In our ever-changing digital world, blogging has fast become one of the most popular ways of sharing your news and communicating. A blog is simply an online space where you can share your thoughts, experiences or expertise with other people. If you already have your own website, you can add a blog section as an extension to the main site, or you can set up a standalone blog. You can use your blog personally or professionally, and you can blog about absolutely anything.
If you’re keen to set up a blog but don’t know where to start, here are 6 things you should know.
1. Decide what you want to blog about
The first step in setting up a blog is deciding what exactly you want to write about – because the beauty of blogging is that it can be about anything you like. If you’re a keen artist, you can set up a blog to share your creations and document your creative adventures. Or, you can use your blog as more of a journal, to improve your writing skills and confidence. Alternatively, you might decide to blog about causes you care about, to communicate a message or idea, to build a community, or to explore a hobby.
There are no ‘rules’ about what you can blog about, but as a guideline, you should always choose a topic that genuinely interests you. It might feel like it makes sense to pick a blogging topic you think others are interested in – but if you don’t have the necessary passion, writing for your blog and keeping it updated can seem like a chore. However niche your blogging topic is, if you’re truly enthusiastic about it, this will shine through and your readers will want to keep coming back.
It’s also helpful to think about who your potential readers will be. Who do you imagine will be interested in your blog? How will you appeal to readers? Do you actually care about having lots of readers, or are you blogging mainly for yourself? Blogging success is usually defined as attracting, growing and keeping an audience, and ideally readers will interact with you, and leave comments and ask questions. However, if you’re blogging for yourself, none of this needs to matter. As long as you’re getting enjoyment and satisfaction from your blog, it’s a success. Some people find it therapeutic just to have somewhere that they can journal their thoughts.
There are literally millions of blogs online, about everything and anything. But generally speaking, it’s important to have a niche, as this will make your blog stand out. If you want to set up a cooking blog, what will set your blog apart from all the other cooking blogs? Perhaps you love cooking healthy Italian food – that’s a niche. If you love baking, then blogging about gluten-free baking, or vegan baking, would all be considered niches . If you have a lifelong passion for French cinema, you could blog about that. Are you a passionate scarf knitter? Then why not blog about that? Have a watch of the video below if you’d like to get more tips on finding your niche.
Ultimately, whatever you choose to blog about, it should be a topic that you’re passionate about. If there’s one thing you just can’t stop talking about, then that’s probably going to be your ideal blogging topic. The only reason you might blog about something you aren’t extremely passionate about is if you’re using your blog professionally. Many people set up a blog for business reasons, not because it’s a passion project – and you can still get enormous satisfaction from this. Which brings us to the next point…
2. Figure out if you want a business blog
Not only can you feel inspired to set up a blog because you’re interested in a specific topic – but also because it can help to boost your business. If you want to use your blog professionally rather than personally, a blog can make a big difference to your company’s success. It can help you to network with others in the same industry, establish your expertise, help position your company as an industry leader, and create a connection with your readers and clients.
There are also plenty of ways you can make money from your blog – and this can also apply if you’re using your blog personally, too. If you gain enough readers, you can sell products and merchandise on your blog, or place adverts promoting different products and services, for which you’ll receive compensation. And of course, the more new customers you can attract to your blog, and by extension, your business, the more profitable it can be.
Nearly 80% of businesses who use blogging as a part of their marketing, acquire new customers via their blog.. The key difference between a business blog and a personal blog is that a business blog isn’t about you. You’re not writing for yourself – you’re writing for your customers, so that should be reflected in the type of posts you write. Some key questions to ask yourself are: what do my customers want to read about, and what questions and challenges are they facing?
If you’re using your blog for your business, it’s very important to consider how you’re going to let new visitors know what your blog and business are all about. All professional blogs should contain an ‘About Us’ or ‘About Me’ page, where new readers can find out who you are and what you do. They should also have a ‘Contact’ page, so readers can communicate with you. Whilst two way communication with your readers is really important, some people prefer to set up a separate email address for their blog, or have a form people can fill in – so as not to publish their personal email address publically.
To find out more about business blogging you can watch this detailed business blogging course by Ahrefs here.
3. Find a blog platform to use
Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to be blogging about, and whether you’re going to do it personally or professionally, the next step is to actually build your blog. Now you need to decide which blogging platform you want to use – this is basically where your blog will live on the internet. There are many popular blogging platforms out there, but some of the most widely used ones are WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger. They’re simple to set up, and there are thousands of blog designs to choose from. You can find out more about other blogging platforms here.
You now need to decide whether your blog will be ‘free’ and live on someone else’s web platform, or whether you want to pay to host it yourself. WordPress has plenty of free blogs available, and if you’re blogging personally, or more for your own enjoyment than to make money or promote your business, then a free blog might work. The upside to a free blog, of course, is that you won’t pay a penny and they’re quite quick and easy to get up and running. But they do have their drawbacks.
The first is that while you will own the content on your blog, you won’t actually own the blog itself. It’s hosted on someone else’s web platform and can be deleted at any point. It’s unlikely your blog will be deleted unless you’re breaching any guidelines, but you won’t have the security of actual ownership. The second drawback is that because you don’t own your blog, you won’t have your own domain name. So rather than having a blog called YourName.com, it’ll look like YourName.wordpress.com. This isn’t as attractive or as professional as having your own domain name – and while it might be fine if you just want a place to share your thoughts, photos, ideas, recipes, etc. with friends and family, for anything else it’s pretty limited.
If you’re looking to monetise your blog in any way, or use it to grow your business, it’s probably better to opt for a self-hosted blog which will give you total control. You own your blog, and you can call it whatever you like. You can choose to end your domain name with co.uk, .net, .org or .com. You also have infinite space for blog content like videos and images, and you’ll get lots of free themes to choose from. Self-hosted blogs will usually cost around £5 a month – although sometimes less. You can find out more about whether a free or self-hosted blogging platform is right for you here.
4. Set up your blog
Let’s assume you want to have control over your own blog and choose a self-hosted blogging platform. What next? Whether you choose WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger, or opt for another site entirely, the next step is to choose your domain name and hosting company. Your domain name is your blog URL – whatever you want your site to be called. Your hosting company hosts your blog – essentially it’s what allows your site to be found online and read by people.
For the purpose of this guide, let’s assume you decide to go with WordPress as your blogging platform (this is also probably the easiest option considering WordPress offers all-in-one hosting features – so website design, domain registration, and secure hosting). Once you begin the process of setting up your blog on WordPress, the first thing it will ask you is what you’d like your domain name to be. If there’s already a blog or site with your preferred domain name, then WordPress will suggest similar names that are available. You’ll have to pay an annual fee to register a domain name, which is usually less than £10 a year. As long as you pay the fee, the domain name will be yours.
Then it’s time to choose your host. If you’re setting up a WordPress blog, you can choose WordPress as your host when you’re setting up your blog. This is the easiest option, as you can install your hosting plan in just one click – then your blog is already set up, and all you need to do is decide on a design and start adding content. However, you don’t have to choose WordPress to host your blog. There are hundreds of web hosting providers, with GoDaddy, BlueHost and Hostgator being some of the most popular. These providers can differ in terms of price and what they provide – e.g. do you want an email address linked to your blog? Do you need a fast loading time? Do you need a large amount of bandwidth (data you can send)? If you want to do more of your own research, you can have a read of this guide to the best web hosting providers.
We know that terms like host and domain can seem a bit daunting if you’re new to blogging. If you feel a bit overwhelmed by some of these technical terms or the amount of options available to you, we’d suggest going with WordPress to host your blog – at least to start with. It’s one of the quickest and easiest options around, plus it’s flexible and has a variety of different hosting plans, depending on what you want your blog to have. Setting up your blog really is simpler than it sounds, but if you’re feeling apprehensive, have a watch of this step-by-step guide to setting up.
5. Customise your blog
Now you’ve registered your domain name, chosen your web host and set up your blog – you’re up and running. And now comes the fun part…customising your blog. The design of your blog should be eye-catching, attractive and practical, and the theme should complement your content. For example, if you want to use your blog to share recipes and document your culinary adventures, then choosing a colourful, food-related theme might be a good idea. Or, if your blog is a business blog, then you’ll probably want it to be smarter and sleeker.
Aside from the aesthetics, your blog should also be easy to navigate. You don’t want a new visitor to arrive on your site but not be able to find what they’re looking for because the design is clunky or overloaded. Getting the right design means choosing the right theme. While you should never judge a book by its cover, or a blog by its theme, this is a crucial step. The content of your blog should be what’s most important, but if your site isn’t attractive, then some people just won’t want to read your posts.
To choose a blog theme, you can install a free WordPress theme and try a few out. Simply click on the Appearance tab, then click Themes, and see if any designs stand out. The other option is to pay for a premium theme, which usually costs around £30 – although this can vary greatly. Two of the most popular premium theme sites are Theme Forest and Elegant Themes, both of which can be accessed directly from your WordPress account. If you’d prefer to get started with a free theme (you can always upgrade later), you might want to watch this video on WordPress best free themes.
When browsing through the different themes, it’s important to consider more factors than just mere aesthetics. Most themes come with brief descriptions of their features and functionality, so be sure to read them to check whether the theme matches your blog requirements. Most themes are rated, so you can get a good idea of how suitable other bloggers have found that theme. You might find a beautiful design that you instantly want to install, but always remember to consider whether the theme reflects what the blog is about, as well as your personality (if it’s a personal blog), or the tone of your brand (if it’s a business blog).
Once you’ve selected your theme, you then need to install it. This is quick and simple, but if you want step-by-step guidance, check out the video below.
The final step before your blog is launched is to fill in the two most relevant important fields in your WordPress dashboard. These are your blog’s title and description, which let future readers know what you’re all about: e.g. “A blog about food, travel, and my adventures around the world”, or “A private piano teacher offering holistic tuition to students of all ages.” Then all you need to do is click the launch button, and that’s it. Your blog is ready to go!
6. Updating your blog
Of course, starting a blog is just the first step to blogging success. Getting to grips with blogging best practice (e.g. how often you should post), promoting your blog, and seeing what type of content readers prefer is all part of the blogging journey – especially if you’re using your blog for business and not just personal enjoyment. But as with any new skill, it can take time to find your feet. If you want to keep your blog private until you’re ready to share it – or just keep more personal blog posts private – then you can. Have a read of this step-by-step guide to going private.
Frequency of posting
In terms of how often you should post, this largely depends on the purpose of your blog. If it’s personal, you can, of course, post as regularly (or irregularly) as you’d like, but generally speaking, once a week is a good guide. This way your readers will know they can expect regular content and will keep visiting your site. If you’re using your blog for business, it’s usually better to post more often. However, if you’re the only person blogging, you shouldn’t feel pressured to constantly churn out new posts for the sake of it. This can quickly take the fun out of blogging, and you might start to feel burned out creatively. Plus, it’s better to produce content that’s actually relevant and interesting to your readers – and not because you’re making up numbers. If you’d like to know more about the optimum frequency of posting, you might want to read this guide.
Draw inspiration from other blogs
At this stage, we’d also suggest spending time reading plenty of other related blogs to get inspired. Have a look at the length and topics of blog posts you find engaging – usually, 600–1,200 words is considered the ‘ideal’ blog length, but this does depend on the topic and tone of your blog. It’s almost always a good idea to include photos and videos in your blog too, when relevant. It might take time to figure out what type of content works best for your blog and your readers, but that’s all part of the learning curve.
Familiarise yourself with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you want to get your content noticed or are serious about marketing your blog, it’s important to get familiar with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). SEO relates to optimising your blogs so they get noticed by Google, and by extension, more readers. SEO can be a very technical subject, and something you never stop learning about, but there are some easy ways to start out. First, you should always try to ensure your blog title is strong. It shouldn’t be more than 70 characters (ideally) and should make the reader want to click on it and read. You might want to have a read of this article on how to write blog headlines that get you noticed.
When writing your blog, you should also try to include keywords, which indicate what your blog is about (WordPress has a special section for this in its dashboard). For example, if your blog is about gardening, then make sure to use your main keyword ‘gardening’ in your blog title and in the actual blog itself too. You could also pepper other terms closely associated with gardening such as ‘growth’ and ‘flowering’ throughout your blog too.
Using a meta description
It’s also helpful to include a meta description: this is generally a single sentence that appears on Google’s search results page and lets people know what this particular blog is about. Meta descriptions should be an accurate and compelling indication of what people can expect if they click on your blog. You should try to always include your main keyword inside your meta – this is beneficial for SEO. To learn more about SEO best practices, have a read of these handy tips, or watch the video below.
Blogging can seem complicated and technical if you’ve never done it before, but it’s much easier than you think, particularly if you are happy to pay a bit extra for the automated, premium services. From a business perspective, blogging can provide you with excellent opportunities to attract more customers and clients, build your brand, and establish yourself as an industry leader, but you don’t have to use your blog professionally to get meaning out of it. For many bloggers, simply sharing your passion, knowledge and experiences and feeling more connected to others is the biggest benefit.