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Know What You Want To Write About
Before you start a blog, you need to determine what you want to write about. What are your interests? What do you like to read? Pick a niche. When I first started blogging, I was going to blog strictly about sports, but as I began to think about it more, there is more of a niche for parenting bloggers. I do occasionally write about sports, but it’s not the main topic of my blog. Deciding what you want to write about is important because it’s more difficult as the months go by to change it up. So make the right choice the first time and stick to it.
When you first start out blogging, the quality of your posts won’t be as high as they will be down the road. I am one year into blogging and I almost laugh at my first attempts at blog posts. Better posts come from practice and following other experienced bloggers. You will spend a lot of time trying different types of posts, but staying true to yourself is vital to being successful as a blogger.
Choose Your Blogging Platform
My blogging platform has always been WordPress. For me, there really hasn’t been anything else as close as to all of the flexibility and plugins that WordPress offers. You can start blogging on WordPress for free today at WordPress. I do also see some bloggers give good remarks to Blogger, but since I have never used it, I really can’t speak to its performance or options.
I do recommend going ahead and buying a hosting account that offers WordPress hosting. For the past year, I used BlueHost, but recently switched to eHost. BlueHost was great. The only reason I switched to eHost was because of the price to renew. Both BlueHost and eHost offer similar features pertaining to WordPress. I will say that migrating your WordPress database if you do choose to switch providers can be daunting. I will be creating a separate blog post that describes all of the steps necessary to successfully migrate your site. Update: I no longer use eHost after major issues with my site. I am now hosting my site with SiteGround.
If you do choose to go with WordPress, you will have a slew of plugins and widgets at your fingertips. Here’s a list of plugins I recommend you download and install right away:
- BackWPUp – one of several outstanding WordPress database backup plugins. You will want to download one right away and set up regular backups. I customized mine to do a daily backup to a folder on my server at 11:00 at night. I get a report sent to my email every time it is completed. Not having a backup of your WordPress database is a mistake. I nearly lost 300 posts when I migrated to eHost, but because I had a backup, I was able to recover EVERYTHING.
- Google Adsense – when you decide to monetize your blog, the Google Adsense plugin is a must-have. It takes away the pain of manually placing ads on your site.
- Sucuri Security – One of the absolute best security plugins out there for WordPress. It is essential to have site protection 24/7, and Sucuri does just that. I had my site hacked early on and it was a PAIN to recover everything. Sucuri audits site activity, monitors for malware, provides an additional layer of security, and checks for file integrity.
- Yoast SEO – This is the former WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. It’s the most popular plugin available to optimize your WordPress site for SEO.
Create A Domain Name
Your domain name is your main marketing tool to get traffic to your site. Use this opportunity to create a perfect name that fits your site. Many web hosting providers also offer domain names as a part of a hosting package. I currently use BlueHost as my domain name host. Sites like Namecheap.com also offer really cheap domain names.
Make sure that the domain name that you pick is clear and easy to remember. Don’t choose one that will confuse your visitors. Be creative! Make the name catchy and easy to type into a browser.
There are many different types of domains (.com, .net, .org, etc). Go with a .com URL as 90% of the websites in the USA end in .com.
Design Your Blog’s Layout
The most important thing you can do to market yourself as a blogger is to spend a lot of time designing your blog’s layout. Again, WordPress has a lot of very good free themes out there, and there are also premium themes available at relatively nominal fees.
- Logo – Create a logo that represents your brand well. I use Adobe Photoshop CC along with images from free sites such as Pixabay to create my logos. A logo goes so much further than plain text.
- Menu – If you are going to have a menu as a part of your site, WordPress makes this option easy. You can create your menu by using pages, categories, tags, etc. Make sure that you have an effective “About Me” page that tells your visitors who you are, what you write about, and how they can contact you. Later down the road, creating a media kit will take your blog promotion to the next level.
- Sidebar – It’s easy to overload your sidebar with junk that you just don’t need. I limit my sidebar to my “About Me” blurb, a subscribe form, my social media contact information, my social media feeds, and the rest is left open for ad space.
- Legal information – Always have copyright information in an easy-to-read location on your blog. If you plan on using affiliate links, the FTC requires you to disclose that on your site. Although I have a Disclosure page within my blog menu, I also post affiliate link disclosures at the top of every blog post I write for affiliates. This is VERY important. If you do not disclose your relationship with affiliates, the FCC will shut your blog down.
Write Your First Post
Now that you have your blog set up, you can finally focus on why you are doing all of this! Sit down and write your first blog post. You will be eager to get it live, but spend extra time proofreading, adding images, links, and other important information that your readers will find useful. There are many different ways to structure a blog post. I will share with you a common format that I use for my posts:
- Creative and Catchy Title – one that encourages your visitors to read your post.
- Image/Featured Image
- Header 1
- Header 2
- Header 3
- Call to Action
In WordPress, I always choose 2-3 categories that best fit the topic and use about 5-6 tags. If you install the Yoast SEO plugin, you will have additional options at the bottom of your post. Yoast will ask for a keyword along with the option to include the snipit that appears in search engines.
Share Your Post On Social Media
Now that you’ve written a dynamite blog post (or at least I hope that it is!), it’s time to get the word out to your social media followers to check out your post. It’s not enough just to publish and be done with it. You can connect your blog to all of your social media accounts to maximize its exposure. One extra step I take is to publish every blog post to Pinterest. Pinterest is a fantastic avenue to increase and drive traffic to your site. I also use Hootsuite to schedule (and reschedule) posts. Share your blog post more than once, and don’t be afraid to respond to all comments. Respond immediately and with sincerity. By engaging with your followers, you will increase their loyalty (and you’ll network with fellow bloggers at the same time!).
How To Increase Page Views
Go above and beyond using social networking to promote your posts! Be active! Be responsive! My goal is to respond to a minimum of 3 comments on other blogs per day. Join blogging groups on Facebook – there are tons of them. These blogging groups allow you to promote your social media and/or your blog posts. They are fantastic for meeting and interacting with new bloggers.
Use Twitter to its full advantage. Tweeting a post only once does nothing for promotion. Retweet older posts, and be sure to retweet other bloggers as well. The purpose is not only to drive attention to your blog, but to make new connections and find new blogs.
Submit your blog posts to all of the major search engines to increase page views. This is where configuring your SEO in Yoast is so important. You want to put all the keywords in your site that you want visitors to use to find you.
Monetize Your Blog
When the time is right, and that may not be for months, years even, monetize your blog. Google Adsense is a great place to start. Actually, I recommend it be set up as soon as the blog goes live. If you have a post that goes viral, you want to be able to reap the benefits from the ad views. The key to generating money from Adsense is TRAFFIC and lots of it!
You can also choose to host ad space for a fee on your blog. This is something I’m going to be doing soon for my sidebar. I have a ton of space available. Do your research and find out what other bloggers are charging for ad space and set your prices accordingly. This is definitely information you want to put on your “About Me” page and/or your media kit!
There are many sites that pay bloggers to provide content. I recommend doing a search for these on Google and find the ones that appeal to you the most. Some of these sites are very restrictive on which content they select, but it pays to get your name out there and attempt some sponsored posts for some extra income.
Another popular way to monetize your blog is through affiliate marketing. Signing up through sits such as Shareasale (read my review of Shareasale) will give you access to thousands of merchants from which to choose. Read my post, How to Use Affiliate Links on Your Blog to learn exactly how affiliate marketing works, and how you can make extra income with it.
Blogging should be fun, but there is a lot of work involved in making it successful. Planning ahead, staying organized, and doing things right the first time around will go a long way into bringing loyal readers back for more. If you have any questions, or would like more tips on how to build a blog, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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