Starting a blog from scratch isn’t rocket science. Unless, of course, you’re starting a blog about rocket science. [tweet this]
Whether your new blog to be is about rocket science or a more pedestrian topic (like, say, BLOGGING), the steps for getting it off the ground are the same. Sure, there are questions you need to ask, things you need to figure out, etc., but the processes are the same.
Let’s go through them. Shall we?
1. Decide why you are starting a blog
In other words, what is your goal?
Is this for a business, or is this for you?
Do you want to (hopefully) someday make money via your blog, or do you shun all monetization?
Are you blogging for fun, or are you blogging for fame?
2. Choose a domain name
Option A. If you are starting a blog for fun, just head on over to WordPress.com and create a free account along with a blog address. There you will be able to pick a username, which will also become your web address.
So, if you wanted to blog about food and your chose iheartzfood as your username, your blog address would be iheartzfood.wordpress.com. That is the URL people would go to in their favorite browser to read your blog posts!
If you choose this option, jump ahead to Step #5.
Option B. If you are starting a blog for other reasons and want a custom domain name (and please note: Even if you are just blogging for fun you can get a custom domain name), go to a domain registrar.
Many people use GoDaddy. Some use Namecheap.com. Some people like having their domain registration and web hosting with the same company, in which case you’d be best to forgo these two in favor of companies like BlueHost or HostGator (affiliate link).
Personally, I’ve done it both ways. I have used GoDaddy for my domain registration and HostGator for my web hosting, and I’ve used HostGator for both.
You’ll be fine either way, so long as you’re using reputable companies.
3. Choose a web host
If you choose a domain registrar that also offers web hosting, choosing a web host is one of the easiest parts of the “starting a blog” process.
However, you should note: Just because a company offers both domain registration and web hosting doesn’t mean they are good at both.
GoDaddy is the most popular domain registrar around, but while they offer lots of hosting packages you’d be hard pressed to find many popular websites and blogs that use and recommend them for hosting.
In other words, if you want your registrar and host to be one and the same, choose a good web hosting company first. Don’t choose a domain registrar and decide “I might as well use their hosting, too.”
Registering a domain is easy. Hosting is hard. Make sure you choose a company good at the hard one. [tweet this]
4. Install WordPress
One of the things that can separate a “good” web host and an okay one is its WordPress integration.
Many hosts today offer 1-click WordPress installation. BlueHost, DreamHost, HostGator and others offer it, so if you’re using WordPress there really is no reason not to choose a company that has it.
If you have never installed WordPress onto a self-hosted website before (or if you have, but you’d prefer to simplify the process), these 1-click installations are wonderful.
You get to skip all the wp-config and MySQL configuration headaches. Don’t know what these things even are? Doesn’t matter! With 1-click WordPress install you get to skip all the technical mumbo jumbo and jump right into having WordPress on your site.
5. Pick a WordPress theme
If you’re using a free WordPress.com blog, you can only use the themes they offer. But do not worry, at the time of this writing WordPress has 152 themes from which you can choose!
If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, well, the world is your oyster.
There are thousands of free WordPress themes out there you can download, upload and install.
Don’t like it once it’s on your website? Switch back to a default theme, delete it and try again!
If you want a custom theme, you can opt for a freelance web designer who will create you a unique WordPress themes.
6. Install WordPress plugins
Again, if you’re using a free WordPress.com blog, you’ll be restricted to the plugins they make available to you. But, again, not to fear: You will have a lot of great plugins at your disposal.
Those with self-hosted WordPress blogs will have their choice of thousands of free and premium WordPress plugins.
There are plugins for SEO, for security, for comments, for widgets, for images, for anything in which there can possibly be a plugin.
One warning, though: Because there are so many great plugins available, there is the temptation to have a lot of plugins. Don’t do it.
With plugins, as with life, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible.
But, do install the W3 Total Cache plugin to improve the speed on your self-hosted blog. It’s the one plugin I simply can’t do without.
7. Create the About & Contact pages, write first post
By this point you have a domain and host, WordPress is installed and optimized with the necessary plugins, and you’ve got a theme to make your site look nice.
Now you need to write some content. Specifically, your About page, Contact page, and your first blog post.
Your About page can be about you, your blog, what your blog is going to be about, etc.
Your Contact page simply needs to specify how a reader may get in touch with you. This could be a contact form, a link to your Twitter or Google+ page, and so forth.
If you want to provide your email address, you need to disguise it. “JohnDoe AT aol DOT com” would be an example.
The idea is to let humans be able to interpret your email, but make it so automated programs and spammers cannot.
Your first post can be about whatever you want. You could announce the launching of your blog, or you could write about your blog’s mission.
Or, like I did, simply start with a funny list.
8. Let search engines know about it
If you have a free WordPress.com blog, you don’t have to lift a finger. WordPress will make sure all the search engines know about your site.
Just make sure you leave the following unchecked in the Settings > Writing section of your WordPress Dashboard:
For those who are self-hosting, you could just sit back and wait for the search engines to find your site. They should find it…eventually. A proactive approach is better.
Ideally, you would create an account with Google Webmaster Tools, add your website, authenticate you own the website (Google will show you how), and upload a sitemap (there are numerous plugins for creating sitemaps).
You can do the same thing with Bing Webmaster Tools. Bing powers Yahoo, so this kills two birds with one stone.
To cover these search engines and others in one fell swoop, Entireweb offers free URL submission to numerous search engines. You just have to give them a valid email address.
Once you click the link in the confirmation email they send you, they submit your URL to numerous search engines.
Theoretically, you are likely subscribing to Entireweb’s mailing list when you give them your email address. If this bothers you, you can just unsubscribe once their first newsletter arrives.
9. Write more content
It will take a little bit of time before search engines crawl your site, and a while longer for it to begin appearing in search results.
Take this time to write more content.
The number of posts to write before letting others know about your site is a personal choice. Some will want to let others know about their blog right away, even with only one post published. And that’s okay.
Others will want to wait until they have 5, 10, 15 or more published posts before letting people know.
The reason to do this is to ensure there is enough content for readers to read when they first discover your blog. You want them to stay a while, to subscribe to your newsletter or RSS feed, and to share your posts with others.
A reader is more likely to do these things if your blog already has content (as opposed to being a work in progress).
But, again, this is a personal choice.
Your blog is ready, search engines know about it, and you’ve got an acceptable amount of content?
It’s time to announce your blog to the world.
Share it on social media. Ask your friends to do the same.
Tell your family. Take out an ad in the newspaper. Buy a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl!
In other words: Get the word out there.
Good luck and happy blogging!
Creative Common image courtesy of ginnerobot.