So you want to create your own website about comic books (or just about any other passion will do). Awesome! It’s a noble aim (not to be confused with A.I.M.), if I do say so myself. That said, I know very well that starting a blog can be an intimidating, confusing, and frustrating process. There’s all this technical know-how and paying money for things that gets in the way of just writing / creating / doing the comic book thing you love.
Let’s fix that:
Master of Your Domain
The first thing you need to do is determine what type of domain name you want. Your domain name is the URL (uniform resource locator) that visitors will see in their browser when they access, link to, or search for your site. My domain name is www.comicbookherald.com.
When starting a blog, you have the option of going with a totally free domain name provided through blogging platforms like WordPress or Tumblr (more on those later). This is how I got started, with the free URL: odinsbolts.wordpress.com.
This is a perfectly reasonable starting option, and as you’ve likely noticed, there are many fantastic blogs that take this approach. It’s the quickest way to start producing content.
I would encourage you to purchase your own domain name, though, for a number of reasons. The first few that come to mind:
- You’ll fully own your web platform
- Your URL looks more official, memorable, and easier to share
- You gain full access to WordPress.org capabilities
- You avoid the pain of transferring a title.wordpress.com blog to a domain at a later date (huge hassle if phrases like “domain name server” and “ip address” give you heart palpitations)
- Domain names are valuable assets, potentially worth a healthy sum
How to Buy a Domain
Before purchasing your very own domain, you’re going to want to write out a list of blog name ideas. This is a crucial stage in which you actually name your blog / business. Prioritize the names you like best, and attempt to purchase a domain with that brand name in mind.
Let’s say, for example, you decide “Comic Book Blog” is what you want to name your site (let no one say you lack for imagination). You have two approaches here. You can go to a domain name registrar like Godaddy.com and type in comicbookblog.com to see if it’s available. Alternatively, you can Google your desired brand name to see what websites and blogs are already using that title.
I recommend some brief Google research around your brand name before you check the domains availability. Not only will this show you if there’s already a popular www.comicbookblog.com (spoiler: there is), but it will show you how strong the competition will be for your branded search. Ideally, you want a search results page that isn’t swarming with activity and competing similar names and ideas.
From there, it’s time to check availability on a domain name registrar. I’ve personally used GoDaddy for a number of projects, and never had any problems. You can explore domains using the search box below. Alternatively, here’s another similarly priced option: 1&1 domain names.
Some final tips on selecting a domain name.
You will likely find that your first, second, maybe even third choices are taken. This is expected; domain names are increasingly scarce. That said, don’t lose hope! You’ll find one that fits your brand. Try variations on the brand name as possible. Pay attention to whether the domain is $9.99, $12.99, or more/less.
Keep your domain name as concise and short as possible (within reason). With www.comicbookherald.com I knew my domain name was slightly longer, but it also is the exact name of my brand, so I feel great about that. If your blog is “The World’s Only Ant-Man Erotica Weblog” you’ll find that such a URL is much too long for visitors to remember or type directly into their web browsers. Try to shorten to the core terms: “antmanerotica.com” or “antmanly.com.” You want to make it clear what the website is about by including your most relevant terms.
A few quick SEO and marketing tips:
Don’t infringe on trademarks – inclusion of brand names (Marvel, Disney, DC) is generally a bad idea. They may not care originally, but at some point infringing on their copyright could bite you in the legal leg.
Pay attention to Google’s Exact Match Domain – part of the Google algorithm involves devaluing sites that are clearly purchasing domains that “exactly match” some hugely searched keyphrase. So “BestHerbalDietPills.com” is a red flag to search engines like Google – it’s not a brand, it’s a get rich quick scheme (possibly). This isn’t as likely to impact your comic book blog, but worth mentioning.
Protect yourself – If you’re in this for the long haul, you might want to also purchase the .org, .net., and any other applicable domain variation. This is an additional expense, but it means a competitor or online scuzz bucket can’t easily steal your brand name w/ a variation on your domain.
The Host With The Most
Nice work – you now have a blog name and a domain to back it up. Next you’ll need a hosting provider to actually make it possible for people to visit your website.
Think of a hosting provider like renting out an office on the internet. It’s a consistent, ongoing expense, but it’s an essential cost of business.
If you’re not a huge techie and just want to write your comic book blog, there’s a good chance you want to think about hosting as infrequently as possible. With a good hosting provider, this is (relatively) achievable.
Personally, I use & recommend HostGator, and I have very few complaints. I pay $9.99 a month, and my site is always accessible and capable of serving the now 100,000 plus legions of Heralds in the world.
Let’s Talk Blog
Finally! With the domain and hosting taken care of, you can focus on the part you’re most excited about: the actual blog!
For the sake of simplicity, and because it’s what I know, I’m going to assume you want to use WordPress for blogging. It’s worth noting that there are other options you may want to explore, including Tumblr, Droopal, Blogger, and Squarespace.
How Do I Launch WordPress?
Now, assuming you’ve subscribed to hosting with HostGator or the provider of your choice, you’ll be able to log into your control panel and begin setting up your blog. For a HostGator account, this will be found at cpanel.[yourdomainname].com.
Within Cpanel, you’ll see a call out that says “Get Started With WordPress Today.” Click that!
From here, all you need to do is select WordPress under ‘Popular Installs,’ and then “Install WordPress.” Fill out the brief form. I recommend leaving the “/install/path/here” field blank.
I Have a Blog!
Exciting, right? There’s still a lot of work to be done, but at this point you can start writing and publishing like the Printing Press wasn’t even that big of a deal.
If this is your first time using WordPress, I highly recommend you read the following post about getting started:
You may also at this point want to consider your blog’s “theme,” or the layout and design you’ll be using for your site. There are free WordPress templates you’ll be able to use to begin.
If you’re interested in some more elaborate designs and options, I recommend looking into Studiopress offerings. Comic Book Herald operates on Studiopress’s Genesis Framework, and it’s a phenomenal choice for any serious blogger.
Testing WordPress Locally
As you’re getting your blog up and rolling, you may find that you want to test things out without pushing them live. This takes a little bit of advanced know-how, but it’s very achievable and will be extremely valuable once you’ve added a lot of content to your blog.
I would personally recommend this “Building Custom WordPress Sites From Scratch” course on Udemy online learning. You may not want to do all of this yourself, but it’s a great learning tool, and if nothing else has the best course on local testing I’ve seen.
Logo, the Living Brand
I haven’t spent a lot of time talking about designing your WordPress blog because it can be a huge distraction from actually creating and writing. This isn’t to say design isn’t important, just that if you’re a blogger you can spend countless hours messing with CSS just to get ONE widget in the right place (not that I’ve ever done anything like that…). For most elements of design, if you have the resources, I’d see if you can find some help.
One particularly easy avenue for this is Fiverr. You can get just about anything (within reason; very few mint Amazing Fantasy #15’s for example) for $5 on this service.
I highly recommend contracting a few designers for a logo through Fiverr. Worst case, you spend no more than $20 and don’t see anything you like. Best case (and most likely) you get a logo you can use on your blog for an extremely low rate and almost no time.
Plugins Comic Book Herald Uses
You’ve learned a lot about starting and testing a WordPress blog at this point. Here’s an overview of the plugins I find absolutely essential. You’ll find as you blog that just about anytime you have a need, there’s probably a plugin for it. Here are my favorites:
Yoast SEO – Makes search engine optimization quite a bit easier.
Yoast Analytics – Helps make tracking site visitors and performance easy.
WP Socializer – Add social sharing icons to posts and pages.
Subscribe to Comments Reloaded – Let’s commenters easily sign up to receive e-mails about the topic.
Akismet – Free spam filter.
How Do I Get Visitors?
As mentioned in the Yoast Analytics plugin above, setting up a Google Analytics profile to track website traffic is an essential launch step. Once you’re tracking visitors, you can turn your attention to how you actually increase the number of visitors to your site.
If you’re new to blogging, be aware that traffic will not simply be there. This isn’t Field of Dreams. Here are the simplest steps you can take at the beginning.
Develop a blog focus and voice – Ultimately your content is going to be the thing that attracts visitors. Now, just because you wrote a great review of The Walking Dead, don’t think every fan of the show is going to find your writing. There are lots of Walking Dead reviews, and from more established websites. Nonetheless, don’t let this deter you – write a great review in your own style, and over time you will win fans.
Pay Attention to SEO Basics – The success I’ve had with Comic Book Herald is almost entirely derived from SEO. This is probably a good thing because that is also literally what I do for a living. Take the simple steps of filling in your Yoast SEO plugin with each new piece of content, and you’re on your way.
Accumulate E-mail Early – I didn’t take e-mail very seriously for the first few years of Comic Book Herald, despite consistent claims from marketing experts that nothing was more important. In retrospect, this was an error.
Genesis themes make it very easy to collect e-mail. Even if you don’t launch a Mailchimp campaign until you’ve built up a certain size audience, it’s much easier to allow visitors to subscribe to your site gradually as you build.
Leverage Social – While it can seem easy, managing social media can be time-consuming and challenging. This is especially true if your comic book blog is a part-time hobby and doesn’t have your full attention all the time.
There are two free tools that have helped me keep reasonably on top of my social media over the past year.
Hootsuite – The free version of Hootsuite software allows you to connect you social media profiles in one place, meaning you can post (and schedule posts) to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc simultaneously.
IFTTT – This is my favorite automation suggestion for social. You can pretty easily set up automatic posting to select social networks (every time you write a post), as well as keep yourself informed of fans mentioning your content on social. For example, any time anyone shares a link to comicbookherald.com on Twitter, I have IFTTT add the tweet to a document in Google Drive. This way I can quickly analyze people sharing my content who don’t mention @ComicBookHerald, and express thanks or reply.
What About Ads?
Should you put ads on your site? I was worried when I launched Comic Book Herald that ads on my site would make everything look too greedy, like I was only in it for the money. I’m no corporate shill; screw the man!
In retrospect, this was both presumptuous, unnecessary, and foolhardy. First off, unless you’re just the coolest, traffic to your site at first will be slower. This is actually a great time to experiment with how ads look on your site, where you want to place them, and what kind of ads to include. This also saves you the potential outcry later in your blog’s history, when you actually have an established fanbase and suddenly they are swarmed with advertising. I remember seeing this on Stereogum, which went through a period where every comment had some variation of “I liked them before they sold out to ads.”
As an aside, there’s nothing wrong with trying to earn some money off your hard work on the website. By the same token, if you don’t give a single hoot about trying to earn money, you just want to write, then by all means do that. Live your best life.
Final note – if you do advertise, don’t overdo it. This is bad for both SEO (too many ads, too high up on the page can trigger Google’s Panda penalty, which is severely less cuddly than it sounds), and this is when you run the danger of looking like the shadiest soul this side of Slim.
Publish Words in Sequence!
The secret trick to blogging is, of course, actually writing material on a semi-regular basis. Think about why you started your blog and how often you want to publish new material. Now think about how long it actually takes to create a new post, and how much time you have available. In my experience, my wants (A new post every day!) far exceed the reality (once a week, hopefully?).
You now have your very own comic book blog. May Odin’s wisdom always guide you, and may you never become a legitimate competitor to my own enterprises. (You can always comment here or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions.) Good luck, and have fun!