A Beginner's Guide: How to Start a Blog in 5 Basic Steps
Have something to say? Want to make a bit of money from home? Want to start a blog? That’s awesome. But how do you do it? There’s so much information out there and so much jargon and talk about SEO, self-hosting, domains, URLs, servers, advertising, etc., that it can be very intimidating.
But starting a blog is super simple, and you shouldn’t be put off by trying to learn all the details before you’ve even written your first blog post.
So here are the pure basics you need to know to get your blog started and set up for long-term success.
Poll: Reasons for Blogging
Why do you want to start a blog?
5 Steps to Start a Blog the Right Way
1. Choose Your Area of Interest (aka Niche)
When most of us choose to blog, it's because there’s something we love talking about and enjoy learning more about; it's because there’s something dear to us that we want to share with the world. That will be our blog’s niche. The more focused, or “niche,” your blog is, the easier it will be to find the right audience for your blog. No one will follow your blog if they don’t know what it’s about. Google also doesn’t favor unfocused blogs so it’ll be even harder for you to attract Google traffic later on.
So the obvious first step is to decide the topic your blog will revolve around. That will become the foundation for all the steps that follow.
2. Choose Your Platform
When you’ve decided what you’re going to be writing about, next is to choose where you want to host your content. There are many options, but some of the most popular are Wordpress, Blogger, Medium, and Tumblr. If you’re planning to monetize your blog, Wordpress is your best bet because you can easily import your free Wordpress.com site to the self-hosted version Wordpress.org when you're ready. Starting off on Wordpress.com is super easy to use, free, and you can create something unique and beautiful without many technical skills.
But one major drawback to using one of these platforms is that you don’t have full freedom to brand your blog the way you want. The most immediately obvious example of this is that the URL of your blog will look something like this:
and not the more professional looking: www.[nameofyourblog].com.
But that’s okay! It’s easy to get that fixed.
If you choose to use Wordpress, you can buy one directly from your Wordpress account, and they’ll manage that URL for you without any extra maintenance from you. You can also buy a domain name from a third-party and link that to your free blog. You’ll find additional instructions on how to do the linking from the blogging platform you choose to use. It’s more complicated but very doable with a little patience.
What Is Self-Hosting?
Okay, let’s take a timeout. Self-hosting is when you host your blog on a server you own, which will give you 100% control of your blog. You can make it look however you want, monetize it however you like, but it's very expensive and requires technical know-how to maintain a server.
If you’re starting out with zero readers or followers, DO NOT attempt to self-host your blog right from the get-go. You’ll waste your money and distract yourself from the main focus: writing.
Now that we’ve got the most complicated step out of the way, next is the slightly more artistic part. Most blogging platforms will offer you hundreds of free themes to choose from that will beautify your blog without needing any coding skills. When choosing the design for your blog, choose one that will showcase your content in the best possible light. Keep it simple and straightforward, so you don’t overload your readers with too much information on one page. Also, make sure that your design is in keeping with your blog’s topic. If your blog is about fashion, it won’t make sense to choose a theme with cars all over it.
4. Write, Write, and Write Some More
There’s nothing more important for the success of a blog than its content. It doesn’t matter how beautiful your blog looks or how awesome its name. If you don’t have the content, your blog will get nowhere. So write! Write like crazy and post regularly. Decide on a publishing schedule and try your best to stick to it. The more consistently you post, the more readers you’ll get, and the more chances you'll get to catch the attention of search engines like Google. Like anything else worth doing, the more effort you put into it, the more you’ll get back.
5. Market Like Crazy
It will be tough the first few months, or even years, of starting your blog because almost no one will read it and Google will file you away in some dark corner of the internet. This is when social media will become your best friend. Tell all your friends about your new blog. Share your blog posts on every social media platform you have.
But never spam. Never drop links all over the internet just because you can. That will get your blog blacklisted before you can finish pressing CTLR-V. Encourage your friends and family to share posts they genuinely love. Share your blog with people who could genuinely benefit from the content. Target the people who will be interested in your niche.
And be patient. Traffic won’t roll in immediately, and you shouldn’t expect it to. But keep writing great content, keep sharing, and your readers will come.
Search Engine Optimization Basics to Set Your Blog Up For Success
Even though search engines may not notice you for at least a few months, that doesn’t mean you should ignore them in the meantime. Every time you publish, make sure each post is set up for maximum success so that when you do get noticed, you’re all ready to go.
Here are some basic SEO tips you need to pay attention to.
- Use keywords: Since search engines can only see text, make sure you include enough identifying words in your post and around your blog that will tell search engines what your blog is all about. That way, when people search for that topic, your site will show up. But, if you’re writing about “how to bake a cake,” for example, don’t stuff that exact phrase everywhere even when out of context. Write normally, and include that phrase when the opportunity comes along.
- Name your pictures: Put keywords in your images too so your images will show up in search results as well. 00456.IMG means nothing to search engines and no one will find it. Remember to put a dash “-” to separate words instead of a space.
- Link to other posts on your blog: You’ll increase the chances of people choosing to visit another page on your blog. The longer people stay on your site, the better you’ll do on Google.
- Mind your load speed: Avoid too many GIFs or long videos as that can increase your blog’s loading time. The longer it takes for your page to load, the more likely people will jump to something else instead, and the lower Google will rank your blog.
How to Monetize Your Blog
Now that your blog is up and running, how do you start using it to earn money? If you chose not to self-host your blog, blogging platforms like Wordpress won't let you add Google Adsense capsules on your blog. But that's okay. There are many other ways to monetize your blog.
Here are a few popular choices to consider:
- Amazon Affiliates: an affiliate program where you refer your audience to an Amazon product and earn a commission when a purchase is made.
- Sponsored posts: Approach brands you like and offer to write a sponsored post to promote their products. Make sure to stick to your niche!
- Sell a product: Write an ebook, build an online course, or create a unique product related to your chosen niche and sell it.
As you explore ways to monetize your blog in this initial stage, keep in mind that building your audience should be your core focus. Once you have steady traffic and a devoted reader-base, opportunities to earn an income from your blog will increase exponentially.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
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© 2018 KV Lo