These days almost every other person who has an email id, a social media account and is internet-savvy has his own blog. A blog allows him to express his opinion on a variety of subjects that interest him. A blog also allows him to showcase his abilities and talents and lets others view it. There are more than 7 million blogs on the internet and their numbers keep growing every day.
What is a Blog?
The word “blog” actually stands for the term web-log. Web-log means a form of an electronic diary or a logbook that is created on the World Wide Web. Later with frequent usage, the word web-log was shortened to Blog. The blog actually is a page or pages which are displayed on the internet and can be read by net users. In other words, a blog is a type of website having written content. Blogs or its contents are also known as blog posts. A blog has text, images, videos, links web-pages and media on the Web. Blogs also have provisions for leaving comments and communicating with the author and other readers.
Types of Blogs
There are several types of blogs based on their content. There can be news blogs or celebrity blog sites. Blogs can be based on any sports. It can be on hobbies or passions. These are special interest blogs and hugely popular with niche viewers. There can be blogs on consumer products, gizmos, electronics etc. Or there can be blogs on travel destinations, fashions etc. A blog can be a magazine, newspaper, an event and meeting place, a showcase for displaying art and fashion, information sharing, teaching hub or a place to learn etc.
Why should you have a Blog?
This is a very important question. There must be a reason, a driving force or motivation; that requires you to have a blog. Some of the most common reasons are:
To make money:
It is quite possible to make a good amount of money by blogging if you have something to offer to people that they may consider worthwhile or valuable. Blogging provides an opportunity for secondary income, that too a passive income. Once you set up your blog and update it regularly with new contents, your blog continues to earn money even when you are not working on it.Making money by blogging takes time and is a patient, hard work. Yet the good thing is, it does not require much investment and thus the risks are low.
To promote yourself or your business:
These days promotion is the key to the success of any business. Whether you are self-employed or a budding entrepreneur; you need to reach to as many people as you can, at the lowest cost possible. Blogs allow you to do this in a more comprehensive and trustworthy way. The recognition that blog provides, can be used successfully in several different ways.
As an outlet of your literary expression:
Many have creative talents and want to show it off to the world at large. However, achieving the professional status is neither easy nor an overnight success story. Blogs allow you to present your talent and share your story to the world at almost no cost.
How to start your own Blog
So you are ready and eager to start your own blog. Here is a step-by-step guide on starting your blog.
#1. Choose a subject and an appropriate name
It is very important that you decide well what you want to blog about. There are thousands of blogs on popular topics. Think about how your blog is different from others. Think about how you can provide something to your viewers that are unique. Unless your blog has something new to offer, there is not much point in having a blog.
Once you have decided on the subject or topic that you will cover in your blog, you can think of an appropriate name. Naming the blog is a very critical activity with long range ramifications. Name of the blog should be chosen so as to:
reflect the essence and spirit of the blog is easy to spell and type on the keyboard must be easy to remember and memorable avoid using hyphens, numbers or unusual strings of words in case of problems, use your own name
#2. Should you choose a free blogging site?
You can always choose a free blogging platform for your blog. However, it is not advisable, unless you just want to learn and get the hang of it. It is all right if you want to use it as a trial run. For serious blogging, you should avoid it. There are several reasons why should not host your blog on free blogging site. Here are the reasons:
It is like living in a rented apartment. You don’t own it and you have to follow the rules made by your landlord.
The host can close or shut down your blog for any reason whatsoever. They impose penalties for reasons best known to them.
You cannot monetize your blog the way you want it, as they have many binding terms and conditions which are restrictive.
They have several restrictions on the advertisements that you may like to put in your blogs.
The web address of your blog becomes long and difficult to remember and type; as it also includes the name of the host.
These limitations are there in Blogger, WordPress.com and other such sites. So it is always better to start with your very own blog site and your own paid hosting service.
#3. Selecting a Domain Name and Web Hosting provider
What is a Domain name?Domain name is what identifies your blog site and helps people around the world find you. It is always better to choose the Top Level Domain name with extension .com. Although if your site is a niche site you can use other domain name extension also whichever you find appropriate. Typically a domain name costs about $10 per year.
What is Web Hosting?Web hosting is where all the contents of your blog are hosted or stored for use. The cost of hosting ranges from $5 to more, depending on the size of your blog; as well as other parameters such as data transfer.
The important features that you must look out for are :
Page load speed – which is the time taken for your blog to load. Less means better and faster.
Uptime – which means the time your blog will be visible taking into consideration maintenance or other downtimes, etc.
There are several web hosting service providers, and the best amongst them are Bluehost, Godaddy, Hostgator, iPage etc. These hosting service providers have several plans to suit every requirement. They have special discounted tariffs for annual, bi-annual plans. A few of these also offer free domain name for a year or two. You should visit their websites to know more about their current offers.
#4. Choosing the blogging platform (WordPress)
You will need to decide which platform to put your blog on. The most popular ones are WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger etc. These are all free sites, and not recommended for serious blogging. Among these, WordPress (.com) is the most popular and convenient Blogging Platform. There are more than 90 million active users of WordPress.
However, remember that WordPress has two variations. WordPress.com is the free site on which you can host your blog. But if you have your own domain name and hosting provider, then you have to use WordPress.org blogging platform. A self-hosted blog site will cost a small amount of money, but you will own your site and have complete control over it.
A blogging platform is the software system that you need to put your blog on and manage it. It allows you to create new blog pages, add or edit content, images, video, and anything that you need to do with your blog. A blogging platform is also known as a Content Management System or CMS. The majority of blogging platforms like WordPress, Tumblr, and Blogger are free. For having a self-hosted blog site, which you exclusively own; there are three popular blogging platforms to choose. These open source blogging platforms which are supported by most and major web hosting companies when you are creating your own blog are:
WordPress – This is the most and hugely popular content management system in the world. It is easily customizable and has very user-friendly features.
Joomla – This is also a very popular CMS but it is not for novices or amateurs. It requires a fair bit of technical knowledge.
Drupal – This is also a popular blogging platform, but it is actually best used by professionals. A blogger with no technical background will not be able to use it.
It is recommended to use WordPress blogging platform. The advantages are given below: It is very easy to set up and user-friendly. It does not require any technical knowledge. It has lots of features that are available without any additional cost. It is a very secure platform and it is constantly updated.
#5. Setting up a Blog on your own domain name (self-hosted WordPress)
All popular hosting services will enable you to install WordPress blogging platform. Here you will learn how to install WordPress, even if you have opted fr different web hosting providers.
Installing WordPress for BlueHostYou has to choose your hosting plan first. Initially, it is better not to opt for an expensive one. Choose the Basic plan, instead of the Plus or Prime plan. You can always upgrade later.After completing your purchase of the plan, you will receive a welcome email from Bluehost with your control panel login info. This information is vital for future reference.
Now you can log in to your Bluehost control panel with the information provided. Click to the Install WordPress icon under Website Builders option. Click the Continue Installation button.
On the next screen, choose your domain name where you want to install WordPress. Enter your WordPress user info. Enter your Site Name or Title and choose an Admin Username. Then choose a password, which will be used to login to WordPress. Enter your email address and complete your installation of WordPress.
Clicking on the Site URL link in your WordPress welcome email will take you to your brand new, live website. Clicking on the Login URL link will take you to the WordPress login page where you can enter your WordPress username & password and get into the back end of your WordPress site. This is where you will write your posts.
In case you used an existing domain name to install WordPress; you will need to change the name servers where your domain is currently registered. To do this, note your new Bluehost name server information. Then go to the registrar where your existing domain is currently registered; for example GoDaddy or BigRock; then enter the above information in the appropriate place.
Installing WordPress for Hostgator
After buying the hosting plan from Hostgator, log-in to your Hostgator control panel. Click ‘Get Started With WordPress’. Click Install. After WordPress is installed, you will see your log-in credentials. You will get an email which contains your login information and Admin URL.
Installing WordPress on any hosting provider
WordPress being the most popular blogging platform, almost all hosting companies have Single-click menu-driven options for installing WordPress. This will automatically install WordPress on your blog. The process is very simple, and here is the re-cap of it again, which is applicable across major web hosting service providers. :
Sign up with the hosting service provider.
Then choose your hosting plan. Some also offer a free domain name.
After payments are made; there is an option for one-click WordPress installation on the Admin panel.
Once WordPress is installed; you can log in to the WordPress Admin page by clicking the Admin URL or typing; www.your-blog-URL/wp-admin/ and using the credentials with which you set up the account.
#6. Designing and Customizing your WordPress blog
Once you are logged in WordPress, you can start designing your blog as you want it to appear on screen. WordPress blogging platform offers design templates called “Themes” to customize the appearance of your blog. In WordPress, blog layouts are known as “Themes” and they control the entire design of your blog. You can change your blog’s layout and design anytime by simply installing a new theme.
You will find that several themes are already installed on your blog, such as Twenty Seventeen, Twenty Sixteen, etc. These are simple, clean and well-designed themes that you can use. These have universal appeal and work for just any type of blog. You can use one of these themes to start with. To activate the theme on your blog, click the “Activate” button. That’s all it takes to change the entire design of your blog with a single click!
Installing a New Theme
If you want to install a new theme, bring the mouse over Appearance tab in the sidebar, and then click Themes. On the next screen, several themes are displayed. If you want to explore more themes, click the “Add New” button to start searching for a theme.
You will then find Featured, Popular, and Brand New themes. There is also a Feature Filter and search bar.
Feature Filter helps choose themes in certain color schemes, select specific layouts and also helps you choose themes with built-in advanced features. After choosing the options you can click Apply Filters and find the best theme for your blog. You can also search by keyword.
Initially, you can select a Free theme. There are thousands of professionally designed, fully-customizable and free themes you can choose from.
Later when you gain a bit of experience, you can select from Premium themes, which are paid themes. You can select one which is appropriate or best reflect your blog. Premium themes may cost around $30 or more; but they are worth the investment as they will give your blog the professional look.
You can switch to any Theme whenever you like. This requires just a few clicks. Your contents, blog posts and images remain intact, and you do not lose any content. The only difference is that these contents are re-arranged according to the theme you have chosen.
While choosing a theme; remember these vital points:
Choose a theme that reflects the essence of your blog and what the blog is about. So if your blog is about books, or motorsports, or Hollywood films; then the theme should be appropriate and able to reflect it.It should have a good User Interface, which means that it should be easy to navigate and people should be able to access easily whatever they are looking for. IIf they want to browse the archives or old post they should be able to go through it easily or able to search the content they are looking for.
Apart from the design, looks and appearance; pay close attention to the functionalities that the theme provides. A good looking blog site may attract viewers but it cannot retain them for long if the blog site is clumsy and take a long time to find relevant content. So keep it clutter-free and user-friendly.
Before you settle down on any Theme, do the following to understand and know the Theme better:
Read the description about the theme, its features, and functionality. This will make you ascertain whether it is suitable for your requirements or not.
You can also Preview the Theme to get an idea of its look, appearance, and feel.
Themes are also rated by their uses and the star ratings are useful in ascertaining he strength of the Theme.A responsive Theme that works best on mobile devices is always preferable.
After selecting the theme that you liked the most, click Install. Once the theme has been installed, click Activate. That’s it, as simple as that.
#7. Writing and Publishing your first post!
Your blog is now up and running. Without losing any time you need to start blogging.
Go to the left side menu and click “Posts”.
There is already a default post displayed, which you can delete by clicking the “Trash” button which is just under the post.
To add a new post, click the “Add New” link.
You are now presented with the post editor screen. Enter the title of your post in the top field and then begin writing your content on the big text box below the title.
To add an image to your post, click the “Add Media” button, keeping the cursor where you want th image to show up. Else, you will have to move the image later at the right place.
Then click the “Upload Files” tab on the pop-up screen. Then click “Select Files”. Select the picture file from your computer and double-click on it. WordPress will upload it automatically. You can also make adjustments to the size of the picture. Then click the “Insert into post” button to add the image to your post.
Adding a Link
Often you will need to put a link in your post to refer to other’s articles on their websites. This also helps in building your network and relationships, or sharing useful and share interesting content.
To add a link, click on the chain link icon in the toolbar.
On the pop-up window, add the URL of the link address you want to share.
“Link Text” is the visible text people see on the page, by clicking which they reach the link. This link text can be just “Click here” or whatever you like to be displayed.
Always check the box, “Open link in a new window/tab”, else when one clicks the link they will be re-directed to the link address and will not remain on your blog page.
To finish, click “Add Link”, and the link will be added at the cursor point on the post.
Tips on Formatting and editing content
Adding Headings and sub-headings
To add a heading, click on the drop-down menu at the bottom left of the toolbar. Use “Heading 1” only once at the top of your page.
Use “Heading 2” or “Heading 3” for different sections in the content. This helps search engines.
You can also change a text in your blog post, by highlighting the text you want to change. Then click on the drop-down menu and select the format you want the text to be in.
You can also make a part of your text in bold, italics or underlined. You can even change the colour of your text by highlighting it and clicking a few buttons. You can also change the Fonts and select the fonts that you like or find most suitable. Remember this Microsoft word like short-cuts:
B for Bold
I for Italics
U for Underlining text
A for selecting Font color in the drop-down menu
Publishing Your Blog
If you do not wish to publish now, you can save your draft by using the menu box on the right side. You can also schedule the post to be published later. You can also keep the post private.
Once you have finished, click the “Publish” button on the right side of the screen. Even after clicking Publish your blog may still show a “Coming Soon” page. To make your blog public, click the link near the top to remove the “Coming Soon” page. Once it is published, the new post can be found in the “All Posts” section of the “Posts” tab. You can also edit your posts anytime you wish to.
Congratulations!!! You are now a proud owner of a self-hosted WordPress site and have started your blog and on way to becoming a successful Blogger.
#8. Growing and Promoting your blog
Now that you have created a well-designed attractive looking blog and have written great content, you will need to promote your blog, to attract readers and visitors to your blog.
There is no single way to do it, but there are several ways, each of which contributes to the popularity of your blog. All these are a big subject in themselves and cannot be covered in a few blogs; but they will give you an idea how to promote your blogs.
Using Social Media
You will need to participate in discussions on social media, become members of the several groups, so that you can post the links on social media and attract attention.
When people share your links, you get more and more readers. The highest form of social media marketing is to make your posts go viral.
Email marketing plays a big role in getting new readers and also to make your readers come back regularly to your blog.
You can seek permission of your visitors to get notified on their email when you post something new. This keeps people coming back and you can build a closer relationship with them so that they further recommend your blog to others.
Paid advertising on social platforms like Facebook is very effective. What makes it great is that it is not very expensive either. Setting aside a budget of just $50 will be sufficient for you to find that how the visibility and traffic of your blog has sky-rocketed.
Improving the content of your blog
After you have created the blog, there are several thing you can do to improve your blog and make it stand out.
Create a good About Me page.
Adding a Contact Page or a Contact Form on your blog enables readers to contact you.
Add a Subscription box, so that you cand send emails for new posts.
Making the blog to be search engine friendly
Get your blog listed on Search Engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
Set up Google Analytics to study and get insights on your blog visitors.
You have to make your blog more search engine friendly, by adding proper meta tag and description of pages. Search engines like neat and friendly URL’s that are self-explanatory.
You can accordingly make your page URLs attractive to the Search Engines. To change the page links to make them cleaner and search engine-friendly, click “Settings” and then select “Permalinks” and write better meta tags.
Search engines also penalize blogs for having spam comments. Often people leave spam comments on your blog. They do it to get people visiting your blog to click the links and get to their blogs or to advertise their products and services. To prevent this, ensure that you are able to moderate all comments before they get posted on your blog. Go to “Settings”, select “Discussion” and tick disable comments options.
#9. Make money from your blog
Blogging started as a passion for many, but now successful bloggers are able to make lot of money from their blogs. As a matter of fact, many bloggers are making a grand living out of blogging. Many have become blogging millionaires and even publish their earnings on their blog. Once you have made the effort of creating a great blog, and have promoted your blog well to have a consistent large volume of traffic, then you can easily make money from your blog. Also remember that it is passive income, which means you do not have to work at it consistently to generate income. Once you have set it up well, it generates income while you are busy with other things or sleeping.
There are many ways to monetize your blog and these range from placing ads on your blogs to help companies promote their products and services, as an affiliate.
You can also sell your own digital products and merchandise. You can also get paid by writing reviews of products on your blog.
Once your blog becomes popular, you can solicit business with advertisers for posting their advertisements.
Though there are several online advertisers, the best and most reputable is, without any doubt, Google Adsense. All you need to do is to place the Google Adsense code and advertising unit on your blog. This is sufficient to have ads running on your blog. Google will find the most suitable advertiser for your kind of blog and blog post, and put their ads on your blog site.
Google Adsense does all the work required, behind the scenes and hands over the check or money transfer to your account every month. However, do remember that it takes time to get Google Adsense membership. Also, Google is very fact to penalize websites in case of any malpractices or fake clicking on the ads. To know more about Google Adsense and other ways to monetize your blog, you will need to await another article, in which these will be explained step-by-step.
Hope you enjoyed this article, and it helped you in setting up your blog without any problem. In case you still have any queries on this or need more help, you can put them in the comment box.