8 helpful tips to start a blog.
My previous post “10 tips for bloggers” was aimed at bloggers in general, this post is aimed at people looking to start a blog for the first time. Some tips are repeated from my last post, but as a new blogger they are things you will also need to know.
#1 Find your niche.
Find the thing you are passionate about and focus on that. Whether it be food or design or cars, zone in on that passion. Also, make sure the topic you choose is something you’ll be able to write about long term. It needs to be something you can grow with so that your readers will always be interested.
#2 Start writing.
This part is sort of optional, but I highly recommend you start writing offline before you spend any money on a domain and hosting. Start by writing 3 or 4 posts in Word and see if the topic you have chosen is actually something you enjoy, if not you could always change your mind without wasting any money.
#3 Domain name and hosting.
The name of your blog is very important, it should be something easy to remember and catchy. In most cases you would want the name to be related to your topic, readers tend to click on links more often when they know what to expect before even clicking the link.
Finding a good name is not always an easy task since your blog name and domain name normally need to be the same, and chances are someone has already registered the name you really like. If it is already registered, you could always try changing the domain slightly by adding things like -blog, -food, -lifestyle… to the end, if it’s something you really want. Sometimes it wont work with your name but it’s worth a try if it does.
I recommend always trying to get a .com because it is so international, we made the mistake of using a .co.za which means sites like Google focus on showing us in google.co.za searches and not so much google.com. Our readers are from all around the world so .co.za doesn’t actually make much sense.
If I was to recommend just one hosting company I think it would be Knownhost.com, I have been using them for years and don’t have a single complaint. I have tried many other hosts and nothing comes close to the support and service they have provided. Unfortunately they don’t offer anything smaller than a VSP which means you need to know a bit about running a server to use them. To save you some time I have done a little research on other hosts you could use, below is a list of what I feel are the best hosts currently available.
Knownhost.com – My favourite but not recommended if you don’t know how to run a VPS.
Bluehost – This would be my second choice, they also offer a 1 click install of wordpress which is nice.
A2hosting – Very affordable and they will auto install WordPress when they setup your hosting.
WP Engine – I like these guys because they specialise in hosting WordPress sites, they are however not cheap.
WordPress is by far the best in my opinion, so I will make this section nice and short by only recommending them.
Just to clear up any confusion, I am talking about self hosted WordPress blogs and not just running your blog on the free wordpress.com site. If you don’t plan on monetising your blog or taking it very seriously at all, by all means use wordpress.com but be warned, if one day you do want to self-host, it will be a nightmare to move and you could even lose most of your traffic.
#5 Logo and theme.
If you want your blog to stand out you will need a good logo and theme. Having them professionally designed can be very expensive, especially the theme.
If you don’t want to spend too much I would recommend browsing these 2 sites
We had our logo professionally designed by a friend but we always buy our themes from Themeforest.net
#6 Things to setup before you start.
Go to the Google Analytics site and register your account, once you are registered you can either install this Google Analytics Plug-in or check if your theme has a place to put your Analytics ID, many of the themes from Themeforest.net do.
Next you will need to set up Google Webmaster Tools, you can use the same account as Analytics. You will be asked to add your site and then verify you own it.
Google Analytics generates detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources and measures conversions and sales.
Google Webmaster Tool allows webmasters to check indexing status and optimize visibility of their websites.
#7 Our Best WordPress Plugins.
These are some of the plugins we think every blog should have.
Akismet -This handy little plugin filters out all the spam comments, without it we would probably spend more of our time dealing with spam than actually posting. So far it has blocked over 175 000 spam comments.
Contact Form 7 – Allows you to add contact forms anywhere on your blog.
Disqus Comment System – This one is optional but we prefer it over the default comment system.
Math Captcha – This helps prevent bots registering fake accounts by checking if the person is human, it also adds some security to your login pages.
Social Network Tabs – We use this to add the social network tabs to the right of our blog.
W3 Total Cache – This can drastically improve the speed of your blog, it also makes it easy to add a CDN when the time comes.
WordPress SEO – It helps with all things SEO.
#8 Register on Social Media.
It’s important for all bloggers to have an online presence. People are not going to read your blog if they don’t know who you are. When you choose your blog name, have a look on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc if it’s available. There’s no point in your blog being called “Most delicious food you’ve ever tasted” (silly name, please don’t call your blog that) and your social media handles to be @Jennifer1982. How will anyone find you? There is a plethora of Social Media platforms out there but the ones Alida uses are: