The biggest reason people don't create a blog is that they have no idea where to start. Well, truth is, neither did I. And quite frankly most of your favorite bloggers probably didn’t either. We just worked with what we had, and just kinda winged it along the way. But of course, that was 7 years ago when blogs were just online diaries and all we had to do was repost whatever cool and artsy picture appeared on our Tumblr feed. But those days are gone (or at least I hope so), and now we blog with a purpose, and for profit. So if you’re crazy passionate like me and excited to share your ideas, knowledge, and passions with the world; Here’s a step by step guide on how to start a blog!
1. Start with Why?
Before you launch your blog, always start with “Why.”
Your "why" is a concept introduced by Simon Sinek. It challenges you to discover the 'purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do.
Why am I creating this blog and for what purpose? Who do I aspire to reach and what type of impact am I trying to make? These are questions you should ask yourself before launching your blog to get a clear vision of what type of content you’re going to create and the audience you aspire to reach.
Not everyone is interested in blogging for business, to some, it’s just a digital diary or an outlet of some sort. Regardless of what type of content you’re going to create, knowing your why is essential before creating a platform that's accessible to millions of people across the world. Even more still, on days you lack “inspiration”, or simply don’t “feel” like writing, remembering why you started and who you’re doing it for will get you out of your funk and back in your creative zone.
2. Find Your Niche
Having a niche is essential to running a successful blog. Why? Because the number one reason why people search the internet is to solve a problem. But how can you help someone if every time they visit your site it’s a bunch of rants and ramblings about different topics.
As a blogger, you have to put on the hat of not just a writer or marketer, but also an educator. And every blog post should be aimed to educate, inspire, and influence your audience to some capacity on a specific topic. That is what makes niches an essential part of blogging because you become “THE” person knowing for doing, teaching, illustrating, or discussing “THAT” thing, for a "SPECIFIC" person. So whenever someone has a question about food, travel, photography, beauty etc., you become their trusted voice and their go-to person and they keep coming back for more.
When you have a niche, it also impacts the quality of your posts. You start to create content you are passionate about, and your readers can feel that! And contrary to popular belief, your reader isn’t everyone, and it shouldn’t be either.
3. Establish Your Target Audience
Part of finding your niche is identifying your target audience.
Your target audience plays a major factor in determining your niche. She is essentially the driving force behind everything you do. Sure you can create a niche that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about, but what does it matter if no one wants to read it? When creating content, you want to ask yourself, “would my person find this relevant?” “Does this help solve a problem in her life?”
It’s important to establish what kind of person you’re looking to serve, and notice I didn’t say “people”. You’re not creating content for a random group of people, but rather one SPECIFIC kind of person.
Who is this person?
What are her likes and dislikes?
What is she struggling with?
How old is she?
Why does she come to you?
The more specific you can get, the better. To better assist you in this, create a person in your head, and imagine that every time you are writing a blog post that you are speaking directly to her.
4. Create A Domain Name
There’s nothing in a name, but then there’s everything in a name. I find that people often times have such a hard time coming up with a name for their blog because let’s face it, once it’s out there… it’s out there. But even more so, sometimes your name can limit the kind of content you create, but if you have an established niche, that’s a great thing!
For example, if you name your blog “The blogger's photography index” more than likely people who visit your page will be expecting one of two things. Blogging and or photography. So sharing your favorite recipes or what to pack for your trip to Costa Rica would probably throw you, readers, off and they just might not come back.
So what to name your blog is always crucial to the type of content you are looking to create. There are blog name generator sites that help you come up with creative names. But I find that it always helps to do what comes naturally to you, and just run with it.
But before you name your blog, always keep in mind the following things:
- Your Niche
- The type of content you will be creating
- Spelling (is it something easy to spell and pronounce, or will it confuse my readers)
- Memorable (is it something one could always remember)
5. Define Your Brand
Once you’ve come up with a suitable name for your blog, it’s important to build a brand that will remain consistent across your multiple platforms.
This includes but is not limited to:
- Color theme and Aesthetic - The colors and overall aesthetic of your blog is important to your brand. They often determine how your audience feels when they come across your content. So do you want your blog to be light and airy, bold and colorful, or clean and minimal? Establishing an aesthetic impact your readers and is also influenced by your niche and your audience.
- Vision - What is the vision of your brand? What do you hope to achieve and who do you plan to impact and inspire your audience?
- Voice - Your brand establishes the boundaries of the content you create, but more importantly how you deliver it. How do you want your readers to feel when they read your blog? What is the tone of your voice? Are you serious and assertive, or sarcastic and humorous? What relationship do you wish to build with your audience? That of a mentor, a friend, a sister, or a teacher. All of these are elements to consider when establishing your writing voice.
Your logo, tagline, and fonts are also important elements to consider when defining your blog's brand.
Grab a FREE BRANDING BLUEPRINT e-book to learn more on branding your blog, and get access to tools and resources.
6. List Your Blog’s Menu Pages
Once you have a niche, you can create categories or topics related to the general focus of your blog. This helps your reader navigate through your blog, and increases your site's SEO!
Maybe someone stumbled across your blog through Pinterest or a Facebook post, but now that they’re here, you want to give them a reason to stay. This is why it is important to have an easy menu that they can navigate through, and a list of categories that highlight what kind of content you create.
I find that most successful blogs are clear and straight to the point a.k.a user friendly. When people visit your platform, you should be leading them directly to something. They shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to find your content, what your blog is about or how they can be a part of your community. So before you launch your blog, you should have about 3-5 pages prepared (I wouldn’t recommend having more than 7). Of that list be sure to include
i. About me page
This is a crucial part of your website because it is often the first impression people will have about your blog, and most especially you. You should include a brief personal bio of you as it relates to your blog or business, what essentially your reader can expect from you as a content creator, and how you aspire to benefit them.
Here’s a quick expert from Melissa Griffin’s “How to Write a Killer About Me Page for Your Blog,” with a guideline of essential things to include in your site’s bio.
ii. A Blog Page
If your blog is not the homage of your site, then it should definitely be included in your menu bar. Also, consider having up to four main categories to help your readers navigate through your blog posts. this is also great for SEO. If Google sees that there are lots of other posts similar or affiliated to one that you shared, it’s more inclined to direct readers to your site. Also consider when creating categories, they should be very clear, broad enough to contain several topics, and related to your blog’s overall niche.
For example, if you run a food blog, good category ideas would be as simple as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. These categories may sound boring and or vague, but believe me, they are straight to the point and your reader will how exactly what they’ll be getting in each category.
iii. A Sign-Up or Subscribe Page
Subscribing to your newsletter shouldn’t just be a small button hidden in the side-bar of your blog. Growing your email list means growing your community. And that should be the primary focus of your blog. So in order to do that, in addition to being added to the sidebar, you should have a separate landing page when your readers can easily subscribe to your blog, and join your community.
I create all my of my landing pages using Leadpages. Not only can you easily customize it to fit your brand’s style and colors, it easy to use and converts like crazy!
No matter what niche you’re in or what you blog about, you always want to make sure you’re adding value to the lives of your audience. Your freebie or resource page should be a page where you’re not selling, or pitching anything to your readers, but simply giving them something. This can be anything from an e-book, your lead magnet, a list of your resources (with added links) or whatever you can come up with.
7. Sign Up For an E-mail Marketing Service
Email lists are the only way you can speak directly to each and every one of your subscribers (without worrying about crazy social media algorithms) and build an engaging community of people who not only like your content but are eager to share it with others. So before you start a blog, find an email service provider that you trust, and stick with it. Moving from one platform to another is possible, but often times come with a huge headache.
The number one email marketing service provider I recommend is Aweber (the one I currently use). It comes with customizable email templates, list automation, and it’s also easily integrated with Leadpages!
8. Create a Lead Magnet / Opt-in Freebie
Now that we’ve established the importance of having an email list service provider, the next step is creating a way to actually build that list. This is why having a lead magnet is essential to launching your blog. And if you already have a site and don’t have one, that should be your number one top priority! Having an e-mail marketing service provider is not enough. And saying things like “join my newsletter” or ’subscribe now” is boring, and honestly not a great enough incentive for anyone to join your community. This is where your lead magnet comes in. It’s simply an incentive that draws your readers in and gives them a preview of the value, tools, and or resources they will be receiving if they choose to join your community.
Your opt-in freebie can be anything from an e-book, video, audio file, check-list, pdf, or anything that is easily downloadable, and relates directly back to your blog’s bottom line.
9. Build A Content Bank
Once you find your niche and establish your target audience, content creation becomes a breeze. You know exactly what kind of content you will be creating, and who you’ll be creating it for. Before you launch your blog, have at least 5-10 QUALITY, bookmark-worthy killer posts ready to be published. This gives your readers a snippet of what to expect from your blog, without of course overwhelming them with content. But even more still, have another 5 drafted and ready to go at any moment.
Launching a blog is perhaps the easy part, but coming up with content to remain consistent is usually where people fall short. This is why you need a content bank. That is a hefty list of content ideas broken down into different subcategories. And always look to build on this list each and every day. As you mark topics off that list, replace them with new ones.
How do you keep your content bank stacked?
Take a pen and mini pad with you EVERYWHERE. Jot down inspiration from your everyday life, books, movies, articles on the web or posts from other bloggers and content creators so the term " writer's block" should not exist in your vocabulary.
10. Choose a Web Hosting Platform
Now that you’ve gathered all your content, drafted blog posts and established your brand’s aesthetic, it’s time to finally build your site!
Now the question is, “should I host my own site or should I let the website platform do it for me?”
And the answer is yes.
If you really want to take your blog to the next level, you need to be self-hosting your own site.
Self-hosting gives you access to tons of website themes, plug-ins, and flexibility in your blog’s design. You also own your own domain and never have to worry about your blog disappearing if the web host decides they no longer want to host your site. (* cough* Myspace).
There are tons of reasons why you should self-host your blog. But the short answer? You own your name, your own your site, and you can practically customize everything! (which is super important when building your brand).
I recommend starting with Bluehost (which is what The Blogger Etiquette is built on). It’s the number one recommended web host by wordpress.org (which is not to be confused with wordpress.com). You get training and support 24hours a day (every single day). And hey, if you don’t like it you can get your money back in 30 days!
I know launching a blog can sound scary and downright confusing. But trust me, you got this! So don’t overthink it, or aim so high for perfection that you don’t start at all.
Just follow these steps, and START.
Related posts: 12 Truths’ About Blogging and Being Your Own Boss