So you want to start a chronic illness blog but have NO idea how to go about it, right? Yeah, that was me, too, before I started mine. While creating a website from scratch to house your blog seems like a daunting task, I’m going to share six steps that will make the process a ton easier (and less scary!).
When I started this whole blog endeavor, I was definitely clueless. I had to learn a lot through trial and error, endless Google searching, and blogging groups on Facebook. I’m not a high-tech person, and just the acronym HTML freaks me out. If you start spitting code at me, forget about it–I’m lost. Does this sound like you too?
Thankfully, nowadays, you don’t have to be a coding expert to build a website and start a blog! There are content management systems, like WordPress, that do most of this work for you. But before we get into that, let’s start at step one.
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Step One: Discover Your Mission
First things first: Why do you want to start a chronic illness blog? What’s your goal?
For example, do you want to share your journey to a diagnosis, or your day-to-day experiences? Raise awareness for your chronic condition(s)? Inspire others going through similar circumstances? Promote your spoonie business? Offer life hacks for those chronically ill? A combo of these factors? You have to decide!
This is a really important step because it establishes the purpose of your blog and gives you a clear direction to follow for growing it. But having a distinct purpose attracts the appropriate audience to your blog. If this purpose isn’t clear (or is too scattered or too broad), you’re not only hindering your blog from its full potential, but you’re missing out on developing a targeted audience.
Readers are looking for something specific when they are searching for content. If they find it on your blog, chances are, they’re going to return to your website and keep reading your awesome posts!
For example, maybe your mission will be to provide cooking and cleaning hacks for those with chronic fatigue. An individual with CFS/ME or other chronic illnesses in need of kitchen organization tips will be more likely to read your blog–and return to read future content!
So, sit down and take a few minutes to reflect on why you really want to start a chronic illness blog. It may help to journal and write down your thoughts. Your true purpose just may come out on the page!
Step Two: Set Up Your Website
Once you have a solid mission identified, you’re ready to build your website. Don’t freak out! There are a few steps to this process, but since I’ve been through it already, I’ll let you in on some helpful tips I learned along the way. Spoiler alert, this will save you some time and money!
Originally, I started my blog on WordPress(dot)com with their Personal Plan because I initially didn’t want to invest a ton of money into what I thought would just be a hobby blog.
However, I didn’t take the time to really think through my long-term goals for my blog. (See why you should never dive into this step until you’ve solidified your mission?!) Because of this lack of reflection, I made a few costly mistakes at the beginning of my blogging journey.
My first mistake? I jumped into purchasing a domain name before I figured out my blogging goals. This wasn’t a huge loss of money, but it did become an extra expense and I had to redirect traffic to my new domain. Make sure you are in love with your domain name–and that it reflects your blog’s purpose–before purchasing one!
My second mistake? About two months into blogging, I realized that I was not on a self-hosted platform–so I didn’t own the rights to any of my content. Translation? WordPress could take down my content at any time, which scared the crap out of me! I didn’t ever want to lose all my hard work, and honestly, I wanted full ownership of my content!
Another downside? My WordPress(dot)com Personal Plan had very few tools to market my blog and grow traffic, as this plan doesn’t allow for plugins. Big bummer.
So, I ended up wasting my money on that plan when I should have just invested in a self-hosted platform from the get-go.
That being said, even though it is quite the investment, I highly suggest starting with a self-hosted platform, like Siteground. Siteground has amazing customer support, and they helped me with so many questions that I had about building my own website from scratch. They even helped me with tech issues when I had no idea how to fix some of the code on my website!
Plus, Siteground migrated my content from my old WordPress site over to my new one, so I didn’t have to worry about losing anything I posted, or try to do it all on my own. Aka, my worst nightmare.
With Siteground’s StartUp plan, you have access to a countless array of themes to tailor your website to your unique style, plus all the plugins that you’ll need to protect, grow, and market your blog. I could not be more pleased with their services, and I wish I had started with them right from the beginning!
Additional free plugins that I recommend for your website are WordFence (security), UpDraft (content back-up), Smush (image compressor), and Yoast SEO.
Step Three: Purchase Legal Pages Before You Launch!
I’ll admit, I was completely overwhelmed with completing this task. The need to find a lawyer, pay that lawyer, and have them draft up legal pages for me was highly intimidating. I didn’t even know where to start! Plus, honestly, I couldn’t afford that; being fresh out of grad school, my budget is very tight.
But then I discovered fellow blogger and professional lawyer, Amira from A Self Guru. Her comprehensive starter legal bundle made this process SO easy and way more affordable than spending thousands to consult with a lawyer.
Amira’s templates were a lifesaver. She could not have made this an easier process. All I had to do was download the templates, fill in my information in the provided blanks (she clearly explains everything you need to include), and upload them onto my blog. The whole process took me 15 minutes–5 minutes per template. And just like that, I was legally covered!
I cannot recommend Amira’s comprehensive starter legal bundle more. No headaches, no pulling my hair out, and no days worth of time lost to figuring this process out. Only relief and comfort in the fact that I’m legally protected in my current blog endeavors!
Step Four: Set Up a Pinterest Business Account
Did you know that Pinterest has a business account option? I honestly didn’t until I started a blog and saw that other bloggers had Pinterest business accounts. And guess what? I’m gonna tell you to set up an account for your blog too!
When you start a chronic illness blog–or any blog–you need ways to market your content. Pinterest is one of the top ways to drive a whole lotta traffic to your blog. I’ve received the most blog traffic from pins I’ve created for new blog posts by a landslide.
It’s super easy to set up a Pinterest business account. If you look on your account drop-down menu, you should see an option to “add a free business account.” You’ll have to provide your website domain so they can verify your website, but it’s a painless process overall.
Once you have a business account set up, you’ll have access to analytics. These analytics tell you all kinds of helpful information about how your pins are doing on the platform, such as impressions (how many times your pins show up in feeds), saves (number of times your pins were saved), and link clicks (number of times your pins were clicked on).
You’ll also be able to see which of your boards are performing well, what pins are popular, and how pin performances change over time. This is super useful when determining which pin designs are working well and what kind of content is popular among pinners!
Bonus tip: Canva is the best for creating pins! It has dozens of pin templates if you’re a newbie to graphic design. Or, you can get creative and make your own!
Step Five: Set Up An Instagram for Your Blog
Now, you may already have an Instagram to highlight your chronic illness life. If so, fantastic! You’ll have an established audience to share your new blog content with.
Some bloggers don’t put a lot of effort into Instagram, but I’ve found that the chronic illness community is super supportive on this platform! For that reason alone, I think it’s worthwhile to invest time in promoting your blog on Instagram.
If you don’t have an Instagram specifically for your blog, you’ll want to create a free business account (just like with Pinterest). You’ll get super useful insights like popular times to post for your audience, audience growth, audience demographics, accounts reached per post, and many other useful metrics. These metrics help you to create appropriate posts for your demographics and to post at times when you’re likely to get the most engagement with followers.
Once you create your new Instagram, get engaging with other people in your target audience: the chronic illness community! Like posts, leave some comments, follow popular hashtags within your niche, such as #chronicillness or #potsie or #spoonie.
Make sure to create a new Instagram post whenever you publish a new blog to promote your content and put the link in your bio. I always leave a link to my most recent blog on my bio, so that whenever someone checks out my profile, they may be intrigued by whatever blog I have posted and read it.
Step Six: Write Your First Blog Post
Phew, you’ve made through the first five steps to start a chronic illness blog! The good news? Now you are ready for the fun to begin: writing your first blog post!
You can write an introductory post if you’d like, sharing who you are, your mission, and what your audience can expect from your blog. OR you can dive straight into your content. I chose to start with POTS-related content because I was eager to write about what I’d learned about the syndrome and my experiences with it.
Prior to writing–or at least to publishing–I’d suggest familiarizing yourself with some basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) principles. SEO helps your content rank higher on search engines, like Google, and is key to drawing organic traffic to your blog (a major traffic source–but it takes some time to get there!). The good news is there are plenty of tools out there to help you learn SEO! For example, I audited a course on Coursera to learn the basics, and I also downloaded the plugin Yoast SEO to use as a general guide when writing posts.
Once you’ve written and published your first blog, do a happy dance because YAY, now you’re an official chronic illness blogger! Launch your blog and share it with your family and friends!
I wish you the best of luck on your chronic illness blogging journey! Along the way, always remember, you have an important message to share, and the world needs to hear it. You never know who you may end up helping along the way.