There are affiliate links in this post.
So, you want to start a blog. Where to begin? Who to call? Which button to press?
There are so many questions with seemingly endless answers that make no sense. I’ve been there, every successful blogger you will ever meet has been there. There’s no getting around the struggling and confusion at the start of such a big endeavor. The good news is that I’m here to help! You don’t have to go it alone; and I’m going to make it as easy as possible so that you can learn how to start a blog (without pulling out your hair or losing your sanity…there’s plenty of opportunity to do that later :)
Choose a Platform and a Host
Don’t worry, I’m going to explain that! Once you have an idea and a domain (you can purchase them from any number of online retailers) you’ll need to get started with a platform and a host. There are a few different platforms out there and I’m going to tell you why I think you should just start with WordPress.org and stay there. You can read all about the difference between Blogger, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org in my book, Everything But the Posts. Here’s the reason to begin with WordPress.org:
- They’re complex: you’ll learn a lot and you won’t have to switch once you outgrow your simple platform
- WordPress.org has tons of plugins that will make your life easy
- Most servers and website design professions know how to work with WordPress
- Customizing is a must and WordPress offers you the most options in this area
That being said, you can go with whatever blogging platform you’d like. I’m partial to WordPress.org for ease of use and the reasons mentioned above.
The next part of this step is hosting. Your host is where your blog lives in terms of space and the internet. Without a great host your blog will not be accessible. If your blog is not accessible you don’t get to make money, reach followers, or publish content. I have some hosting recommendations but ultimately that choice is, again, up to you!
BECCA DO YOU WANT TO ADD PROS/CONS FOR EACH OF THESE?
- GoDaddy: A great hosting company for beginning bloggers. They have a great mobile app and wonderful tech support. When I was just starting, and determined to learn how to code my blog myself, the folks at GoDaddy saved my blog many times! GoDaddy has a great start up package called WordPress Hosting–it usually comes with a free URL, and they literally walk you through your blog setup.
- Bluehost: Another great hosting company for beginning bloggers. I’ve never used BlueHost myself, but I know many bloggers who do and love them.
- Servously: Shauna, the owner at Servously, works hard to make her bloggers happy. Since switching to Servously my uptime has been 99%, which is HUGE. I’m with Servously for the long haul.
Theme & WordPress Setup
Congrats! I’m happy to see you took my advice and went with WordPress…and even if you didn’t this still applies to you! The first thing you want to do once you have a Platform and a Host is set up your site. If you don’t have a fancy theme at first that’s okay. There are a lot of customization options and you’ll want to make your site your own! I highly recommend hiring someone to create a custom look for your site. It will be money well spent. Looking professional says a lot (especially to brands) and it’s never a bad idea to just fake it until you make it!
Perhaps the most important aspect of blogging is your content. You will need to write about what you know but also stick to your site’s niche. If you’re a pet blogger there’s no need to include content that focuses on Middle Eastern travel (unless you are going there to research pets). So keep it on topic and stick to your theme as much as possible. You’ll be able to build a dedicated and interested reader base by consistently posting topics related to your niche. If you want an expert opinion you’ll have to ask someone else, but I think it’s a great idea to open a Google Doc, title it “blogging ideas” and add every idea you think of to that list. Maybe it’s not a great fit now but it might be down the road!
Social Media and Post Images
Social media and your blog will need beautiful images to help the content flow and pop. Taking great images is the first step, but beyond that you’ll need to edit your images and develop the look of your brand. You can do all of this quickly and easily with Canva. Canva is web based, stores your designs, and they have all kinds of templates that perfectly suit all major social media channels and blogs.
Another great online platform for making images is PicMonkey. They have customization elements, photo editing software, as well as a free or paid version to choose from. While I prefer Canva, it can be a bit more complex at times whereas PicMonkey makes it easy to jump in and use from the start.
You’ve got some content, your photos are looking sharp, now it’s time to post! Wrong! Ha. I’m just kidding…kind of. The first thing you need to do before you can post is get your WordPress plugins setup so that you can easily post from here on out!
Here are some plugins you need and also a bit about why I think they’re a necessity.
- SmushIt: automatically compresses your images which saves space and keeps your site loading quickly. Full size images can load very slowly and make your site hard to view for some users.
- Social Warfare: you will need sharing icons on your page so that your users can spread the word about your great content. The Social Warfare plugin not only sets you up with sharing icons it also helps you select the proper sized images for your users to share. You’ll be looking great on every platform in no time.
- SEO: make sure you grab an SEO plugin. Search Engine Optimization will help you make sure that your blog is ready to be pulled in on Google search results! This is a major traffic source and following the easy to use guide of an SEO plugin will have you rolling in the traffic in no time.
Outside Management Services
There are a few services out there that will help you manage your sharing and social media accounts. These types of things will save you time and money in the long run. For example, it’s so much easier to manage your Pinterest account with Tailwind. There’s no guesswork. They show you exactly what works and what does not. Scheduling pins is the best way to keep your account moving without overwhelming yourself in the process. Similarly, Buffer works as a great scheduling tool for all of your social media accounts. Posting all at once or logging in each time you want to post to a social media account will quickly become overwhelming and redundant. You won’t have time to constantly be jumping back and forth to post at optimal moments throughout the day. Let platforms like Buffer and Tailwind help you!
I can’t suggest it often or loudly enough. Get involved in affiliate marketing and do it early. If you have affiliate links in all of your posts from the very start then there’s no going back and adding them once a post becomes popular. Add relevant links and info to each post as you go along. This is a way to make money passively. You don’t have to do any work and you’ll be able to make money! What could be better than that?!?
Ask All the Questions
There’s not a single question you can ask that someone hasn’t already dealt with on this blog journey. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially to me! I’m happy to share what I know and if I can’t help you I’ll send you to someone who can! I wrote my book, Everything But the Posts, based on questions that I received from bloggers almost every day–it’s a huge source of information! Most bloggers have been in your shoes and they know what it’s like to be confused about EVERYTHING. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. When all else fails don’t forget to ask Google. WordPress is tricky and Google has a lot of answers about her fickle ways!