I’ve been blogging now for 8 years.
For most of that time, blogging has been a hobby, a creative outlet and a way to improve my writing skills. Something I do besides just being a parent.
But it also helps pay the bills as well.
During that time, I’ve learnt a thing or two about blogging and as I get asked often how to start a blog, I thought I would share a few tips here.
Before we get started, there’s one thing you need to decide:
FREE V PAID BLOG
If you want to test the waters with this whole blogging shenanigans, you can start completely for free by signing up with either Blogger or WordPress.com. These are two free blogging platforms and they’re great for personal blogs.
If you want a more professional looking blog, if it’s something you’re hoping to earn an income from, then you have to invest a little upfront.
But don’t worry, we’re talking $100 or less!
STARTING A PRO-BLOG
The first thing you need when starting a blog is a topic. What are you going to write about? What do people want to read about?
You can start a blog on ANY topic in the world. BUT, if you’re hoping to make a little (or a lot) of cash with your blog, there are a few umbrella categories that are more successful, in which you want your blog to fall into:
- Persona Finance
- Social Media and Blogging
- Creative Endeavours
What you want to find is that sweet spot between what you’re interested in and what people want to read about.
Don’t worry if there are already a billion blogs. There’s always room for your personal spin on things. Readers are always open to reading more on a topic they are interested about.
When you find a topic, think about your blog’s name.
A reader should land on your blog, read the title and immediately know what your blog is about, so your blog title should be clear, concise and descriptive.
The other thing you need to consider when choosing your blog’s name is has it already been taken?
Google your name. Is there a website with the same name? Go to a domain register (see below) and see if the domain with that name is available.
BUILD YOUR WEBSITE
To build your own blog you need three things:
- a domain name ($10 – $20 for the year)
- hosting (around $4-$20 a month)
- the WordPress installation (free)
Your domain name is your address. For example, my domain is www.frugalandthriving.com.au.
To get a domain, go to a domain register like Crazy Domains (affiliate link) and search for your chosen domain name by typing it into the search box.
If your domain name is already taken, you need to get creative. Is there a synonym you can use? For example, a synonym for “frugal and thriving” might be “cheap and thrifty”.
Can you put ‘the’ in your domain name. An example might be “the cheap and thrifty mum”.
You get the idea.
Once you have a domain name, you need a place to host your website. This is like buying land for your house. This is the server your website lives on.
I have been using Hostgator (affiliate link) for the entire 8 years I’ve been blogging and never had a problem with them. In fact, they’ve been great when I needed tech help.
Their plans start at $3.98US a month for the first term.
You now have a website. But when you type in your domain name, there’s not going to be a lot there.
The last thing you need to do is install WordPress.
The WordPress you install on your own website is different from the free WordPress.com, although it is also free.
If hosting is like buying land, then WordPress is the frame of your house.
It’s actually a type of database called a content management system (because it manages your website’s content). Each page of your blog, each article, is filed away in a database and WordPress manages and retrieves those articles.
Installing WordPress on your new blog is easy and it’s free. Simply log into the control panel of your hosting company (called a cPanel) and click the Quick Install button!
Here’s what it looks like with Hostgator:
Follow the prompts and you’re done. Easy!
You will get a message with a link to your WordPress Admin panel. Bookmark this – it’s the engine of your website and where you do all your work. Click that link to go to your site. It may take 10 minutes before the link is ready.
Your website is now live! Welcome to the web!
Go to your website by typing in your domain name and have a look. It’s not going to look pretty just yet, but it should have a nice “Hello World” right there greeting you.
Now go back to your WordPress dashboard and log in. This is the “back end” or the behind the scenes of your website. It will look something like this:
You are all set! You now have your own website!
There’s stuff to set up, but it’s easy. Here’s a great video that will take you through step by step how to set up your WordPress blog.
One thing he leaves out is setting up your permalink structure. Do this first when you get into your dashboard. That’s how your addresses will look when you write a post. For example, www.frugalandthriving.com.au/resources is a permalink.
Go to Settings > Permalink and select your permalink structure. If I did it over again, I would choose Post Name. That looks the nicest and gives you the most flexibility if you ever want to republish a post at another date.
While you’re in settings, go through and have a look around and change the settings to suit your preference. Don’t worry, besides the permalink structure, you can always change the other settings later on.
You can follow the instructions on how to install a new theme in the video, but if you want a different theme, then here’s how.
MAKING IT ALL LOOK PRETTY
Because let’s face it, this is the fun part!
To stick with our metaphor, you’ve got an address, you’ve bought some land, you’ve built the frame of your house, now you need to add the wall, fittings and fixtures. The pretty stuff. This is your website design called a WordPress Theme.
You’ve actually already got one installed. If you click on Appearance > Themes you’ll see you have a basic WordPress Default Theme installed. You might also have a few other themes to choose from.
Google “free WordPress themes” and you’ll find thousands of free themes to install on your blog. A free theme is a good way to get started blogging without parting with any extra cash.
Simply download your free theme and then upload it and install it as described in the video above.
When you get going, however, you’re going to want to upgrade to a pro theme.
I use a theme from Studio Press (affiliate link), built on its Genesis framework,because it’s one of the best. It’s easy to use, looks great and it’s mobile responsive, which is super important these days. They have lots of themes to choose from and if you ever decide to hire a designer to customise your theme, a lot of them only work with the Genesis framework.
Once you install your chosen theme, you can write your blog’s title in the header section or you can get a custom logo made for your blog.
Design your logo yourself if you’ve got the skills, or you can get a logo made cheaply by going to fiverr.com and hiring a graphic designer to do the work for only $5US.
To add your header to your site, go to Appearance > Header and upload your header or follow the directions in the video above.
Images have copyright laws attached to them. So you can’t just take an image from another website or Google images to use.
You have three choices:
- take your own photos
- download royalty free photos
- buy photos
Here’s an article that links to a whole heap of websites where you can get free photos. Just be sure to check the terms and conditions. Some images you may need to give attribution, which means a link to show where the photo came from.
You can also buy high quality images. There are hundreds of image site out there, some of them cost a small fortune. I use Adobe stock images.
To edit your pictures and make them “pin worthy”, you can use the online image editor Picmonkey or Canva for free.
You will want to install Google Analytics on your blog. This is FREE by the way.
From Google Analytics, you will know how many visits your blog gets, where your visitors come from, what pages they look at and a whole host of other information.
Plugins are add-ons that increase the functionality of your blog. There’s a plugin for just about everything, but the more plugins you install, the slower your site, so try to keep them to a minimum.
Most plugins are free.
Here’s a few lists of useful plugins to give you an idea of what’s around:
To install a plugin, go to Plugins > Add New and search or browse plugins.
Your blog is like your home hub and your social pages help you reach your audience.
Set up a Facebook page (different from your personal profile), a Pinterest account, Twitter, Instagram or whatever social platform you and your readers use and link them to your blog.
To set up a Facebook Page, click on the little arrow at the top of your Facebook Profile and click ‘Create Page’.
Use your social pages to share your blog posts and interact with your audience.
There are hundreds of ways to make money from your blog.
Google AdSense is the easiest way to start making money. Go to Google AdSense to sign up and get started. They will tell you how to place ads on your site.
Affiliate marketing (which is like commission based selling) is another. Google affiliate marketing programs to sign up to or look at the websites of products you like to buy yourself and you think your audience might like, and see if they have an affiliate marketing program.
Some affiliate marketing programs for Australians include:
- Commission Factory
- The Affiliate Gateway
- Rakuten (not Australian, but it does include some Australian companies)
Other ways to earn an income from your blog is to sell your own products (digital or physical) sell services, freelance, become a speaker or build up a popular blog and then sell it.
- Basic Blog Tips
- How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul* (Book) Ruth Soukup
When you’re a blogger, there’s always something new to learn and technology is changing all the time. But the above steps are what you need to get started.
Feel free to email if you have any questions.