Library Resources: How to Start a Blog
Welcome! Thanks for visiting—I hope you found my video with Frederick County Public Libraries helpful! Here is a list of the resources I mentioned in my video about how to start a blog—plus a few more I didn’t have time to get to!
Step 1: Decide on a topic
- Check out this article about how to choose a blog topic you love.
- Here is another article from Blogging Basics 101 about choosing a blogging niche.
Step 2: Pick a platform
- WordPress.org is the platform I use. If you don’t want to have to buy your own domain name and web hosting, you can use WordPress.com. But remember, if you use this, your website will look like this: www.bybrittanygoldwyn.wordpress.com.
- Other popular options are Blogger and Squarespace. However, I use and recommend WordPress.
- Free forums for WordPress.org troubleshooting; search around and see if you can find answers to your questions.
- Plug-ins: There are so many plug-ins to choose from. Many you don’t need, many are super valuable. Here are a few I use—asterisks next to the ones that aren’t free, but they aren’t expensive.
- Ad Inserter to add in disclosures automatically at the top of all posts, saving time.
- Antispam Bee to block comment spam.
- Contextual Related Posts to show related posts based on context cues at the bottom of each post.
- ShortPixel Image Optimizer optimizes and compresses images to ensure they load quickly.
- Simple Social Icons to link to my social profiles in the sidebar.
- Tasty Pins* to help me manage what appears when someone pins something from my blog to Pinterest.
- Wordfence Security to enhance site security
- WordPress Editorial Calendar to help drag and drop posts on a calendar and plan when things go live.
- Yoast SEO, which helps me optimize posts in a way that search engines will be able to find them.
Step 3: Choose a domain name and host
- While WordPress.org is free to use, if you want your blog to have an easy-to-remember URL like www.myblog.com, you have to buy it. You also have to buy web hosting.
- There are quite a few budget hosting options for beginner bloggers, and they usually cost under $10 a month. You might recognize the names GoDaddy and BlueHost.
- I started out on BlueHost, and it worked very well for me for a few years.
- I then moved to Siteground, which was also good.
- I am now on BigScoots because I needed more dedicated service as my site grew.
- Check out which hosts are offering pricing specials when you’re ready to sign up. You can also buy a domain name through whichever host you choose.
- If you’re still trying to decide on your domain name, you can use a website like instantdomainsearch.com to figure out if your ideas are available.
- If you don’t want to spend any money, WordPress offers a free option through WordPress.com. For example, if your blog’s name is www.myblog.com, your URL would be www.myblog.wordpress.com. That means you don’t actually own your domain name, and you don’t own the content on your blog since someone else is hosting it for you for free. That’s why I recommend a self-hosted blog on your own domain name if you’re willing to make an investment in a domain name and hosting.
Step 4: Choose a theme and logo
- Next you want to choose a theme and a logo that match the vibe you’re looking for. Think about the first impression you want someone to have when they visit your blog.
- Themes help you easily customize your blog without knowing any HTML or coding language. They are designed for people like us! I recommend starting with a free theme. Don’t spend any money on a theme until you really get comfortable with blogging. Once you are ready to buy a theme, it will be easy to switch everything over—that’s another benefit of WordPress!
- Check out this article, What is a WordPress Theme. Then check out the library of free themes here on WordPress.org. If you’d like to buy a theme, you can check out the themes on Theme Forest’s website. I also recommend the Foodie Pro theme, which is what I used for a few years!
- A logo is a really nice touch and can help you add a bit of personality to your blog. You can design a logo in a free, easy-to-use graphic design program like Canva.com. Etsy also has tons of great affordable pre-made logo options—that’s where my first logo came from!
5: Start writing and sharing!
- I recommend writing a few blog posts to have ready once the blog goes live. That way you’ll feel like you have a bit of momentum from the beginning!
- Make sure you set up a Google Analytics account so that you can monitor how many people are visiting your blog and what posts are getting the most visitors!
- You can also start social profiles for your blog. Here are a few ideas:
- You can also create a simple newsletter for free through a service like MailerLite or MailChimp and encourage visitors to sign up for updates. These days I use MailerLite, which is a paid service.
- Promoting your blog can feel challenging when you’re first getting started. I do not recommend buying any expensive training online courses that make unrealistic promises.
- Instead, I recommend promoting your posts on social media sites and submitting your posts for features on larger sites that are applicable to your topic (for example, a site like craftgawker.com).
- I also recommend reading about search engine optimization so you can ensure Google can find you! Check out all of the free resources my amazing ad network provides on their SEO Resources page!
If you want to consider making money off of your blog in the future, there are many ways that bloggers make money, but here are four of the main ways: affiliate relationships, ad revenue, sponsored content, and products.
Affiliate relationships are the first way I began to monetize my blog. An affiliate relationship is an arrangement you have with a website or business where you send them traffic through a coded link, and in return, you earn a commission. You can read more about affiliate marketing in general here.
For example, an Amazon affiliate will link to products on Amazon and can earn a commission from that link at no extra cost to the reader. I have several affiliate partnerships—but Amazon and Etsy are two notable ones!
Ad revenue is money you earn from running ads on your blog. Joining an ad network makes this easy and takes the work out of it for you. But be careful—not all ad networks are created equal!
- Google Adsense is a platform you can get on right away. They do not have a minimum requirement.
- Monumetric was the ad company I was with previously. They consider bloggers with 10,000+ pageviews a month.
- Mediavine, in my opinion, is the best of the best! They have a threshold of 50,000 sessions/month to apply. It’s a great goal to work toward!
Sponsored content is when a company or brand pays you to write about their product. For me, a company will typically send me materials to complete a project and then pay me to photograph it and share it on my blog. I don’t do a lot of this because it is extremely time consuming—I’d do more of it if I did this full-time. Here are a few other sponsored posts I’ve done:
You can also do projects for companies and have them appear on other sites. For example, I’ve done projects for Decoart’s website. See what I mean here.
A lot of bloggers also create and sell their own products. These can be printables, e-books, things related to graphic design, services…the list is endless. I only have one product that I’ve created to sell because it takes a lot of time. It’s my e-book about pet-safe houseplants!
Bonus: Other tools I recommend!
I didn’t have time to cover this stuff in the video, but if you’re interested in taking your blogging skills to the next level, here are a few resources I recommend!
Social media tools
- Tailwind is a third-party service I use to manage my Pinterest account. It allows me to schedule Pins in bulk and then uses a smart scheduling feature to Pin for me whenever I want it to! This is a huge time saver, and I definitely attribute my growth on Pinterest to using it. I now have 25k followers on Pinterest, and a lot of people find my blog from Pinterest! You can use my link to try it out for free for a month.
- The TastyPins plugin allows me to control which images users can pin from my blog (vertical images always perform better on Pinterest than horizontal images). It also lets me customize the text I want pinned with the image, which is important when users are searching on Pinterest!
- The free graphic design software Canva is what I use to create eye-catching Pins like the one below. I have a template that I create that helps me create them quickly!
There are a ton of great resources out there for free, beautiful, commercially licensed photos. Remember that unless you own the copyright to a photo or you have permission to share it, you shouldn’t post it on your blog. Basically, you can’t just grab an image from Google.
But what if you want to shoot your own photos? You do not need to get an expensive camera! Depending on what you blog about, you might choose to invest one. I have a Nikon D7100 and two different lenses, and I use it about half the time. However, my phone’s camera is now so good that I use that whenever I can. It’s just easier! (I have a Google Pixel.)
You can check out a full post I wrote, Blog Photography: What Gear Do You Really Need, for more info on blog photography tools. The bottom line? There are a few cheap tools I recommend you invest in, and they make a huge difference if you’re taking your own photos!
I also have a series of 8 posts about photography interiors and products—I share a TON of great tips about photography, tools, and editing!