Although I’ve been blogging for a few years, it wasn’t until last year that I decided to focus on blogging more professionally. I look at blogging as my passion project that I work on in my free time because like many of my readers, I currently work a full-time job and I don’t have time to fully dedicate myself to blogging.
Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links which I may or may not receive a small commission when you make a purchase. Your support is much appreciated!
If you read my last post you’ll know that 2018 was a busy year for me, and I wasn’t able to dedicate as much of my free time as I would have liked to my blogging, which means that I wasn’t able to blog consistently. Consistency in blogging is important and it’s something that I’m focusing on this year. My goal is to share a blog post once a week on Tuesdays and cover a wide range of lifestyle topics.
Considering Starting a Blog?
Many of you may only just be starting out and in the beginning stages of considering creating a blog. Maybe you’ve started an Instagram based on your passion that’s become popular and you’ve had people ask you when you’re going to turn it into a blog because they want more of your fabulous content. My sister is one of those people, and as I recently began giving her tips and tricks on creating and launching a successful blog, I realized that she’s likely not the only person that would benefit from my advice.
This leads me to today’s blog post topic and officially puts this post in the ‘blogging about blogging’ category. Today I’m going to share all of my personal advice on making a successful blog that can be set up to become profitable in the future. There’s 12 main things you need to start a blog, all of which you’ll find in detail below. I’ll also follow up in the coming weeks with more blog posts where I’ll share tips and tricks on things like growing your audience, how to increase your traffic, and how to monetize your blog.
1. Deciding on a Blog Niche
Some bloggers will tell you that selecting a small niche is vital and others will tell you it doesn’t matter. My advice falls somewhere in the middle. You don’t want to narrow your scope to be too specialized and small if it will limit your ability to create new content that your readers will want to see and you do need to select a blog topic. I highly recommend deciding what your blog will be about before you make any further decisions about your blog.
What type of content are you interested in creating and what type of content do you think readers will enjoy? You’ll want your content to be true to you and it’s true what they say, write what you know. People respond to authenticity and they can tell if your heart isn’t in what you’re writing about. If you’re not great in the kitchen you’re probably not going to be a food blogger, unless your niche is helping others like yourself learn basic recipes that anyone can make without fail.
Not sure what direction to go in? Many popular blogs fall under these categories:
- Food & Recipes
- DIY and Home
- Beauty, Fashion & Style
- Travel & Entertainment
- Mommy Bloggers
2. Selecting a Name for Your Blog
Your blog’s name is your site identity and it should reflect the overall topic of your blog’s content. My blog name Living Life With Joy was inspired by my middle name Joy and my blog’s niche which I categorize as a lifestyle blog. If you need help coming up with a clever blog name there’s tons of great content available on Pinterest that have blog name generating ideas and tips. My tips below focus on things you want to keep in mind when deciding on a name.
Tip 1: Matching Your Name to Your Niche
When I first started out I mainly blogged about books but that slowly branched out over the years into a lifestyle blog. I got lucky that my blog name was on point for my lifestyle blogging niche but not all those who make a change later are as lucky. It’s possible to change your blog name at a later date but there’s a lot of moving pieces and it’s certainly easier to pick a niche and name that you’re happy with from the get-go. When people hear your blog name, it should give some indication of what your blog is about. If you can’t come up with a clever blog name, you should at least come up with a clever phrase for your blog that indicates what it’s about.
Tip 2: Name Length
One of the most important things about selecting a blog name is that you don’t want it to be too long. Many internet articles will back up this as fact and the general recommendation is around 10-12 characters but not longer than 14-17 characters max. Think about all of your favorite websites and look at how short their names are: ‘SkinnyTaste’ and ‘Oh Sweet Basil’ are great examples. You want to try to have your name be short and sweet and to the point. Ever notice how your favorite magazine names are on the short side? It’s easier to remember and it’s less to type in.
Tip 3: Name Spelling
Whether you go with a short name or a long name, make sure it’s easy to spell and doesn’t have a bunch of unique spellings or words. It’s important to consider the ease of which people type your blog name in to their web browser search bar. Sometimes blogs that have unique spellings of a word or those that use a totally new word that the author created can be fun, but you’ll want to be sure that they’ll be able to properly find your blog.
Tip 4: Check it’s availability and appropriateness
You should double-check what comes up in a Google search for a few reasons. You don’t want your blog name to be too similar to something else that will make it hard to find your blog and you want to make sure it doesn’t lead to inappropriate sites. If you have a fun flirty title, make sure the search doesn’t bring you to adult content websites. I heard about someone that had a fun cute-sy blog name and a quick google search led to some unsavory sites.
3. Deciding on a Blogging Platform
There’s endless resources on Pinterest that focus on the blogging platform discussion and how to decide on which blogging platform is right for you. If you want to have a professional looking blog that you have complete ownership of the look and feel, and have the ability to monetize and have complete control over what you do, I personally recommend WordPress. It takes some getting used to because it’s not a ‘what you see is what you get’ like some other platforms that may be a bit easier to use as a newbie. Overwhelmingly everything I’ve seen online and from online blogger discussion boards, I would say that a good 90% of people that are serious about their blogging use WordPress and according to WordPress, over 30% of all websites use their platform.
4. Self-Host with Siteground
If you take my advice and decide to go with WordPress, you’ll soon discover that there’s a difference between .com and .org. You want to go with the self-hosted version of the platform because you technically don’t have full ownership of your blog if you don’t self-host. There’s endless resources available on the difference between self-hosting and not self-hosting, but I’ll make it easy for you: you want to have a self-hosted blog.
Selecting a self-hosting site is one of the biggest areas of confusion for new bloggers. You can find countless resources online where people compare and contrast the different self-hosting services available. After doing a ton of reading, research, and communicating with successful bloggers, I came to the general consensus that you want to use SiteGround. I’ve been using SiteGround since the beginning of 2018 and it has been fantastic. I haven’t had any issues but I had a lot of questions as a beginner and their customer service is very responsive and helpful.
Why I Recommend SiteGround
Personally, I recommend that you sign up for a 3 year package through SiteGround because you lock in the discount given to new users which is currently only $3.95 per month discounted from $11.95 per month. Once your first renewal comes up after your initial period, there’s no additional new-user savings discount available so I highly recommend picking a package. The base package is good for up to 10k views per month. The middle package is good for 25k views per month and their top tier is good for 100k views per month. Spending more up-front will save you money in the first few years of blogging.
You do have to take your blog traffic into consideration when selecting your subscription type. I personally went with the starter package to start because although I was optimistic about my blogging, I was also realistic in knowing that it was unlikely that I would have more than 10k views a month while I was starting out blogging. If you find that your blog is growing in monthly views and you’re pushing the limits of the hosting ability for your package, you can always increase your subscription to allow for a higher traffic site.
Siteground is also a great way to make affiliate sales and I’ve personally made a few affiliate sales through SiteGround. If you’re interested in using SiteGround I would greatly appreciate if you used my referral link!
5. Pick a Theme that Supports Your Vision
One of the most important things for starting a blog is picking a blog theme that supports the overall vision of what you want your blog to look like. Do you want your website to be bright and fun, light and girly, clean and simple? There’s hundreds and hundreds of blog themes that you can select for your blog. Some themes are available for free but most bloggers use themes they’ve purchased.
My favorite blog theme site is Pretty Darn Cute. Currently all of designer’s themes range from $50-$75, they’re well-designed for all types of bloggers, and there’s editing capability to satisfy your blog’s specific needs. In 2018 I used the Modern Blogger Pro theme but found that it was a bit too bright for my blog and I was looking for something a bit more simple and streamlined. I now use the Pretty Chic theme and I’m absolutely in love with the overall look and feel of the theme.
If you are interested in purchasing a blog theme keep in mind that you’ll likely also need to purchase a blog theme layout platform to load in your WordPress site. My blog themes from Pretty Darn Cute both use the Genesis Framework, which was a one-time purchase of $60.
6. High-Quality Photos or Get a Stock-Photo Subscription
As a beginner blogger [or blogger in general really] you might not have the time to dedicate to planning and taking quality photos for your blog. Stock photos are an easy way to have great photos on your blog that will help make your website look professional. If you’re not familiar with stock photos there are tons of websites that have free photos for you to use and many do not require you give credit.
There are multiple sites where you can download free photos and there are sites where you can purchase stock photos individually or as a package. You can also sign up for monthly and annual stock photo subscription services, which is my personal recommendation. I have an annual subscription to IvoryMix and I’ve found it to be a great resource for beautifully stylized stock photos for a wide range of topics. Having access to a growing library of photos gives me more time to focus on creating my blog content. If you’re not ready to invest in a subscription you can also sign up for IvoryMix’s emails to get a small monthly selection of free stock photos.
7. Create Images With Canva
Canva is hands-down one of the best things I discovered that has elevated the look of my blog. It’s great for creating images for your blog and all your social media accounts. It’s free and easy to use and I can’t say enough good things about it, other than you’re missing out if you don’t use it. All of the images on my blog and social media accounts where more than just the image itself is used I made with Canva. It easily allows you to create images in the size you need for the type of image you want to create and there’s endless options for what you can create.
There’s also an upgrade subscription option that has a few great additional capabilities over the free version. If you have a company where multiple people need to access the same content the upgraded version is for you. There’s over 400k free images that you would normally pay to use in your content that’s included as part of the premium membership. If you’re considering the premium membership they offer a 30 day trial that’s worth trying. I personally use the free version and for my purposes as an individual blogger, that’s all you need.
8. WordPress Plugins
One of the best things about using a WordPress.org self-hosted website is the numerous plugins you can use to customize your website. It’ll take some getting used to but overall, plugins are the greatest thing ever!
Here’s a list of plugins that I use to elevate my website:
- Ad Inserter: makes it easy to input Google Adsense Ads on your blog for easy monetization
- Akismet Anti-Spam: easiest way to protect your blog
- BackWPup: an easy way to backup your blog content
- Classic Editor: I personally can’t stand the new blocking format WP created. This plugin allows you to block the new formatting to continue to use the classic editing format for your blog posts.
- GDPR: blog privacy is important. This plugin makes it easy
- Social Warfare: this is what makes the social media share links show on each post
- Yoast SEO: you may never understand what SEO is but this plugin helps you out
There’s quite a few plugins that will be relevant depending on what blog framework and theme you use. Pretty Darn Cute‘s theme instructions include a full list of recommended plugins to make your theme work overtime for you.
9. Dedicated Email Account
One of the quickest and yet extremely important steps to creating a blog is creating an email account dedicated to your blog and all things blog-related. You need an email address to sign up for affiliate programs and social media accounts. If you’re serious about wanting to start a blog it’s important to keep blog-related emails separate from your personal emails. It’s also easier to respond to inquiries and track expenses and revenues when you have a dedicated email account.
10. Dedicated Social Media Accounts
You’ll want to use your new blog dedicated email account to sign up for social media accounts, especially if you want to continue to have your own personal accounts.
Social media sites that require an email address:
You’ll also want to create a Facebook Page for your blog but that gets linked from your personal Facebook account.
11. Monetize with Google Adsense
Chances are if you’re interested in starting a blog you’re also interested in monetizing your website. Who doesn’t want to make more money doing what they love? If you want to make money without having to do anything, it’s most important to sign up for Google Adsense. Once you set it up and input it on your blog you don’t really have to do anything else! There’s also tons of great ways to make money blogging through affiliate programs and sponsored posts but today I think it’s important to focus on getting Google Adsense loaded and installed. You can revisit the additional money-making options at a later date when you have a better grasp on blogging.
12. Blog Privacy and Disclosure
It’s extremely important to disclose to your readers anytime you were compensated for a blog post. That includes products you received in exchange for a review even if you weren’t actually paid for your post. Your readers want authenticity and the law requires that you provide full disclosure so there’s no two ways about it. Your blog MUST have a privacy and disclosure section available for those who want to read it. You’ll find my privacy statement here and if you scroll to the bottom of my website you’ll find it in the menu bar as well.
Additional Tips for Starting a Blog
- Keep track of all blog expenses – this includes products purchased for your blog; framework, theme, hosting, etc. It also includes educational and learning products, such as Sparkle Hustle Grow which is a monthly subscription box for female entrepreneurs. It includes a professional development book, a corresponding online training, in addition to a box full of fun office supplies and surprise goodies.
- Keep track of all blog revenue – this includes any money made in addition to products you’ve been given for free
- My biggest new blogger tip: Have your base pages [welcome/about the blog page and privacy page at minimum] created plus a minimum of 3 month’s worth of blog posts drafted before you launch your blog in order to be able to post consistently. Planning on one post a week? You’ll want to have a minimum of 12 blog posts ready to go.
- Holidays come early on the web. Plan your content accordingly. For example, you want to share seasonal posts at least a month in advance of the holiday for best traffic and for your readers to have time to get the most out of your post, whether that be a seasonal recipe or gift giving ideas. If you share a fun Valentine’s Day post mere days before the holiday, your readers might not have a lot of time to make use of your post’s tips.
Whew! There you have it, 12 things you need to start a blog! I’d love to hear your feedback if you’re about to be a new blogger or your tips and tricks if you’re already a blogger.