Since relaunching my blog, I have been contacted by many of my friends and acquaintances about my top tips to starting up a blog. So, if you are here, I can only guess that you are a new blogger looking to set up a website. Well, you are in the right place and I hope the following steps will help you get closer to launching that dream website!
Step 1. Find Your Niche
There isn’t much that you can’t find on the internet these days, and being a “blogger/influencer/food critique” is a very saturated market. People get tired of reading the same thing everywhere and want blogs to be relatable. Your blog is, essentially, an online version of a niche magazine. You are the editor, content creator, photographer and creative designer all rolled into one. So figure out what makes your blog different: be weird, be creative & be original and I guarantee it will drive far more traffic to your website.
Embrace your weirdness.
Step 2. Brand Yourself
Your domain name is your unique identity on the Internet. You know that it is essential to your branding and you probably spent days finding the perfect one.
But what really matters when you’re picking your URL?
DON’T MAKE IT TOO LONG
I think the sweet spot for a URL is 1-3 words. No one wants to type a sentence into their URL bar, and sharing links is a lot more inconvenient if you have a URL that’s a mile long.
REGISTER A .COM URL
While the other URL’s may be tempting or cheaper, stick with .com. Maybe in 10 years .me or .blog will be normal, but for now, the industry standard is best and definitely comes across as more professional.
CHECK THAT SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES ARE AVAILABLE
It goes without saying that social media is THE place to advertise and gain traffic to your blog. It would make no sense for your domain name to be far different to your social media handles, so before you purchase your domain, make sure that the same name is available on all your desired social accounts.
Finally, try to make it unique.
Step 3. Find A Host
Web hosting is what you need to get your blog up and running. Think about it like this: your web host is pretty much your blog’s landlord. You pay monthly (or annually) for your blog to live on the internet.
The most commonly asked question I have received is: is it better to have free hosting (wordpress.com) or paid hosting (wordpress.org)?
- Free to start up. Ideal if you want to familiarize with the platform.
- Limited themes & limited ability to customize
- Cannot be used to monetize (AdSense)
- No plugin support
- Domains must have wordpress.com at the end
- Pay for self-hosting
- Unlimited themes & highly customizable
- Full ability to monetize using ads, sponsorships, affiliates & products
- Ability to customize & add features using plugins
- Custom domain support
Now, I just want to expand on bullet point number 5 under WordPress.com …
You can also apply for paid hosting on WordPress.com with a custom domain, however, to have full access to custom themes, plugin mobility etc, you would need the “Business” package which sets you back £16.63/month, billed every two years. That is a whopping £399.12. Which is why I suggest hosting elsewhere using WordPress.org.
As such, I would highly suggest the following web hosts for new bloggers:
- Bluehost* is a fantastic company and web host. For the three years, hosting costs £2.99/month.
- Gandi is another less well-known web host, but a rather excellent one. Their introductory hosting package is £3.00/month.
- Hostinger* is another fantastic web host. Premium WordPress hosting is $2.89/month, billed every four years.
The best thing about all three hosts listed above (apart from the price) is that each package includes a free domain and SSL certificate (the https://). I’d highly recommend keeping your domain and hosting in the same space. It makes life so much easier! Not to mention, it costs extra to transfer domains between different spaces.
Step 4. Select A Theme
This is my favourite part of the whole process! Finding, choosing and customizing your domain with a theme is an exciting and fun decision. This is what reflects your style and controls how your blog looks to your readers.
I hold web design quite close to my heart as it is something I discovered as a teenager and at one point (read: 12 years ago) ran my own ‘web design company‘ — and I use the term lightly as it was mostly graphic designs and web coding for celebrity fansites (remember those days?).
So, I suppose in comparison to new bloggers, I have a leg up on my comfort level around WordPress, Themes & Customization but there are some wonderful themes out there that you can purchase to save you the hassle of learning ‘web development 101’.
WordPress.com does offer quite a few free themes but if I’m being honest, purchasing a professional-looking theme for your site will make a world of difference.
It’s all about branding.
Here is a condensed list of my favourite themes currently out there:
- Pipdig.co is an extremely popular source their feminine, clean, and minimal, with extra widgets for easily integrating your social feeds. The team at Pipdig are also great and very helpful in setting up your newly purchased theme.
- SoloPine at ThemeForest has a great portfolio of clean, minimal and interactive themes. In fact, ThemeForest has a treasure trove of undiscovered WordPress themes, so start foraging!
- FeastDesignCo.com is a great place to find some food blog themes. The themes, however, run on the Genesis Framework that you will need purchase separately. This is something I would recommend if you are somewhat comfortable with WordPress themes and web design and can navigate around customization.
And here are a few more, if you are still undecided:
I realise that most of these themes seem feminine and pink etc, but don’t forget that WordPress themes are very customizable. Don’t let the font and colour put you off a theme that you otherwise, love. If you like the format and layout, I’d say spend a few hours brushing up on basic css so that you can edit a theme.
Step 5. The Content
All of the steps above are essentially the skeleton of your blog. The content really is the flesh of the whole structure.
One thing that I wish I had done before the rebrand and relaunch of my website, is drafting blog posts; scheduled for posting over upcoming weeks.
So, top tip? Draft at least five blog posts, or more, if you plan to post more than once a week as this will give you a months’ headstart of regular content on your website. I carry around a small notebook in my bag these days so when inspiration strikes, I can jot down my blog post ideas to expand on at a later date.
Really, you could have done all the hard work of Steps 1-4 but if your content isn’t up to scratch, all of the previously listed hard work would be for nought.
So we do, come to a full circle here as we link back to Step 1.
Be weird, be creative & be original.