Learn How to Start a Blog Today
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What Is Blogging?
Blogs are, in many ways, the Swiss Army knives of the internet.
A hobby that started out as a way to post online diaries in the 90s, blogging has grown into into a massive, endlessly varied form of communication unprecedented in human history.
Blogs can be short story collections, recipe hubs, role-playing games, or records of UFO sightings. They can help businesses advertise, educate customers, inform shareholders, or inspire community interactions.
Chances are, if you can imagine it, there is a blog about it somewhere. Probably hundreds of them!
Blogs are so ubiquitous because anyone who’s able to put words into a document can be a blogger. You don’t need to know how to type; you don’t need to be able to see or hear. You can’t be too old or too young to blog. You don’t even need to know anything about computers or the internet.
Blogs are one of the last truly level playing fields on the web.
Blogs versus Websites
Oftentimes people confuse the terms “blog” and “website” because there is a fine line between the two. After all, blogs appear on websites and websites feature blogs. So what really is the difference?
- Blogs. Blogs are pieces of web content that are updated frequently and allow for reader engagement in the form of blog comments and social media shares, likes, and follows. It is the aspect of being able to discuss the content being viewed by readers that really set blogs apart from traditional websites.
- Websites. Websites are anything that appear on the internet that has information for people to check out. Sure, they can include a blogging section that readers can view, but the main parts of a website include things like a homepage, portfolio of work, client testimonials, FAQ section, a contact page, and even a company’s terms and privacy statements. The content is meant to be seen by site visitors, but not necessarily openly discussed.
Why Do People Blog?
People blog for a whole host of reasons. Blogging can help you become a better writer, can make you some money on the side, or give you a platform for sharing all of your brilliant ideas.
In fact, here are some of the top reasons people start a blog:
- As a way to network with people all over the world that share a common interest.
- To advertise a company and help generate more sales.
- To make a difference in the world by sharing political and social issues that plague the world.
- As a resume for highlighting expertise and job experience.
- As a way to express creative ideas through text and imagery.
- To share knowledge with others that want to learn a new skill.
Blogs consist of a pretty similar structure, no matter what they are about. For example, they typically have a homepage that tells people what they can expect to learn from you once they begin reading your content.
In addition, there are blog posts which consist or individual entries and pages that have static information that rarely changes, such as your About Me page or Contact Page.
When it comes to one single blog post, you can usually expect to find the following:
- Archived posts of previously published posts, usually in the sidebar.
- A commenting section for readers to discuss the content.
- Social media feeds so readers can share their favorite content and follow you on various social media networks.
- A search function, usually in the header, for finding additional content.
While you can expect most of this to appear on every blog post you come across, the great thing about blogging is that you have the freedom to set everything up the way you want.
What to Blog About
Sometimes figuring out what to blog about is the hardest part. Luckily, we have some really great ideas to get you started:
- Fashion – makeup, clothing, hair, and beauty products.
- Travel – vacation deals, best places to visit, your own travels, restaurants, and entertainment.
- Websites – software, programming, web development, web design and functionality.
- Corporate – businesses, industry updates, expert tips and best practices.
- Content marketing – how to market your business, SEO best practices, email campaigns.
- Food – recipe sharing, restaurants, kitchen equipment.
- Finance – industry happenings, ways to make and save money, budgeting.
- Health and Fitness – sports equipment, nutrition, exercise, dieting, fashion.
- Lifestyle – gardening, home improvement, organization, travel, survival.
- Personal Development – time management, health awareness, mindfulness.
- Parenting – child development, product reviews, tips for age stages.
And this is just the beginning! Really, anything you want to blog about you can. And if you are doing so just for the fun of it, nothing is holding you back from writing about whatever you want.
Just make sure if your aim is to build a huge following, sell online, or monetize your blog in any way, you research the niches that are competitive enough to generate revenue but aren’t so oversaturated it’s nearly impossible to break into the niche and make money.
How to Get Started Blogging
If you decide you want to start your very own blog, and join the ranks of millions that document their every thought online every day, just follow these easy steps to get started.
1. Choose a Domain Name
Your domain name is your identity on the web. It also happens to be the URL that people type into their web browser when they want to visit your website.
But more than that, your domain name is how people will recognize you amongst the slew of other blogs that exist online.
When you choose a domain name, there are some important tips for making it work for you, rather than against you:
- Make it brandable so people will know immediately what you’re all about.
- Tie it in with your niche.
- Keep it short and sweet because people can’t handle complex URLs.
- Choose a recognizable TLD extension such as .com, .net, or .co.
- Do your research and make sure you’re not infringing on a registered trademark.
Remember, you can change your domain name if you really have to, but avoiding the extra cost, the trouble of moving your blog over to a new domain, and completely rebranding yourself is the better route.
So, think long and hard about your domain name before you choose it.
2. Choose a Platform
In order for you to be able to start writing on the internet, you need to have a blogging platform for your blogging site to sit on. There are many platforms to choose from that will give you everything you need for a strong blogging foundation.
For instance, Joomla and Drupal are some of the most well-known blogging platforms on the market today, though they are not the most used by any means.
That’s because WordPress ranks number one as the top blogging platform and content management system to date.
This CMS currently powers nearly 30% of the world’s websites, and comes with a reliable blogging platform.
Let’s take a look at the differences:
- WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a free blogging platform that is hosted by WordPress itself. There is no software to download, you don’t need a web host to store your data for you, and there is no need to maintain a web server. Plus, you don’t need to pay for a domain name. There are built-in customization options for making changes to your blog as you see fit, though the design and functionality of your blog is limited.
- WordPress.org. WordPress.org websites are free to set up, though they require the purchase of a domain name and are self-hosted, meaning you need to invest in WordPress hosting to store your site’s data for you. And, while there are hundreds of WordPress hosting providers to choose from, if you take the time to do your research, you’ll find the one that works best for you. Lastly, there are thousands of free and premium plugins and themes available to extend the design and functionality of your blog.
If you decide that WordPress is not for you, that’s okay. Other options are available that may better suit your needs:
Blogger is Google’s free tool for creating blogs. It includes site hosting and built-in analytics so you can measure the performance of your blog and make improvements as needed. It comes with a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor for making easy changes to your blog, the ability to upload images, and it comes with several templates for design purposes.
In addition, you can integrate social media, use AdSense to monetize your blog, and rest assured your site will look good on all mobile devices.
Other free blogging platforms include: Wix, Yola, Tumblr, Medium, and Ghost.
Many blogging platforms have been marked as sitebuilders. They are designed for easy blog creation and are useful for bloggers of all skill levels. Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace are some of the most popular on the market today.
Sitebuilders are web apps that bring drag-and-drop functionality and a WYSIWYG editor to the blogging platform so building a blog from the ground up is super easy. Many sitebuilders offer features such as free domain names, advanced editing features, eCommerce functionality, social media integration, commenting systems, and more.
3. Invest in Web Hosting
If you decide to use a self-hosted blogging solution such as WordPress, you’ll need to invest in some high-quality hosting services. Web hosts store your site’s data on large servers located in highly secure datacenters across the world.
Then, when a site visitor clicks on your website to view it, the web host servers help deliver that content to your visitor’s computer screen or mobile device in a visually appealing and understandable format.
Here are some of the most important features to look for when you are choosing which hosting provider to go with:
- Amount of storage and bandwidth depending on the amount of traffic your website gets every day.
- Built-in security measures like malware scanning, daily backups, and 24/7 site monitoring.
- One-click platform installations and an easy-to-access cPanel for managing hosting services.
- Email accounts, site builder tools, SEO optimization, shopping cart integrations, and advertising credit.
- Uptime guarantees against server crashes and maintenance issues.
- Speed and performance so you know your site is always giving the best user experience.
- Support types such as email, support ticket, and live chat, and available hours.
- Affordability since quality web hosting doesn’t come for free.
On top of that, you’ll want to make sure you sign up for the right type of web hosting services:
- Managed WordPress
4. Set Up Your Blogging Platform
Luckily, installing WordPress, or any other blogging platform, on your website after you have signed up for a web hosting account is usually very simple.
Most hosting companies have one-click installations for platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. And, with the help of a setup wizard, all you have to do after signing up for web hosting is follow the step-by-step instructions and your site is ready to go.
Better yet, some hosting companies will even install the blogging platforms for you, free of charge.
Once your WordPress website is up and running, all you’ll need to do is navigate to the WordPress login URL and sign in with your username and password and you’ll be all set to start creating your blog content.
How to Write Your First Blog Post
The easiest way to learn how to write your first WordPress blog post is to see it firsthand in the backend of your website.
So, let’s see how to easy it is to create content on your blog, starting with the login process.
Step 1: Log in to WordPress
Start by navigating to the WordPress login URL, which will look something like this: http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin/.
Fill in your username and password, which was determined during your web hosting sign up to log into the backend of your blog.
Step 2: Add New Blog Post
Once inside the WordPress dashboard, you’ll see a sidebar with menu items that will take you to various parts of your website. To start a new blog post, click Posts > Add New.
This will take you to the WordPress editor screen where you will do all of your blog post creation.
Step 3: Draft Your Post
Once inside the WordPress editor, the first thing to do is give your post a headline in the title section.
Next, write some content in the body of your blog post. You will notice that there are two tabs, one labeled Visual and the other labeled Text.
Stay within the Visual editor if you are new to blogging and are not familiar with code. This will give you a more “visual” look at what you are drafting when it comes to header sizes, font styles, and formats.
If you want to add an image, click on the Add Media button. This will bring you to the Media Library where any images you have downloaded onto your site are saved for use in blog posts.
After you click on Add Media, select the image you want to insert into your blog post.
Don’t forget to fill out things such as the title, alt text, and description so when your website is indexed by search engines, your site is ranked properly in search engine results and potential visitors find you.
You can also add a caption if you want a short description to appear on your blog explaining the image to readers.
Click Insert into post.
Your blog post will now look like this after adding an image:
Step 4: Add Categories and Tags
Categories and tags help organize your website into groups that are easily found by site visitors looking for something specific. To add categories and tags to your blog post, look to the right hand side of your editor and notice the two boxes, Categories and Tags.
Categories are meant for broad grouping of your blogs posts. These are more general topics that can be found throughout your blog. For example, if you have a personal blog that details your life, you may choose categories such as Music, Travel, and Food.
On the other hand, tags are specific details about your posts. They are the words that help your website stay ultra-organized. When you write a blog post, you first choose a category.
In this example, we’ll choose Food. Then, for your post’s tags, you might enter something like pizza, breadsticks, chocolate cake. This would be great for a blog post about your favorite foods.
Simply click the category you would like to use for your blog post, input tags you want to assign, and click on Add.
After you have created your blog post, you can preview how it will look when you publish it by clicking on the Preview button in the Publish box. This will take you to the frontend of your website and show you what site visitors will see when they click on your website.
If you are happy with your blog post, navigate back to the WordPress dashboard and again locate the Publish section.
Here you can either click on the Publish button and post your blog immediately, or schedule to publish it at a later date. If you choose to publish it at a later date, simply choose the date and time and save your changes.
And there you have it! The basic process for drafting your first blog post using the WordPress blogging platform.
Advanced Blogging Tips and Tricks
After you have become comfortable with blogging, you’ll realize there is a lot more to blogging than just writing some content, adding some images, and clicking “Publish.”
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of getting organic traffic, or traffic from search engine results, to your website.
As a blogger, is it your goal to get onto the first page of any search results. However, competing with well-established, highly trafficked websites is difficult.
After all, those websites know what it takes to rank higher in search engine results than most bloggers do.
That said, there are some basic SEO skills you can apply to any blog post you publish that will help improve your search engine rankings.
- Have a Good Title. The closer your title relates to keywords people are searching for, the higher your content will rank.
- Invest in Linking. Internally link to other content on your blog to organize it better for web crawlers. In addition, aim to have other websites link back to your website (through guest posting, blog comments, or just by publishing quality content others want to mention on their own site) so Google and other search engines can reward you for being authoritative and rank your blog posts higher.
- Keyword Research. Take the time to find out what keywords relate to your content so that when people search them, your website appears as one of the most relevant results. Add keywords to the title of your blog post, in the content body, and in metadata such as image alt text.
- Publish Consistently. Teach web crawlers to come back to your site on a regular basis and improve your rankings over time by publishing regular content for site visitors to enjoy. After all, the point of having a blog is to build a bigger following. Ranking higher in search results will help, and becoming a source to rely on for consistent content helps as well.
Though not a sexy topic, comment moderation is so important when it comes to blogging. With the rise of comment spam, it is important you understand the role you play as a blog owner for wiping that nonsense off your website.
Manually moderating your blog comments can be time-consuming if you have a lot of activity on your site. However, there are some really effective WordPress plugin solutions, such as Akismet, that can help you with automating the spam removal process so your blog always appears professional and only shows relevant and valuable discussions about your content.
There is a lot to be said about the correlation between a bigger email list and a blog’s success. Even if you aren’t selling anything on your website, capturing your readers’ email addresses and sending out regular newsletters helps keep them in the know about what is happening on your blog. This builds trust and loyalty and brings readers back for more time and again.
You cannot underestimate the power social media has on the success of your blog. Give your readers a way to share their favorite content with those they know and watch your blog’s traffic boom. In addition, provide links to your social media accounts so loyal readers can follow you and either interact with you on social media, or again, share their favorite stuff with everyone else.
Two of the most popular social media platforms in use right now are Facebook and Twitter. You can add native videos to Facebook and cater to those that love to watch videos, you can Tweet instant updates on Twitter and invite followers to check out your new blog post. And most importantly, no matter which network you use, you can expand your reach to an audience base you never even knew about.
Monetizing Your Blog
Blogs don’t have to be just for sharing ideas. In fact, you can turn your WordPress blog into a fully functioning e-commerce shop, and still maintain your blog, all from the same place. You can sell physical items, services, digital downloads, and even accept donations for a cause all through your blog.
And the great thing is, after nurturing your blog for so long, and building a strong following, you are sure to see some extra cash rolling in quickly once you open up shop.
Keep in mind that opening up an online shop is not the only way for you to make money blogging:
- Become an affiliate marketer and make money just for promoting products and services on your blog that your readers go on to buy.
- Sign up for Google AdSense, display ads on your website, and make money every time someone clicks on one.
- Sell ad space to others in your industry so they can promote their products and services to your audience base.
- Create a membership site and save your very best content for those willing to pay for it.
Take advantage of the value your blog brings to people and make money while you’re at it. It’s the most logical next step as a blogger.
What’s an RSS feed and does my blog need one?
An RSS feed is a way of telling people that your website has updated with new content, without them having to visit your website, and every other website they are interested in.
You automatically syndicate your content so people can read it in their mailboxes, feed reader, or on their mobile devices. It’s always helpful to enable RSS so your readers don’t have to bookmark your site, they can read your content offline, and it makes it easier to share your content on social media.
What is CMS?
CMS stands for content management system. In short, CMS is a software for creating, editing, organizing, and publishing content online. The most popular CMS right now is WordPress.
What are pingbacks and trackbacks?
Trackbacks are a way for people to acknowledge your blog content on their own website and comment on it there, rather than leave a comment on your website.
Pingbacks are automatic notifications that someone has referenced your content on their website, perhaps in a blog post of their own.
How can I come up with blog post ideas?
There are many ways to come up with blog post ideas. To start, check out what your competitors are doing and what works for them, and them put your own unique twist on it.
Next, search for keywords in Google and see what the top search results yield, check out social media and see what is trending, and frequent forums such as Quora and see what real people are asking.
Plus, you can always try to repurpose content by experimenting with different post types – quotes, videos, ask me anything pieces, guides and tutorials, and infographics.
How can I speed up my blog?
Site speed and performance is crucial for an exceptional user-experience.
And while there are many ways to boost the speed of your site, these are the top ways: use a good web host, make your site light and mobile friendly, optimize your images, use a caching solution, use a CDN, and take care not to use too many plugins.
What is Google Analytics and why should I care?
Google Analytics is a free analytics tool that helps measure how well your blog is performing in terms of site traffic and user behavior.
Monitor things like bounce rates, pageviews, session durations, and referral sources to find out more about your target audience and make improvements to your site.
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