Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blog Basics: How To Start A Blog


You may be tossing around the idea of starting a blog but are intimidated by all of the blogs out there. Or you might be wondering what type of content your blog would have and if it would be relevant or interesting. If you're reading this blog today you already have the first step to getting there; interest. Blogging is a great outlet for a diverse group of people and a way to share with the community their new craft or a new item they thrifted; whatever your interest may be, starting a blog is easier than you might think.

Blog Content

The most important element of blogging is your content. Before you jump on the internet and secure a blog name and start designing it, you should think about what you will be writing about. Do you like to read and want to share your thoughts about books in your collection or notes from book club meetings? Are you a photographer who wants to share the stories behind your lens? Or do you want to write about your every day life? Most blogs fall into certain blog categories pertaining to their content. The most popular ones include Lifestyle, Photography, DIY/Crafts, Family, Fashion, and Personal. A great way to establish what type of category you might fall under is to write out your thoughts and see if any of those categories {or any other} compliment your content. Finding your niche in the community of blogging will help you in other areas later on {which we will discuss later}. You'll also want to research other blogs that have similar interests to make sure that your content is original, unique, and you. Yes, there are tons of blogs out there that are DIY/Craft or Lifestyle; whatever the category there is bound to be similar content. It's okay. But the best rule of thumb when writing is to make sure that at least 60% of the content is your own. Meaning, it is unique to you. One way to do that is to bring a little bit of your personal elements into the post, even if you don't normally share personal content. It's original to you and no one else can copy that. Remember; we want you to blog and be you at the same time!

Choosing a Name

Naming your blog can be very difficult. You'll want to make sure that what you choose not only compliments your content, but is a name that will grow with you as your blog grows. When Heidi & I started our first blogs we both had different names. I was even on an entirely different platform! So far in to blogging we both realized we jumped the gun on a name and found it didn't grow with our blogs. Switching was daunting and difficult at first, but luckily we had a steady group of readers who followed right along on our journey. But it's a process that you want to avoid, no matter how many people follow you or not. 
You'll want to choose a name that goes hand in hand with what you'll be writing about. Are you a crafter wanting to share your projects? You could play off of the tools you use or projects you make. Or are you a fashionista with a certain style that you could play off of as well? Make sure that whatever you choose, it is your own. You'll want to put in a quick Google search to make sure no one else has that name or something very similar. Even if it isn't the exact same, if most of the name is similar it will confuse readers who may be talking about your blog, but refer to the other by mistake and visa versa. You'll also want to make sure that you keep your name short & sweet. You want your readers to be able to remember your name so they can easily type it in a search engine or physically type out your URL.  Keeping it short & sweet will benefit your blog in the long run in many ways. 

Choosing a Platform

There are many platforms out there to choose from. Blogger, Wordpress, Typepad, Tumblr to name a few. 
Blogger seems to be the most popular and is an easy and free platform to use. It offers simple templates and navigation that is easily customizable as well. You can link it to your Google account which is also a bonus if a lot of blogs you follow are through Google Friend Connect. It's the best way to keep up to date on everyone else's blogs that you follow as well as making it easier for people to follow you, too. Its easy coding and template designer makes customizing a breeze, even for the non-coder. Also, if using a third party designer for your blog {which we will touch on next}, most prefer Blogger for these reasons alone, which keeps the cost down when paying for a design. It is one that I use {now} and Heidi as well. In fact, most of the contributors of this blog {and this blog included} are on the Blogger platform!
Wordpress is another popular platform. Though not as easy and customizable as Blogger because it is not self-hosted, but for a fee you can have a self-hosted blog that can be customized to your preference. If you're a basic blogger, Wordpress may not be your best choice. I switched from Wordpress to Blogger because it wasn't allowing me to be as involved as I wanted to be with my readers. You can't use GFC {Google Friend Connect}, host linky parties as easily, run a giveaway using Raffelcopter {Java Script is disabled on Wordpress unless it's self-hosted}, or have a 'grab my button' box under your blog ad. All of those elements were important to me so I made the switch. Like I said; if design and customization are important to you wanting to start a blog {which it should be}, Wordpress is not for you unless you pay to self-host.
Typepad is a great platform and is very basic like Blogger, but there is a fee to pay each month. With that fee you get designs to choose from, domain mapping, support, storage, and more; depending on which plan you choose. I don't know many bloggers who use this platform and I can't recall anyone saying anything bad about it, but they have a free 14 day trial. You could try it out and see if it is a fit for you and always cancel your trial if it doesn't work out.
Tumblr is very popular in the fashion, photography, and personal corner of blogging. J Crew actually uses Tumblr as their platform for blogging! It is really a community within its self, making it easy to share other people's posts, photos, content, etc with other Tumblr users. The only peeve I have about Tumblr is that if you want to follow a Tumblr blog {or you want someone to follow you} you have to have a Tumblr account. To me, that's just an inconvenience. But it is the simplest of platforms and a great one to choose if you fall within those categories or of the like.

Design

Now that you have your content, a name, and have chosen a platform it's time for design. No matter the platform you choose, you will have some sort of design available to you. I personally feel, though, that design is one of the most important elements in blogging next to content and that if you plan to be a serious blogger, paying a fee to get one is a piece of cake. 
When you land on someone's blog, whats the first thing you see? Their header. If you don't want to pay for a full design, paying for a header is something you might want to consider. Whether you design one yourself or pay someone to do it, keep it within the vision of your blog. Keep your content in mind and go from there. Bloggers do not want to click on a blog to see neon backgrounds against harsh colored text so keeping it light, simple, and easy to read will bring a reader back and most likely will become a follower. It's sort of like choosing a book at the bookstore or library. What do we look at first? The cover. Sadly we all judge a book by its cover and much do bloggers when it comes to blog design. But it is important. 
You'll also want to keep your sidebar{s} uncluttered. There is nothing more that I can't stand than to see a sidebar filled up with how many awards they've received, what blog hops they're participating in on top of their category lists and blog ads, and blog series they have. Utilize the 'pages' aspect of your platform and save the sidebar for your 'about me', social networking buttons, blog advertisers/sponsors, and one or two key elements of your blog. Everything else can go in a page. 
If you can't afford or don't want to invest in a design, there are templates you can use that are set up for you on each platform. Blogger gives you a little more leeway with being able to customize a template they already have, while Wordpress has loads of templates to choose from that are super cute and cool from the start, but are less customizable. 
No matter which way you go, you want to make sure that the design of the blog represents you. 

Start Blogging!

Ok so you have a name, a platform, and a design; it's time to publish that content we were talking about. Think about a first post you want to write. Do you want to do an introductory post welcoming people to your blog, giving them an insight on what to expect? Or do you want to just post out of the gate on that awesome thrift shop find you scored? Whatever the first post is, make it to the point and make it you. 
When you're first starting to blog, don't worry about trying to make a name for yourself right away. If this is your first blog, your content and vision may grow so as you blog more and more you'll be able to find that voice. One of the biggest tips I can offer is remembering why you wanted to blog in the first place. Even if your intention is to share with the community your life {whether personal or professional or everything in between}, you're still blogging for you. Over time everything else will form organically and you'll be able to find a rhythm to it all. 
Keeping with the rule of making the content your own, if you do find inspiration in other peoples posts or photos that are worth sharing, it is important to always source back. You don't want people stealing content from you, so please don't steal content from others claiming it to be your own. Blogging is a community of people trying to inspire, support, and lift up one another. We don't want it to become a vicious pool of drama as you'd see in the halls in high school. And if you're taking other peoples post and claiming it as your own, thats going against everything we are trying to share here; the whole reason behind this blog and why you are here, reading it.

Share!

Once you've hit publish on your first post, share it. If you're on Facebook, let your friends know you've started a blog. Link them to your post or tweet about it. If you plan to have lots of images in your post, you could create a board on Pinterest for your blog and pin your images to your board. Let you friends know on IG that you started a blog. Let everyone know! Sharing your posts with people that you interact with on a daily basis will be happy to share what you've written too, which makes people want to come and visit your blog to see what you're all about. Don't be discouraged if you only have a few views the first few times you publish. The more you write and the more you share, the more out there your blog will get. It takes time, but trust us; not very much time if you know how to share yourself.

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9 comments:

  1. This was great to read since I am a newbie! I need design help badly but can't afford to pay anyone :(

    www.topthisbyleanne.blogspot.com

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    1. Hey Leanne! Thank you for stopping by! Torrie has written up a great post on design do's and don'ts so hopefully that will help you out in what to do. Look for that post on Tuesday!
      We will be offering up some great design resources and I will be doing a post on how to do a basic blog design which will be featured next week. If there is anything you need help on immediately don't hesitate to contact us!
      Xo,
      Ashley

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  2. I love the idea for this blog, and I'm looking forward to learning lots of new helpful hints in the coming days!

    http://thecuriousyellow.blogspot.com/

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    1. Hi Abbey! We are so glad you could stop by and check us out! We really appreciate the support! If there is anything you would like featured on the blog please feel free to contact us!
      Xo,
      Ashley

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  3. This blog is super cute! Great idea! I just started my own blog a couple of weeks ago. I used Wordpress because my tech savvy husband is pretty familiar with it; although I really don't like how you can't use GFC. :-/ Oh well.

    Check it out at: www.eatnapplay.wordpress.com

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    1. Hi Natalee! I loved Wordpress when I first started out too. If I could have used GFC and Java with Wordpress I would have stayed. Everything else about it is so much more appealing to me than any other blogging platform. When you have someone helping you you really can't go wrong with what you know and if your husband knows Wordpress, then that is a great fit for you! Thank you for stopping by!
      Xo,
      Ashley

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  4. This is a great post-- I could really identify with the opening paragraph!! Thank you for the words of encouragement and great ideas!!

    http://mysparkleshine.blogspot.com/

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  5. What are your thoughts about purchasing your domain name on blogger? I am toying with the idea of $10 a year.

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  6. This is a great post; it was very edifying. I look ahead in reading more of your work. Businessman Mark Curry

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