I was a bit surprised by the response I had to my April Fools prank concerning giving my blog away. Many folks contacted me expressing interest in taking over my blog or starting their own. I was going to compile a couple of links to some posts on how to start a blog. I know I’ve read several great posts on this topic over the past few years, but my swiss cheese brain won’t allow me to remember where I read them, and Google search isn’t quite turning up the articles I’m looking for. So, since I’m left feeling as though I owe you all a post on how to start your own blog, I guess I’m stuck writing my own.
Step #1: Think of a blog name.
I think the very first thing you should do is think of a blog name. Make sure it’s unique. Search the web and make sure the name you are thinking of doesn’t exist anywhere else. Think of a suitable matching handle to use on Twitter and other social media sites, and make sure it’s available. Think of a domain name version. Make sure the domain name is available. Purchase the domain. It should only cost around $10. THIS IS IMPORTANT. DO THIS RIGHT AWAY. If you are at all serious about starting a blog head out right now and PURCHASE THE DOMAIN. There are many reasons for this, for one it looks more professional. But the main reason is you want your page views and traffic going to your domain name and not a hosting site like Blogger or WordPress. If you wait and buy your domain name later you will have to start over, stat wise, and you do not want to have to start over from zero weeks or months down the road.
|Photo: David Castillo Dominici|
Step#2: Pick a platform.
The two main options are WordPress and Blogger. Yes, there are other blog platforms out there. However, these two seems to be the most popular. I am on Blogger. I find that Blogger (aka Blogspot) in much simpler to use, and quicker to figure out. Word Press, however, has tons of advantages, it’s widget based and there is a widget for pretty much anything you can imagine. From what I’ve read WordPress (WP) is also better for SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimisation, and if you’re going to run a blog you’re going to come to care a lot about this).
There are two versions of WordPress. A free version and a ‘self-hosted’ one. With the free version, you are not allowed to make ANY money what-so-ever from your blog. You are not allowed to sell ads, you aren’t even allowed to receive free product for review purposes. From what I’ve read, they actually do crack down on people for ignoring these guidelines. So if you are hoping to earn money with your blog further down the road, or thinking of doing reviews and giveaways you want to be looking at the self-hosted version of WordPress. For the self-hosted version, you need to host the website somewhere. Web-hosting is going to cost you; about $8 a month I think is the cheapest I’ve seen.
If you start on the free version of WordPress, or you start on Blogger, you can always more over to the self-hosting version of WordPress later… but it’s pretty complex. There are techie people you can pay to move you over kind of complex. It’s over my head kind of complex. I also imagine it’s time intensive. Though there are step-by-step guides out there, and to be honest maybe I could figure it out, but I’m chicken.
Over the past two years, I have seen many people talk about moving from Blogger to WordPress, and no one is travelling in the opposite direction. So, I would say if you’re willing to take the time to figure out how the heck to use it, and you don’t mind spending the small monthly fee for self-hosting, WordPress is probably the better choice.
Step #3: Set up your blog.
This is really easy. To start you just need a simple set up. You can add in more bells and whistles later. I don’t have any experience with WordPress, so I can’t tell you what it’s like to get set up over there. However, on Blogger it’s pretty darn simple to choose one of the preset templates and get started producing content.
Step #4: Write a post.
Actually write a couple of posts. Get at least a weeks worth of posts written. You want a couple of posts published to your blog, so there’s some content there and then you can start inviting people over and promoting it, etc. If you have extra posts written you can schedule them to be published in the future, or just save them for times when you can’t get around to posting. (Yes, you can pre-schedule content, neat eh?) Ideally, you want to publish something REGULARLY. Whether that be every day or every other day. Five days a week, or three days a week. Whatever. But you want to post SOMETHING on a regular basis. Once a week bare minimum. I’d recommend 5-6 posts a week. Spread them out, don’t clump them together by publishing 2 or 3 on one day. (You want people coming to view your blog regularly. Page views are king. Behind the scenes stats like how many page visits you receive are what is going to get you paid, whether that be in cash or in product or cool opportunities).
Step#5: Promote yourself.
So you’ve got your blog set up, and you’ve written a handful of great posts. Now head on out there and SELL IT. Promote the heck out of yourself. Get set up on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, create a “fan page” for your site on Facebook and G+. Invite folks over to read it. Invite your friends and family, invite complete strangers. Ask others to spread the word.
If your main interest in starting a blog is to review product then start writing reviews. Don’t wait for review opportunities. Pick some of your favourite products and write about them. Include photos. Link back to relevant websites. Hold a giveaway or two where you provide the prize. Promote the heck out of those giveaways (Check out my Giant Linky List for places you can link up your giveaways).
Step #6: Interact with others.
Read blogs. Comment on other folks blogs. Writing interesting relevant comments can translate into traffic back to your own site. Be active on social media sites like Twitter. (I’m terrible at this last point, there are simply not enough hours in the day.) Maintaining a blog is incredibly time consuming. There is tons of behind the scenes maintenance (such as promoting yourself on other sites) and interactions (such as replying to your comments or answering emails) that will eat up your time.
Step #7: Keep your expectations real.
Yes, there are bloggers out there making a living off of their blog. I am not one of them.We are a single income family living off of my husband’s wage, while I stay-at-home raising our young children. I want to be open about this fact so that those of you out there thinking of starting your own blog don’t step into it viewing it as a get rich quick scheme. I make next to nothing off of this blogging gig. I love doing it because it gives me a sense of accomplishment. I love doing it because of the fantastic community of bloggers that I’ve grown to become friends with. And yes, I love doing because of the extra money and products that I receive. However several people expressed to me how they’d like to be the next Maple Leaf Mommy so that they can quit their day job and stay at home with their kids, and I think I need to squash that expectation. Sorry folks, not going to happen. At least not without first investing a heck of a lot of time and effort, and allowing plenty of time for things to grow.
Still thinking of starting that blog? Good luck! It’s tons of work, but it is fun and rewarding.