Perhaps the vague idea of starting a blog has been floating around in your consciousness for years.
This means that many of us, when we do start a blog, we jump in impulsively. For those of you who find yourself amongst the impulsive bunch, I am going to give you tips about how to start a blog the right way.
I speak from experience. Five years ago I started my first personal blog. Much like giving birth to my children, it all began in the middle of the night. To say I didn’t think it through is an understatement.
I used Blogger and a Blogspot URL. I made up things as I went along and had only the most vague ideas of “purpose.” I went overboard on design, wanting to use every trick in the playbook. I didn’t set myself up for optimal growth.
Then less than a year later I went through an expensive migration to WordPress.org, using my own hosting. A few months after that, I went through another migration to a new hosting company.
I learned everything the hard way. I then went plugin crazy.
If you are where I was – thinking of starting blog for business, pleasure or some combination of both, today I want to show you how to avoid this.
Steps to take when the urge to start a blog takes over.
Answer the question, “Why are you blogging?”
This is the most important question for you to answer, and there is no right or wrong. For now your response can be one word or pages long. The important thing is that you are clear in your mind as to why you are doing it.
Every decision you make going forward will stem from your answer. Is it to “express yourself,” “connect with new people,” “share my writing with my friends,” “connect with my existing customers,” “get new leads for my business,” “ share my expertise with the world,” “sell my book,” or “make money.” Get it all out there now, just for you.
Answer the question, “Who are you blogging for?”
Answering “who are you blogging for?” takes the previous question one step further. Again it is hard to answer this question perfectly at the beginning of the game, but will give shape to every single thing you do with your blog, from the titles of post, to the fonts, to the graphics.
Pick and buy a URL and a hosting company.
The first time around I bought both domain and hosting through GoDaddy. I regretted buying hosting services from them almost immediately. At the time I was blissfully unaware that GoDaddy is basically in the business of “selling their customers more stuff.” Constantly. They made it all too easy to add an inexpensive hosting package to my shopping cart for my shiny new domain.
I use and recommend BlueHost for both buying your domain and hosting. Even in the not-so-long run, you will be glad to have one company for hosting and domain management all through one control panel.
No hosting company is perfect, but with a company like Bluehost you are ready for growth. Whether you are a small company or individual, it will meet your needs. If you want to go with the cheapest hosting option available with any company, it can easily be upgraded in the future.
The flexibility, stability and SEO capabilities of WordPress with your own URL is my number one recommendation as far as blogging platform. Even though there are attractive free options, such as Blogger and WordPress.com, I don’t recommend them for two reasons:
- You don’t own the space. Just as with Facebook or Twitter, you are using someone else’s space for free. And it won’t take too long to feel the limitations and realize that you get what you pay for.
- Almost every serious, long term blogger, will end up using the WordPress platform with their own hosting and domain.
Many people are intimidated by the mere mention of “WordPress.” But the truth is, this blogging platform has gotten infinitely easier for even the most beginning blogger to get up to speed easily.
Pick a theme. (Don’t worry, you can change it later.)
There will be beautiful, shiny WordPress themes tempting you everywhere you look. Resist! There is enough of a learning curve with any blogging platform to keep you busy for a while. Before spending money and time searching for a theme, learn a little more about WordPress itself.
A standard WordPress install on your own hosting comes with the theme, Twenty Thirteen, that can be easily activated on your hosting control panel. You do not want to concern yourself with learning about a complicated theme that potentially isn’t coded well or doesn’t meet your needs.
Make a few immediate adjustments to WordPress.
When you first login to WordPress and activate your theme, go to “Settings” and then “General.” Change the name and remove the default tagline, “Just another WordPress blog.” If you’re not sure about what you want your tagline to be, you can add it later.
Heck, the good news is you can always change both your name and your tagline. For now do the best you can to make up something that serves you and your purpose now, speaking to the audience you hope to someday have. I also suggest that you remove the Hello Dolly Plugin and delete the first post or edit it to be your first post.
Make an editorial plan.
Unless you like the idea of being that blog, the one that has three posts and hasn’t been updated since late 2015, making an editorial plan is a priority. It can change. It will evolve. Even if it’s just your first three or five posts, do yourself a favor and plan them out. It can be done in any format you like: paper, spreadsheet or the WordPress plugin “editorial calendar.” Think about how many times a month you want to post. For now don’t get too hung up on it.
Indeed there’s more to starting a blog than the above. But like everything about blogging in general and WordPress in particular, getting set up correctly from the beginning will ensure your chances for blogging success. In the long run, you will save money and avoid undue heartache, pain and suffering. And before you know it, I bet you’ll be as blogging, plugin and theme obsessed as I am.
A question for any of you bloggers who have been at it for a while: Looking back, what would you do differently now when starting your blog?