How To Start A Blog
AMAR HAS BEEN FEATURED ON:
My Story and Why It's Important to You
Gap Year Escape started seven years ago. A pipe dream cooked up in my friend's kitchen whilst we dreamed about The Four Hour Work Week and ate feta cheese (he's so Greek). It took less than an hour to set up and the majority of that time was spent deciding between the name Gap Year Escape and Gap Year Adventure.
Three months later, having embarked on my world adventure and miscalculated my savings, I was in Australia living a very basic life on a budget and wondering how the hell I am going to make the rest of my trip work.
Whether it was luck, work or a combination of both I actually made money from my blog. I remember it so clearly. Someone wanted to pay to advertise on my little website. It was a huge travel brand too! It was the sweetest money I ever made because I earned it from something that I'd created.
Seven years on I've been to all seven continents with my blog, ticked off a whole bunch of bucket list items and made some incredible friends.
So why is this all important to you? Well, as much as I would like to think so, there is nothing special about me. I didn't have a lot of money to start blogging, I had zero experience with creating a blog and I'd never done anything online before.
Luckily, literally anyone can start a blog these days. They cost very little to start, can take up as much or as little time as you like, require no technical knowledge and best of all, it's even possible to make a living from blogging!
Now that your excuses not to blog are out of the way. Let's look at why you should start a blog.
Reasons to Start a Blog
There are many reasons to start a blog. For me, I wanted an outlet for my creative side and also document my world trip in a meaningful way. Some people treat their blog as an online CV and others use blogging as a way to create opportunities both personally and professionally. Here are some of the reasons you should start a blog:
- Find your voice and hone your craft.
- Engage with an audience and make a difference in their lives.
- Meet like-minded people and make new friends.
- Learn more about your passion and become an expert.
- Create professional opportunities for yourself.
- Create a brand and launch and business.
- Leverage your blog to provide an income.
Now that you know it is a good idea to start blogging. Let's get cover some of the basics.
So, What is a Blog?
Originally blogs were informal online journals that were updated regularly. Now days blogs are used for more than just a dear diary situation. The writing quality on some blogs is on par with traditional journalism. Blogging has also launched careers and businesses. Simply put, a blog is freedom, expression and opportunity.
So this is what a blog is in the ideal sense but what is a blog made up of technically speaking?
The domain is simply the address of your blog e.g. www.YourWebsite.com. This is where people will find your blog or "house". You can call your blog whatever you like provided it isn't taken by someone else. More on choosing a domain later.
Your blog or "house" has to physically be somewhere and this is called hosting. You'll need a plot of land (hosting) to build your blog on and this hosting will be on a server (think of this as a street with other houses on called shared hosting).
CMS stands for Content Management System. Think of this as the bricks of your house. Luckily there are CMS out there that are perfectly designed for creating blogs. One click and your "house" is built. If you can use Microsoft Word, you can use this.
How to Start a Blog
Your free guide on how to make a blog and make money online.
Step 1 - Find Your Blogging Niche
Should I Start a Travel Blog? What About a Fashion Blog?
Deciding what to blog can be a daunting prospect due to the many options available to you. For me, I started a travel blog because that's what I was interested in and I was doing a lot of. I've since also started a fashion blog too. No one can tell you what niche you should blog about but I'm here to help with that.
A niche is the topic or topics that your blog will cover in the broadest sense. Example niches:
Within a niche there will be various sub-niches, for example:
- Equipment Free
Now that you know what a niche is, you need to figure out what yours might be for your blog. Grab a pad and pen and write the answers to the following questions:
- What are you really passionate about?
- What problem or knowledge gap could you solve for someone?
- Do you have any expertise, education or skills in a particular area?
- What would you feel comfortable writing about frequently?
Leave nothing out here. Write it all down and you can discard ideas as you go until you settle on a niche. There's lots of thought processes to go through here. Do you have a particular hobby that people share? Paintball? Sewing? Baking? Are you knowledgeable on a topic, location or idea? Vegetable gardens? Paris? Politics? Have you dealt with a particular issue? Mental health? Weight Loss?
The possibilities are endless.
Most importantly you need to pick a niche that interests you. A very large part of blogging is writing so you'll need to have enough to talk about and be interested enough to stay motivated.
Step 2 - Pick a Domain Name
A lot of people get stuck choosing a domain name given it will be the identity of their blogs. However, by following the checklist below you can be sure to pick a suitable domain name that won't lead to any complications further down the road. Your domain name must:
- Be a .com, no .net or anything else.
- Have no hyphens, these often get forgotten when people type.
- Have no shorthand e.g. B4 instead of before.
- Ideally be two or three words long. If this is difficult, try adding "the" or "my"
- Not impact on another trademark, e.g. Nicrosoft.
- Be easy to say and memorable.
- Be flexible and allow for growth. Tables.com vs HomeFurniture.com
Use the tool below to search your domain ideas. If the tool goes red it's taken, if it's green it's available. Keep searching until you find something that meets the criteria above. Do not, I repeat, do not buy your domain below or anywhere else. The tool is for research only. You're going to get a free domain.
Step 3 - The Best Hosting For Your Blog
Blog Hosting - Bluehost Review
- Free domain included.
- Excellent value for money.
- Easy to use and install.
- 24/7 US based support
You'll next see a screen to select your plan. If you're just getting started, the starter plan will do just fine. You can always upgrade later.
You'll have already found a suitable domain if you've been following this guide. Go ahead and enter it under "new domain".
Now just enter your details.
You will now need to decide how long you initially want to sign up to hosting for. Bluehost offers between 1-3 year hosting options, 3 years being the cheapest. At this stage I would advise signing up to a year for now.
Also, untick all the boxes except "Domain Privacy Protection". This is of course optional but if you don't have domain privacy, the name and address that you sign up with is publically available. $0.99 is worth it for the peace of mind.
Enter your billing information next.
Congratulations! You're now the proud owner of a domain and hosting for your blog!
To wrap things up go ahead and create a secure password and you're done for this step.
Step 4 - How to Install WordPress
Now that you have a domain and hosting, it's time to get that blog built and we'll do this using WordPress. Thankfully this is really easy to install.
Login to Bluehost and enter the username and password you set up earlier.
Click on the orange icon that says "Install WordPress".
Click the "Start" button which will begin a brand new install of WordPress.
Select your new domain from the dropdown list and click "Check Domain".
Enter your details here, tick the box for terms and conditions and then click "Install Now".
After a few moments you'll see this. Install complete!
Click on "View Credentials" and you'll see this important list of information. Make a note of these. You'll need the Admin URL to login and make changes to your blog.
Step 5 - Pick a Theme For You Blog
Your blog is now live. Congratulations! Now that the house is built, it's time to decorate. In blogging terms this means picking a theme and what your blog will look like. Go ahead and visit the Admin URL discussed above and enter your login details.
Once you login you'll see your WordPress dashboard. This is super easy to use and non-technical at all.
WordPress comes with a selection of free themes for your blog. To find these click "Appearance" on the menu and then "Themes". Click "Add New Theme" to see what is available.
Hover over each theme to see details and a preview. Once you've made your decision click "Install" and your theme will be replaced.
It's great that WordPress contains free themes and for a complete beginner the bare essentials might be all you need. However, if you are planning on becoming a professional blogger or making money from your blog, you'll probably want something that looks very well designed.
Luckily you don't need to spend thousands on a web designer to get a good looking website. Paid themes cost about $60 and can make a big difference to the look of your blog.
Themeforest is the best marketplace to find well designed WordPress blog themes.
Here are some really great themes for under $60:
Each theme will have it's own support team you can contact for help to install.
Step 6 - The Best WordPress Plugins
Now that you've decorated your house, it's time to get some appliances in. In blogging terms these means installing plugins. Plugins are a bit like app for a smart phone. They all have various functions that can be from design functions to website performance.
Below is a video tutorial on how to install a WordPress plugin along with a list of the best plugins to get you started.
Video Time: 06:58
In this video you will learn how to install a WordPress plugin.
Essential WordPress Plugins
- Google Analytics
- Yoast SEO
- W3 Total Cache
- Contact Form 7
- Broken Link Checker