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While the New Year often brings new resolutions, every day brings a new opportunity. How about starting toward your dream of traveling more, spending more time with the kids, or finally telling your manager where he can file those TPS reports? This post may seem long, but it’s not at all complicated. I just wanted to be thorough and share my expertise before helping you jump in.
Here’s what we will be covering in this post;
- Why start a blog?
- Determine Your Niche
- Are You Blog Material?
- Get a Domain Name
- Picking the Right Platform
- Picking the Right Host
- Walk-Through Sign-Up Process
- My Favorite WordPress Plugins
The best part about starting a blog is you really need zero tech savvy. Following this guide, we’ll be up and running in 15 minutes flat! Why should you take my advice? Though you need little technical knowledge, I have been in the computer business for over 20 years and am a full-time web-technologies developer.
Why Start a Blog?
Blogging is Fun – Since blogs were invented, many people have just used them as an outlet to share their feelings, experiences, recipes, and everything else. Everyone has a voice, and it feels darn nice to have that voice heard. There have been several services which have come along, like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, but those aren’t places where you can express yourself without limitation.
To Help Others – Once you get up and running, others may seek you out as an authority in your field. Not only will the appreciation motivate you, but also may give you the desire to produce better content.
Blogging is Profitable – Most people don’t know how profitable, but there are many bloggers which make over one million US dollars a year. For the moment, I don’t want to tell you who, but these people are just like you. They decided they wanted to travel the world, share their expertise on DIY projects, or just being a better mom. With blogging and a little hard work, you can turn your passion into your profit! (I will share the list at the end of the article, but hold tight for now)
Fame – If you want to light up the sky like a flame, you might have to become your own talent agent. Actually, with blogging, you become your own producer, press agent, and anything else you like.
Combo Moves – As you will discover in the monetization section, you don’t have to do just one thing. You can combine strategies and get the best of all worlds. It’s like having a blog where your audience can watch you make cake, and then they can watch you eat it, too.
Whatever your reason, you are now the master of your destiny – pilot of your course.
Look at this, 5 minutes of reading and we’re already getting started! You are best student, ever!
Determine Your Niche
It’s OK if you want to talk about being a Baptist vegetarian, freaky fashionista, or whatever you like – just follow a consistent subject matter – even if that subject matter is being generally awesome. You are probably going to want to develop a following; a group of people whom are pickin’ up what you’re puttin’ down – like “mom’s who like fly fishing”. Do not be too broad! If your niche is “women”, you will then have to compete with every other website except GQ.com – actually, maybe them too.
Sometimes, if your blog is about a lifestyle, like being a retired firefighter, people may follow your advice on many things, but to start with, you should focus on a general subject.
Are You Blog Material?
Before you waste your money you should ask yourself two questions: Can I regularly produce content? and, if you plan on monetizing your blog, Who will want to read it? If your answers are not “No.” and “maybe my cat”, read on.
Get a Domain Name
This is the hardest part! Unlike naming your child Dylan, your site’s domain name must be totally unique. It should be a name which explains what your blog is about such as
rockoutinfresno.com. Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a generic
.com domain name like
rocking.com, it may well be unlikely you’ll find one cheap. There have been many alternate domains released like
.to, but it’s usually better to stick to a
.com for commercial appeal.
To aid you in your quest for the perfect domain name, I’ve created this handy widget. Just enter the keyword you want to base your blog on, like
sewing and it will pair it with popular words to form great domain names such as
Picking the Right Platform
There are several platforms, or software programs which you use. I am only going to mention one – WordPress. The reasons that is I am only mentioning one are simple; WordPress is the content management system (CMS) of 69% of all websites on the planet and is 10x more popular than the next competitor. Did I also mention it’s free and has thousands of developers? It’s easy and it works.
Picking the Best Host
Many of the well-known blogging platforms you may have heard of, such as Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly. Much like attempting to publish your information on Facebook, they may restrict your content and keep the advertising profit for themselves.
I am an avid fan of self-hosting your blog because you are in total control. Build it, design it, monetize it, sell it – whatever you like, whenever you like. No longer do you have to sign in as firstname.lastname@example.org – you are the owner and boss.
For the instructions in this guide, we’re going to use a BlueHost account. If you’ve already signed up with the domain name picker above, then great! Otherwise, you can signup here.
I recommend BlueHost for several reasons;
- They have been in business for 15 years.
- Unmetered bandwidth – they won’t start charging you more as your blog gets more popular.
- They have a money-back guarantee (for hosting, not domain names).
- 24/7 customer support.
- Based in Utah, US.
Now, with that said, they are also inexpensive. I put this last because you should never let this be the deciding factor – you probably don’t drink generic coffee or own a Yugo*. (* Yugo – perhaps the cheapest (and worst) car ever to be pushed off of an assembly line.)
- Hosting plans starting at $3.95 per month.
Creating your hosting account.
Head over to BlueHost.com and click the
Get Started Now button. You can choose any hosting plan, but the basic plan will probably fit your needs indefinitely.
If you already have a domain name, enter it into the next form. Unless you have a unique name, I suggest using the name finder widget above, as there are millions of names already taken and finding one could require a lot of rejection.
Fill out your billing info and continue through the signup process. In order to get the lowest price, you will have to sign up for a multi-year plan. They include a 30-day hosting money-back guarantee, or you can sign up for a lesser period and renew later for the cheaper rate.
Do not worry about the package extras, as you can add them on later if you’re sure you need them.
Once you’re done signing up, you’re ready for the fun part – picking your page! You can literally pick any design to get you started and not have to worry about it. Changing your theme later is literally a three-step process (Appearance -> Themes).
On the next screen you will be presented with set-up wizards to help you design your site, or you could click the “I don’t need help” link and you will get the standard WordPress interface. It’s best to use the setup wizard if you are not familiar with WordPress, as it will help cover the basic settings such as your blog name and whether you’ll sell products through your blog/store.
Congratulations! You are a bona fide website owner. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or contact me directly.
My Favorite WordPress Plugins
Here is a list of my favorite WordPress plugins. All of them are free or have a usable free version.
- Imsanity – Resizes all uploaded images to a sane size (so you will not be pushing huge and slow pictures from your site).
- Atomic Blocks – Great for adding author bio blocks, call-to-action buttons, social share buttons and a multitude of other great blocks.
- Hustle – create pop-ups and sign-up forms for your site as well as mailing lists.
- SlimStat Analytics – Analytics for your website without Google Analytics.
- WP Recipe Maker – if you’ll be posting recipes to your site, best to keep them tidy.
Some Very Profitable Websites
As promised, here is list of the top-producing blogger-type websites around today. The list is by no means complete, as bloggers such as PinchOfYum.com – a food and food photography site, and GoatsOnTheRoad.com do quite well without making millions.
|Rank||Website||Owner||Monthly Earnings||Main Income|
|1||The Huffington Post||Arianna Huffington||$2,330,000||Pay Per Click|
|2||Techcrunch||Michael Arrington||$800,000||Advertising Banners|
|3||Mashable||Pete Cashmore||$600,000||Advertising Banners|
|4||Perez Hilton||Mario Lavandeira||$450,000||Advertising Banners|
|5||Noupe||The Blonde Salad||$200,000||Private Advertising|
|6||Smashing Magazine||Vitaly Friedman||$190,000||Advertising Banners|
|7||SmartPassiveIncome||Pat Flynn||$153,000||Affiliate Commissions|
|8||Timothy Sykes||Timothy Sykes||$150,000||Affiliate Sales|
|9||Tuts Plus||Collis Ta'eed||$120,000||Membership Area|
|10||Life Hacker||Gina Trapani||$110,000||Advertising Banners|
|11||Gothamist||Jake Dobkin||$110,000||Pay Per Click|
|12||Tuts Plus||Collis Taeed||$110,000||Membership Area|
|13||Venture Beat||Matt Marshall||$100,000||Pay Per Click|
|14||Slash Gear||Ewdison Then||$80,000||Pay Per Click|
|15||Car Advice||Alborz Fallah||$70,000||Advertising Banners|
|16||Life Hacker||Nick Denton||$60,000||Advertising Banners|
|17||Dooce||Heather B. Armstrong||$50,000||Pay Per Click|
|18||Steve Pavlina||Steve Pavlina||$45,000||Pay Per Click|
|19||Talking Point Memo||Joshua Micah Marshall||$45,000||Advertising Banners|
There you have it, instructions for getting started on your way to fame/fortune/adventure. Please share if this article was a help to you!
Former owner of an I.T. consultancy business in Southampton, NY, Carl gave up the hustle-bustle of I.T. to live his dream of becoming a full-time application developer. When not busy blogging or programming, you might find Carl out taking a ride on his motorcycle or hiking off in some woodland trails.