Since I started sharing my blog tip posts, one of the most popular questions I’ve been asked has to be “how do I start a blog?”
So far, I’ve been replying individually to everyone, but I always think if one person has a question, they probably aren’t the only one. So this post will go through what you need to get started with your blog.
First of all, believe me when I say I know exactly how you feel!
Starting a blog is confusing and overwhelming!
When I started my blog I was absolutely clueless. I had no idea what a content management system was (I remember thinking WordPress what? and Blogger who?) and had absolutely no clue how to go about starting a blog.
Eventually, I just went for it (with the phone assistance of a friend) and figured it out along the way. That’s exactly what blogging is all about. It’s about learning and continuously developing your blog to make it better.
One point I want to make from the start is that you cannot compare yourself to bloggers who have been blogging for a few years.
They are 2/3/4 years ahead of you. The feelings you have now, they all had when they started, but they have learned, developed and tweaked their blogs as they went along, just as you will too. This doesn’t mean you can’t look to them for inspiration. These bloggers are exactly where you should go to learn and make your blog what you want it to be.
Boy if I had a $$ for every time I’ve been asked why I have a blog. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with this question, it just means people are curious or maybe they haven’t discovered the value of blogging. If you read my ‘Why I Started Blogging‘ post you’ll know how valuable blogging has been for me. And blogging is valuable, seriously valuable!
In some industries (such as fashion, journalism or the inbound marketing world), it is almost expected that you have a blog, especially if you are on the job hunt.
When it comes to hiring new staff, a blog is the first thing some business people look for. Of course, this is dependent on the industry and the job, but if your dream job is to be social media manager or to work in fashion, having a strong social media following and a blog will definitely be a plus.
Everyone has their own reason for starting a blog, but you just never know where it may come in handy in the future or what doors it could open for you.
What Do You Need?
So what do you need to start your blog? To get the ball rolling, you need to do 6 different things:
1. Have A Niche
Or at the very least an idea of what your blog is going to be about. You need this from the get go, because chances are your niche will inform many other aspects of your blog. For example, your niche will guide what you blog about, and could help decide what call your blog.
When deciding what you want to blog about, make sure you pick something you love.
This is such an important point! Blogging is hard work and requires you to give up a lot of your spare time. If this is something you’re in for the long haul, you need to make sure you are genuinely interested in what you decide to blog about. If you aren’t, you may end up losing interest in creating content for a topic you aren’t passionate about.
Once you have an idea of what your niche, you need to go one step further and hone in on what your speciality will be. Let’s be honest, the world doesn’t need another fashion blog or baking blog, but a blog that combines the two (like http://bakemystyle.com/) was a great way for Miriam to define her niche and hone in on two of her passions (baking and style).
2. Get A (Domain) Name
One of the first things people ask me about my blog is why LC? They’re my initials. First name Lorna, second name Catherine. I would love to have a surname that could have led to a really cool blog name (like Aimee Song from Song of Style), but unfortunately the surname Ruane really isn’t that exotic.
Your (domain) name needs to be unique, relevant to your blog (for example don’t use bake in your blog name if you don’t intend on having some baking related topics in there somewhere) and not one that could easily be confused with an existing website. You also need to remember that short and sweet is best. This is particularly true when it comes to your social media handles.
My best piece of advice is to make a list of all the possible names or combination of names that you could call your blog. When you’ve done this, it’s time to…
3. Do Your Research
A little research can go along way. Once you’ve created your list of names, you need to do a little research to see if any of them will actually work for you. First of all, you need to check if the .com domain name for your blog is available. .com is the most recognised and used extension, so if your preferred domain name isn’t available in .com, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.
Try to avoid taking a backup extension, like a .net or .biz, because if the .com is already taken, it could cause some confusion.
Once you’ve checked for your domain name, the next thing you have to research is social media handles. Is the name you chose available on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest? If it isn’t, it may be time to start brainstorming names again.
When I was trying to pick the name for blog, every good name I could think of was already gone. I finally settled on LC’s Closet, as I intended to blog about fashion. It has since expanded to include more lifestyle and blog tips content, so as I say on my About page, my little cyber ‘closet’ now contains everything including the kitchen sink.
* A quick tip: Make sure you buy your domain name as soon as you decide what to call your blog. If you don’t, someone else may just beat you to it.
4. Pick A Blogging Platform
Once you have your name, you can get to work and start building your blog. The first thing you need is a blogging platform. There’s a lot of different platforms you can build your blog on, including:
I use WordPress and this is the platform I would definitely advise you pick. WordPress is by far one of the biggest (and in my opinion best!) blogging platforms in the world. There are also an endless amount of plugins, add-ons and ways to design and layout your blog. So you will definitely be able to make your blog look exactly how you want.
I know a lot of people start off using a platform like Blogger or Weebly because they are meant to be easier to use. Just remember that no matter what platform you start on, you’re going to have to learn how to use it anyway, so why not make life easier for yourself from the get go and start with a WordPress blog. If your blog is the success you hope it’s going to be, chances are you’ll end up moving to WordPress at some stage down the line anyway.
5. Choose A Free or Self-Hosted Blog
Now that you have selected your preferred blogging platform (I hope it’s WordPress!), you need to decide if you are going to use a free blog or pay for a self-hosted one.
Most blogging platforms offer free blogs that anyone can use to build their website. Sounds great right? Why would anyone in their right mind pay for their blog if they can get one for free? Well there is a catch… and the biggest one is the limitations you face with free blogs.
Some Of The Catches…
- You can’t customise your theme or install whatever theme you want to use. You have to use the options they provide
- You can’t install plugins to enhance your blog as you want to
- Free sites will have ads (these are SO annoying) that you don’t make any money on
- You are limited in the amount of videos and images you can upload and share in your posts
- Worst of all, you do not own your blog when it’s hosted on a free website. You are essentially at the mercy of your free blogging platform who can delete your site your site at any time. This can happen if they feel it violates their terms in any way
Essentially you are very limited with free blogs and you don’t have much control over the content you painstakingly created.
So what’s the difference between a free blog and self-hosted one?
With a self-hosted blog you own your website. You pay for your website to be hosted on a server, so you are in control.
With a self-hosted blog you will be able to:
- Choose the theme you actually want to perfect how your blog looks
- Install whatever plugins you want
- Upload as many images and videos as you like
- Install Google Analytics to get valuable data on your performance
Basically, with a self-hosted website you can make your blog look exactly how you want it to look and create the content you want to create. Self-hosted blogs do involve more work and $$. You need to have your own domain name (you can have this with a free blog too) and a hosting plan (some of the more popular hosting sites are Bluehost, GoDaddy and Hostmonster). You also need to stay on top of things in the back-end, such as theme/plugin updates (this is important for your sites security), monitoring SPAM (this is an annoying one) and backing up your blog (there’s a plugin for this).
Personally, I used a free WordPress blog for my first four months of blogging. When I had (kinda) found my feet and was comfortable with WordPress, I started paying and moved to a self-hosted blog. One of my biggest reasons for moving from a free WordPress.com blog to a self hosted blog on WordPress.org was how limiting WordPress.com was. I couldn’t customise anything to make it look how I wanted to. The ads also bugged me.
6. Find A Theme/Layout
This is where things really start to come together. What do you want your blog to look like? From reading/following other blogs, you might have an idea how you want your blog to look. To choose a theme for your blog using WordPress you can head to Appearance > Themes in your blogs dashboard, or you can check out theme websites, such as ThemeForest.net or Moonpig.
When choosing my theme I made sure I picked one that had been downloaded a lot (thousands of times) and that had a good rating. This way I knew I was getting something good.
I hope this some aspiring bloggers out there and clears a few things up,
Check out my post on the 15 Silly Blog Mistakes You Need To Stop Making