How to Start a Blog in 10 Steps.
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So you wanna be a blogger, eh? Here’s a simple idiot proof guide on how to start a blog. Whether it be travel, underwater basketweaving or whatever weird little passion you have you can set up any blog using these easy methods. Trust me, I’m a computer illiterate moron and I’ve figured it out. There’s hope, I believe in you!
Obviously I run a travel blog, but these steps can of course be applied to most nay kind of blog.
Step 1: Pick a Name.
Muy Importante! And pick something that isn’t lame and already overdone. Meaning don’t do what I did and pick Adventures of… there’s so many adventures of… out there. But I picked it, whatever.
You’ve probably been thinking of what your website name is going to be for a while now. Probably before you ended up here you had an idea. I pulled the trigger and went with the Adventures of Lil Nicki. I actually do not like my domain name. I had originally wanted to be An Alaskan Abroad, but some tool already took that URL and has written one post and never done anything with it. Whoever you are, you suck. But at this point I’ve created a brand with the Adventure of Lil Nicki so I’m sticking with it. Plus it’s versatile. It’s my adventure and not anyone else’s. I’m a travel blogger, but maybe one day the adventures of Lil Nicki will be about birding around one destination or about my day job where I scrape dirty teeth, or weird concoctions I cook up… because it’s my fucking adventure, not your adventure, mine. What I’m getting at is choose carefully. I wanted to pick a name that can go with me as I evolve. If you go with something like ‘JimbobGoesToSpain.com’, ‘somecuntyfashionblog.com’, or ‘SarahAmandaMarieSallyJessicasTravels.com’ you might get cast as only being able to blog about one thing or one place. Think about where you want this to go one day.
Remember that your blog name is going to most people’s first impression. You want to stand out in the kabillions of blogs out there.
Step 2: Getcha a Host.
If you want to get your blog up in front of readers who aren’t your Mom and three best friends your first step is to get hosted. Getting hosted will open you up to the possibility of monetizing your blog on down the road as well.
There are a number of hosting services available online, but the best of the best is of course BlueHost. Their customer service is amazing and I have zero complaints. Plus, you get a lot for their low prices. $7.99 per month for 12 months is the going rate for their least expensive plan. Of course if you sign up right now there is a 50% off New Year 2017 deal going on where you can get hosted for as little as $3.49 a month!
Ready to start your blog? Start here!
Once on the BlueHost page, click the big button that says ‘Get Started now’.
Step 3: Enter Your Domain Name.
This is where you enter the domain name for your website. Choose well, my friends. I am so effing indecisive that it’s borderline a mental disorder. I pulled the trigger and went with adventuresoflilnicki.com. Like I said in Step 1, I don’t like my blog name but I’m sticking wit hit because it does fit, and rebranding is an expensive nightmare later in down the road. So pop in that domain name and see if it’s available, if it is, great! If not start then get to thinking again.
Your domain name should usually be your blog name. So if your blog is called ‘The Broke Ass Backpacker That Loves Haggling Over $0.03 Equivalent in Thai Baht For Bangkok Tuk-Tuks’ your domain shouldn’t be ilovenachosandhookers.com. You want the blog title and the domain to match up because let’s face it, it make it easier.
So once you choose that domain name you will be brought to the next step:
Step 4: Choosing you account plan and add-ons.
You will then be brought to the account plan page where you pick out your package and add-ons.
Choosing an account plan: You have the option of 12, 24 or 36 months. You do save month to month by signing up for a longer plan, but remember that many blogs get abandoned. I’m not saying your going to quit, but the odds are against you. If you aren’t sure if you’re going to stick with it then sign up for the 12 month plan. That’s what I did, but I’m still here. However I’ve had plenty of ‘fuck this shit, I’m out‘ moments with blogging.
Out of all the options, I’d say the MOST important one is ‘Domain Privacy Protection’. Spend the $9.99 a year on it. If you don’t pay for this anyone, and I mean anyone can look up your (the site owner’s) name and mailing address. This prevents your crazy stalker/s from looking you up and turning you into some blogger version of the Selena story…. too soon?
‘Search engine jumpstart’ is exactly what it sounds like. Site backup pro will backup your site, although you can always choose another site back up plugin later on and do it yourself- it’s really up to you.
Now that you’ve made your plan and add-on choices it’s time for the next step…
Step 5: Setting up WordPress.
BlueHost offers a simple one-click WordPress setup. So why wouldn’t you choose WordPress? For the love of everything holy, choose WordPress as your publishing platform. It’s so easy. Of course there are other options for publishing platforms but none are more widely used and more simple to set up. The one-click set up also saves you the headache, the time, the stress, and the hassle of trying to navigate setting up a publishing platform on your own or the money you’d pay to have a professional set it up for you.
From you BlueHost Control Panel Page, under ‘website builders’ click on WordPress.
Once on WordPress it’ll hold your hand through the whole process. I’m not shittin it guys, it’s easy. Follow the instructions and once you get to the point where it asks where you’d like to install WordPress, type in your domain name. Once you install WordPress you’ll be promoted to log in. Log in and you will be brought to your WordPress Dashboard.
Step 6: Plugins, beautiful, beautiful plugins.
Plugins are what bring your travel blog to life! There are kajillions of plugins out there. Many are free, many free ones ask for donations to use them and there are some premium plugins that charge a fee.
Here’s the Plugins I use:
WordPress SEO by Yoast– Holds your hand in SEO, SEO is search engine optimization. Basically what this does is help your posts rank higher in Google.
Jetpack by WordPress.com– Does a number of things including allowing you to view stats from your Dashboard.
Akismet– Filters spam so you don’t have to. Trust me you are gonna get spammed up the ass if you don’t.
Sumo Me– Makes your images and blog posts easily shareable on social media by your fans.
Ultimate Google Analytics– This installs Google Analytics on your site. Google Analytics is the industry standard for tracking your website traffic. If you plan to monetize and pitch brands and companies in the future you NEED Google Analytics set up.
Contact Form 7– Installs a contact form so that people can e-mial you through your website. I get asked a lot of questions through my contact form.
Simple Follow Me Social Buttons Widget– Install, pick which social media icons you want displayed on your site and enter in you social media handles. Now your fans can follow you everywhere!
FD Feedburner Plugin– Allows people to read your posts on feedburner.com
Step 7: Choose a Theme!
Now choose the layout of your website. Of course there are a few free options to choose from on WordPress, but the ability to customize them is fairly limited. These free theme options are a great place to start out before you get comfortable blogging and have an idea of how you want your site to be laid out. I had a blog for about 5 months before I decided on a theme I wanted to shell out $59 for. Check out my theme here, I use WPVoyager which is specifically designed for travel bloggers.
Step 8: Get Social!
Choose your handles for the social medias you want to promote your blog on. I personally use Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. There so many nowadays it makes my head spin. A huge one that I outright refuse to do is Snapchat, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s so popular right now, and almost on a weekly basis I am asked to do a Snapchat takeover for a brad or company even though I do not have a Snapchat.
Choose wisely and where you want to focus time. For me, Instagram is my #1 as I am best with visual content. My #2 time vacuum is Pinterest, I’ve just recently really started focusing on this social media and you can drive a ton of traffic using Pinterest. Everyone’s been saying Twitter is dying out for a while now. I have one… not my forte, whatever. Then there’s Facebook. It seems like you need to have a Facebook to actually exist out there, but let’s face it: Facebook is incredibly difficult to be seen on unless you want to shell out big advertising bucks, which is sort of a sham for what you get out of it anyways. I really do not focus my time here. The heyday is over. So chose where you want to be represented and focus really on just one or two. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Step 9: Set up an e-mail list.
I, myself use the free version of Mailchimp. It’s pretty simple and walks you through the whole process. There are other options for mail lists, another popular one is aweber. I’ve not tried aweber, but I’ve heard good things. I am content with Mailchimp at this point. If you go with Mailchimp make sure to do install the Mailchimp for WordPress Plugin! This way your fans can sign up to your e-mail list. Mail chimp is a free service until you gain more than 500 e-mail sign ups. I usually send out a monthly roundup to my e-mail list, sometimes I don’t. Most marketers will tell you that an e-mail list is the most valuable thing you can have for your blog. I’m sure that’s arguable to some extent, but it’s probably in your best interest to start one.
Step 10: Get to blogging!
Write, write and write some more. This is the only way you’ll get good at it and develop a voice. How do you think I’ve been able to write whatever the fucking fuck I want to on here and people actually read this stupid blog? Because I’ve developed this obscene voice in my writing. I write exactly as I speak, which is best described as Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story‘ speaks of his father’s colorful language, “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” My posts are a tapestry of fuckery and the misadventures I’m led on as I travel the world. What’s your tapestry going to be and where is it going to hanging in space over? The only way you’ll figure it out is by practicing your craft. So write! The worst that happens is two or three years later you go back and read your old posts and say to yourself what the hell I was I thinking and delete all those old embarrassing rubbish posts and take a moment to appreciate the fact that you invested time into your writing and have clearly improved.
Developing your voice is probably the most important thing you can do on your blog. People will appreciate that. And don’t start hawking only listicles. Throw in one for fun every here and there, but don’t soley write listicles. If you don’t know what a listicle is, it’s those ‘Top 10 reasons to visit Thailand’, or ‘ 7 reasons to blow all your money on travel’. It’s painful to see that’s where the internet has gone, realistically this is the evolution of readers, they want short snippets written under bold fonts with a number… You know, kinda like the way this post is set up. Listicles are the reason that I think blogging has turned into a massive joke. I mean look at Matador Network, all they produced is ‘Top _ insert destination’ posts, I used to think they were an authority and now I realize that Matador is trash…Just sayin.
If you don’t find that you have a passion for blogging, then this isn’t for you and that’s okay. But if it is:
Just keep at it, it’s not easy. Not everyone with a blog is making millions, or even thousands for that matter. You gotta start somewhere.