Here are just a few questions we will answer in this section (basics):
- What do I need to start a blog?
- What are domain names, hosting providers and content management systems?
- What blogging platform is best for beginners?
- Why shouldn’t I use a “free blogging platform, like Tumblr?
- How much will it cost to start a blog? (Hint: less than $4.00)
But before we just into the nuts and blots of starting a blog, let’s take a moment to become familiar with some terms and help you choose a perfect niche topic that will keep you inspired and motivated to keep posting.
What is “Blogging”?
A blog or weblog can take practically any form. Artists and writers use them to display and share their work, educators use blogs to create learning hubs and those who are passionate about a certain topic utilize blogs to connect with other people around the world who have similar interests. Typically, a blog will contain text, videos, images and links to other websites and relevant resources. Part of what makes blogs so popular is that readers can interact with the author and other visitors through the comment section. This online dialogue has helped to make blogs a huge success.
In the world of blogging, there are a few key terms:
- Blog – an online journal
- Blogger – the author who owns and contributes to the blog
- Blogging – the verb form of the word blog, which refers to the action of creating the blog.
Accordingly, you might consider yourself a blogger blogging on your blog.
In addition to other forms of social media, blogs have changed the way we communicate all over the world. News can be reported as it happens, which ultimately puts more pressure on major new sources to have high standards and cover a wide variety of niches.
In fact, blogs are so popular and pervasive in today’s culture that there are over 160 million blogs on the internet and that number is growing every day.
Most Popular Blog Styles and Types
Personal blogs: This type of blog is usually more about sharing your own thoughts and creativity. People often post poems, writing, photos, art or sell custom crafts and products. It can be a way to share your experiences, have fun and perhaps enjoy some therapeutic benefits or recording your journey.
Business blogs: For businesses, blogs provide a great public relations tool. It can be used for marketing, branding and outreach purposes. A simple blog can allow businesses to connect with existing and potential customers and build a presence on the web.
Niche/topical blogs: Do you have a specific interest in sports, fitness, gardening, pets, cooking or any other area? If you love to collect antiques, take road trips or try state fair food, then there is an audience out there for you. The more specific your topic, the more fun you can have creating posts and the more loyal followers will start visiting your site.
Media-centered blogs: These types of blogs tend to focus more on posting media and information. For example, if you like to create and post videos, you are considered a vlogger. If you use your blog to post photos and original works of art, then you are clearly more media focused. Some bloggers even use their site to curate content from other websites, which is known as a linklog.
Reverse blogs: This unique form of blogging relies on the public to create content. As the owner, you simply moderate posts, monitor for any unpleasant interactions and try to promote interactions.
While these represent some of the most popular types of blogs on the internet, they don’t come close to showing all the different options out there. You will also come across live webcam blogs, podcast blogs, live gaming blogs, nonprofit blogs and many other options. The main challenge is to understand the key differences between what makes a blog and what makes a static website.
Why People Blog
As you consider starting a blog, you may be wondering my people would want to listen to you. Most bloggers get started because they love to write about their passions and they want to share their thoughts and experiences with others. Usually, are guided by a simple motivation, but the list of unintended benefits associated with blogging goes on and on.
Become a better writer and thinker
The more time you spend blogging, the better you will be at writing and thinking. Practice makes perfect and high quality, engaging content demands that you tap into your creative side and push yourself. As you tackle new challenges with your blog, it is inevitable that your writing, thinking and research skills will improve.
Establish yourself as an expert
No matter who you are, you have some kind of expertise that you can share with the world. Blogging is the perfect platform to establish yourself as an expert by producing great content that offers a unique point of view. Your audience will reward your efforts by sharing your posts and helping you build a larger following. While it may take some time and effort, you can become a recognized leader and trust voice in your own niche.
Increase your self-confidence
After you write and publish your first post, you will be filled with a sense of accomplishment. Your creative juices will be flowing and you can watch as readers visit your site, leave comments and validate your work. Think about it this way: essentially, you are writing a book one piece at a time. Being a published author is bound to increase your confidence and lead to even more creativity and productivity.
Make friends and have fun
Over time, you will see the number of fans and followers steadily increase. A wider reach means more opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. You will be amazed to see how much a simple blog can inspire and encourage your readers. This also opens the door to making meaningful personal and professional connections with people all over the world. Suddenly, your network for support and resources has increased exponentially.
Make money from your blog
Blogging can help you earn extra income and if you are dedicated enough, it has the potential to become a full-time career. By placing advertisements on your page, participating in affiliate programs that pay a commission for online sales and selling your own digital products, you can start earning a steady income.
How to Choose the Perfect Niche
Before you dive headfirst into blogging, you need to take some time to choose the perfect niche. Ultimately, you want to be able to achieve success, which depends largely on your passion for your topic. Decide on something that will provide you with a sense of happiness and fulfillment if you have to write about it every day. Choosing a specific niche and approaching it from your own point of view is the very formula that will allow you to stand out from the competition and reach your goals.
Brainstorm your idea
- Start by making a list of your favorite activities or hobbies. How do you spend your free time? What interests you most?
- Then, make a list of accomplishments that you have achieved over the years. Have you mastered a musical instrument, played a sport, won an award, etc? It doesn’t have to be an earth shattering achievement. Just include anything that you are proud of achieving.
- The next list should focus on any difficulties you have faced and successfully overcome. For example, have you gotten rid of debt, lost weight or reinvented yourself in some way?
As you work on your lists, you will find that you certain topics start to jump out at you. Anything that moves you and gets your excited should make your final list of potential topics.
Blog idea validation
In the vast majority of cases, your topic will allow you to achieve success. Whether you just want to share your experience or you are looking to make money and connections, passion will take you a long way. However, it is a good idea to do some research and discover just how viable your topic is in the long-term. Conducting research will also clue you in to common pitfalls that have meant the demise of other blogs.
Potential market size
The key is to find a market that isn’t too big or too small. If you choose a broad topic like “fitness” you will be facing a lot of competition and it will be difficult to make a name for yourself. However if you focus on curling brooms and equipment, your niche might be too narrow and not yield many results. Instead you might want to think about a topic such as fitness tips for baby boomers. The broader topic of fitness has been narrowed down to a specific demographic, which will help you focus your efforts and work with a reasonably sized market niche.
How do I determine the size of my niche?
You can use Google Keyword Planner, which is a free tool, to determine the top 5 keywords for your market. This will give you a more accurate view of just how many people are using those search terms. As a general rule of thumb, you would like to see that the combined search volume for all 5 keywords exceeds 20 thousand searches per month.
When it comes to blogging, competition doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If there are other successful bloggers writing about your topic, it is a good indication that there is an audience worth pursuing. You will also find that the blogging community is very open and supportive. What you consider competition actually be some of your best resources.
Here are a few areas you can look at to get a feel for your competition:
- Are there 5 or more popular blogs that address your niche?
- Look for active Facebook pages that have at least 1,000 fans.
- Search Twitter for active and popular accounts related to your niche.
- Does your niche also have popular offline publications?
If you find that there is an established community of bloggers and followers associated with your niche, then you might be on the right track to a great topic.
Most people start a blog because it provides a way to express themselves and connect with likeminded people. However, there are those who begin with the vision of making blogging a full-time career. No matter which category you fall under, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know how to monetize your blog. If you did some research and found that other blogs in your niche have robust social media profiles, offline publications and large followings, then there is a good chance you will be able to make money with your blog.
What do Your Readers Want?
While you may be starting your blog for you, it is a good idea to keep your readers in mind. There are already other blogs out there that cover the same topic, so why would readers visit your site in particular? The answer is simple: because they enjoy your unique perspective and expertise on a topic that interests them. For true enthusiasts, there will never be enough information out there and you are more than capable to creating informative and engaging content, especially with some practice.
Readers want information
People search for everything online and they want to learn new information about their favorite topics. Their interests may be too narrow for mainstream media to bother paying attention, but you can provide the latest news and information so that they can stay up-to-date.
Readers want solutions
The internet is the world’s biggest source for information and it is often the first place people go looking for solutions. Blogs are helping to solve problems one reader at a time. Whether they want weight loss advice or to learn how to start a blog, you can provide real and valuable solutions based on your own expertise.
Readers want entertainment
If you really want to know the perfect recipe for a successful blog, work to combine humor, entertainment and information. Provide fun and sharable information that helps promote your topic and allows people to sit and enjoy an article.
Important things to understand about blogging.
Building an online presence can take time. You have to be consistent and show some patience. Once your blog gains a little bit of traction, you will be amazed to see how quickly your posts gain momentum. The more time and work you are willing to put into publishing posts and networking, the more success you will enjoy. It is totally up to you whether you post once a week or every day. Just don’t get discouraged if you don’t see an immediate return on your efforts.
Choosing a Blogging Platform
Once you have chosen a niche topic, it is time to determine which blog platform and management tool is best for you. Personally, I would recommend starting with a self-hosted platform, but you can keep reading and learn more about different options in order to make a more informed decision.
Blogging platforms fall under one of three main categories:
1. Free: While the word free always comes with certain temptations, you may want to weigh the pros and cons. A free blog is quick and easy to start, but it means having a domain name that instantly tells that world that you are inexperienced. For example, you will end up with an address that looks something like:
If you want to establish yourself as a professional and work towards monetizing your blog, this type of domain will not allow you to put your best foot forward.
In addition, by using a free platform, you are essentially allowing a third party to own your name. These platforms can enforce their own rules, limit your ad space and place their own ads on your page. If you envision a future in blogging, you may want to stay away from free services.
2. Freemium: There are some options that will allow you to enjoy a trial period before you start paying a monthly free. TypePad is just one example. However, these freemium platforms are focused on writing and difficult to customize. You will also have to settle for a domain name that looks like this: yourname.typepad.com although you do have the option of purchasing a unique domain through any domain registrar.
3. Self-hosted blogs: practically every blogging expert out there will recommend that you begin with a self-hosted platform.
When you work through a self-hosted domain you are free to run your blog as you see fit and you actually own your unique blog domain.
The other great news is that you have access to a lot of great options when it comes to self-hosted blog systems, which are also referred to as Content Management System or CMS. WordPress.org, MoveableType, Ghost, Drupal and Concrete5 are all popular names that you might have heard before.
When you sign up for an account with a web hosting service, you are purchasing your own little space on the internet. Typically a hosting account costs just $4 to $10 per month and the yearly cost of purchasing a domain is $12 to $15. Using the CMS of your choice is free and open-sourced.
Part 2: How to Start Your Blog
1. Pick Your Blog Platform: WordPress
Perhaps the best known and most highly recommended CMS is WordPress.org.
It was originally launched in 2003 and since then it has grown to become the largest CMS in the world. Today, it is used on millions of websites. In fact, chances are that any website you visit today is managed using WordPress, including this website! Some of the world’s most respected institutions, including the New York Time and BBC America use WordPress to bring content to their audience.
Over 72 million blogs run on WordPress (including this one):
- WordPress requires no technical skill to get setup and running
- There are 1000s of free themes (used to design your site) to choose
- It’s powerful. WordPress sites power small blogs and large publications like the New York Times
- There’s virtually unlimited support online. All you have to do is Google your question, and you can find the answer
2. Choose a name for your site (get a domain name)
Pro Tip: When you sign up with HostGator, you get your own domain name for free ($20 value).
A domain name is how people can find your site online. My domain name is “WiseStartupBlog.com”. You can choose your own domain name, so long as it isn’t already taken.
How do I choose a good domain name?
When making the choice for a domain name, there are a couple basic rules:
Easy to Type In
- Don’t choose a domain name that contains numbers or hyphens (-)
- Do choose a domain name that is easy to pronounce and tell to others, like “Go Daddy, Buzz Feed, etc.”
- Don’t choose a domain extension that is uncommon. Domain extensions are what comes after the name. Our domain extension is “.com”. The domain name you want may be taken for the “.com”, but don’t make the mistake of settling for a domain name with an extension or “.biz, .mobi, etc.”
- Do choose one of the commonly used extensions: “.com”, “.org”, “.net” and now even “.co” is gaining credibility
Describes Your Site
- Don’t choose a name that sounds cool, but nobody has any idea what it means. Sites like Yelp.com, Google.com, and Skype.com were successful despite their names.
- Do choose a name that describes what your site will be about. My domain name says to people that they will learn “how to start a blog” when they type in the domain.
3. Choose a Web Host to host your site
A web host is basically where your website’s files will live. The same way that your files are stored on your computer, your website’s files need to be stored somewhere.
How do I choose a good web hosting company?
There are hundreds of web hosts out there, but thanks to my experience, I can recommend to you the best of the best. Here’s what all good web hosts will have:
- Great support: If you have questions, they should be there to answer them via email, chat, and phone.
- Easy control panel: A beginner-friendly page that allows you to make changes to your site.
- High uptime: Uptime refers to whether your site is online. You want a web host that is online 99.9% of the time.
- Affordable pricing: You get what you pay for, so the cheapest isn’t always the best, but there are great affordable hosts that provide good value.
Okay, so based on these factors, you’re probably asking yourself, Where should I get my domain name and web hosting?
I’ve tried so many different web hosts, namely InmotionHosting, FatCow, Godaddy, Bluehost, etc.
After 12+ years of managing my blogs, the name I trust is HostGator.
Because they have excellent support (24/7 chat, phone, and email), awesome uptime (99.9% their sites are online), a super simple management panel for creating and managing your blog, and finally their pricing: less than $4.00/ month. (Which is a special deal just for you, my lovely readers).
As you can see, the price is usually over $5 per month, but I negotiated a special deal.
On the next step, I’m going to show you how to register a domain name, sign up for hosting, and install WordPress.