Ready to learn how to start a blog with an easy, step-by-step guide? We’ve been blogging for 12 years now and designing themes for five, so we’ve learned quite a bit along the way. We’re breaking it down into simple steps with actionable items.
Step 1: Choose your platform
First, you’ll need to start by choosing where you’d like to place your blog. This is referred to as your blogging platform. While there are quite a few different platforms, today we’ll be referencing the three most common platforms.
We’ve got an in-depth analysis of three of the more popular platforms here.
The short and sweet is this:
+Blogger is great for those who would rather not deal with the headaches that can come along with a more advanced platform like WordPress and don’t want to commit to spend money to maintain the site month-after-month. It’s for those who don’t plan on really monetizing their blog or driving tons of traffic. It provides a really solid platform for blogging with the opportunity for lots of customizations, with thousands of premade themes available across the web. Blogger offers solid SEO, quite a handful of widgets and free hosting. The downsides are the lack of being able to have total control over your site, not being able to use some of the cool widgets and plugins that WordPress offers and having less potential for monetization. In exchange, you get a user-friendly experience and don’t have to deal with so much of the technical hassles that come with WordPress.
+WordPress is the Big Kahuna of the blogging world. It’s a powerful content management system that allows you to run a blog or website. You’ll need to purchase your own hosting and install WordPress, then find a premade theme or pay a developer for a custom theme. You must stay on top of the updates and be careful of third-party plugins that can make your site vulnerable to hacks. In return, you (or your developer) can do virtually anything your heart could ever desire. It’s more future-proof since you’ll be able to build your blog to grow as your following does. It’s great for the bloggers who have specific needs and want advanced features. It’s an awesome option for those who really plan on monetizing and leveraging their blog as a source of income. It’s also a great option for those who want something very specific and can afford to pay a developer to create it and keep it up-to-date.
+Squarespace is newer to the scene and is a funky combination of the two. While it is not self-hosted like WordPress, you do have to pay anywhere from $12 to $40/month. They have beautiful templates right out-of-the-gate, unlike the other two platforms. But they also don’t allow for the same sort of third-party templates that you can get with Blogger and WordPress, so without paying a developer, you are pretty limited in what you can do to those templates. Since they don’t have a huge library of templates to choose from, you are likely to run into other bloggers whose sites look eerily similar to yours, though you can change quite a bit from their own editor (think fonts and colors). It’s easy to use, sleek and allows for its own sort of “widgets” by way of Squarespace blocks. While most people use Squarespace to run actual websites, you can run a blog from Squarespace if you don’t mind the lack of customization options. This is a great option for the same type of blogger as we mentioned in the Blogger description – someone who isn’t looking for super specific options and doesn’t plan on really monetizing his or her blog.
Step 2: Choose your topic
This may be a super simple step for you, and chances are, you may have already nailed this down. But if you’re still stuck on what to write about (there are so many things, which do I choose?!), think about a few things that drive readers to blogs in the first place:
+Problem solving – I typically blog about how to spice up/pretty up your blog. This is a problem solving blog. I share tips and tricks in a (hopefully) easy-to-understand format so that my readers can walk away equipped to tackle a problem they had previously been experiencing. This is one of the most common reasons someone lands on your blog – they have a question, and you have the answer.
+Teachable moments – I’d say the second most common reason someone lands on a blog is because they’re interested in learning a new skill. Do you have a skill to teach? Sewing, cooking, photography, design…the options are nearly endless.
+Goals – There’s some overlap here with points one and two, but maybe you’re on a weight loss journey and you want to share your own successes and encouragement for others just beginning their journey. A lot of connection happens on blogs centered on big goals like weight loss, getting out of debt, etc.
+Entertainment – Maybe you’re just flipping hilarious or your life is a story that many would love to read. Plenty of blogs exist for entertainment, just like books or movies do.
+Lifestyle – Maybe you just have a passion for writing, find therapeutic relief in doing so and want to share your stories with others. That’s definitely me. Monetization has never been a goal of mine on my own personal blog. I just want to get the thoughts from my head onto paper, and writing is a true form of therapy for me. So, I blog.
Keep in mind you should blog about something you do actually enjoy and if you plan to really try to drive traffic to your blog and monetize it, you should establish yourself as an authority on your topic. Becoming the go-to resource is a common goal of bloggers who want to monetize.
Step 3: Pick a blog name
I always encourage the clients we work with to follow a pretty simple, step-by-step process for settling on a name that fits and isn’t taken by someone else in the same niche. This is the same process I used when rebranding a year ago (after doing it all completely incorrectly the first time around, four years ago). I’m happy to report that I’m as happy with our brand name today as I was the day I settled on it.
+Jot words down
The process I’ve used most often in naming blogs and businesses or helping others do so is to start by jotting down words relating to the topic you’ve chosen. Go ahead, grab a piece of paper and a pen or pull open Notes on your phone. Once you’ve jotted down some words here, start branching out and writing down new words that you associate with the first set of words that are directly related to your blog topic. Don’t worry if you know you won’t use some of these words. They may spark new ideas.
When I rebranded myself from my original name (which was terrible and meant nothing to me – Bella Lulu Ink – it was literally a few names strung together because I was desperate for something that wasn’t already taken on Etsy ), I spent over two weeks on this step. I wrote down all the words I could think of that related to my business. Words like design, pretty, feminine, template, theme, beautiful, beautify, blog, blogging, graphic, etc. Don’t worry if these words would never be used in your blog name. We’re using these words to inspire others.
After you have a pretty large, decent list of words, move to a thesaurus and begin looking your remaining words up. These may spark new words you love. Add those to your list.
+Consider your tone and audience
Next, think about the tone you’ll use in your blog. Are you sassy, funny, serious, dramatic? This might be good to keep in mind to make sure your blog’s tone and name match up. This isn’t a necessity, but can come in handy in helping you narrow down.
You’ll obviously want to consider your audience and think of things that could potentially be detractors or names that could pique the interest of your target audience. In general, your blog will probably attract a target similar to yourself, so if you aren’t turned off by your blog’s name, your readers probably won’t be, either.
+Explore other blogs
It should go without saying that we aren’t going to steal others’ names, but this is a great way to spark your own new ideas. You may find a word on someone’s blog that ignites a lightbulb moment, or you may just find yourself inspired. When I was rebranding, after spending two weeks jotting down words and exploring them, I stumbled across a site that was something like goplay.com (I can’t remember what the actual site was). Instantly, I knew I wanted to be “Get” something.
Do a search for other blogs using the words or names you’ve come up with. If you’re using a topical word (or words), chances are you may have to run through quite a lot of combinations before you find an available name that another blogger in your niche isn’t using.
While rebranding, I turned to my list of remaining words and searched them all on Google for other designers using the same name. When I finally found that Get Polished didn’t seem to turn up any other designers (but did have one or two nail salons), I knew I’d finally struck gold.
+Or, go crazy
Alternatively, you could buck all of that so-called traditional naming stuff and come up with something fantastical and fun. Seth Godin, who is quite possibly my favorite marketing guru of all time, says don’t choose a name relating to your topic, which will make legal issues much less tricky and finding available names much easier. But do give yourself a tagline that provides clarity and don’t use a word that’s tough to pronounce or spell. Think of some of the more famous companies – Nike, Apple, Uber. Their names don’t relate to their industry at all. Read his great post about it here! While he’s talking more about a business name, I think the two are quite related. I can think of plenty of successful blogs with names that wouldn’t ever immediately give away their topic.
+Consider your domain
You don’t have to secure a .com, and you don’t even have to secure a short and sweet URL that matches your blog name perfectly. I know that sounds like hogwash, but it’s true. These days, it has become quite difficult to do so, and that will only become more and more difficult as the years go by. Consider that I settled on Get Polished but couldn’t get getpolished.com. No worries! Getpolished.net it was! These days, there are new top-level domains becoming available all the time, like .design. Like Seth Godin mentioned, you can even use something like NickelVenture.com for your firm called Nickel. Visit Domainr to search for a domain name. It’s a favorite tool of ours! When you’re ready to buy your domain, we’re big fans of Hover, but Namecheap is another good domain provider.
Step 4: Get your new blog setup
We know this part can actually be the most frustrating. Once you have all your ideas in place, the excitement is palpable and you just want to get going, already! We’re guilty of this ourselves. But now you’ll need to get your blog setup.
+If you’ve chosen Blogger…you can quickly and easily setup an account with Blogger. To link your new domain to your Blogger account, follow this Blogger tutorial. Once you’re ready to get started blogging, check out our Blogger Basics video tutorial here.
+If you’ve chosen WordPress…check out our guide for securing hosting and installing WordPress here.
+If you’ve chosen Squarespace…you can quickly and easily setup your account with Squarespace here. You’ll be prompted to pick out a plan (you can start with a free trial before committing) and a template. Check out our video series here to learn more about setting up your Squarespace site and the backend of Squarespace.
Step 5: Pick out a theme
Now you’ve got everything set up and ready to go. You’re just about ready to polish up your amazing content! But before you do, let’s make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. It’s time to grab an outfit for your blog so you can make a good impression on your first-time visitors in a saturated blogging world. Essentially, when you purchase a theme or template, you’re just dressing your blog up. It’s the paint job of the blogging world. All your content will stay the same beneath the outfit, but it’ll make things prettier.
+If you’ve chosen Blogger…check out our highly customizable premade themes here.
+If you’ve chosen WordPress…check out our highly customizable premade themes here.
+If you’ve chosen Squarespace…you’ll be able to choose a standard template from their offerings when you sign up. For further customizations, brush up on your CSS and learn how to use CSS to make style changes to your Squarespace template here. You can find a few helpful resources for CSS tweaks for Squarespace here, here and here. And check back in 2017, as we’ll be releasing some Squarespace Design Kits that give you all the resources and tutorials you’ll need to make your Squarespace design more unique than the out-of-the-box Squarespace templates everyone uses.
Step 6: Get blogging, already!
This is the fun part! Cue the confetti! Now that you’ve got yourself a blog, check out our resources section for tried-and-true tips and tools!
If this tutorial was helpful to you, we’d be so excited if you posted a link to your new blog below. We love to feature your amazing blogs, friends! It’s why we do what we do.