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I know, this page is one in a million of other bloggers trying to help people start their blog. Don’t get me wrong, they are all so fantastic and helpful. But, just providing my take on it since I’ve gone into blogging with no previous experience of it whatsoever. I’ve had to learn a lot of this as I go with hours and hours of research and trial and error – so here’s hoping to helping the beginning of your journey to go smoothly.
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I’ve also made this free handy PDF Checklist for you to print out and follow along! You can get that here!
The ultimate guide to starting your blog from scratch:
1. Think about why you are starting your blog. What’s your vision? What are your goals? Fashion? Make money? Food? Beauty? Lifestyle? etc.
2. Check out other blogs! Some in your niche, but also all types of blogs(Fitness, Finance, Food, Lifestyle, etc.). Get a good feel of what’s out there. A good way is to sign up for BlogLovin’ or StumbleUpon for easily discovering new blogs.
3. Think of your domain name. Will you use your first and last name? Something clever? Something straight forward? How will YOU stand out of billions with your domain name.
4. Find a site to host your blog. THIS is very important. I know the free blogs like Blogger, WordPress.com, and Weebly will seem verrrrrrry tempting to start your blog, because who doesn’t like free?. I get it, you want to get a feel for it before you put in money. However, it is crucial that you start your blog with your own bought domain. THIS IS THE NUMBER ONE MISTAKE THAT NEW BLOGGERS MAKE.
When you buy your own domain, not only does it look more professional, but it is yours. You own it. When you sign up for a free blog, that site can delete your blog without question or notice (I’ve read horror stories about this). They own it. Also when you are self-hosted, you are able to monetize your blog in the future. And who doesn’t want to make a bit of side money with their blog down the road?
It also looks more professional! My site could either be www.mylittlegold.com OR www.mylittlegold.wordpress.com – which one looks more professional to you?
There’s a number of great hosting sites like BlueHost, HostGator, and eHost to name a few. I personally use iPage. It wasn’t easy deciding on a host. Essentially you will be tied to this host for a minimum of a year, with the prospect of forever. I’ve also checked how hard it would be to change hosting sites in the future, and it is quite a process. So I wanted to start with one I’ve heavily researched and fits my needs.
During this process you’ll be buying your domain name – so remember which one your thought about earlier.
See my supplementary tutorial How to Easily Start your WordPress Blog with iPage in 10 Minutes
(If for some reason I haven’t convinced you to go with iPage, BlueHost and SiteGround are also excellent alternatives. My iPage tutorial will be very similar and can apply to those hosting sites as well.)
5. Set up your blog email account. My first one was “email@example.com” you can use whatever you want, but remember that many people are going to be seeing this email address and something like “firstname.lastname@example.org” does not look as professional.
6. Connect your hosting site with your blog platform. In most (if not, all) cases, you’re going to want to use WordPress. Luckily when you use iPage or BlueHost to host your domain, they include a one-click install for WordPress.org (where you get the full domain name, and not yourdomain.wordpress.com)
7. Once you’ve reached the stage of working in the WordPress dashboard through your host, leave it alone.
There’s a few things I want you to write first before you start. I’ve learned all of these on my own and felt very disorganized and kept thinking I was missing things that I wish I knew before I launched my site. I wasn’t ready. But, you learn from your mistakes and I want to pass my savings on to you! (PLEASE say that like an infomercial – that’s how I said it in my head anyway…)
1. Two “About Me” paragraphs. One will be short and sweet while written in the third person. This will be seen everywhere on your site(sidebar or footer).
The other paragraph you’ll write in the first person. Your readers want to know who they are connecting with, who’s behind this blog, something quirky. An elevator pitch if you will. A good head-shot or professional photo of you will add a very nice personal touch!
2. Terms and conditions. I’ve read with some bloggers with out one, have had trouble with people stealing and using their images for their own use and claiming it is theirs. This online contract will help deter others from doing this to you, and will also help in your leverage if someone still decides to use your online property without your consent. Also, if you are going to be using affiliate links or sponsors, you can have your disclosure on this page as well. There’s many online resources to help you put one together if you’ve never written one before.
3. And at least 3 blog posts. Now they most likely wont be your GREATEST posts. But that’s ok. This is your journey. But, lets have some content ready to go before you launch.
Ok back to the WordPress dashboard
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7. Chose your website design. If you’re anything like me and don’t know how to do website coding from scratch, use one of the many free templates included in your WordPress account. There are also options to buy premium templates as well if none of the free ones catch your eye. I do suggest choosing a template with a lighter background and easy to read dark font. Also a template that allows for sidebars and footer widgets (widgets are going to be your best friend)
8. Check out the dimensions your template suggests for your Header Image and logo (the picture that will show at the top of your page. for example, mine is the gold writing that says “little gold” at the top of the page)
9. Move over to Desygner for a bit. This is where you’re going to go for all your graphic design needs. I’ve tried quite a few different online graphic design apps like Canva and PicMonkey, but in the end, Desygner came out on top. You can sign up for free, or upgrade to a premium package for $7/month. If you sign up through my link here, you’ll get an awesome discount on top of that, millions of photos/graphics, thousands of templates, so many more awesome functions to use for growing your blog.
Design your logo, header image, and images for your blog posts that you’ve created. These should be eye catching and easy to read. Also what I found very handy with Desygner is that once you create a “parent” image (in maybe “blog post” format), you can copy and resize to any other format available, then just a bit of tweaks. (I normally start with “Blog Post” then copy/resize to Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.)
10. Create a subscription list! Many bloggers forget about this! This is super important and I’ve found a lot of bloggers say they wished they started this on day 1. It will keep you engaged with your readers, and in turn, keep them coming back. WordPress has many plug-ins for this.
Myself, being broke and looking for free options, I opted for MailChimp and Sumo initially. They were both super great, easy to use. But, as my blog grew, I found I needed more. While researching what other successful bloggers were using, about 90% of what I saw were using ConvertKit. (AND, if you sign up using my link, you get a free 30 day trial! Awesome!)
If you’re looking for free, Sumo and MailChimp would be my go-to. I’ll go over WordPress plugins in step 12.
11. Awesome! Now slowly plop everything into your blog.
- You’ll want to have a few different menus set up to make your page easy to navigate. For example with my site has:
- Home – the first page that the readers see when they get on my site. You can choose to have a static welcome page (where it’s just one specific page), or your recent posts here.
- Welcome – A friendly intro to welcome readers
- Blog (with sub-menus) – an easy to navigate way to access my posts by subject
- About (with sub-menus)
- Remember that blurb I had you write earlier? The quirky one like an elevator pitch? Put that here with a nice picture of you.
- And remember that Terms and Conditions I had you put together too? Put that here.
- *Bonus – a “Work with me” page, to put it out there if you’d like to work with other bloggers, advertisers, or anyone alike.
- Contact – sometimes a simple “contact form” with your readers name, email address, and area to type in is all you need.
- *Bonus – Recommendations – You don’t have to do this right away, but definitely keep a list of all the tools you use with your blog, sites you love, and products too! It’s nice for readers to have a one-stop page to see what you use and like. This is also super important if you plan to monetize your blog
- Make use of the side bars (with widgets!)
- Usually shows a list of your most recent posts, or calendar
- A subscription form
- Links to your social media
- And remember that little blurb I had you write about yourself? The short and sweet one? Put that here with your picture too!
- Make use of the footers (also with widgets!)
- Maybe a terms and conditions link?
- Or maybe you want to put your “about me” post here instead/or as well
- Another subscription form
- So many more options!
12. Go back to your WordPress dashboard and get into the plugins. There are hundreds of great plugins to install on your blog that will help in so many ways. Here are the ones I’ve installed:
- Jetpack by WordPress – This should be the first one you install. They have a bunch of widgets, keep track of your stats, protect your site, and more.
- Akismet Anti Spam – Who wants spam on their site? I don’t. Install this! It’s free and it helps.
- ConvertKit – Hands down the best way to build your blog! I’ve tried other plugins and sites to help convert readers into subscribers and I found I would need multiple accounts and systems. ConvertKit does it all. (Again, if you sign up through my link, you’ll get a free 30-day trial!)
- Yoast SEO – Have you heard of SEO before? Know anything about it? No? That’s ok. Yoast helps you get started to start maximizing your “Search Engine Optimization” by having some handy tools at the bottom of your editing posts page.
- Header, Footer, and Post Injections – You wont use this often, but down the road you’ll want to add a few other things to your site and they’ll require you to embed something in the “Header before the Body” of the page. (usually to verify your page to connect with certain websites you’ll sign up for in your blogging career) This is where you can easily do it.
- Sumo – If you didn’t want to commit to ConvertKit yet
- MailChip – Also if you didn’t want to commit to ConvertKit yet
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13. Get on social media! This can be time consuming if you don’t develop a system for yourself to stay organized. Also the following may vary by your niche and audience. But I’ve found that this is what has worked for me.
- Pinterest – This is known to be one of the top traffic sources to blogs! But, only if you use it correctly. When I started, I didn’t know too much on how to promote my blog on Pinterest, so after hours of research it really does come down to a science.
- Pro-tip. Sign up for Tailwind. It’s taken my Pinterest promoting to a whole different level and I highly recommend it.
- Twitter – This has helped me connect with so many bloggers out there. There’s often twitter chats daily that help you connect and gain exposure. You can find these by following certain groups, and then specifically in your niche. The chats have definitely helped me connect, learn, and grow. Everyone I’ve met has been such an amazing resource of help and positive vibes.
- Instagram – I’ve used Instagram to reach more locally. Weird huh? I plan to have some restaurant/store reviews, and this helps me connect with the businesses in my city. Also, if you’re into giveaways, Instagram is full of them.
- Facebook – Of course. I haven’t started my Facebook promotion because I’ve switched my promotion focus to Pinterest. But, I’ve read many success stories of promoting on Facebook. Who isn’t on Facebook.
That’s it for now! You’ve now created your blog from scratch! Congrats! Let me know below in the comments how you did, and send me links to check them out!
ps. Some of you are probably wondering about ads and now to monetize your blog. Be patient my grasshopper. Focus on the quality of your blog first, focus on building traffic, and the rest will come! (Also in the very near future I’ll put together a little somethin’ somethin’ for you guys about this)
pss. And please, if you are ever stuck, have questions, or want my help; please please just shoot me a message/email/or whatever! I would love to help you in any way I can.