Want to be a blogger? Congratulations! Everyone has their own unique knowledge, skills, stories and insights to share and it’s wonderful that you’re considering adding your voice to the blogosphere! Getting started can sometimes be a bit overwhelming for new bloggers, so here’s a step by step guide.
1. Identify your motivation
Why you choose to blog is totally up to you. Understanding your motivation though can be an excellent solid starting place, which may help you make some of the decisions below more easily. Are you blogging purely for fun? Or perhaps to begin to share your knowledge and skills? Establish yourself as an expert in a particular field of interest? Maybe you’d like to gather various pieces of information all in one place? Others would like to grow their business and hope to make money from their blog. There are no right or wrong answers, just simply spend a few minutes to get your WHY clear.
2. Understand the difference between blogs and website
Not so long ago, a website was a place where you could find pages of information online, which were mostly static. A business or organisation would put together content for a website and only update it every now and then. Websites used to be very expensive to build as they required in depth technical skills. In contrast, a blog used to be something separate, and was a basic place online where individuals wrote about topics of interest to them, often in a kind of text/diary format with limited ways of navigating. This has now changed dramatically and you often can’t tell the difference now between a website and blog. Websites may have blogs embedded, and a blog may look like a website with a menu of several pages and complex navigation. The most important change though is that if you have access to the internet and some basic computer skills, you can build and run a website/blog. You can read more about the definition of a blog and website over on Wikipedia.
3. Find five other blogs and analyse them
There are literally millions of blogs on every imaginable topic. Pick five other blogs, preferably ones which you think may align with a similar “why” which you have already established above, and do a quick analysis. What do you like or not like about them? How much personality shines through and in which way? Is there an “about” page and what is on this? What kind of layout and design has been used? Is there sponsorship and advertising on the blog? How often are posts published? Are there social media icons on the blog – both to share posts you like or to connect with the blogger on social media? What kind of comments are on the blog – or are there any? Does the blogger respond to comments and how regularly? Look at the URL – is it a personalised one, or does it use the platform name as well? (e.g. http://www.professionalparentsnetwork.org versus http://www.professionalparents.wordpress.com) You can spend as much time doing this step as you like – either just a few minutes on each blog thinking these questions through, or get a pen and paper and make notes.
3. Choose your platform
You’re almost there – you’re nearly a blogger! Firstly though, you need to choose where you would like the “home” of your blog to be. Click through for this post, which writes about the 10 best free blogging platforms and summarises some pros and cons.
Around 5 years ago, when I started blogging, I did a similar kind of analysis. I actually started on Blogger, which is owned by Google. It never felt “quite right” for me though and I can’t really explain exactly why, apart from saying that it just didn’t feel easy enough to use or control how I wanted things to look.
Then, I discovered WordPress and have been a fan ever since. Why? Mainly because I’ve always liked the level of customisation that WordPress offers. It’s not initially easy to use, but doesn’t take long to learn, and once you do, it’s a powerful tool that has massive potential for any sized blog or business. There is an important difference to understand, being that www.wordpress.com is a free blogging platform, whereas www.wordpress.org is open source software, for which you need to pay for hosting.
When I started blogging, I began three blogs on WordPress.com – Dutch Australian (about my life between the two countries), Professional Parents (work family balance) and Zestee (Social Media & Marketing Matters). After about a year, I shifted them all over to WordPress.org as I wanted a higher level of customisation. What this means is that I have access to even more (and “better”) templates as well as access to thousands of plugins (which can be described as mini programmes to make your blog do different things). Self hosting though also brings additional risks and I recently wrote about six things I learned from having my websites hacked. Don’t let that scare you but do take into consideration that if you don’t have the budget or skills for something more than a basic website, just stick with the free platforms. With WordPress though, I like that you can learn on the free WordPress.com and then have a very similar blog “backend” if you do later decide to upgrade to WordPress.org.
Overall, just simply pick one platform and get started. If you don’t like it, you can change later.
4. Define some categories, tags and keywords
Putting some thought into the organisational structure of your blog can be very helpful, even if you’re writing for pleasure. Particularly in WordPress, but also on other blogging platforms, you will be able to create each post as relating to one or more categories. You can then “tag” other relevant words you may have written about or referred to in your post. This is probably worth a whole post in itself and isn’t something you want to get too bogged down in when you are just getting started, but thinking about this early on can give some form and direction to your blog. You can also change these later.
5. Start writing!
Each blogging platform has a simple sign up process and will usually walk you through getting started. If you get stuck, look around for the help section. Then just start writing! At first, this can be tough. I remember the first few posts I wrote took me hours. Now, I am a lot more confident with writing and am quicker, but some posts can take longer than you expected or even go in different directions than you first planned! Often, you don’t know until you just start writing. You have the option to save drafts, so I also often just enter in titles and notes and leave them there until I’m ready to work on them further. Linking back to your first step, depending on your motivation, you may like to come up with a blogging schedule, or you may just like to write when the mood takes you. Either way, I encourage you to just get started!
6. Add some images
Keep in mind that there are copyright issues with most images online, so the safest way to know you have the permission to share something is to create it yourself. Even with a basic smartphone, you can create some great photos to go with your blog posts. I also am a big fan of a free online tool called Canva where you don’t need design skills to create your own great images. I’d highly recommend having at least one image for each blog post. You can insert images in blogs similar to in a Word document, just look for an “insert/upload image” option/icon (or “add media” in WordPress).
7. Share it!
This can be a nerve-racking part but if you’re blogging to share with the world, let them know it’s there. If you have a public blog, then you may have readers stumble across it, however you also can take control of sharing your posts. Cut and paste the URL on your Facebook or LinkedIn profile, or share on Twitter. You can also set up automatic sharing tools to share the link as soon as you have published. If you don’t yet use other social media tools, then feel free to browse this blog for tips on how to get started.
8. Repeat steps 5-7 over and over again
Write, add images, share, write, add images, share. I’ve now done this process literally hundreds of times and likely to do it hundreds of times more!
9. Play with layouts and themes
Each free platform will have a number of options of how you would like your blog to look. In WordPress, go to the “Appearance” section, and you can preview various themes. They will all “pull” information from the posts and pages you have created so set some of these up first (pages are more static information like the about and contact sections, and posts are your blog posts). This is also where your categories and tags come into play too, for example certain layouts can display a list of posts organised depending on the way you have organised this.
If this part is too overwhelming at the moment, ignore it and just concentrate on your writing and come back to this later.
10. Comment on this post!
One of the most exciting things about being a blogger is getting a comment on your posts! I’d love yours below 🙂 Why not share your first blog post with me?