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  • The 7-Step Guide for Starting a Successful Blog

    December 18th, 2016

    Special Feature

    There are dozens on online articles that claim to show you the simple way to start a blog. But, truth be told, many are only written with the sole aim of making quick affiliate commissions by recommending web hosting services. While web hosting is an integral part of a starting a blog, recommendations should never be misleading.

    This guide is markedly different. I cut right to the chase and tell you want you need to do get it right the first time. The steps are arranged in logical order.

    So, let’s get right into it.

    Step 1: Choose a topic

    What do you want to blog about? Do you want to blog about your business or a passion you have? As you consider this, also find out if there is a potential audience for your topic and the competitiveness of your chosen niche. You can gauge the level of competition by typing in your blog topic in Google and seeing the number of results that come up. If there are hundreds of millions, then your topic is too broad and competitive and you need to narrow it down. If there are less than a ten million results, then your topic is moderately competitive and, if the results are less than a million, you topic has low competition. You should target a topic that falls between low and moderate for the best results as a beginner. But, the most important point is that you must be passionate and know a good deal about the topic.

    Step 2: Decide on Hosting

    Your blog needs a platform to run the files and the files needs to be stored by a hosting provider.

    The Platform

    You will need to decide between a self-hosted and free blogging platform. Examples of free platforms are Blogger.com and WordPress.com. I recommend a WordPress self-hosted blog because it’s more professional. You will own your own domain name, for example, yoursite.com, and you will also be able to access some great features on a WordPress self-hosted blog. These include hundreds of thousands of free site designs and plugins. It is also very simple to install. Most hosting providers offer a one-click install solution. But, if you feel you want something that packs a little more punch, you can always explore other platforms such as Joomla and Drupal. But, be warned, these are not as easy-to-use for complete beginners.

    Step 3: Register a Domain Name

    If you decide you want a self-hosted blog, the next step is to register a domain name. A domain is the unique name that identifies your blog on the Internet. For example, Google.com is a unique name. When choosing a domain name, ensure you adhere to the following three rules:

    1. Make it a .com. They are more recognizable.
    2. The shorter the better.
    3. Make it easy to spell and pronounce.

    Annual registration for your domain will cost you about $15 per year; some host will charge a little less. However, you could save on the first year’s registration if your hosting provider gives you a free domain when you buy hosting.

    Step 4: Find the Best Hosting

    When buying hosting, there are number of things you need to look out for. One of these is the actual price. The pricing information can sometimes be deceptive. Be extra careful if there is an asterisk (*) against the price because that’s an indication that you should read the fine print. Some companies will advertise a monthly fee but in reality, they expect an annual payment. Also, consider the following before you make any payment:

    • Support – how good is their support? Do they have phone, live chat or a support ticket system? A good host should have all.
    • Reviews – what are other customers saying about the host? Check Internet forums and social media sites like Facebook to get a true picture of what people really think.
    • Cost – As a general rule, don’t pay more than $5 to $10 a month for a starter package. But compare the features.

    Step 5: Install the Platform & Configure

    Next, install the platform using the hosting provider’s one-click install solution. If you decided to go with WordPress, simply log into the admin area using the credentials you created during install. You will be amazed at how easy it is to use the dashboard. Choose a blog theme for the thousands of free options, install and activate.

    Step 6: Write your First Article

    You are now close to publishing your first article. Navigate to Posts in the left hand menu and create a new post. Type your article in the editor and once done, click Publish. Type your blog address in a separate window and confirm your article is online.

    Step 7: Optimize your Blog

    This is the final step. Optimize refers to speeding up your website. As a blog owner, you cannot underestimate the impact of page speed on traffic, conversions and revenue. Research has established that 47% of people will close a site if it doesn’t load within 2 seconds and 40% will close it if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. That’s scary, right? You bet! Which is why I have dedicated an entire step to ensuring your blog loads within two seconds. The following are some of the main culprits that slow a blog down:

    • Too many plugins – in the case of WordPress, having too many plugins can slow down your blog down. Only install the plugins that you really need. If you are no longer using a plugin, uninstall it.
    • Large images – images hog bandwidth. Crop them and compress to the minimum possible size using free tools such as Gimp. WordPress actually has plugins to deal with this.
    • Bloated HTML, Javascript and CSS – Theme and plugin files may have lots of white space which helps the developers read the code easily. But, to a browser and server, white space occupies bandwidth yet a browser and server can understand the code without the white space. In WordPress, there are plugins that can minify HTML, Javascript and CSS by eliminating white space.

    Conclusion

    Finally, while these seven steps will help you set up your blog successfully, there are in no way exhaustive. To truly become successful, you need to continuously learn about what you can do to improve your blog. For example, WordPress has a sizable documentation which I recommend you read when you have some time to spare. You should also subscribe to other blogs that write about topics like search engine optimization, writing skills and monetization options.



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