There are many benefits to starting a blog. As a blogger, you make connections with brands, other bloggers, and can get as far as making a name for yourself which causes you to connect with people who you may have thought you would have never have even met. Many people think that they can just sit down, put up a page and just starting writing and all the companies will come to you. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. But blogging is more than it seems, it takes some work and a lot of commitment. You have to dedicate more than just a few hours a week to your blog in order for it to be as fully successful as you want it to be, but setting one up is as simply at 1, 2, 3.
You are probably reading this because you are ready to make that commitment, but you just don’t know where to start. And honestly, when I started it was a lot of trial and error until I figured it out on my own. Through my experience, I want to help you so that you don’t have to go through the many months of trials before creating something that you are proud of.
Let’s start at the beginning…
The first thing you need to do when starting a blog is to establish your NICHE. A niche, to put it simply, is the category or topic that you will be blogging in. Do you want to blog about fashion or beauty? Do you want to be a lifestyle blogger or a travel blogger?
You want to start with what your interested in. Don’t pick a niche based on that fact that you want to attend certain events or get certain products, because you won’t be as successful. The main thing about your blog is that you want to be writing about something that you feel that you are a master of, and more importantly, that you feel passionate about.
Some example of profitable niches are:
- Interior Design
You can combine niches as well. For example, I consider myself a fashion/beauty and lifestyle blogger. I write about topics relevant to women, and provide them advice and inspiration based on my experiences and what I am passionate about.
The other aspect that you want to consider when discovering your niche is your audience. Many bloggers will state that they have a niche particular to a certain age group – such as you can find many lifestyle bloggers who are particular to a college aged audience or on the other end, where you will find a fashion blogger particular to the style of the older, sophisticated, working woman. My advice on that end is to think of your audience as people who can relate to you.
OK, Now let’s create this blog…
1 – Pick a Platform
A platform is basically the system/site that you will be blogging through or where you will be creating your site from. There are tons of blogging platforms, and honestly, picking one comes down to what you are looking to do with blog.
WordPress and Blogger are the most commonly used platforms for bloggers, but many people also use platforms such as Wix and Squarespace (the latter typically used for people looking to create more of an ecommerce site).
I highly recommend WordPress. I started off using the free WordPress at WordPress.com and then I eventually switched over to self hosted (we will talk about that soon). The great thing about WordPress, to me, is that it is easy to use. When I first starting blogging, I didn’t want to have to manage a site with coding and have to know too much about how to organize my blog. I just wanted to start writing at first and then move on to the more complicated aspects of blogging. WordPress let me do that.
The other benefits of using WordPress, besides its simplicity and the fact that it is very user-friendly, is that search engines love WordPress. The background coding of WordPress is so clean and simple (even with a dynamic theme) that search engines can easily crawl the site which makes your blog more likely to show up in searches than some of the other blogs used on different platforms. There are so many tutorials on using WordPress, which then makes it even easier to start when you’re a beginner blogger.
Click here for an extensive list of blog platforms that I found useful. The page also includes each platforms pros and cons and what the basis is of each.
2 – Benefits of Self-Hosted
I know what you’re thinking: “Self hosted costs money, and it’s cheaper to just keep it free.” And believe me, I understand what you are saying because I felt the same way when I started blogging. I started off with free WordPress and thought that I was doing great just keeping it simple and free and blogging that way, but I soon learned that I was selling myself short and decided to invest in myself and go self hosted.
Here are the benefits:
- Using a free site to host, such as WordPress.com, means that you have no rights to your content. They own it all! As soon as you send it on to be posted for the world to see, they automatically take ownership of your work and you’ve now forfeited the post that you put many hours into to make perfect.
- You have more freedom to do what you want. I’m sure you’re looking to monetize your blog at some point, and I learned the hard way that you can become restricted in your monetization when you don’t self-host your blog. Some affiliate programs and networks do not work with you if you are not self hosted. It also limits what you can put on your blog when you use the free version. Widgets, scripts, and analytics are halted and unusable when you’re not self-hosted.
- It shows your professionalism. Many readers and possible collaborators may come to your page and see that you are self-hosted and know that you are committed to your blog. This will open up doors for you and have your blog gaining more page views – which is a big goal for a blogger.
When you decide to self host, you also get to buy your own domain. In some cases, if you start off with a free hosting site, you still have the option to purchase your down domain. That means you can go from a site that says yourblog.platform.com to yourblog.com. But it is not preferable. Just because you have your own domain doesn’t mean that you get all, if any, of the benefits of being self-hosted.
Alright, where do I go to self-host?
***LivingLesh is hosted through Bluehost, and I strongly recommend this hosting. I wish I could offer you a coupon code, but all I can offer is my help and knowledge about this hosting site***
There are a bunch of strong hosting sites and honestly when I went to look for where I wanted to host mine, I asked a bunch of other bloggers and they told me of all the pros and cons of many of them. At the end of the day, I had to find a hosting site that was beneficial for me and one that I felt would be a great investment.
The two most popular hosting sites that many bloggers use are Bluehost and Hostgator. I ultimately chose to go with Bluest because of the many advantages that were offered. There were more aspects offered and it was much easier to transfer over my once existing free WordPress site to the now self-hosted site on Bluehost.
Bluehost makes it so that you run into little to no issues when migrating to self-hosted, and that was very important to me. You are also able to easily purchase your domain name through the self-hosting site and then move forward with setting up your own personalized email directly connected to your site. So instead of it being email@example.com – now you can change it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Having the latter type of email address looks much more professional to brands that you want to work with, because it shows that you are dedicated to your site and your blog.
If you choose to go with Bluehost and run into some problems are just need a little assistance with the process, don’t hesitate to contact me. I am happy to help you get through the process so that you can get your blog up and rolling.
3 – Pick a Theme
When you first set up your blog, it will look generic. You want to start determining what you want your blog to look like and what colors that you want to brand yourself with. Now, these aren’t stuck with you for your entire blogging career unless you make that choice, because you can eventually go through a re-branding which is a lot of work. So I advise that you chose a color scheme that you want to stick with, because once you choose that palette you want to begin creating business cards, media kits, and other blogger additives – you want that color scheme to cross over to everything.
But let’s get back to the blog. If you are self-hosted, you are going to be giving access to a marketplace based on your hosting site. In this market, you will be able to find themes that you may or may not like. Don’t feel limited to these. You can find themes in a variety of places.
When I began searching for my themes, I looked high and low and asked some people where they got theirs. One key thing that I did was – I went on blogs that I felt had a strong themes and contained aspects that I wanted to put on my blog such as making sure that my profile picture was in a circle instead of a square. After looking at the details of their blog, I scrolled down to the very bottom and found who created the theme and that’s where I began my search.
My first theme was purchased off of Etsy. I simply searched for ‘wordpress blog designs’ and found ones in my price range, which at the time was very low. I purchased something that would suffice, but I wasn’t fully happy with it, which is why I began looking at other blogs.
I eventually found pipdig – simply by looking at someone else’s blog. And that’s when I found the blog design that I really wanted. I paid a little more than I felt that I wanted to at the time, but again, to me it was an investment that was going to show profit because I was able to purchase a beautifully designed and functional theme.
I am currently using a theme that I discovered on Creative Market – which is a great resource for mostly anything that you need as a blogger. I highly recommend that you get an account for this site. There are themes, mockups, stock photos, etc.
If you have web design experience and/or graphic design experience, you have a leg up when it comes to your design. You can create your own based on what you want yours to look like. And eventually, you can start selling other designs on your blog for a profit. (P.S. If you do, give me a shout. I am always looking for a custom design for a reasonable price.)
4 – Essential Pages to Have
Once you’ve established a theme, you want to build a few essential pages for your blog. Pages are organized in your navigation bar and when clicked on move away from your home page to give readers more information about you and your blog. Here is a list of a few pages that you definitely will need and what you want to make sure that you have on them:
- About Me – You’re about me page should be able to convey who you are as the individual writing the blog as well as what readers will be seeing from you on the blog. You should include:
- Details that make you human – fun things such as your hobbies, your favorite things and what is going on with you in this current chapter of your life
- A picture – I always say to use a full size picture separate from the photo that you use in your sidebar. Make sure that is high quality and that it coincides with your niche. If you are a fashion blogger, display a photo showcasing your style. If you are a travel blogger, show a picture that you took of yourself on a trip.
- Contact – Your contact page is highly important. This is how potential collaborators and your followers will get in touch with you to ask questions or request campaigns. You want to make the page welcoming and descriptive. Make sure to include your name (it is up to you whether you include your full name or just your first name and last initial), but make sure to include your actual name and not just your blog name – let them know who they are talking to. With WordPress, you can integrate the built-in contact form or you can use a contact plug-in. I will tell you about the one I use in the next section about widgets & plugins.
- Media or Press page – Many bloggers don’t find this essential, and honestly, I think it is up to you whether you want to include it or not but I recommend it. Every blogger should create a media kit. It is basically what you will use as a resume when you watch to pitch campaigns to brands that you want to work with. And in the cases when brands start reaching out to you, they most likely will request a media kit. I advise putting a short-handed version of your media on your blog to attract brands. You can see a copy of my short hand media kit on my ‘LivingLesh Media Kit‘ page.
5 – Plugins & Widgets
Plugins and widgets are essential for your blog. It helps to make your blog something that you can personalize and it also helps with page views and social media. Below you can find a list of my most recommended widgets and plugins that have helped me make my blog what I want it to be.
- Yoast SEO – If you didn’t know, your SEO is very important when it comes to your blog. Basically your SEO is what makes your blog posts/pages show up in search engines and helps you with page views. With this plugin, your are able to see how successful your SEO is for each post and page when you are creating it. The plugin helps you to determine how to create a searchable post and what you can do to improve the posts SEO. I wouldn’t know what I would do without this plugin. I think I would honestly be lower on my page views and I would just posting unconsciously.
- Shareaholic – When you create a post, you want to make it sharable because that also will help with your page views. The more that it is shared throughout the web, the more readers you will have. The great thing about Shareaholic is that it is a plugin that helps with page views and keeps analytics on your shares.
- Disqus – I will be honest with you, ever since I added Disqus as my commenting plugin, I have been seeing more and more comments on each of my posts than I did before. Disqus allows for conversation with your readers and it gives your readers a little incentive because it tracks their comments and also allows them to showcase their sites and recent posts. Many of your readers will be other bloggers or other site owners, and to have an incentive for them will make them more likely to comment on your post.
- Formidable Forms – I recently added this form table for my comment page. It is basic and already has a contact form template that you can customize for your needs. You can get the free version, like me, to use for your contact page. The one reason that I like it is because of the customization, I was able to add drop downs to organize my messages based on whether it is a general question or whether it is a collaboration request. Check out my ‘Contact’ page to see what I am talking about!
- jQuery Pin It Button For Images – Some themes come with personalized pin-it buttons integrated into the script, but for others you don’t always get that personalized pin-it button. For me, I decided to get this plugin because it allows me to integrate a pin-it button of my choosing, because maybe I don’t want to keep using the same one month to month. I highly recommend many of the jQuery plugins & widgets. They work well with WordPress and are always great additives to the blog.
I have many other widgets and plugins that I use, and if I included them all I would be listing things for days. So if you are interested in something you see on my blog and want to know more about it. I am always happy to share. Just give me a quick shout and I can point you in the right direction and provide you with directions as to how to use it if you need it.
Now you’re all set up!
I know this is such a long post, but I wanted to be as descriptive as possible for you to be able to start your blog with absolute ease. Again, these platforms, hosting sites, and plugins are what I use for my blog and I highly recommend them. But it is up to you to choose which direction you take in your choices.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me about anything that you need help with. I have helped a few people set up blogs, work in widget, and improve on their overall aesthetic. I feel as an experienced blogger, that I have a duty to help others because at one point I was just like you.
I hope you have found this helpful, and again, don’t hesistate to reach out if you need assistance with going to self-hosted, starting with WordPress, or just some advice on blogging. I occasionally host webinars if I get a number of requests. Good luck & have a great time blogging!