June 15, 2022
Last Updated on December 2, 2023 by Dominique de Merteuil
How to start a blog! Beginner’s Guide 2023
This post is for those of you who either want to start a blog (fashion, beauty, lifestyle) or perhaps wish to improve an existing one. What I’ve done here is create a list of essential WordPress plugins, as well as the best services and products for running a successful blog. And yes, you need a great website to attract readers and advertisers. I assume that eventually, you would love to turn your passion into an extra income.
You Should Know Who I Am Before You Decide to Follow My Advice
Firstly, welcome to my blog! I’m beyond thrilled to have you here. My name is Dominique de Merteuil. For clarity and full disclosure, I’m neither a web developer nor an IT specialist. I taught myself everything I know about building and running a successful blog. I’m a vintage fashion writer, guest lecturer and founder of the It’s Beyond My Control blog for the modern woman with a unique style. I also have over 16 years of experience in high-end beauty and fashion retouching, and I’m a prop stylist with a flair for dramatics.
I started my vintage fashion blog on the 12th of June, 2012, with zero knowledge pertaining to building and running a website and almost no budget. So I had to learn, through trial and error, everything without the help of professionals.
Over the years, I became an SEO wizardess and managed to rank on top of Google’s first page under the relevant keywords. If you Google ‘vintage fashion blog’ or ‘vintage fashion blogger’ you will see the It’s Beyond My Control blog at or near the very top page. That’s not easy to achieve, trust me.
How to Start a Blog – Tips for New Bloggers
How to start a blog is a brand new section on It’s Beyond My Control, where I will share with you my recommendations, tips and secrets to starting and running a beauty, fashion or lifestyle blog.
The main reason why I decided to venture into a non-vintage-related topic is that for years, I’ve been helping a lot of friends with running their blogs. Now, I will be able to point them to one of my articles, and hopefully, they will find all the answers they were looking for relating to blogging. I can but hope that you will also find my posts helpful.
There is a secondary reason why I started this section. For several years now, PR and marketing companies (not all!) have been tricking bloggers and influencers to work for free, and it’s a topic I’ve been discussing privately with fellow bloggers, and would now love to share with all of you, so stay tuned!
Disclaimer: I’m part of different Affiliate programs and I get a small commission for purchases made through some of the links in this post. That’s how I keep my website alive, for which I’m very grateful to you. Shopping via my affiliate links comes at no additional cost to you. All opinions expressed here are mine and I only write about products I know and wholeheartedly recommend.
Register a Domain – Remember that It’s All in the Name
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.William Shakespeare
I wouldn’t dare to disagree with Shakespeare, but when it comes to a blog, it’s all in the name.
- Your blog’s name represents you and your business, so choose wisely.
- I strongly recommend that you opt for the .com domain.
- I appreciate that if you plan to sell products via your blog and you are targeting clients specifically from your country, it’s advisable to go with your country’s domain. Otherwise, choose .com.
Where to buy the domain?
The choices here are endless. Everyone I know personally bought their domain either from GoDaddy or IONOS or chose the all-in-one WIX solution with an included domain, free for the first year.
I bought my domain from IONOS (formerly known as 1&1) and also chose them as my web host provider. We’ve been together for eleven years and I couldn’t be happier, because a couple of times, and that was years ago when I broke my website, the customer service fixed my mistakes and restored my website in the blink of an eye.
Web Hosting-WordPress based or All-in-One?
Self-hosted WordPress is what I chose as my blogging platform and it is my recommendation for most bloggers. There is one exception, however, and I will get into it in a second.
With self-hosted WordPress, you have total control over your website. And I don’t know about you, but I’m a little bit of a control freak. I like to know how my website works and how I can improve things for it to run smoother and faster. I neither like, nor have the funds to rely on others. If, of course, your budget permits hiring someone full-time to run the website for you, close this page and have a cup of tea or a glass of Cosmopolitan (you must be of legal drinking age) instead.
There are many web host providers, and every single one will have good and awful reviews. What works for one person might not necessarily work for someone else.
I would like to note that most bloggers are part of one affiliate program or another, that includes me, and some choose to advertise products based on the commission rate rather than anything else. There is one particular web-host provider that has a VERY high commission rate and I believe that it’s one of the main reasons why it’s so eagerly promoted by bloggers.
I only recommend products and services that I know and love, but ultimately, the choice is yours. If you choose IONOS, they offer four different packages for shared web hosting. I have the Expert package, but depending on your budget, you might want to start with the Pro instead and swap to Expert in the future.
Pro & Expert Packages Include;
- SSL certificate
- Daily back-up
- Data recovery
- Unlimited traffic
- Free domain for one year
- 24/7 customer service- they have great customer service!
- PHP memory limit 640 MB
- WordPress performance- 4/4
IONOS also offers managed WordPress hosting which is a platform specifically optimised for WP and it might be a good option for you, but since I have no experience with it, I can’t comment.
All-in-One Web Solution
WIX is a cloud-based website builder completely independent of WordPress. In other words, if you change your mind and decide to give WordPress a try, you will have to find a web host provider that supports WordPress.
I mentioned earlier that I recommend that most bloggers opt for self-hosted WordPress, with one exception. If you are an absolute beginner who is terrified of the technical side of building a website, but can’t afford to pay a web developer every time you want to change something on your blog, the all-in-one solution might be a good option for you.
I have a friend with a fitness website that serves as a business card. She paid a lot of money to a professional web designer to create a beautiful site but since she is not a technical person and doesn’t want as much as to log in to her dashboard for fear of breaking the website, WIX might be a better option for her.
- Lots of great templates to choose from
- User-friendly, although it might be a little bit overwhelming at first, because of all the options that are offered to customise the theme
- Build-in SEO to help you rank higher on Google
- Automatic back-up
- Very good customer support
- You can’t swap themes, which means that if you change your mind after having built your website, you will have to start from scratch
- It’s not that cheap
- Only the Unlimited and VIP plans offer unlimited bandwidth
- Your blog can outgrow WIX
- You don’t have the same control over your website as you have with WordPress
- Adding apps that might be crucial to the functionality of your website comes at a price.
Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Importance of a Great Theme
How To Start a Blog! Beginner’s Guide.
There is nothing more important when it comes to a blog than its actual content, but if you want When it comes to a blog, the content is the most important aspect. However, to distinguish your blog from others, a great theme is essential. Choosing a particular style comes down to personal preference, and therefore, I won’t suggest any specific one.
Make sure that the theme you choose is optimised for mobile, gives you lots of options for customisation, has been tested with the latest version of WordPress and supports your PHP.
I use and wholeheartedly recommend BuzzBlog Pro theme from Hercules Design.
This lifestyle blog and magazine theme provides you with 15 different blog layouts to choose from. This means that in case you get bored with the appearance of your website, you can easily opt for another layout without any hassle. Additionally, their support system is top-notch!
Envato Elements- Beautiful Themes & so Much More!
Envato Elements is the creator’s heaven for building a fabulous website & beyond!
I’ve been using ThemeForest, which is part of Envato Market, for ten years now and have been recommending both, the TF WordPress themes & Envato Elements, to all my friends!
If you are a very creative person who loves the idea of adding text effects, illustrations, videos and so much more, to your blog, you NEED Envato Elements as much as I do!
Considering that you get unlimited downloads for one fee, it’s worth the money!
Examples of a few of my favourite elements:
Get the Vintage Text Effects for Illustrator!
Old Movie Title-Text Effect
Elementor WordPress Plugin
Elementor website builder WordPress plugin offers both free and premium versions. It’s a drag-and-drop web builder, very user-friendly with lovely templates. and you can customise all parts of your website. It might feel a little bit overwhelming at first but don’t get discouraged, as it will get easier the more you use it.
WordPress Plugins You Should Seriously Consider!
I’m not going to tell you about the must-use plugins because the list will depend on your blog’s needs, however, some plugins are crucial to keeping your website secure and fast as well as helping you rank higher on Google.
The Essential WordPress Plugins
- Yoast All-in-one SEO solution for WordPress. It comes in both free and premium versions. I strongly advise that you familiarise yourself with their ultimate SEO guide
- Titan Antispam & Security. Great spam blocker, that’s how it started and that’s what I use it for, but the premium version also includes security features.
- Contact Form 7 is a very popular WordPress plugin that automatically creates a basic contact form for you.
4. BulletProof Security – what can’t the plugin do?! It takes one click to secure your WP folders, fix issues with other plugins, take care of login security and monitoring, and so much more. I use the free version but as it’s the case with most plugins, there is also a pro version available.
5. BlogVault is an amazing WordPress backup plugin, that I simply can’t live without. It basically lets me sleep at night. I broke my website a couple of times, and yes, it was restored by IONOS, but it caused me so much stress, that I decided to invest in a backup plugin and BlogVault came highly recommended by friends. It’s super easy to use and lets you add a staging site, but I will not go into details right now on what a staging site is and how to use it. I’ll leave it for another time so as not to stress you out with too much information all at once.
Why am I using a paid backup plugin instead of relying on my web host provider? The answer is very simple. I like to have a backup of a backup, of everything that’s in a digital form. 15 years ago my external backup drive failed to work and I lost all my pictures from when I used to live in NYC. Lesson learned and now I have two hardcore external drives.
5. Smush is a great free plugin for resizing and compressing images to help improve your Google Page Speed.
6. W3 Total Cache is a powerful WordPress performance plugin that improves the speed as well as the user experience of your blog.
7. Asset CleanUp: Page Speed Booster that works brilliantly combined with W3 Total Cache.
8. WP 2FA – Two-factor authentification for WordPress adds extra security to your login page!
Other Plugins I Use that You Should Know About
Here is a list of other free plugins I use because they are essential for my blog, but they might be unnecessary for yours. Remember that there is a plugin for absolutely everything but that doesn’t mean you should use all of them.
If you have web visitors and customers from the EU, you have to have a GDPR consent plugin and the OMGF (Optimize My Google Fonts) plugin!
1. GDPR Cookie Consent (CookieYes) is a simple yet great plugin to show that your blog complies with the EU Cookie law. There are alternatives, of course, but I can only write about the plugins I tested personally.
2. OMGF (Optimize My Google Fonts) plugin, which I affectionately refer to as “Oh My Goth, I Love You,” is an essential addition to any blog. I’m slightly contradicting myself because I told you that you will need different plugins depending on your website. For example, I don’t have a shop on my blog, but perhaps it’s something you are considering, in which case you should look into WooCommerce or Shopify plugins. The OMGF plugin, however, is an absolute must because it increases GDPR/DSGVO compliance by automatically downloading Google fonts to your server. OMGF comes in FREE and PRO versions and you have to decide for yourself which one to choose. Daan, the superstar behind the plugin is always happy to answer any questions you might have about OMGF, but there is a very well-documented FAQ page that covers it all.
3. Gravitec. net-Web Push Notification plugin helps to increase website traffic. Very easy to install!
4. Health Check & Troubleshooting is one of those ‘must-use’ plugins to check for plugin configuration errors. When you enable the Troubleshooting mode, all your plugins get switched off and the default theme is used. This is only visible to you and doesn’t affect your visitors, but it allows you to check every plugin one by one to see if they cause problems to your website.
5. Redirection, as the name suggests, is a redirection plugin that helps you manage 301 redirects. You won’t need it if you use the Pro version of Yoast SEO, but since I use the free version, the Redirection plugin is a must for me.
6. Subscribe to Comments Reloaded enables readers to sign up for e-mail notifications. Your theme or another plugin you choose might come with this option, but if not, this one is great.
7. Easy Table of Contents is an automatic way to create a table of contents which is absolutely necessary if you write long blog posts.
8. GA Google Analytics adds your Google Analytics tracking code. I wish I had discovered this plugin earlier. For many years I was using a different Google Analytics plugin that was seriously slowing down my website!
Beautiful Sign-Up Forms and Landing Pages from ConvertKit
The beauty of the ConvertKit marketing platform lies in the lovely and highly customizable sign-up forms, perfect for growing e-mail lists. I use this plugin on my friend’s website and love it so much that I will be shortly swapping to it from the one I’m currently using!!!
The Magic Tool for Creators
I’m highly skilled in Photoshop and yet, for certain projects, I prefer to create in Canva. All the images with graphics that I used for this post were done in Canva, and it only took me a few minutes. The free version is perfectly adequate for my needs, and if you are a Photoshop wizardess and have access to a library of free pictures and graphics it makes perfect sense to stick with the free plan. If, however, none of this applies to you, worry not, as Canva Pro comes to the rescue!
Here is what you get with Canva Pro
To Err is Human, to Edit; Divine
I’m a voracious & very fast reader, I love to write, and I’m trilingual with a degree in linguistics, but I’m also dyslexic. It doesn’t affect my reading ability, but sadly, the same can’t be said about writing. This is where the Grammarly typing assistant comes in handy. There is a free version so no excuse why you shouldn’t use it, even if your spelling is A+. After all, there is always room for improvement.
How to Start a Blog Beginner’s Guide In a Nutshell
Time needed: 15 minutes
How to start a blog! Beginner’s guide from one fashion blogger to another.
- Things to consider before you start a blog
Have a clear idea of what you want your blog to be. Is it just a hobby, or do you want to monetize it?
Research before you decide on a theme for your website. Check the competition and see what you like about their website and what you dislike. It might come in handy when choosing a theme for your blog. Just remember, don’t copy others!
- Questions to ask yourself before you start a blog
I call it the four Ws.
Who are you?
What is your blog about?
Why should I read your blog?
What do you have to offer?
- Great content is the reason why readers will return for more, but first, the have to find your blog.
Familiarize yourself with SEO (search engine optimization)
Have a keyword strategy in place
Learn about page speed insights
Please, let me know in the comment section what blogging-related tips would you like me to share!