How To Start A Blog
A Free Guide for Beginners
Wondering how to start a blog? You’ve come to the right place!
My name is Arlie Wall and I am a web developer based in Los Angeles, California. Some of my associates who are aware of my qualifications have convinced me that there are many aspiring writers who could benefit from a little advice. Having learned the hard way myself, I will say that I wish there had been a website just like this when I got started.
Read on. By the end of this page, you will have a good working knowledge of how to set up an effective blog with all kinds of benefits, including some monetary ones. Ready to start the free step-by-step tutorial? Click here to go to step 1.
In days of old, starting a blog website was expensive and time consuming. Then came WordPress in 2003. Originally established primarily as a way to set up a blog, It has evolved into a complete website builder. It was then and remains today an open-source (yes, free) platform available to anyone.
WordPress currently has over 60 million websites, and is the tool of choice for over 23% of the top 10 million sites on the Web. Websites such as Yahoo, eBay, Sony, Samsung, The New York Times, and Mozilla all use WordPress!
The beauty of WordPress is that as a content management system (CMS) you can easily go into the admin (or guts) and make changes to the number of pages and content. You can add images; install plugins and widgets (fun website builder toys); and much more. If you like, you can upgrade from the free templates and for a few bucks, create something unique that you can modify anytime.
WordPress also comes with free search engine optimization (SEO) tools and you will get immediate notifications of any impending security intrusions. if you ever need help, you can just come here for the answers.
Reasons for Starting a Blog
Blogging originally began as a means for people to write about personal events in their lives and things that were on their minds. While this remains a popular reason for maintaining a blog, the entire field has grown in sophistication and become more mature over time. Today, besides essentially writing diary entries, people blog in order to:
- Drive customers to their businesses: Many companies start blogs related to their products so that they can attract buyers who browse to their sites. There’s no need to directly promote specific services or goods within your posts; as long as you keep your content fresh and interesting, you’ll find people clicking to your e-commerce storefront as a matter of course.
- Establish themselves as authorities: Anyone looking for recognition as an expert will discover that a blog is a fine way of achieving this goal. Frequently updated posts, including opinion pieces, will serve to increase the respect readers have for you. By interacting through comments, guest blogging and comparing notes with other bloggers, you can get to know the influencers in your field and network effectively with them.
- Generate income: Even if you don’t offer anything for sale, you can still derive a stream of income from your blog. Affiliate relationships and advertising both have a role to play, and you have great flexibility when balancing between these two forms of monetization.
Avoid Mistakes With My Help
There’s no reason for you to reinvent the wheel when starting your own blog. I’ve been around the block a time or two, and I’ll put my knowledge and experience at your disposal. This will allow you to get off on the right foot and spare yourself the aggravation of making simple errors and then having to backtrack later on to correct them.
Some of the topics that I’ll inform you about are:
- Choosing a Hosting Provider: Your choice of web host will have a continuing impact on the reliability and loading speed of your new blog. Through my exclusive deal with InMotion Hosting, you can get set up with one of the best internet hosts around, and you’ll even get a substantial discount off the regular sticker price. (For more info read our InMotion Hosting Review)
- Installing and Customizing WordPress: Because it’s one of the most popular blogging platforms around, WordPress has grown from its humble beginnings and now contains a wealth of features and settings. I’ll show you how to set up the software for the best possible results depending on the character and purpose of your blog.
- Promoting and Enhancing Your Blog’s Success: There are any number of ways of making your web pages more accessible to potential viewers and to search engines like Google. While there are dedicated firms that specialize in these areas, engaging one of them may be too expensive if you’re just starting out. I’ll give you a few easy tips that you can implement on your own at no cost to yourself.
What About Blogger or Tumblr?
Although these and other clones claim to offer "free" websites with zero upfront costs, in the long run, they could be your most expensive options. Much of the value of a successful website is in the ownership of the domain name. Mine is www.HowToStartABlog101.com. It is developing into a rather valuable property. For that, I pay $10 per year; a very good investment.
Had I started out on Blogger for instance, my domain would have been: www.HowToStartABlog101.blogger.com. Not only is it more complicated, but I would also have no rights of ownership, since it would only be a subdomain of Blogger. Whatever happens to them happens to me.
Beyond that, Blogger can control your content. If they decide for some reason your copy does not match their criteria, they can shut down your website immediately. You are far better off obtaining your own unique domain – free with InMotion Hosting and building it into a property you own and can later sell, if you like.
Have Purpose and Passion
The most effective bloggers are those who are passionate about a specific topic. They know their subject matter well and more than anything else, they want to talk about it. If you cannot fully embrace your topic and don't welcome those who will criticize your position, blogging may not be for you.
Many blogs operate for the dual purpose of allowing the developer to write about her or his most heartfelt interest and to simultaneously promote a product or service. There is nothing wrong with selling! Think about why you bought your last phone, car, or bar of soap, and chances are it is because of effective marketing. Somebody was selling and you bought.
When I was younger, I worked in car sales at a dealership. That job lasted two weeks. Why did I leave? Because I had no conviction that the brand offered the buyer a good value compared to available alternatives. I am unabashedly recommending InMotion Hosting for both your domain registration and hosting because I am convinced it offers you a great product at a great price.
Get Your Blog Started Now!
Click the button below for our free easy step-by-step guide.
Step 1: Get Started
The first steps in starting a blog are to create a domain and get a reliable host. I highly recommend you begin this process with InMotion Hosting, which takes care of both needs from the same source. Believe me when I tell you I have evaluated the alternatives and remain convinced that InMotion provides the best service available for an unbeatable price. They even provide a FREE (one of my favorite words) WordPress website builder!
Already own a domain? Skip to Web Hosting 101 below.
Creativity is essential. However, make every effort to include your primary search term as part of your new domain. Even though Google, Yahoo! and Bing have all adjusted their algorithms to reduce the value of any search term in the domain, it is still one of the primary ranking factors. If you are going to blog about building birdhouses, a domain such as BirdhouseBuilders.com will likely rank higher than AviarySanctuaries.com, even if both have similar content and structure.
Other considerations include keeping it as short and memorable as possible. That can be challenging, since so many domain names are now taken. On this site below, you will find a handy free tool that will search your intended domain name to see if it is already taken. If your domain is unavailable I would suggest trying an alternative versions using synonyms or extensions other than .com that are available.
Domain Name Search
Check to see if your desired domain is available by entering it below.
This is the most expensive part of setting up a blog, if you consider $3.49 per month expensive. For that, you also get unlimited email with your domain name as the extension and many other perks. It is best to have the same company carry your domain registration and cover your hosting to minimize costs and save time.
Look for a host with reliable service, as in virtually no down time because of security issues and for maintenance.
Make sure your choice of hosting companies provides plenty of bandwidth and storage. It may seem like overkill at first, but opt for a company that has no limits on either. Above all, they must be available 24/7/365 for help when you need it.
Step 2: Install WordPress
1. Click here to get the special $3.49 per month rate on InMotion Hosting and then click "ORDER NOW". NOTE: It is important that you use this link rather than searching for the website on your own. I can provide better pricing!
Unless you plan to sell products directly from your website, I recommend you begin with the Launch plan. Take a few minutes to scroll down and compare the features of each, just to be sure you are covered. Even if you do need eCommerce capability, the additional cost is nominal.
2. Once you have chosen your plan, just click "Order Now." This will take you to a new screen to confirm your hosting package. Your only decision here is the length of time for your commitment.
Choose 12 months. Now click "Continue."
3. Choose whether this is a brand-new domain that will require registration or it is an existing domain you are transferring from another host. Enter the domain name into the open field and again click "Continue."
4. You will then be advised as to the availability of the domain name. If the one you want is already in use, try a slight variation until you get to a screen that says: Congratulations - Domain is Available! Notice the option to upgrade. Make your choice, and again click "Continue."
5. This takes you to the payment screen to complete the process. On this page, you have the option to determine which CMS platform you prefer. Assuming you want to use WordPress, as I recommend, choose that. One of the many useful plugins available is called BoldGrid, which will provide you with a free website builder.
6. The tedious part is now finished and you are ready to begin building your new website! Check the box to indicate that you are creating a new website, then click No Thanks to continue.
7. Now go to your email inbox and open the new arrival from InMotion Hosting. You will also see a separate email receipt that confirms payment has been received and processed.
8. From the welcome letter, click the URL that follows "Admin using your domain."
9. On the resulting screen, paste your Username and Password, then click Log In.
10. That will take you to the WordPress dashboard, which is the control panel for the entire website. If you want to reset your password, simply click on Users to open your profile. Take a few minutes to confirm everything is the way you want and click Update Profile at the bottom of the page.
You are now ready to set up your blog and begin writing!
Step 3: Configure Your Blog
Before you can begin blogging, you will want to become comfortable with the WordPress dashboard, which is where you set up all of your pages, along with making internal changes and updates. Always remember, whenever you run into a roadblock or something just doesn't seem to make sense, the answer is just a Google search away.
Start by logging into the WordPress admin area with the user name and password you received from InMotion Hosting. A quick note on passwords — it is very important that your password is a random assembly of numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols. This is one of the best ways to guard against hackers gaining access to your website.
All of the navigation for the administrator or "Admin" areas of your website is located on the left. You will want to become very familiar with each of these categories. It may seem daunting initially, but after just a few sessions you will get the hang of it.
Click on Settings and fill everything in completely. Your tagline should just be a short description of the nature of your blog. When you're finished, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
Plugins are software features that enable WordPress users to customize their websites without expensive professional help. The array is so vast that you can reasonably assume any website feature you want is available. The best thing is that most of these are either free or very inexpensive.
One of these bears mentioning. It is the number one way to be certain people can find your blog when they do a search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing. The Yoast SEO plugin will ensure that every blog you post conforms with the most recent algorithm updates from each search engine. Just hover over Plugins on the navigation and click "Add New." Enter the word Yoast into the search field and click "Install Now" for Yoast SEO. Now, the plugin will prompt you to make sure your source code for every blog is search engine-friendly.
From time to time, you will receive notices that WordPress has initiated an updated version. Do not ignore these! Staying current with WordPress updates is the single best way to confirm that your blog does not fall prey to the hacking epidemic that is strangling many bloggers worldwide.
Step 4: Post Your First Blog
You are now ready to design your website. At this point, don't concern yourself too much with the specifics of the design, which WordPress refers to as the Theme. It is simple to completely redesign your site at any time. I recommend that you do a Google search for "free WordPress responsive themes" and begin with one of those.
The term "responsive" is critical. These designs will open flawlessly on any size screen, including smartphones and tablets. Since most of the searching done today originates from those devices, do not even consider alternative designs. Once you find the one you like, click on Themes under Appearance in your navigation. Just paste the new theme URL into the Add New Theme field.
Most likely, your theme presents the navigation menu at the top or left side of the page. When you go into your Admin area, you will see these under Appearance and then menus. You can easily rearrange the order just by dragging and dropping. Most themes offer the option to add drop down sub-headings, as well. If you ever run into a question, just toss up the question to your favorite search engine. There will be a multitude of answers at your fingertips.
Post Your First Blog
Since the goal of most bloggers is to acquire regular site visitors who want to read your blog, it is obviously important that you follow certain proven strategies that will engage your readers and encourage them to share your incredible insight!
Content Is Critical
There is an old saying among website developers: "Content is King." This means that your page content must be:
- Informative - it provides useful information that may not be available anywhere else
- Interesting - you are writing in such a way that it keeps the reader on the page
- Complete - you have totally covered the subject matter
Today, it is also vital that all content is unique. If you are assuming that you can simply go to someone else's website and substitute your name into their copy, you will soon learn that the search engines have become quite intolerant of that practice. I have personally seen websites ranking at the top of page 1 on Google relocated to page 20 for violating duplicate content rules.
Rather than plagiarize someone else's work, develop your own from your unique perspective. If grammar, spelling, and punctuation are not your strong suits, consider hiring a freelance writer to help create and/or edit your work. Another option is to purchase quality editing software. Even those who write well make numerous mistakes and your readers will definitely notice them. If nothing else, at least develop your content using Microsoft Word and adjusting the settings for formal writing.
Posts vs. Pages
Those who are just getting started on WordPress often confuse posts and pages. This is an important distinction to grasp and will save you a lot of trial and error. You can find a summary of the details here that will answer most of your initial questions. In short, the Admin category for Pages deals with static website pages organized within your website navigation and Posts are your ongoing collection of blog pages, as you create them.
Step 5: Market Your Blog
Sadly, there is more to blogging than simply writing amazing, unique content. If you expect to acquire a committed readership, you will need to learn some of the rules of the game.
Search Engine Rankings
Plenty of people have started blogging websites with quality web content that is interesting and useful…and no one ever reads it. In spite of your best efforts to develop compelling copy, if you do not learn the basics of complying with search engine algorithms, you may have a difficult time connecting with your potential readers.
While the search engines have recently made major changes to the ways they rank websites (consult Wikipedia to learn more about Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird for starters), it is important to find out which keywords and key phrases people would be using to find your blog.
Back to the birdhouse example, if you are blogging about how to build one, you need to know:
- How many people want to learn about it
- How many other websites offer solutions
- What those appearing at the top of the rankings did to get there
The concentration known as search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved into one of the most fundamental aspects of contemporary marketing. Virtually every established company either has an in-house SEO team or hires an outside firm to perform these services and keep their websites up-to-date. These companies do much more than perform keyword analysis, but all of the best ones begin there.
When you are just starting out, those costs can be prohibitive. However, you can do several things on your own that will help significantly:
- Keyword Analysis – Start with a Google search for "free keyword tool." Some of these provide an initial allotment of keywords without charge and then add a fee for continued use. Many times that initial allotment is all you need. Regardless, the fees are quite reasonable considering the benefits period. The best paid keyword research tool would have to be SEMrush, which we use ALL the time.
- Use the Search Engines – Open Google, Yahoo!, or Bing in any browser and type in a keyword you imagine your readers would use. When I enter "build a birdhouse," a drop-down box immediately appears with the most popular search terms in order of volume of search traffic. If I decide to use that term without adding any other words, and I re-enter it into the search bar with quotation marks, I will see all results with exactly that phrase in exactly that order of words. As it turns out, there are only 111,000 websites competing for that term. While that may seem like a lot, it actually is not. Most of those listings are not attempting to appear near the top. The ones who put effort into their websites and play by the rules set forth by the search engines are on the first page.
- Use a WordPress SEO Plugin – One of the most useful aspects of WordPress is the quantity and quality of plugins and widgets available to bloggers. The better ones will list critical aspects of optimization and let you know whether you have complied. If you haven't already installed an SEO plugin, return to Step 3 and review Plugins.
One of the most consistent errors I see on a daily basis is with bloggers who begin doing everything right and then let up two or three months down the road. Blogging is like anything else – if you wish to be successful, you have to stay on top of it and up-to-date.
Step 6: Monetize Your Blog
Your website and blog are now set up and you may be ready to start generating some return on your investment (ROI) of time. While many people actually blog just for fun, most of us expect to earn some ROI by developing and growing a loyal readership.
How Long Does It Take?
The answer to that question has much to do with the nature of your blog content. If you decide you want to tackle national politics for example, it will require years of diligent effort combined with tons of research. On the other hand, if you live in a relatively small town and no one else is blogging about local politics, you may develop a reasonable following within just a few months.
Alternatively, you may want to travel a road somewhere between those two. If you have a fair amount of expertise within a niche area of interest, you can acquire a national following of those with that shared interest. A quick and easy way to get an idea of the potential size of your readership is to run a Google search on various keyword phrases and compare the numbers of results. Always remember to put quotation marks around your search term when running this type of analysis. That way, you will only generate results with all of the exact words within that phrase.
For example, a search for the phrase turtle food for sale without the quotes generates over 15 million results, while adding the quotes reduces the number to about 20,000. So, if your expertise has to do with the production of turtle food, you can expect that there are about 20,000 potential interested readers. Since that is a relatively small number, you have a good chance to acquire a reasonable following in short order. Naturally, you will want to look for competing blogs to see if any others have cornered the turtle food blogging market!
Converting Readership Into Income
The two most common ways of converting your readership to income are selling affiliated products and selling advertising space.
Imagine that you are able to attract about 100 visitors per day to your blog. Industry standards would suggest that two or three of those are likely to notice and ad for a product available on eBay or Amazon. When they click on your affiliated ad link and then make a purchase, you receive a commission on each sale.
Alternatively, you can create ads on your website to promote companies directly. The size of your readership directly determines the price you can charge for those ads. But make no mistake, there are a significant number of other bloggers who make a comfortable living just by selling such ads.
Obviously, combining the two increases your income significantly. Bear in mind that Google's algorithm penalizes websites with a high advertising-to-content ratio. It is in your best interest to make certain that you are generating interesting and useful content on a consistent basis so that your ad space does not overwhelm the purpose of your blog.
I hope that my guide - "How To Start A Blog" was useful to you :) Feel free to check the "Blog" section for more content on other web related topics!
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