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I made $3,600 over the first six months of blogging.
That amount of money was not a big deal, but it gave me enough encouragement to switch from a 9-to-5 worker to a full-time blogger.
What’s my secret sauce?
Well, it’s all about accomplishing essential things before starting a blog.
I got my foot in the blogging door by spending nearly three months diving into it. I picked out essential things for a beginner from the chaos and information-exceeded world and created a to-dos list. By the time I set up my first ever blog, I had completed all the tasks on the list, and I was pretty confident to kick off my game.
Starting a blog is way far from setting up your site.
It’s about mapping out your blogging journey with some foundational tasks. In doing this, you intentionally work your way to the end goals without getting off the track.
Are you ready to know which fundamental things I did before starting my first blog to help me win the game? Let’s get started!
1. Understand the Basic Rules of the Game
In the beginning, dig into the basics that help you understand how blogging operates. Below are some main aspects to pay attention to:
- Basic jargon: Such as web hosting, domain name, keywords, niches, self-hosted website, etc.
- Blogging monetization: How do bloggers make money with their blogs? What are the pros and cons of each monetization? What do you need to do to pick a suitable earning method?
- Other bloggers’ sharings about blogging lessons: You know how to avoid making mistakes and get off on the right foot by learning from other mistakes. The fewer mistakes you make, the less resistant you feel to start your journey.
Let’s take a look at some ways to become acquainted with the blogging world:
- Joining Facebook groups: This is the best way to know what’s happening in the blogging world in real-time. Use the “Search this group” feature to learn more about topics you care about. You can submit your questions and find motivation here too. Some active groups are: Blogging Like We Mean It, Becoming a Blogger, DNW – Making Money From Blogging.
- Reading blogging blogs: Some bloggers blog about blogging. They share their knowledge and experience to help beginners start and grow their blogs. Find veteran bloggers who succeeded with blogging and making thousands of dollars monthly, not aspiring ones trying to document their journey with a blog. Here are my favorites: WP Beginners, The side blogger, She Means Blogging, Productive Blogging, Blogger’s Passion, etc.
- Following blogs within your niche (a.k.a what you’ll blog about): If you’re lucky enough to find out your niche from the beginning, google top websites having the same topics, pick out your favorites and subscribe to their newsletter, and learn from these real examples—more about this in a few minutes.
- Browsing Pinterest: Just type “blogging for beginners” in the search bar, and you’ll receive endless blogging guides covering various aspects of the industry. You can catalog blogging pins for later use by saving others’ pins to relevant boards.
2. Position Your Blog
Now, you have a blogging foundation. It’s time to step back and think about your desired blog.
Who is your target audience?
What is the purpose of your blog?
The more detailed your answers are, the better you position your blog and the higher your chance of success is.
New bloggers may think they struggle with finding a niche because they’re drained of niche idea-generating and clueless about market research. But it’s just a symptom. The root is that they fail or skip addressing the above two essential questions.
If you have no idea who you want to serve, how can you know what to write or do to get their eyeballs on your site?
Even if you know what your ideal readers look like but haven’t found out how your blog can help your audience, you can’t deliver the right value to them.
Let me walk you through the process of positioning your blog.
Firstly, think about a specific person you’re interested in talking to or working with?
It could be youngsters who want to live a digital nomad life? Or, moms who stay at home with two or more kids?
You get the idea.
Next, what transformation do you want your blog to bring to your target audience?
For example, you share tips for young digital nomads to work effectively so they can ensure their finance while traveling around the world.
Or, you guide moms to organize their lives, so they don’t be overwhelmed and still have time for taking care of themselves.
Can you see something special here?
There is a formula to position your blog. It’s:
I help + … (who you want to serve)+ do something + so they can + …(the desired results)
Take my blog as an example.
I help women start their blog intentionally and turn it into a profitable online business to gain more control over their finances and lives.
You see, it’s not that hard, right?
3. Research Blogs Within Your Niche
Okay, you might think you’d been already done with competitors researching when you figured out your niche.
I know you did it.
However, it’s just the surface of the ocean.
Once you’ve clearly positioned yourself, you need to dive deeper into your niche.
Let’s figure out what others are talking about and how they put them out there. And are there any uncovered aspects you can add to the conversation? Do you have another unique angle on the already-said topics that helps you claim yourself as an expert and give your audience perspective-taking?
Once you list out your top 3-5 favorite bloggers in the same niche, browse their sites as much as you can. Capture everything you find interesting and helpful. Analyze them, ask yourself what you can walk away with and what you could do to improve if you were them.
Soon you’ll realize this is the most effective way to learn blogging without paying a single buck.
What you need to pay attention to when researching other’s blogs are (include but not limit):
- How they structure their sites
- The topics they’re writing and how they write blog posts
- The ways they make money (providing services, selling digital products, ads, sponsored posts, etc.)
- The system they use to convert readers to subscribers and buyers (freebies, opt-in form, thank you page, landing page, etc.)
One more important thing to keep in mind is don’t consider other bloggers within your niche as competitors. They are much like your mentors, your partners.
I’m sure you can learn a lot and grow quickly if you’re open to establishing your networking with other folks.
4. Choose Your Web Hosting
A lot of beginners suck here.
If you post a question like “which web hosting should I use?” in a Facebook group, you’ll receive two types of answers:
“I use…(hosting name). And, I satisfied with it.”
“Stay away…(hosting name) at all cost. Go with…(another hosting provider).”
I don’t know about you, but I get confused every time I read those recommendations. They make it harder for me to make a decision.
I’ve tried four web hostings (and ended up going with two of them). From my experience, I realized two things:
Firstly, different bloggers have different experiences with the same web hosting. Not to mention some recommendations are biased since they’re for affiliate marketing purposes.
Secondly, you find it hard to choose your web hosting because you have no criteria – this is the most crucial one.
Therefore, you need a strategy to choose a suitable web hosting without being overwhelmed.
Keep in mind that there are web hostings for established websites with thousands of page views per month and some for starter sites (it’s your site). So, when it comes to considering a web hosting provider, it’s essential to take a look at the right segment, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
A comparison chart with some essential criteria can be a good place to start with. Below are some recommended factors you can take into your consideration:
- Ease of use: Is their web hosting dashboard friendly to a non-techie beginner? Does it enable you to manage your site on your own without spending hours learning about it?
- Support service: Is their customer support available 24/7? Are you familiar with their support methods (email, live chat, phone, etc.)? How quickly and effectively do they help other bloggers solve their problems?
- Price of signup and renewal: Are they affordable? Is there any hidden cost adding up to your signup price? How much does it cost you for renewal? (Normally, the renewal price will rise compared to the signup one).
- Security: Do they offer a free SSL certificate to make your website more reliable? What about other security features?
- Uptime: How often will they keep your website stay up? To find the answer, look at the web host’s uptime guarantee. No web host can stay up all the time, but you should pick a web hosting provider with at least 99.5% uptime.
Of course, the above are just basic criteria. You can go deeper with other ones such as speed, data backups, server location, and server resources (bandwidth, scalability, etc.).
But, you need to consider each of them carefully. Remember, if you make it too complicated, you’re increasing the resistance to starting your blog.
You can always change the web hosting anytime you wish. And, you don’t have to do it alone. Most hosting providers are more than happy to help you deal with the technical aspects of the transferring process.
So, choose a suitable web hosting for your criteria and move on.
5. Pick a Domain name
I bet you don’t want to change your website’s domain name (a.k.a URL) after a few months of running it. And, you don’t like getting sucked on coming up with a perfect one as well.
The easiest way of pitching a domain name is to use your name as your website’s URL. Or another variation is “your name + what you do”, for example, SelenaWebDesign.com. But, the cons are it can be a problem if you change your niche or sell the blog later.
Other than that, you can refer to my simple but effective process to choose your unique domain name:
Step 1: Decide who you want to serve and what you stand for (as mentioned above). This step is crucial since your URL should reflect these elements.
Step 2: Use domain name generators to brainstorm ideas for your domain name. I often use https://domainwheel.com/ whenever I run out of domain name ideas.
Step 3: Check the trademark with https://tmsearch.uspto.gov/ and the availability with your domain registrar.
Here are some tips for choosing a domain name:
- Prioritize .com extension: You can go with any extension you want, but .com is the most popular one, which keeps your URL memorable to your readers. If your favorite name isn’t available with .com, you can slightly change it. For example, if your desired name is happymoms.com, other variations can be thehappymoms.com, ahappymom.com, happymama.com, etc.
- Use target audience or keyword in your domain name: This would help you attract your ideal reader’s attention more easily.
- Don’t go too broad or too narrow: While having a too-generic name is like you’re losing your uniqueness, pigeonholing yourself may prevent your blog’s scalability in the future. It can be hard to keep the balance, but it’s worth it.
- Keep it short and simple: Make your website’s URL memorable by using 2-3 words without doubled letters or special characters.
Keep in mind that you own the domain name, but it is for your target audience. Make it all about them. Make it catchy and easy to remember.
Last but not least, don’t let yourself be stuck with choosing a unique one.
6. Visualize Your Blog
It’s time to imagine your blog in detail.
To make it easy, think about your favorite blogs. If you were one of them, which one would you choose to be?
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m not telling you to copy anyone.
You’re just looking around and getting some inspiration. Jot down things you’re impressed with or features that you believe it’s a good fit for your blog.
Then, you might need to consider the below aspects:
- How you structure your blog: A well-structured blog not only helps your ideal audience easily navigate your site but also improves your SEO score. Take a piece of paper and a pen, write down all menus and categories you’ll have, and illustrate how you’ll manage each of them on your site. Keep it neat and make-sense
- What design style do you like: If fact, you have to find a sweet point between the designs you fancy and those that your ideal readers love. At the end of the day, your blog is for serving your readers.
When it comes to choosing the design for your blog, one more essential thing you might be interested in is the need for your site. For example, if you run a blog on photography, a design with a lot of space to showcase your photos is the best choice. If you start a blog selling printables, you may want a theme that integrates nicely with Woocommerce.
You get the idea.
7. Get Yourself Familiar With WordPress
If you don’t blog on WordPress.org, you can skip this part. Otherwise, it’s worth adding this section to your to-do list.
Many beginners are struggling with setting up a WordPress site. They have no idea how to customize the theme to make it meet their needs. They can’t figure out how to work with menus and categories. And a lot of other daunting tasks.
That’s why I highly recommend you spend a few hours learning about WordPress.org. This step can save you a lot of headaches later on.
Head to iMarkinteractive.com and sign up for their free WordPress course.
You can also learn from videos on YouTube. But, by joining the course, you have the chance to enjoy systematically-organized foundational knowledge in one place instead of separate tutorials.
Should we learn all the courses and then roll up our sleeves to set up the blog, or should we do as we learn?
Well, it depends on how you prefer it.
Some people learn best when they focus only on learning. In doing this, they have an overview of what is waiting for them ahead and which tasks they should take in the right order. When it comes to practice, they can get back to the section they need help.
Others aren’t patient enough to go through the whole course. They’re eager to roll up their sleeves to put what they learned into practice.
Consider which learning method works best for you and stick with it.
8. Come Up With a Few Blog Post Ideas
I know many veteran bloggers advise you to create a list of blog post ideas (at least 15) before starting a blog.
I myself think this task can increase your resistance to getting your blog ready to launch.
Here is the reason: When it comes to blogging intentionally, every blog post has a purpose, and all of them need to serve the blog’s primary goal.
It means you won’t come up with writing ideas from thin air. You need to do research thoroughly to know what to bring to the table. And, the research process often takes a lot of time and effort away from you, which can drain your energy to start your blog.
So, keep it less resistant.
It’s totally fine to have only 3-5 blog post ideas to get started.
When you complete the setup process, you’ll have more time to invest in developing your content plan.
To recap, there are some essential things you need to do beforehand to ensure your no-fail blog launching plan:
- Get familiar with the basics of the blogging world
- Figure out your target audience and the purpose of your blog
- Learn from other bloggers within your niche
- Choose your suitable web hosting
- Pick a and memorable domain name
- Think about how you’ll structure and design your blog
- Learn how to work with WordPress
- Generate 3-5 blog post ideas
While the above tasks seem to slow down your speed of starting a blog, they’re not. All they require to accomplish is a bit of time and effort at first, but they will pay off for the rest of your blogging journey.
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