Build Your Blog And Leverage A Loyal Following
Blogging has changed dramatically. Today, bloggers can earn thousands of dollars each month by advertising, promoting, and selling on their blogs. They accomplish this by building a loyal following of readers who find their expertise and the information provided to be helpful. Then as part of the bloggers’ efforts to provide helpful information and solutions, they include items or options, from which the blogger profits when readers take specific actions.
If you have a desire to live this type of lifestyle and enjoy communicating with others online, blogging may be an ideal path for you. In this series, we’ll look at the steps you need to take to build a blog and create a following. Then we’ll explore options and best practices to leverage the benefits of a loyal following.
Let’s start with the technical part of blogging, setting up your blog.
How to Set Up Your Blog
One of the reasons that blogging is so popular is that it’s relatively easy to get started. The actual process to set up your blog will vary depending on the technology that you choose. We’re going to look at the steps from a general viewpoint. Your hosting service, blog technology and even your blog theme will have their own tutorials and instructions to follow.
Your Domain Name
First, you’ll need to choose your domain name. Your domain name is your website address. MyGreatBlog.com is an example. Your domain name needs to be something that is relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a fitness coach you don’t want your website to be Ilovepuppies.com. It just doesn’t make sense.
Here are three additional things to consider as you choose your domain name.
If you are the business, you’re going to be the name and face behind your brand. In this case, you might register your name as the domain name. (You should register your name as a domain anyway. It prevents someone else from using it and you never know when it can come in handy.)
Keywords are helpful. If you can get keywords in your domain name, that can help motivate people to click on your links and visit your site. For example, a fitness coach might have www.fitnessforweightloss.com as a domain name and do quite well. Actually, that is a fitness coach’s blog and she’s done a good job. She’s missing a few things, but we’ll talk about those in a bit.
Finally, if you have a name for your business, register that as your domain name. Consistency is always helpful. It tells your readers what to expect. This can also be helpful if you have or plan to have multiple businesses or product lines.
Your Hosting Provider
Next, you’ll need to select a hosting provider for your blog. Most hosting providers offer a variety of blogging platforms to choose from, as well as other types of platforms such as forums and many others. It is important to have an idea of which self-hosted blog platform you want to use in order to make sure your host offers it.
Because WordPress is such a popular, powerhouse blogging platform and most hosts offer it, we recommend and assume that you will host and install WordPress yourself. Don’t worry. The blog install is straightforward and WordPress offers an abundance of guides and tutorials if you get stuck.
Often, you can register and host your blog with the same provider. You don’t have to, but you can. For example, at GoDaddy.com you can register your domain and get a hosting package. Explore your options and look for a hosting provider that is known for their reliability and customer service. WordPress actually recommends:
· Bluehost –www.bluehost.com
· Inmotion – www.inmotionhosting.com
· Hostgator – www.hostgator.com
After you get a domain name and hosting, you will want to focus on setting up your WordPress blog.
Your WordPress Blog
Your hosting provider should have specific instructions for installing WordPress. Hosts use different systems so to make the process easier, simply follow the instructions of your host.
It’s also important to point out that you can hire someone to do this for you about $5 at Fiverr.com if you don’t want to do it all yourself. However, be sure to change your admin password once they’re finished.
Now that you have your domain name, hosting, and your blog platform set up, it’s time to fine-tune the look and functionality of your blog.
Your Blog Design
There are thousands of WordPress themes or templates. Some themes are free, some aren’t. The true power of WordPress is that it’s infinitely customizable. Between themes, widgets, and plugins, you can do just about anything with your blog design. Let’s take a quick look at Themes, widgets, and plugins so you can see how to get started.
Themes – If you visit https://wordpress.org/themes you can see a variety of free themes in the repository. Themes generally come with:
· Different header sizes
· Different colors
· Variety of column sizes and number
· Different fonts
· Different blog post setups
Compare these three different themes.
When choosing a theme think about how you’re going to use your blog. You’ll need to consider what blog style and colors will best suit your topic and audience. For example, someone that blogs about business may want a more subdued blog theme. A fashion blogger may want a theme that is more vibrant or trendy.
If you’re unsure, you can install the theme and see how it looks. You can also spend some time looking around at other bloggers’ sites. Take notes on what you like. Then find a blog theme that supports your prioritized preferences. Premium blog themes can also be considered. WooThemes, http://www.woothemes.com, and Elegant Themes, http://www.elegantthemes.com, are two to consider.
Widget Areas – Many themes provide and support customizable areas that allow you to add content, features, and functionality to specific areas of your theme. Depending on the theme, these places may include your front page, sidebar, header, footer, and other areas.
Plugins – These are extensions, which can be installed on your blog to add functionality. For example, you’ll likely use a plugin to integrate social media into your blog or you can install a plugin that works as an email sign up form. This simple screenshot of a ClickZ.com blog post shows at least two plugins.
As we move through this series, we’ll talk more about how plugins can help you build and maintain a loyal following. Once you have your blog up and ready to go, it’s time to start adding content.
Next, we’ll look at the top tips to help you create a blog that people want to visit and will recommend to their friends.