Despite what you might think, starting a blog isn’t really that hard. Maintaining a blog, growing your readership, and monetizing your blog? Now, that’s a little more difficult. However, starting one? Pretty simple.
But before any great blog becomes a great blog, it has to be created. And there are just a few simple steps one should follow in order to be start on the best foot possible. Lucky for you, I’ve been in the beginning stages of many blogs (including my own), so I’ve got this down to an art. Below are five simple steps to follow when creating your new website. Maybe next time I’ll share what to do once you’ve completed these.
I suppose the first step is to come up with an idea. I’m just going to assume that you’ve already come up with that at this point (and if you haven’t, I do discuss over here tips for choosing a niche.)
And yes, there are affiliate links in this post. However, I wouldn’t try to sell you something just to make a sale. I promise!
No matter what you do, you need a domain name. It instantly gives you more credibility than having .blogspot.com and .wordpress.com at the end of your domain, and it’s not an expensive investment.
Depending on where your blog is hosted (more on that in a second), you may be able to get a free domain name. Both RFE and Bluehost, which I mention below, include a free domain name when you sign up. However, I highly recommend keeping your blog hosting and your domain hosting separate, and if a company offers a free domain, just use it as a secondary domain to redirect to your main domain name (so perhaps a .net address).
While I wouldn’t necessarily GoDaddy for hosting (even with their tempting $1 a month hosting with free domain), they are who I recommend getting your domain name through. They are affordable and have 24.7 customer service. You’ll usually end up paying 8.99 – 12.99 for a domain there, but you can occasionally get them for 99 cents. All of the many domains I own are hosted there. You can sign up here!
You’ll need to decide where you want to start your blog. The main contenders are usually Blogger, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org, followed by Weebly. In the post I referenced above, I go more in-depth in discussing the differences between Blogger, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org. However, I’ll just give you two options here.
Blogger.com is what I would recommend if you cannot afford to pay for hosting. It’s not the ideal place to be (though many, many successful bloggers have started there), but it allows monetization, and it’s easiest to customize. I do Blogger to WordPress transfers all the time, so many people end up switching. However, if you want a simple place to start that’s free, this is the best free option.
The next place is WordPress.org, and this is where I really think you should be if you want to start off on the best foot. It’s a platform that you install on your hosting account, and it’s definitely the most popular place for blogging. I could go into all the reasons why I would choose to create your blog here, but I’ll do that another day. Fortunately, there are a lot of affordable hosting options, so you don’t necessarily have to break the bank. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for, but you’ve got to start somewhere. There are many different options for what type of hosting you can get, but when you are just starting out, starting at the lowest tier (shared hosting) is probably your best bet. You can always upgrade later!
Of the budget hosts out there, the one I recommend the most is BlueHost. This is actually where I started my blog and hosted Clarks Condensed until July of 2014. I’ve worked with many budget hosts, and I found them to be the easiest to work with, and they also had the best customer service. Prices start at 3.95 a month (if you pay for three year’s up front – though they do have a pro-rated refund if you decide to leave before then).
I am with BigScoots though, and if you can, sign up with them. They are AMAZING. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Once you have your domain name and hosting figured out, go and get all the social networks associated with your website name – even if you don’t think you’ll use them! It’s usually a good idea to make sure theses are available before you pick a domain. Since the majority of traffic comes from social networks nowadays, this is definitely a smart thing to do. These are the ones I would sign up for first:
Facebook (must have a personal profile in order to create a business page.)
Google Plus (though this may be irrelevant sooner rather than later)
There are countless other social networks that you may or may not use, but these are definitely the most used and popular.
Set up professional email
I think it’s important to have an email setup with your own domain name, as opposed to having it end with gmail.com, hotmail.com, etc. I believe it lends you more credibility, and honestly, it’s not hard to do. I have my email set up through my hosting company, but then I have it forward to Gmail (which I have set up to send emails from [email protected] – I’ll write a tutorial on how to do this later.) You may be able to set it up through your domain provider as well, or another popular option is through Google Apps (which is a paid service.) If you need help setting this up, this is a service I offer for a minimal fee!
Having some kind of anayltics tracker to track your progress is essential to growing a blog. There are many analytics trackers out there, but the “standard” for blogging is definitely Google Analytics. Other trackers tend to overtrack visitors, which may look nice, but doesn’t give you an accurate view of your traffic. You can sign up for Google Analytics here!
Of course, once you get all of these items taken care of, you’ll want to think about the aesthetics of your site. There are many designers out there, and you can even DIY your design yourself. If you are using WordPress, I highly recommend the Genesis Framework and child themes. They are very easy to use and customize, and there are SO many tutorials out there. It’s a little expensive, but it’s more than worth the investment! If you want something that is just simple use and has a lot of tools you can use, Elegant Themes is another great option. Be sure to check out this post on Blogging Resources for even more information on tools you can use!