How to start a blog
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how to start a blog, I'd have about $3. But if I had a dollar for every time someone asked Google how to start a blog, I'd be a millionaire. Literally!
So, after those three people asked me how to start a blog, I got to thinking; surely this would make a good blog post! I'm so passionate about blogging, why not share the love with others who are looking at getting into it too?!
I have years of blogging experience, from starting and running a blog to working for a blogging agency and several companies who have worked with bloggers. I have also done countless hours of my research on it for my own purpose, and I want to share what I have learnt with others who are keen.
If you're looking for tips on how to start a blog, right from scratch, then this is a good place to start. If you already have a blog, stay tuned for further advice :)
Here are 5 simple steps to help you get started:
1. Pick a name
For me this was one of the hardest steps, and probably why it took me weeks to start my blog in the first place. There was more than one occasion I gave those "random name generators" a go, I'm ashamed to admit. You kinda need to do this first so you can sort out your URL, but you can always change it later on.
You're not stuck with your blog name, but try and pick one that you're really happy with as it can be a hassle to change later on, and you want your audience to be able to remember you and find you easily.
When choosing a blog name, keep in mind that you want people to remember it easily and be able to find it on social etc, but you also may want to make it obvious what your blog is about. My friend is beautylust.co.nz, it's pretty clear that her blog is going to be about beauty, and because she bought a local domain (.co.nz), it's easy for other New Zealanders to identify that her content will be relevant to them. Mine, on the other hand, is perhaps less obvious than many other names, but I think it has a certain ring to it. Plus, I hate alliteration.
There's no hard and fast rule around names, so it's up to you whether you want to choose one that's memorable, unique, quirky or whatever else. If you're uncertain, think on it for a week and see if you still like it.
2. Choose a platform
If you just want to try this blogging thing on for size, start with a free site on Wordpress.com or Blogger.com. These allow you to get up and running with the basics, but your URL will be www. your name .wordpress.com or www. your name .blogspot.com. It's not too hard to move up later on, but I'm incredibly lazy so just went straight in and bought a Squarespace site after my old blog with Wordpress fell through.
If you want to commit to a blog for the long run, I would suggest you get a site with Wordpress.org or Squarespace.com. With Wordpress, you are able to do heaps of customisation and there a plenty of things called plug-ins and widgets which help you improve your site. The downside I found, is that it takes a fair bit of research into all these different things, and then you have to find a good host for your site (the easiest way I found to think about hosting is to imagine that they're your landlord, but for the internet instead of a house) and you will have to buy your domain name yourself. Squarespace also gives you heaps of freedom but those last two things are done for you once you've signed up and started paying.
3. Find your style
I personally find this one really important, trying to decide the look and feel of your blog. When I worked for a blogging agency I would wince every time I came across an ugly blog. Maybe that sounds superficial, but people have short attention spans these days and you want to give a potential reader every incentive to stick around and read your content.
As in so many situations in life, your first impression is very important.
Wordpress have heaps of options for free "themes" that you can choose for your blog, or you have the choice to pay for better ones when you want a bit more flexibility and options. Squarespace give you access to all its "templates" which I think are stunning and give you heaps of flexibility to edit. Wordpress also have nice ones too but the free ones aren't as good and there are literally hundreds to choose from, which can be draining!
3. Decide which social media channels will work for you and get your handles ASAP
I will do another post about how to choose the channels that are best for you, but consider what you think you can keep up with and what will benefit your blog and brand. Sometimes less is more, especially if you don't have time to dedicate to running them. My main ones are Facebook and Instagram, but I focus mostly on my Instagram as I'm quite visual and I love the simplicity of it.
Social media is a great way to get eyeballs on your site. There's also SEO which is paramount to your site's visibility with search engines, but baby steps for now. Social media is a good place to start as most people are already pretty fluent in it, or at least proficient enough to get their friends and family to notice them.
Once you have your blog name it's a good idea to lock in your social accounts to ensure you get the handles you want.
4. Think about who you are and who you are talking to
This will also get you thinking about what you want to achieve with your blog. Are you writing to fellow travellers to inspire their journeys? Are you creating a blog to house extra information about makeup, that you think would compliment your beauty vlogging? Do you want to provide other parents with helpful reviews of baby food?
I used to have a blog that I classed as "fashion, beauty and lifestyle", because I worked for a fashion event in New Zealand, but I actually don't love fashion that much, and I certainly don't have the best sense of style around. I didn't particularly enjoy it, and I had no idea who I was creating content for; if I didn't love my content, why would anyone else? So, it was no surprise when I lost interest and it fizzled out. I still cringe when I think about it!
Don't forget to get a clear idea of yourself and why you are blogging. There are thousands of blogs out there, so what makes your one unique and valuable to a potential reader?
5. Start writing
Once you've got your blog up and running, you could spend hours stressing over little details and getting everything perfect, but don't let that distract you from what you're really here for. Just start writing. There's no point having a fancy new website to show your friends if there's nothing on it!
Spend a good few hours coming up with headlines and potential topics that will get you going, and then work from there. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting started.
You started this blog for a reason, time to let the world know what that is!