Never has it been so easy to have your voice heard. It is now possible to have your say on whatever is on your mind and put it out there for people to read and agree, or disagree with. It’s a golden era for communication and for personal expression. But how do you start a blog? How do you plan a blog post? Where does it all begin?
I started blogging over a decade ago and have been doing it pretty much every day since. I’m going to show you where to start, how to plan, how to set up the blog, find a host and all that good stuff. By the end of this guide, you will have everything you need to start a blog.
I’m not going to cover the mechanics of finding a niche and coming up with post ideas here. That is a post for another day. Instead I cover the how of setting up the blog itself and planning your posting schedule.
What you need to start a blog
Setting up a blog is very straightforward. All you need is somewhere to host your blog, a domain name and a blogging platform. The rest is down to your creativity, determination and staying power.
Choosing a web host
A web host is the company you pay to host your blog on the internet. You can do it for free and you can use platforms like Blogger, but that is thinking too small. Free hosts include advertising and Blogger includes branding. If you want to prepare your blog for greatness and make sure you are ready and able to grow along with your readership, you should use a web host.
Essentially, you rent some server space where you add your blog. That blog is then visible on the internet for everyone to see. Along with a domain name, the host makes it possible to publish your work online and for people to find it. You pay monthly for web hosting, usually only a few dollars a month. You also pay for the domain name although many web hosts give you the name free for a year. After that it is in the region of $9.99 a year after that.
I won’t make specific recommendations on web hosts here but the following are worth checking out. Each is regarded as reliable, cost-effective and a decent host.
Dreamhost is a long established hosting company that specializes in WordPress hosting. There is a website builder app available when you buy hosting that makes setting up your own blog just that little bit easier.
Host Gator is another web host that has a WordPress specific hosting product. Like Dreamhost, Host Gator is regarded as reliable, fast and a good way to begin your blogging career online. With plans from as little as $5.95 a month, it’s decent value too.
Blue Host is another web host that has a specific product to help WordPress users. It also gives you a free domain name with every hosting plan which saves a bit more money. One click WordPress installation is a neat feature that will save you some time too.
Hosting24 is a reliable web host that also offers a free domain and WordPress optimization. It is regarded as reliable and uses cPanel which is a very simple interface from which to manage your blog. This host is very well reviewed by its users too.
Now you have some ideas for hosting, you need to come up with a cool name to call your blog. Calling it ‘Dave’s Computer Blog’ isn’t going to win any awards for creativity or stand out from the crowd. You need to use a bit of imagination and creativity while still keeping it descriptive.
This page has some great ideas for naming your blog along with some examples of cool names.
So that’s the hosting and domain name sorted.
A blogging platform is the software used to host your blog pages and create the site. Good ones will also add neat features such as comments, chat, popup windows and all sorts of interactive elements. A blogging platform is also referred to as a CMS (Content Management System) as that is what it does, manages blog content.
There are lots of CMS to choose from but to begin with I would strongly suggest using WordPress. It is very powerful yet simple to use. The documentation is excellent and there is not one issue that someone else has not come across and published a workaround for. It’s also free and has hundreds of plugins you can use to add features. Also free.
Other CMS include Joomla, Drupal, Scoop, TypePad, Tumblr and Gawker. There are also custom ones and dozens of paid for CMS. Each does the same thing slightly differently and are all good CMS. I still suggest WordPress for a beginner as it has the shallowest learning curve and best documentation around. Plus, the community of users and programmers is huge and very vocal so you will always find an answer to your question.
Some web hosts offer one click installation. This is where you buy your hosting and domain name, log in and click the WordPress button in your control panel. The system will load the latest version of WordPress, set up the database it uses to run and configure everything for use. All you need to go is add the name, create a login and then begin using the system. It really is that easy!
The next steps in creating your blog
So you have your hosting, cool domain name and a working WordPress installation. So what’s next? There are a few things to take care of. You need an attractive blog design, a publishing schedule and social media interaction.
WordPress comes with some basic design templates to get you up and running but they won’t serve you for long. Once you get to grips with how WordPress works and you have published a few posts, you will quickly want to improve the design.
WordPress uses themes to give it a new look. Google ‘WordPress themes’ to see what I mean. There are thousands of free and premium WordPress themes you can use to give your blog the look you want. All you need to is download the theme, upload it to WordPress and fiddle with it until it looks just right.
A lot of work has already been done to study people’s reading habits and the best time to publish a blog. As you will also publish your post on social media, it pays to read up on the best time to publish or promote on social media too. Fortunately, the guys at Kissmetrics have done the hard work for us with ‘The Science of Social Timing Part 3: Timing and Blogging’. Problogger did something similar with ‘When’s the Best Time to Publish Blog Posts?’.
Depending on your niche, this advice may work for you or it may not. Otherwise you can experiment with posting schedules until you find one that works for you.
One piece of advice on developing a publishing schedule. Once you have one, stick to it like clockwork. People very quickly get into the habit of expecting certain things at certain times. Let them down and they begin to lose interest. Don’t do it. Write in advance, schedule your posts or whatever. But once you set a regular schedule, stick to it.
Once you do post, remember to promote it on your social networks. It makes sense to create Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media accounts in the name of your blog. While it takes longer to build a following, it also builds authority which you want to have if you want people to read what you write. Promote every post on these networks every time to publish.
WordPress has a few plugins that will automatically post your blogs to your social media accounts for you which makes life slightly more manageable. There are thousands of plugins that enable everything from chat bots to complete online stores and you should familiarize yourself with what is possible once you have covered the basics of blogging and running a WordPress website.
So now you have a web host, domain name, functioning WordPress install and an idea of how to make it look good. You have some reading to do regarding posting schedules but you now have everything necessary to build a blog and take it into the future. All you need do now is think of something to write about. Good luck with that!