I am often asked by friends, acquaintances and lots of random people how to start a blog.
I also know, as a blogger myself, that it can be difficult to know where to start and where to go with your blog once you've set it up.
Everybody has their own way of doing things of course, and different things will always work for different people so there is no set way to go about blogging.
However, I thought it might be helpful to start a little series on my Blog to give some blogging advice and tips to new & fledgling bloggers out there....if nothing else, it will save me having to type these things out time & time again when people ask! Hopefully it can help someone out there to get started.
So....Why Start A Blog?
This is something you need to think about when you start.
Everybody has their own reasons for wanting to start - I personally started my blog as I love writing and I wanted to have a place where I could write freely and experience writing for an audience of strangers.
A lot of parents start blogs as a place to record their pregnancies and their childs life.
Some people want to start a blog because they see bloggers getting "free" products and want that themselves - a lot of bloggers do frown upon this as a reason to start a blog but I'm not going to judge anyone. I will say that you shouldn't really consider any product sent to a blogger as "free"....they're all earned in some way or another, but I'll talk more about that in a later post.
Whatever your reasons for starting a blog and whatever your goals are - just bare in mind that a blog can either be a hobby that you partake in as and when you can, or it can be a full time job. You will get out of it what you put into it.
So where to start?
First things first - you need a name.
Some people are of the opinion that a name isn't too important but I have to disagree.
I find a name to be the first thing that draws me to a blog - it needs to let me know what sort of content I can expect to find on that blog, it needs to pique my interest, and it needs to be different.
There's no sense in using the name "Cupcake Crazy" only to write about technology or hard hitting current affairs - if I head to Cupcake Crazy, I'm there looking for some baking recipes!
Think about your subject matter before you settle on your name and try to inject some of your own personality into it.
Are you going to be writing in a serious manner? Then give yourself an attention grabbing name.
Are you going to be writing tongue in cheek? Get that across in the name too.
I knew I wanted to write about the good and bad sides of pregnancy and parenting - so I wanted a name that reflected both. I wanted something that was easy to remember and flowed well. So I decided I wanted to use two words beginning with the same letter - I racked my brains for a while, and Sparkles & Stretchmarks was born.
Some of my favourite blogs use names that made it abundantly clear to me from the start what to expect from them - Confessions Of A Secret Shopper...I know she's going to talk about products and give me the inside scoop on whats cool right now. Handbags to Changebags - I know I'm going to be reading about someones journey into parenthood, probably from the point of view of quite a girly person.
I'm babbling now but the point is....think carefully about your chosen name, its going to become your brand and it needs to sell your blog and grow with you too (So perhaps limit any name mentioning numbers of children unless you're certain you won't be having anymore).
Another point to consider is the availability of your name - you're going to want to use a version of that name across social media platforms too, so make sure that its available in some form on Facebook, Twitter, etc too.
It will help to keep the name theme running across all platforms so that people can easily find you and follow you.
If someone is following 3,000 people on Twitter they're not likely to remember that Cupcake Crazy's twitter name is AshleyS1....they need you to be instantly recognisable.
I would also recommend using a URL that contains your blog name - if someone recognises your blog name as Cupcake Crazy but your URL is www.ashleysmith.com are they always going to remember that when they're looking to visit the blog to check for updates?
So in summary:
1. Choose a name that sells your blog well
2. Make sure its readily available across all platforms you want to use - http://namechk.com/ is a great resource for this
3. Keep the name in the URL
Where to host?
There are lots of different ways to host your blog and get started, the most popular ones being Blogger & Wordpress.
Unfortunately I can't offer a great deal of advice on this matter as I have only ever used Blogger but Wordpress does also seem to be popular so it might be worth looking in to and seeing which you find easier to use.
I use Blogger because I find it so simple to navigate, everything is very self explanatory within Blogger and it works well for me.
All you need to do is go to www.blogger.com and get started.
You may also want to consider buying your own domain - I use a vanity URL which I bought through GoDaddy.com for around £7 for the year, and I redirect to this through Blogger.
My friend Rachel wrote an excellent how-to guide on this which you can see HERE
You don't need your own domain name but its a personal choice.
Some companies don't like to work with people unless they have their own domain, but plenty are fine with it so its up to you.
If you think you will want to have your own domain name, I would recommend doing so from the start as it's not very expensive and if you choose to change over at a later date you will temporarily lose any Google Page Rank you have built up since starting....which can be a pain.
Your Blog Design
I won't go into great detail on designing your blog layout because this will depend greatly on the host you're using and your personal computer skills.
Blogger has its own templates which are just fine, or you can buy ready made ones from places such as Etsy - you can also pay a blog designer to overhaul your blog for you with a custom made design. Prices for this vary but Etsy would be a good place to start looking for these.
You can also create your own great graphics such as headers, social media buttons, etc for free at places like www.picmonkey.com
The most important things in my opinion to include on your blog home page are:
*An intro - preferably a photo introducing yourself and giving a brief description of you and your blog
*Your social media buttons - allowing people to click and follow you on other channels
*A search box - to allow people to search your blog for specific things
*Links to other posts - some people include links at the bottom of each posts directing readers to recommended posts, I prefer to just have a a Popular Posts section showing what people have been reading most lately
*A PR/Contact Me page - If you hope to work with brands, have a dedicated page detailing your willingness to do so and offering your contact email address
So there we have it - my tips to get you started with your blog!
I'll be back in 2 weeks time with more Blogging Tips - the installment in the series will be How To Build Your Audience...., so if there is anything in particular you want to ask about leave me a comment and if I know the answer, I'll let you know!
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