Originally Published on http://www.HisEndlessLove.com
Starting a blog is simultaneously the most exciting and scariest thing you can possibly attempt online – well, at least I think so. From the stress of picking the perfect name, finding a open domain, writing posts that don’t sound like diary entries, and getting more people than your mother to read said posts….it’s a lot to take in.
I’ve created this resource for those who have decided to pursue blogging as either a hobby or full-time job. While this IS aimed at beginners, I’ll try to add some content that can help even the most seasoned blogger.
So, you want to start a blog?
I started this blog out of pure boredom – not something I really recommend. If you are serious about blogging, my biggest tip is to learn the virtue of patience. Just because you thought of the idea, does not mean you need to act on it right away. Take a few days. Plan. Think it out. Talk to a friend – or perhaps contact someone who already has a blog. If you “jump” at the opportunity without planning or thinking, you risk your blog failing, a name you do not like, a website host that is unreliable, etc.
The fact that you are reading this before (hopefully) you jumped on the blogging bandwagon is great. If you are reading this anytime after the blog name decision, it’s okay, hopefully this article can be of some use to you.
Picking a name…
Obviously the first two things you need to do is:
- Decide on your blogging niche. Will it be a food blog? Lifestyle? Christian devotional? Parenting blog? Fitness? Fashion? Knowing what you will be writing about will really help for step 2…
- Think of a creative name. Since you already should know your blogging niche, it’s now time to do a little brainstorming. To me, this is the most stressful part because this name will be permanent – and a LOT of the names are already taken.
–Many lifestyle bloggers choose to use their own name (Heavens to Betsy, Becoming Sabra Gilbert, Jess Connolly, etc.).
–Write down adjectives that you hope your readers will use to describe your blog. Then use words from that list to find the perfect name.
–Make sure your blog name offers the same or similar usernames for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. The last thing you want is to pick a fab name and find out that you need to either change your blog name or create a less-than-memorable username.
–If your blog is going to be about “a little bit of everything”, don’t name it “www.SamanthaCooksPaintsKnitsDrinksTeaLovesJesus.com”. Make it easy to remember and quick to type.
–Match your blog name and domain name. I know, it’s hard to find a domain that’s available. You picked the greatest blog name and it’s taken. Try again. Almost everyone will tell you the same thing.
Figure out your audience.
Teens? Young adults? Women? Men? Baseball fans? Parents? People who love to bake? Christians? Please note that “everyone” is NOT an acceptable answer. If you don’t focus on a specific audience, your blog posts will be all over the place – it will be harder to bring in more readers – and it will be harder to make money on your blog because most advertisers equally hate that “everyone” answer.
Remember, blogging is competitive!
Write down why a reader would choose to read your blog instead of someone else’s. Blogging is SUPER competitive – even the least popular blog niche – so you want to be sure that your reader chooses to read your article over another blog during their 30 minute lunch break. I have a lot of blog subscriptions but there are only 3 that I actually read and visit on a regular basis. The top things I look for in a blog is design, content, and the person behind the website.
Picking a Domain & Host
Who knew blogging would take so much work? Before you can create a post, you need to figure out all of your blogging logistics. Do you want to pay a yearly or monthly fee? Do you want to make money blogging? Are you find with pre-made websites or do you want something unique? These are all important questions to ask.
If you don’t want to pay anything for your blog, I recommend starting a website at WordPress, Blogger, or Weebly. If you choose to go this route, I highly recommend using WordPress because it’s simple to use and if you ever change your mind, it’s easy to transfer. *NOTE: These sites are free to use as long as your domain be “thewoodenspoon.wordpress.com”
If you are willing to pay a small yearly amount, I recommend using a website like the ones listed above (especially WordPress). In your yearly fee, you are just paying for a domain so your blog address won’t have that annoying “.wordpress” at the end of it. Registering a domain costs $18 – and be sure to pay the extra $8 for privacy or ALL of your information will be available for hackers and spammers. A little tip? Don’t pay for their yearly advanced upgrade – it’s not worth it.
If you are willing to pay a small monthly amount, I recommend going through Bluehost or A Small Orange. And I recommend using WordPress.org. The monthly payment usually ranges from $3 to $20. To learn more about making that big commitment, I’d read this. If you plan on selling items along with blogging, I recommend using Squarespace.
*Remember, if you want a custom design & the ability to make money while blogging, you need a self-hosted blog like bluehost.
**Now, you might be thinking that waiting to pay for a domain or a self-hosted website is a good idea…but it’s really not. Every blogger I’ve talked to has regretted their decision to “just wait and see if the blog takes off”. They spend the time on a “awoodenspoon.wordpress.com” only to realize they want to transfer the website to further the website growth. It turns out to be a big pain in the rear, extra stressful, and they all wish they had just bought the domain right away. Another good thought is that if you are paying a monthly fee, you are much more likely to actually make posts – this is a very important decision if you tend to lack motivation.
Designing Your Site
After you pick your name, find your niche, know what content you will be writing, find a beautiful design. The “in” designs revolve around minimal, light pallets, watercolors, white backgrounds, and clean lines.
If you are going through the regular ol’ wordpress.com, there are plenty of free theme options. Just be sure to customize the appearance as much as you can.
A few design pointers…
-The most popular blogs usually have a home page, about page, contact form, advertising information (again, if you have a self-hosted website), and disclaimer.
-Be sure to have easy access to the sign-up button
-Having your photo on the sidebar is 100% optional but it has been found that readers appreciate knowing the face behind the posts.
–Figure out the colors for your website. Find the color codes. When you create photos or newsletters, you can use those color codes to match your website design as closely as possible.
–Create a blog logo. It’s multipurpose. You can use it for all profile pictures, headers, backgrounds, buttons for button swaps, etc.
–At the end of each post, have a signature. This is a great idea because your readers will feel more connected with you AND they will be able to tell when a guest is writing. If you decide against a signature, make sure to at least to have an “about the author” at the end of your posts.
Writing Blog Content
–Create useful content and include professional, relevant images. Make sure all photos you use are yours. If they are not yours, be sure to link the owner to each picture (you can get into a lot of trouble if you don’t). However, there are two ways around this little issue. The first is to buy photos from websites (photography blogs actually offer photos for your personal blogging use). The other choice is to find a website like UnSplash that offers free, Creative Commons Zero photos (photos that you can edit and use without giving credit).
–Edit! Only post your BEST work. Not work that you pushed out in 30 minutes. Even the best writers take more than 30 minutes to create a good blog post.
–Create and stick to a schedule. I know not everyone is a schedule person but blogging full-time takes dedication and a LOT of work. If I don’t create a schedule for myself, I usually end up feeling unmotivated and my content suffers. Also, it’s harder to maintain page views if you don’t post regularly.
–Be original. Don’t copy other people’s work, even if you do give them credit. It’s fine to do it once in a while, as long as it’s a part of your own work and you don’t do it often. Your readers want to read things written by you.
–Be genuine. EVERYONE can spot a fake. Don’t blog in the hopes that you’ll become famous (because chances are, you won’t). Don’t blog to impress people. Blog to represent Jesus. That is the difference between a regular blog and a Christian blog. We are representing Jesus every day, and when we blog, we represent Him on the internet. Blog for the right reasons.
–Be lighthearted. Even if you write a serious post, shine some light or humor on the subject. People don’t normally read blogs to be depressed or sad. They read blogs for life tips, ideas, and inspiration. Be their inspiration.
-Be yourself. This is a big one! Don’t mimic your favorite writers or bloggers. Don’t scour the internet for ideas on blogging and try to copy how they write. Write from your heart. We all can tell when you are trying to channel another writing style into your blog.
Create a sign-up magnet
Again, if you are using a self-hosted site – you’ll need to set up your own sign-up newsletter (mailchimp is my personal favorite). Unfortunately, I find that it’s a little harder to get sign-ups versus the regular wordpress.com blog. But the good news is that more people are willing to sign up for your blog if you offer them something that other blogs don’t…free printable quote, a 7 day bible study, an e book, or a how-to guide…they are all great ideas. It encourages them to sign up.
Increasing blog traffic
–Create a great title! Come on – judging by the photos above, which would you rather read? Good pictures and fonts go a long way, but so does the title.
–Guest blog. It drives new traffic to your site & it forces you to fine tune your content. Spend an afternoon searching for blogs you like and pitch them an article idea. Offer them a guest spot on your own blog as well. You never know, you might become best (online) friends with a fellow blogger.
–Join an online blogging community. Most of them allow you to chat with other bloggers, share your best posts, ask for advice, and you’ll be able to find a lot of willing guest bloggers. I HIGHLY recommend it. I recommend joining The Peony Project but there are plenty of other groups out there.
–Interview another blogger or someone who relates to your niche, teach an e-course with a fellow blogger (or make a printable bible study), host social media challenges together, or join in on a giveaway together.
–Interact on social media! Use 30% of your media time to promote and share your own content. Use 70% of your media time to promote, share, and interact with other people’s content.
–Know your readers. This probably won’t be usable advice for a few months after you create your blog – but know your readers. I did a marriage series on the site that took two months. It was great. I brought in tons of new readers. But I also ended up losing readers because 30 posts about marriage was not relevant to them. At least once a year, I highly recommend doing a reader survey through Google forms or survey monkey. I did one recently – feel free to check out the questions I asked.
–Host a Facebook or Twitter party
–Respond to comments and emails. Readers love interactive bloggers. When you don’t reply, you seem like your too busy or too important to reply to subscribers. Be you, be nice, and represent your blog.
–Host giveaways. All of my giveaways have been possible because I went out and searched for a willing shop. I looked through Etsy and found items that I love or have bought in the past, and I email the shop owners. I tell them who I am, I tell them that I would love a item donation for a giveaway, and I give them a free month of advertising. Almost everyone I email says yes.
–Don’t be that person with 40+ advertising buttons on their blog. Have a limit. No body wants to scroll for hours while glancing at various items or businesses. They won’t click it. You will get clicks if you have just a few really good products.
Tips from fellow bloggers
–Don’t compare yourself to other bloggers. The only thing you should focus on is making your blog better than the previous month.
-“I wish I had known that I needed a thick skin. People can be mean and competitive. You have to realize that not everyone will like you.” (advice given from It Starts With Coffee).
-“I wish I knew just how much work goes into becoming successful and what it takes to create great content – also how worth it it would be! For content ideas I’ve found my favorite resource to be other bloggers’ “post ideas” blog posts. Choosing a topic from someones list that they took time to write means its a topic that’s in demand and something your readers are likely to want to read, share, come back to, etc. Creating your own backgrounds for blog post pictures is so important too!” –Daily Dose of Design
–Stick with it! Don’t give up after a few weeks or even a few months. Work at it. You’ll develop your own style and the blog will be a great representation of you after many trials and errors.
Following these steps will guarantee blog success. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comment section. Good luck!