Every week, we share one of our favorite ‘how-to’ posts about blogging, social media, and the community we LOVE to love. Our desire is you consider HLB a resource in your efforts to blog BETTER – we want to be stronger bloggers ourselves, and we see the desire for stronger posts and cleaner designs. We understand wanting to know the BEST plug-ins, aps, programs, and resources to keep your site in tip top shape. And nothing makes us nerd-out more than getting super meta about all things blog-world. We’re not experts, we’re simply bloggers ourselves – sharing our own experiences, tips and tricks of the trade each Thursday with a BTT post. We welcome your questions, your suggestions for future topics, and your ‘how-to’ post recommendations to Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org!
This week’s post is from Ashley, who writes at A Lady Goes West.
I wanted to start a blog for years before I took the time to do it. While working very demanding corporate jobs in public relations, communications and copywriting, I was just never able to devote the time I needed to begin a blog or even research how to begin a blog. However, shortly after getting married in 2012, the perfect opportunity to begin my online journal or “weblog” (as they used to be called) came about as Dave and I decided we were going to move across the country from Orlando, Florida to San Francisco, California. Even before we left Florida, I came up with a name for my blog — aptly “A Lady Goes West” — to share all of our adventures, and the rest is history. But of course, A Lady Goes West has come a long way …
Starting slowly using the free route
Although I immediately purchased the domain name of aladygoeswest.com, I didn’t pursue self-hosting (which is what you must do to have ads, affiliate links and tons of functionality) for another year-and-a-half. For the first year-and-a-half, I used WordPress.com for a free blog, on a couple of free templates. I wrote once-a-week updates, sometimes less, sometimes more, describing the fun activities and explorations that Dave and I were pursuing in San Francisco. I also wrote about healthy living and fitness, because those were and are such huge parts of my life.
While only my friends and family knew about my blog, it still gave me the opportunity to write down my thoughts, add a few pictures and push “Publish.” But I never really shared my posts further than that. I was a little unsure as to what I was going after, and didn’t spend a ton of time working on my blog, even though in the back of my head I really wanted to. (And if you’ve been around since the beginning as a reader, I thank you so much!)
Committing to take the blog to a new level
Finally, in March of 2014, I decided to spend more time on my blog. First up, I purchased a custom theme and did a redesign of my site, no longer relying on a free template. Second, I selected a “host” of my site, which is the step you must take to begin monetizing your blog and adding cool features. After researching other blogs, I settled on HostGator, which was a great decision. The folks at HostGator handled the transition of my blog from the free WordPress.com to a more functional WordPress.org and made sure everything was up-and-running. In addition, whenever I had a question, I just sent a Tweet to the HostGator customer service team, or opened a ticket on the site. All of my issues have been resolved in less than a few hours, and my site rarely goes down. HostGator provides 24/7 care, and I’ve always been incredibly pleased with the service.
Professional headshots were another piece of the puzzle. And I had these taken in February, compliments of the lovely Leah Bentley Photography. These shots are now the image on the front-page of my blog, as well as on most of my social media accounts.
I’m a writer by trade, so it wasn’t a huge leap to think that I could start and maintain a blog. However, I didn’t really know everything that was involved at first. And I didn’t really expect my blog to take off as it has, but boy am I loving the fact that it continues to grow. I began blogging because I love to share my words and write, but what has come about for me from this little piece of the Web has been pretty awesome.
A lot of work goes on behind-the-scenes
There’s a lot to learn about blogging, once you leave the free platform. In addition to the WordPress.org dashboard, which is what I use to create my posts, I also have to work with the back-end site information for A Lady Goes West, like having enough bandwidth for my site’s usage, backing up my site and updating all of my plug-ins (the apps I use within WordPress.org).
Here’s a look at the cPanel inside HostGator, which is where you can access many tools to work on your site.
Click here to read the rest of Ashley’s post, including tips for sticking to a schedule, making money and promoting your blog.