I wish I could count the number of times I’ve received an email or message from a sweet friend/blog reader asking how to start a blog that people want to read. I wish I could cozy up in a coffee shop with every one of them (and you!), but obviously that’s not possible. Instead, I thought I’d have my coffee this morning and share a step-by-step guide, as well as some resources, for starting your own blog. I’m hoping I can make it a little less daunting for y’all so I can add another blog to my Bloglovin list and learn more about each one of you!
The truth is, despite having a successful military spouse blog prior to this one, I didn’t know anything about what I REALLY needed to know to make a blog successful. It was mostly dumb luck and some ridiculous tales of military wifehood. I did a lot of research, Googling, blog-stalking, and ultimately ended up taking Blogging Bootcamp from Brenda the Social Media Queen. It was immensely helpful and if you can fit it into your budget, I can’t recommend it enough. That said, I thought I’d outline a few key steps for starting your own blog on your own time.
How to Start a Blog People Want to Read
Step 1: Narrow Your Topic and Find Your Niche
The truth is, you don’t HAVE to have one specific topic, but having a niche is important in order to grow your community. Take a moment and define your ideal client or your audience. They’re likely to look a lot like you. For me, that’s generally Catholic (or at least Christian), crunchy, possibly allergy-kid moms who might have husbands who are gone a lot (military, pilots, truck drivers, whatever). Now, does that describe you, as my reader? Not necessarily. However, having it narrowed down means I can choose posts to write that will appeal to those people and not have a total hodgepodge of posts. Another bonus to having a niche is that you’ll be able to find Facebook groups, other blogs, etc. that also have writers and readers in the same niche. You can bounce ideas off each other, guest post on each others’ blogs, and are more likely to attract readers from those bloggers as well!
Step 2: Brand Yourself
The first step to branding when you start a blog is to figure out what is “you.” When someone thinks about you, what do they think of? It might be specific colors, an animal, a shape, a food, a place. What makes someone say “I saw this and just KNEW you’d love it?” When any of my friends or readers see something blatantly Texan, pink, gold, or foodie, they often send me a pic of it. “Cait, I just KNEW you’d love this picture of a newborn baby wrapped up in a Whataburger wrapper!” (True story, y’all.) Once you have that list, start brainstorming what names would work well with them. They might be made of those actual words or they might be an offshoot that alludes to the items/colors/shapes you thought of. Find one specific enough to be “you” but general enough that you don’t pigeonhole yourself into only writing about one very narrow topic.
Then, make sure that domain is available so you can buy it and put your blog on it. I also always recommend buying your own name’s domain if it’s available, just in case you become the next Martha Stewart and want it as part of your branding. I personally own about a dozen domains (none of which cost me more than a few dollars a year), and have them set to auto-renew so I don’t forget and have my blog go down or lose the domain name. You also need to find a host. I use Sassy Suite Web Services for my domain and my hosting. They’re extremely reasonably-priced and VERY easy to use.
Step 3: Design Your Blog
Sit down with a piece of paper and sketch out what your ideal blog would look like. When you start a blog, you can dream big! Does it have a side bar? Are the posts listed by words or by pictures (or both)? What does the header look like? What colors or fonts do you want? Using this, you can also design your logo (or vice versa). Finding a theme for your blog can be pricey, but it doesn’t have to be. I do highly recommend using the Genesis framework ($60 or so) because of the awesome power it gives your blog when it comes to plug-ins and other features, as well as the ability to buy some very pretty, very powerful themes for your blog.
Step 4: Set Up Your Blog
Once you’ve chosen your blog name and have an idea what you want it to look like, start shopping around for a theme. Find one that will allow you as much flexibility in colors as possible, with the design elements you want. Install the theme into your WordPress, along with the plug-ins that would be most helpful for you. My top three are definitely JetPack, Yoast, and Pretty Link. JetPack is a super powerful plug-in that shows a huge amount of data when it comes to your stats. Yoast allows you to have excellent SEO with very little actual working knowledge. And Pretty Link is exactly that– it gives you pretty links for your social media, blog posts, affiliate links, whatever!
Step 5: Write 10-20 Quality Posts
Now that your blog is LOOKING great, you need to get some even better content in there. Get all of your posts to “green” SEO (if you’re using the Yoast plug-in) and make sure you have at least 10 that you’ve had go live before really going live with your blog. This will allow the search engines to start finding you, plus it’ll fill in all the spaces on your blog’s directories, sliders, etc. which makes readers happy when they get to your blog for the first time!
Step 6: Promote Your Blog
Do it. Everywhere. Instagram, Facebook, a blog Facebook page, Twitter, Pinterest, you name it. Anywhere you have social media, you need to be promoting your blog. Let people know that you’ve got some amazing posts and talk it up! If you want a beyond-easy way to schedule a ton of posts to go out over the course of the next week or month or year, check out Cinchshare. It lets you schedule posts to all of your Facebook groups and pages and Twitter, so you can set them all up to post without having to babysit it. For an extra 30 days on their free trial, click here and use the code CSFree to get 37 days of time to try it out. I promise you, it’s worth every single penny.
Before you go live, make sure you’ve added ConvertKit to your toolbox. It’s hands-down the most powerful plug-in for capturing email addresses, which is important for keeping in touch with your subscribers and helping your conversion rate. It lets you set up gorgeous forms and send out super pretty newsletters. Don’t start off by missing out on grabbing your readers’ emails!
I know it seems like a LOT of work to start a blog– and it is– but it can also be extremely rewarding if you enjoy writing, helping people through your written word, or sharing about your direct sales product. Think it’s more work than you can handle? Check out my Resources Page for suggestions on help through the Sassy Suite, including a Blogging Bootcamp that will give you EVERYTHING you need to be able to start, write, and run your blog to perfection.
Want to know why Blogging Bootcamp will make such a difference for you? Check out this post!