So now you’re thinking about starting your small business blog – which is great – but you have no clue where to start.
It’s okay, you’re not alone.
Just Google “How to start blogging for your small business” and not surprisingly, there are a TON of search results. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really help you either because we all know how much of a rabbit hole Google searching can turn into…
Starting a blog isn’t necessarily daunting, but if you’re brand new to it then knowing where to start can be the biggest obstacle.
A (Practical) Guide to Starting Your Small Business Blog
Since sharing is caring, I thought I would give you the lowdown on everything I’ve learned so far about building a business blog. And since there is a ton to learn, I’ll be breaking it down into a series of posts.
And, since I like my marketing advice to be simple and no-fluff, I’m keeping it practical and actionable. Seriously!
The 5-part series will cover:
- How to Actually Set Up Your Small Business Blog (taking care of tech first with this post)
- Things You’ll Need to Consider Before Committing to Blogging for Your Small Business
- How to Create Good Content (even if you think your writing skills are horrible)
- Where You Should Promote Your Blog (in order to build an audience)
- Simple Hacks for Creating Content Your Readers Will Want to Read (on a regular basis)
Because building a blog in theory may seem like a breeze, but when you sit down to start the process, it can be anything but!
Let’s dig in to the “tech”, shall we?
How to Actually Set Up Your Small Business Blog
If you already use WordPress for your website, then adding a blog will actually be easy. You can do this through your dashboard. Here is a good primer on how to do this.
BUT if you’re using a different content management system for your website, then you’ll have to enlist the help of a web designer or developer since it involves a more technical process. Here’s how to find a freelance web designer.
When I started my first blog, I had no idea what web hosting was or just how important choosing a theme would be (hint: it’s more than just how the blog looks and is VERY important). So let’s take care of what seems to confuse people the most – the ‘technical’ side of starting a business blog.
1. Choose your blogging platform.
This is important.
Choosing the wrong platform won’t necessarily make or break you, but it can make things more difficult than they need to be. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there are a lot of blogging platform options out there. But I’ll be completely honest here – WordPress is popular for a reason. I didn’t do much research before I decided to use WordPress for this site and my personal blog. It’s versatile, user-friendly and mature.
Why is the last point important? Since WP has been around for over a decade, it means they’ve had time to work out the kinks, which is probably why 25% of websites globally use WordPress.
But you should know that there are two types of WordPress sites: WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
WordPress.com allows you to set up a blog and its domain in minutes. You’ll get a domain name like this: www.yoursite.wordpress.com. If you’re serious about turning your small business blog into a valuable marketing asset, then don’t go this route.
WordPress.org also allows a simple setup, although complete non-techies might need a bit of help, or in my case just a lot more time and patience, to help with the initial setup. Why? Because you have to choose a web hosting provider first, then install WordPress.
What is a self-hosted blog?
I actually asked this very question. Essentially, it means you pay for a hosting account (more on that below) and host the blog and domain yourself. It also means you have more control on the website overall – functionality, customization and metrics to name a few highlights. Metrics are key if you plan on building a long-term online presence. And if you know the importance of blogging, you know that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.
Both WordPress versions are free. It’s your domain and web hosting that will cost a bit but we will touch on that later.
There is a World Outside of WordPress But…
Of course, WordPress isn’t the end all and be all. There are other free blogging platforms out there like Weebly, Joomla and Drupal. But these platforms work like WordPress.com and in the long run, they won’t work well for your business blog. There are too many restrictions when it comes to customization, functionality and even SEO that will make having a successful business blog difficult.
2. Choose a (WordPress) theme.
One of the great features of WordPress is that you can customize the look and functionality of your blog using a theme.
But wait – what is a WordPress theme?
It’s a collection of files that work together to produce a graphical interface with an underlying unifying design for a weblog. These files are called template files. The theme modifies the way the site is displayed, without modifying the underlying software.
There are a slew of free themes available within the WordPress Theme Directory to get you started. Some great WordPress themes I’d recommend are:
- Responsive Business – it’s clean, uncluttered, SEO-ready and easy to setup
- Simple Business – the name says it all; this is a simple, clean, modern and scalable theme that can grow with your blog
- Apex – this is a responsive, minimally designed, classic 2 column layout with sidebar blog theme
Things To Think About When Choosing a Theme
- Is it responsive? This means that your blog will display properly no matter what device is used to view it – mobile, desktop, and tablet.
- What kind of support systems are in place for this theme? Is a living, breathing customer support person available to take your call when needed or are there online forums only?
- What is the level of customization that is available to you? For example, changing colours, buttons, widgets and navigation menus.
3. Register a domain name.
Now that you’ve figured out which platform will work best for you, you’ll also need to register a domain name for your business blog.
What is a domain name?
The domain name is the URL that readers will use to access your blog across the web. This is the www.yourcompany.com part. When you sign up for web hosting, the provider can also register the domain for you. But if you already have a website up and running, you probably already have web hosting in place. If that’s the case, you’ll have to go through a domain registrar.
Are you wondering: what is a domain registrar?
A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity that manages the reservation of Internet domain names, like NameCheap or GoDaddy.
When choosing a domain, try to get a .com – especially if your company website has a .com and if possible, use your trademarked business name if it’s available. The cost to register your domain is around $10 (yes, you’re paying just to have a “space” on the internet) a year and if you’re willing to pay for more than one year up-front, the price will go down.
Your domain should be easy to remember but specific enough to differentiate you from other sites with similar names.
4. Purchase web hosting.
Web hosting is basically paying rent on a provider’s servers to make sure your website is accessible on the internet. So while your blogging platform is free, you still need to pay to have your blog hosted, which costs more than the domain rental.
There are lots of options for your web hosting but the most popular seem to be GoDaddy (this site is hosted on GoDaddy), Bluehost and Hostgator. In my opinion, it doesn’t really matter who you choose and since there are so many options, just trying to figure out which one to go with can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, it comes down to preference (or convenience in my case!).
5. Install Your Blogging Platform
This was the part that got me the best. After doing my research on web hosting, choosing a domain name for my blog and even doing research on what WordPress theme I liked the best, I didn’t realize I actually had to install WordPress first in order to get to the fun part of theme customization and content creation.
To spare you the gory details of how I installed my blogging platform, here’s a great slideshow tutorial to show you how.
Whether a small business, startup or solopreneur, sometimes you have to just do things yourself – and if you’re completely new to the tech side of creating content, simple steps like this one could easily derail your motivation and set you back more time than you’d like.
And there you have it. Your blog has officially been set up!
Once your blogging platform has been installed, go ahead and activate your favourite blog theme and start familiarizing yourself with how the platform works.
Since I’m slightly biased towards WordPress, I’m going to assume you choose it as your blogging platform. Here’s an awesome guide (with videos!) from FirstSiteGuide on how to use WordPress.
Did I miss anything on how to actually set up your small business blog? Let me know in a comment below!