How to Start a Blog
When I started Our Small Hours in 2011 I was looking for a way to reach out to other moms on the subjects of positive parenting, homeschooling, real food and natural living. I had learned a lot in my parenting and natural living journey and wanted a place to share that information outside of private message boards, where my ability to reach others was limited. I decided to start a blog and the rest is history.
Over the years I’ve shared what I know about parenting and natural living and now I want to add to that by sharing what I’ve learned about blogging. As my blog grows I get questions from family, friends and readers about how blogging works. One of the most often asked questions is about how to start a blog.
I think there are a few important questions to answer before you start a blog, so I will cover those first. However, if you have already answered those questions and simply want to know how to set your blog up right now, skip down the middle of this post where I give a tutorial on getting started with Bluehost and WordPress.org, which are my recommendations for hosting and managing a great blog.
Questions to Answer Before You Start a Blog
1. What Will You Write About?
What is your blogging niche? What topic(s) will you cover on your blog? In the world of blogging there is no limit to the number of topics, or niches, that are covered. We have parenting bloggers, health bloggers, natural living bloggers, humor bloggers, food bloggers, sports bloggers and so many more.
Picking a popular niche, such as health or sports, will lead to more competition for readers and traffic. However, picking a lesser-blogged-about niche may mean that there is less demand for the subject and could present reader attraction and traffic issues, as well. Don’t shy away from any topic just because you feel like it is too popular or not popular enough. Just commit to being authentic and sharing your unique point of view.
The most important thing is to pick a topic that you are passionate about. If you chose more than one topic (like I have) you need to find a way to relate the topics within your blog so that it makes sense to readers. For instance, you may be equally passionate about sports and health. While they may seems like two completely different niches, there is a way to blog about both that leads to a cohesive experience for your audience.
2. Who is Your Audience?
Speaking of your audience, who are they exactly? You might say, “Well, I don’t know! I haven’t started my blog yet!” Still, it is important to know who you are writing to when you sit down to blog. That doesn’t mean that every one of your readers will be the blogging audience you have pictured in your head, but having an idea of who you want to reach helps you when you are writing.
As an example, my readers are extremely varied. Some only come here for the real food recipes. Others stop by for homeschooling information. Still others are only interested in my parenting posts. However, when I sit down to write, I’m providing information, solutions and encouragement to moms with children still living at home. That doesn’t mean that fathers, people without children or moms with children who are grown can’t benefit from my website. It means that when I sit down to write, I am writing from a single, authentic point of view that I believe appeals to my target audience. It helps me to feel as if I’m having a genuine conversation with my readers instead of simply throwing a bunch of information on the page.
3. What Will You Name Your Blog and Domain?
Naming a blog is fun, but can be difficult for some. (Find out how Our Small Hours got its name here.)
Here are a couple of tips for naming your blog.
- It’s best to keep the name short and easy to spell.
- Try to make it no more than two or three words.
- For search engine optimization (SEO) you’ll want a name that is also a search term (for instance, tips for moms or natural living blog) but this is not necessary.
- Make it memorable. Sometimes readers forget to bookmark posts they like and have to search to find them later. You’ll want them to be able to remember your blog name so they can enter it into the search engine.
- Use a name generator like one of the following: NameMesh, SpinXO, or this fun one — Hipster Business.
4. Are You Blogging For Income or as a Hobby?
It is important to decide whether or not you will be blogging for income or as a hobby before you start a blog. The next two questions will be answered differently depending on whether you are blogging for business or a hobby blogger.
If you want to dip your toes in the water as a hobby blogger before deciding if blogging is something you’d like to do for income, you still need to follow the steps to start a blog for income. If you know for certain that you’ll never want to have a blogging business, then hobby blogging is for you.
5. What Content Management System Will You Use?
The three most popular blogging content management systems (CMS) are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr. If you have decided to be a hobby blogger, WordPress.com, Blogger and Tumblr are for you. They are simple to set up and are free.
For bloggers who want to earn income from their blog, it is best to create a blog with WordPress.org. While you can use advertising on WordPress.org and Blogger, you cannot use advertising on WordPress.com and Tumblr.
WordPress.org is a great CMS for bloggers because it offers so many useful plugins that make building a website a breeze. I began blogging using Blogger, but when my traffic began to grow, I switched to WordPress.org as quickly as I could for a better look and ease of use.
6. Will You Use Free Hosting or Paid Hosting?
When you decide to start a blog, you’re going to need a domain name. (My domain name is www.oursmallhours.com.) You can get a domain name for free at Blogger.com or WordPress.com. However, if you use a free domain name you will have the host website’s name in your URL. For instance, if I used Blogger, my domain name would be www. oursmallhours .blogspot. com. At wordpress it would www. oursmallhours. wordpress. com.
If you don’t want the name of the hosting site in your URL and instead want a more professional domain name, you can purchase a domain name and then link it to your Blogger or WordPress.com website. For instructions on how to do that, check out this article.
The problem with free hosting is that you are limited in many ways. Even if you buy a domain name there are downfalls to free hosting for your blog. With free blog hosting you may have to contend with a limited bandwidth, ads from the hosting site, a less professional look and even the inability to run ads of your own.
If you are a hobby blogger, free blog hosting is probably fine. If you want to make money blogging, you need paid hosting. The good news is that paid hosting is actually very inexpensive. I’ll talk more about that later.
How to Start a Blog Using WordPress.Org and Bluehost
I use WordPress.org as my CMS and Bluehost as my website hosting service. I have been abundantly happy with both. Having moved from a free domain and free hosting on Blogger to a paid domain and free hosting on Blogger to, finally, a paid domain and paid hosting using WordPress.org and Bluehost, I can tell you that the latter is by far the best solution for bloggers who want to turn their blog into a business.
One of the reasons that I waited before getting paid hosting is that my blog wasn’t bringing in any money at first and I didn’t want to pay for hosting costs. I assumed that blog hosting was expensive. Other blogging friends were using hosts that cost them $100 or more per month and I didn’t have that kind of cash to put into my blog in the beginning.
When I discovered Bluehost, I was ecstatic to see that it was only $3.95 per month. Of course, I worried a bit about what I’d be getting for the money, but after three years of Bluehost hosting, I am happy to report that they have gone above and beyond my expectations for website hosting.
I have not experienced downtime or slow service. When I’ve fiddled with things I had no business tinkering with and completely broken my site (twice) they have come to my rescue. They’ve even fixed things that you wouldn’t normally ask a web host to fix — things that you’d normally have to hire a web designer to fix. I can’t say enough good things about Bluehost.
For us bloggers, Bluehost has made it super easy to get started with WordPress.org. The set up is a cinch and Bluehost’s live chat support is there to hold your hand if you need it.
If you’re ready to get started blogging, but are unsure about the process of setting up your blog, here is a quick tutorial for getting your blog up and running in minutes with WordPress.org and Bluehost.
Go to Bluehost. Click “Get Started”.
You can chose a 12-, 24- or 36-month package. The fewer months you chose, the more you pay. A 12-month package with Bluehost is $5.95 per month. A 24-month package with Bluehost is $4.95. The 36-month package is recommended and is only $3.95 per month.
For now, skip any upgrades that are offered and complete your purchase. When your purchase is completed, Bluehost will send you an email that will contain your login information. Do not delete this email! Save it forever and ever just in case you forget your login info!
How to Set up WordPress.org with Bluehost
Now that you have signed up to host your domain name and website with Bluehost, you need to set up WordPress.org so that you have a place to create your website. Here are the steps for installing WordPress.org through Bluehost.
On the next page, select “advanced options”. Enter your Site Name or Title, your Admin Username, and your Admin Password. This is what you will use to login to WordPress to begin posting on your blog and building your website.
Be sure to select that you have read and agree to the terms and conditions.
Click “Install Now”.
Once WordPress has been successfully installed, you will be taken to the “Success” screen. Bluehost will give you the information you need to login to your WordPress account and to begin building your website or blog!