While I am by no means an expert on blogging as a way to work from home, I have learned a few things in the short time I have been doing this. So, I have put together this little list of blogging tips for beginners.
Before I get into the nitty gritty of it, I have to say that it is not an easy way to earn a living online! It does take a lot of hard work, dedication, and trial and error. You have to have the mindset that this is your job, and devote as much time and effort to it that you would any job you wanted to excel at. However, it is very rewarding, and I am going to keep at it as long as I can.
Blogging Tips for Beginners – Setting Up Your Blog
1. Choose between free and paid blogging platforms
Most people when they are just starting out use a free platform like Blogger or WordPress.com (not WordPress.org…more on that in a minute). I think if you’re testing the waters, this may be the best way to start. However, if you know that you’re going to stick with blogging, then I can’t stress enough the importance of going the paid route. Why?
When you have a free blog, you really don’t own it (hence having the subdomain of “blogger” or “wordpress” in your domain name). You are very limited in how you can customize your blog, and customization is really key to being able to make money from your blog. Any blogger who has been at it awhile will tell you the same thing.
If you’re already set up on Blogger or WordPress.com, don’t panic! They are the two best free blog platforms, and there’s nothing wrong with using them to get your feet wet. Plus, there are ways to get your blog moved, either by doing it yourself if you’re tech savvy or by paying a service to do it for you.
If you’re new to blogging platforms, I’d hire someone to do it. It’ll save you a lot of time. The same applies to moving from other free platforms to paid platforms. Just do a Google search, and you’ll find help.
2. Select a hosting service and pay for your domain
When I first started looking at hosting services, I wasn’t aware that you could purchase a domain name (think .com, .net, .org) at one service and host it somewhere else. This could save you a lot of money, especially since Godaddy often has specials where you can buy your domain names for $1. However, I think for someone just starting out, purchasing everything through one company is the easiest way to go. Just be prepared to pay about $12-$14 for the domain registration.
Once you’ve settled on a service, you should think long and hard about the actual name you want to give to your blog. Changing names (and brands) midstream could result in a loss of audience.
With that said, here are some good hosting services and domain name sites for beginning bloggers. These are all reasonably priced with hosting plans starting at $4.95 per month.
- GoDaddy: They are always running specials, but most plans start around $5.99 per month without any discounts. They often throw in the domain name registration for $1 if you sign up with them for hosting. I’ve been very happy with the managed WordPress service thus far. The term “managed” means that they are the ones who manage some aspects of your blog, mainly its security. It’s nice not having to play around with security plugins to figure out which ones work best and “play nicely” with the blog…that is, they won’t cause your blog to malfunction.
- Bluehost: This is another popular WordPress hosting site. They usually have plans starting at $3.95 per month, but you have to purchase a year’s worth of hosting in order to get that price. Still, it is a favorite web host of the folks who created WordPress, so it’s worth a mention.
3. Install WordPress
Once you’ve settled on a domain name and hosting service, the next step will be to install WordPress. It is by far the most comprehensive blogging platform in terms of customization. Most people who have successful blogs use it for that reason. The hosting services I listed above both have “1-click” WordPress installation, so installing it is really a snap. Just follow your host’s directions, and you should be set up in less than an hour.
4. Select a WordPress theme
One reason why WordPress is so popular is that you have a much wider choice in themes and customization of those themes. WordPress comes out with a default theme every year, named after the current year. However, I recommend choosing another one of their free themes, especially ones that have a lot of choices for customization (think colors, layouts, fonts, etc.). Some of these free themes will have the option to upgrade to a paid theme, which I think is a great option. It allows you to see if the theme is something you like before paying.
You should also take your subject matter into consideration when choosing a theme. If your blog is like mine, which is content heavy, choosing a magazine-like theme will probably be your best bet. If you’re going the more creative route, then perhaps a theme that focuses on images may be better.
If you’re going to go the paid route, you should check out the StudioPress.com Genesis framework, which is a powerful tool in theme design. Lots of themes, paid and free alike, use the Genesis framework as a basis. These are known as Genesis child themes, and I used to have a theme by the designer over at Restored316 Designs. I bought the Genesis framework and the child theme for about $50 total. It was a great deal, because usually the Genesis platform is about $50 alone, without discounts.
The one I currently use is the Divi platform by Elegant Themes, which is one of the top WYSIWYG theme builders available. There are a number of built-in themes to choose from when you purchase the Divi platform, and each week they release a new one.
5. Install plugins
Plugins are little pieces of software you can use on your WordPress blog to help it function in different ways and do different things. WordPress now comes with a host of plugins called Jetpack, which provide some essential things your blog will need, such as protection against spam! But there are a few plugins outside of the Jetpack package which I highly recommend:
- W3 Total Cache: Helps speed up your page loading time.
- Google XML Sitemaps: This will create a sitemap for your blog which will make it easier for Google and other search engines to index it.
- iThemes Security: This keeps hackers out and is a must-have for any blogger. At some point, someone WILL try to hack into your site. Make sure they can’t do it.
- WordPress SEO: This is a good plugin to help you learn some of the ropes of SEO, or search engine optimization, which if done correctly will help bring traffic to your blog.
As you get more familiar with your blog, you will likely need more plugins than these. You can pick and choose what you think you need. Just remember not to have too many active at once! It can slow down your web page loading time and have a negative impact on your traffic.
6. Get traffic
The first order of business is to start writing, as much as you can and as often as you can. Google will start to crawl your site, and you’ll start to see a little traffic here and there. The more you post, the more often Google will crawl your site. But that’s only one step.
You should also get involved in social media. The major networks, if you don’t already know by now, are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. However, you should also think about Pinterest and Instagram, especially if you have a blog that’s about DIY, crafting, photography…anything where pictures matter! I myself try to focus on Facebook and Twitter, and I keep trying Pinterest and Google Plus. It’s hard keeping up with more than two social networks, though, so you should try all of them and see what you think works best for driving content to your site.
Forums are another popular way to bring traffic to your site. Find one in your niche and get involved!
Once you have a steady stream of traffic, it’s good to use Google Analytics. There’s a learning curve with it, though, so for my basic everyday needs I use the built in Jetpack site stats plugin that comes with a WordPress installation. It’s right there at your fingertips, and it is very easy to understand.
7. Make money
Like I said above, blogging is not an easy way to make money online, but it a great way (at least in my opinion, haha). It takes time to get traffic to your site, and once you get traffic to your site, you have to make sure that the content you’re writing about is of good quality to keep the traffic coming to your site.
Getting and keeping traffic is key to successful monetization. Whether it’s through ad networks such as Google Adsense, using affiliate networks, selling ads directly, selling your own products and services, or a mix of all of these, eventually you will learn how to make money blogging. (I’m currently writing a post about monetizing your blog, so stay tuned!)
Is it worth it all of the money, time, and hassle?
For me, yes, it is all worth it! I really operate this blog on a shoestring budget, hence my love for free tools and resources. I paid only $12 for the domain and hosting (it’s through GoDaddy, and it’s a managed WP platform). Other than that, the only costs I have accrued are from trying out different themes in my search for the one that I think works (and looks!) best.
I am also going to be looking for a logo in the near future, but I will probably go the Fiverr route and see what I can get for $5 or $10. Would I spend more money on things like plugins, SEO services, social media assistance, and the like? If I had it, sure. But, I will get by on a shoestring budget as long as I need to.
As for time, it does take more time than I thought it would. Between doing a daily job search, writing new entries, and trying to learn the best ways to promote this blog, it is pretty much a full-time job. However, I can start at any time of the day, and I don’t have any set hours (I can’t with 3-year-old twins running around!). So to me, it is worth it.
The only hassles I’ve had are with dealing with spam comments and spam blog registrants…luckily, I was able to find a free plugin to help with that. I’m sure that as the blog grows in popularity (which I am hoping it does, of course), there will be more issues that come with having more users. It’s just the name of the game.
In any case, I hope that this list of blogging tips for beginners post is useful to you in your pursuit of blogging as a way to work from home.