This post contains affiliate links.
If you are wondering how to start a blog or perhaps feel like you missed a step when creating a blog, WELCOME! Starting a blog is not as complicated as you might think, and this post will prove it with step-by-step details and instructions.
In 2010, I started a blog to share the grocery deals I was able to purchase using coupons. My goal was aimless and my understanding of how a blog worked was nonexistent. I thought of my blog as a place to share more detailed information than I could on Facebook.
After two years of start, stop, and start again blogging, I realized that people all over the blogosphere were actually making money with their websites. Since we were in a financial pit, I was determined to learn more.
What is a blog?
When a friend first told me that I should start a blog, I was confused. I had never heard the term before and asked her, “What’s a blog?” It’s funny now – six years later – that I teach others to make money blogging.
A blog, formerly referred to as “weblog,” is a website where an individual or group of individuals routinely share stories, tutorials, images, videos, and other content.
While the primary content on most blogs is text, many blog authors use images, video, and audio as additions and alternatives for creating their websites.
Reasons to start a blog
Many people start blogging as an online diary without intending for their content to be seen while others create a blog in an effort to build a career. And yet, many others begin blogging as a hobby only to realize that blogging can be a very profitable business.
Due to the increasing popularity of blogging, many companies have added a content marketing strategy to their promotional efforts by creating a blog on their business websites. By producing high-quality content that solves problems, brands and bloggers can attract their ideal client or reader and grow a community of like-minded people.
How expensive is blogging?
One thing that keeps many people from starting a blog is the perceived expense. However, blogging is one of the most affordable hobbies/small businesses to begin.
To purchase a kit in a direct sales business, you will pay $19 and up with the average starter kit costing $99. [SOURCE]
In order to start blogging, you need the following:
Step-by-step guide to starting a blog
If you are ready to create a blog, I am happy to guide you through the process. Bookmark or pin this post to keep handy and take each step slowly. Or, download this post as a printable.
Identify your purpose.
While starting a blog is not difficult, beginning with a clearly defined purpose will focus your content. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you plan to make blogging a career?
- Are you blogging for fun?
- Are you attempting to create a community that will buy your product?
- Will your blog be an extension of a ministry?
Or perhaps you could answer, “All of the above?” Blogging can meet all of these needs.
Narrow your topic.
Once your purpose is clear, you should start narrowing the subject of your blog.
Chances are, you have tons of topics about which you could write. When I started, I would write a bit about coupons, add a recipe here or there, and post “happy birthday” messages to my kids. My content was totally random.
If you are just writing as a hobby, your topic is not as important as a niche is for a profitable blog. You can write about whatever you want and whenever you want. Your consistency and content can ebb and flow with your creativity.
However, if you are determined to create a career from blogging or are trying to gather a community, you must find your blog niche as soon as possible in this process.
When I decided to treat my blog like a business, I had to stop posting casual messages to my kids on their birthdays (I save those for social media) and write with intent. My goal was to draw an audience that would eventually buy my products and the products I promoted from other sources.
Yes, there are still moments when I think, “Wow. That would make a GREAT blog post.” But, if the topic doesn’t fit my niche, I save those ideas to use as guest posts on other blogs.
Define your audience.
The most successful bloggers understand who their audience is and what their problems are. When you can create content that feeds your readers the solutions they need, you will create a community of raving followers.
Think about the type of person you want to attract to your blog by asking yourself several questions:
- Where does she/he live?
- Is she/he married? Divorced? Etc.?
- How many children does she/he have?
- What does she/he do for a living?
- What does she/he dream about?
- What is her/his biggest problem?
- What does she/he worry about?
- What is she/he planning to do within the next 6 months?
Create an ideal reader, or avatar, that is so clearly defined you have no doubts about why that person is reading your website.
Shop for domain names.
With your topic in mind, you can brainstorm a list of potential domains for your blog.
Your blog’s domain name is the address at which people will locate you.
You can search and purchase a domain for as little as $0.99 for the first year at GoDaddy and NameCheap or get it for free when you start an account with Siteground. (More on that below.)
Before purchasing your domain name, consider these tips:
- Shorter domains are better because they are easier to say and remember.
- Avoid cutesy misspelled words in your domain as it makes finding you more difficult.
- Do not use numbers since people will not know whether to spell the number or use the numeric form when typing your domain name.
- Avoid hyphens because they are also difficult to say and remember.
- Choose a domain ending with .com over any other domain extension as it is the most popular and fits most situations.
- Pick words that clearly represent your topic to avoid confusing readers.
If someone is already using the domain you love, you can attempt to contact them and offer to buy the domain name from them. However, expect to pay a lot of money for the domain name, especially if it is currently in use.
Find a blog host.
Next, you need a host for your blog.
If a domain is your blog’s address, then the web host is the plot of land where your blog resides. Essentially, you are renting a spot on the internet, and the host is your landlord.
How to choose webhosting can be confusing since so many popular bloggers promote companies because of the large commission they receive and not due to the quality service that a host offers.
Hobby bloggers can browse free hosting options but investigate the differences between Blogger and WordPress carefully. Some free hosting companies may limit your flexibility and options. However, bloggers intending to profit should invest in a paid hosting solution.
The Inspired Bloggers University is hosted on Rainmaker because it is a highly comprehensive service that includes many of the options I need, but it is overkill for new bloggers.
While no host is always perfect, one of the most reputable companies right now is Siteground.
Due to the number of bloggers in the Inspired Bloggers Network who are thrilled with the service they receive, I feel very comfortable recommending Siteground to those who are starting a blog.
Choose a host that has raving reviews from people who are not trying to gain clicks through their affiliate links.
A blog needs a content management system that helps translate the geek-speak into common language. The majority of successful bloggers use WordPress, a free program available through most major hosting companies.
Don’t be intimidated by this step. Within the dashboard of your hosting company, you should have the option to “1-Click Install” WordPress. One click. That’s all. Then, a series of simple prompts – like entering your title – that helps you get your website running.
With Siteground, you can select a domain and start installing WordPress from the same screen.
Let me pause for just a second to clear up one confusing topic that often arises when you mention “Wordpress.”
WordPress offers a free hosting option but as I mentioned, a free host may limit your ability to grow, monetize, and make enhancements to your website. Blogs hosted by WordPress are referred to as “WordPress.com blogs.”
I recommend using WordPress as the content management software of your “self-hosted” blog. Yes, you are renting space with a web host but you are still considered to be “self-hosted” when you use WordPress.org software.
Choose a blog theme.
A blog theme defines the features that allow you to personalize how your blog looks.
When you install WordPress, the program will use the latest free theme designed by WordPress as default.
The default WordPress theme is a great place to start. When you are ready for more features, you can add a premium theme.
Why not use the other free themes in WordPress or found on the internet?
The primary reason to not use a free theme for WordPress is security. Not all free themes are updated as often as they should be to keep your website secure. Some free themes may also include malware or hidden scripts that allow your website security to be compromised.
Free themes (not created by WordPress) may also impact your SEO (search engine optimization), website speed, navigation, and ability to receive customer support.
When you are ready to invest in a new theme, the Genesis Framework by Studio Press offers a secure alternative with an abundance of premium features as well as outstanding customer support.
The Genesis Framework gives your website a reliable structure and responsive design. Then, you add a “child theme” to give it the colors and style.
Studiopress has a variety of child themes available that you can purchase as a bundle with the Genesis Framework. If you prefer a child theme with a more feminine appeal, Restored 316 Designs offers child themes compatible with Genesis.
Install an email subscriber widget.
One of the most important aspects of starting a blog (and most neglected) is collecting email subscribers. Many bloggers think they should wait for a certain milestone before gathering subscribers. In reality, you should begin building your email list immediately.
Your email list is the primary tool you will use when communicating with your readers. Email is more reliable than social media and gives you the benefit of more personalized contact with your followers.
You can begin building your email list for free using Mailchimp or Mad Mimi although you will need to upgrade to send autoresponders (also referred to as automations or drip campaigns).
I personally use ConvertKit, which might be a little more expensive but is totally worth the price for the added features. I can protect my email subscribers from too much or useless information by tagging them based on their preferences. This keeps my email open rate higher than sending the same email to all of my subscribers.
Why are autoresponders important?
Autoresponders are necessary when sending content to email subscribers as they sign up. Readers are more willing to surrender their email addresses when you are offering them an incentive or content upgrade. However, they do not like to wait. Autoresponders work without someone triggering an email to send.
One word of caution… When getting email subscribers with freebies, be thoughtful about your offer. The temptation is to collect as many email subscribers as possible, but you must remember your ideal reader and create something that will be helpful to their unique needs. The quality of your email subscribers is much more important than the quantity.
Sign up for social media accounts.
Social media is a necessary component of a profitable blog as many advertisers use the number of followers across various social media platforms as an indicator of a blog’s total reach.
Typically, bloggers create accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. Google+ is also popular especially if you want to use SEO or Google+ Collections to increase the number of visitors to your blog.
As you build your social media, stay focused on your ideal reader and share quality content that solves their problems.
Write 10 to 20 high-quality posts.
Once your blog is structurally sound, visually appealing, and has promotional outlets established, you are ready to write your content.
Consider your ideal reader and their most pressing concerns. From what you know about your reader avatar, brainstorm a list of potential topics.
Your blog content should start with three categories. Once you have enough content to create a strong base, you can expand your topics. However, a blog should consist of no more than eight categories. Total.
Each of your posts should provide the best quality content possible. Also, include at least one vertical image because beautiful pictures are essential for using Pinterest, the quickest way to generate blog traffic.
Begin promoting your blog.
After you have ten to twenty posts written and published, start promoting your blog.
You can boost your blog traffic by using social media, regular email to subscribers, networking with other bloggers, etc.
With consistent effort, you will see traffic increase to your blog. When you reach 10,000 pageviews a month, you are ready to make money blogging.