How to Start a Blog in 2017

How to Start a Blog in 2017

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There are millions upon millions of blogs in the world. If you’ve finally decided to take the opportunity to earn some extra income by blogging, this is the post for you. My goal today is to explain the critical steps necessary to getting off to a strong start in the blogging world

I’m relatively new to the blogging world. I didn’t start until late 2015. At that time, my blog wasn’t about making money, but more about documenting my experiences as a dad of 4 kids. As I slowly got acquainted to the blogging world, I quickly began to realize that I needed to do more than just write.

Why Start A Blog in 2017?

There are many reasons you would want to start a blog. Here are a few of those:

  • Make money – Most people start a blog as a way to earn a full-time income, or to supplement existing income.  Blogging has a very low startup cost and the level of knowledge needed to succeed is relatively low. This doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. Running a blog is hard work and takes a lot of time and effort.
  • Promote your business – If you already have a business, starting a blog is a great way to promote the business and connect with your clients.
  • Connect with others – Blogging is a fantastic way to build common ground, touch lives, and form communities of like-minded individuals. I can’t tell you how valuable the new connections I’ve made are to the success of my blog.

Steps to get up and running today

Here are the main topics we’ll touch on today.  After reading these steps, you should be able to have your blog up and running within minutes.

  1. Determine your subject matter
  2. Decide on a platform
  3. Choose a web hosting provider
  4. Find a creative domain name
  5. Choose a theme
  6. Write your first post
  7. Share your posts
  8. Incorporate affiliate links
  9. Continuously improve

Determine your subject matter

The very first step in starting a blog is figuring out what you are going to write about.  I don’t care if you are the most popular person in the world, if you write about lame and boring topics, no one is going to waste time reading what you have to say. You must choose what you are going to focus on before you move any further in the process, because the theme and domain name of your blog will depend on this. My blog, Go Ask Your Daddy, focuses on several topics that I know a lot about – blogging tools and tips, parenting tips from a dad’s perspective, and the Catholic faith.

You need to do a lot of research before you decide on your niche. Find out what subject matter does well. Know your audience – who are you talking to?  My blog caters to several types of audiences. For the blogging tips, it caters to just about anyone curious about starting and promoting a blog.  I’ve found that mostly women between the ages of 25-35 are interested in what I have to say on parenting topics. The key to succeeding in your niche is knowing who you are gearing your content to, and catering your posts to them.

Decide on a blogging platform

Okay, so you’ve chosen your niche.  Great!  The next step is determining how you are going to produce your content. There are several options available to choose from, so do your research ahead of time and choose the one that suits your needs the most. Watch out for the free services. Yes, they are free, which is good for some things, but let me tell you from experience, free is not always the best route to go. If you are looking to make a name for yourself and rise among the professional bloggers, free is the wrong way to go. WordPress does offer a free version, but as I’ve said before in previous posts, you don’t want to use a domain name that’s obviously free.

I use WordPress, have used WordPress for 2 years, and don’t plan on using anything but WordPress in the future. WordPress is the industry standard for blogging. It has a little bit of a learning curve, but is very effective in doing everything you need to do to run a successful blog. You’ll see two types of WordPress sites out there today. WordPress.com and WordPress.org.  Wordpress.com is not a self-hosted option, which means you are limited in what you can do and the income you can earn. WordPress.org means you are self-hosted and can do more in terms of options and income. Choose wisely!

Choose a web hosting provider

One of the most critical decisions you need to make when starting a blog is in choosing a web hosting provider. A web hosting company provides you with the online space to publish your blog. You will store all of your online files through your hosting company.

There are many, many providers out there.  If you don’t do research on anything else I tell you today, do your research on web hosting companies. Your hosting plan can make or break your blog very easily. If you have a hosting provider that is notoriously slow and/or down, your blog will suffer.

I started my blog using Bluehost. I found them to be very reliable and also found a lot of my blogging friends used them as well. They have good options, fast and reliable speed, and their customer support is top-notch. When my year was up with them, I was angered to see a major increase in the cost of my hosting, which caused me to have to go to another provider – eHost. I hadn’t heard too much about eHost, so I was initially skeptical about switching to them.  eHost has been very stable and their range of options are wide. The only complaint I have after the last few months is that their technical support responses have been slow by email. I recommend using their live chat vs sending them an email.

Find a creative domain name

Most of the time, you can choose your domain name at the same time you are signing up for web hosting, but this isn’t always the case. If you find a cheaper price elsewhere, but want to host it with another company, you can, but I find it easier to do everything with a one-stop shop. Your domain name is the web address people will type in to find your blog. Mine is www.goaskyourdaddy.com.

Be creative when you are choosing a domain name. Some bloggers go with their actual name, while others use a creative name. I chose www.goaskyourdaddy.com because I knew people would know I’m a daddy blogger, and it’s easy to remember. Make sure you select a domain name that relates to your niche. It’s going to go EVERYWHERE  – in email signatures, in Facebook groups, on media kits and business cards, etc. Choose wisely!

Choose a theme

Since I use WordPress, I have access to THOUSANDS of creative themes for my blog. WordPress makes it easy to browse for themes inside of the dashboard. What I like most about it is that you can filter down to the features you want the theme to have. This saves a lot of time browsing through themes that don’t meet your needs.  Right now, I’m using the light version of my theme, but plan on upgrading to the pro soon. Your theme should reflect your blog’s niche.  There are some themes that are too noisy in terms of color and features – steer clear of these. Make sure your theme provides you with all the tools you need to set your blog up to your expectations. Most of the time, you’ll have to invest a little money here. It’s money well-spent!

Write your first post

Now that your blog is ready to go, it’s time to write your first post. I do want to admit that my very first post sucked badly. This is because I had no clue in how to structure a blog post. Now that I’ve done my research on the best ways to structure blog posts, readers have given me positive feedback. My trick in structuring my blog posts is by using an outline. An outline allows you time to think about where you want to place your headers and links, and gives you time to analyze the structure before you write it down. Outlines do take a little extra time, but in my opinion are worth every second because it makes the post much easier to read and follow.

In WordPress, you have the option to save as a draft, which is a great feature if you like to write in pieces and then come back to finish up. There are several other options you’ll want to pay attention to as you are creating your post.

  • Categories – Categories are like the table of contents in a book. Let’s use my site for an example of how categories work. Look to the right of this post into my sidebar. You’ll see a drop down menu called “Categories.” Let’s say you want to see every post I’ve written about sports. I created a “Sports” category and selected it every time I wrote a sports-related blog post. If you select “Sports” from the Category menu, you’ll be presented with any post I’ve written about Sports. Go ahead and try it, but come back to this post!
  • Tags – Tags are more like an index than a table of contents. Tags are keywords that tell the reader what the post is about. Go ahead and scroll to the bottom of this post. You’ll see I’ve included several tags that tie to the subject matter of this post. Tags are also a good way to group related posts. Think of them as being just like hashtags on Twitter. If you click on a hashtag in Twitter, you’ll be presented with any posts that include that tag. It’s a great way to read related content.
  • Featured Image – The featured image is the image that will show up at the top of your blog post.  Look at the top of this post. Do you see the very cool image I’ve created for this post?  That’s the featured image.  Whenever you share your post, unless you’ve told WordPress to use a different image, by default, it will use the featured image. I use a creative featured image for every blog post.
  • Sharing –  Under the featured image is an option to select which social media sites you want to share the post to once you’ve hit publish. While you can connect to any service you want, I usually share to the big boys – Facebook and Twitter.
  • Post format – I don’t mess with this feature very much, but can be useful depending on the type of post you are writing. If you are only posting an image or a video, this feature will format the post to that particular medium. Since I primarily post in regular text and images, I leave this setting at “Standard.”

Share your posts

You’ve spent hours writing and perfecting your post before publishing it. The next step is critical in getting readers to it. I always share my posts through a variety of mediums: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Flipboard, etc. I take the extra steps in sharing my new post inside the many Facebook groups in which I participate.  For Pinterest, I highly recommend you try out Tailwind. It is doing wonders for my blog traffic and engagement!

Incorporate affiliate links

If you are looking to make income with your blog, and don’t want to rely on Google Adsense, affiliate links are fantastic income producers. If you find the opportunity to incorporate an affiliate link to promote a product that relates to your post, do it. I wrote a very informative post on how to make the most of affiliate links. I recommend checking it out, as well as my post on how to make passive income with affiliate marketing.

I’m a big supporter of ShareASale. They are one of the best networks out there with thousands of approved merchants. I wrote a review of ShareASale earlier this year so if you are trying to decide whether or not to check them out, read the review to help make that decision.

Continuously improve

I hope you’ve found this post helpful.  One more piece of I advice I have for you is to always be willing to change things up and find ways to improve.  Stay updated on the latest blogging trends and always look for ways to stick out above the competition. There are so many ways to get your content out there. I’m currently writing an Ebook composed of all of my blogging posts.  This post will be in it as well. The Ebook will allow me to share my content even more.

If you have any questions about how to start a blog (that I didn’t answer today), feel free to email me at jeremy@goaskyourdaddy.com.

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