Time and time again I am approached by people that learn about my interest in internet marketing and want to know “how to start a blog“. Usually, they are just looking for a basic how-to guide that will help them get started. The problem is that when they search the internet for information, they are overwhelmed with a bunch of details that don’t really matter when you are just trying to take those first few steps.
I was asked this question again last week, and I thought it was high time for me to write a definitive simple guide that shows exactly what I would do to start a new blog. At some future date, I may even add some videos here (let me know if you need that).
The truth is that blogging is a journey. How to start a blog is just step one (well, one through seven, actually). After that, there are literally hundreds of little things you can and should do to make your blog better.
But the question in front of us now is how to START a blog.
How To Start A Blog (the steps)
If I were going to start a new blog, I would do the following.
1. Decide what the blog is going to be about.
The most important thing is to pick a topic that you care about. Blogs are a labor of love. If you don’t love the blog topic, then blog are just a labor. Noticed all the dead blogs on the internet? This is why.
After you figure out what general topic you are going to attack, let your decision be (somewhat) influenced by the presence of ads on other blogs and in google for the topic in which you are interested.
After all, if there are ads, that means that advertisers are making money (otherwise they would not pay for ads). If you are going to do a ton of work on a new blog, you might as well tilt it in a profitable direction.
Keep your profit expectations reasonable, and don’t get into blogging for the money. In fact, you should not plan to make any money from your blog for a long time (months or more). Most of the “overnight success stories” out there were actually years in the making. Don’t expect overnight success, but DO plan on eventual success and don’t forget to consider the future from the start.
Just think about this: what could be better than making a living (someday) writing about (and helping people with) something that you love?
2. Register a domain name.
Next you need to claim a domain name. I personally recommend NameCheap.com (http://namecheap.com), but GoDaddy is another popular choice.
For a blog that you plan to keep for a long time and work on diligently, I would advise you to register a name with branding in mind (something short and memorable) and I would stick with a .com domain.
Domains can be very hard to find — be patient. Be sure the name is unambiguous and avoid dashes in the name. ClothesForSarah.com couldalso be Clothes4Sarah.com, ClothesFourSara.com etc. Just stay away from that sort of confusion (it messes up branding). If you have to explain the URL when you tell someone about it, you don’t have a good URL.
When you are picking a domain name, you can also think about what youwant to be found for in Google and use one or more of those words inthe domain name. Not a requirement — but communicating the topic of the blog in the domain name can help search engine rankings. BUT — branding ismore important than search, so, don’t mess up branding to get akeyword into the domain name.
Unless you are the brand, I would keep your name out of the domain name. Having your name in the domain makes it hard to sell later. MasonWorld.com is a great example of what not to do unless you want to be the brand.
A .com domain costs about $10 per year. You can also spend money on a”previously owned” domain by looking at places like Flippa.com and GoDaddy Auctions. Buying aged domains is beyond the scope of this discussion, and I would not worry about that if this is your first rodeo. Keep it simple if this is your first blog and just register a namethat makes sense to you and communicates your brand.
3. Get a web hosting account.
I recommend HostGator (http://www.latenightim.com/recommends/hostgator). You can use many others, but HostGator is great for blogging.
If you don’t likeHostGator for some reason, I would check out BlueHost.com (http://www.latenightim.com/recommends/bluehost).
Note that the previous links are both examples of “affiliate links” to hosting products. If you click on one of those before you buy, I get a commission (full disclosure). If you are new to blogging, you will want to consider understanding this better when it comes time to monetize your own blog. But for now, know that if you use HostGator as I recommend, I get a commission.
At HostGator, I like the Baby plan ($7/month) but you could start even cheaper with Hatchling ($4/month at the time of this writing). I don’t know many bloggers with only one domain, and the Baby plan supports multiple domains in the same account. That is about the only difference between Baby and Hatchling.
While you can use almost any hosting you like — just make sure that theyhave “Fantastico” — a software package that makes lots of stuff easyincluding number 5 below. Alternatively, you may see them advertise”WordPress One-Click Install”. Either is OK. We need some software called WordPress in step 5, and “one click install” of WordPress is a big help for new bloggers. It makes things very easy.
4. Set up DNS (tell the world where your server is)
Once you sign up for hosting, you need to go back to namecheap.com and “point” your domain to your new hostgator hosting account. When you sign up at hostgator, they give you “name server addresses” that you need to tell namecheap about. This is pretty easy — lots of tutorials on line and inside namecheap.
Think of this as telling the post office where you live. If a letter comes addressed to the Mason Family, they bring it to my house. If a web page request comes addressed to MasonWorld.com, DNS brings it to my server. Same idea for your new site.
5. Install WordPress
WordPress is the world’s most popular blogging platform (by far) and comes from WordPress.org. This is really easy to set up since you picked a host with Fantastico. You literally just pick “Install WordPress” from a menu and tell Fantastico what the name and subtitle of the blog is.
Optionally, you can pick an installation directory. For simplicity, I recommend you accept the defaults for install location. Additionally, you will need to pick a username and password for the blog administrator (that’s you!). For security reasons, do not use “admin” as your userid. Pick something like BobJohnson as the user and use a strong password.
Congratulations. You now have a live website at your new domain.Take a bow. You just created something out of nothing!
Note: Do not confuse WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress — what you need) and WordPress.com (NOT what you need).
6. Configure WordPress (Simple Tweaks)
There are several simple tweaks that I recommend for WordPress when you first start.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand these right now. Just set this checklist aside and do these when you have time to learn about them (maybe after I have time to document them for you).
A. Install Akismit Plugin (anti-spam for comments)
B. Set permalinks to %postname%
C. Install JetPack for Stats
D. Pick a custom graphic for your theme.
You can also check out this pretty good WordPress install checklist from Michelle McPherson.
7. Start blogging.
The key to a good blog is quality content on a regular basis. There are no shortcuts. There is no substitute.
So, set up a posting schedule for yourself and stick to it. Blogging between once and three times per week is ideal.
That should get you started.
There’s lot’s lot’s more to consider, but this is a bare minimum start. If I were going to recommend an 8th step, it would be to start an email list on your blog using Aweber. But I will leave that for another post.
I hope this has truly helped you understand how to start a blog.
Please don’t hesitate to ask questions is there is anything that I can help with. If all this is too much for you and you are interested in paying to have my VA set up your WebSite for you, let me know.