Everything You Need to Know to Start a Blog
I am writing this to answer the questions I have been getting in my email, social media inbox and offline. I literally can’t answer every single person individually. I wish I could but it’s not something I can work out now so what I’ll try to do is this-I will try to treat as many things as possible in here so that they serve as answers.
In other words, this is an informed blog post with much relevance to people starting their blogs for the first time. I have written an article similar to this before. I wanted to just go on ahead to edit that but I decided against it because I might not be able to expand on some points. I want this to be fresh off the bat, let me treat current questions and concerns.
In reality, starting a blog is not supposed to be as difficult as a lot of people make it seem. In fact, starting a blog is as easy as opening a blog and making your first blog entry. Where I think there’s an issue is the fact that people want to start their blogs with a bang, which is perfect. People also want to be sure they are doing the right thing, they are not missing out on anything and that they have little or nothing to regret months after starting their blogs.
Other areas of concerns are choosing the best blogging platform, the appropriate niche, a good domain name, a reliable hosting platform, tools they need to blog successfully, how to drive the first set of traffic, achieving a functional and beautiful blog design and learning how to use their blogging dashboard.
I will try as much as I can to explain everything you need to know to start a successful blog in detail. Because I am avoiding having to teach everyone who comes to ask this question, I will make this as comprehensive as it should be. I want to be able to share this URL with other prospective bloggers that might come to ask questions whose answers are here.
Choosing the best blogging platform
A blogging platform is where your content is hosted. There are so many of them, some of them are free, some are paid. The two most common blogging platforms are Blogger or Blogspot and WordPress. There are other blogging platforms you can start your blog on – Wix, Joomla, Tumblr, Medium, Squarespace, Hubpages, Ghost etc.
Deciding which of the platforms to use for your blog requires that you understand the pros and cons of each of them. I will however suggest that unless you have specific and unique reasons, narrow your options to the most common blogging platforms – Blogspot (Blogger) and WordPress.
Advantages of Using Blogger
1. Blogger is free. Except for the domain that you will have to buy, the hosting on the Blogger platform is absolutely free.
2. Blogger is owned by Google and as such there is a high level of confidence in the security of your blog. It’s not news that many people are concerned about the longevity of their blogs. With Blogger you can be rest assured that the security is high. There are cases where you may have attacks and this is most likely your own fault. In these cases, you are probably careless with your password or have given rights of access to your blog by malicious agents.
I want to also mention the issue of blogger deleting your blog because a lot of bloggers bring this up. Listen, Blogger will never come up to delete your blog anyhow. You must have badly trampled on their sensibilities. If you follow guidelines and rules, you have no issue with these guys.
The lot of bloggers plagiarizing people’s content and using media that is not theirs are the ones to be on the edge. If you follow the policies, you don’t post adult content, you don’t copy and paste, you don’t use images that are copyrighted, you have no problem with Blogger.
3. Blogger is easy to use and understand. I usually recommend that people start their blogging on Blogger because with Blogger they can easily learn blogging and how to use their dashboard. If they so want to migrate to WordPress later, they can as well do so but they would have become familiar with the concept of blogging generally.
Disadvantages of using Blogger
1. It is a little bit limiting
I still think Blogger as a platform has a long way to go as it seems to me as crude. Over the years, I expect that Google would have upgraded this platform and done some serious changes to it. In designing a Blogger Blog sometimes, I have had to edit the css of the blog to achieve what I want to.
2. It is not easily search engine optimized.
Because of the limiting factor I just pointed out now, SEO is difficult on Blogger. A lot of people argue that with quality and unique content, you will rank in search engines. How well though?
As high as blogs with WordPress with better technical SEO customization? How well? The blogging platform you use can influence how well you rise. Talk about stiff URL structure and unavailability of SEO plugins. The list is endless. Blogger is bad for SEO.
Advantages of Using WordPress
1. WordPress has better functionality
All you need to do to achieve some things on WordPress is plugin installation. You install the plugins and customize them, the problem is solved. WordPress has been known to power some of the powerful websites and blogs that you see today. Websites you would ordinarily think are custom built are WordPress powered.
2. WordPress is better for SEO
With WordPress you can customize your URL to be search engine favorable. You can also install plugins that will help you perform better in search engines. Examples of these plugins are Yoast and All in One SEO.
Disadvantages of WordPress
Because you have to host your blog by yourself, you may spend a lot of money to keep your blog active. WordPress is expensive. For a new blogger who is just starting out, investing that much may be too much.
Now, there is the WordPress.com and the WordPress.org. WordPress.com is similar to Blogger in that it is free. When you use WordPress.com, your domain name will look like this – www.xyz.wordpress.com. It is the same for Blogger, www.xyz.blogspot.com. In the case of Blogger however, you can buy a domain name to strip off the blogspot.com to have www.xyz.com. For WordPress, you will have to switch to a self hosted platform.
There is a provision to buy domain name on WordPress.com. It is however, in my own opinion not smart to buy a domain name from WordPress.com. This is a case of wanting to stay with WordPress.com at all costs. It is better to move to a self hosted WordPress.org, get a hosting and buy your domain in the process.
I believe that anyone looking to use WordPress as a platform should be looking at going self hosted. If they can’t, they should rather stick with Blogger.
Choosing a blog platform rests on you, no one can decide that. You alone know how much resources you have, what you need at the time of opening the blog and what you expect your blog to be capable of doing. I believe that there’s no superior blogging platform. Everyone picks one according to their own needs after thoroughly understanding the pros and cons of each platform.
Buying Your Blog Hosting
This segment is for those that have decided that they would like to use WordPress as a blogging platform. Remember that I said that if you decide to use Blogger, your hosting is free of charge. It is a free blogging platform. If you also decide to use WordPress.com, your hosting is free but if you decide to install the WordPress.org software so that you can go self-hosted, you will have to buy your own hosting.
There are very many of them out there. Examples are Hostgator, Bluehost, Siteground, 1and1 etc. There are tons of them. There are also the Nigerian hosting companies. I am not sure I would advise anyone to go for them. I am not too sure about their uptime and customer care.
Very many of my friends are complaining. I think that if you want to go self-hosted, spend that money and buy hosting that will give you peace of mind.
A good hosting company to buy your hosting and domain name from is HostGator. I recommend them because they have a very good walkthrough process from start to finish. You can literally get assistance and have things set up for you with so much ease.
As soon as you begin the process, every step of the way is extremely easy, so easy anyone who is smart phone literate can do this.
It is also one of the cheapest with the most quality out there. Speaking of their uptime, it is 24/7/365. Really great hosting to use.
If you ever have issues getting started with HostGator, just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below this post. I will jump right in to “save you”. Aha!
Blogging.com also has a good resource on how to set up your Wordpres.
How to choose a good domain name for your blog
Your domain name is your blog URL. For example, my own domain name is www.estheradeniyi.com. Before choosing your domain name, it is important to know in what niche you want to blog in. This will give you a general idea of names you can pick for your blog.
The following are general tips for picking a good domain name for your blog.
1. Let your blog name (title) and domain name match.
2. Pick .com TLDs.
3. Make it short, simple and memorable.
4. Avoid the use of numbers and special characters in your domain name.
5. Buy your domain from credible companies
I have written a very detailed and comprehensive blog post on domain names. If you are at this point, you should visit that post, it is everything you need to pick the right domain name for your blog.
Designing Your Blog
Designing your blog will require that you understand a few concepts in graphics and how to edit templates. You might give this to a blog designer or start with a basic template for now and finetune as you progress on your blogging journey.
It’s best to limit to a few colours, apart from the neutral colours (black and white). Two extra colours will be good for branding your blog. It’s important to have these colours rhyme with your blog logo so that people can spot you anywhere.
Limit your font to two or three. Having too many fonts on your blog is usually not easy on the eye. It also makes your blog look cluttered, ugly and unprofessional. Heading fonts and blog text fonts are just fine.
Your blog header is the first element that anyone notices so you should do a good job at making it represent your blogging voice and message. You can go from simple and sleek to sophisticated. Keep in mind that your blog header size and dimension should be just right. It should not be too big or too small.
Many people will visit your blog from their phones more than they will from their systems. It is therefore important that your blog is very responsive. Blog responsiveness is the ability of your blog to perfectly fit into any screen dimension. Desktop, mobile, tabs all have a beautiful adjustment of your blog elements.
If for example you have to scroll left and right on your phone every time you have to view the entire width of your blog, it is an indication of a non-responsive blog. This terribly affects user experience.
In designing your blog, apart from your blog feed, the following should be on your blog:
1. About page
2. Contact page
4. Social media links
5. Blog categories/labels
Please don’t overwhelm yourself with your blog design for a start except you are trying to do a big blog launch. You will always grow, adjust and fine-tune along the way.
Tools/Apps you need for your blog
This is one of the most common questions I have received lately. In fact, this was what prompted me to write this blog post. I realized that a lot of bloggers have postponed opening their blogs because they are not sure of what they would need to pull off a successful blog.
Well, this is the end of your procrastination. This segment should take care of all of the concerns and questions you have raised as regards tools necessary for opening a blog.
Basic tools to run your blog successfully.
A laptop is a good place to start if you have decided that you want to finally open your blog. With a laptop, you can write your blog posts, edit them, edit the pictures you will need for the posts and publish. You will also be able to share your blog posts on social media. With a laptop, you can respond to comments easily and do blog maintenance.
I want to add here that you don’t need to have a laptop to kick-start your blogging. To set up your blog, design and make sure it is functional, you will definitely need a laptop. So, if you don’t have one, you can ask a friend to let you use theirs until you are completely set up.
You can however continue blogging on your phone. May it interest you to know that I blog more on my phone than I do on my system? Except for when I have to design graphics or edit blog pictures, I write, edit, post, and publish, all on my phone.
In fact, the entirety of what you are reading now is all on mobile. When I am done with this text, I will edit the content, go and paste on my virtual editor, insert necessary and valuable links/resources, add my ready made picture, publish, share on social media and every other place necessary and respond to comments.
I say this to help you see that even though a laptop is important, lack of it thereof is not an excuse to postpone opening your blog. So, for the major part of setting up, use a friend’s, after that, you can use what you have for now, as long as it is a smart phone.
2. Internet connection
Whichever way you have decided to get internet connection is fine. Just make sure that it is steady and relatively fast. This will make blogging less stressful. I tell you, a slow internet connection is going to stress you out unnecessarily. So, sort that out for your blogging.
This is not a compulsory tool you need to start your blog. The most important of the tools you need are those I have mentioned earlier.
Fashion and Beauty Bloggers may need to consider a camera as a good blogging investment. You may strike a deal with a photographer in the meantime or borrow a camera to take batch pictures until you are ready to buy yours.
Basic apps you need to run a successful blog
1. Blogging platform app
Many of the platforms have their own apps. You can download the Blogger app or WordPress app to make it easier for you to blog on mobile. I must warn you however, these apps may prove more complicated than simply using the dashboard on your browser in themselves.
2. A good editor
You will need to download a good editor for typing your blog posts. I use Google Keep for typing and saving. I love this app because it saves all of my work in real time. I also have all of my work backed up. I can continue editing on my system or anywhere as long as I log into Google. Another good editor is Docs To Go. I particularly like this one because it shows me my word count.
This is for designing. It is a brilliant idea for people who cannot afford graphics designers. I think that creating something beautiful out of this app also lies on your creativity. With Canva, you can design graphics from scratch, edit them or edit your blog pictures.
Grammarly is used to edit your grammar. If you cannot afford a blog editor, I would strongly recommend using Grammarly.
Launching your blog
Now, you are ready to let the whole world know that you have a blog. After writing and publishing your first blog post, you can now share it with friends and social media followers.
Depending on the type, niche and nature of your blog, you might decide on an elaborate launching or a simple blog launching.
Planning for an elaborate launch affords you the opportunity of getting people very interested in what you are about to offer them. It is to get them talking about it and sharing this with others.
Tips for an elaborate blog launching
1. Do a blog launch count down
You can do this a month or a week to your blog’s first launch. Design beautiful and stunning graphics to get people attracted and curious. Share on social media. Ask friends to help you make this message go viral. This will give you very great exposure.
2. Prepare your blog
Please don’t do an elaborate launching for a blog that isn’t going to wow almost everyone. Get in as many articles as possible. 30 awesome, quality and relevant articles is a great start. Please get a stunning blog design. You can contact me for a great blog design. Just send a mail to email@example.com or call 08170342992.
3. Build an email list
One terrible mistake people make is not putting systems in place to retain first time visitors. Start an email list. Then ask people to subscribe to the email list before leaving your blog. You might make this simple form a pop up so that they don’t miss it. Another brilliant thing people do is to build this list before the launch. They get as many people to subscribe and then promise to notify them as soon as the blog is up and running.
If you are however not doing an elaborate launch, simply write your first blog, share your post and blog and encourage people to subscribe to get more juicy updates.
Important things you should know as a first time Blogger
1. Blogging is hardwork
Listen, starting a blog is not an issue at all. You can start, set up, design and do all of the necessary things you need to do under 24 hours. If you are going to last here, you have to be prepared to work hard.
You will have to find blog readers and make them come back over and over. You have to be consistent in writing blog posts. You have to take time to prepare quality content. This is not something you are jumping in and flying out. Blogging is a process and you have to be willing to enjoy it.
It saddens my heart to see Bloggers start and stop because of challenges on the way. Oh, there will be challenges. Your blog will break, you will have to find blog readers, you may blog for months without making a dime, some people might drop very insensitive comments, there will be a lot of challenges but if you will stay put and cultivate a beautiful blog, you will enjoy the proceeds.
2. Discover your blogging purpose
Why are you opening that blog? If you don’t have a reason, please don’t open it. If you are not opening a blog to solve a problem, to express yourself, cultivate your writing, inform on a scarcely known topic, for a cause or event, for something in particular, please don’t open it. You will burn out. Even with a purpose, burn out is inevitable at some point but the beauty of having a purpose is that it steers you back to why you opened it in the first place.
3. People don’t stick with inconsistent Bloggers
I say this all the time, blogging consistency does not mean daily or hourly blogging. What it means is showing up when you have set. If you want to blog once a week, show up. I suggest you increase your frequency to twice or thrice a week.
If you are planning to make a lot of money from the blog, you might need to consider daily posting. You should be posting long, relevant content if you will get search engines on your side.
4. Learn basic SEO alongside
Generating quality blog traffic goes way beyond sending blog posts with friends and family on whatsapp. A basic knowledge of search engine optimization is a good place to start to increase your chances of showing up on Google and other search engines.
I understand that the entirety of this may be technical and a little bit uncomfortable but the basics, and you are good to go. This blog post on SEO for beginners is a great place to start.
5. Content is King
Please don’t put up shabby content on your blog. Please don’t copy and paste other people’s work without giving them proper credit. In fact, one thing you have to do as a Blogger is to learn copyright issues.
Take the time to write content that matters. Be thorough when you need to, be interesting when you need to, be funny if you have to. Whatever you write on your blog, be sure you can be proud to show it anywhere.
6. Be Authentic
You are going to read a lot of Bloggers as you progress. You will be tempted to jump on their niche, write like them, copy their blogging process. You might lose yourself in the process of blogging. Please remind yourself of who you are and why you started to blog in the first place. Intentionally and regularly shut down the noise.
Starting and running a successful blog may seem daunting at first, trust me, you will settle into it. You are going to find out that just like everything else you will learn on the way. Your experiences, knowledge and exposure will help you refine your blogging processes.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section. I will be glad to clarify any thing that you do not particularly understand too. For extra services like blog designing, blog management, SEO and general blog consulting, please send an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org
P. S- this blog post contains affiliate links, clicking and buying through them will help sustain my blog