How to Start a Blog
An online business without a blog is like a plane without wings; it just won’t fly. While blogging is a relatively new medium, it’s no-less important than any other established marketing method. Bloggers are the heart and soul of the Internet, and if you want your business to be taken seriously, it’s imperative that you jump on this ever-expanding, competitive bandwagon. This guide has been written to teach you how to blog and help you get started.
Choose Your Platform, Domain and Layout
There are literally hundreds of blogging platforms available, each with their own unique features, designs and content management systems. While WordPress and Blogger are the most established, they’re not a be-all and end-all. If the idea of learning some coding basics scares you, then WordPress might not be the best platform for your needs. Ghost and Blogger are excellent alternatives. While they don’t have the community or features to match, their sleek simplistic designs are perfect for beginners.
Choosing your domain is arguably the most important decision of your blogging journey. Layouts can change, content can change, even the platform itself can change; but your domain should always stays the same. Your URL will brand your website, so you should invest a few bucks in a decent-looking name and a stable hosting account – the free ones have significant drawbacks!
In short, if you don’t pay for your blog, you won’t own it. You could essentially wake up one day to find a blank page, and from a legal standpoint, there will be nothing you can do about it. While it’s an unlikely scenario, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Buying a domain and hosting service will protect your asset. Furthermore, a TLD suffix (.com, .co.uk, etc.) performs better in the SERPS and looks/sounds more professional.
Prices probably aren’t as high as you think. You can purchase a domain for just a few dollars on GoDaddy. Hostgator also have some very reasonable hosting plans, starting from just a few dollars per month. Feel free to shop around; there are plenty of cheap options out there.
Most new bloggers spend far too long looking for the perfect design and layout. Sure, you want to express your creativity and can probably envision exactly how you want your blog to look, but remember, you’re just starting out. Blog design is a never-ending work-in-progress, so for now, just pick a nice, simple theme that’s easy to customize.
Start Searching for Trending Topics
Finding suitable topics is the bane of blogging. It doesn’t matter how great you are at writing, if you don’t publish content that resonates with your readers, your blog will fizzle away into the SERPS to be overshadowed by less talented — but more prepared! — writers. A good blog post will not only engage, but will leave readers begging for more. Not every post you write will succeed, but with practice, you will eventually develop a system that works for you.
Good writers are avid readers; therefore, your first port-of-call should always be other blogs. Look to top-level influencers who have an active readership – note the word ACTIVE! Read the comments and questions on their most popular posts and try to figure out what’s missing. If you can fill the void, you’ve got yourself a topic. For broad up-to-date ideas, check news aggregators, such as LinkedIn Today and Google Trends to find out what people are searching for.
The most important thing about blogging is to remain current and unique. Too many bloggers simply rehash information that’s available elsewhere (and often in greater detail.) Strive for originality, don’t shy away from controversy, and most importantly, monitor your results. Eventually you’ll start seeing trends in your own content.
Write Your First Blog Post
Contrary to popular belief, flowery language, off-the-wall synonyms and flawless grammar doesn’t make a good writer. A good writer has one skill only; the ability to tell a story that resonates with their readership. SEO writing isn’t Shakespeare. In the online world simplicity and accessibility is key. As long as your blog posts are well-structured, informative and easy-to-read, you’re golden.
Start by writing a basic outline. List everything that the post should include in short sentences, beginning with the introduction. Develop the paragraph headings and reshuffle the structure until everything is in a logical order. Strengthen your statements with quotes and links to authoritative websites, but always remember to credit your sources!
Edit and proofread two or three times to ensure the grammar and punctuation is flawless. Don’t be afraid of white space. Staring at a long body of text on a computer screen is visually straining, so break each sub-section into short paragraphs. Don’t forget to use images, infographics and videos. Some people will be more engaged by visual content; therefore, the more varied it is, the better. Fundamentally, your article should look as great as it reads.
Develop a Publication Schedule
Surprisingly, this is the part where most bloggers fail. They’ll come up with a few half-finished ideas, not get around to writing them, and eventually realize that they’ve gone out-of-date during the downtime. Blogging is a highly “current” form of communication; therefore, even the best, most engaging ideas have a sell-by-date. While you don’t have to blog every day, creating a schedule will help you get the ball roiling.
Content creation isn’t the only form of publishing. Curation – the process of re-publishing someone else’s content – can be just as effective. For example, if an influencer within your niche has already published a monumental article that you simply cannot match, there’s no harm in sharing it. Just remember, there’s a fine line between curation a plagiarism! Always give the original publisher credit for their work.
How often you should blog is highly debatable. Some people say every day; others say once per month. I say whenever you have something valuable to share. Too much blogging can be counter-productive. Everything you publish should genuinely benefit your readers. Follow by example, do the bloggers you follow post too much or too little?
Promote and Monetize Your Content
SEO isn’t the only way to promote your blog. While there should be a significant place for it in your marketing arsenal, obsessing over it will turn your content into nothing more than keyword-ridden rubbish. Learn the rules and capitalize on them, but never sacrifice quality to satisfy Google.
Aside from SEO, connect with influencers in your niche and try to establish relationships with them. If you become an active and valued member of their community, they could eventually become one in yours. Getting a big-name blogger on your side could expose your material to their entire readership.
Ad-ridden websites are an eyesore. If your readers think your soul intention is to sell to them, they’ll think twice before coming back. If you’re going to use Google Adsense or banners to generate income, use them in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with monetizing a blog – that’s why most people build them! – but it shouldn’t be blatantly promotional.
And finally… blogging isn’t for quitters, so don’t give up! It takes time and diligence to build any digital asset, especially if you’re starting from scratch. Just keep at it and eventually your efforts will be rewarded.
WordPress – the most active blogging platform in the world.
Kurasie – content curation engine that can find topics and schedule posts across social media.
GoDaddy – cheap domain registrar that always has plenty of offers for new users.
HostGator – cheap hosting platform with plans starting from roughly $5 per month.