Intro to BLOG 101:
It’s like the first day of school (but way more fun). Welcome to the first installment of BLOG 101! (I know, how did I come up with such a creative, catchy title, you say? Why thank you!) I’ve been meaning to put this together for quite awhile, but kept putting it off because I felt like I didn’t have all the answers. Well, guess what? No one does. That’s okay! You probably don’t have all the answers either, or you wouldn’t be here with me, right?
I decided to go ahead and start this series up now because I realized that despite having a lot left to learn about blogging, I have already learned a LOT. And I want to pass along that knowledge to you, because starting and running a blog can be an insane amount of work. Worth it in the end, but don’t be fooled – no one starts out with a shiny, successful blog. We all have to start from the bottom and work our way up. Sharing this knowledge with you will hopefully A) save you a crap ton of time and research and B) help me retain everything I’ve learned – because I have the brain of a goldfish and I want to have all this helpful info in one place, forever.
With that said, I want to tackle a few of the most important first steps to starting a blog today for Lesson 1 of BLOG 101. Even if you already have a blog, I encourage you to keep reading, because there will likely be some tips and tricks in here that you may not know yet!
Before I dive in, I want to take a hot second to tell you about this Black Friday Bluehost sale, because y’all. It is CHEAP to start a blog right now (like, $2.65/month kind of cheap…that’s less than a Starbucks!) so check that out first. More on why I love Bluehost so much down below, so keep reading!
Okay. Enough chit chat. Let’s get into it!
Why Bother Starting A Blog?
Is it even worth it? The market may feel waaaay over-saturated, and some days it feels like everyone and their mother’s sister’s third cousin has a blog. I know. I get it. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t space for you to start one of your own! Blogging has become a job for many people, and while you may not want to quit your 9 to 5 and become a full-time blogger, it can still provide a creative outlet and opportunity for you to create community, no matter what you want to share.
Will anyone even care what I have to say?
I was plagued by this one question for years, which held me back from putting my whole heart into starting a blog. I felt silly, I doubted myself, and I wondered why anyone would bother reading my blog when they surely had so many more exciting options available. But here’s the thing: there is only one YOU (yes, this is about to get a little cheesy)! Only YOU can tell your story. Only YOU can share your experiences and unique skills and talents and viewpoints with the world. No one else is going to do it the way you do. And if you feel like your opinions or skills aren’t good enough, I’m here to tell you that dammit, they are. Your stories and experiences are valuable and worth documenting simply because they are YOURS. I know, I know, I’m using too many caps in this paragraph. But I want you to hear me! This is important!
So, if you’re harboring a bunch of self-doubt about whether or not you have enough valuable stuff to share on a blog, I guarantee you…you do. If you enjoy documenting your experiences through photos or writing, sharing your knowledge, or inspiring others, starting a blog is the right move for you.
Why should I start a blog now and not later?
This is my biggest piece of advice for you, so listen up – you will regret not starting sooner. I know I do. Whether it be a blog, a brand, a company, a social media account you want to grow, or anything else, starting now is vital. Do it while you have the passion and inspiration, and begin growing your audience early. You can learn everything else as you go. There is literally nothing to be lost from diving in and trying it out – you can always abandon ship in 6 months if you decide it isn’t for you!
All things take time, and growing an audience and community is the biggest example of this. Any popular blogger will tell you that they didn’t become successful overnight, and neither will you. (Sorry, harsh truth, I know.) Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to blogging. If you have even the slightest inclination to start a blog, I say do it now! You can work on perfecting it later. As one of my favorite creators Elise Joy says, JUST START. The rest is just noise. You don’t need to have everything perfectly planned out before you begin.
How to Choose The Best Platform For You
Almost everyone I know who blogs uses WordPress and swears by it, but there are definitely some other options! Some bloggers use Squarespace, some still use Blogger, some use sites like Wix, and some are wizards and code their own stuff. (I’m not that snazzy.)
If you decide to go the WordPress route, the first decision you need to make is whether to opt for WordPress.org or WordPress.com. What the heck? Aren’t they the same thing? Noooope. Now, I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the differences between the two, but WPBeginner does an excellent job of breaking it down in this handy infographic. (WPBeginner is a fantastic resource, by the way. Bookmark that site, you’ll need it later!)
For the sake of time, let me just give you the nutshell version: if you want to have more control and the ability to customize your website, choose WordPress.org. (Again, refer to the above for more specifics if you want ’em.) Basically, this means that you’ll be running a self-hosted WordPress site. All you need is a domain name and web hosting! For that, I highly recommend Bluehost.
Why choose Bluehost?
They’re super affordable, throw in a bunch of free goodies (like an SSL certificate, which doesn’t make sense now but you’ll need it later!) and they’re uber reliable. I haven’t had any problems so far, so I have zero complaints. You can sign up for the Black Friday $2.65/month deal over here to get started – worry about the other stuff later! Make sure you do it TODAY though, so you can snag that crazy cheap monthly rate!
Other awesome things Bluehost gives you for free when you sign up during their Black Friday sale:
- rates as low as $2.65/month (say what?!)
- a free domain name
- top-of-the line web hosting
- 24/7 friendly support (which I can vouch for – whenever I have questions, I use their online chat support, and they’re always super efficient and helpful)
- a free SSL certificate (vital if you want a secure, successful blog that Google likes to send traffic to)
- 1-click WordPress install (seriously, so helpful and simple)
- a 30-day money-back guarantee
- add-ons as low as 60% off
- plenty of other awesome things – click through to learn more!
And let me throw this out here: I wouldn’t be recommending Bluehost if I didn’t reallllly like them. I promise. I have nothing but good things to say about their hosting and support services! (Not to mention their crazy low prices. It’s hard to find all of these things at such a discount, trust me.) They are not paying me to say this or anything, I just genuinely love them. Okay. End love fest.
How To Pick A Name For Your Blog
Y’all, this one is tricky. Seriously tricky. I am the absolute worst at naming things (as evidenced by the title of this blogging series), which means I always ask my friends for help when I’m stuck and can’t get creative. Some fellow bloggers helped come up with the name for this blog, actually! Thank goodness for friends.
That being said, there are a few steps you should take when trying to name your blog or re-brand yourself:
1) Brainstorm It Out
Seems self-explanatory, but this is the only way you’re going to get anywhere in the naming process. Free-write, use name generators online to get your brain working, ask for buzz words from friends or family, look through lists of bloggers or Instagrammers that you love…spend some time gathering inspiration!
2) Think It Through
Sure, “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Trips Around The World” may sound like a funny travel/breakup blog name, but guess what? That’s long as heck! No social media platform is going to let you have a name that long. It needs to be able to be shortened and still make sense. Or, better yet, make it short and concise to begin with so you never have to worry about shortening it at all!
3) What’s In A Name?
No, really. What’s in your blog name? Does it accurately reflect your mission or goals or niche? Make sure you think long and hard about this one, because there’s nothing worse than a name that doesn’t represent you well. Pick a name that can grow with you (i.e. don’t choose “21 & Ready To Party!” because, well…a lot of reasons. But let’s pretend the main reason is that next year, you’ll turn 22. Presumably. And you will have outgrown your name already! See? Doesn’t work.) Also be sure you choose a blog name that sounds as catchy as possible. Give it a little pizzazz! Don’t pick something super duper boring that no one’s going to click on. Think about what you would be interested in and want to read, and then try to craft your blog presence around that.
4) Is It Available?
This is the truly soul-crushing part of this process. You’ll come up with a name you reallllly love. You’ll be sold on it. Then you go to set up your accounts on Instagram and Twitter and Gmail and YouTube and…oh no. It’s already taken. *insert tiny violins playing here* Sorry to break it to you, but this will happen to you about forty times before you land on a name that isn’t taken.
It’s the most frustrating process ever. I know. And it’s even more annoying to think about having to check each name in a million different social platforms! Enter Namechk, my saving grace. Namechk is a free site that allows you to plug in your desired username and it will cross-check on all social platforms and tell you if it’s available for use. AMAZING. I know. This will save you so much freaking time, believe me.
5) Claim Your Name
The worst thing you could possibly do at this point is sit back and rest on your proverbial laurels. Don’t you dare! Once you’ve found a name that passes the all the tests mentioned above, go claim it on as many social platforms as humanly possible. Even if you think you’ll never use [insert obscure social media platform here] you never know. There are two reasons to claim your name in as many places on the internet as possible. For one, you may end up wanting to use that random social media platform, but more importantly, someone else whose content or brand completely clashes with yours (or competes with yours!) may end up stealing your handle on a bunch of platforms, causing you to lose authority and ownership of the name entirely. Nobody wants to deal with that, especially after they’ve worked so hard to build their audience and brand. Don’t let it happen to you!
The platforms I’d recommend claiming your username on first would be:
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep going and claim your username in other places! Don’t stop here! But be sure you snag your accounts for those six platforms first, because they’re probably the most-used platforms by bloggers in general.
You made it!
That’s the end of Lesson 1 of BLOG 101, friends. We did it! Together. Pat yourself on the back and go grab a glass of wine or something. I have so much more to share, and this is only the beginning, so be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter if you want to keep tabs on this series and get notified when Lesson 2 goes live! (If you want to sign up, just scroll to the top of this page and look for the section at the top of the sidebar on the right, called “Sign Up for Freebies + Updates.”)
In Lesson 2, we’ll be diving in to my personal favorite list of free WordPress plugins, how to choose themes (and tackling whether or not you need to pay for a theme), and how to set up your blog for success from the get-go, plus some other goodies!
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