How to Start Blogging in 5 Easy Steps
Today is the second post of a series of 5 posts about blogging: why to start, how to start, how to get readers, how to build community and how to monetize your blog.
Step 1: Decide What Your Blog is About
Don’t over think this one. You don’t have to have all the details figured out to start a blog. Although marketers will tell you to pick a very niche topic, I know tons of great & popular bloggers who just write about their lives, their experiences or post pictures and videos of things they like. If in doubt, pick a general direction and get started. Your blog will naturally evolve over time. For example: at different points over the last 3 years I’ve considered focusing solely on personal finance, marketing to women and job searching- all very different topics. These days I’m writing more about entrepreneurship because that’s where I’m at in my life. And guess what? You’re still here reading, right!? Once you start writing, you’ll start to realize what you truly enjoy writing about vs. what you thought you’d enjoy writing about. Ideas will come to you at strange times and you’ll have more to say than you thought.
Note: if your end-goal is to monetize your blog, consider writing about products you can sell as an affiliate, topics that you could teach classes about or create e-books/information products about. Or, consider writing for demographics that are highly valued by advertisers (for example, Mommy Bloggers are huge).
Step 2: Buy a Domain Name
Anyone can buy a domain name, and everyone who is even thinking about starting a blog, business or building a personal brand SHOULD buy a domain name. I use namecheap.com for my domain names but there are tons of providers out there that do about the same thing. Domain names on namecheap.com currently cost less than $10/year.
Buying a domain name will also allow you to have a custom email address ([email protected] instead of [email protected]). It looks way more professional and it is super easy to set up. Once you buy your domain name, go to “manage domains” and on the left side of the screen there will be an option called “Email Forwarding Setup.” Enter the email address you want and where it should be forwarded (your primary email address). DONE!
What if you can’t get the name you want?
You can always consider buying a domain name with an extension other than .com. For example, .biz, .me, .tv, .info and .org are also popular choices.
Step 3: Decide if you want to do a Self-Hosted Blog or WordPress-Hosted Blog
Every blog needs a host. Here’s an analogy that may help you understand a little better. Like your home, you can’t build a website unless you have a plot of land to build it on. So think of the host as the land/yard, your domain name as the physical house, and the content of your website (articles, pictures, graphics) as your furniture and belongings. Make sense?
What the heck is the difference between Self-Hosted and WordPress-hosted then?!
If you get your blog at WordPress.com, your blog is hosted by WordPress. This means FREE hosting that updates, upgrades, backing-up and site security is taken care of by WordPress. In other words, wordpress.com is the way to pop up your site within minutes without any technical knowledge. If you can use Facebook, you can do this- I promise!
Those who choose to go self-hosted will still use the same same free WordPress software, but will need to maintain the updates etc. independently. Hosting usually costs about $80/year max depending on which provider you use. So, what are the perks of choosing a self-hosted blog?
- If you think you’d like to grow a big following or even run your blog as a business someday, I highly recommend going with a self-hosted blog. It may seem more expensive (and intimidating!) up front because of the hosting, but it gives you several more options right off the get go.
- You can install plug-ins which enhance your site big time. You can think of plug-in’s kind of like iPhone apps, there are some amazing plug-ins out there that really enhance the functionality and customization of the site. If you aren’t self-hosted, you can’t add plugins to your site.
- You can completely customize your site’s design whereas WordPress.com sites are limited to pre-made themes only
- You can post advertisements (banner ads)
The list is seemingly endless, but here are some popular types of plug-ins:
- Spam blockers (for comments)
- Search engine optimization plug-ins
- Cool looking social media and sharing buttons
- Shopping cart
- Add ratings to your posts
I started my site on WordPress.com but then had to pay someone to switch it over within 6 months because I wanted a more professional looking site. BUT, if self-hosting scares you to the point of preventing you from moving forward, just start a WordPress.com blog!
Step 4: If you’re doing a self-hosted blog, get a hosting package
I use Host Gator for all of my hosting. I really like them in comparison to GoDaddy and BlueHost. One of the most important parts of your hosting package is customer service. I’ve always had great experience with Host Gator‘s email, live chat and phone customer service no matter what time of day. They are always quick to respond and I’ve always had my issues resolved immediately. I’ve heard nightmares about other hosting companies that might be a few bucks cheaper.
Often times my “issues” were simply a lack of understanding of how certain technology/processes work. You’ll probably call your host a lot in the beginning and that’s ok. You’ll learn a lot by spending some time with customer service! Full disclosure: I’m so loyal to Host Gator that I’ve become an affiliate for them, meaning I get a commission when people sign up for their Host Gator packages through these links.
I buy at least a one year basic package so I don’t have to worry about my website not being live one day because I forgot to renew. 1 year of hosting with Host Gator currently runs $60-80/year.
Once you’ve purchased, sign into your “c-panel” (control panel) using the information in the “Welcome” email sent to you by your host. It will include the login name, password and the URL for how to access your host. Keep your Welcome Email with hosting info filed electronically & handy for future use! Scroll to the bottom of the control panel and click “Quick Install” then select WordPress. Here’s a video with instructions to give you a visual!
Step 5: Create an About page, a Contact page and Write your 1st Post!
Once people start reading your blog, they’ll want to know who you are and how they can reach you. Be sure you’ve created an About page with your picture, and a Contact page. Include your social media contact info too! If you’re not comfortable posting your email address, create a contact form (for free) by using Wufoo.com. Creating forms is so easy and all you have to do is copy and pate the code into the page you want it on. When people submit the contact form, Wufoo will forward you their inquiry via email.
Like I said in yesterday’s post, you may feel weird when writing your first post. That’s totally normal, and 99% of bloggers will tell you they felt the same way. Don’t worry about what people will think, who is reading it and don’t worry about not having much traffic. Congratulate yourself on taking a personal challenge and becoming a blogger!
Want to learn more about turning your idea into a profitable blog or small business? Consider taking our WordPress Setup Camp or joining a Ladies Launch Pad Incubator. Both classes are taught via Skype and in-person (Chicago).