The most common e-mail I receive, without a doubt, is “How do I get started blogging?” Although I’m no HTML expert, I have learned the ropes over the last two years of blogging. Here’s a breakdown of my best advice!
Anyone can start a blog – for free! Although there are a lot of great blogging programs out there, I highly recommend WordPress.com. I began my blog on Google’s blog program, Blogspot, and the WordPress platform is vastly superior. If you’re already on Blogspot or another blogging platform, it’s easily to transform to WordPress and well worth it.
The first thing you’ll have to do is name your blog. Put a lot of thought into the name of your blog! It should be unique, easy to remember and spell, and something you can use for the long-term. When I first started blogging, I was about six months away from my wedding, yet I still named my blog See Bride Run. How shortsighted was I! Pick a name that you can use for the long haul.
To blog for free, WordPress puts “.wordpress.com” in your blog address. So when I first started this blog, it appeared as www.healthytippingpoint.wordpress.com. You can remove the “.wordpress.com” by buying your own domain name through the WordPress platform for under $15. Here’s step by step directions how to do that. As a matter of fact, if you cannot figure out to do something in WordPress, just Google it! That’s what I always do.
After opening your WordPress account, the next program you’ll want to install (if you have a PC) is Windows Live Writer. WordPress is a great platform; however, the actual blogging mechanism is a little bulky and time-consuming to use. Live Writer allows you to write a post in a format similar to a Microsoft Word document. It’s also very easy to use!
Some Live Writer tips:
- You can drag and drop photographs into the blog post. Once you drop a picture in, click it so it’s highlighted and the picture toolbar comes up on the right side. Click the Advanced tab and resize the picture (Hint: you always want your pictures to be as BIG as possible). Then, click on the “Picture” tab and select “Save settings as default” at the bottom. This will make pictures drop in at the correct size every time.
- Next time you inset a hyperlink, check the “Automatically link to this text” tab so Live Writer will auto-fill your links every time you write about your favorite recipe or blogger.
If you have a Mac, you can blog in the Ecto program, but it is not free (nor is it as good as Live Writer, sadly!). You can use Ecto for any blogging platform, not just WordPress.
Last, but not least, if you are using Blogspot or another blogging platform, turn OFF the feature in the Blogspot dashboard that requires readers to verify their comments by entering a code. It’s clumsy and annoying, and you’ll lose commenters as a result.
MAKE IT PROFESSIONAL
The best reason to blog is, of course, for yourself, but everyone wants readers, too! Readers enjoys blogs that are clean and organized. Choose a theme on WordPress that is simple and elegant – white backgrounds are most flattering (in my opinion) – and don’t use any crazy colors for text. Your words and pictures should speak for themselves.
Study your favorite blogs and other successful blogs in your genre to try and figure out what they do that makes them so likeable. I bet you’ll find common themes!
You can create your own header using a programs like Paint or Photoshop (it takes some tinkering but if I can figure it out, trust me – you can, too!) or you can ask a computer-savvy friend to develop one for you.
The most important page is your ABOUT page. Let your readers know who you are and why you are blogging.
Regardless of what kind of blog you’re starting, photographs are very important. You don’t necessary need an expensive camera (I do use an SLR but for the first year, I relied on a good point-and-shoot), but try to take pretty, non-blurry photographs to supplement your blog posts. Natural light is always better than using a flash.
A good name, decent photographs, and a smart design are important, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the quality of writing. It takes bloggers a while to find their voice (just look at my first post) but follow the basic rules: use proper punctuation, spell check, and write in a clear, logical manner.
Some bloggers are comfortable pounding out three posts a day; other bloggers feel more comfortable with one a day or one every other day. Find what works for you and then follow a schedule. Readers will come back when they “know” a new post will come up and appreciate a set schedule.
Use the “Tags” and “Categories” sections in Live Writer to organize your blog posts so readers can find other similar posts that they enjoy.
How do you get readers? You’ve got to put in the time and effort! New blogs are created everyday, and while people might check yours out right away, they are only going to continue to come back if they can tell you’re in it for the long haul. Don’t expect your blog to explode overnight!
The best way to market yourself is to become a genuine part of your blog genre’s community. Comment (thoughtfully) on other blogger’s posts so the blogger and their readers begin to notice and recognize you. Participate in blogging contests, link back to posts from bloggers who you admire, and answer calls to do guest posts when people offer up the space.
I was very hesitant to join Twitter at first, but now I love it. I know SO many bloggers through Twitter; it’s a great way to get your name out there and interact with bloggers and readers. Make sure your Twitter name reflects your blog name for maximum branding.
Above all else, if you write a quality blog, interact and care about your readers, and put in the time and effort, you will gain readers over time.
And of course… the biggest and most popular question! :) How do you make money blogging? First, if your goal is to start a blog so you can quit your office job, I seriously would discourage you from blogging. Your readers will be able to sense your fakeness, and you won’t be as willing to put in the effort as you would if it came from the heart. Also, it literally took me two years of blogging three times a day to make enough money to live off of my blog, and I’m definitely the exception, not the rule. There are faster ways to make money!
That being said, it is possible to make money off your blog through an advertising contract with a company such as BlogHer or Foodbuzz. These companies work by placing advertisements on the sides of your page and pay you based on the number of views you receive (CPM). CPC ads are the kind that pay you based on the number of clicks, which is not as lucrative.
Most importantly… have fun blogging! That’s what it’s really all about, and I hope you enjoy being part of the community.