The Definitive Guide to Starting your Own Blog
So, you have decided to create a blog? That is an excellent decision. However, before your dive all in into the blogging world, there are some things you should know. I am talking about the things that will save you from getting burned later in your journey. I am sure you will find these extremely helpful for starting your blog.
So, what are they? Continue reading, you will find out.
1. Why Start a Blog
Before going into the technical issues, let’s find out why starting a blog is the best decision for you. Well, first of all, there is no better alternative than blogging to express your opinion, to help people and to promote anything.
Your blog will give you the rare chance to establish yourself as the expert in your subject area. And as a bonus, your writing skills will also increase dramatically.
By building a blog, you can easily create your own fans and followers. Once you become an important personality in your industry, you can help or inspire your followers to start their own blogs. Throughout your blogging career, you will also make new connections and friends.
And yes, I haven’t forgotten about the monetary aspect too. Most of you already know the fact that blogging could be an excellent source of passive income for you. Renowned bloggers like Pat Flynn and others are killing it already. Who knows, you could be the next millionaire blogger too.
2. Choose your Niche
The first and most important thing for your blog is to decide the topic you are going to write about. It is always safer to choose a topic that you are interested about.
This is important because you have to work with this topic for a really long period of time. And if you don’t have any interest on that topic, you will find it much harder to keep going on.
It is a lot easier to write and research about things that you are truly interested about. You can also choose a topic on which you are working for a long period of time.
However, if you are having hard times in finding out a topic for your blog, here are some popular recommendations for you –
- Think about your hobbies. Try to find out which topics interest you most. Make a list of them.
- Imagine you have gone to a bookstore (or Amazon, if you prefer e-books). Pay attention to which books you are picking up.
- Go through your browser bookmarks; find out which types of sites you have bookmarked the most.
- Ask your friends and family about the things you talk the most.
- Make a list of the accomplishments you feel proud about.
- Think about the fears and/or difficulties you have overcome. Some common examples could be losing weight, recovering from financial disaster etc.
- Keep exploring until you land on a topic that you think you will be comfortable in working for a long time.
3. Choose the Blogging Platform
Once you have chosen a topic, now you are ready to delve into the technical aspects of creating the blog. And the first thing you have to decide is the platform on which you will run your blog.
In order to choose the blogging platform, you have two options – free and paid. While free sounds delicious, I strongly suggest you to avoid free solutions. Why? Because –
- Lack of control over Domain: When you choose free blogging solutions, you will have an extension with your domain name. For instance, if you choose wordpress.com as your free bogging platform, your blog’s URL will be something like this – www.myawesomeblog.wordpress.com. That does not look very professional, right?
- Lack of Control over your Website: While free blogging platforms offer different types of customization options, you will not have total control over your site. You will be limited within a few default options.
- Shared Revenue: Free blogging platforms will grab a significant portion of your site earnings. If you have monetary targets for your website, you should think twice before going for free solutions.
When it comes to paid, self-hosting blogging platforms, you have different options including WordPress, Joomla, Blogger, Drupal, Weebly etc. But I strongly recommend you to use WordPress as your blogging platform. Why? Because –
- Simple Interface: One of the main reasons of WordPress’ huge popularity is its simple but powerful user interface. By using the dashboard, you will be able to perform any administrative task for your website.
- Unlimited Customization: Due to its unbelievable popularity, WordPress has lots of themes and plugins, both premium and free. These resources will let you customize your blog easily.
- Instant Support: As there are lots of WordPress users out there, it is very likely that all of your problems are already taken care of. You just need to find it.
4. Choosing the domain and hosting
Now that you have decided that you will use WordPress as your blogging platform, you will need two more things before you can start your blog – Domain and Hosting. If you are confused about these things, let me explain them real quick.
If you compare your website with a house, the domain name is the address of your house. In order to get to a house, you need to know the actual address. Similarly, to go to a website, you will need the domain name of the website. A domain name is something like www.yourawesomewebsite.com.
If the domain name is the address of your website, the hosting is the actual house itself. Hosting is the place where you will save your articles, images, videos and any other type of content.
Now that you understand what domain and hosting are, let’s see how to choose them. When it comes to domain names, you should go for something simple, attractive and unique. You may not find your desired domain name instantly, but keep trying unless you get a satisfactory one.
Most of the time, you can purchase the domain and hosting from the same company. However, before taking the final decision, take some time to know more about the company. Read the reviews, check out various forums and social networks and try to find out what other people are saying about that company. Never ever take an instant decision.
Having said that, here’s an insider trick for you. I have been using A Small Orange for all my hosting needs and I have to say, I am extremely satisfied with their customer service. That is why you can definitely consider A Small Orange for your hosting service. Another great aspect is their easy to use “1-click installation” of WordPress, Drupal or whatever CMS system you choose to go with. If that isn’t enough for you, their tech support will help you get started with your blog for free. I personally like to contact them through their chat system because it allows me to get help instantly. I have contacted them more than 10 times and i never had to wait more than 2 minutes for a response. To tell you the truth, I haven’t had any negative experiences with them yet, but I will make sure to report it if anything comes up.
And as an added bonus, you will get an exclusive 30% discount on any hosting plan if you sign up through my link and use the coupon: Lowhost30
Here is a screenshot showcasing how to use the a small orange coupon:
5. How to Setup WordPress
Installing WordPress is very easy, you can do it yourself. It is highly likely that your website control panel will have dedicated solution for installing WordPress. If you are using cPanel, you can use the ‘WordPress Installer’. If you are still confused, here are some step by step guides on installing WordPress.
Once you have WordPress installed in your website, log in to the dashboard of your website. Your dashboard address will be something like this –
Obviously, you need to replace ‘yourawesomewebsite’ with your domain name. From the dashboard, you can install theme(s), necessary plugins and control every aspect of your website.
WordPress will install some basic themes by default, but you should change them as soon as possible. And you will need plugins to add additional features into your website.
6. How Much it will Cost
Actually, you won’t need to spend a lot of money to start blogging. First of all, you will need to spend some money to buy the domain and hosting. The domain will cost you around $10 and the hosting about $25. Both of these costs are annual.
Then, if you want to use a premium theme, you have to purchase the theme too. That will cost you something like $40-$60. In total, your actual spending should not be more than $100 for starting a brand new blog.
7. Develop a Content Strategy
It does not matter whatever you do, content will always be the focal point of your blog. Now that you have the basic structure of your blog ready, let’s discuss how to develop content for your blog. Before developing the actual content for your website, you need to create the pages contents.
Some crucial pages include the about page, contact us page, products and/or services page, disclaimer page etc. As your website grows, you will need additional pages like the archive page, advertisement page, umbrella pages with links to relevant posts etc.
WordPress also allows you to include another type of content – Widgets. Some essential widgets include subscribe to our newsletter, about us, follow us in Facebook, Twitter, Popular Posts, Recent Posts etc.
Finally, when it comes to creating content, you must remember one thing – you are creating contents for the visitors, not for you. That means you will need to find out what the visitors are looking for and develop exactly that type of content.
In order to find out what visitors are looking for, you should conduct thorough keyword research. Free programs like Google Keyword Planner or paid software like Long Tail Pro could give you an idea about the most searched keywords for any niche.
Once you have found out the topics, try to find out how your competitors are doing on these keywords. If you find any weak spot or any vulnerability, make it your strongest point.
You should also make use of social media analytics. By using services like Buzzsumo, you can track what articles, blog posts or content are shared most by people. Try to understand why these articles have become so popular and apply your findings in your own writing.
8. Start an Email List
Most beginners make a common mistake – they don’t start an email list from the beginning. Most people tend to postpone email list building as long as possible. They think they shouldn’t start building their email list before getting a substantial amount of regular traffic.
But that is totally pointless. There is no harm in building your list right from the beginning. On the contrary, delaying the list building process could be harmful for you.
You should focus on getting as many people as possible to get into your mailing list. There are various ways of attracting visitors to your mailing list. You can create a detailed guide, a huge resource on your niche or any other type of useful product and use that as bait for attracting new subscribers.
Contrary to popular belief, managing email lists is not very expensive. Reputed services like MailChimp offers free service for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails. You can also try other services like Aweber, GetResponse etc.
9. Focus on SEO
You might be a complete beginner to blogging, but I am sure most of you have already heard about ‘SEO’. However, I am not that much sure about what you understand by SEO. Hence, I will provide a brief introduction to SEO below.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. The main purpose of doing SEO is to bring visitors to your website from search engines. All the leading search engines have their own algorithms. Based on the algorithm, a search engine will rank the search results against the search query.
Over the years, lots of SEO techniques and best practices have emerged. During the early period, most beginners make the mistake of focusing more on SEO techniques rather than developing quality content. Being a smart blogger, you shouldn’t make the same mistake. Your first and foremost priority should be to create quality content.
All the leading search engines including Google now put more importance on what the visitors like. Those days are gone when you created hundreds of backlinks by submitting your articles to various directories and rank your site higher. Now, you have to provide content that your visitors would want to read. Doing this will gradually improve your ranking.
However, there are still some SEO techniques which could be useful for you. We have discussed one of them already – targeting specific keywords. However, the trick here is to follow the long tail keywords. Using long tails keywords will increase your traffic and improve your ranking.
Another popular trend is to do guest posting in leading and/or popular sites of your niche. It is a highly effective method for traffic building, acquiring premium backlinks and improving your search rank.
Other popular SEO techniques include blog or forum commenting, article syndicating etc.
10. How to Monetize your Blog
If making money was one of your primary motives for creating the blog, this should be the most interesting discussion for you. There are lots of ways which allows you to monetize your blog. I will discuss them one by one. Let’s start with Affiliate Marketing.
Affiliate marketing means promoting other people’s products and earning commission by selling those products. As affiliate programs do not require a large audience, it could be one of the easiest starting points for any blog.
Amazon Associates is a widely used affiliate platform. This huge platform includes virtually all types of products. If your website targets a specific niche, you should check out the relevant marketplaces too. For example, if your blog is about WordPress themes, you can easily refer themes from ThemeForest or other theme developers.
You can also run affiliate programs for the services that you use for your blog. You can promote the companies from which you bought your domain, hosting, email listing service etc.
Whenever you are promoting any product, make sure that you are including a disclaimer in the review page, resource page and/or the emails you send. This will help you in building trust with your audience. And if you are living in USA, it is obligatory that you display that information in a clearly visible place.
After creating some quality content for your blog, you can apply for Google AdSense. AdSense allows you to earn money by showing advertisements in your site. One your blog gets approved, you will be able to choose the location of your ads and start displaying ads.
The most important things in succeeding with AdSense are to follow the guidelines and to experiment to find out the sweet spot for the advertisements. Google also offers some sample layouts for better ad placement.
However, if you are serious about affiliate marketing or planning to sell your own services later, you shouldn’t rely on AdSense only. In those cases, it will be wiser to direct the visitors to your products or the products you are promoting rather than sending them to third-party websites.
Selling Ad Space
On most niches, it is possible to sell ad space once you are getting a specific amount of regular visitors. Besides managing the ads manually, you can also use specialized platforms like BuySellAds. By using these platforms, you will be able to sell and manage ad spaces in your website. The platform could also be used to do some research about how much you can earn from your website.
Your success on this method depends largely on continuously increasing your traffic. As your traffic grows, you will be able to score higher paying and more lucrative ad deals. If you want to use this method, don’t forget to add an ‘Advertisement with us’ page and to keep detailed information about your site metrics.
11. 10 Real-life Qualities of Successful Blogs
So far, we have discussed about the things that you need to know before starting your own blog.These are all good, but I think you should also have some practical knowledge on how the successful bloggers are managing their sites and what is the reasons behind their popularity.
In this section, I will discuss about 10 of the most successful bloggers who started their journey without any prior experience and have become globally recognized with their blogs. The blogs are discussed in no particula and none of them are more or less important than the others.
Keep it Simple
Zen Habit is all about simplicity and usefulness. The website features a minimal design; actually the site follows none of the modern, flashy design trends. The simple layout lets the visitors focus on the content. The bare-bone design goes very well with the actual messages of the blog – contentment, minimalism and self-improvement.
The author, Leo Babauta leads a minimalist life. And he writes all the blog posts from his experience. You will find a chronological directory of all his posts in the archive page.
An interesting thing about the blog is its uncopyrighted approach. All the posts of this blog and the e-books of Leo are uncopyrighted. He allows people to use his content in any way they want. This blog is also one of the leaders in terms of email subscribers. It is estimated that Zen Habit’s list includes more than a million subscribers.
The takeaway from Zen Habits is its honest and value-adding approach. Instead of using clever affiliate linking or showing advertisements, the blog follows a completely different approach. Subscribing to this list will not bombard you with affiliate offers, promotions and the likes. The only goal of this site is to add value to the reader’s life and that’s why it’s so popular.
Provide Detailed, Interesting Information
Neil Patel is one of the leading internet marketing and internet entrepreneurs of today’s world. He has worked with big name companies like Amazon, TechCrunch, HP, NBC, Viacom, General Motors etc. Here, I am talking about his personal blog where he writes at least once a week. He also writes regularly at Quick Sprout, his business website.
The most notable thing about Neil’s blog is he writes really long posts. Most of his posts cross the 3,000 words line. However, despite being long content, none of his posts are boring. He structures his posts in such a way that the readers have no other option that to read the whole post and get lots of creative ideas.
He cleverly combines data, statistics and graphics into his posts and presents a comprehensive package in front of his readers. The whole package adds so much value to the readers that they intentionally come back to his blogs time and again.
The important thing for you to notice is how Neil structures his posts and makes long posts interesting. He often shares invaluable tips about how to engage your readers, how to write better and ultimately, how to make significant progress in your business. All of these are very crucial for you.
Focus on One Thing and Do It Well
With his extensive 10 years of experience, Jon Loomer specializes in Facebook marketing. He has more than 5 years of experience in Facebook. Well, don’t say that you have more experience than that (I myself have been using Facebook for more than 5 years!). This is different because he has 5 years of experience in working with Facebook from a business standpoint. Now, that tells something.
As experience is the ultimate source of knowledge, Jon Loomer could be easily termed as one of the leading Facebook marketing strategists available now. And he shares all of his knowledge in his blog. The most important thing about his blog is it’s focused on a single thing. While he could have easily tapped into other forms of social media marketing, Jon didn’t do that and remained consistent with Facebook.
The thing for you here is to find out what your area of expertise or interest is or could be. And dedicate yourself towards that thing only. In today’s world, you can no longer be an expert in multiple things. You have to pick up one specific thing and excel in that.
Help Others, Eventually They will Help You
If you have spent some time researching about the blogging industry and especially making money from blogging, you are definitely familiar with Pat Flynn. If not, you are (probably) not serious about blogging and making money. Pat Flynn is the founder of Smart Passive Income (SPI). He could also be called as one of the pioneers in the money making from blogging arena.
One of the most important reasons behind Pat’s huge popularity is he is very helpful. He responds to most of the blog comments in his posts (which is done by Neil Patel too). Besides, he has introduced a very popular podcast series where he interviews other successful people who have made their fortune online.
Pat also popularized the trend of publishing income reports. Each month, he publishes a detailed breakdown of his total income, expenses, net profit etc. He also started other things like Ask Pat where you can ask him any question and SPI TV etc. Whatever he does, he always tries to inspire other people and help them in achieving their dreams. You can definitely take a lesson from that.
Provide Solution to Common Problems
Lifehacker is one of the most popular blogs in the internet. This blog site publishes practical tips and updated information about productivity, daily life, life hacking etc. You will also get to know about new tools and technologies that will help you in managing your digital life, saving money, or getting more use out of the things you use every day.
The site publishes contents frequently and shows them in an attractive way. The simple design helps the readers to focus on the content easily. It also has an active community which often takes part in lengthy discussions in the comments section.
The main reason behind Lifehacker’s immense popularity is its focus on solving your everyday problems. By providing useful, action-oriented tips and tricks, the site has managed to make itself one of the most visited blogs. And what’s the lesson here? Add value, provide solution to common problems, simple.
Look for New Trends
Since launching ProBlogger in 2004, Darren Rowse has published more than 9,000 posts in the blog. And what’s more impressive is this is just one of the numerous blogs he maintains on a daily basis. Besides publishing massive amount of content, the other main reason for the huge popularity of this blog is it got on the trend early.
When Daren started ProBlogger, nobody was blogging about blogging. He saw the chance, jumped all in, and now he is considered one of the few blogging gurus who are killing it. However, that may not be true for you. Especially since blogging has become a hot trend recently. You will have a hard time finding out something that does not have a blog about it.
However, that does not mean that you shouldn’t get started. Rather, you can follow clever approaches like going deeper into the topic, choosing sub-topics, narrowing down your choice(s). Additionally, not all the blogs are doing great too. If you think that you can provide something valuable for your readers, if you have something new, you should definitely go for it.
Take Your Time
At its initial period, KISSmetrics required 20 months to get past the 100,000 monthly readers mark. And if you didn’t know, Neil Patel is the founder of KISSmetrics too. He is capable of doing so much superhuman work and provides so much value that I couldn’t resist including KISSmetrics in the list too.
However, without even the Neil Patel name, KISSmetrics itself has become a brand now. The blog regularly publishes quality content about online marketing techniques and how to track the output of your marketing campaigns. In short, if you want a complete marketing solution blog, this is the one for you.
In his legendary post about getting 100,000 visits per month within 1.5 years, Neil Patel has revealed that content quantity is king. He also wrote that it took him 4 years and 9 months to hit 100,000 monthly visits for Quick Sprout. For KISSmetrics, it took 1 year and 10 months. And for Crazy Fog, it too 1 year and 6 months. And the lesson for you? Keep producing content. As you grow, you will find out the secrets to success.
Be the Expert in your Field
Social Media Examiner is solely focused on delivering the latest working techniques about social media promotion. The blog regularly publishes quality content about the best uses of social media, how to connect with the audience, how to develop your brand and ultimately how to increase sales by leveraging the social media power.
Besides the regular articles, Social Media Examiner also publishes expert interviews and relevant product reviews. And there’s more! It also publishes two podcasts regularly – one weekly and one daily. The podcasts discuss about various social media strategies, tactics, tips, tricks and interview successful social media marketers. Last but not the least, the site also hosts Social Media Marketing World, which is one of the biggest online marketing events.
As you see, the blog is fully dedicated to social media and leverages every media to deliver relevant content. If you are looking for more ways to promote your brand or website, you can definitely take some inspirations from Social Media Examiner.
You can Do It, from Anywhere!
So far, all the blogs I have discussed are created by people from English-speaking countries. Therefore, some of you may think that you have to be a native English-speaker too, otherwise you can’t succeed. That’s not true at all. There are lots of successful bloggers who were not born in English-speaking countries but still doing a great job in blogging.
Shoutmeloud is a prominent example in this case. It was founded by Harsh Agrawal, an Indian born engineer. Unlike other bloggers of this list, he still lives in India and operates his blog network from there. According to his monthly income reports, his total income was $15313.41 in March 2015. After all the expenses, his net profit was $5736.7 for that month.
So, if you are not from an English-speaking country, there is nothing to be afraid of. If you are not confident enough to write on your own, you can always hire professional writers to do that. However, make sure that you have got a solid plan before spending money on content writers.
Look for Different Opportunities
Last but not the least, Niche Pursuits is another of those blogs which provide you with lots of useful resources, advices, tips, tricks and techniques. Most importantly, you will find different types of monetization ideas from this blog. One of the main reasons of creating this blog was to promote and share various business ideas.
Besides sharing business and monetization ideas, Niche Pursuits also publishes regular income reports and hosts a very popular podcast. Industry leaders and successful internet entrepreneurs are interviewed in the podcast. They share their journey, tips and strategies with the listeners. The podcasts also promote diverse business ideas. It seems the blog intentionally interviews people that are into different fields like Kindle publishing, niche site building, selling physical products via Amazon, buy and sell websites etc.
If you follow Niche Pursuits regularly, I am sure you will find different types of business ideas and get to know details about how the successful people do their things. Being a complete beginner, you can’t ignore these expert insights.
So, these were the things that I think every blogger should know before starting his/her blog. If you find the suggestions useful, please share the article with your friends. It could be useful for some of them too. And if you have already started your blog, share your experience with us.