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Here are a few of our “getting started” posts
But if you want to jump right in, here are a few basics:
- Domain Name: No matter where you decide to host your site, before you do anything, get a domain name. Don’t even mess around with a .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com if you want to make a professional blog. Luckily, you can get domain names for pretty cheap, and my preferred place for this is GoDaddy. Right now you can get one for 2.95!
- Hosting: Okay, I’m a huge fan of WordPress (self-hosted), and if you are serious about blogging and can afford it. There are tons of different hosting companies out there, but I’m pretty picky about which ones I recommend. Here are a few of my recommendations:
- I am currently with BigScoots. I LOVE them. They are truly the best hosting company I’ve been with. The respond within seconds to tech support requests, and my site traffic increased almost 30% when I moved to them. If you can afford to start with them, then do it.
- If you need a pretty inexpensive host with pretty good customer support, BlueHost starts off around 3.95 a month. I think they are one of the better larger hosting companies out there, and they have 24-hour support. I left them though when my site got too large, but I know people that have been happy with them for a long time!
- For hosting companies that are a little more expensive, but offer maybe a little more for your money, here are my top recommendations:
- InMotion Hosting – I was hosted with them for awhile, but I eventually parted ways because my server response time was very slow. I did like their customer support though, and it’s not a bad option at all.
- Black Chicken– Great customer service and products. I always enjoy working with this company, and I give them two thumbs up
- Servously is run by a fellow blogger, Shauna, and she is awesome. I’ve worked with her a few times, and she really knows her stuff. There are a bunch of different plans that are built specifically for your needs and can be customized.
The design of your blog is SO important. It’s the first thing people see when they come to your blog, and it essentially becomes your brand. If you can afford it, I would hire someone to do your design work for you (unless you are design savvy yourself.) There are tons of designers out there in just about every price range. We even offer certain design services for a reasonable rate! There are also many DIY design tutorials on Pinterest, if you don’t have it in the budget for a designer.
If you are on WordPress.org, you will need a theme to install on your website. There are plenty of free options out there, but I think it is worth it to pay for a premium theme.
StudioPress Themes for WordPress: This is what I use on all of my sites, and the majority of the websites I work on. StudioPress has a framework called Genesis, which is required for all of their child themes (which is where you do the editing for your theme). They have tons of great options on the website for a variety of different web topics and designs, and I’m always very pleased with them. They come optimized for SEO, they are fast, and because they were so popular, there are tons of tutorials out there.
On the StudioPress website, the theme that I use the most on websites is Foodie Pro. It’s a very versatile theme that’s great for Food Bloggers and non-food bloggers. Modern Blogger Pro is another very popular one that I use a lot.
I recently discovered Restored 316 Designs, which creates child themes that work with the Genesis Framework. I absolutely LOVE all these designs, and I currently use one on Clarks Condensed. You will need to buy the Genesis Framework from StudioPress, but it’s worth the investment.
If you get the Genesis Framework, but you don’t know a lot about editing CSS, I highly recommend getting the Genesis Design Palette Pro. It’s great for those of you who don’t have a lot of technical knowledge!
The Thesis Theme for WordPress: This is another popular theme, though I don’t have a ton of experience with it. I know a lot of people who love it though!
Elegant Themes – I used Elegant Themes awhile back, and they are good themes. You pay a yearly fee and get full access to all their themes, so it’s nice if you are indecisive about what you want!
Social Media Scheduling
ViralTag (get $15 for signing up!)
Tailwind This is a great company and scheduler. Not only can you easily schedule pins, but they have some amazing analytics that will help you determine the best way to pin your content.
BoardBooster – LOVE this company. This is what I use for the majority of pin scheduling
Ahalogy – This was great in the beginning, but it’s not my favorite at this point. If you can get your content picked up by some of their contents, there is a big potential for good traffic. It’s free though, so it’s worth trying!
CoSchedule – I LOVE CoSchedule! It is both an editorial calendar and a social media scheduler. The scheduling tool can be used directly from your post, so it’s nice to have there to get your content scheduled right as you are done writing it. I use this to schedule out my Facebook, Twitter, and Google + Posts. Because I’m posting about 8x a day to Facebook, I use their calendar scheduling feature to schedule pins, which is a lot easier than the Facebook scheduler. Love this company.
HootSuite: I LOVE Hootsuite for scheduling to Twitter – I manage both my Twitter accounts through there, and it’s an easy way to connect with other bloggers, monitor your accounts, etc. You can manage different social networks in here as well, such as Facebook, however, I just use their free account.
There are a lot of blogging tools available to help make blogging easier. Here are a few we love:
What type of equipment your blog will need depends on largely on what type of blogging you are doing. If you are writing about politics, really, all you need is your computer (and maybe a security guard, depending on how intense you are about your opinions!) However, if you are a food blogger, you’ll need a camera, backdrops, photo editing software, etc. Here is some of the blogging equipment you might find yourself needing.
Some people will say the camera you use will make or break your blog. I beg to differ. I know some very successful bloggers who only use a point and shoot camera. I believe that it’s more about the knowledge you have about photography. Someone could have the most expensive camera and lenses in the world, but without the knowledge on how to use it, it won’t make a difference.
With that said, I do think having a DSLR and investing the time to learn how to use it, is worth it, if you can afford it. Here are a few recommendations:
Nikon D3300 – I had the Nikon D3100 until recently, and the D3300 is just a newer version. It’s a great entry-level DSLR, and it takes great pictures.
Nikon D7100 – I just bought this one, and I LOVE it. It’s definitely a higher end cropped frame DSLR, and it costs a bit more, but it’s worth the investment.
I think the one lens all bloggers should have is the 50mm (Nikon and Canon). This is a lens that most professional bloggers have in their camera bag, and there’s good reason. It creates a beautiful, creamy bokeh (aka, blurred background), the pictures are sharp, and it’s great for closeups. This is especially a must for food photographers. I also really like the 35mm (Nikon.) I just purchased the Sigma 24-70, and I LOVE it.
We use a lot of stock photography on Clarks Condensed and here on the Blog Help. I find stock photography to be helpful when I’m looking for an image that will stand out in the crowd, but I may not have the resources to create it! Over the past few years, I’ve gone from spending a lot of time trying to find a good image in free stock photo sites (which is hard to do), to biting the bullet and buying higher quality stock photos, and I think it’s worth it. However, if you need a free site, photopin.com is the best place I found for free stock photos. They do have some rules, and it does take awhile to find something good, but it’s overall good.
But, like I said, I’ve started buying stock photos instead. There are some sites that sell them for an arm and a leg, but I was introduced to a couple that I love. Here is a great resource on legit, free places to get high quality stock photos.
Here is another website with good content to help you get your blog up and running.
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