You love writing, you love traveling, and you would like to start your own blog. You just aren't sure where to start. We've already written a bit about what it means to be a blogger. And how we decided to start our own blog.
But once we decided, we had to start from somewhere. Here are easy steps to help you start your own blog.
Start your own blog: things to consider
1 I Your blogging niche
Deciding on your blogging niche is the first step when you decide to start your own blog. What will your blog be about? What's your passion? Are you an expert on a certain subject, and would you like to share your knowledge with an online community? Whatever your niche is make sure you have a fair amount of knowledge on the subject. There are so many bloggers out there, if you have nothing new to offer, it will be hard to gain any attention. Also, if you are not passionate either about whatever your niche is, or at least about blogging itself, you might get tired quickly. Blogging takes time.
2 I Name of your blog is extremely important. Before you start your own blog, think thoroughly about your blog's name. It will eventually become your brand name. You better make it unique, memorable, and fun. We like the name of our blog, however, there are a few things we haven't considered when deciding on the name and we don't want you to make the same mistakes:
- Don't make your blog name too long. As we said, your blog name is actually your brand name. You'll want to use it everywhere. And you want it to be consistent across all your marketing and communication channels. You'll need to set up your social media profiles, and the name, ideally, need to work across all of them. Ours doesn't! The name on Twitter can contain a maximum of 14 signs.
- Try to make your blog name work across different subjects. Another one where we possibly failed to deliver. When you just start your blog, you might not be sure where that journey will take you. Maybe, you start a blog about Croatia just like us, but along the way, you decide to write about all your travels. It's possible to write about the Best things to do in Munich, on the blog named Frank about Croatia. However, it's not really perfect. Many travel bloggers go with nomadic + first name. Names like this can work for a long time and across many subjects.
Other things to consider (we believe we did well on these):
- Make your blog name unique, memorable, and easy to pronounce and spell.
- Make sure the domain name for your blog is actually available. This is truly important. Rather change the name than take the one without the available domain name. Once you make your name out there, many people will just type it into the search engine. Make sure that they don't end up on somebody's else site. When you have a few ideas in mind for your blog's name, head to Bluehost and see if that name is available by entering it in the box like the one in the photo below.
- Try to avoid funny characters. Use words only, no underscores, no dash, if possible. This is of course my personal preference. As I find everything else to be confusing.
3 I Domain name & Hosting
After you decide on your niche (what your blog will be about), and your brand name and you check that the domain name you want to use for your blog is available. It's time to buy a domain. You can buy a domain with any hosting company (more about hosting in the chapter below), or with any domain registrar. In Croatia, you can use Regica, a local domain register. The cost of a domain is around 10$ a year. Many hosting providers offer a free domain if you purchase a hosting plan with them.
Hosting sounded too technical to us. And it still does. However, it's not as scary as it sounds. So yes, your blog needs to live somewhere else but on your desktop, if you want people to actually see it (and hopefully even read it). You have two options:
- Free hosting: many blogging platforms offer free hosting, as well as some hosting companies. If you decide to use a WordPress blogging platform, you can create a free blog. However, you'll not be able to have your own domain on a free plan. Your domain name will look like this: myname.wordpress.com
- Paid hosting: these days hosting is not expensive, and we would always advise you to rather self host your blog, with your own domain name, rather than just use free hosting solutions.
- Bluehost is a reliable hosting provider, and it offers the best value for money. While we don't host FrankAboutCroatia.com with Bluehost, many of our blogger-friends do. We didn't check their hosting plan well enough and didn't take advantage of their excellent prices. However, if you are just starting your blog, and want to spend as little as possible, while still running it in a professional way, you should sign up with Bluehost. They also offer the domain name for free if you host with them.
- Dreamhost: We hosted our blog for a long time with Dreamhost, and we still host with them our DNS and e-mail account. Dreamhost is reliable, and while it's not as cheap as Bluehost, it's still pretty affordable (less than 9$ a month). You can host an unlimited number of domains. If you decide to sign up with a Dreamhost, use promo code FRANKCROATIA to obtain a 20$ discount on your hosting plan.
- Websynthesis is a premium hosting company. We moved our WordPress hosting to Websynthesis back in December 2013. We switched to Websynthesis not because we were unhappy with Dreamhost, but because Websynthesis provided certain services that Dreamhost doesn't have (like the Scribe content software – more on that in another blog post). You don't need to opt for premium hosting, especially not at the very beginning while your blog still has very little traffic. Dreamhost of Bluehost will be just fine for your website. If you like to read more about choosing a Websythesis, Yoast wrote an excellent roundup.
4 I Blogging platform
There are many blogging platforms that you can use to start your blog. A blogging platform or CMS (Content Management System) is what you need to create your website without any programming skills. The most popular blogging platforms are WordPress, Blogger, and Typepad. Other popular platforms include Jimdo, and Weebly. We use WordPress on our blog. It's easy to set up without any programming knowledge. It's available as a one-click installation from the Dreamhost or Bluehost panel.
5 I Choose a theme – make your blog look pretty
There are tons of themes to choose from for your blog. Some are free, others are premium paid themes. We highly recommend using the following themes for your website:
- Genesis Framework we currently use on Frank about Croatia. If you decide to use Genesis Framework, you'll need to choose one of many StudioPress themes to make your blog look pretty. Genesis Framework might look more expensive at first, but the great advantage of Genesis is that it has a one-time fee, and you get all future updates and support for free.
- Elegant Themes we use with our other website. They look great, come with lots of options, and they are a bit cheaper than Genesis themes (however, there is an ongoing yearly fee for the support).
- Thesis themes are kind of DIY premium themes. You get an excellent framework that you can easily customize yourself. However, it might require more technical knowledge than the other two themes we recommend here (but more flexibility too). We had a hard time choosing between Genesis and Thesis framework when we built Frank about Croatia. Finally, we did go with Genesis for our own reasons (we'll cover that in another post), but both frameworks work great.
6 I Plugins
Plugins help your blog perform certain functions. There are loads of plugins you can use. Basically, whatever function you'd like to add to your blog, most certainly you'll find a plugin for that. However, plugins can slow the load time of your website, and our advice is to use plugins only where really needed. You can search for a plugin directly from your WordPress dashboard or using Code Canyon. Code Canyon is an online marketplace where you'll find over 2.600 different WordPress plugins. When you just start your own blog, you'll need the following plugins:
- Aksimet is an anti-spam plugin that protects your blog from comment spam. It does it automatically and saves you lots of time. They have a pay-what-you-can plan for personal, non-commercial sites.
- WordPress SEO is a plugin that helps you detect the most important SEO elements on your copy. Although the best piece of advice any content marketer will give you is to ignore SEO and just write useful copy for your readers, it doesn't hurt to have Yoast's plugin installed. This plugin tells you if your copy is good for the keyword you are targeting. But it's also handy when you want to integrate your Google Authorship on your site, or if you want to integrate your Facebook page with your site. There is a free version of this plugin but also a paid one. You can start with a free one, and upgrade later if needed.
- W3 Total Cache helps you optimize your website performance and reduce the load time speed.
Are you ready to start your own blog now? Do you have any questions on how to start your own blog? Let us know in the comments below.
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