So, you want to start a blog?
Starting a blog is super easy. In fact, every other blogger out there has a ‘how to start a blog in 10 minutes’ post ‘somewhere’ on their site (yep, hands up, I have one too!).
But if you want to start a successful blog, there are a few more things to think about than simply rustling up a WordPress blog, writing a post about your favourite Paleo recipe and hitting Publish.
That might work, of course, (if you’re a needle in a haystack kind of blogger) but if you want a much better chance of success, I’m going to guide you through 10 simple steps that show you exactly how to lay the foundations of a professional looking, well designed and efficient blog, that people will actually want to read.
OK, let’s get you started on creating your dream blog.
1 – Find Your Passion
Before you even start your blog, you need to know what you’re going to write about. There are a gazzillion blogs out there. Most never get read and many get abandoned after a few weeks. So you absolutely need to choose a subject you’re passionate about or your blogging dream will soon become a chore.
Blogging is exciting. Blogging opens you up to a potential audience of millions. Blogging can even lead to a full time income. But blogging is also hard work. So make sure you write about something you love.
Stuck for an idea? Quicksprout have 35 popular ideas to get you going.
2 – Write Your Avatar
Successful bloggers make their blogs about the reader. You have about 8 seconds on the web to capture someone’s attention, so if your blog is not helping or engaging your reader, they’re not going to stick around.
So before you even start writing a blog post, you need to know who your audience is and what they want, so you can help them achieve it. A great way to define your target audience is to write an avatar.
An avatar is essentially one single person who represents who you’re writing to. Give your avatar a name and note down what sort of person they are, what they want from life and what their struggles might be.
For example, if your blog is about budgeting and frugal living, your avatar might be a stay at home parent who struggles with debt and is looking for ways to simplify their life with meal planning, money saving tips and work from home ideas. Suddenly, you know exactly who you are writing for and what sort of content they want.
Then, whenever you write a blog post, write it as though you were writing it directly to your avatar.
This will help keep your blog focussed and give it a consistent voice.
3 – Choose a Blogging Platform
OK, so now you need a blogging platform from which to speak to your newly defined audience (the audience you’re going to wow with your fantastic helpful content, right?)
I recommend WordPress.org for this.
It’s the standard choice for most bloggers and offers the greatest flexibility in terms of how you can grow your blog going forward. To use WordPress.org you need to be self hosted. So next you need to choose a hosting platform.
4 – Decide on a Hosting Option
There are a whole bunch of hosting options out there, but if you’re new to blogging, I recommend keeping things simple and going with Bluehost.
Bluehost are the number one hosting choice for bloggers – largely because they are super affordable (often as low as $2.95 a month). They also provide 24/7 customer support, a free domain name and a one click WordPress installation.
You can learn how to start a blog with Bluehost in this step by step tutorial.
5 – Pick a Theme
Once you’re all setup with WordPress on Bluehost, your next step is to install a theme. Your theme is essentially the design behind your blog and what makes it look good.
Great content is of course the driving force behind any successful blog, but how your blog looks and functions should never be overlooked.
So choose a blog theme that is clean and uncluttered, receives regular updates and is optimised for mobile and search engine optimisation.
If you’re on a budget, there are many free WordPress themes to choose from, which you can access and install directly from your WordPress dashboard.
But if you can, I really recommend going for a premium theme option. I personally use and recommend Studiopress. They offer well designed, well coded themes, all built with search engine optimisation in mind.
You’ll find most successful bloggers swear by Studiopress and their Genesis framework for bloggers.
6 – Decide on a Tagline
Once your blog is up and running with it’s new theme, I strongly recommend writing a snappy one liner that sums up your blog. This is known as a tagline and it’s an incredibly helpful way to let readers know what your blog is about.
If people are confused or unclear about your blog’s main subject area, they probably won’t stick around (let alone come back!). So help your readers out and give them some direction.
Problogger has a great article on writing blog taglines, with some killer examples.
Once you’ve written your tagline, a great place to put it is your blog header area, below your blog title or logo.
7 – Have Your Plugins Covered
Plugins add extra functionality and whizzy bits to your blog. They’re incredibly easy to search for and install straight from your WordPress dashboard.
There are a tonne of plugins out there and way too many to go into here, but 3 free plugins I recommend installing as soon as you’re blog is up and running are:
- WP-Spamshield: Filters out spam blog comments (you’ll get lots without this plugin).
- Yoast SEO: An essential plugin for helping you tackle the basics of search engine optimization (even if you don’t have a clue about search engine optimization!)
- Google Analytics Dashboard For WP – allows you to track your blog traffic (you’ll also need a free Google Analytics account for this, which is an essential tool almost all bloggers use).
8 – Start a Newsletter
Think it’s a bit early to start a newsletter? Think again!
Failure to start building an email list early on is one of the biggest mistakes even the most successful bloggers make. Yet it’s actually the easiest and most immediate way to engage with your audience and build up a trusted relationship.
So add an email newsletter opt in form to your blog as soon as you can. Even if you don’t have much content at the start, if people read a great post you’ve written and want to sign up for more, an opt in form will be there ready and waiting for them.
I personally use and recommend Convertkit, because they make setting up an email opt in form on your blog incredibly easy (like 5 minutes, easy). But if you want a free option to get started, Mailchimp is free for your first 1000 subscribers.
9 – Rock Your Social Media
Unless you have an army of virtual assistants, social media is time consuming, so when you’re new to blogging, you simply can’t expect to rock all your social media channels at once.
So I personally recommend focussing on one social media channel at the start and building that one up first.
Which channel should you choose? It depends on personal preference and your blog, but I’ve personally found Pinterest to be the biggest source of traffic, the quickest. You’ll find loads of guides on the web about how to use Pinterest to grow your blog traffic. It’s also a great choice if you have a blog that relates to women, as over 80% of users on Pinterest are female.
Otherwise, just pick the platform you are most familiar with, or seems to fit your blog and audience best, and go with that. You can then focus on building up the other social media platforms when you’re ready.
10 – Create Fantastic Content
In the previous 9 steps, we’ve covered how to set up a well designed and efficient blog from scratch. Having everything above in place, from the start, means you can then focus on the really exciting bit – creating killer content and attracting a loyal tribe of fans!
So now it’ time to go forth and speak to the world. Yes, it’s time to start writing your blog posts!
Remember, your blog is not about you (sorry!) – it’s about your reader, so always, always, remember this and write with you avatar in mind.
What makes great content? Great content helps people out, solves a problem, inspires, makes people laugh out loud or simply adds something extra to people’s lives, which keeps them coming back for more.
Easy, right 🙂
Let’s Wrap Things Up
So there you have it. How to start a successful blog in 10 steps. Now it’s over to you to go forth and create!
I wish you much blogging success.
About Sarah Baker
Sarah is a full time blogger & affiliate marketeer who got fed up with the rat race and walked out her job with an embarrassingly loud door slam 2 years ago. She hasn’t looked back and now runs the parenting and natural living blog One Mum and A Little Lady. Her Little Lady would rather just eat chocolate.