This is a continuation of my original post on making a blog, but I wanted to get a little more “guide-y” with how to start a blog. Whether you're looking to start a fashion blog, food and recipe blog, or are just looking for a place to write your weird thoughts, here's what I've learned about blogging and my tips for you, especially after I've now created…ugh…6 blogs within the past year?
If you need a refresher on why you should start a blog, read the original post. But if you've got stuff to do, here's the TL;DR version:
Google loves blogs more than static websites + your customers will value you over your competitors, because you're coming from a place of service (with blog posts) rather than “JUST BUY MY STUFF, OK?”
So first, let's get the nuts and bolts out of the way for how to start a blog.
How to Start a Blog: My Comprehensive Guide
Before You Even Start a WordPress Blog
If this blog is not part of a business already, before you take another step in buying a domain, make sure the social media accounts are available.
We're in a world now where social media is essential to the life of a business and a blog, so before you seal it in blood (or in VISA payments) make sure the handles you want are available.
In 2016 started a home decor blog, and before I bought the domain, I made sure @thebeigehouse was available on the platforms I wanted to use (Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest). Because look, we're all lazy AF, right? If you make it difficult for your readers to find you online, they're not going to look incredibly hard. So go into this the smart way.
Wait, Why Did You Specifically Say “WordPress Blog?”
Because that's the only blogging platform I've ever used. I see lots of Squarespace blogs around, and they're very lovely, but I don't think they're as versatile as WordPress.
The things I can do on the WordPress platform just blow Squarespace and other platforms out of the water, so that's why I always advocate for them over anything else. If you're 450% sure you'll never want to expand your site with an e-commerce site, paid membership site, or whatever, then Squarespace is good to go.
If you're not sure, just dive into WordPress, I promise it's not that terrifying and there are tons of WordPress tutorials around the web that will get you going in no time.
How to Set Up Your Blog
First, decide how intensive of a blog network you plan on building.
- If you're just planning to create one blog for your business, go with BlueHost. It's like $36 a year, includes a free domain, and is the easiest solution for one and done's. Just an FYI that they don't have stellar uptime records, so if you're planning to monetize this, I wouldn't go with them. But if this is just something you want to try before going all-in on investing, then yeah, give them a go.
- If you think you might want to do more blogs later on (personal blogs, features, etc), go with Greengeeks, which is who I use. I have the GrowBig plan with them, and it houses 13 websites under one account for a ridiculously reasonable price. And yes, they've got auto installers for WordPress.
Side note: Some people get worried about having their web host as their registrar (if you're not sure what that means, here's a guide where I compare the two to delicious cake), and that includes myself. Also, I own a ton of domains (~15, I think?).
I used to use GoDaddy because of the coupons, but now I have all of my domains under NameSilo, because it comes with free privacy and their domain prices are cheaper than GoDaddy in the long run (renewals, etc). Also, I hate GoDaddy's insistence on phone calls for customer service. Can I get an email? Jeez.
My List of Essential Plugins Each Time I Make a Blog
- Akismet to help reduce spam
- Pretty Link to clean up links
- Revive Old Post to keep your Twitter full of content and to make sure your old posts get attention
- Pinterest Automatic for getting your content on Pinterest without needing you to do anything (AKA One less thing to worry about!)
- Yoast SEO for SEO analysis
- Cloudflare CDN to make your site faster (SiteGround has this for free. I'm just sayin')
- SG Cache Press also makes your site faster (again, SiteGround has this for free)
- WordPress Editorial Calendar because…please make your life easier and schedule posts. See below for my plans for you on how to do that
- Limit Login Attempts which prevents people from guessing your password
Optional Plugins For Successful Blogs
- ThriveLeads – I love love love them for all of the things they do. ThriveLeads are on both of my current blogs and I use them for email handling, quiz building, landing pages, and more. I used to have Leadpages, but I really think that ThriveThemes (same company as ThriveLeads) just gives me more for my money, though I will admit LeadDigits is very shiny and cool.
- Disqus for commenting, just as a way to have your fans use 1 account for a variety of blogs, but if that feels like a whole thing, the default commenting system WordPress has is totally fine.
- Duplicate Page for making copies of posts and pages. Good if you use the same format for certain blog posts.
You'll Also Need
A Social Media Managing App
This really depends on the platforms you want to focus on when it comes to building your following. I don't bother with Facebook or Twitter so I use MissingLettr to run them on autopilot. YouTube I do manually, same for IGTV. For Instagram feed I use Planoly, and Tailwind Tribes cannot be beaten when it comes to Pinterest, but those both cost money so if you want to keep it low-cost, even Hootsuite or Buffer are good for covering your bases (I think that specialized apps are well worth it when you're looking for serious growth though).
Don't write your first post without setting up your Analytics. You need to track this data, especially if you plan to do paid posts later on. But even more important than that, you need to know what's working and what isn't when it comes to keywords, referrals, and advertising if you decide to do so.
A Way to Create Photos
I use Pixabay to find my free stock images because it pulls in pics from a variety of places, then bulk create my featured image posts in Photoshop. If you don't have Photoshop, Canva is a great free alternative.
A Watermark for Your Photos
Not because someone will steal your photos, but because things break. Pinterest links go dead because you moved or deleted something, or someone added it wrong. I can't tell you how many times I tried to find a website that an image came from and came up short. Just do a little one in the corner of your logo, it doesn't have to be obtrusive, but it makes it so much easier for your readers to find you.
I absolutely do not believe a successful blog happens overnight, nor do I think it happens when you write on a whim. Plan out a schedule to write things in bulk. Even if you do 4 posts in one sitting, you won't have the pressure to create content as much AND you have a backup when life stuff gets in the way. The same rings true for images and social media posts. Schedule hours specifically to one task, and batch it out.
Something to Track Your Progress
I use a spreadsheet, just to keep tabs on my rankings and I fill it in once a month. Once again, if you're not measuring and tracking things, you'll never know what's working and what isn't.
A Mailing List
Again, don't write your first post without a way to collect email addresses. This is the long game, where you take this group of followers who are so into you that they gave you their email, and lead them through a path where they learn about you, begin to like you, and trust you enough to buy from you (or to take your recommendations if you don't have your own products later). I've used both ConvertKit and MailChimp but now I hang out over on MailerLite because I love their support and their plans are the best of both worlds. (I actually wrote a post solely for them as a thanks for their help!)
tip: Make a little checklist or mini guide to offer your followers in exchange for their email. This is called a Lead Magnet, Freemium, or Read Magnet. Essentially it gives them a reason to enter their email, otherwise, they probably won't be inclined to do so.
Now Let's Get Started
The most successful way I've found for how to start a blog is to:
- Schedule a time solely to writing. It can be a block of hours, or a day, or even a week depending on how much content you want to knock out.
- Tackle one thing at a time. Blog posts one time, images another. Don't spread yourself over a bunch of tasks, it will waste time and stop you from focusing on knocking out the work as quickly as possible.
- Brainstorm 24 Posts Before You Write. This does two things:
- It validates that you have enough ideas to keep this going
- It allows you to jump around, based on how exhausted you get with topics. If you are just OVER writing about one subject, but you've got 4 more ideas on a different topic, it will help get you over that hurdle of writing exhaustion
If you create a list of 24 blog posts, that's anywhere from 3 – 6 months of content (depending on if you blog once or twice a week), which is a nice buffer zone for life stuff, like moving, holidays, family things, medical, etc.
There are two ways to tackle batching blog post ideas: You can write about what you know, or you can learn which keywords are trending and write posts based on that.
They both have pros and cons:
- Writing what you know
- PROS – Easy to create content, little research time required, helps make it feel like a job you love
- CONS – Lower chance of getting search engine attention, will take longer to build a following
- Writing for trending keywords
- PROS – You know it's content that people are looking for, faster way to increase views to your blog
- CONS – It's not going to be stuff you like to write about some of the time, and it will take more time to research and do correctly.
I recommend a hybrid of both. Some people throw the phrase “Pillar Content” around, which just means blog posts that are your benchmarks…like, they're the ones you'd show off in a portfolio.
Pillar Content can be either of these categories, so I wouldn't worry too much about which one to pick.
Frequently Asked Questions For How to Start a Blog
How Often Should I Post?
That's totally up to you. Whatever your schedule is, though, make sure it's regular. Also, keep in mind the niche you're entering. Most celebrity blogs, for example, post multiple times each day. Can you handle that amount of work? I recommend starting out with a goal of at least once a week, and once that's sustainable for you (~6 months), up it to twice a week. It will help your page views and social media if you get more content out.
How Long Should a Post Be?
This post is cruising at 1700 words right now, and I've got bad news for you: If you want to be seen as an authority, as a person that people can come to for help, inspiration, whatever, you've got to do long-form content. Long-form content is usually more than 1000 words. You can do a few shorter posts here and there (no less than 300 words), but you should definitely make it a point to do at least one long-form piece a month.
What If I Can't Think of Something to Write?
Here are a few ideas
- Industry news
- DIY and Tutorials
- Your Favorite [___]
- Post based on high ranking keyword
I've got ~200 post topics in a book that you can get on Fiverr if you need some more help. If you do the batching of ideas ahead of time, though, you'll notice ideas come easier than if you're in a crunch for content.
What's Important to Do in a Blog Post?
The best framework for a blog post is:
- Describe a problem (how to decorate my living room, how to make soap for my family, what don't I know about ketogenic diets?)
- Explain your experience with it. This gives you authority and adds to the blog post because you're not some weird robot blogger, you're a person who understands what they're going through.
- Offer a Solution
- Call to Action. Download/Subscribe/Comment/etc. Never forget to tell people about the next steps!
I'm Not a Writer, How Can I Blog?
Don't feel overwhelmed, just write as you would normally speak. If you've read this entire thing, you've probably seen a few quirks of my own speech peppered in…that's just how I speak.
I'm not a “Good Afternoon, Sir. My What a Day It Is, Indeed!” I say “heyoo” and make references to Seinfeld and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia in my everyday speech, so I make sure to keep my blog posts as authentic to me as possible.
How weird would it be if I wrote in one way, and you met me and I spoke in a completely different tone? Nah, not me.
The one thing I will say, though, is to please make your best attempts to have correct spelling and grammar. There's no better way to lose your credibility with the “your/you're” errors, especially since WordPress has grammar and spelling checkers.
Above all, breathe and dive in. It won't happen until you make it happen, so get started!