Key Points to start a successful Blog
Key Points to start a successful Blog
- Choose a blogging platform, domain name, and hosting option.
- Design your blog using a simple theme.
- Modify your blog to get your desired look and feel.
- Select the best plugins for your blog.
- Write compelling content that adds value to readers.
- Add an opt-in form to start collecting email subscribers.
- Begin producing strategic content that helps people.
- Set short and long term goals.
Here’s how we started our blog, step by step
- Domain and Hosting. The first thing we did when starting our blog was go to Bluehost and register our domain. We didn’t even need to set up a WordPress page first, which is the platform we use, since Bluehost does all that for you. Bluehost’s basic price is $2.95 a month, which works for 99% of people. Then, we did a simple, free, “one-click” install of WordPress through Bluehost. When we had questions we were able to chat with the “live chat” folks at Bluehost for free. They pointed us in the right direction and made starting our own blog super easy.
- Theme. A good theme gives you the look and feel you want for your blog, allowing you to make a blog that looks exactly how youwant it to look. If you’re not a coder (we certainly weren’t), then a theme makes the design work a million times easier. Plus, once you purchase a theme, which are inexpensive for the time they save you, you own it for life. A theme has two halves: the framework (the bones) and the Child Theme (the beauty):
- Framework. There are several WordPress theme frameworks on the market, but Genesis is without a doubt the best and most flexible choice. Genesis is the first half of your theme. Many themes merely handle the aesthetics of your new blog, but Genesis provides a necessary foundation for your Child Theme. Simply go to StudioPress and purchase the Genesis Framework.
- Child Theme. After you get your Genesis Framework, you’ll want to find the right Child Theme (which is just a silly way to say “blog design”). The Minimalists uses the beautiful “tru” theme, which is available at BYLT, the Genesis Community Marketplace. Head on over to BYLT, browse their carefully curated collection of themes, and find the design that’s right for you.
- Modify Your Blog. Once we had our domain, hosting, WordPress, and theme, we spent a lot of time tweaking the theme to get the look and feel we wanted (i.e., making our vision a reality). Then we spent even more time tinkering with the theme and arguing about it and tweaking it some more. Once we had created our blog, we set up a free Feedburner account so people could subscribe to our site via email and RSS subscriptions. And then we established a free Google Analytics account to track our stats. Feedburner and Google Analytics were both easy to sign up for, and we still use both today.
- Plugins. We use only a few plugins on our site: “Google Analytics for WordPress” and really simple Facebook and Twitter share-button plugins (since human beings are intrinsically wired to share value, it’s important to make your posts easy to share with others). They take just a few seconds (literally a few seconds, it’s just a click of a button) to install once you’ve started your blog. And if you really want to play around with some cool plugins, check out WPBeginner’s Best WordPress Plugins.
- Write Compelling Content. Last, via WordPress, we started writing and uploading the content for our pages: About Page, Contact Page, Start Here Page, Books Page, Tour Page, Archives Page, etc. Next, we designed our logo using free images we found online and text from a regular word-processing program. Then we put a picture of ourselves in the header (this is important because people identify with people, not logos). Finally we started writing new blog posts and publishing them regularly (at least once a week), accompanied by free photos from Unsplash, Pexels, and the Library of Congress. And the rest is history.
We receive plenty of emails asking for advice about starting a blog, about how to blog, about blog topics, and about creating meaningful content—even a few questions about whether we wear boxers or briefs. These are the answers and recommendations we tend to give.
- Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. When learning how to be a blogger, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re passionate about. Running? Cooking? Being a parent? Have you found your passion? If so, whatever it is, write about that. If not, then you must first find your passion. (Note: We generally recommend that people don’t start a blog about minimalism or the paleo diet or any other heavily saturated topic. But what we really mean when we say this is: don’t create a blog about something unless you have a unique perspective. If you’ve embraced simple living and have a unique perspective, then by all means have at it. Enjoy yourself.)
- Define Your Ideal Readers. Once you’ve found your niche, you need to know who will be reading your blog. For example, we blog about living intentionally. Thus, our ideal readers are people who are interested in exploring minimalism so they can clear the path toward more meaningful lives. If you want to write about your newborn baby growing up, that’s wonderful: your ideal readers are probably your friends and family. If you want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool, too. Tailor your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or local community or whoever else will read your blog).
- Add Value. Your blog must add value to its readers’ lives. This is the only way you will get Great Quality Readers to your site (and keep them coming back). Adding value is the only way to get someone’s long-term buy-in. We both learned this after a decade of leading and managing people in the corporate world.
- Be Original. Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing you want to write about. Question: So why is your blog different? Answer: Because of you. You are what makes your blog different. It’s about your perspective, your creativity, the value that you add.
- Be Interesting. Write epic, awesome content. Especially if you want people to share it with others.
- Be Yourself. Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every person is unique, and your story is an important one. The important part of storytelling, however, is removing the superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.
- Be Honest. Your blog needs to be authentic—it needs to feel real—if you want people to read it. You can be your blog, or your blog can be you. That is, do you really embody the stuff you write about? If not, people will see through you. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should build the blog they want to write for the world.
- Transparency. Being transparent is different from being honest. You needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being honest. Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to what you’re writing. (You won’t ever see pictures of us using the restroom on our site, because that’s just not relevant.)
- Time. Once you’ve learned how to start a blog, you’ll learn that blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as we are (we spent over 10 hours testing the fonts on this site). And see those black Twitter and Facebook icons in the header? We spent hours on those, deciding what was right for us). That said, once you have your design set up, don’t tweak it too much. Instead, spend the time on your writing.
- Vision. The reason our site design looks good is because we have a great host, we have a great theme, and most important, we had a vision of how we wanted our blog to look. Once we had the vision, we worked hard to make that vision a reality. (Note: neither of us had any design experience prior to starting a blog.) It’s hard to create a beautiful blog if you don’t know what you want it to look like.
- Find Your Voice. Over time, good writers discover their voice and their writing tends to develop a certain aesthetic, one that is appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing feel more alive, more real, more urgent. For additional reading, check out Joshua’s essay about Finding Your Voice.
- We Instead of You. Use the the first-person plural when possible. Statements of we and our are more powerful than than you and your, especially when talking about negative behaviors or tendencies. The first person comes off as far less accusatory. Think of it this way: we’re writing peer-to-peer—we are not gods.
- When to Post. Question: When is the best day and time to publish a blog post? Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We don’t adhere to a particular schedule. Some weeks we post one essay; sometimes we post three. Yes, it is important to write consistently, but you needn’t get too bogged down in the details.
- Social Media. Yes, we recommend using Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to help connect with your audience and other bloggers, but don’t get too caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.
- Ignore Negative Criticism and Stupidity. Sure, we get a lot of negative comments and stupid questions from ignorant people who aren’t really our readers (e.g., negative comments like “You’re not real minimalists” and stupid questions like “Are you guys gay?”). We call these people seagulls: they fly in, crap on your site, and fly away. But we pay them no mind, because we didn’t start our blog for them. Delete their comment and move on.
- Research. Spend time researching what you’re writing about. The reason we are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in our essays is because we put in the time to research our topics.
- Keep It Simple. This is where minimalism can be applied to starting any blog, irrespective of its genre. No need to place superfluous advertisements or widgets all over your site. Stick to the basics and remove anything you don’t need. Remove anything that doesn’t add value.
- Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People identify with other people. If two goofy guys from Ohio aren’t too afraid to put their pictures on their site, then you have nothing to worry about.