Start a blog from Scratch
So, you’ve decided to start a blog of your own and make a dent in blogosphere… *a pat on your back!*
I am assuming that it’s your zeal to explore the nuts & bolts of creating a blog that has brought you here. Well, you are at the right place.
Starting a blog and growing it to success can be an intimidating task in itself, especially when you have little knowledge about “what needs to be done” and “how it should be done”, both correctly. Getting started with your own blog does not have to be complex, but with so many blogging guides and articles out there, sometimes it becomes really confusing on what to adhere and what not to. I’ve been there and I know how frustrating it is!
Therefore, keeping it simple and yet effective is my motive here while walking you through the strategies of blog creation. All you need to have is basic computer knowledge and no coding skills required, thanks to some awesome blogging platforms. Cool isn’t it!
Once you have your blog all set, you can move to the next step on how to grow your blog using some proven tools & resources.
But before jumping to the tutorial, let me ask you why do you want to start blogging? I would really like you to think over this question – “Why do I even want to blog, what’s in for me?”
If you know the answers already, good. If not, consider reading – why you should start blogging today.
All set to take the road to Blog Town? Let’s get started…
#1. Decide your blog’s topic
To settle upon your blog’s topic is one of the crucial phases of your blog creation, as this will decide the direction, niche and target audience of your blog.
I have been asked so many times for hot topics that one can pick for blogging. Well let me tell you, there is nothing like ‘top blogging topics list’ unless you can write on them with passion and interest, or unless you are a pro writer who can write on almost anything. This means that the best blogging topic totally depends upon your interest and it varies from person to person. You will never like the idea of writing on a topic that doesn’t give you goosebumps. Even if you start writing on one, ultimately you would get bored and your blog would rest in oblivion.
Still, if you come across a sexy looking top-blogging-topics list and want to consider it, make sure that the topic you choose for your blog complements your interest.
Good news, there is a certain checklist which you can take into account while deciding on your blog’s topic. I am sharing this checklist with you now:
Checklist for your blog’s topic:
- Find your interest – As I said before, if you blog about something that really drives you, then you find it much easier to write and remain consistent with it.
- Define your target audience – You should ask yourself “is there any audience for the topic I picked?” It is quite crucial to find a topic that has “demand”. What I mean to say is – your topic should be able to attract enough readers who are interested in it. More readers mean more traffic, and the greater the traffic is, higher are the chances for your blog to become famous and generate a decent income.
- Ensure sufficient knowledge – Do not write on something you know little about or have no practical experience at all. If you are not sure about a topic but really want to blog about it, then give yourself some time and start exploring it. Once you have sufficient knowledge and you are confident, you should be all set to blog about it.
- Stick to one subject – You cannot write about cars and wildlife in one blog. Yes, you should not! Your blog should focus on one and one thing only. Having a diverse range of subjects makes your blog look messy, your readers get confused and you suffer a much higher bounce rate.
Once you are certain about your blog topic, you are good to proceed.
#2. Free or Paid Blogging Platform?
Of course, there are many free blogging platforms out there like Blogger, Wix, etc. where you can run a blog for free. But, are these platforms really free? Well, I don’t think so.
Problems with free blogging platforms
- Blogging on a free platform is like paying rent for somebody else. You do all the hard work, do all the research and post awesome content. But all your work eventually creates profit for the blogging platform company, not you.
- You neither own your blog, nor any of the content on it, which you obviously have created with so much hard work. This means you cannot control your blog’s content, rather it is controlled by the blogging platform company.
- You will get a weird looking domain name for your blog (ex: myawesomeblog.freeblogplatform.com). See, such a long domain name can neither stick to the memory nor can be accounted for any branding purpose. If you are looking to create a brand – your own identity on the internet, then free blogging is a big ‘no’ for you.
- Your blog can be suspended/blacklisted anytime, and even without a proper reason. This is something which I get to hear constantly from free-platform users.
- You cannot use affiliate links on your blog. This means you cannot advertise, thus, cannot make any money from your blog. You won’t like this, I’m pretty sure.
- You cannot do much SEO stuff on free platforms, which adversely affects the traffic you want to gain from search engines.
To summarize, if you are not serious about your blog, you don’t care if your blog someday might be suspended out of no reason and you just want to get some basic blogging idea, then you can give the free platform a try. But, if you want to create a brand from your blog and want to earn money from it, then you must have a domain name and your own hosting (aka paid self-hosted platform). And do not get intimidated by the word ‘paid’. You need not invest a plethora of money to get started. Only a small amount of money for the domain name and web hosting which is worth it.
#3. Find a Domain Name
Domain name is the address of your blog which people will use to access your website. How do you access Facebook? Using www.facebook.com right? So here, www.facebook.com is Facebook’s domain name. Similarly, your blog’s domain name will look something like www.YourWebsiteName.com (the extension .com may vary depending upon what you choose).
Having your own domain name is particularly useful as it strengthens your brand identity as well as gives your website a premium feel right in the first look.
How to choose the right domain name:
Choosing the right domain name for your blog is vital to your blog’s success. Your domain name is the foundation of your online presence. Your blog will be known by this name, and this name will leave the first impression on people and sit in their memory.
You can either choose a keyword based domain or non-keyword based domain.
A Keyword-based domain name reflects what your blog is all about and gives the idea of your work. For instance, if you are going to blog about travel, then you can have a name like journeyfreak or exploringpal.
A Non-keyword-based domain name can be a unique name which will gradually be established as your brand. As you can see, some of the top social media giants like Facebook, Tumblr do not have a keyword based domain, but they have become so famous that their names can easily relate now.
I preferred to use a keyword based domain name with ‘blog’ in it. And if you are wondering why I used ‘harp’, then other than the sweet-to-ear music instrument, harp also means ‘to talk or write persistently on a particular topic’ 🙂
Following are the do’s and don’ts while eyeing for the right domain name:
- Use a short and crisp name, as such names are easy to remember and share.
- If using a keyword based domain name, make sure it reflects your niche. A blog providing health tips but having a name viraltechtips would look craptastic.
- Always hunt for Dot Com extension. There are many domain extensions available like dot org, dot net, dot biz, etc. But dot com is and will always be the gold standard. However, probably all dictionary words with .com extension are taken now. You can try playing with the words by joining 2 or 3 words together and come up with something creative.
- Never use misspelled domain name. Using a misspelled name looks untrusty and spam. If your desired domain name is already taken, DO NOT try to grab a matching name by morphing the spelling. Search engines like Google do not like misspelled domain names and using one can adversely affect you in search engine rankings. Read More.
- Avoid using numbers/digits in your domain name. I personally feel that such domain names are hard to remember and do not carry any elegance.
- Do not use a domain name which is long and full of dashes. For example, a domain name like www.best-computer-courses-foryou-online.com will never sit permanently in a person’s memory. But, something like www.educomp.com is much easier to remember and share.
Once you have made some selections for your domain name, your next task is to buy it.
Buying a Domain Name:
You can buy domain names from domain providers and the top ones among them are Godaddy, HostGator and Bluehost.
For your convenience, I have integrated a domain name finder right here, so you can choose your favorite domain name and buy it right away!
Search for a perfect domain name:
- A Domain Name cannot have any punctuation other than dashes.
#4. Get A Hosting Provider
Now that you have a domain name of your own, what next?
Your next step is to buy web space so you can use it to save your web content.
Let me put it this way, suppose you want to build a house. To achieve this, you would need a piece of land – a plot where you can stand the building. So, if the house is your website/blog, then the plot is your web space. Similarly, your house’s address that would lead visitors to your house is your blog’s domain name.
Your blog will obviously contain some images, text, videos, etc. and all this stuff will get stored in web space which you can buy from a hosting provider.
Companies like Godaddy, HostGator and Bluehost provide web hosting along with domain name.
#5. Install WordPress for your blog
Your next step is to install WordPress on your blog. I have always advocated the use of a paid blogging platform rather than free blogging platforms. And when I say paid blogging platform, then the first thing that clicks my mind is the use of a CMS (Content Management System) which will keep my blog alive and kicking.
A CMS is a system that will help you to manage your blog by providing you with tools for website authoring, collaboration and administration, even when you have little knowledge of programming languages. CMS’s enables your blog/website to feature dynamic content without the hassle of updating files regularly, offer customized and stunning design options, and provide a wider range of features such as ecommerce or customer account areas.
Though there are many CMS options out there like Drupal, Joomla, Ghost but I and the world takes WordPress as the most favorite CMS. So, I here will only talk about WordPress, its benefits and how to install it. When I say WordPress, I mean WordPress.org and not WordPress.com.
Why the World prefers WordPress:
- It’s Free to download!
- It has the highest number of awesome plugins and themes. Many of them are absolutely free to use.
- Easier to use interface
- It comes with largest developer and user community. So if you stumble upon any issue while using it, there is a vast community to help and rescue you out of your problem.
Most of the hosting providers like GoDaddy, BlueHost and Hostgator offer one click WordPress installation in their Control Panel. What installation does, it uploads the WordPress files at a specific location onto your server (the server which you get with web hosting). I have provided instructions for installing WordPress on some of the famous Hosting Providers. These instructions are copied right from their websites.
Rather if you want to install WordPress manually, then at the last link will take you to the WordPress website page, where you can find steps for manually installing it using FTP.
How to install WordPress on Godaddy
How to install WordPress on HostGator
How to install WordPress on Bluehost
WordPress Installation via FTP
Logging in as your Blog Admin:
Once WordPress is installed on your blog, you can verify it by appending /wp-admin to your blog/website address and then by visiting the final URL. For example, if your website name is www.coolgadgetsxyz.com, then the WordPress admin login page will appear at the following URL: www.coolgadgetsxyz.com/wp-admin. In general, WordPress login page looks like following:
Once you are at the login page, log on with the username and password which you chose at the time of installing WordPress.
Once you are logged in successfully, you will see WordPress Dashboard which is the hub for all major options that WordPress provides. The WordPress dashboard area gives an overview of your blog or website. Besides, it displays many useful quick links for performing common tasks such as writing a quick draft or replying to the latest comment.
I have written a detailed post on WordPress Dashboard explaining all the widgets that constitute the dashboard. Please go through the post if you want to know more about it.
#6. Tweaking your blog’s design and layout:
Now that you’ve installed WordPress and have logged in as Admin, it’s time to tweak your blog’s layout and design which you can do by choosing a suitable theme for your blog. A theme provides the look and feel to your blog. By default, WordPress comes with 3 themes and you’ll find one of them as your active theme when you install WordPress. You must be thinking that just 3 themes? That seems to be so less right?
Well, here comes the beauty of WordPress as an open-source CMS. Open-source means anyone can contribute to WordPress by developing themes and plugins and providing it for public use. This has resulted in thousands of themes and plugins available for you, and many of them are free to use. Great, isn’t it!
Choosing a New Theme:
You can search for a theme which suits the category of your blog/website. To search for a theme, go to Appearance > Themes in WordPress dashboard left side navigation. Then you will be taken to a page where you can see the themes currently installed and the one which is currently active on your blog.
To add a new theme, locate the button “Add New” on the top left of the page. Click on it.
You will be landed on a page where you can find a plethora of themes on every subject you can imagine. The themes are divided into categories ‘Featured’, ’Popular’, ’Latest’ and ‘Favorites’.
Also, you can find a filter to search theme for a specific feature, layout and subject.
My Tip: While searching for a theme, make sure that the theme is ‘Responsive’. Responsive Theme is a flexible foundation with fluid grid system that adapts your website to mobile devices and the desktop or any other viewing environment. You can check for theme responsiveness by resizing your browser window on your computer (shrink it to the size of a tablet or mobile screen) and see if the theme adjusts as per the window size.
#7. Write your first post:
Now, since you are done with the hard work of setting your blog and applying a proper theme for it, it’s time to roll up your sleeves, put on your thinking cap and write some awesome content for your readers. To write your first post, you need to know about WordPress Visual Editor. So, let’s get started with the basics first.
In order to write a post, switch to WordPress Dashboard and go to Posts > Add New.
Then you will be taken to an online editor where you can write your post content.
The WordPress Editor looks as follows:
In the Add New Post section, enter your post title. Then in the editor, write down the content of your post.
The Editor has two modes – Visual and Text which you can switch using the tabs on the top right of the editor.
Visual mode, as the name implies, shows you how your content and its formatting would look. You can change the font color, make it bold or italic, add links, etc. using the options provided on the top of the editor.
Text mode is particularly helpful if you know HTML, there you can play with HTML tags and shape your content’s overall look.
Using Add Media button, you can add images to your post.
While you write the post, you can see how will it look on the blog using Preview button on the right.
Once you feel like the post is ready for your audience, make it visible to all using Publish button on the right.
However, if you feel like your post is not ready yet to be published, you can save it as a draft using Save Draft button on the right and publish it when you feel it is ready.
Remember, with default settings, all your posts will go under Blog page of your WordPress theme. You can show their preview on your homepage or any other page using the options provided by your WordPress theme.
Congratulations! So we have come this far, from choosing a right domain for your blog to publishing the first post! Isn’t it awesome? Now, you have a blog of your own and you have complete authority over it. I am sure your blog looks as fantastic as you dreamed of it. If however, you are stuck at some point and want some help, feel free to reach me. You have counted on me to guide you while you start your blog, so I will do my best to help you make your blog a remarkable one.
Since we are done with all the crucial steps of setting up a blog, now it’s the time for you to learn some proven methods of growing your blog. When I say growing, it means how you can target more audience, how to publicize your blog and aboveall, how to monetize your blog.
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