Blog. It’s a four-letter word, but it’s one of the better four-letter words you’re likely to hear, aside from, oh…cake or cash.
If you’re considering starting your first blog, you probably don’t regard the task with the same gooey, sweet anticipation you would with say, eating cake, but the end result can leave you just as satisfied. Why?
Blogging can be an intensely fulfilling personal outlet, a great way to promote and network your business, or to share your message with the world. It does take a little hard work to get started. We won’t lie about that.
If you have a business, customers are going to automatically look for your blog on your website. Unlike your website however, your blog can be a more personal space that allows the curious-minded (like your customers) to get to know you. Hey, you’re a human, not just a business and that’s what a blog can help others see.
But you don’t have to be a business owner to benefit from a blog. Maybe you’re a housewife with lots of ideas, recipes, or funny stories to tell. Maybe you’re an author with a book to promote, or maybe your reasons are deeply personal.
There’s a blog out there for you. You just have to get it started.
How? Grab that cake and we’ll show you!
How to start a blog
Like anything, creating a blog requires a little foresight and planning. You’ll need to flex your gray matter and dig deep to think about your blog from many angles. True, you could just slap something together. But the end result wouldn’t be right.
It wouldn’t be you.
It wouldn’t be authentic.
The authenticity that is uniquely you, is what makes your blog useful, and passionate, and helps it to stand out. As we go through the steps for creating a blog from scratch, we’ll nudge you towards being you. Here are the essentials for getting started (let the gray matter flexing begin).
Pick a Niche
Niche is a fun little word but what is it? Simply, it equals the section of the blogging universe you intend to harness and make your own, i.e. what you’re going to blog about. It’s what drives you—what keeps you up at night, eagerly thinking about your next post topic.
Maybe you’re an avid knitter. Maybe you’re a vegan parent. Perhaps you have a rare chronic illness. Each of these things represents a niche, or the collective theme that you can blog about. If you’re a business owner and plan to blog for business, then your blog niche will likely be the same as your business niche. Here on TheMogulMom.com, we blog about how moms can run a business, raise a family, and rock both. Our niche is mom entrepreneurs.
If you’re having trouble narrowing down your niche, consider these things:
- What topic are you already knowledgeable about?
- What do you want to learn more about?
- What topic are you willing to invest in, and power-through on, even if you get a little bored with it?
We threw a nice little wrench in that last sentence, huh? Did you see it? Invest.
Let’s face it, anything you do for a long period of time—and if you’re going to pour hours of your life into a blog, you should consider it a long-term commitment—might get a little boring; it’s going to get stagnant and some days, you’ll want to quit. Whatever your niche is, it should be important or interesting enough for you to invest the energy and gumption to power-through onto the other side of “happy” and “we’re having fun again.”
Can you blog without a niche? We’re going to throw you for a loop and say yes. Yes, you can. It might be hard to nail down a niche in the beginning, especially if you’re going to blog about lots of things at the same time—like recipes, crafts, homesteading and breeding llamas. Well, you get the idea.
You may never find one niche; you may have many. The important thing is to be consistent so readers know what to expect.
Find An Audience
Because you don’t want to do all this investing and writing, and planning for nothing, you need to identify who your ideal audience is. Who is going to read all this awesomeness you put up on your blog?
There are readers, and then there are ideal readers. The former comes in the form of people who happen on your blog with no real interest, trolls, and others who probably won’t become part of your following. The latter is where you want to toss your hook. Ideal readers are those who have a genuine interest in what you have to say. Selling knitting supplies? Then your audience is knitters, or those interested in knitting. Posting about quick recipes for vegans? Then your niche is likely vegan parents or professionals who would benefit from quick, easy dinner ideas.
Depending on your goals for your blog, which we’ll talk about later, you might not care if you amass a large following of readers. For instance, if you plan to blog about your family, you might not care if anyone beyond friends and family read it. Maybe you’re starting a cooking blog to accompany a college class or to support local, organic farming. Your audience might include your local community and not expand much past that.
Once you’ve identified your audience, you can go as big or small as you like.
So, just where do you find your audience? Here are some places to start building your audience:
- Look on Alltop for blogs similar to the one you want to start. See who and how big their audience is…and then,
- Leave intentional, thoughtful comments on blogs that cater to your audience.
- Network with bloggers in other niches.
- Use social media, like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
- Interact with other people. Start conversations. Offer useful information and advice. Have fun!
What’s Your Vision?
Vision is really a two-fold consideration: your vision for the design and feel of your blog, and your vision for how your blog will impact your life, and the lives of others. Heavy, huh?
Let’s break it down.
When you purchase a home or move into a new place, you get a vision of how you want your new space to look and feel. You get a general idea of where you’ll place furniture to make it aesthetic and functional, and how you’re going to decorate your home to make it uniquely you. Hopefully, you wouldn’t arrange and decorate your home in the exact same way as your neighbor because that’s just a lame excuse for not flexing your creative muscle…and it doesn’t reflect your authenticity.
Even if you don’t have a design-prone neuron in your body, you can, and should, still make your blog’s design as much of your own as possible.
It’s your vision.
Do what it takes to make it happen.
- Grab a piece of paper and sketch out what you think your blog should look like. What elements, images or wordage is important to you?
- When you close your eyes and envision you future blog, what colors do you see?
- What elements will fit your niche and audience?
For example, author Mindy McGinnis designed her blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire, to reflect her fun, quirky personality, to build a recognizable brand and to remain authentic. Her blog features a prominent Le Chat Noir cat icon, which she explains on her blog as being a part of her identity, and the way other people recognize and relate to her. Her vision for her blog design has allowed her to become easily recognizable in author and reader groups—her audience.
Your blog should be:
- Easy to read
- Easy to navigate
- Clutter free
Beyond those three things, the sky is the limit. How do you make this happen? With a blog design and theme (see #2 below) that you can easily, easily tweak to reflect your own vision and style. If you have the cash, hiring a design pro is another option.
Your blogging vision is what you hope to accomplish with your blog. When you think about your blog being out there in the internet stratosphere, what do you hope it accomplishes for you? Do you want to bring people together, educate, inspire, offer solutions?
Consider it your purpose. Your ‘why.’ This vision can be as simple as sharing pictures of your babies with family, or as profound as changing the lives of underserved women. Your vision may change and grow over time, and that’s fine. You may not have a clear vision right now, and that’s OK too. Don’t skip the part where you think about it, though, because knowing your ‘why’ will help everything else you do with your blog, down the road.
Your voice isn’t just a sound. It’s a tool. A brand. A way for others to recognize and relate to you. “Voice” is the way a blog reads, the tone, the way words are strung together into a recognizable style authentic to the blog’s writer/owner.
Karina Allrich’s blog, Gluten-Free Goddess offers a beautiful example of voice. You can tell by her writing style, the tone of each post and the way she uses words that Karina has imparted her authentic voice onto her blog.
Finding your voice isn’t quick and it doesn’t happen overnight (we’re sorry). Again—it comes down to using your noggin. Voice can be trickier if you don’t fancy yourself a writer. Why? Because you probably lack the self-confidence needed to nail your own personal, stylistic voice. Get over it! Start writing. Find your voice and give it wings!
Before we move on to the building blocks of actually putting your blog together, let’s look at what your blog should NOT be:
- A way to heavily monetize or get rich
- A way to generate instant fame or status.
- In other words, don’t be smarmy.
Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t aspire to make money from your blog, or gain recognition—maybe even reach blogging celebrity status. Those are perfectly fine aspirations, and many people have successfully done them. However, when you start your blog with the sole intention of making money, you’re going to lose the authentic touch needed to build a blog worthy of making money and gaining attention, in the first place.
Start with something valid to say and share. Start with your truest self, and maintain your truest self, and the rest will follow.
The Building Blocks
This is where all the pieces come together. You’ve got your essentials and your ‘whys’ figured out above, and now you need the technical how-to. Actually getting your blog on the internet isn’t difficult. Filling it with wonderful, authentic content may be a little harder, actually.
We’re going to make this as easy as possible for you by sharing only what we’ve used and loved since 2007.
Here are the three simple steps you need to get your blog online, tried and true by yours truly. 🙂
1. Domain and Hosting
If you haven’t already done so, you can register your domain name or URL at the same time you secure hosting. Your domain name is your website’s name or URL, like TheMogulMom.com for instance.
Then, set up your hosting.
Remember when we talked about your design vision earlier? Well, your theme will help you achieve the look you want for your blog.
There are all kinds of themes out there. Have a look at Elegant Themes and DIY Themes.
Plug-ins are totally optional, but they can really extend what your blog can do.
Here are my favorite WordPress plugins and the ones I use here on TheMogulMom.com:
- Google Analytics for WordPress
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- Smart Archives Reloaded
- Spam Free WordPress
- WordPress SEO
Of course there are TONS of other great WordPress plugins. Here are a couple of plugin roundups for you to check out: The Top 30 WordPress Plugins (Infographic) and My Favorite WordPress Plugins to Crush It Online.
Content is what you’re going to put up on your blog.
Your content might be pictures, articles, podcast or video – or even a combination of these.
And just so you know, there really isn’t a best day, time of day, or frequency to post your content. The trick is to be consistent. A blog with fresh, dependable content is one people like to read (and it makes you easier to find in Google search).
A tip for you – NO matter what you’re writing about, if you’re not 100% certain of your topic, please research it first. You’ve heard that if it’s on the internet, it must be true, right? Your readers will come to trust you and expect that the information they get from you is correct. So if you decide to blog on chronic illness or a new dietary regimen, or anything really, be sure you’ve gathered the facts and are dishing out the best, most accurate, content available.
Always remember to keep your content relevant to your vision, niche and audience. Remember to write about topics that keep you up at night. Remember to have fun with it, stay true to your inner-voice and show us what you’ve got! We can’t wait to see it!
Do you have a blog? Share the link in the comments!