Okay, so you decided to jump into the game of blogging. Good for you.
Starting a blog is quite easy if it’s something you’ve done before. I’ve been blogging since 2007 and for me, it’s only a matter of minutes to get one all set up.
But notice how I said, “minutes to get one all set up.” There’s a big difference between simply setting up a blog and starting a blog. Starting a blog involves a process of both critical thinking and implementation:
- Why do you want to start a blog?
- Who are your readers going to be and where will they come from?
- How do you want to position yourself in your niche?
- Money anyone? How are you going to get some of that?
- Picking a great domain name – are you going to use your name or a business name?
I’m going to show you everything you need to know not only on how to start a blog, but also how to build your online presence, because investing in you and your education is what’s important to me in my business.
Sound good? Okay, let’s get started with building your first blog.
Self Discovery – Why Do You Want To Start a Blog?
If you’re simply looking for the steps involved in order to actually get a blog up and running right this second, then skip this section and jump right down to the how to set up a blog instructions. If you’re not in a rush, then this is truly the place to start when considering a blogging career.
Think for a moment… no I mean, really — think, because this is the moment that will help you define why you’re online, what your goals will be, and the direction you should take to get you there.
Without this kind of clarity, what many bloggers and entrepreneurs end up doing is flying blind and spending a year or two dabbling in blogoshere writing articles, socializing on social media sites, reading and commenting on tons of blogs only to find that they haven’t really gotten anywhere.
You don’t want to waste your time flying blind… trust me, I’ve done it.
Successful people create a plan before they dive into something as time consuming as blogging, and great plans are only derived from complete clarity of a system, process, and end result.
Trust me, if you’re new there will be a ton of things you don’t think about when it comes to blogging.
So the first question you need to ask yourself is, Why do I want to start a blog?
For most people, it’s an easy question to answer off the top of their head. They might include things like:
- Because I want to make money
- I want to work from home
- I want to create an online diary of my life
- Because I’m bored
The most common question I use to get when I first began blogging and mention to people I was a blogger was, “What is a blog?” That was back in 2007 / 2008.
These days, however, most people have an idea of what a blog is. The most common question I get now is, “How do I make money with a blog?”
So let’s assume for a moment that you want to start a blog because you want to make money online; then you might think that’s your real reason.
Well, it’s not.
If this is your reason, then the real reason might be something more like:
- Your husband or wife is sick and you need to work from home so you can take care of them
- You love your current job but need to make an extra $500/month so you can afford that car you really want
- You want to be able to live anywhere in the world and not worry about having to find a job
- You want to spend more time with your family, so you think working from home will do that for you
Making money through blogging is not the goal, it’s a tactic and part of your overall strategy to get what you truly want.
Okay so now that you have taken a moment to discover why you truly want to start a blog, let’s talk about building it starting from conception to completion.
What Are You Going To Blog About?
If you’re still reading this and haven’t yet skipped down to the part where I show you the physical steps to building a blog, then you might be thinking “This guy is crazy, I just want to get my blog up and running and he’s babbling on and on about *thinking*.
I’m not crazy, though my wife thought I was when I jumped from a bridge with just a rope tied around my angles.
Figuring this stuff out before you register a domain name, before you decide on a blogging software, and before you start trying to show the world that sparkling mind you have which is filled with your life experience and power to help others, is going to save you months worth of education on what I should have done from the beginning.
So ask yourself, what the heck are you going to blog about because trust me, you might think you’ve got a lot to say, but really you don’t.
You should really try blogging about not only something you know a lot about, but something you’re passionate about. Having a passion for something is the fuel inside you which you will draw upon to do things like:
- Researching new ideas
- Testing those ideas
- Caring what your readers and followers are asking of you
If knowledge is power, then passion is the fuel. So pick a niche (i.e. topic) to blog about which you feel you won’t get burnt out on writing about, because mark my words… every blogger goes through a rut.
Here’s a video I made to get you thinking and work through this section.
Landscaping Your Plan: Narrow Down Your Target Audience
Now that you figured out what you want to blog about, the next thing you need to plan out before building your blogging empire is who and what kind of people your blog will be attracting to read your life’s work.
If you owned a local landscaping company in Houston, then understand that the kind of readers who might read your blog will probably be those who know about the area but are not landscaping savvy. Your readers would likely be regular homeowners who are middle class and on a tight budget, so it might be worthwhile to target some of your articles to show them what you can do with the amount of money your target customers usually have.
Here’s the bulleted list of questions you’re going to have to ask yourself about who your blog readers are going to be:
- Who are they (professionals, men, women, race, etc.)?
- Where do they come from?
- What are they looking for?
- Why they might want to listen to you?
- What is their environment when they read your blog (are they at work, school, home, etc.)?
- Are they tech savvy?
Knowing these sorts of things will help you understand things like:
- At what level you need to write (technical/non technical, beginner info or advanced, etc.)
- What time you might want to publish your articles for maximum readership
- Whether or not your readers will be willing to share your content
- What sort of products and services you might be able to sell them
How Are You Going To Come Across?
Yeah I know, you’re thinking “Sheesh, John” (oh that’s me), “I didn’t realize blogging was that involved.”
Yeah I know, there’s a lot to think about. Anyone can set up a plain old blog, but not everyone can make it a success–and success is built on a solid foundation.
How you’re going to come across to your readers is a topic not many people think about when they first are starting a blog. Most newbies aren’t thinking “how to blog”, they are thinking “get my blog online” and (subconsciously) thinking I’ll just start writing and people will come read it.
Well, as I’m sure you figured out by now, it’s much more involved than that.
I assume you’re wanting to accomplish something with your blog, so you got to think about how you’re going to talk to your readers and how you’re going to be positioned in their eyes.
For example, do you want to come across as:
- An authority in your field?
- A person who questions authority (i.e. a rebel)?
- Have a firm opinion on something
This topic sort of reminds me of that show The Next Food Network Star.
My wife and I love that show and if you’re not familiar with what it’s about, it’s a competition on the Food Network Channel (FNC) where unknown chefs compete against one another for a chance to have their own cooking show on television.
One thing the FNC executives kept trying to pull out of the contestants was their POV, or Point of View.
The executives are smart. They know that for a chef with a T.V. show to be successful, they need a POV so that their audience can relate to the chef and realize that this is the chef they are looking to follow.
For example, Aarti’s POV is bringing her knowledge of Indian cuisine and putting an approachable spin on all-American classics.
So what about you?
Take a moment before you register that domain name and think about how you want you and your blog to come across to your readers.
Figuring this out before doing things like registering a domain name will help you define yourself and picking the best domain name to tell your readers in an instant what you’re all about.
And your domain name will be one of the first things people see even before they visit your website (if they found you through search engines).
In the marketing world, this is also known as your Unique Selling Proposition (a.k.a. USP).
Understanding What Blogging Is Going To Cost You
When I ask people this question, the first thing that comes to their mind is money.
Yes blogging at some point will end up costing you some money I’m sure, but what is even more valuable than money?
Ask any blogger what the most precious commodity is and I bet you many, if not most, would say their time. For me, it takes the better part of a day to write a good blog article. So imagine if I wrote a blog article every day, what else would I have time for?
Family? Friends? Movies? Beer? 😉
Not to mention blogging itself is not a business. If you plan to make money blogging then you have to be an expert at managing your time.
So consider that the blog you want to create is going to cost you a lot of your time away from other things in life you cherish.
Write an Elevator Pitch for Your Blog
In my experience, hardly anyone does this but acknowledges it’s a good idea. If you’re just starting out, take a little time and write a good elevator pitch for your blog. This short synopsis will help you clearly define your meaning online.
It’ll help you focus on who your target customers / readers will be, it’ll give you clear guidance on what kind of articles should be posted to your blog, develop products, services, and so much more.
Not to mention if you ever go to a convention and meet someone of importance in your field, wouldn’t it be nice if you could shake their hand and tell them in 30 seconds or less exactly what your online business/blog is about?
And if for no other reason, realize that if you’re at all fuzzy in your mind what your blog is really all about, then there will be no doubt readers will be confused right along with you.
And as I always say, a confused mind always says no.
When it comes time to set up your blog, this will be the first decision you’ll have to make–and it’s a big one.
Get this one wrong and you could cause yourself a TON of headaches down the road and even loss of traffic and readership. It’s happened to me and a lot of other people.
I’m going to go over real quick why a self hosted WordPress blog is the way to go.
Don’t… and I repeat… Don’t fall into the trap which most newbies think and tell themselves:
“I’ll start a blog using a free service and if I like it I’ll upgrade to a paid service.”
It’s a common pitfall newbie bloggers make, so before you get too involved in a free blog, let me discuss it with you.
…is when all you care about is writing content and things like making money, customizing your design, adding lots of cool features, etc. are not important.
To put it another way, if you want to make money blogging and/or create and position yourself as an authority online, I strongly recommend that a free blog is NOT the way to go.
WordPress.com, as an example (and is where you can get a free blog), has very strict rules on how you are suppose to blog on their site, in particular when it comes to SEO and Affiliate Marketing (i.e. making money on your blog).
To sum it all up nicely, if you plan on making money blogging, you will be severely limited on what you can do to make money while using a free blogging service. If you have any questions on this, please email me and I will be happy to discuss your options with you.
If, however, all you want to do is write and publish your content online with no worries of making money and/or marketing, then a free blog might be okay to go with (though I still personally wouldn’t do it).
Okay so I mentioned a big downside above in that free blogs limit your ability to make money online. But that’s not all. There are several other reasons why starting your blog out with a free blog is a bad idea.
Cons of Owning a Free Blog (and here are others):
- Very little, if no customer support – you said you were a newbie to blogging, right?
- You may be starting with a subdomain for your web address, like johnhoff.wordpress.com or johnhoff.hubpages.com or something. Subdomains can be tricky if you’re not use to working with them.
- Limited on the design and customizations you can make to your blog
- Limited on expanding your blog in various ways
- Ads placed on your blog which you don’t want and have no control over
- Someone else owns your blog
- Limited on how big your blog can grow without a major pain in upgrading to your own paid hosting
And if those aren’t bad enough, here’s the one most newbies don’t realize.
Imagine you decided to start a free blog for now because you wanted to know if you’d like blogging. You did this because you didn’t want to invest any money.
Down the road when and if you “figure out” you want to keep blogging and the fact that your free blog is severely limiting you on customizations and making money, the decision is made to make the switch and purchase web hosting.
Here’s a problem you might face…
If you didn’t register your own domain name and decided to go with a free subdomain (e.g. johnhoff.hubpages.com), then when you move to a self hosted blog you’ll have to register a new domain name, and guess what? You’re going to lose subscribers and search engine traffic because all the links pointing to your site point to that subdomain, not your newly registered domain name.
So if you decide to do the free blog thing, make sure to spend the money and register your own domain name.
But if you’re going to spend a little money, then why not go with your own self hosted blog, right? It’s not that much more expensive.
Pros of Owning a Free Blog
Although I personally recommend building your own assets rather than building someone else’s, I should be fair to this discussion and mention that there are a couple of advantages to using a free hosting service for blogging.
For the most part, they all fall under the umbrella of the fact that you don’t have to worry about upkeep and security of your WordPress install. For example, sites which offer free blogs typically will take care of such things as:
We’ve already looked at the cons of free blog hosting and pretty much all you need to do is flip that con into a pro and you’ll have the benefits of paid hosting.
Here are the 5 big reasons why in my opinion you should always start out with paid hosting:
- You own your own blog, it’s not some other website who owns it
- You are free to monetize it the way you want (i.e. make money with it)
- Highly customizable (you can do some pretty cool stuff)
- No annoying 3rd party ads plastered all over your website
- Great for your Brand (product branding)
Again, if all you care about is writing some content and posting it online, a free blog might be okay; however, if you’re thinking about making money online or designing something totally awesome, just take my word for it from my experience and get the paid hosting.
Believe it or not the hard part is done, that is, if you’ve taken the time to go through and complete the entrepreneurial steps I outlined above.
Now comes the time to install the software and set up a blog on a web hosting account.
To set up a new blog, the first thing you need to do is register a domain name.
This might seem easy enough at first, but trust me, when you grab that favorite pen of yours and some paper you’ll find that figuring out a good domain name all of a sudden isn’t all that easy…
…and here’s why
Your domain name is a huge part of your brand.
Are you going to use your real name or a business name? Do you want to include keywords in your URL (i.e. web address) which people might type into Google Search? Is the domain you want already taken?
Tips for Creating a Domain Name
Tip 1: Don’t rush it. Take some time and really think about it because this will be part of your brand (i.e. image online) and you want to try and get it right.
Tip 2: Make sure you’re picking the correct TLD for the area you want to target. Your TLD is the .com, .net, .org, .ca, .co.uk, etc. at the end of your domain name.
So if you’re looking to target readers in the United Kingdom, you would want to go with a .co.uk TLD (e.g. johnhoff.co.uk). If you were looking to target readers from Canada, you’d use a .ca (e.g. johnhoff.ca).
The most well recognized and general TLD (especially in the United States) is the .com TLD (e.g. johnhoff.com).
If you live in the United States, your best bet is to go with either:
- .com (best)
Tip 3: Keep it short and easy to remember. If it must be longer, like mine is, then try to make sure it’s easy for people to remember. For example, the name of this site is Blog Training Classroom and the URL is blogtrainingclassroom.com. Should be easy enough to remember if you know my site.
Tip 4: Try not to use underscores or dashes (john_hoff.com or john-hoff.com). If you must, then use dashes and not underscores (e.g. john-hoff.com). There’s nothing wrong using dashes other than the fact that they are a little harder to remember.
Tip 5: Decide whether or not you want to put your site’s primary keyword in your domain name.
Hey that’s awesome Mr. Alien, and we certainly appreciate you being a valued customer of ours (what the heck would his blog be about?)
Okay joking aside, I should disclose the following:
Disclosure: I should mention that Blog Training Classroom has its own professional web hosting service for bloggers and this tutorial as well as all the video training on this site will demonstrate tasks using our hosting.
This is a business site you are on so naturally I will want to recommend our hosting service to you, but to be fair you are free to host a blog with another company. Just know that everything you need to get your blog running smoothly is at your fingertips with our hosting.
Also, all the step-by-step video training materials on this site are shown using our hosting environment; so if you want to watch over our shoulder as we teach you how to “toy with” your blog, things might be a little easier for you if your hosting environment looks the same as the one you are watching on the video.
Blog Training Classroom hosting allows you have WordPress (the blogging software you will want to use) already installed on your hosting account when you purchase hosting. Just make sure to choose that option during the ordering process.
And if you forget to have it pre-installed, there is a one click installer (shown in the steps below) included with our hosting which makes the installation process of WordPress a snap.
By now you should have done some research on how your blog will be perceived online by others, settled on a domain name, and finalized who you’re going to host a blog with (assuming you are going to use paid hosting–which you should).
The next big decision to make is what blogging software you are going to use.
You have a few choices which include:
- Moveable Type
There are more, but those are some of the more popular ones; however, by FAR the best software to use to start a blog is WordPress.
So pick that and install WordPress on your hosting account. If you have any questions on that, email me. In fact, here’s a video I just recorded to show you what is WordPress.
What is WordPress Video Overview
I suppose I should mention what the minimum requirements are which WordPress requires your web host to have. They include the following:
- PHP version 5.2.4 or greater
- MySQL version 5.0 or greater
That’s it. But if you want to read a little more on that stuff, you can find that information on the WordPress requirements page.
If your web host allows it, choose to have WordPress pre-installed on your hosting account. By doing this, you won’t even need to bother with installing WordPress, it’ll be done for you.
Just make sure to choose a unique Username and strong password for your blog and your database (click here to learn more about what a database is).
Steps To Have WordPress Pre-Installed on BTC-Hosting.com
Step 1: Head to the hosting and domains order form.
Step 2: Fill in the info as shown in the image below:
Step 3: After you enter your domain name and other ordering info, your account will be set up and you’ll receive an email very quickly informing you where your WordPress login page is and your login information.
Most of the big web hosting companies have a script installer so that you can easily and automatically have scripts installed on your hosting account so you don’t have to do it (WordPress is a script).
Some companies use what is called Elefante Scripts while others use Fantastico. I think Go Daddy calls theirs Application Installer which does the job but is quite slow and can take up to 30 minutes to have WordPress installed (while the others are instant).
Steps To Have WordPress 1-Click Installed on BTC-Hosting.com
If you’ve already ordered web hosting from BTC-Hosting.com (our hosting service) and you did not have WordPress pre-installed, then it’s really easy to have it automatically set up.
Watch the 1-Click installer video
Step 1: Log into your web hosting control panel and click on the Installer tab in the horizontal menu. Then choose the Applications Installer option.
Step 2: Scroll down until you see the latest version of WordPress (the higher number is the newest version) and then to the right click Install.
Step 3: Fill in the options and tell the installer to install WordPress.
Domain – Choose which domain you want to install WordPress on.
Path – By default WordPress is installed in the /wordpress directory. If you don’t have a /wordpress directory then one will automatically be created for you. If you want your blog in the /blog directory, for example, then change the /wordpress to /blog. If you want your blog installed in the root directory (i.e. your domain name is the home page of your blog), then install it in the root directory, which is just a / like shown in the picture above.
Admin Username – By default you will see admin as your Username. Change this to something else for security reasons.
Admin Password – Again for security reasons you should make your blog’s password very difficult. To be honest, I don’t even remember my blog’s password it’s so difficult. But I use a password manager for that (affiliate link and that password manager helps you create strong passwords–I also use it every single day I’m online).
Your password should include capital letters, numbers, and symbols (like % $ @, etc.).
Admin mail – Your blog will email you when things happen on it, for example when someone leaves a comment. So be sure to use an email address you check regularly.
Weblog title – This will be the title of your blog up at the top. You can change this later in your WordPress settings area.
Database prefix – This is the table prefix used in your database. If you’re new to WordPress then it’s not something you need to really worry about; however, for security reasons you should change the default wp_ prefix to something more obscure, like tPV3_ or something.
Then click install.
If for some reason you wish to install WordPress manually, here’s a video I made showing you how.
Section Table of Contents
Step 4: Setting Up and Configuring WordPress
Okay great, so now you actually have a WordPress blog set up on your hosting account which you can actually log into and start toying with.
But before you start blogging your heart away, there are a few WordPress settings you’re going to want to configure first before you dive into writing and publishing your snazzy content.
Below is a video my buddy Steve created for me on changing your Display Name in WordPress.
When you post an article and reply to comments on your blog, WordPress will display whatever name for you which you tell it to. So if you want your name to show, then you need to tell WordPress to do that–I mean all new friendships have to be formally introduced, right?
Step 1: Log into your WordPress dashboard area and navigate to the Users–>Your Profile option in the left sidebar.
Step 2: Under the Name area (see picture below), fill in your first and last name and if you’d like, a nickname (note that you only need to fill one of these out in order to have the option to change your display name, but it’s you’re blog so why not fill these out).
Step 3: In the area that says Display name publically as, choose the option you’d like to use. Remember, this will be the name WordPress displays to visitors to your blog, so make sure it’s a name you want to use.
Step 4: Click Update Profile at the bottom.
Here’s a video I created for you explaining what these are and how to set them up. Don’t skip this step as it’s important to get it set up right in the very early stages of your blog, otherwise you could run into issues with search engine optimization later on down the road (i.e. getting your blog ranked in Google).
*Be sure to watch it in 720 HD…
Yeah I know, what the heck kind of weird word is Permalink?
To put it very simply, it’s the web address structure (i.e. link structure) of your website. So if someone wants to link to, say your article on how to start a blog, then your web address might look something like, my-site.com/how-to-start-a-blog if you have Permalinks set up.
Without setting your WordPress Permalinks, that web address (a.k.a. URL) might look something like, my-site.com/?p=10.
See the difference?
Which URL structure do you logically think is better for both humans and search engines?
It’s super easy to change your Permalink structure, the confusing part is which option you should choose, because you do have options. Some of the options include putting the blog post’s category in the URL and/or date.
I suggest keeping it simple. It works for me and I have no problem with the way Google ranks my articles.
Step 1: In your blog’s dashboard and in the lower part of the left sidebar, hover your mouse over the Settings link and then choose Permalinks.
Step 2: Under the Common Settings area, choose the Post name option and then click Save Changes below.
Again, if you have any questions about this, please feel free to email me.
Doesn’t my buddy Steve have an awesome video voice?
I’m willing to bet that most new bloggers miss this step because, well, they aren’t use to dealing with comments yet.
Receiving comments on your blog from other people is super cool, but what totally sucks is the fact that there’s a lot of spam comments going around. Basically, there are some idiots out there who use software to automatically leave a generic comment on various blogs in hope it will in some way drive traffic back to their blog.
And if you’re like me, you don’t want those junk comments posted to your blog.
I suggest you at least set your comment moderation to only allow comments to be posted to your blog once you have approved of them.
You can change that later on as you become more familiar with blogging and commenting.
To view and change your comment settings, head over to your Settings area in your WordPress dashboard’s left sidebar and choose Discussion.
Here’s the checkboxes I suggest you check for now just to get you started:
- Comment author must fill out name and e-mail
- Anyone posts a comment (under Email me whenever)
- A comment is held for moderation (under Email me whenever)
- Comment author must have a previously approved comment
- Optional: An administrator must always approve the comment
Be sure to save your changes when you’re done.
The Akismet plugin (what is a plugin?) comes with WordPress automatically.
What this plugin does is connect to a service provided by the Automattic Corporation (the company who is most noted with creating WordPress) and helps your blog filter out spam comments so they never appear in your comment section.
I’ll spare you the boring technical aspects of how it all works, just note that it’s a plugin you should activate and use to help limit spammers from spamming your blog.
The bummer is that unlike most other plugins, where you simply click “Activate” and the plugin is functional, you have to sign up for the Akismet service first before you can use the plugin. I should note, however, that it’s a very trustworthy site and pretty much every blogger I’ve ever known has activated and used this plugin–so go do it.
Step 1: Register an Akismet API Key. Note that it’s free for every day bloggers (which I assume since you’re new that’ll be you), but if you have an existing business and your blog will be part of that business, then there’s a fee.
Step 2: Fill in your information in the box and then click Continue.
Step 3: Once the above step is done, Akismet will send you an email with your API Key. This is a secret key, so you won’t want to share this key with anyone (hence mine is blocked out below). Copy this key to your computer’s clipboard so that you can paste it into your blog’s Akismet Configuration area.
Step 4: Log back into your WordPress Dashboard and head over to the Akismet Configuration area.
Step 5: Paste in your API Key and click Update options.
Step 6: If you’re still reading and following along with this tutorial, go get yourself a drink… you’ve earned it.
The final necessary thing you’re going to want to change before you start blogging is your blog’s tagline (what is a tagline?). If you already did this when setting up your blog, then you can skip this step.
In short, a tagline is kind of like a slogan for your website. Quickly check this page out (opens in a new tab) and you’ll immediately get what a tagline is. The article I link to shows 10 examples of popular taglines you’ve probably heard of before.
To change your blog’s default title and tagline, because it’s highly unlikely the creators of WordPress guessed what you want your title and tagline to be, head over to the Settings area in your dashboard’s left sidebar and click on General.
From there you can change your blog’s title and tagline.
Do yourself a favor and take a few minutes, perhaps even a couple of days, to figure out a good tagline for your blog. Realize that when people visit your site they will immediately evaluate in their head if your blog is what they are looking for. If the answer is no, they will click away faster than you can say, “wait!”
A good tagline will immediately tell the person what your site is all about.
Hey, you made it. Nice.
Okay so it stung a little getting it all set up, but I’m sure if you followed along in this tutorial you undoubtedly will have skipped a few hours of nail biting and keyboard/head banging.
If you need help, let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. You are, after all, my most valuable business asset.
What are you waiting for? – Go sign up for a Blog Training Classroom hosting account right now and let our videos and tutorials guide you through your challenging, yet exiting ventures as a blogger and Internet Marketer.
You’ll also have VIP access to our personal and very exclusive private blog mentoring area where only BTC hosting customers have access to and can be mentored by John Hoff (the guy who wrote this article).