A month ago, I decided to start a blog. Its been 4 weeks since I bought my domain name (arianaoutloud.com) and only 3 since writing my first post. When I decided I was going to do it, I hit the ground running.
The amount of hours I have put into this in only a month has surprised even me. But I’d say only half of that time went to building the site and writing blog posts. The other half was spent reading articles, following an online course, and watching videos- learning.
This in no way qualifies me to be teaching the masses how to blog. But I’m sure this post isn’t going to appear on the front page of a google search, and you probably just came as a friend, so I’m going to talk to you like one. I thought I’d fill you in on my personal experience so far because I know that at least to some degree, it could be helpful for someone.
Just a heads up, this blog post contains affiliate links! I only recommend services that I truly stand for and know have worked for me and others. I believe your purchases made within an affiliate link benefits us both!
Where I began
When I decided I was really going to do this, I started with a 40 minute webinar from a very successful blogger about starting a blog. The woman has been blogging for 5 years. She talked about her humble beginnings and how she quickly turned something she loved into a source of profit. This webinar was helpful because she talked numbers and realistically explained how possible it is to find success in blogging, when you decide to put the work in.
As an affiliate of a website hosting service called Bluehost, she was discussing how you could start (and own) a blog for $3 a month through the hosting platform she uses.
I had no idea what she was talking about, but it sounded important. So I did what I do, and I spent hours researching this concept of “website hosting”. Here’s what I learned:
Web hosting and what I decided to use
A web host is a platform that stores your website. You basically rent a plot of internet land (monthly or annually) from whatever provider you choose, and all of your files are contained in that space.
You can just as easily borrow this land for free by opening a site on WordPress.com, but with some disadvantages.
There were three big drawbacks I found with this option. Without paying for the space, you do not have full control of your site and your files. Apparently, the platform has the power to remove your site altogether on a whim. A bit of a scary thought.
I also read that there are significant limitations on customization and on opportunity to profit from ads or sell products. On top of those factors, your domain name won’t be as clean as “mywebsitename.com” because “.wordpress.com” will always follow it.
A hobby blog could be just fine without the paid hosting. For me, however, I really wanted to make Ariana out Loud my own and potentially turn it into a business down the line, so I decided to rent.
After checking out a few hosting options, I narrowed it down to Bluehost and Siteground. This very in-depth article really helped me understand one from the other. I chose to spend a little more and go with Siteground because it was proven to be faster, and had better-rated customer service (I didn’t want to take my chances on this one). So far, so good.
Building a website instead of paying someone else to do it
After choosing my hosting service, I still had no idea how to even begin. I’m sure I could’ve figured it out, but I’m a rule- follower and I wanted to do it the “right” way.
I found a full online course on blogging, on an app I love called Udemy. It’s 13 hours long and I got it on sale (the courses go on sale regularly) for $15. The teacher, Theo McArthur walked me through buying my domain name, and building my entire website from the ground up. This whole website-building world would’ve been terrifying for me, without her screen-recorded walkthroughs.
I never looked into the costs of having a website built for me, so you’ll have to get that information elsewhere. I will, however, highly recommend the course to you. I’m only 40% into it, and have already learned so much.
Building your own website is incredibly complicated, but definitely possible- especially with a good teacher. It’s hard and time-consuming, but very very rewarding if you make the time to learn the skill. And I know everything I’m learning now will be invaluable to me as long as I’m adding to this site.
SEO, but make it English
In the course, Theo walked me through downloading a free plugin called Yoast SEO. It’s FANTASTIC.
Ok, so SEO stands for search engine optimization. This is Google’s algorithm against your website and each individual page or post on your blog. Google decides what to promote based on these standards. If a blog post isn’t well optimized, it will be less likely for your page to bring in organic traffic. It will also be less likely for someone searching a topic online to even see your site as an option. Without good optimization, you’re site will be 57 pages deep in the google results.
This plugin has been so helpful for me. It sits as a toolbar, on the right-hand of my screen. While I type out a post, it tells me the changes I need to make. Right now, for example, it is telling me that 10.8% of my sentences contain passive voice. The recommended is 10% for good SEO. I can press a button that highlights every sentence that is passive. Re-wording just one will probably boost my score.
I also never would have known that they want no more than 25% of your sentences to be over 20 words. That’s a hard rule for me to follow! Apparently perfect optimization isn’t natural for me- go figure.
It seems to me that search engines like Google prefer our blog posts to be written a lot like essays. A clear theme, solid headings, and idea repetition throughout, makes for good SEO. I tend to want my blogs to read more like chapters of a book, with alluring headings and poetic flow. Which is precisely why Yoast SEO is critical for someone like me. As much as my defiant side wants to fight the system, I would rather my website be discoverable. So I do what they tell me.
Can you be a rule-follower and a rebel? Asking for a friend.
Connecting analytics before driving traffic
You want to set up Google Analytics onto your website before promoting it to everyone you know online and their dogs.
Are you listening, Ariana?
Face palming, because I got this part wrong. It’s not the end of the world, but it stings a little to think of what I missed out on. So take this one from me- who got it wrong first , so you don’t have to.
Google analytics (analytics.google.com) will be what tracks the traffic on your website. And it can’t backtrack, it only sees action that takes place after it is connected. On Monday, I excitedly made my blog public after finalizing four posts (they tell you to have 3-7 on your site before going public). Then I proceeded to the next obvious move of posting about my new site on social media and sending people to check it out.
I did not have analytics set up beforehand, nor did I know that it was something I had to set up on my own. I kind of figured traffic would be tracking from the start, and I would only need to figure out where to I could access the data.
There’s no way for me to see how many people followed the prompting and went on to my site that day or over the course of the week. It’s really helpful to know how your content engages people and to see what’s working and what isn’t, so I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
Setting up analytics properly was not an easy task, but I finally have it working! I spent a frustrated few days trying to figure this part out, so I want to save you the trouble. After all of the resources I went through looking for the solution, this article was the solution.
For the love of writing
I want to mention, that this last month has been wonderful for me. WONDERFUL. I’m such an advocate for using your gifts and doing what you’re passionate about. Isn’t it interesting that you could spend 30 hours doing something that you find dreadful, and it feels like the longest week of your life? But put in 60 hours in a field that sparks your creativity and ignites passion, and it feels like not enough time?
That’s how I’m finally feeling. I’ve been going to bed excited to wake up and get back to it in the morning. Don’t you think that’s how it should be? I thank God that we get to dip our toes in different fields of work and figure out where we thrive. And that eventually we can settle down into an arena that we feel as if it were custom-made for us.
If you’re wondering about blogging for yourself, I want to encourage you to try it out. I hope that this was at all helpful for you, and provided you some confidence moving forward. If your interested in hearing my heart behind starting my blog, you can read about it here.
Down the road, I’ll make an updated blog post with more that I’ve learned and find may be helpful. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions. Happy to help!