Curious to start a blog, but not sure if that’s even a thing anymore? In this post, we will discuss everything to consider before starting your first blog.
What is Blogging?
Blogging has been around for what feels like forever. It began as a way for people to keep online journals in the late 1990s and has made several enormous shifts over the years.
These days, a blog is a place for individuals and companies to publish content – usually in blog posts. However, videos, courses, membership sites, and even eCommerce stores can live on a blog!
A blog can be whatever you want it to be, and starting a blog is a powerful experience. See, it puts you in the driver’s seat and turns you into a creator. Your blog is always changing, growing, and transforming as you learn more about your topic and the art of blogging itself!
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself…
The point here is that a blog is truly your own private corner of the vast Internet universe. It’s your place to create, build community, or start a business. The sky is the limit!
Reasons to Start a Blog in 2020
A common misconception is that blogging has become outdated in recent years. This is simply not true! Blogging is more powerful and present than ever, especially as more business happens online every year.
Blogging Is a Great Hobby
Not everyone needs to dive headfirst into business blogging! Hobby blogging is an excellent way to get your feet wet and learn a marketable skill. Whether you’re interested in fashion or sustainable living, you can turn any passion into a blog. If you love writing – even better!
Side Hustle/Start a Business
On the flip side, blogging is an excellent small business venture for many reasons. First, starting a blog is less of a financial investment than many other types of businesses. It has a lower start-up cost (lower risk) but can have big payouts. Of course, this won’t happen overnight. But once you get it off the ground, a blog is a great way to make money.
Digital Nomad Lifestyle
As a former member of the travel blogging community, I have some firsthand experience with the digital nomad lifestyle! You know the ones – those lucky ducks who can work from anywhere and spend their days sunbathing and country-hopping? It’s not a bad gig, and many digital nomads are full-time bloggers.
More User Friendly
Gone are the days of back-end coding! (And boy, am I glad for that.) People looking to start a blog in 2020 will find it easier than those of us who began five years ago. All of the major blogging platforms have had massive makeovers to provide a cleaner user experience. That’s not to say that blogging is simple, but it’s definitely simpler these days!
Tools and Courses
For new bloggers, starting a blog can be an overwhelming process. The good news? Thousands of bloggers have gone before you and ready to shower you with knowledge! An incredible number of tools and courses exist today that you could never have found ten years ago. Of course, not all courses are created equal, so make sure you invest in products from real blogging experts.
While blogging is the best job in the world (in my opinion), it’s not always butterflies and rainbows. Let’s talk about some of the challenges of starting a blog.
Reasons to NOT Start a Blog
It’s a LOT to Learn
Starting a blog can feel like jumping into a brand new career without any professional training. Here are just a few of the concepts you will need to learn along the way:
- Email marketing software
- Email opt-ins
- Landing pages
- Lead magnets
- …and a whole lot more
A big part of blogging is writing. But many new bloggers don’t realize that there’s a lot more to it than that.
Remember, there are great courses out there that teach you these things. But you will have to invest time in developing a variety of skills.
Blogging IS an Investment
You’ve probably seen an ad somewhere around the internet that claims you can start a blog with just $5. These types of ads are everywhere, and they drive me crazy! Sure, you can buy a domain name for a couple of dollars and some cheap hosting for another few bucks. But if you’re serious about starting a blog, prepare to put some money into it!
Things like quality blog themes and email marketing software cost money. I keep a running list of blogging expenses, and the bottom line can really add up! Be ready to drop at least a few hundred dollars in the beginning.
Blogging Is Tough
Mentally, blogging has its difficult days. You will feel discouraged, frustrated, and overwhelmed more often than you might think. As a new blogger, you can expect to work crazy hard without a lot of rewards. This is why many new blogs fail. But hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it! Self-discipline is essential if you’re going to succeed.
Choose Your Niche
The first thing you need to do before you start a blog is to determine your blog niche.
What Is a Niche?
A niche is a topic or set of topics that relate to a particular audience. For example, fitness and cooking are both niches. These are both big topics that cover a wide range of subtopics. We call these big topics general niches.
Within the fitness niche, there are smaller niches like weightlifting, yoga, running, and kickboxing. To get even more specific, you can break weight lifting down into more specific categories: weight lifting for women, professional weight lifting, or weight lifting for weight loss.
Getting specific about your blog niche is called niching down.
Why Do I Need a Niche?
This old Russian proverb says it best.
Choosing a niche for your blog is like choosing which rabbit to chase. The rabbit, in this case, is your audience. The people who you want to read your blog are called your target audience.
It can be hard to feel like you’re boxing yourself into a corner by choosing one niche to write about. But staying too general is a pitfall that many new bloggers fall into. Targeting a specific group of people (female weightlifters, for instance) makes it easier to create content that draws in the type of reader you’re looking for.
How to Choose a Niche
There are two main factors to consider when choosing a niche: your interests/expertise and the market.
The first is straightforward. If you know nothing about weightlifting, that’s not going to be a great choice for you. On the contrary, if you have a background in education, you might consider starting a teacher blog. You’ll want to pick a niche you enjoy reading and writing about. Otherwise, you’re in for a bleak blogging experience.
When it comes to the market, you want to think about a few things. First, is your niche something that many people are interested in? And second, is it a topic that you can make money on in the future?
A Note from Nat
“One of my failed blogs was a travel blog. It had great content and got a good number of views, but it didn’t have much marketability. When it comes to travel, most people want to save as much money as possible. They are not very interested in spending extra money on travel courses and the like. I learned the hard way that the travel community is a very thrifty bunch and that travel company sponsorships are few and far between.
Instead, I started a millennial lifestyle blog. What do most millennials want? To stop stressing, overthinking, overspending, and living paycheck to paycheck. They want to beat the 9-5 grind that isn’t working for them anyway, have adventures, be confident, and thrive.
I chose the millennial lifestyle niche because I enjoy reading and writing about self-improvement, growth mindset, and making money online. Plus, it’s a marketable niche. People will always spend money to solve problems related to stress, finances, and health.
Focus on your expertise and solving people’s problems, and you’ll have the perfect niche in no time!“
Buy Your Domain Name
When you start a blog, you have to buy the website name first. Many free resources will help you think of relevant blog names. Just type in your keywords and find something you like. Don’t forget to show your potential name ideas to a few friends or family and get their opinions.
Where you ultimately buy your domain name is up to you. I’ve purchased domains from both GoDaddy and Bluehost and did not have problems with either. What’s really important is what web-hosting service you choose.
Choose Your Hosting Service
Many new bloggers confuse their domain with their web hosting service. They are related, but they are not the same.
Imagine your blog as a brick-and-mortar business, like a coffee shop. Before opening your coffee shop, you need to select a name and register it as a business. In the world of blogging, this is your domain name.
Web hosting is like the space you rent for the coffee shop. It is where your business lives. In fact, it even has an address so clients can find your coffee shop easily. In the same way, web hosting provides a space for your blog to “live” on the internet.
Do some research on the best web hosting services. Bluehost is the cheapest, but it’s definitely not great, in my experience.
I use SiteGround as my web hosting provider. SiteGround is the fastest web hosting service available, and their customer service is incredible. Even with my fancy blog theme, multiple plug-ins, and tons of images, my site loads at amazing speeds – on both mobile and desktop! SiteGround has been voted as the #1 Best Web Hosting Service across several tech publications and is a favorite among long-time bloggers.
Choose Your Blogging Platform
The original, the best, and the most popular blogging platform, WordPress.org, is recommended by basically every blogger out there. WordPress.org gives you complete ownership of your blog and business. You can remove any WordPress branding from your site and monetize your blog with no problems whatsoever.
On this WordPress platform, you have access to premium themes and every plug-in imaginable. I’ve run blogs on other platforms, and none of them holds a candle to WordPress.org.
Oh, yes, the two are different! A huge mistake that people make when they start a blog is to confuse WordPress.com with WordPress.org. I’ve actually made that mistake and was so frustrated by the limiting features of the dot com platform.
This is the more affordable platform, but the trade-off here is that you won’t be the actual owner of your blog. Everything created on WordPress.com belongs to WordPress.com, and they can shut it down at any minute. Worse, you aren’t allowed to sell products or monetize your blog in any way.
Squarespace is a fine option for setting up a web page for your business. But blogging is not really their forte. It is not a platform geared towards bloggers, and you will have less control over customizing your blog. While it is effortless to set up a store on SquareSpace, it’s not really worth the headache of their limiting features. I’ve run a blog on Squarespace and would never do it again!
Create a Content Plan
Content is what you write – your blog posts, your emails, and your social media posts.
Many bloggers sit down to write their first blog post without creating a content plan. And this is a big no-no.
Think about your niche and write down some keywords related to it. Using the female weightlifting example, some keywords might be nutrition, workouts, recovery, and equipment. You can use these keywords as categories for planning blog posts.
Brainstorm your first ten blog post titles and make sure they relate to your keywords. It’s also helpful if your posts have common ground – that way, you can include links of other posts in each post. (This is called internal linking and is a strategy used to keep a reader on your blog for longer.)
Planning out your blog content is a great habit to get into from the beginning. All full-time bloggers create content plans for each month, including the date they want to publish each article.
Creating a content plan also ensures that you are covering all the categories of your niche. It helps you provide value to your reader and write with intention. Without a content plan, your content will be directionless and probably not very engaging.
I’ve actually created a content planner for you that you can download for free!
The moment you’ve all been waiting for – your first blog post!
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you take off, full speed ahead.
Aim for 1,200-2,200 words per blog post. Not only to longer posts rank better on Google, but they also keep your reader on your website for longer chunks of time. Remember, the longer you can maintain the attention of your audience, the better!
Add relevant stock photos. You can find awesome stock photos on Canva and use them to design graphics for your blog posts. I do this all the time, myself! Shutterstock is an excellent option, as they have the largest selection of stock photos. However, their monthly charge is a bit pricey. I have found many beautiful stock photos on Etsy that can be bought in bundles.
No matter where you get it, make sure it’s relevant to the blog post and looks professional. Don’t forget to optimize your photos for faster loading time!
Content creation is your best friend. The most useful thing you can do as a new blogger is to put out excellent blog posts as frequently and consistently as possible. You can only market blog content if you have blog content, so start cranking it out!
Consider the following wisdom from six-figure blogger, Dave Stuart Jr. when asked what advice he has for struggling bloggers,
Invest in the Right Blogging Course
This humble blog post is just the bare-bones of all that new bloggers need to learn. These are skills and concepts such as:
- Marketing basics
- Google SEO
- Pinterest traffic
- Email opt-ins
- Affiliate marketing
- Themes & plug-ins
- Domain authority
- Keyword research
…and so much more.
It’s a lot, I know! I twice made the mistake of starting a blog with no idea what I was doing. These days, I learn from experts, and I get expert results. Curious? Check out my resources page or on the image below to learn more.