How to Start a Blog
Do you want to start your own blog? This step-by-step guide is for everyone who wants to launch a successful website or blog.
The tutorial is long! Make yourself comfortable and save it for future references. In this tutorial, you will learn:
- How to Choose Your Domain Name
- How to Get the Best Hosting For Your Domain
- How to Set Up Your WordPress Blog
- How to Find The Best Design For Your Blog
- Blogging Best Practices
- How to Get Traffic to Your Blog
- How to Make Money From Your Blog
Why Choose WordPress?
WordPress is a blogging content management system (CMS) which powers 25% of all websites. One of every four websites runs on WordPress.
The first thing you should do is to choose a great domain name for your blog. This is the address you type in your browser. Here are my tips on how to do this:
- Brainstorm 5 Top Keywords – When you start searching for a domain name, create a small set of terms or phrases that describe your idea. This will help you to find your perfect domain name. Once you create this list, you can start to pair these terms or add prefixes & suffixes, or even combine them with other words that are not on your initial list. Play around until you find a good match.
- Use A Domain Selection Tool – If you still need help brainstorming some domain name ideas, you can tool such as Domainr. Just remember you can use this tool to find a domain name and then go and get it for free with your best web hosting company.
- Easy to Remember – Your domain name should be short, catchy, and easy to type and remember. One or two words are perfect; three words are the absolute maximum.
- Make The Domain Unique – Having a unique domain name is crucial. You don’t want to have your website confused with another popular or lousy website. Never choose a domain that is simply a plural version of another website. Having your website confused with a popular site already owned by someone else is a recipe for disaster.
- Branded Domain – Always choose the brand over a domain with a keyword. If you have a company, or you are just starting a website about a specific topic, you will make the smarter choice. Get a brandable domain over an exact or partial keyword match domain. According to Nielsen, branded websites are the 3rd most trusted advertising source for internet users, tied with editorial content. We trust brands. Treat your domain name as a brand name, not a keyword. Furthermore, domains containing only keywords are used for spam, and Google is suspicious about exact or partial match domains. Exact match domain, for example, means that if you want to rank on Google for dog walking services in Chicago to pick a domain, the name dogwalkingservicesinchicago.com
- No Hyphens and Numbers – These domains are hard to remember and don’t sound credible. Most domains with hyphens and numbers are usually bad ones with spam and phishing. Most importantly, they also correlate poorly with rankings in Google, with branding, and with traffic.
- A .com top-level domain – TLD is ideal because it is most popular among internet users. Your second-best option is a .net domain. These two are the first and most popular TLDs
- .Org is suitable only if you run an organization, but you can use it for a blog.
If you plan to target a particular country, you should consider a country-specific domain such as “co.uk” for the United Kingdom. There are 100s of new top-level domains launched in the last few years, but I strongly advise you to stick to the most popular of those: .com. and .net.
The main reason is that there are not enough case studies if these new TLDs rank well on Google organic rankings.
For example, .info domains were used by spammers and black hat marketers for years to rank websites on Google, but since 2012 when Google launched their Penguin and Panda updates, you rarely see .info domains ranking on Gooogle’s first page of search results.
Several other TLDs you can consider
- .co: an abbreviation for company, commerce, and community.
- .net: technical, Internet infrastructure sites.
- .org: non-commercial organizations and nonprofits.
- .biz: business or commercial use, like e-commerce sites.
- .me: blogs, resumes or personal sites
- .club: suitable for a niche community
Best Hosting For Your Domain
Web hosting is where you keep your blog’s files (blog posts, images, etc.). Without a web hosting service, you can not use your domain name.
It needs to be connected to a web hosting provider to appear online and in search results. You should make no compromises when choosing a hosting provider because your blog or website performance will suffer.
How to set up your WordPress blog
In this section, you will learn the basics:
- I will show you how to use the WordPress dashboard
- How to change your blog’s design
- How to install new plugins/features and optimize your blog for SEO
After your first login, you need to activate your blog because it will display the default “Coming Soon” page.
This is the area on the right from the black vertical menu. It shows you an at-a-glance look at your recent activity, including how many posts, comments, and pages you have. You can also write up a quick draft blog post here.
You can modify your dashboard’s look when you click on “Screen Options” at the top right of your screen.
Initial Blog Settings
These settings are very important configurations you should do before you proceed with anything else.
You should change your blog title and tagline to something meaningful, which tells the readers what your blog is about. This will also help Google determine what your blog is about, and this can also help you with your organic rankings. To access the screen below, go to “Settings” bottom left and click on General.
SEO Friendly URLs
By default, WordPress URL addresses are ugly and not SEO friendly. You need to change them. Go to “Settings” again and click on “Permalinks” and choose “Post name.” This will help you with your on-page SEO and will also boost your organic rankings in Google.
About And Contact Pages
Every blog needs an “about” page where you tell a little about yourself and your mission. Contact pages usually have a form where your visitors can reach you. I will show you how to install a free contact form plugin later in this guide.
To change your design, you should click on “Appearance” and select “Themes” from the sub-menu. After that, click on WordPress.org Themes.
All of these themes are free! You can sort the designs by different filters and search for specific keywords to find the best design that suits your needs.
When you find your theme, click on “Install” and activate it from the next screen. The installation will redirect you.
If you want premium design, I can recommend you two marketplaces where you can find the best designs for your money. The first one is Themeforest, and the other one is the MyThemeShop. After you purchase and download your theme, you need to go to Appearance – Themes – Add New and upload and install your new blog theme.
Additionally, you can customize the theme you pick from the appearance area.
From here, you can change your site icon, blog colors, header, and background images. You can also create different menus for your blog, add and remove widgets, and choose to have a static page to show on your blog as a home page or your latest blog posts.
WordPress blog widgets are small blocks that have a specific function. You can add these widgets to your sidebar, which is usually on the right side of your blog.
They are also accessible from “Appearance” – Widgets. There you can drag and drop all available widgets on your Sidebar and Footer area.
Plugins can add thousands of functionalities to your blog. To add one, go to Plugins – Add New. You can browse the WordPress plugins database sorted by categories on the left or use the search function on the right to find exactly what you need. Before installing a plugin, check its description to gauge whether it is compatible and tested with your WordPress version. You can also search for plugins in the WordPress plugin directory – wordpress.org/plugins/
After you pick a plugin, click on Install and then on Activate Plugin.
- SEO Plugins
Yoast SEO offers the ability to improve on-page SEO for your WordPress blog.
- Security Plugins
Lockdown WP Admin conceals the administration area (wp-admin) and wp-login from intruders. It offers an alternate URL to access the WordPress back end and protects the blog by issuing a 404 error to those who aren’t logged in. Bad Behavior keeps your blog free from link spam and malicious activity. Anti-Spam by CleanTalk protects the blog from spam comments and registrations by quickly comparing data in the cloud. Spam comments are disallowed while real visitors’ comments are published.
- Comments/Contact Plugins
Akismet analyzes comments, trackbacks, and pingbacks against their resources to determine if the information provided is spam.
W3 Total Cache increases server performance and download times, improving user experience and website speed. a3 Lazy Load – This plugin improves your blog performance and load times. It also reduces server bandwidth by only loading images when they are visible when the visitor scrolls your pages. WP Smush strips images of bulky information, reducing file sizes without compromising quality.
- Backup Plugins
BackWPup – Secure your blog and schedule complete automatic backups of your blog installation.
- Contact Plugins
Contact Form 7 is a simple and reliable solution you can use on your contact page.
- Optional Plugins
Google Analytics Dashboard Plugin allows users to track stats, website speed, and pageviews from a single plugin. Jetpack allows users to manage traffic, image performance, and add security to your blog.
Blogging Best Practices
How Are People Using Blogs?
In terms of blogging categories, they commonly fall into the following groups:
- Personal blogs, journals, or diaries: Bloggers who fall into this category share their own life experiences and anecdotes with their readers. The point of personal blogs or diaries is to allow the writer to share anything they want to, no matter the topic. Some of these blogs are focused on specific topics such as parenting or work diaries, but they all focus on the personal aspect of the blogger’s life. The posts contained in these types of blogs may be re-purposed later for a biography, but the focus is always the same: personal stories.
- Hobby or special-interest blogs: Hobby bloggers are the people who blog about crocheting, video game playing, coin collecting, comic books, sports interests that all fit into a specific theme. This genre includes beauty bloggers, jewelry makers, and bakers. The writers of these websites are looking for an audience who shares similar interests.
- Professional blogs: Professional bloggers create their blog websites for the simple purpose of making money online. The blogs in this category are geared to the purpose of generating revenue for the website owner. On these blogs, you will see advertisements, affiliate links, and paid reviews.
- Corporate blogs: These blogs are created for use by a company or business. Corporate blogs are found on the company’s main website and contain general information of interest to consumers or shareholders. Topics covered on corporate blogs may involve items of interest to the company’s employees, product launch news, or the company’s efforts in community relations.
- Community blogging portals: Community blogs offer location-specific information to residents of a particular area. Local neighborhood watch blogs fall into this category and usually cover interest items to those nearby.
Strategies for Blogging Success
Whether or not you’re successful as a blogger can mean various things to different people. While a personal blogger might consider success to mean that they’ve received five-hundred page views in a day, success to a professional blogger means that they’ve earned enough income for the month.
Despite your definition of blogging success, blogging in any category takes a lot of hard work to achieve greatness. Your level of success may depend on you, and it could involve any number of writers, marketers, and other experts. A successful company can use a blog to showcase the personality of the company or business while offering useful products and services.
Establishing Blog Authority
Your blog’s authority can be established and built up to maintain your influence over a particular niche no matter your industry. When your blog becomes a trusted source of information that is useful and interesting, your authority grows. Before blogging, create a plan of attack that encourages growth in your area of expertise.
Self-hosted blogs offer many options when it comes to the type of content of which you can write as well as advertisements you may place. Self-hosting your blog is the easiest option and should be treated as an essential part of the business.
How to Create Content That Works
- Create an editorial calendar of which you can use to establish a blogging schedule. Content creation does not have to be a daunting task for your industry-specific updates.
- Plan your content in advance so that you have a good idea of what your future customers are looking for.
- Create content that answers questions for your customers. In doing so, you further your company’s authority in your niche, and you become a source for useful information.
- Consider what your readers would want out of your blog and create content to accommodate them.
Style and Branding:
In blogging, you are given the opportunity to establish your writing style while focusing your marketing efforts on branding. Create content that showcases your brand without veering away from your own voice.
As we’ve said above, your best bet is to create an editorial calendar of which you want to use in content creation. People who abandon their blogs tell their visitors that there is nothing new or exciting about their product or service. Blogging frequency matters in that your visitors will become accustomed to the frequency with which you create new articles. In reading your content, in time, they may come to expect specific types of content from you on a regular basis. If you need help with content creation, you can use content creation marketplaces such as HireWriters.com.
Visitor Comments and Engagement:
- When starting out, you may be sad in thinking that your mother is the only one who reads your blog. It’s when readers begin commenting on your blog that it really comes to life.
- When you get comments on your blog’s articles or posts, always respond. If a consumer, reader, or employee took the time out of their day to read what you’ve had to say, then you, at least, owe them some reply or explanation.
- When readers comment and share their opinions and views with others, chime in with your expertise if you have anything useful to add. Readers love engagement and want to know that your company is listening.
- Comment moderation is an important aspect of the reader engagement process. Set aside a specific time every day to read comments, reply to readers, and to moderate comments. Comment moderation allows you to weed out information that may be deemed useless, self-serving (spam), or defamatory to others.
- If your blog is popular, then it is a good practice to have a moderation process in mind. This might allow for comments to receive automatic approval if the comment author has been approved in the past.
- Having visitors log in to your blog to leave comments might cut down on the spam created, but it also cuts down on the engagement.
- Reader engagement through comment replies and moderation is an ongoing and necessary process for highly trafficked websites.
- Consider creating a commenting policy on your website that outlines the rules for those wishing to leave their thoughts and opinions. This sets the stage for your visitors to know what is considered acceptable in commenting on your blog.
- This also tells visitors that you will not allow them to be ridiculed or otherwise treated poorly while they visit and comment on your website.
Blogging Success – What it Looks Like
No matter how you look at it, every blogger has the same goal: to have their opinions, values, and information read by the largest audience possible. When you become a trusted authority in your niche, the sky is the limit.