The 101 on Starting a Blog
Blogs: They are everywhere and for good reason- people love them. Blogs are easy to start and can be focused on any topic under the sun, from beetles to The Beatles to a VW Beetle and, well, you get the point. Not only are they fun and informative, they are a great way to increase your business’ SEO and overall exposure. If you don’t have a blog yet, now is the time to set it up! Here are some tips to help you out of the gate:
Pick out a Domain and Purchase It
First things first: Lock down your domain name and purchase it for your blog. Think of this as your business’ address; the clearest address that is easy to find will make it easier for your readers to find you. Consider what your blog will be about (leaving some room in the wording for any potential expansion or change down the line) and brainstorm some website address names. Do some searches to see what names are available, and what are not. Still stuck on a domain name? There are generators out there that can help. Then go to a service like GoDaddy or Google Domains to purchase your domain. You’ll just need to enter what you want it to be, and the service will let you know if it’s available or not. During checkout, you’ll be able to determine how long you want to register the domain for as you’ll need to renew it after that time period.
Choose a Platform
There are a number of platforms available to use when it comes to hosting your new blog, including free services like Blogger, Medium, or WordPress. These free services can be great for those that are looking to get started or are hobby bloggers. They have a lot to offer when it comes to features and templates, but they’re not quite as customizable as a self-hosted WordPress blog. A self-hosted blog through WordPress will require you to pay for the hosting service, but the benefits of being in complete control of the function and features of your blog is pretty powerful in exchange for that fee. “Plugins” are add-ons in WordPress that will be discussed in their own section below, but can help you to do just about anything you’d like with your WordPress blog.
Design the Site or Use a Theme
Lots of platforms come with pre-designed templates for you to choose from so you customize it for your particular needs and preferences. This means that you can change the color scheme, layout, images, and more with the templates. You don’t need to know how to code to use these types of templates. There are free templates available for WordPress themes, Blogger templates, and more. Also, if you’re not finding the design or theme that you like for your blog, you can always hire someone (ahem) to personalize it for you. This part can be a little time intensive and we get it: Ain’t nobody got time for that!
Plan Your Content Topics
Once you’ve gotten your domain, platform, and design ready, it’s time for the meat and potatoes of your blog: the content! Your content is what’s going to bring readers to your blog, which especially if you’re looking to earn money through your blog, is necessary. Your content should be unique (read: your opinions and ideas), have a fresh take on the topic, and be current. Even if you’re revisiting a topic for the 5th time, find a way to tie it to something current to help make it seem like you’re not rehashing old materials. And be consistent! Optimally, it can be helpful to add content to your blog every day, but depending on your schedule, that just might not be possible. Try to post to your blog once a week or once even a month if that’s all you can do- but be consistent.
SEO Foundations: You Need Dis
SEO foundations are good to have in the back of your mind when creating your content. SEO is search engine optimization, which means actively doing things with your blog to get noticed by search engines- ultimately bringing you more readers searching for your topic. SEO rule #1: Your content matters! Spammy content that is not helpful to Internet users is going to count against your search engine ranking, but high-quality content will make search engines love your blog. Keywords are a big part of SEO. You should use your keywords naturally in your content. Some places that your keyword can be helpful in showing up is in your title, your metadata, and your first paragraph. Linking to authoritative and reputable websites is another great idea when it comes to SEO.
Syndicate Your Content
You may also want to consider syndicating your content. This may sound like something complicated or expensive, but it’s actually neither. Syndicating your content just means that you’re allowing other websites in your niche to post to their site in addition to your own. This gives them new content and allows you to get more attention by being on the other site. This is something that journalists do to get their name out there when bigger publications pick up on their work, and may help them get into bigger publications with new pieces later on. Some of the keys to syndication are great content that gets you noticed, and clickable titles that get readers interested. You can even submit your content to syndication networks or free syndication websites. You can also look into syndicating your content through guest posts that are paid experiences and other similar methods.
Let’s Talk About Plugins, Baby
There are a large number of plugins available online for WordPress that you can choose from when running a self-hosted WordPress blog. Found a really cool feature on someone else’s blog? Chances are good you can find a plugin for it and have it, too. Think of plugins as a way to get things done on your blog without you having to handle it all the time. There’s a lot of ways that you’re able to use plugins to automate many of the tasks you’d need to do with your blog to keep it running smoothly. These little time-savers mean that you’ll be able to get back to creating hot content that keeps your readers coming back for more.
Some of the plugins that you should look into adding to your blog include ones that can help you to analyze the data on your website through Google Analytics, ones that help to reduce spammy comments, security plugins that protect your blog site along with your readers, contact forms, appointment setting services, credit card payments, broken link checkers, update checkers, and more.
Last But Not Least: Find Your Niche
Just like you want to have a consistency in your business’ voice, social media pages, logo and other branding, being consistent with you blog is vital. And we’re not just talking about consistent timing, but consistency in topics and value. It’s time to find your niche. Your niche is that specialization that makes your blog unique and thoroughly you, and sets you apart from other blogs. This doesn’t mean that you need to share the same information over and over again, but keep it consistent with high-quality content. If your industry is gardening, for example, you could write about obvious things like landscaping and soil, but also some true-to-you topics like your favorite gardening gear, the 5 mistakes you made when you started your garden, or how to DIY a deer-fence around your veggies. There are tons of topics within every industry- just be sure to keep things focused and centered around your general business. Not sure if it’s relevant or not? Ask yourself if your customers would ever want to learn about it.
Following this primer is the perfect way to get started on your path to blogging success. As with any endeavor, you’ll learn more as you go along and start to find the best way for you to handle your blogging. The most important step to take is the first step! Pick your niche and find your domain. The world is waiting to hear what you’ve got to say!