Blogging is one of the most powerful tools to build an online brand, make money or just to have fun writing. With blogging, your limits are endless – it’s only dependent on your passion and creativity.
The number one question that many ask is: How do I start blogging?
This guide will take you through the steps on setting up a blog, creating content, driving traffic and taking it even further by using it a platform for business, branding and a source of income.
What is a Blog?
Blogs, unlike websites, display articles (called posts) in a reverse chronological order. In plain English, your most recent posts are displayed first.
What makes a blog different from a static website is the ability for users to interact through various methods; the most common being a commenting system where users can leave additional information, comments and insights about your posts.
Additionally, being a social platform, Blogs are excellent for being active online. It’s no secret that search engines and web users absolutely love blogs due to their timely and valuable information. Web users love to share blog posts – this is the foundation which can build your brand, business or community.
Setting Up a Blog
When setting up a blog there are only a few essential steps (some have become so common that they’re almost fundamental). Additionally, before starting a blog, you should choose a niche topic (which is explained in detail below).
Note: WordPress, without a doubt, is the best blogging platform. The countless plugins, support and long-time use has cemented it as the go-to choice when starting a blog.
Choose a niche
Buy a domain
Install a WordPress theme
Install WordPress plugins
When you begin blogging, you must look at the focus of your blog – this is often called a niche. Going after broad topics is one of the many mistakes beginner bloggers make when starting their blog. Example: Photoshop, Coaching, eCommerce, Writing. Think of your niche as a hobby you absolutely love to read, write and talk about – this is the easiest way to find a great blog topic.
A domain name is the URL you will type in to access your blog – if you’ve used the web, you know what this is. You can purchase domain names from various domain providers at variable rates. GoDaddy is an easy and quick domain hosting service which can help you purchase and setup your domain name in minutes.
Hosting relates to the servers (and support) your blog is, well, hosted on. Without a doubt, Hostgator is one of the best choices for many beginner bloggers. Once your hosting is purchased, you will need to setup your domain name to point to your hosting. This processes of forwarding your domain name to your hosting is detailed within the Hostgator documentation (or on other websites/blogs).
Next, you will want to install WordPress. If you chose Hostgator, setup is simple because of a great script called Fantastico. In a few clicks you can setup your blog with Fantastico using the latest version of WordPress. If not, you can always use the 5 minute install provided by WordPress (it’s a little technical).
After WordPress is installed you’ll want to choose a WordPress theme. Themes are what gives you a great design and functionality of your blog. You can either find free themes within the WordPress directory (or other websites) or pay for premium themes on various marketplaces.
Finally, once your blog is up and running, you’ll want to install plugins. Plugins extend the functionality of your blog from SEO, bookmarking, Twitter and countless other features which helps build community and ease the act of blogging.
Now that you have your WordPress blog up and running, you’ll want to begin producing content. You have complete control over the content of your blog – it’s yours! With that being said, however, you’ll want to create content people actually want to read. Great content spreads across the web and allows you to create a community. Simply throwing out quick articles on topics (being sloppy) will get you no where.
Although it’s not a requirment, there are many different formats which work well:
Try out a variety of each of these posts, take time to write often and produce content which others will love. Keep it on focus to your topic, try not to go too far off else your readers will be confused by the lack of focus.
Your blog is up and running, you’ve create great content but wait a second – where are all the visitors?!
Traffic can make or break your blog. Simply put, if you don’t bring in traffic, people won’t view your content and it may discourage you to quit blogging. To avoid this route of quitting, there are many different ways new bloggers can utilize to drive traffic to their blog.
To keep is simple and sweet, here are five quick ways to drive traffic to your blog:
Share on Twitter – Twitter is a great service to engage with others and share your content. Leave a link back to your posts and over time (through building a community) you will see traffic ramp up.
Share on Social Bookmarking Sites – Digg, Reddit and the countless others let you submit your content. Again, try to build a community within each of these in order to gain the true benefits.
Guest post – There are countless other blogs on the web that always need new content. Find blogs related to your niche, contact the owner and see if you can write a guest posts on their blog. Leave a link back to your own site and you’ll build traffic!
Comment, comment, comment – Just as people comment on your blog, do so on others. Leave a great comment and people will come visit your site because the mentality is: “if this person has this great thing to say, I wonder what they have to say on their own blog!”.
Create a video – Videos are very easy to create due to the ease of using webcams and online editing services. Create a video related to your content, host it on Youtube and leave a link so people can come back to visit your blog.
Going Further – Business, Branding and Money
Many people use blogs for various reasons, some of the common purposes are:
Using a blog to build an online presence for a business
Build online personal branding (which opens up opportunities)
Simply put, having a blog will help you build your business (and branding) by being active on the social web. When you share great information, others will take note. You will begin to develop authority within your niche when you give away great information. Keep up with it, be passionate and soon your personal brand or business will skyrocket.
Likewise, many beginner bloggers want to make a little side income with their blog. This isn’t a new idea and luckily (if you’re beginning) you have many options:
Place advertisements on your site
Affiliate products or services
Sell your own products or services
There are many different ways you can make money with your blog but the most common (for beginners) is through placing Adsense and other advertisements on the blog. A step further is by marketing products and services which include your affiliate link – a click, buy and you’ve made a commission! To go one step beyond just affiliating products and services is to create your own and sell it through your blog.
Hopefully, within this article, you’ve learned how to setup a blog, creating content, driving traffic and taking it beyond just a hub for social activity. In reality, there are so many different areas of blogging which can be count to no end but the most important step is to get started.
It’s through passion and drive that you’ll not only start a blog but become a powerhouse on the web.
Now, go out there and get blogging!