I'm in several Facebook groups that I adore (I'll post a post about great Facebook groups to join in the next few weeks) and one thing that I noticed was a lot of people want to know the basics...The SUPER basics and everything related to them...all in one place.
After seeing this over a dozen times and responding to dozens of comments, I started to think how OVERWHELMING starting a blog and learning everything you need to know must be. You see, I started my first blog while everyone was still kind of learning how to blog. There weren't any courses you could take or strategists you could hire that would teach you. You had to learn as you went along, piece together bits of information spread across internet search after an Internet search and hope for the best.
So today, I'm tackling How to Start a Blog from start to finish.
You're going to learn about:
Blogging Platforms (free & self-hosted options explained)
Making Time To Blog
Composing A Successful Blog Post
The Role of Photography & Graphics
If you're looking for how to be a blogger, tips for newbie bloggers, where to blog for beginners and everything else, this comprehensive post is for you.
Blogging Platforms |
First, we'll start with the free ones. The main two are Blogger and Wordpress. There are other free versions but these two are the best ones out there. They are the ones that you will find the most online articles about that can really turn you into an expert on either platform.
It's important to know the difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org.
Wordpress.com is the free blogging platform that Wordpress offers. We will talk about wordpress.org later. I personally feel that people should start blogging on wordpress.com before graduating to wordpress.org so they can make sure that they are going to stick to blogging for the long haul. It is a complete waste of money to invest hundreds of dollars into a self-hosting option if you're not ready to take blogging seriously as a potential career from a technical standpoint.
You're not going to know if you are truly ready for everything that comes with a blogging career if you don't blog consistently for at least 6 months. Many of the things that you can do on wordpress.org, you can do on wordpress.com without the necessary overhead costs and technical know-how.
Want to know the real reason why people tell you to run into a self-hosting situation? Affiliate links. Affiliate links pay affiliates of these hosting companies upwards of 30% of whatever you pay if you decide to purchase through their link. Do I have affiliate links? Of course. But I'm here to give you sound advice, not spin something and make it seem like you need to spend money when you don't. Anyways..
The MAIN difference between wordpress.com and wordpress.org is this: who is 'hosting' your website. On wordpress.com, Wordpress is hosting your website and you have zero access to the back-end controls of your website. You have no access to backend coding of your website so you are not able to change the look of your website outside of changing the particular theme that you are using for your website.
For reference, a 'theme' is the graphical interface of your website - how your website looks.
Wordpress.com is free to use, easy to learn, and above all of that, there is a really great community of bloggers on the platform that are there to support one another on their Blogging journeys. You can quickly build up a following of other bloggers who will look forward to your content and if your posts are really good, Wordpress will share your post as a feature post (huge potential for some really great exposure).
Blogger is Google's free blogging platform. Just like WordPress, you're able to sign up and begin blogging right away. The main difference between Blogger and Wordpress is the backend. With Blogger, you can change the coding of your blog to change the way that it responds or looks to people who visit your website. This gives you a lot of control over the look and feel of your website, without having to spend any money at all.
Blogger is also the only free platform (where you can purchase a domain) that allows you to monetize your blog with ads. Whether you sign up with Google's Adsense program and have Google run ads in certain sections of your blog, or you join an Ad Network, because you have the ability to change your blog's code, you can quickly and easily monetize the traffic that comes to your blog with ads.
You can buy a domain from a Third Party (I personally use and like GoDaddy for purchasing my domains - great prices and customer service. Never had an issue) and link it to your Blogger blog to give your blog a customized domain name.
One major thing that Blogger has over Wordpress is the ability to buy Third Party themes that you can upload to your blog and change the entire look of it. I've personally purchased several themes from Pipdig for both Blogger and Wordpress(.org) and the installation has been seamless. They have fabulous customer support and I can't sing their praises enough. If you really want to make your blogger blog look unique and professional-looking, Pipdig is the company you want to turn to.
Blogger or Wordpress?
I would say you really can't go wrong, as a newbie blogger, with either platform. It really does depend on what your preferences are. Wordpress has a better community behind it and will allow your blog to grow much faster so from that perspective alone, I would go with a Wordpress.com blog. It will be easier to get more people to see your blog because of the community aspect and if you're not able to put in the time necessary to really drive traffic to your blog while you figure out if blogging is for you, go with Wordpress. Not having to worry about the technical aspect of your blog will grow tiresome eventually, but in the beginning of your blogging journey, you really should be worried about growing a following and writing quality content, anyway.
Self-Hosted Blogging Options |
There are tons of options when it comes to options for self-hosting but I'm going to focus on the ones that I've either used personally or have a working knowledge of and would recommend. This is not meant to be comprehensive in any way but a valuable guide.
Wordpress.org is Wordpress's answer to the limitations that come with having a Wordpress.com blog. The key difference here is you now get access to the back-end of your site. You get to install upgraded themes (from both Wordpress and Third-Party companies like Pipdig), install plugins that help you run a more powerful website, and have complete and total control over the look, feel and operation of your website.
Having a technical background will be helpful because if anything goes wrong with your site, it's all on you and your hosting provider. There is no one working to ensure the smooth operation of your site, it's your soul responsibility so be prepared for that.
When it comes to hosting providers, I've personally used and appreciated BlueHost. They are a Wordpress partner, it's easy to use them and their service is pretty much centered around helping you establish your Wordpress blog/website. I find their customer service to be really good both via online chat and over the phone and their prices are reasonable.
BlueHost also owns HostGator which is a cheaper alternative and great for people with lower traffic websites.
If you want a step-by-step guide for installing wordpress.org, you can find a really great one from WP Beginner here.
From personal experience, it's very easy to install WordPress. I've done so transitioning from wordpress.com to wordpress.org and blogger.com to wordpress.org. Even the most untechnical of Bloggers can do it in less than 10 minutes.
Squarespace is where I currently host my website and I love it. It is the answer for people who aren't particularly tech-savvy but still want to have backend control of their websites. One thing that I really like about Squarespace is the ability to change the complete look and feel of your website, whenever you want, and it's all included in the price of your plan.
The support that you get from Squarespace is amazing and if you really want to make your Squarespace site unique, you can open it up to a developer to do so.
The biggest advantage that you have with Squarespace is how you're able to pay for what you use. You can pay out for the entire year, or you can pay monthly. If you are starting a blog and want to have a more professional look and feel without having to come out of pocket for too much, too soon. You can 'try' blogging with a more professional feel for under $20 a month and if you end up not liking it, you haven't invested hundreds of dollars into something that isn't really for you.
The biggest disadvantage to Squarespace for me is the fact that relatively complex problems have simple solutions with Wordpress via plugins. Because Squarespace hasn't been around as long as Wordpress, finding solutions to things can take some time and require you to either accept things as they are, or get creative and then accepting things as they are. It can get frustrating at time but the ease of having a site with Wordpress amply makes up for that.
Promoting Your Blog |
Stick to the social media platforms that you're comfortable using in the beginning aka stick to your strengths. Starting a blog and getting momentum is hard enough with having to learn how to effectively use a platform at the same time so you can capitalize on it. Pick 2 or 3.
These are the cardinal rules of getting people to notice you and your content on any social media platform:
- Be present.
Don't just use your social media accounts as a marketing blasting machine. You need to be social, you need to show that you are human and you need to take the time to actually interact with the people who you hope will take a look at your material.
- Be consistent.
You have to show up and show up regularly. Your followers will only remember and take you seriously when you take a platform seriously. Post regularly to your social media platforms to see the best results. When it comes to promoting your content, you need to do so regularly in order to get your audience to truly pay attention to it. I wrote at length about it here. Figure out new and different ways to promote your content on a regular basis that serves both your content and the needs of the people who will read it.
- Be creative.
When it comes to the things that you post, variety is your friend. Post things that give a glimpse into your personality, things that make people laugh and things that help your audience in ways that relate to the content that you write about on your blog. If you write about beauty, share beauty related tips. If you write life advice, share quotes of wisdom from time to time.
How To Get Better & Consistent Views On Your Blog |
Make sure that your content is not just interesting to share, but helpful in some way. Figure out the 'why' of why people are going to come to your blog. This is the single biggest mistake that I see with my clients when we first start working together. They don't have a clear purpose for their blog other than an outlet for themselves. That's not good enough. Your blog has to be helpful to someone else as well if you truly want to make money from it. So it all boils down to this:
Make sure that you make your blog as helpful to other people as possible.
Create content that helps people solve a problem and they will continue to come back to you. My blog focuses on helping bloggers and vloggers create opportunities for themselves and people consistently come back looking for new content for that very reason. Buzzfeed offers people something to do when they have some down time and just want to chill and find out what's cool and 'buzz-worthy' on the internet. TMZ creates content for people who love celebrity gossip. Tempalia is a beauty blog for people who are looking for consistent, in-depth and timely reviews of the newest in beauty. Figure out why and how your content is going to be helpful and you will find success in blogging.
If you're looking to find your audience so you can promote to them, look for the hashtags your favourite bloggers in your niche are using and use them as well (on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook). They use these hashtags not because they are trendy, but because they work.
Join things like Twitter Chats, Facebook Groups and Instagram Challenges so you can be around the kinds of people who like and are looking for your kinds of content. Not only will this help you find your audience, but give you great intel on the type of content they are looking for. Be actively apart of the communities that your audience is in so you can find them.
The biggest mistake that people make when they promote their blogs is drop the link to a post somewhere and expect people to click, read and fall in love.
You have to actually put in the work to get people to find, read and continue to come back to your blog. There is no work around and if you were hoping that I was going to drop the secret sauce in this post, not sorry to disappoint you, but there is none.
That's the thing about blogging. It's like every thing else in this world. If you want to build a career and financial opportunities for yourself from it, you have to put in the work. Period. You're not going to be a successful blogger in 30 days without putting in the work. People aren't going to flood to your website unless you make certain strategic decisions to do so. You need to show up every single day. Creating posts, promoting your posts, updating your website's user experience, and connecting to your audience in meaningful ways away from your blog so they will eventually make their way over to your blog.
It all boils down to what I said earlier, create content that's helpful, show that you genuinely care about the things that they care about, and your audience will come. If you're ready to put in the work, I promise you, they will come.
How To Make Time To Blog |
Similar to above, it's about making the time to provide quality. It takes me a really long time to write blog posts because my posts tend to be over 1200 words in length. Other bloggers posts are shorter, therefore demanding less time. If you are finding it hard to find the time to blog while having a full-time job or if you have children, these are things that I have done (and currently do) in order to find the time to blog while having a very busy life:
Wake up earlier or Go to bed later. Figure out what part of your day you work the best and with the least amount of distractions. If you come home from your day job absolutely exhausted, you need to wake up earlier to fit in blogging at a time when you have more energy and can create your best content. If you're more of a night owl, you're lucky and get to sleep in and stay up later. It's more about what works best for your schedule and not what works best for others.
Work on posts during your lunch time and breaks given at work. I've done this really effectively by utilizing the apps that go along with the blogging platforms that I mentioned above to work on outlines etc and then filling in the details when I'm at home and have a bit more structured time.
Write blog posts with a plan. Start with an outline of ideas for what you want to write to save time while actually writing the post.
Do things in batches. If you have a picture heavy blog where your posts are accompanied with a lot of pictures, take the pictures for a weeks work of blog posts (or months, depending on how often you upload) all at the same time. Then edit them all at the same time. That way, when you're ready to write your posts, your pictures are already ready and waiting for you!
It's really as simple as you're willing to make it. Finding time to blog while having a full-time job or being a stay at home parent is tough (I've done both and know exactly what it feels like). But that doesn't mean you can't do it. It just means you are like millions of other people who have a dream and need to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true.
Composing a successful blog post|
A successful blog post has three things:
A quick introduction what people can expect in the post. A few lines should be enough.
A detailed middle where you explain the answer to whatever you post is supposed to answer.
An ending. What's the next step? Is there a opt-in option for them? Do you want to suggest another post for them to read? Want them to follow you on a particular social media platform? This is where it happens. A lot of people just end with thanks for reading. Try not to do that. Give them something more to reference and show how interesting your content is and why they should stick around!
You'll also want to include graphics of some sort. For the purpose of my blog posts, I actually don't have many graphics. But I always, always have a graphic that can be easily pinned to Pinterest. A lot of people use graphics to break up a lot of text - which is a great strategy and makes your blog posts easier to read. For me, I like to break up the text by changing the size of various passages to emphasize them.
Another important element of a successful blog post is white space. Make sure that your paragraphs are small and easily digestible. This makes it easier for people to read and more likely that they'll actually take the time to read what you've written.
As for blog post length, leading SEO company Moz says just about everything you read about it is BS. Thank goodness! It's hard to write a 1,200 word blog post reviewing a lipstick. It's actually dependant on a whole slew of factors, post length being one of them. No need to worry about blog post length anymore the way people have been bombarding bloggers as of late. Focus on quality content for your niche, whether your posts are 400 words or 4000.
The role of photography and graphics |
Photos in a blog post do many things. As I mentioned above, they can help break up text, but even more important than that, they are meant to help tell the story of your post.
If you're looking for a free way to create graphics for not only your blog but across your social media platforms I highly suggest PicMonkey and Canva. I find that Canva is a more robust, especially the free version but both have things within them that the other one can't. I create almost all of the graphics for my website and social media accounts on Canva and it's a great resource to use if you need to create opt-ins for your blog like printables or free e-books without having to invest in (and learn!) Adobe Photoshop/InDesign.
The most important thing you need to master when launching a blog in 2017 is the promotion. Blogging is no longer one of those things where 'if you build it, they will come'. You have to go where your audience is and let them know that you're amazing content exists!
I really hope this post provides you with some clarity on your journey into blogging. If you'd like to hear from me once a month about new posts and valuable advice for Content Creators, join my email tribe here.