Get the best tips to start a successful blog, including the a list of helpful links, affordable web hosting services, and free resources. Also, check out my first income report since starting For the Love of Crust only 6 months ago.
So, you have a great idea or are an expert in a certain field and want to start a blog? Maybe that’s not even the case. Maybe you just love to write and share creative contend with others. With the world wide web growing at an astonishing rate, it’s not a surprise that blogging has become so popular. It’s a great opportunity to develop your writing and photography skills, as well as network with like-minded individuals, and eventually make a living doing something you love. I haven’t been at this blogging thing for long (6 months to be exact), and I want to share my favorite tips and tricks to start a successful blog with you.
Don’t let the length of this post overwhelm you. There is a lot of information, and if you have been browsing Google or Pinterest you have an idea of how much information is out there. It’s a-freaking lot! So, I’m going to try and keep this pretty simple without leaving anything out.
First things first…
You are going to need a good/reliable web host and WordPress.
Let me touch on the WordPress thing first. I was initially on blogger before I registered my own domain name. I can’t even tell you why I started there, but I think it was because it was easy to set up since I already had a Google+ account. I don’t know. But looking back, I wish I would have started on WordPress. WordPress is clean, easy to use, and has a number of features that Blogger doesn’t offer, like plugins. Plus, there are a ton more resources on using WordPress than there are on Blogger. I highly suggest you use WordPress as your blogging platform.
There are a lot of differing opinions out there. The top personal and blogging web host I have found is Bluehost. It has some of the best reviews and offers a number of key features you want to be looking for when choosing a hosting service. I currently use Bluehost and don’t plan on changing until I have outgrown what they can offer, and I have had zero problems with them. My site (at least from my end) runs quick and smoothly, their customer service is excellent and reliable, and my site has only ever gone down once for a few seconds late in the evening– it was my fault for adding a new plugin that hadn’t been updated in months.
So, what should you be looking for in a web host?
- Amount of disk space or web space offered.
- An uptime of 98-99.9%. No web host can guarantee 100% uptime. If they do, they’re pulling your leg.
- Unlimited bandwidth so you can have lots of beautiful images, GIFs, videos, etc.
- Possibility of a Free Domain Registration
- 24/7 technical support
- Security features offered.
I don’t want to be the mean girl here, but you probably won’t be getting 50,000 views a month your first month or two. If you do, please come back here and shove it in my face. I’m all about success stories! On that note, you realistically only need to start with the Basic Plan, no matter what web host you choose to go with. As you grow, you can upgrade your plan to suit your site’s needs. But don’t bite off more than you can chew financially.
Bluehost has an excellent Basic Plan price, at just under $4/month. That $4 could be your door to passive income from a job you love. The also offer a free domain, have 24/7 tech support, a large amount of disk space, daily backups, free email accounts, enhanced c-panels and more.
I personally recommend Bluehost because I use it and have seen great success. When I first started this blog I didn’t know how to compress my photos (I’ll touch on this in another post), which meant large file sizes–like 10mb per image large. Somehow, my site managed to run seamlessly. Also, as I said, they have been very helpful and patient with me every time I send and email. In my experience, their response time has always been less than 24 hours, and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Ok, let’s get through this (much-easier-than-it-looks) process with a step-by-step guide.
Step One: After you have selected your plan, you will be directed to a page where you get to pick your domain name. CHOOSE CAREFULLY! You cannot change this once it’s done. If you have already purchased a domain name and are just looking for hosting, add the url of your domain to the other box.
Step Two: After you have entered your new domain (woohoo, that’s you baby) you will be taken to the following page where you will enter in all of your contact info and select your package options. I am not going to tell you they are necessary, but I would suggest at least picking up the security features– I circled all of them, oops. Search Engine Jumpstart is not necessary and I think with a little SEO, you can get by without it.
Also, note that if you choose anything less than 36 months, you will be paying a few dollars more every month. If you can afford it, I suggest picking up the 36-month deal. Check out the savings at the bottom!
Step Three: It’s time to install WordPress. Login to Bluehost here with your domain and password. You may need to check your email for a password, which can be changed later. After you are logged in, scroll down through the page, called your c-panel and find the section titled Website. Click the button that says “Install WordPress” and continue with installation, including selecting your new domain from the dropdown box and agreeing to the terms and conditions. You will recieve confirmation and your login credentials for WordPress. Save that information right now!
Step Four: It’s finally time to log in to your new website and get it going! Go to www.yoursitenamehere.com/wp-admin to log in to your new WordPress site with the credentials you were provided in the step above. Congrats! You made it, and it wasn’t too tough!
**I suggest writing down your login info for both Bluehost and WordPress somewhere you will remember it. Also, pin your WordPress dashboard login to your Favorites Bar. It makes it a lot easier in the future!
The second thing you will need to start a successful blog is a theme.
Assuming you took my advice and are going to use WordPress, you are going to need a theme. This is your blog’s “swagger”. It’s you. You want it to represent you and your brand in a way that is appealing to the eye and easy to navigate. There are a ton of free themes, and some of them are gorgeous and fairly easy to change with a little Google research. Others are not so great. Just a fair warning.
I used a couple free themes before picking up the Genesis Framework by StudioPress and getting a The Brunch Pro Genesis Theme. This has been one of the best things I have done for my blog. My blog is running smoother than ever. If you have the cash, I highly recommend picking up the Genesis Framework and theme. They are easier to modify, much more dependable, and highly responsive on mobile devices. Not to mention, they have excellent customer support and tons of tutorials on how to make your theme unique to you and your brand.
Another place to get incredible and responsive themes is CyberChimps. They offer a wide variety of stylish and responsive themes for WordPress at an affordable price.
From now until the end of the year (2016) you can get 20% off all themes and plugins. And if you plan on changing your theme or have multiple websites, you have the option to purchase their All in One Bundle, which gets you access to 35 modern, multipurpose, responsive themes. It comes with a 30-day money back guarantee and a great team for technical support!
But hey, if you don’t have the money or it’s not your top priority right now, I totally get it, and that’s why I have included a list of websites that offer appealing WordPress themes for FREE!
- Beautiful Dawn Designs (you have to subscribe, but they have some beautiful free themes)
- WP Explorer
When you login to WordPress, you also have the option of selecting from their already uploaded themes under the Appearance tab on the right-hand side. There are quite a few that have simple and modifiable designs, so don’t forget to check it out.
The Next Step is to Design a Header Image.
Don’t freak out yet. I have been through more than 10 header images and will probably get another one in the future. As bloggers, we always find ourselves comparing our blogs to other peoples’. I know, blogger envy is an ugly topic. Start with something simple. Maybe some text and a graphic. These are the two sites I have used to design my header images for FREE.
Hover over the Design button and then select Ccustom. Set the dimensions to 560×315. This is the standard blog header image size. You can always try something different, but this is the safe route. From there, design to your heart’s content. I will be doing a tutorial later at how to create Gold Lettering, like you can see in my header with Picmonkey.
First, click “Create a Design” in the right-hand column, then scroll down and find Blogging & eBooks. Select Blog Title and get to work on your header.
Now that you have a prettified blog, you are ready to start writing your first post. On your WordPress Dashboard go the right-hand column and hover over Posts. Select Add New. Here you will be able to type in your title, url/slug, add images, text, and select tags and categories. Take some time to get used to the layout and the design of WordPress. Once you’re in, you will love it!
My First-Ever Income Report
So, here we go. I wasn’t going to do one of these until I was making the big bucks, but hey, I’m pretty freaking excited about my income report for this month, after only 6 months of blogging. Let me be clear, that I just recently was accepted into Social Fabric‘s group of Influencers, meaning I can write sponsored posts for companies that I feel will fit well with my readers and blog. So, the first of those go live in the next two weeks. As of right now, that is where the bulk of my income is coming from. My AdSense is still low, because, well, I don’t get TONS of traffic.
Anyhow, let’s get down to the numbers
- Google AdSense: $7.79
- Social Fabric: $565
- Tailwind: $15
- Bluehost: $3.95
Total Expense: $18.95
Total Profit: $553.84
So I’m making less than poverty-level wages, but I’m at home with my baby girl and another on the way, and I’m doing something I absolutely love. I get to meet great people, write a lot, and cook a lot. I’m not going to complain. And if I never make $20,000 a month, I’m okay with that. Of course, it would be a blessing if I did, but I’m in no rush and do not plan to sell out just to make a quick buck. So, there you have it. 6 months in, and $550 richer than I was 6 months ago.
If you enjoyed this post and are ready to grow your blog by leaps and bounds, you should check out my post on How I Doubled my Pinterest Following in 4 Months.
Good luck, and follow along for more Blogging Tips next week. I hope you enjoyed this post on how to start a successful blog. If you have any questions between now and then or just want to say hi, come find me on social media.