Starting a basic blog takes about 10 minutes if you have the right guidance. When I started a few years ago, I DIY’d my way through each step- just me and Google- and it took me weeks. The lengthy process wasn’t just how to do it, but I wanted to know why I was choosing each piece and how it was going to affect my business down the road.
To help you move faster through the process, I’ve created this step-by-step guide on how to start a blog, important pieces to think about, and how to set it up the right way. The “right way” means, optimized to make money in the future. The money-making is up to you!
While starting a blog is quick and easy, perfecting your blog is an evolving process. There will be plenty of advanced tips dished out later, but make sure you’re also getting the Huddle (newsletter) as there are tips, trends, and growth hacks to help you advance.
But first, let’s get really honest.
If you hate writing, can’t figure out how to work your email, or don’t have time to get 6 hours of sleep, blogging probably isn’t for you right now. There’s nothing wrong with getting setup slowly, as long as your growth expectations are inline with your available time.
Taking a blog from newbie status to a decent following that generates income takes a lot of work.
If making a living online is your goal, ask yourself these four questions:
- Do I have the desire to learn, to search, and be willing to try minor “techy” stuff?
- Do I like to write, and most importantly, help people with things I know?
- Am I willing to dream big, plan well, work hard, and spend hours every week at my computer?
- Do I want to connect with people- readers and other bloggers in my niche?
Did you say yes?
Awesome!!! You have the basics of running a successful blog!
Steps to Start a Blog
The steps below are numbered if you want to open a new window, follow along, and start your own blog in just a few minutes:
Step 1: Define Your Niche
Defining your niche is an important step in the process and one that will probably be adjusted over time. Most people start broad and eventually hone in on a cross between their specific target market and how they can help that market.
For example, you may begin your blog saying your niche is fashion. What will evolve is your “sweet spot”- targeting a niche within fashion, like “how to build a high-end wardrobe for under $50 each piece.”
Here are some questions to get you started:
- Is there a passion or “some day” dream do you keep replaying in your head?
- What could you talk about for hours?
- What advice do friends and family come to you for?
If you start blogging or continue on your current blog without passion, you’ll lose focus, run out of writing ideas, and end up dreading your blog. Make sure the subjects are what get you fired up!
Then ask yourself, are you good at them? You may love reading about home decor, but if you are still living with your college hand-me-down furniture, home decor may not be the best blogging topic unless you’re taking the DIY angle or “how to furnish your grown-up house with little money.” Remember, we’re talking about what sets your panties on fire, not what you enjoy reading.
Don’t worry about being an expert at your niche at the beginning. Experienced bloggers will tell you, you just need to know more than your readers. Write what you know and share your growing experiences with your readers. Your knowledge base will grow daily and eventually, you’ll be seen as an authority blogger in your specific niche.
Step 2: Pick your Domain
Picking your online name is important as this will be your first impression and what everyone will type into their address bar. Try to find a .com name (.net, .org, and .co would be next) that accurately describes your business in as few words as possible.
The system I use is to do a brain dump. No matter how silly, write down as many words as you can think of that relate to your subject, the message you want to convey, and what you will teach your readers. Then do a Google keyword search and see what people are really searching for.
As your putting those words together to come up with a possible domain, open a tab for GoDaddy and start putting those combos in to see what .com’s are available.
Domain name helpful tips:
- Google your choices and see what comes close. Make sure 1 letter doesn’t send visitors to an inappropriate site.
- Don’t use anything cutesy or intentionally misspelled.
- Ensure you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s rights. Nike might have a problem with “Just Do It” if you are starting a sneaker company.
- Sit with the name for a few days. Ask your family or trusted friends what they think.
- Type it out. Does it look weird because there are repetitive letters back to back?
- Is that name available on social media accounts?
While you should follow those tips above, don’t let picking a name paralyze you. Although a little bit of a pain, you can change it at any time.
Step 3: Choose a Platform
Once you have chosen a name, it’s time to decide on what platform your website will use. Since you will be building a business and making money from your blog eventually, don’t skimp here and choose a free platform like Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress.com. While those options are perfectly fine for hobby bloggers, they will restrict your growth, design, and money-making abilities. You will thank yourself later by starting on the right platform for a few dollars a month, than waste time and possible much more money trying to move your website over later. Start smart!
Here’s a simple comparison of being self-hosted (what your want) at WordPress.org versus a freebie host (like WordPress.com). Red is a drawback, green is good:
WordPress.org is definitely the way to go if you are creating a business.
But before we leave the platform discussion, we should talk about the new kid on the block and another popular option lately, Squarespace. The new cloud-hosted platform is similar to the others as it’s like a website in a box. You pay more per month to easily create and build websites. They are beautifully designed and simple to get started. However, with that ease comes limitations, a higher average monthly cost, and more work when you’re ready to migrate to WP.org.
Step 4: Sign up for Hosting
A “self-hosted” site means you pay a hosting company for your blog to run on their servers. There are a several choices for small blogs, such as Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, and SiteGround. I can only tell you my opinion on Bluehost and GoDaddy, as I currently use both of them personally.
For new blogs, I’d say go with Bluehost. Their pricing is excellent if you sign up for 2 or 3 years, you’ll get a free domain name, plenty of storage, and the two times I’ve needed their customer service, they were excellent. Like, fixed-in-under-a-minute excellent.
If you decide Bluehost is for you too, click this link for discounted pricing and follow the screen shots below for a step by step tutorial in setting up your blog in about 10 minutes!
(Prices vary for Bluehost depending on what campaign their running. I will be posting their sales on Twitter so go follow me because there is a really good one coming up next week!)
Step 4: Setup your New Blog
When you get to the screen below, make sure you choose “Do it yourself” because I’m going to walk you through each step for free.
After installation, you will enter your information under “Advanced Options”. (see below)
- Your site name: “Whatever you named your awesome blog”
- Admin Username: Don’t use “admin”. That’s the first choice of hackers and bots. Try something complicated here.
- Admin Password: Make this one even more complicated.
- Admin Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Check “automatically create a new database for this installation.”
- Click “Install Now”
- Write down your username and password!
This next screen is where you’re going to set how your URL looks in the address bar, www or no www. This is just a matter of preference and doesn’t positively or negatively affect your site.
Personally, I dropped the www on this site just to make it even shorter so my links will be easier to read on social media. I kept the W’s on my other site because it looked more balanced. Completely up to you!
From now on, you will get into your website by adding “/wp-admin” at the end of your web address. For example, when I want to write a post here, I login to “jobtoblog.com/wp-admin” in the address bar.
Next, the screen below will show where you’ll enter your username and password.
Welcome to your Dashboard! This is where you’ll spend your time tweaking your settings, making your site pretty, and writing epic posts.
Step 5: Install a Theme
The next step in a basic setup is for you to choose and install a theme for your blog. This is the basic layout of how you want your site to look. There are thousands of free themes available and awesome premium themes, when you’re ready.
When you’re logged into your WordPress dashboard (www.yoursite.com/wp-admin), go to “Appearance” on the left sidebar, then click “Themes”. When you hover over each theme, the “install” and “preview” buttons will appear.
Find the one you want, and choose “Install.”
You can change your theme at any time and the basics will be the same. If you do change later, you may have to do some design tweaks, but your dashboard will have the same features.
Step 6: Add Plugins
Plugins are what make your website secure, pretty, and functional above what your theme offers.
The easiest way to remember the functions of blogging terminology is this:
A WordPress.org site and hosting are the frame and engine of a car. The theme you choose is like the car body- doors, windows, seats, tires and wheels. The plugins you install are the optional features like cruise control, additional airbags, and premium sound.
Bare bones, these are some of the plugins you’ll need to power your website:
- Akismet: Blocks comment spam
- Lightweight Social/Simple Social Icons: Adds icons as links to your social media accounts
- Yoast/All-in-One SEO: For assistance in optimizing your site to make it search engine friendly
- Jetpack: a huge suite of features you can toggle on/off
- A cache plugin like W3 Total Cache
Beware of plugin overload! While we want cool functions and design elements, and there are so many awesome ones out there, too many plugins can lead to slower site speed and opportunity for security breaches. A good rule of thumb is 10, maybe 15, total plugins.
Step 7: Design your Blog
This step can be tricky if you aren’t a designer. On one hand, having a professional to brand your colors, logo, header, and fonts would put you light years ahead of many blogs. On the other hand, what new blogger has the money to do that? I sure didn’t!
You have 3 choices:
- Hire a graphics designer- Fiverr (cheapest), Upwork, and 99Designs are the ones I hear the most. Of course, you could go to an agency if you have a few thou to throw down.
- Copy your 2 or 3 most-favorite and visually appealing blogs. Don’t steal their logo or designs, but really study their look and borrow their color or font combos, and other elements.
- Create your own… with help. Go to a site like Creative Market and search “branding” for ideas. Follow design bloggers like Lauren at Elle and Company. Then open Canva or Photoshop and get to work!
Step 8: Write your Blog
This section could be a post in itself with all the writing do’s and don’ts, but let’s stick to the basics:
- Write consistently. Start with one post per week. If you’re nailing that, increase to your desired level without forgoing consistency. Same time, same day, every week.
- Write epic posts. No fluff, no weekend updates on your personal life, just meaty posts that serve and solve your readers problems.
- Write at least 500 words per post. There are plenty of arguments for longer posts (1200-2000 words), but write long enough to be thorough and give your readers a win, but short enough you don’t waste their time.
- Write in your voice. Print a picture of one of your friends, tape it to your laptop, and write like you’re talking to them. Nobody wants to read the style of writing that got you an “exceptional” on a state writing test in high school. They want to hear from a real person, a real problem solver, not perfect- you.
Here are some extra tips for navigating within your WordPress dashboard:
- Create new blog posts by clicking “Posts”.
- To create an “About Me” page, hover over “Page” and click “Add New”
- If you want to add pictures to your posts, click on “Media.”
- You can go to “Appearance,” then “Widgets” in order to add items to your sidebar and footer
Step 9: Grow your Blog into a Business
A significant shift has occurred in the way blogs make money. The smartest advice in running a profitable online business is the same advice you should be taking with your money- diversify.
If there’s one thing bloggers have painstakingly learned over the past couple of years of high, double-digit percentage drops from their Facebook reach and Pinterest traffic, it’s to not put all of our eggs in one or two baskets that we don’t own.
Up until 2012-ish, a ton of blogging income was generated from ads slapped all over headers and sidebars from high traffic sites. Talk about x-ing out as fast as I can!
2013-early 2015 brought in the $1000-$3000 payments for sponsored posts.
Today, it’s all about diversification of courses, affiliates, books, podcasts, sponsorships, summits, and maybe a little ad income as the cherry on top.
So how do you get to the point of creating some of these revenue streams?
- Connect with people and build your network.
- Grow your traffic.
- Nurture and expand your email list.
- Create your own products.
- Only promote valuable, trusted affiliate products to your peeps on occasion.
Be selective on what/who you promote as to not come across sleazy to your readers. For example, I could have sprinkled 10-15 affiliate links throughout this post to boost my income- earning commissions by recommending my email service provider, premium themes, plugins, graphics, etc.
But I didn’t. I put one.
One single product that I have no reservations on promoting because I personally use their service, and it’s highly relevant and beneficial in this blog post to you, my friends. That’s how you earn trust and income. Done correctly and with purpose- profit will follow value.
If you just started your own blog, congratulations and welcome to the adventure! Drop your URL in the comments below so I can follow and let me know if you need help.
Building your blog into a business can be fun, hard, frustrating, and so rewarding. You are going to surprise yourself with how much you learn in just a few weeks!
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