So you want to start a blog? Good idea! It’s hard to know where to begin. If only someone would just put together a guide on how to start a blog, it would be so much easier, right? Ask and you shall receive. Here’s what you need to get started:
Choosing a Blogging Platform
I recommend using wordpress to self-host your blog. WordPress is awesome. You can set-up your whole site on it: blog, portfolio, e-store, message forum… Anything you can imagine, really. Plus it’s free! Who doesn’t love that?
Getting Set It Up
First things, first… Your baby needs a domain name. You can go with just your name or something more topical. Marie Forleo has a great video on picking a name for your business, check it out if you looking for some advice. After you choose a name, see if it’s available, and buy that sucka!
Secondly, you need to find hosting for your blog. I use tcbands. The customer service is excellent and they work with you if you exceed your limits.
**UPDATE: Go-Daddy used to be on this list but a lot of my readers mentioned disliking them because of poor customer service and distasteful ads. The people have spoken, they are no longer on the list.**
Make it Pretty
Since I’m a designer, I custom design all my blogs. If you are just starting out, this may not be a fiscally feasible option. I recommend going with a simple theme like those here and changing the colors and fonts to go with your brand personality. Keeping it simple will make it easier when you are ready to upgrade to a custom design down the line.
Get Your E-mail List on
You need a list, it’s essential to any business or blog. An e-mail list will keep you in touch with your readers and potential customers. Mailchimp is my favorite list building service, it’s easy to use and free. Their branding is great too, it’s a good example of what to do.
Cop Some Plugins
Plug-ins are what breaks wordpress wide open. It’s similar to apps on your phone. You can find a plug-in to do just about anything. If you wanted to launch a rocket from your site, you could probably find a plug-in for it. I use the plug-ins below on every site I design.
- Akismet – This comes pre-loaded with every wordpress install. It helps control spam comments. To activate Akismet, you’ll need a personal API key . Free
- BackupBuddy – Backing up your site is really important. Take it from a girl whose sites were hacked and lost EVERYTHING. This is the only plug-in on this list that isn’t free but perhaps the most important. $75
- Clicky – This tells you who is visiting your site, what they are clicking on and how they found you. It’s the best way to see if your promotion strategies are working. Get an free account at clicky.com and then use the plug-in to intergrate it into your blog. You can also use google analytics but I find Clicky easier to understand. Free
- Comment Luv – This handy plug-in rewards your readers by automatically placing a link to their last blog post at the end of their comment. Free
- Contact Buddy – This plug-in adds a contact form wherever you choose. Free
- Editorial Calendar – Makes it possible to see all your posts + drag and drop them into a calendar. Great for scheduling posts. Free
- MailChimp – The MailChimp plugin allows you to quickly and easily add a signup form for your MailChimp list. Free
- Related Posts Thumbnails – Customizable plugin, that nicely displays related posts thumbnails under the post for cross-promoting your posts. Free
- Share Buttons by Lockerz – Help people share, bookmark, and email your posts. Free
- W3 Total Cache – Makes your blog load super fast. Free
- Yoast WordPress SEO – Improve your WordPress SEO. This makes it easy for google to find your posts. Free
Oh you fancy, huh?
These are not necessary for every blog but are useful depending on your needs.
- WP e-Commerce – This plug-in lets customers buy your products, services and digital downloads online. Free
- Easy Digital Download – Just want to sell downloads? Check out this plug-in. Free
- Buddy Press – Add your own social network. Free
- BB Forums – Add a message forum to your site. Free
- Premise – If you want to easily create landing pages on your site, this is just the thing. It ain’t cheap but if you are selling things and want to split test, it’s a great option. You can also use it to build a membership site. $165.
Ok… let’s actually start blogging
Create Content – This is the hardest part. You actually have to write the damn thing.
- Keep a notebook handy and jot down any blog ideas you may have. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will remember them later. You won’t.
- Use these eights types of posts to brainstorm post ideas or visit sites like Problogger and Copyblogger for inspiration and tips.
- Keep it short and scannable. This means lots of subheads, lists and bullet points. People are notorious for skimming online, so give them something to catch their eye.
- Create but also curate content, which just means you cherry pick content that is important and relevant to your community. It’s like what a museum curator does to produce an exhibition. Be sure to always credit and link back your sources, lest the internet gods find you and spite you.
Images – High quality images are a must. This can make or break your site. It’s the difference between looking like an amateur or a professional. You can find free images on Flickr, just look images with an attribution license and be sure to credit (and link to) your source. Or buy them inexpensively from a stock image site like istock. Another great tip is to keep all your images the width of your site. This is more visually pleasing and makes you look legit.
Be Consistent – At first only your mom will read your blog and that’s normal. You need to keep at it but you don’t need to kill yourself creating content daily when you don’t have much traffic. A weekly or even bi-monthly post is perfectly acceptable. Get yourself organized, create some features and use an editorial calendar to keep in check. You have to keep churning it out and not let yourself get discouraged.
Promote. Promote. Promote – Instead of spending all your time creating content, promote the content you do have.
- Be sure to tell everyone on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin about your posts. Pin your post images. Stumble them. Dig them. And make them Delicious.
- Comment on other people’s blogs, especially if they use commentluv
- Find forums on your topic and post about your blog there
- Look into guest posting on other blogs and ask them to link to your blog
- E-mail bloggers that might find your post interesting and send them a link to your post
- Network with other bloggers and collaborate
(Psst, want to see more website tutorials?)
So there you have it: how to start a blog. You are ready to set the blogging world on fire? Know anyone who wants to start a blog? Send them a link to this post. They will thank you for it. Have any blogging questions? Let me know in the comments.