How to start a betting blog from scratch with zero experience
It’s coming up 2 months since I started Bet4bettor. Having no background or experience in building websites, starting a betting blog from scratch has been challenging.
I’ve decided to document my journey along the way, by writing regular posts. I hope this will be of interest and use to anyone out there who, for the first time is thinking of starting a blog or website. If you read on you’ll see I talk about my experiences so far, but at this stage, I certainly wouldn’t put anyone off having a go.
“Update Key” flickr photo by Got Credit https://flickr.com/photos/gotcredit/32913562754 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
Keeping a journal will help remind me of how both myself and the blog are developing. It’s very easy to get lost in the day to day stuff and lose focus, especially in the early stages when you’re seeing little traffic finding its way to your site. I find it beneficial to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.
I’ve found it very frustrating at times when it feels like I’m making little or no progress. But, then when I think I was a complete novice 2 months ago starting from scratch, and I now have a live site with some content, it feels pretty good.
I’m hoping that by committing to writing regular updates, it will give me the motivation to work that little bit harder and get more done.
Read on and I’ll share my experiences, what I learnt so far and how you can do it too.
The beginning of the betting blog
The 14th June 2019 was the date I registered the domain name Bet4bettor and signed up to the hosting with Bluehost. The month before, I’d dabbled around with some very basic design on a friends blog. Other than that I had no experience.
If your thinking of starting your blog then I wouldn’t let a lack of experience hold you back.
While I’ve found it fairly straightforward thus far, there have been plenty of frustrations. Mainly I’ve been inhibited by my lack of skills. Things that no doubt take a web designer a few seconds to do, something like a slight change to a web page look, can take me hours. Yes, I started with absolutely no knowledge, that said, I’m getting better. I’ve learnt an awful lot but I’m still painfully slow at the design side and updating the site. If I look back, one of my aims when starting the blog it was too “learn some new skills”. That’s certainly happening, who knows where this could lead.
Milestones for the first 2 months
So, I’m 2 months into this project, here are the key milestones.
- Purchased the domain name and hosting
- Set up and designed Bet4bettor blog
- Written 4 blog pages and 7 blog posts
- Learnt about search engine optimisation
- Learnt about the various site analytics
- Social media presence
- Sourced free images and pictures
- Spent 3 weeks in Portugal
Now let me take you through these in a more detail.
Purchasing the domain name and hosting
Domain name: A domain name is your website name and the address you type into your browser to get to your site. You can purchase a domain name or more specifically you register it as yours for a period of time. Once your term is up, you can re-register the domain. If you don’t it’s back on the market and available for someone else to register.
I found most of the names I first thought of were already registered, you need to be a bit creative with your domain. The most popular names end with a .com, as an example Bet4bettor.com but there are variables of the top-level domain that are available to register i.e. .co.uk or .net
Hosting: Web hosting is the physical location where your website is stored. Your hosting provider manages the servers and all the data associated with your site.
The good news is that with certain hosts, domain registry is part of the package that you sign up for. I chose Bluehost for my hosting and paid £3.92 per month, which included a free domain registration. You can sign up for longer plans and get the hosting at an even lower rate than I paid.
Once you have selected your domain name and chosen your hosting plan you are taken to the Bluehost dashboard. You then need to launch your platform. Bet4bettor runs on the WordPress platform.
To install, you simply select the “INSTALL WORDPRESS” icon and follow the onscreen prompts filling in a few details. WordPress installs, you are then asked to enter the username and password you have just created, your website is now live.
Designing the blog
Your website is now on the internet and anyone can view. It will look very basic and be set to the default settings. Your next job is to design and give your site a unique look.
You do this by choosing a theme. In your dashboard, you have a menu bar down the left-hand side, select “APPEARANCE” and then “THEMES”.
There is a whole range of both free and paid themes that you can choose from. Bet4bettor is running with a free theme called “Astra”. What I’d say is have a play around and look at a few different themes until you find one you like. You can always change it later on, so don’t get too hung up on it at this stage.
Once you have a theme that you like the look of, press activate and take a look at your site. The default settings that you originally saw will have changed and you’ll have a new design and look installed on your site.
Page builder plugin
My next step was to install a “page builder plugin.
What is a plugin? If you think of your website as an empty house that you have just bought. It comes with no appliances, you need to add your TV, your cooker, your hoover etc to make it function.
With your website, you need to add plugins that allow you to do the things you need to do. A page builder plugin allows you to build and design your pages and posts giving them a unique and professional look.
I chose a free plugin called Elementor, there is a paid version with more advanced tools, but for me, the free version has all I need as a novice starting a blog from scratch. To install Elementor, from your dashboard select “PLUGINS” then “ADD NEW”, search for Elementor and then press “INSTALL NOW”.
Elementor is now ready to use and you can start customising your site to give it a unique feel.
At this stage, I’d highly recommend you watch a Youtube tutorial on how to use the functionality on Elementor. There are loads of great features on this plugin but it can be quite tricky to get the hang of things when you first start.
There are some great free tutorials on Youtube that take you through step by step. I’d point you in the direction of this one by Tyler Moore.
It’s a great video for a beginner like me. I learnt so much and still go back to it now when I get a bit stuck.
Time to start writing
With the site now live, I planned to focus on content for the blog.
My view is that until there’s content and enough content, then there was no point in focussing on driving traffic to the site.
This seems the right approach to me, You need to engage visitors when they first visit your site, otherwise, they are going to quickly bounce and not return. That is the idea anyway, we’ll see how it pans out in the coming months.
In the initial stages, I’m looking to write 30 evergreen posts.
By evergreen, I mean posts which don’t have a best before date on them and will be relevant for the foreseeable future. Content that people could return to, the backbone of the site. I want these to be quite in-depth and lengthy posts. When I say lengthy, I’m targeting posts with 1500 plus words.
Once these are written and published, I have some ideas for more consumable sound bite posts. More punchy articles but ones with a shorter shelf life.
To date, 5 evergreen posts are published, with a few more articles part written.
why is pace a key factor in predicting the outcome of a horse race
Improving racehorses – how to identify horses with progressive form
How much do horses improve from debut run?
the 1 thing you must know to win on horse racing
should you trust the official racecourse going description?
I have quite a bit of writing to do. Looking back and being honest, I think I’ve spent too much time on the site design and playing around with Elementor (which I probably enjoy more) than writing.
If I was to offer some advice to myself, it doesn’t matter what the site looks like in the early stages, very few people are going to find it. I should have put most of my initial focus on writing the content needed.
One great tool that I’ve only recently discovered is Grammarly. It’s an online grammar and spell checking tool that I use to proofread blog posts. I’ve used others in the past, but find Grammarly really useful. I’ve been using the free version, which I’ve linked to here if you want to check it out.
SEO (search engine optimisation)
SEO to me as a novice blogger is a murky world. I’ve researched and read a lot about SEO but I’m probably more confused than clear on the subject.
At this stage, I know it’s one of the areas I need to gain a better understanding of. To help me, I’ve installed a free SEO plugin on Bet4bettor.
Yoast SEO plugin helps optimise your blog pages and posts by highlighting and recommending where you can make your articles more search engine friendly. It uses an easy to follow traffic light system and shows you improvements that will help your posts rank higher in the search engine results.
That’s the theory anyway but, at this early stage of the blog, I’ve no results to verify this.
Site analytics and traffic to the website
Traffic has been slow, which is hardly surprising given the site is in its infancy. I try not to dig too deep into the numbers at this early stage but given my analytical nature, it’s hard not to and hence hard not to get a bit demotivated.
The other side of the coin is the buzz you get when having published your first post and the analytics show you have your first visitor.
The internet is far-reaching and a modern-day sensation. So far, the blog has been viewed in 67 countries. To think that someone has found my betting blog in South Korea, Panama and Senegal is amazing.
I’ve been using the ‘statistics’ tab on the WordPress dashboard to gauge the number of unique visitors and the number of pages visited. Also, the Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster provide a suite of data that if you have a love of analytics like me, you’ll be drawn into.
Some of the key metrics for the first 2 months
- total unique visitors – 301
- total visits – 1375
- average search position (Google) – 40.5
Nothing exceptional. It becomes a bit daunting when you’ve reached such a limited audience. I do not doubt that this is the point where many bloggers have become disheartened and stopped. For me it’s too early to take too much from these numbers, I just need to get my head down and get the work I need to be done.
Social Media presence
To date I’ve done very little to promote the site, rather I’ve focussed on-site design and content. This has been my plan from day one, natural growth through moving up the search engines is more a long term strategy than pushing for followers through Social Media channels.
I don’t know if that’s the correct long term approach but, I want to build a reputation and don’t want to go down the avenue of the blog being seen as a fly by night Social Media fad.
Whether this is the right strategy, I suppose the coming months and years will be the evidence. I’m hoping to build something that has long term sustainability and a positive reputation.
Without intending to sound hypocritical, I have set up a Twitter account for the blog. Albeit the intention is for it to stay relatively dormant until I have a quantity of evergreen content written and published.
Likewise, with Pinterest, I’ve created an account but I haven’t got a clue about what I’m doing with it. One for the to-do list that, I’ll probably revisit at a later date.
Sourcing free images to use on the blog
Finding quality images for the site has been problematic.
You can’t just do a Google search and crop any image that you find there. Images have owners, and unless they have specified that you are free to use them or you have paid for the use of the picture then you are in danger of being in breach of copyright. Not really where you want to be going.
A word of caution though, even with the free images on these stock photo sites, you may be required to give “attribution” to the image owner. They may ask you to give appropriate credit, provide a link to the licence and indicate if you make any changes to the image.
Of the free images that I’ve found, the issue I’ve had is there’s only a limited amount of free photos relating to UK horse racing and betting. A big portion of the free images are shots from racing in the USA and don’t sit with a betting blog that is primarily focused on UK racing. Maybe my blog subject matter is a bit too niche, you may not encounter such issues.
There are plenty of stock photo sites where you can pay for images and some specialist sites run by racecourse photographers who offer some high-quality images. They quite rightly ask for a fee for you to use their photos. While the ones I’ve researched are reasonably priced, (the site I was looking on were asking for £5 for a photo), I don’t want to spend any money on Bet4bettor at this stage other than the cost of hosting.
So, the solution was to get out and take some photos of my own. I captured these on an evening at Ripon races.
Okay, so there not of a professional standard, but I’m happy that they are of good enough quality for the purpose I require.
I took these on my mobile phone, a Windows Lumia phone which is a couple of years old. I then played around with a few filters on an Ipad and that was it. The best thing was, they cost nothing.
From now on, every time I go racing I’ll be taking as many pictures as possible and building up a library of my own.
I spent 3 weeks in Portugal
I mention this, not to let you know I’ve been on holiday, but that I’d planned to do some work and write some posts while I was there.
Unfortunately, I ran into some issues that scuppered these plans.
I’d travelled with an Ipad and found technical issues that stopped me accessing the website’s administration page. After several days of trying to resolve this remotely with Bluehost support. it became apparent the issue was with my rather dated Ipad.
Subsequently, I wrote and published no articles and instead I immersed myself in the sunshine, beer and food. No major hardship, other than I set me back 3 weeks on getting some articles written. So, while the blog has been live for 8 weeks, I’ve only had 5 weeks of input into it’s creation.
So that’s my first 2 months as a blogger. Writing this article has certainly reminded me of how much I’ve done and also how much I still have to do.
Priority number one is to push on with the writing. So far I have just 5 evergreen posts published, well short of my target of 30. It’s hard work writing, but I know its a front-ended job and one I need to complete before I move onto other aspects of the site.
Site design, definitely there are improvements I need to make on the look and layout of the blog. It’s functional for now, I probably need to stop myself from tinkering with the design and focus on writing.
I need to gain a better understanding of SEO. I’m currently listening to Podcast’s on a site called Niche Pursuits, which is educating me, but I know I have a long way to go.
I don’t intend to do much with Social Media until I’m satisfied I have enough content on the site to engage visitors. What I do need to do is get a grasp of how Pinterest works and understand if it will be a viable platform for promoting a betting blog.
I’m going to end here, with a request.
It’s early days with the blog and it at times feels like I’m writing to no one. If you have any feedback, whether it’s positive or not and you have the time then please contact me. You can find me on Twitter by clicking here or you can email me directly at Bet4bettor@gmail.com
Thanks for reading