With so much information out there on how to start your blog, it’s hard to decipher how to move forward. But your first steps involve choosing a domain, determining your target audience (which helps define your niche), making some branding decisions and making a list of blog topics you will write about at the end of these steps.
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By narrowing your blog focus and then making smart decisions from the beginning, you will save time (and money) making your blog the best it can be.
Now that you have decided starting a blog is right for you, here are your first steps:
- Choosing A Niche
- Blog Topics and Blog Content
- Choosing A Domain
- Choosing A Host
- Branding And Style
- WRITE WRITE WRITE!
Choosing A Niche
This is the big one.
Without choosing a main topic (“niche”) to write about, your blog will be unfocused and, potentially, confusing.
Here are a few examples:
- Personal Finance
- Indoor Gardening
- Stay At Home Mom Productivity
- ANYTHING YOU CAN THINK OF!
The tighter you narrow your niche (and hone in on your target audience’s problems), the easier it will be for your readers to know exactly what they will get from your blog. There are so many topics out there it can be hard to choose just one.
But, when it comes to narrowing down on your main blog topic(s), remember you can choose a broad niche (land narrow your niche (known as “niching down”) to a sub-niche like college debt rather than college life, toddler crafts as opposed to raising toddlers, or native plants of Georgia instead of gardening.
A couple things to consider:
- Is the niche too broad to provide a clear understanding of what your blog is about?
- Is the niche too narrow that you won’t attract much traffic (readers)?
Google the niche (or sub-niche) you are considering and check out what other bloggers are doing and writing about (your competition!).
Profitability of Your Niche
If your goal is to make money blogging, you will also want to research exactly how you can monetize a blog about your intended topic/niche.
Look for products and/or services you can promote (affiliate marketing) and brands you could work with (sponsored work).
There are many other ways to make money blogging (which takes time!), but affiliate marketing is the first type of monetization method that works the best for beginners.
Never ever promote a brand or service you have not personally used or vetted. The last thing you want is to promote something, make money off of your readers, and break the new-found trust your reader had to purchase something you recommend.
Your Niche Content
As a blogger, you are going to be creating TONS of blog posts…for YEARS TO COME.
Without content you have no readers. Without readers you have no traffic. Without traffic you make no money.
This is NOT to say that you need insanely large numbers to make money blogging. It’s all about your monetization methods you will be targeting. Check out this blog monetization video if you need help prioritizing.
So ask yourself:
- Is the topic you are choosing something you can dedicate yourself to writing about at length for years?
- Is there even enough to write about in the niche to be able to come up with 100, 200, or even 300 (quality) articles?
Creating Topic Categories for Your Blog
We will get to determining some topics to write about next, but first let’s talk a little about how to break down your blog niche into Categories.
Categories are a way to segment your content into “buckets”.
Your Categories are sometimes referred to as Content Pillars, meaning, they are how you organize your blog posts into sections to not only help your reader find the information they need but also to show search engines (like Google) what your blog is all about.
Defining these can be quite challenging for some if your niche is very wide.
That’s why it is so important to narrow down your niche as much as possible to provide a clear purpose and focus of your blog.
Many blogs have about 3-5 Categories. Yes, you will see some that have more.
Imagine it like this: Categories, as I mentioned before, are like “buckets”. You don’t want to link too much between the Categories. Keep your buckets self-contained with content that is relevant to that Category only.
Say you are blogging about Personal Finance. Maybe you have the following Categories (remember to learn about SEO and how to use keywords within your Categories!):
- Debt Relief
To help visualize what I mean, let’s look at this as “buckets”:
But, here are some other things to think about when you have an idea of your niche:
When you first set out to develop your blog, a great place to start is to define your target audience. Your target audience is the group (or groups) of people you are aiming to reach with your blog.
You can always create “personas” for your target audience. These are taking a typical individual from your audience and writing out some information that will help you build a content or marketing strategy.
Here are some questions to ask about your individual (could be a single mom, a stay-at-home-mom, a fashion oriented mom, etc):
NOTE: These are usually written in the first person (“I”) as if the individual is answering questions to an interview you completed.
- Who Am I: Background on the life of the individual (for example: a stay-at-home-mom with two kids under 5-years-old who used to work as an Administrative Assistant for the CEO of a mid-sized corporate company).
- What I Want: What is the individual searching for? What does he/she need?
- What I Don’t Want: Is there anything that the individual doesn’t need or like?
- What I Want To Know: What problem is this individual trying to solve?
- Pain Points: Where in this individual’s life are there constraints or hardships?
- How I Find You: How will the person find your blog? Social Media? Google? Try to think about how your reader ACTUALLY searches for information.
Not only will the answers to these questions help you write great content that’s right for your audience but will also help you make decisions on social media and the look and feel of your blog.
Free From Nothing To Launch Checklist
Overwhelmed with all the tasks to complete before you launch your WordPress blog? We’ve got you covered!
Blog Topics and Blog Content
Once you have written out (or decided on) your niche and target audience, now is a great time to brainstorm all of the blog topics you can think of for your blog.
A great way to do this is:
- Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Write (or type) as many topics as you can think of before the time runs out. Don’t think! Just let the ideas flow out of your mind and onto your paper (or computer).
This is what is called “blue sky” brainstorming. Anything goes.
After you are done, THEN you go back and see which articles you think you can write about that 1) fit within your defined niche and 2) solves a problem for your target audience.
See the Types of Posts here to help you with your blog topics list!
Topics that you want to cover that are what some refer to as “opinion posts” are great for social media. This isn’t to say you write about controversial topics all the time, merely that the article is coming from your point of view and, in a way, wouldn’t be found in an encyclopedia about your topic.
Other topics that are more about information that solves a problem for your audience are sometimes referred to as “pillar posts,” and are usually more comprehensive (especially if you want them to rank in SEO).
Now, when it comes to “solving a problem” this doesn’t have to be a purchasing decision or any sort of physical dilemma. Some problems are merely feeling connected, heard or understood.
We will get more into how to effectively write these posts later – for now, a rule of thumb is to aim for 75% pillar and 25% opinion. While this won’t always be the mix for some blogs (depending on your blog niche and intention), you merely want your blog to be a great resource for your readers.
Writing Style: Your Voice
Let’s face it, there are TONS of blogs out there. Any topic you can think of has likely already been covered by many others before you even start writing.
So, how do you set yourself up for success when a topic has already been written about?
Aside from the usual SEO keyword research, what you want to try to do is be your authentic self through writing.
Your voice is what your readers want to hear. Your voice is what will help keep readers coming back for more content.
But how do you find your voice?
Here’s the secret: you already have one. Translating your physical voice to a digital world can feel daunting, especially if you struggle with writing in the first place.
There are many bloggers out there who have multiple blogs with different voices. We are all complex creatures with different sides to us. Each of us has many ways our physical voice can come through in our writing.
You chose the niche that interests you. How do you talk to your family and friends about this topic? Are you sarcastic? Are you realistic and straight forward?
Here’s what you can try: get a voice recorder (most smart phones will have one already) and just record yourself talking about one of the blog topics you came up with in the previous exercise.
If it helps, have a conversation with a friend or chat with your child’s stuffed animals. Whatever helps get the words out.
It will feel strange at first. But, just let the words flow.
By hearing yourself talk about a topic (and then type it up if you choose), you can discover ways to write like you are having a conversation with the reader.
The online audience (no matter the niche) is impatient and judgmental. They don’t mean to be! But with lightning fast internet speeds and millions of sources out there on the internet, the last thing most readers want is to feel like they are being talked AT rather than talked TO.
Choosing A Domain
After defining your niche, target audience and creating a list of blog topics, NOW you get to choose a domain. A domain is the web address for your blog (URL).
Brainstorm some ideas for what you would want your blog to be titled. Anything goes! Just write anything and everything down.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Be mindful of not infringing on an existing site or brand name (at least knowingly).
- Many discourage using your own name within the title of your blog in case you want to sell the blog (this may not be something you are looking for, but if you do succeed as a blogger you may change your mind down the road).
- Try to think of something catchy that is easy to remember for your readers.
- Be descriptive if you can what your blog will contain (for a simplistic example: “The Tribe” tells you nothing about what the site may be about but change it to “The Single Mama Tribe”).
Now, pair down your list to your top 3-4. Then check to see if any of them are available for purchase (and don’t forget to check availability on social media!!).
Feel lost trying to find a domain that is available that you like? Try NameMesh.com for ideas!
You may want to merely Google the name or place it in the URL field without spaces (like “The Single Mama Tribe” would be something like “thesinglemamatribe.com”).
Not only will Googling the potential name show you if the URL is available, but will also help you discover if you have somehow overlapped your name with a similar, popular site.
It helps to not start off with a name that could be confused for another blog!
How Much Do Domains Cost?
Domains are generally sold with an annual fee. Some will be as low as $.99 a year but some are “premium” domains (meaning they cost more because it has already been purchased and is for sale OR the domain has been flagged as potentially popular).
Always try to go for a .com URL! Although it really shouldn’t matter how your URL ends, readers generally trust sites with a .com rather than a .net or .org (which is usually seen as reserved for non-profits).
If you live in a country that can also place a .ca (Canada) or other ending to your site based on your location, still try for a .com! You may unintentionally throw off your readers by making them think the blog is location specific.
Do You Need The Domain Add-ons?
When you purchase a domain you will be offered a few things to add. The only one that I highly recommend is domain privacy (WhoIs) – this is FREE through NameCheap (where I purchase all my own domains)!
Basically, when you register a domain your information is added to a database that can be searched by anyone! So adding this privacy will hide your personal information and protect your privacy.
Check Your Domain On Social Media Before Purchasing
You will also want to check that the domain name you choose is also available on social media channels! The best case is that the name you want isn’t taken on any platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest – though the last isn’t technically a social network).
Where Can You Purchase A Domain?
You can always purchase your domain from your blog host. That’s what the majority of people do.
When you purchase from somewhere other than your host you will just need to point your domain to the correct servers at your host (where you find the server information differs by host – if you can’t find instructions contact your host!).
However, you can also purchase your domain from anywhere else. Here are some suggestions:
- NameCheap: my personal favorite. Plus, they offer FREE domain privacy!!
- GoDaddy (never do hosting through GoDaddy – see my recommendations below)
Choosing A Host
You will see endless articles about the best host to choose (namely the top two in the list below).
A blog host is merely the company that stores the digital files for your blog (all photos, articles, themes, and anything else you choose to add to your site).
Here is a list of potential blog hosts that I have personally used and recommend:
To see a full list of potential hosts that Kit Blogs recommends, see this page about blog/website hosts (with some hosts to avoid!).
Although the price may seem high up front, try to lock in the introductory cost for as long as you can! By choosing the longest hosting plan (like 3 years), you can save hundreds of dollars in the long run.
Branding And Style
For those who are visually inclined, this part is very fun. For others, this may be a very challenging step: defining the look and feel of your blog.
Initially, this is not about picking a “theme” for your blog (yet), merely defining colors, fonts, logo or anything else that will be the visual indicators of your brand.
While having a tagline for your blog isn’t required, providing an extra descriptor for your readers can help further define the purpose of your blog.
This is especially helpful for blogs whose names don’t provide a clear understanding of the topics.
Think of a tagline like a short mission statement. The simplest example – Provide x to y: “Provide life hacks to busy moms”
This article is very helpful in writing your tagline.
For a cohesive look of your blog, picking colors that complement each other is a great way to start.
There are many ways you can select your color palette:
- Google: merely search images for “color palette” and choose one that you like.
- Pinterest: search “color combinations”, “color palette” or “color pairings” to find a ton of options.
- Adobe has a free color tool that allows you to see complimentary colors with an interactive wheel. It’s pretty nifty!
It’s a good idea to try to pick colors you think your target audience will like or be drawn to.
But, for example, bright, bold colors may not be the best fit if your site is about anxiety…try calming colors to be more inviting and less of a trigger.
One thing to note is that your brand colors do not necessarily need to be the same colors you use on Pinterest (if you choose to use this social media service). Many bloggers test different colors and fonts on their pins to see what works for them.
Fonts are another way to show your blog style and feel.
Most blog themes will come with fonts you can use by default. Most bloggers merely choose a theme that has great fonts already.
Fonts and Site Speed
Now to maintain site speed, there are some fonts that are great to use.
Many don’t realize that since most people will be reading your blog on mobile phones, there are some preloaded fonts inside the phone (and this differs by the type of phone).
What this means is that if you choose and use a font that is NOT already stored within the phone, the page/post will have to load in those fonts which can hurt site speed.
The one caveat is that if you use a good caching plugin like WP Rocket (my personal favorite), you can preload the fonts to help your page or post load faster.
Number of Fonts to Use On Your Website
The most common areas to select different fonts are your Headings (H1, H2, etc) and your body copy (all the regular text throughout your site).
Some decide to have 2 main fonts (1 for the Headings and 1 for the body), but it is always easier for your reader if you choose just one font to use.
Others like to have a second or third font for embellishments (rarely used script fonts to call out specific things).
But always remember readability AND site speed when it comes to fonts!
Readability of Fonts
Your goal with your blog is to have readers actually read your content.
If your font is illegible or too small, your readers may just bounce (leave your site right away) because they can’t read your words!
Always check your fonts on desktop AND mobile (it’s always best to think “mobile first” when it comes to design).
You’ll want to set your font to at LEAST 16pt. You’ll need to check the appearance based on your font selection.
Also remember to provide some white space between your sentences so there’s plenty of room around your words for legibility. Again, this depends on your font, but try 1.5 line height and go from there.
“Safe” Fonts to Use On Your Site
Here are some commonly “web safe” fonts to choose from:
- Brush Script MT
- Lucida Bright
- Times New Roman
Where Can You Find Unique Fonts?
If you do decide to use a unique font, here are a few different sites to search for fonts (make sure to check the usage guidelines for each!!):
Another great tool to try out is FontJoy, a simple way to choose the right fonts if you want free Google fonts only. You just pick a font you like and it will suggest complimentary fonts in a visual editor!
Creating a logo for your blog can be very simple, but it all depends on your vision of what you want it to look like.
Logos are absolutely not a requirement for your blog. You can easily just use the name of your blog at the top of your site when you start out!
But if you choose to create a logo, you can choose to make the logo yourself (even if you have no design background!) or hire someone to create one for you (especially if you have something more complicated that means you will need unique art created).
If you own Photoshop or similar software, great! If not, you can use free services like Canva with built in templates to create your own logo.
If you want to hire some help, many bloggers use Fiverr where you find professional designers at reasonable rates.
Like any other form of media, make sure you retain all legal rights to your logo whatever method you use.
Free From Nothing To Launch Checklist
Overwhelmed with all the tasks to complete before you launch your WordPress blog? We’ve got you covered!
Do you want to use a certain filter on all your photos? Do you want to use your own photos or stock photos (or a combination of the two)?
Whatever you choose, try to be consistent in your imagery on your site. This doesn’t mean all of your photos need to be of people or landscapes!
All you need is to make sure the photos you use aren’t contrasting each other. While there are exceptions, you generally want to stay away from using a sepia tone filter and regular, unfiltered photos (just as an example).
To discover your style, look at other blogs you love (preferably in your niche) and see what they do that you enjoy and what you don’t.
If you are also using infographics you create (like a graph or informational image like a flow chart), try to stick to specific fonts and your brand colors (and always include your logo or blog URL on the infographic!).
WRITE WRITE WRITE!
It’s hard to visualize how your blog will look without content! By preparing at least a few articles to start, you can more easily modify your site to look the way you want.
It may seem backwards to write your articles (even in Microsoft Word or Google Docs) before you even get to your site.
But, you will be one step closer to launching your blog before you even get to the detail work of making the look and feel of your blog just right.
So go get writing!
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