Over the past few weeks, quite a few people have asked me questions about how to start a blog. It has made me think back to what a complicated process it was and what an enormous number of mistakes I made along the way.
So, to avoid seeing other people go through the same tedious process of trial and error that I went through, here are 5 tips on starting a blog. I am by no means an expert, but these are all things I wish I’d known right from the start.
1. Know your topic
When I first decided to write a blog, it was tied into my work. I had no idea where to start – I didn’t even know what to write about.
After several false starts, I sort of fell into writing a very generic parenting blog. These days, I have a bit of a focus on travel, days out and ethical issues. This has even led me to starting up another website.
That said, my blogging area is still relatively wide and it will never be an incredibly popular blog because I don’t have a real niche that people turn to my blog for.
So, if you’re thinking of starting a blog, take the time now to do your research. Think about what you want to write about, what makes you unique and who your audience will be before you start to write.
2. Decide on your platform
This is the technical bit – sorry. When I started to blog, I used the Blogger platform. This was free and easy to use. That said, as time went by I realised it was quite restrictive.
The other thing I began to realise was that brands and PR companies want to work with bloggers. They want to invite you to fabulous events, send you amazing products to review and blogging collaboratively can even become a way of earning a living.
When working with brands, the majority of them like you to be self-hosted. This means that the domain is your own rather than piggybacking on Blogger or WordPress.
To do this, you need to pay for hosting. I use TsoHost who only charge a few quid a month. I’ve only ever read good reviews about them. Whoever you decide to use, it is worth reading the reviews – after all, reviews are the one thing bloggers are great at.
Through TSO, I use a WordPress template. This is much more flexible than Blogger and I find that I get a lot more freedom to have the look and feel I want for my blog without the restrictions that I found with Blogger.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that you need to go self-hosted, but just that if you do want to work with brands or monetise your blog in the long term, it is worth thinking ahead and going self-hosted from the start.
3. Learn about social media
Another thing I was terrible at when I started blogging was social media. I was on Facebook, but I used it mostly as a people-watching tool. I rarely posted, but it was nice to see what people were up to. I had no idea about other platforms.
These days, I’ve had to drag my sorry arse into 2015 and start using social media properly. Twitter is great for promoting your blog and engaging with other bloggers.
Facebook is also useful as a promotion tool but it is a bit more hard work and more solitary – you have a standalone page and interact less with other bloggers and pages.
Google plus is a mystery to virtually everyone. But it’s supposed to be helpful to increase your search engine ranking. So, I diligently share my content on there and cross my fingers.
Pinterest is very image focused and is also a search engine in its own right. It’s supposed to be great for promoting your blog so I suggest you go off and learn all about it, then come and let me know how it’s done. I’m rubbish at it.
Stumble Upon and Reddit are also really useful for promoting blog posts but I only tend to bother with them if I’ve got something that’s really worth reading (rarely then).
If ever you want to monetise or work with brands, they like you to have a social media following. It’s also nice to read the odd word of encouragement and know that someone’s read what you’ve taken the time to write.
4. Get involved with the blogging community
Whatever your blogging niche and however specific it is, there will always be a community of bloggers that are already writing about that general area.
The community can be really supportive and helpful, giving you great tips about promoting your blog, working with brands and answering any questions that you might have.
I’m not a sociable person in any way, shape or form. But I do find it really nice to interact with other bloggers. There are lots of groups on Facebook that are really friendly and they’re a great way to interact with people and find your own little group that you keep in touch with regularly.
Twitter is also really useful for getting to know other bloggers. Just remember that it’s SOCIAL media – read and comment on other people’s posts, retweet them and show some support and they’ll do the same for you.
5. Know what you want from blogging and remember it
When I first started out, I wanted to use blogging to help promote a business. As it happened, the blog has outlived the business by a considerable distance.
But as I got into blogging, I realised that it was an amazing way to record our lives and keep a photographic record of the girls growing up.
As time has gone by, I have loved working with brands and attending fantastic events. The girls have had opportunities that they never would have had otherwise.
But sometimes, as with any hobby or profession, there are difficult times. Writer’s block, critical comments, technical difficulties and times when the only things I could think of to write were quite negative.
That’s when I stop and think back to what I want to get from blogging. Recording our lives and enjoying the amazing opportunities that go along with it.
Whatever happens, I’ll always love blogging for those original reasons. Even if nobody else reads it.