How to Start a Blog and, More Importantly, Why Start a Blog
Here’s the good news.
Thanks to technology, it’s super-easy to start a blog today.
The bad news is that it’s super-easy to start a blog today.
Why is that bad news? Because the barriers to entry are so low, the internet is saturated with blogs and it makes it much more difficult to stand out and get visitors to your blog, as opposed to the millions of other blogs.
But, let’s back up and talk about how to start a blog.
HOW TO START A BLOG
There are two things to think about before you start a blog.
Whether you want a totally free blog or whether you want to pay for a blog.
Why would anyone want to pay for a blog when you can get one for free? Well, let’s talk about that.
There are a lot of companies on the internet that provide free blogging platforms. Some of the more popular ones include:
The main benefit of having a free blog is pretty clear – it’s free.
When you choose one of the platforms above to create your blog, it’s also very easy. For the most part, you simply sign up and fill in the blanks. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
There are some options to customize the look and style of your blog, but it’s still pretty easy and you don’t have to have any advanced technical knowledge.
With a free blog, you don’t have to deal with any updates. The software will take care of itself, so you don’t have to worry about maintaining the blog and keeping up with changes in technology.
Basically, a free blog is a good choice for those looking for free, easy and low-maintenance. But, there are disadvantages.
The first disadvantage of having a free blog is the domain name. When you use a free blogging platform, your domain will look something like this – http://sethgodin.typepad.com.
Notice that the brand name of the service is in the domain name. If you’re starting a blog for your business, it doesn’t look very professional to have a domain name with the brand name of another company in it. It gives the appearance of being cheap or uninformed – both bad things for a business.
When you choose a free service to host your blog, they have control over all of your content. First, they could go out of business at any time and you could lose all of your content. I’ve seen several free blogging companies go under with no warning whatsoever.
Read the terms and conditions. The free blogging platforms have terms and conditions that can be very restrictive. Some of them can’t be used for commercial purposes. Some can’t be used as marketing platforms. If you use a blog for something that violates their terms and conditions, they can shut your blog down without any warning. Not good.
Although many of the free blogging platforms do have different styles of blogs to choose from, you’re still limited as far as the style of your blog. There are a lot of ways to customize a blog and most free blogging platforms don’t allow for significant customization.
A self-hosted blog is one that you host with a hosting company. You have to pay for the domain name and you have to pay for the hosting. It costs anywhere from $60 a year to $120 per year for basic hosting and a domain name.
The benefits of having a self-hosted account are pretty much the exact opposite of the disadvantages of using a free blogging platform.
You have complete freedom to customize the look and feel of your blog.
You can use add-ons or plugins to give more functionality to your blog.
You can choose your own domain name, free of any other brand name.
You aren’t restricted by any terms and conditions, other than the hosting company’s terms and conditions, which doesn’t really pertain to your content and what you use the site for.
The disadvantages of having a self-hosted blog.
It costs money.
It requires a little more technical knowledge (although still very easy).
You are responsible for updates and technical issues.
Those are the main disadvantages of having a self-hosted blog. So, let’s take a look at why you might want to start a blog.
WHY START A BLOG
There are probably a ton of different reasons why people want to start blogs. Some people just want to express themselves. Some people might want to share pictures and stories with friends and family. Others might want to start a blog for business reasons.
If you want to start a blog for personal use, then a free blogging platform is probably good enough for you.
But, if you’re starting a blog for your business, or to make money online, or with the hope of someday making money online, then you probably want to get a self-hosted blog and consider the information below.
A BLOG AS A BUSINESS
A blog, by itself, is a terrible way to make money online. It’s not impossible to make money with a blog, but most people don’t realize that a blog is primarily a marketing tool. If you don’t have a business to market with your blog, then you should ask yourself – why are you writing in the first place?
I understand that there are plenty of bloggers out there that started blogs and wrote and wrote and wrote and now they make a lot of money with their blogs. It’s not impossible to make money online with a blog, but you better be a damn good writer, or have a damn good story that people want to talk about and share with others. But, there’s a better way to use a blog.
Create a business first and figure out how to make money online with your business. If you create a business before you start blogging, you can target a specific market and you will actually have something to sell to them when they arrive at your blog.
A blog is best used as a way to attract people to your business. It’s a marketing tool. Write amazing content relevant to your target market and a percentage of the people that arrive at your blog will buy your product or service (hopefully).
If you just write about whatever topic you choose, without any product or service to offer, then it’s going to be very difficult to succeed. Not impossible, but very difficult.
If your plan is to put advertising up on your blog, you should know that it takes a ton of traffic to make any significant money online with advertising. If you look at the big blogs that generate a lot of revenue, advertising is usually a small percentage of their income.
They sell products, memberships and services to make money. That’s their business. They write articles on their blogs to attract people to their business. It’s a way to get people to their business so they can make money.
Even if you look at TV programs like American Idol, they exist to sell advertising. TV networks are in the business of selling advertising. They attract people to their shows by providing entertainment. The more people that tune in, the more they can make from advertisers.
So, even if you think your blog will be entertaining and funny, you still need to have a revenue model. How will you make money? What product or service do you have to offer? Advertising is not the best revenue model for a blog. It can be one small part of your revenue model, but it’s best to create a focused business model before you start a blog, then you can write blog posts that will appeal to your target market.
There are always exceptions to the rule, but if you want to make money from a blog, use it as a marketing tool for your business NOT as THE business.