How to Start a Blog (Part 1)


I was inspired by Colbert Barr’s Think Traffic to start a new blog that focuses on one topic and will hopefully generate serious traffic and some revenue. If you’re wondering why I’m not simply rebranding my personal blog, that’s a good question. It’s because writing on my personal blog is therapeutic; for me, the internet (you) is my therapist.

As I’ve done in my past, I’ll be using this blog to set goals and document my process, so that you can follow my steps if you’d like to do something similar, and learn from my mistakes.

Below is a to-do list I’ve created for myself combining my own experience with tips from the Million Dollar Blog Project. Since this is a to-do list for myself, I won’t go into extreme detail on any particular step. Feel free to leave a comment on any topic you’d like to see me discuss in detail.

Step 1: Pick a topic.

When choosing a topic, look for something that meets the following criteria: (1) you’re good at it, you know it well, or you have experience in this topic, (2) you like talking about it, doing it, or thinking about it, and (3) people ask you questions about it and/or people like hearing you talk about it. In my case, I quickly narrowed it down to “Happiness” or “Entrepreneurial Education” as my main topic. Considering my current position as Program Director at Coloft Academy, and the lack of competing blogs on the topic, I chose “Entrepreneurial Education” as my topic.

It’s important to remember that your topic/focus/USP (unique selling proposition) can change over time, so don’t spend too much time on this. To identify the information people wanted from me, I used insights from my Google Analytics on my personal blog to find out which popular blog posts visitors spent the most time reading. That’s one of the reasons I have a personal blog, as a lean personal development tool of sorts.

Step 2: Choose a name.

Two resources for helping you pick a name are How to Find a Great Domain Name for a New Blog and Set it up in 15 Minutes or the Igor Naming Guide. In my case, I’d been using the domain StartupHen.com to share resources for entrepreneurs in the LA area. Since this was a side project I’d recently decided to abandon (SiliconBeachLA.com is doing something similar, with more money and time than I have), I decided to recycle this name for my new blog.

Step 3: Purchase a domain name.

While many people will tell you to use BlueHost or some other service for it’s cheaper pricing, I love GoDaddy‘s customer service. If I ever have any problem (hosting, email, WordPress), I ring up their 24/7 call center and they literally walk me step-by-step through any issue. I’ve called them dozens of times and have always been ecstatic about the service they provide.

Step 4: Install WordPress.

WordPress.org is the self-hosted version of WordPress that you install on your custom domain, which is different from WordPress.com. Most domain hosting services have a simple WordPress install that makes it very easy for any beginner. If you can’t find this or get stuck, just give your hosting provider (most likely the business you purchased your domain from) a call and ask them about “installing WordPress on the domain I just bought from you.”

Default WordPress template, no changes made.
Default WordPress template, no changes made.

Step 5: Pick a WordPress theme.

For branding, I decided on the easy (and highly suggested route) of using a professionally developed WordPress template to do most of the heavy lifting. To make sure my design is up-to-date with current design trends, I like searching for “Best WordPress Templates <insert current year here>” on Google. Top template providers that keep popping up for me are WooThemes, ThemeForest, and ElegantThemes. If you can find a free theme that you like, great – I’ve found that professional templates are just… better. I picked Hustle from WooThemes.

Step 6: Purchase, Install, and Activate Theme

You can log-in to your WordPress admin back-end by going to http://yourdomain.com/wp-admin and typing in the credentials you set when you first install WordPress. If you purchased your a theme and want to load it, go to Appearance > Themes > Install Themes > Upload and upload a compressed zip file version of the theme you purchased. Once you’ve installed it, click “Activate” to see it in action (see below).

Wordpress, with Hustle theme installed, no changes made.
WordPress, with Hustle theme installed, no changes made.

This as far as I’ve gotten at the time I’m writing this post…

Step 7: Build out the site.

I’ll probably start by loading the Authenticator plugin that allows me to hide content from visitors who aren’t logged in. While I’m not really worried people will find the site before I start pushing it out, it’s never a bad idea to hide things that are waaaaay incomplete. I’ll then start loading some basic plugins to make sure I have as many of these ideas in place, or at least the ones that matter.

Step 8: Develop a content strategy.

Every major magazine has what’s called a content strategy, which gives them a basic idea of the content they’ll be publishing often up to a year in advance. This allows them to start collecting content early, never be caught wondering what to write about, and gives others (guest writers, PR people, etc.) a chance to submit content well in advance. A good blog needs a content strategy, starting from deciding what the launch content is going to be (content that will exist when the site launches) to the first few months of content and how/when it’ll be published.

Step 9: Develop a launch plan.

This includes deciding which bloggers to reach out to, who you want to write guest blog posts for, etc. There’s a whole slew of ideas at ThinkTraffic, so I’ll go through them and pick which ones work for me.

Step 10: Launch and grow traffic.

To be honest, I’m far from thinking about this. I’ll work on steps 7-9 next, because I’ve accomplished up to step 6 at the time I’m writing this blog post.


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