Discovery: What to Do Before Starting a Blog
Before you actually create your blog, you should do some research. Do you know what you want to write about? Are you sure that’s what you want to write about? Do you know how you can make this content appeal to the interests of others?
You probably don’t have a plan for everything you need to do to set up and create you the blog of your dreams. No one does their first time. That’s why you’re here, right?
The problem most bloggers face is that they get started and then they wonder why people aren’t reading. They don’t realize that blogging is more than just writing up a bunch of posts and then trying to “get sponsors.” Ugh.
So, for the Discovery phase, you’re going to do just that. Discover things about yourself and a bit about the technical side of blogging. Because if you’re going to do it, you need to know all this.
Let’s jump right in!
This post is Part 1 of a five-part series on creating a successful blog:
Successful Blogging for Beginners Introduction
Part 1: Discovery – You’re here!
Part 2: Education – What to Learn While Creating Your Blog
Part 3: Creation – What to Do to Create Your Blog
Part 4: Launch – How to Launch Your Blog
Part 5: Growth – How to Grow Your Blog
Sign up for the free e-Course and receive all 5 sections in a completable course format. Track your progress as you learn!
Stop thinking about yourself
If you’re thinking you just want to write about your life or your family or your school life or your, your, your – just stop. Stop right there.
Let me tell you a secret. I’m going to be real blunt with you right now. Can you handle that?
No one cares.
They just don’t.
And that’s okay. Your job is to make them care. You can’t make them care by talking about you all the time, though. You have to turn this selfish way of thinking that we all have (maybe except for a few of us) as human beings. Use it to your advantage instead of letting it cripple you.Attract readers by appealing to their needs, not your ownClick To Tweet
You need to appeal to your potential reader’s selfish side. You need to present your content as something they need in their lives. And then you can tell your own story.
Sometimes, your story is actually the best hook into explaining a relatable situation. But again, that’s just drawing them in so you can tell them about how whatever you’re going to say next is going to help them.
This is how you get more readers. Then they share this info because wow, look, this recipe was super great and lol what a cute story to go along with it.
So anyway, that’s how you can humanize a recipe post.
What will you write about? Your favorite outfit? Your best makeup tips? Some crazy idea you thought of at work that ~just might work~? The political climate?
You can add your own story, but just don’t forget that the real value that keeps readers coming back is going to be what they get out of your posts. Not necessarily your lovely face, unfortunately. At least not when you’re first starting out.
Find your niche
Okay, now that the hard part is over, let’s think about what it takes to create a successful blog!
The first thing you want to do is find your niche. Even if you think you already know what that is, let’s go over this anyway, just to be sure.
Your niche is the specific topic that your blog is about. It’s more than just “fashion” or “food”. It includes the specific demographic you want to want to reach. It’s “fashion for the working millennial woman” or “authentic Chinese cuisine away from home.” If you’re specific, it’s going to be easier to target your audience and bring in the exact type of person you want to communicate with.
Your niche should be something you enjoy. Something that you can spend a lot of time writing about. If you’re not excited about your niche, you need to find something else.
If you’re unsure about how to find the perfect niche for you, check out this blog post.
It’s also perfectly acceptable to change your niche or start a new a blog if you decide you want to do something else later on. It’s better to change sooner than later so if you ever feel like you should, do it! Don’t spend time on something you only like a little bit when you could be doing something you love.
Find & research your audience
Once you know what your niche is, you want to find where people who would read your blog hang out; forums, Facebook groups, and the comments of similar blogs for starters. Look in any communities you’re also a part of.
Look for what questions people are asking. Do you know the answers? Do you know how to find the answers? These would make great blog posts!
Write down any questions you come across that you can write about. Also take note of things you could research.
It’s perfectly acceptable to create a blog post that uses one or several sources to answer a question. Even if you don’t know something, if you can find it, you can share that with your audience and they’ll be grateful.Use Facebook groups, forums, or other communities to do research for a new blog.Click To Tweet
Find a blogging platform
There’s tons of different software out there for blogging. WordPress is the most popular, managing over 25% of all websites on the internet.
WordPress is free software, but if you want to host it on your own server, you’ll need to pay for a web host. The freely hosted version of WordPress can be found at WordPress.com
Since I have the most experience with self-hosted WordPress, that’s what I’m dealing with primarily here at Blogging Butterfly.
Other popular blogging platforms include:
Find a host
As mentioned before, to use self-hosted WordPress, you need a hosting service. There are tons of different options and if you’re new to hosting, it can get very confusing. I’m going to break down a few of the basics for blogging here.
If you want to have your own domain (yourgreatblog.com instead of yourgreatblog.wordpress.com, for example), you’re going to need to buy that from a hosting company as well. If you have a limited budget, one option is to purchase your own domain but host your blog on a free service like Blogger or WordPress.com.
I host most of my domains with Dreamhost, but I also use Name.com*.
If you’re ready to jump into paid hosting, I’ve outlined a few choices here that you can choose based on your needs. Your domain is included when you purchase from iPage, SiteGround, or Dreamhost.
This is the cheapest option. If you’re trying to start a blog with a limited budget, this is a good option. For your first year, you can get started with WordPress hosting for just $3.75 per month during your first year. If you don’t opt for WordPress services, you can get a hosting package for $1.99. I suggest going with WordPress though because this means the servers are optimized for WordPress usage.
SiteGround is a highly recommended option from other bloggers, so I’ve chosen it as another one of my shared hosting services of choice. SiteGround also offers WordPress hosting at $3.75 per month. After your first year, it’s $9.95.
Dreamhost is a shared hosting company that I’ve been with for over 10 years, so of course, I have to mention them! They have a managed WordPress hosting service called DreamPress that’s perfect for new bloggers who only need to host their blog. Dreamhost is also my favorite choice for buying domains because WHOIS privacy is offered for free.
Dreamhost WordPress hosting is a bit more expensive at $16.95 per month.
This is also a more expensive option, but it’s also the best for growth. Once your blog starts generating more and more traffic, you’re going to need a more powerful server. Cloud hosting allows you to scale your servers up or down depending on your needs, so you only pay for what you actually use.
If a post goes viral and your blog is running slow, you can scale up for a bit until your traffic stabilizes and then go back to the lower option. Let’s hope that you continue to get that high amount of traffic, though!
Cloudways suggests 1GB plans for live websites, which means at the cheapest you’ll be paying $17 per month. Cloudways does come with a free 14 day trial, though, so you can try it out and see if you like it. If you decide it’s not for you, just cancel your account.
Since Cloudways charges by the hour, if you forget to cancel your trial before your time is up, you won’t be charged a huge amount of money after the 14 days. That’s always nice!
I strongly suggest starting out with Cloudways for the versatility, but it can be a little complicated. You’ll have to purchase your domain elsewhere, as well. If you’re looking for the simplest solution, I would try one of the other hosts.
Choose a name & domain
Once you know where you want to host, you’re going to need to sign up with a domain name for your blog.
When picking a name, be mindful of the content you plan to share. If your blog is going to have more serious stories, you don’t want to be using a cutesy name.
There are tons of different domain endings, or TLDs, these days, so there’s likely to be something available for a name you pick. You may not want to get too creative, though, because most people are still used to .com, .net, or .org being more mainstream TLDs.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. While different endings are still a sort of new concept, there are more and more of them popping up every day.
What Comes Next
Now that you know what you want to blog about, what platform you’re going to use, and where to host it, you’re going to need to start learning how to put all this information together. That’s what we’re going to talk about next week.
If you absolutely can’t wait until next week, that’s okay! I have all 5 sections ready for your consumption in this free e-Course. Otherwise, I’ll see you next week!