Today is the launch of the Suburban Socialite’s Official How to Start Your Blog Series! Many of my longtime readers (Hey Socialites! ??) have expressed interest in learning to blog, and setting up their own sites to express their thoughts and views; to sell their services and brand their businesses; or just for the perks that can come along with a successful blog: working from home, free clothing and trips, and being seen as a Master Influencer! To all of my new subscribers, and those who have stumbled across my site, I say “welcome!”
Make sure to subscribe and follow along, because over the next few weeks, I will be covering it all! I am 100 % positive that you will walk away from this How to Start Your Blog series fully prepared to launch your own blog, and start the steps of Building Your Business, and Your Brand!
Before We Begin: Figure Out Your Why
Blogging is taking off like crazy! If you’re active on any social media site, you have no doubt stumbled across whole networks of bloggers, covering all topics ranging from fashion, beauty, lifestyle, parenting, sports, politics, etc. Being a blogger is serious business: major brands have realized that bloggers have the confidence and trust of their followers, who in turn purchase or utilize services that a blogger shares with their audience.…BUT this success does NOT come the moment you type a post and hit publish.
Due to the success of early bloggers, the industry has gotten a little overcrowded, and it takes lots of hard work to stand out and make living wages. I’ll address these issues in my later posts in the series, but I’m bringing it up now to say this: you MUST have a reason for why you want to blog, that ideally has nothing to do with becoming popular (or rich!), because that may not happen for the first year or so. You must have a passion, a purpose, and a reason to keep pushing and posting, even when you have received no fruit for your labor! I remember spending 2 days writing, re-writing, and proofreading a post in which I shared some really good information…only to see that it did NOT go viral (LOL), and it did not even do as well in views as some of my less serious posts. However, because I’m blogging due to my passion for writing, teaching, and beautiful things, I reap the rewards in even one person reading my posts, and leaving a comment letting me know that my words helped them! Make sure that Blogging is something you are passionate about, so that if the returns on your investment are slow to come, you are still motivated to continue!
Step 1: Choose Your Niche, and Your Blog Name
Niche: Narrow your focus!
I’m combining these two steps to starting a blog, because I think that your chosen niche can inspire your blog name! Start with brainstorming about what your blog will represent. What will you be blogging about? Who is your target audience? The most important part of choosing a niche is making sure that it is narrow, and specific to your designated audience, as that gives you more chances to stand out among a slightly over saturated industry.
Let’s say you want to be a Fashion Blogger. Good choice, but there are soooo many fashion bloggers, and the top bloggers have already cornered the market. It would be hard to come in as a newbie fashion blogger and make a name for yourself among those like Chiara Ferragni, or Emily Schuman. You DO however have a chance at standing out if you narrow your specific niche. You can be a fashion blogger, but maybe your focus is solely on denim, and how to style it for all occasions. Or maybe you will focus on clothing with ruffles. I love following Queen of Sleeves, and seeing all of her outfit choices that place an emphasis on longer sleeves, and sleeves with cute detailing. Like purses? Take some inspiration from Purse Blog, and narrow the scope even further! You could blog about straw bags, vegan leather bags, or clutch bags! I promise you that there is an audience for every niche. If you are wondering about my niche, I chose to focus on Plus-Size Fashion highlighting a specific brand, and emphasizing that I’m a small town blogger!
Choosing a name
Try to choose a name with keywords, or an overall vibe that will work with your blogging topic. If you’re going to be blogging about cats, don’t choose “dogsarethebest.com.” A targeted name like “mycrazycatlife.com” would be a much better choice! (I made that up, but the domain name is actually available. I hope that helps a would-be cat blogger!) Work from your niche, and let your creativity shine through. One of my favorite niche bloggers is a shoe blogger, and she is the author behind the perfectly named Sea of Shoes. If you don’t want to have a theme specific name, you can use your own name, like Hayley Paige, or do a clever twist on your first or last name, like Aimee Song’s Song of Style. I chose The Suburban Socialite, because I’m an outgoing social butterfly, but I live in a very small town. Are you a shoe blogger who lives in NY? www.onthestepsofthemet.com would be a great blog name because it talks about steps (see what I did there?) and the stairs in front of the Metropolitan Opera House! (Yet another freebie I’m throwing out there for anyone else who wants to snag it!) If you are stuck and cannot quite come up with a name, there is help! You can use a blog name generator, or use the services of a Branding and Website Consultant, like moi!
Step Two: Buy a Domain Name
Once you’ve come up with your blog title, it’s time to purchase the domain and take ownership of your name! There are many sites you can use, but I recommend starting with GoDaddy, or NameCheap. You can also purchase your domain name through your webhosting company, and kill two birds with one stone! I’ll show you how you can do this through Bluehost next!
Step Three: Web Hosting
*Before we begin this section, I want to address the two largest blogging platforms that are out there: WordPress and Blogger. I use WordPress, and in my opinion, it is the only platform to start your blog with, especially if you want to monetize your blog, and want brands to take you seriously! Many people like Blogger for the ease of use, and cute (free) themes that are available, but I strongly recommend that you get WordPress For Dummies, and work it on out, because WordPress has become the industry standard!
Now that you understand the importance of using WordPress, make sure that you use WordPress.org, and NOT WordPress.com. WordPress.org is an open source software platform which allows you to build your website or blog on your own. You will be able to choose your own theme; add extra features like forums, online stores, and membership options; and get access to more than 45,000 free plugins, which are like WordPress.org’s version of apps, and allow you to add all kinds of new features. WordPress.org software is free, but you’ll need to buy web hosting, as WordPress.org requires self hosting.
I don’t care what anyone has to say: self hosting in the ONLY way to set up a blog, especially if you want to make money from your blog! Self hosting is just a fancy way of saying that a server is “hosting” your blog. You choose a hosting company, and install WordPress.org onto your self host account. I think it’s very important to mention that if you are self hosted, you have complete ownership over your blog, whereas if you use other platforms like Blogger, Wix, or Squarespace, the sites technically have ownership over your content as well, and can terminate your account at will for running ads, posting content that may be controversial to others, etc. Self hosting is not free, but is very affordable! The self hosting service that I absolutely love is Bluehost.
Reasons Why I Love Bluehost
• Optimized Hosting tailored for WordPress.org, starting at $19.99 per month. Yes, this is a little more expensive than some providers (you can get hosting for as little as $3.99 per month), BUT Bluehost offers you secure and extremely fast hosting that will support up to 100 MILLION visits per month; 30 GB of storage; 30 GB of backup; your domain name is included; SiteLock CDN and Sitelock Pro for security; and a 30 day money back guarantee.
• 24/7 support. I have found in all things that you get what you pay for! $19.99 may be a pricey commitment for some just starting out, but you will find that the 24/7 support is priceless, and is not included in cheaper options. If you ever log on to your blog and find that a bad bot has deleted everything (it’s happened to me folks!), you will appreciate having a living, breathing, support person who can keep you calm, and make you laugh while they restore everything (yup, that happened too!).
• Fast server speed, with minimal (if any) downtime.
• Bluehost does site transfers, so if you’ve already started your blog on WordPress.com; Blogger; Wix, Tumblr, etc., Bluehost can migrate your entire blog content, and emails using their uninterrupted transition transfer services!
Step 4: Choose A Theme
So…you’ve chosen your name and purchased your domain, and you’ve got WordPress.org running on your Bluehost server. Now is when the fun begins:you get to choose a pretty new theme template! A blog theme is what you see when you pull up any blog: it’s the total concept of the fonts, colors, headings, menus, logos, side panels, etc. There are tons of free themes out there, and you’ll find that most themes are WordPress optimized. However, I recommend making sure that you invest in a quality, easy to navigate theme, with an actual support person who can help you with installation, or troubleshooting any future glitches. If you choose free themes, you tend to be on your own.
I have two go-to companies that I recommend for blog themes, as their work is visually appealing, and they offer continuous support. If you are more minimal, and just need a basic layout to showcase your stellar writing skills, you’ll love HipsterTheme. (They made the theme I’m currently displaying now!). If you want a full branding package, or a very detailed theme that is super professional, I highly recommend Designer Blogs!
I’m putting plugins under theme, because plugins often enhance your theme, and add value and ease to your reader’s entire experience. I have a list of my favorite Top 10 plug ins that you can download here!
Step 5: Set up a blog schedule, and begin crafting your first post!
Having a blog schedule helps you to stay consistent with posting, helps you meet deadlines, and helps you to avoid writer’s block. If you have certain days per week that you post, your readers will begin to fall into that routine and be that more likely to watch out for, and keep up with your new content. Keeping up with a posting schedule allows your readers to trust you, and this is important if you are trying to monetize, as no one is likely to follow the recommendations of a blogger that they do not trust. If you go months without posting, you will have a hard time building any clout in this industry.
I like to use my blog planner to help me stay on track! At the beginning of the month, I plan out my posts, and the dates on which I will schedule them. I also use my planner to jot down any new blog posts ideas I may come up with, and work them into my blog post schedule.
If you’ve read this far, you should be feeling a lot more confident about setting up your blog! Maybe you’ve already followed all of the steps, and your blog is up and running. You’re ready to work on your first post! But before you hit publish…Stay tuned for Volume 2, where I discuss SEO, photography, and social media blog promo! Don’t write that post until you’ve fine tuned it for Google, and you know how to promote it! TO BE CONTINUED…
See you next time!
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