Are you thinking about starting a blog? Or are you just curious about what all goes into starting a blog? Well, to be honest, it doesn’t take a lot of time to actually get a blog started. You’ve probably seen blog posts like “How To Start A Blog In Less Than 15 Minutes.” Well, you can start a blog in that amount of time if you’re talking about just setting up a domain and hosting. However, there’s a lot more that goes into starting a blog and getting it up and running and presentable for your readers. So I’ve decided to share what we did in regards to starting a blog and some of the tools that have helped us along the way.
First Things First
I’m going to assume that you already know why you want to start your blog and what you would like to talk about on your blog. There is a debate about whether you should choose a specific niche right away (or if at all) as well as knowing your target audience. A niche is nothing more than the general topic(s) that you write about on your blog. And your target audience is the readers that you are writing for.
Trying to choose a niche that we could consistently write about is part of the reason it actually took us so long to start a blog. The same goes for figuring out our target audience.
If you know your niche and your target audience already and you think you will be able to write enough content for the duration of your blogging career… Great! Or if you’re more like us and have several different things you would love to talk about, then that’s fine also. However, I do think it would be easier if the topics you would like to talk about relate to one another in some way.
Take us for example – we discuss personal finance a lot. But we also discuss things in regards to life and home as well. If you’re wondering how those are related – well personal finance touch every aspect of your life. And a lot of the things we share show just that.
So, again, once you know why you want to start your blog, what you will talk about on your blog, and/or your niche and target audience… Then you will be ready to move on to the next step.
** sidenote: I highly recommend that you have several posts already written before you start your blog. We started our blog with 4 posts. And then had some prepared for the coming weeks. If you’re going to have several different categories that you will discuss, then have at least one post for each category. That way, once you go live with your blog, you won’t have any blank categories.
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Choosing A Blog Name / Domain
Choosing a name/domain for your blog is sometimes the easy part if you already have a name in mind. However, it can be hard if
- You don’t have a name in mind, or
- The name you want is already taken.
We had a name in mind for our blog, but of course, the domain was already taken. How’d we find that out? Well, I came across a website called Namechk that will check for you. You just type in the name that you like, and it will show which domains are/aren’t available. Another neat thing about this website is that it will tell you if the username for social media sites that matches your domain is available or not.
Once you choose a name/domain, you will have to register it. We chose to register ours with GoDaddy. They have instructions on their website, which are super easy to follow.
Choosing A Platform: Hosted Or Self-hosted?
Once you choose your domain, you will have to choose your blogging platform. You have a choice between having your blog hosted or choosing to be self-hosted. There are several different platforms available for each option. This website has a nice comparison chart of all the different platforms, as well as an overview of each.
We chose to go the self-hosted route using the wordpress.org platform. We had to find a hosting company and after research and a referral, we chose HostGator. So far so good. If you’re interested in using them, they have instructions on their website to help you get started.
Also, if you’re interested in a WordPress blog, HostGator has several different options you can choose from. There’s Web Hosting, Cloud Hosting, and WordPress Hosting (we chose cloud hosting). Regardless of if you choose the one that specifically says WordPress Hosting, it’s easy to install WordPress. They have instructions for that as well.
Blog Layout / Theme
As if I didn’t do lots of research on the things listed above, I probably did even more research on whether to choose a free theme or a premium (paid for) theme. There were so many options to choose from and pros and cons of both. The main pro with choosing a free theme is that it’s just that… Free.
We almost chose a free theme so that we could test it out and get a feel for it before deciding if we wanted to pay for a theme and set it up ourselves (and not pay someone else to do it). However, we opted to go with a premium WordPress theme offered by StudioPress. We chose to get a bundled package that included the Genesis Framework and a child theme (ours is Beautiful Pro Theme).
StudioPress have several themes to choose from and they look good. However, that wasn’t the only reason we chose to go with them. What sealed the deal for us was the fact that anytime there’s an update to WordPress since we have the Genesis Framework and a child theme, the updates/changes will occur “behind the scenes”. This means that it won’t affect any of the customizations we have made on our blog. Also, once you buy a StudioPress theme, you can use it on as many websites as you like. And if you buy any more child themes, you will receive a discount on them.
It was semi-easy to set up our blog the way we wanted to using the instructions that came with the theme. It did help that Omar has IT skills, but technically he’s not a computer programmer. We worked together to set it up. And of course, there’s always Google if you need more help in regards to your specific theme.
It’s up to you whether you want to start an email list right away. With most of the articles that I came across in my research, people either said
- they started right away and didn’t regret it or
- they didn’t start right away and they regretted it.
Needless to say, we decided to start right away. We use MailChimp for people to be able to subscribe to our blog where we’re currently offering a free budget template download when you subscribe. We also use it to notify people whenever we have a new blog post published. It was free and simple to set up using this video, and we like it thus far.
We both “write” all our content in Evernote. I have been using Evernote for several years, even before thinking about starting a blog. However, it’s been great for blogging because we can access it on our cell phones, laptop, and online if we need to.
We have also used Evernote to help us stay organized with blogging. I create different notes and/or notebooks as needed. We also use it for our editorial calendar. An editorial calendar is where you plan out your posts for a couple of weeks at a time or even for the year. Evernote might not be the easiest way to make an editorial calendar, but since we use it for everything else, it was only natural to use it for our editorial calendar.
Once you have written several blog posts and have figured out which ones you want to post first, the work doesn’t stop there. You definitely should take the time to go back and proofread them before you post them. I thought I was pretty good at proofreading (I still think I am), but I came across two great websites that make it much easier – Hemingway Editor and Grammarly.
The first one I use is Hemingway Editor. They have a free version that you can use online and a paid version that you can download to your desktop. You can actually type your blog post in the editor if you prefer. We actually type ours in Evernote and then copy and paste it into the “editor”. The editor will highlight in different colors the things they suggest you need to change and/or fix.
The Hemingway Editor cuts dead weight from your writing. It highlights wordy sentences in yellow and more egregious ones in red. Hemingway helps you write with power and clarity by highlighting adverbs, passive voice, and dull, complicated words. – Hemingwayapp.com
When I edit our posts, I don’t necessarily make all the changes the Hemingway Editor suggests because sometimes it’s hard trying to convey your point and make a long sentence shorter. However, we find it to be a very useful tool.
Once I’m satisfied with the changes I’ve made in the Hemingway Editor, I will then use Grammarly. Not to state the obvious, but Grammarly does a great job at helping to correct grammar mistakes as well as punctuation and spelling mistakes.
Grammarly makes sure everything you type is easy to read, effective, and mistake-free. – Grammarly.com
Now when we write blog posts we don’t worry anymore about making sure to put commas in the correct place because Grammarly does that for us. It will also pick up on if you use the wrong word and offer suggestions to correct it. For example, when I type fast and I’m trying to get my thoughts down in a hurry, I will often mix up choose/chose. If I don’t catch it right away, Grammarly will.
There are a few different ways that you can use Grammarly. You can add it to Chrome for free. Once you do that, anywhere you type online Grammarly will be checking for any mistakes that you make. You can also copy and paste (or upload) your blog post into their web browser for free. Then you will be able to see any suggestions for the mistakes you have. The last option is their premium (paid) version. With this version, you’ll be able to “find over 250+ sentence structure and writing style issues, and get suggestions for more effective vocabulary use.”
So, if you struggle with proofreading your blog posts after you have written them or to make sure you haven’t missed anything, we definitely recommend using Grammarly as a “second pair of eyes.”
** sidenote: What’s a blog post without a good title? Each blog post should have a title that will grab people’s attention. It should also give them some type of idea of what the post is about. If you’re too vague or too broad with your title, then you run the risk of people not clicking on your post.
Initially, we come up with titles for our posts as a way to help us remember what we’re writing about. Then sometimes we change the title depending on if it still fits with the post.
We like to use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, which is a free tool that’ll tell you how good your title is. We try to aim for 70 or higher, as 70 is in the “green”. There are titles that we have that haven’t ranked that high (they’re in the 60’s), but ultimately you have to choose a title that will best go with your blog post.
Pictures / Visuals For Each Blog Post
Each blog post should have at least one good picture. Personally, I like to look at blog posts that have pretty pictures, even if it’s only one. The other reason you want at least one good <vertical> picture is so that if you or anyone else plans to pin the picture to Pinterest
- the picture must look good, and
- vertical pictures do better than horizontal pictures on Pinterest.
There are websites where you can find free pictures or cheap pictures to use. Or you can take your own pictures. I opted to take my own pictures for our blog (thus far anyways). Sometimes I actually use my cell phone to take pictures and sometimes I use my camera that I’ve had for several years now. I’m not a professional by any means, but I enjoy seeing the finished product and knowing that I did it. At times, I also use my smartphone tripod adapter, tripod, and bluetooth camera shutter remote control to aid in taking pictures. The smartphone tripod adapter helps to attach my cell phone to my tripod, which helps to provide reliable stability while taking pictures. The bluetooth camera shutter remote control makes it possible to take handsfree pictures so that the camera or cell phone doesn’t shake because the button was tapped to capture the picture.
** sidenote: If you plan to share your blog posts on Facebook or Twitter it’s a good idea to make a horizontal picture for each post as well. Originally, I chose not to do this for our blog posts, but once I saw how our pictures looked on a laptop/desktop when shared on Facebook, I wasn’t too thrilled. You can get away with this on Twitter if you don’t use Twitter cards (they display a bigger picture compared to a regular tweet link). However, if you want to use Twitter cards, it’ll look better with a horizontal picture. Save yourself the trouble and headache of having to go back and make several horizontal pictures like I did – just do it the first time! Lol.
My pictures don’t come straight from my camera without needing any editing although I try to avoid heavy editing because I’m no pro. I like to use PicMonkey for editing the pictures that I take. It’s a simple to use tool that you can use for free or you can upgrade to their premium plan that offers more options. The premium plan isn’t that expensive, especially if you sign-up for the year. After our 7-day free-trial, I opted to sign-up for the year. I also use PicMonkey to add the blog post title to the picture. And it comes in handy for making any other pictures that are needed. The 2 pictures above in this blog post are examples of this.
** sidenote: When you’re starting your blog you might also want to think about if you want a logo. The best advice I came across when thinking of ideas for our logo was that if you don’t have experience creating logos, then keep it simple! And that’s just what I did. I used PicMonkey to design our logo. The script font I used came from Creative Market, but PicMonkey does give you the option to upload your own font, amongst other things.
Whichever route you choose to take in regards to using pictures for your blog, make sure they look good. And if they’re free pictures, make sure they’re actually free! You don’t need any problems in regards to pictures when all you’re trying to do is share your thoughts through blogging!
Well, I think I covered just about everything to help you with starting a blog (or if you were just curious about what all goes into blogging). Hopefully, this has helped you. Check back later for Things I Wish I Knew Before I Decided To Start A Blog. Because if there’s one thing I know for sure about blogging -it is always an ongoing learning process.
Products + Tools Recommended In This Post For Starting A Blog:
- Namechk: used to see if our desired username and vanity URL was available on popular social media sites
- GoDaddy: used to buy our domain
- HostGator: used to host our blog; you can use this link to save up to 30% on all new hosting packages with code: SNAPPYDAY.
- StudioPress: used to buy website theme in a bundle, which included the Genesis Framework and Beautiful Pro Theme.
- MailChimp: used to send out new post notifications and keep track of email subscriber list (used this YouTube video to help set-up MailChimp)
- Creative Market: used to buy the font for our logo. Can also buy other things such as stock photography, WordPress themes, and other digital goods
- Evernote: used to “write” blog posts and ideas
- Hemingway Editor: used to edit blog posts first
- Grammarly: used to edit blog posts second
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer: used to help write good headlines
Pictures / Visuals For Each Post
- Camera + Phone: Sometimes I use my camera to take blog post pics and sometimes I use my cell phone
- Smartphone Tripod Adapter: used to attach cell phone to tripod
- Tripod: used to achieve reliable stability when holding cell phone or camera
- Bluetooth Camera Shutter Remote Control: used to be able to take pictures handsfree
- PicMonkey: used to edit and/or create pictures for blog posts and used to create blog logo