This is possibly the most random blogging FAQ ever created. Hopefully it’s helpful though! I am keeping it updated, and am always adding new Qs, so if you have a question that isn’t here leave it in the comments.
Last updated: 5/23/18
Do I really need to be self-hosted?
If you want to make money blogging: YES. If it’s just a hobby, then a free platform is fine. But if you’re really serious about monetizing being self-hosted is essential. “Hosted” platforms like WordPress.com, Blogger, and Blogspot as well as Squarespace and Wix may seem easier at first but they limit what you can do in terms of plugins and affiliate links and advertising, even web design on these platforms is often incompatible with certain plugins and functions that are essential for monetizing. Also, and this is perhaps the most important reason of all: YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR CONTENT on hosted platforms like those above. You are operating in their house, living and working by their rules. You shouldn’t build a business you don’t own.
Can someone explain the difference between hosting and a domain?
Your domain is like your street address — it’s where people go to find your website. It’s just an “internet house number.” Hosting services are like the land at your street address — they hold all the files (or buildings, if we’re gonna keep running with this analogy!) that people see when they come to your address. So a domain without hosting is just an empty location. And hosting without a domain is just a bunch of files with no location or way to find them/place to see them.
I’m scared to invest money (on self-hosting, domain, etc) and not know if it will pay out.
Think of it this way: Even hobbies cost money. If this is something you’ll enjoy doing then consider the relatively small investment required as paying for a fun new adventure. Starting a blog can cost a lot or a little. At minimum you need to buy a domain ($1-$16 per year) and hosting (prices vary wildly but you shouldn’t pay more than $60-100/year). I recommend Siteground for both — they offer competitive pricing, excellent customer service, and almost zero downtime for the websites they host. Alternatively, if you’re really uncomfortable spending the money don’t! Wait until you feel more sure in the decision.
How do people make money blogging?
The primary ways to make money blogging are:
- Sponsored posts – Brands pay you to post on your blog about their product
- Sponsored social media – Brands pay you to post on social media about their product
- Affiliate marketing – You link to products and stores you love, and get paid a commission when your readers click through and/or buy
- Ads – Ad networks place ads on your website and then pay you per click or per impression
- Selling a course or product – This can be something small, like a $10 ebook, or something big, like a course costing several hundred dollars
- Freelance work – If you have a particular skill brands will often pay for ala carte work like photography, video, writing, etc
- Other – It’s the internet! Things are always changing and developing
Can I start on a free platform like WordPress.com, and then switch over to self-hosted once I get going?
Technically, yes. Is it recommended? No. You can start on WordPress.com, and (for the most part) it is possible to move your site over to self-hosted at a later date. If you know you want to monetize I wouldn’t go this route, however, for a few reasons:
- Not everything transfers over. For the most part blog posts and images can be moved, but you’ll need a new theme and most plugins and other customizations you’ve made will be lost.
- You’ll double your learning curve. First WordPress.com, and later WordPress.org. They are similar, but not the same. Overwhelm is real! Keep it simple.
- You’ll lose momentum during the switch. Not all of your followers and traffic will transfer over, and there will be a lot of setup and hiccups to work out as you make the change. This can be incredibly frustrating to deal with once you feel you been through that already and had been plugging along at a good pace.
- You’ll delay your money earning potential. It does take time to start earning, but beginning on the wrong platform means it will take even longer.
- It can be more expensive. WordPress.com offers paid upgrades, and Squarespace and Wix have fees from the start, all of which can sometimes be more than what you would pay for a self-hosted WordPress site.
I am so frustrated with trying to get my website to look the way I want!
Been there! Done that. Until I realized it was seriously holding me back (and, for me at least, over-focusing on the design was a way to procrastinate getting started on actually writing, which was scarier).
It’s important to realize that while design is important, it will always be a work in progress. Get the basics in place and embrace “good enough for right now” and “work in progress” mentalities so it doesn’t keep you from working on what’s really important: your content. You can and will (we all do!) continue tweaking the design as you go. Forever and ever.
Basics: A theme with room for big photos and clear navigation. A simple logo. Social media share buttons, social media follow buttons, an email opt-in, and About Me and Contact Me pages.
What social media sites should I be using to promote my blog? Do I need to use them all or can I just pick my favorites?
The major social media platforms are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. And yes, you really need to use all of them (although it is smart to focus on building one or two at a time, to prevent overwhelm, when you’re just getting started). Why use all? Because 1) Diversifying is the key to a healthy and sustainable following (if any one platform tanks you want others to lean on so you don’t tank with it), and 2) If you’re interested in sponsored posts at all these four platforms (plus, very rarely, Snapchat) are often required by brands as part of a sponsored post package (for example they may want 1 blog post plus 1 share on Facebook and 2 tweets on Twitter).
Can I run a blog successfully on Facebook or Instagram alone?
This is called microblogging and some people do this very successfully. Whether it’s for you or not though really depends on if you’re blogging for fun/as a hobby only or if you’re hoping to make money with it and build something long-term. Social media is fickle and transient, so microblogging exclusively on any one platform means you’re operating at the whim of the platform, and its popularity. There are people who are successful in monetizing social media platforms alone (Instagram especially), but it’s unpredictable and difficult to maintain over time. Plus, even more importantly, you don’t own your content there. As a hobby or side gig, blogging on social media can be lots of fun and very lucrative. But if you want to build your blogging efforts as a business that’s going to last a long time, you really need to have a website to serve as a stable home base and branch out and monetize your social media efforts from there.
Do I need to have an email address that matches my domain name? How/where do I get it?
Yes, and it should come free with your hosting. Having an address like “firstname.lastname@example.org” looks more professional than a gmail or yahoo account (including a “mydomain@gmail” address) as well as helps you to separate your blogging work from everything else. The vast majority of hosting plans offer domain-associated email addresses for free, even with basic accounts, so as long as you’re self-hosted there’s no reason not to get one. Also it’s a simple thing to set up forwarding with your host provider so your blog emails show up in your regular inbox (for example I have my @holesinyoursocks addy forwarded to my regular gmail account) so you don’t have to worry about checking two (or more) accounts every day (and gmail can even be set up to allow you to send from your domain email as well!).
I’m having the hardest time coming up with a logo for my blog. Do I really need one?
Having something custom (as opposed to just your blog name printed in your theme’s default font) does help give your blog a sense of personality and professionalism, but it does NOT need to be fancy. Start off with a simple logo of just your blog name in a funky font (you can make it up in 15 minutes, for free, on Canva.com), and let the actual image-based logo thing simmer in the back of your head for awhile as you get into blogging. Over time you’ll end up seeing others that you like, and as you refine your style and voice something will come you once you’re a little more established.You may even have several logos over the years. Branding is always a work in progress!
I’m new to all this and feeling seriously overwhelmed. As a newbie what should I be focusing on, the readability of my posts? Learning how to do an opt-in? Or just writing? Something else? There are so many things!
Content is king. Prioritize that (making it high quality), and then work on everything else as you have time. It can help to make a list of things you want to do and review it daily, adjusting and rearranging objectives as you make progress.
How do I file my taxes as a blogger?
You’ll need a tax professional to answer specific questions but basically you’ll file as self-employed. Keep detailed receipts and records of all your income and expenses. It is possible to do it yourself with the help of an online program like Turbo Tax or Free Tax USA, but I HIGHLY recommend getting a tax pro to assist you the first year or more until you fully understand everything. It would super suck to have the IRS correct your return or audit you.
What are no-follow links and when/how do I use them?
No-follow links are an SEO tool created by Google to help keep the page rank system “honest” (they don’t want people paying for link backs as a way to artificially boost search engine ranking). You need to use no-follow on any link that you’re compensated for in any way, ie links in sponsored posts, affiliate links, paid links, etc. Read more in my post about no-follow links and how to use them.
Can you give me some tips on what to put on my ABOUT ME page?
The About page should have personal information about you, of course (it puts a face to your blog, brings the personal connection), but ultimately it should tell the reader ABOUT YOUR BLOG. So talk about yourself, but do it in a way that also explains to the reader what they can expect from the website, and from following you in general. They should leave feeling like they know a little about who you are, and a lot about what your website is about.
Have a question that isn’t answered here? Leave it in the comments and I promise I’ll track down an answer for ya. 🙂