Are you wondering if you should start a blog? Starting a blog doesn’t have to be a difficult experience. In this series, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know to start and run a successful blog.
Congratulations! You’ve decided to start a blog. Break out the bubbly!
Starting a Blog: The Basics
Okay, now it’s time to get serious and get down to business.
Let’s start at the beginning: The Platform
Choosing a Platform
When starting a blog, making a wise platform choice at the beginning can save you countless hours of work later on.
While it can be very tempting to choose a free blogging platform, such as WordPress or Blogger, it’s a good rule of thumb to remember you really will ‘get what you pay for’. Free platforms don’t provide the same level of accessibility, control, flexibility, or personalization you get from paid platforms.
If you are starting a blog to support your ecommerce store, some platforms come with a built-in blog specifically for your business.
WordPress.com is limited when it comes to using widgets, especially widgets used in giveaways or link-promotions. And a major concern with using the Blogger stems from Google’s ownership of the platform. Because they own it, Google can choose to shut down your blog any time they see fit. And it’s happened before. After using the Blogger for 14 years, Google took French artist Dennis Cooper’s blog offline, deleting all record of his art.
While these issues may seem minor at the present, they can quickly grow into major headaches you’ll need to tackle later on.
Remember, once you’ve established your blog, switching platforms isn’t always a doable process.
So, if you’re serious about starting a blog, and in it for the long haul – especially if you hope to monetize your blog – launching a self-hosted WordPress blog is the way to go. And you’ll be in great company, too! WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) in the world today
Note: The free-use platform WordPress.com is not self-hosted.
And there’s a good reason behind why WordPress.org is the industry standard for starting a blog.
With a nearly unlimited number of plugins, available themes, tools, add-ons, e-commerce solutions, marketing & design software features, you can create the site of your dreams, with the built-in functionality you need.
Choose Your Blog Name
When starting a blog, choosing your blog name is never easy. You need to pick something that will reflect your blog’s content. It should be unique, and something that will still be relevant years from now. Take a little time to brainstorm, jotting down ideas and keywords. You can also use a free tool, like NameMesh, to play around with potential blog titles. Enter keywords or phrases that relate to your blog into the search feature. Namemesh will automatically generate options and available combinations.
When naming your blog keep the following in mind:
- Use a .com domain whenever possible. Despite some very successful .net blogs on the interwebs, .com remains the industry standard when you want success.
- Whenever possible avoid the use of numbers, hyphens, or unusual spellings in your domain name. Numbers can cause confusion: potential visitors won’t know whether the digit is used or if the number is spelled out. The same can be said if you use hyphens or uncommon spellings. Bottom line: You want to make it as easy as possible for people to remember your domain name.
- Short domain names are always preferred. They look better on other marketing materials, like mugs and business cards, and short domains are easier to remember.
Now that you’ve decided on your new blog’s name, it’s time to register it. Registration fees range anywhere from $0.99 to around $15 annually.
You’ve got a blog name and you’ve registered your domain. Next on your list for starting a blog is to look at blog hosting.
The hosting company – where your blog resides – is a vital part of your blog team. If your hosting company is experiencing technical difficulties, so are you.
Look for hosting companies like BlueHost, who offer impossible to beat uptime reliability and customer services for less than $5 monthly.
Remember, when you sign up for a paid Selz plan, you can add a blog to your online store with ease. Starting a blog for your online store is a great way to attract new customers and continue communication with your current customers. See how Selz can help you start or grow your online business.
Successful Blog Themes
The theme you choose when starting a blog is your blog’s face to the world. So, be sure to choose a responsive theme that closely aligns with your image of what visitors can expect to see the first time they visit your blog. WordPress offers several thousand free themes, not to mention paid themes. Typically, free WordPress themes will require more customizations than their premium themes. When deciding which is best for your blog, let your bank account and technical aptitude help you choose the perfect theme to fit your blog (and your wallet).
A handful of well-chosen WordPress Plugins can make your blog pop without your ever having to dip into the code. Yoast SEO is a must-have for SEO optimization. Not only is this industry mainstay user-friendly, it will help search engines find your blog in no time. Trust Akismet when it comes to reducing spam comments.
Without an email list, you can’t run a successful blog. By installing WP Subscribe, you can quickly add a widget encouraging visitors to sign up for your email newsletter, and you can add it anywhere on your blog.
Google Webmaster Tools
A Google Webmaster Tools account is another must-have addition to your blog. Essentially, Webmaster Tools is your way of telling Google to start paying close attention to your blog content. Over time, it will help your blog rank for specific search terms!
Google Analytics is a necessary evil to have when starting a blog. There’s really nothing else that compares to it comes to website reporting and blog traffic,. In the early days of running your blog, tracking page views is the only thing you’ll need, but over time, as your blog grows, Google Analytics will provide powerful blog activity and traffic insights.
As a new blogger, you might think you can overlook backing up your site. But you’ll benefit by getting into the habit of doing regular back up early in your blogging career. Remember Dennis Cooper? As hard as it is to read about another blogger’s worst-case scenario, it’s still better than experiencing one hands-on.
Daily site backup is essential. A complete site crash is bad, but isn’t the big bad nasty that needs to be your primary focus – it’s malicious hacks or malware that can quickly render your site unreadable. Restoring your site from a virus-free point in history is always easier than having to sort through each and every file, removing the malware manually.
Investing in a security provider, such as CloudFlare is money well spent when starting a blog. For roughly $20 a month, you’ll protect your site – and visitors to your site – from online threats. When looking for security vendors, be sure to check add-ons. CloudFlare, for example, also offers site optimization features that significantly increase your blog speed.
About Us Page
Did you know that the single most trafficked page on your blog will be the About Us page. New visitors to your blog will be curious about who you are.
When you’re starting a blog, make sure to write and publish this page as soon as possible. Have some fun and give them an engaging page that’s fun to read.
Check out this great example from Selz user Amanda Bisk. Her about page is informative, visually appealing and engaging.
You want visitors to your blog to get in touch. But you’d probably be surprised to learn how many blogs forget to contain contact information! So, be sure to put your contact information in an easily readable font at the top of your blog.
An Email List Is The Simplest Way To A Successful Blog
Remember we spoke about the importance of your email list when starting a blog? Your blog IS your email list because it will:
- Increase traffic to your blog by telling readers about new posts, encouraging them to read related older posts.
- Convert better than any other marketing method, even social media marketing. While you may not be thinking about selling on your first day as a blogger, you’ll find it’s useful before too long.
And if you go with the WordPress JetPack plugin, you get the benefit of a pre-installed email subscription option. Once you have the right tools growing your email list is easy.
The best futures begin with solid foundations.
For help creating an email marketing plan, check out these FounderU articles!
Congratulations! Now that you have put the building blocks in place for starting a blog, you can start thinking about content.
Starting a Blog: Content Development
Publish or Perish
Not too long ago, scientists were the only group who lived (or died) by the phrase ‘publish or perish.’ But in today’s blogosphere, regularly publishing compelling content is vital to running a successful blog. A successful rule of thumb is the 70/30 blogging ratio.
70% of the time you spend working on your blog should be spent creating and posting compelling content. 30% of the time should be devoted to administrative and site maintenance.
This is especially critical during the early days of your blog going live.
After a long day at work, sitting down to write a blog can feel like a lot of work. But your blog will see dramatic growth from your content commitment.
Creating a content calendar is a wonderful way to keep on top of your writing commitment when starting a blog. Here’s how to master your blog:
- Pick one day each week to upload a new post. Let’s choose Tuesday. Next, create a spreadsheet of Tuesdays from now to the end of the calendar year.
- For each date, choose a topic you want to write about.
- Try to avoid writing about topics that are very similar week after week, instead try spacing them out.
- Once you’ve filled in all the Tuesdays on your list, check it over to make sure you haven’t duplicated anything.
Now, when the time comes to sit down and write, check your content calendar. You won’t be struggling to decide what you should write about. You might find that your later posts are better than your early ones, but don’t worry about it. Like other forms of writing, blogging is a learned skill. And just like other skills, it will take some time to master. The more you write, the faster you’ll grow as a writer.
Creating A Great Blog Post
What makes a great blog post? It’s really not as hard as you might imagine:
You’re writing a blog because you know your market better than anyone. And one way to generate a great blog post is to answer market-specific questions. When you solve problems from within your niche market, you are establishing yourself as a go-to resource for your readers.
If you’re starting a blog, never underestimate the power of a catchy headline. Readers make their initial decision whether to click – or not to click – on your site based on your headline. Always aim to create interesting headlines that are informative.
A quick 400-word post is fine to publish every now and then, but for strong ranking and repeat visitors you’ll need to give your readers something worthwhile and detailed.
Avoid fluff at all costs, but don’t shy away from taking some time to make your point. If your post legitimately requires 1550 words or longer to be complete, go for it! But if it only needs 750, don’t stuff your post with padding. By making your content worthwhile you’ll keep your readers engaged – and coming back for more.
If you want traction on social media, you need high-quality images. Posts that include great pictures are shared more often and attract greater audiences. When you are starting a blog, make sure you have found a few resources for these images. Use sites like Pixabay, Public Domain Archive, Unsplash or Flickr for free-use or attribution-only stock photography.
Starting a blog: Promotion
When starting a blog, one of the things you may be wondering is “Okay, but how am I going to get the word out?” One of the most effective ways to promote your blog is to establish relationships with other bloggers.
Who do you enjoy reading? Compile a list of 5 or 6 bloggers who are more established than you are.
Put aside time to read their blogs. And don’t forget to leave meaningful comments on their posts. “Great Stuff” won’t impress anyone, but leaving a well-written thoughtful comment will have other bloggers noticing you.
Other bloggers aren’t the competition, they’re colleagues. And often they’re wonderful resources for guest posts or other cross-promotions.
Find A Group, Join a Group
Another easy way to promote your blog is to join an online group. Look for similarly-minded gatherings on your favorite social media platform (Facebook is great for this). You’ll quickly build relationships and those relationships help your blog get noticed.
But remember, it’s not about joining a community and just spamming links to your site. It’s about being a contributing, helpful community member, interested in helping the community grow.
Starting a Blog: A Cheat Sheet
Blogging might seem like a lot of work, but it can be a very rewarding undertaking if you follow these startup tips:
- Take your time at the start.
- Don’t rush, trying to do it all at one time.
- Expect a ramp-up period while you learn new skills.
- Soft launch as you go, while building your blog and its readership.
- After you’ve been adding compelling content on a regular basis, you can think about hosting a full-on launch event offering prizes, or discounts on products.
Blogging isn’t about reaching the destination, it’s about your blogging journey. Enjoy it. Share it with the people reading your content.
Maybe you could even write a blog about it.