If you have a business idea or want to start promoting existing products and services online, setting up a blog is a necessary part of this process. Using a blog, you can give existing and potential clients more information about your company and what you offer. It also gives you a chance to interact with customers, and create an online community. Taking your business online is no small challenge, but with access to millions of users around the world, it’s possible to gain far more exposure for your business using the internet than you can offline.
If you’ve never created a blog before, the set-up process might feel daunting. We’ve created a checklist of steps you should take when starting your blog from scratch to help you cover every consideration and speed up your journey to success.
1. Decide whether you want to monetize your blog
Deciding whether you want to monetize your blog before you’ve actually created it might seem premature, but this decision will affect what kind of blog you create, as well as what platform you use. Therefore, it’s important to know whether you want to run your blog as a business in itself (i.e. host advertising, affiliate marketing or sponsorship, or directly sell products and services), whether it’s a promotional tool for an existing website, or whether it’s a blog for fun.
2. Decide on the topic
If you already have your business, this is the obvious topic to discuss on your blog. On the other hand, if you’re setting up a blog as a business in itself, and hoping to monetize your website through advertising or sponsorship, you need to think carefully about what topics you’re going to talk about on your blog. You should choose a specific topic to attract a core audience and build up your search engine ranking. Entrepreneur Sudeep D’Souza recommends choosing a topic you are knowledgeable and passionate about. For example, a blog about new iPhone apps is going to attract an audience of iPhone users and establish you as an authority in that area, whereas a general blog about cell phones is unlikely to attract a group of loyal readers as the topic is too broad.
3. Find a web hosting service (if relevant)
If you want to host your blog yourself, you need to research and find a web host that will offer the features you need. You can choose a blogging platform that provides hosting, however you won’t have as much ability to customize your blog, and you might not be able to monetize it either.
4. Get a domain name
If you want your blog to look professional, it’s a good idea to purchase an exclusive domain (e.g. www.yourname.com), rather than use a hosting platform’s subdomain (e.g. yourname.wordpress.com). When choosing a domain, start by thinking about keywords people might use to find your blog. For example, you might want your domain name to be the name of your business, or describe what your business does. If you plan to monetize your blog, consider purchasing and redirecting related domains too, such as .net, .org, and .biz.
Read Jerry’s recent article All About Domain Name to dig deeper on this subject.
5. Find a blogging platform
The next step to take when starting blogging from scratch is to choose a blogging platform. The platform you choose will depend on several considerations, which we cover in more detail in choosing a blogging platform , and you should research the available options carefully. The main blogging platforms include WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger and TypePad. If you’re working with a limited budget, it’s possible to set a blog up for free, however you might not be able to access some features without paying a fee.
6. Create an account, and set up new blog
The first step you usually have to take after creating a new blog is to choose a title and customize some basic settings. The title of your blog will usually be the same as your domain name, however if you’ve chosen a domain name that describes the type of business you have, you should enter your business name as the title of the blog. In the beginning, your blog will only come with one page that displays your posts. To make your website as user-friendly as possible, it’s a good idea to add an “About” page, as well as a “Contact” page if necessary so visitors can read more information about you and your business.
7. Customize your blog’s appearance
Your blog’s appearance will have a huge impact on how people perceive your website and business. Most blogging platforms have a range of ready-made templates you can choose from, while some also allow you to customize your blog’s appearance using HTML and CSS. You should choose a template or design that allows your blog to stand-out, but is still in-keeping with the blog’s tone and topic.
8. Select relevant plug-ins
Some blogging platforms provide ready-made sections of code that translate into specific functions on your blog. These are called “plug-ins” and allow you to add optional extra features to your site. You can use plug-ins to add important features like a contact form, to protect your comments from spam, to help with email marketing, and to improve your posts’ SEO.
9. Create an “About” page or bio
The “About” page will be the second-most visited page on your website after the landing page. When visitors come to your website and want to find out more, the “About” page is where they’ll go, so it’s important to provide enough information about your business, and leave readers with a positive impression. Chris Brogan, a blogger and entrepreneur, says that your “About” page should show customers how you can serve them.
10. Create your first posts
Your first few posts should introduce what your blog is about, why you created it, and establish you as an authority writer on that particular topic. Publishing regular content helps build an audience quicker, and develops your credibility through consistency. It’s helpful to establish a regular posting schedule, for example two or three times per week, and stick to it. Writer and entrepreneur Penelope Trunk also remarks that the more you post, the more you practice. Building up a pool of excess posts early in your blogging career will take the pressure off when other areas of your life get busy.
11. Share your work
The internet is saturated with blogs, so visitors aren’t going to flock to yours unless you give them a reason. Start promoting your blog early by finding other blogs to comment on, and sharing your posts via social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. You can also ask friends and family to share your work with their friends and family, and take the first step towards building an online community.