It’s no secret that I love blogging. Over the last 2-3 years, blogging has become my hobby, my passion, and now hopefully it will grow into my full time career. In that time, I have done a ton of research while building my blog. I’m talking hours and hours of Google searching, book reading and trial and error experiments.
I have learned so much through this crazy path of starting and running a blog, and I want to share what I have learned with you, my lovely readers. I started this blog to share what I love with you, and blogging itself is now just that. I love my readers, and I want to share with you guys all the good, bad and ugly of how I built my blog, and how you can build your very own blog.
I thought we’d start with the blogging basics, and go into how to actually start a blog. Whether you want to start a small blog to share you thoughts with the world, or you’re hoping to start a blogging business, you will need to begin with these five simple steps.
Step 1: Pick a topic
The very first thing you need to do is figure out what your blog will be about. Your blog’s topic should be something you’re truly passionate about. Think what you could talk nonstop about for years without running out of things to say, because that is exactly what you will be doing. If you aren’t truly passionate about your topic, you will end up either giving up your blog, or resenting it every time you have to write a post. Your disinterest will show in your posts, and why should your readers be interested in what you have to say if you yourself aren’t even interested? So please, make sure you really think carefully about what you write about.
Do not pick a topic because it is trendy or lucrative. Trends change, and today’s hot topic will be forgotten by tomorrow, and you will be stuck with a failing blog writing about something you weren’t all that interested in in the first place. Same goes for picking a topic purely because you think it will make you money. Starting a blog, even a financially successful one, need to have roots in interest. Blogging is NOT a get rich quick endeavor (and many will tell you it’s more of a starving artist one) so pick your topic out of love, not because you think it will fill up your bank account.
My experience: I originally started my blog focused solely on organization. While I am very passionate about organization, focusing on that one topic did not fit my personality. I tend to rotate my passions, so I would be all about organization for a couple months, then I’d get super into crafting, and loose interest in organization, and therefore my blog topic.
To remedy this, I slowly started added in more and more topics. This ultimately led to a complete re-branding of my blog, from organization to lifestyle. Writing a lifestyle blog now allows me to write about all my passions, whatever they may be at the time. If I had started my blog originally with a lifestyle topic, I could have saved myself the trouble of transitioning niches and a complete blog overhaul.
Changing blog topics is not an easy process, and is something you should avoid if you can. Coming to this decision for my blog was not something I took lightly, but was made very carefully and after I knew it was the right decision for myself, my blog and my readers. I do not regret my topic change, but I recommend avoiding this headache if you can.
Step 2: Pick a name
The next thing you will have to decide when starting your very own blog, is what you are going to name it. Think long and hard about this one, because while it is possible to change it later, it is very difficult. I can tell you this from experience, you do not want to have to change your blog’s name.
So sit down with a notebook and start brainstorming ideas. Take as much time as you need, a few days, a few weeks or even a few months. The right name will come to you, don’t rush this decision. It is a name you should feel comfortable with. Especially if you plan for your blog to become your business, make sure you won’t be embarrassed when you have to tell people what you do, and what you’re blog is called.
Be careful to not pick a name that is already being used. Once you come up with a name you like, do a quick Google search. If there is already a blog or company with your name, try again. Not only does using the same name as another company or blog open the possibility of legal issues, it will not do your blog any good. With another blog already established in that name, your readers may end up on their site when trying to find yours. In addition, the other blog will also most likely have already claimed the name on social media. Trust me, as much as it may stink, if your blog’s name already exists, find another name.
My experience: I originally started my blog under the name of Label Me Organized. I got anxious to start my blog, and glossed over a few important details when picking my name. First, the name never really felt good to me, so I always felt a little silly telling people my blog’s name in real life. Second, someone had already claimed the URL labelmeorganized.com. This meant that when it was time to buy my URL, after 2 years of branding myself as Label Me Organized, that URL was unavailable. No good.
Finally, my original name severely limited my blog’s topic range. If I ever wanted to expand my blog’s niche (which I ended up doing) my blog name would no longer be appropriate. I ended up making the difficult decision to rename my blog, and do a complete site overhaul in the process. While this was the right decision for my and my blog, it was not easy by any means. I lost a ton of traffic in the transition, and in some respects had to start building my blog back up from scratch.
During the switch, I made super sure that this would be the name I was sticking with for the long haul. My new name, Label Me Merrit, is flexible enough that I will never be pigeonholed into a single topic. So use my experience to double and triple check with yourself that you are sure you picked the right name. Don’t just jump the gun because you are super excited to get your new blog started.
Step 3: Pick a platform
Once you’ve picked your blog’s topic and name, it’s time to really get things going. Now is when you are going to decide what platform you are going to blog from. The three most common platforms are Blogger, WordPress.com and WordPress.org. I’ll outline each in a little more detail below, to help you make your decision of which platform will be best for your blog.
Blogger is a completely free platform, hosted by Google. It has very little learning curve, so it is easy to just pickup and go. One of the things I love most about Blogger is that it allows you access to your HTML file. This means you have the capability to customize the look and functionality of your blog, beyond the basic settings included in your dashboard.
However since Blogger is owned by Google, this means that you do not own your content, Google does. The most obvious sign of this will come with your URL, which will look like ‘yourblogname.blogspot.com’. Another point to consider is that Google has the right to shut down your blog at their discretion. While this is a rare scenario and unlikely if you follow all the rules, it is definitely something to think about.
WordPress.com is another free blogging platform. While WordPress.com offers many paid upgrades, the truly free version is a lot more limiting that Blogger. You do not have access to your HTML file for customization, and are limited to choosing from a set of pre-designed ‘themes’. Wordpress also only allows you 3GB of free storage space, before requiring you to pay for additional storage. FInally, just like blogger, you will also have a domain that looks like yourblogname.wordpress.com.
In additional to limited customization, you are also severely limited in your capabilities to monetize your site. You are only able to sell products or services that you yourself make or provide. This means no ads, no affiliate links, no sponsorship. This fact may not matter to you, but if you ever intend on making money off your site to help support the running of your blog, I recommend choosing another option.
WordPress.org is the premium option out of the three I’m discussing here. This option will not be free, however it is the hosting solution I recommend if you take your blog seriously. With WordPress.org, you completely own your own site. This comes with both major perks, and major responsibilities.
With WordPress.org, you will have complete control over every aspect of your blog. From the layout, to the design, to the functionality, every little tiny detail is open to customization. There are endless ‘plug-ins’ available, both free and paid, that offer you added capabilities for your site for those less tech-savvy. If you feel more ambitious, you can also learn how to do some coding and truly make your site your own.
However, with complete ownership of a website comes increased responsibility. Wordpress.org definitely requires the highest learning curve and the most commitment out of these three options. Selecting to run a WordPress.org site require you purchase a domain and hosting for your site. You also have to deal a lot more with the ‘back end’ of running a website, which can get technical and a little complicated at times.
Overall, if you are looking to go the free route, I recommend going with Blogger. This is a great option if you are brand new to blogging, and looking to test out the waters, but aren’t really ready to fully dive in head first. If you are planning on being a little more serious with your blogging, I would go with WordPress.org. This is a great choice if you hope to turn your blog into a business.
My experience: I initially started out on Blogger, and have no regrets for that decision. Since I was just starting out, I really had no idea what I was doing. Having no money invested into my site allowed me to explore and experiment, until I figured out what I was doing with my blog. The ability to customize my HTML format also pushed me to learn some coding so I could get my site to look the way I wanted. I loved my time on Blogger, and believe it was the perfect platform to begin my blogging journey on.
Once I learned a bit more about my blog, and had a real plan and vision for the future of my little slice of the internet, it was time to get serious. At the same time I was re-branding as Label Me Merrit, I made the switch to self hosted WordPress (WordPress.org). Starting on WordPress was definitely a learning experience, and something I’m glad I waited to tackle and invest in until I was a little more sure of my blogging journey. But now that I’m here and set up, I absolutely love it.
Step 4: Setup social media
Once you have your main blog set up on your platform of choice, its time to start getting social! Having active social media accounts is vital to any blogging success. It will be your main way to interact and build relationships with your readers. Use your social media accounts to talk to and get to know your readers. You can then use what you learn to improve your blog, and give your readers more of what they want.
Look at your social channels as extensions of your blog. You can share little extras with your followers that might not be right for an entire post on your blog. These little extras can be things like a look into your daily life, behind the scenes shots, or sneak peaks on projects before they hit the blog!
When choosing which social media sites you’d like to start for your blog, take a minute to think about where your ideal reader will be hanging out. Is your reader a young mom pinning parenting advice for hours on Pinterest? Are they a snarky college student staying up all night on Tumblr? Think about this, then decide where you need to focus your social media efforts. You can also look at other bigger blogs in your niche, and see where they’ve set up social media camp.
Once you’ve decided where you’d like to be, go set up your profiles. It is very important that you use your blog’s name, or some form of it, consistently across social media platforms. You don’t want to be @catlover on Twitter, @sarasuzie on Pinterest and @SarasBlog on Facebook. People will never be able to find you. Use a consistent name, and the same profile picture across all social media accounts. This will make it easy for your readers to find and follow you, and it will also build brand recognition.
My experience: I have chosen to have a presence on five social media sites, with a focus on three. I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. However, I focus most of my social media energy where it will count the most. These Sites are Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Each of these social sites was chosen to serve a different purpose, and benefits my blog in a different way. As a blogger I am very busy, so I do not waste time on social websites that will not actually benefit or enhance my blog.
Step 5: Create content
Finally, it’s time to actually start writing your blog!! When it comes down to it, content is #1 for blogging. It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at your site, or how often your promoting on social media. To put it bluntly, if your content stinks, unfortunately so will your blog.
This is why Step #1 is so important. If you’re writing about a topic your passionate about, your excitement will come across in your writing. You readers will feel your interest and passion, making them want to stick around and read more of what you have to say.
So what makes good content? There are a lot of different factors and opinions out there, but most will agree on one thing. Good content will do something for your reader. This can mean so many different things. Your post can solve a problem, inspire, answer a question or simply entertain your reader. Whenever you’re writing a post, try thinking to yourself “what will my reader get out of this?”. By keeping this in the forefront of your mind, your blog will be full of great content.
My experience: I believe that the journey to creating killer content is never ending. I am constantly trying to come up with better post topics, create better images, be a better writer, and the list goes on. I enjoy pushing myself to constantly improve my blog’s content. It keeps me passionate and engaged. When I stop pushing myself to take my blog to the next level, that is when I have lost my passion and need to step back and reevaluate what I’m doing.
So who’s ready to go start their blog? I know it can be scary and intimidating, but if you just take these steps one at a time, you will have your blog up and running before you know it! And let me be this first to welcome you to the wonderful world of blogging, it’s truly amazing here!
For extra points, keep your brand new blog organized right from the start with a blog planner. See how to set one up here:
Are you excited to learn more blogging basics? Let me know in the comments what blogging questions you’d like answered in this series!