You’ve decided to launching your blog. You’re going to publish regularly. Build an audience. And ultimately build an income.
But first, you have to set up the blog. You also know that you’ll want to build an email list, so you need a way for people to sign up for that… and then a way to send them messages. You want to integrate social media with your blog, and that’s something you’re not quite sure how to do.
These are the nuts and bolts of your business. And frankly, they’re pretty boring. Way less fun than writing. But they’re also essential.
If you miss any of these elements, your business will suffer. Or stop working completely.
When you have more time than money, finding a simple solution you can implement yourself is a viable option.
But keep in mind, if you do have the money and don’t want to update your website or manage your email list settings, hiring that stuff out is more than okay. It’s a smart move because it lets you focus on what you enjoy.
Okay, now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into the details. This guide will give you tips for handling the technical side of your blogging business.
We’ll look at options for:
- Your website/blog
- Your email service provider
- E-commerce solutions… if you need them
- A fulfillment system… again, if it becomes relevant
- Your customer support
Your goal is to provide you with a range of solutions, from easy-to-follow DIY options to the questions you should ask if you decide to work with a professional.
Above all, remember the core content of making all this work: Don’t overthink things!
Find a solution. Give it a try. If it doesn’t work, try a different option. Just keep pushing forward, and eventually, things will click. When it all comes together, that’s when the good stuff starts happening.
Your Blog Site Online Presence
If you want to run an online business, you’ve got to have an online presence. And that means having a website where your blog lives.
You may be thinking, “Can’t I just run my blog through one of those blogging platforms or Medium? I hear Medium is good…”
And the honest answer is you can. Lots of blog owners have reached success without having their domain. But think about what you’d be giving up.
If you don’t own your domain name and your website, you could lose your entire online presence at someone else’s whim. It’s happened before. And if you think setting up your website and blog is a headache… just think about the headaches that come with losing everything.
So I say, go with your website. Then it comes to setting up a website, and this is where many bloggers go into “spinning-the-wheels” mode.
For a website, you just need a few core things.
- You need a domain name.
- You need a hosting provider. This business keeps your blog on a server where the people searching the web can find it.
- You need a copy to fill in the pages, which we’re not going to cover here because you’re a writer, and that’s the fun part
Registering Your Domain Name
Your domain name is the string of characters someone types into a web browser address bar to get to your blog. Nick Usborne’s domain name is coffeedetective.com, and Carol Bryant’s is fidoseofreality.com.
You can use your name, like Sarah Titus. Or you can use the name you’ve chosen for your blog, provided it’s available.
You can use anything just as long as no one else is already using it. For figuring out what domain names are available, it’s hard to beat GoDaddy.Here’s what you’ll see when you go there…
Or something like this. The homepage image and language might update. But that search field, that’s the important part.
Type whatever domain name you’re hoping to use into that field, hit search, and GoDaddy will tell you if it’s available or taken. If it’s available, you can register it through GoDaddy or through another domain name registration service.
We’ve found GoDaddy to be pretty competitive regarding registration prices, but it doesn’t hurt to shop around.
A couple of quick notes about your domain name. Go with a .com address. Sure, there are plenty of other options: .net, .org, .biz. But people tend to tack on .com when they type in a web address.
So if you tell someone your website is at BestDogToys.net, they’ll probably end up over at your competitor’s website, BestDogToys.com. You’re just giving the other site free advertising.
Mentioned shopping around. If you want to do that, here are other options you can check out:
Choosing a Webhost
One down. All right, your next step is to find a hosting company. Remember, this company has the server where your blog “lives” on the internet. It’s kind of backward… First, you pick your address, then choose the street to live on.
You’re going to deal with your hosting service a lot more than the registration company, so you want to make sure you find one that offers good customer service and that has a good reputation for uptime… meaning your site is up and available to people searching for it and trying to visit it.
Here’s the thing about hosting companies. If you search hard enough, you can find a horror story. Every hosting service has a disgruntled customer who has posted their nightmare experience to social media.
If you search for it, you’ll find it, which can lead to a lot of second-guessing. Instead, look for the top two or three companies with the best reputation for good service and fair pricing.
Then look at the packages they offer and pick the one that best fits your needs. If you have a friend or two with a website, ask them what they use and how they like it.
To get you started, according to the editors of PC Mag, some of the best hosting service providers are:
Most of these services have packages starting at five dollars or less per month. Look for an option that doesn’t limit the number of websites or email addresses you can have.
And choose a package with unmetered bandwidth. Unmetered website space is nice to have, too. All of these things leave you with plenty of room to grow and launch other businesses when it suits you.
If you try to set up your hosting service and it ends up leaving you so frustrated you’re ready to disavow computers for the rest of your life, see if you can find someone on UpWork or Fiverr to help you through the process on the cheap.
Or you might know a college kid who is tech savvy and would be willing to walk you through it in exchange for pizza.
Designing Your Blog
This is the big one. Remember, you’re not going to stall out. Do not get hung up on little details. Just keep moving forward. Get your blog up and online where people can actually visit it.
Think of your blog as a work in progress. You’ll always be learning new things about how to organize it and what to add to it. You’ll change your mind about how you want it to look.
You can make those changes, usually without too much fuss. So anything you do now you’re not married to. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect.
So, the basics. Someone visiting your blog will decide in about two or three seconds (sometimes faster) if they want to hang around and read what you’ve written.
By sticking to a few design basics, you’ll hold more of your visitors’ attention for longer. Whether you decide to design your blog yourself or hand the design off to a professional, you still need to understand these basics.
the last thing you want is to spend money on a blog design and not know if it’s good or not.
The thing you need to know when designing a blog
- Use one or two fonts and use black text on a white background. It’s not fancy, but it’s easy to read.
- Make good use of white space. Give your text and graphics room to breathe.
- Keep your navigation simple. Remember, one of the things people decide when they reach your blog is if it will be worth their time to read and explore. Simple navigation will help them decide to stay and look around.
- Make the navigation the same on every page.
- Include an opt-in. Remember the importance of building your list. The time to start doing that is now!
- Once you have something to sell, make it easy to buy. That’s a good rule for everything… whatever you want your visitor to do, make it easy for them to do it.
- Field test it. Once your blog is up and you’re ready to add subscribers to your list, have a few friends go through the process. Find out where they get confused or stuck and fix it.
We’ve covered some of the things you need to keep in mind to ensure you get a good blog design. But we haven’t talked about the process of actually designing your blog.
That’s the easier route. You’re looking at a simple design, so it’s not a huge investment. But it is an investment.
Here’s what you get for that investment
- You don’t have to learn any HTML coding.
- You don’t have to spend hours feeling frustrated as you master the web-design learning curve.
- You don’t have to read through complex, hard-to-follow instructions.
- You get to spend your time doing what you love to do — writing.
It’s a worthwhile investment. Now again, web designers are like web hosting services. Everyone has a horror story — which is why we really like going the recommendation route.
If you can’t find a web designer you can afford through a trusted recommendation, then use Upwork or Fiverr to find someone in your price range.
Recognize that when you go with bargain-basement prices, you might end up with a horror story yourself, but in the end, you should have a blog to show for it.
If you’re hiring someone without a recommendation from someone you trust, ask these questions first:
- How long have you been designing websites?
- Do you have experience integrating shopping carts and email subscription services into a website?
- Do you have sample websites you can show me?
- Do you have a happy customer or two who I can talk to?
- Do you use WordPress? (WordPress has an open-source content management system. That’s fancy talk that means will it be easy for you to add content to your blog without having to contact a designer every time you publish a new post.)
- Will I own the design files? (Only take yes for an answer.)
After asking these questions, you should have a pretty good feel for if you’re working with someone you can trust.
Building, Growing and Managing Your Email List
If your website is the hub of your business, then your email list is like the engine that drives engagement and, ultimately sales.
Every once in a while, someone asks if it’s okay to send messages to your subscriber list from your own email program. The answer is a very firm, “No!” Don’t make this mistake.
Another benefit of a third-party ESP is that it makes sending your email messages and keeping your list clean a snap.
Fortunately, when it comes to choosing a reputable ESP, you have a ton of good options. When you choose your ESP, there are a few key things you want to be sure they do well.
Consider these Features for each Potential ESP
- Tracking: Email is like the ultimate direct-response medium. Combine it with the website analytics for your blog, and there is so much you can learn about your visitor behavior. Your ESP should track open rates, clicks, bounces, and unsubscribes.
- Scheduling: Why settle for an email service that only allows you to send messages by manually clicking a send button? Choose an ESP that provides you the option of scheduling ahead.
- Autoresponders: Speaking of scheduling ahead, I can think of at least a dozen reasons why you might want to set up an autoresponder series, so make sure that’s in the feature set.
- Segmenting: Targeted messages work better. Consider what your ESP offers in terms of list segmentation, including how easy it is to do.
- Mobility: More and more people are reading their emails on their phones these days — well over half the market. Your messages need to look good in a mobile format.
- Templates: If you want to give your emails a professional look and feel that’s tied into the branding on your blog, then take a look at what your ESP offers in the way of templates.
- Support: Sooner or later, you’ll run into a tech issue. Or the person you’ve hired to manage your email service provider will run into a tech issue. Whoever runs into the issue is going to want to be able to call a friendly and knowledgeable support person to get said issue resolved. So make sure you ESP has something like that.
- Fees: Be very clear on what you’re being charged for. List size? Number of mailings? Are you paying monthly? Review the complete fee schedule and ask questions if you have them. Part of getting what you pay for is knowing what you’re paying for.
- Delivery: Your email messages won’t do you a darn bit of good if they don’t reach your subscribers. Choose an ESP with a reputation for good deliverability — up in the high 90s in terms of percentage of messages delivered.
Okay, so now you know what to look for. Next… where should you start looking?
Getting People on Your List
Okay, so once you have an email service provider, how do you actually get people on your email subscriber list? You probably already know the simple answer.
They sign up using an opt-in form that you’ve installed on a blog. You’ve probably filled out several of these opt-in forms over the years, right?
But where do those opt-in forms come from? On your blog, those opt-in forms come from your ESP. Of course, they don’t just magically appear on your blog (wouldn’t that be nice?). You have to create them in your ESP, and then copy and paste a bit of code that your ESP provides into your website.
If you have a web designer, this is something they would do. But it turns out, if you’re happy with a very basic sign-up form, it’s not too difficult to generate the code for that and then place it on your site, especially if you’re using WordPress.
When it comes to this kind of thing, YouTube tutorials combined with support from your ESP are the best route. I could try to provide you a step-by-step guide here, but the details might differ depending on your ESP, your blog platform, and what you are trying to accomplish.
And again, if you hate the idea of doing this yourself and you don’t have a web designer, you can find someone on Upwork or Fiverr to get that done for you at a reasonable rate.
A Big Return on a Tiny Investment
List segmentation lets you send emails to certain people based on specific criteria. That means better targeting, more open rates, higher click-through rates, and generally more sales —whether you’re making affiliate sales or offering your own products.
Most email service providers make segmenting pretty easy. But the process is a little different for each one. Take time to explore and understand how segmentation works with your ESP, and then think about how you might use it to better serve your blog audience.
This tiny investment of time can yield big returns on your growth and your income over the years.
Monetizing Your Blog
Okay. So, if you’re planning to earn money from your blog, and you aren’t relying solely on ad networks and sponsored posts, then you probably have something to sell — an affiliate deal, an information product, a coaching package, or maybe a course.
So how do you go about, exchanging your product, whatever it may be, for your buyer’s money? You have a lot of options. In fact, the hardest thing about this step is sifting through the options and figuring out which one is going to work the best for you.
The Simplest Option
Outside of a website builder that includes e-commerce features, the next easiest option for accepting payments is PayPal. According to PayPal, setting up your site to accept payment through PayPal takes about 15 minutes. That’s not too bad.
Basically, you get the code for a checkout button that is linked to your PayPal account. PayPal generates the code and you (or your web designer or someone from Fiverr or Upwork) copy and paste the code to your site where you want the order button to appear.
Now of course, you have to do a little setup on the PayPal end. You need to establish an account, and you’ll need to tie that account to your bank account. Once that’s done, creating a button is easy.
There has to be an item and a price associated with the button. You can also add pricing options if you have tiered pricing. And you can customize your button text.
Okay, so here are things to like about PayPal:
- It’s straightforward to set up.
- It’s easy for your customers to use — they don’t have to have a PayPal account to make purchases.
- It’s trusted.
- It’s free to set up. PayPal gets paid in transaction fees — a percentage plus a flat fee of each sale. They only get paid when you get paid.
- It works well with mobile.
- It’s trusted. You’ll come across very few people who don’t know what PayPal is.
More Options, More Control
A number of shopping carts are available. These are e-commerce solutions that allow you to do everything PayPal does with more customization and in some cases, with more streamlining in terms of order management.
The biggest drawback of using a shopping cart is that the set-up is more complicated when it comes to integrating it with your website and email systems.
So, here are a few things you should look for:
- How easy is it to use? If you’re hiring this out, what does it matter? Well, once it’s all set up, there are times when it might be nice for you to be able to add a product to your shopping cart yourself. Say your web designer is on vacation… you don’t want to have to wait on the launch of your Flagship Course until they come home. If your shopping cart is easy to use, you’ll be able to add the new product to it without too much trouble.
- Does it have an intuitive order management system? People are giving you money in exchange for your products. You really, really want to be sure you know exactly where to find those orders, and how to read and process them so people get the products they are supposed to when they are supposed to.
- Does it provide customizable order pages? Can you add your own copy to the order page? Can you make it look like your site? Ask any copywriter, and they’ll tell you that the order device is important. Ignore it or breeze through it at your peril.
- Does the pricing structure make sense? Do you understand what you get for your monthly fee? Do you understand when you’ll be bumped into the next payment tier and what that means it terms of costs to you and increased features? Most shopping carts will bump you up into a new tier based on your revenues or your order volume. It’s a good thing. It means your business is doing well. But you don’t want any surprises, so make sure you know this information up front.
- Can you set it up to take continuity payments? If you’re offering a subscription service, you want to have automated billing as an option.
A few options to consider:
- Easy Digital Downloads (if you’re selling a digital information product through a WordPress site)
- Selz (for downloadable digital products)
- WooCommerce (for WordPress sites)
If you have a physical product that you sell that is manufactured by someone else — say a calendar/planner tailored to parents — then dropshipping is the most sensible option.
This means that when you take and process orders, you send them to the manufacturer, and they handle the packaging and shipping directly.
There are whole businesses dedicated to stocking and drop shipping a wide range of products. Manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers may offer drop shipping services. So you have options — a lot of options.
Unlike e-commerce software, I’m not going to recommend specific options because the one that makes most sense for you has so much to do with your actual product.
But I am going to recommend you consider a few things before enlisting the services of a drop shipping company:
- Product Offerings: Obviously, for drop shipping to make sense, the company needs to have the product you want to sell and that relates to your blog. When you find a company that does drop ship the kind of product you are interested in, look at the rest of their product line… particularly related products. Is there room for you to grow the types of offers you make to your list?
- Pricing Structures: Most drop shippers may have a set-up fee, but then after that, they make money on the products you sell from their stock. Some drop shippers have a monthly fee or even a fee associated with each sale. Find a drop shipper with a pricing structure you consider fair. Also, make sure you can set the price you are selling the item for. Some drop shippers want control over the end price of the product.
- Shipping: Ideally you want a drop shipper who offers what is known as blind shipping, meaning it’s your information on the return label and not theirs. Also, get detailed information on what they charge for shipping and handling.
- Get product samples: Before you start shipping anything to your customers, ensure you sample the product yourself and that it meets your quality standards.
One more word… Amazon is an alternative to drop shipping. They offer a lot of flexibility and scalability, so that’s a possibility to check out as well.
If you’re selling non-digital information product — i.e. printed materials — then drop shipping won’t be something you worry about. What you will need is a good print and mailing house.
You want a service that lets you upload the documents for your product, who will then print it, bind it if that’s something you need, put it into envelopes or boxes, label it for shipping, and send it out the door.
If you’re picking your own print and mailing services, here are a few questions to ask:
- What file formats do they accept?
- Do they do small jobs?
- What is their pricing structure? What’s the per-piece cost from printing to postage?
- What kind of customer reviews do they have?
- How long have they been in the business?
Also, ask for samples of their print work. And make sure you’re on your own mailing list, so you see what your customers receive every month.
If you want to avoid the headaches of print houses and mailing services and drop shippers, you can focus on products that allow for digital delivery… which most bloggers do.
If you decide to go this route, pick an e-commerce solution like Selz that makes delivery of your product as seamless and as automated as possible.
Check more interesting Articles:
Once your business is up and running, there are a few other things on the boring side that can make your business run super smoothly… which means they’re worth some time and attention to set up.
So invest in yourself. It’s a key component to building a blogging business that can grow to support the lifestyle you’re aiming for.
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