This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
So you want to start a blog, huh? But where do you start, right? It can be really overwhelming, and trying to read everything on the topic will leave you paralyzed. Dude, I get it. I felt the same way when I decided to reenter the blogging world.
But I launched this site over Labor Day weekend in 2016, and in the last 30 days, I had over 30,000 unique visitors. I accredit the growth to a couple different strategies, many of which I learned through that ebook I mentioned the other day, but you know what really made it happen? I finally started. I stopped planning and reading, and I hit “Publish.”
THE FIVE STEPS TO START A BLOG
- Planning for your blog’s launch
- Clarifying your brand
- Hosting & domain set up
- Setting up WordPress
- Hitting “Publish”
Step 1: Planning For Launch
Listen, before we get into this, I need you to remember that over-planning can kill your blog before its even born. I know how much info is out there, but once you feel you have a handle on things, move along to the next step. It’s so easy to get caught up in the details – and details do matter – but your blog doesn’t have to be perfect at launch – mine sure wasn’t! And still isn’t, if we’re being honest!
If your goal is to monetize your blog, consider following steps 3 + 4 below to set up a self-hosted blog with WordPress. These are the exact steps I followed for Extraordinarily Nice, and you can always drop me a note if you get stuck.
So now let’s get to planning. Remember not to get too caught up in the details, but also don’t rush. (Gosh, Maggie, all these rules!) Brainstorm and reflect on the questions. Once you feel good, move on to the next question or step. And remember, it’s not that serious! It’s just a blog and it should be pretty fun!
Find Your Passion
I’ve prepared a whole free workbook on this here. Invest the time – download and answer the questions. Once you’ve identified your passion, ask yourself if you can write about it. Can you turn this topic into weekly articles? Can you drill down to a sub-topic?
Research Your Niche
In blogging, your niche is made up of bloggers who write about the same topic you do. For this post, we’re going to use the craft niche for an example. So if your passion involves crafting, bloggers in your niche are going to be writing about similar topics, maybe even sub-topics like wreath or candle making.
Research your niche. See what’s being covered and what you would cover differently. How many people are writing about crafts under $20? Or crafts with recycled objects? Research the trends and see what the market needs from you. What will set your blog apart from the others in your niche? If you answer a question or fill a need for your readers, your blog will grow!
Identify Your Audience
This goes hand-in-hand with your niche. Who does your blog serve? Everything you do should serve your audience because, without them, there’s no one to read your content!
Grab a notebook and answer these questions:
- How old is your reader?
- What do they do for a living?
- What are their hobbies?
- What brought them to your blog?
- Why will they come back; what sets your blog apart from the rest?
Step 2: Clarifying Your Brand
Now that you have your niche and audience narrowed, let’s think of your branding. The easiest way to understand branding is to think of it as the image you want to present with your blog. And you guys, I have a secret. Don’t tell anyone, but I changed my domain before I even launched. In August, when I started working on this blog, it was NOT called Extraordinarily Nice. Once I worked on my branding, I realized that my initial selection was not conveying my message.
Don’t let that happen to you! Begin clarifying your brand by finding your voice. My voice is pretty much how I speak; it’s a little snarky but overall friendly. Because my voice is more relaxed, I can tweet things from my personal life and share bloopers on Instagram.
Your brand encompasses all the details you figured out in step 1 – your passion, your niche and your audience – and it folds in your voice and visual identity.
Grab a notebook and answer these questions:
- What words would you use to describe your brand?
- What do you want your brand to communicate to your audience?
- Revisit your purpose; how is this conveyed in your brand?
- What colors make sense with the answers you gave above?
- What domain will you select? Will you use your name or keywords?
Step 3: Hosting & Domain Set Up
Steps 3 + 4 are how I set up Extraordinarily Nice. If you choose not to go with this host or platform, that’s no big deal and just skip these steps. My suggestion of Bluehost comes from my experience with them. They’ve been my host since I started this blog.
Directions to set up your blog on Bluehost
1. Oh my gosh, are you so excited to set up your blog? I’m excited for you! To get started, click here and don’t worry – it will open in a new window so you can follow along with my directions. Once the page loads, click the big green “Get Started Now” button.
Just a heads up, Bluehost is always making improvements to their site so it’s possible the images I’m showing you will be a little different from the ones currently on their site. Don’t worry, the directions are still the same.
2. So now it’s time to select your hosting plan. The Plus is the best value, but real talk: you’re OK with the Starter package if you’re just starting out. I started with the Starter plan and upgraded later. It’s hassle-free.
3. All three packages come with a domain so whatever you just chose above, you now get to register your domain at no additional cost (whoop whoop!). On this page, you’ll want to enter the domain you selected under “new domain” and click next.
4. On this page, just enter your account info. Easy peasy. Just be sure you enter your email correctly because all your initial correspondence will go there.
5. Continue down to Package Information. Bluehost offers 12, 24 and 36-month options. The cheapest is going to be the 36-month, but whatever option you choose, it’s still very affordable. Just be aware that Bluehost charges you up front for the time (it shows right there under “Hosting Price”) so go with whatever option fits your budget.
There are a bunch of other services available, and I personally use the Domain Privacy Protection, but you don’t have to check any of those boxes. The Privacy Protection keeps my information from being publicly available, which is why I use it. But if you skip it and need to add any of these options later, you can.
Then enter your billing info at the bottom and move on to the next page, which is all addons.
6. Real talk regarding addons, I skip them all, and if you want to do the same, click the link at the very bottom of the box that says “Click here.”
7. Oh my gosh, yay! You did! Once you hit this screen, you’re almost done with registration. Just click on through to create your password.
8. Here’s where you’ll actually create your password. Make sure it’s a strong one because it’s the backbone of your hosting and, essentially, your entire blog.
9. Now click the link in the email you received (or navigate back to Bluehost and click “Login” in the top right corner). Make sure “Hosting” is selected and enter your login info.
10. If you want to set up WordPress, at this point you’ll click “I can do it.” If you don’t want to use WordPress, I have no idea what you’re supposed to do next. I use WordPress. (And my previous blog was built in Dreamweaver. There isn’t enough time in the day to walk you through all that’s involved with that.)
Step 4: Setting up WordPress
1. Ta-da! You’re in your cPanel! Look at you, all ready to install WordPress. I’m assuming, of course, that since you’re still reading this you’ll be moving forward with WordPress. So with that assumption in mind, click the WordPress icon under “Website Builders.”
2. Now you’ll see a page to install WordPress. Click the big green button that says “Start” and then select your brand-spankin’-new domain.
3. Once the install is done, you’ll come to this page. You’ll want to click “Show advanced options” up top and then fill in the blanks with your info. When you’re selecting your username, please do not select “admin.” And don’t forget you can refer to your email if you don’t know/remember the password. Click “Automatically create a new database,” read the t&c, check the box, and click the green “Install Now” button.
4. Once installation is complete (you’ll know because you’ll see the bar in the picture below), you’re pretty much good to go! Just view your credentials and write them down. These credentials are different from the username and password from earlier. The ones from earlier are for Bluehost; these are for your WordPress account.
5. Pop your credentials into your admin URL aaaaaand…
6. You’re in your dashboard! You did it! Yay!! Now go find a free theme (or a paid one if you’re looking for additional customization) and get to posting!
Step 5: Hitting Publish
Starting a new blog isn’t nearly as difficult as you’d imagined, right? I told you! But now it’s time for the king of all steps: you need to publish content. I went live with just two posts, and if I were to do it over, I’d probably do it the same way. I had originally planned to have five posts and a couple printables and multiple categories, but in the end, I decided to quit waiting and just do it! So I went live with two posts. And ya know what? It worked out alright.
Remember that brainstorming you did earlier? This is where it comes in handy. Get your topic all lined up, stay true to your voice and be on brand. And get that first post live!
But wait, there’s more!
In future posts, I’ll cover things like themes and plugins. We’ll discuss what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, but for right now, concentrate on creating some amazing content! Without content, your audience has nothing to read and engage with, and that’s a bummer. I’ll share some of my tips soon, I promise.
And hey, drop your new blog link in the comments so I can check it out! Welcome to the world of blogging! I’m so glad you’re here!