Saturday, June 14, 2014

Blogging 101: All You Need to Know to Start Your Own Blog

So, you want to start a blog?

Well, if I can do it, then you can do it!

Before deciding whether or not starting a blog is right for you, there are a few things that you should know and prepare yourself for.

First of all, a lot of time and effort goes into creating a successful blog. If you're looking to blog because you feel that you'll be able to earn thousands of dollars within a couple of months, you're mistaken. It simply does not work that way. It literally took me three years before I earned my first $100 from advertising revenue. Of course, I earned money other ways, but we'll get into that later.

What you need to know before blogging:

  • It is unlikely that you will have amazing success overnight.
  • You must pick a topic (or more than one topic) that you're passionate about. If you're not passionate about it, chances are, you will abandon your blog.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself. Once you start blogging to make other people happy, it's going to become a chore. Do not sacrifice your needs over the needs of others--although it is okay to sacrifice wants for wants. Big difference.
  • People can be really mean. No. Seriously. They can be really, really mean. Develop a tough skin and avoid feeding the trolls, and you should be just fine.

Now, let's move along to the step-by-step on how to start your own blog.

Choose a niche.

A "niche" is the topic of your blog--it's what your content will revolve around. In some cases (such as mine), you'll find that your blog is a "multi-niche" blog, meaning that it covers more than one topic in depth.

Examples of blog niches:

  • Food & Cooking
  • Beauty & Fashion
  • Children & Parenting
  • Love & Relationships

Each of the above categories is broad enough to expand on (for example, the food & cooking could go beyond desserts and entrees, and even explore beverages, appetizers, etc.). If you're too specific, the niche will be less flexible. If you are too broad, you'll have less opportunities.

For multi-niche blogs, sometimes it's best to choose one single defining word, for example, "motherhood," or even "lifestyle" to define your niche. I like to consider Freelance Lady a lifestyle blog, due to it's overwhelming amount of content on different topics (all relating to my life).


To decide on a niche, you'll need to consider what you enjoy doing, what topics you're capable and/or qualified to write on, and what topics you know a great deal about. Many people make the mistake of asking, "What do the people want?" This is not the best way to choose a topic for your blog. Of course, you want a blog that people actually like, but if you create a blog about a topic that other people enjoy but you don't, then this increases your likelihood of growing bored with the topic. Choose something you're passionate about.

You'll also need to remember that some subjects just aren't very popular at all. While you may be passionate about your shoes, chances are, other people just don't care. Be careful...

Don't let me get you down, though, because there are ways that seemingly "unpopular" niches can work. For example, you want to write about your favorite shoes, as mentioned earlier. How could you get readers involved in that?

  • Review your favorite shoes.
  • Host giveaways for shoes.
  • Show different ways to accessories outfits around shoes.

Just be wary of certain topics. If you can't think of a way to find it work (and to think of a target audience), then it's best to just skip it.

Don't choose a niche just for money.

While you want to choose a niche that can be monetized, it's a bad idea to choose a niche simply with the idea that you can earn lots of cash. If you're blogging for instant traffic and/or fame, chances are you'll be disappointed.

Consider your competition.

Before choosing a niche, do research on the other blogs with the same niche. Learn what kind of audience you will have and who you need to target. Find out what other blogs with the same niche are doing, what they're offering their audience, and what makes them great!

Don't choose a niche just because is has little competition.

You may find that a specific niche doesn't have a lot of people writing about it. This can be a good thing and a bad thing. The upside is that you won't have to compete against millions of blogs for readership. The down side is that the low number could indicate that the niche isn't very popular.

So, what if you are going up against millions of other blogs? The best thing to do is make your niche a little more specific. For example, if you're blogging about cooking, you could narrow it down to breakfast foods, healthy foods, or even just desserts. Try not to be too strict, however, because you'll want to be open to opportunities with brands (and sometimes a strict niche decreases those opportunities), which we'll discuss later.

Choose a name for your blog.

Consider your niche when choosing a name for your blog. Brainstorm, brainstorm, brainstorm!

Chances are, your first, second, and maybe even your third choice for your blog's name are already taken, so you're going to have to get a little creative.

Let's use our previous example and say that your blog is about cooking desserts. The name, "Dessert Cooking" is basic and most likely already taken. So, what else could you use to "brand" your blog? Could you implement your name into the title? Maybe, "Sabrina's Desserts" would work. Or perhaps you're looking for something a little more original. Different letter usage (such as replacing a "c" with a "k"), acronyms, or word play are all fantastic ways to choose a name. How does "Decadent Dessert Diner" sound?

Do a quick Google search with quotations around the name you choose (this allows Google to search for an exact match). Skim through the results, paying careful attention if you come across websites or brands using the same name. The last thing you want is to commit copyright infringement.

Brand Your Blog

After you choose a name, you'll want to "brand" your blog. The best way to do this is through your domain name.

A domain is the "web address" for your blog. It's where it's found on the internet. For example, mine is Now, a top-level domain (.com) is not necessarily required, but it shows a level or professionalism when compared to a subdomain (


Top-Level Domain

Using .com as opposed to .net, .org, .tv, etc. is highly recommended, as .com is easily recognized and typed most often by internet users.

Tips on choosing a domain for your blog:

  • Pick a name that's easy to remember and easy to type.
  • Try to avoid using hyphens or numbers.
  • Choose a name relevant to your niche.
  • Don't pick an extra long name. Short and sweet is best.

Find out if your domain is available.

Once you've determined whether the blog name is [seemingly] free and clear (from the Choose a Name For Your Blog section), you'll want to run your desired domain name through a search to make sure the domain is available, and at what cost. The best way to do this is by using a domain checker tool, like the one at GoDaddy, to make sure your desired domain name is available.

Purchase your domain.

Is your domain name free and clear? Great! 

Now, before you move on, remember that you can buy the domain now without a hosting plan, or you can buy a hosting plan (and sometimes get the domain name for free with the "bundle"). There are many domain registrars to choose from. I personally prefer GoDaddy. I only purchase the domain, because I use Blogger as my free host.

Do research on prices.

Pay attention to introductory prices that go up after the first year. Check out the different perks that come with purchasing a domain from a specific registrar. Do you get a free email address to go along with it? Read reviews. Research!

Give your blog a home.

So, you've chosen a niche, researched your competitors, named your blog, and purchased a domain. The next step is to pick a place to host your blog so that other people can see it.
Blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress are ideal, unless you're familiar with coding blogs and websites. If you don't have coding experience, you'll definitely want to use one of the aforementioned options as they allow you to edit, design, and post to your blog with ease.

If you're more of a "from scratch" kind of person, go ahead and do it yourself. There is much flexibility this way, so the possibilities are endless. Unfortunately, I don't have much experience with that, so here are a couple of resources that may be able to help:

Learn the basics of SEO.

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is highly important to the success of your blog. I recommend reading SEO for Idiots: The 10 Basics of Blogging Search Engine Optimization and The Beginner's Guide to SEO. These resources will teach you how search engines work, and by knowing how they work, you can optimize your blog so that it is found during web searches. The better SEO skills you have, the higher your chances of your blog appearing high in search engine results. And that is precisely what you want!

Start spending money!

Unless you're familiar with HTML, CSS, and consider yourself design savvy, you're going to want to invest a little money into your blog. Alternatively, you could invest time in learning what you need to know to do it yourself. That part is solely up to you.

Why would you want to spend money when you're trying to make money? Well, the answer is simple. You want your blog to appeal to your visitors. If you can't do this yourself, your best bet is to spend a little money on a custom-made design that is unique to your blog. Premade designs are also acceptable, but remember, another blog out there could be using the same exact design. That is not ideal for branding.

If you're looking for inspiration or want to go ahead and use a premade design anyway, check out my Blog Goodies. There are lots of freebies for bloggers like you!

Choose a simple design that suits your niche. Nothing too hard on the eye. Here are a few examples of relatively simple, yet eye-catching blog designs.

Love Grows Wild
A Piano Teacher Revealed
TV Supermom
The Recipe Critic
Family Fever

You can also find some amazing blog designs for sale (and custom designs available) from the resources below.

Designer Blogs
Imagination Designs
Beautiful Dawn Web & Graphic Designs

Also, check out this HUGE list of designers on Custom Blog Designers!

Set up your pages.

Once you've selected a design and have implemented it onto your blog, you'll need to start creating your pages. Below are examples of pages that you'll need.

About Page
This is where you can tell readers either about yourself or what the blog is about, or both.

Contact Page
Here is where you'll include any information needed to contact you. You can include a contact form or just your email address (or both).

This is where you let you make new or secret information known. For example, if you review products on your blog, you should disclose whether or not you received the product for free. View my disclosure to get an idea of what to include. There are also generators out there that will generate a disclosure for you.

Privacy Policy
What information about your readers will you reveal to third parties? To view my privacy policy for inspiration, click here. There are also generators out there that will generate a privacy policy for you.

Once you develop your readership, you may want to include a "Public Relations" page. This is where you'll include any relevant information businesses/brands will need to decide whether or not you're a good fit for their products/services. On my PR page, I include a media kit, sponsorship information, and contact information.

Create content.

You've got your niche, your name, your domain, your hosting, your pages, and you know the basics of SEO. Now, it's your time to shine!

Start writing!

Be consistent.

Pump out high-quality, relevant content as often as possible. It's alright to miss a day here and there, but you should try to post at least 3 times per week. Your most recent blog post should never be more than a month old.

The best way to remain consistent is by setting a schedule. Weekday mornings could be spent writing up a quick post. On weekends, you can write multiple posts and schedule them to post later. One of the many great things about blogging platforms is that they have scheduling tools that allow you to write your posts ahead of time.

Be accurate and reliable.

Never, ever, ever post something just because you read it on your friend's Facebook page. Always fact check. Always cite reputable sources, and more importantly...

Always proofread!

Please, please, please proofread and utilize that lovely little tool known as spellcheck. There is nothing worse than going to a blog that you're dying to read, only to find out that it is chock-full of grammatical errors and misspellings. You will definitely lose readers this way.

Utilize those SEO skills.

Implement at least a 5% related keyword density rate (you'll know what this is if you read The Beginner's Guide to SEO) into your posts.

Some other great tips for blogging including learning how to write in a conversational tone and learn the five steps to an engaging blog post.

Give people something to look at.

People love to see pictures, especially when they relate to the content they enjoy reading. This is why Pinterest has been so successful. We're visual creatures, so not adding photographs to those lovely desserts you're creating is basically self-sabotage. You wouldn't leave your guests in a bare room, would you?

Always keep a camera handy and anytime you see something that relates to your blog or something that you could write about, then snap a photo of it! These photos will help you keep your blog's content fresh and visually appealing.

Do you suck at taking pictures?

If you're not the best photographer, you may want to consider downloading an image-editing program such as Gimp (totally free). If you're using your phone to take photos, use as app such as Aviary. Alternatively, you can try out Pic Monkey, a web-based image-editor. While Pic Monkey basic is free, you have to pay to use some of the other available features.

Start Networking

You have to network. If you want to be a successful blogger with a large audience, it is CRITICAL that you get involved with as many social media websites as you can.

The most important part of social media is staying active, so be aware of that when signing up for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google +, and so on. You want to build a decent readership and followers and to do this, you have to be consistent.

If possible, you may even want to start a newsletter.

Join Blogging Groups

I can attribute most of my blogging success to a few special blogging groups that I joined on Facebook. These groups are often close-knit, becoming something like a family of sorts.

I can tell you that I learned more from my blogging group in six weeks than my entire three years of blogging. Definitely get involved in blogging groups. Read the rules and follow them. Reciprocate when required. Do NOT burn bridges.

These groups have the potential to help you transform your blog.

Give back to your readers.

Your readers come to read your blog, which ultimately helps you build a following and become successful. You need to give your readers something that keeps them coming back for more, not only to make them loyal, but also as a thank you.

If there is nothing for your readers, why should they stay? 

Now, this doesn't mean that you need to give your readers material things. Nor does it mean giving them money. Recipes, reviews, beautiful photographs--all of those things are perfect things to give to your readers! You want your readers to engage and relate, so you need to provide them with something in order to "bring them to life."

Monetize your blog.

Ah, finally! The moment you've been waiting for!

So, what's the best way to monetize your blog? Well, for me, I believe the answer is simple: Google AdSense. With AdSense, you can post ads relevant to the content on your blog. When people click these ads, you'll receive a certain amount of money. Learn more about how Google AdSense works.

There are other ways to monetize your blog, however, and not all of them are advertisements.

Check out the following resources to learn more about the different ways you can monetize your blog.

Offer your own goods through your own Etsy or eBay shop, linked right to your blog!

Final Tips for Starting a Blog


I understand that I am reiterating this, but branding is so incredibly important, if not the most important part of a blog's success. There are literally thousands upon thousands of blogs out there and chances are, you're among hundreds in your niche. You must find a way to set yourself apart from the crowd. The best way to do this is through your own memorable and relevant .com domain name. Sure, it costs money, but it is a profitable investment.

You should also invest in a high-quality, easy to navigate template to match the voice and niche of your blog. While you can settle for a free one at first, it's wise to invest in a better one later.

Finally, choose a defined logo. Eventually, this logo will become the centerpiece for business cards, letterheads, and emails.

Track your success.

Google Analytics can help you see how your blog is doing. Not only will this allow you to create more detailed traffic goals, but it also acts as a great motivator when the traffic does start pouring in. Sometimes seeing is believing. Tracking your blog's page views, unique visitors, and demographics will also be highly important when you begin collaborating with brands and businesses.

Treat your blog like a business.

This is quite possibly the best piece of advice that you'll ever be given.

It may sound vain, but let's face it. You are creating a brand. You are trying to make money off of it. This is your business. Make investments. Work hard. No slacking. Don't give up. If something goes wrong, fix it and move on. Don't get discouraged. Stay positive.

Oh, and just because you're trying to maintain a professional image doesn't mean you can't have a little fun with it. Have fun every once in awhile and stop criticizing yourself so much!

Other Resources for New Bloggers

You're Not Ready for Link Building Without Linkable Assets

A comprehensive list of resources to help get you started on your blogging journey.

An up-to-date guide on starting your own blog.

Well-written list of tips on getting started blogging.

Interesting tips for new bloggers or webmasters

Great tips for search engine optimization. You'll need this.

You're Not Ready for Link Building Without Linkable Assets
Learn about creating content that is worth linking to.

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