Continuing our series on how to blog for profit, this post looks at how to start your blog for less than $20 – or even for free.
Now that you have chosen your blog topic based upon your interests and expertise, competition, and income potential, it’s time to launch your site.
Before doing so, I recommend having a minimal amount of content written and ready to post. There’s little value to having a website up without so much as a couple of articles and a description of what the blog is about, so before your blog’s launch, I recommend writing:
- A handful (maybe 2-5) articles on your topic
- An “about me” page describing you and your blog’s goals
- A links page that includes links to other blogs on your topic
Writing Your Pre-Launch Content
As you progress as a blogger you will focus on content that accomplishes a number of goals. Some articles will provide immense value so that readers will want to subscribe to your blog or share it with friends, some articles will be keyword rich to attract search visitors, and others will provide opportunities for you to earn money from relevant advertisers.
When starting out though, your articles should accomplish two things: They should be high quality so that the first readers to see them will want to come back for more, and they should include keywords on subjects you think may be able to draw visitors from Google. While it may be tempting to write very broad articles on your chosen topic, consider writing specific articles on a particular product or narrow subject, as these topics have less competition for top search engine rankings.
Writing Your About Me Page
Your about me page can be as long – and as personal – as you like, but consider the goals you have for your blog when you write it. Do you want your blog to benefit your career? If so, include career accomplishments in your resume. Do you want your blog to attract clients for consulting or other work? Describe your experience and services that you might be able to offer them.
If you wish to remain anonymous, focus your “about” page on the blog and its goals. What is the site’s mission? What value will it deliver to readers? What kinds of readers can it deliver to advertisers?
Whatever you do, spend some time on your “about” page to make it interesting. Capture readers’ attention with a question, a quote, or a funny story. Especially as you work to build up the content on your blog, your “about” page will be a factor in whether readers ever return to your site.
Linking to Other Blogs
Linking out to other sites – especially blogs – that you enjoy and are relevant to your topic is critical. First, it may get your site noticed by those other bloggers, but it also tells the search engines that you are referencing other sources relevant to your topic. Eventually, you’ll want to have more links pointing to you than going out, but linking to other relevant sites should never be seen as a bad thing.
Launching Your Blog
Now that you have some content written, it’s time to go live! Here’s where you need to decide whether you want to host a free site or pay about $20 up front, and probably an extra $6 – $10 a month, to have a self-hosted blog.
If you have serious ambitions for making money from your site, I strongly recommend paying for a self-hosted site. In the long run, this will give you more control and credibility.
Setting up a free blog is easy. Just visit either Blogger or WordPress and sign up for an account. In about ten minutes, your blog will be live! There are other sites out there, such as TypePad and LiveJournal, which have some free blogging capabilities, but charge for enhanced features.
With a few dollars and a little extra work, you can enjoy the unlimited creative control of having your own professionally-hosted website. Before buying your hosting, you’ll need to get a domain name, which costs between $6 and $10 for a one-year registration. I recommend GoDaddy.com.
Choosing a good domain is tricky because so many are already taken. While it may be tempting to grab a keyword-rich domain that exactly describes what your blog is about, you might have better luck finding a shorter, easier-to-remember domain that may have nothing to do with your topic. That’s OK, because eventually that name can become your brand.
Once you have your domain name, you can choose to buy hosting from GoDaddy also. (This is what I do, and I have no complaints, though many other bloggers prefer alternative hosts). I use Economy Linux Hosting from GoDaddy, which is $4.08 per month when you pay for a year up front.
Other recommended hosting options, starting at about $7 per month, include:
If you buy your domain from GoDaddy and hosting elsewhere, you’ll need to transfer your domain to your new host. Check your host’s tech support or FAQ pages to find good instructions on how to do this.
Finally, it’s time to get your blog onto your host. To do this, I wholeheartedly recommend you use WordPress, a free open-source blog management system which will manage all of the code for your blog, so all you have to do is write and post your articles.
You’ll need to download the WordPress software and follow the installation instructions for uploading the software to your host. If you follow the instructions, this is usually an easy, ten minute process. If you run into any bumps, however, WordPress provides a support forum to help you out.
Finding a Theme for Your Blog
The theme of your blog is its visual layout and design. Just as WordPress handles all the technical stuff for you, your theme handles all the visual stuff for you. WordPress comes pre-loaded with a couple of simple themes, but to give your blog a unique look and feel, you’ll want to “shop around” for a theme that fits your taste and topic, most of which are free. Search for WordPress themes and you will find more than you know what to do with.
Once you have choosen your theme, download the files and copy them to the /wp-content/themes/ folder on your host. You then just select the theme in the WordPress dashboard and your blog is instantly “redecorated” with the new theme.
Loading Your Content and Writing New Posts
The final step is to take the content you have already written for your blog and go live! In your WordPress dashboard, you’ll simply click on “write post” and past your articles, using the text editor to format your articles, add links, etc. Once you hit publish, your content is live! Congrats!
In Monday’s continuation of this series, we’ll look at how to get your blog noticed and how to get traffic coming to your site.