You’ve finally done it. You’ve decided to start a blog. Congratulations! It’s a huge decision to decide to start blogging, and if you’re like me, you soon discovered just how much it takes to start a blog. There are countless blogs out there all explaining different steps to having a blog, but this post will give a detailed step-by-step guide on what to do so you don’t have to spend time researching a thousand different articles or blog posts out there!
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1. Decide Your Niche.
There are millions of blogs out there, all discussing a million different topics. Setting up your blog requires many important steps which all take your niche, or focus, into account. While it is possible to change things down the road, it can be very difficult to do so. Now is the time to decide what your blog will be about and what you want to write about. You don’t want to be too broad, but you also don’t want to be too narrow. Choosing a niche that topics can be added to down the road, is always a safe bet. For example, a lifestyle blog can discuss food, home decor, life, parenting and more. Many, many topics can all be included in a lifestyle blog. A blog about fish, however, may not have the same ability to have topics added, and if you attempt to, the reader can get confused.
One thing I didn’t read in any of my research, however, was to also view your niche from a monetary perspective. Of course your first and primary reason for writing should be to share your passion and knowledge with the world. However, if you do want to make money, you need to view it from a business perspective at the same time. When I first started my blog, my niche was a lifestyle blog with a focus on adoption and foster care. When it came time to start monetizing my blog, however, I discovered my focus could be somewhat limiting. For example, if I was writing a blog on fish, as mentioned before, most of my affiliate marketing would likely need to be focused around fish. I could probably advertise fish food, fish suppliers, fish equipment and fish books. It wouldn’t make sense though, to be advertising home decor on a fish blog. So do take time to consider this as you choose your niche.
2. Choose a Name and Domain
These two steps go hand-in-hand. First you want to choose a name for your blog. Remember that this is your brand and will be advertised on everything from social media to your blog to any products you might start selling. Many people stick to the basics and just use their name, which is always a great idea and can easily accommodate niche changes should you ever choose to do so in the future. Otherwise, try to choose a name that is still broad enough to encompass who you are but not too narrow to leave you stuck only writing about fish (Unless that is truly your hearts desire, then go for it!).
I would also recommend doing a quick google search of the name you are considering. You don’t want to choose a name that is already out there and gaining attention. It can confuse readers if they accidentally click on the wrong site, causing you to loose traffic or someone to confuse your content with another’s.
Next you need to choose a domain. This is basically your website address. For example, my domain is www.mylovelycrazylife.com. My domain is also my website name. Ideally, these will be the same so readers can find you easily. When you sign up for your domain there will be a search bar which will tell you if your domain is already chosen. If your domain comes up exactly the same but with a different ending, such as .org or .net, then choose a different name. Choosing a .com at the end of your domain looks the most professional and is what I would recommend. There are many places you can register a domain with, but my personal recommendation is to set up your domain alongside your web hosting with Siteground (which I will discuss further below).
3. Set up Web Hosting
Many people who first begin their blogs all start off with a hosted site. I started a blog years ago through blogger. Many people go through wordpress.com. These are all hosted sites and are not ideal for monetized blogs. I won’t go into the difference but if you would like to know I recommend checking out The Difference Between Hosted and Self-Hosted Website Platforms. To put it simply, however, a hosted site is very user friendly but does not have as many options to customize. A self-hosted site has a bit of a learning curve, but can be completely customizable to match your brand and your vision of what your blog will look like. Self-hosted can include code (which is confusing as anything) but for the most part I have managed to get by with plugins (similar to apps) to complete all of my tasks. The few times I have required code I simply you-tubed or googled it and figured it out quite quickly…and I am old and NOT techy (well old as far as technology goes).
This guide will assume you are choosing self-hosted, as I did, and walk you through that process.
Next you need to choose a self-hosting company. I personally recommend Siteground. Bluehost is another popular hosting company, and there are many more out there, but my favorite is Siteground. While I do not have any issues with Bluehost (I run a charity through it), I have read that it can cause your site to be slower. Based on this information I went with Siteground for my blog and have been so impressed with them! Anytime I have a problem I simply call their customer service line and they quickly fix my problem! And by problem, I mean I just don’t know how to do something. It has been easy to navigate to set up, such as e-mail and to register my domain, and the prices are great!
To sign up with Siteground, head to their website and click the Sign-Up button directly on the landing page. Once you click sign-up, it will bring you to the plan page. Here you can choose which pricing plan you wish to use. I chose the StartUp option when I started, but you can easily switch to the different plans as needed when your blog grows. It is such a small investment at only $3.95/month to begin a blog which can potentially bring in thousands.
Once you choose your plan, you will be brought to the next page where you can choose your domain. To find out if your domain is already taken, simply type in your desired domain name and click proceed. If your name is already taken it will provide you alternative options or you can hit back and type in a brand new domain. If you just want to play around and test your options, simply type in the domain and hit your browser’s back button to get back to this page. I did this a few times to confirm what options were available and what I liked best.
Once you have completed the domain stage, you will be brought to the final step. Here you will choose your plan and extra services. I highly recommend getting the extra privacy setting when you sign up to protect your personal information.
Once you complete the above step and fill in some further information, you will officially have a blog! Well…sort of. You’ve got the self-hosting service, the domain, but unless your an experienced coder, you now need a content management system. I can only recommend what I have tried, and that is WordPress. I am confident this is a strong recommendation considering it is one of the most popular programs out there. Most of the tutorials and blog posts all correspond with WordPress, so it is a good route to go.
4. Set Up WordPress
To add WordPress, log in to your Siteground account and click on the tab Accounts. Under that tab, click on go to cPanel. Once you are at the cPanel, scroll to the second section titled Autoinstallers. There you will see an icon for WordPress. Simply click the button and follow the install instructions. Once you have installed WordPress, you will now be brought to the WordPress dashboard every time you go to your domain/admin. This is where you will do everything to set up the look and design of your blog, and where you will post all your blog posts from.
At this point, your blog has no design or template to it. The next step to setting up your blog will be to add a THEME, which is the basic design of your website.
** While you are logged in to your cPanel, it is a good time to set up an e-mail address for your blog. Scroll down to the mail section and click mail. It will provide very simple prompts to set up an e-mail address, in the form firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Choose a Theme
When it comes to choosing a theme there are SO many out there. To find multiple themes to browse through, I recommend checking out Creative Market. They have so many beautiful and stunning themes to choose from, so take some time to browse through them. I personally chose Hello Darling.
Powered by Creative Market
While I was at Creative Market, I discovered many of the themes had the phrase child theme in their description, and required Genesis Framework in order to install it. So here is the low down on themes and child themes (from my non-techy perspective). A theme provides the framework of your entire website. Once you start adding things and changing code, however, you can sometimes alter that theme and it can be difficult to ever get it back to it’s original form. A child theme, is basically a theme on top of the basic theme. You then are changing aspects of the child theme rather than the framework, and can switch out the child themes if you choose while still maintaining the basic framework. So I chose the Genesis Framework through StudioPress.com, one of the most popular frameworks out there, and then chose the Hello Darling child theme from Creative Market. There are many other themes and combinations to choose from, but I do recommend going with a theme/child theme combination.
I will not pretend to be an expert on tech aspects of blog set-ups, so to find out how to properly install your theme and child theme, follow the link here. This is specific to Genesis Framework, but the installation process is the same for any theme. Just be sure to install your framework before the child theme.
6. Design Your Blog
And there you have it! Once your theme and/or child theme is installed, you are ready to start designing your blog! There is a bit of a learning curve to setting up the various design elements, so be sure to google or youtube your specific theme and how to add various elements. For example, you might want to add a responsive slider to your header. This is the alternating photo bar at the top of your site. You will also want to add menu tabs and basic pages to your blog.
There are key elements you should include in your blog to ensure it looks professional. First, be sure to have an About Me page. Most readers want to know who you are as they navigate around your site. They want to form a connection, and are more likely to read more of your blog if they like who you are. Your About Me should include who you are, a bit about your personality, and should also include a professional photo. A dark, shadowy photo of yourself and the neighbor, is less than ideal to present your brand. You can check out my about me page here.
Be sure to include lots of high quality photos in your blog as well. Your blog will likely gain more attention having a feature photo with each post, as opposed to just a title and text. Older photos within a post for the purpose of detailing something historial are one thing (This was us when we first met!), but are not a good choice for feature photos or photos that are not related to your personal past.
It is also a good idea to include menu tabs for your various topics. For example, if you plan to make a lifestyle blog, be sure to include such menu tabs as parenting, decor, health, etc.
Since this blog is also intended to make money, there are some other key elements needed to aid in that goal. You should add a subscribe widget to your sidebar, in order to build up your subscriber list. This will be a key player in building your audience and getting more pageviews. You will have to attach a mail program to your subscribe list, such as MailChimp or Convertkit. Convertkit is my preferred choice and I discuss it further in my next post.
The final design element I recommend is a related post section at the bottom of each post. This will encourage readers to click on other posts you have written and not leave your webpage after only reading one post. This in turn brings up your pageview count which can assist in many aspects of blogging, and can also get them connected to your other content.
And there you have it! Your very own blog set up to be professional, attractive, and ready to engage your readers and eventually earn you income. Your goal now is to go and write at least 15 quality posts before you start marketing your blog. Remember, regardless of how great your blog is set up or how beautiful it looks, you have to have great content to bring your readers in and keep them there. Be sure to have posts written for every menu heading, and be sure to include links to your other posts within each post. Once you have completed that and are ready to engage your audience, read Crucial Next Steps to Making Money With Your Blog!
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