How to Start a Blog From Scratch
If you’ve read anything about online marketing in the past few years, you know that you need a blog. You need a blog to draw traffic to your website, to help your audience see your more personal and approachable side, and, of course, to help Google find your site and show it in search results. What if you’ve never blogged before and you’re starting from zero? This post will help you if you’re trying to start a blog from scratch.
Answer These Questions Before Your Start a Blog
- Where will your blog live? Starting a blog is kind of like moving to a new city — the first thing you think about is where you’ll rest your head at night. Fortunately, determining where your blog will live is much easier than house hunting. You want your blog to live on the same domain as your website. On this site, the blog is fully integrated with my static pages, which means when you click the link to read this post, you also may explore the rest of the site (I hope you do) to see who I am and what I’m about.
- What will you write about? This question may seem obvious as first, but it’s not always as easy as it seems. Depending on your business, there may be several different directions. Before you start a blog, think through the types of content that will solve your customers’ problems. One of the best sources for blog content is the questions your prospects and customers ask. If you hear a particular question time and again, it’s likely an excellent topic for a post.
- How often will you post? This is one of the most difficult questions to answer. Several years ago, I made a New Years resolution to post twice each week. That one didn’t make it past January 2 because it wasn’t realistic. I had too much on my plate to create two posts each week. I was discouraged when I missed my goal, but I should have been more honest with myself about my time and resources. Don’t shoot too high; you can always add another post. Be realistic.
- What platform will you use? This site is built on WordPress, which I’ve used consistently since 2006. I use it because it works — it allows me to keep the blog integrated with the rest of my website — and it does an excellent job of arranging my content so that search engines find it more easily. If your blog will be integrated with a business website, I strongly recommend a self-hosted* WordPress site as you will have complete freedom to do as you wish with your site.
- Who will maintain the blog? If you’re like me, and there’s just one of you, this is an easy question to answer. If not, designate one person to be responsible for keeping plugins and themes updated and maintaining the blog. You have to do this with your website anyway, and a blog doesn’t really add much maintenance, so you won’t notice a large increase in your time spent on maintenance and updates.
The (Sort of) Techy Stuff
You don’t have to be a tech ninja to start a blog, but it helps if you’re somewhat savvy. If you’re not comfortable with these steps, you probably have a friend or colleague who can help you walk through it. A good hosting company will have support — many have a live chat system — that can walk you through the process.
This post explains the nitty-gritty of buying your domain and getting a hosting plan, so if you don’t have a website yet, or just need the details hop on over and read it.
If you already have a website and just want to add a blog, you can add it to a subdomain, which is a part of another domain. For example, I could have added this blog to my site by using Blog.BethGSanders.com. I didn’t set it up that way because I first set it up back in 2006 as a blog, so over the years I’ve added the relevant pages as needed.
How to Install WordPress
You should be using a hosting company that supports WordPress, which generally also means they offer an easy one-click install.
When you get to this screen, you’re almost done. Select your domain, fill in the directory (a directory is a folder on the server) where you want to install WordPress, and select “automatically create database” unless you’ve already set up a database for this install.
After you click “Install it for me now!” you’ve done all the hard work. The next thing that will happen is that you’ll get an email from your hosting company that tells you WordPress is installed and it’s ready to go.
Choosing a Theme
I cover this pretty thoroughly in this post about how to choose a great theme. After you choose and install your theme, go through the theme options to customize your site.
To customize your blog, go to Appearance > Customize.
Many premium (paid) themes have drag-and-drop functionality that let you lay out your pages any way you wish. Before you publish your blog, experiment and test different layouts to see which one works best for you.
Here are a few things I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging.
- Set boundaries • Especially if you have more than one contributor, set guidelines and boundaries as to topics and whether or not you will write about controversial issues. Set policies regarding the language you will or will not use — the choice is yours. If your audience expects and accepts profanity, that may work for you, but if you’re not sure it can be risky.
- Post cool stuff • Anything that you see, hear, or read and think, “Hey, that’s cool,” just might be a blog post. Many business owners I work with think no one would be interested in their behind-the-scenes shots, but everyone loves a sneak peek at how things work. Be creative and show your best and most authentic self.
- You don’t always have to write • Every blog post doesn’t have to be 2000 words of your own prose. Do an interview, post a video, an image, or an audio from a podcast on which you were a guest. Vary your content and use your analytics to help you determine what’s reaching your audience most effectively.
- Don’t neglect your socials • After you publish your post, link to it from your social profiles. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, and don’t forget LinkedIn and even Instagram. On Twitter, post it at least five times in the next few days. Don’t worry about seeming spammy because few of your followers will see it a second time.
- Mind your SEO • You don’t have to become a search engine expert, but know the basics. Use your keywords in the post, but don’t overdo it. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you a lot as it prompts you to use your keywords and fill in your description. The plugin has both a premium and a free version.
I hope I’ve given you some encouragement and confidence to begin — blogging is a fun and potentially profitable way to express yourself and let your audience see your personality in a way you can’t do on your website. Give it a try.
If you need help, get in touch and I can help you via Skype or Google Chat.
*Self hosted means you purchase your domain and a hosting package and you install WordPress on the server space you rent from the hosting company. This gives you complete responsibility and control of your site.