7 Super Easy Steps for Starting Your First Blog Online
Running your own blog may seem somewhat intimidating at first -but trust me on this one- there’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. In fact, it’s downright easy, once you get started.
In a way, being an unabashed and proud blogger is a bit like learning how to ride a bike: some aspects may seem a little unnerving (ie. staying upright on only two wheels), but once you build up some speed…all you feel is a delightful, soft breeze. With that said, in the beginning, there are a few basic steps to take, but this guide will give you the easiest possible way to setup a blog that’s all yours. Metaphorically speaking, we’ll show you how not to run your shiny new bike into a ditch.
Remember: You Get What You Pay For (But It’s Still Insanely Cheap)
One of the most common pitfalls (or ditch crashes) is for newbie bloggers to go with a ‘freebie’ service. While there are a few pros to using this approach (the obvious one being that it costs zero dollars!) the issue here is simple: valuable things are rarely ever free, with the exception of grandma hugs and loving face-licks from Fido.
So, if you’re looking to run a blog with serious success potential, then I wouldn’t use free services. For one, I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about bloggers getting their accounts suspended over unforeseen issues, usually having to do with content or search engine optimization (SEO) practices. Additionally, if the free blogging service’s site goes down, then you’re stuck, waiting on people to fix it. And, truth be told, there’s far less incentive for the power-that-be to fix something you’re not paying for.
Yet on the other hand, if you’re really only interested in running a blog for posting poetry and the occasional vacation photo, then Blogger (a Google product) is the best by a mile. Yet still, what if you want more out of your blog? Believe it or not, my preferred method may not be free …but it’s pretty darn close. (If you are serious about a blog then we suggest you get a domain and paid hosting as this will save you a huge headache later on)
What paid blog service is best? Thought you’d never ask. Let’s get this bike on the road…
#1 – The Planning Phase Done Right
First and foremost, I cannot stress this point enough to up and coming bloggers: formulate a plan for your blog. It doesn’t have to be super complicated; however, it should be good enough to keep you moving in one direction.
With this in mind, I tell people to come up with a solid vision or purpose for your blog. Here are several items and questions that you’ll want to cover:
- Come up with at least 5 possible blog titles, and determine whether or not those names have been taken.
- In one paragraph, write down the overarching purpose and/or unique topic of your blog.
- Determine how often you will be able to create a new post, and what type of content you will be posting. (I’ll also be discussing this in greater depth for step #7.)
- Figure out which pages you will need, such as an “About”, “Contact Us”, “Home”, etc.
- Determine your blog’s content categories ahead of time. (Don’t worry about ‘tags’, because you create those on the fly with every entry.)
- Will your blog also feature an online store, a photo gallery, or other special media?
- Using a spreadsheet, come up with a ‘content schedule’, which should list the following:
- Relevant Category
- Week/Date of Publishing
The reason why I find that planning is so critical, especially in the beginning phases of this process, is because consistency is the lifeblood of a blog. This will also help you keep from becoming overwhelmed, because even easy new things can be a little scary sometimes. In fact, the consistency is one reason why many pros (such as myself) won’t even launch a blog until they have are at least 6 months-worth of posts written and ready for publishing; however, this is what veteran bloggers do to optimize traffic and cut the time between launch and incoming revenue.
Ok, once you’ve finished the planning phase, you’re actually finished with the hardest part of the entire process. It’s all downhill from here.
#2 – Owned: Get Your Hands On a Domain Name
This is the part when you’ll need to have your credit card at the ready, but worry not, because you most likely won’t have to sell your Delorean. In most cases, registering your domain name is going to run you about $12 …for an entire whopping year.
Other companies might charge you a good bit more, but they tend to accomplish this via obscene upselling. This is why I’ll use Namecheap 99% of the time or get a Free Domain with BlueHost.com. They’re super easy to work with, and if you haven’t the foggiest idea about what you’re doing, then give their sales team a call. They’ve always done right by me, so I’m sure they’ll take care of you too.
Though honestly, registering a domain name is easier than setting up a Gmail account in my humble opinion.
#3 – Hosting Like a Pro
For this next step, we need to setup a hosting account. Just to offer a simple explanation on what this is, basically, a hosting account will give your blog some space on a server that’s connected to the internet. Think of it like leasing a physical space for a storefront on Main Street, but instead, it’s digital space that on World Wide Web Boulevard. This part is going to be the most technically challenging, so don’t feel bad if you really need to call the customer service people for this step. Even I’ve had a few difficulties on my own, but that was most likely due to a lack of coffee on that particular day. Again, I just had to give a quick shout over the phone to tech support, and they had me up and running within 20 minutes.
My go-to company for hosting has been Bluehost lately (Starts at Only $3.49 a Month), since they offer fast and quality services that are less expensive in the long run. However, if you’d like to keep your starting costs on the minimal side, then I’d recommend HostGator’s month-to-month deal (plus use Coupon Code CJSAVE25) for another 25% Off Monthly. Either way, if you’re paying more than $20/mo for hosting, then I’d choose a different company that doesn’t overcharge for marginal quality services (*cough* GoDaddy *cough*).
In terms of the most important hosting package feature that you’ll want, make sure you get one that’s made specifically for WordPress.
Installing WordPress onto your piece of the server-pie can be a bit daunting, so again, call tech support and they will walk you through the entire process. In fact, Hostgator even did it for me.
#4 – The Wonderful World of WordPress
WordPress is, dare I say, the most wonderful thing that’s happened to blogging since …sliced… blog …bread? Ok, stale clichéd metaphors aside, WordPress is what’s known as a CMS, or content management system (put simply, the thing that you use to build and update your blog).
Not only is it extremely easy to learn and use for newbie bloggers, but even some of the most complex websites for Fortune 500s were built on WordPress. No need to learn HTML or coding or the casting of web developing spells (unless you want to), because WordPress is designed to be able to work with virtually any skill level. Oh, and by the way, it’s FREE.
To give you an idea on what I’m talking about, here’s a YouTube video on WordPress and the basics on how to run it: WordPress Tutorial For Beginners 2015.
After watching the tutorial, feel free to root around WordPress, familiarize yourself with your new set of blogging wheels, and have some fun.
#5 – Skins
Perhaps THE BIGGEST reason why I am such a fan of WordPress is because there are literally thousands of free products that can plug directly into its system (again, with zero knowledge of HTML necessary) …and one very special type of product is called a ‘skin’.
A WordPress skin is basically like the outer shell of a NASCAR vehicle. It’s a near-complete package that will define the overall look, feel, and function of your blog. Most of these are 100% free, especially if you don’t need a great deal of functionality or any specific style for your blog. If you have a general idea on how you’ll want your blog to look, then you can most likely get away with paying zilch squat for a good skin.
However, there is one particular type of skin that I feel is extremely important to have…
Responsive Design Imperative
Giving your blog a ‘responsive’ skin is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, especially if you want your blog to be relevant in, say, 2 or 3 years from now. Here’s why: statistics have been showing that more people will visit your blog on their smartphone or tablet than they will via laptop computer. Choosing a skin that’s responsive will enable your blog to be viewed on any size screen, and believe it or not, this is soon becoming a qualifying factor for showing up on Google searches.
However, trust me, this really isn’t much of a problem these days. If you’re curious to see a handful (or truckload) of responsive skins, then check out this site, or this one, or give this link a click. Heck, even if you’re looking to setup an online storefront, you can find options just about anywhere.
#6 – Plugins
WordPress plugins can get oddly addicting. No really, they’re like instant modifications, which can add some really interesting and handy functions to your site …and there are oodles of them… oodles!
Whereas a WordPress skin is like a stylishly painted facade or shell that fits over your site, WordPress plugins are like adding a high-performance air filter or skull-shaped shifter to the inside of your race car. Basically, there are plugins for almost anything: social media buttons, email list opt-in forms, pop ups, and even spam filters. Whether you need some trendy-aesthetic touches for your homepage or business tools for your back office, installing a plugin will usually take 2 minutes and just a few clicks. And again, most plugins are 100% freezies.
Now, if I were to mention 2 plugins that would make my ‘essentials list’, then these are the chosen ones:
- First, you will want to make sure that a plugin called Jetpack is installed (if it hasn’t been installed already). Jetpack will ensure that your blog has the vast majority of your basics covered, from social buttons to automatic publishing on your blog’s Facebook and Twitter pages.
- Second, SEO by Yoast is probably the biggest no-brainer for WordPress plugins, as it will allow you to optimize your blog to show up on Google…and the coolest part is, they make it obscenely easy to setup and run. For its basic functionality, it’s a free plugin (and that’s really all I’ve ever needed). Quite frankly, SEO by Yoast is basically like tires: yes, you can still drive without tires, but don’t expect to go anywhere fast.
Aside from that, feel free to add plugins to your heart’s content; however, just don’t get addicted. I know what it’s like to sit there at 3AM, scrolling through plugins that can give you the coolest floating social media buttons …and I had to try them all. The struggle is real.
#7 – The Launch: Your First Blog Entry (But Certainly Not the Last)
Well, my friend: it seems that we have arrived at last. It is time to write and publish your first blog entry…the first of many. The launch sequence has been initiated!
One of the biggest reasons why blogs have essentially taken over a HUGE piece of the sweet traffic-pie on the interwebz is because of a very simple reason: search engines love, love, love blogs. This actually has to do with the fundamental function of a blog, because you see, Google’s search engine crawlers are highly attracted to websites with lots and lots of content that gets updated regularly. To Google, a blog is the perfect type of website, since they’re active and flowing with words and media that are relevant to what people are currently searching for, which leads us to our next step…
How Often Should You Post?
To appease Google with relevant content people are searching for now, I recommend posting new content about 2-4 times per week if you’re just getting started. Bottom line, the more you post, the more your site will receive search engine traffic. But, remember, it’s best to keep your posts consistent, rather than posting lots of content all at once. That’s another reason why I’m a fan of WordPress, since it allows you to setup an automatic publishing schedule with ease. With that in mind, here’s a fan-TASTIC infographic by Kissmetrics on the best times to publish your blog entries: The Science of Social Timing Part 3: Timing and Blogging.
By the way, you might also want to look into using services like Hootsuite (free basic services) and IFTTT (free for all services), as these can automate things like publishing, social media updates, and even responding to followers.
Yes, But How Can I Get Paid?
As for the (literal) million-dollar question on turning your blog into income, now that’s a whole other topic. It is entirely possible, as most veteran bloggers have been doing this for years; however, you first need to build your site traffic. If this topic happens to be of interest, then stay tuned.
We’ll be covering that before you can install your next WordPress plugin.
BlueHost!! WE LOVE THESE GUYS! Their are literally thousands of Hosting solutions out there. You can really hurt yourself but looking at every last one. Let me help you out. If you are just starting out go with BLUEHOST!!
There are many reasons for why you may want to choose Bluehost for your WordPress blog and I honestly believe they are one of the best web hosting providers. These reasons include:
- It’s easy to use. Yes, ANYONE can create a WordPress blog easily with my tutorial below. Bluehost makes it very easy to create a WordPress blog.
- Bluehost web hosting offers technical support.
- Bluehost is extremely affordable and they offer cheap web hosting. You can have a blog of your own and the only real expense you need to pay is the cheap blog hosting which starts at just $3.49 per mont1h.
- You get a FREE blog domain.
- WordPress through Bluehost is FREE.
- Bluehost offers a guarantee in case you determine that it is not for you. If you sign up for Bluehost, but you are confused for any reason (such as how to set it up, picking a plan, pricing, etc.), you can always send me an email and I can help you out.
- You will be self-hosted. If you want to monetize your blog, then you will want to be self-hosted.
- You will appear much more professional to readers, companies, and so on if you are self-hosted on Bluehost than being on Blogspot.