One of the most common questions I get next to “how do you make money” is “how do you start a blog”. A lot of people think it’s super easy, which it can be! But if you want it to be a blog that’s a business, it’s going to take a bit more effort than just signing up for a free blog and writing some posts. That’s how I started, and a lot of us many years ago when blogging first took off nearly a decade ago. But now, people start a blog with real intention, a full brand if you will, from the start.
Mine was most definitely not and that’s fine. It turned into a full business for me years down the road. Which is so exciting and makes me pinch myself daily. How did I get so lucky to find myself in an industry like this that allows me to be creative and make my own schedule? It’s amazing! It’s also definitely not all fun and games, it IS work! But if I were to start one today I’d attack it much differently as I first did in 2011. And that’s what today’s post is for. This is how to start a blog in 2020 now that the industry has been established. And now that there are so many resources at your fingertips
How To Start A Blog
Here’s the thing with starting a blog. It can take little effort and cost you nothing with free themes and platforms to sign up for. You can totally do that. And you actually have nothing to lose. I personally wouldn’t recommend going this route if you’d like to be more on the professional side. So if you want to take it more seriously, I’d recommend following these steps. They may take a little more time, but you’ll be setting yourself up for success.
Choose A Name For Your Blog
Easier said than done, I’ll admit that one. Coming from someone who still HATES the name of their blog and is currently going through a potential name change. But spend some time coming up with a name. It can help to answer some branding questions that you want to accomplish with your site and brand to start to narrow things down.
Narrow Down A Topic, Niche or Angle
It’s important to choose a topic or niche that you’ll cover for your blog. Having a good angle that you can always relate your content back to is key for success and also key to consistency. It can be a bit broader like mine which is to provide practical tips for a more put-together life. A few other more broad topics may be a food blog, or a decor blog. Or you can be more specific and hone in on those topics like petite fashion, Keto recipes, DIY decor blog, and so on. Having a niche or angle will help to guide your topics so that they all work together and make you the expert in it.
You also don’t HAVE to find a specific niche, it can just be helpful. You can also just be honest and let your personality shine through, which is what a lot of us did back in the day. But sticking to your true voice and being honest can almost be your niche and you can totally make that work. Be authentic, and be you!
Get Your Domain
Now that you figured out a name, head on over to SiteGround (my preferred host and domain service) to secure your domain. A domain is the URL of your website. Mine is mystylevita.com. It’s super affordable, usually $15 a year to secure this. I also recommend adding on the HTTPS security as Google favors secure sites over non-secure ones. This is also where you’ll host your blog!
Set Up Your Website
Step One – Choose A Hosting Platform
Again, I recommend using SiteGround to host your blog on. I also highly encourage bloggers to use WordPress for your website as well. It’s the most user-friendly and SEO friendly. Get started with WordPress, your domain and also Cloudflare which helps to speed up your site all on SiteGround. It’s ideal to have it in one spot making it much easier to identify and deal with issues you may ever run into (and trust me you will, it’s just the way it goes).
Step Two – Get A Pre-Made Blog Template
Sure you can spend a few hundred or thousands by hiring someone to design your blog, but to start a blog today you don’t really need to. There are plenty of incredible pre-made WordPress themes and templates that are professional, well made and are absolutely beautiful. I like to think so since mine is simply an affordable pre-made template! I use Empress Themes and absolutely love them. You can discover a few more here.
Step Three – Get To Work!
Setting up your theme is also super easy. You can bring in your brand colors and fonts, add your social media and even come up with a pop up with an opt-in freebie to start building your email marketing. Be sure to include any social media handles and write a great about page. Then begin writing some content!
Create Ways To Monetize It
Once you started a blog, you can begin to monetize it. From as simple as fill ads from Google AdSense, to affiliate links through rewardStyle and LikeToKnow.it or ShopStyleCollective. If you just started and want a referral to either of these platforms, shoot me an email! Once you build a following you can start working with brands. More on how to make money from blogging here!
Start Creating Content
Now that your site is set up, you want to create content! Start writing helpful posts that provide value to your readers. Even if no one’s reading them, someone MIGHT eventually find it and you want that content to be helpful.
Tips For Creating A Successful Blog
Choosing Topics You’re Interested In
By choosing topics you really enjoy and are interested in, this will rarely feel like work. It’ll also allow you to become the expert which is key to a successful blog.
Show Passion & Commitment
When you show passion and commitment to your brand and the topics you write about, you become an authority in those topics. It will show through in the way you write and the type of content you publish. If you lack a commitment to not only your blog, but your brand, you may lose your voice and vision which will be very easy to spot from a follower or brand checking out your content.
I hate to break it to you, but building a successful blog takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. And if it does, it’s super rare. If you have a full-time job and are doing this on the side, it’s totally possible to invest the time and energy to grow and build your blog. Just create good consistent, valuable content, and work on building and engaging a community. You’ll know it’s time to leave your day job when your blog business is starting to make as much money as your job (or at least enough to live off of) and is requiring more of your time and energy than you can commit to it.
I personally worked a corporate day job, a side job as a cocktail waitress AND worked on my blog. It’s totally possible to do but you have to be passionate about it to withstand the long hours and the slow growth.
I can’t stress this enough, PROVIDE VALUE. Whether it’s how to do something better, how to make a recipe, and anything in between. Be a source of information and value. This not only goes for building a successful blog and readership but also goes back to SEO (search engine optimization). Google likes it when you help answer questions for people searching. And if your posts are just a roundup of your vacation outfits from Instagram, no one is getting value from that.
Create A User Friendly Site
It can be tempting to add a ton of bells and whistles to your site. I know I’m guilty of wanting to switch things up all the time. But in all seriousness, the thing that really matters is a user-friendly site. And one that’s also mobile responsive. Most people reading a blog aren’t bloggers or even website savvy. So make sure your blog posts are easy to find and easy to read. The same goes for easy to find categories and topics that may also interest them.
A few things I think ALL sites should have (and any good pre-made theme will have this) is mobile responsiveness, a related posts section at the end of posts and an easy to find search tool. I’d also highly encourage any blogger to ensure their hyperlinked text is a color that’s easy to see and stands out. Other than that, the rest is not super important.
Make Commenting Easy
There’s nothing worse than getting to a site to ask a question or even just leave a comment for “thanks I loved this post” is the inability to comment very easily. I’ve found Squarespace sites to be a HUGE problem with this one. Users should be able to easily comment should they have any questions, or want to engage with your post. It’s an essential way to build a community.
Utilize Tags And Categories
Tags and categories within a blog are an ideal way to organize your content. Categories are the main topics of your blog. For mine, they’re the ones you see in my navigation. Style, Living, Travel, plus the sub-categories, Travel Style, Style Tips, Blogging Tips. Then you have tags which is kind of like an index for your site. I use tags on posts to further clarify what’s in the post like brands I’m wearing, or ingredients in a recipe. This can make it easy to share all recipes that include tequila for National Tequila Day, or Madewell if Madewell is having a sale. It’s also typically how related posts are deciphered, or how sections on your homepage are organized depending on your theme.
How To Promote Your Blog
Now that you have a blog and some blog posts, it’s time to start promoting it to drive traffic. Traffic means more pageviews, which means more ad revenue, and more affiliate income. And eventually, an opportunity to charge brands for utilizing your platform.
I love using social media to promote my blog. Each platform has different uses and needs. On Pinterest, I like to create additional pins for Pinterest and utilize Tailwind to grow my traffic. You can check out my BIG Pinterest post here on how to grow your referral traffic. If you’re not on Pinterest, you’re missing out!
For Instagram, I create specific Instagram Stories and plan out a feed to coincide with my editorial calendar. And on Facebook, I like to share past posts and recently launched a Facebook Group (you can join here!).
It’s important to start a newsletter because they typically convert well and you OWN the list. Unlike social media which can change on a dime, or just go away altogether. You can check out my big newsletter post here and why I love Flodesk. Plus, half off your subscription! Newsletters are a great way to provide additional value and content for your readers. I personally do a recap each week of blog posts in addition to exclusive content to make it worthwhile.