How to Start a Blog

 

This post was written by Steer Me Right founder Lisa Smith who blogs at Susanna’s Apron.

Perhaps you’ve considered blogging to keep in touch with distant family, record your travels, or earn some extra money. Blogging isn’t a quick way to get rich (at least not for me!); but it’s fun, convenient, and rewarding, and it can eventually produce an income with the right approach. I began blogging in February 2011 with a simple Google Blogger blog, which I still update regularly. Susanna’s Apron has been viewed over 10,000 times in China, Malaysia, parts of Europe and Africa, and many other countries!

If you want to blog for fun, a simple blogging platform will do. Blogger.com is free. To use Blogger, first create a Google account. This will allow you to log into Blogger.com, which walks you through setting up a new blog. Blogger provides a selection of background templates and styles so you can find the look you like. If you want more options, a Google search for “Blogger templates” turns up many independently designed templates, which you can install using the advanced settings. I’ve never bothered with this, but there are some really cute designs out there!

If you want to blog for profit, you can continue to use Blogger.com. It will accept ads and other forms of monetization. Some people prefer to use WordPress, which is powerful and highly configurable. The drawback is that users are responsible for the site’s files. Read: highly techy! Note that there are two versions of WordPress: the .org version, and the .com version. If you create a WordPress.com blog, you will not be allowed to monetize it, except through one, limited means: AdWords. WordPress.com blogs are “hosted” by WordPress, so there’s no expense to you.

To effectively monetize a WordPress blog, you must use WordPress.org. This type of blog is self-hosted, meaning you will need to pay a small monthly fee to a host company of your choice, which keeps your WordPress files safely maintained for you. This option requires a great deal more effort to set up, but it’s worth it.

I actually wanted a monetized WordPress.org blog long before Steer Me Right. For about a year, I paid $9.95 per month to host a blog I couldn’t set up. I am not a “techie,” and I found the WordPress dashboard extremely difficult to work with. My definition of HTML, in fact, is “highly troubling mystery language”! Finally, I told my host company, Host Gator, I would have to cancel. I simply couldn’t work with WordPress. Maybe I could get a job at Walgreens or something.

Host Gator offered to help. Rather than lose my measly $9.95/month, they chose to dedicate an employee specifically to work with me online and by phone, through the entire process of learning WordPress and setting up my blog! For many, many hours, a very patient and kind employee named Sara walked me through the WordPress intricacies: selecting the theme; locating and adding plug-ins for the calendar, forums, slideshows, and more; teaching me about widgets, child pages, background colors, link problems, and much, much more. I think I received about the equivalent of a full-on blogging seminar, personalized for my needs exactly!

By the end of our conversations, I felt entirely comfortable with WordPress. I knew enough to feel confident that I could find a way through any further problems, locate the necessary information, or discern if something wasn’t going to be worth the trouble.

Obviously, I highly recommend Host Gator to anyone considering blogging. Here’s their link.

And here’s one of their cute ads:

I like how the ‘gator is biting the WordPress emblem…

For more information about blogging, check out these helpful sites:

voiceBoks is a very supportive “mommy blogger” website. Join for encouragement, fun groups and sharing, traffic (the holy grail of blogging), and a ton of community know-how for your blog.

Great tips at ProBlogger.

I met Samantha on voiceBoks. She offers wonderful insights at Freelance Writing Dreams.

This lengthy article helped me all the way up to my WordPress woes. It’s also where I found out about Host Gator.

Here are links to some popular blogging software:

Blogger.com

Tumblr

WordPress.com

WordPress.org

 

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