2011 07/06

How to Start a Blog {the basics}

So, you wanna start a blog, do ya? Great! Then let’s cut the chit chat and get started!

First, before anything else, let’s get you in the right frame of mind for this blogging thing.  Starting a blog is like starting any other business.  Now, I know you might not be thinking that you want this to become a business and making money may be the furthest thing from your mind…after all, you want to start this just for fun…but, starting a blog is going to cost money (even if it’s minimal) and take time. If you go through these next steps thinking like a business, you’ll be in good shape and you’ll see why!

Step 1: What is your purpose?

What is your reasoning for starting this blog? Do you have a particular area of focus? A niche? It’s ok if you don’t have a specific focus for your blog.  I don’t!  Think of it like college: When you enter college you are told to think about your major.  Some students declare a major right away, while others dabble in a few areas and declare later on in their career.  Then there are still others, ehum…me, who remain “undeclared” and just keep dabbling.

No one way is better than the other.  If you have a passion for a certain topic, then blog about that.  If you are passionate about lots of things, then blog about them.  There are, of course, pros and cons to each way.

Step 2: What’s in a name?

Think of naming your blog like naming your child or your pet.  They are going to be stuck with it for  a long time. Sure, you can always change it later on if it just “doesn’t work”, but it can be a real pain in the butt!

Some things to consider:

  • Keep it short! You want something you can potentially fit on a business card or, at least, that people can type out without their fingers cramping up.
  • Keep it relevant! Sure, you may be the “Mom to Jimmy” today but what about two years from now when you’re the “Mom to Jimmy and Penny”?  If you’re going to name your blog specific to your life, then think about where  you’ll be 5 years from now.
  • Make it catchy! If you want people to remember your blog, then make it memorable.  The first step at doing that is giving it a name that people can remember.

Step 3: Claim your domain

Now that you’ve got your name, it’s time to dot com it.  This is where life gets a little tricky. The name you’ve chosen may have already purchased as a domain. Yes, you’ve spent all that time brainstorming a blog name and now you can’t even get that name in a domain.  Sorry.  Hope you had a few back-up names! Otherwise, you can always get a little creative with your domain name! We’ll talk about that in a minute…

First, to even check on your domain’s availability, visit a site like Register.com or GoDaddy.com. They will let you check the availability for no cost.  Once you find your domain, go ahead and purchase it.  Domain fees range depending on the site you’re purchasing it from.  Also, be aware that those registering sites are going to try to upsell you on your domain by offering different packages — domain + hosting + email + privacy….etc.  Make sure you’re only purchasing what you need!

Some things to consider:

  • If your name isn’t available as a domain, try picking a variation of your name.  Leave off a word or add a word (like “the”).
  • Like in choosing your name, don’t make your domain obsessively long. You want something people can remember, that can fit on a business card, or that people can easily type.
  • If your blog name is or has a word that is commonly misspelled, consider purchasing domains of those differing variations.
  • If you’re concerned about others using your blog name, consider purchasing the other domain variations — .com, .net, .org, etc.
  • Shop around for domain prices. Just be aware that some sites will lure you in with their low introductory prices.  Know what their prices are to renew each year!

Step 4: Choose your platform

Nope, the decisions aren’t quite over yet! Now it’s time to choose your platform.  Your “platform” is where you will be building your blog.  There are a myriad of blogging platforms out there and more popping up all the time.  Some of the most common are WordPress, Blogger, Posterous, and Tumblr.  Each has their own pros and cons. You can do a simple Google search of “blogging platforms” or “blogging platform comparisons” to figure out which is best for you! (Sorry, that is a whole other post itself!).  For reference, I use WordPress.  And I like it.

Also, depending on what platform you choose, you may or may not need to look at website hosting.  Hosting, like purchasing your domain, ranges in prices and packages, but you get what you pay for.

Step 5: Design

Don’t worry, we’re almost done!  Now it’s time to get your creative juices flowing…or someone else’s creative juices!  You have a few options here…

Go with standard template
Each blogging platform typically offers some standard templates to get you started.  You can simply use that template and plug your information in or you can try to customize it a little, depending on how creative and tech savvy you are.

Find a FREE template
There are a lot of websites that offer free blog templates.  This is a great way to get started but still have a look that is a little more creative or personal.  Steps on how to download and implement that template are pretty easy to follow.  The downside, however, is that your design will mostly likely be seen elsewhere in the blogging world and customizing it may be limited.  Also, most free templates will include a non-customizable footer that includes an advertisement to the site you downloaded it from.  But it is free.

Purchase a template or theme
There are also a ton of websites out there that sell blog templates.  Again, you may end up seeing your design on other blogs but you do get more freedom in customization.  And no unwanted ads. Prices vary, depending on what the theme or template has to offer.

Hire a designer
If you have a specific idea of how you want your blog to look or really want a personal look on your blog, check out a blog designer. There are a ton of designers out there and, again, prices range depending on what it is you’re looking for.  Some designers will even offer you a package where they will design your header, website template, and website button/logo.

Make your own template
If you are creative and tech savvy, consider making your own template.

I know, that was probably overwhelming!  But, honestly, you can start with the basic free template and work your way from there.  Redesigning your blog can be time consuming and costly (if hired out) so make sure, if you are spending money on a design or template, be happy with what you have!

Hint: If you’re not sure what you want your blog to look like, take a little tour around other blogs. If you see a general design that you like, check their sidebar or footer to see who they are crediting for their design or template. If it’s a “template store”, go check out what they have to offer.  If it’s a designer, check out their portfolio and prices!

Step 6: Write

Yay! You’ve finally made it! Time to get all those thoughts, how-to’s, bits of information and advice, or just plain ol’ word vomit down on the blog!!!

Remember, whether you are sharing a story about your baby or reviewing the latest movie, be authentic in your writing! People are reading your blog because they like what you have to say and how you say it. It’s ok to quote other people, companies, or brands, just be sure to cite those sources!

And proof-read! Grammar and spelling mistakes are inevitable, but they shouldn’t dominate your writing. Make your posts easy to read! Speaking of reading…

Step 7: Read and be read

I often hear people ask But, who will read my blog? or How do I get people to read my blog? First, you need to decide IF you want people to read your blog. Seriously.  Maybe you just want to write to write or maybe you are writing just to keep your extended family updated on your life.  That’s ok.

But, if you’re hoping to have your writings read by other people than your immediate friends and family, then you need to make your blog’s existence known. The easiest way to do that is to connect with others. Bloggers read blogs. Plain and simple!  Connect with other bloggers by reading their blogs and leaving comments (leave authentic comments and not “Hey, come come check out my new blog!”). Most bloggers will see your comment and return the “love” by checking out your site. If you have a specific niche, connect with other bloggers in your niche!

Also, connect with people on Twitter, Facebook, or forums. Just don’t be spammy! Again, authenticity is key!

My biggest advice is, If you write it, they will come! If you have informative or enjoyable content, people will come to read it. You can spend thousands of hours and dollars advertising your blog, but if you don’t have the content, people aren’t going to come back.

There you have it! You’re blogging! It wasn’t that painful, was it?

Remember, those are the basics. Blogging is like most things in life, you can always go one step further. There are some great resources available, whether you are just starting out or want to take those next steps in your blog. If you are on Twitter, check out the hashtag #savvyblogging.  You can also try meeting up with other bloggers in your area or consider going to a blogging/social media conference (ehum, Gleek Retreat).

Now, happy blogging!

If you have a blog, I’d love to check it out! Leave me a comment below with your info and I’ll pop over there. Also, if you have a question about blogging, I’d love to try to help! Leave your question below and I’ll do my best to get you an answer!!!

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