Starting a blog is an overwhelming task. There is so much to do and, unless you’ve done it before, figuring out what’s important can be difficult. This is the checklist I use to make sure everything is done.
First, this morning I was the featured blogger at Pretty Shabby. Check it out!
Also, Zach and I celebrated our fifth anniversary yesterday! I usually come up with a project or something for it, but this year I’m doing something else. It will have to wait until next week, though. You’ll see why!
So let’s talk about something else.
I mentioned a couple days ago how nice it was to set up a new blog now that I know generally what I’m doing. When I started Budget Girl, I had no idea where to start…and I honestly didn’t care. Since I was only doing it for fun back then, it didn’t matter how I set it up or what steps I took.
For Gray Cat Games, though, we’re hoping for it to actually go somewhere. (Also, FYI, our first post will go live on Monday morning! I’m considering posting two a week until we get a decent amount of content and then scaling it back to one a week, which is the original goal.)
Anyway, our goals mean we need to take it more seriously than I took Budget Girl in the beginning. And, while it was nice knowing what to do, if I’m being totally honest…it was a lot of work! Knowing what needed done meant I needed to get it all done as quickly as possible. Whereas with Budget Girl, it was spaced out over three years. I just got things done as I figured out what needed done and how to do them.
It was a tad overwhelming, and I find myself going over my to-do list again and again saying, “I know I missed something, what was it!?”
I also know that it’s overwhelming for all of you, too. And many of you have questions about how to set up a new blog. So I’m going to share my to-do list with you! It’s really long, though, so I’m going to split it up.
I’m skipping the whole “find a host” bit because there are so many tutorials out there on how to do that. Here’s what to do once you’ve settled on a host.
1. Make sure the name you want is available.
Check that you can not only buy the URL, but that the username is available on social media. I mentioned this in my 10 Blogging Tips for Beginners post, so I won’t go into detail about it later.
I actually wanted to call the site Grey Cat Games because I prefer that spelling. But it was unavailable, so I switched to Gray Cat Games. Fortunately, it was available on almost all social media sites!
2. Buy and register your domain.
3. Install WordPress.
I use Bluehost for hosting and installing WordPress is very easy. (If you’re not using WordPress, substitute whatever you need to do for Blogger/Weebly/Typepad/Etc.)
4. Find and install a theme.
The theme I settled on for Gray Cat Games is called Amelie Lite, by the way.
5. Customize theme.
If you don’t know how, you can pay someone to do this.
6. Claim social media accounts.
If you didn’t do this in Step 1, do it now! As I’ve said before, claim ALL social media accounts! I don’t care if you never plan on using them, you don’t have to. Just make sure no one else can take your name.
The ones I started with were Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Reddit, Tsu (though you need to be “invited.” Fortunately, an invitation just means a link. Go here to register for Tsu), Google+, YouTube, Delicious, Pinterest, and Feedburner (RSS).
And yes, even though Tumblr is technically a blogging platform, I recommend it as a social media account.
Others I recommend (that I’m getting to) are StumbleUpon and LinkedIn.
Am I missing any? Let me know in the comments!
Oh, and don’t forget to link your social media accounts to your blog. 😛 I use the Simple Social Icons plugin, but you can find tons of icon sets online.
7. Connect social media accounts through Publicize.
Are you using Jetpack? Want your social media accounts to automatically update when a new post goes up? Publicize is great for that! Go to your WordPress Dashboard, hover over “Jetpack,” and click on “Settings.” From there, find “Publicize” and activate it.
After that, go back to your WP Dashboard. Find “Settings,” (right under “Tools”) and wait for the drop-down to pop out. Click on “Sharing.” (For me, it’s always at the bottom of the drop-down.) From there, you can link Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and other accounts to your blog. This will make your posts show up automatically on social media once they’ve been published!
8. Create a logo/header.
Again, if you don’t know how to do this, you can pay someone else.
If you can’t afford Photoshop, you can make some nice header images in PicMonkey. I’m a sucker for simple typeface headers myself, but get creative!
9. Set up your email.
This should be moved up on the list (blended with #1, actually) if you plan on using an email host like Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. If you’re going to use your host’s server (meaning email@example.com), then it can wait.
10. Create a mailing list and a subscribe box.
I used MailChimp for this, but MadMimi is also good. I just set up a little RSS list for updates right now.
11. Create a HelloBar.
Or whatever HelloBar substitute you like. My subscribers went way up when I started using this, though, so I highly recommend getting one.
12. Register your blog on Creative Commons.
Get a Creative Commons Licence for your blog here. Don’t worry, it’s free!
I like to put mine in my footer (or as is the case with GCG, at the bottom of my sidebar). I also like to add a little extra on what is and isn’t allowed so people can find it. What I mean is, do you mind if people use your images in link ups? I make it very clear that anyone can use one of my photos as long as they give clear and full credit to whichever one of my blogs they took that photo from.
Mostly I do this because I appreciate it when other people do. Emailing bloggers is kind of a pain and, let’s be honest, we’re not great at replying, are we? 😛 (In fact, I plan to write a post about that sometime in the future.)
13. Set your permalinks to “post names.”
This is something I didn’t know was important when I started out. Make your posts evergreen by keeping the date out of the URL. You can change it once your blog is created by using a plugin. It’s been on my to-do list for Budget Girl for a few months now and I just haven’t gotten around to it.
Save yourself the hassle by doing it when you start your blog. To change this, go to your WordPress Dashboard, hover over “Settings,” and click on “Permalinks.” Click on the button that says, “Post Names” and then scroll down and save.
14. Write your essential pages.
Write the pages you know you’ll need–an About page, a Contact page, and a Policies page. You can also have separate pages for different policies if you feel you need to go into detail about them. But it’s good to have them all on one page.
Some ideas for blog policies are:
- Commenting–reminding people to be respectful and alerting them to the repercussions of verbally abusing your other readers. If people know their rude comment will never be seen, they will be less likely to leave one. Trolls are only in it for the attention they think it will get them.
- Copyright–Even with the Creative Commons License in your footer, it’s a good idea to have this on your policies page. You can just copy and paste what you put in your footer, if you want. Or put it in simpler terms here and leave the legal jargon for your footer.
- Disclosure–If you’re going to have ads up or you plan to write sponsored posts from time to time, let your readers know.
- Guest Posting–You don’t have to put this up immediately, since newer/smaller blogs will get fewer guest posting requests. But it’s a good idea to have some guidelines in place. Don’t feel bad about not accepting guest posts that don’t meet the quality of your own blog. It sounds rude, but the fact is that newbie bloggers sometimes have trouble figuring out how to make high quality content in the beginning. I sure did.
15. Decide on what categories will appear on your blog.
This one is always really difficult for me. How do I want my site to be organized? It’s a question that keeps me up at night.
The best advice I’ve received on categories (which are what I use to organize my menus, by the way) is to have 5-8. More than that is overwhelming for readers and 8 is pushing it, anyway.
Also, to better organize my site, I don’t add the categories to my menu. I create the categories, organize my posts into them, and then I create pages with the same names as those categories. From there, I use Visual Recipe Index to organize them (even the ones without recipes).
Let’s leave it at that for now. I’ll come back on Monday with the second part of this. Depending on how long that one is, I may have to split it up even more. As I said, this list is long. But I want you to get as much out of it as possible!