Starting a Blog – A Simple 10 Step Guide Any Blogger or Business (Or Prairie Photographer) Can Follow!
Why You Should Consider Starting a Blog
It doesn’t really matter what kind of business you are in, what service you offer, or what product you provide. You have relevant and valuable information that readers are looking for. And starting a blog for your business is an excellent way to get that content in front of your audience and get more eyes on your business website in return.
A you can already see starting a blog has a number of business benefits. Content marketing is an essential digital marketing strategy, but how often can you really add new pages to your business website? This is a big reason why so many businesses starting blogging. It is an excellent way to quickly create and publish fresh content.
And fresh content is exactly what search engines are looking for. Therefore, by starting a blog you can gain valuable search engine benefits ranging from more website traffic to higher search rankings. Even better, you can create blog posts that drive search traffic to other pages on your website. For instance, write a post describing the benefits of a product you sell, and link to that product page on your site.
These are only a few of the benefits starting a blog can provide for your business. There are many other ways you and your marketing efforts will benefit. All you have to do is to get started. So, what are you waiting for?
The Challenges of Starting a Blog
As with anything new, the idea of starting a blog can be a bit frightening for marketers and business owners. Among the biggest obstacles I hear at the innovative web design agency are not knowing how to get started, not knowing what to blog about, and the concern of not having enough time to blog effectively. These are all valid concerns, and I can relate to them all.
Therefore, many businesses may seriously contemplate starting a blog, but never actually get around to it. Why is that? Well, the simple fear of screwing this up massively is on the mind of many potential bloggers. What if things go wrong, and nobody will read your posts? Or worse, your audience will hate them. I understand those feelings, believe me. But I recommend you don’t give in to them.
The only way you will learn if blogging will work for you or your business is to start blogging!
Starting a Blog May Be Easier Than You Think!
Surprisingly, the process of starting a blog for your business or personal use is not as hard as it seems. If you follow these steps starting a blog yourself is pretty straight forward. Initially starting a blog was pretty much for connecting with an audience and sharing your views regarding a certain topic. Blogs were pretty much topic oriented, so you could learn about organic gardening or online marketing simply by surfing around a bit.
At the beginning bloggers were not focused on things like content marketing, search engine benefits, establishing authority, or monetizing their blogs. That was before blogging started to evolve and take on its current form. Not only are businesses starting a blog to build brand awareness. Experts and authorities in a number of fields are blogging to share their knowledge. And many business and personal bloggers are looking to monetize their blogs for extra income.
Regardless if your goal is starting a blog for your business, launching a personal blog to potentially earn extra income, or simply wish to share your knowledge or expertise you can use the following 10 steps to get started the right way.
Starting a Blog in 10 Simple Steps
Infographic courtesy of Ryrob.com
10 Things You Must Do When Starting a Blog
1 – Finding Your Niche
The first step to starting a blog is to determine your area of interest or expertise. This niche defines the direction your blog will go in over the years to come. And in this case, it helps to drill down a bit and get very specific. For example, your blog could simply focus on photography. That’s OK, but very competitive. Maybe fine tuning your focus to something like “How to take better pictures with a smartphone.” will be more beneficial. You may have to play around a little to find your perfect niche.
2 – Choosing a Content Management System (CMS)
The next step in starting a blog is top decide what blogging platform you will actually use. Therefore, you need a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is where you’ll be writing, designing, and publishing your blog posts, so this is an important consideration. WordPress, Blogger, Medium, Wix and Squarespace are some of the most popular platforms for starting your blog. Yes, each comes with a learning curve. But all are well documented and have online resources available for novice bloggers.
If you want more info regarding different blogging platforms here is a great blog platform comparison you should check out!
3 – Picking Your Blog Name and Domain URL
Do you have a name in mind for your new blog? That is an important consideration when you are starting a blog. Ideally you want something catchy and easy to remember. It also helps if your blog name relates to the niche you determined for yourself in step 1. Why not check out other blogs in your industry and see how they name and brand themselves?
Next you will need to get a domain URL for your new blog. Ideally your domain matches the name of your blog. But stay away from cute spellings and special characters; both your online audience and search engines will like them. Instead keep it nice and simple.
4 – Finding a Hosting Provider
The next step in starting a blog is to find a place to host your blog. This is actually a bit easier than you might think. Some of the blogging platforms listed above are what is called hosted solutions. Just like the name implies your blogging platform is already hosted, so you can start creating your pages and content right away. The benefit is you do not have to find hosting for your blog. But there is a major drawback as you will be unable to move your blog to a different hosting provider.
If you decide you don’t like hosted solution you will need to find a suitable blog hosting provider. There are many options for blogs of all types and sizes.
5 – Choosing Your Blog Theme and Design
The next step in starting a blog is to decide what your blog will look like. So, this is where you get to have some fun. But don’t go too overboard; you don’t want to alienate your audience right from the start. Remember that design is not only how your new blog looks, but how it works and feels for your readers. The easier it is to navigate, the better.
Lucky for you the CMS platforms I outlined above all have ready-made themes and templates. If you are totally new to this blogging thing you may just want to start with one of them. But be careful and be sure to select a theme that reflects the style of your blog. For instance, a photography blog needs to present lots of images in a pleasing way. If you are blogging about retirement plans you may want to focus on something more text oriented.
6 – Creating Your Pages
This part of starting a blog is often overlooked, which is not a good thing. Most novice bloggers focus on their blog posts and forget about their audience. This is especially important if you are new to blogging and don’t yet have a big audience. Why? Because before people will read and follow your new blog, they will want to know more about you. And be sure to provide a way they can contact you!
Therefore, it is essential that you provide info regarding your expertise and background, why you started a new blog, and what you hope your readers will get out of it. Which one of these would be more appealing to you: a photography blog, or a photography blog written by a professional photographer and teacher with over 30 years’ experience? So, don’t dim your light here; this is one place where you get to stand out!
7 – Developing Your Content Strategy
Blogging is something where shooting from the hip will definitely work against you. Think about it; would you follow and read a blog that jumped from topic to topic without any clear direction or connection? Most likely not. Therefore, starting your blog needs to include creating a content strategy.
A content strategy is basically an actionable plan for determining, researching, writing and publishing your content. Some content strategies are very basic. A photography blog could simple post tips and tricks on Tuesdays and showcase work on Thursdays. A more elaborate content strategy would be more like planning a photography course, including lesson plans and lessons in a specific order. Most blogging strategies fall somewhere in between.
One thing that most novice bloggers overlook as the start creating blog content is that you don’t need to create fresh new content all the time. Repurposing existing content will save you time and provide the same benefits.
8 – Establishing an Editorial Calendar
As you first start a blog one of your biggest challenges will be to attract your readers. Therefore, it really helps to publish content regularly. And an editorial calendar or publishing schedule allows you to plan ahead and schedule your blog posts more efficiently.
Blogging consistency is the most important aspect of starting a blog, especially if you want it to provide measurable and lasting results. I always tell people to focus on consistency over frequency as they establish their posting schedule. At a bare minimum you should post twice a month. The more often you post the more benefits you will receive.
9 – Pimping Out Your Posts
Many bloggers I talk to tell me they are having a hard time finding images and graphics to support their posts. I understand the frustration as images and other visual content really help make your blog and posts stand out and get noticed. But when you are first starting a blog you most likely don’t have a library of suitable visual content.
Of course, as a photographer with 30+ years of work to share you don’t have the problem. Simply start looking through your own archives and you have enough visuals to power your posts. But what if you and your smartphone camera don’t get along well? Or your design skills are more likely to result in strange objects and squiggles? In other words, if you are like the majority of both novice and experienced bloggers.
Well, there are options for you as well. If you are looking for free stock images here are a few stock image options and cautions about using stock photos for you. If your needs run more along graphics or infographics you may want to try this platform for creating powerful visual stories.
10 – Promoting Your Posts
I like to ask this question: When you first publish a post who knows about it? The answer is only you! That surprised you, didn’t it? But it is the naked truth every novice blogger needs to understand if they want to succeed. If you want to start a successful blog, you need to promote your blog posts in places where your audience spends time, such as on social media networks, forums and wikis, and message boards.
One way to make promoting your new blog posts easier is to use a social media management tool. You have tons of options available, and they all come with different features, options, and yes, costs! Personally I like and use the following: Agorapulse, Buffer, and AddThis. But there are many others, so feel free to consider these social media management options.
Starting Your Own Blog – The Next Steps
Now that you know the steps involved in starting a blog, either as an addition to your business website, or as a stand-alone blog. The only major difference is that if you are adding a blog to a business or e-commerce site you most likely will not need to create the additional pages from step 6 above.
Writing Your First Blog Post
So, what comes after that? Well, you actually have to write your first post, don’t you? And that is the really scare part, isn’t it? Many of you still believe that you don’t really have anything valid to blog about. Which is preventing you from starting a blog and reaping the benefits. I have good news for you. There are some pretty cool resources available to help you start your own blog and determine some juicy topics for your audience! Here are some of my own favorites:
- Answer the Public: You just have to love the cool dude getting ready to help you!
- Inbound Now: A great resource for creating a variety of catchy blog titles.
- Fat Joe: Quickly and easily generate ideas for your next catchy blog title.
- SEOPressor: Endless ideas for catchy blog titles and blogging topics
- ImpactBound: Explore common themes and start generating catchy blog titles
Once you have a topic or subject for your post the next step becomes easier. I always recommend that your first posts focus on your reasons for starting a blog. Think of it as having a conversation with a friend. So, Terry, why are you starting your photography blog? Well, a friend gave me the idea to share what I learned over 30+ years behind a camera and in a darkroom. Here are some other strategies you can try.
If you are answering a question think about how you would respond to a customer in your store. Writing about a customer experience? Use their own words for added authenticity. Still totally unsure about business blogging? Our friends at Blogging Titan have some awesome tips and resources for you! Here is a helpful one; how to start your own WordPress blog (in case you haven’t already!)
Some Additional Blogging Tips and Resources
If you would like some additional info on starting your own blog check out these posts on our ESPRESSO Shots Blog:
- The Essential Ingredients of an Effective Blog Post
- Blog Post SEO Tips That Work
- Blog Post Promotion Checklist for Business Bloggers
- On-Page SEO Checklist for Blogs
- How to Optimize Your Blog for Content Distribution
- How to Write an Awesome Blog Post in 12 Simple Steps
Of course, not everyone can write, and therefore blog. And that is OK. Don’t force it; I guarantee you will fail that way. Instead you should consider hiring the services of a guest blogger, copywriter, or other blogging service. That way you get all the benefits of starting a blog, without actually having to write blog posts yourself!
How Did Starting A Blog Go for You?
Starting a blog can go many different ways. Some folks, like myself, love to write, and blogging becomes second nature. I actually write for many different reasons; many bloggers do. So why did you decide to start a blog? And how did starting a blog work out for you? Did you follow these steps, or did you come up with your own plan?
Feel free to reach out to us and let us know how things went, if you got stuck, and the results you achieved.
A Final Note on Starting a Blog
You may have noticed that I made references to a photography blog. That wasn’t by accident, but rather to point someone in a new direction. I got the idea for writing this post because I wanted to help a good friend of mine.
Terry and my wife (and our most awesome creative director) went to commercial photo school together about 30 years ago. And both became stellar photographers. Coco used her photography skills to help build the innovative web design agency. Today she feels as comfortable behind a camera as she does editing code. Coco made the leap to the digital age.
Terry and I talked a few nights ago about starting a photography blog. He felt left behind by the digital age, and out of touch. It made me feel really bad, especially since I know there are lots of people like him.
I wanted Terry to know that there were things he could do to make meaningful contributions and stay connected to a global audience of friends and photography enthusiasts. And I know he was so excited by the prospect of a second career in photography that he most likely forgot everything I told him. So, I decided to write it all down for him, which resulted in this post. Hopefully you will get something out of it as well!
Thank you! We appreciate your help to end bad business websites, one pixel at a time!
By Gregor Schmidt
Co-Founder / Creative Technologist