The most common question I get asked about blogging would be “How do you start a blog?”
For this particular post, I’m going to show you how to start a successful blog (a professional one) in easy steps. If you know how to click a mouse and use the internet, you will be able to do this.
Do not be afraid if you have never done this before or feel you are too technologically challenged to do it — because you can. How do I know? I’ve technologically challenged myself — yet I still did it. But you have the advantage of not having to make the same mistakes I did by learning from my mistakes.
Picking A Topic
Pick a topic you know about or like a lot. Pick something you’re passionate about. You don’t need to be an expert on a subject to blog about! You can even blog about things you hate as long as you’re passionate.
Some blogs have “how-to” tutorials, and some have photos, animations, cartoons, and videos as their content. The most popular blogs are non-fiction and “how-to” blogs.
Blogging about something you know a lot about or love will encourage regular posting — therefore, people will most likely return — and reduce your writer’s block.
Doing What You Love, Know, Or Hate Is Great, But Is There A Market For The Topic You Want To Blog About?
Do a Google search or use Google Keyword Tool to determine if people are searching for your topic and related terms.
Google Trends helps determine how popular a search term or word is. Market Samurai is an excellent tool for finding detailed analyses of the topics and markets I want to get into.
Forums are also a great source of information to determine what the market needs. Users there might tell you what information or product they are looking for or willing to pay for. Or you can ask on the forums what people are after.
Choosing a Blog
Which is Best: WordPress or Blogger?
Call me biased because I’m using WordPress, but I’ve used both of them, and WordPress has impressed me the most — don’t hold it against me, almighty Google. WordPress has better and more plugins to make life easier, and I am all for it because I’m so lazy and technologically challenged.
Before you rush off to sign up for an account with WordPress, if you plan on making money out of your blog or if it’s for a business, you would want to look professional.
URLs such as yourwebsite.wordpress.com/yourentry don’t look professional and are difficult to remember. To get a free blog with WordPress.com, tell your audience your blog is just a hobby.
To get your URL or domain, such as YourWebsite.com, for example, you need a hosting provider to host your domain. Hosting packages usually cover the registration of the domain. Okay, I’ll admit a little secret: I didn’t even know what a hosting provider was or what it did when I began. Yes, the words technologically challenged come to mind.
I have used several hosting providers, and some good ones are out there. So far, the ones I like have to be Bluehost and Siteground. I use both of them.
Bluehost offers fantastic, 24-hour online support. I’ve had some lame newbie problems in the past, and they have always been there to help me fix the issues — without making me feel like a noob. Bluehost support is fast and reliable. Their prices are pretty average. Not the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. But you will get good support from them — so for someone new to blogs and websites, they are a Godsend.
Siteground is cheap and cheerful. The prices are lower than Bluehost, but for a good reason: their support is elusive. If you’re confident with websites and blogs, then support doesn’t matter. To get hold of a Siteground customer service rep online is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. And Siteground has slightly fewer features compared to Bluehost. But what they lack in features, they make up for in price and overall performance. If you are on a shoestring budget and want affordable hosting, Siteground is the way to go.
So which host is better? It all comes down to your budget and support preference.
Hosting Your Website
- Before registering your domain and hosting your website, have some backup URLs or domain names in case the one you want is already taken.
- Go to Bluehost or Siteground and type in the available URL you want. Sign up, make payment (credit card or Paypal), and you should receive a welcome email with the login details of your website. It’s worth paying that little extra $10 a year for the WHOIS privacy protection so people can’t find your details when they look at who owns the website. And to prevent them from spamming your email.
- Sign into your website by visiting your hosting provider’s website and logging in with your account details.
Here is where you will easily install WordPress with a few clicks:
- For Bluehost > Scroll down to Software/Services section and click on Simple Scripts > Under Blogs heading, click on WordPress > Click Install > Fill in details > Bookmark your website’s WordPress login URL — now you have a WordPress blog on your domain!
- For Siteground > Go Account Section > click CPanel > click Access CPanel Normally > Scroll down to Software/Services section and click on Fantastico De Luxe > Under Blogs, click on WordPress > Click on New Installation > Fill in details and click Install WordPress > Bookmark your website’s WordPress login URL — now you have a WordPress blog on your domain!
Pick A Template (Design) For Your Blog
Many people get worried that they need to know how to design a website to have one. But there are templates (for WordPress and Blogger) that are free — with all the design and work done for you.
To pick a free theme, log into your website’s WordPress account (the URL you bookmarked after WordPress was installed), which I’ll refer to as the “WordPress backend” from now.
On the left panel, under the Appearance tab, click on Themes, the Install Themes tab across the top, tick the boxes you want, or put in the name of a design or word and click Find Themes. Once you have found and settled on a theme, click Install, click the Install Now button, then click Activate, and your theme or design should be live on your website now.
Check it out by typing your website URL into a new browser window and look. If you do not like it, you can search for another theme and activate the new one instead. You can even find the names of the themes you want by doing a Google search. Type “Free WordPress Themes pink” or “Paper WordPress Themes,” etc., with a short description of the style or color you want, and you’ll get lists of themes to choose from.
To customize your blog to the colors you want with your logos etc., I’ll cover that in part three of this post series “How To Customize Your Blog.”
Adding WordPress Plugins To Make Your Life Easier
What are WordPress plugins?
WordPress blogs are okay for blogging, but your site will be pretty bare and straightforward in function. Unless you are a programmer who can code everything you need, you will want some plugins. Best of all, these plugins are free.
What are these plugins, and what on earth do they do? The question should be, what don’t they do? From helping your site run faster to helping you add contact forms, insert ads, have slide shows, help Google find your site, let you have customized sidebar or menus, embed videos, kill comment spam, make your site prettier, and much more! Many programmers have spent time making these handy plugins to make our lives easier so we can have more exciting and better websites – so a thank you to all you WordPress plugin programmers out there.
To add new plugins to your WordPress backend (without having to install them manually), click Add New on the left-hand panel under the Plugins tab, type in the name of the plugin or the function you want, and click Search Plugins. Find the plugin you want, select Install Now, and click Activate Plugin to begin using it.
These Are My Top 13 Recommended WordPress Plugins To Add:
- Ad Inserter (by Igor Funa) — works with Advertising Manager below. It will make your life easier when you monetize your site with ads. The last thing I want to do is figure out how to code the ads to make them repeat or sit in a particular area on my site. This plugin makes adding ads simple.
- Advertising Manager (by Scott Switzer) — works with the Ad Inserter above. This helpful plugin controls how many ads to show so you don’t get bitch slapped by Google Adsense. Google only allows three ads per page, so this plugin does all the work for you, so you don’t have to worry about compliance!
- Akismet (by Automattic) is a weird name, but it is handy to kill off annoying comments that leave spam on your website! This is already pre-installed on all WordPress accounts; you must activate it by signing up for an API key.
- All In One SEO Pack (by Michael Torbert) — will help optimize your website for search engines (which is essential but more on that in another post).
- Comment Link Manager (by Weberz Hosting) — will make your life easier by letting you manage the links left by my commentators.
- Fast Secure Contact Form (by Mike Challis) — enough said! Building web forms are a pain in the butt, and this plugin does it for you and still gives you the flexibility to customize it if you wish. And it’s secure, making me feel all fuzzy and warm. Now you have a “contact us” form; how professional!
- Google XML Sitemaps (by Arne Brachhold) — aids search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to index your site asap – which is essential if you want to be found.
- Robots Meta (by Joost de Valk) — Search engines use crawlers, web spiders, or web robots to “crawl” your website’s pages. This plugin points the bots to the pages that matter and avoids the ones that aren’t.
- Sexy Bookmarks (by Shareaholic) — If you look below, you’ll see a social networks panel for people to share this article with (like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc). This encourages people to tell their friends and family about your site or articles.
- Subscribe To Comments Reloaded (by Camu) — such a minor feature that can be powerful. It leaves a little box for commentators to tick if they wish to follow comments by others. What does that mean, and how does it benefit you? By subscribing to comments, they want to see what others say and return to your website! Encouraging readers to come back is a great thing to have!
- W3 Total Cache (by Frederick Townes) — Makes your blog load faster! And that in itself is awesome because Google takes that into account when ranking one’s site. So the faster your website loads, the better it looks in Google’s eyes.
- WordPress Database Backup (by Austin Matzko) — This one doesn’t require an explanation. The name tells you just how important it is to back up your website in case your computer crashes or you accidentally mess up your website.
If Your Theme Needs Extra Basic Features
If you like your theme but it is missing some essential elements — like menus etc., these plugins might help (remember these are optional, so check your theme first):
Menubar (by Andrea Tarantini) — some theme developers forget to put in a menubar. If your theme is one of them, this will do the trick.
Page Link Manager (by Garrett Murphey) — if your theme is missing a Menubar, you cannot control which links appear in your navigation menu/menubar once you add one. This plugin will help decide which pages or categories show with a few clicks.
Now What Do I Do, Zoe?
You started writing and putting content in!
WordPress automatically installs a pre-written first post for you. You can delete it by writing over it or selecting Add New under the Posts tab on the left-hand panel.
If you’re stuck on what to write for your first post, write your “About Me” page to introduce your blog and yourself to your audience.
I hope this helps your first steps in having your very own blog.
Next post: Part Two — How To Monetize Your Blog
Hi, I’m Zoe, and I’m on my way to living on a passive income. I’m here to show you how you can too.
Visit my website [http://www.MindofZ.com] to learn more ways to make your blog successful and begin your first steps toward financial freedom, with free articles, tips, newsletters, and more to help you on your blogging venture.
You don’t need a degree or be a qualified writer to succeed online. You don’t have to be rich to begin. You’re never too young or too old to start. You don’t even need to design your website. You need the desire to begin.
Read also: Interpreting The Data On Your Website.