If you’re wondering if 2020 is too late to start a blog, it’s not!
Starting a blog is like planting a tree. The best time to start was 15 years ago, but the next best time is now!
This post will not only take you through the technical aspects of how to start a blog, but also give you a few tips to grow your audience and loyal readership.
The Mechanics of Starting a Blog
Decide on a topic
The first thing to do to start a blog is decide on what you want to blog about. To be successful, your blog topic should be something:
You have experience in
You’re passionate about
A little research on Google Trends will help you know if there are people out there searching for what you want to write about, and whether you can make money in that space.
The internet is so big, that undoubtedly there is someone writing a blog on the same topic that you are.
So how do you differentiate yourself? By thinking small.
Finding a small niche with less competition is much better than a large, saturated one. You are more likely to earn a strong following with a highly specialized blog because you will attract people looking for precisely what you have to offer.
For instance, you could start a blog about DIY auto repair, but can you really address the desires of all the would-be mechanics looking to repair every make and model of car?
A better topic would be DIY auto repair for vintage Ford Mustangs. Your specialized content will meet the specialized needs of the audience that has the same passion as you do.
Formulate your goals for the blog
Is this just a hobby? Or do you want your blog to generate income? If so, then how?
Knowing what success looks like for you from the get-go will help you make many stylistic and economic choices down the road.
For example, if yours is a hobby blog about raising hedgehogs, you won’t need to drop hundreds of dollars on a custom theme or add a lot of plug-ins to your blog.
However, if you want to monetize the same blog, those purchases might be worth it. Determine what your goals are for your blog, and what you need to achieve them.
Define your target audience
If you aim at too many targets, you will miss them all. That’s why it’s so important to define exactly who your blog is for.
Think about your ideal reader. Is this person male or female? Where do they live? What is their socio-economic background? Are they educated? Do they shop online? How old are they? What do they like? Do they value low cost or quality?
Many bloggers take this one step further and create an avatar for their blog — a fictitious person that represents their ideal blog reader. They write their posts especially for or to this person.
Having character like this in your mind as you write will keep your blog posts relevant to your target market.
Register a domain name
Now that you know what to write and whom you are writing to, it’s time to register a domain name. This is the URL associated with your blog (the letters that come after “www”).
Choose your domain name wisely. It should be something memorable and easy to spell. It’s advisable to stay away from numbers (since they can be in cardinal form or spelled out) and hyphens (since they are easy to forget).
It’s a good idea to incorporate a keyword into your domain name. For example, if you blog is about upcycling thrift store items, a name like www.thriftypicks.com would tell search engines what your blog is about.
If you are stumped, you can use a name generator to come up with some clever names.
But regardless of what name you choose, go for a .com domain if you possibly can. These are becoming harder and harder to get as time goes on, but the vast majority of sites on the internet use a .com domain.
Most people will search for your site under as a .com. So unless the domain is exorbitantly expensive, .com a good bet.
Choose a web hosting company
If your blog is like a house, the domain name is the address, and the web host is the street it’s built on. A web hosting company houses the servers that store the files, images, and code that make up your website.
There are many different web hosting companies to choose from. Don’t be fooled by low introductory pricing. It’s worth shopping around for a quality web host. If your site experiences slow-downs, downtime, or bugs from a cheap, second-rate web host, you could lose readers.
Free backups, high uptime, a user-friendly control panel, and plentiful storage space are key qualities to look for in a hosting provider.
If you choose a web host like Wix or Weebly, you also get a design interface to create your website. These are very easy to use, but most bloggers will outgrow their basic features quickly. If you are planning to blog professionally, it’s probably best to build it on WordPress from the start.
Because of its overwhelmingly customizable options, the majority of blogs use WordPress for their publishing platform. It’s free, it’s open source, and it has a zillion plug-ins.
Your web host may have a button to install WordPress on your blog from the control panel, but just in case it doesn’t, here is a detailed tutorial on how to install WordPress for your blog.
WordPress has a handy dashboard to help you manage your plug-ins, check on site analytics, and manage your posts. It does have a bit of a learning curve, but there are many free tutorials and other resources available to help you get to know WordPress.
Pick a theme
A theme is like a skin for your blog. It is the visual presentation that the end user sees and how also how all the elements are organized.
Don’t worry too much about picking the perfect theme in the beginning. You can change your theme when you want to.
Many bloggers use a free theme provided by their website builder, then upgrade to a customized theme later on.
Plug-ins are the extra bells and whistles that enhance your blog and the user experience. There are hundreds of plug-ins designed to do things like make your blog load faster, help with SEO, and deter spam comments.
Not all plug-ins are created equal, so check the ratings and do your research before you install them. Too many plug-ins can slow your site or even crash your site.
Write your first post
Congratulations! Once you get to this point, your blog is set up and you are ready to write! Creating quality content is one of the most important elements of blogging.
To create a top-notch blog post, make sure you add images, videos, or other visual content to break up the text and engage your readers.
Outline your post before you start writing to ensure it flows well. Run it through a proofreader like Grammarly before you publish.
Use a consistent voice, and be yourself! YOU are what will make your blog stand out from all the others.
How to Grow your Blog Audience
Once you’ve gotten the technical aspects of your blog underway, now the real work begins. Attracting people to your blog and turning them into loyal readers is the lifelong quest of a blogger.
As Google’s algorithm and internet culture are constantly evolving, generating traffic for your blog is a moving target. Although the interations of these will change, here are a few fundamentals on how to grow your blog audience.
Google and other search engines favor blogs that have been around a while and that generate consistent, quality content.
Consistency will also show your readers that you are in the blogging game for the long haul. It establishes you as an authority in your space.
While creating regular content is important, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with posting junk and expect your readers not to see through you.
Respect your readers; they’re not stupid. Only post when you have something valuable to add to their lives. If you can do this, you’ve completed the most important step to creating loyal fans.
Create a network
If you are building almost any other type of business, you avoid the competition. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and there isn’t room for scratching someone else’s back—even if they scratch yours later.
Blogging is different. Networking is the name of the game, and symbiotically working with other bloggers in your niche will drive more traffic to your site and produce more revenue for you than competing.
Tapping into an existing audience is a great way to grow your own. Guest posting for other bloggers or being featured on podcasts is a great way to get you in front of a pre-built audience of listeners—people looking for exactly what you have to offer.
- Networking with other content creators will look different for each blogging niche. Here are some ideas of ways to collaborate with others to grow your own audience:
- Guest post on another blog
- Get featured on a podcast
- Collaborate to make a YouTube video
- Do a live Facebook or Instagram feed with another blogger
- Participate in a blog round-up
- Do a Q & A with another blogger
All your collaborative efforts will likely result in a lot of other sites backlinking to yours, which will boost your search engine rankings.
Sharing others’ content is another great way to have them share yours in the future. Karma is a good practice if you are a blogger.
Search engine optimization
Search engine traffic is the lifeblood of any blog. Make sure that search engines like Google can find your blog and recognize what it’s about and who it’s for by using search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
These can range from putting keywords in the right places to creating code for web spiders to read. Educate yourself on the latest SEO strategies and install a plug-in like Yoast to guide your SEO efforts for your individual posts.
In addition to your SEO plan, it’s a good idea to make sure your site is just as readable on a phone as it is on a computer. Web traffic is shifting more and more to mobile devices, and readers will bounce to another site very quickly if they can’t read yours.
Search engines favor sites that are optimized for mobile, so that’s an extra reason to make sure your site is flexible for a wide range of devices.
Social media platforms and blogging are like peanut butter and jelly; they are pretty much inseparable.
Sharing your latest post to your network is a great way to generate traffic (bonus points if your friends share the link). Sharing your posts to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram also give you links back to your site, which raise your visibility on search engines.
Using appropriate hashtags for your niche within your posts will make you more discoverable on your chosen social media outlet. This is especially important for platforms with advanced search functions like Twitter and Instagram.
Creating catchy images, encouraging conversation, and collaborating with others will boost the traffic to your blog quickly.
Humans have a constant yearning for connection. Increasingly, people find those connections online. Blogs are the perfect venue for connecting small demographic slices of people that might never find each other in the real world.
The internet is so big that even in obscure interests and tiny niches, you can find someone just like you—someone who shares your challenges, goals, and nerdy interests. Connect with these people, and you will gain friends and fans to support you as you share something you love with the world wide web.
Start the conversation by asking for comments in your post, and then replying to each one. Having a two-way conversation with your readers is essential to developing a loyal fan base. What better way to get people to know, like and trust you than to communicate with them on a subject that is meaningful to both of you?