Create a Blog: Getting Started
This step-by-step actionable guide to how to start a blog is intended to walk you through the creation process from considering the cost and topic of your blog to design and getting the website set up. So you’re wondering how to start, here is your detailed, step-by-step instructions guide (without the BS).
Creating a new blog the right way that will set you up for the most success is relatively simple if you know what you have to do, and have a plan to get it done.
Cost of Starting a Blog
When thinking about starting, one of the first things to consider is how much it will cost to create a website and how much it will cost to continue publishing content over time.
There are a few things to consider here including web hosting for your website, registration of the domain name, and the cost of producing content over time. (You may want to invest in tools to help you write more effectively, or get help with the actual drafting from a hired person.)
For more on the true cost of blogging, check out our article: Cost of Starting: How Much Do You Need To Invest?
Choose Your Topic
Ok, here’s the deal: if you want to start a blog, you have to choose a topic to write about. For example, this website is about helping other people become successful with digital and online marketing. In marketing, we call this a “niche.” A niche is basically the main topic you will cover in your content.
So what you want to do is choose something you’re interested in that you can teach other people. For example, if you’re a big fan of cars and you’re really interested in the mechanics and stuff like that, you could start a website about cars. That way you could talk about something that interests you and at the same time teach other people stuff that they don’t know.
A lot of digital marketers out there will tell you that if you don’t choose a narrow niche or topic, your site won’t succeed. Well, that’s not entirely true.
For example, successful creators like Stefan James, Pat Flynn, and even Neil Patel that didn’t respect this rule. Stefan James started his website about self-improvement, but he’s now mixing both self-improvement and online business in his content, and he’s doing pretty well. Pat Flynn is another example. He talks about how to blog, how to start a podcast, and YouTube stuff – all of this on just one website.
You can see that some very successful blogs didn’t really respect this rule; however, you should have a clear purpose. Whereas these guys didn’t talk about just one narrow topic, their sites had a general direction. For example, Stefan James is about improving yourself as a person and improving your life in general. This is probably why he got away with mixing two topics together. It’s because people interested in self-improvement will likely be interested in improving their financial life.
What you should know is that your blog should have a clear general topic.
For more, check out our full article: What Should I Blog About? How To Pick A Topic When Starting
What Should I Blog About: Niche Selection & Website Ideas
Selecting a niche should be done based on a few factors including what you are most interested in. This is because you’ll likely be writing about this topic or working with it going forward for some time!
It’s important not to rush into selecting a topic too quickly before considering all your options.
One good way to do this is to write your top interests down on a piece paper and then think about what value you have to offer others by writing on the topics you’ve written down. Narrow down your list this way until you come to the best topic.
It’s important to consider why people would read your content, and this mostly comes from insights or knowledge on a topic that you have that would be valuable for others to learn. Or else you believe you can start a discussion on something and get good participation in the discussion that would be valuable for others to read.
Another important thing to think about is how well the topic has been covered already – if there’s an abundance of other websites already talking about the topic or if if there’s an open space for you to start a conversation that isn’t going. Thinking about the competition in the space has an impact on how well your blog will do in terms of traffic and people coming to it.
One question that comes up a lot is about the scope of a topic or how wide it should be. Certain topics like ‘transportation in general’ are larger say than topics like ‘car transportation’ or ‘bicycle transportation’ which are topics that fit within the larger topic. Considering at what level you want to make your site about it something you should think about first before starting because it’s easier to set your topic up right from the beginning than trying to force a smaller topic to grow in scope.
It’s easier to cover comprehensively a smaller topic than a larger one, but you’re limiting yourself in what you can naturally talk.
For more, check out our full article: How To Create The Ultimate Niche Website
Check If People Are Interested In The Topic You Want to Write About
Before starting a whole website and start writing content, you should see if there are enough people who are interested in this topic. This step is very important because as a blogger, you’ll most likely want to get the most traffic to your site as you can right? That’s why you want to see if there are enough people that are interested in that particular topic.
Go to Google and type in “best youtube channels about (insert your niche)”
For example, if I wanted to start writing about cars, I would type in “best youtube channel about cars.” After that, you want to go to each channel and see how many subscribers they have. If you see that a few of these channels have a couple thousand, or even millions of subscribers, it means that it’s a pretty popular niche, so there’s a big demand for it.
Go to Quora.com and search for your niche
Quora is one of the biggest forums in the world. All you have to do is go there (signup if you don’t have an account) and then in the see what comes up in the search bar. Each topic has its own page on Quora, so if you see that your topic has a couple of hundreds of thousands of people, it means that a lot of people are interested in that topic.
Go to Reddit and search for your niche
Same thing with Quora. Reddit is one of the most visited websites on the web, so if people there are interested in the topic you want to write about, it means that there’s a demand for it. Type in your niche in the search bar of Reddit and see what results you get.
If you find that there’s an active community for your niche, go for it.
Blog Name: How to Pick a Name & Tagline
Picking a name is something to consider carefully before jumping into the creation process.
People often ask ‘how do I create my blog name?’ and my answer to that is that there are really two levels of a name that you have to think about and choose. There is the name itself, which is often the same as the domain name of the website your content is on (ie. the url name), and there is the blog tagline which is a short description about what the topic is.
Another way to think about how to pick a name is how to choose a domain name, because you’re going to want your site name to be the same as the domain URL of the website your content is actually on. When people go online and type in your name, they should be able to recognize they’re in the right place by the url.
Your name should communicate immediately to readers what the main topic you’re writing about is. You should also make sure your blog name is something you can live with and be excited about pushing forward for a while, as once you pick a name, it’s very difficult to change.
For more on picking a name, check out our article: How To Choose Your Blog Name: A Complete Guide
How to Start a Successful Blog
What is a successful blog? What constitutes Blogging Success?
A successful blog is one that effectively engages an audience and provides value to them through the content. This involves starting off with a great strategy and following the blogging tips of other successful content creators out there.
Where to Start a Blog
Once you have your topic and name selected, the next consideration to think about is where you’re going to start your site and start creating content.
Choose a Blogging Platform
A blogging platform is basically the software that lets you build, host and manage your content and website. There are many choices when it comes to platforms, so I’ll explain them a little bit first to give you the big picture.
Let’s look at the two ways to build your website.
The first one is to use a “website builder.” This is the type of website that lets you build a website. They help you build your site, manage it and keep it online so that people can see it anytime. When a website or a company keeps your content online, we call this “hosting.”
The second way is to use a company that offers web hosting (we call them “web host”) alone, and then you can install some software to help you manage your site.
So what’s the difference and which one’s better?
Well, using website builders is definitely easier and quicker to set up, however, their free features may be limited, so my advice is to go for a self-hosted blog unless you’re planning to use a free blog plan, which again, is somewhat limited in its features.
Free Blog Platform vs. Hosted Website:
There are a number of free blogging platforms and free sites you can use such as Tumblr to get started – and there are a number of platforms that you can set up yourself on your own website (which often involve paying for hosting) that offer more flexibility in what you can customize and change about your website.
If you’re looking to get started as a hobby or to start just a conversation with readers, considering a free platform might be the way to go.
If you’re creating content as a way to start a business or to make money I would suggest going with WordPress and finding a hosting provider to host your website. This gives the most flexibility on what you can change and adjust and how you can brand your site as your own.
Before selecting a platform it’s important to know your options. Besides WordPress (which is the standard for content based websites and now accounts for about 30% of the web) there are a few other content management systems (CMS’s) that you can use such as Drupal or Joomla. I would recommend WordPress because it’s the most widely used platform, and has a bunch of support behind it. If you have questions when using it, there is a big community of people who know about it and can help you.
Things to Consider:
When thing about where to start, or asking ‘where do I start’ when selecting a blogging platform, the big things you should keep in mind are:
- what the community support is like behind the platform i.e. will the platform be around in three or five or 10 years,
- what the security and speed is like the blogging platform as these things have a real impact on the experience of the site for both you and the reader
- And how easy the platform is to work with. Do you need to know code to work at the platform? Is there a file transfer system or FTP you can work with? Or can you write content directly with in the platform itself and publish directly? And if so how easy is the admin dashboard of the platform to work with?
I mentioned a few platforms including WordPress and Drupal above. I would recommend going with WordPress because it’s so widely used, and is probably the easiest to work with in terms of customization and the ease of the publishing workflow for new content.
You can sign up to Bluehost and install WordPress. Bluehost is a hosting company that’s really good and recommended by many successful bloggers and WordPress is a great software that you can install on Bluehost to start creating your site.
You can signup to Bluehost by clicking here. You’ll also get a free domain name, so that’s really awesome.
For more analysis on platforms, check out: Best blogging Site (Platform) To Start: Which Should You Choose?
Website Hosting: What is The Best Blog Hosting Site?
What is the best host once you’ve selected your platform?
A host refers to the actual web servers your website’s files will live on to be served across the internet. Generally the way this works is you rent space on a server with a dedicated hosting provider company like GoDaddy or NameCheap.
When thinking about web hosing, the main considerations are:
- Speed of loading for your website
- Ease-of-use for you when working with the hosting provider
- And if the host has a WordPress specific hosting plan. Many hosts have a WordPress specific hosting option which works best for WordPress.
My favorites to work with are BlueHost, HostGator, Flywheel and WP Engine depending on the amount of traffic that my site has.
Sign up on Bluehost and install WordPress
As I was saying, I think Bluehost is one of the best hosting companies out there, and it’s pretty cheap to get started with. All you have to do is create a hosting account on Bluehost and then install WordPress, and you’re done.
Blogging On WordPress: How to Start Using WordPress
Starting and creating a WordPress site is relatively simple. Here is how to do it:
Installing Your WordPress Site
The first step is to install your WordPress Site which can be one in literally one click when using hosing platforms that offer WordPress specific hosting. If using Bluehost or HostGator, once you sign up for their service, they should guide you through the one click WordPress install.
Choosing and Installing a WordPress Theme
The next step is to choose a theme for your WordPress site. This is the visual design and layout that gets applied to your WordPress Blog. I suggest picking one of the many free themes for this to start.
One of the great things about WordPress for blogging is the extensive plugin ecosystem. Plugins are packages (many are free but some are paid) that essentially extended the functionality of the WordPress platform. You can plug and play with these to customize your site how you like.
Choose a Domain For Your Blog
Your domain name is basically the URL address of your website. In other words, it’s the thing you type in the navigation bar to access your site. For example, the domain of this site is “CreateYourStart.com,”.
You can be creative here, but there are some best practices to choose your domain name:
- Don’t make it too long so people can remember it.
- Make sure it’s easy to spell.
- You can also make your name your domain name.
Best Cheap Domain Registration
For domain registration and where to register your domain name, the things to think about are:
- The amount of control you have over your domain name
- And the protections that the domain registrar has in place to protect your URL from expiring.
My favorite domain registration companies are NameCheap and GoDaddy.
For more on domain names, what they are, and how to get one, read: URL for WordPress Blog: How to Get a Domain Name
How to Start a Blog for Free
To start for free there are a few good options for platforms that will help you get started right away, such as Blogger.com and Tumblr.
Both are easy for beginners to work with, however both have big limitations on how you can brand your web presence, make your site look, how you can structure your content, and ultimately if you’re looking to use your site to make money – how you can monetize your content.
Blog Setup: Technical Elements of Your Website You’ll Want To Consider When Getting Started
Maybe the most complex part of starting a blog is setting up all the little technical, performance, and legal elements that you should set up right from the beginning.
Making Sure Search Engines can Access Your Content
Once you set up your site there are few things you’ll want do to make sure search engines like Google and Bing can crawl your pages and content to ensure they know what you are writing about.
The biggest things are setting up setting up Google Webmaster Tools and verifying you are the site owner in the Google Search Console. Then submitting your site map to the Search Console and making sure google can successfully crawl and access your content. One common mistake when first setting up a website or blog is for the Robots.txt file for the website to be blocking google search crawler.
Once you have your site set up you, you should add an SSL certificate to your domain name which is a way of making sure your URL is secure from hackers and is well encrypted. This is what adds https:// in front of a URL instead of just http://.
When creating new pages on your website, think about the URL or permalink structure to use from the beginning. Once this pattern is set it’s very difficult and disruptive to change.
Generally URLs start with www.whatever-your-domain-name-is, and then have the name of the category or page after the main domain like /category/page-name. You can have a nested or hierarchical url structure by including categories and subcategories in the URLs or you can have a flat structure by just including the page name.
Hierarchical URL structures are more descriptive of where the content lives within your blog, but a flat URL structure is more flexible and less disruptive if you plan on moving your pages around in the future.
Considering Future Redirects
This is important to think about from the beginning because if you plan on moving pages in the future you’re going to have to create redirects from the old URLs to the new URLs for the pages you’re moving. This can be quite disruptive to Google and Bing and search engines in general, so having a good plan for this from the beginning is essential to any good blog starting plan.
Missing Pages or 404 Pages
You should think about missing pages on your blog, or searches readers do for pages that have been deleted. Generally there’s a page on every website called a 404 page which comes up and lets the reader know that the page they’re looking for cannot be found. Figuring out what the message should be on this page can greatly improve the experience for any disappointed reader who cannot find what they are looking for.
Technical Performance from CDNs
A big technical performance thing to think about from the beginning when setting up your new blog up is how images will be served on the website. If they are hosted directly from your website hosting provider, they may be more slow to load than hosting them on a distributed network like a CDN which speeds up the process of loading images.
Setting up Schema Markup
Scheme Markup on your blog pages lets search engines know much better what type of content you’re writing. You can let Google and Bing know if you are writing a review, a general article, who the author is etc.. through dedicated schema markup.
Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a website/software by Google that lets you track your website visitors. You can use it to see how many people visit your blog, for how long they stay on your site, where they come from, from which country they visit, etc. It will help you see many of details such as where your traffic is coming from.
This is a MUST if you want to be successful with blogging. Here’s how you can install Google Analytics :
- Go to “Google Analytics.” If you don’t already have an account, create one.
- After you create an account, all you have to do is enter the basic information about your website. You’ll get something like this:
- Click on “get tracking ID.” This is basically a piece of code that you’ll copy to your site so that Google Analytics can track what’s going on on your site.
- Now the next step is copying your tracking ID to your WordPress blog. Go to your WordPress dashboard, on the left side menu, click on “plugins” and then “add new.”
- Now you should have something like this:
- Go to that search bar at the top right of your screen, and type in “headers and footers plugin” and then install that plugin.
- Once you have installed it, go back to your WordPress dashboard. In the bottom left corner, scroll over “setting” and click on “insert headers and footers.” Here’s how you do it:
- Go back to your Google Analytics dashboard, copy your tracking ID and paste it on the “scripts in header” section.
After that just click on save and Google Analytics should start tracking your blog within 24 to 48 hours. If this wasn’t enough for you, here’s a great video that explains this even more.
Blog Legal Pages and GDPR Notification
Recommended Content Pages When Starting
A few recommended pages that you might want to start with for your new site are:
- An About page which lets readers know who you are, and why you’re writing about the topic that you are
- A Contact page which lets people know where to contact you
- And a Media Kit page if you have your own brand want other bloggers and publishers to be able to use your logo when writing about or referencing you.
Blog Content: Strategy and Planning
Content is the main product of your blog and why people are coming there in the first place, so having it well organized and defined topically is important to both get readers to it, and to keep them around.For both search engines and people, skimming through your categories and headlines to finding pieces they are interested in is the first step to deciding if your content is interesting or not. This is where the content strategy and planning come into play.
Again, content is your main product, so have a plan when setting out to create it!
Writing for the Web: Web Content
How is web content different than other written content?
The big difference is in the context of where people are when they’re reading the content. They may or may not be cozy at home, able to spend a long time reading a long piece. They may be out-and-about on their phone or just killing a minute or two before the bus or subway arrives.
For this reason, the best web content is relatively short and to the point or at lease easily skimmable to get the main points.
When creating content for the web, another big advantage is being able to mix written words with multimedia such as video, audio sound clips, and images that help to also get your point across.
What Is a Blog Post
The blog post is the basic building block of your content. Essentially it’s an article that’s produced on a specific topic.
Posts can be standardize and have a standard formatting, or they can be freeform written about different ideas or topics.
Writing Blog Posts: What is Blog Writing
The first thing to writing a blog post is making sure it has a great title and title tag. This is where all potential readers first judge whether or not they want to click in and read your post.
Writing Introductions & Conclusions
making sure your post has a great introduction and conclusion is the next thing to focus on as these are the most read parts of any post and often make the reader decide to read on or leave. A great introduction should let the reader know what’s included in the blog post or article and invite them to read or skim on.
Article Structure and Subheaders
Part of having a good post structure is having a great headline and sub headers that break the post up into digestible sections for the readers to skim and read what sections they want.
Sentence and Paragraph Writing: the Fundamental Building Blocks
On a fundamental level, writing a good post is about writing good sentences and paragraphs that are structured correctly and grammatically correct. These are the very smallest building blocks of the blog post that organize the post’s ideas into a logical order.
Voice and Tone
Writing a good blog post also involves using the right voice or tone. This means conveying who the author is through their personality if familiarity the goal, or in a neutral way if neutrality is the goal. Creating a list of words to use or words to avoid is a good way to ensure you stick to the voice and tone you want.
Good Elements in Post Content
Some good elements to include in writing blog posts are a table of contents that lists the sub-headers so that people can easily scan what the post is about and jump to the sections they want to read.
Also having a good comments section for readers to offer their thoughts and start discussions is useful for posts. This is nice to you as the blog starter too because it offers a form of user generated content that doesn’t require a lot for you to create.
Citing sources is important when writing posts as well, so that facts are backed up and trustworthy, and people know where they can find more on the topic.
Meta descriptions are important for web articles because they explain what the article is about when results get shown in search engine results or SERPs.
Writing Calls to Action (CTAs)
Often when writing a post, the ultimate goal is to get the reader to perform some action, whether to click on a certain link or button like a buy button, or to simply click onto the next article to continue reading. Calls to action are explicit invitations written to people to encourage them to perform the action you as the blogger want. Getting good at writing CTAs can greatly increase reader engagement and make your site more successful in retaining readers.
Keywords are specific words that search engines use to clue in on to help them determine what a piece of web content is about. Researching and using relevant keywords within your posts is a great way to get more search traffic coming to your blog posts.
How to Start a Blog Post
When thinking about how to start a blog post or how to start an article, the introduction is the most important part to get right as this is the part of any post most people read before skimming the rest, or deciding if they want to read more. A great post introduction lets the reader know what the post is about, and invites them to read more in a fun way.
Outlining a post before you start writing is a great way to make sure that you’re covering all the subtopics that you want to within the post, and doing it in a balanced way so that it offers the most valuable information to the reader.
First Blog Post
The first post is the first step forward in building the body of content for your site.
It often serves as an introduction to the site, letting the readers know why the blog was created, what it’s going to be about, and to introduce you as the creator or author. The first post is a great way to introduce the purpose of the site, or to invite the kickoff of a bigger discussion around the topic you’re covering.
The first one doesn’t have to be long, just serve the purpose of what you’re trying to accomplish with it.
If it makes sense, you might want to consider pinning the first post to the top of your content so that it always appears first to new reader regardless of how many posts or articles you have on the blog in the future.
For more on writing your first post, please read our article: How to Write Your First Blog Post
Blog Post Ideas
Coming up with post ideas depends on the specific topic that you’re writing about, but a few ideas any blogger can consider are:
- To create standardized posts that always follow a certain format or a certain theme that you can create new content to fill periodically like every week or every month. This type of content helps to keep a standard cadence of publishing and if these posts stick to a central theme, lessons the burden of coming up with another blue sky topic to write about.
- Try considering post ideas that dig in and answer the questions around your topic for (if it makes sense):
- Another great way to get post ideas are to consider audience questions people are naturally asking. You can find audience questions in your own blog comments, or to find forums on the topic that people are using to ask common questions.
When starting a blog it’s easy to get the website set up, get the first posts out, and then to the wonder where to go from there.
This is where content calendars come in.
They’re very useful when planning to posting regularly, and for capturing new ideas to write about in the future.
Content calendars could follow a simple list format (which is just a road map of which topics to write about next), or it could include actual dates for when posts are to be scheduled. I’ve seen both list style content calendars, and actual calendars people turn into post schedules. The key here is just to find the method that works best for you and to stick to it.
Content Types & Forms
There are different types and forms of content that you want to consider within your content strategy when starting your blog. It’s good to mix in long posts and short posts to inform and to entertain the reader depending on what what you’re going for.
Guides and How-To Articles
how-to posts and guides are generally long and informative, where as updates tend to be short and more engaging for the readers.
Guides and how-to articles generally form the pillar pieces of a content strategy and serve as the landing pages that bring people in from organic search.
Listicles are articles that enumerate different ways to do something or different items found within some unifying category or theme. For example ‘10 ways to do X’… or ‘8 common plants for the house’.
Listicles generally are very engaging and tend to be shared more than other types of content. The audience can easily skim the content because it’s listed out structurally, and they are very digestible no matter where the reader is when consuming them.
An essential part of any content strategy or plan is to think about Evergreen content as opposed to ephemeral content.
Evergreen content is content that is always relevant no matter what in season or year somebody is reading the content. Think about a topic like ‘How Often to Water a Basil Plant’.. this topic is unlikely to change in the next five to 10 or even a hundred years and is relevant to any reader year round.
Then think about a topic like ‘Best Christmas Wrapping Paper for 2018’. This topic has the double drawback of only being relevant in the Christmas season, and being especially only relevant in the year 2018 not in the years after.
Evergreen content keeps your blog as a whole relevant over time rather than only being relevant at the time you publish the content.ALSO READ: Guide to Evegrgeen Content
Most bloggers only think about writing articles and putting their ideas into the written word. But if your blog is being published on the internet or on the web, one of the great advantages in that is being able to embed multimedia content like videos and audio clips to make the content more engaging, relevant and consumable for people.
Think about ways to incorporate video, audio and other multimedia content into a good content strategy.
One of the least thought about parts of any content strategy is the concept formatting.
Great content formatting includes scannable sub-headers and easy to read paragraph lengths that invite people to read rather than putting them off by confronting them with a big wall of text.
Generally breaking up the article with visual elements like images, videos, pull quotes and block quotes entices the reader to continue scrolling down, and continue reading the page.
For more depth on how to format a post check out: How To Format A Blog Post.
Storytelling in Blogging
A great content strategy plan considers storytelling throughout your website. The question is how to continue a central theme from one post the next, and do so in a way that’s enjoyable for readers to continue reading from post to post. A good storytelling theme woven throughout a site invites readers to come back to your site again and again.
Some good things to think about when considering storytelling in blogging is to generally answer the question, ‘why does the reader care?’. How can you position yourself or your site persona as having a conversation with the reader, and communicate a little bit of personality?
Publish timing is a very tactical element of content strategy. It’s important think about publish timing both in terms of how often you publish during a week or month, and how to publish on a regular schedule so that your site appears active to new readers and keeps existing readers engaged.
Also consider the time of day that you post new articles though.
Considering the time of day to post becomes especially important if you have existing readers who are updated through email, something like an RSS feed, or through social media posts.
One story I have about this was from managing a survival focused website where we were publishing every day. We had readers who relied on being updated through an email update every morning that went out around 9 a.m. We had to be careful with this site to only publish between certain hours so that each day the new post would be included in the RSS feed and the corresponding email blast to existing readers.
Post Quantity vs. Quality
A common question for blog posts is ‘what’s more important, post quantity or quality?’ The answer to this is that quality beats quantity, but that quantity helps build a body of content.
If you have to choose one, it’s important to craft the best articles rather than to produce a bunch of low quality articles.
Watch Out for Plagiarism and Duplicate Content
One of the worst things for a blogger is to have your work accused of plagiarism or of publishing duplicate content. Plagiarism is the taking of ideas and concepts of others, and passing them off as your own.
Plagiarism in many countries has a legal definition and punishments associated for those that plagiarize.
Duplicate content is a search engine term that means publishing the same words or written content that’s already been published online somewhere else. Publishing duplicate content most often results in search engines dropping your site and penalizing you.
Always avoid plagiarism and duplicate content as best you can when starting your site.
Repurposing content and recycling content are the arts of taking content that you have already produced and extending the life of it to be useful more than once.
A great example of this is taking an article that had been written and re-packaging it into an e-book to be sold or given away, or re-packaging into email format to be distributed freshly.
Content repurposing or re-packaging keeps the content fresh and relevant for whatever context it’s been re-produced for. Content republishing just cycles old posts back through your distribution systems to be republished and brought fresh to the reader’s attention again without changing it.
Creating viral content consistently is very hard to do because the forces that make a piece of content go viral are often hard to guess or replicate more than once.
But there are some things you can do in your contact strategy and planning that would make a piece of content more likely to go viral and be shared by many people. This starts with picking the right topic that’s highly relevant, and highly sharable by a lot of people. Then making the content as engaging as possible.
It’s important when trying to create viral content to think about what platform it will be shared on and to format the content for that specific platform.
Hiring a Writer
Part of content strategy is to work out the best way to produce the content for your blog. This may or may not be writing the content yourself. Most blogs are authored by the people that start them, but in some cases it may be a better option to hire a writer to produce or draft the actual posts you share.
When hiring writers it’s important to get writers who are subject matter experts on the topic you are hiring them for so that your posts offer genuine insights and value for people to read.
There are a few places to find qualified writers including problogger.com or by putting up a write for us page.
Write For Us Page
One of the most effective ways of finding writers to write on your site is to create a ‘Write-for-us page’ that describes what you’re looking for in a writer, outlines what they can expect if they write for your blog, and how to get in contact with you about the opportunity.
Writing Tools & Resources
There’s a great number of writing resources and tools that I recommend including Grammarly, Hemingway app, Market Muse, etc..
For the complete checklist on being successful with your posts, check out: The Blog Post Checklist You Need To Be Successful.
Blog Design: Presenting your Brand and Website
When starting a blog, many people tend to focus first on the look of the website and making a brand for it. It’s natural because it’s the most apparent aspect of the website when anyone first lands there. The design itself really is the first impression a visitor gets when they come to your blog and influences whether they stick around and read or if they bounce.
Design influences people on a visceral and subconscious level and is always working to persuade people if your content is trustworthy or not. If the design is good they will be more likely to trust and resonate with your site as a whole. If the design puts them off, the design puts them off and they leave.
Empathy is a good place to start when thinking about the design of your blog. It’s important to really understand and picture the target person or like-minded people that you’re trying to reach and to anticipate what kind of message or feeling you want to evoke in them through the design.
How to Create a Brand or do a Rebrand
What is Branding? Branding is in its most basic terms the communication style a person or organization uses to communicate with the world.
When starting a blog, how you present yourself as the creator and how you position the communication tone of your site is branding.
Most readily branding in blog design comes across in the logo, colors, typography and layout. Think about what feeling you want to evoke in the reader when they first land on your site and find examples of other websites or blogs that are successful in evoking this feeling to help you guide your own logo and color and typography selections.
If your blog is a representation of yourself, then by default what you’re doing is personal branding.
Personal branding is positioning the way people perceive you and your communications. If your blog is a representation of yourself, then people will perceive you through the colors, fonts, and writing style you employ on the site.
When personal branding, I recommend starting with a written statement (which can become your ‘About page’) that just introduces yourself in they way you are trying to communicate yourself.
Do a Survey
Branding and design in general can feel very abstract for a lot of people. When dealing with something so ‘subjective’ or intangible, one great way to measure progress in the work is to show your design and branding attempts to people and conduct surveys on how they perceive your blog. If the perceptions in the surveys become better over time, your design is improving.
Creating a Logo
The logo of any brand packs the most punch when communicating who you are and your values. The colors, shape, and ‘dynamic energy’ of the logo are all things to consider when going through a branding exercise. You can create a logo using words or just a shape.
If you have never created a logo before or don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself I would recommend getting an actual designer to do this for you. I’ve had good success with 99designs.com which is a site where designers put together concepts based on a design brief you give them, and then you select which design you like best.
Horizontal vs. Vertical Logos
A final note on logos here is that when creating one for the web or for a blog, a more horizontal logo is preferable to a tall or vertical logo. They tend to fit better within headers of websites.
If you go through the process of designing a logo and picking a specific name for your blog, you may want to consider trademarking that logo and name to protect it from being used by anyone else. Trademarking prevents other people from using your designs or something very similar to it in a confusing way that would detract from your brand.
Now that your brand is set and you have a name and logo, you’ll need to set about the actual process of designing the way the blog looks and functions.
User Experience (UX)
User experience is the term used to describe the way people feel when using your website. Does the blog delight them, make them feel like they’re learning something important, or does it frustrate them, or make them feel like they’re being scammed?
The way people experience your site is effected by a number of different aspects – notably the branding, the layout, and the structure of how your blog presents its articles or posts.
Readability & Typography
When your real product is the content you’re creating, the most important thing you can do when in the design phase is to make sure the content is easily readable. This means considering the font size, line spacing and typography are easy on the eyes for people to naturally read.
Page Layout & Sidebars
When designing your blog, consider the layout of the pages themselves. Is there a sidebar to your content? and if so what goes in it? Is there a footer to your posts with more related articles? Some blogs keep it clean with no sidebar – just content which tents to focus the reader. Others use sidebars to present related posts, the lates information, just important information.
Consider how people are going to move about your blog. What items you should include in your navigation and menus. These are typically the big category pages for your site.
Another great way to help users navigate to where they want to go is to provide breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a series of links that show the level of content you’re on, and the parent pages the page you are on is connected to. Usually breadcrumbs appear at the top of blog posts.
The header for your blog is the top section of the website that includes the logo and sometimes the main navigation links. Consider if you want this to be thin and unobtrusive or thick to really impress upon the reader which blog they’re on.
People often think the homepage is the first page people land on when they come to your site or blog, but in fact it’s usually the second page. People usually land on an article page for something the’ve searched for in Google, and then after reading the article, click to your home page to learn more.
The most important thing your homepage design can do is communicate what the blog is about.
The most important ‘real estate’ of any website homepage is what’s referred to as ‘Above the Fold’. This is the visible part of the page people see on their phone or desktop before scrolling down at all. This is the section of the homepage that needs the most design attention from you to quickly communicate what the blog is about and why the reader should stay to learn more.
Landing pages are specially designed pages that you drive your traffic to in order to complete some action that you want them to complete. It could be a sign up page or a special promotion you’re running. Consider landing pages as part of your blog design when starting if you want your readers to complete a specific action.
Testing your Design: A/B testing & Eye Tracking
This may be a step farther than most blogger need when setting up their blog, and these are tools typically used by design agencies, but these are ways to actually test your design to understand how it’s functioning and how people are perceiving it.
A/B testing or Split testing is the practice of actually making two or more designs for a page and then showing a certain portion of the readers one design and the rest of the readers the other design. In this way you can measure which design performs better on a set of predetermined metrics like time on page, bounce rate, or conversion rate if you’re trying to get the readers to perform a specific action.
Eye Tracking is another tool that requires special equipment and test subjects. It’s essentially the testing of where people’s eye land and focus when shown a specific page.
Heat mapping where people click or how deep down a page people scroll are other tools used to understand how people are interacting with your blog pages. A great tool I use for these test is Hotjar.com.
Designing for Mobile and Different Screen Sizes
When setting up your new blog, think about how the blog will display on different size screens like phones, tablets, and ipads. The trend over the past few years is that more and more internet traffic is over mobile phones and the trend doesn’t look to be slowing down.
Think about how your logo and menu will appear on a mobile phone. Will the menu become a drop-down menu? or reformat into a columnar list? Also think about how the words of the articles will reformat into a thin screen format. This is known as responsive or adaptive design.
Making a Favicon
A Favicon is the icon that appears in the tab of a web browser when your website is open. When someone has a lot of tabs open on their computer it’s the favicon that becomes the visual representation for the blog. Generally this is logo reformatted into a square formatting.
WordPress Themes as a Design Solution for New Blogs
The design elements listed above are things to consider when creating a blog design from scratch. With WordPress, there’s a robust ecosystem of what are called themes that you can select for free or purchase (for a premium theme) which are essentially canned or pre-packaged designs you can apply to your blog to get going quickly. Themes and plugins take care of all the formatting, layout, and design issues for you (except you have to select things like colors and provide a logo).
Choose a Theme for Your Blog
Because you’re just starting out, I wouldn’t worry too much about the theme right now. Just select one of the themes suggested by WordPress, something simple to begin with, and you’re good to go. You’ll have the option to change your theme later.
Visual Content: Images, Photos and Graphics
Visual content is important to break up the text within a blog post. You can use images like photos, or illustrations, or graphics like infographics to make your blog posts more interesting and relevant to the readers.
When creating a new blog and using images, maybe the most important thing to be aware of is that you can only use an image if you have the correct usage rights or if the image is copyright free. The way copyrights work are that the moment a photograph is taken or a graphic created, the creator of photographer technically has a copyright over that image. Using a copyrighted image without the proper usage permissions can result in legal trouble or lawsuits, so be careful to only use images you have the proper rights to use.
There are some good resources online to find copyright free images. Some of my favorite are Unsplash.com and Pexels.com.
Another special kind of image to set up when setting up your blog is your Gravatar image. The Gravatar image is the author headshot that appears when using some WordPress themes or designs.
The way you set up a Gravatar is by going to wordpress.com and attaching a photo to your profile.
Hiring a Web Designer for your Blog
when setting up your blog you have to make a choice about whether you to do the design and set up yourself another good option is to hire a web designer either a design agency or a freelancer through a site like 99designs to set up your blog design for you
if hiring web designer the important things to know are to communicate clearly from the beginning what you want in a design and then to make sure to communicate throughout the design process to get a Blog that you’re happy with and that functions well for both readers and yourself as the author or administrator.
Web Design Tools
A few web design tools I use and enjoy are Hotjar.com, Adobe tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, Sketch, and graphic design tools like Canva and Stencil.
Read our full review of Stencil at: Stencil Review: Should You Use This App To Create Designs?
SEO: Getting your Blog to Rank in Search Engines
Part of setting up your blog the right way is making sure all the elements on your blog pages communicate well with the search engines like Google and Bing so that they can read what your blog is about and be able to display your blog in the results when someone types in a relevant search query.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization.
There are some things you can do both ‘on page’ and ‘off page’ that will help you show up better in search results. These include making sure your titles and sub-headers are accurately reflective of what the content within each section of your posts is about, making sure your images are using proper alt tags to describe what’s in the images, and interlinking your pages together to that search engines are able to understand the relationship between the articles you’re producing on your blog.
When starting a blog it’s important to know what the factors are that you have control over that can increase your position within search results. Having an SEO strategy when you start your blog is a smart idea. Some things you can do to affect your search ranking are:
- making sure that your headlines and subheadings are descriptive of what the text is actually about on a blog page
- make sure your images have alt tags that are descriptive of the image
- making sure that your blog page title tags and meta descriptions are descriptive of what the page is about
Beyond things that you can control on an individual page level, there are several factors that play into how well you rank including:
- The length of time the average visitor spends on your blog page (ie. dwell time)
- How many pages the average visitor visits on your blog before they leave
- How much interaction your page receives from visitors in the form of social shares, comments on the page, and links clicked within the text.
Beyond interaction with your blog from visitors, the other important ranking factor in SEO is the amount that your pages get shared in social media, and linked to from other websites (ie. backlinks).
Save time and energy, and potentially money with these tips:
- Install Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast SEO is a free plugin that helps you optimize your blog for SEO (however it’s not a must)
- When you’re starting out, go for free WordPress themes. Don’t go for a paid one right from the start. You can get a theme optimized for SEO later.
- Don’t get overwhelmed by all of the fancy language marketers use (on-page SEO, affiliate links…etc.). You’ll slowly learn all of this stuff.
Site / Blog Architecture
When starting your new blog you’re going to want to think about from the very beginning how best to set up the overall blog or website architecture. This is thinking about how the homepage displays, and then what pages are linked to from the homepage in the form of categories, and then what pages live under each category and how they inter-link to each other.
Setting up a successful blog architecture usually is thought about in the form of a pyramid with the homepage at the top linking to the next level category pages, which in turn link out to more specific articles that fit underneath those categories.
We talked about permalinks and URL structures earlier in this post but this is a good place to re-think about how you set up your url structure and how it relates to your overall site architecture. Once the URL or permalink structures are established, they are very difficult to change.
Making Category Pages Hub Pages
If using WordPress, category pages generally are not very interesting places as they just list out the articles within that category like a blog roll.
When thinking about how category pages can fit into an SEO strategy, one good idea is to make your category pages into more general hub pages with text in their own right and function has overviews of that category topic then link out to more specific articles within it. This tends to tie each page within that category closer together.
Expert, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness (E-A-T)
Something that’s recently been talked about quite a bit in the SEO community is the importance of stressing the ‘expertness, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness’ of your blog as a way to signal you are qualified to be blogging about the topic that you are.
It’s unknown how much Google uses expertness, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness and their ranking algorithms and it’s unclear how this is even measured, but when setting up your blog and starting out, it’s best to stress your qualifications for talking about your blog topic.
A great way to do this is by making sure your ‘About Page’ is robust, and complete about you as the blog creator.
Links are the method by which search engines understand how each page relates to the other pages.
If one blog post links to another blog post it’s generally assumed those topics are somehow related to each other. Linking from your own pages to your own pages is called internal linking. It’s import to do as a way to demonstrate to the search engines how your topics fit together.
Linking from your pages to another website is called external linking.
Linking to authoritative websites on the topic that you’re writing about demonstrates that you yourself are an authority on the topic, and can increase your rankings in search engines.
It’s important to do this not in excess however, as going overboard with external linking can cause you to lose traffic and readers.
When setting up your blog, think about general rules around how many external links you want to allow per blog post.
Nofollow links are a technical way to link to other websites or ads without allowing Google or the other search engines to follow that link and tie where you are linking to back to your content.
These should be used for things like ads and are by default set up and applied to links readers leave in the comments section of your WordPress blog.
Backlinks are links that other blogs and websites have on their sites that lead back to your blog. Search engines treat these like votes of confidence that your content it quality and worth reading. When setting up your blog, it’s important to create your content with a mindset that the quality has to be of such a level that other people would link to your content as authoritative on the topic.
Search Engine Indexing
Making sure search engines can crawl and understand and index your content is paramount because if search engines can’t crawl and index your content, it will never get traffic from people searching for your topic.
Using the Google Search Console is good here because it will tell you when there are problems accessing your content. It will show up as an error in the Google Search Console.
A good thing to note here is that in 2018 Google switched to using what’s known as a “Mobile First Index” for understanding content on websites. Basically it’s important that all content renders on mobile size screens that renders on large desktop screens.
One thing you may want to consider when starting your blog is using Google AMP. It’s essentially a fast loading version of your website that renders for people when accessing through a mobile phone.
Something else you may want to look into if you’re looking to squeeze every last ounce of SEO for your blog is to look up Bing SEO as it may be slightly different that Google SEO.
Media SEO For Your Blog
Forward looking bloggers will also consider the search engine optimizations for things like:
- Voice Search SEO
- Image SEO
- Video SEO
- Augmented Reality SEO
SEO Tools, Plugins and Resources
A few tools commonly used for SEO are:
- Yoast Plugin for WordPress
- A Hrefs
- SEM Rush
Blog Monetization: How to Start a Blog and Make Money
For those of you looking to make money blogging or asking how to start a profitable site that will produce profit in its own right (a source of passive income), there are a few ways to do this.
The most straight forward form of monetization for a blog is to sell advertising or ad space to advertisers. There is a natural marriage for bloggers and advertisers as content based websites get readers and advertisers are always looking to get in front of readers.
Google Adsense is probably the most widely used advertising network for content websites because it’s easy to use.
A newer form of marketing that can be very lucrative is affiliate marketing. This is the sending or referral of traffic to other online stores where if a purchase is made, the referrer (the blogger) makes a commission on the sale.
Some good affiliate marketing platforms you can get started with are Amazon Associates, SharASale.com, or Clickbank.
Sponsored Posts & Social Media Posts
A sponsored post is essentially letting other marketers write a post for your site and you charging a fee to publish it. It works the same way with sponsored social media posts. The drawback to this form of monetization is that you as the blogger relinquish control over what is actually published on your blog.
Creating Your Own Products (Digital or Classes)
Another great way to monetize your blog is through the creation and selling of your own products. As a content creator, the easiest types of products to create are digital products like ebooks, and online courses. I’ve also seen good success by bloggers with digital downloads of visual designs and things of this nature.
Blog Not Making Money
When starting your blog with the aim of making passive income or creating a business from your site, please keep in mind that it will likely take some time to build enough traffic to make monetizing your site worth it. With any new blog there’s an initial year or so when traffic is building and will take about this amount of time before any monetization efforts will show results.
Content Distribution: Growing Your Traffic and Audience
A good content distribution strategy is something anyone starting a blog should consider. Beyond publishing to your blog and hoping people will show up through google search, how do you plan to actually get your content out there for people to read it and share?
A great content distribution strategy should involve various aspects like social promotion of new posts, cultivating return traffic and regulars, and building an email list.
To further break down different ways to grow a content site, check our our post: How to Grow a Blog: Step-by-Step-Guide
Email List Distribution
Email is the most coveted form of reaching readers who are interested in your content because it means you have their email address and can reach out to them anytime.
I’ve had a lot of success building email lists for my blogs and then setting up email notifications that alert subscribers when a new post goes live. If done successfully, it means that every post you publish has a built in audience that will come to read the new post.
Building an Email List
When setting up a blog, the first step to building an email audience is to start building an email list. Put an email capture up on your site and let readers know what they can expect when they sign up. You can test offering something in return for subscribing like an ebook you create.
Bloggers use e-mails as a way of building trust with their readers so that they will buy their products and services and generally trust them as bloggers. To start collecting e-mails, you’ll need to combine something like Sumo and Mailchimp together. Basically, Sumo is a tool that helps you create opt-in forms to get e-mails, and MailChimp helps you send e-mail campaigns to your readers.
I can’t cover everything here so you’ll have to do some research but here are some helpful resources to start :
- Create an account on Sumo and MailChimp.
- Connect Sumo to your blog
- How to create an e-mail opt-in form using Sumo
These are similar to emails for distribution in that they get sent out to subscribers when a new article or post is published. Push notifications pop up on the subscriber’s phone or computer in the form of a native notification. Setting up push notifications can be done with services like SendPulse, PushEngage or others.
Social Media Distribution
Another great way to get your blog posts out to be read is through social media. You can set up automations so that any new blog post that you publish will get sent out to your social media following. There are a few good tools to do this such as IFTTT or ‘WordPress To Buffer Tool’. The bigger your social media distribution, the bigger the built-in audience for each new blog post becomes.
Setting up Social Accounts For Your Blog
The first step to setting up a good social media distribution is to set up your social media accounts and to start to build a following. In some ways this can feel like a duplicate efforts while you’re building your blog, but if you think about this as building an extension of your site – it becomes just another section of what you need to set up to be successful.
Thinking about which social media accounts to set up is important because some topics lend themselves better to different social medias. You might also on a personal level enjoy using some social medias more than others. The common ones to use for blogging are Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
A note on Pinterest- Pinterest seems to work differently for different topics. For example, it might be effective for someone who’s blogging about fitness, health or food but not that effective for bloggers who are in other niches. You have to try it out and see if it works for you.
Another way to start building your readership when you first start your blog is through outreach to other distribution channels like other bloggers, websites, or news outlets. This is sometimes called PR.
PR / Press Promotion
When first starting are blog it’s important to let the world know that you exist. promoting your web presence itself can be as easy as writing to the local newspaper see if they’ll do a feature on you, or writing to other bloggers that cover similar topics. Getting press promotion especially when you first start can be an effective way of getting some of your first readers.
Some other channels to consider getting readers for your blog are by making a presence on Reddit and Medium. Providing helpful answers and commentary on these platforms can translate into people looking at your blog for more.
Remember Reddit? Well, you can get some really good traffic from there. Because it’s so popular and you have different communities that are interested in different topics there, you could join a community where your target audience (people who are interested in the topic you blog about) hangs out, and then use some strategies to turn them into your fans by offering them really good content.
This is by far the biggest challenge that faces every blogger out there. When you write awesome content, you want everyone to read it, but it doesn’t always happen.
Sometimes you don’t get any visitors at all if you’re a total newbie. I’ve researched this topic extensively, and let me tell you something: the majority of free content on the internet will NOT give you effective ways to get traffic.
One of the most common things new bloggers do when they start is to start off and write a few posts, then not see any visitors or traffic coming to their site and then to give up. It’s common to not see any traffic for a new blog for the first six months to a year. This may sound like a long time, but if you are passionate and push through this initial period you should start to see some traffic growth.
One of the best audiences you can go after as a new blogger are the people that are passionate enough or interested enough to return to your blog more than once. This return traffic can overtime be turned into a loyal following. When you start to see return visitors, it’s best to think about ways to cater to their interests and needs to keep them coming back.
Loyal Audience / Visitor Retention
A loyal audience is one of the most valuable things that you can create for your blog. A loyal audience is the core of any online community and if a loyal core is in place, often that traffic feeds itself and grows ever larger. Efforts to focus on visitor retention or return traffic might include producing periodic content like a weekly series on something, or doing regular giveaways.
Launching a Blog
Once your site is set up and ready to be put into the world or set live, it’s important to have a launch strategy. There are a series of steps that you can follow that will make sure search engines know that your blog is live, and make sure people know that your blog is live through a series of promotions.
For more on creating a successful launch, read our article: Creating a Launch Plan, a Success Strategy
How To Start a Blog on a Specific Subject
For our advice on how to start a content website on a specific subject, check out our guides for blogging on:
- How to Start a Personal Blog
- Starting a photography website
- Creating a Portfolio Website
- Starting a political blog
How To Blog Anonymously
If you ‘re looking to start blogging, but want to do it in an incognito fashion for whatever reason, there are a few good ways you might want to consider. Check out our piece on How To Blog Anonymously for more on this.
How to Start a Blog Resources & Tools
As we’ve gone through the sections above I’ve been mentioning some good resources and tools. Here is the full list I like. For more on blogging tools, be sure to check out the full guide: Blogging Tools for Beginners | My Favorite Resources.
How to Start a Blog Courses
If you’ve found this post inspiring, and feel ready to jump into creating your own content website, but still feel like you need some more specific guidance, a course might be right for you. There are a bunch of great courses out there on how to start a blog. Check out some of my favorites in: Which Blogging Course Is Right For You If You’re a Beginner?
Now that your blog is successfully up and running (congrats by the way!), you can go ahead and focus on writing your first awesome post.
If you really want to be successful as a blogger, you have to go through this learning curve. I know it can be overwhelming at first, but trust me, you’ll get better. Blogging requires patience and solid researching skills to learn the ropes.
Don’t give up; it’s well worth the effort.