Years ago, before I knew any better, I thought creating a blog was a piece of cake. It took me a while to realize that there’s so much more to blogging than just getting on a platform and starting to write.
Fortunately, times have changed, and creating a blog has become a much easier process. That’s because there is a vast array of tools and plenty of information to help any aspiring blogger get started.
In this article, I will share my own experience and advice that has helped me start a blog successfully.
How to set up a blog
Reasons for starting a blog
If you’re reading this piece, chances are you already have a purpose in mind. However, going from concept to implementation often requires a little push.
In some cases, as in mine, people discover their love for writing at a young age. Over the years, my attempts to write for the local newspaper were unsuccessful, probably because I was a child wishing to write about his passions instead of being a qualified contributor.
Regardless, I had to come up with something else, and blogs proved to be the solution.
Today, many platforms encourage people to start a blog and let their creativity loose and even make money out of it. Moreover, with the rise of social networks, we have far more opportunities to draw people’s attention to our material.
So, what are the top reasons for starting a blog?
Improving your skills
When all is said and done, blogs are meant for people who enjoy writing. If you’re looking to improve your skills as a writer, why not start one? It will serve as an online medium to explore your ideas and share them with friends and colleagues.
This is a good option if you intend to become a professional writer. Potential clients will appreciate the opportunity to see your material and gauge your abilities.
Showcasing your expertise in a topic
Nowadays, people will write about anything. More importantly, there’s an audience for every type of content out there.
A personal space for writers allows them to discover what they like the most and how to take advantage of it. Although you can write about anything, focusing on a particular niche is better for getting people to come back.
In case you decide to cover different topics, make sure to have the right categories. It will help your readers navigate the content to find what interests them most. Your loved ones may put up with a messy and unorganized blog, but no one else will.
Increasing your online visibility
When people want to write for a living, creating a blog is a smart move. Freelancing is a driving force of the modern economy, with countless people working from home as content providers.
However, there’s plenty of work to do before getting there. The next step after creating a blog is improving the traffic to it. Having more views makes it easier to grab the client’s attention and to land that job you’ve always wanted.
Meeting the right people
After a lot of work and dedication, your high-traffic blog will draw those interested in what you write.
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, you get validation when people like what you write. Secondly, you can create a community where you can exchange opinions, ideas, and recommendations.
Whether for leisure or professional reasons, there’s more to creating a blog than writing. It will present you with many opportunities that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
How to start a blog from scratch
You have your reasons lined up. Now, it’s time to dive in and start creating your blog. It is not a complicated process, but you’ll need patience and dedication.
Step 1: Free blog vs. self-hosted – which one is right for you?
A concern many writers might face while researching about blogs is the platform. Which one to use – a free blog or a self-hosted one? The choice will depend entirely on the purpose of your blog.
Let’s start with the basics: a free blog.
Practically everywhere you go online, you will see advertisements for creating a free blog. Is this for real? Yes, it is, and it works.
At least it did for me because that’s how I first got into blogging way back when. The ads were everywhere, and I decided to give it a try. It was mere curiosity at first, but then I started taking it more seriously.
Of course, the options back then were limited. It’s very different today. Have you heard of tumblr.com, blogger.com, and wordpress.com? All of these platforms are free. Don’t get me wrong – they are incredibly useful and user-friendly, but a professional writer should look for more than that.
These platforms work well if you write for a hobby. They give writers plenty of freedom, which is highly encouraging. However, they do have limitations.
They will take advantage of the traffic you draw to sell their advertisements. It limits your work by putting account limitations impossible to bypass.
Another reason to avoid free blog platforms are the potential risks. Building your image and audience takes an immense amount of time if you’re starting from scratch. This is why you’d want to preserve them when you finally start seeing the positive numbers.
However, you’re still working on their terms. What happens if they start to dislike your content and forbid you to continue writing? Unfortunately, without the proper tools for backup, you might end up losing all of your hard work, audience, and a possible source of income, too.
One case that comes to mind is Tumblr’s ban on adult content. It is controversial, sure, but did you know that after the ban on such a topic, one-fifth of the platform’s users decided to leave?
People might have conflicting opinions about NSFW (not safe for work) content, but nobody can deny that it takes a massive amount of time and effort to produce it and create a large community.
Imagine what it feels like to see it all go away in a matter of days. Both Tumblr and its users took a hard blow from that move.
If you’re interested in writing professionally or keeping your work protected, it is far better to go self-hosted.
Fortunately, self-hosting is not expensive at all. There’s plenty of competition among hosting services, which only benefits bloggers. They allow writers to explore all of the options to decide which tariff is the best one for them.
By using a paid service, you’ll have complete security that your work is well-protected. It allows you to write as freely as you want to be provided that you abide by the legal rules. Then, you only have to deal with your ideas, without anybody else controlling what you say and how you say it.
Step 2: Choosing a reliable hosting service, an interesting domain name, and setting it up properly
Picking a good domain name and a reliable hosting service will guarantee people have an easy time getting to your blog and coming back.
It is essential to do this step right. Keep in mind that large companies sometimes put together a whole team to come up with the domain name – that’s how important it is.
Web hosting sign-up
Choosing the right web hosting service might take some time because there are plenty of them on the market. Don’t make your decision until you’ve considered different options and figured out which one will suit you best.
During your search, you might encounter popular services like Bluehost and Hostgator. All of them are great, but you must pick one.
Bluehost is probably the best choice for bloggers. It is the top-rated hosting service by a mile.
What makes Bluehost so good? It offers reliability for writers. It gives you the freedom you need by delivering a fast platform with many benefits. The best part? It is cheap!
For the sake of continuity, I’ll be using Bluehost as an example for the next steps.
Choosing the domain name
This is probably the most complicated step you’ll have to go through. Coming up with a domain name is essential for your success, so you have to be very careful. Here are a few tips to help you create a proper name:
• Make sure it is short, concise, and focused on the theme of your blog.
• Don’t make it too complicated! Keep in mind that your success depends on visitors coming back. They won’t be able to do it if your domain name is hard to remember.
• Try to be creative.
Services like Bluehost offer free domains during the first year, which could help you confirm how well your blog performs.
Important note: Once your blog takes off and people start noticing it, you might want to acquire other domains with similar wording. It will ensure no one tries to take advantage of you.
The web hosting plan
The next step would be to continue with your desired domain name and select the plan for web hosting. After that, you’d be ready to go.
If you’ve decided to proceed using Bluehost, you’ll find it has a variety of plans to offer. Each one has its benefits, so you should choose which one suits you best in terms of rate and features.
Bluehost currently offers 5 plans. The Shared Plan, which is the cheapest, is the most suitable one for bloggers. Nonetheless, it is a matter of personal preference and how much you’re willing to invest.
Of course, if you decide to pay for a more expensive plan, like the WP Pro or the Dedicated Plan, you’ll receive more benefits. However, choose one of these only when you have high traffic and a well-established brand.
Preparations for launching the blog
It is now time to start setting up the admin panel (also known as cPanel) and creating a password that you’ll use to access the host configuration. For Bluehost, you can use my.bluehost.com to log into your admin account.
Important note: While you’re there, navigate through the categories to get familiar with Bluehost’s service.
After logging in, you’ll be greeted by a highly intuitive homepage to help you set up your blog. Here’s what you should do:
• In Settings, access General (located in the left sidebar).
• Add your blog’s site title and tagline.
• Make sure your blog address is the same as your domain name.
• Set up an email to recover your password and other information in case you lose it.
Now you can proceed to launch the site.
The task is not done, though. There’s another process you must go through that will ensure your visitors will return after checking your blog. We’re talking, of course, about designing the blog.
Step 3: Selecting a proper theme
After completing the technical steps, you’ll need to focus on making your blog appealing to the audience. It is easy to choose a theme, but remember to keep it simple and aligned with the topic of your blog.
For instance, it won’t do to have an inspirational blog in dark colors or talk about vegan food with a steak image in the background.
Installing the theme is pretty simple. If you’re using a platform with a library, such as WordPress or Blogger.com, head to the settings, select the theme, and start trying them to see how they look.
WordPress even has a live preview option, allowing you to take a look at your blog with the desired theme. If you’re comfortable with it, proceed to install it by pressing the Activate Theme button.
You can design your blog with the assistance of graphic designers. This option will be more expensive, but the result will be a unique appearance. If you want to go all-in with your blog, this is the route for you.
Step 4: Organizing your blog
By this point, you’ll have the skeleton of your blog ready and can start adding some content to it.
To begin posting on WordPress, go to Dashboard, select Posts, and then Add New. A window will pop up with a basic post structure for you to insert a title and start writing the content.
One of the best things about WordPress is its ability to make everything better. It has gained quite the fame in recent years, which is why it tries to stay on top by updating its services regularly.
It is up to the writers to decide how far they want to go. Even then, one feature that never gets old is adding images to your posts. You can do it by clicking on the box called Featured Image. Then you can choose a picture from your PC to add to your post. It should always be related to the topic you’re writing about.
When you’re done, hit publish, and the post will go online for people to see.
Important note #1: If you want to use an image that you found online, make sure it is copyright-free so that you don’t get in trouble. Google has an option for showing safe-to-use pictures.
Important note #2: Your work is far from done with publishing the post. You need a strategy to get people to see your content, which the use of social networks can help you achieve.
To keep your blog organized and facilitate navigation for your audience, you should consider creating categories for your posts. You can categorize the content by date, topic, age groups, or whatever is suitable for your blog.
With WordPress, creating a category is quite simple. Head to Dashboard, select Appearance, and then Menu.
While you’re there, you can create and name your categories. The left panel of the menu editor also allows you to customize the sub-categories you’ll want to display once you click on the main one.
After you create the sub-categories, the editor allows you to move them, which is helpful in deciding on the order you’d want them displayed.
Categories, or menus, are necessary regardless of the theme. If your blog focuses on a variety of topics, having the right organization will keep your audience happy.
Installing plugins to optimize your blog
Plugins serve a variety of purposes. It is not only about making your site look fancier – but you also need to make it compelling.
There are many plugins you can try. I’ve found the following to be among the most useful ones:
• Yoast SEO. Starting a blog with economic goals is not easy. You have to be familiar with practices like search engine optimization (SEO). Fortunately, Yoast SEO provides a helping hand. It allows you to optimize keywords to attract a larger audience and draw more views, which is what every blog needs to succeed.
• Jetpack. It is a WordPress plugin that will help bloggers filter spam, scan for malware, and get general protection from other threats. If what you need is a solid wall for unwanted visitors, this plugin will surely be there for you when you most need it.
• Comments, wpDiscuz. Interaction with their audience is a thing all writers cherish. This plugin enhances the interaction between blogger and audience by a more interactive and beautiful comment section.
In the past, I wasn’t too keen on using plugins as they seemed unnecessary. However, I feel very differently about this today and believe that all writers should use them to enhance their blog performance.
Step 5: Establish your brand with a personal email account
When your blog starts seeing visits increase, that’s the moment for you to make the best of it. To captivate possible clients and improve your professionalism in general, consider creating a personal email that includes your domain.
Many online services allow you to create a customized email. To avoid complications, I encourage you to look back at a familiar name: Bluehost.
Access your Bluehost account and scroll until you find the Email & Office option. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to create and start using your address.
Creating a customized email makes your work look more professional. It might not seem like a big deal, but that’s something clients and the audience often appreciate. They take your opinions and posts more seriously because you make yourself look more serious.
This step isn’t necessary, but it does provide a boost by making you believe in yourself and your brand. When you have the right motivation and the proper mediums, convincing everyone else becomes a much easier task.
As you have seen, starting a blog is a process that requires a lot of thought if you want it to be successful. Don’t take it lightly so that other people won’t either.
Even then, starting a blog is just that – a start. You’ll need to work on plenty of other areas if you want people to visit your site and get them interested in your content.
Getting to that place is no smooth ride, but the payoff is worth it.
Now go and show the world what you’re capable of!