The online world is fast becoming saturated with blogs. From personal journeys to medical blogs and even businesses with a blog section on their website. Blogs are far more common than they used to be but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start one. In fact, if you love to write and have something to say, then you absolutely should join this growing platform and get yourself set up. Someday I find my blog a hard graft and ask myself why on earth I ever started it but most days I love what I do, am thankful for the opportunities it gives my family and I, and love how I have managed to turn my blog in to a viable business that allows me to work around my family commitments and there is no reason why you can’t do the same too but first you need to know how to start a blog.
Some people think that starting a blog is easy, that it is a way to get “free stuff” and do nothing or that it is a vanity project. These people couldn’t be further from the truth. Starting a blog is hard work and requires commitment and drive and you have to learn as you go which means I often find myself working on the admin side of my blog for hours trying to make it more user friendly and accessible, hours of hard work that nobody ever realises are required. So if you are serious about starting a blog then here are my top 10 pieces of advice that I wish I had know when I first started.
How to start a blog
Before you dive in make a plan and decide exactly what you are setting your blog up for.
Is it just for personal use?
Will it be connected to a business that already exists?
Do you want to target a certain subsection of society?
Will it be accessible to the public or private just for you?
2. Find your niche
The most successful blogs that I have come across are those that have a specific topic and ideal reader in mind. Take some time to think about what you want to write about, what makes you happy and what are you knowledgeable about. Even if you want to specialise in a wider niche like parenting or lifestyle try and have a key focus such as advice, reviews, funny stories. You could even try and be more specific and focus on a unique area such as home education or parenting with a disability. This way you will find that your audience will come back to you time and time again as they know you write about what they want to read and not just everything and anything.
3. Pick a name for your blog
Now you have decide you want to start a blog and know exactly what you want to write about you need to pick a name. My advice would be to pick something related to your niche as it will help people find your blog quicker. As much as I like the name The Strawberry Fountain, it doesn’t give any indications as to what I write about which certainly isn’t strawberries or fountains!
Also try and pick a name that will grow with your blog. I have seen numerous blog names that refer to a parent and one child by name but then they have more kids and others that state they are a mum and baby blogger but obviously as the baby grows so does the content yet the name still implies it’s about babies. This can be confusing for new readers that discover you over time as well as for PR’s and companies that may wish to work with you on a certain product only to later realise that you no longer specialise in that area.
4. Go self hosted as soon as possible
Going self hosted does cost money so only do this once you are sure you want to continue blogging and/or are planning to make money from your blog. There are a few reasons why you would do this but the one that convinces most people is that if you are wanting to work with PR companies and attractions in the future, a large proportion of them will require that you have your own domain. I strongly recommend you read reviews around hosting companies as they vary in cost and effectiveness a lot. I am currently with TSHhost and I haven’t had any issues with them but there are lots to choose from.
5. Pick a theme
Once your blog is up and running take some time to look at the themes and have a play around. Consider how you want it to look to others, if you are a keen photographer you may wish for it to be more visual with lots of pictures or you may focus more on the words and prefer lots of drop down menus and headings so people can easily find what they want. Although you can change your theme at any point it is a lot easier to do this when you have less content on there.
6. Write posts in advance and schedule them
Before you launch your blog I would advise you to create a number of articles and then schedule them for the next couple of weeks or even months. There is nothing worse than hearing about a blog that sounds perfect for your needs and then finding they only have one published article or they publish content so sporadically that you never know when something knew will appear. Give yourself some time to create examples of the types of content you want to cover so when people first land on your new blog they know what they will be able to find in the future.
7. Join blogger groups
I didn’t join a blogger group for at least a year and I really wish I had joined earlier. They are a great place to meet people who have the same hobby or career as you, you can bounce ideas of each and often find that if you have a problem some one in the group will have already experienced this and be able to help. Blogging groups are also great places to find out about opportunities that are coming up such as events, reviews and blogger conferences. At first I was embarrassed by being in these groups a I would ask for help or apply for opportunities and never give back but you find the longer you are a blogger the more you learn and then you can soon share your expertise and support with other new members.
8. Create an online presence across social media
It is important that you have an online presence across social media as this is a great place to share your blog content and it also encourages other people to share it with their friends easily. I would also suggest that you make it easier by having the same name across all platforms. I started with a Twitter account and abbreviated my user name to TSFblogger which was great until I joined Instagram and facebook with The Strawberry Fountain and now they don’t all match which I know can confuse some people. If you can only start with one for now then here is a great guide for getting started with Instagram.
9. Photos and names of family members
Before you start writing you need to decide how open and honest you want to be and how much privacy you want to keep. This changes from person to person and blog to blog but it should be consistent once you have made a decision. Some bloggers will change the names of their children or give them nick names and some will make sure they never photograph their faces, where as others will use their real names and share photos, there is no right and wrong way to do this as long as you know what you are happy with and your readers know what to expect. This is also a good time to mention trying out different photography equipment to see what you like and what you don’t. Some people use real cameras others prefer their phone and then of course there are green screens, hands free dives and back lights to consider.
10. Keep writing
When you first start out writing a blog can be very daunting. You have no idea if anyone is reading it and even if you track the stats for your blog sometimes it is hard to tell how many actually read it and how many just clicked on it, or more importantly, how many read it and actually enjoyed it or got something from it. I have had many an occasion over the past few years where I have wanted to jack it all in. Stop writing altogether and delete the blog completely because it has felt like it has been a totally pointless exercise but then someone will come along and tell me they read one of my posts, they bought something I recommended, or avoided going somewhere I said wasn’t worth the money and I realise that actually people are reading what I write and although they might not always like or comment they are reading it and therefore I will continue to write.
I also have job opportunities come in from PR companies or small businesses who state that they are getting in touch because they read a certain post and would like me to create something similar for them, so if you have got this far and have your blog ready to go my biggest piece of advice is just keep writing, even when it feels hard, pointless, or time consuming, keep going.
11. Soak up all the knowledge
There is so much to learn in the world of blogging, it’s not just writing posts and reviewing days out. There is SEO, keywords, broken links, ASA guidlines and so many other terms that are important to understand but that meant nothing to me when I started out. Don’t be afraid t ask for help, download ebooks, read blogs about blogging and go on courses like the PPC course and courses deigned specifically to help you grow your blog. If blogging is going to be your business then you need to see it as a business and invest in it.
I hope you found these top tips helpful and when you are ready to take your blog to the next level make sure you check out my advice on how to make money from blogging too.
Good luck with your new venture.