by Alisha Shibli
Whether you’re pursuing it just for fun or as a side gig, blogging can be a rewarding experience in many ways. It is a place on the internet that truly belongs to you, where you can express yourself freely and connect with like-minded people from all over the world. And the best part is, if your blog becomes successful, you can actually cultivate it into a full-time job, which gives you the freedom to work on your own terms.
If you’ve been nursing the idea of starting a blog, here are 10 things you need to put your plans into action.
1. Do a final evaluation on your idea
If you’re serious about blogging, you need an idea that will enable you to consistently churn out great content and keep your followers tuned in. Ask yourself the following questions:
How passionate am I about the topic?
If the topic of your blog is just a fleeting interest, you will soon run out of ideas and the quality of your content will suffer.
Are there other people blogging about the same thing?
It’s okay if they are. Every idea doesn’t have to be one of a kind. It’s your unique experiences, voice, style of writing, and personality that make it a success.
Are others interested in learning about it?
Your idea needs to have an interested audience, otherwise, it will be hard to sustain and monetize your blog.
2. Choose your blog name
Your blog name will represent your personal online brand, so choose wisely. You want a name that you can stick to for the long haul because you’re spending precious time and money in cultivating your brand.
Start by making a list of words that resonate with your idea, purpose, and personality. Then, combine different ones to see if they have a nice ring to them. Eliminate words that are too generic or complicated.
Many people use their own name as their blog’s name. You can do that, but it would be better to combine it with other words related to the topic of your blog. Unless you’re already famous, people wouldn’t know who you are, but if your blog’s name indicates what it’s about, they will be more inclined to visit it if the topic interests them.
Your name should be something in between generic and niche. Too niche a name may lose relevance if you want to add other topics to your blog. Get a little quirky and creative, but you should avoid a name that is too cryptic.
3. Register a domain name
When you decide on your blog’s name, check to see if its subsequent domain name is available. As a new blogger, you want to keep your branding consistent, so your domain name should be as similar to your blog’s name as possible. For instance, if your photography blog is called Kristen Clicks, the first part of your domain name should ideally have those 2 words.
- Short and simple domain names are snappier and easier to remember. Limit it to 3 words. For instance, www.kristenclicks.online is short and memorable and has a trendy ring to it.
- Avoid adding random numbers, special characters, and modified spellings. They don’t add any meaning to your brand and unnecessarily complicate your domain name and may even make it seem spammy. For example, www.mybrnd-online.com.
- Use keywords that people might use when they search for the type of content that you’ll publish on your blog. You can also use a new domain ending to better define your niche. It might make it easier to acquire a domain name that’s your first preference. For instance, www.name.com might be unavailable. However, www.name.space will (most likely) not only be available but it’ll also somewhat represent an online space to showcase your topic, animal photography for example.
- Before you register, check to see if the name you’ve chosen is available for use. If you use something that’s owned by someone else, you’re bound to run into legal issues and may even have to take your blog off the web.
Search for a domain name:
4. Pick your blogging platform
The advantage of using a blogging platform is that you can set up your blog even if you don’t have coding skills. Most of them are also free to use, but you may have to purchase additional templates, themes, and plug-ins.
Two things that you should consider when picking a blogging platform are first, how easy it is to use compared to your skills, and second, the degree of customization they offer. If you’re a beginner, you’d want something super easy to use, but you also want enough freedom to customize it later on when your blog grows.
You can choose between either a CMS (Content Management System), or a drag-and-drop “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” editor.
Two common options of each that you might consider are WordPress and Wix.
You may have heard of WordPress as a great platform for blogging. Since WordPress is, a CMS, you’ll need to install it on a web hosting service in order to use it. But it allows a high degree of customization, and you can install a wide range of plugins—both free or for sale—to add features to your site.
What’s more, you can quickly and easily install WordPress on your Gandi domain in just a few clicks, including free SSL for HTTPS encryption.
Wix, and other “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” style editors, are simpler because they use drag-and-drop options for building a website. But, compared to WordPress, their templates and add-on features are limited. WordPress, on the other hand, gives you all the freedom in the world to create a blog that looks and functions just the way you want it to but requires a little more effort to learn.
5. Pick a website host
While drag-and-drop style website editors generally include hosting, CMSes like WordPress, need to be installed on a web hosting service in order to use it.
When picking a web host, keep in mind:
The cost of web hosting varies depending on the different features hosting platforms offer. Aim for the sweet spot between one that meets your needs and fits your budget.
Uptime is the amount of time that your blog will be online. You obviously want your blog to be available 24/7, so you need a web host with a high percentage of uptime.
Integration with CMS
Whichever CMS you decide to use, your web host must support it. Some hosting providers, Gandi included, make this even easier by offering quick implementation of the CMS of your choice. In fact, you can go from just an idea in your head to posting online in just 15 minutes or less.
Your hosting service should allow your blog to load quickly so that you don’t lose readers and search rankings.
Prompt customer service is a must so that you can fix issues timely and keep your blog running without glitches.
6. Plan your pages
The way you plan the look and content of your blog will help people find what they’re looking for when they visit your website. Here are a few things you should consider:
When people visit your blog, they will want to know who you are. Write an interesting and personalized bio that establishes your credibility but also shows the best side of your personality.
Can you find a picture that represents what your blog is about? For instance, if your blog is about backpacking, your profile picture could be outdoorsy, such as you with a rucksack. If it’s about something like digital marketing or accounting, consider a cleaner and more professional look.
Your blog’s logo is your visual identity. Make sure it represents you and what you’re offering and tie it in with the rest of your blog’s design. If you are not good at design, you can enlist the services of a graphic designer from your professional network or from websites like Fiverr.
Let your readers know that you are approachable and you’d love to hear from them. You can include a custom email address (such as email@example.com) or a contact form.
7. Create an editorial calendar
If you’re serious about making a living off your blog, you need to be regularly posting content.
Your readers spend time consuming, appreciating, and sharing your content. You owe it to them to consistently deliver or you will eventually lose their interest and your blog’s ratings will suffer.
The best way to bring regularity and discipline in your writing is to create an editorial calendar and then consider it sacrosanct. Imagine that you are working for a magazine or a newspaper and you just HAVE to stick to the deadlines your editor assigned you.
Follow these steps to create an editorial calendar:
- Create a simple Excel sheet and include columns such as Content Bucket, Topic, Working Title, First Draft Date, Final Edit Date, and Publishing Date.
- You can add and remove columns as per your preference.
- Be realistic. It’s important to be regular, but you also want to be able to actually deliver. Don’t commit to 3 posts a week when you can only write 1.
- At the same time, don’t put too much of a gap between posts. To start with, one post a week should suffice. You can take this frequency up as your blog starts to get popular and you’re able to devote more time to it.
- Work at least 2 weeks ahead of schedule so that you have your content ready to go when it’s time.
8. Write great content
Congratulations! Now that you have dealt with the technicalities, it’s time to start writing. Your mind is most likely buzzing with a million things to say and how you want to put your thoughts in words, but even the most seasoned writer will tell you that it’s no mean feat.
Whatever you decide to write about, stick to these golden rules:
Before you publish something, always ask yourself: “Is this adding value for my readers?” Is your content solving a problem? Is it uplifting the readers’ mood? Is it making them a better person? If you want people to keep coming back to your blog, you need to give them something they want or need.
It’s one thing to scour the internet for ideas and data. It’s quite another to pass off someone else’s work as your own. There’s no room for plagiarism in content creation. Getting caught can not only ruin your reputation for good but also land you in legal trouble.
Find your unique style and use it to express yourself. Let your personality shine through in what you’re saying. Only your own voice will do justice to your perspective and your story. The truer you are to yourself, the more you will stand out.
Always check facts before publishing your posts. Use reliable sources to do your research and link back to them wherever you’re quoting them. You should neither propagate nor fall victim to misinformation.
Be open to feedback
Always listen to what your readers have to say, even if the feedback is negative. After all, they are the ones you are writing for and their opinion matters just as much as yours. Use feedback to improve your skills and broaden your perspective.
9. Boost your content SEO
When you’re writing your blog posts, be sure to optimize them for search engines to improve your rankings and drive more traffic. That’s the only way prospective readers will know that you exist. Every blogging platform has plug-ins that you can install to help you with SEO (such as Yoast SEO for WordPress). But here are some best practices that you should always keep in mind:
Use tools such as SEMRush and Google Keyword Planner to learn the most popular search keywords related to your post’s topic. Try to incorporate them in your title, introduction, first paragraph, and meta text. However, you should avoid overstuffing keywords as that reduces the quality and readability of your content.
Guide readers in their journey by linking to other relevant articles in your blog. This increases the value-add for your readers, keeps them engaged longer, and revives your older posts.
Don’t ignore images when it comes to SEO. Always use the best and most relevant images to support your writing. Compress them so that they don’t add to the loading speed of your website. Use keywords in your image names and captions, and be sure to add a name and description in the images’ “alt text.”
10. Consider monetization options
This may not be top of mind right now, but as your blog grows, it may grow to a point that you might want to do it full time, instead of as a side project. For that, you’ll need a way to fund a living using your blog. The good news is that you can! A good blog attracts a large audience, which makes your blog a high-traffic website, which makes it valuable to marketers.
The most straightforward way of monetizing your blog is by selling ad space. Sell banner space on your website to brands and earn some passive revenue. If you want to make money in a more meaningful way, consider partnering with brands you like and promoting them in your content. You can do this either as an influencer or an affiliate marketer, or you can create co-marketing partnerships, like Gandi has with Radix for this series.
The former is based on your own experience with a brand. You try their product, you like it and you think your readers would love to know about it. Affiliate marketing is more performance-based. You promote and link to products of a particular brand and they will reward you for every visitor or customer you send their way. As an affiliate, you will be required to add a disclaimer for your readers.
If you don’t want to partner with other brands, you can sell something that you created yourself, such as eBooks, online courses, video guides, audiobooks, or physical products made by you. For instance, you can sell your pictures or a photography course on your photography blog.
Don’t get too daunted by getting everything right in the first place. Remember that the idea is to have fun and let your creativity flow. Blogging is an enriching experience where you learn about the world around you and also about yourself, and nothing is more important than cherishing that experience. Happy blogging!
Ready to get started? Find your domain name:
Alisha is a Senior Content Marketing & Communication Specialist at Radix, the registry behind some of the most successful new domain extensions, including .online and .tech.