How to Start a Successful Blog

how-to-start-a-blogAlthough I’ve only been “professionally” blogging for about a year and a half (though I have blogged without the intent of monetizing since 2008), I feel like I’ve become pretty skilled in the trade. While I have a lot to learn, I love being able to share my tips for success with others. Not everyone is cut out to be a blogger, but if you have the passion and drive to do what it takes, the possibilities are endless!

1) Choosing a Platform

Before you really can do anything, you have to pick a place for your blog to “live.” There are several different options, but I would say that the majority of people go with one of the three options:

  • Blogger: This free platform is often the platform of choice for those just starting out. Blogger has many pros (and a few cons). For someone who doesn’t know a lot of coding, wants to start their blog quickly, but still have control over design, this is a great option. Many great blogs have not only been created, but have thrived on Blogger. The one gripe many have about Blogger is the fact that you don’t really own everything on your blog — Google does. And, at any time, Google can shut down your blog. Now, this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it’s not a myth. Want to know how I know? Because it happened to me! For a short period of time, my blog was marked as spam, and I couldn’t do anything about it. I was luckily able to petition this quickly, but I’ve known others to not be as lucky.
  • WordPress.com: This is the free version of WordPress. If you know you like the way WordPress runs, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.  The biggest downside, in my opinion, is
  • WordPress.org: If you are wanting to be serious about blogging, WordPress.org is definitely where I recommend you being. I started out on Blogger, but then I switched to WordPress.org a few months ago, and I wish I had been there from the start. For one, you own everything. It’s also supposed to be better for SEO. The downside is, that there is an investment that will have to be made. You have to buy hosting (see our recommended hosting providers here), often times you will need to purchase a theme, and other costs will inevitably come up. However, most bloggers will tell you that there is a definite return on investment — myself included. As soon as I moved to WordPress, my stats skyrocketed, which means ad revenue went up, and my appeal to brands increased as well. After being on WordPress for over a year now, it’s the place I recommend any blogger begin.

2) Picking a niche

Parenting? Foodie? Tech? There’s so many different blogging niches out there, and one for just about everyone. Pick something you are a passionate about, not what you think will be most popular. If you feel like you would run out of topics quickly, then don’t go with that one! Over at my blog, Clarks Condensed, I have a modge podge of different topics — ranging from food to parenting and pregnancy to thrifty living — and that has worked well for me. You don’t have to post every day, but you want to be able to create content somewhat easily. That’s not to say you won’t run into writer’s block. Every blogger will experience this at some time or another. But having a topic you are passionate about will make it far easier to break through that block, and start writing again.

I’d also avoid picking a topic that is too narrow, as it can make it hard to get a good readership. However, that doesn’t mean you should avoid something that isn’t so popular. If there is a community that would be interested in it, and you like writing about it, it’s worth trying. I write for a website all about electronic medical records and mobile health care. To the average person, this might not be very exciting. However, there is a large enough community who does want to read it, that the site has been very successful.

3) Choose and Buy a Domain Name

If you are on blogger or wordpress, by default, your domain will end with their domain (.blogspot or .wordpress.) However, having your own domain is really an investment that is well made. You can buy a domain for about $10 a year. Personally, I went with GoDaddy when I was on blogger, and I was very happy with that decision. Brands will take your blog more seriously if you have your own domain, plus, it just looks more professional.

When buying a domain, I highly suggest purchasing the extra security most companies offer. By doing this, if someone looks up your domain, they won’t be able to find your address, but the address of the company you bought the domain from. I found this out the hard way, when I was looking at my site on WhoIs.com, and discovered that my home address was right there for anyone to see. While I don’t think I have any enemies, I sure don’t want to make it any easier for someone to find me!

Be sure to put some thought into your domain name. You don’t want to have to go back and rebrand everything someday, and using something that is SEO friendly, catchy, and interesting will draw people in. When choosing a domain name, I highly recommend checking out Namechk.com. This allows you to see if just about any social network out there has your name still available. It would really be unfortunate to go and get all excited about your domain name, only to realize that it isn’t available on your social networks!

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