Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own.
When I first started blogging several years ago, I did so as a creative outlet. I had opinions I wanted to share and liked to write, and a blog allowed me the opportunity to do both. Little did I know that I would learn so much throughout the process, and from readers and fellow bloggers.
With the launch of this new blog, I am putting those learnings to use while continuing to absorb as much information as possible. I love the journey! I see now that blogging has so many more benefits than I ever anticipated:
- Creative Outlet: Share your thoughts and messages with the world – without restriction!
- Credibility: As an individual or a business, a blog will help build others’ confidence in you (or your company).
- Income: It is possible to earn passive income blogging to help support your expenses or grow your business.
- Small Investment: Blogging doesn’t cost much to do – in fact, you can even opt to start a blog for FREE.
- Community: I have found the blogging community to be extremely supportive, and have met so many fascinating people.
- Enjoyment: If you like to write or simply share your opinions, blogging is FUN!
My take is – if you’re thinking of doing it, why not give it a shot? You have nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain. I love it and have found it in enriching in so many ways.
If you’re interested in starting a blog, you may have found all the available information overwhelming. Where to start? What to do first? There is SO MUCH to learn, and I’ve spent probably hundreds of hours reading, trying, failing, trying again, and learning. Through trial and error, I’ve come up with the 6 steps a new blogger needs to take to get started – and have documented them for you so that you can start your blog quickly and with less headache than I went through.
Step 1: Select a Subject
What do you want to write about? There are a few different approaches to this. Some say to stick with a super-narrow niche to increase income opportunities, while others say to broaden your niche to reach more people. I say to blog about what is interesting to you. Even if you happen to identify an untapped topic niche that can allow you a ton of opportunities to monetize, is it something that is interesting to you and that you will want to write about for years to come? I personally feel it is more authentic to develop a blog and write about topics that you are passionate about. You can speak from the heart and demonstrate your real voice, because you ARE the target audience that you are trying to reach.
How do you find what is interesting to you? Think about your hobbies – what pursuits make you lose track of time? Do you have a unique talent or skill that you can share with others? Do you have strong opinions about certain topics that will resonate? Blog about your passions, and keep it interesting.
Step 2: Choose a Domain Name
A domain name is important because it will become your personal brand. You will want to think through some general guidelines to ensure that your name is the best fit for you or your business, and your blog:
- Use .com: Tempting as it may be to go with .net or .info or any of the other extensions that are available with your preferred name, I recommend that you don’t do it. The .com extension is what everyone uses as a default, and what your readers will naturally try when you tell them to check out your blog. Make it easy for them to find.
- Keep it short and easy: This keeps your blog name memorable and helps avoid confusion. Avoid numbers, hyphens, and other special characters. Stay away from unique spellings. Instead of www.32yearold-mommeeblogger.com, go with www.mommyblogger.com. Remember that your goal is to make it easy to give someone your blog name, and for a reader to find you.
- Make it evergreen: Don’t use a name that confines you to limited topics. You wouldn’t want to use www.christmasfun.com unless all you are planning to write about all year long is the holiday season. Ensure that the name can grow with you as your life and topics of interest evolve. A name like www.30andpregnant.com wouldn’t evolve as you age and your life stages change.
- Consider using your own name: Depending on your niche, it may be best to simply use your first and last name: www.carriebradshaw.com. This links the blog to you versus your topic, allowing you to grow and change over time. This also highlights you as the brand, leading to greater name recognition and credibility.
- Check availability across social media: Once you’ve found the perfect domain name, don’t purchase until you’ve ensured that it is available across other social media channels (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.) Ideally, all platforms will share the same name or a very close variation of it.
All the names are want are already taken, you say? I feel your pain. Use the thesaurus, tap brains of friends and family, and brainstorm (and write down) ideas until you find one that will work for you. Use the tool below to check on domain name availability.
Step 3: Choose a Hosting Solution
This is where things start to get interesting. You can either opt to self-host your blog (at a cost), or allow it to be hosted for free via one of the free blog hosting platforms (e.g. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) Although free is certainly tempting, I strongly recommend that you invest the nominal cost to self-host your blog for the following reasons:
- Ownership: Quite simply, you want to own your own blog. The host ultimately decides what happens to the blog – including full blog deletion. Make sure that you’re the person making those decisions.
- Clean Domain Name: Unless you self-host your blog, you will not be able to use a fully clean URL. Let me illustrate. Because I self-host, I am able to use www.leapoffaye.com. If I were using a free hosting solution, however, the host name would be included within the URL as follows: www.leapoffaye.wordpress.com (or any variation that replaces WordPress with the host platform name). No thanks. A clean domain name is easier to relay, is simpler, and is more professional.
- Income Opportunities: Self-hosting provides you virtually unlimited opportunities to monetize your blog as desired. Free hosting places many restrictions on income opportunities, preventing many of them altogether. Even if you are not starting your blog with the goal of monetizing it, you never know what opportunities may present themselves in the future – and it would be prudent to set yourself up to take advantage of those.
For the sake of this post, let’s assume that you have decided to self-host (good decision!) Now you need to select a reputable host provider. After an inordinate amount of research, I decided to go with Bluehost – and am so glad I did. They make it incredibly easy to get started, and for a mere $3.95/month, this is what I get:
- Free Domain: That’s right – no need to purchase a domain separately, as it is included free with your Bluehost hosting service.
- 1-Click WordPress Install: A HUGE deal to me – it was truly 1 click, and I was done!
- Intuitive: I am not overly techie, but the interface and steps make it easy to do whatever it is I am needing to do.
- 30-Day Money Back Guarantee: Just in case you decide that Bluehost is not for you.
- Technical Support: Yes I have used it, and yes I have been satisfied.
- Low Cost: I feel that $3.95/month is a steal for all the features I am getting, along with the ability to own my blog fully.
- Added Money-Saving Bonus: Sign up for Ebates before you purchase, and you will receive an additional $10 cash back! Refer to my Ebates Review for additional information.
Click on the Get Started Now button and choose a plan (I recommend the Starter). Enter your new domain name, and then set up your account and submit payment. That’s all there is to it!
Step 4: Install WordPress
Again I spent way too much time researching this, but found that for my needs, WordPress.org is the best blogging platform available. Why, you ask?
- Ease of Use: The Content Management System is intuitive and easy to use. You can build a blog without having to be an HTML developer.
- Popularity: Many, many bloggers and companies choose WordPress, and this is important for when you run into questions or issues. When I have become stuck trying to do something, a simple Google search or YouTube video yields the answer quickly. I’ve even used the WordPress tech support forums to find answers or create my own threads for quick responses.
- Trust: WordPress is a reputable platform that is constantly being updated.
- Customization Capability: There are literally hundreds and hundreds of plug-ins available to make your blogging life easier. In addition, you have a choice of thousands of free and paid themes to ensure that your blog reflects your personality.
- Integration with Bluehost: More on this in a moment, but you can literally have your WordPress blog up and running with 1 click if using Bluehost as your hosting solution.
Now, I want to take a moment here to clarify something that was confusing to me as a newbie. There are two versions of WordPress, and they are very different.
- WordPress.org: This version is for self-hosted blogs and websites. It allows you maximum customization capability and optimal opportunities to monetize. WordPress.org is what I recommend going with.
- WordPress.com: This version is for free hosted blogs. It costs nothing because WordPress is hosting (and ultimately owning) your blog. Like the .org version, it also provides a variety of templates and themes. Unlike .org, however, you are extremely limited if trying to monetize – and you are unable to use your own URL. WordPress.com may be appropriate for a friends and family only blog, but if you are trying to create a larger presence with more opportunities, I recommend sticking with .org.
Okay – so now let’s get back to how to set up WordPress (.org) on your Bluehost account:
- Access the MOJO Marketplace on your Bluehost cPanel
- Click One Click Install
- Click on the WordPress icon, then click Start to begin installing
- Enter a Username and Password for your WordPress site – Make sure it is secure to avoid hacks!
- Click Install Now
Congratulations – you now have a blog!
Step 5: Install a Theme
This is the fun part – designing your blog! Although I’m sure we would all love to hire graphic designers to build the perfect themed blog for each of us, I understand (and am in the same boat) that most starting budgets simply don’t allow for that. The good news is that WordPress offers a ton of free and paid themes.
Having tried both free and paid themes in the past, I recommend going with a paid theme for greater uniqueness, increased customization options, and better technical support. Yes – there will be an upfront fee, but in my opinion it is well worth it.
Not only do I recommend going with a paid theme, I’ve learned the hard way not to go with just any paid theme. I have ended up paying close to double because I initially went with a slightly lower cost theme that simply didn’t provide the options and support I needed – and then had to subsequently purchase an additional theme. Save yourself the same headache and buy a high quality theme from the start.
Ultimately I went with the Genesis parent theme/framework, and the Lifestyle Pro child theme – and am very happy with both. Bundled together, I paid $99.95 for both. The Genesis framework on its own is $59.95. Basically, the Genesis parent theme provides the overall framework for your site, and the child theme provides the unique look, feel, and customization capability. You really do need both.
I am not the only one who is pleased with the Genesis parent and child theme combos. Genesis is the go-to framework for bloggers for several reasons:
- Responsive Designs: This means that your blog will be optimized for all different screen types: desktop, mobile, and tablet. Nothing is worse than accessing a website on your phone and having to excessively scroll and expand just to read it.
- Search Engine Optimization: Helps to ensure that your blog can be easily found via search engines.
- Strong Technical Support: I’ve used it, and it works. Experienced developers you can trust are the ones developing these themes.
- Enhanced Security: Helps to prevent blog hacks (it really does happen more than you think).
- Ongoing Updates: Teams of developers are continuously updating and making the framework better and more secure.
Both Genesis and any desired child theme can be purchased from StudioPress Themes for WordPress, which I am very pleased with for their credibility and level of support. Go for the Genesis + Child Theme bundle instead of purchasing separately. Simply access StudioPress Themes for WordPress, click Shop for Themes, and select one that is desirable and fits the type of blog you want to create. Click Buy Theme + Framework, create an account, enter your payment information, and you’ll be directed to download your framework and child theme to your computer via zip file. To then apply the theme to your WordPress blog:
- Access your WordPress Dashboard
- Go to Appearance on the left hand menu, then select Themes
- Click the Add New button near the top of the screen
- Click on the Upload Theme button
- Click on the Choose File button and select the Genesis zip file from your computer (ALWAYS upload the Genesis framework FIRST before uploading the child theme)
- Click Install Now
- Click Activate
Next, follow the exact same steps to install the Child Theme, except selecting the Name of the Child Theme zip file from your computer instead of Genesis.
Congratulations – your themes are installed!
Step 6: Start Customizing and Writing
This is where your creative juices can really begin to flow. Become familiar with your theme, customize it as desired, leverage the widgets, incorporate plug-ins, and begin writing! Most of all, have fun. I will publish upcoming posts with other tips and resources I have gathered along the way to make the creative and customization processes easier.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but I will do my best to help in whatever way I can.