Blogging 101: Blogging for Beginners
So you want to learn how to start a blog and become a blogger. This post will tell you how to start your own blog, how to find blog ideas, tips for improving at blog writing and how to make money blogging. All of this in 8 steps. Read on to find out how to start a successful blog!
Blogging for Beginners: How to Start a Blog in 8 Steps
Step 1: How to Find Blog Ideas & Choose a Topic
First you need to decide what you will write about! This can be one of the most challenging aspects of starting a blog. Maybe you have a lot of topics you want to cover and you are having difficulty narrowing it down. Maybe you have two favorite topics that don’t seem to be related.
One way to figure out what you’d like to write about is to sit down and just jot a list of 100 topics. Without stopping to censor yourself, write down 100 article ideas that you could write. Not necessarily things you are an expert on, but 100 things that interest you. Just sit down and sketch it out, don’t worry too much or overthink it.
For example, let’s say you are considering starting a blog about household organization. So you sit down and write a list starting with something like “10 ideas for organizing in a small space”, “Things to do each morning to stay on top of your to-do list”, “Pantry organization tips”. If the ideas just flow out of you, then you have a blog topic that you will love.
After you are done with the list of blog ideas, take a look at it. Maybe you thought you wanted to blog about organizing your household but you notice a lot of your post ideas are about how to save money while doing so. Maybe you’ll want to narrow your blog topic to frugal organization, or expand it to be about organizing and household budgeting.
A broad niche can be nice because then you have more freedom to write about whatever you like. But it can also be difficult to find readers for a very broad topic. Sometimes the more specific your topic is the easier it is to find loyal followers and to get search engines to recognize you as an “expert” in that specific thing. (believe me – this is my blog where I write about what I like, but I have others that are more focused and it is much easier to market them)
Of course this is not a hard and fast rule, but merely something to think about when you’re getting started. In any case the list of 100 blog ideas will definitely help you figure out what your website will be about, which leads us to our next step!
Step 2: Choose a Blog Name & Domain Name
Have you already decided on a name for your new blog? This is one of the first steps in how to start a blog. Perhaps you will call it something clever involving your name, like OmaraOrganizes.com? However, if you have not yet thought of a name, I can help!
I recommend doing a similar exercise to the one above where you came up with your blog topic. Sit down and write out a few words you can think of that are related to your topic. Just go ahead and brainstorm and let the ideas flow freely without editing.
So again using the example of a frugal organization blog, you might write down words and concepts like: frugal, budget, organize, disorganize, messy, cheap, savings, money, dollars, pounds, chaos, neat, clean, boxes, everything in its place, order, cents, accountants, bank, money, throwing money down the toilet. Hmmm… that’s a good one! 😉 After jotting down the list, mess around with the words to see if you can come up with some concepts you like. For example, how about something like “No More Messy Money”? (I know, I’m weird) You can combine the words to make a phrase or sentence for the domain like BestMuseumsintheWorld.com or MakingSenseofCents.com.
Another way you can work with this list of words is to combine them to create rhymes or alliteration. Some examples of domains using alliteration include Mr Money Moustache, Awesome Amsterdam or Go Gallivanting. Think about combining two words like WiseBread, Thrillist, DesignMilk or Pinterest. You can also play with juxtaposition of conflicting ideas like A Beautiful Mess.
Once you decide on a few words and concepts that you like, the next step is to see if any of them are available as a domain.
First step – Google your proposed name. See if the .com is available or if someone is already using it. Sometimes the domain will be taken but no one is using the name. Then you might be able to get a slightly different domain but use that name. It’s wise to do a search because you might find that NoMoreMessyMoney.com is available, but there is another very popular website called “NoMessyMoney”. If they are covering the same topics that you plan to it is probably not the best idea to use such a similar name. Back to the drawing board.
Sometimes the domain name you want is already taken (someone is sitting on it and not using it) in the.com form, but there other options. You could go for a different ending like .net or .info. In my opinion, a .com address is always the best if you can get it, but these other options aren’t bad. In fact I know many very successful blogs that are not .com. However just think about it carefully so that you don’t look like a spammy website right off the bat.
If you plan on being active on social media, it’s very useful to think about whether that domain name is also available on Twitter, Instagram, etc. I always check this before I buy a new domain and see if I can find an available handle on Twitter or Instagram that matches my proposed name. Sometimes I can’t. For example, the Twitter handle for this website was already taken – but the person hasn’t tweeted since 2013. So I had to come up with a random name that didn’t exactly match my domain. Which annoys me all the time! 🙂
So now you are ready to buy your domain. There are many places to do domain research and buy domains. My favorite is Namecheap. Why are they better than the competition? They have live online chat, their prices are great and their website is easy to use. If you get confused there are lots of pages clearly explaining the steps, and if you are still lost you can just start a live chat to have someone help you. Try Namecheap! If you don’t like them you can also use GoDaddy, they are still the top domain provider around!
Step 3: How to Set Up a Blog & Build Your Website
Yes! Now you have your domain name. Hooray! Now to the website building process. Let’s take a look at how to set up a blog.
My first question for you is how much do you like learning new things and figuring out solutions?
If you get frustrated with technology and troubleshooting, then you might want to start with the most basic and easy site hosting. Or hire someone to help you get started. You can always take things to the next level in the future. However, if you love technology and learning new things then you can take the steps to slowly teach yourself how to create your perfect website.
I am not the most patient person but I do enjoy learning new things and figuring stuff out on my own. So I taught myself to use WordPress many years ago and oh yes I still struggle every day to troubleshoot. There are definitely frustrating moments when you cannot figure out how to make a menu turn blue and you’re just losing your head over it. But there is also deep satisfaction from figuring out the CSS code that is the trick to that blue color.
Keep in mind that if you do everything yourself you may spend more time working on the structure behind the scenes than the actual content of the website. So if you prefer to write or take photos then you might want to allocate your time and effort there instead.
Now that you have a domain name, you need a place to host the content that will be your website. It’s a bit like the domain name is the street address and the host is the actual location where you will build your house. Your house being the website itself.
If you are just starting out you can choose a shared hosting account where you share a server with other websites. I recommend Namecheap for good deals on basic hosting. But there are many other hosting providers including Bluehost and GoDaddy. Shop around using these links to find the best hosting deal for you. If you go with these you will still need to build the site on your own using WordPress.
If that sounds like too much I recommend starting with SquareSpace or Wix. These website builders make things a bit more simple and you can have a gorgeous, professional looking site in minutes. The problem with Wix or Squarespace is that if your site grows bigger you will probably want more customization options and eventually you will outgrow the platform. But it is one of the more affordable ways to get a lovely site without too much headache. Wix and Squarespace are excellent ways to start your own blog without a lot of technical expertise.
If you decide to build your website with WordPress you’ll need to pick a theme that goes with the look and feel of your site, and has some of the features you need. If you’re a beginner, I recommend not worrying too much about finding the perfect theme at first. Because as you grow and add content you’ll probably change your mind several times about how things should be organized. Just pick something that’s OK at first and get started. Don’t spend weeks agonizing over the perfect theme. I recommend starting with one of the free themes, setting up the menu and main pages, and start writing blog posts.
Later after you add content, you can change the look and feel by picking a new theme. The paid themes can be much easier to work with and adapt to your style. Usually they have more customization options for colors, fonts and placement of the different elements. And once you have been working with a basic theme for a while you will have a better idea of the features you want. The Envato Marketplace Themeforest is a great place to shop for themes and plugins for WordPress. If you’d like to see some of the plugins I recommend for travel bloggers then take a look here.
Step 4: Add Content & How to Write a Blog
OK so now you have a website that’s set up with your name at the top and the color and theme that you like, guess what – here comes the hard part. It’s time to start writing! But how to write a blog?
I think this is where a lot of bloggers get stuck. They are so excited to start something new, but once it comes time to put their thoughts out there for everyone to see they get nervous. Remember that saying “perfect is enemy of good” or something like that? This is the ideal aphorism for you to keep in mind.
Go back to that list of 100 topics and pick one to start writing. Get your first posts out there and hit publish.
Many bloggers start to freak out thinking they don’t know what they’re doing. Suddenly it becomes impossible to continue unless the menu is moved to the left a little bit. Writers block or nerves become the focus. Here is what I tell people when they have this problem: no one is going to see your first blog posts.
Unless you are a magical unicorn, no one is going to find your blog posts without you making an effort to share them. Nowadays with so much content on the internet it’s almost impossible to get traffic to your new website without making an effort. So if you’re nervous that everyone will see your writing and it’s not perfect yet, don’t be. Until you share it with your friends, family and the world no one will see it. So just start.
After you write 10 blog post you can go back to the first one and edit it or change it up. Maybe you realize that you shared too many personal anecdotes that you’d prefer remain private. Or maybe you didn’t put in enough personality. But you can change that! You can edit your work anytime.
Write something, then write something else and put it out there. Keep repeating until you find your voice. You can always go back and edit and you can always change the layout or format later. The best thing is to practice and just keep moving forward. That is how you will find flow and improve.
Step 5: Build Your Social Media Accounts
If you want people to find your posts you have to start sharing them with the world.
Google, and other search engines, can find your posts by the words you use in the text, known as keywords. You might already understand this topic, if so just skip this paragraph. When you go online to search for something, let’s say “purple ballet shoes,” that is known as a keyword or keyword phrase. If you include the right ones, search engines can find your post and serve it up in the results when someone searches for “purple ballet shoes” or whatever your topic is.
It’s not very common for a beginning site to be on the first pages of a search. First your site has to have built up some authority with Google so that they know you have content that people would like to read. How do you do this? It’s called SEO. That’s a huge topic which I will cover in another post. Another way to get your blog posts out there is to share them on social media. Social media comes in to help you get the word out before Google and other search engines index you.
I hope you’ve already set up your social media accounts as we discussed in step #2 but if not, now you can start. Decide which platforms you prefer. Do you love photos and images? Then Instagram is definitely for you. Prefer news and information? You might like Twitter. Many people think of Pinterest as a social account but it is more of a search platform, and an account you should definitely have no matter what your topic is. I’d recommend grabbing accounts with your website name on all of the platforms if you can, later you can decide to focus on one or two or use them all.
Once you have your accounts all set up, start following people in your niche. Share your blog posts, and share other content you find interesting. You can also share the accounts and posts with friends and family on your personal Facebook page. Beware if your topic might conflict with your job or offend people close to you.
Try to connect with other bloggers who cover the same topic. You can learn a lot from them and it is also nice to feel like you have a network of like-minded people. Follow their social media accounts, share their posts and comment and like their posts. For example on Instagram, follow people in your niche and like their images and leave thoughtful comments. DO NOT comment “hey, nice pic, follow me”. Please just say something like “beautiful photo, I was there last year too! I really liked the piña coladas!” Read their captions, and if they ask questions, answer them. Don’t be a pest, be a friend.
The absolute key to success at blogging, Instagram or Facebook is consistency. Post regularly. Set up a schedule for yourself.
If you have a busy life you may be thinking “Uhhhh I can’t. I don’t have time to post every day.” Notice that I didn’t say you have to do it every day, just set a schedule and stick to it. So if you decide you’re going to post once a week just do that. If once a month is what you can handle, do that. The main point is that it is better to do one post week regularly instead of 10 posts and then nothing for year. However…that being said… to be honest I’ve been blogging for 10 years and I’m horrible at sticking to a schedule. I am very guilty of doing 10 blog post in a week and then nothing for three months. So if that’s you too, welcome to the club! It works, just not as well. But I know if I was more consistent I would be more successful.
Before Google and other search engines find you, or even if they never do, there’s a really good search engine to get your posts out there and that is Pinterest. Set up a new account or use your personal account if you already have one.
There’s definitely an art and science to succeeding on Pinterest. You’ll want to make good looking images that are shareable and convey information about the post topic. This can often be photos with text over them that explains the topic of the blog post. There’s a lot more to Pinterest, and I recommend checking out the Simple Pin Podcast to learn more.
Step 6: Learn New Skills & How to Start a Successful Blog
A few things that will make your website more successful are honing your writing skills and perfecting your photography.
When I first started out at blogging I was horrible at photography. I mean, really bad. And the worst part was that I thought I was pretty good. Why? Well, hey, I had photos in my blog posts! But my photos were awful – taken in poor lighting conditions, not straight, and not creative at all. Truth is that back then blogs were not as pretty and professional as they are now, and technology and internet speed has advanced considerably.
This means that now even at a basic level you need to have good design and good images.
Depending on the topic of your blog, beautiful photos may be extremely important or not a very high priority. If you are not interested in photography at all or your topic is something like finance, you might not need a lot of images like a travel or food website might. If you do not wish to take your own images, you can use stock photos from places like Shutterstock.
Please don’t be like so many beginning bloggers and just steal photos from Google images. Those photos are someone’s intellectual property and you cannot use it without permission. Sometimes you can use other people’s images and include a link to them as the source for the photo. Depending on the photographer they might not allow this. It is always wise to ask. There are free stock images sites like Unsplash and Pixabay or purchase the perfect image or photo subscription from Shutterstock.
If you’d like to learn how to take beautiful photos for your blog, here are some helpful online courses:
- How to become a travel photographer
- How to become a travel videographer
- Food Photography by Andrew Scrivani
- Photo Styling with Meredith Staggers
- Lifestyle Photography with Marte Marie Forsberg
How to improve your writing skills:
Perfecting your writing skills is another key to making a better blog. There are many courses on writing, here are a few blog writing courses online that you might want to take a look at:
You can also find someone to edit your posts for you. It can be very helpful to have a friend or family member read your posts to find your typos or tell you if something doesn’t make sense. When I first started my blog many years ago, my boyfriend would read my posts before I published them. It’s funny how there’s always a typo – even if you’ve read it 20 times! It can be super helpful to have another set of eyes. If you are very nervous about your writing and grammar then it could be helpful to hire a virtual assistant to edit your work for you.
Step 7: Optimize and Monetize Your Site
Now that you’ve written a bunch of blog posts and you found your style, how do you get people to read your posts? And how can you make a bit of money?
If you haven’t already, it is time to set up a few Google accounts.
- Google Analytics allows you to track visits to your site.
- Google Webmaster Tools helps you stay on top of how the search engine sees your site.
- Google Adwords / Keyword Planner allows you to find keywords for site optimization.
- Google Adsense lets you add advertisements to your website.
You can set all of these up using one Google/Gmail account. For more information on how to set these up, click the links above and check out their tutorials.
How to start a blog and make money?
When thinking about if and how to monetize your website there are a few things to think about. What is the purpose of the site? Do you simply want to share your thoughts with the world? Are you doing this only for fun? Or do you hope to make this into a business?
Of course even if you just are doing it for fun, it can be nice to make a little income. However don’t be fooled by things you might see that tell you it is easy to make six-figures from your blog. If you want to make good money from a blog it will take a lot of effort and hard work. This might take away some of the fun, so it is important to consider your motives before trying to turn a hobby into a business.
If you do plan to monetize your website you can start right away or take your time and build your content and traffic first. It really depends on your goals.
How to make money blogging? There are several options for earning income from blogging. Choose one, or combine all of them!
- Sponsored content
- Sponsored ads
- Adsense or Mediavine
- Other affiliates
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to monetize your site if you don’t want to. It could be fun to make some money but it can also add stress or take time away from creating new content. It’s totally up to you and you can change your tactics anytime.
If you want to know more about how to make money blogging and how to make money online stay tuned for a future post. You can also check out the Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing course or the more affordable and useful ebook How to Make Money from Blogging.
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Step 8: Keep Learning, Testing & Growing
Blogging is a never ending learning experience. There are always new social media platforms, new techniques, new technology and new rules. And of course your skills and knowledge can continuously be improved in any of these areas. Here are some ways to learn new blogger tips and tricks.
- Check if there are workshops, conferences or events on your topic. These can be great places to network and learn about what is coming up in the future of blogging. For example there are many online business and blogging conferences like Alt Summit, Social Media Marketing World, BlogHer and TBEX. Or conferences like ITB that cater to people in the travel industry and are popular with travel bloggers.
- Take courses to expand your knowledge. Here is a list of 10 courses perfect for beginning bloggers.
- Join groups on Facebook or other platforms where you can learn new tips, tricks and techniques. Two of my favorites are Simple Pin Pinterest Strategies and DNW Making Money From Blogging but there are many out there for every niche and every interest.
I hope this long guide on how to start a blog gave you some good tips about blogging for beginners. Stay tuned for more in-depth posts about how to make money blogging, how to pick a good blog theme and mastering social media.
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- Best Affiliate Programs for Travel Bloggers
- Best Blogging Training Courses for Beginners
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