How to start a business blog: An 11-step guide

Dec 27, 2016 | Beginner Basics

This article is all about how to start a business blog – especially your first business blog.

Among all the different tactics for marketing a new business, a blog stands out as one of the most effective. While it’s one thing to have a great business idea, it’s another thing entirely to get that idea across to people.

A blog gives you that power.

In our Internet-driven information culture, blogs are an essential way for people to learn about ideas, trends, issues and solutions that matter to them. As your target audience reads blog articles to educate themselves about these things, they’ll only learn about your solution if you have a blog, too.

Plus, your blog is the hub of your content marketing tactics: a central place toward which all your other far-flung interactions (social posts, tweets, discussion comments, etc.) point.

And since your blog is a part of your business’s website, it’s a key way to draw visitors to your adjacent site pages – such as an order form or other call to action. Bingo!

 

Starting a business blog can be easy

Even if you’re not a trained business writer, you can gain an audience with a business blog. Think of it as moving from sharing your ideas with close family and friends, to getting in front of hundreds, thousands or even millions of people!

But how do you begin? How do you start a business blog?

The best way to learn how to start a blog is to start blogging and learn by doing.

 

How I can help you

I built my first startup website and blog back in 2008 when I was just starting my consulting practice. I wish I’d had this kind of guide at the time.

Although I’d worked with web developers and writers as I managed web marketing initiatives for other companies, I’d never personally created a website by myself. I had some ideas about what I wanted to say and how I wanted my online presence to look, but I didn’t really understand how to realize that vision. So I made lots of mistakes, got plenty frustrated and started over a few times. Eventually I had a site, a blog and a few visitors every month. It was incredibly invigorating!

Since then, I’ve gotten better at building blogs and websites – enough to build several for my clients and a few more for my own business. Fortunately, there’re some amazing tools that help anyone with a bit of creativity, energy and planning build their own blog relatively easily.

I’d like to share my early experience of what works best so you can get a faster start than I did.

So, here’s Content Marketing Startup’s 11-step beginners’ guide for “How to start a business blog.” If you’re looking for vital information on how to start a business blog and website, you’ve come to the right place.

 

11 steps to start a business blog

  1. Choose a topic (determine your niche)
  2. Decide on a name (your blog’s URL)
  3. Set up your blog with a hosting service
  4. Get a logo and decide brand colors
  5. Install WordPress and decide on a theme
  6. Install and set up your theme
  7. Add some key plugins
  8. Configure your blog page and post pages
  9. Get found online (basic optimization)
  10. Outline your first post and plan others
  11. Start writing!

1. Choose a topic – determine your unique niche

You probably already have an idea of what you want your business focus to be. Presumably it’s something about which you have a fair amount of knowledge and passion, or that interests you so much that you can quickly learn more. That’s good, because your knowledge and passion are what you’re going to share with others as you write your blog.

Before you start your blog, you may want to give some thought to this focus, and narrow it down even further. The more specific you can be, the more you’ll be able to specialize and offer unique value to your readers. Spend some time to explore your topic online and see where there might be opportunities to expound on a particular niche.

For example, when I decided to start Content Marketing Startup, I knew I had knowledge and passion in the area of content marketing. There are hundreds of sites about content marketing, but most of them are aimed at established businesses with larger marketing departments and sophisticated content marketing toolsets. By focusing on content marketing beginners, and companies in the early startup stage, I found my unique niche.

Start a business blog with a narrow focus

A narrower focus makes it easier for one person (you) to write efficiently. Your initial goal isn’t to publish the definitive encyclopedia about a business category, but instead to define a manageable segment that you can start with and that has some room to grow over time.

B2B businesses can narrow a broad topic by a number of factors, including:

  • Geography (your local community, for example)
  • Industry segment (grocery stores instead of retail stores, for example)
  • Business size (solo operators, small, medium, large, enterprise)
  • Specialized business roles (cash receipts vs. accounting, for example)
  • Expertise (beginner vs. advanced)

B2C businesses can use these factors to narrow their focus:

  • Geography (local, state, region, etc.)
  • Narrower sub-topics (music > jazz > bebop > 1950s, for example)
  • Audience demographics (male/female, age, etc.)

When you’ve determined your niche, do a competitive review. Pick some key words that describe your topic and use Google to see what else is out there. If you find similar sites, decide how your topic will be different from the competition.

2. Decide on a name (your blog’s URL)

Even if you have an established name for your startup or growing business, you’ll still need a web address for your blog: its domain name or URL. And that can be a challenge, because many of the more desirable URL’s have already been snatched up.

There are over a billion websites these days, meaning many of the “best” site names and phrases are taken.

So, this step is going to take some creative brainstorming. Begin by building a list – a long list – of all the possible site names you can think of. Stay open, flexible and creative. Keep going even if you think you’ve found the perfect name – you may not get your first choice, or even one of your top ten choices.

Some guidelines for picking a domain name

  • Use the .com extension. Although there are others (.biz, .net, etc.) they aren’t as common and could cause confusion for people who search for you.
  • Keep it obvious. You want people to understand what your blog is about by looking at the URL. ContentMarketingStartup.com, for example.
  • Keep it short. Okay, I didn’t follow my own rule on this one. But shorter is better, easier to type, and more memorable. Use a thesaurus to find shorter synonyms for key words.
  • Avoid special characters such as dashes, slashes, asterisks, and others.
  • Avoid words with multiple spellings (capital, capitol) to prevent mistyping.
  • Make sure the URL looks good when strung together as one word without spaces or capitalization (Tom Therapist, for example).
  • Show a few others your top choices to get their feedback. Is your name memorable? Does it have a pleasing sound?

When you have a list that meets these criteria, use Bluehost or another hosting service to check if the domain name is available.

Bluehost's hosting / domains menuBluehost's domain checker dialog box

Note: For some of the resources recommended in this guide, Content Marketing Startup receives an affiliate commission from purchases you make. I only recommend products I’ve used and found to be helpful.

3. Set up your blog with a hosting service

A hosting service operates specialized web servers that house and manage websites. They charge a fee for the space your site occupies on their server, similar to rent, freeing you from the technical aspects of operating the server itself.

By paying a small monthly fee to host your business blog, you maintain control of your domain name and the content of your website. Although there are free alternatives to paying for hosting, these options can restrict your domain name and limit your ability to conduct business on the site (via advertising, for example).

WordPress: self hosted vs. free hosting

The most popular coding platform for websites today is WordPress, and it’s especially suitable for startups, entrepreneurs and freelancers. The WordPress code platform itself is a free and open standard. However, you have two options when it comes to hosting your WordPress-based site:

  1. Hosting on WordPress.com, which is a free hosting service (with restrictions)
  2. Installing WordPress on a hosting service, known as “self hosting”

I recommend the self-hosted approach for the control it gives you over your startup business branding and revenue flexibility. In particular, I highly recommend hosting your WordPress-based site on Bluehost.

Bluehost: Our recommended hosting service

Bluehost powers over 2 million websites worldwide. They offer a variety of hosting plans for a range of needs. All plans include a free domain name. (Buying your domain from the service that hosts your blog is easier than transferring it from somewhere else.)

The least expensive plan handles one website, which is fine for getting started. You can upgrade to a higher-level plan anytime. Bluehost offers really low introductory prices for your first year, but even their ongoing prices are very reasonable.

Most importantly, Bluehost’s technology is very stable and their customer service is reliable and helpful. After researching and using several other hosting services, I’ve settled on Bluehost and I’ve been very satisfied with my choice.

4. Get a logo and decide brand colors

Do you have a logo yet? If not, this would be a good time to get one, because a logo and its associated colors will set the tone for the design of your blog and site, and will be the first visual element a visitor will see.

Your logo can be as simple as your company name written in a particular font. You can create a text-only logo yourself by trying different typography.

You could also include a graphic element or symbol to reinforce your company’s name and its unique position and strengths. There are thousands of icons and simple graphics available for licensing through stock image services. Combine an image with your company name in a variety of ways until you find something that you like. Be sure you have the legal right to use an image rather than simply copying it from the web.
If you don’t feel confident with do-it-yourself design, or you want a higher-quality brand image, there are a number of services that will create a simple logo for you for as little as $15-$25 or so.

And if you want an even better image, engage a friend with design skills or a freelance graphic designer to create one for you. For this latter option, be prepared to pay anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

Whichever route you choose, pay particular attention to the colors you use. Two or three colors from your logo can act as the primary and secondary colors you use on your website and blog. Choose colors that are complementary, that underscore your company’s personality and image, and that display well on a computer or mobile device.

5. Install WordPress and decide on a theme

Okay. You’ve got a niche topic with a memorable domain name, a hosting service for your blog, and a cool logo with some smashing colors. Now it’s time to start putting the first elements of your site in place. The first two of those are WordPress and a theme.

WordPress is like Microsoft Word for blogs: It provides the underlying structure for organizing website content into pages, posts, menus, graphics and other pieces.

A theme is like a Microsoft Word template for WordPress: It provides some predefined tools and layouts so you can create a blog with a particular look and function.

One-click WordPress installation on Bluehost

Bluehost provides a “one click” installation that makes it easy to upload WordPress to your chosen website domain.

Log into your Bluehost account, then choose “Wordpress tools” from the top menu and “New Install” from the side menu. (Your screen and menu options might look different.)

  1. Select your domain name from the drop-down menu
  2. Give your blog a title
  3. Enter your administrator name, password and email (write these down).
  4. Click “Install WordPress” and Bluehost takes care of the rest!

Log into your site using /wp-admin

Once WordPress is installed you can log into your site as an administrator.

In your browser’s address bar, enter: [yourdomain.com]/wp-admin replacing [yourdomain.com] with the domain name of your site. Log in using the admin name and password you set up earlier during WordPress installation.

Once you’re logged in, the WordPress administrative Dashboard will display, showing your site name in the upper left. Click your site name to see what your new site looks like so far.

Not much to see, is there? That’s because you don’t have any content other than a default “Hello World” blog post provided for new WordPress sites. Also, you’re using the default WordPress site layout, which is similar to starting with a blank page in Microsoft Word.

To amp up the look of your site, you’ll need a theme (a toolkit and layout template for your site) and your own original content.

Decide on a theme

A host of talented designers, programmers and software publishers have developed a gigantic library of WordPress themes. A few themes come bundled with WordPress itself; many more are available for free; and still more are available for a modest commercial licensing cost.

Themes can provide developers (and entrepreneurial do-it-yourselfers) with amazing flexibility on website typography, layout, graphic treatment, menu behavior, color settings and more using tools that range from intuitive visual editors to complex coding frameworks.

The challenge for content marketing startups?

  1. There are too many themes, making research and selection a pain
  2. Not all themes handle PCs, tablets and mobile devices equally well
  3. Learning a theme thoroughly takes awhile, meaning once you pick one, it’s best if it’s flexible and powerful enough to use again for another website

That’s why I recommend Divi, the theme I use at ContentMarketingStartup.com

  • It’s one of the most capable themes available, used by thousands of developers.
  • It provides an advanced Visual Builder that makes it easier for website beginners to create and edit web pages.
  • It’s fully responsive to different screen sizes.
  • And it’s got enough flexibility and power to create almost any kind of business blog and website, from freelancers to technology developers.

Divi is part of Elegant Themes’ collection of 87 different themes, all for one price as low as $69/year. Even for a frugal entrepreneur like myself, it’s well worth it.

6. Install and set up your theme

Using the Appearance / Themes / Add New menu options in WordPress, you can select a theme and click Install to add it to your WordPress installation. Then click Activate to make it your selected theme.

If you license a theme such as Divi, you’ll gain access to a .zip file that contains the theme’s resources and code. Download that file to your computer, then use Appearance / Themes / Add New in WordPress and click the Upload Theme button at the top of the screen to add it to your installation. Then Activate it to make it your selected theme.

Once you’ve installed and activated your chosen theme, you’ll need to do some theme set up. Each theme is different, so follow the documentation carefully before proceeding. Most themes also provide an online forum to ask questions, and there’s always Google if you run into a issue you can’t solve otherwise.

Divi theme setup

Divi comes with extensive documentation including many video lessons. Start by learning about and configuring Divi’s Theme Options, which are site-wide settings that control your site’s color choices, navigation, layout and other site elements.

You’ll also want to explore the Divi Theme Customizer, which gives you even more control over menu behavior, buttons, page design, and other site specifics.

Visit the Content Marketing Startup blog for detailed tutorials on using Divi to create your business blog and website look and feel.

7. Add some key plugins

Plugins are modules that extend WordPress functionality. There are thousands of them; most are free and some carry a small license fee.

As you develop your blog and website, you’ll likely come across a need for a particular function that only a plugin can provide. Use the WordPress Plugins / Add New menu to display a directory of available plugins, or conduct a Google search.

The WordPress Plugin Directory allows you to filter as you search and displays the number of active installations for each plugin, its user rating, and whether or not it’s compatible with your version of WordPress. Use these factors to decide if a plugin is a good solution for your needs.

Here are some key plugins I recommend:

Coming Soon by SeedProd displays a customizable Coming Soon message to visitors while you work on your blog and site behind the scenes prior to launch. Free basic version; Pro version available.

Akismet protects your blog from spam. Highly recommended. $5/month for commercial sites (like your business).

Wordfence Security provides anti-virus, firewall and malware scan for your site. Free basic version; Premium version available.

WP Limit Login Attempts protects against unauthorized logins to your site’s administrator account. Free basic version; Pro version available.

WP Smush reduces the file size of images used on your site, improving page load speed. Free basic version; Pro version available.

8. Configure your blog and post pages

WordPress considers pages and posts to be different types of content on your website.

Pages contain more static content such as your home page, about and contact pages. Posts contain content that you add over time such as articles, reviews, news, announcements and industry trends.

Your blog will consist mostly of posts rather than static pages. It will be made up of an index page showing quick summaries of recent posts, and multiple individual post pages showing all the text, graphics and other media for each complete article you’ve written.

Use your theme’s configuration functions to identify your blog’s index page and specify how that page will be laid out. For example, Divi’s Blog module allows you to define whether each entry in the index is displayed as a full-width item or an element in a grid. It also allows you to set which post categories will be displayed on the page.

You can also use your theme to design the individual post pages.

Try writing some simple test posts with placeholder text and images to see how your theme treats different layouts.

9. Get found online – Optimize when you start a business blog

There are three things you should do to make sure your blog can be found on the Internet before you start writing.

  • Install the Yoast SEO plugin. Yoast provides page-by-page content analysis and optimization tools for your site. Free basic version; Premium version available.
  • Fill in your Home page title tag and meta description and assign a Featured Image for the page. This is free.
  • Register your site with Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is also free.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an ongoing process that can appear very complex at times. And yet it’s a vital part of getting your content found by your audience. Content Marketing Startup will publish several lessons on this important skillset; watch for these lessons by subscribing to our blog.

10. Outline your first post and plan others

Start this step by creating a publishing calendar: a sequence of topics you think are essential as you start your blog. Try to look ahead to at least five or ten articles, and put them in a publishing order that would make sense to your readers.

Remember to focus your articles on the specific, narrow niche you’ve identified.

Create a detailed outline of your first post in Microsoft Word or Google Docs. Include notes on external research sources, images to use, headlines and sub-heads. This will make writing your first article easier and more complete.

11. Start writing!

You’re now in a fantastic position! At this point you’ve got all the basics in place to start writing, and you have more than just a blank slate: you have a focused topic, a solid publishing platform and the beginning of an editorial calendar to guide your writing.

Take a deep breath, re-read your mission statement, and dive in with the knowledge and passion you already have for your business.

Start a business blog that reflects your unique voice. Start a business blog that will make a difference in the lives of your readers. Start a business blog that will help you form a trusting relationship with your audience. Start a business blog with style.

If you follow this CMS guide to start a business blog, I’d love to hear from you. What worked well for you, what needs improvement or expansion? What else would you like to learn?

Good writing and good business to you.

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