How to Start a Blog
So you want to start a blog?
There are plenty of good reasons for doing so. Often the motivation is money, and successful blogs can certainly provide an income if you’re prepared to put the work in. However, for many, blogging is enough of an end it itself.
Here are just a few of the reasons you may decide to start a blog:
1. You have a hobby you are passionate about and wish to interact with others who share your interest.
2. You have an interest in writing and are looking for an outlet for your work.
3. You are going on an exciting trip and wish to document it for posterity.
4. You are about to embark on a significant life change and want a place to record it.
The number of blogs on the Internet is truly staggering. The WPVirtuoso site stated in 2013 that there are over 152 Million of them, with a new one being created every half a second. Blogging is huge, and its popularity continues to grow.
In this article, we’re going to discuss how to start a blog in 2014.
Before we get on to the technicalities of starting a blog, it’s worth stepping away from the computer and considering your objectives. You need to think about the following:
1. What is your blog going to be about? Some people create personal, diary-style blogs, which cover all kinds of different subjects. This isn’t the wrong thing to do, but if this is what you have in mind, it’s important to realise that your audience will be limited, probably to those who know you personally, or perhaps professionally.
If you plan to build any kind of following for your blog, it’s better to find a niche, and the wonderful thing about blogging is that your niche can be really small.
Let’s say you have an interest in obscure early 80s cartoon shows. There probably aren’t many other people in your local area who share that interest, but the Internet gives you global reach, and the ability to find all the people across the world who share that passion. That’s what is so attractive about starting a niche blog – it can connect you to people who share your pursuits, however obscure they may be.
(Just to prove our point, we Googled the example niche we mentioned and found the site pictured above. It’s not just an 80s cartoon niche, but an 80s cartoon fan art niche! When the entire world is your audience, you truly can find a following for obscure interests).
2. What is your blog going to be called: It’s good to choose a simple and memorable domain name so it’s easy for people to find your blog. We suggest you visit HostGator and register your domain there. In fact, we have a detailed step-by-step guide to doing so here.
3. Do you have enough passion (and content) to keep up momentum: This is a really important thing to think about before you start a blog. Far too many bloggers start out with good intentions and then neglect their blogs due to a lack of time or a shortage of content ideas.
For this reason, it’s absolutely crucial that you blog about a subject that you will remain motivated to write about. A neglected blog will not continue to pull in visitors, and will not retain decent search engine positions.
How to Start your Blog
You can have a blog up and running in a matter of minutes. Here at Make a Website, we recommend WordPress as our chosen platform for blogging for a number of reasons:
1. The learning curve is really gentle: If you can get your head around a word processing package, you will be able to understand WordPress. As you become more competent, you can start to play with more complicated functionality, and take your blog to the next level.
2. There are thousands of free plugins: It’s really easy to add extra features to WordPress site – things like image galleries, surveys and contact forms are very simple to implement.
3. Design is easy: Changing the appearance of a WordPress site is simplicity itself, as the platform uses a system of themes. Have a look at our sister site WPThemes, to get an idea of the design scope at your fingertips when you use WordPress.
WordPress.COM or WordPress.ORG?
Before you get started on building a WordPress site, it’s important to learn the distinction between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG.
WordPress.COM is a hosted blogging platform. It’s completely free to use, and it’s easy to get started. However, your website will have an address like www.yourpersonalblog.wordpress.com
There are also various restrictions to WordPress.COM blogs. Although you can use affiliate links to make money promoting products, you are not allowed to place banner ads or sign up to third-party networks such as Google AdSense.
WordPress.ORG uses exactly the same framework but is installed on your own Web hosting space. A WordPress.ORG blog is completely your own, and you are free to sell advertising and use it exactly as you wish.
For the reasons above, if you are serious about your blog, we recommend that you sort out your own hosting and Web space and use WordPress.ORG. If your blog gets successful, you last thing you want to do is have to think about migrating it before you can make any money from it. We will therefore focus on creating a WordPress.ORG blog for the remainder of this article.
Starting your Blog
Here at Make a Website, we have created a detailed, step-by-step guide to creating a WordPress website.
You can access it by clicking this link. In case you want to get started right now, it will open in a new window so you can refer back to this article. The guide takes you right through the process, from setting up your Web hosting and registering your site name, to creating your first blog posts.
As we said at the start, for some people running a blog is the only objective, but many people hope to (at least eventually) make some money from their blogging endeavours.
There are various ways to make money from blogging:
1. Selling advertising: Once your blog starts to attract a lot of traffic, you will be able to sell advertising space on your blog. This works especially well if your subject-matter is precisely targeted to a tight niche.
2. Selling products and services: Some blogs acts as a marketing tool for real-life products or services – anything from your own eBooks to your own consultancy services.
3. Affiliate marketing: Affiliate marketing means getting commission for selling other people’s products and services via your blog. As with selling advertising, this works particularly well when you have a large, established and niche-focussed audience. We have a detailed guide to affiliate marketing available here.
4. Ad networks: Advertising networks such as Google AdSense allow you to dedicate space on your blog to sponsored ads, which pay you a small commission each time someone clicks though. If you have high traffic to your site, this can prove very lucrative.
A Final Word
At the start of this article, we talked about just how many millions of blogs there are on the Internet. Thousands become truly successful, but this is still only a small proportion. However, some become so successful that they’re considered as important as mainstream news sources.
Regardless of how grand your blogging plans may be, the essential rule remains the same: content is king. If you don’t engage your readers, they won’t come back, and they won’t share your site with anyone else. In turn, your traffic levels will remain low, and you will never make any meaningful money from your site.
So, have a good think about exactly what you are setting out to achieve. If you are merely documenting a long holiday for the benefit of your family and friends, then go ahead and set up a simple WordPress.COM site and keep things easy.
If, however, you have designs on becoming the next Engadget or LifeHacker, then you need to treat the whole process as seriously as starting any other business. Either way, you should find that getting started on building your blog is a surprisingly straightforward and very rewarding process.
IMAGE CREDIT: pixelcreatures,