How to Start a Blog
How to start blogging – a beginners guide
With millions of blog posts written and published every day, there’s never been a better time to get involved; meeting new friends, joining online communities and even making money are just some of the benefits. But anyone with little or no experience can find the blogging world more than a little daunting, and the questions can seem almost endless; what should you write about? How do you get the content online in the first place? How often should you post, and what about advertising?
If you’re feeling a bit confused, don’t panic – we’ve put together a comprehensive and easy-to-understand guide for those looking to start blogging and how to start a blog, with information on everything from choosing a host provider and learning about content management systems to navigating the confusing world of affiliates and advertising.
If you want to jump to a specific section, use these rather handy links:
- Finding a niche – What topic will you talk about?
- Content Management Systems (CMS) – How will you publish to the web?
- Blog host providers – Where will you host your blog?
- Blog frequency – How often will you post on your blog?
- Advertising and affiliate deals – Do you want to earn money?
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Will people find your blog from search engines?
- Analytics – Who is visiting your blog?
- Promoting your blog – How will you promote your blog?
1. Picking a niche
There are a few basic categories that blogs fall into:
• Fashion and style
• Gardening and horticulture
However, most blog authors find themselves dipping into one or more areas; for instance a parent blogger might also write about interiors and furnishings for children, children’s clothes and accessories and visiting child-friendly places. The area of lifestyle blogging is also particularly broad, as this covers everything from homes and gardens to style, parenting and travel – basically, everything that makes up the interesting things in life!
Deciding what to write about is the first hurdle to overcome before you start blogging; picking the right area is basically what makes a good blog into a great one, so we’ve come up with some tips to help you decide what subjects to cover:
• Think about areas of expertise
The old saying goes, ‘stick to what you know’, and this definitely applies to blogging. If you’ve got a hobby that you’re already knowledgeable in, or you used to work in a particular industry, this could be a good way to choose the topic of your blog – lots of information at your fingertips will make thinking of good posts much easier.
• Write about what you love
It might sound obvious, but the key to a successful blog is making sure that you actually enjoy writing it – choosing a subject that you either know very little about or become easily bored by will result in dry, stale posts that are unreadable. Passion comes across in writing, and readers will find it infectious and enjoyable; if you love everything clothes-related, start a fashion and style blog, and if you’re a fan of everything floral, write about gardening and horticulture.
• Different types of content
Don’t just stick to writing, how about starting a video blog on YouTube or Vimeo which you can share on your blog? Depending on the niche, you can create different types of videos from tutorials and explainers to reviews and news. Videos are easy to embed within blog posts, just grab the code from Youtube or Vimeo after you have uploaded it. This means you don’t have to host large video files on your own server.
• Be selective with what you share
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to place yourself in one specific category; just because you have children, it doesn’t mean that you automatically have to become a parenting blogger – there’s no rule that says you even have to mention your children. Likewise, if you work in fashion, you don’t necessarily need to write about clothes if you’re more interested in backpacking the globe!
2. Content management systems
Although it might sound like something hugely confusing, a content management system, or CMS, is basically the way you choose to upload your posts to the internet. There are several different platforms, and each has its own merits and disadvantages.
The most popular blogging platform in the world, users love WordPress for its simple navigation and the overwhelming choice of different themes, layouts and widgets. WordPress.com is ideal for complete novices, as you get a basic free platform that’s easy to use, while WordPress.org involves a small monthly fee but provides you with more customization options – it’s completely free to switch between the two, so lots of people start with WordPress.com and then upgrade to the .org version.
Find out more here.
One of the simplest content management systems, Blogger is free to use and has the added bonus of being automatically integrated with other Google Apps. The layouts and themes are pretty basic, though, and if you want to make any dramatic changes you’ll have to become familiar with HTML.
Find out more here.
Tumblr is the best platform to use if you want to keep writing to a minimum and showcase spectacular images and videos; while there aren’t many customisation options, there is a great Tumblr community to get involved in.
Find out more here.
One of the newer platforms, Squarespace provides sleek, modern layouts and contemporary themes, but users will have to pay a monthly fee to sign up. For $8-$16 per month, you’re given access to easily customisable designs and the option to turn your blog into a web store if the need arises.
Find out more here.
3. Blog host providers
If you’ve signed up for the more basic platforms, you won’t need to think about hosting providers; however, if you want a personalised URL, you’ll need to sign up to one straight away – these are basically the people who host your blog and make it appear on the internet. Popular choices include:
- 1 & 1 – 1and1 Web Hosting
- 123-Reg – www.123-reg.co.uk
- Bluehost – www.bluehost.com
- Dreamhost – www.dreamhost.com
- Go Daddy – www.godaddy.com
- Fasthosts – www.fasthosts.co.uk
- One – www.one.com
Choosing to self-host your blog involves paying a yearly subscription fee, often around £15 or so, but has the added bonus that your blog will have a .com, .org or .co.uk URL, which is often more attractive to advertisers, affiliates and sponsors.
4. Blog frequency
There’s a lot of debate about the ‘right’ way to blog, and how often you should post, but it’s mostly down to personal choice and what you feel able to cope with. We’ve come up with the following tips to help you decide on a schedule that suits you:
• Don’t commit to more than you can deliver
There’s no point in getting stressed and agitated by trying to work to a schedule that you can’t manage; you’ll end up resenting having to find time to post and that will come across in your writing. One post a week full of great content and beautiful images is far better than half-hearted and forced posts delivered every day.
This is how easy it is to publish with wordpress! So simple!
Starting out in blogging is all about working out what suits you best, and it’s the same with a posting schedule; the early days are the best time to chop and change between how often you post – it’s a great time to work out what your readers like and what you find easiest to manage.
• Keep it regular
Readers like predictability when it comes to blogging – it’s one of the things that keeps them coming back for more. Whether you decide to post every day or once a week, find out what works and stick to it.
Shameful plug: We provide copywriting services and great content in any niche so to give your readers something to engage with . See our packages here.
5. Advertising and affiliate deals
Once you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ll often find that opportunities might arise to explore the world of advertising and affiliates. Monetizing a blog is a personal decision; some people start out with this aim, while others find it’s simply a natural progression. It can definitely provide those who are enthusiastic enough with a second or even primary income. Leading marketing blogger Matthew Woodward updates his readers monthly with a summary of great blogs, how much they made and how they did it here.
Advertising is a pretty broad area, which covers a few of different things:
• Sidebar and banner advertising
A company will pay a fee to place a banner, infographic or image on your blog for a set period of time.
• Sponsored posts
A sponsored post involves a company paying to place one or more links to their website within a post you write yourself.
• Guest posts
These are similar to sponsored posts in that they involve a paid link, but they are written by the company themselves. Many bloggers choose not to accept these, as they don’t always fit in with the natural feel of their website, but it’s an entirely personal choice. You can enroll in marketplaces such as Blogness.net to find advertisers for your blog.
Some companies prefer to send products for review, rather than paying for a sponsored link; this can be advantageous if you like a particular brand or product.
Affiliate deals are similar in that they are financially rewarding, but they work in a completely different way to general advertising. Affiliate links are placed within a sidebar advertisement or post, and are tracked by the company – when somebody clicks on them and buys a product, you are rewarded with a percentage of the sale. Affiliate deals aren’t quite as lucrative as sponsored links and advertising, but can provide a steady cash flow over time. Check our blogpost here for more details on the matter.
If you’re considering monetizing your blog, there are two hugely important rules to follow.
• As with all advertising, financial compensation on blogs must be declared. The ASA has provided an article which provides a good introduction to this often confusing area. Click here to access it.
• Whether you’re employed at the same time as blogging or you’re blogging for an income, you have to declare everything you earn to HMRC. To do this you need to register as self-employed, whether you’re earning above the tax bracket or not – HMRC have a page with easy step-by-step instructions to follow, and also a helpline for anyone with any questions. More info here.
SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and is the method of making your blog look more attractive to search engines by using specific techniques. It can be baffling to complete newbies, but a good basic rule is to get a grasp of ‘keywords’; these are words that are specific to the topic of your post, and will lead people to your blog when they search online. For example, a post on dogs could contain the words, ‘dog’, ‘dogs’, ‘canine’, ‘lead’, ‘bowl’, and ‘collar’ – you could then be more specific with your keywords, adding more narrowed search terms such as colours, breeds and brands, as well as long tail keywords that include a whole phrase.
Good SEO resources online include:
In our blog we do cover an aspect of SEO optimisation related to selection and use of high quality images, you can view it here.
Analytics are incredibly important in blogging; this is the data that gives you all of the information you need about your readers, from their demographic and location to how they find your website. When getting started with blogging, you probably won’t need to look at your statistics much, but as time goes by and your readership grows, they’re really useful to see which of your posts are most successful – making it easier for you to expand on the success of your blog.
All blogging platforms come with their internal tracking devices, but most bloggers use external measurers such as the following:
Google Analytics is the most widely used device, and one that most PR companies and businesses refer to when considering working with bloggers. It’s completely free to use, considered the most accurate in reporting and offers specific reports on monthly pageviews, unique users and bounce rate, as well as more detailed information on the age, sex and location of your audience, and your most popular posts.
8. Promoting your blog
Once you have started blogging and there is a nice flow of interesting and engaging content being published, you will see traffic coming in as people begin to find you while searching for information in the niche. The amount of traffic you get will all depend on the quality, quantity and and different types of content that you share.
In order to build more traffic and really build a name for yourself within the community/niche you will have to look at various promotional activities.
• Guest blogging through blogger outreach
This is a very popular method of increasing your audience and is achieved by reaching out to fellow bloggers within your niche. You should contact your blogging counterparts and ask them if they would be happy to feature content that engages their readers but also links back to your blog. This will bring in referral traffic to your site and also increase search engine rankings for targeted keywords when a long campaign is in place.
Another Shameful plug: We provide guest blogging services by doing blogger outreach for you. See our packages here.
• Social Media
Social networks will provide you with a captive audience. It is essential to set up profiles and pages on the most popular platforms so that your target audience can find and engage with you easily. Essential social media networks to utilise are:
• Facebook – find out how to set up a page: www.facebook.com/help
• Twitter – find out how to set up a page: support.twitter.com
• Google + – find out how to set up a page: www.google.com/brands
• Pinterest – sign up here: www.pinterest.com
• Instagram – find out how to create an account: www.help.instagram.com
• Paid Advertising
There are countless options when it comes to paid advertising. You can manually search for opportunities among other bloggers (similar to blogger outreach). Any blogs that have significant traffic will offer advertising slots on their website. As long as they have the same audience as you and the price is right then it might be worth taking up some of the banner ad opportunities available.
Some great options for paid advertising include:
• Google Adwords – Pay Per Click ads on Google search.
• Buy Sell Ads – A great network which lets you search for opportunities by niche. Choose to pay per 1000 impressions or for a certain time period that your ad will be live.
So there you have it! A complete beginners guide on how to start a blog. I hope you have found this guide useful and inspiring.
Take all of the points on board before you start blogging and I’m sure you will be successful.
Watch out for more tips and advice coming soon on how to take your blog to the next level with advanced monetization techniques and content strategies.
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