The Low Down Dirty Truths About Starting a Blog
I am exhausted with all the how to start a blog posts. I even seriously contemplated writing a “starting a blog” post. Until one day I talked to my husband about it. He explained to me that my perspective comes from a unique place.
For two years I studied, researched, learned everything I could about blogging and the industry itself. I researched Niche sites, personal blogs, blogging for money, selling courses. You name it I have at least a little bit of knowledge in it. However, many bloggers are just regurgitating the same BS they were sold.
It’s really nothing against the other bloggers, they probably just don’t know any better. It doesn’t stop the fact that you are reading the same thing over and over. I’m stopping that trend today. This is the last How To Start a Blog post you need.
Was the last post you read along these lines?
- Step 1: Pick a URL and use this domain site I get a referral for
- Step 2: Use this hosting site I get a referral for
- Step 3: Sign up for WordPress or Squarespace
- Step 4: Pick a theme
- Step 5: Post Content
- Step 6: …
- Step 7: Profit!
Here is the problem with every single one of these posts. It doesn’t tell you the full story. Blogging, setting up a blog, building an email list, selling anything, is difficult as hell!
It isn’t this easy. It isn’t 7 steps to making money and anyone who tells you this is doing nothing more than trying to get eyes on their website. There is so much more to each of these steps that nobody tells you. Until now.
Step 1: Pick a Domain name.
NameCheap is where I registered my domain. Yes that is an affiliate link and I do make a commission if you register your domain name through Name Cheap.
Prices vary for what type of domain you are getting. However, Name Cheap is inexpensive and their setup is easy to use. My husband insists on separating domain name and hosting because if you end up in a dispute with your web hosting your domain can’t be held hostage. It’s just general good practice.
As far as picking a domain, seriously this could take weeks. It took weeks to figure out the domain name for this site and it was one sleepless night on a whim that Rob mentioned it. I got lucky because it was perfect for how I wanted my site branded.
You will have your heart set on something and it will be taken. You will love an idea and someone will poke holes in it till you hate it. The struggle of picking a domain name is real.
Pick something that makes sense for you. Your name should compliment your brand. It should be easy to remember. Shorter names are better and easier to remember though I’m sure there is an argument to be made for bossassbitchsuperherowonderwoman.com.
Step 2: Pick Hosting
Affiliate link coming at you again but read through this because it has an awesome offer attached. I went with Dreamhost for my hosting. My husband has been using them for 10 years, they’ve been around since 1996, they pretty much wrote the web host game. Not to mention they have very minimal downtime on their sites, plus if you experience downtime and contact them they will credit your account for the downtime.
I’m only getting started on Web hosting so bear with me. PC Magazine which has been around since before the web was even born recommends Dreamhost as the best overall web hosting for business.
You’re probably asking yourself why every other blogger is recommending Bluehost. Well, one blogger or a few bloggers recommended them and it spread like wild fire. Most bloggers recommend Bluehost because that’s who they were recommended. Plus they have a pretty kickass affiliate program. However, when it comes to reliability and everything else that comes with building a blog into a business you can’t beat Dreamhost.
As I mentioned earlier my Dreamhost link is an affiliate link. Here’s what it is. Using my link you get $50 off signing up for at least one year of shared hosting. So instead of me making $97 for every person who uses my link to purchase web hosting, I’m only making $47 per each referral. I am giving you $50 worth of savings and taking a lesser amount in commission.
“Why would you do that Crystal?”
Honestly, there are enough tasks to handle in blogging. Battling down times and crappy hosting shouldn’t be one of those tasks.
Step 3: Install WordPress
I personally use WordPress for the ease of everything. It’s the blogging platform I know best. However, it is not the only one out there. There are so many different blogging platforms out there. Joomla, Squarespace, Weebly, or Wix to name a few. Some blogging platforms charge while others are free. Which is part of the draw for WordPress.org.
The downfall to using WordPress is that about 20% of the web is built on WordPress, which means it’s a target for outside attacks. To prevent this from happening there are a few things you can do.
Make sure you keep your themes, plugins, and wordpress updated with the latest updates. You’ll also want to create back ups of your site frequently.
In the near future my husband, the IT guru, will be writing a few guest posts on disaster recovery, best practices, along with a few other posts. Make sure you subscribe to get notified on everything.
Step 4: Pick a Theme
Sure just grab any theme and use that. When I see bloggers write about this step it irritates the crap out of me. They don’t tell you what to look for in a theme. They don’t tell you about responsiveness. Plus they give little to no tips on how to customize the theme. Picking a theme honestly is the most time consuming step and a lot goes into it.
There is so much to consider when picking a theme I could create an entire post and even a series of posts about it. I’m going to give you the basics of what you need to look for in a theme below.
Matches your brand
Does the theme you are looking at match your brand? If you were not the creator of this blog, would you see the design and feel as though it matches or suits the brand of the website well?
When going through themes be sure to try to match as closely as you can to the layout you envision. The least amount of work you need to put into the theme the better. Changing colors or fonts is not difficult but adding a jumbotron or large banner to your site can be a little more time consuming. With the right theme it’ll be done for you.
People like to throw around terms without really understanding what it means. I’ll be flat out honest with you. Responsive Web Design is not my strong suit. In fact I still struggle with this concept.
Basically responsiveness in web design has to do with the way a website behaves. A site should work well no matter the screen size, browser, or even orientation that it’s being viewed on.
Your website should work well not only on a 24 inch flat screen monitor but also a 5 inch phone or tablet. It should work in Chrome and in Firefox. If the theme you pick works great on Chrome but doesn’t on Firefox you will lose possible readers. If the theme you pick works great on your desktop or laptop but looks horrendous or is unreadable on your smartphone, then it’s not a responsive theme.
Easy to Customize
The last thing you want to do is take a theme and use a theme and not customize that theme. You will want to add logos, pictures, or change the color scheme or fonts used. So when you pick a theme make sure it’s easy for you to understand and change.
If you are having difficulty changing a certain aspect of your theme, do a google search for an answer. Each theme is different so be sure you know the name of your theme.
Play with the Themes
Before you pick a theme, pick out 4 or 5 you really like that meet the qualifications of what you are looking for in a theme. From there you will play around with them. Add pictures, change wording and fonts, really get a feel for the themes. This will help you to narrow it down to the theme of your choice.
Content Nope! Now it’s time to customize your theme.
This is the part where you will go through and spend weeks on end customizing your theme. If a blogger is telling you how you can build a blog in a day, a weekend, a week. RUN! Unlike some bloggers you probably have a job, children, a business, a family, and obligations that will prevent you from doing this. Unless you are a professional web designer and developer building a site in a weekend is the biggest lie a blogger can tell a new blogger.
Not to mention if you are only spending a weekend to build your website you are doing it wrong! This is your blog, your brand, your business. You will spend hours on this website teaching, selling, spreading the word, and whatever else your blog is about. The bloggers that are trying to sell you on blogging as a get rich quick tactic are terrifying and quite frankly shouldn’t have a blog.
You will spend the next 2-6 weeks customizing your blog, making sure everything appears where it needs to appear. Making sure it loads quickly, the pictures are right, the positioning is good, that no matter what device you are on your blog will be displayed in the best way possible. You will make sure your blog is enticing, informative, gets right down to the point, and has that sparkle you want it to have.
Do you want people to come to your blog and spend hours on it, or do you want them to click away as soon as they see it? Spend the time working on it. Make it right!
Step 6: Content & Email List Building
There is a reason why these two are together. Before launching your blog you will want to have content ready to go. What good is content if when you launch no one sees it. So start building your list.
Reach out to your entire facebook friends list and see who would be interested in your blog. Message each person personally. What’s the worst that happens. Someone you barely spoke to in high school says No? BooHoo. Next.
You could easily get your first 100 subscribers from doing that tactic alone. Then you can start working on getting your first 1,000 subscribers by posting on social media. Create a landing page that gets people to sign up for your list before you start posting. Share some of your posts with that list. Create a free small email course, or send out an ebook.
Even if you only get a small group of subscribers, you have gotten your name out there. Someone who may not be interested in what you are doing may know someone who would be and spread the word. You may not have 100 followers in one day, one week, or 5 months. You will work at it though.
Step 7: Launch
Pick a date. Any date. Just pick a date. On that date you will launch. I don’t care if you have zero subscribers, I don’t care if you only have 5 posts. On that day you will launch your site and you will officially open your doors for business.
Step 8: No, you will not profit…right away.
It may take months or even years before you see a profit from your business. I personally have not seen profit, yet. I’m a new blogger, and I hope one day to update this post and say, “Hell yea, I’m living the life I want.”
In order to profit on your blog you need to be consistent in building your list, posting regularly, and sharing to your social media channels. You need to have strategies in place to build your business as a blogger. You need to know how you are going to monetize your blog and what steps you need to take to do so. Check back soon for some of my key strategies in building a business as a blogger.
For more information on starting a blog here are some things you will need to know before launching:
For posts on marketing your blog check out:
- Which Social Network Should you Focus On?
- Actionable Tips to Up your Social Media Game
- Blog Marketing Plan: More than just Pinterest
Other helpful posts:
I believe the key to building a blog and a business that makes money is simply to continue working at it. Dedicate yourself to learning new things about blogging, take courses, and keep posting.
Follow me on Pinterest and pin this post to return to it throughout your blog building time. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.