People often ask me how to start a blog. I think back to what a complicated process it was and what an enormous number of mistakes I made along the way. So, here are 5 things I wish I’d known when I started blogging.
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 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. This works for me, but many people would advise you to have a more specific niche.
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. This may take a bit of work now, but it’s worth it in the long run.
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 and send you amazing products to review. Blogging 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 have much more freedom to choose the look and feel of my blog.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that you need to go self-hosted. But if you do want to work with brands or monetise your blog in the long term, it’s worth 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 use 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+ 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.
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).
Instagram isn’t the best for getting click-throughs to your blog. But it is nonetheless a lovely platform. I enjoy posting on there, looking at other people’s beautiful images and promoting general awareness of my blog using Instagram. The key to building followers on Instagram is to really use it properly. If you love Instagram, it will love you!
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. You’ll get tips about promoting your blog and working with brands. It’s also a great place to get answers to any questions you have about blogging.
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 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.
For more blogging tips from some of the top bloggers in various niches, head to my blogging resource page.