You want to start a blog, but are not sure quite where to begin. It may look a bit complicated, but is is actually quite simple. This blog post aims to give you the basics on starting a blog – from choosing which platform to use, to deciding on a name, getting started and publishing your first post.
1. Blogging Platform
This means a website such as WordPress or Blogger – basically they give you the foundation on which to build your blog. These are the two main blog hosting websites, and the ones that I have experience with so I will stick to explaining them. They are also the most used ones, so good for the novice blogger as there is always someone around who can answer your questions. Alternatives are Tumblr, often called a ‘microblog’ as it is often used to share pictures rather than lots of text.
Blogger is slightly easier to use – intuitive and visual – in comparison to WordPress which requires a little bit more technical know-how. I am far from a proper geek, so I started with Blogger. Over the years, as I developed my blog, I found that there were limitations to Blogger (and some technical difficulties due to Blogger updates and crashes). One of the main ones was that I wanted to self-host, ie instead of the name of my blog being www.saltandcaramel.blogspot.com, it should be www.saltandcaramel.com
In a nutshell, WordPress is more adaptable, you can add different themes and gadgets, Blogger easier to use.
If you are starting out, then try out both Blogger and WordPress – you can always delete the blog that you don’t like.
2. Blog Topic
A blog about parenting, food, gadgets, marketing, knitting, photography or a little bit of everything. It is up to you. That is the beauty of blogging, you can be yourself, please yourself, write what you want.
3. Blog Name
It should sums up what you want your blog to say, or gives a hint of the topic of your blog. If you are blogging about parenting, here is a little tip – the best “mummy” names are all taken. There are thousands of blogs with variations of the word “mother” in the title – try and find something else.
You also want a name that is easy to remember and spell. When I started blogging, my blog was an expat blog, and the name reflected that. When I decided to change to a more neutral blog name, one of the suggestions that I loved was MsCellaneous. Great name but would people remember how to spell it and be able to find my blog again? I have a good few google hits from people entering salt and caramel.
Some bloggers leave a pretty much blank canvas for their words, with a few pictures and little info in the sidebars such as The Farm At The Back of Beyond, others are romantic pink or have more info in the sidebars – these are some of my favourite blogs but they are all very different, both in topic and style.
Some bloggers spend a lot of time on photography, of almost professional standard, others rarely include a photo. There is much controversy in the blogging world about the use of photos in a blog. While many, like me, almost never write a post without an illustration of some kind, other brave souls stick to their guns and use a photo only if necessary. Make up your own mind, and ignore those who tell you that a blog looks better with photos if you don’t want them.
You can blog under your own name, but do remember that you are forever googleable. You might like posting cute stories about your son’s penchant for dressing up in his sister’s dresses or the time your daughter did a huuuuuge poo in the middle of Mothercare and the store had to be evacuated. Your children may not appreciate these stories in their teenage years. If you are going to post about your sex life (why, for God sake?) think about your husband/partner going into work and being ridiculed by his colleagues. Or the next job interview – companies google prospective employees, and your penchant for wild monkey sex may be slightly more information that the interviewer had bargained on finding.
If you go down the anonymous route, you need a name for yourself – you may already have one on Twitter or any online forum you use that you would like to carry on using. You can also include your family in your anonymous name game – I did when I started blogging, my kids were PetitMonsieur and PetitMademoiselle but to be frank, I find these nicknames a bit twee. Loads of people use them and find them endearing, so don’t let me stop you.
Do you want people to find your blog via an internet search? If you stay private then only readers you invite to read your blog will be able to access it. Also think about your comments – if you have an open blog do you wish to allow comments? You will get spam or the occasional nasty comment but you can limit this by moderating your comments before they can be published, and installing software to catch the spam.
If you get a nasty comment, read it, huff about it, maybe tell a fellow blogger indignantly about it then post a scathing reply and forget about it. Don’t let it get you down and don’t let it stop you blogging. Do be aware though that if you moderate comments, you have in effect ‘published’ them, which means that you may be sued if someone posts an comment that maligns another person.
Once you get into the swing of things, you can start to think about self-hosting and stats and all sorts of other time-wasting things, but to begin with you just have to take a deep breath, write something down and press PUBLISH.