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Saturday, December 21, 2013

HOW TO START A SUCCESSFUL BLOG TODAY

NOTE: The Minimalists’ blog is hosted by InMotion Hosting .
For only $3.49 a month, InMotion can help you set up and
host your blog. Readers at The Minimalists can use this
link to receive a 50% discount off the monthly price .

How to Start a Blog or Website: Step-by-Step Instructions

So you don’t have any idea where to start, right? Guess what—neither
did we. We were clueless. Literally. When we started The Minimalists a
few years ago, we had no idea how to start a blog. We could hardly spell
HTML, let alone build a beautiful website.
But good news: it’s easier than you think. We’ve learned a ton during
our ascent to 2 million readers. And now you can learn from our pain
and suffering to circumvent much of the tedium involved in creating a
successful blog. Here’s how we started our blog, step by step (followed
by additional rationale and insights below):

1. Domain and Hosting . The first thing we did was go to InMotion
Hosting and register our domain (note: we didn’t even need to set
up a WordPress page first; InMotion does all that for you).
InMotion’s basic price is $3.49 a month, which works for 99% of
people (note: readers at The Minimalists can use this link receive a
50% discount off the monthly price). Then, we did a simple install of
WordPress through InMotion (and when we had questions we were
able to chat with the “live chat” folks at InMotion for free; they
pointed us in the right direction and made the set-up super easy).

2. Theme. A good theme gives you the look and feel you want for your
blog, allowing you to design your blog exactly how you want it to
look. If you’re not a coder (we certainly weren’t), then a theme
makes the design work a million times easier. Plus, once you
purchase a theme, which are inexpensive for the time they save
you, you own it for life. A theme has two halves: the framework (the
bones) and the Child Theme (the beauty):
Framework. There are several WordPress theme frameworks on
the market, but Genesis is without a doubt the best and most
flexible choice. Genesis is the first half of your theme. Many
themes merely handle the aesthetics of your new blog, but
Genesis provides a necessary foundation for your Child
Theme. Simply go to StudioPress and purchase the Genesis
Framework.
Child Theme. After you get your Genesis Framework, you’ll want
to find that right Child Theme (which is just a silly way to say
“blog design”). The Minimalists uses the beautiful “tru” theme,
which is available at BYLT, the Genesis Community
Marketplace. Head on over to BYLT , browse their carefully
curated collection of themes, and find the design that’s right
for you.

3. Tinkering . Once we had our domain, hosting, WordPress, and
theme, we spent a lot of time tweaking the theme to get the look and
feel we wanted (i.e., making our vision a reality). Then we spent
even more time tweaking the theme and arguing about it and
tweaking it some more. We also set up a free Feedburner account so
people could subscribe to our site via email and RSS subscriptions.
And then we established a free Google Analytics account to track
our stats. Feedburner and Google Analytics were both easy to sign
up for, and we still use both today.

4. Plugins . We use only a few plugins on our site: “Google Analytics for
WordPress” and really simple Facebook and Twitter share-button
plugins (since human beings are intrinsically wired to share value,
it’s important to make your posts easy to share with others). They
take just a few seconds (literally a few seconds, it’s just a click of a
button) to install once your site is all set up. And if you really want
to play around with some cool plugins, check out Eight Deuce
Media’s 11 WordPress Plugins That Will Get You Laid.

5. Content. Last, via WordPress we started writing and uploading the
content for our pages: About Page, Contact Page, Start Here Page,
Books Page, Events Page, Archives Page, etc. Next, we designed our
logo using free images we found online and text from a regular
word-processing program. Then we put a picture of ourselves in the
header (this is important because people identify with people, not
logos). Finally we started writing new blog posts and posting them
regularly (at least once a week). And the rest is history.
15 Reasons You Should Blog
We were inspired to research and write this essay after reading Joshua
Becker’s 15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog , in which he discusses 15
great reasons why you should start a blog. “Why” being the key word
here. In other words, he talks about the purpose of blogging, not just
how to start a blog. That’s what all these other blogs about blogging
seem to miss, they miss the purpose— the why.
3 Reasons You Should NOT Blog
So Becker gave you 15 reasons why you should start a blog, and we’ve
shown you how to start a blog, step-by-step, based on our personal
experience, but after giving you those detailed instructions—which
could literally save you the hundreds of hours of wasted time—we also
want to give you some good reasons why you should not start a blog.
(Keep in mind that these reasons are just our opinions and we do not
pretend to offer them up as some sort of collection of empirical blogging
maxims.)
1. Money . You should not start a blog to make money. We need to get
that out of the way first. If your primary objective is to replace
your full-time income from blogging, forget about it. It doesn’t work
that way. Do you think that Jimi Hendrix picked up his first guitar
so he could “supplement his income”? No, he didn’t. Rather, he did
it for the love of it, for the joy and fulfillment he received, and the
income came thereafter, much later actually.
2. Notoriety. Don’t plan on getting “Internet famous” right away. Not
every site grows as fast as ours did, but that’s totally OK. The truth
is that we kind of got lucky. We got a great domain name, somehow
cobbled together a logo and site design that people really liked, we
write fairly well, and our content connects with people in a unique
way. We didn’t start this site to become “famous” though. That’d be
ridiculous. Our notoriety and quick rise to “fame,” as it were, came
as a surprise to us, and was a result of a little luck and a lot of
hard, passionate work.
3. Traffic. Not all traffic is good traffic (as we explained here), so don’t
worry about getting thousands of readers right away.
The funny thing is that all these things can happen. You could make a
full-time income off of your blog; we do it, Corbett Barr does it, and so
do many others. And you could become Internet famous like Leo
Babauta or Chris Brogan . But if these are the sole reasons why you blog,
you’ll be miserable, because it will seem like a job, and if it feels like a
job you won’t be passionate about it, and so you’ll either (a) hate it, (b)
fall flat on your face, or (c) hate it and fall flat on your face.
Instead, write because you’re passionate about it…

20 Recommendations for Your Blog

We receive plenty of emails asking for advice about how to start a blog.
About blog topics. About how to blog. About creating meaningful
content. About whether we wear boxers or briefs. These are the
answers and recommendations we tend to give.

1. Find Your Niche. You needn’t have a niche, but it helps. What are
you passionate about? Running? Cooking? Being a parent? Have you
found your passion? If so, whatever it is, write about that. If not,
then you must first find your passion. (Note: We generally
recommend that people don’t blog about minimalism or the paleo
diet or any other heavily saturated topic. But what we really mean
when we say this is: don’t blog about something unless you have a
unique perspective. If you’ve embraced simple living and have a
unique perspective, then by all means have at it. Enjoy yourself.)

2. Define Your Ideal Readers . Once you’ve found your niche, you need
to know who will be reading your stuff. For example, we write
about living intentionally; our ideal readers are people who are
interested in exploring minimalism so they can clear the path
toward more meaningful lives. If you want to write about your
newborn baby growing up, that’s great; your ideal readers are
probably your friends and family, and that’s wonderful. If you
want to write about restoring classic cars, that’s cool too. Tailor
your writing to your readers (whether it’s your family or your local
community or whomever else will read your blog).

3. Add Value. Your content must add value to your readers’ lives. This
is the only way you will get Great Quality Readers to your site (and
keep them coming back). Adding value is the only way to get
someone’s longterm buy-in. We both learned this after a decade of
leading and managing people in the corporate world.

4. Be Original . Yes, there are other blogs out there about the same thing
you want to write about. Q: So why is your blog any different? A:
Because of you . You are what makes your blog different; it’s about
your perspective, your creativity, the value that you add.

5. Be Interesting. Write epic , awesome content. Especially if you want
people to share it with others.

6. Be Yourself . Part of being interesting is telling your story. Every
person is unique, and your story is an important one. The
important part of story telling, however, is removing the
superfluous details that make the story uninteresting. A great
storyteller removes 99% of what really happens—the absorptive
details—and leaves the interesting 1% for the reader.

7. Be Honest. Your blog needs to be real—it needs to feel real—if you
want people to read it. You can be your blog or your blog can be
you. That is, do you really embody the stuff that you write about? If
not, people will see through you. “Be the change you want to see in
the world,” is the famous Gandhi quote. Perhaps bloggers should be
the blog they want to write for the world.

8. Transparency . Being transparent is different from being honest. You
needn’t share every detail about your life just for the sake of being
honest. Always be honest, and be transparent when it adds value to
what you’re writing. (You won’t ever see pictures of us using the
restroom on our site; it’s just not relevant.)

9. Time . Once you’ve learned how to start a blog, you’ll learn that
blogging takes a lot of time, especially if you’re as neurotic as we
are (we spent over 10 hours testing the fonts on this site). And see
those black Twitter and Facebook icons in the header? We spent
four hours on those). That said, once you have your design set up,
don’t tweak it too much, spend the time on your writing.

10. Vision . The reason our site design looks good is because we have a
great host , we have a great theme, and most important, we had a
vision of how we wanted our blog to look. Once we had the vision,
we worked hard to make that vision a reality. (N.B. neither of us
had any design experience prior to starting this site.) It’s hard to
create a great looking site if you don’t know what you want it to
look like.

11. Find Your Voice . Over time, good writers discover their voice and
their writing tends to develop a certain aesthetic, one that is
appealing to their readers. Finding your voice makes your writing
feel more alive, more real, more urgent. Read Joshua’s essay about
Finding Your Voice.

12. We Instead of You . Use statements of we/our rather than you/your,
especially when talking about negative behaviors or tendencies. It
reads far less accusatorially. Think of it this way: we’re writing
peer-to-peer; we are not gods.

13. When to Post . Q: When is the best day/time to post a blog post?
Answer: It doesn’t really matter. We don’t adhere to a particular
schedule. Some weeks we post one essay; sometimes we post three.
It’s important to write consistently, but you needn’t get too bogged
down in the details.

14. Social Media. Yes, we recommend using Twitter and Facebook to
help connect with readers and other bloggers, but don’t get too
caught up in it. Focus on the writing first, social media thereafter.

15. Ignore Negative Criticism and Stupidity . Sure, we get a lot of negative
comments and stupid questions from ignorant people who aren’t
really our readers (e.g., negative comments like ”You’re not real
minimalists” and stupid questions like “Are you guys gay?”). We
call these people seagulls: they fly in, shit on your site, and fly
away. But we pay them no mind; our site is not for them. Delete
their comment and move on.

16. Research. Spend your time researching what you’re writing about.
The reason we are able to use so many helpful, relevant links in our
essays is because we put in the time to research our topics. That
doesn’t mean that we read every blog regularly, but we do put in
the time reading them when we’re doing our research.

17. Keep It Simple . This is where minimalism can be applied to any
blog, irrespective of its genre. No need to place superfluous
advertisements or widgets all over your site; stick to the basics and
remove anything you don’t need, remove anything that doesn’t add
value.

18. Picture. Put a picture of yourself on your blog. People identify with
other people. If two goofy guys from Ohio aren’t too afraid to put
there pictures on their site, then you have nothing to worry about.

19. Comments. If you’re going to have comments on your site, then read
The Five Words That Kill Your Blog by Scott Stratten.

20. Live Your Life . You’re blogging about your life (or about certain
aspects of your life, at least), so you still need to live your life.
There are things that we always put before writing: exercise, health,
relationships, experiences, personal growth, contribution.
Now that you’ve learned how to start a blog—and why you should start
a blog—you can subscribe to The Minimalists via email to receive free
essays from Joshua and Ryan. (No spam. Ever. Spam is yucky!)

Reminder: The Minimalists’ blog is hosted by InMotion Hosting . For
only $3.49 a month, InMotion can help you set up and host your
blog. Readers at The Minimalists can use this link to receive a 50%
discount off the monthly price.