You’ve thought about it and you’re finally ready. Now all you need to know is how to start a blog. Simple, right?
Starting a blog CAN be that simple. But you can also find conflicting advice, an overwhelming amount of information, and may stall out before you start. Now that I’ve been a blogger for 11 years, I have a pretty good understanding of the current landscape (especially compared to where we’ve been), common mistakes, and what it really takes to be successful.
You ready for this? Let’s dive in.
Note! This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, purchases you make through my recommendation may give me a commission.
How to Start a Blog the Right Way
I’m starting at the end because I always think it helps to look forward. You need to define what success is to YOU. This matters as you start, even though you can (and should) revise it as you go. Does success look like making a part-time income? A full-time income? Does it look like having an outlet for your writing? Does it look like providing tips and encouragement to your readers? Is success indicated by a certain number of pageviews a month?
With your overarching goal in mind, you can have better success from the start. I have reevaluated this more times than I can count. Once a year is probably a good frequency to think about this. But think about what success means to YOU. Not someone else. Write it down. It will help you make a lot of other decisions along the way. If nothing else, you need to decide if you are blogging for PERSONAL reasons or PROFESSIONAL. That’s probably the most important distinction you’ll make.
Many people don’t think about this step at first. But it’s THE most important one you’ll take. Don’t miss it!
Own Your Blog.
There are many free platforms out there. For the first eight years I was on blogger. (You can still find my old blog archives there!) There is nothing wrong with starting at blogger or wordpress.com with a free blog. Especially if your goals are more personal.
If you want to run ads on your site, you’ll either need to move to wordpress.org or you can stay on blogger. Here is a rundown of why you might choose blogger vs wordpress. The super confusing part comes between wordpress.com and wordpress.org. The important thing to remember is that .org is self-hosted, which means you have complete control.
No matter which you choose, it’s worth it to get your own dot com. Whether that’s your name (a good choice if you’re planning to be an author) or a name you choose for a blog. Something that confused me at the beginning was the fact that owning the domain name– the .com– is separate from the hosting cost. (Read more about that here.) While I tend to use GoDaddy for the prices (save even more by looking for a code on Retail Me Not), I use Bluehost for my hosting. They run two of my sites and a landing page on their cloud service. For larger sites, you may want something larger.
To sum up, as much as possible, own your content. Own your site name. Don’t skimp on something like hosting because it really matters.
This blog, as you probably have guessed, is not super focused. The post before this was a recipe. The post before that was about parenting. Now I’m talking about blogging. This is known most commonly as a lifestyle blog. (I call it eclectic chaos, but that’s not really catching on.) I made this choice intentionally because I want to talk about All The Things.
But this makes it harder. People who come for recipes may not care about my kids. People who come for my family posts don’t want to read about how to start a blog. The only real consistent thing is me. MY voice. MY story. MY perspective. That’s important to me, but it may mean that I never have the growth of some big bloggers.
Choose a niche. The narrower the better. What do you love to write about? What are you interested in? What were those goals again from part one where we defined success?
Niching down can help you find a more consistent and engaged audience. Your vision and purpose and content are clear. If you want to be more all over the place like me, find a common thread. Your voice is a great common thread. But it may be more topical or thematic. Just [say it with me] be intentional.
I think being strategic and intentional is important along every step, if possible. From the defining success and choosing where you set up roots based on that to thinking about what you’ll write an how often, planning is key. I have an entire totally free blog planner that you can download and print out for free to help you with this. Get that HERE!
You can also get a plugin for WordPress like the editorial calendar. I don’t use it because it’s not my style. I have a plugin in my head, I’ll guess. Find what works for you. Then do that. But DO be intentional about it. Consistency is key, even if it’s once a week.
When I first started blogging, you just wrote things. You didn’t think about how to start a blog. You just did it. And people came to read. Who knows how they got to you, but they did. It was kind of like the movie Field of Dreams— if you blogged it, they would come. Not so much anymore.
Now it takes a village to grow a blog. The village is social media, where you share your posts. It’s blogging communities, where you learn and grow and share and support one another. A great one is Blogging with Becky and Paula, which has beginning bloggers and vets alike. My Create If Writing group is small but big on community and I’d love to have you there!
You don’t want to fall into the trap of ONLY connecting with bloggers, of course. That’s tempting and easy. You want to connect with the people who come read your blog. Which means you want to make it inviting for people to connect through comments, your email list, and wherever you really hang out on social media. Invite them in. Be personable. Make connections.
Maybe you’re reading this as a blogger who has already started, wondering if you’re doing it right. Or maybe you just needed a good ol’ shove in the right direction or to get out of a slump. Here’s the thing: you’re never done learning. I think now, 11 years in, I’m learning more than I ever did in the first days. I’m more aware now of how much there is to learn.
Blogging groups are (again) a great place for this. There are conferences all over the place. The Blog Elevated Conference was my first and is a well-price option in Houston, a city easy to fly into. You might find local groups nearby.
You can also learn a ton online. Podcasts (like mine!) or blogs or webinars or online conferences can be amazing tools, many of them totally free.
Like I said in the last point, you don’t get finished. You’ll need to reevaluate success and your goals. You’ll need to connect with new readers and new blogging buddies. You’ll need to see what’s working and plan your content accordingly. And you’ll always need to keep learning.
This was a long post, so you need a recap? Me, too.
How to Start a Blog
- Define Success – your long-term goals & measure of achievement
- Own Your Blog – domain name & hosting
- Niche Down – choose a central focus
- Plan Content – be intentional with the type & frequency
- Connect – with other bloggers & your readers
- Learn Stuff – keep growing your skill set
- Repeat – circle back around again and again
What did I miss? What are things you wish YOU knew when starting your blog? What tips are most helpful for you if you’re just starting out? Let me know in the comments!