You have a lot of blogging specific questions.
I know because a lot of you are emailing me about starting a blog, and how this person and that person is making a gigantic online income from their blog. So I decided put together this page as part “how to start a blog” and part “how to write a blog” because you need to conceptually understand both.
Writing a blog and running a website may seem like an easy enough thing to, but crafting a good blog, no…a great blog takes multiple skills you’ll need to develop. The ability to write for people and for SEO, understanding copywriting and most importantly how to sell with words.
I HIGHLY suggest you start a blog IF you can write and have something to say. DON’T start a blog if you simply want to make money.
There is no more powerful tool for your digital presence than a good blog. Social media and YouTube is great, but a popular blog with an email list is still king. It’s basically a walled garden where all the content is geared toward benefiting you and your visitors.
So with that preamble over, let’s get into this “how to write a blog/how to start a blog (like a pro)” tutorial.
If you need help setting up a website, WCP provides a free service. If you want to know how to create your own website, look no further than the tutorial on the homepage (but we will cover the need to know tech part here too).
1 – The technical skill needed to blog
2 – The how to develop a content strategy, the actual “WHAT should I publish” part.
I’ve been blogging for years over at EdgeofDavid.com. A site that gets over 1,000 visitors every single day, so let me share everything I’ve learned in this how to blog tutorial.
First, this tutorial assumes you want to create your own blog, NOT use a free platform. If you want to use a free platform I suggest WordPress.com and Tumblr as they are two feature filled platforms. Check out our free blog sites list for a comprehensive list of free blogging sites.
What’s the main difference between using a free platform vs creating your own blog with your own host?
You own it.
The website will be a domain of your choosing like my blog, EdgeofDavid.com instead of it being built on a website you don’t own like edgeofdavid.wordpress.com.
Owning your place on the web is important because NO ONE can take it away from you.
You know how you can start a YouTube channel?
Well, that channel can be taken down at any time by the YouTube moderators. Same thing with building your blog on a website you don’t own. If you’re just looking to share your thoughts and what not, maybe some pictures and posts of a trip you’re taking then by all means use a free platform.
But if you’re like the many who see blogging as a way to build an audience, build authority and trust and eventually maybe even make money then BUILD A BLOG with your own domain name and host.
Register a domain name (tutorial on the what and the how of registering +branding)
Go to Namecheap and register a domain name for 2 years. I suggest 2 years because search engines give a little preference to domains that won’t be expiring very soon.
You want to get a .com. Yes, there are plenty of websites that use various extensions, but the .com is the gold standard.The reason anyone goes with a different extensions is almost always because they could not get the domain name the wanted with a .com.
Your domain name for a blog should be something fun and creative. It’s fine to go with a more generic name for a resource website like WebsiteCreativePro.com, but blogs are self expression.
Come up with a something fun and compelling.I recommend reading the book POP! by Sam Horn if you need help with branding. Try to stay away from difficult to spell domain names, domain names that are long, and domain names that have more than 3 words in them.
Once you have your domain name registered with Namecheap…
I recommend Host Gator in the main tutorial because they were the host I started with and I’ve always been happy with their service and their cost is very affordable. Blue Host is recommended by the team over at WordPress and Site Ground, while more expensive, has the best customer support of any host I’ve ever experienced.
So, I strongly suggest using Host Gator.
Pay month to month and make sure you use coupon code WEBSITEBUDDHA to get your first month free.
1 – Get the BABY plan. Yes, they have a WordPress plan, but you don’t need that plan if you’re starting out. It’s more for websites that are already established and getting traffic. BABY will allow you to have multiple websites and you can always upgrade if you need to. Better to upgrade than spend too much and have to later downgrade right?
2 – You should already have your domain name with NameCheap so when purchasing your hosting account, tell Host Gator that you already own a domain name.
3 – Use coupon code WEBSITEBUDDHA for a nice discount.
4 – Ignore all add-ons. You can do all these add-ons yourself with WordPress or again, upgrade later if need be.
So you bough web hosting. Check your email, the web host will send you a welcome email with your account info. It should look like this:
Find where it says Nameservers in the email. You need to copy and paste this info into the domain settings in Namecheap. It takes all but 1 minute of time.
1 – Log into Namecheap
2 – Click on domain list
3 – Click manage domain
4 – Update the nameservers by selecting CUSTOM DNS
5 – Put in the DNS information you got from Host Gator, click the green check mark.
You’re done, It’s that simple.
Now it’s time to install WordPress.
Simply log into CPanel for your website. When you bought web hosting for your domain, it gave you CPanel.
In CPanel look for an icon that say “quick install” or something similar depending on the host.
Follow the on-screen instructions.
To log into your website simply go to yourdomain.com/wp-admin and use the user name and password you just created to log in. I suggest you secure this wp-admin page by following this tutorial on WordPress security.
In your WordPress dashboard head over to appearance >>> themes
Here you can install free themes directly from the WordPress dashboard or you can upload a premium theme you bought. For blogs, go with a theme that has:
1 – The ability to make a cool, stylish homepage. You don’t need a homepage necessarily, your blog post page with your latest content is fine, but it’s a nice option to have.
2 – The theme should have the ability to display your blog posts on the custom homepage. I’ve worked with many themes that had gorgeous homepages, but did not have any option to display blog posts on the homepage. I had to custom code it myself which is annoying, and if you don’t know how to code it’s something you can’t do.
3 – The theme should have “deep linking”. Meaning the theme should have built into it related posts, custom design options for the sidebar, social media integration and a custom content archive page.
Most “blog” themes meet all of my requirements. Other themes, those that are designed for a business or corporation don’t put a strong emphasis on content publishing. So if you’re attracted to a business theme, make sure it also has a content emphasis as well.
You need a logo.
If you don’t have design skills or are not interested in hiring someone the first thing to do is select a theme that has a small logo area. If it’s small, you get away with having a simple, text based logo like is done on WebsiteCreativePro.com
The advantages is that your logo will look good, will be simple, and not take up a lot of real estate which is what I care about.
For software to create your logo you can use Pixlr.com as a free alternative to Photoshop. Then you can find vector graphics using Pixabay. Put text next to a vector graphic and poof, you have a basic logo.
You can also use the logo creator found at Squarespace.com/logo to try out different fonts and vector graphics.
Writing content for a blog is not the same as a paper for school.
Make sure to use a largish, 18px+ size font. You want your website to be easy to read.
Don’t make massive paragraphs. Write 3-5 sentences then hit that enter button. This helps reader retention, time on site and again makes for a easier, more enjoyable reading experience.
It’s fine to have a sentence be all alone.
Use at least 1 picture in every blog post. Make sure the picture is a jpg and is of a small size, under 50 mb. This ensures your page loads fast. Don’t steal pictures! You can find many places to get free, high quality pictures by checking out this page that is part of our resources.
Inter-link your own content and link to other websites.
One page one purpose. Stay on message with each post you write.
Have a call to action. Ask your visitors to share your website or subscribe or buy your product or whatever! Ask them to do something.
I suggest you take some time out to read about some web design practices do’s and don’ts.
In online publishing, you can choose between H1 – H6 tags. You can select the tag you want to use here:
H1 is for the title of the page. The title you put here should already be marked as H1 by your theme. You should never use H1 for your actual content.
Next, use H2 for your main topics, then H3 for sub topics and H4 for topics within the sub topic and so forth.
Tags are important because it tells search engines what’s important and it gives a logical structure. It also makes reading easier because your H1 to H6 tags should be bigger than the font size for your body text. H1 being the biggest, H6 being the smallest (but still bigger than the body text).
Example structure from this tutorial that you’re reading:
H1 – How To Start a Blog and Write like a PRO – Tutorial by WCP
H2 – How To Start a Blog – Technical Tutorial
H3 – Get Your Domain Name
H4 – What to do?
Get it? You don’t use H1 when blogging, it’s already taken care of by your post title. Then structure your content logically for readers and for search engines.
Grammar mistakes are going to happen, but at least be aware of some of the most common English grammar mistakes.
If you do nothing else right, if you can simply provide enough value to your right people, you have a strong chance of building a successful blog.
Value is not copying other more popular websites.
If you you find yourself needing to “check in” to see what others are writing, you may be copying. You may lack the creative potential to create WOW content or as I like to say, “fall in love” content.
The kind of material that makes you trust your website and the person or people behind it as an authority on a specific topic.
Now, there is nothing wrong with hijacking your competitors most popular content. If it worked for them, it will work for you and is a good way to get a steady stream of traffic from search engines…
But if every time you need to publish new material, you find yourself looking to other website for inspiration; you’re in trouble.
Value is helping someone make a positive change in their life.
Value is when you’re part of the solution for someones problem. No matter how small.
Even if it’s just changing the way someone thinks about something – their mindset, or it’s providing a tutorial that WOW’s them. You’ve done your work well.
Let’s add a few more layers onto this:
You don’t have much of choice on this.You HAVE to be really, really, really good at what you do.
You may think, Oh I see other people building websites on dumbells or the benefits of juicing or some other random product or topic.
I’ll do that.
They’re not experts on these topics and are having success. I’ll do the same.
They may not be “experts” per say, but they know a lot about the topic and are interested in learning more. Copying never works because you simply won’t care enough about the topic as someone who has a genuine interest and is willing to put in the work and learn.
Also, people who run big websites tend to have developed an internet marketing and sales skill set. With applicable knowledge on keyword research, link building, affiliate marketing and conversion.
They are also focused on learning as much as they can and applying what they learn in these areas too to grow their website.
“Alright” you say to yourself, “well this guy and that guy run popular personal development websites. I can do that.”
Are you in physically superior shape? Mentally fit? What about your life gives you any sort of credibility to tell other people what to do.
It’s always most amusing to me how young men start website on dating or personal development. Like anyone is going to take dating advice or opinions on masulinity seriously from a 24 year old.
Have you gone through a dark period and have come out stronger or are you someone who’s still figuring things out or worese, you’re still in that dark period?
Okay! Okay! David. I’ll start an ecommerce store or a product review website or a deal comparison website.
Fine, but do you know how to build those sorts of websites and then build an audience around those types of websites? What products? What deal? What do you have some base level of knowledge on or interest in that’s powerful enough to make you want to continuously learn more?
Also, are you willing to do what it take to become an expert in this area?
Yes or no?
Find your thing is all i’m getting at. That thing you can be world class at with a blog that people will actually want to pay you money for.
Knowledge applied correctly becomes a skill. If you’re not interested enough in a topic to become world class, to constantly learn and apply new concepts and ideas, YOU WILL FAIL AGAINST OTHER PEOPLE WHO WILL do just that – learn and apply, learn and apply.
Your most important asset is as a webmaster, blogger, and online business owner if your ability to get results with your skill set.
Again, the only thing that matters are your results.
You’re not entitled to anything. You have to take it, and that first starts with becoming world class at something were you can provide a tremendous amount of value.
You will want to become world class because that’s where the money is.
With websites in any industry or on any topic the truth is this. There is no money in the bottom 80%. All the money goes to the top 20%.
So you will want to be in this top 20% if you want to get paid from your website. Otherwise, you’re just wasting time or you’re a hobbyist.
You’re also normally pretty close to breaking into this top 20% too. It’s just that you need to keep improving your skills. In particular, your weakest skill.
What 1 or 2 of your weakest skills could you improve that would have a dramatic impact on your online business? By improving these 1 or 2 skill, you will improve your income because your weakest skill always determines the height of your income.
Yes you need to add pictures to your published content.
Everyone knows that.
Let’s go beyond surface level stuff any amature online publisher knows.
The ideal width of your blog is between 450 – 600 pixels in width, using a picture to narrow the content at the top. This is based of this study here as well as my own first hand experience using a wider length on my own blog.
Visitors will stay on a page longer with content that’s fairly narrow. Between 500 and 600 pixels. Why do you think the blog posts are narrow with the content centered on this website?
BECAUSE IT WORKS FOR KEEPING PEOPLE ON THE WEBSITE.
The more narrow your text, the easier it will be for visitors to read your content. In particular, new visitors.
Because until someone is invested in your online work, OR they found a piece of content because of a specific keyword that solves a specific problem, most people will just skim.
Once you convert them into a regular reader, width does not matter as much anymore.
First, keep your blogs content width between 400-600 pixels as a rule. Any theme you see with widths longer than this WILL HAVE A NEGATIVE impact on reader retention because your content is appearing to be too overwhelming.
If you are not convinced, find out for yourself. Once you have a decent amount of traffic, test the two layouts to see which on works better. You’ll notice the time on site for content that is more narrow will be comparatively higher.
Next, leverage a relevant picture for everything you publish. Keep the picture smaller than the width of your blog post and have it align left or right.
The end result should be a narrowing of the first few sentences (as is done here on WebsiteBuddha.com an numerous other websites).
This narrowing helps lead people into reading your content. Once they begin reading, they’re more likely to keep reading.
NOTE: This of course makes your title and first few sentence CRITICAL.
Text is not enough. Having a YouTube channel or a podcast alone is not enough.
People have different modalities of learning and consuming content. So, create content on a least two platforms you think you can excel at and that make sense for your audience.
Meaning, does your ideal customer and blog reader also listen to podcasts, or are they more of a video person?
For audio and video you will need a microphone regardless. Your on board microphone is not adequet enough. I suggest the Audio Technical ATR 2100.
Even if you don’t have video ready yet, feel free to embed videos you like and that are relevant to your blog post. Video, images and lot’s of text send the right signals to search engines and provide a good user experience.
Every blogger, at least the ones who know what they’re doing, separates and spaces out written content as best they can. That means, no more than three sentences in one paragraph.
Publishing web content is totally different from they way you were taught in school. Keep things short and bit sized with regards to your paragraphs. Hit that enter button a lot and break your content up.
It makes for an easier reading experience which in turn will have a positive effect in keeping people on your blog reading.
It’s true, if you create really good content people will share it. Just make it easy to be shared. Have a social buttons at the top or the bottom or better yet, have them floating off to the side. That’s the location that has been proved to be the most effective spot.
Use a WordPress theme that has social media sharing integrated.
Interlink your content in your blog posts to previous posts or go back to old posts and link to newer posts if it makes sense. This sort of linking is good for visitors and it’s good for your search engine rankings because GOOGLE ranks pages and not websites.
You can also use exact anchor text when linking like this example for our how to make a website DIY tutorials. Exact anchor text will help your pages rank for their respective keywords.
More importantly, inter linking your content helps visitors explore more deeply into your website. Your goal should be to create your own web of outstanding content so visitors will spend lot’s of time clicking and reading blog posts on your website as well as convincing them to pay attention to your blogs content.
It’s also important to link to other RELEVANT websites when possible. It’s not a big deal if you link out to unrelated websites occasionally however. I linked out in this post to a bunch of men’s websites. It does makes more sense to link to something like Smashing Magazine.
Either way, link to other websites that are related to your topic or websites that have a lot of authority with the public at large like Wikipedia. To search engines and to visitors to your website, it looks strange if you write blog posts with no pictures, no video, no out bound links and so forth.
Depends on your website of course, but here are some popular, proven content topics:
Use the keyword planner at a minimum. Make a long list of keywords you could write blog post topics on with the intention of creating content that not only is expected to be on your website, but content that can rank over time for keywords and phrases.
What I mean by expected is that if you have a website on astronomy for example, I expect a website like that to have content somewhere explaining why the moon glows at night, what black holes are, why Pluto is not a planet and so forth.
Even if these topics are not high value with a lot of search traffic, they still have some traffic and are core material for an astronomy website.
Once you have a list of keywords, find an SEO plugin you like for Firefox and research which phrases are not competitive.
Uncompetitive phrases have websites on the first page of the search engine results page with low page rank, low back links (under 100) and are young (under a year old).
If not more…
Blog posts of quality should be at least 1,200 words long. Aim for that length.
You want to publish every week because people expect that. We all operate on a weekly cycle so take advantage of this and become part of that weekly cycle and publish at least once a week.
Yes, I know there are websites that are very popular and the blog owner published whenever – but if you look at how they started you would notice that they published 2-3 times in the beginning and only after they established themselves could they get away with publishing once ever few weeks.
… and yes there are exceptions to the rule like TheOatmeal.com or maddox.xmission.com. But those are comedy websites. Coincidence?
But for everyone else, and even those popular blogs, aim to show up once a week minimum.
With any website, you need to become known for something in particular on a topic, which you can then expand outward once you establish yourself or even pivot away from as your website grows.
Curating is simply a way to get attention and stand out from everyone else. Curating is the way your brand becomes associated with an industry when you think of a topic.
The reality is that people put other people in boxes. We have a compulsive need to categorize. People put other people in boxes because it’s too difficult to try to comprehend the true complexity of each and every individual. Accept this and don’t fight it.
Fighting it is when you want to be a generalist on a topic.
Get specific and define your websites brand so you become known for something. Then you can expand. Look at Mike Cernovich (@cernovich on Twitter). He started a few years ago with DangerandPlay.com. A personal development site for men. It became popular, then he expanded into a podcast. Then he was able to build up a his social media accounts, namely Twitter around political controversies. Since he already had a decent following because of his previous work, he was able to really ramp up his social profile.
Now he’s completely changed his digital presence from one of writing about sex, self help and masculinity to being a conservative political pundit.
So to recap, curate. Become known for something THEN expand.