The No-Fluff Guide to Starting a Blog
If you're planning on becoming a blogger because you want loads of cash, lots of free stuff and invites to fancy events- you might as well quit now. While all of these things ARE a perk of being a blogger, but it takes a while to reach that stage. So, in the beginning, you really have to be in it for the love of it. You need to have a passion and a drive to produce lots of great content, even when your blog is a tiny fish in colossal pond.
Ready to make the leap? Here’s how to get started.
Where to Start
Before you can do anything else, you need a blogging platform. If you don’t want to fuss with setting up your own blog, Medium is a good place to start. Blogger also offers a free blogging platform. Though these sites help you get started for free, they offer very little freedom. Setting up your own site with its own domain name is usually a better option. I’ve found SquareSpace to be affordable and very easy to use. They also have a lot of free website templates for those of us that know nothing about web design. (No, they aren’t paying me to say that.)
Set Up a Home Office
When you're working from home, it makes sense to set up a good office space. A space of your own means you're comfortable and can stay productive- once you're at your desk you know, it's time to get down to work. Having a separate office also helps you to maintain a good work/ life balance which can be tricky when you're working a significant amount of time from home.
If you have a spare bedroom, give it a coat of paint and kit it out with a sturdy desk, an office chair, some shelves and some storage. You could finish with some fun accessories and personal touches that make the room feel pleasant to spend time in.
Clear, Beautiful Images
Your content is important, and the words you write will keep a reader coming back for more. But it’s the images you use that will draw them in and will bring your words to life. It's the photos that will make your blog and blog posts look visually appealing. If you run the kind of blog that reviews products, you will need clear, high-quality images of whatever you’re talking about. If you write about lifestyle or travel, you will a good camera to be able to take beautiful, stunning shots of the places you visit.
A good quality camera such as a DSLR is a good investment as a blogger. These can be complex, but Skillshare has some great low-cost classes that you can take to learn how to use one.
A good understanding of Photoshop or other editing software is useful too, so you can enhance your images and make them the best they can possibly be.
Good stock photos are important, too, for times you can’t take your own photos. Here’s a list of all the places you can get free images and graphics for your blog:
A Nice Layout
Cluttered blogs with ads everywhere, messy presentation, cheap looking fonts in poor styles and colors and the cardinal sin, background music playing, can all put off a reader. You might feel like your content is the only thing that truly matters, but unfortunately, no one will read what you have to say your blog has an unpleasant aesthetic.
If you've tried designing your blog yourself you could be putting people off in all kinds of ways. Your best bet in this case is to either use a premade template or find a web designer.
Improve Your Domain Authority
Your domain authority is something that sponsors will be looking at when they're searching for blogs to work with. This is a metric devised by Moz which shows how much authority your blog has online.
Lots of different factors make up your score, some of which you can’t directly influence (such as your website's age) but one thing you can do is get as many backlinks as possible. This is where you get your link onto good quality websites, and the main way you can go about it is by offering guest posting. The website owner gets some good quality content, and you get to include your link. You could also speak to a network of bloggers and ask if they would be willing to swap links with you which is a quick and easy way for you all to gain some backlinks.
Another thing you can do to boost your domain authority is to get rid of any broken links and within your site. Use a broken link checker and go through and remove anything that no longer works.
My favorite tool is Diib. It goes through your whole site and finds ways to improve your site’s rank and earn more money from your blog. It also walks you through the steps to fix your site rank, get more readers and more.
Think of Ways To Monetize
You can earn money from blogs in a number of ways. Your biggest source of income as a blogger will be sponsored content, here you will work with an advertiser publishing blog posts or ads for a fee. Depending on how influential your blog is, advertisers can pay very well for this. The only trouble is because they come to you, you can never be sure how much work you're going to get. Some months you might get lots of interest and others less or none.
Some other income sources are:
Selling your own ebooks or other digital media
Set up a members area for special pro tips or socializing
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is how search engines find your blog or posts so they can suggest them to internet searchers. Here’s how to make Google, and the others, love you.
When it comes to blogs you need well written, interesting and engaging content, and you don’t need to squeeze this into a couple of hundred words. Allow your creative writing to flow and expand on your favourite topics.
Why? Because your readers deserve a beautifully crafted, well thought out read. Also, search engines tend to favor longer posts. You might be done at 1,000 words, but there’s nothing wrong with pressing on to 2,000 if you find you can. Don’t make a post long if it doesn’t need to be, though! Search engines are smart and can tell when a blogger is just writing fluff to make their posts longer.
Remember, make your posts interesting and informative, but stop when you’re done.
Keywords and phrases
These are the tools for your SEO success, but they must be used very carefully. When creating your blog title you’ll want to use SEO keywords that are highly searchable. But shoe horn them into your title and you’ll be penalised for using phrases that look unnatural and obviously there for Google’s eyes only.
The same goes for the rest of your text. Make sure that you use your keywords and phrases as naturally and liberally as possible but without making it look like they don’t belong.
Arguably, the most important quality of a successful blog is that it is updated as frequently as you can manage. However, you shouldn’t allow this rule of thumb to get in the way of quality. Your blog posts should always be helpful to your audience, or at least entertaining.
Ultimately, if you are not entirely happy with your writing, then you should either polish it until you are, or write something new.
Still, it is important that you keep your blog regularly updated, as this ensures that readers will continue to return as often and search engines will show your site in search results. Whatever posting schedule you decide on, keep it. Consistency is important.
Many people have gone before you already, even with the Internet being as young as it is, and many of the trailblazers have great advice to share. There are a huge number of blogging resources out there which you should take advantage of for this reason. Doing so will help you to get your blog to where you want it to be. I suggest reading Jon Morrow's blog.
Blogging and YouTube might be separate platforms, but they can go hand in hand. You can work with both of these as a way to gain a bigger audience and appeal to the most number of people. For example, you could do lifestyle vlogs on YouTube, but then full reviews of places you visit on the blog.
As a blogger, you absolutely need to utilise social media to do well. This is the way you connect and network with others, and it also gives you a free way to advertise. You should set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest (choose two you really like) and use each of them as a way to promote your blog and connect with others.
Once you start making money from your blog, you need to ensure that you’re paying the right amount of taxes and that you're registered to do so. In most cases, it's as simple as completing a form online and then submitting a tax return each year where you can pay anything that's outstanding. It’s good practice to put money aside in a separate account, that way when your tax bill comes in you have a way to pay it without struggling.
Content is King
Finally, the most important thing for any blog is putting out the best content possible. You should provide the reader with information that’s interesting and valuable. If you write about things you yourself are passionate about, your enthusiasm will transfer to your posts. This is how you will attract readers and gain you interaction on your blog posts.