So you want to start a blog? Yay! Welcome! I’m here to help.
When I first started this blog I was completely overwhelmed. Where do you start? What do you do? Well, I learned through trial and (lots of) error, and figured out a lot of what works, and a lot of what doesn’t. I also work with the most successful bloggers in the country as an Account Manager in Influencer Marketing – so I’ve got the inside track on how to grow your blog. I’ve compiled the best of all the resources to help you start, build, and grow your blog. So whether you already have some blogging experience, or need some hand holding every step of the way, this resource is for you.
Not sure whether or not you should start a blog? Well, if you have something you love, and are passionate about then: Yes, absolutely you should! Blogging gives you a platform to share your point of view with the world. And your voice, your ideas and your point of view are all unique, and deserve to be shared. Whether that’s with 5 of your family members, or 5 million devoted followers does”t matter. The fun is in the experience of sharing it. Make no mistake – there will be work – but everything worthwhile in life requires a little effort. So let’s get started!
Step 1: Plan
Have a game plan. It’s essential, even if it’s just a loose framework. Why? If you know where you are going, it will be easier to get there. If you just make a blog and start posting willy nilly you will have to back track when you figure out your focus. A little planning will save you a lot of time later.
First, figure out what kind of blog you want to write, and what you want to accomplish. This can be as simple as: “I want a food blog where I post food that I like to eat.” Chances are what you like to eat probably, inadvertently, falls into a specific group – desserts, healthy food, easy dinners. A little focus goes a long way in helping to build your audience. For example, I love to take delicious, can’t live without it food, and modify it into something a little healthier. It’s what I love to do at home, and it’s what I do on my blog.
The best advice I can give you is make sure it’s something you are passionate about, and that is true to yourself. Love what you blog about! Otherwise, you will quickly lose interest. One of the keys to a successful blog is consistently adding quality content – so if you aren’t in love with what you are doing, this can become tedious. And whether you are blogging for fun, or to make money, no one wants to do anything tedious.
Worried that no one will like what you are doing? Don’t. Remember: you are the only one with your voice, and it’s worth sharing! If you are passionate, and work hard, people will be drawn to what you are doing. It may take time, but it will happen.
Step 2: Content Management vs. Webhost
Next, you need to decide if you want register a domain name and purchase a web host package (also referred to as self-hosting) or use a content management system like Blogger, WordPress or Typepad. The main differences are cost and simplicity. Let’s look at the difference.
Registering a domain name gives you this:
A content management system looks like this:
The first is simple, easier to remember and looks more professional. However, this does option does cost money. The second, though not as streamlined, is free.
To decide what you want, think back to your game plan. Is this blog just going to be a fun and occasional creative outlet for you? Or is it going to be something you plan to invest time in, and hopefully make money off of?
I personally knew I wanted my blog to be something that was taken seriously, would look professional, and that I could grow into generating income – so I opted to go with a web host. However, only you know what you want and what works best for your needs. Keep this in mind though: if you opt to go with a free content management system you can’t take your content with you. And that’s a pretty serious bummer.
Step 3: Build
Build your blog! This can be…. daunting. But never fear – it’s easier than you think! Let’s look at the two ways different ways to build a blog.
If you are going with a content management system (www.YourAwesomeBlog.Wordpress.com), I suggest using WordPress. It’s the most popular content management system out there because they allow their users to customize so much. Other options include Blogger and Typepad.
Now – here is what confused me early on. WordPress can refer to 2 things. The first, which we are talking about here, is the free content management system. The second is when using WordPress themes to design the appearance of a blog that is self hosted. We will look at that next.
If you are choosing a self hosted site (www.YourAwesomeBlog.com) you need to accomplish 2 things: Register a domain name and pick a webhost.
At first all of this can be overwhelming, but let me break it down for you.
Your blog is like a party you are throwing (wooo!), and your Webhost is where you throw that party. When you first start your blog chances are it will be a small. (Don’t worry, it will get bigger!) So, you don’t need a lot of space for all of your guests (aka, visitors to your blog). As your blog grows, and you need more room, you might need to move your party to a bigger “space”, or hosting site.
Different web hosts give you different amounts of space. The more space you have the better, and faster your blog will run. But, more space costs more money, so in the beginning you want to start out small, and then expand as needed.
Starting out your best bet is Bluehost. It has great bang for your buck (6.95 a month if you pay for 12 months in advance), and will grow with you while you increase your traffic. The best part? Bluehost will register your domain name for free when you purchase a hosting package. Interested? You can sign up here. Once your blog “party” is raging, and you need more room for your guests, there are other options out there to keep your blog running smoothly, like WP Engine – but, as I explained, those come with a heftier price tag.
Step 4: Design
So now you blog has been built! Hooray! But, much like a house that has just been built – you aren’t quite ready for those guests just yet. You need to “decorate”, or in other words, design your blog.
Remember how I mentioned earlier how WordPress can refer to either the content management system, or “themes” to design your blog? Well here is where that comes in. WordPress themes are like hiring an interior designer and party planner to design your “party”, or blog. (Yup, I’m going to just keep going with this analogy as long as I can!) By using one, you can have your blog up and running – and looking very polished and professional – very quickly, without any programming or design knowledge.
But, much like picking the right designer, you need the right framework. I used the Genesis Framework. It’s the top rated framework out there, easy to use and very customizable. (Believe me when I say that, because I had no idea what I was doing when I started!)
Genesis is what is referred to as a Parent Theme. It will give your blog an overall generic design, that is customizable. A Child Theme works within the Genesis framework and gives your blog a very specific design that you can customize to your liking. There are 38 child themes to pick from.
I personally went with the Lifestyle Theme because I liked it’s simplicity and color palette, but there are others to pick from, too.
Now, maybe you are looking at me (ok, your screen) like: This is great but HOW do this? How the heck do I install this genesis and child stuff?
Well, I’m going to show you! I’m going to go through the steps with Bluehost and Genesis themes to show you exactly what to do.
OK: Once you’ve registered with Bluehost, click on your C Panel.
Next, install WordPress by clicking on the WordPress button.
Which will take you to the Mojo Marketplace, where you can install WordPress.
Install WordPress on the top level of your site (http://YourAwesomeBlog.com).
After filling in a little more information, you will be emailed a link to login to your dashboard. You can connect to your dashboard by either using that link, or heading over to http://YourAwesomeBlog.com/wp-login.
That will bring you here.
Guess what – you have a blog. Go ahead, check your address. It’s there! It’s not very pretty though, is it? Let’s fix that.
Start by downloading the Genesis Framework theme. (You can do that here), and any child theme you want to use to stylize your look. (If you like my page, you can get the Lifestyle Theme here.) Once everything is installed, go to your WordPress dashboard. You were just there (http://YourAwesomeBlog.com/wp-login).
First, in your WordPress dashboard click on “Appearance”, then click on “Themes”.
Then, select Add New theme.
Next, select Upload, and choose the Genesis theme.
Acivate your theme and it’s installed! Did you get a child theme? Repeat the theme installation steps to install that as well.
Check out your blog? Looking pretty good, isn’t it!
Now, if you want to get a little more advanced, and make sure your blog design is totally optimized, check out Blog Clarity’s DIY Blog Critique. It will help you get your blog design on point so that visitors can’t wait to come back.
Ready for more?
Click here to learn about Developing Content!
Click here to learn about Photography!
Click here to learn about Social Media Strategy!
Click here to learn about Growing Your Blog!