Last updated on July 12th, 2019 at 06:01 pm.
Hey there. Now that I have been blogging for a little while, I thought I would let you all in on how I did it. The fact is that blogging is a lot of work – and it can be TOUGH if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, let’s find out how to become a successful blogger!
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Domain names? Self-hosted? What does this all mean!?
…especially if you’re brand new to blogging – these terms can seem overwhelming. At least at first.
But I promise: they’re really not that bad! Once you get the hang of it and start a successful blog, all this stuff sort of becomes second nature.
Why Did I Become a Blogger?
Needless to say, people have all different reasons for starting a blog. Some do it with a laser-focused goal – a determination, even – of making money. Others do it simply as a hobby.
But even within those motivations, there can be even more specific nuances that influence the decision to start a successful blog.
But even that wasn’t my sole reason. I enjoy writing; in fact, I was initially an English major in college before switching to IT. I was trying to be more practical, but that doesn’t mean my love of writing died!
Whatever your reason, it will most likely be unique to you. But there is no “right” or “wrong” reason to start a blog.
The only thing I would recommend is not to do it on an impulse. It is indeed a lot of work, so ideally you will be very sure you are up for the challenge.
If you’ve read this far and aren’t disheartened yet, let’s get started!
Decide Your Niche
One of the very first things you should do when starting a successful blog is to pick a niche. But how do you decide your niche? There are lots of different ways to decide.
If you really want to create a blog, but you are stuck on picking a niche, you could always leverage the area where you have the most expertise.
So if you work in health care, you could blog about that. If you are an accountant, you could blog about personal finance, etc.
You certainly don’t have to use your day job to pick (I didn’t), but it’s one option.
Also keep in mind that if you know you may eventually want to make money from your blog, some niches are more profitable than others.
That’s a topic for a post of its own, so I’ll just give you a link to a list of profitable niches.
Use WordPress to Become a Successful Blogger
The next thing you’ll need to decide is the platform that you’ll use. Other than WordPress, some platforms include Wix, Squarespace, etc.
As much as I like supporting the “little guy,” I’m going to to have to recommend WordPress here. Simply put, WordPress is the largest blog platform in the world, powering nearly 20% of the internet as a whole.
No, not 20% of blogs. 20% of the entire internet.
Anyone remember Windows Phone? This was a mobile operating which, despite looking nice, ultimately failed. The main reason? Probably the lack of app support.
How does this relate to blogging? Well, because WordPress is the largest platform, it has by far the most support. That includes plugins, community/form support, and just general familiarity with it.
Plugins are basically the apps of the blogging world. No plugins, no bloggers.
I’ve heard from several successful bloggers who went with one of the smaller platforms and ended up regretting it.
Starting things off right is so important, so make sure you do that!
Choosing Your Hosting
In addition to your platform, you want to be sure you select the right host. Even I didn’t do things exactly when I was starting out (in my opinion), and I could have saved a lot of time and headache if I had!
The first thing to understand is free vs. self-hosted. I’m sure you can already guess the key difference.
As the name implies, it’s possible to get free hosting. Most people who use free hosting go with WordPress.com or Blogger. WordPress.com is WordPress’s free hosting. WordPress will also host your blog if you go with their free plan.
The problem with this approach is that although it is free, you will be fairly limited in what you are able to do from a technical standpoint. In addition, it will be difficult to make money (if you decide to monetize) because you may not be taken seriously by potential clients.
That brings us to our next option…
If you are serious about starting a blog, then self-hosted is definitely the way to go. Not only will you have more control over your blog, but you will be taken more seriously.
I definitely recommend this route as it will set you up for long-term success.
When you go self-hosted, you will need a host for your site in addition to a domain name. I won’t go into great detail about it here, but there is one host that a lot of successful bloggers recommend. Let’s just say that I don’t recommend that host.
Instead, I recommend you start a blog on SiteGround! SiteGround is the host I use for this blog, and they are pretty great.
SiteGround has great performance, excellent customer service, and has very competitive pricing as well.
Their uptime is about as close to 100% as you can get:
Oh, and by the way, they use SSDs for all of their plans. Bluehost doesn’t use SSDs.
In case you aren’t super techy, an SSD is a solid-state drive. They are aptly named because unlike the old spinning disc drives (called hard disk drives), they don’t have a spinning disk. In fact, they have no moving parts at all.
This makes them not only much more reliable; it also makes them much faster.
I used to have a site on Bluehost, and no matter what I did, I could never get it as fast as this blog.
So yes, I definitely recommend SiteGround. There is so much to love about them!
Choose Your Plan
When you click my SiteGround link, you’ll be brought to the following page (or something similar):
I selected the “StartUp” plan, and so far I have found that to be more than enough for me. And as you can see, the “essential features” includes all kinds of goodies, like SSL (for HTTPS), CloudFlare, and lots more!
Choose A Domain Name for your blog
Once you select your plan, the first thing you’ll be prompted to do is create a domain name:
There are a few things to understand about choosing a domain name. In general, you want your domain name to be:
So if you blog about personal finance, you might want to reference that in your domain name (like I did). However, if you can’t decide on a creative domain name, you can use your own name.
Using your own name can also give you more flexibility in case you decide you want to change your niche down the road.
For example, ElnaCain.com is one of the first sites I used to learn about freelance writing. I could have taken that route, but no one can spell my last name, so that would have violated the second point above!
One last thing I want to call out here is that you should definitely get a .com domain if you can. Sure, you might be able to get the domain name you want with .biz or .net even though .com isn’t available, but there’s a reason for that.
Similar to going self-hosted, having a .com will make you look much more professional. While it’s possible to be successful without a .com, that is mostly reserved for those who have been around for a long time.
Take J.D. Roth for instance. He’s been blogging for over 10 years! 10 years is ancient in the blogging world. J.D. is like the blogger version of the Egyptians who built the pyramids or something. Seriously.
So yeah. Get a .com if you can. Trust me on that.
Once you select your plan, you’re brought to the next page. Here, you’ll add your extras:
Notice you also have to pay for your domain name – generally, you will have to pay for your domain registration. While you can get by at a cheaper rate through a service like GoDaddy, they require you to also register for a second year, and you end up paying more overall.
So if you want to go the easy route, you can just buy your domain directly through SiteGround.
By the way, one of the above options is domain privacy. You DEFINITELY want this. Yes, it’s an extra fee, but it it’s worth it. I initially did not buy domain privacy, and it was a huge mistake.
If you don’t buy domain privacy, that means anyone in the world can find your contact information through Whois.
As a result, I was getting spam calls on my cell phone every day! Not fun. As soon as I bought domain protection, the calls stopped, since that prevents people from being able to get your contact information through Whois.
Then enter your payment information, accept the agreement, and you’re good to go!
One of the great things about getting started on SiteGround is the auto-installer for WordPress (and other platforms):
Once you select WordPress, you can choose quick or custom install:
If you’re new, I recommend the quick install option.
You’ll set your admin username and password here – remember to save these as you’ll need them to manage your site!
Getting Started with Your Blog
Once you install WordPress, go back to your My Accounts tab and click go to admin panel to start working on your site. As a shortcut, you can access your admin page in the future by going to (yourdomainname).com/wp-admin.
This page is where you’ll be prompted to enter the admin username and password that you set above.
Once you log in, you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard.
That’s pretty much it! Now you’re ready to get started with your new blog.
You can do all of your customizations here, such as installing a theme by going to Appearance > Themes. But keep in mind that these are just the ones hosted by WordPress.com; you won’t find any “after-market” themes here.
Personally, I use OceanWP and would recommend it, but that’s the topic for another post.
Establish an LLC
This may not be something you choose to do immediately, but it’s a good idea. When you establish an LLC, you not only protect yourself legally, but also appear more professional.
Doing so gives legitimacy to your blog as a business rather than just something you do “for fun.” If you are serious about your blog and want to take it to the next level, you should definitely consider this.
You’re Ready to Become a Successful Blogger!
Now that you’ve made it this far, you are ready to start your blog on SiteGround and grow your audience.
And I really hope you go with SiteGround because they are an excellent host. I can’t wait to see the amazing things you accomplish on your own blog!