Starting a New Blog: Case Study – VloggingGear.co.uk

Starting a New Blog: Case Study – VloggingGear.co.uk

Vlogging Gear website logo. A new website case study by Darren Meredith

Hi, I’m Darren and I have more registered domains than I have time for. There, I said it. I like to come up with ideas for starting a new blog and register the domain. The idea and its potential excites me. Then I don’t end up doing anything with it for half a year and I normally lose interest and move on to my next big idea. Well, not this time. You are all my accountability buddies in this project. This time I’m going to build a new website and I’m going to share my progress with you from setup to content creation.

The project is to build a blog about vlogging gear. I’m telling you all of this because you will hold me accountable. I will put in to practise all the things, I have read about for the last two years and see if they really work.

Disclaimer: This article has been written by me (Darren Meredith) from my own experience. In this article I make recommendations & provide links to products & services I use. I may make commission from these links, should you choose to make a purchase. The commission I receive helps cover the costs of running this website & there will be at no extra cost to you for using them. Full Disclaimer

Getting Started With a New Blog

The first question is what will your new blog be about? The simple answer is that you should write about something you feel passionate about or want to be known for, as this will be easier to develop and create content for in the long run. Before you look at the steps below, think about what it is you want to write about. Is it a hobby, a travel destination, your own business or something else?

There might be a market for a new blog on how to take care of your lawn, but if your only interest in gardening is lazing on that lawn on a sunny day, you’ll struggle to sustain the energy needed to maintain a blog on the subject. So take out a note pad and pen, or open a Word document on your laptop and come up with a few subjects that you think you would like to write about and you feel would sustain your interest for long enough to develop a blog on the subject. On my list I had a few travel destinations that I had thought about writing about, project management, self-improvement, and camera gear.

Once you have some ideas noted down, think of an angle on each subject that would work for you. For this project, I have chosen to write about vlogging gear and getting started in vlogging. I feel a bit of inception coming on here, as I will be blogging about blogging on vlogging, which will probably include some vlogs on that blogging. I think that’s right… Anyway, choose one topic to start with and make that your focus.

I started vlogging as iZog Adventure back in 2017 to capture days out with Rebecca and to inspire others to get out and explore more. The iZog Adventure YouTube channel and blog have been going for three years now and this is something I have a passion for. I also like to help people and share the knowledge I have picked up, so it seemed like a natural progression for me to teach others about what I have learned from developing that channel and my resulting love of vlogging (and the gear that goes with it!).

Choosing a Domain Name for Your New Blog

When looking for a domain name there are a few things to think about:

  • Choose one that is easy to remember,
  • Easy to say,
  • Include keywords if you can,
  • Use normal spellings of words.

Then, search for your chosen domain name on 123-reg or SiteGround to check if that domain name is available. Next, you will need to purchase the domain. I like to register my domain names with 123-reg and have a separate hosting with SiteGround. There is no technical reason for doing this, but I like the familiarity and ease of use of the 123-reg admin panel, having used it for years. I’m currently moving all my domains over to SiteGround.

Check if Your Social Media Handles Are Available

Once you have purchased the domain name for your blog, check if there are appropriate social media handles available. You’re going to want to interact with the world as your blog, so check to see if you can register Twitter, Instagram and Facebook handles using your chosen domain name.

The important thing to bear in mind is don’t get disheartened if you can’t get ‘@blogname’ in its purest form. What will matter, though, is that you get the same variation of the name across all social platforms to make it easy for your audience on one platform to find you on another. I use @darrenmeredith_ across all social platforms for my Darren Meredith blog, and @izogadventure for my travel site (for vloggging gear I have gone with @vlogging_gear). (Tip: If you can get @blogname on Twitter, but you can only get @blog_name on Instagram and Facebook, then choose @blog_name for Twitter as well. This is so your audience only has to remember one handle to find you.)

You don’t have to post on all of the social media platforms from the start, but register them all at once so you have them ready to use later (and nobody else can take them for their similarly-named business or pretend to be you). I talk about which platforms to focus on at the start in my post on which social media to use. If you are building a community around your blog, you might want to also create a Facebook group. A group on Facebook is my preference over a Facebook page, as groups are more engaging and a great way to connect with your audience if they have further questions.

Choosing a Host for Your Blog

There are many blogs out there that offer hosting solutions. Cheap solutions can seem attractive and help you get started, but in the longer term, if you are serious about turning your blog into a business, it’s best to start with a reliable service that will allow you to grow without having to switch providers. I have used many hosts over the years, including cheaper options, and when I have chosen to invest in good hosting, I have experienced a more reliable service and great technical support 24/7. This is why I use SiteGround as my host.

SiteGround has always been helpful, especially when I made errors starting out and it has even fixed a few issues for me when I have broken my blog. Look at what is included with a host, as not all hosts are equal. I have asked blogger friends which providers they use and SiteGround is always one of the most popular. As I have multiple blogs, I chose to go with SiteGround’s GrowBig plan, so I only have the one hosting cost that covers all my sites.

Setting your DNS (Domain Name Servers)

In order for your website host to connect with your domain registration, you will need to point the DNS on your registrar to your hosting company. You can find your DNS setting in your control panel area when you log in to your host’s website (in this example it is SiteGround). Then log in to 123-reg and update the DNS settings. Do be careful with this, as you don’t want to get it wrong or point to the wrong host.

Making Your Site Secure With HTTPS

If you are going to be collecting any kind of data, you’ll need to make sure your site is secure. Google also prefers secure sites. So, before you install WordPress, you’ll need to apply for an SSL certificate through Let’s Encrypt.

You will find details of Let’s Encrypt in your SiteGround cPanel and this is where you will request your SSL certificate from. This is a key step, as you will want your new site to be secure. The first time I did this I applied for the SSL certificate at a later stage and had to ask SiteGround to update some background information for me and change some settings in WordPress, which was time-consuming and difficult. Believe me, it’s just easier to do a fresh installation onto a secure server from the start, but if you do decide to try this at a later date and you get it wrong, contact your host’s support for help (as I did).

Installing WordPress

The SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt normally takes 10-20 minutes to come through to your cPanel. Once you have this, you will be able to install WordPress on the HTTPS (i.e. the secure) version of your site. Select ‘WordPress installer’ in cPanel, click on it and then choose ‘install’. When asked on the ‘install’ page which version of WordPress to install, choose the latest version as it is the most recent stable version.

On the same page, under ‘Software Setup’ you will have the option to ‘choose installation URL’. Make sure you choose the https:// option and if you have multiple domains, ensure you select the correct domain in the box to the right of the https://.

If you can’t see the https:// option available, you might need to wait a bit longer for your SSL certificate to come through. NB: if you have multiple domains and you select the wrong one, you will overwrite an existing installation.

Scroll down the page to ‘Site Settings’ and select an admin username, password and an email address that you already have access to. My recommendation is to choose an email address that is not related to your domain, so if your domain has any issues, you can still receive emails about it e.g. use a Gmail account.


These are all the settings I believe you need at this stage, so once you have inputted them you are ready to hit the install button! Once you have done this you have your WordPress installation ready and you can get started on your new site.

Install Your CDN (Content Delivery Network)

You don’t have to do this step to have a working site, but using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) helps with page speed, which will help with ranking in the future as your site grows, so it’s worth taking a moment to set it up now.

What is a CDN? “When someone visits your site the content will be delivered from the closest [server] to your visitor server and this will make your website load faster than ever in every part of the world! Additionally, CloudFlare protects your website by analysing which of the traffic you get (sic.) is legitimate and which is malicious. It will automatically block malicious and unwanted traffic.” ~ CloudFlare

Go into your cPanel > Site improvement tools > CloudFlare. Select your domain and click on Manage > Settings > SSL support and set this to ‘full strict’. This is the only setting I have ever changed in there.

Set Up Your New Website Email Address

Set up at least one email address for your new domain. You can add others later but you need one to start with to have a place for any site-related emails to go to. I typically set up a few email addresses for each domain at the start. Typically I use ‘[email protected]’, ‘[email protected]’, ‘[email protected], and ‘[email protected]’. I use this system because it gives me an idea of where the email has come from, but having just one email address means only one password to remember and you may find that easier.

You need to go into the cPanel on SiteGround to set up an email address. Once your email address is live, you will be shown how to set it up on your chosen email client (e.g. Outlook) or mobile phone.

Choosing a Blog Theme

I just wanted to say, if you’re still reading and you haven’t been put off setting up your new blog, then thank you. We’re now going to spend some time looking at the design element of your blog.

Choosing the right theme for your blog can be daunting. Especially if you have never built a website before and all you want to do is share your content with the world. I would like to reassure you that having the right theme is important, but not as important as the content you will be creating. You can always update your theme in the future. That said, taking the time to choose or create the right theme now will mean you can focus more on creating content for longer before you feel the need to update it.

So, should you choosing a free WordPress theme to start? If you want to blog as a hobby, a free theme is OK, but you may quickly outgrow it and want to make changes that the theme doesn’t allow for. Unless you know coding, making changes to a free theme can be difficult, so take time to choose the right theme for you before you start adding all your content. One of the best things I ever did was invest time and effort into understanding how my theme works and choosing a theme with a good page speed.

For paid themes I can recommend Flatsome (I use this on iZog Adventure), but I have chosen to build my Vlogging Gear blog on Divi 4 from Elegant Themes. I’ve bought lifetime access to Divi, which means I can use it on multiple websites. The reason I chose Divi rather than Flatsome for Vlogging Gear, is that with Flatsome you have to buy a licence for each site you want to install it on and I plan to build many more websites in the future. There is also a great Facebook community for Divi that can help if you get stuck or want to know how to do something you have seen on another site but can’t replicate on your own. If you choose to go with Divi, there are some great free online tutorials that can have you up and running quickly.

WordPress Settings for Your Blog

There is one last step before you can start adding content to your brand new blog and that is having the right WordPress settings for a few key areas.

URL settings

As much as you want to start writing, if you were to add content to your site without updating how the URL is displayed, you will probably have one that looks something like this: www.domain.com/post/2020/02/01/sample-post or www.domain.com/9849d98z398z These are terrible for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and it is much better practise to create custom URLs.

Let’s update them now. In WordPress log in to wp-admin and go to Settings > permalinks and change the ‘Common settings’ to ‘Post Name’. The URL will look neater and also be better for SEO https://www.vlogginggear.co.uk/sample-post/

The only other setting I update is to ensure that the home page displays a static home page. This is under wp-admin again, so go to Settings > Reading > Reading Settings and select ‘a static homepage’. You will need to create a home page to be able to select this, so add a blank home page for now. We can add content to your home page later.

Plugins

Having too many plugins can slow your site down, so be careful with what you install and keep any plugins up to date, as this will keep them more secure, as the developer patches any issues. You can activate and deactivate plugins, but if you are no longer using a plugin it is better to delete it, as deactivated plugins can slow your site down.

SEO plugin

Yoast SEO is a great plugin and will help you further understand SEO and if what you are writing is good SEO. Only use this as a guide and not as a full rule, make sure you are always writing for a human and not what you think will help you rank better. If what you write is not legible, people will just click away and not engage with your content.

Cookie and privacy plugin

If you have an audience in Europe (yes, this includes the UK). You will need to have this popup that notifies visitors of cookies being used. The visitor will then need to accept to proceed to your website. I use GDPR Cookie Consent by WebToffee.

Maintenance page

If you have an established business and you are building a new blog as part of the existing website, you might want to add in a maintenance page plugin. I use Coming Soon Page & Maintenance Mode by SeedProd, which allows me to collect email addresses while I’m building the website or while I am in maintenance mode. I use ConvertKit as my email service provider and I can tag any email addresses that are inputted by visitors to the maintenance page and send them an update when the site goes live.

SG Optimizer

This is a plugin that SiteGround offers to help speed up your site. It is worth looking over the settings here once you have some content up and running.

Creating Your First Pages

When can I just start writing content already? I hear you ask. Before starting to write content, it’s good to have your basic pages set up and ready to go. When I am building a new website, I go through and add blank pages under the headings below in WordPress, so when I start building the page content, I can link them up later.  

Home page

People will probably find your blog by clicking on a search result in Google, but the home page is probably where they will go after they have read that post. Keep your home page simple and clean. Look at other sites you like and be inspired by them. They don’t have to be in the same niche as you, just be ones that you like some element of.

When you are populating your home page with text, you can create the actual content as you go, or you can create place holder text, also known as lorem ipsum.

About page

This is a key page on any website. It’s where visitors will go to find out more about the site and what it has to offer. It’s a great place to introduce yourself and say why you started the blog. Keep it fun and engaging and offer a sign up to your newsletter. A good email marketing strategy is to offer a download of something that will help them in exchange for their email address. This is called a ‘lead magnet’ or ‘freemium’.

Contact page

Your visitors will want to know how to contact you. For a blog, you will probably only want to provide an email address or a contact form. If you are selling anything on your site however, you will need to have a registered business address listed somewhere on the site.

Policy pages

I’m not a lawyer and I have created these pages using what I have found on the internet for free and by looking at lots of other websites that I like and trust. I can’t advise you, I can only tell you what I do and you will have to make your own decision regarding policy wording, but you will need to add these pages before you start adding your content.

You will need to have the following:

  • Privacy policy: If you allow comments, collect email addresses or hold any information on your visitors you will need a privacy policy to let them know how their data is stored etc.
  • Cookie policy: I use https://www.cookieserve.com/ to check the cookies that are on my site and include them in the cookie policy plugin. This plugin will generate the page for you.
  • Disclosure policy: This is required if you use affiliate or sponsored links.
  • A Policy policy (OK, this one isn’t needed just yet but I wanted to make you smile).

Blog landing page

This is where your visitors will find the latest blog posts and sections of your blog. This is another reason that I like to use Divi to build my sites. It’s easy to add in a section and display just posts from a chosen category on a landing page.

Once you have all of these pages set up you can start writing content! Blog your little heart out… but wait… there’s one last thing to think about: SEO.

SEO and Writing Your First Content

If you are new to blogging you may not be aware of SEO, or you may have read a lot about SEO and why you need SEO and why without SEO your blog will fail but not really understood what SEO actually is.

Well, yes, you need to understand SEO and there are some great resources out there. One of the courses I would recommend is Make Traffic Happen. It is a great resource to get started in SEO. You will learn more about SEO through MTH than I will be covering on this blog. I personally recommend these courses as I have done them myself and found great value in them.

Blog posts and On-page SEO

Do these things for every blog post you publish:

  1. Have your URL include your target keyword (this is why we changed the way the URL displays above).
  2. Clearly lay out your headings and include your keyword and variations of the keyword in your headings.
  3. Include your keyword in the first 100 words of the first paragraph.
  4. Update the meta description within your Yoast plugin, so that the snippet that shows up in Google searches will encourage visitors to click.
  5. Set the text that will display for when you share the links on social media. You can set custom text for Facebook and Twitter.
  6. Make sure that you use descriptive Alt Tags for images. This is key for anyone visiting your site that has a visual impairment, but also helps with SEO.
  7. Use alternative options to your target keyword and don’t just keyword stuff, as this will be a big turn off for the reader. Always write for the reader and not for the algorithm.
  8. The ideal number of words for an article seems to be always growing. Google says that the word count doesn’t matter, but this will depend on what you are writing about. My thought is that an article needs to be as long as it needs to be in order to convey the information. There is no need to just write content for the sake of it.
  9. Include a table of contents. If you scroll to the top of this article, you will see a table of contents that links to every heading. This helps guide the reader, but I have read that it is also useful for SEO. I use LuckyWP Table of Contents plugin.

Writing Your First 10 Blog Posts

Yes, you have done it! You have a blog you are ready to create content for. Now comes the fun part of writing the content. Come up with 2–4 subjects, not posts, but subjects within your area that you want to write about. You can add more later, but this will give you a good starting point. For each of these subjects, try to come up with 5–7 post titles that you can write about.

Try to come up with post titles that you would search for and also think about how you can link them together. You’ll notice in this article that I link out to other posts on my blog to relevant areas. This helps spread ‘link juice’ through the site and increase your domain authority.

The main idea behind your first 10 blog posts is to answer questions that people are asking within your field. Look on forums and Facebook groups and see if you can come up with an answer to help someone.

Adding Your Site to Google

You’re probably going to want to know how much traffic your site is getting and where it is coming from. This will help you understand how to create more of your popular content and increase your site traffic. You’ll also need to show this information to ad servers that you may want to work with in the future.

This is how to add Google Analytics (GA) to your blog:

  1. Add your domain to Google Search Console – https://search.google.com/search-console
  2. Set up GA – https://analytics.google.com/analytics
  3. Add GA code to your website – This can be found under ‘Theme options’ in Divi
  4. Link GA and Google Search Console – You can follow the same steps that I used here on PathFinderSEO

If you have any questions about GA or Google Search Console, the help section of Google is best to refer to. But, as your blog is new, it’s good to just set up GA and not worry too much at this stage.

Ranking Your Site

One thing to be aware of is that your “Top 10 things to do in X city” or “Coffee you must try” post is probably not going to appear on the first page of Google. Even a well-thought-out post from a new blog will take time to rank in Google. You’ll need to take time to build authority, so in the early days just focus on writing good content. That is where I am at today!

Handy Checklist for Setting Up a New Blog

Here’s my handy checklist for setting up a new blog using this post as a guide:

  1. Domain – check
  2. Social media – check
  3. Theme – check
  4. Pages – check
  5. 10 blog posts – In progress
  6. Set up Google – Check
  7. Submitted site map to Google – Check
  8. Set backup – Check
  9. Site is live – Check

Congratulations!

Welcome to the world of blogging. I’d love to hear how you get on. If you sign up to receive notifications and updates to this post over the next 12 months, I’ll also send you my checklist to getting started in blogging and I will invite you to the Vlogging Gear Facebook group.

Download the checklist and I’ll keep you UpToDate with my progress each month –

The Digital Coach

The Digital Coach

Digital Coach writing in a notepad about strategy

What is a Digital Coach?

A Digital Coach is someone that can help you better understand content creation and strategy. This can be on social media, websites or YouTube videos. A Digital Coach will also help you better understand how to use these platforms and create a better content, while increasing engagement with your audience.

What is Digital Content?

For a Digital Coach, digital content is anything that is posted on a website or across social media. This includes formats such as:

  • Blog Posts (text)
  • Photography
  • Video
  • Downloads
  • Training Courses
  • Email Marketing