I’ve written so many features on How to start a blog for magazines and websites I kind of forgot that I hadn’t actually written a post about it on The Mum Blog. Doh. And I know it’s easy when you’ve been blogging a while to take it for granted that everyone knows how to start a blog. But it’s something I get asked by friends and colleagues ALL THE TIME and it takes a while to explain on email or whatever. So I thought I’d create this post of my top 10 tips for starting a blog, which I hope are easy to understand. Do feel free to add any of your own. (These tips are not by any means meant to be exhaustive, they’re just meant to be nice and simple, but if you have any queries do please feel free to post them below).
Top 10 tips on How to start a blog
1. Think of your blog name and what you want to blog about. For many bloggers this is one of the most exciting stages in the creative process – so many possibilities for your little corner of the internet (and then you can move on to the look and feel, which is really cool). My top tip here would be to think about longevity – a blog called ‘Stinkypoos’ might seem like a FABULOUS name for a parenting blog when you have very small children, for example, but will it really work when your kids are at secondary school? Similarly a blog called ‘My travels round India’ might seem like a fantastic name for a travel blog, but what if you go somewhere else and want to blog about that destination, too? Changing blog names just confuses everyone. So, from the name point of view at least, my advice would be to think it through, think long term. Of course your blog will evolve and develop, so think of a name that might work for any kind of content you want to post. And definitely have a google before you decide on your name – it can be a bit disheartening to find there’s already a blog with the *genius* name you wanted to use up and running and established; or worse, that it leads to something slightly less desirable *cough*.
2. Choose your platform (this is what you use to publish your blog). Setting up a blog on a free platform like wordpress.com or blogger.com is a very simple and pain-free process, and it’s actually a great way to teach yourself about using a basic CMS (Content Management System) if you don’t already use one for work. The platform I use for The Mum Blog is wordpress.org (not .com), because it gives me the freedom to host ads if I want to, but the slight disadvantage here is that you do need it professionally hosted and, unless you know lots about coding, you’ll probably need someone to set it up for you. This costs money; I viewed it as an investment and made it back within the first six months of setting up the blog, but I’d already been blogging for a year when I launched this blog. If you go with a free platform to begin with you can always migrate to wordpress.org later on. But whatever you decide to do…
3. …register your domain name (the name and url of your blog, with the full web address) with 123-reg or similar. Even if you don’t want to pay for a professionally hosted blog at this stage, by having your blog name and url registered – it’s really quick and inexpensive to do – in a few different formats (e.g .com, .org) you’ll reduce the chances of anyone else coming up with the same name, registering it and stealing your limelight when you are ready to migrate. If someone has already registered the domain you wanted, choose a different one. Simple.
4. Tweet. Set up a twitter account if you don’t have one already – or if you prefer, a twitter account for your blog. Whatever you choose, if you’re going to run a blog in 2015 and you want people to read it, you’ve got to be on twitter. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. 50% of the traffic to The Mum Blog comes via twitter. If you’re blogging, and you want people to read your blog (not just friends and family) you need to tweet. It’s that simple. Once your blog is established, a Facebook page for the blog is a really good idea, too, particularly if you want to keep your blog a bit separate from your personal Facebook.
5. Make sure you give your blog posts a proper url. It amazes me when friends post blog posts in blogger and they use the url it gives them automatically – usually a load of numbers and letters. Who is going to find that on google? No one. Give your posts proper urls if you want people to read them, unless you’re really only blogging for yourself. By the way, if you’re using a free platform you’ll still be able to customise the design and add your own header.
6. Don’t add a PR and reviews policy at this stage. If I click on a brand new blog and I see they have a ‘PR and reviews policy’ it really turns me off, because I automatically think they are blogging to get free stuff rather than because they have something to say or something I want to read. Great blogs are about great content, and when you’re in the first six months or so of starting a blog your focus really needs to be on creating that content, building up an audience, interacting with other bloggers and so on. If you’re only blogging to generate freebies, it will be immediately transparent to anyone reading your blog, and they’ll switch off. There’s a reason why so many blogs fail in the first six months; manage your expectations, and blog because you want to write – not because you want freebies. Always write in your own voice, not a voice you *think* you should be writing in (and while imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, most bloggers won’t take terribly kindly to anyone trying to rip off their blog). Authenticity is key, content is king. (Have a read of my post on How to be a successful blogger here).
7. Join blogging organisations and Facebook groups. There are so many of these around, for every possible type of blog, you’re bound to find one that suits you. The support you’ll get will be invaluable, and you’ll also discover lots of really helpful info and tips. Plus make friends (many of whom you may get to meet in real life.)
8. Try to blog at least once or twice a week. Easier said than done if you’ve got a busy home and work life, of course, but try to set aside one or two hours a week at least to blog. Don’t blog for the sake of it, though – blog because you have something to say. And if you do want people to find your blog (and I think we know that you do), submit it to google.
9. Be cautious. When you first start blogging and you want people to read your blog it can be very tempting to want to be super friendly with everyone. But without wishing to scare you, not everyone is what they appear to be in the blogosphere; my top tip here would be to wait until you’ve met someone in real life before deciding to friend them on Facebook. (You may like to read my post on making friends in the blogosphere here).
10. Have FUN. Blogging is HUGE fun, it’s a way to express yourself creatively and it can lead to some spectacular rewards (including making some wonderful friends, new career opportunities and so on). But try not to take it *too* seriously when you’re first starting out. Just enjoy it.
So, those are my top 10 tips on how to start a blog – there are lots of excellent blogs around offering tips on getting started, so do have a google and see what else you can find; or you may like to read the excellent Blogging The Essential Guide co-authored by well-known blogger Erica Douglas. And if you already have a blog, what tips on how to start a blog would you add?