Strategies to Start a Blog
Looking to start a blog, but have no idea where to start?
In October 2018, I was in the same boat.
I like to write, but I’m not tech saavy.
I didn’t know the first thing about putting a blog together.
I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s easier than you think.
You don’t have to know about coding to make your blog look the way you want it to look.
Knowing about coding certainly helps, but it’s not necessary.
There are services like Elegant Themes to get the help you need! More on that below.
One thing you should know is that blogging takes time! There’s writing, creating images, implementing social media and SEO etc.
There are a bunch of new platforms to learn.
It requires patience and persistence. Heard of the book Obstacle is the way by Ryan Holiday?
You’ve got to have that philosophy of seeing obstacles as opportunities when you start blogging. There’s a huge learning curve!
Just remember that every problem has a solution. Give yourself time. You’ll get there. It’ll be rewarding when you do so.
Here’s a step by step tutorial on how to start a blog.
In 12 steps, I’ll go through how to start a blog, what I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made.
I’ve tried to make this a broad and deep overview so that you can have the big picture, but also dive into the topics you’re more interested in.
It goes beyond selecting the host provider and into the different aspects of what makes a blog a blog including installing a theme and plugins!
This might not make sense now, but it will below. First things first…
1. Pick the primary topic of your blog.
You could pick 1 big topic like parenthood, money, food, fashion. You could pick a few topics. You could niche down.
I’ve read differing opinions for and against all of the above. I’ve heard how there might be more monetization opportunities for certain topics.
At the end of the day, you should write what you’re passionate about.
What you could write for hours about.
You can always add on or focus in on topics as you grow your blog.
I picked one primary topic – money.
My subtopics are earning and saving money, money mindset, early retirement and parenting money tips.
2. Select a domain name.
Take your time with this step.
I spent 2 weeks selecting a domain name. I brainstormed with my husband and we came up with 3 finalists. We ran these by some family members and made a decision.
Here are the steps and guidelines we used to make this decision.
The first thing we did was go through key words and phrases linked to the topic. We wrote everything down. No judgment at this stage.
Then we cut out everything that was long (over 4 words), difficult to type out or spell. We cut out anything that wasn’t simple, memorable or clever.
Amongst the remaining few, I checked which ones were available. You could see this at Siteground.com. Click “Get Started” on any of the plans and insert the name to see if it’s available. It’s best to pick one that ends in .com.
If nothing sticks, you can always use your own name (www.yourname.com). It doesn’t pigeonhole you to a topic. It’s a great way to showcase your resume or portfolio.
3. Select hosting.
If you don’t ever want to monetize your blog, you can go with a free platform like Blogger.
I made the decision to be self-hosted. Meaning I own my blog and its content.
It wasn’t just for the monetization potential. It was because if there are ever issues with the way the blog is running, I can contact my blog host provider 24/7 to rectify it.
My blog is hosted with Siteground.
Why Siteground? When I was looking for web hosting companies for WordPress, I first came across Bluehost. It seemed that everyone was recommending them.
Then I came across articles of bloggers who had difficulties with Bluehost from speed load time to customer service. That’s when I started noticing Siteground coming highly recommended. You can get Siteground hosting for as low as $3.95/month.
I haven’t had issues since.
When I signed up with them, the first thing I did was ask for my site to be switched from HTTP to HTTPS – a secure version of HTTP.
It’s free with the package. It offers this extra layer of security and is an SEO ranking factor. Definitely do this!
4. Install WordPress and login.
You can contact Siteground to go through how to do this with you.
To confirm it’s installed properly, login at www.yourdomainname.com/admin.
Now you have a website! Before you learn the ins and outs of WordPress, here are a few housekeeping things…
5. Create an email and set up your social media accounts.
This step is important. You want to choose the names for your email and social media accounts that are exactly or close to your domain name.
Claiming these now ensures others can’t claim them later.
You can create an email with gmail e.g. email@example.com. Alternatively, you can create one through Siteground that’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a few things to consider like email storage space and the professional look of the email address.
I just went with gmail because I could work with other Google applications. If this website grows, I will switch to a domain email and auto-forward the gmail email.
Once you’ve created an email, create digital files for receipts, Siteground etc. to maintain organization.
Set up social media accounts for all of the social media sites, even if you’re not planning on using them right away. At the very least, set up accounts for Pinterest and Facebook.
6. Install a theme.
The theme is the way your blog looks from colors to layout to functionality.
There are many free themes you could select through WordPress. Their customization options are limited. You will not receive technical assistance.
There are also paid themes. I selected Elegant Themes’ Divi because it’s a drag and drop builder so you don’t need to know how to code. You have access to 80+ themes or you can create your own site which is what I did.
If I had questions, I contacted their customer service team or watched their training videos which walk you through every option.
7. Install plugins.
A plugin is similar to an app on your phone. It gives your website additional functionality.
Too many plugins can slow down your site.
Here are the plugins I use.
- Yoast (SEO) – free version
- Akismet (spam blocker) – free version
- Social Pug (social sharing and follow) – upgraded to the pro version for $29/year
- Bloom (email opt-in) – included in Elegant Themes’ Divi
I initially tried Monarch as my social sharing plugin. It had great reviews and already came with Divi.
When you click on the social sharing icons on a post, a window pops up displaying small, landscape size versions of the images on the site. You can’t see the whole image so you wouldn’t know which image is optimized for which platform.
On this window, you can also share all of the images on this post from product links to your sidebar picture. You can’t direct the user to one, ideal image.
You could fiddle with the css coding to hide images, but this would be a manual, time consuming process that you would have to do for every image. Not a good long-term strategy!
I researched a tonne of social media plugins. I narrowed it down to 2 options: Social Pug and Social Warfare. Social Warfare is a popular social media plugin used by many bloggers. Then I read about how the plugin suddenly started malfunctioning for many bloggers. That gave me a scare!
I ultimately decided on Social Pug. I started with the free version. Then I realized it had a mobile sticky option optimized for the mobile reading experience.
It doesn’t interfere with reading on a mobile like how the floating sidebar often does. I had to get it! It also has a social follow widget for your sidebar.
What I also love about Social Pug is that it gives you the option of customizing the share options. When a user clicks on a social share icon, you can have the user share just your preferred image with your customized title and description.
If you’ve recently made the switch from HTTP to HTTPS and lost all your social shares, their pro version has a share counts recovery system to cover you!
However, MailChimp’s terms and conditions prohibits affiliate marketing. For this reason, I plan to eventually switch to ConvertKit as you can apply affiliate links with your emails with them. They also have a 1 month FREE trial available.
As the blog expenses are starting to pile up, I might do this switch in 2019.
8. Learn about blogging.
Between WordPress, your theme configuration, and plugins, there’s a lot to learn.
I mention learning about blogging at this step because if you’re like me, you’ll want to learn something and action it right away. Otherwise, you might forget.
At this stage, I started googling everything. How to set up WordPress. How to set up Divi. I went through a massive number of free videos and articles online. At the same time, I started creating my pages…
9. Create your pages.
Take a big piece of paper. Write down your primary topic.
From your primary topic, draw out vertical lines and then write out your subtopics.
If you want to branch out even further, draw out vertical lines from your subtopics and write out your mini topics.
Each of your subtopics (and mini topics if applicable) will be a page on your blog. Pages are different from posts in that there’s usually no date for when it was created and no social sharing buttons.
Then create your pages. Check out the websites of major brands or bloggers you admire for inspiration. Get comfortable and start building your site.
This is both the fun and frustrating part. Try not to be deterred or overwhelmed when you encounter an issue. Almost everything can be answered with a google search.
If you have Elegant Themes’ Divi, contact their customer service department. I must have emailed them 50 times since I started the blog.
Each time they provided me with a link to an existing tutorial to solve the problem or gave me the CSS code I could input. They told me exactly where to input this code with images and directional symbols!
10. Create your posts.
It’s finally time to create your posts!
A few things to keep in mind when you’re writing:
- Always write with your reader in mind and what will benefit him/her
- Keep paragraphs 1-2 sentences long for mobile optimization
- Write simply. (This is something I struggle with. I’m often adding redundant and unnecessary words.)
- Edit, edit and edit!
If you’re using Elegant Themes’ Divi, do not build your posts with the Divi Builder. This way you can change themes more easily in the future.
11. Create images for your posts.
I love it! It makes it so easy and fast to create images for your website. There are over 2 mil royalty-free photos, 680 templates, 1 mil icons, tonnes of preloaded sizes or easily create your own.
It’s all in one place. You save so much time. If you’re resizing images for multiple social media accounts, this is especially easy to do this within Stencil as they have the preloaded sizes.
There’s so much involved with setting up and learning about blogging. It’s great having the image component simple to manage.
Stencil has 3 tiers of pricing. They have a FREE package where you can create and save 10 images per month, but you have access to limited photos and icons
I’m on their unlimited package for $12/month, which includes unlimited images – created and saved. You get access to their entire collection of photos etc.
You also get 100 Instagram SMS per month. I haven’t used this feature yet as I’m still setting up my Instagram account. I imagine this will come in handy!
12. Learn MORE about blogging.
You’re now at the point where you might be thinking about how to monetize your blog.
Monetizing might not be your primary goal. It’s something you might want to explore to at least recoup your initial costs.
When I first started looking into the blog’s monetization potential, I came across many free articles and email opt ins.
I got to the point where I felt the free stuff wasn’t cutting it. Something was missing.
I was fortunate because the Genius Bloggers’ Toolkit (which has dozens of resources) came out.
It’s only available for less than 1 week per year. It’s approximately $100. You can get on the wait list for the next one or if there’s a flash sale.
This was significantly cheaper than the $50-300 individual blogging courses I had come across. I couldn’t stomach spending so much on a hobby I wasn’t sure about.
I just went through the toolkit.
Affiliate Marketing For Bloggers: Everything You’re Missing by Carly Campbell. I love this course! She uses her previous articles as case studies. It includes videos so you can see exactly how she’s applied her affiliate marketing strategy. Her writing style is fun! It’s easy to follow along.
I loved it so much, I ended up purchasing her other course Pinteresting Strategies, which is beloved by many reputable bloggers! It did not disappoint. It has an extensive overview of Pinterest – all the strategies you need to optimize your Pinterest account and boost your traffic.
This course is actually how I got my first affiliate sale.
Conquer Your Business Analytics: A course for Creatives and Non-Techies. This course is jam packed with useful information about how to set up Google Analytics and Google Search Console – 2 FREE must have tools for your site – the right way and optimize it. If you’re not tech saavy like me, this course will help. She includes detailed, step-by-step directions and images.
If you want to get a taste, check out her FREE course Google Analytics 101 – for Non-Techies!
I must have gone through 10+ resources and courses in 3 days. Taking notes upon notes.
It was worth it.
The last thing I wanted to do was spend precious time trying things out. I wanted to implement the best practices.
I highly recommend investing in blogging education. Learn from the experts. Don’t make their mistakes.
At this stage, your blog is looking more like a blog! Congratulations!
Good luck on your blogging journey. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done.
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