Getting started from the ground up might be daunting. But if you take the journey step by step, you’ll be surprised how quickly your efforts will pay off. So, here’s everything you need to know about creating a beautiful and successful blog.
Step 1: Define Your Niche
No website or blog can be all things to all people. You first need to define exactly who your blog is for and what readers will gain from reading it. Like any other venture, you need to understand your unique value proposition. What will make your blog stand out from the crowd?
There are a few elements to consider within your niche, including:
- Your target audience
- The scope of your content
- The unique value your blog will offer
Defining a Target Audience
The target audience of your blog might seem obvious at first glance. However, getting into detail on your audience demographics ensures you create content that resonates with your readers.
For example, creating a cooking blog means writing for people who like to cook. But that encompasses a vast audience of people with very different needs, tastes, and demographics. So you might narrow down your blog to vegan cooking or pastries and desserts. If you still wish to create content across various cuisines, perhaps you’ll focus on beginner cooks or those who want super-fast, simple recipes.
Narrowing down your target audience provides direction and parameters for your content. It helps you find your “tribe” online and attract highly engaged readers.
Another element you’ll want to consider is the type of content you’ll create for your blog. You might stick with informational articles within your niche. Or maybe “how-to” guides will be your thing. Many blogs incorporate video content or downloadable guides into their posts.
If you’re unsure, look at some existing successful blogs within your niche. Consider what you like about them and what keeps you engaged while you’re on their site to get some inspiration.
Your Unique Value
Blogging is a competitive game, and it’s likely that successful blogs within your niche already exist. So start by deciding how you’ll stand out from the competition. This value could be as simple as bringing your unique personality and perspective into your writing or making sure your site is the most user-friendly for readers.
Step 2: Pick a Name for Your Blog
Understanding your target audience will make it easier to decide on a name for your blog. Lots of bloggers incorporate their own names into their blog titles. However, including your niche in your website name will resonate better with your audience. It can indicate the content and scope of your blog to a new reader. A catchy name also makes your blog more memorable and easier to find.
But the name of your blog will be more than a logo at the top of your page. You’ll also include it in the domain name of your website. The domain name is what comes after “www” and before “.com” in your website URL. Domain names cannot be used by more than one website at a time, so make sure your ideal blog name is available. Google provides a free tool to search your domain name ideas and make sure they’re available.
Buying a Domain Name
Once you’ve settled on an available domain name, you’ll need to go through a domain registrar to buy the domain name. The non-profit organization Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for all domain name management online. Companies get accreditation from ICANN to become domain registrars and sell domain names. Popular domain registrars include Domain.com, Bluehost, and GoDaddy.
Domain names require annual registration, so registrars charge an annual fee to maintain your domain name. Most domain names will cost around $9-$14.99 per year. However, domain registrars also charge their own administration fees for registration. You can shop around between registrars to see who offers the best pricing for purchasing and maintaining your domain name. Many registrars offer promotional pricing for your first year of registration and increase the annual fee after that.
Step 3: Select a Robust Hosting Platform
After you’ve purchased a domain name, the next step is selecting a provider to host your website online. Websites, including all the code, content, and data within them, are stored on servers. Web hosting providers charge a fee to store your website on a server and display it to your website visitors when they enter your URL into a browser.
The hosting provider you choose will affect your website’s speed, security, and reliability. So it’s important to choose a reliable and highly rated provider when it comes to hosting. Most domain registrars also provide hosting, so you can sign up for both services at once. Choosing the same provider for domain name registration and hosting is the most straightforward option.
For example, HostGator is a hosting service provider that includes one free year of domain name registration as part of its hosting packages.
Now that you have a domain name and hosting for your blog, the next step is deciding how you will create your website and build your blog content.
Step 4: Choose a Blogging Platform
You have 2 main options when it comes to building your blog. You can use a website builder like Wix, which tends to be the most straightforward option. Or you can go for a content management system (CMS) like the hugely popular WordPress.org, which gives you more flexibility but has a steeper learning curve.
A website builder will enable you to create a website without you needing any technical skills or coding knowledge. These platforms typically use drag-and-drop website editing so you can see how your website and blog pages will look as you build them. Many are also a one-stop shop for domain registration, website hosting, and website building. This all-in-one functionality makes setting up a blog very simple.
What to look for in a website builder
There are many website builders on the market, so choosing one can be tricky. You’ll want to bear in mind key considerations like price, website templates, ease of use, and functionality.
Many provide free plans, but they usually have limitations. For example, with Wix, you’d need to upgrade to a paid subscription to remove the platform’s branding from your website URL, eliminate ads from your site, and avail of more advanced features.
Pricing on Wix’s website plans ranges from $14 to $39 per month. Each pricing tier provides different levels of website storage, video hours, and analytics reporting, among other things.
You’ll also want to assess the templates the website builder provides, as these will form the basic design of your site. Some have more template options than others, with varying levels of quality and pricing. For example, Wix provides over 800 website templates while its competitor Squarespace only has 100+ templates. At the same time, Squarespace is known for the extremely high quality of its templates.
Building a website is always going to involve a learning curve, but some website builders make it easier than others. It’s a good idea, therefore, to test several of them out by signing up for a trial or free plan.
They can also vary in terms of the functionality they offer. For example, you may plan to monetize your blog at some point. This monetization could include displaying ads on your site using Google AdSense or offering a paid subscription to users for access to exclusive content. If monetization of your blog is an important consideration, look out for website builders that have built-in monetization functionality such as the ability to connect to Google AdSense or manage online payments.
Finally, note that moving your blog from one website builder to another can be a tricky process, so take your time when deciding on the best website builder for your needs.
Content Management Systems
Although the top website builders offer great levels of customization for your site, you might want more flexibility than they offer. In this case, a CMS like Wordpress.org might be the better option. WordPress can be installed with a single click on most popular web hosting providers.
WordPress is free and open source, but you may find yourself needing to pay for additional software or “plugins” to extend the functionality of your site. What’s more, while there are thousands of templates or “themes” available for WordPress, only some are free, and you’ll need to pay for the most sophisticated.
To take full advantage of WordPress.org’s customization options, you’ll also need some technical knowledge and ability to code. However, it’s still possible to create a WordPress site with no coding, particularly if you install a page builder plugin, which can give you drag-and-drop editing functionality similar to that of the best website builders.
Step 5: Design Your Blog
Designing your site is the most time-consuming part of setting up your blog. But it can also be the most fun part! This step is an opportunity to let your creativity shine.
If you need to set your blog up as quickly as possible, you can always choose a blogging platform with ready-to-use templates. But if you’d like to start from the ground up or customize a template, there are a few design fundamentals to consider.
Color Scheme and Typography
First, decide on a color scheme for your website. You’ll need one or two primary colors around which you’ll base the design of your blog.
If a core color particularly appeals to you, try using a color palette generator. These tools generate palettes that contain matching and complementary colors to give you a cohesive color scheme for your blog.
You might use the main palette shades as the background of your site or on a menu bar at the top of the page. Then you can use complementary shades from the color palette for items like forms, buttons, text color, and more on your website.
Another critical element of your blog’s branding is the typography. Choose fonts that are easy to read and that compliment your overall branding. Select consistent font size for your titles, headings, and paragraph text. It’s all about creating a consistent experience for your blog readers.
Similarly, the layout of your blog can impact how engaging the experience is for your visitors. Try to keep the structure clean and simple. When elements are crammed together on a web page, reading and engaging with the content is more challenging.
So, for example, create enough line and paragraph spacing so that the text is easy to read. Make sure that any images you include will have enough space around them. Consider the width of your blog on the screen and whether it's optimal for scanning through the text.
If you've chosen a template for your blog, you should still be able to adjust most of these elements. Take a deep dive into your blog's settings and play around until you're satisfied with the look and layout of the site.
While this might take some time, it's worth the effort. Once you're happy with the settings, it will be quick and simple to write and publish your blogs without worrying about the design.
Many people will likely access your blog via a mobile device. So your blog should look just as good on mobile as it does on a desktop. Lots of blogging platforms allow you to view the mobile version of your site when you’re in editing mode.
Most platforms are pretty good at automatically generating responsive mobile versions of your blog. But you may need to slightly reconfigure the mobile version of your site to ensure there’s no overlapping of elements or large empty spaces when scrolling. If you’re unsure, visit your live website from a phone or tablet to check it out. Then you can go back into the site editor to adjust anything out of alignment.
Step 6: Decide on Your Writing Style
Now that your blog is set up and ready to go, it’s time to start thinking about what you’re going to write. More importantly, how are you going to write it?
Blog Post Length
You don’t necessarily need to stick to a set amount of words for every blog post. But keeping them a relatively consistent length helps to set expectations for your regular readers. A good rule of thumb is to write as much as you need to get your message across effectively—no more, no less.
Consider the theme of your blog, too. Some niches lend themselves to long-form blog posts more than others. People interested in cooking, for example, may prefer quick, actionable tips over 10 minutes of reading. Fashion blogs typically focus on imagery more than extensive writing.
Tone of Voice
How you speak to your readers is one of your key differentiators from the competition. People might find your blog through search results or social media, but they’ll subscribe to hear more because of your unique voice.
Even if your blog is related to more formal topics, such as business, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Not only does this help to brand your blog with a distinctive voice, but it also makes it easier to maintain consistency in your writing style.
Step 7: Create a Content Calendar
Starting and maintaining a successful blog requires dedication and consistency. But if you’re busy with other ventures and day-to-day life, it’s easy for your blog to fall by the wayside. Before posting to your new site, take steps to keep yourself organized so your blog remains a priority.
A content calendar is a schedule for your blog. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just a document that keeps you on track. You can create your content calendar using free tools such as Google Sheets or keep a spreadsheet saved on your desktop. There are lots of free, downloadable templates online to help you get started.
Once you have a content calendar, fill in your planned blog titles on different dates. But before you do that, there are a couple of other considerations.
Decide How Frequently to Post
In terms of quickly building a successful blog, the more frequently you can post, the better. But writing and publishing a new blog every day is not always realistic. It all depends on the demands of your existing schedule.
You can post as often as you like, but the most important factor is consistency. Choose a frequency that works for your lifestyle. If you’re filling up your content calendar with blog titles and consistently pushing them back or missing deadlines, it might be time to rethink your posting frequency. Many people choose to publish a new blog once or twice per week so they can get it done at the weekend, for example.
Decide How Frequently to Write
The benefit of having a content calendar pre-filled with blog ideas is that you can write your posts in batches, too. That way, you’ll have a backlog of blogs ready to go. Many blogging platforms have a scheduling feature, too. So you can write your blog posts ahead of time and choose a date in the future to publish them on your website.
After a while, you might start running out of ideas for new blog titles. Constantly thinking of new topics can lead to some creative burnout. Dedicating time to research new topics and create engaging blog titles will serve you well when your creativity is low.
If you find a blog you like, whether it’s in your niche or not, take note of the content they produce and the titles they use. Finding inspiration elsewhere is a common tactic for keeping your blog content fresh. You can even check out your competition to see if they have covered any topics that suit your blog. Just be sure to put your unique spin on the topics to keep your readers interested.
Step 8: Learn SEO Basics
It takes significant time and effort not only to create and maintain a great blog but also to build a large and loyal following for it. To set yourself up for success, ensure your target audience can easily find it online.
At the least, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO)—the practice of optimizing your blog posts so they appear first (or at least high up) on Google's search results.
Although SEO has some technical aspects, it's pretty easy to grasp the basics, and many blogging platforms, including Wix and WordPress, offer tools and add-ons, both free and paid, to optimize your content for SEO purposes. The main trick is to ensure your blog posts rank for terms that your target readership is entering into the search bar. More on this below.
Select the Right Keywords
Google uses keywords (the words and phrases that users regularly type into the search bar) to decide which web pages to display to users. So the first step in SEO is researching and compiling a list of keywords you want to target.
Start with Google itself and type in words and phrases commonly used in your niche and familiar to your target audience. You’ll see a list of questions in the “People also ask” section. You can use these questions for blog post ideas and, since your post will directly answer a question frequently asked on Google, it’s more likely to rank high up on the search results.
You can also use free versions of many popular SEO platforms such as Moz or Ubersuggest to conduct keyword research. The benefit of these tools is the information they provide about each keyword. They’ll tell you how often it is searched and whether you’ll find it difficult to rank for that keyword based on the competition.
When gathering a list of keywords, take note of the search volume per month of each one. Some keywords are searched more frequently than others. If you’re ranking first on Google for a keyword that is searched tens of thousands of times per month, for example, you’ll attract a lot more traffic than a keyword that is only searched 10 times per month. However, keywords with higher search volumes also tend to have more competition on the search results page than lower volume keywords.
Optimize Your Blog Posts for These Keywords
Once you have a list of keywords to target, start incorporating them into your content calendar. You can align each keyword with a different blog post on your schedule. Include the target keyword in the title and URL of your blog post. You should also include related keywords throughout the subheadings and text of your blog.
You may also want to use related keywords. These are similar to your target keyword but phrased differently or with added context. For example, if your target keyword is “blogging platforms,” then related keywords might include “best blogging platforms” or “blogging platform options.”
In addition, it’s generally a good idea to incorporate long-tail keywords into your content, as you are more likely to attract readers who are looking specifically for what you offer. Long-tail keywords are longer phrases or search terms based on your target keyword, such as “best blogging platform to buy” or “best free blogging platform.”
Although keywords are important for SEO, try not to go overboard either. Google knows when writers are simply stuffing their content with an unnatural amount of keywords, which can negatively impact where you rank in the search results.
Beat the SEO Competition
If in doubt, go to Google and enter your target keyword. Look at the first 3 to 5 results on the search engine results page (also known as the SERP). Analyze each ranking web page to check the length of the content, the structure of the post, and which keywords they use throughout the page.
If you’re producing a blog post that outdoes the competition in all these elements, you have a much better chance of ranking high up on the SERP for your target keyword.
Step 9: Decide How to Promote Your Blog
Besides SEO, there are lots of ways you can promote your blog to attract new readers and engage your existing audience. The end goal of all these tactics is to drive as many people to your website as possible.
Build social media accounts to support your blog. You can use these channels to publish links to your latest blog posts and build a following.
Depending on your niche, some social media channels will do better for you than others. It can take a bit of trial and error to figure this out, but you can research where your target audience is most likely to engage with your type of content.
Facebook and Instagram are always worth a try due to the massive number of accounts and the diversity of user demographics. But LinkedIn may be the most suitable place to build engagement for a business blog. For lifestyle blogs that target mainly women, Pinterest is your best bet.
Many blogging platforms come with a built-in feature to help you build a list of subscribers. You can create pop-ups and a simple form so readers can enter their email addresses to subscribe to your blog.
Once you start building subscribers, you can leverage email marketing to connect with them regularly. Lots of website builders provide email marketing tools as part of your subscription, or you can choose popular email marketing tools such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact. Use email marketing, for example, to promote new blog posts, run competitions, or make announcements to your readers.
After you’ve built up a decent number of subscribers, you can even monetize this list by selling advertising space in your email newsletters.
Step 10: Set Up Analytics to Track Your Progress
Now that you know how to start a blog, you’ll need a way to measure its success. Some key metrics to take note of when blogging include:
- Traffic (the number of people visiting your blog every month)
- Conversions (how many people convert from visitors to subscribers)
- Social media engagement (how many people are liking, commenting, and sharing your social posts)
Many website builders incorporate analytics into their platforms. These analytics features typically tell you about your traffic numbers, how your audience finds you online, and what type of actions they’re taking on your site.
Plus, if you convert your blog’s social media to business accounts on each channel, you’ll get free insights into your follower demographics and the engagement levels on your social media.
Starting a blog is very accessible and with some careful planning and organization, anyone can make their blog a success. No matter which blogging platform you choose or who you’re targeting, the most important thing is to be original and find your niche.