Follow This Checklist for Starting Your Blog
You’ve decided to join the ranks of the world’s bloggers.
That’s a great idea. A blog can bring so many benefits. But now you have to figure out how to get started.
Here are the main steps you need to take to start a blog.
First, do you already have a website?
If so, jump to the next section. If not, you need to start your website first. There are four things you must have to launch a website:
1. Domain Name
Your domain is the main address for your website on the web. It’s what people will type in to reach your website directly.
A domain name should be as close to the name of your brand as possible. If the .com for the name you most want isn’t available, brainstorm alternative names or variations on the one you have that will be easy for people to remember.
You can buy a domain on its own, but in most cases, you can get one for free when you buy the next thing you need.
2. Web hosting
All websites must have web hosting. It’s what keeps your site on the web and accessible to visitors. Most web hosting plans include at least one free domain name and many include helpful add-ons that make creating your website easier, like templates or website builders.
Some hosting plans are especially suited to working with popular blogging platforms, so if the blog is the entire reason you’re starting a website, look for a plan that’s designed to support that particular need.
3. Web design
Once you’ve claimed your space on the web, you have to actually create the site itself. If you’re not skilled at web design, you can still easily put together your own website with the help of a website builder.
If you want something that looks more professional or unique, look into hiring a web designer to create your site for you. If you want the blog to be the main focus of the site, make that clear going in. Your website should be designed to drive people directly to your content.
When people land on your website, they’ll want to know where they are and what the site is all about. Before you launch your website, you’ll need to figure out the best words to use to explain to people what your website is and why they should stick around.
It’s worth considering a professional copywriter for this part, particularly if you want your website to encourage people to take a specific action – like buying a product. If your goal is mostly just to share your ideas with the world, then you might not need to hire someone for this, but be sure to spend some time researching online copywriting if you do it yourself so you do it right.
The 5 Things You Need to Start Blogging
With all the website basics in place, you can start thinking specifically about the blog now. There are five main things you need to create a blog.
1. A blog strategy
Chances are, you want your blog to accomplish something. Otherwise, why not just put your writing into a personal journal? For your blog to be effective at achieving whatever your goals are, you’ll need to take time before you start writing to clearly define a strategy.
Determine what your main goals for your blog are and brainstorm a specific plan for how best to achieve them. Think about things like:
- Who you want to reach
- How often you want to publish new posts (be realistic here!)
- The types of content you want to create
- How you’ll measure success
- How to reach the audience you want
- How to keep the audience you find
Blogging isn’t easy. You’ll get more out of it for the time you put in if you spend a little time upfront deciding exactly what you want to get out of it and how.
2. A blogging platform
You have a number of blogging platforms to choose from. WordPress (pictured below) is by far the most popular and is designed to be easy to use, even for brand new bloggers learning the basics. But some other platforms provide benefits you may appreciate, like more customization options or simpler functionality.
Review your options and determine which one is right for your needs.
3. A content schedule
And now we reach the hard part – the nitty gritty of keeping a blog going. Creating new content regularly takes time and energy. If you’re going to keep up with it, you need to consistently commit time to getting it done (or hire someone to do it for you).
Brainstorm topic ideas in advance and have a calendar planned out for what you’ll be publishing when – before you start writing. Devote time on your schedule daily or weekly, based on how often you plan to publish. Set separate deadlines for writing, editing, and publishing.
Your schedule (and your ability to keep it) is one of the most important parts of keeping a blog going. Without it, you’re likely to let it fall off soon after starting.
At this point, readers expect blog posts to include images. They’re 80% more likely to read your posts to begin with if you add an image to it. Plan on devoting some time (and possibly budget) for finding at least one image to go with each post.
You can find high-quality images for free on a number of websites, or even better, make your own. Original images tend to perform better than stock photography, but they do take more time to create.
5. A promotion plan
Blogging is competitive. If you’re going to get people to pay attention to your blog posts out of the many, many others out there, you have to do something to get their attention first. That means content promotion is a necessity.
Look into different online marketing tactics for increasing awareness of your blog. Consider getting involved in social media, guest posting on other relevant blogs, and teaming up with influencers. You’ll probably need to try out a few different types of promotion tactics to get a feel for what works best for your audience and blog. Pay attention to your analytics as you go so you can measure what promotion efforts get you results.
Several of the things you need to start a blog are simply a matter of getting the structure into place, but some of the most important parts of the process are ongoing. Be prepared to commit real time and energy to the process.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.