When approached with the right strategy, blogs are an excellent way to connect with your customers, establish your status as an industry expert, and earn additional income. However, starting a blog can be a tricky process that can leave even the most savvy of business owners wondering where to start. Fortunately for you, we have created a step by step guide to not only creating a blog, but also maximizing its effectiveness.
[bctt tweet=”Successful blogging is not about one time hits. It’s about building a loyal following over time.” username=”SFHoldings”]
Step 1: Selecting A Name For Your Blog
Picking out the name for your blog is a task that should not be entered into lightly. The name of your blog is what readers will site in conversation, emails, social media, and other communications when they want to refer a friend, family member, or colleague to your words of wisdom. With this in mind, you should adhere to Sir Richard Branson’s thoughts on branding, especially as it applies to the importance of names, “Branding demands commitment; commitment to continual re-invention; striking chords with people to stir their emotions; and commitment to imagination.”
If you want to create a blog name that encourages visitors to commit to reading your words on a regular basis, then you will need to achieve the following factors:
- The name should be memorable.
- The name should embody the values of your brand.
- The name should be legally available, flexible, and expandable.
- The name should easily establish connection between your name, the subject matter of the blog, or the industry, products, or services that your business represents.
- The name should be short, sweet, and easy to pronounce (no one likes to stumble as they try to reference something good that they have recently read).
Step 2: Choose A WordPress Host
WordPress is an incredibly popular option for anyone looking to either build a blog into an existing website, or create their blog as a separate digital entity. However, due to the popularity of WordPress, there are now web hosting providers who offer “managed WordPress hosting.” These hosting solutions are designed as a concierge service that focuses on managing the technical aspects of your WordPress blog. This management includes overseeing the speed, security, data backups, scalability, uptime, and updates that your blog will have to undergo on a regular basis. In short, WordPress hosting makes creating a blog easier for both newbies and seasoned digital publication experts. It is the premium resort equivalent for blogging that allows you to focus on creating valuable content that your readers will enjoy, rather than worrying about the technical components of your blog.
Choosing the right WordPress host will require you to think about what areas you most need help with, as well as the reason that you are creating your blog. Once you have these clear goals and needs in mind, you can begin weighing the pros and cons of the various WordPress hosting providers. To help you narrow down your list, we have included an examination of three of the top providers: WP Engine, Bluehost, and SiteGround.
Many industry experts consider WP Engine the best choice for WordPress hosting. The reason behind this esteemed ranking is simple: WP Engine focuses exclusively on WordPress site hosting, which means that you will receive expert technical performance and customer support. In fact, their team of experts will handle the majority of maintenance tasks that are associated with your site, so that you can focus on creating, editing, publishing, and growing your followers.
- Managed WordPress hosting with expert technical and customer support features.
- Faster page loading with EverCache technology.
- Automatic installation of WordPress updates.
- Free data restore, backup, and hacked site fixes.
- Ability to test plugins and themes in a separate staging area (this means that your live site won’t be affected while you are trying out new features, layouts, or plugins).
- Free 60 day trial, Let’s Encrypt SSL, and no long-term commitments.
- Increased flexibility with transferable installs and access to WordPress consultants and developers.
- More expensive than other WordPress hosting solutions.
- Can only be used on WordPress platform.
- A few plugins and themes are not supported.
- Additional charges apply if the set number of visitors are exceeded.
- If storage needs are exceeded there is an additional charge.
Bluehost offers a WordPress hosting solution that is filled with all of the tools that you will need to promote your site to current and future followers or readers. While some people find Bluehost tricky to navigate, it is one of the top-used WordPress hosting solutions due to the multitude of benefits that it provides to its customers.
- Unlimited storage, data transfer, and domain hosting.
- Free site builder with included templates (this can be especially helpful if you decide to build an entire website after creating your blog).
- Live chat support throughout the day and night.
- cPanel interface and search engine submission features.
- Money back guarantee.
- The hosting solution is known for consistently trying to up-sell customers.
- Slow customer support response times (when the live chat feature is not utilized).
- Cumbersome customized user interface.
Since its creation, SiteGround has rapidly become one of the highest ranked WordPress hosting providers. It is known for providing unparalleled security, expert support, automatic site updates, free backups, an array of developer tools, and a lack of restrictions. In addition to the latter benefits, SiteGround even offers different discounts for new WordPress users.
- Free domain name, daily backup and restore, CloudFlare CDN, and Let’s Encrypt SSL.
- Solid state drives are included, as well as cPanel interface.
- Linux containers are leveraged in a shared hosting environment.
- Increased site speed with SuperCacher.
- Enjoy 99.9 percent uptime and fast responsive support.
- Staging is available for both WordPress and Joomla sites.
- Web space is typically capped between 10GB to 30GB.
- GrowBig or GoGeek plans are required for managed hosting solutions.
Step 3: Picking A WordPress Theme
The next step in creating your blog is to select your WordPress theme. A WordPress theme is a gathered collection of files that are designed to create the graphical interface of your blog. In layman’s terms, the theme is a technical compilation of backend files that are built to modify the way your site is displayed, without changing the underlying software. In other words, your selected theme will take your WordPress blog from a simple blank page with writing on it to a beautiful work of art that can be customized to meet your needs without having to learn to write code.
As noted in the previous step, your hosting solution might have an impact on the type of WordPress theme that you can select. Additionally, you will need to consider the impact that your theme will have on the SEO ranking of your blog (more on this later in Steps 7 and 9). Selecting the right theme is made easier when you head to a “WordPress theme marketplace,” such as StudioPress or ThemeForest.net.
- StudioPress — StudioPress is a one stop shop to find your preferred WordPress theme. Their themes are built by a large developer community and are available on The Genesis Framework. In fact, The Genesis Framework is used on over 500,000 WordPress sites. This highly used platform features a multitude of unique themes, a flexible user interface, and a 24/7 support team.
- ThemeForest.net — Another theme marketplace can be found at ThemeForest.net. There are countless templates that are available for purchase and use on your WordPress blog. Additionally, ThemeForest is a part of Envato Market, which is a creative space for over 35,000 designers who are eager to assist with all of your graphic and digital creation needs.
Step 4: Choosing The Right Color Scheme
After you have selected your theme, you will be ready to customize it with your brand colors. Selecting the right color is imperative to creating content that resonates positively with its intended audience. In fact, according to color psychology subject matter expert Leslie Harrington, Executive Director of The Color Association,
[bctt tweet=”The first point of interaction is shaped by the color, and color is the most memorable sense.” username=”SFHoldings”]
This insight highlights the importance of selecting colors that will influence a reader’s decision to either continue reading your blog, purchase products mentioned on your blog, or retain your professional services.
Whether you are building your blog and brand from scratch, or are considering a rebranding venture, it is important to remember that every color will generate a specific emotional response due to its hidden meaning. For example, blue is often considered to be a soothing color, while red is known as a power color. Georgia O’Keeffe once stated:
[bctt tweet=”I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” username=”SFHoldings”]
Whether it is viewed in person or via a digital screen, color is a wonderful media that can connect audiences to each other, while simultaneously establishing a conversation between our conscious and subconscious selves.
This universal language must be understood before you can bring life to your ideas via a published blog. In this vein, you must decide the following attributes before customizing your blog:
- Who is your brand / blog?
- What does your brand / blog epitomize?
- Where does your brand / blog have the largest impact?
- When does your brand / blog generate a response?
- Why do people interact with your brand / blog?
- How does your brand / blog speak to, interact with, or otherwise impact its audience?
The selection of your brand and blog’s colors will not only answer the above questions, but will also be reflective of your brand’s values, messages, and beliefs. Below are five tips to help you successfully complete this important endeavor.
- Know your audience. — Before you can select your blog colors be sure to understand both the demographics and the psychographic(s) of your intended audience.
- Think psychologically. — Use the previously discussed attributes to select colors that generate the desired psychological response.
- Ask a designer about the 60-30-10 rule. — Many designers suggest using three colors in a 60 percent, 30 percent, and 10 percent ratio to create a professional look and feel.
- Intentionality, authenticity, and simplicity reign supreme. — Stick to these three characteristics (and mindsets) when you are selecting your blog colors.
- Research first, select after. — Don’t make the all too common beginner’s mistake of selecting a color scheme that is too close to your competitor’s branding.
Step 5: Select Your Social Media Accounts
By this step you will have selected your blog name, WordPress host, theme, and colors. Now it’s time for you to make sure that the all important social media handles exist. To help you with this task you can use NameChk.com to see if your brand name accounts are available via social media. If your social media account handles are available, then you should select them immediately!
Consistency between social media handles and your blog name can result in the following benefits:
- Increased brand recognition and memorability.
- Improved ability to create meaningful hashtag campaigns that are specific to your brand.
- Enhanced cross channel content marketing opportunities.
- Increased visibility, which can result in a larger network of followers for your brand, blog, and social media accounts.
With the above benefits in mind, it is no secret that social media is an important part of content marketing and the linchpin to successfully growing your blog readership (more on this in Step 10). However, to further solidify this point, and simultaneously share words of wisdom from social media power influencers, here are three quotes to live by when constructing social media campaigns to promote your blog content:
- “Social media is not just an activity; it is an investment of valuable time and resources. Surround yourself with people who not just support you and stay with you, but inform your thinking about ways to WOW your online presence.” (Sean Gardner).
- “[I] use social media as an idea generator, trend mapper, and strategic compass for all of our online business ventures.” (Paul Barron).
- “Social media will help you build up loyalty of your current customers to the point that they will willingly, and for free, tell others about you.” (Bonnie Sainsbury).
Step 6: Hire A Logo Designer
Unless you are secretly a Photoshop, InDesign, or Adobe creative expert, now is the time to hire a designer to create your logo. Did you know that a logo has the power to create an emotional response? Did you also know that the emotional response triggered by a logo can immediately impact the way the viewer interacts with your content? In short, it is worth investing in a great graphic designer who can create an even greater logo.
A designer can help you to achieve the following “great logo benefits:”
- Increase Recognition. — Like Dory balancing in a sea of floating mackerel on her way to meet her destiny (both literally and figuratively for those of you who haven’t seen Finding Dory), so too must you separate yourself from an ocean of competitors. If you have a “cookie cutter” aka something selected from a pre-designed assortment, then you will not stand out from competitors. Instead, you will look just like everyone else and lose your unique factor. A professional logo designer can solve the latter problem and help to distinguish your blog from the competition.
- Reduce Frustrations And Save Time. — Just as a child struggles to learn to draw a passable stick figure, so too will you probably struggle to create a viable logo. (Please note, we are not calling you a child, but simply pointing out a memorable and frustrating experience that we can all relate to.) Instead of wasting valuable time becoming frustrated that your Adobe For Beginners book is not helping you create the logo of your dreams, you should instead save your time and hire a professional logo designer. Through consultations you can explain your concept to the designer, who will then make your idea a reality and perhaps improve upon it along the way.
- Deliver A Positive First Impression. — First impression matters. This is a concept as old as time itself. A professionally designed logo is designed to deliver the right first impression each and every time. Color, size, font, shape, placement, and actual design are all important concepts that can only be harmoniously brought together by a professional logo designer. Sure, there might be exceptions to the amateur creation rule (looking at you infamous Nike swoosh), but these exceptions occur once in a blue moon. It is far more effective to higher a professional to help you make a positive first impression.
The moral of the story is simple: your future words of wisdom deserve to be represented with a brilliant logo that can only be created by a professional designer.
Step 7: Create The Right Layout For Your Blog
A recent U.K. survey found that bloggers are the third most trustworthy source of information (friends and family were the two leading entities, although not necessarily in that order). However, you can only become a trustworthy source if you present your information in an easy to follow and understand format. In other words, at this point in the blog creation process, you are now ready to begin playing with the layout. Your chosen theme will give you the building blocks that you need to further customize the look and feel of your blog, while the color scheme will be leveraged during the fine tuning of your layout.
Creating the best blog layout, and encouraging people to become active followers, is made easier when you implement the following tips.
- Keep the blog’s style consistent. — Your blog should have a strong visual identity; however, it should remain consistent in its layout without detracting from your messages. For example you don’t want the home page to use a left to right visual pattern, while the subsequent category pages use an up and down continuous scroll. The latter inconsistency is confusing (especially for mobile users who want to streamline their search efforts).
- Keep the blog easy to read. — In Step 4 we discussed the importance of color, now it’s time to put those lessons to the test. The color palette of your blog is an incredibly important design decision. However, in an effort to pick out your blog colors don’t underestimate the importance of the text and page color. You have to ensure that your blog is legible across devices by selecting colors that have enough contrast to make the text easy to read.
- Keep the importance of white space in mind. — To quote Coco Chanel, “Before you leave the house take off one item.” The same concept can be applied to blogs. After creating your blog, take a step back to see if you have effectively incorporated white space; if not, then it is time to remove one item to create a more balanced blog.
- Keep the layout simple. — Your blog layout doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. In fact, you can use your favorite blogs to better understand what layouts are easiest to follow. With this in mind, avoid placing too many elements onto one page. Instead, use the five second or less rule of thumb. In other words, you should be able to scan each page of the blog in five seconds to discover the information that you want to find. If it takes you longer than five seconds, then chances are that your layout is too complicated.
- Keep the sides clean. — If you are not careful, sidebars can become visual clutter. Whether you choose to generate revenue by selling digital space in your sidebars or want to create an archive section for previous blog posts, make sure that your sidebars use a minimalist style that does not visually detract from the blog.
- Keep the content at a high authority. — If you want your blog to be successful, then you need to create high authority, SEO friendly content. You might be reading this tip and thinking to yourself, “but I’m not a professional writer,” if so, fear not. There are plenty of tools out there to help you create high authority content, all you need to do is choose the right one and lend your own industry expertise. From KWFinder to SEMRush to WriterAccess, you can leverage the tools that you need to make your blog a go-to industry resource.
Step 8: Use The Right Plugins
Simply put, a plugin is a piece of software that provides a certain function or group of functions for your WordPress site. Whether you want to extend functionality or add new features, WordPress plugins can be seamlessly integrated to help you achieve your goals. The top plugins that you will want to consider using include:
- Yoast SEO — The Yoast SEO plugin is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. it is designed to help you optimize your blog for search engines. Whether you need help adding properly formatted meta tags or you want to optimize your site from its header down to its footer, Yoast SEO is the plugin you need.
- WP Forms — If you want to grow the number of followers and readers, then you need to include a contact or subscription form. As the name suggests, WP Forms is the beginner-friendly form plugin that will help you to create payment, order, contact, subscription, and any other type of form that might help to take your blog to the next level.
- BackupBuddy — In a day and age where data is one of the most valuable resources, you need to make sure that your blog is properly backed-up. BackupBuddy is a reliable, secure, and easy way to backup and restore your WordPress blog in only a few clicks.
- Google XML Sitemaps — Did you know that one of the easiest ways to optimize your posts for SEO is to include a sitemap? The Google XML Sitemaps plugin is incredibly popular and gives your blog the sitemap it needs to be seen, reviewed, and properly indexed by search engines. Yoast SEO already takes care of this for you!
- Hierarchical HTML Sitemap — Just as you need a sitemap for the search engines, issuing a sitemap for your users is just as important. Utilizing this plugin will allow you to place a shortcode into a page, and it will auto create a user friendly sitemap for you. We use this plugin, and you can view our sitemap here.
- WP Super Cache — We mentioned it once, but we’ll mention it again, page caches are a great way to increase the speed of your blog. WP Super Cache is a plugin that makes it easy for you to cache your blog. Easy to use, even easier to setup, and a handy tool for improving site speed can be found in one simple plugin. You can also use notable caching plugins like WPRocket, & WP Total Cache.
- WP Optimize — Did you know that whenever you edit a post, WordPress creates a new revision within your site database? Do this once, not a big deal; however, complete this action more than once and suddenly your database can become cluttered. Fortunately, the WP Optimize plugin is designed to help you automatically clean your WordPress database so that it can run at maximum efficiency levels. The plugin frees up data space, helps to increase site speed, and gives you the control that you need to effectively run your blog.
Step 9: Optimize For SEO
You have probably read a lot about SEO for websites, but did you know that your blog should also implement good SEO practices? That’s right, if you want to make your blog user friendly, easy to follow, and achieve a high search engine ranking, then you will need to implement the following top SEO best practices.
- Focus each post on only one or two long-tail keywords. — The key to optimizing your blog posts is to only focus on one or two long-tail keywords. However, before you fall into the trap of keyword stuffing, remember that it is not the number of keywords that you implement, but rather how you do so. In other words, you should only focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post, while simultaneously only using each keyword once per 300 words. Finally, you can maximize the effectiveness of your selected keywords by using them in the title, within H1, H2, or H3 tags, and within the first and last paragraphs of the blog post.
- Create blog posts that are user friendly. — It is no secret that Google displays mobile-friendly results first. In fact, as the years go on, responsive and mobile-friendly designs continue to have an even larger impact on SEO results. The moral of the story is clear: if you want to rank well, then you need to have a mobile friendly blog that can be viewed across devices.
- Optimize the meta description. — A meta description is the additional text that appears before a title in search engine results. Generally speaking, the meta description is 156 characters or less and is designed to give additional information regarding the content. Meta descriptions should include one of your long-tail keywords. They should also be reader friendly, compelling, and relevant so that people will click on your blog post titles and read more.
- Optimize images to improve their SEO reach. — Blog posts can and should include images, videos, infographics, and non-text content. However, search engines don’t “see” images or infographics in the same way as a site visitor. In other words, search engines only “see” the text that is portrayed on the page, unless you properly name the latter entities. Using an alt text image tag, you can name the images to improve their SEO reach. Let’s say that your blog post is about dental hygiene for pets. You might have included a file of a dog smiling with a toothbrush in its mouth. Instead of keeping the original file name “IMG546729,” you could instead use an alt text image tag to name it “cute dog with a toothbrush for improved dental hygiene in pets.” Through the latter tag, you have told search engines that your post should be displayed for people looking for information about improving dental hygiene in pets.
- Use internal links. — You might have noticed that at various points throughout this post we have included links. Aside from wanting to point you towards additional, helpful information, we know that inbound and outbound links can increase search engine visibility, relevancy, and validity. No matter the topic, if you are writing about something that was mentioned in a previous blog post, ebook, web page, or social media post, then you should link to that specific page.
- Use Google’s search console. — Google has a suite of free tools that can be used to help you improve your SEO results. One such tool is the free Search Console that has a Search Analytics Report section. The report can be used to help you analyze the clicks that your blog (and individual blog posts) receive from Google searches. The report can also be used to determine what keywords are most influential on people’s click habits, as well as how your blog ranks for your chosen keywords.
- Increase the load speed of your blog. — Did you know that the average digital attention span of a human is less than a goldfish? That’s right, humans have an attention span of seven seconds or less when they are viewing digital content. This means that you have a limited amount of time to convince people to stay on and read your blog. This challenge is made even harder when you consider the fact that as little as a one second delay in page load time can result in a 7 percent conversion loss, 11 percent fewer page views, and 16 percent decreased customer satisfaction. To improve the load speed of your blog there are several things that you can do, including:
- Choose the right WordPress hosting solution. — WordPress hosting is an essential component to optimize your entire blog. In fact, one of the biggest benefits that the right host can bring to your blog is decreased page load time. Be sure to choose a hosting solution that is known for increasing the speed of blogs and websites.
- Use page caching. — Page caching is an easy way to reduce load times, so that visitors can more quickly access your content. Page caching allows a site visitor’s browser to use cached (or stored) versions to quickly load certain sections of your blog without having to query your database. The catch 22 of this solution, is that your cache can quickly become out of date if you don’t regular update your content. Fortunately for blogs, the latter challenge typically isn’t an issue, since content is regularly updated via published posts. The best caching plugins are WPRocket, WP Super Cache, & WP Total Cache.
- Optimize your images for the optimal load time. — Images can increase engagement within blog posts. The only problem with images is that they can greatly increase page load times if they aren’t formatted properly. Before you upload images to your blog post make sure that they are in the correct image format, PNG or JPEG. Additionally, you can compress the image file to reduce it by up to five times, which can result in a faster loading time. We recommend Imagify, WP-Smush or Compressor.io.
- A great step by step tutorial (written by Tom of Online Media masters) to increase page speed of your blog can be found here.
Step 10: Growing Your Followers, Generating Revenue, And Leveraging Automation
The final step in creating your blog from scratch will be to grow your number of followers, generate revenue, and leverage the right automation tools. Through these final steps you will turn your blog into a well-oiled content marketing mechanism that helps you to reach your goals.
- Grow Your Number Of Followers. — Your blog posts are only as helpful as their ability to reach an awaiting audience. Remember our earlier quote from David Aston, Author at How To Make Money Online, “Successful blogging is not about one time hits. It’s about building a loyal following over time.” Through the following tips you can and will increase your number of followers.
- The good, the bad, the ugly, and the indifferent. No matter its form (unless it’s spam) you should respond to all blog post comments. Come to think of it, you should spend some time commenting on other blog posts too.
- Use social media to your advantage. (Don’t forget the power of social media post automation, more on this below).
- “If you build it they will come.” Don’t underestimate the importance of your blog layout, design, and content.
- Be consistent in your publishing schedule. Your followers will grow if you stick to a schedule that they can count on.
- Maximize your SEO efforts so that you can extend your digital reach.
- Create cross platform marketing campaigns that promote your blog posts to the right audiences. You can jump start the growth of your blog by sending an email blast to your network to let them know that you have launched your blog.
- Create highly valuable content. Fluff is bad (unless we are referring to the artificial “goodness” from our childhood days of making peanut butter and fluff sandwiches). Followers will flock to blogs that provide high quality content that is on point, valuable, and filled with expertise.
- Generate Revenue. — Turning your blog into a money making device can be achieved in five steps. One word of caution, you will have to implement all of the lessons learned from this guide if you want to be successful in your revenue generating endeavors. Additionally, never forget the words of Jason Calacanis, Co-Founder Weblogs Inc., “The currency of blogging is authenticity and trust.” Without further ado, here are five steps that will help your blog generate revenue.
- Set up your blog.
- Write content that generates a lot of traffic.
- Encourage visitors to become subscribers via strategically positioned forms or specific CTAs.
- Give your subscribers what they want i.e. high quality content delivered from a trustworthy source.
- Sell digital ad space, ebooks, products, or services on your blog. Keep in mind that transparency in your sale efforts is key, otherwise you will lose the trust of your followers.
- Leverage Automation. — The larger your blogging efforts become, the more you will need to use automation tools. In fact, even if you are only posting one blog post per week, the right automation tools can help you to maximize your efforts, streamline publishing efforts, and streamline content creation efforts. Below are two key automation tools that will help you to do more than simply “get the job done.”
- CoSchedule — Creating and sticking to a publication calendar is an important component of any successful blog. Unfortunately, scheduling multiple aspects can be a challenge, especially when you have other tasks to complete throughout the day. CoSchedule is designed to help you and your team collaborate, schedule, and complete projects on time so that you can meet your publication deadlines. We also use CoSchedule!
- SocialOomph — Don’t let social media run your life. Instead, use SocialOomph to boost your productivity via automated social media posts. Easily schedule updates, find quality people to follow, optimize your efforts, and monitor your social media activity with SocialOomph.
Concluding Thoughts On Creating A Blog From Scratch
Well there you have it; our narrative on how to create a blog from scratch has come to an end. Through the above 10 steps you will be able to take your blog from initial concept to an effective content marketing channel that reaches your intended audience on a consistent basis. No matter your chosen subject, remember that your blog can only be as successful as the effort that you are willing to put into its creation, maintenance, and publication. In other words, after you spend the time needed to create a blog, don’t let it fall into disarray. Instead, remember the following inspirational words of wisdom from Gary Vaynerchuk, Entrepreneur and Vlogger AskGaryVee, “What you do after you create your content is what truly counts.” Now, go out and create brilliant published content by following the above creating a blog how-to.