HOW TO START A BLOG: THE BASICS
Have you toyed with the idea of starting a blog, but have no idea where to begin? Well then, hey, you're in the right place. I've been reading blogs myself for almost a decade and always wanted to start my own but never really knew how to do it - or at least, do it successfully. Heck, I could hardly spell HTML, let alone build and run a blog.
But good news: it’s easier than you think. There's so much information online but I personally found it all far too intensely technical and monotonous - there were no real insights or wrongs or rights or simple check-lists to make the process that much easier. After some time of blogging full time, many, many tantrums, and a couple of ludicrously late nights learning the ins and outs of the trade, I thought it'd be a great idea to share some of my insiders knowledge.
Anyone can start a blog. That's the beauty of it. It's almost guaranteed that no matter what you write about, someone in the world will be interested and engage with your content. To start, you'll need that creative spark - because without that, it'll be increasingly more difficult. I started my blog as a hobby and as a means to unleash some of my dormant creativity and I count myself really lucky that I've had the opportunity to pursue my passion as a career. But no matter your reason for starting or whether your end goal is for it to become a career, start and I have no doubt that you'll regret it. Blogging is honestly the best decision I've ever made in my life and I can't wait to hopefully inspire and encourage some of you to start your own wonderful journey. So here goes...
STEP ONE: FIND YOUR NICHE
Your topic doesn’t need to be unique and you don’t need to be an expert – what will make your blog unique is YOU and your individual writing style. I know that every 'expert' says not to pick too broad a topic or not to write about multiple things, but if there are lots of things you want to write about and don’t know how to pick just one, start by talking about them all and see which ones you find are easy and enjoyable to write about! Don’t feel as though you need to know what you’ll like doing before you’ve ever done it. This is the best time to play around with what you want to write about and give a few things a go!
In time, you'll hone in on your passions and also you'll realise which topics your readers connect with the most which will help to influence the rest of your journey - blog name, design and of course, the style of content. This will all evolve with time!
STEP TWO: PICK A BLOGGING PLATFORM
There are so many opinions on the internet about which platform is the best but if I'm honest, this part just takes a lot of research. There are quite a few different platforms recommended for bloggers to use; Squarespace, Wix, Blogger and Wordpress just to name a few. Every single platform has it's pro's and con's but after some research, you'll soon decide which platform has the capacity to serve best for your blogs needs.
Bear in mind that you will also need to decide whether or not you'd like your site to be self-hosted or not. You will need to pay for a self-hosted site and despite this upfront fee, it means that you'll have full control over your blog, including in its layout, search engine optimisation, advertising revenue, additional functions, and more.
I started my first year on Squarespace because it is the simplest platform to use in terms of the interface, the templates are adaptable enough for a first-time blogger and there is a 24H help service - which has proven to be very useful along the way. However, despite those perks, I've found Squarespace to be quite an unreliable and my site has crashed a few too many times for my liking - hence the tantrums. Also after a year of my site, I've been looking to jazz it up a little with added features and a new design but I found that Squarespace wasn't giving me as many options. Due to that, I've decided to move over to Wix. So far, so good but I'll update you on that in the upcoming weeks / months.
In short, just make a mental note of all the things that are important to you - design, site usability etc and go from there.
STEP THREE: CHOOSE A THEME
This is where the fun begins. One thing I love about blogging is that you don’t need any coding experience to create a beautiful blog - which for me, someone who isn't at all tech savvy is brilliant news. Depending on which platform you've chosen, there will be a multitude of different themes and designs for you to choose from. Once you’ve chosen and installed a theme, spend a little bit of time playing around with it and getting things the way you like! I'd suggest having a look at other blogs you like, look at the different functionality options you like and what aspects make the blog appealing to visit and keep those in mind when tweaking your own theme.
Personally, I've changed my blog theme quite a few times along the way - mostly because I'm quite fickle and get bored easily. My blog started out being a very basic rolling page of blog posts, which looked nice enough but I noticed that it wasn't very user friendly in terms of people finding previous posts. Several different designs and tweaks later, here we are. I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% happy with my design but I think the beauty of having full control of your own blog is that you can make those little changes along the way. It's all trial and error really.
STEP FOUR: SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
The next step is to get your social media accounts set up, though don’t feel pressure to post anything on them straight away! Set up an account on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for your blog and if possible, use the same name as your blog so that people stumbling across your blog will also be able to find you on social media with ease.
I'd also recommend creating a dedicated gmail email address for your blog - you can setup an email address that has your domain name as the ending, e.g. mine is firstname.lastname@example.org, nice and easy. In my opinion, this makes you seem just that little bit more professional and it's so easy to do. Click here to get started.
STEP FIVE: GOOGLE ANALYTICS
Most blogging platforms have some sort of analytics function available but Google Analytics will give you the most in-depth feedback and is able to measure a multitude of different things including page views, locations of visitors and what devices they're using. All of this information is detrimental for you to know and it will help you tailor your content massively - e.g. if you know that 90% of your users are in the U.S, you don't necessarily want to be talking about all the new pop-up launches in London as this will most likely be fairly redundant to them.
STEP SIX: PUBLISH YOUR FIRST POST
Now is the time for all of those thoughts to hit the page. Your momentum in the first couple of days / weeks is insane and I remember drafting so many posts every day because I was just so excited to get them out there. I decided to publish a new post every day for the first month to get people excited and my views were brilliant because readers to knew to expect something at the same time every day. Once you start writing, you will soon find your voice and figure out what topics interest you the most.
As soon as your post is live, make sure you're pushing them out on all of your different social media platforms so people can go ahead and check them out. Post a link on Facebook, add a photo to Instagram with a link in your bio and send out a little tweet too. The more people that come across your blog, the better because essentially your blogs success is dependant on readership. Push push push.
And there you go, the basics to starting your own blog. I hope you've found this post helpful and that its given you the courage to pursue your own blogging journey. I'll be covering a variety of blogging related topics over the next few months so stay tuned, but in the meantime, if you have any questions, leave me a comment below or send me an email! I'd love to hear from you!