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As someone who has had my share of mistakes in trying to create a blog by following too many online sources that sometimes contradict one another, I’ve created this article for some clarity specially for aspiring bloggers. We’ll be talking about a few basic blogging-related questions.
What is a blog
A blog is short for a web log which was originally created by those that want to document their lives, sort of an online diary. Surely, blogs have come a long way. Although there are still those that share their lives online, people have expanded the use of blogs.
Blogs are now a means to reach out to those that are looking for a particular solution to their problem or simply an answer to their question. We also read blogs to validate ideas or be inspired to pursue. No matter what your reason for preferring one blog over another, blogs are part of our daily lives.
What can I blog about
It would be wise to do a bit of research on your blog topic or niche. I don’t suggest that you spend days or even weeks in trying to choose it though. You might have a clear idea of your target audience from the start or you might not. If you haven’t the slightest idea, don’t despair. Let’s figure it out together.
There are a lot of ways that you can try to determine your blog niche though I find that the simplest one is one that’s inside you. What do I mean by that? That means, think of your greatest problem/desire/goal/achievement right now.
After identifying your greatest problem or goal, think of what steps will people in your same situation do and what steps will they take to progress or veer away from it. If it’s an accomplishment that you’ve gone through, list the actions that you had to go through to achieve it. Each of those steps can serve as the foundational, or what people in this industry refer to as evergreen, articles for your blog.
From those evergreen content, branch out to their subtopics by doing some research (Google is your friend) for succeeding blog post ideas.
How do bloggers earn money
There are quite a number of ways to monetize your blog. In this article, we’ll discuss the 5 most common means which include ads, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, services and digital and/or physical products.
Having ads (short form of advertisements) on your blog can be easily set up specially Google Adsense but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll immediately and considerably earn from them. Aside from Google Adsense, there are other advertising companies or networks that you can look into if you want to try this blog monetization method.
Ad networks such as Media.net, Propeller Ads, Infolinks or AdThrive serve as the middleman between product/service advertisers and content creators such as bloggers. Be sure to go through the terms and conditions of your preferred ad company on their website so there won’t be any surprises when you get approved and start using their resources.
Instead of ad placements on your blog, affiliate marketing has a more personal approach and can be a more profitable method to earn from your blog. Simply put, every successful sale through the special link that the product or service owner provides you will entitle you to a considerable commission. This could be a certain fixed amount or a percentage of the item price.
Although content creators can dedicate a whole piece of their work to the promoted products/services, it’s usually just a section of a related written, graphic or video material. Unless you aim to do a feature comparison, it is a good practice to promote only highly recommended items or, better yet, something that you have firsthand experience with. That way, your endorsement will feel authentic to the readers to increase your chance of closing the sale.
Much like affiliate marketing, a sponsored post is designed to promote a product or service to your audience. This specific method though is when a company or sponsor reaches out to you specifically. In this way, you can dictate your charge rates.
On the other hand, sponsored posts naturally entail a more rigorous content creation process. This is especially challenging if you’ll create, edit, publish and promote the material on your own.
Invitation for a sponsored post could be a positive sign that your blog is getting noticed. Thus, this is likely to happen when you already have a considerable number of views or followers to your site.
This type of monetization is ideal for those with a special talent or skill set that they can provide services or teach to others. This strategy is ideal for those who excel in the creative arts such as a freelancer writer, painter or musician. Services that involve virtual assistance of all sorts for your business, graphic design or application development also fall in this category.
In a similar manner, a coach or consultant for writing, career or business is likely to choose this method as well. With freelance or consulting services, you can choose the clients that you can and want to take on which will benefit both parties in the end.
Products (Digital & Physical)
Online entrepreneurs including bloggers will tell you that selling your own products is the most lucrative form of making money online. With digital products, you don’t have to worry about inventory because you’ll never run out of supply. You won’t have to contend with shipping woes as well. As a replacement to those manual logistical concerns, you’ll have to set up ecommerce features in your blog or with a separate online facility.
Digital products include stock photos, document templates, ebooks or printable planners. Those are only a few of them and there are so much more that you can create and sell depending on your niche. The most profitable digital products though are online courses which is what those with specialized skills can package and offer to your followers.
If your prefer to deal with physical products though, then you can make the printed versions of your digital products available for shipping through your blog or a payment gateway.
How do I start a blog with no experience
There are a few ways that you can approach blogging so let’s talk about them first before we get into the steps of creating a blog.
Although there are more blogging platforms than what’s on the following list, the following platforms are the more popular ones:
Creating a blog in WordPress.org is free on its own but you’ll need to invest on a hosting plan at the very least to access your blog via the Internet. On the other hand, WordPress.com is free only if you don’t exceed the amount of storage set for your blog’s files such as your articles and images.
As you can see, WordPress.org and WordPress.com are not the same even though they share the same name. And although the free version seems the obvious choice, WordPress.org has its advantages in the long run if you’re looking at monetizing your blog eventually.
Here are a few main differences between the 2 blogging platforms:
|Domain host||Will require paid hosting which you can get from several service providers such as Siteground, Bluehost, Hostinger, etc. Hostinger is the most affordable from those 3 web hosting companies if you’re interested in their services.||Has a free plan but has 3 GB storage limit for your files including your blog posts, images and videos Will require a paid plan once you exceed this limit|
|Domain name||Will require paid domain name which you can get from domain registrars/hosting companies Some hosting companies offer free domain name on the first year including Hostinger.||Has free version but only as subdomain (i.e., has “wordpress” between your blog name and .com such as blogname.wordpress.com) You’ll need to pay a considerable amount to get a custom or a more professional domain name (i.e., without “wordpress” as part of your blog name)|
|Plugins||Allows installation of plugins which are just add-on software that can provide additional functionalities to your blog||Does not allow plugins from other software providers|
|Site maintenance||Will leave the maintenance of your blog such a backups to you although there are plugins that can address that as well as automatic software updates||Will take care of your site maintenance so you don’t have to worry about it|
|Monetization||Allows installation and use of ecommerce and other monetization functionalities||Places ads on free websites but you will not earn from them|
Other blogging mediums
Other than the website builders and content management systems enumerated above, many content creators prefer social media and publishing platforms. A word of caution though as “blogging” on these platforms are free and, thus, they can change their direction easily which could negatively affect your promotion strategies.
You may use them solely at the start of your blogging career. In the long run though, these mediums should be used to complement your self-hosted blog which should be the ultimate venue for your ideas. Here are a few of the most common alternative blogging mediums.
We’re all familiar with Facebook’s create post or status update functionality where we can share written, image or video content. This is the reason why many use Facebook as a marketing tool to promote their blog or as their actual blog instead of investing in a hosting plan and domain name with a blogging platform.
Unfortunately, there’s a character limit though to just 63,206 only at the moment or a little over 200 words. This might not be enough if you’d like to share an article with about 800 words which is a good size post length.
The Facebook Notes, an alternative to the Posts feature and which was used by many to create posts similar to what you would create in a blogging platform such as WordPress, seems to be not available anymore.
Just like Facebook, Instagram are used by bloggers as a means to promote their actual blogs. Instagram posts or captions are designed to accommodate only 2,200 characters so you’ll have to compress the message that you want to deliver and include a link to your blog in your bio.
You can be creative though in working around that limit by dividing your content into a maximum of 10 images and videos and sharing them in your Instagram Feed as a single post. Several Instagram features such as Stories, Reels, Lives and IGTV are also useful in marketing your blog.
Medium.com is simply a website where content creators particularly writers can freely share their ideas. Again, this is a good option for those that do not want to make an investment on their domain host and name just yet.
I wouldn’t solely publish in it for long though without a backup plan. In Medium, you’re vying for the attention of their site’s visitors with their other hundreds of thousands (if not millions) contributors. That is, a reader who was initially interested in your post can easily trail off to another writer’s articles and completely forget about you.
Steps in creating a self-hosted blog
Although it would be to your advantage to be crystal clear with your ultimate goal before you start a blog, sometimes you just have to start. And just like anything in life, creating a blog can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
Let’s do the simple version specially for most of us that will do this on the side (at least at first) and have little time to spare. Here are 5 steps to get you up and running in less than an hour, at least for steps 1-4. Step #5 will require more planning and research.
Step 1 Choose your blog name
After you’re able to figure out your niche or a semblance of it, think of the name for your blog that matches it. To help you figure it out, use a blog or domain name generator tools such as namemesh, domain wheel or panabee. Give it a try. Again, don’t overthink it.
If it’s still too hard to choose the perfect one, I recommend that you just use your name or combine it with your main topic or skill such as courtneybakes, amytravels or jasminwrites. Honestly, you can name your blog anything you want for as long as it’s not trademarked or restricted.
Step 2 Get website hosting and your domain name
A host for a website, in this case, your blog is the service provider that will allow you to store your blog’s files (your articles, images, etc.) in their servers so that anyone who has access to the internet will be able to check out your website.
A website or domain name, on the other hand, is your blog’s name. With the names you came up with in the previous step, you can purchase your domain name with your host or from another service provider.
Step 3 Install blogging platform
Aside from the host and domain name, you’ll also need to choose a blogging platform which is the software that will allow you to create your actual blog. As discussed in the previous section, there are several blogging platforms that are available but I highly recommend building your blog from WordPress.
Step 4 Install theme and essential plugins
WordPress releases a new theme every year with the current year as its name but there are thousands of free and paid ones that you can choose from. I’d like to warn you though that you should not choose a theme primarily because of its many features and functionalities. You should get one that will serve your needs in terms of content creation primarily. That is, less is more.
Themes that are bloated with too many functionalities than you need to tend to affect your site’s overall performance specially page loading. You wouldn’t want that to happen since site visitors may easily lose interest and jump to another blog. This will be tragic if you’re trying to sell products and/or services later on through your blog.
At this point, you already have a fully functioning blog so you can already create your first few posts. While writing, get a feel for it. That is, if this is something that you’d be willing to do on a regular basis so your blog will grow.
Step 5 Write your first few posts
If you did your research on your niche, you can start with the first item on your list. Create an outline of your first blog post then fill out each section. Even a few paragraphs will do for your first piece of content. If that seems daunting at this point, you can just start telling your story on your very first post to test the waters, so to speak. That is, this post can be your About Me page.
Bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect. The beauty of blogging is that you can always edit it later on. Once you’re done with your first post or About Me page, publish it and move on to the next one. You can talk about why you chose your niche or what you want to achieve in this blog. Make a list again if it doesn’t come easy then go from there.
Do those steps for a few more posts to build on your flow of writing. You’ll notice that it becomes easier with every new post.
Those 5 steps are really the only steps that you need take in creating a blog that works when you’re just starting in the world of blogging. Create your blog today and let me know how it goes. Let’s do this!