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Are you interested in blogging but not really sure where to start? I hear you! When I started my blog, I literally had no clue what I was getting myself into. So, first off, good for you for doing your research. Let me preface by saying that I am by no means an expert and definitely not the first to write about this topic, nor will I be the last. But I am pretty happy that you found me and my little site. We all have our preferences for how to go about this, but here is what I’ve learned along the way.
Step 1: Don’t Start Your Blog On Free Blogging Sites
Yes, I’m starting with a “what not to do”. This is the most important choice in the process and making the wrong choice out of the gate, will lead you down a path that could cost you a lot of time and money in the long run. How do I know this? Because I did it. I dove right into blogging without any research whatsoever and I paid the price, literally. So, kudos to you, as you are already one step ahead of me.
Why not sites like Blogger or WordPress.com?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking free sites like Blogger and I’m definitely not knocking WordPress, in fact, I use and love WordPress! However, there is one huge distinction, I use WordPress.org. Dun dun dun! Who knew there was a difference? Where many are led astray, as was I, a site like WordPress.com, at the basic level, is free whereas .org is going to cost you from the start. Wait! Don’t get scared off yet, I still have good news on that front.
Here’s the deal. You can set-up a free account for a site like 3clementines.wordpress.com, but the question you have to ask is, do you want to be a blogger for fun or a blogger who makes money? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with blogging for fun, but since you’re doing your research, I’m betting you’re looking for a little more serious commitment.
So why not just upgrade and buy a domain with WordPress.com?
You can purchase a domain from WordPress, but that’s where you can end up spending a lot of money, really quickly. I created a brief overview of each available plan below, including the monthly cost (billed annually).
I chose to start with the Personal plan and bought my domain from WordPress.com. Everything was OK until I realized that if I wanted to access valuable plug-ins (hello Pinterest Pin It button!) or monetize my blog (which I quickly realized of course I do), I was going to have to upgrade to a higher level plan. I bit the bullet and spent the money to bump up to the premium plan, but again, I found myself limited in what I could customize on my site and still unable to use valuable plug-ins. So, unlike you, I finally did my research, after the fact, only to learn about WordPress.org. Ugh, so frustrating!
Step 2: Select A Hosting Site And Buy A Domain Name
Another key difference between WordPress.com and .org is that .org is a self-hosted site whereas .com is being hosted for you by WordPress. Still too techy? It was for me too. Basically, with .com, WordPress makes it super simple to start your site and they take care of all the back-end stuff for you, including updates and security. A self-hosted site means that you’re doing all the dirty work, designing the site, selecting and installing plugins, and if you’re a super smarty pants, then you have your own server where your site is hosted. But, I’m betting those folks aren’t in need of my help, so, like me, you probably don’t have servers at home. Luckily, there is a solution to this.
The best place to start (or continue if you need to switch like I did) is Bluehost, where you get the best of both worlds. With Bluehost, you get the customization of a self-hosted site, but they do the hosting for you. And Bluehost is actually incredibly reasonably priced with plans as low as $3.95 per month plus a FREE domain. This is far less than you would pay with WordPress.com for the features of their Premium or Business plans.
If you’re like me and you’ve already invested in WordPress.com, don’t fret, they will refund you a pro-rated amount on your annual cost. I quickly got my refund and made the switch to Bluehost and WordPress.org and I’ve never looked back. The challenge for me was that I then had to figure out how to get all of my content transferred to the new site. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources available to help with this but if you aren’t tech savvy, you might have to hire someone, so that’s why you should just run away to Bluehost right now.
If you are brand new, Bluehost makes it super easy to get started. In fact, deciding on a domain name is probably the hardest part, but they even have you covered there. If you are still trying to come up with that perfect, catchy domain name, you can sign up now and choose your domain later. Bluehost offers one-click WordPress installation, 24×7 support and a money back guarantee. There is literally no risk, so why not give it a try?
P.S. Do you use Ebates? If you’re not familiar, it’s a FREE way to automatically get cash back for online purchases, including $10 cash back from a purchase made on the Bluehost site. Also, sign up with my link and they will give you another $10 free, so even more money back. Everything counts!
Step 3: Design Your Blog
Here’s where the fun really starts. There is a wide variety of free themes you can install from WordPress as well as some for purchase, but personally, I didn’t care for any of them. I don’t see a lot of bloggers advertise this, but I bought my theme on Etsy and I absolutely love it. If you search for themes on their site, you will find a ton of options and most are really reasonable. Mine was $50 plus I used Ebates again and got 10% cash back. I seriously use Ebates for everything I can.
Select and install your theme.
If you’re installing a theme from WordPress, easy peasy. If you are going to upload a purchased them, it’s a little more complex, though not impossible to do on your own. Most companies who sell themes, including Etsy sellers, will provide you with the steps on how to install your theme. Some Etsy sellers even offer upgrade packages to help with installing your theme for you. If you’re looking for something ultra feminine, I purchased mine from Pish and Posh Designs. They provided a step by step guide on how to install, what plugins to download and how to set everything up. It was actually pretty easy to do and since I was transferring from WordPress.com, Bluehost set-up a temporary URL until I was ready to make the official switch. Want to know exactly what plugins I’m using on my blog? Enter your email address below and I’ll send you my list for free!
Establish your initial pages of your blog.
These will most likely be Home, Blog Posts (or you can break them down by category once you have several), About Me, and Contact. If you plan to monetize your blog, I would also recommend adding a Disclosure page. This is where you will get into all the legal jargon about affiliate advertising, being paid to promote products, not being liable, etc. This is pretty important to have. Take a look at my Disclosure page.
Step 4: Write Your Content
Have you figured out your niche? Personally, I didn’t want to be pigeonholed to blogging about one single topic, so I chose the ever popular “lifestyle” category. I’m referring to myself as a “Mom Lifestyle” blog. That means that I can talk about whatever I want but be ready for a lot of pictures of and stories about my kids.
Some bloggers recommend that you have several articles posted before actually going live with your site. I’m a little on the fence about that. I say, get your blog out there and build it as you go. The biggest tip I have learned in writing blog posts is to use high-quality photos and lots of them. Think about what draws you to a website, is it the beautiful choice of fonts? No! It’s the photos that tell the story. Of course, there needs to be quality content to back up those photos, but it’s the visuals that draw us in. If you’re not skilled at taking photos or just don’t want to, you can find a lot of resources for free stock photos, most will just require you to subscribe to their site to get them. Check out sites like Ivory Mix for free and super feminine stock photos like the ones I’ve used in this post. Ivory Mix also offers a super affordable membership plan ($10/month) if you want access to even more stock photos or many of her photo bundles can be purchased for only $10.
Step 5: Advertise Your Content
Congratulations! Your blog is live and you’ve published your first post. Now get busy and advertise the heck out of it! Get it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and of course Pinterest is an absolute MUST. Pinterest is the number one driver of traffic to my site. You need to create multiple, high-quality pins for each post you write. For more information on mastering Pinterest, check out my blog post How To Increase Your Traffic With Pinterest where I reviewed a course called Pinterest Unpuzzled by Eden Fried. If you do nothing else, take this course! Don’t focus your attention solely on growing social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram. While social media is great for networking and promoting, Pinterest is where your audience is, so don’t wait to start growing that account.
Network and then network some more.
Join groups on Facebook so you can network with other bloggers and support one another. These groups will often have follow-for-follow threads, social media share threads, and blog post shares. They are also great resources for asking questions about blogging, from simple advice to technical help. There are so many groups out there, so join multiple, especially those in your niche. For example, I’m a member of groups like Modern Moms, Mom Blog Tribe, and Mom to Mompreneur, to name a few.
Create a newsletter to send to your subscribers.
Remember, you’re on WordPress.org (or you should be!) so readers will only receive your posts via email if you get them to subscribe and then send it to them. Save money and use a free service like MailChimp. You can either create an automated email that goes out every time you post something new to your blog feed or you can manually create one. Both have their perks, but I like the manual option since you can customize it to your latest post.
Can you believe that’s it?
Five simple steps to set up your very own blog. Don’t forget, if you want to take the guesswork out of designing your blog and figuring which plugins to use, just enter your email address below and I’ll send you my free list of essential WordPress plugins. And now that you’re an official blogger, go get to writing and advertising all that awesome content!