Blogging is amazing, and is a huge part of my life. I’ve said this for years and Istill stand by it – I truly believe that everyone should blog. Whether you’re writing for business, or a hobby, or just to have somewhere to write out your thoughts, blogging is an incredible tool. One of the first posts I wrote on The White Corner Creative was 7 Reasons Why You Need to Start a Blog Right Now. Blogging can bring you new clients for your business, new buyers for your products, new readers for your words, or just new people to interact with.
But, what stops most people from actually getting started is that they don’t know how. It seems like a difficult world to launch yourself into when you don’t know anything doubt it, but trust me when I say it’s not as difficult as it seems. If you’ve decided you want to start a blog, or are thinking about it and want to know all that it entails, I’ve come up with this beginners guide to give you everything to know to get started.
Decide on a Niche
The first thing you need to decide when starting is blog is what you are going blog about. In the blogging world, this is called your niche. There are some niches as wide as ‘lifestyle’ – this is used to describe bloggers who talk about a wide range of lifestyle topics like makeup, beauty, crafts, cooking, and their own lives. There are some niches as narrow as ‘paleo cooking’ for bloggers who write only about recipes for those on a paleo diet. There is no master list anywhere of niches that you have to choose from, your niche can be whatever you want it to be. It can be as broad as you want, or as narrow as you want.
I like to think that you can tell your niche is good if you can think of a tagline for it. Every blog usually has a tagline – a short line that sums up what the blog is about. Some bloggers display this on the top of their blog, and some just write one to have on hand for when discussing their blog or sharing it with others. My niche in general is ‘entrepreneurship’ because I write about blogging, entrepreneurship, design, business, and a number of other relate topics, all which can be generalized under the heading of ‘entrepreneurship’. My tagline is ‘The White Corner Creative is an online resource dedicated to helping creative entrepreneurs build a beautiful blog, business, and life.’ If you can think of a tagline that sums up nicely what you will be writing about, I think that usually means your niche is well formed. Some people know immediatley what they want to blog about, and some struggle with deciding. If nothing comes to your mind right away, you can try my post on How to Find Your Niche in 30 Days.
Choose a Name
Once you’ve got your niche decided, you need to choose a name. This is a step that can take a long time, but it’s important to slow down, take your time, and choose a name you love. Just like a child’s name, if you start hating it ten years down the road it’s impossible to change (or pretty darn difficult). So, take your time and choose one that’s right for you. Melyssa over at The Nectar Collective has a great post on How to Choose the Perfect Name for Your Blog, which also includes a free printable worksheet to help you out.
One thing that I try to remind people of is that a blog name is not going to sound like a blog name the second you think of it. It’s probably going to sound clunky and not as smooth as you’d like it to be. But I’m sure Google sounded like a really stupid word when they thought of it as well, it just takes time and use to make something sound legitimate.
Build Your Brand
Building a brand for yourself is another important part of staring a blog. I know that most people by this stage will be anxious and just want to start writing, but you really need to do everything right the first time, so down the road you don’t have to scramble to do things and redo them how you wish you had done them the first time. I promise you won’t regret it. The steps below will build you a branding scheme that you can perfect and then maintain throughout all of the branding for your blog.
Design a Logo
These two steps are really interchangeable, and you can really do them all at once. You might build a colour scheme you love only to have to adjust it slightly when the colours don’t look great in your logo, and vice versa – and that’s okay. At this point in your blogging career you probably aren’t ready to invest any real money into your blog, so hiring a designer isn’t a great option. But just remember, a few years down the road if your blog is going well and you’re ready to take things to the next level, you might regret not taking the time or investing a professional logo. But, I think that most bloggers go through this pattern – building a novice blog and design, blogging for a little while until they see if it’s really a viable income source or passion, and then investing in a more professional design.
If you’re going to design your own logo at this point, do your research and find the right resources to help you out. There are free design programs like Canva that you can use, and lots of great articles that will tell you all you need to know and consider when designing a logo. You should look on Pinterest for inspiration for your logo – you don’t want to copy anyone else’s, but there’s lots of great inspiration out there. You can use a free font and stick with a standard typeface logo, or add some graphics if you feel ambitious. Remember that this logo has to last you a long time, so you want it to be something that will be timeless and will represent all that you brand entails. I believe that every logo should have variations to be flexible and usable across all platforms, you can read my post on Why One Logo Won’t Work for You and Your Brand
Create a Moodboard and Brand Board
Alongside creating your logo, you need a brand board and mood board. These are two things that a lot of new bloggers skip over in the beginning, but are vital to creating a brand that you can carry across all channels. These will build you a colour scheme and a design direction that you can look to every time you are creating a piece of branding for your blog, and this will help you to stay consistent and professional looking in everything you do.
I have two posts with my branding content along with free templates that you can download and use that will be helpful for you in this step – Brand Moodboard + Free Moodboard Template and New Branding + A Free Brand Board Template.
Select a Platform
Next you need to decide what platform you’re going to use to blog on. There are lots of options out there, but some of the most common ones are WordPress, Blogger, and Squarespace. You could do research for days deciding which platform to use, and people are always fighting about which one is best, but ultimately it’s your decision. I know that WordPress has free and paid options, as does Blogger, but Squarespace is pay only.
I’m a WordPress user and supporter, so that’s what I’m going to recommend for you. If you want a free service, then WordPress.com is for you, and if you are looking for a more serious, longterm option and willing to pay, WordPress.org is for you. You can take a look at my WordPress 101 series to get some tips and learn how to use WordPress as a beginner and specifically my post WordPress 101 Part 1: WordPress.com VS WordPress.org to decide which WordPress is right for you.
Setup Your Blog
Whichever platform you decide to use, the next step is to actually setup your blog. Upload the logo that you created and place it in the header of your blog. Then customize the design of your blog as much as you can to suit your brand board. Most of these platforms have a number of preinstalled themes that you can choose from, which offer a lot of choices on how your blog can look. Depending on the platform you are using you might also be able to customize your design using CSS. WordPress.org is the platform I use, which allows me complete control over my design – which I have completely customized to suit my brand and blog.
Once you’ve got your design perfected, you need to setup your blog with all the settings and content you need. Your navigation bar is the bar along the top of the page under your logo, where all the most important links need to be – here’s 4 Links Every Blogger Needs on Their Navigation Bar. You also need to fill your sidebar with important content like some welcome information for readers and your social links. You can checkout my post The Ultimate Guide to Being a Dream Client which has information on vital pages that you should have, ideas for what content to put in your sidebar, calls to action you should consider placing throughout the site, and more, as well as a free worksheet you can print off to fill out.
If you are just starting out as a blogger, you might not have even heard of SEO before, but it’s a vital part of the web design world. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is what makes your site viewable to search engines and show up in results. When someone uses a site like Google to search for something, your blog could come up in the results. The better your SEO, the higher up in the results your site will appear – and the higher your site appears, the more likely people are to click on your link and read your content.
So how do you get good SEO? Unfortunately SEO is the combination of a number of factors, and is constantly evolving. Today people take entire courses and school programs on SEO alone, and whole companies are dedicated to optimizing it. If you want to work on SEO yourself, the one thing I recommend to Worpdress users is SEO Yoast. This is a plugin that you can install on your site to optimize your SEO (as much as possible without hiring the professionals). It adds a little window to each post you write where you select a keyword, and it instructs you on what to do to improve your SEO. SEO is dependant on a number of factors including authority, age, link backs, etc – which you can read all about in SEO Basics – Understanding the Almighty Search Engine.
Write a Few Posts
The novice blogger will likely setup their blog and then make it live right away after writing just one or two posts. Then they throw it out to their family friends and ask them to read. But, this isn’t ideal. Firstly because when you publish a blog you want people to read it, be intrigued, and then read more. You want people to stay on your blog for as long as possible taking in your content, and if you only have one post, that isn’t going to be for very long.
I’d recommend having a good number of quality posts published before you share your blog at all. I’d say a good number to aim for is 5 or 6. You should have these fully written, edited, and published on the blog. Then you should have a handful of posts ready and scheduled for publishing over the next little while. I publish posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday on a fairly regular basis (unless I fall behind or something comes up) and I try to have them ready to publish long before the day they are supposed to. Then you can write them and schedule them for a certain date down the road, and then never think about them again. That way you’ll always have consistent content publishing without having to scramble at the last minute. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Click Publish Now – Scheduling Posts, one of the first posts I ever shared on my new blog, but still very relevant.
Set up Social Media
One thing that every good blog needs is social media. If used correctly, social media can be a great place to build community, find followers, and direct traffic to your blog. Depending on what kind of blog you have different platforms might be helpful for you, but in general some great ones to try are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those are the ones I focus most of my attention on, and I see the biggest return on traffic from Pinterest.
You can try this post on 5 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Pinterest Traffic Right Now to get started, and then join some group boards with 11 Great Pinterest Group Boards for Bloggers. Twitter Chats are also a great way to build connections and grow your followers (and consequently your traffic) – you can checkout my Ultimate Guide to Twitter Chats for everything you need to know about them. It’s also great to join Facebook Groups so you can connect with other bloggers and help promote each other’s content, especially when you’re just starting out. To start off you can try 8 Facebook Groups Every Blogger Should be a Member of.
This is also where your branding guide will come in handy. Have it open and in sight when you create all your different profiles so they are all consistent. Use the same profile pictures or variations of your logo on every platform so people recognize your brand wherever they go. And most importantly – link to all your social media accounts in your sidebar so people can easily follow you when they want to.
Start Sharing & Interacting
Once you’ve got a good amount of content published and ready, and you’ve set up your social media accounts, it’s time to
start sharing! Beyond the standard social media accounts mentioned above there are tonnes of different places that you can share posts, from Facebook Groups to Stumbleupon.
Beyond sharing your own content you also need to start interacting with other people’s content. It’s the best way to get your name and your brand out there where people can see it. You always want to share and interact with good content (don’t compromise on quality) but there is a tonne of good content out there. Read other blogs in our niche and outside of it, and share the content that you think someone who follows your blog might also be interested in. Comment on blogs to build relationships with other bloggers, and interact with them on social media when you can (again where Facebook Groups and Twitter Chats come in handy).