INTERESTED IN HOW TO START A BLOG BUT NOT SURE WHERE TO BEGIN? FROM WORDPRESS TO SOCIAL MEDIA, FIND INSIGHT AND INSPIRATION IN MY JOURNEY AS A NEW BLOGGER.
In my opinion, deciding to start a blog is a victory in itself! For most—including me—starting a blog means pushing aside insecurities, facing fears, and overcoming doubt. It takes courage to embark on a new venture, so whether you’re a prospective, beginner, or seasoned blogger, kudos!
If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’re either interested in blogging or are a new blogger. As for me? I’m a newbie. At the time of writing this post, I’ve been blogging six weeks.
Of course, this makes me no expert in the field. However, I’ve learned so much along the way, and I thought it would be a great idea to write this piece while my mind is fresh with all of those exciting little details I might soon forget.
READ: Why I started a blog
So let’s get to it! From pre-launch planning to WordPress configuration and social media adventures, keep reading for a rundown of my experience diving into the blogging world.
Initial planning phase
Finding my focus
I decided to start a blog before I knew what I would blog about. That meant spending hours researching niches, plus considering all topics I was interested in. After all, I was on the hunt for a focus that I would enjoy writing about and sharing with others for months (and years) to come!
Throughout my research, I read numerous times to write what you’re passionate about. Okay, what am I passionate about? Asking myself this question made me a little blue—could I really have no passion?
After I stopped being so hard on myself, I realized I’m interested in a lot of different things and came to terms with not necessarily passionate about any of them. I’m okay with this, but it didn’t make the process any easier!
Ultimately, thinking about an idea rather than a niche helped my identify my blog’s focus: helping others find everyday joy. What’s wonderful about this focus is that I can write about a range of topics, like self-care, health and wellness, simple living, or financial tips. Plus so much more!
But for the record, if I were to put my blog into a niche category, I would definitely consider it a lifestyle blog.
Lovely readings when you’re searching for your focus:
- 3 Types of Niches to Choose for Your New Blog
- How to Decide What to Blog About
- Why You Don’t Need a Blog Niche (and What You Need to do Instead)
Choosing my blog name
Oh my. Next came the task of brainstorming a blog name that had an available domain!
I grabbed my notebook and wrote down words. Lots of words. Specifically, I jotted down words I imagined would associate best with my blog’s mission and attract my target audience. But I also wrote down anything that came to my mind. This helped me to make connections and find patterns. I already knew I wanted the word joy, so that helped quite a bit.
However, finding an available domain name was no piece of cake. Most of the word pairings and arrangements I tried were already claimed. Thankfully, Sprinkle in Joy (as in, sprinkle joy into your life) popped into my head. And huzzah, it was free for the taking!
Now I’ve come across this one piece of advice several times, and I would have to agree…
Don’t think too hard about your blog name, spending more time than really necessary. Find one that works well for your purpose and run with it. If your blog takes off and you determine a re-branding is in order, you can go that route. But for now, don’t overthink. After all, what will make you stand out is your stellar content and unique point of view, not necessarily your blog name.
Being a tad perfectionistic, I had to force myself to not dwell over the name choice (which would have only delayed my launch date that much longer).
Checking domain name + availability
Are you looking to start a blog and wondering if that perfect domain name can be yours?
I frequented Instant Domain Search to check out domain availability and extensions. What’s more, included in the search results is a domain generator, which lists popular variations to your search.
You can also check out NameMesh. Simply enter two or three keywords and voila! Their generator presents you with lists and lists of possible domain names—all clearly organized and ready for your browsing pleasure.
Feel free to check availability right here and now! Simply type in your desired domain name below.
Setting it up
Purchasing domain + hosting
In my very first post, you’ll read that one of the reasons I started a blog is to generate income (with the hopes of making it more than a hobby one day). With this, I knew it was important to set my blog up properly and professionally from day one.
READ: Why I started a blog
Once I learned what web hosting meant (yes, I was that new to the entire experience), I decided to run with Bluehost as my hosting provider. As blogging is a continuous learning process and blog needs continually evolve, I’m open to reviewing competitive hosting providers in the future. However, for my current needs, Bluehost has been a great choice.
- Recommended by WordPress
- Quick and easy 1-click WordPress install. So easy, I thought I did something wrong!
- Responsive customer service. I’ve contacted them three times so far regarding beginner blogger questions and a scary temporary website issue (compliments of yours truly).
- Free domain and SSL certificate
- Budget-friendly plan options
Let’s talk about WordPress
Because I wanted a professional and fully customizable website—plus one that would provide greater opportunity for monetization—I chose the WordPress.org platform. (Read about the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org on this page.)
Next I needed to choose a theme for my blog. WordPress.org does offer free themes, but I wanted to get my hands on more features, customization, and support. I already set some coin aside (once I confessed my new hobby to Mr. E and convinced him I won’t put this side venture on the back-burner!), so I was in the all clear to purchase a premium theme.
Choosing a framework + theme
The Genesis framework comes highly recommended as one of (or maybe the most) popular WordPress frameworks. Honestly, I was hesitant going with Genesis. And a little worried I wouldn’t be able to figure it out since I’ve read it’s not exactly labeled as beginner-friendly compared to other options.
I’ll say it took some time and lots of researching and video-watching, but I eventually got it and am so happy I took the plunge with Genesis. I would definitely recommend it!
Now with the Genesis framework, I had to choose a child theme. More decisions!
I went with a StudioPress theme. In the beginning, I was debating between StudioPress’ Foodie Pro and Simply Pro themes (they’re both amazingly minimal, yet beautiful). I ultimately chose the Simply Pro theme, and I don’t see myself changing any time soon.
Note: If you’re looking into the Genesis framework, you’ll need to purchase a child theme to go along with it. On the StudioPress Themes web page, the first option listed is the Genesis framework on it’s own. However, once you start browsing child themes, you’ll find each child theme includes the framework and is priced together.
Setup + configuration
I think it’s important to note that I had zero WordPress experience when I started blogging. And truthfully, I spent around 40 hours solely setting up and customizing WordPress. I had to research even the tiniest of questions!
Sidenote: I have total respect for anyone setting up (and managing) a blog while working and / or parenting full-time! [Insert mad props here.]
What helped get me through:
- Create and Go
- 50 Essential Settings After Installing WordPress
- 30 Best Genesis Framework Plugins Reviewed: The Ultimate List
- How to Start a Lifestyle Blog post by Katie Did What (includes a very helpful 2-minute video under Step 6 on how to install Genesis)
You’ll read varying information as far as how many posts to launch with and have on reserve. In the end, Olivia Derby’s post, How Many Blog Posts Should You Launch With, helped me determine how many posts I would go live with.
Before I launched, I wrote a total of six blog posts. Ultimately, I decided to go live with four blog posts. This meant I had only two on reserve, which was enough to hold me over while I focused on final WordPress tweaks.
What I’d do differently
Although I am perfectly happy launching with four blog posts, I would have loved to have more than two on reserve.
Replacing some of the time spent on researching and reading with writing would have been a great way to accomplish that goal. Pro tip: As soon as you know you want to start a blog, start compiling all helpful findings. When you come across a useful article or blog post, document that link to save you time in the long run.
I didn’t create social media accounts for my blog until I hit publish. This means I had no social media presence and zero followers.
Because it seems to be a universal truth that Pinterest is the number one way to drive traffic, I signed up for Pinterest straight away! I created a business account and completed the very important process of enabling rich pins.
Learn more about Pinterest optimization and promotion from these awesome posts:
- A Step by Step, Beginners Guide to Using Pinterest as a Blogger to Grow Traffic
- How to Get Traffic to Your Blog with Pinterest
- The Easy Way to Set Up Rich Pins on Pinterest
I also claimed accounts on Twitter, Instagram, and Bloglovin. I still need to claim accounts on other platforms, even if I’m not planning on promoting on them quite yet, because it’s best to claim your name on every platform so you can to ensure it’s still available down the road.
Of course, I would love to get my blog name out there wherever I can. But I’ve chosen not to spread myself too thin when it comes to social media. Rather, I’m focusing on one or two—Pinterest and Twitter—in order to build my audience and better understand that platform’s best practices for driving traffic to my site.
Start a Pinterest account BEFORE launching—hands down! As a confused newbie, I figured it would be easier once my website was live. Plus I didn’t quite understand how to use Pinterest for promotion.
But once you know your blog name, you can create an account and start building boards that tie into your blogs focus to attract a following even before you start promoting your own blog posts.
Keep in mind, you can start building your social media presence on other popular platforms before you go live. This is a great way to connect with other bloggers in the the blogging community and announce your brand to the world!
For those of you new to the adventures of blogging, what findings have been especially helpful in your journey? Any key insights you’d love to share with your fellow bloggers on how to start a blog?