So you're thinking of starting a blog! Congratulations!
Starting a blog is an exciting adventure, and one of the best decisions I made in 2016. I'm so excited you've decided to start this journey as well!
Now that you're here, you may be asking yourself "OK, but where do I start?"
I remember asking that same question when I decided to start my blog, and there are a lot of answers out there. Starting up a new blog can be intimidating and confusing at times - but don't worry! It's easier than you might think and I am going to walk you through everything you need to do to get setup... ready?
Let's do this!!
(Pst... Make sure to bookmark this page so you can come back after you've completed each step!)
Choosing your domain name is (obviously) important when starting your blog!
Before you decide on your domain, ask yourself a few questions:
Is the name easy to read? If you have 4-5 words in your domain it is going to be confusing for readers and difficult to type. Try and keep your domain to 2-3 short words.
Does your name fit you? This may sound like a silly question, but your name should fit who you are and what you're focusing on. My name, FunAndThames.com, fits me by using my last name in the title but doesn't limit me to one particular blogging topic, which I prefer. Other bloggers will recommend making your name specific to your blogging topic, which is completely fine, but totally up to you! If you think you want to blog about multiple topics I would lean toward keeping your domain neutral.
Is your name unique? As much as you want to have a trendy, catchy name, make sure your name won't be confused with an already popular phrase. For example, 'Home is Where the Heart Is' is a cute name for a home and family blog, but obviously it's a popular phrase which means your posts may not be as visible when people are searching for a home and family blog. Instead, using a play on a phrase or word could make for a cute, catchy domain and lead to more blog views.
If you need help finding a domain name, or if you need to see if your domain is available, there are a lot of domain name generators out there. One of my favorites is Name Mesh which allows you to type in relating words and generates domain options.
When setting up my blog I had no clue what it meant for someone to 'host' my site. I thought I could just get my domain name and then design a page. What I didn't realize was that everything I put on my page needed to be stored somewhere. That's exactly what a 'host' does! Simple!
There are lots of companies out there who are willing to host your site, and who you choose is dependent on a couple of things - ease and speed. Here are a few suggestions:
Wix - Not being very tech-savvy, ease was important to me when I started my first website. At the time I chose Wix, which allowed me to build and host my site all within the Wix framework. All I had to do was choose a template of how I wanted my site to appear and drag and drop! It really was that easy! This option is a bit more expensive overall, but you can pay monthly verses paying for a year (or more) in advance. You can also skip to step 6 and get started there!
SiteGround - While I don't use SiteGround personally, I know a lot of other bloggers who do and have liked them a lot. The setup is easy, but remember this is a hosting site, which means they store all the data from your blog, but you would need to design your site in WordPress. Not familiar with WordPress? Don't worry - we're going to cover that too! 🙂
Bluehost - After my site began to grow in size, I wanted more customization so I decided to switch to Bluehost. I've loved Bluehost for many reasons. First, it was extremely easy for me to convert my domain name. Second, their one-click WordPress download saved me a ton of time and made that whole process a lot less confusing. Third, their customer service has been wonderful for this technologically challenged gal!
Get WordPress and Get Working!
If you're not using Wix (or a similar drag-and-drop host), you will need to become familiar with WordPress. If you're not tech-savvy (like me!) WordPress can appear intimidating. Wait! Don't give up! We are going to walk through step-by-step what you need to do to get set up!
If you're using Bluehost, downloading WordPress is as simple as clicking a button (another reason I highly suggest working with them)!
Once you've downloaded WordPress, simply setup a username and password to log in, and you're ready to move on! 🙂
Choose Your Framework & Child Theme
OK don't get too overwhelmed by those 'Blogger' words... they're intimidating now but they won't be soon, I promise! And trust me, becoming familiar with these words are a lot less intimidating than learning code! 🙂
You'll notice in WordPress that you automatically have a theme applied to your space. WordPress themes are perfectly fine, but they limit customization, which can make your blog feel generic. Your blog should be as unique as you, so I recommend the following steps!
First things first, download Genesis Framework. Your framework is essentially your basic building blocks to building your site.
Your theme is what makes your site pretty and uniquely yours! You want to make sure you choose a theme that works with the Genesis Framework. I chose my theme from Restored 316 and I absolutely love all of their lovely, totally feminine site themes.
There are lots of theme options out there, it's just a matter of finding one that fits your personality and blogging goals! Studio Press, the creators of the Genesis Framework, have a number of themes that obviously work seamlessly with Genesis! You may also want to check out Pretty Darn Cute Designs which has some lovely designs that are compatible with the Genesis Framework as well!
Setup Your Email
One of the (many) mistakes I made when first setting up my site was not setting up a customized email. Luckily you get to skip straight to this step! 🙂
Your host will allow you to set up several free email accounts to manage your tasks. You could just use a Gmail or Yahoo account, but some email accounts will send any automated emails from a generic account straight to spam.
How to avoid this? Make sure your email is customized to your blog! Here's how using your Bluehost account:
Log into your Bluehost account and click 'email' at the top of the page.
Click the 'Create an email account' link. You'll be prompted to name your email so it looks something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choose a Webmail client. Basically, this is just the layout of your email account. I chose Horde but you can choose any of them you like!
I use Bluehost, but if you're using one of the other two hosts listed above, below are the links with instructions on how to connect and configure your email with them:
You can set up as many emails as you like. Some suggestions would be;
...and so on! You may want to set up several as to keep your subscribers separate from your contact form, subscriptions, and affiliates.
Let's Get Social!
It may seem early to start your Social Media accounts, but you'll thank me later! 🙂
Having social accounts activated and ready to share was something I wish I had done when setting up my blog. Soon you will be adding accounts to your site and you want visitors to be able to follow you from Day 1! (You might consider hyping your site before it's even live!!)
There are lots of social media platforms out there, and you want several so search engines will have more resources from you to pull from. I suggest starting with the 'Fabulous 5'.
You're welcome to visit my pages to see how I've set each of them up. We will talk more about managing your social media sites later, but for now just focus on creating your pages!
Grab Some Plugins!
When you start up your blog, you want to snatch up some awesome plugins! I know, I know, another 'blogging' term! Don't worry, it's simple and I'll walk you through Plugins and how to install them!
Plugins are essentially items that function with your site to display specific items. For example, Pinterest offers a 'Pinterest Pin-It Plugin' which will add a Pin-It button to each image in your posts. All you have to do is install and activate the Plugin and there you go!
Installing and activating plugins is simple! Just follow these steps:
Log into WordPress
Click 'Plugins' on the left sidebar
Click 'Add New'
Search for the Plugin you want to install
Once installed, click 'Activate'
And there you go!
You'll find you will add more and more plugins as you grow your site, but before you jump into posting blogs, make sure you have these plugins:
Akismet - As new as your blog may be, there are spammers out there ready to attack your site. Don't worry though! Akismet is great at detecting and deleting spam from your site!
Simple Social Share - Remember when I said you'd thank me for having you set up your social media accounts? Well here's why! Once you install the Simple Social Share plugin, simply to to Appearance (on the left hand side), and click Widgets. Add your Simple Social Share widget to the area where you'd like your social media accounts to display. Any account you add will automatically show the social media icon on your page!
Yoast SEO - SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization... which simply means when someone searches for something - a recipe for example - your site will come up! This plugin helps you optimize your SEO for each posts! It's a must have!
Pinterest Pin-It Button - Like I said in the plugin example above... this plugin allows your readers to easily share your images on Pinterest by adding a Pin-It button to each image.
Get Camera Ready!
Choosing a photo for your blog is really important! Remember, you're the 'brand' for your blog. You are marketing yourself, so make sure to have a professional (looking) photo ready to use!
Once you have your photo chosen, log into Gravatar (you'll have to set up an account) and upload your photo! You will link Gravatar to your WordPress account, so anytime you change your Gravatar, it will change on your site! Simple!! 🙂
Tell Your Readers About Yourself!
Wow! You're ready to start writing!! Now that you have the 'tech' aspect of your blog ready to go, it's time to write your first post!
Introducing your readers to who you are is important to growing your blog. This post will be something you find yourself editing as your blog grows, but for now, just be you! The more personable you are in your 'About Me,' the more your readers will feel that they know you and will likely want to engage with your further!
You're welcome to use my 'About Me' page as a resource if you want an idea on how to create a fun and informative post!
If you've done much research on starting a blog, you will know that there are lots of resources out there offering advice on how to get your site up and running. Bloggers are so amazing when they're willing to share their own tips, tricks, and experiences!
Abby is the author of Building a Framework: the Ultimate Blogging Handbook, where she walks through what to do after you've done the basics of setting up your blog. Her writing style is personable and easy to follow, and by the end of her book, I felt as if I'd known her for years! It's a must have for beginner bloggers! Plus she has some great printables to help you manage your site!!
Remember to bookmark this page for access to all the links for easily completing each step! I want to hear about your blogging success, so make sure to stop by frequently and say hello! 🙂
You've got this!!