5 Steps to Starting a Teacher Blog
In the summer of 2015, Rachel and I decided we wanted to start a teacher blog.
Rachel was a Pinterest fanatic and loved seeing ideas shared from teachers all around the world. After seeing and trying so many ideas from teachers, she felt like it was time to take the next step and share some of the math ideas that she’d developed over years of teaching. I loved the idea of having a little space of our own to talk about the lessons we’d learned about teaching and learning.
But we’d never built a website like this before, and it all felt a little intimidating to be honest. So, like a good student, I went into research mode. I spent a long time trying to learn everything I could about starting a blog. I weighed out pros and cons. For a couple of months, we talked about all we were learning about blogs. We debated back and forth whether we should to do this now, or if we should wait longer.
Finally, Rachel and I got to the point where we knew we needed to take the plunge. We’d been in research mode long enough, and it was time to just give it a try. We researched domain names, found one that worked for us, and looked at each other one last time to make sure we really wanted to do this.
Today we have over 50,000 page views per month on our website from teachers who are looking for math teaching ideas. That’s absolutely mind-blowing and humbling. We hear from teachers all over the globe about things happening in their classroom. This would not be possible without the website we’ve created over the past few years.
Maybe you’re doing your research on starting a blog, like we were. Perhaps you know you want to start your own blog, but you’re overwhelmed and unsure where to start. Well, consider this your personal invitation to get out of research mode and get into taking action mode with these 5 steps for starting a teacher blog.
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#1 Research what you like
First, pay attention to what you like, and what you don’t. If you’re thinking about starting a teacher website or blog, then you probably already have some favorite sites online. A great starting place is to take a look at all of the websites you currently visit. The topic of the website doesn’t matter. Look at all your favorite blogs for home decor, fashion, parenting, recipes, personal finance, etc. Notice what you like about each site. What draws you in? What turns you off on a blog? Just noticing your reader experience really helps find the direction you’ll want to go on your blog.
#2 Start basic and build
Next, understand that the most important thing in the beginning is to start with a strong platform to build on, even if you’re not sure of every single detail for what you’re building. One of the hardest hurdles we had to get over when we started is that we weren’t 100% sure of absolutely everything we wanted to have on our blog. It’s so easy to agonize over font colors or get paralyzed by a fear of failure.
Around this time I heard a Chinese proverb that really stuck with me: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This quote helped me think of this blog as a baby tree. First, we needed to plant it in a good place. After that, nurturing the blog with consistent effort would help it grow. Looking back, this parable really does describe our blogging journey. I’m happy we planted our little tree, and it’s fun watching it grow.
The biggest revelation was when realized that we didn’t have to know everything right now. It wasn’t necessary to know everything that we would ever want to have or do on our blog. We just needed a solid foundation. Then, we needed to know just enough to take the next step. That’s how we’ve built our site- we started with a strong (and basic) foundation and then added on the next wing of the house when we had a clearer picture of what we wanted.
#3 Decide Free vs. Paid
Another big decision to make is whether to use a free blogging platform or whether to pay for hosting. I spent a lot of time researching to answer this question for us. I looked back at the websites and blogs I was enjoying and noticed that they were on their own domains, or websites.
Next, I read articles on from several serious bloggers who were killing it, taking notes on what they recommended. I read and read and read everything I could from bloggers whose work I admired and who were already doing what Rachel and I wanted to do- share our ideas and help teachers find strategies that would work in their classrooms. The more I researched, the more I realized I kept hearing the same advice:
- Choose a self-hosted domain, not a free domain ultimately owned by someone else. Nothing is ever truly free. Free websites often prohibit any kind of selling on their sites, up sell for more advanced features, and some post their own ads without your input. A self-hosted domain means you own a piece of internet real estate- your webpage. This gives you the opportunity to do whatever you want with your website, even if it’s still a bit down the road (i.e. post ads, sell an e-book, etc.)
- WordPress is the most popular platform for self-hosted webpages, and for good reason. It’s comparatively easy to set up and can be changed any time through plug ins, add-ons that allow you to customize your website. Plus they have 1,000s of themes to choose from to design your site and get the professional look you want. There are even many free themes to choose from. (To be clear, I’m talking about WordPress.org here, not WordPress.com)
- WordPress sites tend to rank higher in Google search than other platforms. This means it’s just a bit easier for your audience to find you in the great big internet. (Note: Again, this is specifically talking about WordPress.org, not WordPress.com.)
- Bluehost is simple to use and makes starting a blog relatively painless. Over and over again I read how bloggers were using Bluehost to secure their domain and host their webpage.
To be honest, the monthly fee was really low, but we were hesitant to spend any money. It seemed risky. What if we failed? What if this whole blogging experience just didn’t work for us? In the end, we decided to look at starting our blog as investing in ourselves.
For just a few dollars a month we could own a little piece of internet property where we could build our own virtual “dream house.”
Bottom line, when we looked at the people who were already doing what we eventually wanted to be doing online, this was what they were doing. They owned their own domain. They used WordPress to build their site. And it was working for them.
#4 Find your domain
Now, things start getting fun! It’s time to find your domain. First, brainstorm as many names as you can. Have some fun with it. What words represent your viewpoint? It’s probably best to be specific, but not so specific you feel locked in later on (if that makes sense). Then, you can easily check to see if your desired domain names are available with the tool below:
You want to make sure that the name you choose will work for you over the long run, and one that’s catchy and memorable. If your first choice isn’t available, this domain checker will suggest alternatives. If you run into a roadblock with the name, check out these tips from Amy Lynn Andrews.
#5 Take the plunge
At a certain point, you just have to take the plunge. Seth Godin, marketing genius and author says it this way: “Just ship.” There’s a million reasons to put off pushing the button and just doing it. I felt like I still had so much to learn (I did). Rachel felt like we just didn’t know how, or if, this would all work (we didn’t). But the truth was, so many of those reasons were really just fears. The best way to learn was to get started. We quickly realized that once you decide to take action, the steps are actually pretty simple. I think the hardest part is just making the decision to do it. So let’s go!
Below we’ll walk you through how to set up your blog using Bluehost and WordPress.org. We chose to take this approach based on the recommendations of successful bloggers, and were happy to find that it was easy to get started. Everything was laid out, and in our experience their customer service department has been very responsive.
Here’s how to get started with your own website or blog on Bluehost:
A. Go to the Bluehost website. You’ll be redirected to Bluehost through our affiliate link. (Thanks so much for supporting us in our blogging effort.) Once there, click on the green “get started now” button.
B. Then, enter your domain name in the new domain box.
C. Enter all of your account information and choose the package you would like. Keep in mind that you get the best deal if your pay for 36 months up front. Bluehost does offer a money back guarantee, so you don’t have to worry. They offer other services, but I wouldn’t worry about those, yet. You can always add them later if you find you need them.
The one box I would recommend you select is the “Domain Privacy Protection” for about $0.99/month. This keeps your personal information private (otherwise, the who is information used to set up a domain name is available to anyone on the internet and can be used to send unsolicited advertisements, etc.) You’ll only see this option if you’re registering with a new domain.
D. Next, enter your billing information and click to agree with the terms of service. Click “next” to move onto the next step.
E. Finally, choose a password for your account. You’ll want to record this somewhere because, as we all know, it’s easy to forget a password. And just like that, you have a Bluehost account.
F. Now you’re ready to set up your site with WordPress!
How to Set Up WordPress
G. WordPress is a blogging software that makes your website run. It’s also really easy to install. Once you’re logged in to Bluehost, scroll down to the “Website” section and choose “Install WordPress.”
H. Choose the free installation process. You’ll be able to handle this without a pro!
I. Click to agree to the terms and conditions and then click the “Install Now” button. Once everything is loaded, be sure to click on “View Credentials” and write everything down so you can always log it without problem. Be sure to save the confirmation email you receive because it comes loaded with important log in information.
J. You now have your very own website! It’s very basic right now, but it’s there and it’s yours! So let’s celebrate you taking huge action today!!! Sorry for the excessive exclamation points, but it seems appropriate for the occasion.
Now that you’ve set up your blog (and celebrated), here’s some great resources for moving forward on your blogging journey. Remember, there are tutorials and guides for any questions you may have. Plus, Bluehost technical service is also there to help you if you hit any snags with the set up, or if you have any hosting questions down the road. If you’re in the US, their number is 844-213-7846. Finally, the list below features some helpful links and resources as you start your own blogging journey.
- Choose a Theme (make sure you choose one that’s responsive, or mobile friendly, and updated often). For more info & recommendations on choosing a theme, check out this post from Amy Lynne Andrews. We used a free theme for a long time before upgrading to a premium theme from Genesis.
- Install your theme.
- Check out other great tutorials for any questions that you may have when working on your blog.
- Change your domain from HTTP to HTTPS to be more secure. (The guide for this is about 60% down the page in the linked article)
- Start writing & blogging. Share all your best content knowledge and tips with the world. This article has great advice for getting started: 9 Helpful Blogging Tips for New Bloggers.
Can’t wait to read your ideas and insights on your brand new blog! Good luck to you!
Thanks so much for reading! Until next time.
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