You’ve been thinking about it for a long time. Your competitors have blogs on their sites; you have been reading their posts. You are checking out their social media pages and you are seeing all sorts of “teasers” about great posts on their blogs. They are getting more traffic than you are. It’s time. You know it. You’ve been reading up on how to get a blog started, but you’re afraid you’ll miss something very important, and you’re a bit nervous. Will you have the perfect blog at launch? Probably not. But the only way you are going to move toward that goal is to launch and start blogging. Here is a step-by-step checklist that can have you up and running in just a few days, perhaps less. Once you are up, you will learn more as you go, and you will keep improving it – that’s a never-ending process.
Step 1: Identify Your Goal
Most everyone’s goal for a blog will be to make money. But exactly how it is you plan to make money is the goal you need to focus on now.
- If it is to support your business (selling a product or service), the goal is to bring traffic in to your website and to convert those readers.
- Are you setting up a blog to sell advertising space and monetize it that way?
- Maybe you want to review products and services for affiliates and earn commissions based upon their sales.
Your goal is the underlying purpose for your blog. Make sure you are very clear in your head exactly what this purpose is.
Step 2: Select a Platform for Your Blog
There are lots of platforms for blogs and they have pretty well-known names – WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, Squarespace, Typepad, to name just a few. To choose the most appropriate for you, you have to do your research and compare all available blog platforms. But given that you are new at this, and given that want a smooth and streamlined setup, your best choice will probably be WordPress. It is by far the most popular of platforms, it has great add-ons (called plugins), and it is really flexible. Plus, you can continue to add features as you become more adept, and there are new plugins being developed all the time. You can also find support when you have a problem – some of it free, some of it fee-based.
You have two options. You can go with self-hosted (WordPress.org) if you have a website and you are adding it to your site. Or, if you don’t have a website, and you don’t want to pay for someone else to host your blog, then you can go with WordPress.com – it doesn’t have all of the features but it will still probably meet all of your needs. If you want more details on WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org, you should read up on them.
Step 3: Domain Name
If you use either version of WordPress, you don’t have to purchase a domain name. You will be automatically provided one that will be “yourname.wordpress.com.” this will be the URL address for your blog. Most people who have businesses or who plan to make money from their blogs will choose a domain name. If, for example, your business has a website, you will want that blog to have the same URL with a “/blog” after it. But if you want your blog to have a separate domain name for any reason, then you will need to buy one. You do this through a domain name registrar – there are many – and you will find them with a simple Google search. Sites like GoDaddy and NameCheap are pretty well-known.
Buying a domain name is not expensive – the average price runs about $12-$15 a year. Here are some tips for name selection
- As stated above, if you have a website, you keep that name and just add blog onto the end or at the beginning. And if your website is already hosted, register your blog name with that same host. It does make things a bit simpler.
- If you have to come up with a name, keep it as short as possible, so it won’t be hard to remember.
- Try to avoid hyphens if you can. If someone else has your name without a hyphen, however, you will have to add one if you really want that name.
- Use .com if you can. If someone else had the name.com, you may have to go with .net instead.
- Select several options and then simply go to net, and you will find out if that name is already taken.
Step 4: Purchase Hosting
“Hosting” is sometimes a bit difficult thing to understand, but here is a simple explanation. For you to have a blog on the Internet, that blog has to be connected to a computer somewhere that will always be connected to the Internet. You can self-host but then you can never turn your computer off and what if it crashes? Purchasing “space” for your blog from a reputable host with software that allows installation of WordPress, is probably the best way to go.
- If you have a hosted website already, you may have, in your plan, a free blog (or more) and you may not have to pay anything additional for hosting. If that host does not support WordPress, however, you will need to change hosts.
- If you pay for hosting, it will run from $7 – $18 per month. There are lots of hosts available, and you will need to select from among those that offer shared and non-shared hosting. This is a bit more complex to understand, but for your purposes, shared hosting is fine, so long as the host has plenty of bandwidth and a reputation for not crashing. Hosts that overload their shared servers will slow down load time for everyone, so read the information and reviews, then decide on the best for you. Sign up for an account. And don’t worry too much about your choice. You can change at any time. Some hosting companies to choose from are Siteground, Bluehost, or Web Hosting Hub.
Step 5: Installation of WordPress
This may be the easiest step of all. Given that you have chosen a host that supports WordPress, there is usually a one-click method to install it. Instructions will be very clear and easy to follow. You will need to enter some information:
- Name of your site
- Username and password for you administrative account (this account lets you get into your blog and change things)
- Your email address
Note: you cannot change your administrative username later. So pick a username that you feel will be hard for a hacker to discover.
If you would like assistance installing and ensuring that WordPress is set up correctly, Blogelina can help with that.
You are now ready to login to your site. The URL will be: www.sitename.com/wp-login. This will take you to your dashboard which you will use to make changes, add plugins, and other stuff. Navigate around on that dashboard for a while just so you get an idea of all that you can do.
Step 6: Selecting a Theme
One of the great things about WordPress is that are thousands of themes to pick from. A theme really is just a template for how your blog will look. There will be “current” ones in the section marked as such, but you can go online and just google WordPress themes and look at many more. You can choose a free theme or upgrade to a “premium” one that will be more suited to your business, (one such site that has premium themes is StudioPress).
You can change your theme any time you want through your dashboard. Just login to your administrative account, and click on “Appearance – Themes” You can choose a new one and the preview how it will look. Once you have one you like, just click “Activate.” It really is that easy.
There are plenty of blogs that can give you pointers on choosing a theme, if you want some more advice.
Step 7: The “About” Page
It’s important to let visitors know all about your, your business, the purpose for you blog and about you personally.
- You will want to tell them how the blog may be helpful to them.
- You will want to introduce yourself and tell a bit of your story – this should be very informal and include a photo. People like to see the “author” they are reading.
- Keep this information updated. You might even place some links to your latest or best posts, and these will change regularly.
- Also tell visitors how they can sign up for your posts to be sent directly to their emails (there are plugins that will do this).
Step 8 and Beyond
Now you are ready to write your first post and publish it! From this point, you will want to learn about finding great topics and creating content marketing strategies which really work, content – which viewers will want to read and share.
Over time, you will want to add features, certainly buttons for readers to share your content on social media sites, some catchy phrases and images in your margins, etc.
You will also learn all of the ways to promote your blog on social media and elsewhere. This all comes gradually, with experience and by reading all that WordPress offers.
You probably now see that all of that anxiety and worry about setting up a blog was just not necessary. Follow these steps, be excited for this new adventure, and start publishing.
Are you excited to get your blog started!? Great! Let us know what other questions you have in the comments below!
Ethan Dunwill is entrepreneur, blogger and contributing writer for several websites. He provides marketing and business consultation for entrepreneurs and students. Connect with Ethan via Twitter or his personal blog.