There are many articles on the internet on how to start a blog of your own. I hope to make this information simple to follow as well as include some recipes for success.
1. Find a Host
The best way is to purchase your own hosting. You can find decent web site hosts for as little as $5.95 per month. I use JustHost and Hostgator quite often. Their smallest packages give you plenty of space, bandwidth and features for beginner bloggers. As your audience increases you may need to upgrade to handle the additional bandwidth, but by that time you should be pulling in money from the blog to more than cover it.
Other options include:
Blogger.com – very good for getting up quickly. Not a lot of customization options. Uses templates you can incorporate from the site or even purchase. Can be useful in building a base since it integrates well with social media, smartphone apps, and user-connectivity. It will not be easy to migrate this blog elsewhere should you need to upgrade later. However, it’s quick and easy.
WordPress.com – Very easy and quick to set up. Google loves it so you’ll get exposure in search engines. Easily connects to social media, smartphone apps, and other bloggers/users. There are a lot of great plugins and templates freely available as well. One major drawback is monetization. They do not allow ads such as Google Ads. It can be a challenge to monetize the site, but if you are offering services, you can send them to your landing page.
Tumblr – I don’t know anyone who takes this very seriously if you’re a blogger, but it needs to be mentioned because it IS a popular format for certain types of blogs. Personal diaries, artist’s showcases, and all manner of marketing. Don’t count it out, but it isn’t a traditional, “I’m in control” type blog interface.
Many others – if you do a google search on free blog platforms, you’ll find numerous other options, and it’s a matter of finding the right fit. Features to look for include ability to place ads, ability to attach your own domain name, easy and multiple options for editing, template availability, supportive community and developer, plugins, social media connectivity, search engine optimization, responsiveness (does it look good on different screen sizes and devices, automatically), accessibility (can users with handicaps use the site effectively), upgradability, and finally, level of control you have over it.
2. Choose a Domain Name
Ok, to begin with, this isn’t quite a priority yet. I’ve started blogs using subdomains of my host. It’s true, if you want to be taken seriously, and want to take your marketing efforts seriously, you’re going to need a good domain name. If you are hosting your own, you will usually need to decide on one before you purchase your hosting package.
How do I get a domain name?
Make a list of all the keywords you’d like to target in search engines having to do with your company, brand, industry and topics. Now there’s a lot more to it if you really want to get the most bang for your buck. I use software to help me find the best keywords – ones that are not saturated (meaning everyone else is trying to target them too – like “web design”). You can hire someone to do this for you. (Arxtech.net offers these services) or you can use free programs to help flesh them out (I’ll be writing an article listing my favorites soon).
Make a list of possible combinations of your name and keywords. The best domain incorporate your best keywords. Have a good sized list because millions have registered domains, and it can be a challenge to find one available that fits.
Go to 1and1.com or a domain registrar of your choosing to search and register your domain. They cost about $10 a year. There’s more I could say about this, but it’s lengthy and deserves it’s own article! After you’ve purchased, you’ll need to point the domain to your host. Your host has specific instructions on how to change the nameservers on your domain to point to them.
3. Setup Your Blog
If you are self-hosted (using a company that sells you hosting), you will want to install blog software on your host. I use WordPress or Joomla. My preference for blogs is WordPress. It is easy for beginners to setup and manage. There are a ton of plugins to help add functionality and design elements to your site. There are millions of free and commercial templates to choose from. And it may be that search engines respond well to it’s site optimization. It is also stable and secure.
How to Install:
If you’re using the hosts I recommended, you will have access to a control panel that has a program called Simple Scripts (Mojo now I believe). This program will automatically install WordPress (and many other platforms).
Follow the simple steps outlined when you click on Simple Scripts in your control panel.
You will be asked to specify a directory to install. If you wish the blog to sit in the main domain of your site, then do nothing. It will automatically choose your main directory.
You will have to check some boxes agreeing to terms and enter some information such as Site Name, Email, and Username.
After it is installed you will be given the links to your new site and administrative area as well as the password. Save this password somewhere now! You won’t have access to it through Simple Scripts again.
If you are using Blogger, you will need to create or use a GMail Account. Setup involves signing into GMail, following the link, More, to go to Blogger, then signing up for services. You will need to give your blog a title and an address (this is essentially your “domain name”), then customize using one of their available templates.
You will be taken back to the first screen where you new blog now shows up. The middle button drop-down includes all the settings you will want to browse through and change to your liking. The first button allows you to write your posts. I like to write a few posts then customize. When I first got in there, it was just a matter of clicking everything I could and testing out various features. You’re not likely to break anything, so I urge you to just play around with it until you get the look and feel you wish.
Some features for successful blogs
Sidebar with space for ads – you may not have ads just yet, but keep in mind where they will go. Space on your blog is called “real estate” and just as in selling houses, this rule applies, “location, location, location”.
Social media and bookmarking buttons – point to your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn profiles to show you’re a real person and to get the word out on whatever you are promoting.
Comments – these can be a pain because you will get spammers. Some moderation will be involved. You can add security such as Captcha, but you must weigh the benefits against the barriers to customer interaction. My recommendation is to forego the captcha. Don’t make your clients do the work in keeping your site secure and spam-free. Rather put in place security plugins that protect behind the scenes and count moderation costs into the cost of doing business.
The rest is up to you. You can have Archives, Calendar of blog articles, a tag listing, categories, subscribe to my blog form, and much more. These features are not essential, but can be very helpful. The goal is to get your readers to engage. Anything that keeps them on the site, makes them feel welcome, encourages them to read more or join your little blog community is worth the real-estate.
These are the basics, and there’s so much more to cover. This should get you started, however. If you need help with your blog, please contact me. I do have blog packages available where I do all the work and you get started posting within a week. I’m also available for consultation, and I’m happy to answer questions as I can.
I wish you great success with your blog!