Today is the day you made your decision.
You’re tired of the 9-5. You can’t stand your boss anymore.
Your co-workers are all so stupid they couldn’t pour water out of a boot with instructions on how to do so on the heel.
You’re going to start a blog.
And maybe this blog will only be a way to work out your frustrations.
Maybe it’s a way for you to make some extra cash on the side so you have a “light” at the end of your “employment tunnel.”
Either way, this article will give you some insights as to how I got this site up and running, some lessons I’ve learned, and enough offensive material to make Donald Trump blush.
1. Commit to WordPress
I know that there are lots of different platforms out there on which you can build your blog. However, I’m just going to come out and say it: you should use WordPress.
“But Paul, what about __” (fill in the blank)
I know there will be some people who are going to dissent with my opinion and that’s ok. But at the end of the day, I’m going to argue that WordPress makes the most sense for someone just starting out.
Simplicity: The WordPress dashboard is easier to use than a spoon.
Everything says exactly what it does, and if you don’t know what a certain word means, a simple Google search will bring up some awesome documentation that will help you out.
Maybe you don’t know what a widget or a menu is, but that’s perfectly alright. Once you figure it out, manipulating your WordPress site is as easy as 1… 2… duh.
Not Buggy: Those coding magicians that helped put WordPress together and keep it together are awesome,
And, there is no end to the support that you’ll be able to find, either on the WordPress forums or in the documentation itself.
WordPress has hundreds of people working on this open-source software. All in all, when there is a problem with WordPress, it’s taken care of pretty quickly.
Looks Good: You’d have to be dumber than a guy playing with his toaster in the bathtub to screw up a WordPress site.
They’re pretty difficult to mess up.
That being said, even I’ve accidentally deleted some things that ought not to be deleted. But as long as you’re not trying to edit the code and be a hot-shot, you really can’t break a WordPress site.
*Note – that’s not a challenge.
Lots of support: In the traditional sense, yes, there are lots of people on the internet that are going to be able to help you solve whatever problem might come up.
However, even more, amazing is the sheer amount of themes and plug-ins that are available there to be used on WordPress.
For those of you not familiar, a theme is basically a template that you can use as a structure to design your site.
A plug-in is best described as an app that helps you do… well, anything.
I have plug-ins that help with my Search Engine Optimization, one that backs up my site, one that helps me build pages, and a whole bunch of others.
My point is that you’re not going to find any other platform with as many plug-ins and themes as WordPress.
In a word, just save yourself the hassle and the time and just use WordPress.
2. Find a Place to Host Your Site
It took me a long time to find an explanation of hosting that actually made sense to me, but here’s how it works.
When you make a website, you’re going to be creating and meshing together a whole bunch of files (whether or not you realize it).
For example, your WordPress blog will have database files and .php files (PHP is a coding language, don’t run away scared).
There will also be text files, image files, and a couple of others that I’m not going to go into. Essentially, you need to have a place to keep all those files. And that’s what hosting companies do; they literally hold on to your website files.
But they also have another function.
When someone types in your web address in a browser, they’re basically requesting to see those files. So it’s important to have a hosting company that can provide those files quickly.
The company I chose to host with is HostGator. I had heard lots of very good things about them from people who were in a position to know a lot more than me.
Now that I’ve been with them for a while, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about their hosting services.
Support: Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I like being able to get people on the phone when I’m having problems. Not only does HostGator offer support by phone, but they also do so by email and by chat.
That way, if you need to go about your day, you can.
Really simple stuff, but for me, it makes a difference (I’m not as tech-savvy as I’d like to be, and I need someone to talk to me like I’m 4 years old or else it’ll go over my head like the Wright brothers).
As a quick side note, as I was prepping to do some redesign for this site, I pulled a stupid and seemingly deleted my site.
Yeah, like all of it.
After several expletives, and a couple of pieces of furniture being “rearranged” in my apartment, I calmed down enough and contacted HostGator to see what could be done about the situation.
Not only did they have a backup from 6 hours prior (THANK. GOD), but when the first person I spoke to wasn’t quite sure how to restore everything, he put me on hold and found someone who could.
After letting out the biggest sigh of relief this side of the Rockies, I thanked them profusely and went on my merry way.
Very, very carefully.
Price: I’m super price-sensitive, and if I can save a buck, I will.
Hosting through HostGator hosting cost me a little over $100 for the entire year. When the cost to start a business is less than your booze budget for a month, you start to run out of excuses.
Features: HostGator has partnered with MojoMarketplace, which is where you can get all sorts of fancy plug-ins and themes (remember, we just talked about what those are).
In fact, MojoMarketplace is where I got the theme for this site!
And let’s call it out for what it is: if it’s easy enough for me to do it, it’s simple enough for like 90% of the population.
For the other 10%, sorry, I guess blogging just isn’t for you.
3. Content is King
Here’s the deal with content:
You HAVE to write about something you’re passionate about.
Do you honestly think you’re going to write tens of hundreds of thousands of words on a subject you don’t even like?
No, I didn’t think so either.
As far as a framework for figuring out what to write about, here’s what I did:
Your content has GOTTA be:
Original – Man oh MAN you do not want to be caught infringing on copyright or plagiarizing! It’s no longer high school when all you got was a bad grade on a paper.
You take someone’s content that’s not yours, not only will they come after you BIG TIME, but it will also hurt your rankings in Google.
Do yourself a favor: if you’re going to start a blog, don’t bother taking someone else’s work!
Long (enough) – This is a tough one because there are lots of differing opinions on this. But I’m going to take it from the perspective that you want to rank higher in Google.
If you want to help your Search Engine Optimization, then you need to write longer posts. 300 words simply ain’t gonna cut it these days.
Valuable – Make sure that what you’re providing contains some amount of value.
What is value?
Well, the easiest way to explain it is that people should get more from your site than they give. Giving in terms of the viewer can be as simple as them giving their time, or a little more complicated like giving their cash.
Either way, you need to make sure that you’re going above and beyond to provide value to your readers. Otherwise, why would they read your blog?
Fresh – I suppose there’s no rule saying that you can’t start another blog about social media or blogging or make ANOTHER cat video.
But you’ll find it’s easier to break through the shit noise if you have a fresh message or a new take on an old idea.
That’s what I’m trying to do here.
I’m trying to turn “Finance” into “FUNance”!
It’s ok, I know I deserve to die for that one…
Full of media – Keep in mind as you’re going through and writing your blogs that media matters! You’re writing online, not on paper.
As such, throw in some vines/gifs/photos/articles/fancy lights/awesome effects as you’re writing. Photos and videos not only help the viewer break up the monotony of straight text, but they will also help your Google rankings!
Shareable – It should be SO EASY for someone to share your articles/links!
I know, I know.
It should be easy enough to copy the link from your browser, but who doesn’t like fancy buttons to post to social media? I know I do….
4. Be Social
I started a website way back when I was a wee lad. It was going to be a website that helped connect college students with suits.
Wasn’t a million-dollar idea, but it was fun to give it a try.
Anywho, I promptly made my website, got everything up and running, and proceeded to search for the site in Google.
You can imagine my dismay when I didn’t rank first for everything I searched.
And sadly, that’s how it’s going to be for the first few months of blogging. Hell, I’m still trying to get ranked for some keywords.
And so instead of focusing SOLELY on Google, the next best thing is going to be using social media. Here’s what I suggest:
Facebook – Obvsies, am I right? So clearly Facebook is a necessity, lest you be considered a social (media) pariah.
Facebook is a little strange.
I’ve had lots of site views from Facebook, but I don’t have nearly as many followers as I do on other social media. It’s also nice to have an outlet where you’re not restricted to 140 characters or other limits on content.
Twitter – It took me a while to get used to Twitter, but now that I’m fully immersed in the “Twitterverse” I don’t know how I went without it before.
It’s super easy to connect with people, and it’s awesome for sharing news/articles. I’ve been able to build a pretty solid twitter following by using Distilled Dollars’s guide. Check it out if you want to learn how to build a solid following quickly!
Pinterest – Something I clearly need to explore more, because it seems like a lot of bloggers are having quite a bit of success with this. Hey, if it helps connects readers to this site, I’ll do it. Even if I’m not a pinning whiz…. yet.
5. Sprint Through the Marathon
Blogging is like running a marathon with thousands of other people. In case you haven’t heard, it takes a LONG time to get a blog off the ground and “successful”.
Obviously, your definition might differ, but if I can make a full-time income from this site, I will consider this blog successful.
However, that’s going to take years (s) of building relationships, building followings, writing guest posts, and brainstorming ways to provide value.
The blogosphere isn’t a place to get rich quickly (though I’ll argue you have a better chance doing something like this than with your salary).
For that reason, if you’re going to commit to a blog, make sure you’re ready to write for at least a year!
On the other hand, there are lots of blogs out there, and each one is trying to get viewership. And some markets (like personal finance) are pretty darn saturated (but why would I let that stop me?…). With the result that you need to find ways to differentiate yourself. What’s the simplest way to do that, you ask?
Out. Work. Everyone.
If you know your readers are visiting other blogs that post 2x per week, then you start posting 3x per week. If your site looks like your coloring book from when you were four years old, then clearly you need to redesign it.
Whatever it is you need to become more competitive, then do it.
WITH ALL THAT BEING SAID…
Don’t be a douche.
Just because we’re talking about fancy words like “competition” and “market saturation” doesn’t mean you have to treat other bloggers like the elephant-man covered in elephant shit.
In fact, I’ve found that the personal finance blogging community has been very kind to me and always goes above and beyond to push the thinking forward in the finance space.
Besides, chances are you’ll meet these people at a conference or ask them to guest post, and no one is going to want to help someone who’s a 10 on the douchey scale.
Masters of the Universe do not become masters overnight.
There are blood, sweat, and tears that go into making anything a success.
You need to be ready to type content till your fingers are just bloody nubs, and edit until your eyes are drier than the humor on “The Office.”
You also need to:
- Commit to WordPress
- Find a Hosting site
- Content is King
- Be Social
- Sprint through the marathon
Best of luck fellow bloggers, and as always…
Keep trying to crack the code (to blogging, not riches…).