How to Start a Blog 101
So you've decided you wan't to start a blog? Or maybe you haven't 100% committed to the idea yet and you're just doing a little research. As someone who knew very little about blogging when I started "Hello, Van Flutes" earlier this year, it seemed a little overwhelming to know where to start. That coupled with the fear of what I'd actually write about, would anyone actually read it, and honestly does the world need one more blogger? Here are some things to think about before you get started and resources to help you get there.
What type of blog?
This is something I struggled with (and honestly still do). Do you travel and want to share with your readers the in's and out's of your experiences? Do you love fitness and think others would benefit from your knowledge? Maybe you're a wiz with a make-up brush and people are always asking you how you get the perfect smokey eye. For me, I wanted to start a "lifestyle blog" which mean't pretty much I could write about almost anything and everything. This can be great, or it can be bad. Without a true focus on what you want your blog to mean to your readers, it can miss who you are trying to target. For example, you may be very interested in this post about how to start a blog and care nothing about my delicious banana bread (even though you should). That could mean, without focus and the right target audience in mind, you miss your ideal reader all together. The takeaway: think long and hard about how you want your blog to look and feel a year from now. Decide before you start what TYPE of blog you want to start and do your best to stick with it. This will help you find your core people and your core people find you, and ideally, they'll become your regular readers!
Why do you want to blog?
So I'll be very honest, I struggled with this question. Because blogging is such a "thing" now, I was afraid that my want to start a blog would come across as a vanity project, or that I'd be just another ::eye roll:: "BLOGGER". I decided I needed to get over these irrational fears and people would either love it or hate it. Decide early on what you're doing this for. Is it because you love to write and it's a creative outlet for you? Is it because your friends and family think you have so many great things to share with others. Is it because you want to eventually make an income from your blog? It doesn't have to be just one. For me, I have always been in a creative career and because of my recent move to another country, I have had periods of time without work and blogging gave me a sense of purpose, a creative outlet and motivation to get out of bed and do something (not at 9am, but still). Oh, and also it would be awesome to make some money from it... still trying to figure that part out. So you know why you want to start your blog? Great :)
What are you going to name it?
Hmm... this can be another toughy. There are so many options and yet sometimes you can feel so limited! Think back to question number one, what is your blog about? If you want to focus on culinary posts, find a creative way to tell your readers that in the name. That way viewers know right away what you're serving (pun intended). If you've decided on a beauty blog, find a creative way to make that clear in the name of your blog, again, so people know what you're all about. If you're like me and need something fairly general since you plan to write about whatever hits you that week, then try using your name, or a general title. Before you do anything, do a quick google search to make sure your name isn't already taken, or that there isn't a name too similar already in use. Your blog name should be unique to you but also remember to keep it short and sweet so it's easy for people to remember! If you still need help brainstorming naming ideas, try Bust A Name for free help on generating ideas using combinations of words.
How do I host a blog?
Because blogging is at an all time high, there are several options on how you actually go about hosting it. For example, I use WIX to host my blog. I decided to use WIX because I have my professional site through WIX as well and so it was somewhat of a no brainer to just add another account. With WIX, I am able to have complete creative control over the look and feel, however if you're not a creative person, no need to worry, there are so many amazingly pre-designed templates that you really can't go wrong. You will have the ability to link your social media accounts, create a space for people to contact you, customize design, and so SO much more. You will also be able to purchase a URL for your site through WIX. The best part is, if you're not sure how much you want to invest in your blog to start, you can chose a monthly plan for a very reasonable price, or pay annually. WIX is always ALWAYS running deep discount deals (mostly 50% off) on any and all holidays (like valentines day and halloween, not just the major holidays).
In other news, WIX isn't your only option. You may have heard of WordPress, Blogspot, Blogger, Squarespace, etc. Because I am already signed up with WIX, I don't have much insider knowledge on some of these others and would recommend that you head to their sites and do a little research for yourself to see what they offer. Just keep in mind while you're researching, is it easy to customize? What does it cost? And is it easy for YOU to understand. There's nothing more frustrating than a difficult user experience!
To learn more about WIX, Click Here
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule!
Decide early on if you plan on blogging 3 times a week, twice a week, once a day (that's ambitious). Whatever you decide, be consistent. It's perfectly ok to just post once a week, but just be sure your content is worth waiting a week for (so well planned and thought out). I have read that the sweet spot and recommendation is to blog twice a week, but I really think that depends on how much time you want to dedicate to your blog. That's another thing, a successful blog TAKES TIME. But I'll come back to that.
Once you've decided how often you want to post, buy yourself a calendar and brainstorm topics to post each week. A schedule will not only help make the writing easier, but you can also link your topics to things that are relevant during the time of year. Examples? OK. Back to that smokey eye, maybe thats a great post leading up to new years? Get fit fast? Great post leading up to bikini season. 'DIY'ing a chunky blanket screams FALL! I think you get the point. Let your ideas lead the way and the calendar give you inspiration and consistency!
How do I get it out into the world?
I'm not going to pretend to be a master on this one, because I'm still trying to figure out how to reach the masses myself. A great place to start is your personal social media. I know this can maybe seem a little cringe (or at least it felt that way for me) but if you're serious, your friends and family are the best place to start your support team! This doesn't mean you have to spam your Facebook and Instagram followers. If you want to keep personal and blog completely separate, consider starting a business instagram and facebook account where you will share any blogging updates with your followers. Pinterest will also become your best friend as this is where most of your target audience lives so be sure to have this as well. Reminder, all of your social media should have the same name as your blog. If you plan to create any new accounts, all of your handles should be the same. I will circle back on how to use social media to boost your blog in a later post.
Track your traffic
So you've put in all this work, hit publish, now what? Don't just sit back expecting the comments, shares, and likes to roll in. It's going to take time. But a great way to help you achieve your goals is by tracking how many hits your site is getting, where they're coming from, how long people are spending on your site, and if they take the time to click on any of your older posts. Not to mention, age, gender, interests, and all the other creepy things the internet can tell us in real time. So how? GOOGLE ANALYTICS. You will become obsessed! Once your site is live, simply create a google analytics account and link the two. It's that easy and that amazing. This also gives you the opportunity to see which of your posts did best and from there you can make any necessary adjustments to future posts. Experiment with where you share your posts and see if it makes a difference in your traffic. I learned that my most clicked on posts were about beauty and fitness, which is ironic since those are the 2 topics I want to write about the least because I'm not really sure people should look to me for advice on either. haha. But it's about learning what your readers like to see! Good Luck!!
This post could go on forever, but I'd say at this point, you're off to a good start. Check back for future posts where I'll drill down a little deeper into specifics from this post. Already a blogger and think there's more we should know? Comment. Not yet a blogger and still have a couple questions? Comment. Have some ideas you'd like me to write about...COMMENT :) oh, and share with your friends because sharing is caring. Thanks guys!