Even I get a little flustered thinking about where to start if I were back at the beginning of blogging again. There are about 100 options for platforms, blog templates, emails lists, social media. But to get started you only need a handful of things, so I’ve come up with a not-too-intimidating list that should help you jump in with ease.
Choose a platform
First, decide where you’ll host your blog. Blogger, WordPress, and SquareSpace are all good options depending on what you’d like to invest and how much you hope to customize your design.
- Blogger: free, few options, but easy to customize
- WordPress.com: free, few options, customize header image and background only
- Self-hosted WordPress: free (you’ll pay for hosting and a domain, but not the platform), endless options and add-ons (see my favorites on my resources page), more challenging to customize if you don’t know CSS, but there are lots of beautiful themes that don’t need customization at all
- SquareSpace: lots of options for designs and ecommerce, not free, but fantastic to build a beautiful site with little customization needed
If you’re planning to get serious about blogging, I highly recommend self-hosted WordPress because most bloggers end up transferring to the platform once their blog starts to grow anyway. (How to transfer your blog to self-hosted WordPress)
If you’re going the WordPress route BlueHost is great for hosting and domains because of their fantastic customer support and one-click WordPress install option—the name of the game is EASY right??
1 | Click on HOSTING and then CPANEL
2 | Choose INSTALL
3 | Select your domain, leave the box next to it blank and click CHECK DOMAIN
4 | Fill in your site title and login info – this is what you’ll use to access your blog
5 | Click install and watch BlueHost make it happen!
Once WordPress has been installed you’ll go to example.com/wp-admin to edit & update your blog (put your domain name where it says example)
Choose a theme
For me this is the most fun part of blogging!
For non-designers I recommend choosing a minimalist theme with the ability to customize the background and header image. These are two easy ways to show off your style without pulling your hair out over coding. Studio Press makes some good lookin’ themes that are quick to upload. Stick with two or three colors and two or three fonts throughout design, blog post graphics, and social media profiles.
If you’ve got some design skills I recommend starting a Pinterest board to help you narrow your color choices and choose a specific design direction. Then opt for a framework (Genesis is what I use for all of my sites) to give you a clean slate to start designing. A framework makes it easy to focus on the design elements while being sure WordPress is always running smoothly.
Your website should include:
- A photo (likely of you) and an intro to your site
- A list of 5 – 10 categories / labels
- Social media icons
- A list of popular posts
- A search box
- Blog buttons
- Recent posts or comments
- Archive calendars
- Tag or label clouds
- Ads until you’ve got traffic to actually bring in some cash (Affiliate linking is a less obtrusive way to get started making money)
Choose your topics
You can write about anything and everything, but from personal experience I’ve learned that when you narrow your focus, the quality of your content increases and your audience will grow. Consider who you’re writing for and what types of posts they’ll benefit from most.
Also remember, writing about things you love will be more likely to keep you interested in blogging for a long time rather than writing about what’s popular and trendy.
Post content on a regular basis
The number one way to grow a blog—post valuable content on a regular basis. Whether you post once a week or five times a week, decide on a schedule and stick to it! I use the Editorial Calendar plugin to make a plan and schedule my posts in advance.
Reach out and get involved
Social media and commenting on other blogs are an important step in building an audience and connecting with others. And frankly, blogging is more fun when you’re not going it alone! Share your posts on a daily basis, interact with readers on Instagram and Facebook, and join Twitter chats to meet new people. Here’s a list of online communities already full of friendly, supportive bloggers.
A few random blogging tips
- Your blog name and social media handles should all match
- How-tos and lists make super sharable posts
- Add a photo with every post and make sure it fills the width of your post space
- Even if you’re not writing a personal blog, try to inject your content with your style and personality
- No auto-play music or video!
- Interact with your readers by responding to comments and questions posted on your blog
And some of my top blogging-related posts
- 7 signs you’re blogging about too many topics
- How to commit to blogging on a regular basis
- Why you should create seasonal content for your blog
- 5 things to nail down before hiring a blog designer
- 10 mistakes new bloggers always make (and how to fix them)
- Before hitting publish: A 10-point blog post checklist
- 10 things that shouldn’t be on your blog
- 10 ways to engage readers and grow traffic today
- How to make more time for business and blogging
- How to organize tags, categories and labels
- How to create a style guide for your blog