Looking to launch your first blog but don’t know where to start? Blogging is a great way to build a lasting web presence while generating more traffic, and subsequently more sales. But it’s also somewhat confusing, especially for newcomers. If you’re still trying to get your first blog up and running, check out our guide below for a step-by-step walkthrough.
Some of the benefits of blogging include the following:
- Establish yourself as an authoritative figure in your respective niche.
- Attract more traffic from long-tail keywords
- Blogs typically have a high percentage of returning visitors.
- Gain invaluable feedback from your visitors.
- Converts traffic into leads.
- It’s easy to set up and run (just check out our guide below)
Choosing a Blogging Content Management System
One of the first steps in launching a blog is choosing a blogging platform, also known as a content management system (CMS). This is the software used to manage your blog’s design and content. You’ll log into your CMS, usually by visiting a special URL like yoursite.com/admin, to add and edit content.
While you can technically create a fully functional blog using nothing more than Notepad or Microsoft Word, this is a painstakingly monotonous process. Opting to use a blog-friendly CMS will make the process much easier, allowing you to focus your efforts on growing and expanding your blog rather than worrying about the technical side of things.
What About WordPress?
Powering an estimated 22% of the world’s top 10 million websites (based on traffic), WordPress is the most popular and widely used CMS. It’s fast, search engine-friendly, easy to use, fully customizable, and free. With that said, there are two different version of WordPress: the hosted version, found at WordPress.com, and the self-hosted version, found at WordPress.org.
The hosted version of WordPress is easier and more beginner-friendly, as it doesn’t require a domain name or web hosting service. The downside to using it, however, is its limited features and utility. If you are serious about creating a successful blog (which you should be), stick with the self-hosted version at WordPress.org. You’ll be required to download the files and upload them to the server of your web host, but the added work is a small price to pay for the unlimited freedom it offers.
If you are against using WordPress as your blogging platform, here are some alternatives:
- Blogger (formerly known as BlogSpot)
Choosing a Niche
Blindly launching a blog without first defining its niche is a recipe for disaster. Far too many people launch blogs with a “general” niche, such as electronics or sports, only for it to sink into the abyss with little-to-no traffic. Don’t get me wrong, there are successful generalized blogs out there, like HuffingtonPost for instance, but it’s far easier to attract a following by narrowing your blog’s niche down to a more focused topic. Instead of blogging about electronics, perhaps you could blog about next-generation smartphones or wearable electronics.
Your blog’s niche goes hand in hand with your ultimately goal/objective. Ask yourself: why am I starting a blog? If you are starting a blog for the sole purpose of advertising a particular product or service, then your niche should be centered around the product or service.
When choosing a niche, aim for high-traffic, low-competition target keywords. There are dozens of keyword research tools available, but Google’s Keyword Planner tool remains one of the most effective (it’s free, by the way). After logging into your Adwords account, click on the Tools tab > Keyword Planner. Next, click Search for new keyword and ad group ideas, and enter a general keyword associated with your desired niche. It will then display a list of ad group and keyword ideas, along with their average monthly searches, competition, suggestion bid price, and ad impression share.
Domain and Web Hosting
If you choose the self-hosted version of WordPress, or any other self-hosted CMS, you’ll need to register a domain name and purchase a web hosting service. Your domain name is the “brand” of your blog so to speak, so choose it carefully.
Here are some tips on choosing a domain name for your blog:
- Stick with a dot com. While Google says domain extension is not a factor used in its search ranking algorithm, several studies have proven otherwise.
- Unless its relevant to your niche, avoid the use of numbers in your domain name.
- Shorter domain names typically outperform longer ones.
- Choose a domain name that reflects the niche of your blog.
- Most importantly, choose a unique, brandable domain name.
Regarding a web host, HostGator is a popular choice for small blogs and websites. They offer fast, reliable web hosting services with excellent customer support. And trust me, good customer support goes a long ways in the web hosting industry. When your site goes down, you want to be able to reach a technician to identify and address the problem.
Once you have a CMS, web host, domain name, and niche, you can begin blogging! Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for our next post in which we reveal more blogging tips!