I’ve been meeting so many new travelers lately who are all saying the same thing – they want to start a blog, but have no idea how. It’s way too intimidating, they don’t know where to start, and they think it’s too expensive. I had the same thoughts when I began, but was convinced by a friend to just do it, and voila, Postcards to Seattle was created. Once I actually committed to signing up and creating my blog, I realized it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Here’s how to start a blog in 30 minutes.
Create a Name
This is by far the hardest part if you haven’t already been thinking about it (and it might take you more than 30 minutes to be honest). That said, it’s going to be really difficult to change your name down the road, so take your time on this. You want your name to indicate what you’ll be blogging about or what your “brand” will represent. Will you be outdoorsy or focus on culinary experiences? Will you be traveling the world, or traveling only during your vacation time? Think of the focus of your blog so you can create a unique name.
My name came from the fact that I’m from Seattle, and all my family and friends are here as well. When I was starting to travel more, they were always asking for stories and pictures from my trips, so I would send them “postcards” back to Seattle to tell them about my trip. My postcards are now my blog posts, but you get the picture.
A few tips – don’t copy another blogger when creating your name. Research the bigger bloggers if you don’t already know them and avoid names that are similar. Adventurous Kate and Nomadic Matt have claimed their spot, so don’t try to be Adventurous or Nomadic anything. You want a name that stands out from everyone else so people associate it with you. Once you create your name, I highly recommend claiming social media handles with the same name.
I recommend being self-hosted from the start. I kept hearing the longer you wait, the harder it was to transfer over your free WordPress account so I switched about two weeks in. To save yourself the hassle, sign up for a self-hosted website right away. I personally use Host Gator and have never had a problem with them. They very easily allow you to integrate WordPress with their site.
If you’re new to the blogging game, you probably have the same thought I did – why would I pay to have a website when I can get it for free on WordPress.com? SO many reasons! If something goes wrong with your website and you can’t log in, you can still go to the portal on Host Gator to access your files. One day I decided to be fancy and play with some code on my site, resulting in a complete lock out – I couldn’t even access the page to log in to my website. I was able to head over to Host Gator and restore the corrupted file, and my world was at peace again.
There’s also only so much you can do on WordPress.com, so switching to WordPress.org when you self-host opens you up to many more plug-ins, themes, and being able to do your own coding once you get advanced. The customer service you receive with being self-hosted is more than worth it too. There’s been several smaller problems I couldn’t figure out no matter how much I researched, but within hours a representative from Host Gator had responded with a solution.
As you can see above, it’s actually pretty cheap to sign up. If this is the only website you think you’ll ever get, you can pay $3.95 a month for the hatchling plan to get started. If you’re interested in having different websites in the future, sign up for the baby plan so you have the option of unlimited domains down the road. If you’ve already registered a domain name, you can either enter it during registration or register a new one with Host Gator.
Check your email afterwards for your log in information, where it’ll prompt you to sign into your “cPanel.” This is where you’ll go if you ever have any problems with your website in the future. Go to “software/services” and click the “quick install” button so you can install WordPress. Once that’s done, click which domain you want WordPress on and enter the contact information you’ll use for your website. Click “install now,” and you’ll be able to access your blog. Make sure to write down your log in and password though – I was so excited that I forgot to do that and couldn’t access my blog the next time!
Pick a Theme
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend buying a theme just yet unless you’ve really researched this. I’ve changed my theme several times, and I still haven’t found one I like enough to purchase. Pick one of the free themes to play around with and start to get the hang of what you can do with WordPress and how you like the look of things. I started to research a ton of different blogs to see what I liked about their features, and picked my current theme based on that. While changing themes isn’t hard necessarily, everything gets moved around (including font, colors, or any widgets you have), which can be really overwhelming if you’re new to WordPress. Pick a theme you like from the beginning to get used to it, and you can always switch once you become more advanced with your site.
Write Your First Post
This is the part that holds so many bloggers back from beginning their blog, but you just have to get started. I’ve heard people say “I have nothing to write!” but we all have to start somewhere. My first post was a very short post with bad pictures on my trip with my friend to Napa Valley (don’t judge it – I’ve since improved my posts), but it got me in the practice of how writing a blog post worked. Write as much as you feel comfortable at first – I think in the beginning I was only posting once every 2-3 weeks, but I was still trying to get the hang of WordPress and the blogging world. You can always go back and edit your posts later.
Have High-Quality Featured Images
Depending on your theme, you’ll probably need to pick a “featured image” for each post. This means you’re choosing what picture will be shown on the homepage to represent the post. Pick your best photo or the one that most accurately represents what the post is about. If someone’s new to your page, you only have a few seconds to draw them in, so you want them drawn to your beautiful pictures so they’ll click on your posts. I personally only use landscape pictures so the picture doesn’t take up the whole page, but that’s a personal preference.
On that note, you should really be using only the best pictures on your blog posts in general. It’s common to get excited about your first few trips and put everything up on your post, but quality is much more important than quality. Don’t overload your posts with picture after picture if they’re not the best quality or similar. I was guilty of this too because I was so excited about sharing my trips, but you’ll lose the reader’s interest if it’s just picture after picture of the same thing. Showcase your highest quality pictures to have the reader come back to your site.
What tips would you add to this for beginner bloggers?
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