This post is a part of the Beginner Blogger Challenge hosted by Passive Income To Retire. The point of it is for “experienced” bloggers to give a few tips to those who are just starting out or who are looking to start out.
Because I know a number of people who are looking to start their own blogs/websites, I will try to make this a “how to start a blog” post as well as tips. If you have any questions, just leave a comment below.
How To Start A Blog
Many of these points are things that I wish I knew about when I first started. Doing these things from the beginning will save you a lot of time, frustration, and even money!
Own Your Blog
When you start blogging, you have a choice on what type of platform you will use. There are websites which will allow you to have a page (or pages) within their preexisting site. The big three are Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress.com. If you are on one of these sites, whatever happens to them (hacked, bugs, shut down by government, etc) happens to you!
Also, they can shut down your space on their site whenever they feel like it (especially with Blogger). This is why I recommend that to anyone who wants to have a blog to establish their own website first! Here is how you do it:
Buy the Domain – I recommend using GoDaddy (I’ve purchased over 30 domains through them and have never had a problem). Once you decide on a domain name (this is a very important step), head on over to Godaddy (this is an affiliate link – meaning that I will earn a few pennies, at no cost to you, if you use it) and make it yours. They also have a great search feature that will let you know if a name is taken, and if so, what the closest available alternatives are.
Buy Hosting – Once you buy a domain, you have to have a place to store (or host) all of the files for your website. I have used Hostgator for nearly 3 years now and I love them! They have great prices – I pay about $6 or $7 a month, and I have about 30 websites hosted with them! They are also known for their reliable systems (my website has only been down twice since I’ve been using them), and great customer service – they have forums, an instant chat service, and a toll-free number.
If you use the coupon code “KNSFINANCIAL25” (with no quotes), you will receive 25% off of your order! So be sure that you sign up for a couple of years in order to take full advantage of this sale (it only applies to new accounts).
Install WordPress – WordPress.org is where you can find the version of WordPress that you can install on your private site. This is the most popular blogging platform (and is also used to create full websites), and it is completely free. They also have tons of plugins, themes, and basic support in order to make your site run as smoothly as possible!
This is the term that describes what the URL (or link) will look like with each blog post. When you first set up your blog using WordPress, it will make the links to your blog posts look like this http://knsfinancial.com/abunchofnumberswhichmeannothingtoyou instead of http://knsfinancial.com/taxes.
Now, which one would you rather deal with? It’s pretty easy to tell what the second one is about, and it is also easy to type, and say.
There are also other benefits, which are beyond the scope of this article.
Decide If It Will Be A Business Or Hobby
When you are thinking about how to start a blog, you need to know this right away. If it is a hobby, then make sure that you keep it fun, light, and don’t allow it to take over your life or your bank account. However, if it is a business, then you can evaluate each purchase on the basis of its value as an investment.
You should organize and present yourself as a business – this may mean spending time and/or money investing in a professional design, using emails from your own domain (instead of Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail), and spending time creating and refining a system of organizing files, contacts, wishlists, etc.
I would also recommend that if you see something that you want to use for your site, but it costs money, you buy it and start using it right away – if it’s worth the investment. Trying to change platforms, especially from a free, under-supported product to a more robust professional one can be a big headache. This is especially try when it comes to building an email list!
Learn/Understand The Basics Of SEO
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. This is the art/science of writing and marketing a website, page, article, or even photo, in such a way that it comes up as one of the first choices when someone uses a search engine and types in the word or words that your item is about.
There is no point in doing all of these other things if no one knows that you are out there. Also, for many websites, the readers that come from search engines tend to be the ones that bring in the largest revenue.
Be Organized & Have Structure
Even if you start out with the idea that this is just a hobby, you need to be organized. Create subfolders in your email inbox, use a task list, share documents over the web so you can keep track of your ideas and other things.
Also, the way that you structure your website – categories, tags, posting schedule, pages – should be organized as well. Your readers will find it much easier to follow your story if you are organized.
Network With Others In Your Niche
The best way to learn about organizing your blog, trends, plugins and other software, affiliate programs, SEO (including targeting the right keywords), tricks, free tools, and everything else related to blogging, is to talk to people who are already doing it. Actually, that is the point of this “Beginner Blogger Challenge” – people who have been doing it, writing tips and lessons learned for the benefit of those who have less experience!
I have “met” – actually I did meet a lot of bloggers in person at the 2011 Financial Blogger Conference – a lot of great people by trying to network. I was amazed to find out that there are more than a dozen Christian personal finance bloggers…I thought I would be alone! I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t started to comment on the one or two blogs that I found, and then started to develop relationships with the writers and other commenters as well.
By networking, you can also find people who can help you with things that are outside of your expertise. I know nothing about coding, but there are quite a number of people who do in the Yakezie network, and so I know where to go when I have coding questions. Whenever there is a subject that I know pretty well, I try to lend my expertise as well – the definition of effective networking!
Part of networking is supporting other bloggers and organizations. The point of doing this isn’t just to see what you can get out of people, but it’s a way for you to extend yourself and help people. Even if it is just giving feedback on a site redesign, the help of other people who are going through (or have already been through) what you are doing is so important.
Be willing to share what you know with others and don’t expect anything in return.
Here are 4 questions that everyone who participated in this “challenge” had to answer…
1) How long have you been blogging?
I have been blogging for about 2 years. I’ve had this site for longer than that, but I didn’t use it for blogging (actually, I’m still not sure if I do now).
I initially started off by posting bulletins and announcements from the IRS, and also adding other information to my tax guide. It took about 4 or 5 months for me to start writing consistently, and also to broaden out my topics to more than just taxes.
2) Why did you start blogging?
I was bothered by all of the people that I came across who knew nothing about personal finance. I started the website as a way to provide organized information that would help people gain control of their finances.
I want people to be able to find answers to their financial questions without having to wade through all of the garbage and attempts to sell something, which flood the internet!
3) How long did it take you to earn $100?
It took about 6 months to earn my first $100. After about a year the income became a little more steady.
I honestly didn’t know that it was possible to make money with a blog or small website, so I was shocked when I found so many people making more online than I do at my day job!
4) What is (at least) one thing you wish someone had told you before you started?
I wish I would have treated this as a business from the very beginning. I would have viewed spending money as making investments, and I would have saved a lot of time and energy, while making a lot more money!
I wasted time by trying to go the cheap route and then upgrade to the better option once I started making enough money. That’s not the way most businesses operate! There needs to be an initial investment in capital and manpower in order to get a business off the ground – the same is true with a blogging business.
photo by digitalart
© 2012, Khaleef Crumbley. All rights reserved.