In this start-a-blog guide for beginners, I will walk you through three big steps that help you to build a great, successful online presence through your blog.
- Step one: brainstorm ideas and strategy for your blog
- Step two: set up your blog with technical guides (including comparison between domain and hosting providers and big discounts)
- Step three: grow your blog
When you go to Google and search for the term “start a blog”, it gives out nearly three and a half million result within 0,25 second. Crazy, huh? But let me tell you the truth! Most of websites there give you basic techniques like buying domains and hosting service and then installing your blog with WordPress. It takes you like 15 minutes to finish the whole process. But… what is next?
Oh well, of course you start writing the first post and publish. Voila, you get your blog / website done!
No, it is not the way I recommend you to do!
If you want to take blogging seriously, think it as a business! If you don’t think and plan ahead, making blogging profitable and enjoyable is forever a myth!
Making a blog would be like a business. Before actually registering and setting up your business, you need to have a detailed and good plan on paper, don’t you? A little planning can make you go a long way.
But I am quite sure not all of you guys are familiar with a business plan. Don’t worry! This blogging plan isn’t like a typical business-school business plan. It is made easy for everyone to make it done.
The whole process breaks down into three big steps. Within each steps there are little tasks inside you need to fulfill. Make sure that you finish each step before moving to the next one, in order to get the best result.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Any kind of plan (no matter business plan or blogging plan) should start with brainstorming process. Below is the list of many questions you need to answer one by one. It helps to increase the chance of building a successful blog.
1. Why do you want to start a blog? For fun or for business?
It is really important to define your motivation behind the blog, because motivation is the main key to make you go forward. You want to blog for fun, as a hobby or you want to take it seriously as I said above – think it as a business? What value does your blog bring to yourself, readers or other people? Try to think as honestly as possible!
2. What do you want your blog to be?
Do you want to make your blog a money making machine for you? How much money would you expect to earn and in how long? Try to be specific with the numbers. For example: after 3 months – $100/month, after half a year – $500/month, after a year $1000/year. Tangible facts and figures will make your goals look more realistic and reachable. Besides financial goals, other features such as personal growth, lifestyle goals should be taken into consideration as well.
3. What will make your blog stand out from the crowd?
We all know there are millions of blogs out there and everyday tons of new ones are born. The competition is extremely high. Think of the unique point that make readers come and stay at your blogs instead of others? Also remember that readers don’t care about the launch of one more new blog, they care about the value that blog brings to them. The key here is making difference and creating values.
4. What is the topic of your blog? Make a list of categories and sample post titles.
First of all, it should be the topic that you love to write and you have a good knowledge about. Thus, you will be able to produce compelling and authentic content for your blog. Also one thing to take into consideration is that in long run, you make get a block of what to write. So it is really important to plan ahead your content. Make a list of different categories under your main topic. For each categories, make a list of five to seven topics and also draft briefly content for each topic. This step could be very challenging at first, but in long run it helps you a lot in creating new content for your blog.
5. Learn about “competitors”
Go search for other blogs which are in the same topic range with you. See what you can learn from them and what you should avoid from them. See how you can be different from them. See what you can be inspired from them. Keep in mind that your blog is so new while theirs have been there for a while.
6. Who are your readers?
What kinds of people is your blog aim for? Do they often hang out online? Where do they hang out online the most? (forums, social networks or any other platforms that your ideal target readers often take place in)
7. What kinds of content does your blog offer?
Blogging isn’t just writing posts anymore. It also includes audio, podcast, video, illustration or even e-book, applications, software. Anything that goes. It is important to offer readers a wide range of content so that they are always thrilled by your creativity and enthusiasm.
8. How often do you plan to publish content?
I have seen blogs that produce 2-3 posts/day. That is just crazy right? But they are mostly big blogs which have a big team behind. You just start off so don’t panic. The ideal number is 2-3times/week but of course it all depends on your own circumstances. Just remember that quality over quantity. One small tip is that you set specific days you will post new content (for example, Monday: blogging tips – Wednesday: tutorials – Saturdays: updating news… You got the ideas!) and announce your reader so they would know when to expect for your upcoming posts.
9. How do you plan the blog brand and design?
For those who start blogging as a hobby, it would be a bit too much of thinking about your blog brand. But as I said above, if you want to take it seriously, you gotta think it as a business. Brand is the image your readers have in their minds about you and your business. Think of what image you want your images to perceive. How does your blog design and content cooperate with the brand?
10. What is your budget for your blog?
Starting a blog is basically free, but free tools always limit features that you can use. So it is worth investing a certain amount to make your blog look more professional. The budget would vary depending on your own need and want. But basic fees are for domain and hosting – which cost you around $80-$100/year. I would clarify this in step two. Other costs you make want to take into consideration is design, advertisement and so on. But there are also a lot of high quality free services for this that I will introduce to you later.
11. How will you promote your blog?
Describe all of services, platforms or strategies you will use to promote your blog to your target readers. Keep in mind there are also free and fee-paid tools. Besides usual social media, basic SEO, what other unique technique could be used?
12. How will you communicate with your readers?
Blog commenting is obviously the first method. But don’t make it only one-way commenting. Show care and concern to your readers. Use other social networks to communicate with your readers such as Twitter, Google Plus, Facebook, etc. Email is also a very nice easy way to make it personal. Tips: use mailing services that provides auto-responders to save your time.
13. Ask more
I am sure that twelve upon questions cannot answer all of concern. But I am always here to help. So ask me away! And Google is always the best friend to learn.
Step 2: Set Up Your Blog (Technical Guide)
After you have a concrete content and marketing plan as mentioned above, the next step is to set up your blog. There are both free and paid blogging services you can choose to you. I will list them both and analyze their pros and cons.
So, my advice is “stand on your own feet!”, which means buying your own domain and self-hosting your blog. Below is how:
1. Make a name for your blog and buy a domain
A name for your blog is literally a brand for your business. So, choose wisely.
There are many websites you can choose to buy a domain from. GoDaddy and NameCheap are two biggest leaders in the domain registration market. They both have competitive prices, good reputation and great support.
GoDaddy is slightly more expensive than NameCheap. For example, let’s have a look at one year renewal pricing for a .com domain
- GoDaddy: $14,99/year
- NameCheap: $10,69/year
Beyond competitive prices, what else draws difference between those two biggest domain providers?
- Email: NameCheap is totally free while GoDaddy pushes upsells ranging from $2,99 to $6,99/month
- DNS: GoDaddy has been hacked with DNS while NameCheap hasn’t been.
- WHOIS guard: Again NameCheap is free and GoDaddy charges.
If you have registered domains from another provider, NameCheap makes it easy for you to transfer without fee and a renewal of only $4,99.
So, if you want to make a deal with GoDaddy, grab a domain here for only $2,99.
Or if you choose NameCheap, go here to get a domain for $3,98 with free WHOIS guard
2. Buy a hosting service and install WordPress
Even though GoDaddy and NameCheap both have hosting service, I would recommend you to use other separate hosting providers.
HostGator and BlueHost are big names in hosting services. Have a look at the comparison chart:
Both has pros and cons. It all depends on your personal circumstances to decide which one to go for.
I personally chose HostGator because of all its awesome functions and support. It also provides one click installation for wordpress so you can just create your WordPress blog within a minute. This blog is using HostGator and I’m very pleased with its 24/7 live support. So it doesn’t matter where you are, you can always approach their staff when needed.
The second name that is also very familiar with bloggers all over the world is BlueHost. It’s easy to use with one-click installation and listed on WordPress site as a good WP host. The price is also competitive with $6,95/month for unlimited domains added, unlimited space and 24/7 support. Look on my sidebar to see what BlueHost offers.
3. Beautify your theme with a professional theme
There are tons of free themes you can use. But normally it requires certain coding knowledge if you want to personalize the theme yourself.
If you’re seeking for extra sources to consult from, I’d like to recommend my friend, Trung from Blogging 24h, who has a great article on starting a blog with easy step-by-step guide for any non-techy bloggers!
Step 3: Grow Your Blog
Now everything is basically set up. You can start composing and publishing your first post (using the material you have prepared in the brainstorming step.
These are just basic steps to start off with a new blog. Quite a lot of things to do right!? Yeah I know blogging is hard work. And growing a blog even requires more complicated strategies and plans. You need to increase readership, promote your blog, be active in socializing and all other kind of things. However, my advice is to start from the root: write good content that delivers values to your reader. When you have a solid content base on your blog, start promoting by leaving comments on different blogs, attending conversations on forums or social networks, etc. It doesn’t just help to let the world know about you but also build a great amount of back links for your blog.
Don’t stress yourself yet. It’s a long run race that you just need to go step by step. For now, just cool down and go back to first step and start brainstorming. The key is just to start!
To your success,