over the quality of your hosting, Content Management System (CMS), theme, and other components that go into building a successful website.
But the biggest problem with free hosting or a free blog is that you’ll never truly own the blog.
The free blog will always belong to the host, meaning you have no control over it. The host can shut you down anytime they choose, for whatever reason they like.
This is like building a home on someone else’s land.
Free blog hosts will also control the design, layout, theme, and Domain Name Server (DNS) settings, which means that there’s no way for you to make changes to any of these things.
This can be a serious problem if your free blog becomes popular and you end up outgrowing it.
The best advice I can give is to start out on a paid hosting service; even if paying for your blog seems like too much of a commitment, it’s better than finding yourself unable to access your content down the road. Also, you can always upgrade later.
What’s important to remember is that a blog should be a long-term investment in your business or career.
Choosing your niche
Before you start blogging, you should decide on your niche. This is the topic on which you will blog about. The number one mistake that new bloggers make is creating a blog for no reason or blogging about everything.
This is how most blogs fail.
You need to create a blog but not write about everything. Instead, choose one topic and write about that, and nothing else.
You need to build an audience that’s specifically interested in your content.
How do you find your niche?
It’s best to start with your passions. What do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? What does your heart burn for?
Choosing your domain name
You can pick up a domain name for around $10 a year.
Before choosing a domain name, it’s a good idea to check if it’s available as a social media handle. It will be easier to build an audience if there is already a presence on social media, so save yourself the hassle.
Your domain name should accurately represent the topic you will write about.
You could get creative and find a nice-sounding domain name that has nothing to do with the topic but shouldn’t be silly. It’s best to pick up an easy keyword-rich domain name.
If you have chosen your niche properly, then there should be a lot of good long-tail keywords related to your niche that are available as domain names too. Make sure it’s something short and memorable.
There are three types of hosting you need to be aware of, but only one will apply to a new blogger.
Shared Hosting: This is the cheapest type of web hosting ($5 to $10 a month). You share your account with other users who may or may not be trustworthy.
This means that your website will never have priority compared to other customers on the same server. This can cause slow site load times and downtime due to server overloads.
Dedicated Hosting: This is a lot more expensive than shared hosting ($40+/month). It’s my favorite type of hosting because it gives you complete control over your web presence and provides you great performance. But this comes at a price.
VPS Hosting: Virtual Private Servers are similar to dedicated hosting. These are the best option for any blogger because their price is very affordable ($30+/month).
If you’re just starting, or you have a website with a low amount of traffic, then shared hosting will be enough for you.
No matter which one you choose, you will need a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to make your website secure for your visitors. Your host should provide an SSL for free.
Your Content Management System
Your Content Management System (CMS) is your website’s engine, and it’s what allows you to make changes to the content on your site. WordPress is the best CMS for any blogger or business owner because of its sheer versatility and its huge library of templates and themes.
There are many great templates available that can be used with WordPress. For example, you can choose from a different kind of blog or even a portfolio-type template if you’re going to use your blog mainly as an online resume/portfolio.
WordPress isn’t the only option available, but it is the one I recommend.
Other CMS options are:
Drupal: This is another great choice, especially for online businesses. It’s a little more complex than WordPress, but it has a lot of features that will be useful to you as your blog grows.
Joomla: This is another good CMS option similar to WordPress in terms of ease-of-use and templates/themes available. You can import your content from WordPress to Joomla if you choose this platform instead.
Choosing your theme
Choosing a good theme will help people see how to design properly (if you don’t have any design skills). A well-designed theme will add value to your brand, but keep in mind that it also adds another layer of complexity to your site.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to hire someone to design the theme for you so that they can also train you on how to maintain/update your WordPress site. You need to know about plugins and custom page syntax to take advantage of the versatility of WordPress.
Choose a well-coded, responsive (mobile-friendly) template. I would recommend WooThemes or Elegant Themes as great places to start looking for a new theme if you use WordPress. If you are using an alternative CMS such as Drupal or Joomla, then find out if your preferred theme is available there too before purchasing anything, though.
If you’re just starting out with WordPress, I highly recommend choosing GeneratePress, OceanWP, or Astra.
These themes are customizable, lightweight, and mobile-friendly.
They are also free but have premium versions available.
Optimizing your blog for search engines
Professional level Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is expensive; however, thanks to free plugins, anybody can optimize their blog for Google for free.
You will need to spend a good amount of time researching how to do this, but you’ll be glad you put in the work once you see the results.
Research keywords that people are searching for.
Try to find at least around 5-7 long-tail keywords and make sure they’re relevant to your blog topic. Then, write an article using these keywords in the following order:
Title, Heading tags (H1), Subheadings (H2), the first paragraph after H1 tag, then use those keywords in your content about 4-5 times consistently throughout the blog post.
Use some plugins such as RankMath, Yoast for WordPress, or All in One SEO Pack.
Build your email list
Email is now an essential part of promoting and growing your blog.
Make sure that you add an email sign-up form prominently on your site.
Most WordPress blog themes have free plugins available to do this easily, but again if you are using a different CMS, make sure you find out how to do this before buying any WP plugins.
The easiest way is to offer people something in return for signing up – such as a PDF report, cheatsheet, checklist, or another free gift.
Every time you publish a new piece of content, email your list so an instant surge in traffic.
You can do this for free, with Mailchimp.com or Aweber.com, until you reach a certain number of subscribers.
You can also send out more advanced email campaigns, such as split testing different kinds of content and sending traffic to different landing pages (instead of your homepage or content pages).
Every time you publish a new blog post, drive traffic to that page using social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. This is how to choose the right digital marketing channels.
While you can start a blog for free, it’s better in the long run if you invest a small amount into doing things right.
Now that I’ve given you the cheapest way to start a blog that will stand the test of time, I encourage you to treat it like a business and aim to recoup your investment as quickly as possible. This guide will help you, and this will show you how to find advertisers fast.