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Blogging 101: How to Start a Blog

How to start a blog

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?

Other options include: Blogger, Typepad and Tumblr.

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.

Other great options are bluehost and inmotion.

**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.

Other options are constant contact and aweber.

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.

The Essentials

  • 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.

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Comments

  1. Holy Crap! I love your blog! I’d love to chat and jam about B-School, Blogging, and Business. I think I read on FB that you’re in NJ? I’m in Rahway and looking to physically connect with as many ladies as I can!

    Love your site, your posts, EVERYTHING!
    xoxoxo
    K

  2. Would not recommend GoDaddy. They have very poor customer service. Another good option I have used is HostGator.

    • Hi, I posted this on the Bschool site, but I don’t like how GoDaddy puts themselves out there. They don’t appeal to me with the skimpy girls and, to me, trashy adds. I know this is right for some, but doesn’t appeal to me or any plans i have for my business, it actually goes against them. Just my opinion though. Besides this, I love love this blog post, have saved it and will refer back to it as a build. Thank you :)

      • Hi Teri!
        I hear you on the go-daddy thing. I don’t use them either. I use TCbands because I like give my money to smaller operations. I considered not including them, but since they are a major host and pretty inexpensive, I felt like I would be doing my readers a disservice not to mention them. I like people to have all the options and then decide according to what is right for them. I do appreciate the feedback. Keep it coming!

        • Hey, thanks for all the info on how to start a blog, very helpful. To chime in with another reason not to give your hard-earned money to GoDaddy – there are videos of the president killing elephants for sport. that’s sick. i transferred all of my domains away from GoDaddy and now use namecheap.com for registering. thanks again for this post!
          xoxo
          courtney

  3. These are really great blogging tips. You have a really great blog! I love how clean your design is. I am going to check all the links you provided. I am interested in doing a new layout for my blog…I don’t use WordPress though, I use Blogger.
    Karen recently posted…Going GlampingMy Profile

      • just an idea.. maybe how to dive into visibly attractive and Eye catching blog design? Or how to connect with readers on an emotional level? I’m seeing a lot of bschool babes having a problem with that. Just my thoughts but since not everyone is not a natural writer, they may struggle on how to make their content interesting enough to connect with their customers. I think something that may also help is structure in their writing: beginning, middle, end.. yes there is more to that but so that they would know how to layout what they want to write and not get distracted or side tracked. Maybe some brainstorming ideas before they even begin.

  4. Great tips! Your blog is awesome. I’m on blogger now, and I’m considering doing self-hosting on WordPress. I was looking at Bluehost, which comes highly recommended by many. I never really knew much about plug-ins though, so this helps in deciding which ones I should use, when I do make the switch. Thanks for the tips.
    Tanya recently posted…Tanya’s Picks- Week of 3/11My Profile

  5. Great tips! I saw your comment on Bloggers group on Linked In. My company sells B to B and I’m just starting a blog. Used wordpress and linked it to our website but wow….what a struggle coming up with content and the time to blog. Really appreciate your help!

  6. Thank you for updating your blog regarding go-daddy. I think I was a good choice because when you mention or refer to someone or a business, their reputation can reflect on you as well. Your blogg is very nice and tasteful, and go-daddy is a disservice to your character! (Personal opinion). Have a wonderful day :)

  7. I am (hopefully) days away from debuting my new, self-hosted blog, and appreciate the info re: plugins. There are a ton and it’s overwhelming to find the best/better ones, especially since it’s nearly impossible to see what many other blogs are using. I just installed Comment Luv on my new blog and will have to take a better look at the others you suggest.
    Amanda recently posted…So, I Guess I’m Doing This Thing!My Profile

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