8 Easy Steps to Start Your Own Blog July 13, 2018 · 20 min. readWhile the thoughts and opinions are my own, this article was brought to you by a third party. Also, this article may contain affiliate links.
When I started my blog, I wanted a place to tell stories. I wanted a place where I could keep memories and show them off for people later. My earliest entries on my blog are from 2011 (published in 2014), right after my trip to Europe. They're messy, they lack detail, and they are full of inaccuracies. Not the mention the wretched photography.
So, there's only been a slight improvement since then. Hahahahaha.
Four years later, my blog has become my hobby, my joy, my escape and my work. I spend hours writing content for my blog. I spend hours editing pictures, researching details, and adjusting content for SEO (search engine optimization). It's a full-time gig, and just the other day I published my 200th article. After 200 times of doing something, you'd think the articles would get easier, but they really don't. Each one is unique unto itself, and each one is a special time in my life that I shared with my readers.
Most bloggers will never have to touch code, and neither will you. It helps to know basic HTML and CSS, but it's a rabbit-hole you don't have to go down if you don't want to. In fact, I don't know any bloggers who know how to code.
So, if I don't have to go to school and became a super-nerd like you, Kenton, where do I begin?
1. What should your blog be about?
If you are thinking of starting a blog, you might already know the answer to this. If you don't, that's alright too. Sometimes it can be difficult – and intimidating – to start a blog about a certain topic. What if you want to change topics after a year? What if your interests change? Do you set aside a corner of your blog to talk about something else, or do you include it in your primary content? That's something I struggle with. I wanted to write about my travels originally, but as the years went on, I also wanted to write about web development, politics, religion, community events, and other things that are important to me. Sometimes I write about politics on my blog, but if I know a topic won't fit in with my main audience, I start a second blog.
Ove the years I have noticed that articles that are of a different topic than me travelling – like my article about Islam, my article about North Korea or my articles about the Spanish Flu – don't do very good. My readers don't notice them, my followers don't like the pictures, and they don't fit in with my "brand" as a travel blogger.
This shouldn't be a deterrent though as some blogs have different topics and categories all the time, but it should be something worth thinking about. If you start a blog about gardening and then want to write about a movie you saw involving a sparkly vampire, then you might want to look at a different avenue.
2. What should your blog be called?
This is where I often get stuck. I want to create something, but what do I call it? I sometimes wish everything on my blog could just be Untitled Document, but then my readers wouldn't know what I was talking about. If you're running a company and thinking about adding a blog to your site, this is easy. If you're just a writer and you want to put content online though, this is difficult.
Here are a couple things to remember when picking a name:
Pick a name that fits your niche. The Sask Press is a Saskatchewan-based editorial about life on the prairies. The Prairie Dog is a magazine about a single man's struggle against invasive borrowing rodents. The Oatmeal is a comic strip about nutritious grains. Naming your blog after something different is confusing to readers.
Pick a name that doesn't rely on your age or appearance. Websites named "20-Something And Travelling" only work until your 30th birthday. "Skinny and Sexy Traveller" only work until your metabolism catches up to you.
Try to pick a name that doesn't come back and bite you. For example, if you write a blog about raising children, it's fine until your children learn to read and they find out you've been documenting every bathroom mishap until they were born. It can even get worse when that child goes to school and other kids find out about it.
I went through a few iterations of my blog before I finally settled on "Kenton de Jong Travel". In fact, my first blog was titled "Canadian Meets World". After that it was "Kenton News Network". Finally, in 2014 I just went with my name, plus the suffix "Travel".
Finding a topic or niche to write about first helps you find a name that fits. If you're ever stuck on a name, don't be afraid to Google other blogs of that same category and see what they're called.
3. Where should your blog live?
Once you have an idea for a blog, and a title for what you want to call it, you're going to need "hosting" and a "domain name". "Hosting" is where your blog lives. It's their home. For example, my hosting is out of Phoenix, Arizona. Pretty neat, eh? Your website can be hosted anywhere in the world. I've hosted sites in Boston, Toronto, Hong Kong and London. I've even hosted websites right here in Regina.
A domain name is the "human-readable" version of your address on that server. The domain name converts into the IP Address, which is something like 22.214.171.124, so that browsers can find it. The domain name is just the easier way to say that.
All that is a little confusing, so if you don't get it, that's alright. At the end of the day you just need to find a domain name, and find hosting, and you're all set.
If you've been looking to do this for a while, you're probably wondering why we should do all this when you can set up an easy website on services like Wix.com or Squarespace. The answer is simple: what you save in ease of setting up, you lose in customization. No big website runs on Wix. No popular service runs on Squarespace. While these options are cheaper and quicker, you lose valuable functionality and the ability to customize. If you want a quick and dirty site, those are good options, but if you want an actual successful blog, you'll want to keep reading.
2. Select Your Plan. You have 3 options to choose from. If you're only setting up one site, you'll want to go with the $3.95 package.
3. Reserve Your Domain. Here is where you type in the name of your blog. Don't worry about adding a ".com" to the end of that. Bluehost offers a wide variety of website prefixes to choose from, such as .com, .online, .site, .website, .space, .tech, .store, .blog, .net, .org, .info, .co, .us, .biz and .club. Unfortunately, they do not offer .ca domains, but they can still host .ca domains.
4. Enter Account Information. This page is where you'll enter all of your personal information.
5. Select Your Package Information. I'm the kind of person who goes year-by-year because I have 10,000 business ideas and few of them actually become anything, so I go for the cheapest option. But, if you're deadset on having a blog and it'll last you more than a year, I'd go for a multi-year option. Keep in mind though, once your subscription end, the rate goes up to regular pricing, so the longer your subscription, the less you have to pay in the long term.
6. Select your Package Extras. From somebody who has been in web development for 7 years, and who has ran his own blog for 5 years, I wouldn't get any of this. But, just so you know what they all are:
Domain Privacy Protection will prevent you from getting spam emails and calls, but those don't happen very often.
SiteLock Security checks to see if your site is on any email black lists, prevents XSS attacks, SQL injection and scans your WordPress files for malware. These rarely happen to smaller blogs, and WordPress is pretty good at catching any of these things, so I wouldn't bother getting it.
Bluehost SEO Tools Start allows you to get detailed reports on how your website is running search-engine wise. While this information is important, there are plugins on WordPress that do this just fine too, and in my experience, don't pay anybody for SEO support if they don't buy you a coffee first.
7. Submit your credit card information
8. Select the Terms of Service (well, you can read it first, I guess, but nobody does that). Then click Submit.
9. Create your password and login in.
Now you have a server and your domain. How do you add start blogging?
4. How do you make your site look good?
A website is techically just content and images, but if you want to attract users, you'll need a "theme" to your website. Thankfully, Bluehost and Wordpess have those covered. Simply log into your account and choose one of the many provided themes. Don't worry, you can change these later.
When I first started blogging, I coded every single page by hand. I had basic templates I copied, but everything was by hand. My website was 300 files of 145kb of code. I have since learned that it's much easier to use a Content Management System (CMS). CMS come in all shapes and sizes and are usually baked into hosting packages. The most popular CMS, WordPress, powers about 27% of all websites. In fact, WordPress takes up about 60% of all websites that run on a CMS. At any given time over 500 WordPress sites are being created.
So, naturally, that's the one we're talking about.
To install WordPress, first log into your Bluehost account.
Once you're logged in, you'll find yourself on cPanel. cPanel is a dashboard of all your website options. There's mail options, CMS options, error logs, analytics, and many other options here. Thankfully, once we install WordPress we won't ever have to look at this again. Click "Log in to WordPress".
Once you're in, click "Launch".
Select what kind of account you want.
Fill in your details about what your blog should be called.
Click Next Step.
And you're all done! It was that easy.
6. How can you make your blog do more?
Once your site is up and running and looking sharp, you're going to realize there is functionality you don't have but you need. Thankfully, WordPress allows developers to create plugins which users can install into their WordPress site, and these plugins offer you more functionality.
Two of the top plugins you'll want to add are Yoast SEO (this is to help you with your SEO), Monster Insights (this is to help you track users and numbers), Mailchimp for WordPress (this is for newsletters) and BackWPup (this is in case you delete half your website like me, and you didn't check the Codeguard Basic above). There's plenty of others too, but those are some you'll want to look into.
7. No more questions. Let's get writing!
It's been a lengthy process of buying hosting, finding the right domain that wasn't taken, installing WordPress, finding the right theme, and adding plugins. Finally, you ask, can I start my blog? Yes. And to start your blog at this point, all you have to do is start writing.
I haven't talked much about SEO in this blog, but SEO shouldn't be your main concern when starting a blog. It's a good thing to keep in mind, but above all else, search engines like content. They love it. The more content you have, the better your site does. You don't have to have perfect SEO ratings; you just need to put out content. Think of search engines like people. Write for a person, not a machine, and you'll do fine.
If you want to know more about SEO and how meta tags and keywords and stuff like that work, drop by my other blog (which I will get around to updating one of these days...) at My Beautiful Web and read all about them.
8. How do you make money?
I'm going to be honest: you're probably not going to make any more off your blog the first few years. To start making money, you need constant readers, a following, and an "influence" on people. Google Ads on your site might make your pennies, but they aren't worth your time. I've written about that before, on How to Monetize Your Blog, and again on How to Save Money and Travel the World.
Getting numbers is tough, and the reward of getting paid can sometimes be lackluster. I've written 200 articles and I make $200 a month off my blog (as of July, 2018). I'm not retiring anytime soon.
Although the promise of money is appealing, focus first on your readers. Nobody likes being sold to. If your readers trust you, that's much better than if they buy something from you. Having return readers who are interested in what you have to say is much more rewarding than a cheque in the mail.
Have you ever thought about starting your own blog? What would you call it? Do you have any advice for other people starting a blog? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Don't forget to pin it!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Earlier this year I did a presentation at The Artesian about the Spanish Influenza. It was the first time I had ever done a presentation like this and I was nervous about the number of people that might attend. I told my mother I would be thrilled if five people came that night, but forty people showed up instead. For a topic that very few people know anything about, I was excited to see so many people interested.
But one person in the audience was so interested that several months later she reached out to me to see if I wanted to do my presentation again. Instead of doing it in Regina, she asked for me to travel to Craik, Saskatchewan to tell the Craik Museum and Oral History Society about what I had learned.
For knowing so much about a topic nobody ever asks me about, I was super excited to talk about it. The organiser reached out to Craik School to ask if the students would be interested in attending the lecture too. The teacher said they wouldn't be able to make the time slot work but asked if I could speak to the students about being a blogger at a different time.
Those who attended my Chernobyl lecture at the Queen City Collective earlier in May would have heard me singing praises about HBO's new miniseries Chernobyl, and for good reason. HBO did a fantastic job on the miniseries by immersing the audience into mid-1980s Soviet Ukraine and by peeling back the layers of the disaster.
With that said, there were some liberties HBO took while making the show. As somebody who spent two days in the Exclusion Zone in 2016, I know a thing or two about how the events unfolded, and a few parts of the miniseries weren't accurate.
Chernobyl began by tackling a nearly impossible task. The miniseries had to break down one of the largest cover-ups in human history. They had to show the devastation of the world's deadliest nuclear disaster and also highlight the many countless heroes who stepped up to make a difference. It's natural to expect HBO to simplify this – and they only had five episodes to do it. I don't blame them for some of these mistakes, but I felt they should be pointed out.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.