Blogs have become a central part of modern literature. They are rapidly
#1. The Basics of Blogging
All blogs should start with a purpose. You must have a good idea of why you’re writing.
Blogs serve a wide range of purposes for writers and readers alike. The most common motivations for blogging include:
- Exchanging Ideas– Blogs allow you to spread ideas. You can discuss any issue with others all over the world. Blogging helps you develop a more informed and nuanced view of global issues.
- Practicing Prose– Blogs provide feedback for prospective authors. Over time, you can improve your prose in response to readers’ reviews.
- Building Portfolios– Prospective journalists and other writers need writing samples when they apply for jobs. A well-tended blog makes a great first impression on employers.
- Changing the World– You can use a blog to raise awareness of causes you care about. Anyone in the world can read your concerns, making it easier to achieve social change.
- Making Money– If you develop a large following, companies will pay you money to advertise on your blog. You can also use the blog to sell your own products and services.
Many have the writing skills to create a blog. Many also have good ideas worth sharing. Yet few people turn their skills and ideas into a successful blog.
Potential bloggers often lack technical computer skills. They have a passion for writing and know what they want to talk about. Yet they think they need technical skills to blog successfully. WordPress makes these technical skills unnecessary. It is now easier than ever to start blogging.
If you have good ideas, there’s no need to put your writing on hold. Just learn how to start a WordPress blog and you’ll be good to go.
Before you create a WordPress blog, you must answer the following questions:
- What do I want to write about? Answer as specifically as possible. Specific themes make it easier to come up with posts.
- Who is my audience? Different topics will appeal to different audiences. Your audience should also inform your style of writing and choice of words.
- How much time can I spend on blogging? Figure out ahead of time how often you’ll be able to post. It doesn’t have to be every day. But readers will lose interest if they can’t expect regular updates.
Try writing a few articles on your computer before you set up the blog. This will tell you whether you enjoy writing on the subject. You can also post these articles in the future during busy weeks.
Once you know what your blog will be, you can move on to:
#2. Setting Up the Site
To set up a blog, you must choose three things: a platform, a theme, and a hosting option.
Choosing the right platform is crucial. It affects how many people will see your blog. It also determines what options you will have to configure and update the blog. Make sure to have a platform in mind from the very beginning.
We recommend that you choose WordPress as your platform. It offers thousands of themes and tens of thousands of plugins. You’ll have endless options to configure and re-configure your blog.
WordPress is also by far the most popular platform. Nearly half of all bloggers use some form of it. This makes it easier to network and collaborate with other writers.
WordPress offers both free hosting and self-hosting services. This makes it easier to transition to self-hosting if you start out with free hosting.
Other platforms are ideal only for certain forms of blogging. Take Tumblr: it’s great if your main goal is to reblog and comment on others’ posts. You can’t beat WordPress, however, for long-form blogging.
Some bloggers choose to host their own blogs. Others place them on websites that are already established. To make this decision, consider:
- Cost– Hosting your blog on an established site is free. Hosting it yourself usually costs between $5 and $10 per month. You may also have to pay for a domain name.
- Revenues– It is possible to make money hosting your blog elsewhere. But self-hosting gives you more flexibility in advertising. This allows you to attain higher earnings.
- Skills– Self-hosting requires at least basic technical skills. If you host on another website, that website will take care of your technical needs.
- Domain– Self-hosting gives you your own domain name. If you host on another site, you’ll have to include that site’s name in the URL.
Some bloggers start out hosting their blogs on other sites. They wait until they develop large numbers of readers. They then transition to self-hosting.
Transitioning can be good business. While your blog is small, you won’t pay a cent. You only pay when you have enough readers to earn money. Transitioning to self-hosting is not without costs. Your site will be down during the transition. Readers may not see the new URL. You could end up losing readers as a result.
If you decide to self-host, you must decide on a hosting service. Your options include:
- WordPress Engine– This costs $29 a month. You can transfer as much data as you want. You also receive data backups and scanning for malware. It lacks many crucial services, however, including email, domain names, and chat-based tech support.
- Bluehost– For roughly $3.50 a month, you’ll receive non-stop customer support. You also get a myriad of add-ons and configurations. You will, however, have to frequently install new programs in order to use your website.
- Synthesis– This service ranges in cost from $47 per month to $147, depending on the number of daily page views. It loads sites quickly but lacks many crucial features.
- SiteGround– This costs about $4 a month to use with WordPress. It provides great customer service and automatic backups, but little bandwidth or storage area.
- iPage– This is one of the least expensive hosting services on the market. It costs about $2.50 a month for self-hosting. Unlike most services, it does not charge extra for a domain name. Check out our review of iPage for more information.
You do not have to use WordPress Engine for self-hosting in order to use WordPress as a platform.
Once you choose a self-hosting service, you must pick a domain name. This refers to your URL. The best domain names are unique but easy-to-remember.
As with hosting, you can choose free themes or pay for others. Buying a theme gives you more options for customization. Our site uses the Parallax Pro version of the Genesis theme. We have heavily customized it to appeal to our readers. Genesis provides a wide range of options and great customer support.
Other themes include:
- Thesis– Thesis has more hook options than most other themes. It also has convenient tutorials. However, it has fewer ready-to-use designs than Thesis.
- Reader– This free theme provides an attractive platform for simple writing blogs.
- Ink– Designed for WordPress, this theme focuses on visual storytelling. It is ideal for blogs that make heavy use of photos.
- ReadMe– This WordPress theme is designed to make wordy articles as easy and intuitive to read as possible.
No one theme is perfect for every blog. Your theme should match your blog’s topics and intended audience. As with hosting, you may change the theme over time, though this may cost you, readers.
#3. Working with WordPress
WordPress is a highly intuitive program. You shouldn’t have much trouble installing or using it. Nonetheless, you are less likely to make mistakes if you don’t first understand how to:
Set It Up
To set up a WordPress blog, first, choose a hosting package that is compatible with WordPress. Make sure that the hosting company can offer the features you want on WordPress specifically.
It is especially crucial for your host to offer enough storage space. Also, make sure it accommodates large numbers of viewers.
Purchase the hosting service and domain name. You will be linked directly to a “cPanel.” This contains everything associated with your hosting package.
Click on “Install WordPress” and enter all relevant information. A URL will pop up. This will link you to the page where you can write blog posts and modify your account.
The last step in setting up WordPress is to select a theme. Go to the aforementioned URL and click on “Appearances.” From here, you can search for your desired theme.
Many bloggers play WordPress by ear. It is not hard to figure out the site’s workings by yourself. But you may miss some of the more specific features if you don’t have a proper tutorial.
WordPress offers a series of tutorial videos explaining your options for your blog. They cover everything form audio to images to videos to all other major blogging features. There are 23 videos in total; it is more than worth your time to watch all of them.
You must create a WordPress Beginner account to access these videos. The account is free, and you do not have to hand over sensitive personal information. WordPress also provides a free glossary. This contains all major terms associated with the site. You can consult it whenever you have trouble using your WordPress account.
We recommend that you skim through the glossary before you begin using WordPress. Read the definitions of all terms you don’t recognize. This will help you to avoid mistakes from the beginning.
Once you know the basic tools, look into plugins. When used properly, plugins make your site more user-friendly. This, in turn, makes it more profitable and more attractive.
WordPress users have access to 32,000 free plugins. These are highly useful if you know what you’re looking for. If you don’t have prior experience with plugins, however, you may have trouble getting started.
WordPress provides an official plugin guide. It covers how to search for and compare plugins.
Past customer reviews are key when choosing plugins. Customers rate plugins on a 1 to 5 scale. If any customer gave a plugin a rating below 4, find out why before you install.
Throughout all of these changes, keep an eye on your theme. A theme that worked well originally might not be right after you’ve added plugins or modified the site. Consider changing the theme if users begin complaining that the site is not convenient.
#4. Configuration Concerns
Configuration improves your blog’s performance and helps you maintain control. Thus as soon as you start to build a WordPress blog, make sure to configure:
WordPress’s default language is English. If that’s not your native language, change it at the start. Even if you’re fluent in English, selecting your native language will help you fix problems more quickly.
WordPress is available in most major languages. Translation teams are currently adding unavailable languages and updating languages with incomplete translations.
With WordPress 3.0, you can use up to 8 security keys. Each includes a unique phrase that can be used to authenticate you. Configure all 8 as soon as you start your blog.
WordPress offers a device that randomly generates security key phrases. Using this device is often safer than making up your own keys.
Make sure to clearly configure the links for every one of your site’s pages. This will lower the number of queries that are sent to the database to find specific pages. Fewer queries speed up your site and reduce performance issues.
WordPress is configured to automatically save your blog posts every minute. Users often feel that this is unnecessary. Many worry that it slows down the writing process without contributing much.
You can configure WordPress to save however frequently or infrequently you want. You can also turn off auto-save completely if you do not want it.
#5. Beginning to Blog
How you blog will depend on what you want to blog about. At the start of your blogging career, however, you should practice:
Pick a precise topic for your first few months. It should be in the news and already attracting lots of attention. This will make your blog focused and topical.
Keep writing on that specific topic until you develop a big reader base. A good rule of thumb is that 100 or more people should read each post. Then you can branch out to other, related topics.
Say you’re writing about the health care industry. Start out writing about the Affordable Care Act’s effects on consumers. Once you have lots of readers, you can write about other health care issues.
Failing to stick to one topic early on confuses readers. They should be able to know what to expect from your blog. Otherwise, they won’t come back to it. At the same time, don’t stick to one topic for too long. Sooner or later, readers will expect something different. Variety is the key to long-term success in blogging.
Make sure to post at least once a week from the beginning. Posting less frequently than this will cause users to forget about you. Once a week is often enough to hold attention.
At the same time, don’t post more than once a day. Readers should be able to keep up with all your posts. Otherwise, they won’t follow you at all.
Try to post on the same day or days each week. Readers who like your writing will want to know when they can expect more. You want your site to become part of their routine.
Blog Post Brevity
Readers have limited time. They will only invest in reading a long blog post if they trust the author. You can’t expect them to do this the first time they find your site.
Try to keep early posts to under 300 words. Break up the content you have with pictures and audio files whenever possible. Posts should be short and easy to scan. This will make more people willing to read them.
Even once you have a big readership, keep long posts to a minimum. Only devote more than 600 words to a post if your readers have requested a topic. Watch the comment section to see which topics spark discussions.
Even loyal readers don’t want to waste too much time on your blog. If they show prior interest in a topic, however, they will be more likely to invest in a long post.
Plan out your posts in advance as soon as you start blogging. Know the topics of your articles as far ahead of time as possible. This makes it easier to post on time.
Planning ahead also helps you transition between topics naturally. You should know how each week’s blog posts relate to last week’s and will relate to next week’s. This prevents readers from becoming confused.
Planned posts should never be set in stone. Readers may comment on your blog and express interest in a particular topic. It’s a good idea to write on that topic soon, even if you didn’t plan to before.
#6. Pulling in Publicity
Never underestimate the importance of marketing. However well-written your blog is, it won’t do any good if no one knows about it. Effective marketing requires:
Search Engine Optimization, or
WordPress provides a plugin for new bloggers to improve SEO. It will help you select the best keywords and other features to publicize your site. It will also provide a preview of Google search results.
It is also important to use internal links. Each new post should link to some other page on your blog. This improves your rank on Google and other search engines.
Some bloggers purchase links on other websites, but this is a mistake. Search engines can tell whether links are natural. Buying a link will actually hurt your site’s
Established bloggers can link their readers to you. This provides instant publicity. To benefit from this early on, you have to convince other bloggers to value your site.
Engaging with other bloggers’ articles will increase their interest in yours. Try re-blogging their posts. Make sure to provide proper credit and your own commentary.
Bloggers who see you re-blog their posts may return the favor. Reward such bloggers with more links on your own site. If you honor other bloggers from the beginning, it won’t take you long to achieve popularity.
You can also link to multiple sites at once. “Top 5” and “Top 10” lists are a great way to reach out to multiple potential partners.
Re-blogging provides a quick way to come up with the content on busy weeks. But you should never rely entirely on re-blogging. You must provide original content regularly to seem legitimate.
Managing Social Media
Posts on Twitter and Facebook can reach thousands of people in an instant. This can provide a regular stream of readers if done correctly. Use it early on to quickly achieve a large following.
When you start your blog, create Twitter, Facebook, and other social media accounts for it. Post all new articles on those accounts as soon as they come out. Provide a brief description tailored for each specific medium.
Twitter descriptions should be less than 120 characters long. This provides room for links. Facebook descriptions should be less than 25 words long.
Always engage with current readers who leave comments. Answer their questions and recognize helpful or interesting statements. Do this on the blog itself as well as on social media posts.
Readers want to feel valued. If you respond to their comments, they will see your blog as something tailored to them. If you don’t, they will quickly lose interest.
#7. Cash Considerations
Even if you didn’t create a blog to make money, try to earn some. Money makes it easier to devote more time to blogging. You can profit from your blogs through:
Advertising is the simplest way to make money blogging. As your blog gains followers, companies will pay to advertise on it.
Different advertising services will pay you in different ways. The most common services pay based on:
- Clicks– The more of your readers click on the ad, the more money you receive.
- Acquisition– Readers must not only click on the ads but buy a product or take some other action.
- Impressions– You get paid for every time an ad loads for a customer.
- Sponsorships– You can sell ads for a flat fee.
- Reviews– Companies pay you to review their services or products. Legally, you must disclose that you are being paid during the review.
- Links– Companies will pay you to link to their sites. This is not an advisable form of advertising, as it will hurt your
If you plan to advertise, take regular surveys of your readers as soon as you launch the blog. Advertisers focus on specific markets. The sooner you understand your readers, the sooner you can find advertisers who are willing to work with you.
Gathering data on your readers is also good for your blog. You don’t want advertisers promoting products that have nothing to do with your posts. This will confuse readers.
Tell advertisers as much as possible about your blog’s topics and readers. This will attract companies with products relevant to your blog.
Many bloggers create an advertising page on their sites. Such pages explain the theme of the blog and reader demographics. They help companies understand how best to advertise there.
If you plan to sell products through your blog, decide what to sell from the beginning. This will allow you to tailor the blog to the products and vice-versa. Unrelated products will just confuse readers.
One common tactic is to write an e-book related to your articles. You can post the opening chapter on the blog and charge readers to download the rest. Make sure to start writing the book at the same time you set up your blog so you can keep the two connected.
You can also tailor your skills to the blog’s topics. Say you can carve wood figurines and have a wildlife blog. Try carving figurines in the shape of the animals you write about.
You can also sell services through your blog. Say your blog is about learning languages. You teach classes over Skype for an hourly fee.
WordPress’s eCommerce feature allows you to make secure payments through your blog. Set this up as soon as you create the blog if you plan to sell things.
Maintaining a blog is just as challenging as starting one. Even the best writers need regular advice and support.