Setting up a Blog - Step by Step
Being at home and looking after young children is one of the hardest jobs around. You’re constantly at the beck and call of other people, which can get tiring even when they’re the people you love more than anything. You have very little time to call your own and are potentially reminding yourself every now and then about the other job you used to have, back in the dim and distant past.
This is where blogging can be invaluable. Not only does it give you chance to share your thoughts and feelings on topics that are close to your heart, but it is also possible to earn money by doing so as well!
What follows is a guide to getting a blog started and using it to bring in a few pennies at the same time.
Pick a domain name
This will be the name of your blog, which you will then need to register with one of the many blogging platforms available. Check out Wordpress, Typepad and Blogger as useful places to start.
Make sure that your domain name is easy to remember and easy to spell and, if possible, ensure that the name gives readers a clue as to what they might find on your blog, e.g. ‘cheapeasymeals’ would be a great name if you were planning to write about cooking on a budget.
Register your domain name with Twitter / Facebook / etc.
This isn’t essential, but if you’re interested in driving as much traffic as possible towards your blog then it’s worth being active on social media. This means that you can tweet about any new blog posts or share them on Facebook and ask friends and followers to do the same. Obviously it would be ideal for your social media presence to directly reflect your blog name, so that if your blog is ‘cheapeasymeals’, then use that wording on Twitter as well.
Decide whether or not to pay for hosting
There are a few issues here, mainly relating to how serious you are about your blog. If you are purely in it for enjoyment then it’s probably not worth paying anything for hosting while you’re starting out. You can always upgrade later if your plans change. Wordpress, for example, has two sections on its website, differentiated by name. Wordpress.com blogs have free hosting but less flexibility, whereas Wordpress.org blogs require payment but offer more options.
If you’re keen to make money from your blog, then it’s worth considering paying for hosting. This will give you more options when personalising the visual design of your blog (free blog hosting only gives you the option of a set range of themes from which to choose) and is also more likely to encourage advertisers to work with you. It’s still possible to make money from a blog with free web hosting (apparently those from Blogger.com are the most likely to allow this), but it’s harder.
If you decide to pay for hosting, the best way to start is to do an internet search for ‘web hosting’ and choose four or five options that appeal to you. Contact these hosts and explain to them what you’re hoping to achieve with your blog, then go for the one that offers the best packages for your particular needs.
Stay on message
In order to gain followers and create a meaningful presence, you will need to be clear about why you are blogging. To use the ‘cheapeasymeals’ example, people want to visit your blog and be given a list of cheap, easy meals they can cook for their family. They don’t want to see your holiday photos and hear about your second cousin’s engagement party.
Posts with human interest will always be appealing, but stay on topic and turn your writing around so that it works for your audience. So, you could incorporate your holiday into ‘cheapeasymeals’ if you approached it like this: “I’ve recently been on holiday to Spain and was blown away by the new tastes I experienced. Here’s a picture of me eating paella! I thought I’d share a quick and easy paella recipe with you, using ingredients you can get cheaply in any supermarket...”
Being very clear and consistent with the material in your posts will ensure that your readers identify with you and recommend you to others.
It goes without saying that you should also ensure your posts are spell-checked and are grammatically correct. How you structure your writing is also important and using bullet points and sub-headings can help break up large quantities of text. Using pictures can be useful in keeping people engaged, as long as they are relevant to your post. You don’t want your readers to switch off because they have to work too hard to understand your message.
Blogging regularly means that readers are constantly being given reasons to keep following you and are being reminding of why your writing is worthwhile. Once you are in a routine, it is possible to schedule timed releases of posts. This means that you can write whenever it suits you (always useful if you’re fitting blogging in around caring for a family) but can then store them and release them every few days, every week, or whatever you feel is appropriate. Don’t put in lots of work at the start and post every couple of days, then leave it blank for months.
Slow and steady wins the race!
Do some research into other bloggers who are writing about similar things. Make sure you comment on their posts so that they become aware of you, as this will make them more likely to reciprocate and comment on your posts. Investigate whether any more established blogs run ‘linky’ events, where you can link up your posts to their blog. If they have lots more readers, this is a good way to reach a wider audience.
Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to do guest posts on other (like-minded) blogs. This can be a great way to raise your profile, as well as giving you an implicit endorsement by the blog for which you’re writing.
Cast your net wide
Using the ‘cheapeasymeals’ example, don’t just network with other food / cooking blogs. If you’re aiming to help families, look at parenting blogs. If you’re aiming to promote healthy eating, look at the vast range of organisations that are interested in this area. Your most valuable contacts might come from unexpected sources.
Earning money from blogging
Once your blog is up and running, it is entirely possible to earn yourself a little bit of money for your efforts and there are a number of methods through which this can be achieved.
Rather than contacting potential advertisers directly or waiting for them to approach you, there are programmes available now (such as Google Adsense, though other others are available) which scan the content of your blog and use the findings to place (hopefully) relevant advertisements on your blog. This works most successfully when you are very clear about your blog’s focus (as outlined above). You are likely to receive payment on a cost-per-click basis, although some programmes use impression-based advertisements, where you will receive a very small payment every time someone view the advertisement, i.e. looks at your blog pages.
You can become part of an affiliate programme, so that you are paid to earn money by recommending other website or products in your posts. Amazon associates (Affiliate Program Amazon) is a particularly good one to join, as they are well known and are likely to stock products that link to your blog posts.
You could set up a continuity programme, whereby people pay to subscribe to a service you offer on a regular basis, e.g., posts about new recipes, reviews of products, etc. Make sure that these subscribers are getting something over and above the material that is available for free on your blog already.
Product / service endorsements
Companies may pay you to write a favourable blog post related to their product or service or to raise awareness of new campaigns they are running. Make sure that these are going to be of interest to your readers - followers of ‘cheapeasymeals’ won’t want to read about mortgage deals when they come searching for a recipe.
Depending on the focus of your blog, there may be other ways to make money from it. You could advertise jobs in related industries of behalf of recruitment consultancies, or if your blog was offering lots of help and advice for free, you could even set up a donations tab, asking people to contribute towards the time and effort you spend making the site as useful resource for them.
The main thing to remember is to write about something you enjoy. This could be a creative outlet for you whilst you’re at home, so make the most of it, and if having fun writing about your interests earns you some money as well then that’s even better!