So you've got an awesome idea for a blog, but you're struggling with the actual execution. You need to know what to do and how to do it. Well, I've got a 10 step method that WILL get your blog off the ground and onto the internet.
Plus, I've created a free 10 step checklist to go along with this post. You can pick that up right here: Get the checklist!
Ok, are you ready? Let's get blogging.
10 Steps to Kickstart Your First Blog
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Step One: Pick your platform
Your blog needs to be hosted on some kind of platform (such as WordPress, or Squarespace). WordPress is the most popular, and it's free (it's what I use). Squarespace is also gaining popularity. There are also other smaller platforms, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend going with one of those. It will be harder to find products and get support if you're on an obscure platform. I personally recommend WordPress.org.
Step Two: Pick a Hosting Provider
Listen up, because this is important. There is a big difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. You may have already signed up for a free account on .COM. But, you really need to switch to .ORG and get a paid hosting provider. Doing this provides you with WAY more flexibility and options for your blog. The options on .COM are extremely limited. Also, it allows you to have a custom domain (so it's blogsbybecca.com, not blogsbybecca.wordpress.com). The latter looks very unprofessional.
Luckily, a hosting provider is not that expensive. I personally use Siteground, and they are a very popular option. Their plans start at just a few dollars a month, and their platform is pretty easy to use, and they have good customer support. If you don't want to go with Siteground there are many other options out there, but make sure that you Google them and read some reviews before committing.
Step Three: Branding
Your blog needs a brand. This includes things like colors and fonts and graphics, and also things like overall tone and theme. You need to be consistent.
If your blog is pink and purple, then your Pinterest graphics should also be pink and purple (the same color of pink and purple).
If you only use flat images on your homepage, don't start using super glossy photos somewhere else (except maybe Instagram). And your tone should be consistent.
If your blog is happy and bubbly, then your Facebook posts should be too. You get the point. Brainstorm and decide on your brand now, before you start. You don't want to be changing it up a month from now.
Step Four: Pick and Install a Theme
You need a theme for your site. This is what makes things pretty, sets the layout, the colors, the content–everything.
There are an unlimited number of options out there (I pointed out a few of my favorite ones here), and there's no one “right” theme. Start looking at some other blogs and see what you like. Then Google “feminine blog themes” or “magazine blog themes.” You'll find tons of lists of the “50 best girly blog themes of 2016,” etc.
Alternatively, if you don't want to spend money (most of these themes will be around $50, give or take), then you can get free themes directly from WordPress. They have some nice themes, so nothing wrong with doing that. But they're not usually super customizable, and they may be identifiable. But if you want to go free, that's the way to go.
Also think about how much work you want to put into your theme. Some themes are essentially “out of the box” ready. Just add in your personal info, maybe change some colors, and go. Other themes allow you to customize everything down to the last comma using drag-and-drop page builders (that are actually not that hard to use). If you want to invest time in the latter, it can be really fun to build your own page.
As a third option, you can pay a web designer to design a custom theme for you. This is great, but obviously is by far the most expensive option. It's really not necessary for a beginner blogger, but if you have the money and want the customization, go for it.
Step Five: Install your plugins
Just like there are a million themes out there, there are also a million plugins. Plugins are basically little pieces of software that make your site do extra stuff. Want your Instagram feed to show up in your sidebar–plugin. Want your SEO to be automatic–plugin. Contests? Plugin. You get the point.
There are some plug-ins that you really do need, like one for SEO and one for backing up your site. Others are just fun things, like contests or that Instagram widget. You can pick the ones you want. Play around and see what you like.
Note that some plugins are free, some have a free Lite version and a paid Premium version, and some are just straight up Premium. Some of these Premium ones really are worth it, but other times there's a perfectly legit free option. So do some Googling before you spend any money on a plug-in and see what other people say about it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Some plugins are straight up worth it.” quote=”Some plugins are straight up worth it.”]
Step Six: Create your content
Before you take your site live, you should have at least 3-5 blog posts already up. You don't want people to show up at an empty site. They might not come back. There needs to be some value there already. Don't publish every single great idea you've ever had on day one–save some for later. But do get a few out there.
Content is incredibly important. No matter what kind of amazing site you have, if your articles suck, no one is going to make a second visit. So take your time on this. Really make something good and always think about how it gives value to your readers.
Step Seven: Create lead magnets for your content
What's a lead magnet? Well, my free checklist to go along with this post is one. It's something that gives extra value to your post and encourages readers who want the resource to sign up for your list to get access to it.
Ideally, every post you do should have a lead magnet, though this may not be feasible on literally every post, depending on what you're blogging about. A lead magnet can be a checklist, a resource guide, a how-to manual, an e-book, a free course. Anything in that realm.
Note that you need to actually create value with your lead magnets. Do not just throw something together in 5 minutes and PDF it. If someone feels like they got scammed into signing up for your list, that is obviously not a good thing for anybody. Content matters and that includes lead magnets.
You should also make sure that your lead magnet looks good (and is on theme). You can create lead magnets in Photoshop or Canva. Don't just create a plain document in Word with Times New Roman font and call it a lead magnet. There needs to be a little bit of color, some graphics, etc. It can be super simple, but it just needs to look nice. And remember to stay on brand.
Finally, where to display your lead magnets? You have a few options. You can embed them right into the post. Or you can offer them in exchange for a subscription to your email list (see my post about how to do that right here). Use opt-in forms to do this. In addition, you can create a free resource library using a plug-in such as Essential Grid. Check mine out to see what that looks like.
Step Eight: Set up your email service
You need to have an email service to manage your subscribers. These services import your subscribers from the various opt-in forms you're going to use, keep track of them, and allow you to send mass emails.
Some of the services also have very cool features called automations or sequences. This allows you to say “When someone opts-in to my lead magnet about Instagram, they are automatically going to get 6 emails over the course of 2.5 weeks offering them my other social media materials.” It's all automatic, and it's great.
If you want to go free, you can use Mail Chimp. However, they do not offer as many features. I'm a fan of ConvertKit, it's what I use on this site. It has excellent automation features, and I have an insanely complicated list of things going on over there. It also integrates easily with all my opt-ins, which is always something you want.
Step Nine: Set up your pop-ups and opt-ins
If you want to be successful, you need an email list. And to get that list, people need to be able to easily subscribe to your site. You need to have multiple forms on the site. At least 3, if not more. It may seem like overkill, but it needs to be in front of people's faces as much as possible to get them to do it.
Example placements include the sidebar, the over the header space, beneath a post, right on the home page, welcome mats, and timed pop-ups. You can choose some variation of these methods, but you do need a few.
To implement this, you'll need some opt-in services. There are a ton of different options, both free and paid, so play around and see what you like best. Popular options include OptinMonster, Magic Action Box, Leadpages, and Convert Plug. Additionally, some email providers also offer opt-in forms and/or pop-ups. Aweber, ConvertKit, and Mail Chimp all do this.
You can see various examples around Blogs by Becca (hint: below this post, in the side bar, above the header, and pop-up that you may or may not have seen already). These are all customizable forms, so yours don't have to look like mine at all. They should match your brand, as usual.
Step Ten: Set up your social media accounts
Set up accounts in your blog's name (not your own personal account). Pick which platforms you want to be on. You do not need to be on every single platform, that would take your entire life to deal with. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, which are pretty much the Big Four. But you can pick and choose the ones that suit you best. Also remember YouTube, if you're going to have video content.
Make sure that your profile description is optimized for your brand. And your content should be too. If you're a travel blogger, don't post recipes on Pinterest. You get the point.
It will take some time for your followings to grow, but as long as you post quality content on a regular basis, they will grow naturally.
That's it! You're ready to hit publish!
Once you complete these ten basic steps, you're ready to launch your blog. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of other stuff that you need to do on a constant basis to keep your blog at its best. But if you've completed this ten steps, you've got a well-branded and functional blog with great content, and you're ready to get started and move onto more advanced topics.
If you are launching a blog, don't forget to download my free checklist. It goes through the steps in this post and gives you specific tasks to complete for each one. You can grab it right here: Get the checklist!