The first few months of blogging are hard. You will have so much to do, learn, fix, change, update, and so on. Although it’s a lot of work I have been enjoying every minute of it since I launched my blog. In the first few months, there were a lot of ups and downs, a ton of research and learning, and a lot of trial and error. I am still in the process of trying to figure out the best techniques, tools, and strategies that work for me, but I am sure this will all be an on-going task in my journey as a blogger.
In case you are new here, learn more about me here!
Before launching my blog I spent several months researching “how to start a blog”. I found so many tips from other bloggers, most of them worked out great, but some just didn’t work for me so I continued my research to find the tools that worked best for me. I recommend trying out a few different things to find out what works best for YOU. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it will also work best for your needs.
I am not the most technically savvy person when it comes to creating a website; in fact, I had no prior experience with this at all. I really had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, using tips from others and different tools and plug-ins, I was able to create the perfect site for me. As you can imagine, successfully launching a website was pretty stressful.
Even though I am a beginner, I feel that my experience and knowledge can benefit others who want to start a blog. I hope that you can learn something from reading about my experience. Even though starting a blog can be stressful, there are so many resources out there to help you along the way. I guarantee you will have fun and your journey will be worth it! If I can do it, so can you!
In this post, I will share my process of setting up self-hosting, designing a blog, photo editing tools, using social media, and other tools and techniques that I found easy enough to use. These tools and techniques are simple enough that even a beginner like me was able to figure out. I would not recommend something that I have not tried or currently use myself.
Essential To-Do List before Launching a Blog
This post contains affiliate links and any purchases made through such links could result in a small commission for me, at no extra cost for you. I am recommending these tools to you because I have been using them myself and they worked for me (even as a complete beginner), otherwise, I would not recommend them.
First things first, if you are serious about blogging and want to eventually make money from your blog you should decide on your blog name, purchase a domain and setup self-hosting, which can be done through Bluehost. I did this right from the start because I knew this is something I wanted to pursue long-term.
Setting up my site was the most difficult but fun part of all. I have really enjoyed customizing it and finding new plug-ins to use! This step in your journey will be a process, so I recommend just taking it one step at a time. You don’t want to rush it and potentially mess something up.
From start to finish, here are the programs and tools that I used to setup my blog:
Self-hosting through Bluehost
I decided to go with self-hosting through Bluehost since I read several reviews and posts that it was a great host company for beginners. So far Bluehost has been working perfectly, and their technical support has helped me several times when I couldn’t figure something out. I even went through a complete domain name change before my launch, and they got it all straightened out for me!
Since Bluehost was super simple, I definitely recommend this for beginners. You can find instructions for how to start a blog with Bluehost here.
WordPress has been great and pretty easy to use for the most part. Bluehost will walk you through the steps to install it, which is just a one-click download. In fact, I don’t even remember downloading it, that’s how easy it was!
There are still some technical areas of WordPress that I don’t quite understand yet, but there’s tons of information out there on how to use it. The website where I find a lot of my information from is WP Beginner.
Install a Theme
A theme is what creates the look of your website. Before I launched I was using the free version of my theme, but during the design process I was finding out that I couldn’t customize everything that I wanted to. I ended up paying to upgrade from the free to the pro version, which was well worth it. I think it is important to enjoy the look and feel of your site in order to stay motivated to work on it.
The pro version comes with one month of free support, which you should take advantage of. It might be a good idea to know what you want your site to look like, and the plug-ins you want to use before you purchase the pro version. If you run into any issues with your theme it’s best for it to happen during that free month, otherwise, you will have to continue paying for the monthly fee. The support can be canceled and re-added any time just in case you need it later.
You can shop for themes by Lyra here.
I spent months researching the best plug-ins to use and here is the list of plugins that I started with:
- Akismet Anti-Spam (blocks spam comments)
- Jetpack (provides many things including analytics, stats, and security)
- MailChimp (for email subscription sign-up)
- Smush (to reduce image sizes for faster loading)
- Social Warfare Pro (social sharing buttons and customization options for social media sharing)
- UpdraftPlus (to backup and restore)
- Wordfence Security (anti-virus, firewall, and malware scan)
- WP Super Cache (to speed up your site)
- Yoast SEO (for SEO optimization and XML sitemaps)
All of these tools are free unless you wish to upgrade to the Pro version of Social Warfare. I started with the free version of Social Warfare but found out that I needed the Pro Version to do what I wanted to do. This plug-in lets you create customized photos for Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, along with customized descriptions! Any time your post is shared on one of these platforms your pre-set photo and description are automatically used.
Plus, for those of you who like to hide your Pinterest pins, this is perfect! You can set-up your Pinterest pin within Social Warfare, and it will not appear within your post, but when someone clicks your Pinterest share button, it will already be there for them to pin.
I also love the clean and simple look of my social sharing buttons. There are currently 14 different buttons to choose from and you can change the style of the buttons as well as the placement on your site!
You can find the Pro Version of Social Warfare here.
When I launched my blog I had 10 posts written, but there is no set rule as to how many posts you need to have before you launch. Start with whatever you are comfortable with, just focus on writing quality content, not quantity. My goal was to write one new post a week, but that schedule was a little hard to keep up with so I cut that in half (and even that is hard sometimes). If you have ever read somewhere that writing takes up 20% of your time and promoting takes up 80%, this is so true!
I have never actually considered myself a writer although I have always enjoyed it! Since I am not a specialist in this area I make sure to use something that double checks my work. So far the free version of Grammarly has worked for me. You can try out Grammarly here.
Being organized and having a plan is extremely important for us bloggers! There is just so much to do and it’s easy to get distracted so it is important for you to find an organizational tool that works for you. I’ve tried several tools such as OneNote, Evernote, and Excel, but the tool that works the best for me is Trello. I absolutely LOVE this tool because it provides a great visual for all of your ideas and to-dos. I have my entire brain on my Trello boards and I couldn’t live without it.
Trello has a free version (which is what I use) and a paid version. Click here to try Trello for free!
There is so much information out there to help you learn how to get your blog up and running. Take in as much information as you can, research, take notes, download e-books, whatever you can do to learn will help you grow.
Also, READ as much as you can! Get out there and read other blogs, comment on them, check their style, visit their social media pages, whatever you can do to spark your creativity and learn as much as you can is going to help you.
I started out using Lightroom right from the beginning because it is so important to have good quality photos to use for your blog and social media. The plan that I use has a monthly fee, but it includes tons of cloud storage and I have access to my photos on the website or the app.
Lightroom is probably the most popular photo editing software out there, and you can find tons of desktop and mobile “presets” for it. Think of presets as filters that you apply to your photos. They allow you to quickly edit photos and keep a similar style across all of your photos. I have experimented with several free and paid presets, which make editing a lot easier and helps you create that Instagram “theme” everyone talks about.
You can get more information and sign-up for a free trial of Lightroom here.
When I first started my Instagram I was using a free preset which gave my theme a “warm retro” look. About six months later I decided to upgrade and purchase the Travel in her Shoes presets, and I have to say they are AMAZING!
If you don’t want to pay the monthly subscription for Lightroom there is another option. There is also a free app for your phone! You can even use presets on the app, both desktop and mobile, but if you only want to use the free app make sure you purchase the mobile presets.
Here you can check out the presets I use, which have both desktop and mobile versions.
I use Canva for everything else such as Pins, Pinterest Board Covers, and Instagram Story Templates. It is super easy to use because there are many templates already created; you just need to customize the photo and text. Plus, it’s free! You can start using Canva here.
Once you have determined your blog name and purchased a domain I highly recommend securing that name across all social media platforms, even if you are not sure if you will use those platforms.
Before I even determined a blog launch date, I was already posting on Facebook and Instagram, as well as using Pinterest. I didn’t want to launch my blog with absolutely no followers, so this is one thing I recommend doing right from the beginning. Good thing I did because so far most of my site’s traffic has been coming from social media.
Let’s talk a little bit about each platform I use:
I haven’t spent too much time trying to figure out how to gain more followers on my page since it has been a little disappointing so far. My page has been growing VERY slowly. The only source of new followers has been through Facebook Groups and my own personal friends. If I don’t promote my page in any groups then I don’t gain any new followers. If you are interested in growing your page I recommend that you join a few groups and start getting your page out there.
I promoted two posts during my first month of launching the blog, one to announce my launch date and one for when I actually launched. I reached a decent size audience, but I did not gain any new followers, page likes, or link clicks. I probably won’t promote any other posts unless I have something really huge to promote, otherwise, it just doesn’t seem worth it.
You can see my Facebook Page here.
This was the very first social media site that I started using, and it has grown the most so far. I use Later to plan and schedule my posts, and I definitely recommend using some sort of planning tool. It makes life a lot easier!
The first six months I experimented with different hashtags, editing styles, and stories. I have the most luck using “travel women” hashtags such as #pinktrotters and #wearetravelgirls. It is recommended that you occasionally change and update your hashtags, just to make sure you are using the most up to date hashtags. The goal of using hashtags is to get noticed, so start with using “smaller” hashtags that do not have a lot of posts, that way you are more likely to be seen. If you are using hashtags that have a million posts already, most likely your post will be buried and people won’t see it.
I also promoted two posts for my blog launch, one was linked with my Facebook promo and received 9 website clicks, and the other was directly through Instagram and received 17 clicks. After looking at the stats I realized that Instagram has a much better reach and I would definitely consider doing more promos directly through Instagram.
You can see my Instagram page here.
I started growing my Pinterest following through Facebook Groups. This has been another account that has been slowly growing, but so far I have been receiving traffic through my pins even though I have a low following.
I also joined a few blogging group boards which increased my Pinterest traffic by more than double. I haven’t received many re-pins through those group boards, possibly because my pins get lost in the mix of the thousands of pins that are on that board. I think it’s still worth joining a few just to get your blog out there.
A few things that I did right from the beginning were to create a feature board for my blog, post several pins from each blog post on that board, and also pin those same pins to other category boards I created. I am constantly pinning as much as I can manually until I feel the need to pay for a pin scheduling program.
You can see my Pinterest account here.
I have not been very active on Twitter since this is such a fast-moving platform which requires constant posting. I am currently not at the point where I want to pay for a scheduling tool that will allow me to schedule Tweets multiple times throughout the day. Doesn’t mean it’s not a great tool for you to try, I just don’t have the time to spend on it at this point.
I do use Twitter for re-tweets and sharing other posts from Facebook Groups. Some of the groups I am involved in have threads specifically for sharing other blog posts on social media, and it’s nice to have Twitter as a sharing option.
You can find my Twitter account here.
Social Media Scheduling
I found that life is so much easier when my posts are pre-scheduled. Luckily, Facebook has a scheduling tool built-in, but Instagram doesn’t. I tried a few different programs, but my favorite and the one I currently use for Instagram is Later.
The reason I chose Later is that there is an app version and a web version. I love having the option to use the web version because I can easily knock out a bunch of posts on my computer, and typing a bunch of posts on my phone is not ideal for my hands.
There is a free and paid version of Later, but so far the free version has been working for me. The free version gives you 30 Instagram posts, which should be plenty for you to start out with. You can sign up for the free version of Later here.
I only recommend products that I have actually tried, use, and love. The main goal of my blog is to share my experiences with others, hoping to inspire you to travel, explore, hike, blog, or whatever adventure you love the most.
The number one reason I share any links with you is to provide you with the information you need in order to plan your adventures. If you happen to make a purchase through my link I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps me keep this blog up and running!
To recap, here are the steps and tools I recommend to start your own blog:
- Get self-hosting through Bluehost
- Decide on a name and purchase a domain, also through Bluehost
- Secure your name on Social Media
- Install WordPress, also through Bluehost
- Get answers to your WordPress questions at WP Beginner
- Install a theme, I use LyraThemes
- Install free plug-ins. The only paid plug-in I use is Social Warfare Pro
- Install Grammarly
- Sign-up for the free version of Trello
- Learn from and read other blogs.
- Sign-up for a free trial of Lightroom,or download the free app
- Consider purchasing Lightroom presets
- Try Canva and create some Pins
- Sign-up for Later to schedule Instagram posts
I hope that this post helps you in some way or another, and as always, I would love to hear your comments!
Are you a blogger? Do you have any tips to share for beginners?