The Skinny on Blogging: How to Start a Blog
One of the questions I receive most often is “How to start a blog?” Blogging is an entirely new industry, and only recently have bloggers started being able to make money doing it thanks for the rise of influence in social media and brands seeing it as a niche to market to customers. For that reason, I wanted to create a new series to address all your questions related to blogging.
Over the next 8 weeks, every Monday I will be posting a new segment related to blogging. I’ve gathered your questions over the last couple of months and my plan is to address the questions you ask most: How to incorporate social channels, how to build your brand, how to drive traffic to your blog, how to use a DSLR camera, etc.
Please understand, I am in no way claiming to be an expert at blogging. In fact, I am far more amateur than you likely expect. I only started my blog less than 2 years ago, after all. However, I think it’s important to share your knowledge in order to help others. Blogging should be a collaborative industry, and my goal is to give back and help others in the process.
Why Start a Blog?
Prior to asking yourself “How to start a blog?” your first question should be “Why to start a blog?” If you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, like wanting to become insta-famous or gain fast money, I can tell you right now you are going to be disappointed. Not only is blogging a LOT of hard work and investment in time/money, but it’s actually very difficult to make money and grow in such a saturated market. If your reasons for starting a blog are you’re seeking a creative outlet or you’re genuinely interested in creating content and sharing it with others, than you’re on the right track.
Step 1: Create a Name for Your Blog
This step isn’t as easy as it sounds. Keep in mind that your blog name is also your brand. It is going to define what it stands for and it is the first impression someone has of your blog. The safest route is to use your name and make a play on words with it. I considered this for my blog by changing it to “Daily with Bailey” or “Bailey on the Daily,” but that was after I had already used “Here’s The Skinny” for such a long time, and it had become my brand. It was too late. Whatever you choose, know it will be too hard to change it down the road so find something you love and that strongly represents you and your brand, and stick with it. Once you’ve decided on a name, you will want to secure that domain name. I recommend reserving your .com and .net, so no one can replicate or copy you down the road when your blog grows. You can usually do this through GoDaddy or often times your blog host will purchase your domain for you for free. Keep reading to understand more about blog hosts…
Step 2: Choose a Blog Platform and a Host
The two most popular platforms for blogs are WordPress and Blogger. I use WordPress. I’ve heard great things about both, but from what I’ve heard throughout the industry, most bloggers that start with Blogger always make the transfer to WordPress. It is more customizable when it comes to themes (we will get into that next), and I think it is just as easy to use. As your blog grows, you are going to want to use WordPress, so I recommend starting with that so you don’t have to make the dreaded transfer down the road.
A blog host (such as Siteground or BlueHost) is a content management system used to store all of your blog post data, images, theme, etc. that goes into a blog. It is a small subscription fee each month, or you can also choose to use wordpress.com (rather than .org) at no cost, though I believe it is much more work and not as secure. It’s also difficult when your blog experiences downtime and you have to determine how to fix it. Using a host, you can get free support for issues like these. In addition, if you stick to a WordPress.com you are limited to basic WordPress themes and there are less customizations. In the end, I felt the $5-$10 fee a month was worth it. Read this article from my blog designer for more info regarding benefits/disadvantages to WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org.
Step 3: Choose a Blog Theme
This can be one of the most difficult steps because it is hard to envision how you want your blog to look the first time you design it. I would recommend starting with an affordable pre-designed theme rather than hiring someone to custom build your site. That way you can get a feel of how you want your blog to look, and what you want your readers experience to be like on your site prior to making such a large investment.
I purchased my first theme from Envato Market and installed it myself, though you can hire someone to install it for you through their site if you don’t want to go through the endless hassle of googling to figure it out. I’ve also been told that Etsy offers great WordPress themes for bloggers. Down the road if you decide you want to invest in a custom theme and you’re aware of what your readers desire for their user experience, then I would recommend going with Lindsay from White Oak Creative. She did an amazing job designing my site and I can’t recommend her more.
Step 4: Discover your Category Niche and Capitalize On It
Every successful blog has a focus category that is the main topic of their blog. Mine is fashion. My secondary categories are Travel, Beauty and Fitness. Some bloggers make the mistake of categorizing themselves as a “Lifestyle” bloggers and keep their blog far too broad. I think it’s important to determine what you are most interested in, and what you have the most knowledge in and capitalize on it. All of your other subcategories should simply be extensions of your main blog topic. For instance, when I travel, most of my content is still centered around Fashion and what I am wearing on my trip. When I post beauty tutorials, I always include details on what I am wearing, and my fitness post always includes my athleisure outfit.
Step 5: Secure Your Blog Name in Social Channels
Every successful blogger uses social channels to drive traffic back to their blog. The most important ones are Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. If you plan to do vlogs or video tutorials, then you will also want to secure YouTube. When I started my blog, I secured my name in every possible social channel available (Tumblr, Google+, etc.) because I did not want someone to steal my name down the road and prevent me from having a presence on these channels. Social media is more important than ever to blogging, so make sure you have accounts that relate to your blog so people will be able to easily find you.
Step 6: Plan Out Your Content in Advance
This is one of the most important steps because the key to having a successful blog is consistency. I recommend planning out content for at least 2 weeks in advance prior to launching your blog. This ensures that you have enough content in the beginning until you have a great organizational flow of creating content and preparing it for your blog (it takes soooo much time!). You will also want to lay out for your readers when you will be posting new content. Is it Monday-Friday, or Monday, Wednesday, Friday? Whatever you promise your readers, you need to stick to it. They are trusting you for your word, and that is the most valuable aspect of blogging, trust. Make sure the schedule is manageable for you and don’t commit to too much in the beginning. You can grow your post schedule over time.
Step 6: Write Your First Blog Post and Launch Your Blog
Now that you have your name, theme installed, and have defined your social channels, it is time to launch your blog with your first blog post. You will want to introduce your blog to your readers, and explain to them why you started a blog and why they may want to become loyal readers. Every piece of content you create should be informative, and something your readers WANT to read. Make them want to come back each day and read, because trust me, page views are everythinggggg! Click post! Good luck!
I hope you enjoyed my first post of my new series, “The Skinny on Blogging.” I hope you’ll stop by again next Monday to read my next series installment “Incorporating Social Channels.” Thanks for reading!
P.S. Pin the image below to your Pinterest page so that you can reference this post at any time!