Is writing your thing? or Have you always dreamed of sharing your expertise with the world?
Even if you aren’t a writer, it’s okay: You can use a blog as your knowledge sharing platform, promote your work or find new freelance clients for any kind of service you provide. Blogging is also a great way to put your matter out in the world and believe me, writing does become easy with time. So, don’t sweat, just yet!
And don’t give in to the naysayers who tell you that 2020 is too late to start a blog – that’s just not true.
The rate at which the reach of the internet is growing, it makes sure that there is always an audience for you out there – ready to absorb your mind.
This guide will give you a step-by-step process of how you can start a blog in no time and promote it to your audience.
So here we begin.
1) Pick your domain name (and get that domain name for free)
The first question that you should ask when setting up a blog: Where are people going to find you online? As a blogger, you are your brand, so it is recommended that you use a variation of your name to grow as a brand.
if you don’t find ‘yourname.com’ domain, you might find it with a different domain, such as ‘yourname.co’ or ‘yourname.io’. You can also try adding your service at the end of the domain; so if you’re a “writer”, you can add it at the end of your name, as in ‘yournamewriter.com’.
You could even go for something creative as your blog name — after all, nothing is stopping us but remember your subject and audience may change over the years.
There are few things you should keep in mind before you click “purchase,” though; we’re going to tell you how to get a domain name for free.
2) Buy a hosting package
Now it’s time for you to choose a web host.
What’s a web host? Well, a web host is a place where your website is placed for access when people type your domain name into their browser.
There are many hosts out there with different pricing. It’s prudent to go for a cost-effective option at the start when the traffic isn’t high. Although it is worth mentioning that you should read a few reviews on their service history before opting for one. Gradually when the traffic builds, you can always with a more established service.
Bluehost is a good example of a renowned hosting service.
Since we’re at it, might as well throw in a pro-freelancer tip: Make your purchase (and all the subsequent purchases related to the blog) on a business credit card and file the receipts safely; as they are investments in your business and that makes them tax-deductible.
Don’t worry, the technical stuff might give you the heebie-jeebies at the start if isn’t your strong side but it wouldn’t last long.
And for that reason, we love WordPress best, even though there are several different choices for blogging platforms. WordPress is not only free, but it’s also pretty easy to learn, offers a range of themes and designs which are ready-to-go, and has a strong online community and abundance of plugins that make blogging everybody’s cup of tea.
If you are wondering how do you get around installing WordPress, you can read a comprehensive guide for installing WordPress on your new blog here. Once you’ve accomplished that, you can pat yourself on the back before logging onto your blog and start making it look pretty.
4) Mark your website as “under maintenance”
While you work on making your blog look handsome or pretty, you might want to put up an “under maintenance” sign to greet users landing on your page.
You don’t want your future clients or potential readers to Google your name and find a half-finished site. (Procrastination looms large sans deadlines. It’s a sign of a good writer but we wouldn’t want to take chances.)
You can manually set the page as ‘under construction’ but it will be better if you download this plugin. It is pretty straightforward to deactivate the plugin (like all WordPress plugins) when you’re ready to launch your website.
5) Choose a blog theme
Now we’re getting to the stuff that you’ll most likely enjoy! The theme determines what your blog looks like – the personality and on WordPress, you have got a whole world of options to choose from. Of course, there’s a wide variety of free themes to get started, but for those who are serious about blogging, it is always better to go with a paid them to get a wide range and variety of customization and support. I can personally recommend Unos which I used in my first blog. It is reasonably priced for 4 theme options to cater to blog, magazines and business portfolios. All four themes come with unlimited support which is a prerequisite while starting a new blog.
To make your website a marketing tool for your services, you can set your homepage as a static page describing you and your offerings. It will make your site will look professional and appeal to your potential clients — whether they’re there just to read some of your latest posts or hire you for their project.
An important anecdote to keep in mind is that whatever you do, your theme should be “responsive,” which means it automatically adjusts to look good on any device. A major chunk of the traffic comes through mobile devices, hence it is pertinent that blog aesthetics remain spot on.
7) Write your blog pages
Starting a blog doesn’t mean there will be no static pages. (“Pages” are different from “posts,” as they communicate your goals and intentions for the website whereas “posts” are the daily/weekly/monthly entries you publish on your blog talking about the things that you want..)
Here are some pages you may want to create:
The about page is one of the most-viewed pages on blogs, so don’t neglect it. It should ideally include a professional headshot and brief bio of yourself, and explain your reason for blogging and why the reader should care. What do you offer and What makes you an expert in the field?
You will need a Contact page for your readers or potential clients to get in touch with you.
The contact page needs to simple and actionable for the users. A contact form with name, email and text should do the job well but you should avoid putting-in complete emails here to just be aware of spambots. There is a workaround though, you can use a contact form plugin, which we’ll link to below, or you can simply write something like “yourname AT yoursite DOT com.”
When you’ve got it, flaunt it! Show your prospective clients and readers why you deserve their time and attention with your past and present work.
To give you an example, check out one of my personal favourites here.
Work with me
Like we already mentioned, if the goal of the blog is to sell your services, “Work with me” page is an absolute essential. It is supposed to tell your audience how you’re going to help them in crisp and clear words. You could even curate a list of packages of different services like Lisa Rowan.
Once your essential pages are all set up, make sure they’re easily accessible from the home page. You may need to adjust your menus if they aren’t showing up.
8) Install plugins
Plugins make life easier for everybody, but especially those of us who aren’t very comfortable with the technical side of things. You can think of them as apps for your blog; they’re free tools at your disposal to do a range of stuff.
But beware that having lots of plugins can undermine the loading time, functionality and in some cases, the security of your blog. There are a few that we recommend everyone look into:
Contact Form 7: This frequently updated and much-reviewed plugin lets you build a contact form for your website which your clients or readers can use to get in touch with you. You should avoid putting in your email out there and use this plugin.
Hello Bar: Whether you want your readers to sign up for your free newsletter? Or you want to announce the launch of your latest service or Ebook? Hello Bar lets you make an attractive banner for the top of your blog.
Simple Social Buttons: These share buttons encourage the users to share your blog or profile if they like it. There are many other options available. The goal is to make it easier for your audience to share your work.
Google Analytics Dashboard: This essential plugin lets you understand what are the most viewed posts or pages on your website and how is your audience reaching you.
WP Super Cache: It might not look like a super cool plugin, but is still essential. It allows the website to load faster which could be very pleasing for both your readers and your clients.
Yoast SEO: One of the most important plugins out there. This SEO plugin helps you optimize your posts to receive organic traffic from search engines.
9) Install widgets
More often than not, your theme would have sidebars. It is time to jazz up those sidebars with some widgets. Having said that said, keep in mind that minimalist look is in — so try not to overdo your sidebars.
Here are some ideas for you to consider:
You’ve probably come across this in 80% of the blogs you visit; it’s a little box, usually placed in the upper right-hand corner welcoming you to the site.
Social media icons
Allow keep it easy for your readers to follow you on social media by keeping a list of social media icons in the sidebar. Most of the times, it is a part of the widgets that a theme offers.
Once you’ve spent some time writing and there are few posts on your blog, you might want to highlight the popular posts with a simple widget to your readers.
- Purchase backup software
A very important and usually ignored step. you’ll do good to not ignore it even if you don’t have content yet! It’s even better and advisable to install this software before you start blogging.
- Start your email list
You should start collecting Emails even before you’ve anything to send. The best way to motivate people to sign up for your newsletter is by offering something tangible – like a free ebook or resource.
My personal favourite and probably the most popular email newsletter platform is Mailchimp. What better than an intuitive and fun newsletter. But it gets better – Mailchimp is absolutely free for up to 2,000 subscribers. There are many tools to choose from, though; here are a few more options for building your email list.
10) Write, Write, Write!
Now since you’ve now started a blog, you’re going to need words on the site. This is where you start writing.
You should avoid thinking of your blog as a side thing, which is why 95% of the blogs fail. You need to create an editorial calendar and you need to stick to a schedule – even if it is just you writing.
You must plan your posts. It’s also a good way to assess your posts and tweak your content strategy. Now think – What do you want to write about?
There are certain things to keep in mind while writing for the web as opposed to writing for print. On the web, a conversational tone is what works best, use “you” phrases to speak to the reader like this post and break up a lengthy text with bullet points and sub-headers to increase readability. Always, keep SEO in mind (remember Yoast SEO plugin we talked about?), and grab a header photo from sites like Unsplash and Pexels to make your posts more appealing.
Well done on getting here. You’ve reached the last part of this guide! Now that it’s been a while that you’ve started writing, it is time to get readers. And this is not to scare you but they crude reality is that this part is the most time-consuming aspect of blogging.
Guest posting is one of the time tested methods of getting quality traffic. You can also post or repost on platforms like Medium to get more readers, or you can search for active groups in your niche on social media portals like Facebook. But before you go on posting links, make sure you’re adding value to the conversations — and not spamming people with your URL.
In the current age that we are living in, no one can discredit the role Social media can play in reaching out to the right audience. It is indeed a great way to grow your audience but instead of merely shouting about your blog from the rooftops, be sure to engage with editors, interact with other writers and bloggers, too. Look out for ways to support them when and where you can and hopefully, they’ll do the same for you!
In the end, a successful blog is created with hard work and consistency (and some blood and sweat). The idea should not be to make money outrightly but keep posting helpful and engaging content for your audience, keep optimizing it for SEO and sharing it with your networks — and soon you’ll find your blog gaining traction.
Congratulations, with that, you’ve now successfully become a blogger.