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a mountain making an impact against the horizon

Like most Millennials and Gen Z’ers, I get a lot of my information from blogs.

They’ve helped shape my worldview, sense of self, and current trajectory as an eco-entrepreneur.

Thanks to blogs, I’ve been able to find communities of people online who share the same struggles and goals as me regardless of where I’ve been at in life.

Whether it was anime forums in my middle school years, coming-of-age blogs in my teen years, or sustainable fashion blogs in my college years, there’s always been something there for me on Google’s search results page.

After graduating from college and beginning my journey as an environmental entrepreneur and activist, I finally felt like I too had something to contribute to the ever-expanding depths of the internet.

I know, starting a blog isn’t really a novel idea –– but I didn’t just see blogging as an opportunity for me to talk about myself and maybe make some friends.

 

I saw blogging as a way for me to encourage and empower others in the same way that blogs have encouraged and empowered me.

 

Every single person has a unique story to share, and by creating a blog you can connect with a global audience and potentially even become a thought leader for your generation. The possibilities of taking your message online are endless.

In this article, I’ll guide you through the 6 steps of creating your own blog so that you can build the platform you need to grow a community and make the biggest positive impact possible.

 

1. Decide your mission and branding

Considering that the possibilities are endless, it can be hard to narrow your ideas down to one single topic.

Most people start by asking themselves “what do I love?” when they’re trying to figure out what to write about. This method can work, but chances are that you’ll end up with a list of 30 topics that you’re equally semi-interested in (I’ve been there).

I have a different suggestion. Instead of thinking about your interests, think about the things that you absolutely despise.

I know this sounds a little crazy, but hear me out.

Is there anything out there that you absolutely can’t stand? Animal abuse, child hunger, trophy hunting…?

I can assure you that it won’t take you long for you to figure something out. Once you’ve figured it out, think of what the solution to that problem is.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you hate the lack of proper sexual education in U.S. schools with a burning passion. Just the very thought of how ridiculous it is that schools aren’t teaching medically accurate information to restless teenagers absolutely lights a fire in your fingertips.

Great! Now that you’ve identified something that you’re passionate about, it’s time to frame your potential blog as a solution to the problem. This is your blog’s mission.

In this particular example, the best way forward would be to create the blog you wish you had when it was time for you to learn about sexual wellness.

That exact same thought came across blogger Eileen Kelly’s mind after she failed to receive proper sex-ed at her Catholic high school. Her disappointment sparked her to create the popular blog Killer and a Sweet Thang (KAAST).

KAAST’s branding is simple and effective.

Her self-described “progressive sex-ed blog” contains four main categories:

    • Sex
    • Love
    • Health
    • Identity

Even without the short introduction, you can quickly figure out what the purpose of her blog is by taking a look at her blog’s categories.

 

Together with your “about” page, your categories will let your readers know exactly what they can expect to get out of your blog.

 

Everything that you post on your blog needs to fit into the categories that you’ve chosen to feature on your blog.

I suggest starting with three to four categories that your new blog will exclusively focus on. The more cohesive your categories are, the better.

After you’ve figured out what categories you’ll be starting with, you’re ready to write your “about” page.

Your about page should include:

  1. Your story
  2. Your blog’s mission / the purpose of your blog
  3. Who your audience is and how your blog will address their challenges and objectives

Once you’ve got a list of categories and an about page, you should be developing a pretty clear picture of what your blog is going to be like!

The main way that you can communicate the purpose and personality of your blog is through branding.

Your blog’s branding basically consists of your name, logo, layout, typography, and tone.

There is a ton of information online about building your brand, but I do have a few personal words of advice:

    1. Everything you publish on the internet is a direct reflection of you. Before publishing something, always ask yourself: “Is this what I want to be known for?”. 
    2. Think about all aspects of your business plan before you choose a name. This will ensure that it gives off the right vibe.
    3. Don’t go on other blogs and just copy their style –– figure out what you’re into and what makes you unique, and go with that. You’ll do way better that way.
    4. Your best content will be written in your own voice as if you’re talking to a friend.
    5. Simplicity is key.

 

This step might take you the shortest amount of time, or the longest. Either way is fine.

After you’ve finished conceptualizing your online platform, it’s time to bring it into reality.

 

2. Get your blog online

Your blog needs a home on the internet.

Web hosts are companies who own servers that store all of the files for your blog and deliver them to readers when they visit your website.

Unfortunately, the web hosting industry is on track to out-pollute the global airline industry by 2020 in greenhouse gas emissions, which means that most websites leave a significant carbon footprint.

Sites that use eco-friendly hosting services can not only be carbon-neutral, they can also be carbon-negative (like mine!).

For web hosting, I personally use GreenGeeks and I recommend them for all new bloggers because:

    • For every amperage they pull from the grid, they invest 3 times that in the form of renewable energy ­­–– meaning your site on GreenGeeks will be 300% renewable.
    • They offer free, simple installation of the WordPress blogging software (which I use, and will show you how to use in this guide).
    • They have great 24/7 customer service via live chat or phone.
    • Domain names through them are completely free, unlike other services like GoDaddy and Google Domains which charge upwards of $15 per year just for a domain name.
    • They have no hidden fees and offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

 

To get your website live with GreenGeeks in less than 10 minutes, simply:

    1. Click this link.
    2. Choose “WordPress Hosting” on the top menu.
    3. Select the “Ecosite Lite” option. It’s only $2.95 per month and is enough to completely power this website!
    4. Type in your available domain name to secure it for your website.
    5. Fill out your personal information in the order form and create your account.
    6. Become familiar with your homepage in GreenGeeks.
    7. Install WordPress with the one-click option in your GreenGeeks account –– 24-hour customer service chat can help you with this if you can’t find it.

Sweet!

You’re now the owner of a carbon-reducing website that’s ready for customization.

 

3. Customize your blog

a man creates a picture frame with his hands while looking at the ocean

This is where the real fun begins!

When you first visit your new website, it will have a placeholder landing page set up by GreenGeeks.

In order to change this, you’ll need to log into your WordPress account with the information you used to install it to your website.

You can generally find it at www.yoururl.com/wp-login

WordPress (WP) can look a little confusing at first, but I promise you’ll get the hang of it soon!

Spend an hour or two watching YouTube videos and playing around with your site and you’ll know your way around WP in no time.

Once you’re ready to customize your website, it’s time to choose a theme.

You will see that several themes are already installed on your blog: Twenty Seventeen, Twenty Sixteen, etc. These are well-designed, clean-looking themes that can work for just about any type of blog.

Although these themes are good starting points for newbie bloggers, you probably have a vision in mind that’s a bit more elaborate than what these themes have to offer.

When I first started eco ally, I knew that I wanted an aesthetic homepage with a custom logo and menu.

Unfortunately, though, I didn’t know the first thing about coding or website design!

 

After doing some research for theme options, I decided to go with Divi Theme for my blog.

 

Divi Theme is so incredibly customizable and user-friendly that it’s now the #1 WordPress theme in the world for newbies and experts alike.

When you purchase Divi, you also get access to the entire Elegant Themes market, which includes over 70 other themes to choose from if you don’t end up loving Divi. They also have a no-questions-asked, 30-day money-back guarantee, so there is no risk in trying it!

Here’s what my homepage looks like when I’m logged into WordPress and have my Visual Builder enabled:

As you can see, each aspect of the website is contained in sections that can be moved around, customized, and deleted with ease.

I’ll be honest, there is a little bit of a learning curve as there is with any new tool, but the Divi website offers a ton of videos to explain how to use their features step-by-step in addition to stellar customer service.

Trust me, it’s much easier to drag and drop elements of your website than having to learn to code!

If you have any questions about how I customized eco ally, send me a message through this link and I’ll be happy to guide you through the steps I took to get my website to look the way it does today!

Some people spend months of valuable time tweaking their blogs and trying to make them look just right.

You can think should try thinking of your blog as something that’s going to be constantly changing and evolving as you continue down your path of building a name for yourself.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t look quite right to you at first –– you’ll get there soon enough!

You can always update it later.

Once your blog looks good enough to show to your best friend, it’s time to shift your focus to creating content.

 

4. Create high-value blog posts

Now that your blog is up and running, you’re ready to publish some content.

Before you start on your first post, I recommend that you sit down and brainstorm about 30 topic ideas so you can get a good idea of where you’re heading with your blog.

To do this, first revisit your mission and branding –– think about why you started your blog, what you want to share, and who you’re writing your posts for.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should take about twenty minutes to sit down and exclusively think about your ideal reader.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • What is their name?
    • What do they look like?
    • How old are they?
    • What are their dreams, needs, and fears?
    • What Google search initially led them to your website?

 

By answering these questions, you’ll create a profile in your mind of the exact person your posts are being written for. Think about them every time you sit down to write something.

 

To come up with 30 topic ideas, answer the following questions with your ideal reader in mind:

    • What questions do they have about your niche or categories?
    • What results are they trying to achieve?
    • What could help them the most right now?
    • Who do they want to become and how can you help them get there?
    • What benefit are they hoping to gain from reading your blog?
    • What kind of searches are they typing into Google about your topic?

The point of brainstorming is to let your brain go wild. Don’t censor yourself!

If you generate more than 30 ideas, awesome. You can sort the good from the bad later. 🙂

After you’ve come up with a list of ideas, you’ll have plenty of topics to choose from for your first post.

Even though you might have a ton of great ideas, sitting down and actually writing a great piece of content can be really challenging.

If you’re a first-time blogger, the best resource I could possibly recommend to you is Pamela Wilson’s book, Master Content Marketing.

Her book is seriously a goldmine of information and includes step-by-step instructions for creating amazing blog posts.

I like to draft my posts using Pamela Wilson’s method in Microsoft Word, and then paste them into the WordPress post editor.

When it’s time to add photos to your post, you can find free stock images on sites like Unsplash (where I get most of my photos). By using free stock images, you can be sure that you’re not infringing on anyone’s copyright.

Upload your images into WordPress with the “Add Media” button and they’ll appear in your media library, ready to be inserted into your post.

I like to use the Smush plugin to make sure that all of my images are optimized so that my page loads quickly.

 

To install Smush, hover over the “Plugins” menu option on WordPress and click on “Add New”.

 

From there, search for “Smush” and click “Install Now”, and then “Activate”.

 

Once it’s installed, a new tab on your WP menu will appear for the plugin. Click on it to set it up and compress your images!

Another option is creating your own images or graphics from scratch. Custom images (like infographics) can be shared on platforms like Pinterest or Instagram to drive traffic to your blog.

That idea brings us right into the next step: getting readers to your website.

 

5. Promote your blog

When you first publish your blog, it’s only going to have one reader –– you.

I know it’s tempting to post about your new blog on every social media account you own, but hear me out:

Having zero readers on your new blog is a great thing.

Why?

Because you have the privacy to make mistakes and try new things without an audience watching.

Before you go all out with your new site, there are three things you should do:

    1. Secure all of the relevant social media handles for your blog, even if you’re not planning on using them.
    2. Upload at least ten posts so your new visitors have some content to read through.
    3. Set up your email list.

 

Unlike social media followers, your email list is a direct link into your reader’s inbox that you completely own.

 

Every time you publish a new post or begin to offer a new service, you can email your list and immediately begin to generate pageviews and sales.

By setting up a place on your blog to collect emails, you can begin building your email list with your very first readers (who will likely become your most loyal fans!).

I’ve tried a few different email marketing services, and my favorite one so far has been ConvertKit.

They offer a 14-day free trial and completely walk you through the process of setting up your forms, landing pages, and email sequences.

After you’ve signed up for their service, you should create your first form and add it to your sidebar so that visitors will see it whenever they read a blog post.

When you’re first starting out, don’t worry about sending out weekly emails, just focus on your blog posts and directing people to sign up for your email list. You can encourage people to sign up for your email list by offering them some kind of incentive, like a free PDF content upgrade.

Once your website has 5-7 posts on it and a place to collect emails, you’re ready to start sharing your blog with new potential readers!

There are entire websites dedicated to teaching you how to market your blog, but here are a few steps to get you started:

    1. Create an account on Medium and share your blog posts on it.
    2. Post about your blog on your personal social media accounts and share it with friends.
    3. Set up your Instagram account to fit your new personal brand.
    4. Create an account on Pinterest and start sharing your linked images and infographics.
    5. Create an account on Quora and begin answering questions related to your topic, linking your blog.
    6. Reach out to other blogs to see if they will let you write a guest post on their blog.

 

For the first six months or so, I recommend focusing your efforts on creating consistent, high-value content for your readers.

Blog promotion will work the best once you have already established your site.

The last step in this guide is totally optional, but I recommend doing it so that you can afford to keep your blog running.

 

6. Monetize your blog

a man flips through his cash money

Last but not least, this step is all about setting up your blog to make money for you.

There are a few ways you can monetize your blog, including:

    • Offering downloadable content
    • Offering consulting services
    • Creating an online course
    • Affiliate marketing
    • Display ads

 

Some people are able to make well over $100,000 a year from their blogs thanks to a combination of these, but many bloggers are happy to make just enough to cover their expenses.

I think the best way to make money when you’re first starting out is to become an affiliate for companies whose services you actively pay for and enjoy.

The first affiliate program I ever signed up for was GreenGeeks. I decided to affiliate with them because I’ve had great success using their services and I love that my sites are carbon-negative thanks to them. I find myself naturally bringing up their awesome service all of the time, so I might as well get paid for it, right?

You probably won’t make much money from affiliate marketing at first, but as your readership grows so will the number of purchases made through your links.

It can be pretty tempting to sign up for a whole bunch of affiliate programs, slap ads all over your website, and offer $2,000 coaching packages right off the bat, but I highly suggest you don’t do that.

Instead, spend your time and energy creating high-value content for your readers and promoting your work.

As your blog continues to grow, so will your opportunity to monetize.

 

Summary

Now that you know how to create a blog from start to finish, you’ll be able to get your voice out there and make a positive impact for others who are searching for information, advice, and services online.

If you follow the steps laid out in this post, you’ll soon have a solid platform to connect with a global audience and build a community.

You have the tools to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact through blogging. Now get out there and start writing!

I’d love to hear about your reasons for starting a blog. Leave a comment below and let me know what you hope to accomplish through impact blogging!

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Deanna Pratt

Founder at eco ally
Activist entrepreneur, writer, and business mentor. Founder of Sunbird (sunbird.digital) and Eco Ally (ecoally.co). I love cats, anime, and environmental justice!

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