So, you’re ready to jump on the bandwagon and start your own blog? Whether you just want to blog as a hobby about a topic you love, or whether you have dreams of making money someday, know that creating a blog is a long process, and regardless of whether it’s commercial or not, most bloggers say it has to be a labor of love for you to be able to put in all the time needed to start it and keep it running. It’s not an overnight get-rich-quick (if ever) business, but it can be very rewarding on a personal level, and financially for those who apply themselves and are willing to work. Ready to get started?
First, you have to come up with the topic of your blog. Many people make their biggest mistake here by choosing a topic they think will make them money, instead of choosing a topic that they want to write about. Unless you have deep pockets and are planning to hire out writers, you will be spending a lot of time thinking about and writing about this topic for many years to come, hopefully. Basing your blog on something you’re passionate about is not only important to keep it exciting for you to create and maintain, but readers respond to authenticity. They can tell when you’re just dialing it in and creating a site to host affiliate ads and you’re not that connected to the content.
Don’t be afraid to get personal. It’s what makes successful blogs stand out above the rest.
Also, narrow down your topic to a niche area to attract a more targeted audience to your blog. If you make it really broad and general it’s going to be harder to keep readers coming back. If you create a blog called Sally’s Ramblings, it’s not exactly going to inspire people to want to click on the link, much less read it.
Once you have your topic, find a domain name to purchase, and you really want to get a “.com” domain. Notice this step comes before actually creating the name of the site. There is a reason for that, because you may need to modify your first choice of blog name for the sake of getting a matching domain name. You will likely have to get creative, but always go for the “.com” of a name if possible. Sometimes adding “the” at the beginning or “blog” at the end can help.
There are tons of other domain extensions coming on the market, but as a general rule, “.com” will always be more respected, trusted, and rank higher in search engines. It’s worth working a little bit at finding the right blog name to get that most desirable extension.
Many new bloggers set up their blogs in a platform like Blogger, but if you want to monetize your blog down the road, you’re going to have to go with WordPress. And I’m not talking about the free hosting on the WordPress.com site, but setting up your own hosting service with your new domain and installing WordPress directly so you have complete control. Most hosting services have a one click install for WordPress where you enter your name, email, and your adminsitrative username. After it’s installed, you’ll be given a log-in link to access your site, but here’s a hint: It’s always yourdomain.com/wp-admin. Just add that “/wp-admin” to the end of your domain and it will take you right there.
Some domain hosts make it a little bit easier than others, with a control panel that’s fairly intuitive or easy to learn, like Hostgator. Other hosting services, like DreamHost, tell you up front they expect their customers to have some technical expertise. Be sure you pick one that’s simple enough for you to be able to handle and has good reviews, because switching over your hosting service after you build a site is a real pain.
There’s a bit of a learning curve in figuring out how to install WordPress themes and plug-ins, etc., but it’s better to just jump in and learn it from the get-go. You’ll want to pick a theme for your site, which defaults to one of WordPresses basic themes, or you can search through other free theme options that have a design built in. Changing themes isn’t too much of a hassle, except when you get into commercial themes that use something called short codes and website builders, so that when you switch themes, it can create a real mess of your site.
I’m specifically thinking of a very popular and fantastic theme from Elegant Themes called Divi. It’s a beautiful theme and easy to use once you figure it out, but this theme is the WordPress version of the Hotel California — you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave. Not unless you plan on spending a lot of time fixing your site.
So, once you have your topic, your domain name, a hosting service where you’ve installed WordPress, and you’ve picked a theme, you’re actually ready to start creating content. Woohoo, this is the fun part! Whatever theme you use in WordPress will create a post automatically that you can edit for your first post. You’ll find it under the classic “Hello, world!” generic post topic.
The dashboard for WordPress is fairly intuitive, with the left side of the screen featuring tabs you can click to create a post or create a page, and some other options at the top. Typically posts are your day-to-day additions, but people will create pages with ongoing information or resources, such as a page telling about themselves, or a resource of information on the topic of the blog. The reason for this is because posts get buried deeper and deeper into the blog as more posts pile on top of them due to the chronological order. Pages can be featured in the menu of the site for quick access.
Those are the basics to get started, although you’ll eventually get into more complex approaches such as search engine optimization (SEO) to rank higher in Google and learning how to come up with good content for your blog that will drive more readers to your site and keep them coming back.
There are many great sources on the internet, but any beginning blogger should really start with the blogging guru who has helped more bloggers around the world than probably any single person on this planet, Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger. He always stays on top of the latest trends and has free articles and podcasts that will take you through building the actual content of your blog step-by-step after you set it up. There is also subscription service, but honestly, if you’re a beginning blogger you won’t even need to think about that for quite some time with all the information available on the site and in the free podcasts. That man is every blogger’s BFF.
So there you go. After you follow these steps you are officially a blogger, even if you maybe only have one or two posts up right now. It doesn’t matter, because we all started there. But where you finish is up to you.
[Image via AP Stock]