How to Blog: A Guide on How to Quickly Start Blogging

By: Ramsay | 45 intelligent opinions, add yours

So you want to know how to blog?

You want someone to run you through all the steps necessary to quickly start blogging and then grow it to become something successful and profitable?

Well you’re in the right place!

I’ve written nearly 8,000 words for you on how to blog including getting a domain name, finding a blogging host, choosing a template, installing WordPress on your server and much much more.

May I suggest bookmarking this post now?

Hopefully you will want to refer back to this one and PART TWO in the future.

Breaking it down

This is a pretty massive undertaking so I want to break it down in to some clear sections which allow you to skip through and read areas that you are interested in. Of course, I encourage you to read the whole lot as you might learn about something you have thus far overlooked. The sections are:

  • Starting a blog
    (hosting, platforms, themes, plugins, etc.)
  • Creating content that sells
    (sexy titles, blog posts that people actually read, guest posting etc.)
  • Using social media
    (Facebook, Twitter and all the reasons you need them, etc.)
  • Growing your blog’s traffic
    (SEO, keywords, going viral, analytics etc.)
  • Making money from your blog
    (Adsense, Ebay, affiliates and how to make good money from home)

As always I want to see lots of comments with things I’ve missed. I will always answer your questions and angry criticisms as best as I can and I love seeing what other bloggers have to offer.

Starting a blog: Setting it all up

acorns
Creative Commons License photo credit: seanmcmenemy

Let’s jump right in. The first section is all about how to start a blog and do it right. I wish I had a post like this back when I first started blogging years and years ago because it would have prevented me from wasting a lot of time on Blogspot.com and other annoying distractions. I hope the metaphor of acorn seeds from the picture above isn’t lost on anyone.

1. Establish exactly why you are joining the dark side

Blogging isn’t really the dark side but it is really hard work and as such you need to know exactly why you are doing it. In my article on why blogging is a waste of time I looked at the ideas of motivation and inspiration and knowing why you are doing it. If you are just trying to make money online there might be better ways than blogging. If, however, you are a passionate writer who wants to interact with and help human beings then blogging is a good idea. The first and most important part of starting a blog is understanding exactly why you are doing it.

Note: the comments section in that above article have some really great insights from my readers who have started blogging and failed or gone on to do wonderful things. A great variety of opinions there.

2. Get your own domain name and host and installing WordPress

If your blog has some other company name in it like blogspot or Tumblr you are going to come to regret it.

Your blog is your asset and as such you should grow it as such. Everyone who writes their own blog should have their own domain name, without it you run the risk of looking like just another personal blogger who doesn’t have much new to offer.

I talked about this a lot in how to choose a domain name and I really hope you all take it seriously.

There are a lot of ways to register a domain name and link it to your host but the absolute easiest way is to get both your domain name and hosting package through Blue Host. That way everything is in the one place. They also give you one year free domain name hosting.

I have said this before and I will say it again, self hosted WordPress blog platforms are the only way to go. If you want to take your blogging seriously you need to get your own host and install WordPress and not build up an asset on a site like Tumblr that you don’t own.

Blue Host are the host I have used and recommended for a very long time and I’ve written an entire step by step guide on how to install WordPress on your own hosting platform.

The most wonderful thing about Blue Host is their 24/7 live support staff. If you have any troubles at all just jump on and they’ll help you out.


blue host support
A screen shot showing you how easy it is to get support.

3. Brand your blog to stand out from the crowd

The annoying thing about writing a massive post like this is that you can’t go in to too much detail. The idea of branding your blog could be the basis of a thousand page book and you would still not have covered it properly. So, really, all I can do here is introduce you to the ideas behind it and hope that you will follow them up.

Your brand is how you are perceived by other people. It needs to instantly tell people what you are about, why you are different and what you can do for them. It is more than just a logo and a slogan, it is how you carry yourself, appear in public and so on. Everything you do has an effect on your branding so you need to make sure that it is all consistent. The absolute basics of branding include:

  • A logo
    You need an original logo that helps people to visually see what you are about. Even if it is just some text it needs to be unique and send out subtle messages about your product.
  • A theme
    The way your website is presented speaks a lot about your brand. Is it messy and cluttered or is it super sleek and modern? Make sure your theme ties in with your brand and helps to enhance it, not detract from it.
  • Your content
    Your content has to have a voice and that voice is the sound of your brand. It is your brand speaking to people. You need to figure out who you are and who you are targeting and never forget that.

Something extremely simple to think about is who you want to target and where. This is called positioning. Everything your blog does from the logo to the way you leave comments effects how people see you. Try and ensure that you always using your brand to target the right people in the right place (niche). A great example that I’ve used before is Subway. They are a fast food chain but one that positions themselves as healthy and targets people wanting to lose weight. Nothing they do ever strays from that vision. Everyone knows what Subway does, and that is the sign of a strong brand.

4. Choosing a theme

One of the joys of using WordPress is that you can choose from tens of thousands of free themes (or templates). There is a bit of an art involved in this process and there are a few things to consider.

Firstly, as I mentioned in my latest post on Problogger, it is a good idea to get a custom built theme made if you want to portray your blog site as serious and professional. As WordPress gets bigger and more popular you will find that people can recognize a free theme pretty easily because they have seen it before. And this affects your brand. But, custom built themes are expensive and range from between $500 to several thousand.

If you can’t afford that you need to pick a free theme that is clean, minimal and simple. I strongly urge you to use one that is mostly white and not something with a black background as it is uninviting and a little bit hard to read. If you go to Google and do a search for “free wordpress magazine themes” you will find a lot of really cool themes that have more functionality than the regular double columned template. These magazine themes often hide the fact that they are free because they are quite photo heavy and all your photos will be different from other people’s. Some good places to look for free themes are:

When choosing a theme you want to make sure that it is also easy to customize. Some of them are so hard to manipulate that as soon as you add a Facebook graphic in the sidebar the whole thing goes haywire. Unfortunately the only way you will know is by practicing and trial and error.

5. Getting plugins that set you up for success

I’m assuming now that you are on WordPress with your own domain and self hosting like a pro. Well done! Now you need to install some of the more important plugins that set you up for success. These plugins do things like automate tasks, improve your on-site SEO and make it easy for people to love you on social media. A few weeks ago I did long post about all the tools, plugins and extensions that you could ever need so I don’t want to go over them all again. I will mention these ones though as being super essential:

  • Google Sitemaps
    This plugin is essential for SEO as it creates new sitemaps automatically and submits them to the major search engines. Think of it as a plugin that helps Google find you.
  • Head Meta Desc
    This plugin changes the description of your post that gets indexed to Google to the first 50 words of your post. This is excellent because it means your beautifully crafted opening paragraph becomes like an ad for your blog post on Google.
  • What would Seth Godin do?
    This is a cool little plugin that lets you put a message on your blog that only gets showed to new visitors. You might want to use it as a way to encourage them to subscribe or check out some other cool posts you have done.

Now for a bit of toughness. I didn’t link to these plugins because the new WordPress allows you to search for them and install them directly from the Plugins section of your Dashboard. Just click “plugins” and then “Add new” and search for the ones I mentioned. Now you know how to do it!

Creating content that sells

Engrossed
Creative Commons License photo credit: Iain Farrell

This next section is all about how to create content that gets people excited. I use the word “sells” because it is basically what you are doing; selling your blog to people with the advert that is your articles. The content is the heart and soul of a blog so you need to make sure you get it right. Unfortunately there are many bloggers out there getting it very wrong despite being amazing writers.

1. Finding your voice

I talked about this a little bit above but it is something that needs to be discussed again. Blogging is all about having a conversation with people interested in similar things. If you are blogging as an expert you will have a different voice to someone who is just learning and sharing their journey. Every person has their own voice and you need to find yours and stick to it. One of the most annoying things you will find on a blog is when the voice changes; it makes it hard to connect and hard to follow. Some ways to find your voice are:

  • Read other blogs and find a style that works for you
  • Pretend you are writing to a particular person in your niche and always write for them
  • Talk as you type so you have a conversation with your readers
  • Read more!

The most important thing is that whatever voice to develop it needs to be informal. If people wanted high brow peer reviewed papers they would go to the library or look on the University websites. Blogs are for everyday people so have an everyday conversation with them.

2. Sexy titles

For as long as there has been blogging there has been people writing about how to craft sexy titles. And to be perfectly honest articles like this one and this one are way better than anything I could ever write. In fact, almost everything I know about writing good ads and good headlines comes from Brian Clark. I rarely find I need to read much else.

That being said, there are some other things that I want to talk about. And the first thing is the idea of advertising your post. Basically your title is just that, an advert. When you go on to Digg, Stumble or even Google it is the titles that make you visit that blog, nothing else. For this reason you need to craft your titles like you were making an advert to get people to read the rest of the post.

When you are doing that you need to ask two things: who and why. Who is the article for and why should the click it. Unless you can identify those two elements very strongly it is unlikely you are going to get the response that you need. That being said, there are some certain formulas that you can follow that help you select your titles:

  • Ask a question
    Asking a question is a great way to get a response. If the question is controversial or emotional then people will feel obliged to look further.
  • Make it personal
    Titles that are overly general are boring. You want your title to be personal so use words like “you” and “your” instead of vague broadly descriptive terms.
  • Make it specific
    Use actual numbers instead of broad statements. My article How I Sold a Blog for $20,000 in 8 Months sounds a lot more interesting than How I sold a Blog.
  • Promise to solve something
    If you have done some research and are solving a problem in your niche you want to make a claim to solve that problem in your article. For example, the title of this post is a kind of promise.

Writing titles is almost half of the battle. If your title is amazing it will often excuse your article if it isn’t quite as good. This is especially true if the goal of your blog is to get people to interact in some way, good titles make for good conversations. In fact, that is the perfect way to describe a title; its a conversation starter.

3. Writing blog posts that people actually read

This section (like every other section) could go on for days and months and years. So instead of going through every tiny little detail I am going to give you a few little pointers on how to make your blog posts attractive to everyone; often this has nothing to do with what you write.

Wait a second… nothing to do with what you write? Yep.

You see good blogging is much more than just writing well. That is why you see so many blogs authored by amazing writers that have no followers. Blogging is an art in itself and it is very very different from creative writing or journal writing or anything like that. A big part of blogging is about how you present your writing. Some things you need to do include:

  • Lots of headings and paragraphs
    Take a look back at this post and every other post I’ve written. They are full of headings, bold text and paragraphs to divide up the content and draw the eye to certain places. Why is this important? Because it makes the content scannable. No body reads articles from front to back anymore because we all have mild ADD. People scan for the important points and move on. If you want someone to read a certain passage you have to give it to them in an eye catching way.
  • Use lists and dot points
    Sometimes you don’t need to explain every little detail because it gets boring. Make it easy to scan by putting the information (or at least some of it) in lists and dot points.
  • Don’t finish it
    I wrote about this in the article How I Got Over 11,908 Visitors in My Blog’s Third Week. The idea is that you want to write comprehensively about a topic but not so thoroughly that people feel satisfied and leave. You want to leave some things open ended, ask more questions that you answer, etc. Your blog post should be a stimulus for more discussion.
  • Be an interesting guy
    In the best selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People one of the very handy tips that the author gives is that people perceive you as being interesting if you spend most of the time talk about their interests and listening to them. Think about that for a second. People will find you interesting if you talk about them. Any ideas?

If you can present blog posts in ways that are interesting, easy to scan and easy to interact with then you are much more likely to get readers to interact. I even go so far as to structure all of my posts the same – any time I have a list I do a little summary paragraphs, etc. Seems to work.

4. How to guest post

Guest posting is one of the best ways to get your blog attention from the right people. And I am not just talking about readers; guest posts get you attention from other big wigs in your industry that you can then make contact with down the track for other guest posts or different projects. Leo from Zen Habits has often stated that the reason his blog grew so fast was because he spent a lot of time writing posts on other people’s blogs. I’m often amazed at where I see his articles pop up.

The thing about guest posting is that you have to put a lot of thought and time in to getting it right. Its a little bit like giving a speech at a different company; its a lot different to speaking to the people you see every day of your life. But if you can get it right the rewards are quite marvelous – new opportunities, more traffic, more subscribers and so on.

  • Study your prey
    Have you ever watched a tiger about to attack its prey on David Attenborough documentary? The tiger spends sometimes up to 30 minutes just watching the prey and studying it before it makes a move. Why? Because it can’t afford to miss the opportunity. There is only so much energy to go around and one too many failed chases leads to a dead tiger or an injury. The same goes for guest posting. Don’t muck it up.

    Study the blog and all its aspects. If you are doing a guest post on ProBlogger you need to know what Darren looks for in a guest post, what his readers find interesting and so on. The last thing you want to do is put up a post that doesn’t get any reaction because it just makes you look bad.

  • Challenge or ask a question
    In my experience the best guest posts are the ones that challenge the community on the site or ask them a question. Your post needs to be provocative without being rude. Get the people’s attention.
  • Inject your style and your best work
    Make sure your guest posts are better than what you would do on your own blog. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, it is a massive advert for your own brand. You want to really put your best foot forward and not worry about saving the best content for your own site. Secondly, guest posts have to be so remarkable that the owner of the blog couldn’t have thought of it or pulled it off. Tim Ferris (I can’t remember where, sorry) says that he doesn’t put any guest post up unless he couldn’t have written it. Otherwise what’s the point? Injecting your personal style is one of the best ways to appear unique and get that gig.
  • Pitch it perfectly
    If you just send an email to the owner of the blog saying “here is my guest post I hope you like it” chances are they are not even going to read it. Make your pitch to them irresistible. Tell them why their readers need to see it, how it is going to help them and make the email personal and fun. Shoemoney always says that the emails that get his attention are the ones that show they care and used the example of someone who wrote to him about last night’s episode of LOST which they know he watches. When I got my first post with ProBlogger I’m pretty sure I made fun of Darren’s favorite Australian Rules football team. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea now I think about it…?

I recommend spending 20% of your blogging time writing guest posts. This strategy is a fantastic way to grow your blog in the short and long terms because it gets you in touch with people that would otherwise probably never find your material.

Stay tuned for Part 2

As you can see we have only covered the first two sections and still have social media, growing your blogs traffic and subscribers as well ask making money to go. The next post in the How to Blog series is going to answer a lot of your questions, questions that you wish you knew the answers to a long time ago. Make sure you leave a comment if you think I have missed anything – I’d love to get some good discussions going about how to blog and how to do it well.

Top Photo: Cara Photography



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45 Comments

  • Own domain name – check.
    Self hosted – check.
    Finding my voice – getting there.
    Plug-ins, meta-thingys etc – a mystery to me!
    Sometimes it seems to me that this stuff is deliberately obscure and my learning curve is almost overwhelmingly steep! Is there anywhere that makes all that technical stuff understandable to the average idiot?
    Can’t wait to see Part 2!

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Amanda.

      If you are completely lost the best thing would be to do a G search for a phrase like “best plugins for seo” or any other category. Find some goodies and then visit the individual plugin author’s websites and read about what it does.

      Hope that helps.

      Tyrant

  • I wished you had written these post one month ago, i have been reading on professional blogging since July but never seen a post as good as these. I even read probloggers secret for blogging your way to a six-figure income, it had a lot of information that needs a good digestion, everything is summarized here. I am on my way to your other posts, i hope i can learn more. Thanks for the information. You exactly know what you are doing.

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Mohamed. Hope to see you around the site in the future.

      Tyrant.

  • This is a fab post, with meaty, to-the-point information. I like the way you stick to key points in all your posts, presenting them concisely but in an interesting way. I also wish you’d been around when I started blogging – would have saved a lot of angst and time.

    I’m looking forward to reading more, as I’m getting embroiled in the question, “what problems does Zigazag really solve?” and I bet you’re going to have lots of advice about solving that sort of question in future posts!

    Keep up the good work.

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Johanna. See you around again I hope.

  • Came across from your Problogger post [and am already implementing your advice re: '0 Comments'].

    Enjoyed this post and did what Amanda did … checked off what I was doing and what I needed to improve.

    My new blog [which will be part of a new online business I'm launching in 2011] is really young [although I have had a personal blog for 4 years] and I’m putting 1/3 of my time into reading top blogs & putting into action what I’m learning.

    Th other time is 1/3 blog writing and course design … and 1/3 business/marketing planning and development.

    A lot more work than when I just had a personal blog … and I love it.

    You’re now on my top 10 list to keep reading.

    Thanks very much for being one of my blog mentors from now on.

    • no hello? was it something I said? should I bring flowers next time?

      • the Blog Tyrant

        Ah I’ve been looking for that comment! I thought it was on an earlier post and couldn’t find it! Ha ha. I totally understand that I am the worst mentor in the world. But I still love you.

        Sorry Liz.

        Tyrant.

        • Forgiven … we’re still just getting to know each other.

          Won’t stop me from commenting in the future … and you are a dote for replying to everyones comments.

          • the Blog Tyrant

            I don’t know what a dote is but thanks.

  • Sweet post!
    You covered all the basics in great detail, perfect for anyone wanting to start a blog. Wish I had this when I started 2 years ago:)

    Looking forward to part 2!
    Cheers
    Diggy

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Diggy. Part two should be better than Part 1. Like Star Wars.

  • I agree- self hosted with a WordPress platform is the way to go. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to get on board with all that.

    I was not crazy about WP- Blogger was so easy. But then I saw that I needed to do it if I was going to be doing what I do.

    I also so, so, so agree with the heading and paragraphs section. I have written about this myself many times.

    If you are going to write a 2000 word blog post with no white space, such as subtitles and breaks between paragraphs…I probably won’t read it. Much, much too hard on the eyes.

    If it appears to be killer content, I may copy & paste the post into a Word document or something & double space it so I can read it.

    But like I said, it has to be killer content for me to go through all of that. I have too much to do to fool around with it.

    • the Blog Tyrant

      You are way more patient than me Carolee!

  • Hell lots of information that you got here. For a blogger like me, even though i already have a self hosted blog and blogging for few months but i still find this post a great resource. I am especially overwhelmed by the way of creating content that sells.

    Finding our voice and injecting our personality into the post is the most important of all, ultimately your visitors would like to interact with us.

    Thanks a lot for sharing this great post on how to blog. I am looking forward to the next series.

    Lye

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Thank Lye. Always good to see your comments here.

  • oh, what i would have given to have read this
    amazing article before i started blogging!

    i am going to forward this to my friend who
    needs to start a blog as a tool for her design
    website.

    thank you for your beautifully expressed
    help!

  • Just found your site from your guest post at Pro Blogger. So much good info here that I don’t know where to start (but this post seems like a good place).

    I haven’t been actively promoting my blog yet because I’m a newbie – it’s only been a few months and I’m all over the place in terms of subject matter. I’m ready to get more serious, though!

    Anyways, looking forward to taking these points to heart and seeing the next part in the series.

    Melanie

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Thanks Melanie. Stay tuned for the next one!

  • An excellent and truly comprehensive post, I love it !

  • Great points all around. I especially liked your post about making our blogs addictive like WOW. I’ve been reading ever since.

    But wanted to ask a question: Is most of your advice focused upon blogs that are looking to sell a service or product or info? Do you think the majority of your advice could be equally applied to personal blogging? I used to blog a good bit, but took a few hiatuses, and now have lost a rhythm, “voice”, and readers.

    But I’m looking to jump back in with both feet.

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Hey Blake.

      I sort of view it like this: your content is your product. That is what you are selling. Of course there are some exceptions but for the most part you want to make sure that your words get read and that is how you grow.

      So yep, it applies all round.

      Tyrant

  • As a journalist, finding my voice had to be the biggest challenge for me. Journalism is based so heavily on objectivity that it has sucked the guts out of me.

    But I can express myself much better, now that I have been blogging for sometime and getting my points across on a regular basis.

    BT you are right that blogging is a completely different world.

    I appreciate your insights!

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Nice to have a real life journalist amongst us!

      Thanks for dropping by Riaz.

      Tyrant

  • Jason

    This is a really great guide to starting a blog I have been interesting in doing a blog right for a long time and I think this is a good guide Looking forward to part 2.

    Just one question though I noticed that there are no social media type suggestions in this post, or did I jump the gun?

    • Jason

      Crap I just re-read the post and saw the link to the other post. My Bad!

  • Gaurav

    You talked about writing an article that is detailed and well-thought out, but never too thorough so as to discourage the reader from visiting your site again. If I may ask, what more will there be left for you to post on this site once your two-part series is complete?

    Oh, and before I forget – Fantastic post.

    Coming back. At the conclusion of this 2 part series, you would have posted a lot of what can be learned about blogging simply by reading – The rest is just out there to be explored. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have posted this, that’s not what I mean one bit. But, you did mention always leaving the reader wanting more, so what else is in store for us, Tyrant?

    • the Blog Tyrant

      Yep. You got me. After this post I am shutting down the site. Nothing left to say.

      Ha ha… just kidding.

      Try not to think of it like you should just leave off the end statement. What I try to do is not complete each point. For example, the section on Get Your Own Domain name is only two paragraphs long but in reality I could write at least one whole book on the subject.

      Hope that helps. Don’t worry, plenty more Tyrant to come.

  • Good advice, as usual.

    My last post had a shamefully snore-inducing title, but after reading your post I pulled out my red pencil and got to work. Better now. Thanks!

  • This is an amazing post. You’ve broken down every aspect a starting blogger really needs to know. I can believe this is going to turn into over 7000 words. Can’t wait for part 2.

  • Great blog post — looking forward to part 2.

  • Hi Blog Tyrant! I also read your post in Problogger.
    Your blog post is very impressive!
    You have such a great mind that you are able to present your topics so clearly. Keep it up!

  • Wow, people seriously kiss you ass!
    Maybe I would if I actually read this. It’s on my to do list. Like responding to personal emails.