Creating a blog for your hobby or small business is simple, and incredibly rewarding! However, the process can be daunting and questions loom. Small niggling decisions tend to make us freeze in our tracks before we can even get going: Who has the best hosting service? Should I order my posts chronologically or reverse-chronologically? Trying to hammer out every detail before you even start is a clear sign of the fear of failure, and something called Analysis Paralysis. Our guide is designed to help you take that first step and get the ball rolling! Inertia is a bitch, isn’t it?
Step 1: Choose a Topic
It can be any number of things. Blog about your business! Couponing! The stock market! Data! Your experience doing Crossfit! Your 2,000-mile road trip! What you had for breakfast!It doesn’t matter – just start writing. Remember what we said about inertia? As your blog evolves, the content you write will evolve and grow right along with it. But to start, you must choose a direction.
Feel analysis paralysis setting in? See this ad monetization matrix to get some ideas of different industries. Maybe you hadn’t even thought about blogging about your experiences as a college intern who needed to master underwater basket weaving. Search out lists ofthings you could write about. Point is: pick something!
Step 2: Getting Hosted
One of the biggest obstacles we see when we hear about getting started with blogging is finding good hosting. It’s really not that bad. You may think of hosting as a big deal – and it is, but not until you’ve become a super big fish. For now, you’re just a small fish. Or a tadpole.
There are free options for hosting and paid options for hosting, and of course, pros and cons to each. One thing you’ll want to keep in mind, whether you go for free hosting or paid hosting, is that you’ll probably want the ability to expand further down the line. We recommend choosing a host that will allow you to export all of your posts automatically. That way when your blog becomes huge and successful and you’re ready to expand in years to come, you’ll be able to do so easily. Because it WILL suck to export all of your old blog entries manually, one by one, and re-upload them to another platform if you so choose. This could really stunt your growth. Choose wisely.
Free - pros
- It’s free of course!
- Can often put third-party ads here to monetize your own content
- Fast to set up
- The investment isn’t huge, so if you decide you don’t want to blog any more, well then you’re not out of pocket anything
- Some web hosts place limitations on how you can monetize your content. Some won’t let you monetize your content at all
- You’ll probably have to have ads on your site, whether you put them there or the host puts them there (they gave you a free product, and they need to make money off of it somehow since they’re a business!)
- Your options for design & customization are often limited. You’re stuck with templates. Sometimes the templates suck.
- Can’t pick your own domain. So you’ll have a .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com URL
- Not so professional if you’re trying to run a legitimate business selling services or products
- Harder to permanently redirect to your new site if you outgrow it, and potentially more difficult to export your old blog posts
- No custom error pages
- Can do anything you want with your site. Design it however you want, and don’t have to stick with templates
- Pick your domain!
- Often times hosts offer other things in their packages - an @yourdomain.com email address (which really helps businesses seem more professional)
- You can put as many ads as you want there! And wherever you want them to go! You have the power (muahahaha!)
- With the right service, you can get custom error pages to redirect your confused users back to your content
- You have to pay
- Customization can be difficult. So you may end up having to stick with a boring template anyway, if you’re not a graphic designer, don’t know CSS or HTML, etc.
- If you decide you hate blogging, you’re pretty much stuck with the sunk money unless you sell your website to someone else
Paid - GoDaddy, Laughing Squid, DreamHost, Bluehost, Yahoo!, HostGator
Free - Tumblr, Blogger, Wix, Weebly, 000webhost
Step 3: Time for design!
Another roadblock that can contribute to “analysis paralysis” is designing your website. Now there are free templates available out there (WordPress being just one fantastic resource for this), but you may want to explore hiring a website designer or paying for a custom template to be made for your site. Remember that first impressions mean a lot, and a visitor to your blog may immediately turn away if the design is messy, convoluted or hard to navigate.
You may want to choose a temporary template for now, so you can jump into the writing and posting portion of your blog before you have to decide on a “forever” design. This is something that can always be changed later, so you can even make drastic changes if you decide you hate the entire design in a month or so.
Step 4: Write, write, write!
This is the meat of your blog, and the part most bloggers are most excited about. Tell your story here! We’re not going to get all grammatically correct on you right now, but here are a few tips for keeping your blog posts interesting:
- Write about something you care about. Your passion or lack of passion WILL show, and your readers will respond
- If your blog is for your business, don’t try to sell something with every post. Keep business-related blog posts relatively rare, and share valuable industry-related information more often
- Find the length that works for you. Very short “sound bites” of information can capture readers’ attention and get shared in a snap. Longer educational or opinion pieces can also be picked up, but are generally slower to be shared – however, they usually have a longer shelf life!
- Ask people to comment back with their opinions. Ask a specific question at the end of your blog post (“do you think underwater basket weaving deserves to be an olympic sport?”) – these tend to get more quality responses than just “well, what do ya think?”.