If you are thinking about starting a blog for your small business or to follow your personal ambitions, this simple how to start a blog guide will help you take those first steps towards setting up and running your own blog. From planning and setup to creating content and earning money from your blog, I will cover the main elements of setting up a blog and hopefully put you on the road to blogging glory!
When setting up a blog there are many considerations to have, from choosing a technical setup, niche subject, what content to publish and what the blogs core goals will be. Some blogs will be looking to generate money, others will be there to support an existing business / industry and some will focus on individual ambitions / lifestyles. There is really no set-model for what a blog should be and how it should be setup. In fact, the more original and unique the blog is, the better, so keep yourself open to ideas and opportunities.
When Starting A Blog, Have A Plan
Planning will greatly help your journey towards starting your own blog, even if its just a loose general plan at the moment, you'll soon realise that your blog is going to grow and evolve. Planning for change and the variables that new technology, the Internet and social trends will throw at you are all part of your blogs planning.
To help you plan your blogging future try to answer the following questions;
- What will your new blog be about?
- Who would be interested in reading / viewing your blog?
- What sort of media content would work well for your blog (i.e. text, video, photos, downloads etc)?
- What do you want to achieve with your blog, or get out of it? (this could be multi- levelled).
If you can answer most of those, you should have a good idea of what your blog website will be about and what you want to get out of it. Still not sure? Then keep reading, brain storming and looking at other blogs to get ideas towards starting your own blog.
The benefits behind starting a blog; A career in blogging or setting up a blog for your small business can be an exciting project with almost limitless potential and advantages. (Read my Benefits of Blogging for Small Business post to lear more) There are so many ways to slice the blog-pie that your only limitation is your own imagination. Your new blog can be made up of an array of rich media, from text, photos and video to audio, downloads and even apps. You can apply any of these media types to your blog and create your own unique methods in using them.
The purpose of your blog once again is limitless, it can be anything from generating an income to education, corporate, promotion or advertising.
Top Tip: Quality, original content! Make sure your blogs content is of quality, is unique and original to which your audience can relate to.
Things You Might Need To Start Your Blog
With the above now in mind, what do you need to create your blog content?
Here's a list of some hardware and software you might need to help you create your blog content: laptop, computer, tablet, smart phone, GoPro camera, webcam, video camera, SLR camera, Adobe Photoshop, Acrobat Pro DC, video editing software, photo editing software, graphic creation software.
As an example, lets say your blog is about home cooking delicious food. You plan to create videos explaining how to cook great food following various recipes. You'll be using your home kitchen as the setting and you'll edit the videos before publishing.
Your likely to need a video camera, a computer or laptop to record the video on to, then some video editing software to edit the videos before publishing. You may even live stream some of your cookery blogs, so think about your Internet speeds at home and the best way for you to stream video.
Technical Setup Of Your Blog Website
The technical setup of a blog can be daunting, but don't worry it's not that scary. In simple terms you will need a domain name, web hosting, maybe an email address for the blog and ultimately a website. However, sometimes you may not need web hosting and a domain, so check the options available below.
Domain names and website hosting
Domain: You will need a domain name, this is the website address you see in the address bar. It might look like this; www.mynewblog.co.uk. You'll no doubt have a name for your blog or are stuck trying to decide, to help you out go over to UK2.net Domain Search and type in some name ideas you have and see if those domain names are available. You may find some of the good names are already taken, so be creative.
Hosting: Web hosting is the space on the Internet where your website is saved, so everyone in the world can access it. You need this and can usually get it with the same company you buy your domain name with. There are thousands of web hosting companies out there and they each have different prices and packages. Expect to pay £100 or below, per year give or take. Alternatively if your using a website designer to create your blog, they may provide website hosting for you. I build blog websites and provide web hosting, so shout if I can help.
Email: You may choose to have an email address for your blog, in most cases this will come with your domain and or hosting. You can use a gmail or hotmail account if you want, but an email address for your blog will keep things more tidy and professional.
A Website: You will of course need a website, you may already have one and a blog is something you will be added to that existing site. If you are starting from new you have a number of options on how to create your new blog website, so take a look at the list below on how you can do that.
Best Ways To Create A Blog Website
So how do you create the actual blog website that your going to use as the key component to your blogging career? In simple terms there are many ways to create a blog website, you may already have one or have a website that your looking to add a blog to. If your starting fresh and need to design a brand new blog then you have a few options available.
- Option: Hire a website designer who is a bespoke blog website designer.
Summary: While you might assume this is a costly and elaborate approach to creating a blog website, the build quality and originality of your new blog site is likely to far out weigh any of the other options available to you and will give your site a level of detail that is going to work hard for you as your blog grows. A good designer will create your a site exactly as you need it and bring together all the important elements needed within a blog. Your ease of managing the blog will be part of that process and you'll always have someone to go to for support. When speaking to a web designer or website installer, ask if they will use Wordpress as the base platform, because if they do you can do this for free yourself, see my Wordpress option below to see how.
Cost: Anything from £350.
Pros: Truly custom build, should look and feel how you dream of, highly fine tuned for SEO and social media integration, should include Schema blog markup, you'll always own the site, huge flexibility on creative development with your designer, easy to monetise, professional designer to collaborate your blog ambitions with,
Cons: Investment required at start, time required to build,
Setup rating: Easy, will be done for you.
Ease of use rating: Easy, your designer should make editing easy.
- Option: Use Ghost - Dedicated Blog System
Summary: Ghost is a dedicated publishing platform for blogs, magazines and journalism based websites. It focuses on writing and blogging and is said to be clean, intuitive and streamlined. SEO (search engine optimisation) and social media capabilities are built in and is a fast web platform due to how it is built. They offer either a free open source self hosted version of Ghost, or you can subscribe to GhostPro and the Ghost team will install and host the site as well as look after server maintenance, security, system upgrades and provide support.
Cost: Free if self hosted | From $29 per month for a managed hosted service on GhostPro
Cons: Technical skills required to setup the self hosted free version,
Setup rating: Moderate if self hosted | Easy if using GhostPro services as they do it for you
Ease of use rating: Easy
- Option: Medium - Blog Community
Summary: Medium is a blog community, so rather than a blog full of your own content, its a massive blog full of community content. Everyone who's a Medium blogger contributes to the community blog, in whatever niche subject they have. Its focused on writers and is an example of social journalism filled with amateur and professional users. The topics you will find on Medium are wide and varied and makes for some interesting reading. The community aspect helps by that your blog posts are fed into the community and your readers are right there, so some of the hard work is done for you. You can't customise this blog, its really about content rather than a branded blog site building its self. If your looking to make money from your blogging adventure, Medium again has a slightly difference approach. You earn money from claps (which are Likes in Facebook terminology), each clap will earn you a small proportion of that members $5 monthly subscription. The amount varies, but in a nutshell you want lots of people to 'clap' or 'like' your posts and you'll see the rewards. Best to checkout the Medium site and see how it works.
Cost: $5 per month or $50 per year
Pros: No website setup or designing - your ready to write straight off the bat, audience of readers immediately accessible,
Cons: Its not a dedicated blog, no styling or branding of blog post pages, no monetise options outside the Medium platform,
Setup rating: Easy
Ease of use rating: Easy
- Option: Blogger from Google
Summary: Blogger is a simple blogging system from Google, its rather basic and doesn't come with any fancy bells or whistles. Blogger allows you to choose from a few themes and styles, with layout adjustments to adapt the pages to something a little more suitable. Adding new blog posts is pretty easy and you have a standard tool bar for editing text, adding images and embedding videos. Its basic format and ease of use is actually an attraction, you could easily have this up and running with a few posts within the hour. If you want to integrate Google Adsense, to earn money, you first need to qualify for Adsense Partner programs, which usually means you need to establish your blog a little first and following Adsense guidelines to qualify. If my children wanted to create a blog for a school project, I'd probably point them to Blogger because its quick, easy and free.
Pros: Integrates with Google Adsense allowing you to easily monetise your blog, easy to use and setup, simple to add posts, options to add your own domain name via Google,
Cons: Limited in functionality, not recognised as a professional setup,
Setup rating: Easy
Ease of use rating: Easy
- Option: Website Builders - Build your own website
Summary: Website builders like Squarespace, Wix or GoDaddy. These are self build website systems that allow you to create a site yourself through a control panel. If your confident with using web based controls panels you may find this option suitable for you. There are limitations and advantages with self builder website services like these, but in all honesty and experience the most common stumbling block is people spend more time trying to actually create their site than posting blog content and the overall blog idea in some circumstances gets dropped. You may not require a domain and web hosting with some of these services, since they come with the service, so check before you sign up or buy anything.
Its worth noting that with some site builder services that are pay monthly, you may loose your website entirely if you cancel your subscription.
Cost: Anything from free to x-amount per month
Pros: Website system already made for you, often an easy to use interface, expandable website,
Cons: If you cancel your subscription service you could loose your whole website, some builder apps aren't easy to use and many people struggle with the process - its nothing like the adverts where they 'pretend' to build a website easily, some limitations across packages available, some systems won't allow monetisation and showing adverts,
Setup rating: Easy to increasingly Moderate
Ease of use rating: Easy to edging Moderate
- Option: Wordpress.com Hosted Website
Summary: WordPress.com (Note the .com in the domain) is a hosted blog platform from Wordpress themselves. You can sign up for a free account and create your own blog quickly and easily. Wordpress.com do also offer paid subscription plans for more advanced features, some of which are sort of necessary if your taking blogging seriously. If your taking blogging seriously you may quickly out-grow the lower packages and even then may still need a better solution, like a self hosted Wordpress site or a custom designed blog site. There's even an app out there for iPhone and iPads that allows you to update your blog on the go.
Cost: Free for life | or from £36 per year for the 'Personal' package / £84 'Premium' package / £240 'Business' package.
Pros: You don't need web hosting, all security is taken care of, all updates are taken care of,
Cons: Each package has limitations, especially the free package which only gives you the basics and does not include a domain name. You can't monetise or remove Wordpress ads from the 'Free' or 'Personal' packages, some limitations on storage space across packages,
Setup rating: Easy
Ease of use rating: Easy
- Option: Self Hosted Wordpress Website
Summary: Wordpress.org (note the .org), is a self hosted version of Wordpress but with all the extended features. This is really the mother of Wordpress that comes with everything and gives you a wide range of capabilities. If you buy your own web hosting, there's a 98% chance that your web hosting comes with Wordpress.org ready to be installed, just click on the "1 click install" button and the whole website is setup for you in a few minutes. Just login and start setting up your WordPress based website blog. There are millions of videos on YouTube on how to setup your wordpress website, and from your control panel you can install many add-on features and custom styles to the site.
While many of these things are great, WordPress does come with draw backs. One of which is that there is an army of hackers all over the world trying to hack WordPress based websites, every minute of every day. There are security apps within WordPress that help prevent this, but if your unfamiliar with how to ensure your site is cyber secure you may be more vulnerable to a cyber attack. Wordpress also auto updates its core system and come plugins, while this is great, if something goes wrong you'll be relying on your backup to restore your blog website. Wordpress based websites and blogs demand maintenance, regardless of any automation already in place. The system can do a lot, but it can be difficult to find your way around and learn how to do specific things.
Cost: Free | Unless you pay a Web Designer to press 'Install' for you (est from £450+).
Pros: If you buy web hosting from a modern provider WordPress is probably just a 1-click button install away, lots of free and for sale themes available, many plugin features that add functionality,
Cons: Maintenance heavy despite auto-update features, will need a regular backup system in place, the most targeted website platform for hackers, can leave you calling a professional for help when something goes wrong, comment spam heaven unless you use a dedicated plugin,
Setup rating: Easy
Ease of use rating: Easy
What Will Your Blog Do For You?
Having clear goals with your blog is really quite important, even if these change over time it will give you a focus when setting up a blog and help you steer your blogging future. A blog can help you achieve many things, from generating traffic, promoting products or services, earning money from commission based endorsements. There are also hidden benefits you may not be aware of, such as using a blog to extend your website reach across the Internet, or to influence an industry or help build consumer confidence in the services or products you sell. It does not have to be about direct sales or commission, it can simply be about support an existing entity. There are so many possibilities with a blog, here are just some examples of what you can do;
- Monetise your blog and earn money
- Display click based adverts and earn commission on every ad click your site generates (i.e. Google Adsense).
- Use affiliate links to products on eBay or Amazon and earn commission on any purchases your site refers.
- Link to relevant third party services on the web that offer affiliate opportunities, and again earn commissions.
- Display adverts or banners from relevant businesses and charge them either a monthly or yearly fee.
- Sell digital products such as downloads.
- Earn from video blogging, i.e. having a YouTube channel and earning for every 1000 views.
- Sell memberships online.
- Ask for "buy me a coffee" donations, where users buy you a virtual coffee to thank you for the great content you publish, see www.ko-fi.com.
- Support your existing business
- Build customer trust by using a blog to inform and educate people about what you do.
- Promote your services in-directly through your blog (i.e. a blog about domestic cleaning tips, and your business is a commercial cleaning company).
- Use a blog for your content marketing strategy.
- Support an event that your business is involved in (such as an awards event).
- Gain exposure across the web & gain traffic
- Support your industry and endorse your business throughout the blog.
- Build interest for your industry and bring customers to a point on the web for information.
- Tap into new traffic streams with a varied blog that brings visitors to you.
- Build brand awareness and status for your industry.
- Raise your websites profile by encouraging other sites to link to your blog, which helps your search engine placements.
- Help others with advice, support & a community spirit
- Help others by giving advice, support and tips on a topic your familiar with.
- Build a community of support by using commenting systems where the community of readers are very involved in the life of the blog.
- Ask for donations to help support your blog.
I hope this has given you a wealth of ideas about starting a blog. Don't be afraid to experiment or put your own spin on things, most of all however don't hold back on the idea, just go for it and be passionate about it.