So many people decide to start a blog at this time of year when people are making resolutions and setting goals. Blogs are also becoming more recognisable even to people who aren’t usually spending al their time online. There’s so many reasons why people want to start a blog:
- You want to write a book….start with a blog
- You’re making a change in your life…start a blog
- You’re starting a challenge….start a blog
- It’s new year’s resolution time and you want to make your voice heard…start a blog
- You want somewhere to share…start a blog.
So lots of people want to start a blog but don’t know how to do it. Then others think they’d like to start one but can’t think of anything to write.
My blogging journey
When I started I was on a lot of online craft and dance forums and read a few blogs. So I found the free platform they all used and started a craft blog. Then when I went back to work after maternity leave I didn’t have any crafting time, so started to journal our comings and goings with N. I moved to free WordPress first, and then a few months later went self hosted.
I had no idea about parenting blogs or the community. No knowledge of stats, rankings, design, photography, SEO or any of the technical things. Nowadays many blog readers know about some of these during their planning phases, when setting up a new blog, because they’re starting their blogs to make money and are aiming to be a top blogger.
How to start a blog
If you’re one of the latter group, this post might not be that new to you. It’s not going to give you those tips. But it is still something you should think about. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who gets it spot on straight away, make sure you’re starting a blog because you love it and want to write (or photograph, or do whatever content type you need to create your blog).
I keep trying to encourage my brother to blog because he has a good way with words and a lot to say. But he doesn’t know what to write about that could be sustainable. Choosing the topic is often the first stumbling block.
Dos and don’ts of starting a blog
1, Choose a subject you’re passionate about.
You won’t have the content ideas otherwise, or you’ll get bored. Remember that the more niche you go, the smaller your potential audience, but the more engaged they’re likely to be. And the easier to target.
2, Decide how much time you have to blog and stick to it.
If you don’t want to write just for you and want others to read your blog , then you need to allow for promotion, social media and maintenance. Most people write around other jobs, hobbies and family, so the time you have will guide how frequently you post. And whether you post in the moment or planned in advance of publishing.
3, Choose a blog name
Make sure it’s future proof. Lots of bloggers are now using their name for their blog, while those with ‘mummy’ in the title often change further down the line. Make it short, sweet and memorable. It’s worth buying the domain name you choose from the start in case someone else chooses it ahead of you.
You might need some variations of ideas, and don’t choose one too close to others to avoid confusion by readers. The benefits are you might get some readership from their readers by accident, but it’s harder to stand out and be remembered, and it’s not nice for the person who chose it first to hear of other very similar named blogs. I chose mine and then a year later discovered another blog with a very similar name. It annoyed me – thankfully they were more of a fashion blogger – but when you work hard at a blog and then think maybe they get some of your intended traffic it can be a little grating.
Also you can use the domain url on the free blogging platforms to increase your credibility over retaining the .blogspot or .wordpress suffix.
4, Choose a blogging platform.
WordPress.com which is free to use and easy to then transfer to self hosted WordPress further down the line if you want to monetise your blog.
Blogger is another free one, owned by Google and you can monetise it. Some finding it limiting when they want to do more with their blog, but there are professional bloggers who use throughout their blogging careers.
Weebly / Wix – cost involved, but often free for the first year. I used weebly for a jewellery site I had, and it wasn’t easy to use to get it looking how I wanted. Both platforms aren’t that flexible and other bloggers find they have a lot of limitations in what they can do compared to the other 2 blogging platforms.
WordPress.org which is self hosted WordPress. There are costs involved because you need , to buy your own domain (url) and pay to host your blog somewhere. But it’s the most flexible platform and it’s yours, it’s not owned by another company like Google. Costs will vary, but a domain can start at around £1-3 depending on what offers are on and how long you want to hold it for. Hosting can start around £2.99 a month through someone like TSO Host.
5, Set up your blog design
At the least you need the name at the top, either in words or picture format. And ensure you have an easy to read format.
Stick to a white background, ideally black (or dark) font, and keep to left aligned text. You might think it looks cool to centralise your text, but it’ll turn off readers. And there’s a reason why books and newspapers are left aligned (and not generally justified on the right hand side)…because it’s easier for people to read.
You can read my further recommendations (and tools) to create a good blog design.
6, Write and publish
Either write a list of post drafts up front as a starter to publish gradually (or start off the blog with a variety of posts already on there). Or just write as it comes.
7, Share your blog
If you want readers, you have to go and find them. Unless you’re blogging anonymously, then go out and tell everyone you know.
8, Read other blogs and comment on them
Blogging is a community. If you want other bloggers to support you, share your posts, comment and make you feel welcome, you need to get involved with the community yourself. It will also encourage people to come and visit your blog. Leave your url in the comment box where they ask for it (alongside the name and email boxes). But don’t include it in the comment box itself, especially where you’ve already got the option to leave it already.
1, Have typos and bad grammar. If you’re not great at it, get a proofreader before you publish.
2, Complicate the design, fonts and format
3, Have really long sentences and paragraphs. The eye needs to have online in short chunks. Make user of blocking, sub-headings, bullets points and images.
4, Plagiarise other people’s content or steal their photos. This applies to content on other blogs and websites, images from Pinterest or Google (without checking the licensing or usage details first). Always ask to use other people’s photos (and credit them), and if you want to base content around another person’s post or recipe, don’t duplicate it entirely. Refer to it, credit it (with a link back), and maybe use a short excerpt.
5, Panic if no-one ready your blog. Tell friends and family
6, Assume you’ll get brand work and huge views straight away. Most bloggers have been plugging away for years, and while many do get work via their blogs after 6 months to a year, it’s not easy. Blogging is hard and you need to prove your blog to your readers and brands.
7, Take things to heart. A lot of people who blog can get upset by trolls, nasty comments, or a throwaway comment taken the wrong way. If you’re going to blog you need to prepare yourself that you may have a hard time from other people.
8, Think you have to publish content daily. If you can only post monthly then do that, but do it consistently.
9, Ask questions in the blogging community without trying to find out the answer first. Google is your friend, or search on forums or Facebook groups before asking questions if you’re still struggling. People are happy to help, but when the same questions are asked time and time again, people will be more willing to help if you’ve tried to find out first.
10, Worry about what other bloggers are doing. Everyone is at different stages of blogging and want different things from it.
There’s a whole lot of other tips I could share but the main thing is to get your blog set up, write and publish. You can set up all the other things, but they can be done afterwards. It’s the content, networking and promotion that will help drive your readership up, not the background work.
Once you’re up and running, here’s the next key things to cover:
- Familiarise yourself with your platform by working through all your blog settings
- Use resources like WP Beginner or Amy Lynn Andrews’ how to start a blog
- Set up social media in your blog name (check these are all still free when you’re choosing your blog name/domain). You will need some social media to promote your blog and join in with the blogging community
- Set up your blog with Google Webmasters and submit a sitemap to be recognised with search engines.
- Promote your posts through scheduled tools like Missinglettr* or Hootsuite. I use these to autoschedule evergreen content to Twitter.
So you now have the dos and don’t of how to start a blog. Overall I’d say just enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, your blog is unlikely to last.
Let me know if you’re going to start a blog or have started one recently. And if you’ve any questions about blogging, you can email me or leave a comment below.
Why not take a look at these similar posts.