The Ultimate Guide to Finally Starting Your Blog
Atari and Chuck E. Cheese founder Nolan Bushnell once said, “Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it who makes a difference.” If you’re ready to make a difference by starting your own blog but have been putting it off, this simple, 8-step plan will get you far beyond the dry-off stage. In fact, if you take it one task at a time, following the directions below, you’ll be a bonafide, monetization-ready blogger.
1. Come up with a short, easy-to-remember domain name that has a matching, available URL and buy it.
While all straightforward, no-brainer URL names are taken, you have a good chance of being able to come up with a name that expresses the theme of your blog and is easy to remember if you use a little creativity. To see if your name idea is available, go here. There are a variety of companies that sell any available URL, including Domain.com, GoDaddy, and Namecheap.
When conceptualizing your domain name, consider the following tips:
- Choose a name available with a common extension (.com, .org, net)
- Make it unique and memorable.
- Choose words that nod to your subject matter
- Keep it short; think two to three words.
- Make it easy to spell.
- Avoid hyphens, periods, or numbers.
- Make sure it reads well as a URL. (For example, We Eat Tons doesn’t work as well as weeatons.com.)
- Don’t use overly clever spelling that people won’t remember.
- Make sure it appeals to your intended audience.
- If SEO matters to you, consider a name that includes keywords that fit your blog topic.
- Pick a name that will evolve with you. (Your “SweetestSixteen” teen adventures blog is only relevant for one year!)
A few ways to brainstorm names:
- Write down all the words that describe your blog or subject matter, then try combining a couple of those words in various orders. (Example: HawkBlogger.com, a blog about the Seattle Seahawks blog, by Adobe Spark Insider Brian Nemhauser.)
- If it’s about you and your opinions, consider using your name. It works just fine for Lauren Conrad. Include your name or nickname, if relevant.
- Consider combining fun almost words with everyday words (e.g. SnixyKitchen).
2. Pick a platform.
The blog platform on which you build your blog/website is important because it’s hard to transfer your content to a different platform should you grow out of the one you choose now. A little upfront research now goes a long way in ensuring the platform you select will be sufficient for your needs now and later.
WordPress, Blogger, Wix, HostGator, and Medium are some popular blog platforms. The one that’s right for you depends on your intentions. No matter which you choose, you’ll need to pay for website hosting (check out BlueHost and GoDaddy).
As you consider your options, ask yourself:
- Will my blog be mostly text?
- Will my blog be primarily visual?
- Will I sell products on my blog?
- Do I want people to find me through search results?
- May I want to insert ad-network advertising?
- Do I have hopes of growing and expanding my blog into a more complex, dynamic website?
You’ll need to dig deeper into each potential platform to determine which offers the tools that best accommodate your needs. But following are brief summaries of the above mentioned platforms to get you started.
WordPress: The most popular and flexible platform, this one is free to use and open-source, which is why you can find so many free and for-purchase “plugins” (additional functionalities) designed for WordPress from outside companies and vendors. It has an expansive selection of free themes, which allows for more distinction in look and feel, is SEO friendly and has plugins to further optimize SEO, and is great choice if you think you may want to monetize your blog someday because you can buy plugins for creating a marketplace, offering paid subscriptions or a paywall, processing credit cards, and more.
Downsides? Robust functionality means it takes a bit of learning to master, but there are myriad tutorials on YouTube. You’ll need to manage your own backups, updates, and security or pay someone to do it.
Blogger: Google’s free blogging platform is extremely approachable. Perfect for less-tech-savvy bloggers, it’s more plug-and-play than WordPress, making it nearly effortless to launch a blog. Get a gmail address and go to blogger.com and you’ll have a live blog in no time.
Downsides? Features and functionality are extremely limited, if Google decides to eliminate the service for any reason and your blog will be abandoned.
Wix: Drag-and-drop tools, sleekly designed templates, and compatible third-party apps make Wix an extra approachable free DIY website builder, and the Wix blog app makes adding a blog equally simple.
Downsides? You can’t use a custom domain name unless you pay a monthly fee (your address will be [your user name].wix.com/[your blog name]), Wix includes branded ads on your blog, there are limited templates and limited features and functionality, and blog features aren’t particularly robust.
The basic Wix website builder is free. With a free Wix account, you’ll get a Wix subdomain that looks like this: https://username.wixsite.com/example.
HostGator: The website and blogging platform features simple drag-and-drop setup and even some ecommerce tools (for an additional fee). Using its sister web-hosting company of the same name makes security and backup management easy. While it’s not free, domain registration is included.
Downsides? Spotty support, fees for restoring your site from backups.
Medium: As much a community of writers, experts, and readers as a blogging platform, Medium is free for bloggers to use and extremely easy to set up and maintain. You won’t have the option of a custom domain (your blog name is medium.com/@[yourname], but you will have a built-in audience.
Downsides? Limited design features and social media tools, no way to monetize your account (other than through their Medium Partner Program).
3. Refine your topic.
Unless your desired audience is people who already know you and want to know what you have to say, it’s a good idea to narrow your focus for your blog. Why? Because honing in on a niche, mastering it, and writing articles naturally littered with keywords that underscore your niche helps you to build a following of people with similar interests and makes you more search-engine friendly. (The more search engines like your site, the more they will point to it.)
Sure, you can be broad. But the more focused the better. For example, if you love to cook and want to share your perspective with the world, rather than a basic cooking blog, try to narrow your focus to what really excites you. Maybe it’s baking. Or vegan. Or vegan baking.
As you refine your subject matter, ask yourself what value you are providing the reader and make sure you have a good answer. Optimally, you want to problem-solve, entertain, or educate. Even better if you can do all three at once!
Whatever your focus, keep in mind that it’s a lot easier to stand out in a smaller crowd of vegan-baking bloggers than it is to make a name for yourself among the hundreds of thousands of general cooking blogs.
4. Determine your voice.
Along with the subject matter, your “voice” is the personality of your brand. (Yes, if you’re blogging, you officially have a brand.)
Your voice should be distinctive, consistent, complimentary to your subject matter, and authentic.
An easy way to help define your voice is to describe what you imagine the character of your blog would be if it were a person. Is it witty or serious? Compassionate and positive or aggressive and suspicious? A formal authority or more like a knowing friend? Does it use slang? Would it ever swear, use heart emojis, or be snarky? Are there words it would never use? What about words that it uses all the time?
There are no right or wrong answers for your blog’s voice. Just be sure it is consistent and engaging.
Once you have an idea of your blog’s personality traits, write them down. The document can act as a good reminder for yourself and a great cheat-sheet if you ever have anyone ghost blog for you.
5. Think through your visuals.
**Visuals, or your blog’s design, graphics, and photos, are important elements of your blog. They support your written words or can be entries in themselves. They break up text-dense pages, they are thumbnails your readers will see if your blog features links to full posts, and they are attention-grabbers.
Additionally, visuals the types of graphics and images you choose give readers a visceral perception of your blog’s personality. Black and white images, punchy colors, cursive or block writing? Every visual decision you make should speak to the personality, and when appropriate subject matter, of your blog.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to create compelling graphics and headers for your blog design and your social media posts with Adobe Spark. Its free features include the ability to make graphics and photo collages as well as overlay animation and text for an instantly engaging, pro look. With its premium features, you can create a consistent brand look and manage all of your blog’s imagery in one convenient dashboard–not to mention get access to thousands of premium templates, designed by Adobe pros.
Don’t know what aesthetic you’re going for? Browse our blogging templates for inspiration.
Once you find a look you like, manage your brand by uploading your logo, choosing your fonts and colors, and Adobe Spark will make a collection of branded templates for you!
6. Create and optimize defining topics.
One great thing about a blog is you can write whatever you want, whenever you want. This allows your content to be timely and of the moment. But you should simultaneously create content that speaks directly to the heart of your blog’s focus, repeats keywords that best describe your subject matter, and consequently helps boost your SEO status with search engines and makes you easier to find via search results.
How to do it? Let’s take the vegan baking blog for example. If you’re regularly posting vegan recipes, your content focuses on the recipes themselves (Think Vegan Pear Crumble, Vegan Focaccia, or Vegan Chocolate Cake and all the ingredients and instructions that go with them.) What’s missing? The words baking and recipe. To underscore the subject matter of your blog and raise awareness with readers seeking vegan baking information and search engines, you’ll want to write some articles that talk directly about and frequently mention “vegan baking” (Secrets to Great Vegan Baking, Butter Replacements for Vegan Baking, What to Use instead of Eggs for Vegan Baking).
You’ll also want to optimize your hyperniche content as well, especially because it’s harder to compete with others vying for top search-result positions for common, generic terms like “vegan baking.” The way to do this is to leverage “long-tail” or more specific, multi-word keyword terms that people may type into a search engine’s search box.
Examples for the vegan baking blog? Consider “vegan pear crumble recipe” or “vegan focaccia recipe.” If those recipe posts are written with SEO in mind and include those keywords, they are likely to rank higher in search results.
So as you build your content, remember to strategically use a few focused keywords in the post title and use the same keywords in the meta description, alt-text, any internal links, and URL.
Beyond that, SEO best practices are a moving target since search-engine algorithms are regularly refined and updated, so it’s a good idea to do your research on and keep up with the latest thinking. Here’s a primer of 10 things everyone should know about SEO.
7. Craft an editorial calendar.
In order to garner a loyal following, you need to stay top of mind for readers, and that means posting frequently and regularly, at least once per week, ideally more.
Some days post ideas will come easily. Other days they won’t. So, it’s best to build an editorial schedule that includes your planned content as well as special dates or occasions that you can leverage for creating content (e.g. November 1st is World Vegan Day).
Your calendar can be on a spreadsheet, whiteboard, or lined binder paper. Whatever the case, it’s a good place to get your ideas written down for organization, momentum, and future inspiration.
8. Set up your promotion channels.
The truth is, if you build it, they won’t come. SEO can only take you so far, and it takes a while to kick in anyway. You have to actively lead people to your content, and the best way to do that is through social media and newsletters (if you are capturing user email addresses).
Although it doesn’t cost money to create specific accounts for your blog on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, and/or YouTube, promotion is hard earned; you’ll need compelling graphics—preferably that move!–optimized for each channel. Luckily the same visuals you create for your blog headers could be adapted for your social channels with Adobe Spark’s handy resize feature. Design once and then automagically adapt the content for Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, email, or wherever you’re promoting your blog posts in a few taps.
Need help figuring out which social media sites you should be on? Check out our guide to determine which social networks are right for your goals and audience or read more about how to stand out on social media.
Erika Lenkert is a writer in San Francisco and founder and Editor in chief of “GFF: Gluten-Free Forever Magazine.”