Whether you want to promote your business, design a portfolio, or are looking for the perfect creative outlet, you may be wondering how to create a blog. Fortunately, starting a blog isn’t that complicatedHere are a few suggestions of what to look for when checking out themes:
1. Find Your Niche and Decide What to Blog About
What is a niche? And why does your blog need one?A niche is more than just a topic. It’s the approach you’re going to take, the audience you want to go after, and the way you’re going to talk to them and position yourself as an expert. A niche doesn’t have to be your passion (although it’s definitely easier to stay committed to starting your blog when you’re passionate about it). But it does have to be an interest of yours. The best niches are exciting enough that you’ll be motivated to continually post about it, and accessible enough that you can build an audience. So, whether that means Medieval history, traditional Mexican cooking, starting a drop-shipping business, or knitting tips, is up to you. The reason your blog needs a niche is that it gives it focus. Your niche is how you’ll plan your content calendar, decide on design, and know where (and how) to market your blog. It’s also how your audience will find you and how you’ll make connections with other bloggers. Remember, when you write to everyone. You’re writing to no one. 2. Pick A domain When you type Google.com (or innoxafrica.com) into your browser in order to visit a site, that’s the website’s domain name. In a nutshell, a domain name is like your address. It tells people (and web browsers) where to find your site. A good example is your home address. If you’re using a free blogging service, you'll most likely get to pick your own domain name with it. However, it will almost always have the company’s name attached to it. So, if you use something like a free Wix site to make your blog, your domain name will look like this: Yoursitename.wixsite.com Ugh. Not very nice, right? If you’re trying to build a business around your blog, or want other people to take it seriously, this isn’t a great start. Instead, when you buy an affordable domain name, you get to choose exactly what you want it to be as long as it’s available. That way, it'll look like this: Yoursitename.com (learn more about domain here) Much cleaner right? Head over to Bluehost and get 65% off on both your domain name and hosting plan right here on Bluehost and you'll be able to quickly search to see if your domain name idea is available—and get smart suggestions on a second best domain name if your first choice is already taken. Now, put yourself in your reader’s shoes. You’ve laid some good groundwork, but now it’s time to get serious. Think about your future blog's general topic area and who your ideal reader is. What do they want to read? What’s going to grab their attention? What’s going to tell them they have to read your blog? Start with a list of everything you want your blog to be about. Go deep. There are no bad ideas here. Once you’ve got a massive list, start to look for connections and combinations that might work. Try to keep them simple and memorable. Some great blog name examples are:
- Art of Manliness
- Smart Passive Income
- The Huffington Post
- Learn to Code with Me
3. Find a Hosting Provider for Your BlogThe last of the technical parts of learning how to start a blog, is what’s called... finding a blog hosting service. If you’ve gone the free route, you can skip this step, although I highly recommend reading through it and making a decision at the end. Again, I don’t want this to feel overwhelming, so let’s get the basics out of the way:
What is website hosting?I touched on this a bit above, but to make your website accessible to other people on the Internet, you need a “host.” The host keeps all your website files safe, secure and makes sure that people can access your site when they click on a link or type in your URL. I use and recommend Bluehost to every blogger, because it acts as a one-stop shop for great (affordable) hosting and quick & easy registration of your domain name in one swoop. Think of hosting like being your home. When someone comes over (types in your URL), they’ll be able to see all the things you’ve been keeping inside. Yes, it comes at a cost you don't have if you're on one of the free blogging platforms, but having a proper website host is one of the most important investments in starting a successful blog. When my friend, Michelle Schroeder started her personal finance blog, Making Sense of Cents, she started by using a free blogging platform called Blogger to host her site. This choice ended up costing her more than she’d saved: “My biggest mistake was probably starting on Blogger, because you don’t own it. At one point Google deleted my blog with no notice. I finally begged them and they gave it back to me, but that was the moment I decided to move over to self-hosted WordPress.” Michelle’s gone on to grow her blog revenue well into the millions of dollars a year—something she says never would have happened if she hadn’t switched over to a paid hosting provider. In fact, her number one piece of advice for new bloggers is to start on a self-hosted WordPress site and use Bluehost as your host.
What are the best blog hosting services?There are tons of great website hosting services out there for your blog. But what you should be looking for in all of them is:
- Track record
- Keep it simple: At the end of the day, the goal of starting a blog is to share content that can be easily consumed (read, watched, experienced). And unfortunately, a lot of fancy blog themes get in the way of that. Don’t get too drawn in by crazy looking themes that compromise on legibility and usability. If a theme looks good, but doesn’t help you share your thoughts and engage with readers, it’s not a good theme.
- Responsiveness is a must: Responsiveness refers to themes that make sure your blog looks as good on a laptop, as it does on someone’s smartphone. Today, more and more people use their phones to read blogs and depending on your audience, that number could be 50% or higher (like mine is). Google also favors mobile-friendly websites and ranks them at the top of their organic search results. If you’re not totally sure whether a theme is mobile friendly or not, copy and paste the URL of the theme’s demo page into Google’s Mobile Friendly Test page. (This test will almost always show some warnings. But major red flags to watch out for are text too small or content wider than screen.)
- Does it work in different browsers? Your readers won’t just be using different devices, but different browsers. Most theme developers rigorously test their themes across browsers, but sometimes mistakes slip through. Try testing on a couple different browsers just to make sure.
- Supported plugins: If you’re using WordPress, the real power of your blog comes from plugins. These are “Add-ons” to your blog that give you extra functionality. Make sure the theme you’re choosing supports all popular plugins. If you’re unsure, ask the developer.
- SEO friendliness: SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to how well Google and other search engines can find your information when people search for it. Some themes use bulky code that makes it difficult for search engines to read. And while no one expects you to inspect a theme’s code you should see if the developer has said it is optimized for SEO.
- Support: Problems happen. And when they do, you want to be able to ask for help. Lots of free theme developers won’t offer support for their products. So that’s one thing to be aware of when making your choice.
- Ratings and reviews: Look for themes with a good track record. If the theme is sold on a third-party marketplace you should be able to see reviews no problem. For free WordPress theme, you’ll see the ratings just below the download button.