A Guide to Starting a Blog
What You Need to Know
- The first step to becoming a blogger is choosing a subject to write about. Think carefully as you will need a subject that keeps you interested and motivated.
- If you're aiming to make money from your blog, approach your choice of subject matter in a business-like manner.
- Thanks to specialist blogging platforms, it’s possible to set up a new blog in just a few minutes without any computer coding knowledge at all.
- Top blogging platforms include WordPress, Blogger and TypePad. Look at all the options and weigh up their pros and cons before making a decision.
- Your blog will need a name. Keep it simple and memorable, though appreciate that your first choice name may already have been taken.
- Some hosting platforms allow you to migrate content from one domain to another, so if you change your mind you may be able to change your blog name.
- Commenting on other people's blogs and posting links on social media sites such as Facebook are effective ways of building up a following.
Choose Your Subject Matter
There are millions of blogs out there, covering everything from parenthood to paleontology. But what they all have in common is that they have a specific aim, even if it’s just to chronicle an individual’s daily routine and thoughts. So, if you want to add your voice to the global ‘blogosphere’ you first need to give some serious thought to what you’re going to write about. You may well know this right away, but if not, try and find a subject that you will keep you interested and motivated. And, if you harbour dreams of joining the small band of bloggers who make money from their blogging, approach your choice of subject matter in a business-like manner; after all, a cookery blog is more likely to draw in readers – and therefore also advertisers – than a blog about a niche hobby.
As well as racking your brains, maybe look at blogs that cover similar subjects as the one you’d like to write about. Ask yourself what you could do differently, or even do better, and consider if you want to adopt a similar tone of voice or if you would take a different approach. However, don’t worry about this too much; even many of the best and longest-running blogs are still works-in-progress.
Choose a Blogging Platform
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a computer whizz or a web designer to be a blogger. Quite the opposite, in fact. Thanks to a wide range of specialist blogging platforms, it’s possible to set up a new blog in just a few minutes without any computer coding knowledge at all. These platforms guide you through every step of setting up a blog and publishing your first few posts, though many of them also let you go further and set up professional-looking websites. These are some of the most popular platforms among bloggers, along with their main advantages and disadvantages:
Blogger is a specialist blog-publishing service that free to use and available in more than a dozen languages.
- Free to use, including free hosting.
- Free design templates available, allowing you to personalise your blog.
- Customisation abilities are limited, particularly when compared with WordPress.
- No search function is available and posts cannot be categorised.
The world’s biggest blogging platform, WordPress (note there is both WordPress.com and WordPress.org) caters for everyone from amateur bloggers right through to major corporations.
- Free to use, include free hosting. However, you will need to pay more if your blog takes off and becomes more of a business.
- You can categorise your posts, allowing you to write about different subjects and your readers to search through your writing.
- It’s easy to use, no computer programming knowledge is needed, even to upload photos or video content.
- Though WordPress is easy to use, Blogger even simpler.
- Again, though publishing a simple blog is free, if you want to import enhanced ‘themes’ (that is, the style template for your blog) then you will have to pay a relatively small fee.
- Typepad is also known for its simplicity. It also prides itself on its strong levels of customer service, meaning if you do get into trouble with your blog, you can get help online.
- As with WordPress, you can set up a completely bespoke domain name for your blog, plus you can move your blog between these two platforms without any issues.
- TypePad blogs can be directly connected to LinkedIn profiles.
- According to some observers, spam is not dealt with by TypePad as it is by WordPress, meaning your blog could be hit with a load of fake comments each day.
It’s well worth taking the time to do your homework on the different blog hosting platforms out there, weighing up the advantages and drawbacks of each one and assessing these against your needs. Also, consider signing up to a few free platforms and playing around with them before making a commitment.
Choose a Name for Your Blog
Once you’ve decided on a topic, found a hosting platform and even chosen a style for your blog, it’s time to think of your name – though, of course, this may have been the very first thing you actually thought about!
Given that there are millions of blogs out there, you may not be able to get your perfect name. johnsmithsblog.com is unlikely to be available, for example. However, play around with the options available to you and try and think of a name that somehow relates to the topic you are blogging about so that anyone interesting in your writing can find it.
Note that some hosting platforms allow you to migrate content from one domain to another, so if you change your mind about a domain name, you may be able to change it, though you may end up losing followers.
Build Up Your Blog
You should have a good idea before you even start your blog about what you want to get from it. That is, whether you just want a platform through which you can put your thoughts down regardless of whether or not anyone reads your words. If you’re happy to be followed by just a handful of people, then you can just keep posting away without worrying any further.
If, however, you want to build up a following, perhaps with the aim of earning some money from advertising revenues, then you need to be proactive about getting noticed. Good ways of doing this include:
- Commenting on other people’s blogs. Don’t simply leave a comment under their posts saying ‘please read my blog’, but instead engage them in conversation so that both them and their followers will be intrigued and click through to your own blog.
- Write posts on a regular basis. If you’re going on holiday, then maybe build up a small pile of extra posts and schedule them to be published while you are away.
- Take full advantage of the potential of social media. So, if you write a new blog post, put it out on Twitter and Facebook, making sure you also make use of appropriate hashtags. Likewise, if you have a LinkedIn profile, provide a link to your blog.
Remember not to get disheartened if nobody reads your blog for the first few weeks or even months. With millions of blogs out there, it will always take some time for a new voice to get noticed, so persevere!
- Learn more about WordPress, and get started as a blogger.
- As a blogger you need to protect your tools. Read our guide to defending your computer against viruses.
- Make more of the internet with our guide to playing online competitions.