So, one thing-

1999 was 20 years ago.

EXCUSE????

Geocities was the place to build your *NSYNC fanpage. You could join a Yahoo! mailing list to connect with people who wanted to talk about shared interests. It wasn’t impossible to get a yourname@hotmail.com email address, because before Facebook, everyone was taught not to use their real name online. It was the new wild west.

And it was glorious.

That was the first year I started learning how to build things online. I was, of course, instantly obsessed. This coincided with an equally voracious obsession with Britney, so I began to churn out Britney fansites, going from crappy free hosts like Homestead.com, to eventually paying for my VERY OWN first webspace through Dreamhost.

Since then, creating stuff online has just kind of been my thing.

It feels like every year since the “blogger bubble” first reached its apex in 2012 has been “the year” that blogging is deemed to be OVER. Honestly, it’s clickbait. Blogging will never be over. It will definitely change, and grow, and move from platform to platform, but the internet is FOR creation. It’s the best blank canvas in the whole world.

And blogging is only going to continue to get even bigger in 2020.


Starting a blog is easier than ever.

There are so many free tools available to use, the only thing you really need to invest in from day one are a domain name, and web hosting. It’s important to secure these two things in particular early on, because without a domain name, you’ll be left with a URL like:

www.reallycoolblog.blogspot.com

Instead of:

www.reallycoolblog.com

Having a domain name is important for a couple of reasons, especially if one of your goals is to grow your blog down the road.

WHY IS REGISTERING A DOMAIN NAME SO IMPORTANT?

Domain names are pretty much non-negotiable in 2020, and here’s why:

  1. When it comes down to it, it’s hard to find you on the internet without one.
  2. Google and Pinterest prefer blogs with domain names.
  3. We (the royal we) tend to trust domains over non-domain blogs.
  4. Your domain is the foundation of your brand. It’s your name!
  5. If you get popular quickly, someone might steal it and register it before you can.

Domains are pretty affordable now. For $16 a year for a .com, they’re the best first investment you can make in your site. Having a domain will also let you have a you@reallycoolblog.com email address, which is what the ~professionals do.

If you really want to start killing it from day one, the second thing I recommend is securing web hosting early on. You don’t have to. You can use a free blog host, like WordPress.org, or Blogger.com, and run with those for a few months while you get your feet under yourself.

BUT.

BUT.

I really recommend not doing that, and here’s why.

I’ve done it before. I’ve done it a few times before, and every single time, I end up feeling frustrated, extremely limited in what I can do, and pissed off that I wasted all this time trying to customize something that has extreme limitations in HOW MUCH it can be customized.

The free hosts are great for sharing pictures and news with friends and family members. But, if you want to start a blog, like an actual, for-real blog, free hosts aren’t going to give you the tools you need to be successful and continue growing long term.

A handy chart that shows the exact differences between free and paid hosts:

FREE – PROS:

  1. There’s no upfront investment, and no money out of pocket.
  2. You can walk away at any time with no strings attached.

FREE – CONS:

  1. You’re significantly limited in how much you can customize your design.
  2. You likely won’t have access to a me@reallycoolblog.com email address.
  3. If your post goes viral on Pinterest, your free host may limit your traffic.
  4. Most free hosts give you a limited amount of space to store your content.
  5. Your content may not be as secure as it would be with a paid host.
  6. If you decide to move to a paid host in the future, it might be hard to transfer content.
  7. There can be downtime, crashes, and all kinds of crappy things that happen out of your control.

PAID – CONS:

  1. It’s an upfront cost.
  2. You’re paying out of pocket for something you might not do long term.
  3. The learning curve for WordPress is a teeny bit steeper than free hosts.

PAID – PROS:

  1. WordPress has free, already installed layouts that are clean and professional. You can select your layout, write your first post, and start promoting it relatively fast and easy.
  2. There’s unlimited potential for growth.
  3. You can customize to space and back.
  4. You’ll have access to an entire Customer Support team to help you if things go sideways.
  5. You can join your paid host’s affiliate program to make a little side $$$.
  6. Your paid host will have an IT team to take care of your website if it goes down.

The paid host that I recommend, without a doubt, is SiteGround. I switched from Bluehost a few years ago and I never looked back. SiteGround makes it super easy to get started, even if you know nothing about anything. Their sign-up process is straight-forward, their prices are affordable, and they have a one-click installer to get WordPress going on your account in literally minutes.

Here’s the first thing you need to do to start a blog:

Before we get to any of the fun stuff, like design and content creation, we gotta get the domain name and hosting account out of the way first. You only have to do this once, and then the sky’s the limit.

First, visit SiteGround to sign up for your hosting account.

Choose Get a new hosting account and then the Register a New Domain option.

Enter your domain name into the field there, and then scroll down to choose your plan.

Right now, SiteGround has three plans to choose from: StartUp, GrowBig, and GoGeek. I recommend going with the cheapest StartUp plan, because you can always upgrade in the future when you need to. SiteGround Customer Support is SUPER responsive, and will answer any questions you have about the process when the time comes.

Tip: StartUp only allows for one domain name, so if you have immediate plans for a second website (for example, if you know you’ll be selling a product with its own website right away), GrowBig will work better for you.

Once you choose your hosting plan, you just need to provide your payment details, and then either opt into, or out of, SiteGround’s two extra features: Domain Privacy and SG Site Scanner. Use this link to save 60% off your first year of hosting at SiteGround.

With your host and space secured, I recommend installing WordPress next.

In 2020, WordPress is still the best platform to use to start your blog. I’ve been using WordPress for over ten years now, and even though I’ve dinked around with other services (Squarespace being a good example) nothing comes close to the breadth and depth of features that WordPress offers. You can do literally anything with WordPress.

And if you signed up for SiteGround hosting, they make it really easy to get started with WordPress.

First, you’ll need to login to your Site Admin area. This is where you can do tons of stuff, from registering those custom you@reallycoolblog.com email addresses, to adding secondary domain names, and using the one-click installer.

To get there, log into your SiteGround account, click the My Account tab, and then click the bright red Go to CPanel button.

Scroll down until you see the WordPress logo:

On the one-click install page, click the Install Now option. Here’s what the start of the installation page will look like:

Yes, this is an intimidating set-up screen at first, but here’s how it breaks down. And once you’ve done it once, you’ll totally have everything you need to do it again in the future:

Choose Protocol: https

Choose Domain: Select your .com address (if you have more than one)

In Directory: If you want your blog to be accessible at yourdomain.com, leave blank. If you want your blog to be accessible at yourdomain.com/blog, enter “blog” or whichever word you’d like to use.

Site Name: Your blog’s name

Site Description: A short description of your content – you can change this later!

Enable Multisite: Leave unchecked unless you know what you’re doing

Admin Username: Your email address or preferred username

Admin Password: Your chosen password

Admin Email: Your alternate email address (I recommend using one that doesn’t end in your domain name, like a Gmail, for security purposes)

Choose Language: Your language

Select Plugins: Leave both unchecked

Choose a Theme to Install: None

Advanced Options: Leave as-is

Then click the Install button, and let the one-click robot do its thing.

After the page loads, you should get a confirmation of installation, as well as a copy of your login details. Save the login info, just in case!

The autoinstaller will also email a copy of your login information to the email address what was entered during set-up. Now you can click on your “administrative URL” link, which should be something like www.reallycoolblog.com/wp-admin. I recommend bookmarking this.

Now you can login to your WordPress panel with your email address and password.
Once you have your host, space, and platform set up, the marketing starts.

By this I mean: choosing your WordPress theme, picking colors that you’ll use frequently throughout your blog and stuff related to your blog, and setting up your social media accounts.

Here’s what I recommend –

Get started with Pinterest right away

Register your blog name on the other platforms (like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), but don’t worry about making content there yet. Use Pinterest to grow your traffic and build an audience. More on that here.

Keep your theme simple

Go for a simple theme that doesn’t need a lot of customizing out of the gate. WordPress has tons of free designs you can use, or you can opt to go for a drag and drop theme builder like Divi. This is what I use, after struggling with free themes for years. I hated paying for it initially, but I would never go back. More on Divi here.

Set yourself up now

Use an organization system like Google Drive, Asana, or Dropbox to save all of your blog related files to. And USE FOLDERS FROM DAY ONE. You will not regret it. Having a copy of your blog and blog files saved to the cloud is also a good idea in general.

Don’t steal photos

Never use images you find through Google Search. Instead, use a free stock photo site, like Kaboom Pics, or Unsplash.

Think about making money

When you’re ready to start making an income with your blog, consider affiliate marketing. It’s a really accessible way to bring in some coin without having to put in the upfront hours by creating a digital product, or offering a digital service. More on affiliate marketing here.

There is actually a bottomless pit of recommended strategies, tips, how-to’s, and paid products on how to be successful at blogging. Algorithms are always changing. In 2020, blogging is still as relevant as ever, and the best way to get started is just to do your thing and be yourself. Yes, it’s a saturated field, but that’s more reason to be unique.

Don’t worry about finding your niche. Don’t worry about following EVERY SINGLE tips and tricks post you find on Pinterest. Concentrate on writing great content, sharing your posts on Pinterest, and getting eyes on your writing.

To read some more of my strategies, check the library out.

GOOD LUCK!!!!

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