When I started my blog, the only way I learned all the smart blogging tricks and techniques was through trial and error and to be honest during my early days, I was all over the place with my content and ideas.
If you are reading this, I am certain you want to start a blog but not sure how or where to begin!
So I am glad you are here as this guide will help you to learn about blogging and what options you have if you plan to use it for personal and business use.
So, what is a blog? Read below.
What is a Blog
A blog can be considered as an online journal that has its very own website. Blogs can be a combination of visual content like photos, videos, and text content.
Blogs can be used for either personal or business use depending on the blog owner. It can also be set to private and open status to a select group of people, or it can be open to the public to read.
If the blog is set as public, it is accessible for everyone to sift through your blog entries. Blogs can also appear as one whole page or a full website that has one or more pages.
Today, the bloggers have umpteen options to add content and media to their blog through a variety of plugins and widgets besides engaging in every post.
Relevant: Read about the evolution of blogging here
Why Do People Blog?
Every blog has a different purpose which is reflected in the content. But, there are six major reasons why people blog.
- To showcase what they love – For some blog users, they use their blogs to share what they love. It could be art, music, photography or entertainment. Each post opens the user to other people who share their passion and discuss it with them.
- To teach others – Others use their blogs to teach people about their specialties. They can post tutorials or share their tips about various subjects which others may like to use in their daily life. Bloggers can also answer questions about topics and offer their solutions.
- To get exposure – For businesses and influencers, blogs are a great way to get people to check their content and influence people through their platforms. This is where influencers and affiliate marketing come into play. If you want to know more about affiliate marketing, check my guide here.
- To be recognized as an expert – If a blogger wants to be recognized as an expert in their chosen field, they can use their blog to build their career. As they share information and answer questions about the industry, they will start getting recognized and lead to opportunities to be known worldwide.
- To be on the first page in the Search Engines – In Google or any other search engines, it can be difficult to put a site on the first page of its search results. With blogging, users can utilize keywords to attract people to their site and convert them as followers.
- To share content – People are now looking at blogs as a great source for information, especially if they are talking about products and new places other people have not seen before. As posts get shared and viewed, it will allow the blog to get more traffic and exposure.
Benefits of blogging
Like journal or diary writing, blogging can actually benefit people in more ways than one. Here are all the ways it can benefit you:
- It helps you build your identity and let people know you are trustworthy – whether you blog for personal or business intent, your information is received by the world. It also allows you to control what the public can see about your profile and let them see the content you want to share.
- It can teach you new things – Blogging helps people learn more about their chosen niche because if you want people to follow you, you need to know what you are writing about. You will also learn how to market your content and design it to make it more appealing to viewers.
- It will help you improve your writing – As you write about your chosen topic, you will definitely develop a writing style that people can understand and analyze easily. It also causes your creative juices flowing because you have to write unique content that appeals to many people.
- It can inspire you to learn a new language – If you are trying to learn a second language, blogging can help you practice. You can write your blog in your second language and slowly learn how to write with the new words you are learning. It will help you learn more about website development – In blogging, you not only have to develop the written or visual content you want to share but also have to develop a website that will house your content. So you will learn more about the intricacies of website development and gain the key skills needed to maintain your blog and keep it up-to-date. You can learn these key skills through online tutorials and other blogs talking about it.
- It opens opportunities for you to connect – With your content, blogging will help you reach out to other people who love the same content as you do. People will also get to know you when they search for content since they will see what you posted about the topic. If your content is something that they can use and trust, they will thank you for your work and even start engagement as they start following your content.
- It will help you get recognized for your skills – You can never call yourself an expert if other people do not recognize your work. As people start recognizing your work, you will be acknowledged by companies and businesses alike regarding the industry and start asking you questions. You may even get some good speaking gigs, thanks to your blog content.
- It can open job opportunities – Blogging can also open a lot of job opportunities you may not have considered before. If your writing is very good, you can become a full-time author. Some people may even reach out to you for job offers that are related to your niche.
- It can expand your business – Blogs can also grow as business websites depending on how you design them. You can talk about a certain industry that you like to support, offer your opinion about it and wait for people to see the worth of your work. You can also sell your products and services or even content through your blog.
- It can help you get feedback – Since a blog allows people to comment on each post, your readers can give you their opinion about your content. These reviews can be either positive or negative, which will help you grow and improve your content. The feedback can also open opportunities for both you and your readers to communicate.
- It gives you freedom – there are of course restrictions when using social media sites like Twitter if you want to talk about a lot of subjects. With blogging, you can write whatever you want and not have to worry about your site being blocked, because you have complete ownership and authority on your own domain and site, unlike social media platforms.
What Platforms can be used for Blogs?
For people who wish to start a blog, they have several blog platforms to choose from. Each blog platform has its pros and cons depending on what you want these blog sites to stand for your business or brand.
Ideally, when you are choosing a platform for your blog, you have to consider what kind of blog you will be making and how you want it to be in the future. You should also look into the features it has to make your blog designed to fit your needs.
Here is a list of the most popular blog platforms currently used for blogs for either personal or business purposes:
- Constant Contact Website Builder
Since WordPress is a platform I personally vouch for and there are all the features that make it great, so here are a few tips on how you can set up your blog with WordPress.com and Medium and how you can self-host your blog.
How to Setup a Free Blog with WordPress
Established in 2005, WordPress.com is now one of the most commonly used platforms to design and host your blog. It is very easy to set up and free to use, making it one of the most popular blog platforms for beginners to use.
To build your free blog with WordPress.com, you can following steps:
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- Go to WordPress.com and select “Get Started”
- Sign up for the service using your email address. Enter your desired username, which must be unique and represent your brand. To finalize your registration, put in a password and click “Create your account”
- In the next page, you will be asked to put in the details of your blog such as its name, niche and it will even ask you about your goals for your website and if you are comfortable setting up the page yourself. When you finish answering these questions, click “Continue” to proceed.
- The next page will ask you about your blog’s URL. Users have the option to buy their own domain or use the free URL that ends with “home.blog”. You can be very creative with your site’s URL using the free domain, but just remember it should be easy to remember and reflect your site’s brand.
- Confirm your email address and follow the next steps to set up your blog.
Setting Up Your Blog
- After verifying your account, you will be redirected to your WordPress dashboard where you can organize everything for your blog from its content to design.
- To edit your WordPress layout or theme, click Appearance and then Themes to look for the layout that fits your blog. WordPress.com has several blog themes available for free to fit all sorts of blogs. If you want to check how it looks without having to apply it to your site, select “Live Preview.” If you like the theme, click “Save and Activate” and wait for it to be applied on your site. Alternatively, you can easily click “Activate” on the Themes page if you already saw the blog theme you want to use for your blog.
- To edit key parts of your blog, you can click on “Settings” and then “General Settings” to change what is displayed when people see your site. Edit the details provided such as the name which appears on your site’s header and tagline, author details and how the dates will be written. If you are happy with your changes, click “Save.”
- To add widgets to give your site more ways to share content, you can go to “Appearance” and then “Widgets.” Widgets are plugins that help the site become more functional and keep readers interested in the blog. You can adjust what your readers can see when they access the main page and add things like a Facebook Like box, Archives, Subscription form, and so on. You can skip this if you want to keep your site plain.
- If you have selected widgets to keep your site functional, you can drag them to the drop-down list in the right-hand portion of the dashboard and arrange them according to your taste. It will save automatically once they are in these areas.
- View the widgets in action by checking your website.
- When the site is ready in terms of its design and functions, it is time to post your new blog entry.
Posting for the First Time
- Before you post on your website, remove the sample post that is currently being displayed on the site. You can do this by going to Posts and look for the sample post. Click delete to remove it.
- To add a new blog post, click “Add New” and type your content. You can embed photos, music clips and videos on your blog entry if you want to include some.
- While typing, always click on the “Save Draft” button to ensure you don’t have to start from the top in case you get disconnected or something happens with the platform.
- To view your entry before posting, click the “Preview” button which is in the same box as the “Publish” button. If you are satisfied, make sure to click “Publish.”
Setbacks with using a free WordPress blog
Although WordPress.com is a great starting blog platform for beginners, it does have some limitations which may not be ideal if you want to use the blog as your main homepage.
Here are the limitations you can expect from a free WordPress blog:
- You cannot use the blog to run Google Adsense and other plugins to monetize your blog. While WordPress does have WordAds (it’s equivalent of Adsense), it has a very strict set of requirements and you have to share your revenue with the site.
- You have a small list of plugins and themes that you can use to give your site more functionality and style. You also cannot upload plugins or themes which are available on WordPress.org.
- WordPress can cancel your blog at any time if your content is against their terms of service. Users won’t even get a notice that their account is canceled until they check their blog.
- Users are limited when it comes to how they can develop their blogs since it does not have the same CMS features that WordPress.org offers.
Free Blog or a Paid Blog
When you sign up with WordPress, you will see a paid and free option when you build your blog with them. Their paid option comes in four different plans which cater to personal use, freelancers, eCommerce, and Business.
If you are a new blogger, it is ideal that you start off with a free blog until you get used to WordPress’ interface and get people into your site. It would not be ideal to get a paid blog if you do not have a steady following that would support your site.
Once you do have a stable following, you can switch your account options with WordPress.com and pay for the right plan you need.
How to Setup a Blog with Medium
Medium is one of the newest blogging platforms available online for bloggers to try out. It was established in 2012 and it is the go-to blog platform for journalists, experts, and bloggers alike.
Many say it is great to blog with Medium if you tend to write long articles and want to keep things simple. It is also considered by some as a more serious blogging platform since experts use the site to curate their content.
Here are the steps you need to follow to set up a blog with Medium:
Sorting your Account
- Create your account by visiting Medium.com and click the “Get Started” button or the “Sign in/ Sign Up” button. You can sign in the platform with your Facebook, Google and Twitter account if you don’t want to use your email address.
- Fill up the details that will be requested from you like you are making a new social media page such as your profile, profile photo, and social media pages. If you used your social media account to make your profile, Medium will copy your profile to your Medium account.
- The site will then ask you to list down which accounts or content you wish to follow much like a Twitter feed. You can also list down the tags you want to follow and once you are done, you are ready to check out Medium.
Posting for the First Time
- You can access the text editor from the Medium homepage by typing at the “Write here…” located in the middle of the page or clicking the “Write a Story” link at the top right-hand side of the page.
- When you access the text editor, you can type your content and format it based on your preferences. You can also use the drop caps available to edit as you write and add photos or videos to add to your story.
- Save the draft to review your work and click the “Share” button if you want people to review your work. Click on “Publish” if you are ready to share your work with the rest of the community.
- To view your views, you can check it at medium.com/me/stats.
Setbacks in using Medium as a blog platform
While Medium appeals to those who do not want to worry too much about formatting their blog site, there are a few setbacks when using Medium.
Here are the disadvantages you may experience when using Medium:
- You cannot customize the page to match your brand’s style. There are no plug-ins that will allow you to add more functions to your blog.
- You cannot monetize your blog because the site doesn’t run on ads.
- Users are also not allowed to use their own domains for their account because the site itself runs similar to a social media page like Facebook.
- If your blog is closed, you will lose any contact you may have with your contacts. Medium can review your site and close it at any time.
How to set up a Self-hosted blog
If your blog is growing and you want to personalize it even further, you may want to consider getting a self-hosted blog.
In a self-hosted blog, you will be hosting your blog on a different server and customize it from scratch. Various hosts are also allowing users to pick what kind of blogging platform they can use when they sort out their website.
Most self-hosted blogs use WordPress.org for their blog site. Unlike WordPress.com, WordPress.org offers more control over what the site will be like and it is even search engine friendly.
Here’s how you can set up your self-hosted blog using WordPress.Org as your blog platform:
Setting Up Your Host
- Find the ideal hosting provider that will allow you to build your site based on your needs and budget. Some of the hosting providers you can try out are BlueHost, HostGator, GoDaddy, and Dreamhost.
- When you choose the host for your site, sign up for an account and select the right plan that fits your budget. Remember that each plan may have limited features, which may be important for your blog.
- A majority of hosting sites allow users to buy their domain name with their hosting plan. Make sure that your domain name fits your blog content and brand when checking if it is available.
- When the account is complete, log in to your cPanel or hosting control panel to start installing WordPress.
- When you are in your cPanel, you can install WordPress via Softaculous, an auto-installer script. You can modify the details of your blog and let the installer do everything for you.
- If you are using BlueHost, look for their “My Sites” section and look for the “Create Site” button. The installer wizard will guide you through the installation setup and even offer you free plug-ins that you can use for the site.
- If you know FTP, you can do the installation manually. Use your FTP client to upload the latest version of WordPress.org to your domain easily and when it is done, you can modify it through your cPanel account.
Modifying Your Blog
- Like WordPress.com, a self-hosted blog using WordPress.org uses the same dashboard which is very easy to understand.
- To modify the theme, you can go to “Appearances” and “Themes” where you can select the available layouts installed with the platform, search WordPress’ theme directory or add your own theme. Activate the theme that you like and get editing!
- WordPress.org has an extensive plugin library that users can use for their site. Of course, you should do your research before you use them because some plug-ins may affect your site’s speed.
Starting Off Your First Entry
Starting off your first entry is similar to how you do it in WordPress.com. Simply click “Add New” or go to “Posts” and “Add New” to start writing.
Things to remember with using a self-hosted blog
If you decide on using a self-hosted blog, you need to consider a lot of things to ensure that you can maximize its potential.
Before you sort out your host, do your research as to which hosting site will help you set up everything that you need. If you will be using WordPress.Org as your blog platform, many recommend Bluehost because it has an easy-to-install wizard for new bloggers to enjoy.
You should also check if your content will fit the blogging platforms available for you. Aside from WordPress, there are other blogging platforms used in websites and it may require technical knowledge to get them formatted for your needs.
When it comes to its security, self-hosted WordPress is actually very secure. Major hosting sites regularly check their servers for any security threat and inform you about these threats.
If you plan to create a second blog, getting a self-hosted blog is best because your hosting site will let you host “unlimited” websites in your account so long as it fits your space requirement.
You will need to be careful when sorting out your self-hosted blog because one wrong installation can make it difficult to get your site online. You also need to read up on SEO and basic troubleshooting in WordPress in case your site suddenly becomes slow or gets filled with errors.
Of course, you should always pay your hosting package to keep your site active. If your account is unpaid, your hosting site may disable your blog until you pay for it.
Use your blog wisely once it is active and think before you publish your blog post!
Blogs are now becoming the “it” thing to do if you want to share a part of your life with the rest of the world. If you do not have one, you should consider opening one, especially if you want to reach out to a target audience.
If you want to get started in blogging and know more about it, here are other great articles to inspire you:
- Your Guide to contact bloggers and contributors
- What are sponsored Blog Posts
- Your Guide to Sponsored blog posts
If you found this blog post helpful, make sure you leave a comment below or message me on Facebook in case you want me to cover other topics in the next post. You can also add me to my social media accounts and when you do, let me know where you found me!