Welcome to my step-by-step guide to creating a blog from scratch.
Building a website for the first time can be intimidating. Fortunately, I’m going to show you how to do it without requiring any prior experience or knowledge on your part.
This guide is designed to take you through the entire process from finding the right idea to actually setting up your domain and hosting.
Here’s an outline of what you will gain from this guide:
- You will have selected a subject(s) to write about
- You will have decided on a domain name
- You will know where to get web hosting and how to set it up
- You will have the essential plugins that your site needs from day one
If you’re already familiar with some of these topics, feel free to skip ahead. Otherwise, for the complete novice I recommend you take your time and go through this guide in order.
Before learning how to create a blog, you might be interested in reading:
Now that you’ve got some background information and know what to expect from this guide, let’s begin.
Choosing an Idea That Sells
You can’t have a blog unless you have something to write about.
Deciding what to write about is easier than you think, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
Selecting the right subject matter is going to play a key role in your level of success online.
I believe there are two broad groups of people starting a blog.
The first category is all of the existing businesses looking to grow their brand.
The second category is all of the individual bloggers and people starting a blogging-based business.
I’ll discuss both.
Here’s how you’re going to successfully decide on a topic:
- Identify potential topics
- Select a broad category
- Create your niche
Selecting a Broad Category for Existing Businesses
If you’re a business, you already know what you’re going to be writing about. Or maybe you don’t.
Picking a category is easy for most businesses.
For example, a company selling protein powders would likely blog about health and fitness. A camera store (physical or online-based) would likely blog about photography.
But my business isn’t something people are interested in reading about…
You’d be surprised.
People might not want to read about your exact business, but that doesn’t mean you can’t provide more value to your customers through a blog.
For example, I’ve worked with taxi services in the past that have a blog on their site with all of these “5 Reasons Why X Cab Company is the Best in Town” type of posts. Come on, who the hell wants to read that?
But if they had a blog that highlighted all of the best spots in town like restaurants, bars, clubs, sporting events, etc (you know, the places people take cabs to and from) then they would be providing something valuable to their customers – a free concierge service. If they did it right, they could be the go-to blog for what’s happening in that city.
Just imagine the exposure that would get their business! Way more than promotional blog posts stuffed with keywords for SEO. (Keyword stuffing is a terrible strategy, by the way)
You don’t need an interesting business to have a valuable blog. You just need to find a way to connect the two.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself to help you decide:
- What are the similar interests of my customers?
- What’s a common problem for the majority of my clients?
- How can I provide value to my customers in a way that complements my business?
There are plenty of ways to find these answers and you can pick and choose what works for you. Some businesses have already collected data on their customers that they can use. Or maybe you talk with customers on a regular basis – that’s a great way to learn the language of your target market. At the very least, you can always survey your customers.
You can’t move forward until you’ve decided on a broad topic or category to blog about, so get after it!
Once you’ve identified your broad category, the remainder of the process is similar to casual bloggers and internet startups.
Selecting a Broad Category for New Bloggers and Online Businesses
Since you’re not tied to a business, you have a lot more potential ideas to play with.
With seemingly endless possibilities, it can actually be more difficult to decide which route to take. Which is why I have entire process laid out for you that will help you narrow it down.
First you want to start by brainstorming ideas. For this you’ll want to get a pen and paper. (or create a document you can save digitally)
Most people will say “yeah, yeah.. I don’t actually need to do that” and keep reading. And most people will fail. Fortunately, you aren’t most people.
Okay now that you’ve got your pen and paper handy you’re going to create three lists. For each list you want to write down 10-20 things, more is better. Do not censor yourself! Even if you don’t want to pursue it, you think it’s stupid, or it’s inappropriate – write it down.
- Things you are knowledgeable on. (Examples: fitness, relationships, cars, etc.)
- Actual skills you are good at. (Examples: networking, playing guitar, learning foreign languages, etc.)
- Problems you’ve solved for yourself or others. (Examples: overcoming depression, eliminating credit card debt, losing 50 lbs, etc.)
Now you want to create a fourth list. On this list you will add all of the ideas from the first three lists that meet the following criteria:
- You can see yourself writing about this subject for years on end, without running out of things to say.
- You have real world experience with this topic and the skills to prove it.
- People are willing to pay their hard-earned money for information/help with this topic.
The ideas that meet all of those criteria will be your core content. That will be the driving force of your blog.
Take a look at the Venn diagram below that I created to illustrate this.
Notice that you will have secondary topics that you can throw in the mix to spice things up.
As far as hobbies go, it’s really best to keep those separate. Trying to find a way to make money on a hobby that people simply don’t want to pay for is detrimental. It will only annoy people and it will likely ruin the pleasure you get from that hobby over time.
Now take a look at the core content. What’s a broad category that most of those items fall under? The most common broad categories for blogging are: making money, self-help, fitness, relationships, celebrity/sports gossip, and hobbies. (The hobbies that people pay for, like golf and traveling.)
There ya go, you’ve got your broad category and the information needed to personalize it.
Authority vs Niche – Which blog should I start?
The answer to this is simple.
Always be the authority.
But so-and-so said “go niche or go broke”…
Everyone says that because everyone else says that. But not everyone is making money online now are they? So you shouldn’t listen to everyone.
Having a niche is absolutely crucial.
But niche sites are a waste of time.
The reason why most internet marketers tell you to create niche sites is because there is a lot of money to be made by teaching people how to create niche sites.
Niche sites attract the laziest people, because they are easy to create. In fact, you can just pay someone in the Philippines to do the whole thing for you for less than minimum wage.
If it’s so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?
That’s one of the problems – they are. Niche sites are a dime a dozen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen entire niche sites dedicated to a topic I’ve written an article about AND my article still outranks them on Google. My one article can beat their entire site because I’m an authority and Google knows the difference.
There is an exception to this, but it’s more of an advanced strategy that I’ll talk about in a different article. In a nutshell, niche sites work when they are connected to an authority site. Niche sites on their own are garbage.
Niche sites are like those guys who fix little cracks and chips in your windshield that you see driving around with their business name and phone number plastered all over their car. Sure, if you happen to have a small crack in your windshield and you happen to see them you might take them up on their service. But that will likely be the last time you ever see them again.
Authority sites are like car dealerships. You take your car there for maintenance and for every single problem your car has. Over time you develop a relationship with them and you do a lot of business with them.
I’ve seen plenty of small dealerships grow over the years. I’ve yet to see any of those fix-a-chip guys make it very long.
Personalize Your Category aka Create Your Niche
Even as an authority, you need a niche or a unique selling proposition.
In other words – why you?
What makes you different?
You already have the answer(s) to that.
The combination of your core content and secondary content forms your niche.
Your niche is completely personalized to you.
You are the perfect niche because:
- It’s authentic
- You will be the authority
- No one else can successfully copy you
Maybe you’re entering the relationship category and your core content is centered around communication and psychology. That’s helpful, but lots of people write about that. What makes you stand out?
Let’s say two of your secondary content ideas are cooking and fitness. Seemingly unrelated to your broad category, but not really. They are related through YOU. The more personalized you can make your approach, the more people will connect with you.
Do you think you are the only person in the world who shares those interests?
People in relationships cook food, right? Some of them workout. And some of them would definitely like to learn more about each or both.
What results is you going from being just another relationship expert to being that badass relationship expert who solves couples’ problems, helps them lose weight, and shows them how to cook delicious meals for date night.
If you’re actually solving a problem, your readers wouldn’t stick around. If you actually solved their relationship problems, they wouldn’t need to read your stuff anymore. Theoretically.
That’s why you want to build a relationship with your readers and you want to help them in as many ways as you can. This keeps them coming back for more, because now they’re more interested in YOU as person and in seeing what else you have up your sleeve.
But if I personalize too much, some people won’t like me as much..
Yeah, that’s the point.
Wouldn’t you rather be surrounded by like-minded people?
That’s what you do when you personalize. You may not see eye-to-eye on everything with all of your readers, but the odds are in your favor that you will have more than one thing in common with most of them.
You can play it safe and try to appeal to everyone. But they won’t genuinely like you. They’ll like the presentation of yourself that you show them.
Life is too short for people pleasing and forcing yourself to be something you’re not.
Some people will love you – your core audience and loyal customers.
Some people will like you – your casual readers and occasional customers.
Some people will hate you – forget they even exist.
If you have gotten this far you are already in a better position to succeed than 90% of bloggers out there.
You might not fully understand that now, but you’ll thank me later.
Most bloggers burnout within the first three months, because they picked the wrong niche. (Been there before)
You won’t though, because you are your niche.
Your Domain Name
This is an area that a lot of people get stuck on.
How do you select the perfect domain name?
Well, first of all, it doesn’t have to be perfect – but it does need to meet some criteria.
Meet the following standards and you’ll have a domain name that commands respect and is worthy of a revisit.
No Free Domain Names
I know it might be tempting to use one of the free blogging options, such as yourname.wordpress.com, but don’t do it.
Using a free domain screams amateur and shows that not only do you not know what you’re doing, but you don’t care to figure it out either.
Fortunately, the paid services are very affordable, as you’ll see below when we get to that.
Dot Coms Show Authority
Don’t use a .net or .org just because the name you want isn’t available for .com.
People will always know that you aren’t the original if you didn’t get the .com. (You can actually buy it from the owner if they are willing to sell it)
Not having the .com domain will be a pain in the ass. People always assume that your domain ends in .com and will be confused when they can’t find you.
That doesn’t mean you can’t buy up the .net, .org, etc. for your domain. Owning the others allows you to keep other people from piggy backing on your brand. You can simply set them to redirect to your main site or you can use them as satellite sites to your primary domain.
Don’t Use Symbols or Numbers
Notice how AT&T removes the “&” in their domain name. They used to include that symbol in there and it was annoying to type in the browser.
People prefer simplicity.
The most common mistake I see people make is including a dash in their domain name. It’s okay to include a dash in the actual name, but never put it in the domain.
It’s best to avoid numbers altogether.
Sometimes numbers are written out in words and sometimes they are numerical. Either way, it creates more opportunity for confusion.
Aesthetics and Memory Recall
Your domain name should be pleasing to the eye and easy to remember.
Avoid having back-to-back matching letters, especially vowels, and avoid names that could be read differently.
homeelevators.com – All of those e’s bunched up isn’t aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
whorepresents.com – Who Represents is easily read as “whore presents”.
A good domain is easy to read, easy to remember, and easy to type. Remember that.
Keywords vs Name
Some websites use keywords, such as bodybuilding.com. Others create their own name, such as gizmodo.com.
I’ve heard arguments for each way, but personally I think this comes down to preference.
I think that if you can get a keyword, especially if it’s just one word (cars.com, health.com, etc) than your site appears very authoritative. The problem is that most of those are taken.
Using keywords in your domain can give you a slight edge with SEO, but the law of diminishing returns applies here.
As long as you become an authority, your domain name will always rank highly for your niche. Relying on keywords in the name becomes unnecessary.
What matters most is that the name properly represents what your site has to offer.
You may have noticed that I use both.
My personal development blog (Health Mind Power) uses three keywords that summarize the content. And this site uses my name, so people can find me and my services.
For my personal development blog, I didn’t select that name because I thought it would help me target those keywords. I picked them because they represented the content of the website. In general, targeting keywords in your domain name is a waste of time and looks cheesy. Only do it for branding, not for keyword targeting.
Avoid Copyright Infringement
Always do Google searches for the domain names you’re considering to see how those phrases are already being used.
You don’t want to work really hard building up an audience and then lose the domain name in a lawsuit.
Doing these searches will also help you get ideas.
Other than this website, I’ve never once went with my first choice for domain names or business names.
Purchasing Domain and Web Hosting
Now that you’ve got your profitable idea and domain name selected, it’s time to actually buy your domain and hosting.
This is where a lot of people get overwhelmed.
At this point, there are thousands of companies to choose from. How does anyone know where to start?
Well, just know this – the vast majority of hosting companies are very similar and mediocre.
It might not seem like a big deal now, but choosing the right hosting company can save countless headaches down the road.
I’ve personally used several companies and there’s only one that I feel confident recommending to people who are just starting out.
But first, let’s talk about your domain.
Purchasing your domain
If you found this resource after you had already created a website, you might have come to realize from the section above that your original idea isn’t as good as you thought.
I’ve been there. It’s really common, actually.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit than you tend to jump the gun on projects when you get excited.
If you already have hosting and just need a domain, the best place to go is Name Cheap.
They provide top-notch customer service and they are cheap, as the name implies.
Plus, as a bonus, they provide a free year of WHOIS privacy protection. Most companies charge around $10 for that.
I recommend you always add privacy protection to any domain you buy, whether you have to pay the extra $10 or not. If you don’t, all of your personal contact information will be on public display for anyone who looks in the WHOIS directory for your website.
When you have the privacy protection service, the contact information for you domain/hosting company will be listed instead.
Purchasing a hosting plan
Whether this is your first time creating a website, or you’re starting a new project, it’s always more convenient to get your domain and hosting from the same place.
There are plenty of good hosts out there, but there’s one in particular that I feel provides the most value to those who are starting out.
That company is Web Hosting Hub.
Starting at $4.99 a month, the price is hard to beat. On top of that, they provide great customer service and aren’t as overpopulated as Bluehost and other big web hosting companies.
I have used Bluehost for a couple of different websites in the past and my sites were always the slowest with their hosting. Plus, they had more down time than any other host I’ve used. Customer service was good though, to be fair.
I would suggest this route to 95% of people who are just starting out.
The truth is, you don’t need very much power in terms of hosting in the beginning. You need something reliable that keeps your costs down.
However, there is an exception for the other 5% of people.
This category includes:
- Established online businesses or personal brands that are already making money
- Those that have the resources and knowledge for immediate growth that requires more power
- People looking for a long-term solution that prevents them from having to migrate after a year or two
If any of those apply to you and you intend to use WordPress as your CMS (content management system) than you probably want to start with a high-end solution from the beginning.
In this case, I suggest going with WP Engine.
I’ve had a number of clients who use this hosting company and swear by them as being the best hosting solution they’ve ever used.
They are much more expensive out of the gate, compared to shared hosting.
But once you start moving up to VPS hosting, they are actually more cost-effective.
Essential WordPress Plugins to Use From Day One
What are WordPress plugins?
Plugins are software that you install in WordPress that expand functionality to your site and allow you to customize various elements of your layout.
This might sound complicated at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
With millions of plugins available, it can overwhelming in the beginning to decide what you actually need and what you can pass on. That’s why I’ve put together this short list of plugins that will provide the most value from the start.
This is the most widely used plugin for preventing spam. Most plugins are free, but this one is $5 a month, which is a steal for the anti-spam service they provide. It won’t take long for your site to get on the radar of the spam bots and before you know it your comment section will be flooded with comments linking to shady online pharmacies and other garbage. Save yourself the hassle and get this bad boy installed right away.
Broken Link Checker
This free plugin will scan your website and let you know when links are broken. It lists out the broken links and their locations, allowing you to update them quickly and easily.
Clean Archives Reloaded
Every blog needs an archives page. You want to make it easy for readers to find your older content. This is the plugin I use on all of my sites. It’s easy to setup and it works. Can’t ask for more than that.
Contact Form 7
There are so many contact forms to choose from. Of the free contact form plugins, I’ve tested out maybe 5 or so and this is the one I like best. I use this plugin for the contact page on all my websites.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
This plugin covers all of your bases for SEO, including XML sitemaps. It will also provide a SEO analysis of your blog posts and content pages, which is great if you’re targeting keywords. You can go to Yoast’s website to learn everything you need to know about what it does and how to use it.
WP Super Cache
This is a great set it and forget it plugin. Basically, this plugin speeds up your site’s load times and helps keep your site running if you get a huge spike in traffic from that article of yours that goes viral.
We covered a lot in this resource.
Don’t worry if you feel a little overwhelmed. I suggest you work through this one section at a time.
And I can’t stress enough the importance of doing those exercises I mentioned for finding your idea that sells.
Most new bloggers end up restarting within their first few months (myself included) because they neglected to follow the criteria I mentioned.
Here’s a recap of the resources mentioned in this guide:
- Name Cheap – For domains only
- Web Hosting Hub – Affordable hosting/domains for new bloggers
- WP Engine – Premium hosting for experienced bloggers
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In the meantime, best of luck to you on starting this venture!
I’ll be around to help you with everything as you go through the process of starting an online business.
Until Next Time,