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Beginning blogger’s ultimate guide – the things no one tells you.
I am about to save you A LOT of time. Well, it took me a while to compile it. Maybe you’re a wizard at this stuff – if so, kudos to you. I’m writing to the people out there who can’t afford the time to research and take tons of courses and consolidate all the bits and pieces of knowledge you glean into one perfect work flow.
A good portion of this information I acquired slowly over the course of a year; researching and figuring things out on my own. There are so many things to do, information overload when you are starting out blogging, yet most tutorials you find are simply about setting up a domain with hosting.
True to my disclosure above, I am recommending various companies to you because I believe they are paramount to your success. I’ve utilized every single one and endorse them because I know they are good. Beneath each recommendation I will make a note of each affiliate so that you have a healthy list in the event you want to learn about affiliate marketing.
How do you BEGIN? What are the first steps?
1. Decide to do it.
You’ve got this! If I can do it, so can YOU. I believe in you.
2. What do you want to write about?
- What comes up in your conversations?
- What do you like to read about?
- What do you enjoy researching?
- What do you do in your free time?
3. Think of keywords that relate to your subject/s to name your blog!
Write them all down, and then go through each one and see if there could be a unique twist, a combination of words perhaps using a homonym. Utilize Thesaurus for additional brainstorming.
If your niche will be very specific, come up with several ideas for that niche. You may want to start out a bit broader so that you can narrow down your niche later when you discover what exactly it is your readers want. You might want to write about one thing, they may want to learn about another.
Try not to use dashes, dots or numbers in your website name as these can come across as more spammy. Also, unless you are a non profit, try to stick with “.com” for your domain name. Using four words or less is best. You want a memorable name, one that you don’t have to explain or spell out when someone asks you what your website is. DO NOT misspell a name on purpose – this will ensure that no one finds your site when you give them the name.
Another option is to use your name. This gives you the ability to branch out in many directions, or narrow down your niche once you know what your audience wants. However, keep in mind that a business using your name is considerably more complicated if you choose to sell it down the road. There can be other disadvantages with using your name, just think about your choice, research, and move forward informed.
4. Find out if it is available on all the platforms you might use
Knowem is a great resource that checks across the board of many social media outlets all at once. (Instagram, WordPress, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
Don’t be dissuaded if your first brilliant idea has already been taken. This happened to me time and time again. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I learned from many bloggers not to get too hung up on this as your website will develop as you grow and you find out what your readers need. Getting started is the main thing! I wasn’t crazy about the name I chose initially, but it was available and was applicable to all the things I wanted to blog about.
Let me reiterate. Don’t get hung up on this. Being a perfectionist cost me a year in getting my blog live.
Guess what – Knowem has an affiliate program!
5. Create an email address for your business
Preferably with the exact name of your website. You will need it for everything here on out.
6. Sign up for LastPass
I waited waaaay too long for this one! It was much easier to set up than I anticipated and I am impressed with the ease of use. LastPass is a password provider that creates encrypted passwords for every site that requires one. You add the extension to your browser and for your phone, download the app.
Then you simply create a master password and LassPass does the rest. When you visit a site, a little box pops up that asks if you want to add it to your “vault” and you click yes. Done! You have a super safe password that automatically (should you choose) signs you in when you visit the site.
LastPass has some great suggestions on creating that master password.
PS – they have an affiliate program!
7. Get your blog started!
This is where I am really true to my readers. Go with SiteGround for your hosting.
Many of the bloggers out there will recommend that you start your website hosting with Bluehost. Bluehost has some very affordable plans for first time subscribers and often include a free domain name. I started with them myself.
The problem is, when your initial price plan runs out, renewals can become pricey. I’m not here to blacklist Bluehost, but I have heard on many accounts of dicey customer service and bloggers frustrated because of having their website crashed for a day.
Here is the main reason I recommend and switched to SiteGround:
A good name.
Word of mouth is the best advertising and I have NEVER ever heard anything negative (ever!) about SiteGround and their service. Do you own due research. They are a 5 star company.
Good news! If you already have hosting with another provider, SiteGround will give you a complimentary transfer. They are compatible with WordPress. (You may also qualify for a refund from your previous hosting company.)
SiteGround also offers you a free SSL certificate, a must have with websites now or Google will label your site “unsecure.” They take your security seriously and offer many features for protection free of charge which other companies only include in upgrades.
SiteGround‘s support is outstanding, and if you need help, the wait time via phone or chat is nil. You will be helped immediately. If you create a help ticket, wait is 10 minutes or less. Their servers are faster, which means your site is faster!
Need more convincing? They have an affiliate program you can sign up for you if you love the service and want to recommend them to your readers.
8. Set up an account on every platform you will use.
Examples would be Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, WordPress, LinkedIn, etc. This is where LastPass is so handy! No need to come up with countless passwords. Don’t wait on this step as you don’t want your blog name taken!
9. Choose how you will run your business – LLC or Sole Proprietor.
Take the necessary legal steps for your choice based on the state you live in. I am not a lawyer so if you need more information on the best decision for you, talk to your lawyer. This post is simply sharing my advice. I chose LLC for these reasons.
10. Set up an account at the bank
Create a separate account for your business. This is the account you will do all financial transactions through for your blog business. There are startup costs in blogging, better to keep them separate from the beginning. Be sure to set up a savings account for tax savings, so that you can immediately transfer 30% of your income directly into it after being paid.
Yes, contrary to what you may have read about starting your own blog for $3 a month, there ARE expenses in starting a blog. But look at it as a business right from the start, and invest in yourself. The results will pay off. It is a much smaller investment compared to a lot of other businesses you could start.
11. Get a postal address
This is to be in compliance with the CAN-SPAM act of the Federal Trade Commission. (Reference.) Trust me, this is worth the cost to you. Here is what the FTC has to say about violation: “Each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $40,654, and more than one person may be held responsible for violations.”
Yep, you don’t want to miss this step!
12. Sign up with an email marketing service
There are a few choices available to choose from, and many have great reviews. I have a few companies listed below because I want to encourage you to choose what works best for your needs. I decided to go with Mailerlite.
My choice was based on several things. The format is simple, (which is AWESOME when starting out!) offers ease of use, is very customizable, and is used and recommended by bloggers I follow. It is also very affordable. Mailerlite allow you to use their software free for up to 1000 subscribers, at which point you can choose a tier that will best suit your needs.
They also have a great affiliate program so if you are looking to earn through affiliate marketing, Mailerlite is a great choice!
Other great options are Mail Chimp, ConvertKit, Mad Mimi and Active Campaign.
13. Choose a logo and theme for your site
This is the theme designer I chose for my site. Her style is simple and clean, which is the vibe I was going for. They have several tutorials on installation and set up, as well as editing the theme in WordPress. I found my logo designer on Etsy. There are many options out there, take some time to peruse websites you admire and take note of what stands out to you. Choose your logo designer and site theme accordingly.
14. Start creating content
I’ve read various opinions on this one, but “they” say you should have between 10-20 posts published on your blog when you go live. Doing this gives your readers some idea of the content they can expect and a good start to your brand. It also gives you several articles to share on your social media platforms as you write and grow your business over the next several months.
This includes your welcome email to your new subscribers! Yes, when someone subscribes to your blog, you need to have an automated (but warm and well written) email sent out to them immediately. Get familiar with your email marketing choice. Then design and create your campaigns so they are ready to go when you want to email your readers.
15. Create Pinnable or Pinterest images
Pinterest is the name of the game these days with blogging. Not only does it offer the benefit of staying organized, you have the ability to get your content out in front of many people right away. MOST people who will be reading your blog will be looking for a way to save your articles on Pinterest. Make that easy for them by offering bright, engaging, colorful and appropriate size images for them, branded with your website or logo.
Canva and Crello are two great options for creating images with text and are very easy to use. They both offer an incredible user interface, which makes it easy to create stunning visuals. Be sure when selecting an image for use that it is free under the creative commons license. I often find mine on Unsplash. There are also some great options online where you can purchase a monthly subscription to stock images.
Many bloggers have utilized this website, which is a disclosure policy generator. Another great option (and one I recommend) is using your lawyer. It’s good to cover your bases and you want your visitors to know that their information is secure on your site.
I will continue to edit and update this post as I learn of new tools to help bloggers. There is so much to know, but the good news is there are unlimited resources to help you grow your blog business! The blogging community is a great one to be a part of, the majority of people in it are eager to help you find success. I would be happy to answer any question you may have that I did not cover in this post.
You have value. Your words have value. Your knowledge is valuable. While there may be millions of blogs out there, no one can say what you have to say in your own special way. Your people are out there, and you will help them. Blogging takes determination and stamina, but if you persevere, you will be rewarded.
Now go get ’em!