January 21, 2015 Ian Blyth

A Dead-Simple, 5 Step-Guide to Creating a Blog (That’s Free)

I was hanging out with some old college friends over the holidays.

In talking with my old buddy, he told me he had taken the time to read a few of my blog posts.

Startup Stock PhotoFunny, I thought, I have a reader. There’s one!

Anyway, he told me he and his wife were thinking about starting their own blog and enjoyed my post about free stuff you can use to make your blog post awesome. So through the course of this brief conversation I had gained a reader and proved myself to be an inspiration. What’s next?

They have a great idea too but had a bunch of questions about the process of bringing that idea to life. Where do you begin? How do you tell the story? How do you start your SEO work?

As it turns out, bringing a blog about is way, way easy. But the ease of bringing your story to life isn’t the best part. The best part is it’s all totally free. The only thing you have to spend on this project is time, which of course is very valuable.

So let’s not waste time.

Step One: Go Get a Free Blog Platform

First of all finding a free blogging platform is easy – just check Google. There’s plenty of free blogging platforms out there, the most popular being Blogger and WordPress.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Blogger and WordPress as platforms. PostSecret – a viciously addictive blog composed of deep dark secrets sent anonymously via post cards – is a Blogger blog. WordPress itself is synonymous with blogging – the two just go hand in hand.

The number one problem I have with those two popular options is they are not beautiful by design. They allow for all kinds of customization from common users which leads to some pretty awful looking pages.

Also, they are fairly limited in way you can make the clunky formats look clean and professional. It becomes maddening the ways Blogger and WordPress are limited just when you become comfortable with the platforms and attempt to take them to the next level.

Startup Stock PhotosI realize the irony of this as I type this post into a WordPress window but still – even the steps you need to take with customizing the full version can be frustrating.

WordPress and Blogger are what happen when you try to take a customizable situation and open it up to the world. Nice try, good attempt but it’s a horror show sometimes in what people will produce given an empty slate and open microphone.

On the polar opposite of those guys is Medium.

Now, I‘ve written before about Medium and my thoughts haven’t changed in the slightest.

Medium is a drop-dead simple, minimal and beautiful blogging platform that is right on the edge of being amazing.

It’s straight structure, lack of sidebars or distractions, and ample styling within the framework of it’s form is a thing of beauty. Two quotes come to mind when looking at Medium:

Form follows function,” and “Beautiful things work better.” Medium is the combination of the simple meaning of the former and the minimalist nature of the later.

Additionally, Medium lets you submit and share articles within communities so it’s got a built-in social aspect which makes finding like-minded people easy. The communities I have right off the bat — Medium calls them channels — deal with technology, humor and design, so I think that’s a reflection of the types of writing going on here.

But a deeper search into Medium will reveal all sorts of interesting blogs brought together by writers on various subjects. Take Gardening Kicks Ass for example.

Garderning Kicks Ass is a pretty interesting collection of stories maintained by one of the writers at Medium. When writers pull together articles from other writers in collections like this it’s called a Publication. This kind of collaboration and user-centric content maintenance and organization is really cool.

So if you’re looking for a blogging platform – especially to try it out first – go with Medium. You won’t be disappointed.

Step Two: Figure Out What to Blog About

After you’ve got your platform figured out, now you have to figure out what you Startup Stock Photoswant to write about. Most of the time people think about stuff like music, politics, or film to pick as a topic and that’s perfectly fine.

If you’re thinking about blogging, you probably already have an idea of what you want to write about. But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes you just want to write and that’s a great thing. I want to take a second to talk about this with you.

If you want to write about several things you like or perhaps nothing at all, that’s ok.

Sometimes, people just want to write and they’re not sure what they want to write about. They just get the itch. There is something they want to shake loose. And that’s no problem – just start writing on a subject that you feel comfortable with at the time. When tomorrow roles around, write about something completely different.

Over the course of a month, bang out some quality draft posts that have absolutely nothing to do with each other. It’s your world. Go crazy.

Here’s something you’ll learn about writing that’s important:

Writing is a process – not a project.

The benefit of this kind of activity is eventually, as you keep your fingers skipping across the keys and pumping out content, you will find yourself naturally sliding onto a rail and moving in a direction. You’ll unconsciously find your voice and discover your passion without knowing it.

Without knowing, it you will tell yourself what you like. It’s awesome. Trust me.

In other cases, people know what their passions are and that’s a great thing. If you’re one of those people I salute you. It’s tough to find that.

Regardless, you’ll eventually find what you want to write about and settle on it. Then you’ll get to the fun part –  writing the damn thing.

genMegaPhoneStep Three – Blog with SEO in Mind

This is the part where you sit down and write. Just write it out. Come up with an outline and work from there or just bang out the words. Whatever you do write.

By this part, it should happen on its own as long as you stay focused and keep working at it. If you’re struggling at this point, get back to planning out your writing.

As you’re writing, though, there’s some simple things you can keep in mind that can help you make sure you’re optimizing your post for search engines. There’s an excellent plugin for WordPress called SEO by Yoast that scores your post automatically. That’s free too.

Here’s some simple tips for writing a strong, clear, search engine optimized post.

Organize Your Writing

Regardless of what you are writing about, you need to do you and your readers a favor and organize your work. A pretty simple way of doing this is here:

  1. Title
  2. Opening paragraphs to warm up the post
  3. Meat of the Post
    1. Section 1
    2. Section 2
    3. Section 3
  4. Closing paragraph

You don’t have to always write in a numbered format or be instructional to have a structured post. You could just as easily talk about what you learned doing something and organize the couple of key points into sections. It’s just easier on the reader.

To be clear, if you don’t have any subheadings in your post, it’s going to be difficult for humans to read your writing. And humans are your favorite people.

Use Your Keywords

Your blog posts are going to be about a specific things or keywords relating to your topic. These keywords are important because they’ll help keep you focused on what’s important and help you get found in search engines.

Use these keywords in all the right places like the title of your post, the section headings, and especially in your post itself. To be technical, use keywords in your H1, H2, H3, page title, meta description, and in the copy.

Now, you’ve probably heard somewhere along the line of terms like keyword density with respect to SEO. While it’s true keyword density plays a role in SEO, it shouldn’t be abused.

If you were doing an album review, you’d probably use the artist’s name and title of the record in the headline. Then you would list a bunch of reasons broken out into sections as to why you think it’s a great album or not. Those sections are probably going to include the artist’s name and album title again.

After a while, just by being human, you’re going to use keywords in the right way.

Here’s a major takeaway: If you find yourself trying to work the system, you’re doing it wrong. If you are doing things like a human being, you’re doing it right.

Think about this whenever you’re trying to optimize anything for search engines and you’ll never go wrong.

Make it Pretty and Keep it Simple

There’s a thing out there called the Flesch Reading Test which to be brief scores how easy copy if to read. A lot has been written about readability and it’s relationship to SEO and to be honest, I don’t know if it directly contributes one way.

I can tell you this though, easy copy is easy to read. Good for SEO or not, do t for your readers and let’s all be happy.

Startup Stock PhotoIf you have to check how your copy scores, you can quite easily copy and paste your draft into some online Flesch Reading Test engine like this one. I’ve got another suggestion.

Keep your copy simple. The measure of a good writer is one that can distill a complicated subject into some simple terms. Don’t go overboard – make your sentences simple. Jack Kerouac once famously said “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”

And while you’re at it, dress up your copy. It’s great to see pictures in your blog posts, they are free, and good for SEO.

HubSpot wrote a really great checklist for blog SEO. Read it here. 

Step Four – Reread, Edit, and Rewrite

Simple stuff here. Use spell check and edit your copy with intensity. Get it right before you hit send.

Ask a buddy to edit your stuff. Better your friend find the mistakes before your 50,000 readers.

Step Five – Never Forget the Most Important Thing

As you’re going through the process, it’s worth worth remembering the single most important aspect of writing. It’s the whole reason you’re doing this.

Here it is:

Writing is all about solving problems. If you think writing is about anything else, you need to rethink your understanding of writing.

Put it on a T-shirt, write it in a letter, or whisper it to a friend – it’s a single solid truth. That statement  — or at least a flavor or variation on it  — comes from many different sources and it’s completely true.

Stick to solving problems with your writing and you’ll always be on the right track.  Now go be awesome.

Stuff I linked to:

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