So You Want to Start Blogging?
If you want to start blogging, your first step is to decide what kind of blog you want. Whether your blog is strictly creative outlet that allow you to write about whatever you choose or a potential money maker, you’ll be better off in the long run if you start right.
The first step isn’t setting up a blog and dealing with web hosting — it’s deciding what you want to write about. Decide what topics you’ll cover and organize your thoughts around those.
Here are some blogging statistics from 99Firms.com:
- There are over 152 million blogs on the internet.
- A new blog post is published every 0.5 seconds.
- 77% of internet users read blogs regularly.
If blogging is something you know you want to do, start with a self-hosted WordPress blog. It’ll save you time and trouble, as it’s probably where you’ll end up anyway. If you stick to blogging, you’ll eventually grow out of any of the free, hosted platforms.
If you’re not sure and you’re just trying it out, check out WordPress.com. Then if you do take to it and want to continue it’ll be easier to export to a new, self-hosted site.
This site and my personal blog have some similarities in style, but completely different purposes. This is my business site, where readers come to read my content and decide whether or not they want me to build them a website or do WordPress consulting. My personal blog has no calls to action, no email list signup, and no SEO plugin.
Once you’ve decided which kind of blogger you’ll be, it’s time to plan your content.
What Will You Write About?
In addition to this site I have a personal blog called Life and Beth, which I’ll use as an example. I keep Life and Beth to write for myself, without worrying about search engine optimization (SEO), keywords, or promotion. I share my posts on Facebook and on Twitter a couple of times but I don’t promote it heavily and I make no effort to monetize it. I keep the style light and playful as this is where I write for fun.
I chose the topics on my blog because they are the ideas I want to write about. As you decide what your blog will be about, ask yourself what you like to write about. If you don’t like to write about your chosen topic, you eventually won’t.
Think of your content as a set of buckets. Each bucket contains a topic you’ll write about. For instance, on this blog, I write about WordPress, apps and tools that help me be more productive, writing, and marketing. Each of those buckets can be filled with ideas that relate to that particular topic. On Life and Beth I write about beauty, faith, food, family, general insights, and things I find odd.
Once you’ve chosen your buckets, create corresponding categories. WordPress is built to help you sort and categorize your content, which makes it easier for both search engines and readers to find what they are looking for.
You can always add and take away categories if you find your interests change. I’ve done that many, many times over the years.
Blog Setup: Before You Start Blogging
Once you’ve decided on a blog topic, it’s time to think of a domain name. Your domain name should reflect what you will write about so you don’t confuse your reader. Although it’s sometimes hard to find a .com domain if you use common words, you can find other top-level domains that might work just as well for you.
I buy my domains from NameCheap.com. Here is their list of all top-level domains. If your domain is example.com, your top-level domain is .com. For example, in the beauty industry, there are the top-level domains .beauty, .hair, .makeup and .skin. Don’t give up on your domain name just because the .com isn’t available; be creative and open-minded.
Write down several ideas for your domain name; unless your topic is unusual and rare, it’s unlikely you’ll find your dream domain name on the first try. Have some backup ideas and/or be willing to consider new top-level domains.
Make your domain name easy to remember. Imagine yourself at a cocktail party when someone asks where they can find you. Don’t make it difficult to say or remember.
If you’ll self host your blog (and I hope you will), choose hosting wisely, particularly if you’re interested in monetizing. Your site speed will vary greatly between hosts and, because site speed is an important Google ranking factor, you’ll want to maximize your performance.
You’ll probably end up with a shared hosting package, which means many sites share a common computer, or server. Shared hosting is the most economical, especially if you’re just starting out.
For shared hosting, I recommend Dreamhost or Siteground. The cost will be about $100 – $140 per year, but you may find specials. Both of these hosts have good support and will help you if you run into trouble.
WordPress is the platform of choice for about 40 percent of the internet. It began as a blogging system, and, although WordPress is now used widely for business websites, it’s excellent for simple blogging as well.
WordPress’ wide adoption and continual development means there’s plenty of online support and resources for the beginning blogger.
Six Posting Tips
- Set a regular schedule for posting. It should be a schedule that is realistic and works for you. It’s better to post twice a month regularly than once a week sporadically. Be predictable and reliable.
- Adjust your thinking about what constitutes a post. Maybe it’s something you do every day, or your thoughts about a political issue or cause. You can write about something strange or unusual that happened to you or a poignant memory.
- Develop a blogging mindset. If you’re sitting in traffic, look around you and observe. Do you see a humorous sign, or witness a great kindness? Find something interesting about the situation you find yourself in.
- Decide on your comment policy. Will you allow comments? If so, will you moderate? Some believe that moderating comments discourages readers from adding their thoughts. Others fear negative or abusive talk or language may show up before they catch it. Increasingly, blogs are disabling comments entirely. The choice is yours.
- Link to your blog on all your social media profiles and post links to your new posts there as well.
- Build relationships with other bloggers who write about similar or complementary topics. You may even write or accept guest posts.
You can monetize your blog, but be warned: according to 99Firms.com, only 2% of bloggers earn more than $150,000 per year, so it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, it generally takes years (if ever) to build the kind of following that results in enough money to quit your day job.
Go Ahead and Start Blogging
If you’re still reading, you’re probably interested enough in blogging that you should try it. Remember, your blog is what you make it; it can be a way to earn extra money or just a vessel for self expression. It’s OK if you don’t want to share your posts at first, but I’d urge you to share anyway. You never know who might be enlightened by your experience or advice.
Got questions? Ask them in the comments.