I’ve been blogging–at the same blog!–for 6 years. This puts me in the seasoned veteran category (if not expert, in some people’s minds–an notion that makes me snort) which means that I frequently get asked blogging advice.
“How do I start a blog?”
“How do you make money blogging?”
“How do you avoid getting all stressed out?”
While not claiming expert status on the topic, I do have some strong opinions, which I’m happy to share with you. 😉 I hope it helps you in your blogging journey…
How to create a blog you’ll love:
1. Choose a Blog Name
…or more specifically and importantly, your domain name (what will be your blog’s address “example.com”). Refer to this article on Allume on branding (by yours truly). Follow the steps in the article to check name availability on all social media fronts and domains at knowem.com , and snag your online identity on Twitter, Google+, and a Facebook fanpage.
I’m a great advocate for personal branding–meaning, using your name as your blog address and online identity. Starting your blogging journey with your name (rather than a cutesy blog title) will allow you to instantly connect with your readers with what is the online equivalent of an introductory handshake, and give you freedom to try different topics and directions while maintaining a consistent name and address. Need more convincing? Read “He Calls Me By Name: A Fresh Perspective on Personal Branding.”
As soon as you have a name you love, purchase your domain from NameCheap (that’s my friend Gretchen’s affiliate link) or another domain name registrar. Cost: $10-15/year.
2. Choose Your Blogging Platform
Blogger, WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Squarespace. Where will you park your blog? This article by my friend, Gretchen, explains the top blogging platforms and their various pros and cons (she explains better than I can why I am on the platform I am! lol). My personal choice: WordPress.org. It’s not free, but your setting yourself up for success, without the hassle of switching to a stronger platform if you need it in the future. But if you don’t want to spend the money, you can totally start on the free version of WordPress (WordPress.com) and switching from the one to the other is not that much of a hassle.
3. Purchase Your Hosting
If you chose a free platform (such as WordPress.com or Blogger) in step 2, you can skip this step. If not, it’s time to spend some money getting yourself a custom domain. This will cost you about $50/a year–a small investment if you view your blog as a entrepreneurial venture.
4. Choose a Layout or Theme
You own a blog! Now you choose what style of layout or theme you will use. There are plenty of free layouts and themes, but I use a purchased or “professional” theme, Genesis Prose by StudioPress. This part of my blog is all over my head, that’s why I hire my friend, Gretchen to set this stuff up. (Are you getting the impression I wouldn’t be blogging without her? You’d be right. And that’s her affiliate link again.)
5. Brainstorm Goals for Your Blog
Why are you doing this? If you’re completely new to blogging, you may not be entirely sure, and that’s ok. It might take a while to figure out if blogging is a good fit for you and how it enhances your life and the life of your readers. You can start blogging without knowing where you’re in the long term, but I do recommend having at least some short-range goals or you will easily get distracted and not accomplish much of anything.
- Is your goal to connect more deeply with friends and family? Then you can needn’t follow the loads of advice for growing and marketing your blog.
- Is your goal to improve your writing skills with the accountability a public blog provides? Great. Then don’t let anything distract from your writing.
- Is your goal to make income? Then take your blog seriously, and spend time doing research and reading informative articles and not just chatting around on facebook and twitter.
Goal setting helps me be intentional and focused with my blogging time, and I get the most satisfaction out of my blog when I maintain both a personal goal and a goal for my readers. These goals have evolved over time, but currently my personal goals for my blog are to improve my writing skills and have an outlet for my creativity, and my goal for my readers is that they would find practical encouragement to live a thriving life.
6. Start Writing
You don’t want to release your blog to the world till you have 5-10 posts, simply because fewer people will be return-readers if the first time they visit your blog there’s not much to see. Also, by the time you’ve written 5 posts, you should be able to tell whether this blogging thing is a good fit for you (if not there’s no sense in sharing it). So, start posting, and work on filling in your about page. You will also probably want to provide a contact page, a resource page (great place to include affiliate links), and a page of sites you love and recommend. As you write, keep a conversational tone and be yourself. Authenticity is the key to engaging your audience.
7. Introduce Your Blog to the World
When you’ve got your site set up and a few posts written, it’s time launch! This can be as simple as just telling your Facebook friends it’s live, or you can go wild with a giveaway or something to draw in more than just your personal contacts. What you want your blog readers to find is a site with an authentic person behind it, that offers them something, be it inspiration, instruction, or encouragement. When your visitors arrive, be present in the comments, thanking them for taking the time to visit. You may also want to create some business cards that make it easy to share your blog address with people you meet in real life.
8. Decide Your Approach to Social Media
How will you share (or ‘promote’) your blog on social media? Will you have a twitter account, a Facebook page, Pinterest boards, Instragram, Youtube channel, or be on Google+? All the options for social media can get overwhelming. My advice is to choose one or two that you like and don’t stress about the rest. Also, don’t worry about all that advice about how often to post on facebook or twitter. Do what feels natural and authentic to you, because your voice on social media, just as on your blog, is going to have the most impact when you’re being yourself.
Take note: you don’t have to do social media at all. It’s entirely up to you–your goals for being online, the time you have available to you, and what enhances your blogging journey. Me? I post randomly on Facebook and rarely on Twitter. I use Pinterest and Instagram for my own enjoyment, though I allow public followers on all platforms. I can’t keep up with the multiple conversations I’d be having if I shared every post I wrote on every platform. I prefer to concentrate my efforts and interaction on my blog.
9. Choose a Blogging Schedule That Works for YOU
Some people post every day. Some people when they feel like it. My personal advice is to post as frequently as you have quality content to offer. If it takes you 3 weeks to write a post you feel is worthy to hit ‘publish’ on, that is totally alright. Quality wins over quantity. But I also recommend that you watch for a pattern in your output, and attempt some level of consistency so your readers know what to expect. If 2 posts a week feels natural to you, then make that your goal and stick with it as much as you can.
10. Monetize your Blog
This step is entirely optional, but here’s my personal thoughts on making money on your blog: it’s a matter of stewardship. You are spending hours every week writing posts, creating graphics, interacting on social media, and seeking to serve people with your efforts. Setting up a few links or side bar ads is simply a way that you can see some return on your investment of time.
You need not fill your sidebar with blinking ads, or make every post a sponsored post, but you can learn to use affiliate links when you share a product you love or review a book, and you can be open with your readers about the fact that they can bless you by using your link to make Amazon purchases. Doing so will make it possible for your blog habit to at least pay for itself, if not build into a nice side income if your blog grows. Learn more about affiliate links here.
Well, that’s 10 steps to a great blog, but I’ve got a bonus tip for you. You can do everything listed above, but if you don’t remember this last tip, you will be miserable and I will have wasted my time. So, here’s my final and most important tip:
Bonus Tip: Have Fun!
I’m serious. Blogging is enough work that you should not do it unless it enhances your life in some way. If you stop enjoying your blog, then stop blogging or change your approach. Blogging is not for everyone, and you’re not a failure if you figure out it’s just not for you. It may take you 3 different blogs or several years to find the blog you’re made to write. And that’s ok. Embrace the journey and don’t freak out.
Check out my book, “More Than Numbers: Blogging for People, Not Stats” (it’s free!) which tells the story of my first 4 years of blogging. Also, I have contributed regularly for 1 1/2 years over at the Allume blog–you can find my posts here. Last but not least, my series from early 2014 details how I’ve found freedom in blogging.
My favorite sites for learning more about blogging:
- bloggingwithamy.com–especially geared toward those using WordPress.
- problogger.com–hard core, professional blogging advice.
- allume.com–gets more into the heart behind blogging, but with great informative posts, too.
- gretchenlouise.com–writes tech info in a way I can actually understand, and her content is especially geared toward personal bloggers.
- CopyBlogger–I get completely submerged in this site–so much high quality content!
TheBlogMaven–my newest, favortest blogging mentor. This gal knows her stuff.
Oh, and one more thing–if you write a blog, or start one as a result of this post, I totally want to visit! Share the link in the comments, ok! Happy blogging!