A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Blog in 2017
Blogging brings numerous benefits for all types of businesses. It is an excellent marketing tactic that brings optimized online visibility. Being very different from personal blogging,
business blogging serves as a marketing channel that supports your business growth by increasing traffic and providing opportunities to convert them into leads. Overall benefits of business blogging can be summarized as follows:
So, you’re toying with the idea of starting
So, you’re toying with the idea of starting a blog.
You may even harbour dreams of thousands of visitors flocking to read what you have to say.
However, just as you are about to take your first step, fear and uncertainty begin to take over. It looks like you’re faced with an indomitable mountain.
Don’t despair. Don’t turn back.
We can help, as we know exactly how you feel. We’ve been there and continue to battle our inner demons every day.
Starting your own blog is not an expensive and complex affair. In fact, a little bit of research online (also known as Googling :)) will show you that more and more people are starting blogs every day.
We are pumped up to take this journey with you and hope you are already clear about why you too should start a blog. If still on the fence, click here.
This guide is 3,000 words long, which translates to roughly 30 minutes of reading. So grab yourself a cup of coffee (or tea) and get comfortable, as we pull back the curtains on how you can get started.
For your ease, we’ve broken down the article into FOUR parts, each, dealing with a different, but important aspect of your blogging endeavour.
Part 1: What will you blog about?
The fact that you are reading this indicates you have a clear idea of what you want to say. If still unsure, consider writing about something you are extremely passionate or knowledgeable about.
Explore your passions carefully and consider a topic that for which you can carve out a niche. Even if it is something that you are not extremely knowledgeable about, your passion will keep you learning and writing. There are plenty of bloggers out there who started off as experts and also many who became so during their blogging journey. So, don’t worry about having to know EVERYTHING about a topic before you start.
To really stand out, focus on a niche area rather than a broad one, which may already be saturated with numerous bloggers. For Example, if you specialise in Sri Lankan “game style” curries, you are better off establishing a niche for yourself under such a subject area than something generic like “Sri Lankan recipes”.
Another interesting rule of thumb to abide by before starting your blogging venture is to ensure you have enough topics to cover over a year, writing once a week. Any blogger worth her salt should be able to come up with at least 50 different topics on the area she wishes to write about.
If you are not an expert in what you wish to write about, at least consider writing about your learning experience. Remember, the more you focus on a topic, the more specialised you become.
Part 2: Building your blog
The technical part of your experience, ‘building your blog’ will walk you through the steps needed to set things up and get started.
- Securing a name for your blog aka. your domain name
Getting a good domain name is crucial for your blog. Get this right the first time around because chances are you will be stuck with this name for the entirety of your blog’s lifetime.
Although there are no hard and fast rules to selecting a name for your blog, these pointers can help:
- Use keywords – Try to utilise words or phrases that describe what your blog is about.
- Make it easy to remember and type – Imagine trying to remember Angelicamumoftwowhomakesdeleciousdesserts.com
- Use hyphens – While allowing your blog name to be easily read, hyphens are also useful if the blog name you have in mind is already taken. E.g. If chickencurries.lk is taken, try chicken-curries.lk
- Think local – If your blog is concerned with Colombo, try adding the region to your blog. E.g. http://www.lifehack.org
- .com extension – When people think of websites, their minds are automatically programmed to think “abc.com”. Try to opt for same and in case of unavailability consider using other popular options such as “.lk” (great for Google ranking purposes) or “.org” or “.net”.
- Ensure the name you are using does not infringe any copyrights
- Keep an eye out for established competitors who use a similar blog name to yours
- Claiming your blog name
Once you’ve decided on a name, secure it through your hosting service (check point number 4 for details on this). While some hosts offer a free domain name for new websites, others may charge you a small fee. The annual fee is about USD 25/year (subject to vary, but not drastically).
- Selecting your platform
However, the easiest and our favourite way to launch a self-hosted blog is via WordPress. It is by far the preferred platform for bloggers worldwide (over 80 million bloggers can’t be wrong).
Reasons attributable to its immense popularity are security, ease of use, superb support services, amazing amounts of customisability and gorgeous themes.
Yes, Boost Metrics runs on WordPress too!
- Get a reliable web hosting solution at a reasonable price
Reliable and cheap don’t usually go hand in hand, and the online sphere is no exception. Web hosting companies are generally judged based on server uptime and the server response time, and of course, their charges. Most web hosting companies promise up to 99.9% server uptime but fail to deliver on that promise. Most often than not, you might not even be aware when your website was down and the number of first time visitors (or readers) you’ve lost.
Based on our experience, here is a list of web hosting companies that provide reliable web hosting solutions for WordPress sites, at reasonable prices.
We cannot emphasise this enough, but do not get tempted by ‘cheap’ hosting packages that provide various ‘unlimited’ promises. The hassle that comes with these service providers will result in a lot of wasted time and money.
Also, switching web hosting services is a tedious task. You have been warned!
- Setting up WordPress on your blog
Bluehost, one of our recommended hosting sites is one of the easiest to work with when setting up your blog. Its ‘one click’ function has proven to be very reliable, making it a preferred choice for first timers. It practically minimises (or even eliminates) the worry of creating databases and making changes to your blog’s codes.
All you have to do is log in to the Bluehost dashboard and click install WordPress. The rest is pretty much self-explanatory.
Once you go through the range of motions, your final step is to head over to ‘www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin’ and voila…
You are ready to start blogging!
- Making your blog sexy
Having an aesthetically pleasing blog that reflects your content is essential to give your reader a fantastic experience and entice them to come back. The best part about WordPress is that it offers a range of awesome themes that you can use for your blog, or you can hire a designer to do it for you.
Remember, as much as you may like a snazzy colour scheme, making sure your reader is comfortable takes precedence over all else. A colour scheme that is easy on the eyes and one that communicates your concept are essential.
Once you’ve decided on these elements, consider what type of layout you wish to have. Columns, bottom bar, button layout etc will be key decisions you make. If you plan on monetising your blog at some point, it pays to keep room for advertisers to display banners too.
Also, take into consideration how the various pages of your blog will be, along with a section for archives where readers can access past posts, categories etc.
You can find some cool WordPress themes here, here and here. (hyperlink to suitable sites).
- Installing useful plugins
You’re almost ready. Your blog is all dressed up, and all you need to do is ‘accessorise’ it. In other words, install a few useful plugins (or little add-ons). Here are a few that we recommend, that will help your blog in the long run:
- WordPress SEO – This plugin will be your best friend in your blogging adventure as is helps you get some basic search engine optimisation work out of the way. This nifty little widget picks up any flaws on your website and sets it up to favour search engines, thus helping your blog appear higher up in rankings over time.
- WordPress Login Lockdown – The online space is filled with malicious users who, for various reasons, illegally hack into others’ websites. The WP Login add-on springs into action the moment someone tries to log in to your site and enters an incorrect password three times. Automated software that enters thousands of combinations of passwords to break in are prevented with this useful plugin.
- WordPress Total Cache – This plugin speeds up your site by compressing pages and saving cached versions. When Google evaluates your site for ranking purposes, loading speed plays a significant role. Also, users love sites that load fast. Remember the last time you visited a website that took minutes to load? You never visited it again right?WordPress Backup
- Imagine something goes wrong with your site and you lose all of your past work. Pandemonium and horror right? Fear not. The WP Backup app is a saviour as it backs-up (or saves) your entire blog site (comments, designs and all) to either a DropBox or Google Drive account at regular intervals (i.e. once a day all the way up to once a year or more).
Now, that your blog is all dressed up and ready to go, you need to protect it from malicious individuals (aka. Hackers) who derive a sick pleasure from disrupting your good work or stealing information (i.e. credit card details, databases etc) stored at your backend.
Let’s now dip our feet in what type of security measures you can take to protect your blog.
Part 3: Defending your turf – Security
Just like any important asset, your blog’s security too needs to be set up with due diligence and regular checkups done to ensure there is n room for potential external threats.
- Use strong passwords at all access points
As obvious as this sounds, you wouldn’t believe the number of people who use passwords such as password@123 or its variations, 123456, (their name) etc. Some of them don’t even change the admin password that is auto-generated by WordPress at the point of installation!
Although, the WP password is strong, just to be extra sure, it’s in your best interest to change the password to one which has a good mix of alphanumeric (letters and numbers) characters and symbols. Also, do NOT write down your complex password on a stick-it-note and leave it under your keyboard (again, you wouldn’t believe the number of people who do this).
- Add a CAPTCHA on your log-in page
Remember the annoying command you get when trying to post a comment or log in to some sites, which looks something like this? (add an image of a CAPTCHA)
As annoying as they are, when you try to post a comment or log-in, they are super-effective in preventing automated software programmes (or BOTs in short) from gaining access to your site.
- Update WordPress
Whenever you get a prompt that a WordPress update has been released, always click on it and update. Updated releases contain updated protection against new bugs and viruses. Also, any other chinks in the armour of previous releases are identified and repaired.
- Be diligent about what you upload
Whenever you upload a widget such as a script, theme or plugin, ensure they are from reliable, authentic sources.
We know torrents are extremely popular in Sri Lanka as far as entertainment goes, but never, ever use widgets that you have downloaded from a torrent site. These widgets may be encrypted with coding to help a hacker break into your website.
- Don’t expose yourself
Do not allow access to your Plugins, directories or even the WordPress version of your blog. If a potential hacker even knows the specific WordPress version you are using, he/she may use it to their advantage when trying to break in.
Many bloggers, even those who have been blogging for some time, forget to protect their WordPress Plugin directories. In simpler terms, when someone types in the URL ‘www.yourdomainname.com/wp-content/plugins on to a browser, it will show all the plugins that you are using. A .htaccess file or a blank ‘index.html’ fle can help resolve the issue. For this, you may have to seek the help of someone with a bit of WordPress experience or get in touch with us.
- Protect your data with regular backups
Always, always, always keep backups of all your important files. You never know when something drastic happens and you lose your life’s work in a jiffy!
If you take regular backups, trust us, you’ll sleep better at night.
Part 4. Your Content Strategy
Now that have the essentials in place, you’ve just got to start writing right?
Before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard rather), carefully plan your way forward. Although you know what the overall concept of your blog is, there are many other factors to consider if you wish to enjoy a smooth journey forward.
- Evergreen content or news content?
Let’s approach this from the perspective of a fitness/blogger based in Colombo.
Evergreen is the type of content that will not be outdated in the near future (e.g. 10 fun ways to burn 500 calories at Independence Square). News content, as the name suggests, revolves around trending activities. A good example is “Top 25 finishers at the Run For Your Lives 2015 5KM race”.
Both types of content have their pros and cons, so it is good to have a fine mix. While building a steady content base with evergreen topics, you can ensure your blogs gains more eyeballs by leveraging on trending topics. The latter requires keeping a pulse on all that’s going on around in the subject of your choosing.
Another key decision you need to make is how often you will blog. Some prolific bloggers such as Seth Godin publish content daily. In the event that may not be possible with your busy schedule, aim to publish at least one piece each week, which we think is a bare minimum.
Blogging once a week will help you build momentum and maintain enthusiasm. If you go for higher frequency, you may have to overcome the additional pressure that comes with having to set aside time at regular intervals to blog. Such bloggers tend to also face a bit of stress when they miss a session or two, unless they have high levels of motivation (like us :)).
- Short-form or Long-form
Although there are no hard and fast rules to this, you have got to have a rough idea of how lengthy your posts will be.
Short-form posts will range from 300 to 750 words, while a long-form piece can ever reach up to 3,000 words (like this one).
Short form pieces are ideal for giving brief descriptions and also highlighting trending topics. However, if you are looking to give action-worthy, educational content, long-form is preferred. Obviously, the latter will require a higher investment in terms of energy and time.
If we go on the previous example of a fitness/health blogger in Colombo, a short piece will something like, ‘5 exercises you can do without leaving your home’. This post will have 5 bullet points with brief descriptions of each exercise and will have a reading time of about 2-3 minutes.
However, the same writer, if an expert in biology and sports medicine may write a long, informative piece on picking the right meal plan for your body type. He/she will delve deeper in to various types of food, the nutrients they have, various body types and finally link the two together, making for a piece that may typically be a 20-minute read.
- Plan your writing time
How much time you will spend writing depends on your blogging frequency and the average length of your posts. However, ensure you do not treat the blogging experience as a haphazard, ‘by the way’ type of thing. Schedule time based on the type of content (frequency and length) and stick to it no matter what.
It may be difficult at first, but we promise you, once it becomes a part of your system, you will actually look forward to your blogging time. Treat your blog writing time as golden and do not let temporary distractions such as Netflix or scrolling through your Facebook timeline steal that from you.
Starting a blog and nurturing it till it grows to have a decent readership is not easy. Many of the world’s best bloggers invested years before they became really popular. Unless you are a celebrity, there is no way to achieve overnight success in blogging (unless, you discover a fool-proof method to stop corruption and racial extremism in Sri Lanka, in which case your piece will gain become ‘viral’ in no time). Every blog post you publish contributes to your legacy as it will all amount to an incredible body of work created by you.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the millions of blogs out there. Most bloggers start out with much enthusiasm, only to abandon their projects within a few months. Keep at it, and there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
Although this piece seems exhaustive, it serves as a good guideline to get started with your blog. If you run into any problems, drop us a note in the comments section and we’ll revert right away.
Join us in our next instalment where we will delve deep into how you can go about writing awesome blog posts and also marketing your blog for maximum reach.
As always, your comments and feedback are greatly welcome so feel free to drop us a line @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading.
Hi, I’m Joey Perera
Hi, I’m Joey Perera
I began a solo journey as a digital nomad and an online entrepreneur. After working for 9 years, I realized that I was slowly going into a typical routine which is a personal nightmare of mine.
Having begun my company under the name ‘Boostmetrics”, I offer a wide range of services pertaining to online marketing. Whether you are looking to turn online relationships into revenue or enhance your brand image, I am capable of analyzing your requirements to come up with the best suited strategy to help you achieve your business objectives.
I would be honored if you’d care to walk with me on this journey. I hope that my experiences on the road will inspire you in some way and I will gladly help if you need any Online Marketing or Startup Consultation.
My mission statement is to tell all the people to shape their lives in any way they desire like I am doing.
Benefits of Blogging
As mentioned above, unlike in instances where you have to spend tons of money in order to get traffic (buying email lists or placing ads), blogging does it for you for a much cheaper cost: Since every new blog post is one more indexed page on your website, it increases the chance of the search engines selecting your site as a result for various searches.
Regular updates in your blog make your website seem very active to search engines. Additionally, creating share-worthy content for your blog increases the chance of getting more exposure via social media platforms that are currently revolutionizing the business world as we know it.
Now that you’ve found a way of driving traffic to your website, there is an ideal opportunity to convert it into leads as each post serves as a source for luring in an audience. Call-to-action scenarios are an example for this, where a visitor to your website sees a posting about a free offer, they click the relevant button to be led to a landing page containing a form that they are required to fill.
Once they fill and submit their information through this form, they are eligible to enjoy the free offer.
This is how it works. Once you add a new post to your blog, it is bond to receive a certain amount views and leads the very first day, and the next day some more, and so on. owing to shares and subscribers.
However after a couple of days its popularity dies down. But since now your blog post has managed to get a ranking in search engines, you will continue to get leads from it for days weeks, months or ever years to come. This goes to show that, the one hour or so you spend creating one blog post, can yield an extensive amount of views and leads even without you having to put in anymore effort. This simply emphasizes the scalability of business blogging.
Business blogs with up-to-date, high quality content provide valuable information to readers. If you continuously create such useful posts, you are bound to get recognized as an authority figure in the eyes of your customers.
Giving answers to common questions people have about matters pertaining to your business, not only showcases your expertise but also strengthens your relationship with them.