Guide to Starting a Blog

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When I made the decision of starting a blog last year little did I realize that it would be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Beyond being a good source of extra income, it has taught me so much and exposed me to numerous great opportunities. It really was a key factor in turning my life around.

Now that I’ve managed to make so much progress on my blog, I’ve started passing on that knowledge to other bloggers via my blogging tips series.

External Resources

Here are some of the posts from I’ve written related to blogging:

Click here to read more from that series.

I’d also like to help people who are considering starting a blog or are just looking for a way to build up some side income. Don’t be intimidated by lack of technical knowledge about blogging. It seems that the majority of bloggers are also learning as they go. Even as a website marketing professional I still find myself learning new things all the time.

So if you think blogging might be a good idea, read on to learn how to get started. Then do plenty of other reading including my blogging tips series. You’ll be up and blogging in no time.

Getting Your Own Domain Name

Starting A Blog - Getting a DomainA lot of bloggers start out on a free blogging platform such as Blogger or I do not recommend going that route though. The free platforms just hold you back due to their limited functionality and strict rules. Instead pony up a very small investment to make a serious effort with your blog. When you’ve spent a bit of money you’ll also be much more willing to stick it out longer and people will take you more seriously.

Take your time and come up with a memorable domain name. Do not rush this step. The name you choose should be fairly short and unique while still reflecting your blog. You don’t want to be stuck with a unsuitable domain name for years to come.

When you do come up with a solid domain name (that isn’t already taken), I recommend you register that domain via GoDaddy. I’ve used other domain registrars in the past, but GoDaddy just seems to consistently have the lowest prices these days. So I’ve been gradually transferring all of my existing domains over as they come up for renewal.

Setting Up A Hosting Account

Starting A Blog Hosting AccountWhen you opt to go with a self-hosted blog, your biggest expense early on will likely be your web hosting service. This is not an area that you should cheap out and go with the lowest possible price you can find. Going with a less reputable company can lead to unacceptable outages, slower speeds and inadequate support. Low quality hosting can even hurt your search engine rankings. It is worth paying more money to go with a reputable hosting company.

For my own websites and my employers’ websites I’ve dealt with numerous web hosts. The best web hosting company I’ve come across has been HostGator. Their servers are super reliable and they provide excellent service. Currently all of my own websites are hosted there. I’ve also heard good things about BlueHost, InMotion Hosting and Web Hosting Hub although I have not tried them myself. I suggest you compare all of these companies as they are sometimes running special promotions.

If you go with HostGator try one of these coupon codes: SITECOUPON25 or SITECOUPON001.
For BlueHost, try: snt. When a site asks for a coupon code upon checkout, you might as well take advantage and save some money.

Once your domain is purchased and you’ve signed up for web hosting, the next step is connecting your domain to your hosting account. This is done by setting DNS nameservers. I won’t get into the specifics since this process will vary depending on your domain registrar and hosting company. Most likely, the hosting company would’ve sent out a welcome e-mail with your nameservers. Then it’s just a matter of logging into your domain registrar account and copying in those nameservers within DNS settings or something similar. If in doubt, do a quick Google search or reference your registrar’s help section.

Installing WordPress

Now you should be all setup with a domain name and web hosting account. Congrats! You’ve just made what might turn out to be the best investment you’ve ever made.

From here you will want to install WordPress on your hosting account. WordPress is hands down the best blogging software to use and it’s absolutely free. So this choice is easy.

If you’ve opted to go with HostGator, they have a QuickInstall feature that will walk you through the installation process. Since WordPress is so popular, other hosting companies likely have similar functionality. If in doubt, get on the hosting company’s live chat support or browse through their help pages. If it’s not a simple process, I’d question your web hosting company choice.

Within a few minutes you should be able to get WordPress installed and now comes the fun part of customizing WordPress to really make your blog unique.

Customizing Your Blog

Starting A Blog - Customizing Your BlogTechnically you could go ahead and start blogging now, but do you really want to be seen as the newbie with the default WordPress design? Not to say there’s anything wrong with being a newbie, but wouldn’t you rather make a better impression on visitors? Put your best foot forward and find a quality blog design to use. In the blogging world your design is called your ‘theme’.

There are countless free themes that you can find by Googling something like ‘free wordpress themes’. Or within your WordPress dashboard, click ‘Appearance’ in the sidebar and select ‘Themes’. At the top of the main window there is a tab for ‘Install Themes’. If you are on a tight budget, you’ll probably want to go that route. Just be very careful about which theme you choose. Some spammy companies sponsor themes in an attempt to sneak their links into numerous blogs. Some themes are just poorly programmed and contain errors that could cause problems with search engines.

If you’re serious about your new blog, you’ll want to invest in a more unique theme. You can buy a ‘premium theme’ which far fewer blogs would be using. Check out the selection of premium themes on sites such as Elegant Themes. Or if you really want to set yourself apart, find a quality designer to create an exclusive custom theme. For my own custom theme, I had the help of my friend Brent Lawson. I’ve referred other people to him and they have been quite happy with his work. He’s also a good guy to deal with.

Beyond your blog theme, dig into the various settings for your blog. Those options allow you to setup your blog just how you like it. That’s just the basic settings though. To really supercharge your blog you’ll want to make use of some of the awesome free plugins available. These plugins are easy to install and give your blog considerably more functionality. Just click the ‘Plugins’ link within your WordPress dashboard sidebar and select ‘Add New’. Here’s a list of my recommended WordPress plugins.

Initial Off-Page Setup

If you’ve made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve now setup your blog and are ready to start sharing your writing with the world.

Before you start publishing content, I suggest you first claim your profile on the top social networks. With a blog you’ll likely find that the most important is Twitter, but also sign up on Facebook and Google+. It might be worth browsing other blogs within your niche to see which networks they focus on. Even if you don’t plan to use those networks right away, it is a good idea to reserve your username. By signing up now you ensure nobody can poach your potential username on those sites.

At this I would also suggest to familiarize yourself with other blogs within your niche. Subscribe to the RSS Feeds of your favorite blogs. Provided those blogs aren’t extremely popular they may be good targets to network with later. As you get more acquainted with your niche, you’ll get a better idea of how to proceed with your blog.

Getting Ready to Start Publishing

Some of you might be ready to start publishing posts and truly embarking on your blogging journey. For many of you, it might be a good idea to not rush into this step. I recommend you try to write at least a few posts in draft mode before publishing anything. Depending on your writing ability, aiming for 5-10 drafts might be a better initial goal. Doing this allows you to establish your blog writing voice and also builds up a queue to give yourself breathing room. That way you’ll have something to publish even if you do not have the time or motivation to write between posts.

Take your time with these initial posts and keep in mind how you will keep it both informative and entertaining. Be yourself and let your personality be reflected in your posts. A blog should ideally have a more conversational tone so that readers can better relate to you.

Either before or after you write your first drafts, you will also want to setup some key pages that exist on most blogs. This includes your about page and contact page, but you might also want to create a privacy policy and disclaimer page. Don’t underestimate the importance of a great about page. This is usually one of the most visited pages on your blog. So open up and tell readers about who is behind the blog and what they should expect to read on your blog. If you’re unsure of your approach, check out the about pages on your favorite blogs.

Ready, Set, Go!

Don’t get too caught up in all the details of perfecting your blog. It is bound to keep evolving and pretty much anything can be changed later. You don’t want to end up with decision paralysis. At some point you just need to decide that you are ready to hit ‘publish’ on your first post.

Yes you’re likely to make some mistakes along the way, but don’t stress out about it. Learn from your mistakes and learn from fellow bloggers. They’ll be happy to help answer some questions if you reach out to them. You might want to get active on a blogging forum to get even more help.

Now just enjoy your blogging journey and keep plugging away with long term goals in mind. You shouldn’t worry about making money with your blog early on or getting a large amount of traffic. Celebrate the small milestones and focus on building up your blog as well as your connections with other bloggers. Do what you can to get your blog name out there too.

If you ever have any questions, feel free to contact me and don’t forget to keep up with my blogging tips series. Best of luck!

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By : Jeremy Biberdorf | 21 Mar 2013
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