“How do you get a blog?”
I had just given a presentation on blogging at a national conference. I thought I’d covered the basics pretty well: how much fun blogging is, how much good your blog can do for other people, how to make your blog successful.
Then someone came up afterwards and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“How do you get a blog?”
Okay, so maybe I hadn’t covered all the basics. Fortunately, I was able to answer the question quickly, because starting a blog is really easy.
But first, let’s go over some quick basics, because there are some specific words and phrases used in blogging that you’ll want to understand up front.
Think of it as if you’re building a house. Your blog is the house. Your house needs a plot of land to sit on, where people can come visit you. In blogging terms, that plot of land is called your platform.
There are two kinds of platforms: “hosted” and “self-hosted”. If you think this terminology is unhelpful and frustrating, I agree with you. So let me break it down a little bit: Continuing our house-building analogy, your host is the builder, the guy who actually gets your house up on the lot and makes sure it has water, electricity, etc.
“Hosted” means that your blog is set up on a “free” platform; in other words, you don’t have to pay the guy to put your house up. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well, sometimes free stuff can be great. But how good would you expect a free house to be? There are serious limitations to a “hosted” blog. If you have absolutely no money to invest and no way to obtain it, have no interest in making money from your blog, and don’t want anyone outside your family and friends to visit, then a “hosted” blog might be fine for you. But if you ever want to make money from your blog, if you want access to the best tools for your blog, if you want credibility with sponsors as well as with readers, then a free “hosted” blog is probably not your best bet.
“Self-hosted” is a term that is misleading to the point of being borderline incorrect. Having a “self-hosted” blog does not mean that you host it yourself; it means that you pay someone to host it. Just like when you say you’re building a house, you’re not actually out building your house with hammer and nails; you’re paying the builder to build your house. So when you have a “self-hosted” blog, you really have a blog that you’re paying somebody to host for you. That’s what “self-hosted” means in the blogging world.
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There are lots of companies out there that will host your blog for a fee. But for new bloggers, Bluehost is inexpensive and will walk you through a few simple steps to start your blog.
Are you ready? Great!
Start Your Blog!
Click here and you should see this:
Press the big green “Get Started” button.
Select your plan. If I were just starting out again, I would choose the “Basic” plan on the left, which is normally $7.99/month, but you can get it here for only $3.95/month.
Sign up for your account.
Complete your package: You’ve already selected your plan; this is where you decide how long you want to purchase it for initially. The longer the term you choose, the lower your cost per month will be. When I started out, I chose three years to obtain the best savings. On the other hand, I didn’t buy any of the package extras, because I didn’t think I needed them, and I was right.
Purchase your “self-hosting”.
Decide on a password.
Create your password.
Log in using your new password!
Now comes the fun part! You are going to choose a theme and install WordPress. WordPress is your platform. (Sometimes there can be a little confusion because there are actually two WordPresses: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. WordPress.com is one of those “hosted” platforms we talked about. WordPress.org is what you want; it’s the “self-hosted” platform, and it’s what Bluehost will automatically install for you at no extra charge, so don’t worry!) When it comes to using WordPress, there are also two kinds of people: people for whom the platform is pretty intuitive, and people for whom it is not. I was one of the people for whom WordPress was not intuitive. So I simply perused WordPress for Dummies, and it took me about half a day to become comfortable with the platform.
Your theme is the basic design for your blog. Going back to our house analogy, your theme is the standard house plan that you choose from your custom builder, which you can then tweak as you would like. There are free themes and paid themes. Fortunately, they are very easy to change, so don’t stress about this part. My advice is to pick a free theme you like to start out, but then experiment with others after you launch your blog until you find the one that feels right. Later on, you can upgrade to a paid theme if you want, but I decided to learn some basic coding so that I could tweak my theme myself.
Start building your new blog!
Make your new blog “Business” or “Personal”; there’s no right or wrong answer here, just what feels comfortable for you.
Start writing your awesome content!
Launch your blog!
Welcome to the Blogosphere!
Promote Your Blog
You’ve worked so hard! You’ve set up your blog and started posting some content. Now you want people to see it! But how? Social media is great for promoting your blog.
How do bloggers use social media?
Basically, there are two ways, and you should take advantage of both:
- Set up your own profiles on social-media sites (if you haven’t already) and share your posts with your followers. Just be sure you’re not only sharing your own posts. Nobody likes a self-centered show-off! You wouldn’t go to a party and just start talking about yourself and not show any interest in the other guests, and you shouldn’t do it on social media either. Engage with other people; share and comment on their posts. Post other people’s content that you think your followers will find valuable: informative, entertaining, practical, funny.
- Enable your readers to share your posts themselves. How do you do that? The best way is with a social-media plug-in. What’s that? A plug-in is a handy tool that adds a specific feature to your blog. You can find lots of WordPress plug-ins by clicking the “Plugins” link on the left-hand sidebar of your blog’s dashboard. A social-media plug-in allows you to place social-media buttons on your posts so that other people can share them with just a click. The social-media plug-in I use is called Social Warfare. I use the premium version, but you can see if you like it by starting out with the free version; just click here.
What are the best social-media sites for bloggers?
That really depends on different factors, like the topics you blog about, as well as your own personality. As a lifestyle blogger, I’ve found ten social-media platforms that work for me. I’ll include the links to my profiles so you can get a glimpse of how I use them: