Table of Contents
- Setting up a Blog: Why and How
- Popular Blogging Platforms
- Creating a Blog Post
- How to Monetize Your Blog?
- Do You Have What It Takes?
- Other Things to Keep in Mind
Blogging has emerged as a popular choice for many people owing to its low setup cost, non-existent entry barriers and low risk. While blogging, as an activity and profession, is the final destination for many, there are those who use their blogs to build a loyal and dedicated community of followers for larger goals like, publishing a book or starting a business. Regardless of your end goal, setting up a blog is the first step towards it.
Weblogs, or blogs, are a specific type of website that have regular ‘posts’, usually related to one or a few subjects. Dedicated blogs for technology, fashion, sports, travel, news, politics, music, arts, entertainment and so much more have attracted millions in readership and followers over the last few years. If you think you have a unique perspective to offer to the world, putting it on your own blog is one of the easiest ways to get it out there. This is a step-by-step guide to help you establish and manage your very own blog:
The two crucial prerequisites for running a blog are having a domain name and an account with a hosting website. Some blogging platforms offer free domain names and hosting services, but that severely restricts the function and the earning capacity of the blog. If you intend to take up blogging full time, buying a unique domain name and setting up a hosting account is highly recommended.
A domain name is, simply put, the name of your blog. Ideally, it is in the form of www.yourblogname.com, and can be considered as an ‘address’ for your blog. The domain name is how readers find your blog, and also encapsulates your identity and brand image. Hence, the name needs to be easy to remember, unique and reflective of the information you want to convey through your blog. For example, if your blog is about your travel journeys, www.me-and-my-travels.com would be a much more suitable and memorable name than www.traveling-and-experiencing-the-world.com. Remember, your domain name is how your readers will remember and refer you, and therefore, must be reflective of your creativity, niche and identity.
In order to register a domain name, you can visit any of the several registrars that offer the service. There are a lot of companies that provide registration of domain names, but if you are just starting out, going for established names like Bluehost, SiteGround, HostGator, NameCheap or GoDaddy is recommended. There are over 200 million active domains registered as of today, and as a result, you might have to tweak the original name of your choice. Just visit any of the above mentioned websites and look for the availability of a suitable domain name. Once a name of your choice is available, you can register it for as low as $5. However, you need to remember that domains are registered for a limited time and you need to renew your registration in order to keep owning the domain name. Generally, if you register for a time period of more than one year, you are offered a discount.
Now that you have registered a domain name, you need to set up an account with a hosting company. A hosting account is essentially the place where all the files required to load your site, including relevant code, images and videos, among others, are saved. If the domain name is like the address of your blog, the host provides the address with a house. When a reader lands on your website, their internet server pings the host for your blog to be uploaded on their screen. Hence, without a hosting account, your readers will not be able to view anything.
Although you have the option of hosting your blog locally on your hard drive, it is a highly complicated process and requires expert knowledge while restricting several features. Hence, most individuals opt for hosting their websites virtually with web hosting companies. Most companies offer domain registration and hosting services in tandem and offer special discounts on the same. Hostgator, GoDaddy, SiteGround and Bluehost, all offer both the services. Let us take a look at some of them in detail:
Bluehost offers a free domain registration if you choose their hosting services. They also offer free tools to help you create your blog, one-click WordPress installation (more on that later) and a robust 24/7 customer support service. The different pricing plans on offer are:
- Basic: $3.95 per month
- Plus: $5.95 per month
- Prime: $5.95 per month
- Pro: $13.95 per month
Hosting over a million websites and blogs, SiteGround is a popular choice for many beginners. While they also offer domain registration services, the thrust is on providing a superior hosting experience. At competitive pricing, SiteGround offers a wide variety of essential, premium and advanced features to its users. Beginners and experts can use SiteGround services with equal ease, owing to its simple and hassle-free user interface and 24/7 customer support service. The pricing plans for SiteGround are as follows:
- StartUp: $3.95 per month
- GoBig: $5.95 per month
- GoGeek: $11.95 per month
Your work will become infinitely easier if you use a blogging platform to manage your registered blog. A blogging platform helps you create and publish information on your blog and might also offer additional services like hosting and domain registration. Although there are a few popular blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, and Weebly, we will focus on WordPress, the most popular and efficient of them all.
There is a world of difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and if you truly want to make sure that your blog lives up to its potential, you need to go for the latter. Although WordPress.com offers some very attractive features related to security and backup for free, it restricts several features that allow you to customize your blog. WordPress.org, on the other hand, offers a free-for-all software that can be personalized, hence, resulting in countless possibilities.
Most hosting companies offer WordPress installation as well. For instance Bluehost and Siteground have a special WordPress integration and assist you in the installation of it as well. This is the best way for beginners to get acquainted with the platform and make the most of it. WordPress can also be downloaded and installed separately from here, and customized according to your requirements. However, this is something you can explore later on.
One of the first things you will be prompted to do when you successfully create an account on WordPress is to select your theme. Now, you can change the theme of your blog anytime, but it is still important to understand just how they work. A large community of professionals and users create WordPress themes that can be used by anyone.
Thousands of professionally designed themes, which can be personalized, are available on WordPress absolutely free of cost! These themes have been built in mind keeping different blog specialities and you can find dedicated templates for picture-based blogs, audio based blogs, text based blogs and video based blogs.
If you want more variety, more expertise and are willing to pay for it, ThemeForest is the place to be. In addition to offering creative and innovative themes designed by experts, ThemeForest caters to a wide variety of bloggers and has a special theme for just about everyone, no matter the niche. What’s more, these themes are available for a fraction of a cost that you would incur if you hire a designer to come up with a new theme for your blog.
Another concept you need to be well versed with, when using WordPress is ‘plugins’. Plugins are small bits of softwares that can be added to your blog to enhance functionalities. Plugins for social media, search engine optimization (SEO), readability, payment gateways, online booking and so much more are available to help make your blog dynamic and multi-functional. Just like themes, a huge community of professionals create and update these plugins on a regular basis. Similarly, some plugins are available for free, whereas some are paid. A list of important and free WordPress plugins can be found here.
Your WordPress dashboard is an easy and convenient way to create, view, edit and discard your posts. You can create categories and sections on your blog, and assign new posts you create to these categories. Basic editing and formatting tools are built in WordPress. In case your post contains media like images, videos and/or audio, you can insert the same using the ‘Add Media’ option which is provided every time you create a new post. You also have the option of saving incomplete posts as drafts, previewing posts before publishing them, and changing their date and time of publishing. Make sure you spend adequate time drafting your ‘About Us’ section, for it will explain a new reader everything there is to know about your blog.
While there are numerous SEO plugins you can install to ensure that your posts are SEO friendly and easily searchable by engines, WordPress offers basic features and tools to help you make your posts more user-friendly and SEO-friendly. It is advisable to use these plugins to ensure that your posts get maximum visitors and are noticed by an interested and relevant audience.
Although blogs were initially text heavy, with time they have evolved to assimilate visual media as well. Blogs today must have the right mix of text and images, and can also use video or audio elements to further engage the audience. However, looking for the right images to accompany your blog post might be akin to looking for a needle in a haystack, if you don’t know exactly what to look for.
Stock photos are photos, vectors and illustrations made my other individuals that you can license for your use by paying a fee. While a rights-managed license allows you to use the said image only in a specific way and has variable pricing, royalty-free stock images offer much more flexible terms at better prices. Under a royalty-free license, preset charges are applicable and the license is non-exclusive by nature (meaning that you can use the same image many times). Some platforms and agencies, like iStock, also offer subscription based models, which allow for potentially unlimited usage.
If you do not want to shell out money every time you use an image in your blog post, there are ways to obtain license-free images as well. Creative Commons says that CC0 is a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license that “enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.” Much like an open-source software that is free for individuals to be used according to their own wishes, photos licensed under CC0 are free to be used and not adapted to the laws of any particular legal jurisdiction. Several websites like Pexels, StockSnap and Unsplash offer professional, high-quality and free images under the CC0 license.
Now that you have a blog, and also know how to publish engaging posts on it, comes the big question: how do you monetize it? Before we answer that, you must know that in order to receive a sizeable income from your blog, it needs to have a sizeable readership. Hence, before you focus your energies on making the most of the blog, make sure you have spent enough time and effort in building a loyal and dedicated following. The only way to do so is by consistently delivering value to your readers, incorporating their feedback and staying true to the purpose with which you initiated the blog. Once you feel that you have a decent community of regular followers, you may consider the following:
Google Adsense is one of the easiest and most convenient ways for bloggers and online publishers to start earning income through their blogs. Once you install Adsense to your website, Google places relevant advertisements next to your content. For example, if one of your blog posts is talking about a DIY floral arrangement, Google will place an advertisement for online flower delivery next to it. Adsense then pays the blogger or publisher based on how many clicks the ad received and depending on the keywords targeted. However, do not make the mistake of clicking on your own ads, for Google has robust systems in place to determine and penalize such actions.
Affiliate Marketing involves the placement of relevant product and service ads from another business in your blog posts and earning commissions every time a purchase is made. No matter how tempting it might seem to add as many diverse products as possible, the trick to a successful affiliate marketing program is choosing and promoting niche products, and products you have personal experience with. Businesses, big and small, set up affiliate programs and provide bloggers and publishers with ample opportunities to take their products to a relevant audience.
The Amazon Associates Program, another common means for bloggers to earn a stable advertising income from their blog, is a very popular affiliate marketing program. The program gives bloggers and publishers the choice to promote the products they want and also how they want to advertise it, in accordance with the theme and content of their blog. For instance, if your blog post explains a recipe, you can add links to the ordering the ingredients from Amazon in the article as well. Everytime someone makes a purchase from the blog, the blogger is given a certain percentage commission.
Source: Amazon Associates Program
You can directly promote certain brands or their products in your blog, by reviewing them, recommending them or talking about their benefits. Direct brand promotions might get you a better deal financially, but frequent paid promotions risk credibility with your followers. Hence, you should stick to products and services that are relevant to your domain and you have thorough knowledge about. With a big audience, direct brand promotions, if done intelligently, can be a big source of income.
Posts made by other parties on your blog, promoting or advertising products and services is another popular way of earning income via blogs. This helps in clearly identifying the source of the message, and makes for a plum deal for the blogger. However, frequent sponsored posts can damage the value you offer to your audience, and hence, must be undertaken in moderation.
Many a times, social media accounts of blogs also gain popularity and amass massive followers. In such a scenario, sponsored posts on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter promoting products and services can also be undertaken. Several new-age bloggers consciously build their social media influence in order to maintain a stable source of income via their social handles. Depending on the size of the audience, bloggers can quote lucrative prices in exchange for sponsored social media.
Now that you are aware of the basics of setting up and running a blog, it is time to address the elephant in the room: are you ready for it? Can you work with determination and passion to make your blog successful? Are you willing to learn how things like SEO and affiliate marketing work, in order to make the most of your blog? Do you have an end goal in mind?
As mentioned earlier, owing to its low barriers, blogging seems like a very attractive option to many individuals. But many often call it quits, once they realize the amount of hard work and effort that goes into making a blog successful. If you intend to start a blog with the sole purpose of generating income, first focus on creating something that is informative, unique and valuable. If you are able to do that, generating income will be much easier. All the blogging success stories you read have bloggers who have been at it relentlessly for years. You should know what you are signing up for, and must be prepared for a challenging journey ahead.
While setting up a blog and making the first few initial posts is an exciting process, the key to any successful blog is consistency. You need to spend time preparing, researching, drafting and editing your blog posts in order to engage your visitors. Before you can optimally monetize your blog, you need to prove the value you bring to your visitors, and this takes time, effort and resources. Do not hold back while investing in designs, photographs and online tools that you think will add to your blog. Always stay up to date regarding new functionalities and developments in the blogging community. Follow and engage with others bloggers to collaborate, or invite guest authors to write. Most importantly, do not expect to see results overnight or compare yourself to other bloggers who have a bigger reach. Cultivating a dedicated community of followers is a challenging and exciting process, and you must be prepared to toil for it.
Becoming a blogger is just the first step of a long, tedious, challenging, informative and enriching learning experience, and in order to make the most of it, you need to be constantly on your toes, thinking about new strategies and tools that are likely to make your visitors keep coming back for more. If you intend to make blogging a source of full-time income, naturally, you also need to dedicate full-time resources and energy towards the same.