Starting a blog

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I’m often contacted by up-and coming bloggers, or people who are interested in starting a blog, looking for advice. I’m going to try and do my best tocompile everything I can come up with here.

Note: this is my take on things, you can definitely do things other ways. Also, some things will be specific to frugal blogging, as that is my expertise.

Pick a platform

If you’re looking to blog for free, then you’ll need to use blogspot, wordpress.com, or some other free blog hosting service. The main downside is that you really have no control over your blog. If you think you may want to treat your blog as a business in the future, I would not recommend these options. If you’re just looking for something very simple to get into, and maybe for just a personal blog, those services are fantastic.

My recommendation: use the WordPress.org platform. With your own install of WordPress on a webhost of your choosing, you are in complete control of your blog. All content is completely managed by you. The rest of this article is going to focus on and apply to using WordPress.

Pick a theme

There are TONS of free themes to pick from at WordPress.org. There are also lots of paid themes; I use Thesis, which is a very popular blogging theme. If you’d like to customize your own theme, I also enjoyed Artisteer. Honestly, Thesis is a much better choice, as it is more than just a design – it has TONS of built in functionality, but Artisteer can be fun to play around with.

Pick a webhost

For beginners I recommend Blue Host; setup is a breeze with 1-click script install, and their tech support is top notch. They helped me migrate my database over, and then when there was an issue they helped me fix it in just a couple minutes. Absolutely amazing – $6.95/month is not a bad price either. If you’re looking for more than shared hosting, check out Part 2: Optimizing your blog for info on VPS setups.

Download and install WordPress

You don’t even have to download WordPress with BlueHost – just use their 1-click install script to install it. But in case you need it, you can download wordpress here.

WordPress Hints

First thing to do – go make your links look decent (or “pretty”). Login to your wordpress install, go to Settings>Permalinks. I use the Custom Structure option with the following code: /%postname%/
This results in this page URL being http://thefrugalfind.com/starting-a-blog/ instead of http://thefrugalfind.com/?p=12345. It looks considerably better, and is much easier to remember for you and everyone else.

Recommended Plugins

  • AdRotate – The very best and most convenient way to publish your ads.
  • And the Winner is… – AWESOME plugin for picking giveaway winners out ofcomments on a post
  • Clean Contact – Basic contact form
  • Datafeedr Random Ads v2 – allows you to simply and easily show randomized ads anywhere in your template files or using widgets
  • Duplicate Post – lets you create an exact copy of an existing post so you can edit freely without messing up prior content
  • Facebook Share (New) – adds the little Facebook share button to your posts and pages
  • Google Analyticator -inserts your Analytics tracking code for you and lets you see your stats in your Dashboard
  • Google Analytics for WordPress – inserts your Analytics tracking code for you
  • Google XML Sitemaps – generates a special XML sitemap which helps search engines better index your blog
  • Mobile Press – automatically sense mobile browsers and delivers a mobile-friendly version of your site
  • Print Friendly & PDF – allows your readers to print a clutter free page
  • Search Meter – keeps track of what your visitors are searching for
  • Subscribe tocomments – allows your readers to get updates when a newcomment is posted on a post they subscribe to
  • Twitter Tools – automatically sends out a tweet whenever you write a new post
  • W3 Total Cache – The ultimate caching plugin. Don’t need this when you first start out, but definitely comes in handy later.
  • WordPress.com Popular Posts – Shows the most popular posts, using data collected by WordPress.com stats plugin.
  • WordPress.com Stats – lets you see your pageviews right in your WP dashboard
  • WordPress Editorial Calendar – makes it possible to see all your posts and drag and drop them to manage your blog
  • WP Greet Box – Greets each visitor with a unique message depending on how they found your site
  • WP Super Cache – Another caching plugin; if W3 Total Cache doesn’t work for you, try this.

Keep in mind – there are LOTS more plugins that do LOTS of different things – spend some time searching the WordPress codex for plugins whenever you need something done. Chances are, someone has made a plugin for it already.

Want to start selling product? I tried a couple WordPress store plugins – I needed a store to handle processing sales/payments, I needed a membership plugin to allow people to pay for protected content, and I needed an affiliate plugin to track all my affiliate sales. This is what I recommend:

WP Affiliate PlatformWordPress Membership PluginWP Shopping Cart

Not only do they do the job, and do it well… but it’s only $80 for all 3 if you buy them at the same time. By far the cheapest option I found for a paid membership plugin, and after testing about 5 different systems I found it the most user-friendly as well.

You can find plugins for just about anything else here.

Create good content

Ok, so this one is pretty much up to you, but here’s a couple do’s and dont’s in the blogging world.
It is more than ok to re-post a deal that you find on another blog; DO NOT, however, just copy the content – you need to re-write it in your own words. And always, ALWAYS, say thanks and link back to their post.
Be original! It’s fine to get ideas from other bloggers; that’s how we all start. But no one appreciates a carbon copy of their blog – and besides that, when readers realize it they’ll probably opt for the person you’re copying. Find a way to differentiate yourself – be creative.

Promoting your blog

There are lots of ways to do this, and if you want to gain traffic it is, in my opinion, something you must do.

  • Word of mouth – of course tell your friends and family, but also tell your checker when they mention how much money you just saved.
  • Link-ups – First,compile a list of all the big frugal bloggers e-mail addresses and put them as a group in your contact list. When you have a good deal, e-mail it to all of them with a link to your post. If they like it, they’ll either re-write it, or just put up a quick note and link straight over for all the details. If you can get a big blogger to do this, you will be amazed at the traffic it can bring in. NOTE: Do NOT spam them with every deal; if you do, they will eventually automatically ignore your e-mails (probably just block you).
  • The second option is to link up on posts with other frugal bloggers offer the opportunity – example here. Being one of the first to link up is a big deal. Learn when they post their link-ups (typically it’s a certain day of the week) and watch for the opportunity like a hound!

Miscellaneous important things to do

  • Startcommenting on other bloggers blog posts – especially the larger bloggers. Typically you can put your blog address in, which is more exposure for you. Also, it will make those bloggers aware of your site while also contributing to the discussion on their post.
  • Sign up your blog at feedburner.com. If you want more control, you may be interested in using Feedblitz. It’s a paid service that allows you to completely customize your daily e-mails.
  • Sign up for Google Analytics. The WordPress Stats plugin works great – but it’s not quite as accurate, and Google Analytics is the industry standard. If you try to sell private ad space or anything, people would much rather see your Google Analytics stats than your WordPress Stats plugin stats.

Social Media

Now that you’ve started a blog, you should immediately register a twitter account and Facebook Fan Page specifically for the blog – I would highly recommend NOT using your personal accounts. For Facebook Fan Pages, you will manage it through your personal page, but no one will know they are connected. Even if you don’t plan on using either, it’s a good idea to do it just in case, and so that no one else will for you :-)

Social Media Icons

Now that you have a Facebook account, twitter account, RSS feed and e-mail list, you’re probably going to want some fancy social media icons on your website so your millions of fans know where to find you, right? Right! And here’s the best resource I’ve found – iconfinder.com. You’re we come in advance :-)

Protect your domain

Here at thefrugalfind.com, that is not the only domain name we own. If you go to thefrugalfind.co, you’ll be redirected here. Same with thefrugalfind.net and .org. You want to be very careful about protecting your brand – if you don’t purchase that name, everyone else on the internet has the option to. If you ever get big, that could cost some decent money to purchase from a domain squatter.

Affiliate programs

There are many kinds – don’t get super caught up in this at first, if all you do is promote affiliate deals, you probably won’t have much of a reader base. On the other hand, you can also make money promoting deals you would promote anyways – a complete Win-Win situation!
Here are the programs I use/recommend, in no particular order:

Amazon.com
Swagbucks

Google Adsense
Logical Media
Escalate
Panthera
Juice Box Jungle
My Savings
Commission Junction
Shop at home
Cashbaq
eBates

Group Buy Sites

With group buy sites, each one is a bit different. Most of them offer credit for their site for signing people up under you; some of them offer credit or cash (say $10 in credit, or $5 cash); and others run their affiliate programs through outside affiliate programs like Logical Media and Escalate. Which route you decide to choose is up to you – if the payout is good, you may want cash. In some cases, I’d rather have a lot of credit rather than a little cash… buying stuff for free can be really nice.

So here’s a list of my current favorite group buy sites:

Coupon Database

If you plan on starting a frugal blog, having a coupon database is an indispensable resource. You’ll use it a TON for writing posts, and it’s a wonderful resource for your readers. Here’s what I use: the Deal Seeking Mom Coupon Database. The paid version is a plugin, which means it’s super easy to use (AKA super awesome).

It works great, they handle all the updating, and if you get the paid version, you get to replace all her affiliate links with your own.

How much can I make?

For some great info on how much actual bloggers make, head over here – http://bloggingwithamy.com/how-much-do-real-bloggers-actually-make/

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Check out Part 2: Optimizing your blog

Have questions? Feel free to e-mail me: mrfrugalfind@gmail.com


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(9 Comments)

Comments

  1. alicia gibbons says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I read the mommy blogs everyday for the past two years and I find myself always telling people about good deals and posting to mt facebook page. I purchase drom the daily deal site daily and refer friends. I live south of atlanta and realized alot of people in my area are not familiar with the blogs and deal sites and very few businesses are promoted in my area. I searched all over the net and found some good info but most people charge for all the info you put in this post. Thanks for all the great information and I will start trying to create a blog in the next few weeks.

  2. Thanks Mr. Frugal for all this helpful information. I just sent Julia an email today asking about this and here we are …I stumbled across it. Do you think it’s possible to get going for someone who is computer illiterate like me?

    • Not sure what you mean by “get going”. If you use Bluehost, the setup is all handled by them – that’s the hard part. Once you have your domain name purchased and wordpress installed, putting up posts is incredibly simple from a technical standpoint.

  3. Laura H. says:

    Just wanted to thank you so much for all this helpful information. I’m in the process of launching my blog today and your information has been so helpful!

  4. I want to start a blog but I can’t find any information where or how to link or copy the store sales for the week. I can’t see how they are all typing in the weekly info every week. I did see on the printable shopping list website by Moritz, it talks about linking in with people that share their lists but I can’t seem to find any other info for it. Thank You for any information that you might provide.

    • Most deal bloggers are in fact typing the deals by hand, or having a helper do so. It is rather time consuming. I believe the Moritz Print List thing you have to purchase their plugin to be able to share lists, not positive though.

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