First, I’ll acknowledge I’m not a blogging expert. I do however have three different blogs that I write for and maintain. They’re each very different, and I have a love/hate relationship with each one. Mostly love.
Jessica from Four Plus An Angel and Liz from a belle, a bean & a chicago dog are hosting a Summer Blog Series. This week, the topic focuses on starting a blog. If a friend approached you and said, “I want to start a blog. Can you give me some helpful tips?“, what 10 things would you tell your friend?
I love this idea because I’m asked this all the time. One of my sites, Frugal Day, has been a great success so far, and NoThankYouPlease (which now this site, GrowingUpGoofy) is just getting started. I can tell you both the rewards and downfalls that come along with my experience and what ten things I’d share with you before you get started.
- Only write about something that you’re passionate about. If you love to knit and knitting is your passion, write about it. If this is something that you love and can talk about until you are blue in the face, then go for it. Blogging is a platform. If you passionate about something, then others out there with similar interest would love to hear what you know and think. If you’re writing about something you love, it will come naturally, and people will see your passion in your writing.
- If you don’t like to write, don’t. Going back to #1, people can tell when you’re passionate about something. If you don’t like to write, or your blog becomes a chore… stop. This happened to me recently on Frugal Day when I felt like certain post types on my blog were becoming a drag. I quit writing those post types, and have never looked back. I may have lost a few readers as a result. But not enough to keep me doing something I wasn’t enjoying. Now, my focus is back on the areas that I love.
- Have posts written on your blog before you launch. I spent months creating posts before I announced my sites publicly. This created a nice chunk of content for my readers to browse through for their first visit, and gave me a good idea of what I was getting into. If I had trouble coming up with content, this was the time I could reflect on why I wanted to start a blog. If you provide readers with a good idea of the type of content they’ll get form your site, and they find it interesting, they’ll come back for more.
- Find and fead other blogs in your area of interest. Know what others in your topic area are writing about, and try to find something different to offer your readers. Comment on your favorite posts and start building relationships with other bloggers and readers.
- Take advantage of social networking and public conversations. I can’t even begin to tell you how important social networking is today in connecting with others and spreading the value and message of your blog. If you’re looking to acquire more readers, get going on Twitter very early. There are other social media outlets available, but you know we are primarily a Twitter household! Just like reading and commenting on blogs, you’ll want to do the same with Twitter. Find and follow those blog authors and tweet and reply to those blog authors. You’ll be surprised at the awesome friend network you can create. Remember though, social networking mirrors real life. You will come across that occasional person or reader that won’t be so nice. Let it roll and move on.
- Start with WordPress right away. You could start with a tool like Blogger. But ultimately, WordPress provides a lot more flexibility to do exactly what you want to do, both now and in the long-term. This will save you a huge headache down the road if you are serious about getting a blog going. There are tons of themes available to help you easily change your blog’s design. And the WordPress community has created thousands of plugins that extend WordPress’s capabilities to do just about anything you want to do.
- Select a great web host. A web host is a service that stores what you write and all the images you include, and makes it available to people who visit your site’s URL. You want a host that provides the right amount of functionality for a low cost. We use Dreamhost for all our hosting needs. Their basic plan is less than $10 a month. It comes with one free domain registration. And they provide simple, one-click installs of WordPress – an added bonus to get you started quickly.
- Don’t clutter your blog with a bunch of ads. Unless your site is about ads. Personally, if I go to a site with a bunch of ads cluttering up the space, I typically won’t come back. Keep your site clean and neat, people will enjoy your writing much more. Also, no auto-playing music or sound when you first get to your site. Sure it may seem “cute” for some sites, but not for your blog!
- Be patient. You wont have readers overnight. You’ll be lucky if you have ten per week at first, and chances are, they’ll be your own family and friends. I blog because I want to share what I know. It might not be much and a lot of the time I do it for myself. Blogging is not a sprint. If you’re looking to be an overnight success, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Don’t get caught up in the numbers. Enjoy what you’re doing. Know that if you have something to offer, people will keep coming back. You’ll build a community and make new friends. If it’s becoming “work” to you, stop and take a break. Let your readers know. Once you feel refreshed, start again! Most importantly, have fun!