How to Blog in 2014: A Complete Guide to WordPress and Blogging
I’m guessing this isn’t the first article you’ve read about how to get your blog started, running, and making you money. But if you’ve been looking for a pile of tips, tricks and tools to cut your blogging time down (and we mean WAY down), this is the article you’re looking for.
Whether you are trying to start a business, develop a new pastime, or something else, building a blog is a proven way to build your web presence. However, many people, especially small business owners, simply don’t have the time to blog as regularly as they’d like. When it comes to small businesses, it’s hard to justify spending any time or money on something that doesn’t bring a good return on investment.
What makes blogging unique is that it can be one of two things:
- A massive time sink that doesn’t make any money
- A profitable, satisfying and efficient way to promote your business
With the tools and information we’ll share in this article below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about getting started with profitable blogging. Once you’ve read and learned everything we’re sharing below, you’ll learn:
- How to create an attractive blog on your website
- Ways to format your posts so users actually want to read them
- Which blogging platform to choose (and why)
- Tools that make sharing your blog posts fun and easy
- How to grow your audience and connect with your readers
- When social media is a waste of your time – and when it’s not
- Why email can actually help you become a better blogger (and make more money)
- How to blog when you’re on the go
- How you can monetize on your blog
…and plenty more. So settle in, bookmark this page so you can use it as a reference later, and get ready to learn everything you ever wanted to know about getting into blogging.
If you’re not naturally inclined towards writing, you may wonder why you want to spend any time blogging in the first place. Why write when you don’t have to? Writing was hard enough in school, and now you’re expected to do it for fun?
Not quite. The writing you did in your English class is much different than the writing you’ll do while blogging. The purposes of blogging are many, but here are just a few:
- To educate: Your primary focus in your blogging efforts shouldn’t be to sell or convince anyone why your business is the “best.” Instead, by focusing on educating your audience and sharing relevant information, which they want to read, you’ll naturally form a relation of trust with your readers. When they trust you, they’ll also trust your brand. It’s the same principle of putting the customer (or in this case, reader) first.
- To promote: Even though you should primarily try to educate your readers, as we read above, don’t think that means you can’t promote or sell through blogging. Blogging is a great way to let your audience know about products, sales, offers and more. Blogging lets you draw traffic: There’s a reason blogging is at the heart of most SEO and content strategies – it works. If you want a way to create content that brings in web traffic, a well-crafted blogging strategy is the way to go.
- To make friends: Not in it for the money? That’s completely fine. By writing a blog regularly, you can find an audience of real people with whom you can network, share ideas, and build relations.
There are plenty of other specific reasons why you’d want to create a blog not mentioned above, so don’t see the above brief list of blogging reasons as the be-all-end-all. One of the great things about blogging as a content platform is that it’s so versatile and CAN be used for nearly any purpose.
How to Avoid Wasting Time when Blogging
Because blogging is so potentially powerful, many individuals and businesses feel they NEED to blog, but aren’t exactly sure how to do it right. This leads to a lot of wasted time and effort.
Eventually, this wasted time and effort leads to people abandoning the pursuit of blogging.
DON’T DO THIS. Instead of wasting your time, learn how to blog the RIGHT way. How do you do this? By getting everything set up the correct way. In fact, when everything is in place, writing an awesome, productive and profitable blog post only takes about an hour per day.
Here’s how daily blogging activities can look when you’ve learned how to blog efficiently:
- You pull up your list of blog ideas and choose one that looks good (>5 minutes)
- You write your blog post (30-40 minutes)
- You post your blog and then share it using the tools below (5-10 minutes)
- You reach out and promote your content (5-10 minutes)
That’s it! Once you have your system all set, it’s very easy to blog effectively. Of course, it can take longer to write large posts or in a case where a lot of research is needed.
However, getting a system setup that works is the hard part. Fortunately, we’ve broken it down into simple steps that anyone can follow.
Here’s everything you need to know to start your blog and begin making friends, customers and money through blogging.
Setting Up a Blog
You can’t begin blogging if you don’t have a blog, right? There are several things you need to start your own blog, and not the least of these is a solid blogging platform. We recommend WordPress, so we built our guide around using that as a content management system (CMS). Here’s how to initially set up your blog so you can begin posting. (Also read, How to Setup Your Blog in 5 Minutes)
Domain Name Registry
While a YOURNAME.blogger.com account is free, it’s not ideal (exceptions being there) if you’re serious about creating a brand. Fortunately, getting a domain name is inexpensive.
You have several options about where you register your domain name. NameCheap is a popular choice because (you guessed it) the domain names are pretty cheap. You’ll find your hosting service will likely allow you to buy domain names through them – at a price. We recommend you go with NameCheap because of their fair pricing.
Like choosing domain name registrars, you have plenty of choice when it comes to choosing web hosting solutions. Here are some of our favorites:
- Dreamhost: A simple but powerful hosting service, their prices are fair. However, the real value with Dreamhost is seen when they have new customer deals. With these savings, you can often get an entire year of hosting plus a domain name for around $20 – not bad. Plus, installing WordPress with Dreamhost is incredibly easy. The service also features Google Apps support, unlimited databases, 1-click installs and more.
- Bluehost: Another popular hosting choice, their prices are good and consistently competitive. With unmetered storage space, bandwidth, and email accounts, you don’t have to worry about paying more for certain features like you do with different web hosting providers. (RECOMMENDED)
- Hostgator: One of the lowest-priced web hosting options, Hostgator features unlimited bandwidth, uptime guarantees, free templates, 1-click installs, and even Google AdWords credit for new customers. Longer-term commitments to the service mean you’ll have more discounts.
Once you’ve registered your domain name and chosen your web-hosting provider, you need to make sure your domain name servers point to your hosting service. This is easy, as all major hosting providers will have either instruction guides or customer service that can help if you can’t figure it out yourself.
With your domain name and hosting set, you’re now ready to install your blog! Most major hosting providers (like the ones we mentioned above) make installing WordPress easy. Usually, you can find WordPress as part of the 1-click installation on your hosting control panel. You may need to consult your web-hosting provider for specific instructions on installing WordPress if it isn’t there, though.
If you do need to download and install WordPress yourself, you can visit www.wordpress.org to find instruction on how to install the files, set up a database, and more.
However, if you’re new to web hosting and would rather not deal with manual installation, stick with the 1-click installations. It’s just easier and more convenient.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
One of the reasons WordPress is such a powerful CMS is that it allows users to customize nearly every aspect of how their visitors interact with your website. This includes:
- What your website looks like
- How your URLs are structured
- What custom plugins and options you’d like to install
…. and plenty more.
But before you start finding WordPress add-ons and plugins, you need to find the right theme.
A theme is basically a skin for your WordPress installation. Usually, WordPress installations come with a few different free themes. Generally, the best themes are almost always paid. This is for several reasons:
- Free themes normally don’t come with support. That means it’s unlikely you’ll get help from their creators, if you run into any problems.
- Paid themes generally look and feel more professional. As good graphic designers know, the details matter.
There are a few different places you can get themes for your WordPress sites. Here are a few places to get started:
- Elegant Themes: One of the largest theme sites on the web, Elegant Themes has thousands of different WordPress themes for just about any purpose. Plus, the themes are reasonably priced.
- WooThemes: If you’re interested in having a variety of themes to choose from or experiment with, Woothemes is an affordable place to look. Its theme club is affordable and gives you a continuously growing selection of professionally designed themes. If you’re using the WooThemes framework, changing themes is really easy.
- StudioPress: The most popular WordPress theme packages, these constantly updated themes are beautiful and stunning. Whether you buy a single theme or pay for the entire package, you’ll get award-winning support, updates, and more from these fantastic WordPress themes.
Once you’ve let your blog grow and you have a sizable audience, you’ll probably want to find a professional designer to build a custom WordPress theme. If you don’t know a set of designers yourself, check sites like oDesk and 99Designs to find freelance designers who will bid on the opportunity to build your site for you.
Tips on Formatting Your Blog
When you have finally found your theme, there are still some things you can do to increase the readability of your blog. Try some of these tips to make it easier for your visitors to navigate your blog and find the content they want.
In WordPress, Pages are different from Posts. While Posts are automatically listed on your blog,
You’ll want to have at least the following pages created so your visitors can learn about your blog:
Custom Blog Pages and Home Pages
By default, WordPress places your blog at YOURDOMAIN.com/blog. However, you can change where your blog is located through some simple steps. This will also allow you to change the home page your visitors see when they visit your domain. To set custom home and blog pages, follow this tutorial at wpbeginner.com.
You’ll almost always have to change the default menu settings in your WordPress theme settings. Follow this tutorial on the official WordPress codex to learn how to make custom menus.
How to Format Posts
Knowing how to format blog posts is a bit tricky to explain since every post is different. However, this post at Problogger has a great breakdown of the principles every blogger should know.
Under the Hood
Part of managing a successful blog is tracking what pages your users read, which keywords bring users to your site, and other statistical data.
We recommend the Google Analytics program for all new blogs. It’s powerful enough to give you great data, and it’s free.
As your blog grows, you may want to upgrade to paid analytics platforms. But until then, Google Analytics is easy to install. This includes CrazyEgg, Kissmetrics, MixPanel, and others.
If you want to add Google Analytics to your blog, check out the Google Analytics plugin by Yoast. It makes installing Analytics on your blog as easy as cut-and-paste.
Finally, if your blog loads slower than you’d like, try using WP SUper Cache. It caches your site and decreases load time.
Writing Blog Posts
Once your blog is all set up and ready to go, you’re ready to begin writing some blog posts. If you’re a writer, this is the fun part. If you’re not a writer, that’s okay – like we mentioned before, writing blog posts is a lot different than the kind of writing you were required to do in school.
The Basics of Writing Great Blog Posts
When you’re set up and ready to write, it’s a good idea to understand how effective blogs are structured. This is accomplished by reading good blogs, learning the principles of blogging, and understanding how to know what your readers want.
Choosing Your Topic
Normally you would select a niche, even before you book your domain. If not, here are some tips, which help:
- Pick something you’re interested in. A successful blog needs to have a focus on something you actually care about. Your interest and passion will naturally show in your content. Plus, since a successful blog is a long-term project, an interesting topic will help the daily blog grind, feel more fun.
- Determine what your audience wants. If you need help knowing what your audience wants, see the section about Analytics below.
- Research. Find what types of blogs are getting followers easily? What topics are covered by other popular blogs? Is there a space for you in the blogosphere?
Having a good topic will help you write blog posts, find guest posting opportunities, guide your promotional efforts and more.
How to Find and Read Good Blogs
First, you’ll want to use an RSS reader that allows you to easily or quickly see what popular blogs are publishing. Our recommendation goes to Feedly, a powerful mobile app and web app, which makes it easy to find and read blogs of all sizes. You can search for blogs by topic, browse blogs, and keep track of your favorite articles for later and much more.
Once you’ve found great blogs on Feedly, you’ll want to spend some time every day reading blogs whose topics are similar to yours. This will let you know what’s being said in your niche, allowing you to write blog posts that help you become part of the conversation.
Another app that’s great at checking multiple streams at once is HootSuite. Its free services should be enough to let you follow leaders in your industry and see what’s being said in your niche.
Learn How to Blog
There are plenty of sites out there that will teach you how to blog well (including this one). As far as a complete training course goes, it’s hard to beat the lessons offered by Copyblogger. Recently, Copyblogger updated how they handle training on their website. This made going through their lessons simpler, and now they have more features than before. You can even upgrade your account (for a fee) and connect with professional content marketers and bloggers.
How to Write Great Posts in Less Than an Hour
Learning the basics of blogging is the first part. If you want to learn how to cut your blogging time down to one hour per day, you’ll need to learn how to produce great blog posts fast.
Don’t worry — expert bloggers from all over the web have put together several different guides on how to write articles in 1 hour, 30 minutes, or even 15 minutes!
- Write a (good) blog post in 1 hour – here’s how! The principles told in this article
- Who Else Wants to Write A Quality Blog Post in 15 Minutes? Article.
- My Mantra to Blogging that Made $20,000: Remix, Reuse and Republish. After blogging for a little while, you may be sitting on a gold mine of content ideas. This article shows how to remix, reuse, and republish your existing blog content to great success.
- 5 ways to write a blog post in under an hour. Another collection of great tips, tricks and ideas to write blog posts fast, the ways shared in this article could help a lot, especially on days when you’re strapped for time (and ideas).
How to Check Your Posts Before You Publish
Once you’ve drafted your blog post, it’s always a smart idea to look it over before you send it out into the wild.
- SEO by Yoast. If you want to target specific search engine optimization (SEO) keywords and increase the chances of your blog showing up when people search for specific phrases, you need to make sure each post is properly formatted and optimized. This handy free plugin by Yoast helps you double-check each post’s headline, URL, content and more.
- The blog Post Checklist: Use Before Hitting “Publish” This article gives bloggers a great checklist of the different checks, edits and final things they need to look over so their posts are ready to share.
Sharing Your Blog Posts
Once your post is published ready to share, letting everyone know about your new article will help you draw traffic and build your audience. Remember, you can’t make any money from your blog if you don’t have anyone reading it, so sharing your posts is important.
The best tool we’ve found to share your posts is Buffer, a simple-to-use app. It allows you to schedule your social media postings in advance. That means your fans and followers will see your posts gradually without you even needing to be near a computer. Thus, you can schedule all of your social media within the one hour per day you spend on blogging.
If you’re looking for more ideas on how to share and promote your blog posts, check out this infographic on Pinterest.
You’re probably thinking, “What does email have to do with blogging? Aren’t they two different systems?”
While email and blogging serve very different functions in the world of Internet marketing, they ultimately work together to help you make money from your blog. Since email is STILL the most effective sales platform (believe it or not), getting your readers to sign up for your email list means it’ll be easier to promote your products, inform them of your new posts, and generally monetize your blog efforts.
Getting a good email list requires some work, however. Generally, you need to give your readers some compelling reason why they should agree to receive your emails. Maybe you’ll offer a free ebook, or maybe you can give them a free consultation for signing up.
Whatever you ultimately decide to offer, once you’ve got someone on your email list, you need to make sure you have a way to actually contact him or her. In fact, usually your email capture forms (the forms on your website where your readers can enter their names and email addresses) can be built easily using the tools from your email service provider.
Here are 4 of the most popular email service providers used by bloggers.
- Mailchimp. For beginning bloggers, it’s hard to beat the services offered by Mailchimp. Free for the first 2,000 subscribers, Mailchimp also makes designing attractive emails a breeze. The service imports your site’s color scheme so your emails automatically support your branding. As your subscriber list grows, Mailchimp’s prices (at least at lower subscriber counts) are very affordable.
- Aweber. A very popular choice among Internet marketers, Aweber’s services aren’t free, but they are reasonably priced, especially considering how powerful the software is. Auto responders, scheduled emails, and even smart email lists are all possible with Aweber’s great email platform.
- GetResponse. As your business grows, solutions like GetResponse (which caters to subscriber lists sized between 30,000 and 100,000 names) become much more economically viable. It’s not quite as user-friendly as Mailchimp, so designing emails and crafting custom email campaigns takes a little more technical expertise.
- ConstantContact. Another option similar to GetResponse.
If you want to use a paid email provider (which often brings certain perks), sign up for a free trial at any of the above services and see which one seems to fit your business blog best.
If you’re going to monetize your blogs through Google AdSense, selling a product, or any other method, one thing you need are visitors. A steady stream of blog readers allows you to find new customers and continue making sales (and earning a profit). If you use AdSense or any other ad network, it is worthwhile to use a tool like AdPushup (Disclaimer: I’m a co-founder) to A/B test between different ad locations, sizes and themes. In a large number of cases, I have seen ad revenues double, just by using a/b testing.
While Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are common for experienced bloggers to use, other tools aimed at newer bloggers will be easier and more effective at first. Check out these services, which promote your blog posts and allow you to connect with a brand new audience.
- AdPushup. To continuously optimize ad revenue on your website from current ad networks.
- Outbrain. With sites such as CNN, Time, and Rolling Stone in its network, if you’re trying to get your content in front of a lot of eyes, Outbrain can do the job. You only pay when someone clicks on your article, and you have complete control over how much you pay. Check out Outbrain’s site to learn more about how it can help your blog audience grow.
- NRelate. Some bloggers prefer to use NRelate, and for good reason: it often delivers more relevant articles than Outbrain when users are browsing. This means you’ll be more likely to connect with readers who are already interested in your topics. However, the chance of finding readers on sites completely unrelated to yours may be more difficult in some cases. Look at NRelate and compare it to Outbrain to see which one would serve your blog better.
In addition to paid advertising, guest posting is a great way to connect with other bloggers. This has many benefits:
- You get your blog posts in front a different audience
- You’ll build networks of friends and relationships with other bloggers
- Your blog will gain more authority in the eyes of sites like Google
Knowing where to begin guest blogging can be tricky, so here’s a great article on Moz about how to get started.
Once you’ve read that, check out these articles to make guest blogging better:
Sometimes you’ll get a great idea for a blog post but be away from your computer. Other times, you’ll simply be traveling and not have the time to sit down and blog. If you’ve got a smart device (like Android phones and iPhones), you’ve got several choices on which apps to use. While there are countless options for each platform, here is what most WordPress bloggers use when they’re away from home.
- Blogsy. A favorite for bloggers with iPads, this app offers a much more robust editor than the official WordPress app.
- Official WP App. Available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, the official WordPress app is a decent way to manage multiple blogs on the go.
- Google Analytics. If you’re on Android, Google has an official Analytics app, which makes it easy to track your site’s performance.
Selling on Your Blog
Most bloggers generate revenues by selling on their blog. While taking the time to develop products to sell is a bit of work at first, once you’ve got a steady stream of blog posts and know your audience, it’s fairly easy to know what to sell. Here is great article on the subject: Digital Products Your Can Tell From Your Blog. It offers an overview of different types of digital products.
Shopping Cart Options
You can’t sell a product without a way to collect payments. If you’re starting out, look at using one of the following payment processors:
Once you’ve built up your blog sales, check out these more advanced payment processors:
Blogging in 1 hour
Now that your blog is set up and ready to go, here’s how to blog in one hour per day:
- Bring up your list of ideas.
- Write a post.
- Check your seo
- Schedule sharing
- Check your reader for new post ideas
- Add new ideas to a list
- Repeat tomorrow
It’s simple. Follow this formula, and stick with it. Over time, your blog audience will grow, and so will your profits.
Keep checking back to this guide. We’ll continue to update it so you have the latest, best ways to create and grow a successful, profitable blog!
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