A Crash Course in How and Why to Start a Blog

If you’re thinking of starting a blog, you may be wondering if it is difficult (the technical aspects) and if it is even worth doing (the existential aspects). Here’s what you need to know to get started..

The Technical Aspects (How)

The technical aspects consist of hardware and software.

Hardware: Recommended Tools

Obviously, you need a good computer and a secure Internet connection. While you may be able to get by with a beaten-up old computer or the use of library computers, you will probably give up due to technical frustration. You’re better off investing in a good computer from Apple and protecting it from cyber criminals with antivirus designed for Mac. While the technological debate about whether it is better to get an Apple or a PC rages on, let’s just say there are some good technical and aesthetic reasons why Apple users have an evangelical fervor.

Software: Recommended Software

Here are 7 steps to get started on building your blog:

1. Choose a self-hosted WordPress Blog. There is a reason why all the best bloggers in the world use WordPress: it’s the best blogging platform on earth. Yes, there are many free alternatives, but WordPress–i.e. a self-hosted WordPress blog–has always performed better when blogging platforms are compared in user surveys.

2. Pick a great domain name. Your name can make or break your business. Either use your own name to brand it or use a name that clearly spells out your blog’s theme. If you’re stuck in coming up with a good name, check out Bust A Name to get ideas.

3. Register your domain name. You will need to register your domain name. According to an poll run on LifeHacker the three most popular places are Namecheap (3,509 votes), GoDaddy (2,426 votes) and 1&1 (1,252 votes.) Once you sign up at one of these websites, tutorials will walk you through the process.

4. Find a good host. If your blog were a building, the domain name would be your name on the mailbox and the hosting account would be the house itself. Based on tests by PCMag, the best hosting choices are Arvixe, DreamHost, HostGator, InMotion, SiteGround, BlueHost, GoDaddy, HostMonster, and Network Solutions.

5. Set up your blog. Depending on which hosting provider you choose, it takes about five minutes to set up your generic WordPress platform using a setup wizard in the back office of your hosting account. You should then customize it with a skin. The Genesis Framework for WordPress is an excellent way to build a solid platform and you can choose from a variety of child themes for your custom design. Genesis is outfitted for great SEO and its themes show up well on a variety of computers and mobile devices. You will also want to add plugins for automatic database backups, filtering out spam, improving SEO, using contact forms, and encouraging social sharing.

6. Add a landing page. While it’s not necessary to set up a landing page to create a way to capture emails, it’s advisable to do it. Lead Pages has one of the best reputations for creating effective landing pages.

7. Use an autoresponder. Your business will grow rapidly once you begin emailing your visitors about your latest blog posts as opposed to hoping that they will bookmark your blog and make regular visits. Aweber has become the most popular email provider service for the best marketers online. Darren Rowse, one of the most famous bloggers online, said that he used Aweber because of a number of features like unlimited lists in a single account, unlimited emails, autoresponders, deliverability, and text and html email options. On Deliverability, he said, “Using my last free service I was getting very high numbers of bounced emails and emails being labeled as spam. It wasn’t unusual to see 20-30% of my emails not even getting delivered. My last 5 emails with AWeber had between 0.1 and 2.6% of emails undelivered. This means literally thousands of readers are getting emails that previously didn’t.”

The Existential Aspects (Why)

Now that you understand the technical aspects in some depth, let’s first consider why it’s a good idea to blog. Once you’re clear about your motivation, you’ll stick with it.

5 Reasons to Get Serious

Quickly, here are 5 reasons why you should blog:

1. You will learn how to write well. Speaking and writing well are skills that will take you far in life. Blogging regularly will give you more than enough practice to improve your writing skills.

2. You will learn how to think through things. Again, it’s another important life skill.

3. You will learn how to set your intentions. Crafting blog posts will also teach you how to craft your life.

4. You will notice more things and learn more about things. You can’t write about things and not sharpen your mind.

5. You will win friends, influence people, and, you might even make more money.

Since blogging is a communication tool, you will be a thought leader. It can also be highly profitable. The top three blogs in the world make millions. The Huffington Post owned by Arianna Huffington makes $29,896 a day through Pay Per Click; Mashable owned by Pete Cashmore makes $15,781 a day selling advertising banners; and Techcrunch owned by Michael Arrington makes $14,816 a day. Perhaps, you’ll never hit the big leagues. Still, even if you only made $37 a day from affiliate sales like Carrie Wilkerson who runs BlogBareFoot, you’ll still make $27,390 a year.