- Monday, 23 May 2016

How To Start A Blog

So you want to start a blog, huh? Or maybe you've already started one, and you want to improve it. Well, I am by no means an expert and am, in fact, very much a small fry in the domain of World Wide Web log-writing, to give it its full name, but I am more than willing to offer up what I do know.

(World Wide Web + log (as in a ship's log) = weblog; weblog becomes blog; video + blog = vlog; you get the idea.)



The reason I'm writing this post is because, minor-league tot that I may be, I have been asked surprisingly often for advice on blogging. Blog-starting. Blog-writing. Whatever.

So that's what I'm going to offer you today. These are not rules, they're not groundbreaking, they're not going to propel you to bloggy superstardom overnight (unless you're very lucky or make enough wishes) but in all honesty, there is no foolproof formula that will do any of that. These points are just what I have gleaned from my experience thus far and what seems to be the best advice I can give.

1. Just start.
You've made it to a blog post offering you tips on how to 'do' your blog, so you're obviously interested and you've already taken the first step. That's great! But a quick google will tell you that there are endless blog posts all aiming to help you on your way, so don't get caught up trying to decipher the magical code that will ensure your blog's success, by reading every single one. Read this one, obviously. But once you've done that, just get started and you can do more reading and research later.

2. Find your niche.
Whatever it is that you know, somebody else will, at some point, also want to know. No matter how specific or tailored that knowledge is, you can bet your bottom dollar that if you know and write about it then there will be at least a few other people out of the billions in the world who will be interested in it. Gardening? Check. Makeup? Check. Toys/food/brands of poo bags for dogs? Most likely also a check. The point is there's nothing people won't read, and somebody will always be interested in what you have to say. Bonus: it makes it easier for people to find you and they're then more likely to stick with you, if they know what they can expect from your blog.

3. ...but don't limit yourself.
All I'm talking about here is the name of your blog. If you adopt my genius suggestion above and call your blog The Labrador Grooming Lowdown, then all you can really write about is labrador grooming. Think of all that greyhound grooming or dog bed content that is just waiting to be written, but wouldn't fit in with your personal brand.. By all means find your niche, but leave the name wide enough that you can cover various different topics. When I first created imogen molly, I had no idea what it would evolve into. My first posts (most of which are now private, thank GOODNESS) were beauty product reviews, things that were on my mind and anything I found remotely interesting or amusing. I would never have guessed that it would become a food blog, but I knew at the time that I had to choose a name adaptable to whatever direction it would take.

4. It's not a competition.
This one is forgotten about all the time. By virtue of its very nature, blogging as a job or as a hobby often leads to comparison, simply because it requires public attention. Don't do this. Do not. do. this. There will always be somebody with more monthly pageviews than you, or somebody who goes to more events than you, or somebody whose Instagram photos get more likes than yours - IGNORE IT. It really, truly, honestly doesn't matter. It's exactly the same in any industry - other people work more sociable hours/earn more/have more holiday days, whatever it may be. The only difference is that you don't see it. There is a phrase from American playwright Wilson Mizner that I'm sure you will have heard before, which is very relevant here: "Be kind to everyone on the way up; you'll meet the same people on the way down." Basically, you won't 'make it' in the blog world if you see everybody as a competitor or potential threat. You wouldn't see people in your everyday life like that, so why should it be any different now that you write a blog?

5. Tell people!
Coming from someone who didn't breathe a single word about my blog to anyone from starting it in 2013 all the way until March 2015, this advice may seem a little hypocritical.. Believe it or not, though, the best way to get more people reading your blog is, indeed, to tell people about it. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I'm constantly amazed by how positive the reception is, and there is still nothing more lovely than being sent a message from somebody telling you they like your blog/made your recipe/subscribed to your mailing list - anything at all. It's the best. And if you don't tell them about your blog, they are approximately a million times less likely to find it (not necessarily scientifically calculated).

6. HTML
Contrary to popular belief, HTML does not stand for How To Make (websites) Look (great). Or even Look like anything at all, let alone something great. In fact, Hypertext Markup Language is very worth your time - not to the extent that you should spend more time on that than on creating content, but worth some time investment all the same. While HTML can look incredibly complex at first (and some of it REALLY REALLY IS (madre the website designer is confirming this)), the basics are very learnable indeed, particularly with the help of the internet's multitude of helpful tutorials to give you a hand. By no means essential at the beginning at least, but if you can devote some time to teaching yourself a few bits and pieces about HTML coding in order to customise your blog to exactly how you want it, then definitely do.

7. Choose a platform.
Good news - you don't have to start from scratch. Although you are welcome to use your newly acquired HTML knowledge to build a website from absolutely zilch, it will be a whole lot easier (and quicker) to use a platform that has already done it all for you. The two main ones are Blogger (run by Google, anything that goes blah.blogspot.com) and Wordpress (similarly, these ones go blah.wordpress.com). There are almost as many posts comparing the two as there are about starting a blog, so feel free to do your research. From what I have read, Blogger is easier to use but allows for less customisation (although if you follow step 6 then you can pretty much customise to your heart's content), while Wordpress is less user-friendly but offers a wider range of options editing-wise. They're both free (Wordpress also has a paid option), but it's really up to you. I went with Blogger because I didn't know what Wordpress was, and have had no problems. A truly informed decision, if ever there was one.

8. Stick at it.
The internet is filled with so many once-loved blogs that are now long-forgotten and have fallen into disrepair. Blogging is not a means to an end; you won't necessarily gain anything from it other than simply the enjoyment of writing it. That shouldn't put you off. Yes, there are now loads of people who have done unbelievably well as a result of their blogs, but you won't get there overnight. Most people won't even get there until their blog has been on the go for several years or more. The key is perseverance. Your blog should be enjoyable enough that you don't have to force yourself to continue, and if it becomes that way then take a step back and try to find what it was that made you so keen to start it in the first place, and go back to that.

9. Write, write, write.
This is definitely the most important part about starting (and maintaining) a blog. Once you've found your niche, and identified that you do have something to say, all you can do is say it. The better your writing, the more enjoyable it will be for readers, and the more you write, the better your writing will become. (Sidenote: the other tip top way to improve your writing is to read. Maybe not in the style of bookworm kiddlywink me, engrossed in (no exaggeration) seven books at a time, but definitely read as much as you can.) The more posts you publish and put out into the world, the more likely people are to find your blog and the more content there will be for them to engage with when they do. Endless writing helps you close in on what your angle is, which in turn helps your blog to grow and progress, as well as just being enjoyable. Let's face it: if you don't like writing, a blog is not for you. Unless you are really big on art/photography/music or anything else that you can create and fill a website with that doesn't necessarily require overly many words to go alongside it. In which case the heading for this point would be 'create, create, create'. Create content you feel proud of.

10. Subscribe to mine.
Just kidding, this is not essential.. at all... But if you believe in karma or anything of the sort, then I highly recommend entering your email address into the box on the right, and maybe (just maybe) sharing this post on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest/LinkedIn/Myspace/Bebo/your local community noticeboard etc. If you want. It would be nice.

I hope these pointers are useful, and if you do have any burning questions then I'd be more than happy to do what I can to help, so please get in touch!

Whatever you're going to do, do it well, do it often, and do it now.


2 comments:

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