A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog
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Starting a blog is seriously simple. With little money and hardly any time, you can have a blog up and running in only a few hours! This guide will walk you through how to get started, but first, you might want to know why you should start a blog in the first place.
WHY START A BLOG
So many people think blogging is a cute little hobby similar to writing in a diary. Little do they know that some blogs are worth millions of dollars with bloggers earning six figures monthly. While serious bloggers treat their sites like a full-time job (they usually have staff too), there are a number of other reasons you might want to start a blog.
Imagine you’re a Realtor, Mortgage Broker, Chef, Hairstylist, etc. A well-written blog helps to establish you as an expert in your field. Not only will a blog enhance your expertise in the minds of your clients, it also helps to keep you top-of-mind when they eventually need your services. And, blogging acts like an icebreaker, allowing prospective clients to get a sense of you before choosing to hire you.
Blogging has helped me secure writing jobs. In fact, my first writing jobs came from friends who saw my writing, then asked if they could pay me to write for them. If you’re interested in How you can get started with Freelance Writing, check out my how-to article here.
As I mentioned earlier, it surprises many people to learn that some blogs are worth (and sell for) millions of dollars. Bloggers have the ability to make six figures every month. Hard to believe, I know. Since it’s trendy to publish income statements, you can search and find the income (and expenses) for many blogs. To see two for yourself, check out Michelle’s Income Statement from Making Sense of Cents, and Abby’s Income Reports from Just a Girl and Her Blog.
The first income I earned through my blog was from my review of Tangerine Bank. Contained in the article is a referral code. Those who open a new account and use my code receive a monetary bonus, and for referring them, I receive one too.
Build an Audience
While blogging is commonly done through a website, blogs articles are often marketed through social media channels. Think Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Medium, LinkedIn, and Twitter. As bloggers market their articles, their social following grows. In addition, many bloggers build email lists. Having a strong following is a huge asset if you have an opinion that needs to be heard, or if you’re looking to sell something — a course, a physical product, or even a service.
Below is how to get started with your blog. Then, at the bottom of the article, I touch on a few advanced blogger topics — like, how to earn money through your blog.
STEPS TO STARTING A BLOG
Choose a Niche
To start writing a blog, you’ll need to know what you’ll be writing about. If you plan to start a blog for fun, you could be a little bit more ‘loose’ on your niche. If your blog is meant to earn money or support your business, you’ll need to write articles that fall into a niche. As you get started, you can be broad, and begin to narrow down as you go.
Here are some potential blog topics:
- Home Improvement
- Personal Finance
- Real Estate
As you start, or as you get moving, these categories could be further narrowed into:
- Home Improvement → Kitchens and Bathrooms
- Technology → Apple Products
- Beauty → Organic Beauty
- Fashion → Fashion for Men
- Personal Finance → Credit Cards
- Fitness → Cross Fit
- Gardening → Growing Food
- Animals → Dogs
- Real Estate → Condos
Choosing a really narrow topic helps you connect with a really specific audience. And remember, there’s riches in the niches.
Choose a Host
Imagine you’ve written ten blogs posts for anyone online to view. You’ll need someone to store the content you create. The storage of your website is usually done by a host. A host offers a variety of storage options depending on the amount of content on your website with bigger sites requiring more storage. And, sites with lots of traffic need to consider a great host too. Not just storage, hosts ensure your site is backed up too.
Imagine writing daily blogs posts over a number of years, and then tweaking your site and accidentally losing all your data. Thankfully hosts ensure your data is backed up on a regular basis. And, the amount of RAM, similar to your computer’s RAM, helps ensure your site is fast to load.
For those looking to rank high on search engines like Google, an SSL certificate is an important consideration. SSL means your site is secure and safer for users. Search engines like google often favour websites providing an SSL certificate.
You can see in the offer below that Bluehost hosting is really inexpensive.
Choose a Domain
Even using a word like ‘doman’ might make you roll your eyes. A domain is the www.BLANK.com. Domains can end in .org, .net, .ca, etc. The end of your domain will depend on the purpose of your blog and where you live. To get started, focus on the center of the domain — the part between www and .com.
Start by brainstorming words and phrases (about ten) that resonate with your topic. If you’re jotting down phrases, choose short phrases as there’s no sense having a really long domain name. And, even though you can get really hung up on what to choose, think of big companies like Skype, Uber, and Google, who chose domains (and corporate names) that are meaningless — it didn’t seem to hurt their success. In other words, don’t let choosing the ‘perfect’ domain get in the way of just getting started.
Once you have at least ten potential domain names written, next you’ll need to see if they’re available. For more help with your domain name, use Bluehost’s domain guide, here.
Choose a Website Builder
Unless you’re savvy in HTML, you’ll likely use a content management system like WordPress or Squarespace to build your site. There are plenty of website builders to choose from with each one having some advantages and disadvantages.
I built my first website (which no longer exists) on WordPress. Then, I built the first version of ReconcileYourWallet.com on SquareSpace. As my blog grew though, I paid to have it rebuilt on WordPress. You might wonder why all the switching?
When you’re getting started, it’s good to think long term. I was a little short-sighted as I got going. I compare Squarespace to Apple and WordPress to Android. Squarespace is really user-friendly, super intuitive, but not so customizable. WordPress can be more challenging to learn but the customization, support, and plug-ins are truly limitless. If you see yourself growing a big blog, I highly recommend WordPress.
If your long-term goals for your blog are basic, SquareSpace might work for you. If you have big ambitions for your blog, consider starting with WordPress.
Choose a Theme
Most website builders offer themes, also called templates. In some cases, you’ll receive access to more themes with more costly packages. Both Squarespace and WordPress offer loads of themes or site templates. In many cases, there are themes that a geared towards blogging, so it’s best to sort by blog themes. Themes can be changed easily. Just go with your gut and select one.
Similar to choosing a domain or creating a logo, there’s no need to get hung up on your theme. And, themes can be switched even after you’ve made a selection.
Below are some WordPress themes geared towards bloggers.
Below are some Squarespace templates geared towards bloggers.
Of course, you can also hire designers to help you design your site on Squarespace or WordPress. To hire someone, read more below about 99Designs.
Build a Logo
Building a logo is really not that important. I wanted a logo for my websites as I thought it made me come across more professional and established. I also wanted the tiny icon that shows when you have multiple tabs open on your browser (called a Favicon), and I wanted a logo for my business cards as I planned to attend a conference and wanted to simplify networking.
For my first website, I used 99Designs. 99 Designs allow you to host a contest with creative designers across the world. To get started you’ll offer details like whether you want your logo to convey a sense of youthfulness, seriousness, a sense of luxury, or to be economical, etc. Then, the designers will submit designs based on the information you provide. Upon choosing your top selections, you’re able to provide additional information so participating designers can tweak their design to best align with your vision.
99Designs offers you the chance to choose different pricing packages with the higher priced packages giving access to ‘top level designers’. If you’d like a logo too, I highly recommend hosting a contest with 99Designs.
It can be challenging to come up with what to write on your blog as you’re getting started. It can be helpful to keep a notebook (physical or virtual) to jot down article ideas whenever they pop into your head. You might find a resource like this one, helpful to get your creative juices flowing.
I like writing down article ideas the second they pop into my head. It takes the stress out of trying to determine ‘what should I write today’. I use Microsoft OneNote to keep my ideas logged.
So, when starting your blog, write down as many article topics as you can think of.
As you begin blogging you’ll get a sense of the content that should be included in addition to the article length. But, as you get started, don’t worry about those details. Just start writing.
One more consideration….
Have you ever written something that you’ve read, and reread, and reread again. Then, you send it to someone or publish it and find errors. This happens to me ALL-THE-TIME. I sent a client an article the other day and there was a glaring typo in the first line of the article.
For this reason, I use Grammarly. Grammarly offers a free and paid version. Since I don’t yet have a paid editor, I pay for Grammarly. It does find spelling errors but also detects sentence fragments, incomplete comparisons, and more.
If you’re nervous about grammar and want your articles to read well, consider using Grammarly. Even the free version is fine for getting started.
Exciting News: As of today’s date, Grammarly is beta testing on Google Docs, which means it detects corrections in real time (if you use Google Docs to write the first draft of your blog posts).
Add Some Pictures
Blog posts usually have at least one feature image. I learned quickly that pictures aren’t necessarily free. And, it’s illegal to copy and paste images you find online. Stealing images violate copyright laws.
And, since there are plenty of sites dedicated to royalty-free images, there’s no reason to steal pictures.
Here’s a massive list of royalty-free pictures sites:
www.pexels.com (this is my go-to for blog images)
If you’re feeling comfortable with what you’ve read so far, and you’re like, I got this. Then, you might find the slightly more advanced info interesting too.
So often I share with people that I have a blog. They’re usually confused. And, when I go on to mention that blogs can earn serious money, they’re even more confused. The first question is how the hell could writing for entertainment earn any money?
You might be wondering the same.
How do blogs earn money?
Here are three methods — although there are many more. Blogs earn money through affiliate sales, product sales, and advertising.
Recall stumbling across someone’s blog. They might mention you should read this really great book where they include a link to the book. Affiliate sales are the same as receiving a commission for referring a form of business to a company or person.
For example, I could say you should read a particular real estate investing book with a link to Amazon for the product. If you buy the book from Amazon, Amazon would pay me a commission.
Now, affiliate marketing isn’t as simple as linking to Amazon. With any affiliate, you generally have to apply and be approved to be an affiliate for them in the first place. And, you’ll need a special link that tells the company which traffic results from your referral.
This article contains my affiliate links too. While a person could stuff affiliate links everywhere for the purpose of earning money, the true purpose of affiliate marketing is to recommend products or services you truly believe in.
Although I read a lot about affiliate marketing online, the most concise education on affiliate marketing came from Michelle at Making Sense of Cents. Michelle seemed highly credible as her income is reportedly over $100,000 per month. I shared her income statement with you at the beginning of this article She knows what she’s talking about. Michelle’s course, Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, is offered through the teachable platform. She doesn’t offer videos which I wasn’t too sure about, but I’m so incredibly glad I paid for her course.
There is something about the modules, language and worksheets in Michelle’s course that helped me to have AH-HAH moments regarding affiliate marketing. In fact, I keep re-reading sections of her course as I implement everything I learned.
So, if you want to expedite the time it takes to monetize your blog, I highly recommend you take Michelle’s course — Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. Consider it a shortcut to learning about earning money as an affiliate. I can tell you now that I wish I’d taken her course a whole lot sooner.
I haven’t done this yet myself, but many bloggers earn money from selling products. Products might include physical products, like John Lee Dumas, who monetized his Freedom Journal or other bloggers who sell courses, like Michelle.
Build An Email List
A goal for many bloggers is to build a blog following. While blog articles can be promoted and shared through social media, email lists are still said to be the most powerful asset a blogger can have. So, as you get started with your new blog, you’ll want to consider offering a subscription option.
Building an email list can be done through your website builder, like SquareSpace. But, more robust list builders like MailChimp, or blog specific list builders like ConvertKit offer more powerful options as you progress.
I started with MailChimp (the free version) and found it nonsensical and cumbersome to use. I liked it as I got started though since it was free.
I eventually moved to ConvertKit, which isn’t free but is well worth the investment. ConvertKit offers loads of webinars and support to help bloggers achieve their goals. Aside from offering your audience a place to opt-in, ConvertKit helps build automated funnels for viewers.
For example, when someone opts into my blog, Convert Kit automatically send them a survey the next day. The survey asks the subscriber to answer whether they are interested in:
- Paying down debt
- Earning extra money
- Have little debt and want to live a wealthy life
ConvertKit then tags the subscriber so I can see what my audience is truly interested in.
I highly recommend ConverKit for building your email list. My email list grew IN A BIG way once I moved from MailChimp to ConvertKit.
Even with social media platforms and big followings, research still says that a healthy email list is the most powerful tool an online content creator has. After all, any following on social media isn’t owned by the blogger. A simple change to algorithms on Facebook or Instagram can halt a bloggers marketing efforts. While social media is important, it’s much much better to keep building your own email list.
There is so much to learn about blogging. But, getting started includes a website and writing. To recap what you read here:
TO START A BLOG
- Choose a niche
- Choose a domain
- Choose a host
- Choose a content management provider (or website builder)
- Choose a theme
- Start Writing
- Add Some Pictures
- Hit Publish
I hope this article inspired you to get started today!!
To read articles similar to this one, visit https://reconcileyourwallet.com.