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If like many of us around the world, you’re looking for something to do while on COVID-19 lockdown, starting a blog might look pretty appealing.
You’re not alone in thinking this. There will very likely be a blogging boom around about now. Most people will blog for a couple of months and then give up but what about you, do you want to keep it going a bit longer? Perhaps even make some money somewhere along the line? If so, then it pays to think carefully about your next steps. I’ve got a few things you should do before starting a brand-new blog.
Why do you want to blog?
This is perhaps the first question to ask yourself. Why are you looking at starting a blog? Is it to pass boredom? Are you looking to make money? Do you want to promote a brand or service?
If you can start off with a clear goal, even if it’s just to pass the time and give yourself something to do, this will be the first step towards progress.
Deciding whether you want to seriously make money from this blog or not will be key to making a chain of other decisions that I’ll be talking about in a moment.
Decide on a niche
The first thing to decide is what you want to write about. If you’re not bothered about making money, I don’t suppose this matters a whole lot. You can type away to your heart’s content.
If you want to make money from it in the future, your niche will be key to this. Ideally, your niche should be specific but not so obscure that no one wants to read about it.
For example, a food blog is way too broad and you’re going up against people with years of experience. A food blog for vegan families on a budget is a lot more specific.
Research that niche
It’s important to know that your niche is actually something people want to read. Don’t be discouraged if you already see blogs on your chosen topic – it just means there’s an audience out there and you can learn a lot from other established bloggers.
Research what types of content are successful in your niche, what topics, brand voices and website design types are used in this niche. Try to find out as much as you can about your target audience. What gender, age, social background is your audience mostly made up of? Make sure you keep notes on everything you learn.
Write out 50 ideas for blog posts
Before you go down the whole route of designing your website and picking a colour palette, it’s important to know that you can actually write about this niche.
As an exercise, write out 50 ideas for blog posts that you think your audience will want to read. If you are struggling for ideas after 20, you’re going to struggle when you’re running a blog later on. Make sure you’re picking a topic that you can write hundreds of posts about – and more importantly, want to write hundreds of posts on.
Write down ideas for products/services
If you’re planning to monetise your blog at some point, it helps to go into blogging with a good sense of your business plan. It’s easy to get distracted by website design and maintaining a content schedule so now is a good time to think about the business side.
How will you make your money? What products or services can you sell on this website? What types of affiliate programs can you sign up for?
Get a domain name
Now it’s time to get the ball rolling. It’s always best to buy a custom domain name because free domains just don’t look good.
Finding a good domain name is very tricky because guess what, all the good ideas have been taken.
Make a list of relevant words related to your niche and try out some combinations. Alternatively, if you’re going for a lifestyle blog or you want to build yourself as the brand, your name will be perfectly fine. However, your name may have already been taken so you might need to tweak this. You could use initials or a middle name or even a pseudonym.
You can use a website like this to get an idea of whether your domain name has been taken and whether it’s available as a social media name on various sites.
While you can opt for a free website on WordPress, I’d definitely recommend going down the self-hosting route. This ensures that you have full control over your own website and you also get to customise it pretty much however you want.
Hosting can be pretty cheap but be warned, most companies ask you to pay for at least a year upfront. If you’re not sure you want to invest that much on day one, there are hosting companies which offer monthly payments instead. I use A2 Hosting for that reason, it’s just a bit more manageable.
Build your website
Once you’ve got all the setup sorted, it’s time to build your website. If you’re not a web designer, don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think. You could get a free theme, page builder or sign up to a service like Elegant Themes. Elegant Themes has a theme called Divi which enables you to build each page with simple drag-and-drop blocks. You can also use it on multiple websites. I use Divi for this blog, my freelance writing website and also a fiction writing website.
Install some plugins
If you’re on WordPress, there are plenty of handy plugins to install such as Yoast which helps you manage the SEO for each page and post. There’s also Google Analytics to monitor traffic, social media plugins and contact forms. Many are totally free too which is a bonus!
Get started on social media
It’s best to get ahead of the game and think about social media now – you need to promote that content somewhere. The content your blog covers will mean that some platforms are better suited for you than others.
If you’re a food blogger, images will be key so Instagram and Pinterest will be your best bet. If you run a fiction writing blog like me, Twitter is great for the #WritingCommunity.
Set up just 1-2 social media channels rather than on all of them because you’ll just stretch yourself too thin. This might require you to do a bit of research on audience demographics so you’re going after the right people for your blog.
Edit and publish 5-10 blog posts
It’s always a good idea to try and have a few posts already on your blog before you go live with it and start promoting. You don’t want people to visit an empty website. Plus, this also gives you a chance to experiment and practice blogging, knowing that no one can see it yet.
When you’ve got 5-10 posts, it’s time to start shouting about it and getting people to read them.
Decide on a posting schedule
The next thing to do, something we’re all a bit guilty of, is to decide on a posting schedule. Consistency is key for blogging success and it helps if you know exactly when you want to post. It’s hard to stick to but try to aim for once a month or week on a certain date just so you know your deadlines in advance. Getting into a routine is always good.
Promote your blog
Finally, it’s time to start promoting your blog. Social media is key to this, Pinterest especially so it’s a good idea to create some blog graphics to go along with your posts. Canva is a cheap and easy tool for this.
When it comes to posting on social media, you don’t need to do it all manually. Instead, get hold of a tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite, which are free for a limited number of attached accounts. Try to mix the content you schedule out between your own content and other people’s so your accounts don’t just look overly promotional.
Look into outreach opportunities
One of the next steps to take is to look further afield. It’s a good idea to try and work on getting your content published elsewhere, preferably with a backlink to your website. This is all good for SEO and getting your name out there.
If your niche is health and fitness, you will want to look into other blogs in that niche and approach them. Some will already have guest posting guidelines to take a look at. Just make sure you don’t reuse the content on your own blog – Google does not take kindly to duplicate content.
Work on building your email list
Key to promotion is building up a list of emails you can send out your content to. This helps with returning visitors but is also an invaluable way to promote whatever products or services you want to push. This is something a lot of people neglect when starting a blog.
Sign up for a free account with MailerLite or MailChimp and get a popup or banner on your website asking people to sign up. If you want to increase your subscriber list faster, offer a free product or download for every signup.
Create your products
If you’re looking to monetise, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to do that. It’s time to revisit that list you made of potential things to sell. If they are resources and downloads, you will need to spend some time creating, editing and perfecting them. When they’re ready to publish and sell, you will need to have some kind of eCommerce or payments plugin in place to take payments or a link to your Amazon account if you’re selling ebooks on there.
There you have it, my step by step guide to starting a blog, planning things out and working towards blogging success. I really hope it helped and has inspired you to think carefully about your blogging goals before diving headfirst in. Hopefully, it helps you avoid some of the mistakes that many of us make when we first start blogging.
If you’ve got any questions or comments about starting a blog, please feel free to pop them down below. If you think there’s something I’ve missed out when it comes to starting a blog, let me know here.