Learning how to start, make, and set up a blog successfully is a carefully crafted process. Whether you’re starting your blog to build a personal brand or marketing a small business, this guide will show you exactly what is required to get your new blog started on a path to success. So you can do the more important things such as writing and filling it up with your creative content.
There’s a right way to set things up and a wrong way; we’re going to focus on the right things so that you can avoid problems later.
Throughout this guide, I’ll be linking to other articles I’ve written and other resources to help further you jump start you’re becoming a blogger journey, so keep your eyes open!
Quick Note: If your already a business owner and don’t have time to start a blog yourself, you should still review this guide and use the points to help you hire someone to help you!
Let’s start by addressing some of the most common blogging questions below
What is a blog and how did blogging start?
It’s short for Web Log; it was initially used for publishing news, tutorials, magazine articles, pictures, and digital art. Today millions of blogs are used by small businesses, personal brands, and news sites to publish all sorts of digital content. WordPress (which is a pure CMS or Content Management System) is the main platform that is used, powering about 25% of all the websites on the Internet.
Is it free to create or start a blog? Is it expensive? Is there a downside to being free?
You can start a blog for free. But if you actually want to generate money with your blog, then you’ll be better off paying a small monthly fee to a web-hosting provider. This way you have fewer restrictions and full freedom to decide what types of content will be published to your blog. This power and freedom is important because if you ever want to monetize your blog site, a free blogging platform could restrict you from posting certain types of subject matter, advertisements or affiliate links, etc. They might even ban you and say your content does not comply with its rules and content policies. I’ll be talking more about self-hosted blogs (with web-hosting) vs. free blogging platforms a bit more in-depth later.
What’s the timeline for organically building lots of traffic on a new blog?
A question not easily answered. Someone with a famous name (or brand equity) can get traffic much faster than someone who is new and needs to build there name up a bit. The average time seems to be a minimum of two years, but three would not be uncommon. If your planning on doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your main source of traffic, six months or longer is not unusual before you see any search traffic. If your social media or YouTube channel is already doing well with lots of followers, you’ll be able to send traffic to your blog right away. Doing paid advertising can build up your blog’s traffic much faster than waiting around for organic free traffic, but I like free traffic the best, so I’ll wait!
What exactly should a blog be about anyway?
Your blog needs to help people solve a problem or keep someone entertained if its to make any money or build a loyal fan base. It can also be used to educate your customers on the benefits of using/purchasing your businesses services and product offerings (in other words, you indirectly sell things to new and existing customers.)
Some Popular Blogging Topics Include:
Promoting a Business or Brand, Recipes, Politics, The Environment, Parenthood & Raising Children, Life Experience, Family Life, Gaming, Video Gaming, Activism, Charity, Online Education, Music, Celebrities and Famous People, Jokes & Humor, Religion, Myths, History, and Sports.
You get the idea; only your imagination can limit you!
Can a blog make you rich?
That all depends on what you define as being rich. If you have the right idea, imagination, and drive it absolutely can make you rich! Sell other peoples products through affiliate marketing. Sell your own invention, ideas, or products. Promote yourself as a personal brand/influencer. Promote the book you just published. Sell your professional expertise and services. If you plan your blogging strategy correctly, you’ll also be able to have multiple sources of passive income, something every professional blogger dreams about.
A blog can set you on a path to get rich if that’s your end goal, but it will be a grind and require lots of hard work. There are no guarantees of course, but hey it’s probably easier than winning the lottery!
As you read the rest of this guide, you’ll most likely start thinking of some ideas for what your blog could become. I suggest you get a pen and paper and take some notes as you read the rest of this guide.
Step 1: Recognize The Long-Term Benefits Of Blogging
Blogging can help position you as an expert on a particular topic, it can improve your self-confidence, and it can help with lead generation in a business where content marketing is valuable. Most importantly, it helps you build an audience of loyal customers as you build up your brand.
Some other benefits include:
- Self-expression of your thoughts
- Building a personal brand with credibility
- Growing your writing skills
- Building an email list
- Building passive income
- Building an e-commerce brand for selling products (white label)
- Credibility with your clients – If you’re offering a professional service as a freelancer
- Demonstrating knowledge of a particular industry for launching your career to a new level
The list goes on and on; there are many, many ways to benefit from blogging. For myself, the main goal is to increase my writing skills and build a personal brand that I can make money with later.
Step 2: You Need To Start Thinking Like A Blogger
Building up, making & creating your own niche blog site and getting readers is easy right? The answer to this question is a big fat NO!
Every one who is not yet a blogger thinks its just an easy thing that requires no special hard work or talent.
Well, my friend, most people have no idea!
This is why the first thing you need to do is start thinking like a blogger, it’s a mental game and will require lots of motivation and commitment. Start socializing with other bloggers that share your same topic and interest via Social Media, YouTube, and other online communities. Bloglovin is a great online community! So is the Blogging Subreddit on Reddit.
Do you live in a big city?
The local blogging community can be very supportive depending on where you live, so network with other bloggers. Check out Meetup.com in your local area to network with writing, blogging, or WordPress groups. Also, see if you can find a mastermind group.
Reading other blogs
As you read other peoples blogs, you’ll train your mind to start picking up on writing styles. Your knowledge will also grow to make it easy to train yourself for creating content. If you’ve already been a successful writer and content creator, you’re already one step ahead! If not, practice will launch you to a whole new level, even if you’ve struggled with writing your whole life. My biggest set back was editing and proof-reading. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a finished post; then I had to go back and do more revisions. Crazy! A post does not have to be perfect, but at least get it to ninety percent.
No interest in writing?
If you have no interest in writing, it’s certainly possible that you could hire writers to do the articles for you. The problem with this is that most people won’t have any idea what type of content strategy is going to work in the beginning. (We’ll discuss content strategy in a later article.) Then if you end up paying a bunch of writers your hard earned money, you could burn through your budget and not have any desired results in the end. So I would recommend doing as much of the writing yourself in the beginning. Then once you figure out your content strategy and a style of writing that gets good engagement with your customers or readers, go ahead and hire a writer to help you out.
Step 3: Picking & Registering A Domain Name For Your Blog
If the blog is for your already existing small business, you probably already have a website and name registered.
Registering the name of your new blog with a web-hosting service is the easiest way to reserve your name. Think about the name carefully, and it should be short but memorable. I also prefer names that end with dot com because they’re trusted more by the general public who are surfing the Internet.
If your chosen name is already taken, think of a way to rephrase or personalize it, so it’s a bit more unique, but still easily brandable.
If it has to be a longer name, try and limit it to 5 syllables. My blog’s name “Scotty’s Kick-Ass Guide” happens to be exactly five syllables.
If your goal is to make money with your website, think about how the name might be perceived when dealing with business partners, advertisers, etc. For whatever reason Twitter does not like my blog’s name and won’t let me do paid advertising. But Facebook will allow it, go figure. Also if you’re doing some affiliate marketing, some companies may decline your application if they don’t find your name appealing to their brand. In my case, I think it’s the Kick-Ass that some businesses don’t like.
Step 4: Choose A Blogging Platform; Free Or Using Web-Hosting?
How do you start a blog for free?
The answer to this question should be this: If your set on just having fun and giving your writing a try, you can find a free platform with Tumblr, Medium, and WordPress.com. Just make sure to review all of the policies on each site first to make sure your content is appropriate.
IF YOU ASK ME WHAT YOU SHOULD ULTIMATELY DO? I’D SAY “DON’T EVER USE A FREE PLATFORM FOR YOUR BLOG.” You are the product when its free. You can do no heavy customization, no affiliate advertising, and will have many functional limitations. Plus it looks unprofessional! If you’re in this to make money, use a web-hosting company 100% all the way!
More on Web-hosting (sometimes called self-hosting)
Self-hosting would be you hosting your own website server. Web-hosting is the service you pay to have someone else host the server for you. Most web-hosting providers have WordPress (wordpress.org) available as a preinstalled application, so it’s insanely easy to set up! We’ll review the setup process in the next section.
Quick note: Some people would argue to use another CMS called Drupal because of its advanced development features. If your not a developer or software engineer, don’t even consider it unless you have a budget to hire someone to help out.
Before we end this section, I want to comment on platforms like Wix, Squarespace, and Shopify. These will offer you a blogging feature that could work well if your a small local business or small niche e-commerce business that will focus on paid ads instead of SEO. Out of the three, Shopify’s blog is actually not bad for SEO. It worked great for me to generate search leads when I ran a small online video game store called “NES Game Store” back in 2014. But in the end for serious bloggers, WordPress is still the most popular option for publishing content.
Step 5: How To Setup A New WordPress Blog
note: my Site Ground link is an affiliate link
I’m going to walk you through how easy it is to set up a new WordPress blog. Before you can start, you need to open up an account with a web-hosting provider; I recommend Site Ground. I’m currently using them to host this blog. Here’s a link where you can view the various Site Ground Hosting Plans, so far I’m thrilled with the service and the price (it’s a great value.)
Site Ground offers a special START-UP plan which is the cheapest plan for a few bucks a month. I recently upgraded to the GROW BIG plan which is a bit more expensive.
The START-UP Plan is good for one website that will not exceed 10,000 monthly visits. You also get 24/7 Support, Free App Installs, Free E-mail Accounts, Unmetered Traffic, and it’s GDPR compliant. The features of each plan are changing all of the time, so it’s a good idea to reference the link I provided above to get the latest information straight from Site Ground.
I also recommend using HTTPS (SSL), Google and your readers will trust your site a lot more if it’s encrypted. It’s included in most of the plans.
A Walk-Through To Quickly Set Things Up
Once you complete the initial sign-up with Site Ground (or any web hosting for that matter), you’ll be shown a “Setup New Website Wizard” option.
It’s so easy to set up a new blog, these days you don’t have to be a computer whiz.
With Site Ground you’ll be presented with a 3 step process:
1) Select “Start a new website.” Then select the “WordPress” software option. Then you’ll create your WordPress login information (e-mail, username, and password.) Then click “Confirm.”
2) On the next screen, you’ll confirm the setup and terms of service by checking the confirmation box, then click “Complete Setup.”
3) You’ll get a confirmation that the setup is complete and your hosting account is ready to use, then click “Proceed to Customer Area.”
Here are the detailed steps for setting up WordPress with any web-hosting provider, including Site Ground:
1) Register a domain name – You can register your domain name when you choose a plan from a web-hosting company. During the registration, you’ll be offered an option for hiding your contact information by making the Who-Is Information anonymous. I would add this option so you can keep your contact info private from spammers!
2) User Names and Passwords – You’ll need to think of a good username and strong password. Keep in mind that you’ll need separate usernames and passwords for the actual web hosting account and for any WordPress blogs you set up.
3) Billing information – Have your credit card handy. The billing will also most likely be set up for an Auto Renewal, so be prepared for that!
4) Quick start and setup wizard – Use a quick setup wizard for launching your first WordPress website, every web-hosting provider has one. I’ve included the three-step process for Site Ground up above.
5) Get familiar with cPanel – cPanel is a basic web-based config utility that controls your WordPress database configuration and other web-hosting services such as Backups, DNS, and e-mail accounts. The cPanel can be a bit technical so have a friend help you if you’re stuck. You can also do some self-learning by reviewing the cPanel Knowledge-base or hire an IT professional for help.
6) WP Theme design – You can start with the built-in WordPress theme when starting out. But definitely upgrade to a better theme so you can provide a better user interface for your readers as soon as possible. I’m using a theme that runs on top of the Genesis Framework by StudioPress, it’s great, and my favorite WordPress Theme set up so far. I’ve noticed a 2 – 3 times increase in my page views per user session since the upgrade. A better UI (user-interface) Strategy equals more page views; it’s just that simple.
7) Backing up your WordPress blog website – Make a copy of all your written content in WordPress by doing an export of all the content to an XML file. You can do this by using the Tools / Export option in your WordPress admin web panel. In cPanel you should also see options for backing up the entire website’s database and directory (which contains the files). It would help to Google how to do this. In the near future, I may write-up an entire article on the best ways to backup your site.
Here is a list of the plugins I use for WordPress
Plug-ins will allow you to customize WordPress without having to code anything. Here are the plug-ins I currently use.
Advanced Excerpt – With over 100,000 active installations, the Advanced Excerpt plugin is handy for providing an excerpt on each one of your posts when someone is browsing them by category. I have mine set to do the excerpt for the first 200 words of each post. Then the reader has to click “read more” to view the rest of the article by clicking into the actual post. Without that option all the articles would just run together as a long page when viewing by category, that does not look nice.
Akismet-AntiSpam – With over 5 million active installations, the Askimet-Anti-Spam plugin is a must for controlling spam on your WordPress contact forms and comments. It’s continuously updated from a global database. It has a pretty thorough history being associated with the WordPress application so that you can trust it.
WP User Avatar – With over 300,000 active installations, WP User Avatar allows you to customize your WordPress avatar photo with a picture from your local media library files, without having to use Gravatar. (click on Gravatar to find out what that is!)
Pretty Links – With over 200,000 active installations, Pretty Links is the best plug-in I’ve seen for setting up redirect links where you want to shorten the destination link to make it look more user-friendly. It’s perfect for affiliate marketing links or other ugly looking external website links. You can track outbound clicks and you can easily set “no follow” tags on your outbound links so the search engines won’t index them. The built-in reporting features are excellent too.
Open Graph Meta Tags for Facebook – With over 80,000 downloads, the Open Graph Meta Tags For Facebook plug-in will create the proper Open-graph meta tags required for sharing your WordPress posts on Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Without Open Graph Meta Tags, the headlines and featured photos for your blog post may not show up correctly when shared. If you know HTML, it will be easy for you to understand how these meta tags work. If not, it will be a bit confusing, to help here’s an explanation on the importance of: The Open Graph Protocol
XML SiteMap – With over 2 million active installations, the XML Site Map plugin will help you make a sitemap to index your site with search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask.com. It’s a must-have for proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization.)
GA Google Analytics – With over 100,000 active installations, the GA Google Analytics plug-in will help you easily add your analytics tracking code to WordPress. I installed this plug-in specifically because of its option to disable the tracking code for when a WP User is logged on. If you are logged in and working on your blog, you don’t want your Google Analytics to report your page views, do you?
Crafty Social Buttons – With just over 9,000 active installations, the Crafty Social Buttons plugin is the best at setting up Social Media share buttons for each one of your articles. The share button styles are especially good if you’re into Etsy or a crafty feel. I’ve been using the plugin for a while now, and it’s solid!
Contact Form 7 – With just over 5 million active installations, Contact Form 7 is the only plug-in I trust for setting up custom contact forms. It’s fantastic, secure, and works very well with the Askimet Spam Filter plugin.
Top Rated WordPress Plugins – All the top-rated WordPress plug-ins, this comes directly from WordPress.org.
At this point, you have all the basic ideas of what it’s going to take to actually start a blog. You should carefully think about each point that we’ve discussed so far, then write out some notes for yourself.
This will make it much easier for you to remember the little things when you go actually to set up your blog. It will also make the decision on how to organize your categories, blog posts, and various pages much easier.
Once your able to login to your blog to start writing, you’ll still have a lot of work ahead of you. There are many more concepts relating to Content Strategy, Keyword Research & SEO, Analytics, Artwork & Infographics, Writing Style, Email & Video Marketing, and Social Media.
I’m going to make follow-up guides that will show you how to do each one of these things!
All of these concepts together can be a lot at first. For myself, it took me at least a year to get comfortable with most of these.
You’ll find that having a blog will help you develop lots of different skills! The more of these things you do yourself and master, the more success you’ll have.
Remember! No matter how nice your blog looks, you have to provide your followers with a clear intent to help them solve a problem! Or create a fun and entertaining experience for them. This will keep them coming back, build up a loyal fanbase, and make it easier to monetize your blog when the time is right.