Blogging is a great way to share information and news on a topic. If you believe that you’ve got something special to share with the world, there’s no better platform to express it than on a blog.
And the good news is that blogging is not just a platform where you can express your passion, its also a fantastic source for making money online.
But before we jump ahead of ourselves, let’s start with the basics. You need 3 essential assets to get started right away – a blogging platform, a web host, and a domain name. Each of these assets will cost you money.
If you’re not ready to commit to a financial investment just yet, don’t worry, you can still set up your blog for free using Google’s free blogging platform Blogger. In this post, I’m going to show you the exact steps you need to follow to start your own blog for free using the Blogger platform.
In this post, you will learn how to:
- Choose a great topic to blog about
- Select a good domain name
- Set up your blog on Blogger
- Design your blog (the fun bit!)
How to Choose a Topic for your Blog
Before we get to the actual process of setting up your blog, you need to know what you are going to blog about. Often, newbie bloggers get carried away by stories of bloggers making thousands of dollars working for just a few hours each day. These stories are true, but only for well established blogs. Initially, you have to be prepared to put a lot of time and effort into your project.
One of the first things you must do once you decide to blog is choose a blog topic. This may sound like a simple thing to do, but in reality, it is the most crucial aspect of making yourself stand out among the competition and earning a lot of money. The good news is that focusing on these 3 essential ingredients during your brainstorming session will suffice.
Passion: Choose a topic you are passionate about. You should be able to churn out regular content and you should be in it for the long haul. Your topic choice should be one you can’t wait to get up every morning and start writing about. A simple example could be healthy recipes.
You may be very self conscious about the health of your loved ones and spend a lot of time working on new recipes that are not only good for your family but also ones that taste great. After all, if all healthy food were all great tasting ones, we would opt for it instead of those juicy burgers and fries.
USP: Your topic choice must have a Unique Selling Point (USP). You must be able to differentiate yourself from thousands of others who are blogging. You must be prepared to be an expert in the field or no one will be interested in what you have to say. Ask yourself what skills you have, what makes your skill unique and why people would listen to you and not someone else.
Going with the previous example, there are hundreds of food bloggers who write about healthy foods. What makes you stand out from them? Do you have the right educational qualification to talk about healthy foods? Do you conduct special sessions via Skype to engage with people who want to follow a healthy diet?
Marketability: Your topic choice must generate plenty of interest and demand. If you try to cater to the interests of the whole world, your website will have no sense of direction. Choose a topic that you can relate to a target audience. If your skill can help people solve a real problem in their life, then you can write for such an audience.
Again, the health industry is a great niche that offers plenty of opportunities to make your voice heard. While you are thinking about your topic marketability, also consider how you intend to make money from your content.
Will you be choosing CPM programs like Adsense? Will you be selling your services? If so, will there be enough demand for your services to allow you to make money from it. Will you be affiliating to sell other people’s products? If so, is there a genuine demand for such products?
Whatever topic you choose, ensure that it contains all these 3 essential ingredients.
How to Choose a Name for your Blog
Once you have decided on a topic, its time to pick out a great title because this is the name that readers will remember in the years to come. Avoid a title that is quickly forgettable or too common to remember. Also avoid being too specific and leave room for more expansive topics. Your blog title should be memorable, catchy and short and relate to your blog topic. Keep these 3 factors in mind when thinking about a blog name.
Use descriptive words: These are the keywords that best describe your content and how it will benefit the readers.
Use a brand name: Alternatively, you can pick a brand name. These are names that are not descriptive but short and catchy. You can mix 2 whole words to create one, such as Face+Book or even mesh words like Pin+Interest=Pinterest. Degraeve is a site that can help you come up with cool new words you can use.
Use your own name: If you want your blog to be representative of you, you can simply create a title with your name.
Write down a list of at least 7-8 blog names that are acceptable. If your name includes common words, chances are someone has already taken it up. So have a list of alternative titles ready at hand before you move on to the next step.
Now that you’ve picked out a list of possible names that best represent your blog, its time to set it up on the blogging platform.
How to Create a Free Blogger account
Blogger is a free weblog publishing tool from Google that lets you share text, photos and videos with the world. It offers plenty of free templates, widgets and themes to make your blog look classy and professional. This is one of the most popular blogging platforms for newbie bloggers after WordPress.
It is not completely flexible like WordPress.org, but you get quick access to Google’s tools like Google Analytics and Google Adsense and they are easily integrated into the blog as well. The limitations with Blogger is that it has fewer themes and storage space compared to platforms like WordPress.com, you don’t have the freedom of self hosting the blog and are dependent on Blogger’s current offerings. Plus, your blog will have .BLOGSPOT appended to the title. (which can be changed.) Another thing – the Blogger platform doesn’t have a powerful and supportive community as WordPress does.
Despite the limitations, Blogger is still an extremely popular platform to get started on. So let’s get going.
To create your Blogger account, here’s what you need to do:
1. Open up your web browser and go to Blogger.com
2. You will be directed to sign in with your Google account credentials. If you don’t have a Google account, you can create one right away.
3. Once you are signed in, you will see the Welcome screen. Here you will be asked to choose a profile option. You can create a Google + profile or maintain a limited profile if you want to use a pseudonym. I recommend that you connect to a Google + profile as the social platform is a great place to be sharing your content with readers.
4. In the next screen, your Display name will be displayed. Confirm the details and click Continue to Blogger.
5. The next screen is where you set up your new blog. On the left side of the screen, click New Blog.
6. In the pop up, enter the name you decided for your blog and input your blog URL. Remember, the extension .blogspot.com will be appended to the blog name automatically.
7. Then select a template layout and click Create blog! (You can change the template later, so simply select an option for now.)
8. You will now be taken to the Blogger dashboard where you can see links to customize your blog, your page views and blog stat updates and other Blogger related news and guides.
You are now ready to start customizing your blog to give it a polished and professional look.
How to Design and Customize Your Blogger Blog
Now that you’ve configured your blog in Blogger, let’s take a look at how it appears to your readers.
On the Blogger dashboard, click View blog. This is what Pinch of Nutrition looks like. Let’s do a big of customization to make it look more professional. Let’s start with changing the template design.
1. On the Blogger dashboard, click the More options drop-down list and click Template. (You can also find some cool premium Blogger themes for your website at Themeforest.)
2. Scroll through the thumbnail of the various template designs and click on a thumbnail to preview it. Once you settle on a theme you like, click Apply to Blog.
3. On the Template page, you can now do further customization. Click Customize.
4. In the Blogger Template Designer page, at the top left of the screen, you have options to choose more template designs, set a background color, adjust widths, modify the layout, and use other advanced options. Click Background to add a new background color.
5. Similarly, you can go to Adjust widths and Advanced to modify the width of your layout and change the fonts, text color, and background color of the blog. If you plan to adjust the width, make sure that the best browser compatibility option is to keep the width of the blog at or under 930 pixels. If you want to add advertising to your sidebar, the Right Sidebar should be at least 300 pixels wide.
6. When you are done with all the changes, click Apply to Blog at the top of the screen.
7. Click Back to Blogger to go back to the dashboard screen.
8. Now its time to start adding some widgets to the sidebar. On the left pane, click Layouts.
9. The layout screen will be displayed showing you the main content area and sidebar area where you can add widgets or gadgets of your choice. Click on the Header layout to modify your header.
10. In the configure Header pop up box, enter the blog description, choose an image header option if you like, and select a placement style. When you are satisfied with the header changes, click OK.
11. Similarly, click on the Edit link for About me, Blog Archive, Nav Bar, and Attribution and make the changes you desire.
12. Then on the Sidebar 1 layout, click Add a Gadget.
13. In the Add a Gadget pop up window, select gadgets you want to add to the sidebar. You can configure Adsense, Search Box, Popular posts, Subscription Links to start off with.
14. Next, you can click the Edit link in the Favicon section to add your blog favicon.
Now that you have made some basic customization to the blog, its time to start publishing some great content your audience will love.
Here’s what my sample blog looks like after customization and after publishing a few posts.
How to Set Up a Custom Domain Blog for Your Blog
If you don’t want your blog to display the .blogspot tag in your domain name, you can create a custom domain name for your blog. This can be done any time, even after you set up your blog on Blogger or while you are creating your blog itself. You will have to spend a bit of money for purchasing the domain name though. Let’s see how you can do this.
1. Buy a domain name from a company like GoDaddy or Namecheap. Your blog name should now look like http://example.com or in my example http://pinchofgoodhealth.com.
2. On the Blogger dashboard, on the left pane, click Settings.
3. In the Settings page, in the Publishing section, click + Set up a third-party URL for your blog .
4. Add the domain name you purchased earlier and click Save. Note: You must include www. before your blog name or you will receive an error. Blogs hosted at naked domains such as : yourdomain.com are not accepted.
5. The next step involves setting up the CNAME. Each CNAME has 2 parts Name, Label or Host and Destination, Target or Points to. The first CNAME is the same for everyone; Name being “www” and Destination “ghs.google.com.” The second CNAME is specific to your blog and your Google Account. You can find these details in the place where you registered your domain name such as GoDaddy. The control panel is where you will find the CNAME details. You can find more information on how to find the CNAME for various registrars here.
Wait for 24 hours for your DNS settings to completely propagate.
Once the Settings are activated, your blogspot.com address will redirect to your new custom domain.