10 Things you need to know and do before starting a blog
Have you been considering starting a blog or wondering how to get started blogging? Many people start blogging without really knowing what they are doing. While it is possible to be a super successful blogger by learning as you go, give yourself a short cut to success at blogging by considering these 10 things you need to know and do before starting a blog.
1. Decide what you want to blog about & always be authentic in your writing. Many people start a blog without a real purpose, focus or niche. They end up writing on too many topics and their blog’s content is all over the place. You will be much more successful at blogging (and less stressed out) if you choose a niche to blog in and just keep it simple. (Niche’s could include a specific topic or genre from parenting to cooking to small business to photography tips or even a blog for your home based or direct sales business…) Be authentic in your writing & share your unique voice, personality and experiences. Focus on quality content not quantity of content. This will set you apart from the billions of other bloggers and draw more readers to your blog.
2. Understand that blogging as a business/for a profit actually takes work. Many people start a blog and think that all you have to do is slap up a website and start writing then the readers and money will start rolling in. Blogging is so easy, right? Wrong. If you want your blog to be successful, taken seriously and to make a profit, then you need to look at and treat it as a business. Blogging takes work, especially in the beginning. There is a lot to learn. Social Media, technology and SEO (search engine optimization) is always changing. You will spend a lot of time researching, taking photographs, editing photo’s, writing, editing your writing, then even more time promoting your content on social media, connecting with your readers and networking with other bloggers. Blogging isn’t all work and no play though. There are a lot of perks that come with blogging like having that creative outlet, making new friends, being someone influential, getting to review products and maybe even trips and cars for free. Just like any small business though, it takes work and working consistently to make an income and enjoy all those benefits. I also recommend using a Blogging Planner to help you be more consistent and organized. (There are tons of free printable blogging planners available, just do a Google search).
3. Understand the different blogging platforms. There are 3 main blogging platforms being used right now.
Blogger.com (owned by Google) is a free blogging platform. Many bloggers start out with a Blogger.com blog because it is free and very easy to set up, find a free design and work with. There are not as many options for customization or extras like a self-hosted WordPress offers though. If you are most blogging for personal reasons Blogger is a good route to go with. There are some businesses who use Blogger though, so it could be a good option for you if you don’t need a lot of customizations, extra features or an intricate, custom design.
I believe the best blogging option for a business is a self-hosted WordPress blog. (This is completely different from WordPress.com blogs, even if you have a WordPress.com custom domain or pay for the upgrades on WordPress.com it is NOT the same as a self-hosted WordPress blog.) In order to have a self-hosted WordPress blog, you will need to purchase a domain name and website hosting from a hosting company such as Bluehost. Then the WordPress software will be installed into your site and you will be able to use all the features and benefits of WordPress on your site. WordPress is highly customizable and a very powerful content management system. Depending on the size of your blog, web hosting can be anywhere from a few dollars a month for most blogs to a few hundred a month for huge blogs & websites. Most average bloggers will not need expensive web hosting though. If you are serious about blogging, want to have complete ownership and control over your blog and your content and have more than enough options and features, then a self hosted WordPress blog is the only way to go. (For a large list of resources, tips and tutorials for self hosted WordPress blogs view this post.)
Other options for easier to set up and use websites that have less powerful blogging options include sites like Weebly & SquareSpace. Both of these are fairly affordable and have easy to use drag and drop customization features and templates. They are great for those who want a custom site without having to have a lot of technical skills.
4. Purchase and read Problogger’s ebooks. Darren Rowse of Problogger.com has written several ebooks that are invaluable for beginning bloggers. If you are brand new to blogging, start with his ebook First Week of Blogging first. If you have already started a blog or are familiar with blogging and social media, then skip the First Week book and read 31 Days to a Better Blog. I really cannot even begin to tell you how helpful those two ebooks have been to me & countless other bloggers. The best way to learn is from the best in the business.
5. Learn basic HTML. While all three blogging platforms have visual editors allowing you to create your posts and pages without having to use HTML, there will be many times you need to know and use HTML. For instance, when adding widgets (these are the boxes/areas in the sidebars) you will need to use HTML to create links, add images, center and make text bold just to name a few. You may also need to implement HTML in your posts when embedding images, videos and ads. There are times when incorrect HTML coding may cause your sidebar or post or parts of your blog to get out of line or not show up correctly on your blog. Knowing what issues to look for, how to correct them or how to not mess up the HTML coding in the first place will save you so much time and sanity. Here’s a great post by noneother than Darren Rowse on HTML basics for bloggers.
6. Learn the basics of SEO (search engine optimization). Using SEO will help your blog be found when people search online for certain terms and keywords. There are several ways you can make your blog SEO friendly and help your posts get more traction in online searches. SEO changes constantly. SEO Moz has a great Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
7. Learn some basic photography tips. Quality pictures can literally make or break your blog. You do not have to purchase a $5000 (or even $500) camera to take decent pictures. Learn some basics, use a photo editing program and make your posts visually appealing. Images posted on social media (especially Pinterest) typically draw more clicks, visits and shares. Bad pictures and low image quality were one of my biggest mistakes in my first couple years of blogging. I am still working to improve my images but have found the ones with quality pictures really do end up being some of my most popular posts. Check out this post with basic photography tips for bloggers by the SITS Girls. You can also use free sites like Picmonkey.com and Pixlr.com to add text to images, create custom images and edit basic images.
8. Keep your blog’s design clean and simple. Keep your readers in mind when choosing a design for your site. Choosing a clean, simple and well organized design will make your site more appealing for your readers. Stay away from really pale and really dark colors and backgrounds especially. Use basic fonts for your posts that are clear and easy to read. Please whatever you do, do not have music on your blog. Make sure your site is mobile friendly too as many people use tablets and their smartphones now more than their computers. There are many free templates and themes for all blogging platforms. Once you are established and making a little money, you can hire an affordable blog designer to create a custom logo and design for you.
In the past I used Genesis Framework and Child Themes by StudioPress (It offers excellent built in SEO control, easy to update layouts and many clean designs to choose from. You can purchase just the framework for around $60, then use their free child themes or purchase the one of your choice for around $20. Many of their child themes have several color and layout choices built in that you can quickly customize without any coding.
In 2016, I switched to Thrive Themes and Thrive Architect for my site and page builder due to it’s super simple, user friendly drag & drop customization features that require no coding for blog design, sales, opt-in and landing pages and all the extra features available. You can use just the Thrive Architect custom design plugin with most any theme, but you get extra features if you use it with a Thrive theme.
10. Join a blogging networking / support group. There are many groups on Facebook for bloggers of all different kinds. Some are for specific niche’s, some are for social media sharing, some are just more general blogging tips. Find a couple good groups & participate, network and support other bloggers. You will be able to ask questions, learn how to be a better blogger and most of all make new friends and connections.
Now that you know all of that, if you are ready to start blogging, check out this post on How to Create a Blog.
I hope this article has been helpful to you in starting or improving your own blog. What tip did you learn that you felt will help you the most? If you are a blogger, what other tips or things should people consider before starting their own blog? Please leave a comment below. I would love it if you would share this post too. Thank you!
PS. Download my FREE Blogging Info Printable below before you go!