One question I’m often asked is how to get started with a blog. People write them for all sorts of reasons—for business, to narrate their lives, to share recipes, to curate jokes or to create awareness about politics or social issues. But whatever you want to write a blog about, there are some universal truths about how to create it. These pointers for creating your new blog will give you a push in the right direction.
Think hard about your URL
A good name for your blog is so important, so sit down and think of one that accurately reflects the kind of tone you want to set—and make sure it’s not taken. I was fortunate enough to be able to get the URL with my name in it, but this can be expensive. Many times, domain squatters will buy huge numbers of URLs that contain common names (BobSmith.com, Jane Smith.com and so on) and jack up the price for the inevitable buyer. So if you want to use your proper name, be ready for that.
But no matter what you decide to name your blog, keep SEO in mind when you’re naming it. A unique name will get you to the top of Google searches much more effectively.
When you have your blog name ready, you need to purchase the URL, decide where to host it, and design your blog. There’s no need to hire a professional to do this, even if you can’t write a word of code. My favorite one-stop shop these days Namecheap. For a reasonable fee you can buy the URL you want, host your site, and use either a Joomla, IM Creator or WordPress template to create a site that fits your needs. This also gives you access to plenty of file storage, bandwidth, and email. You can create your entire blog from beginning to end in about half an hour.
How should you make your blog look? Here, the best advice is to keep it simple. A sleek design with a sans-serif font is readable and simple for readers to access.
One final tip about the blog template: Make sure it’s mobile-friendly. Most people are looking at sites on their phones or tablets, so you need to make sure your blog looks good on all devices. The terms to look for are “mobile friendly” or “responsive design”.
So now you have a blog and it looks good. What do you put on it and when?
I recommend that you put up fresh content no less than twice a week. You can certainly blog more often than that, but if it becomes an issue of quantity getting in the way of quality, it’s fine to pull back. You do want to blog several times a week though, or readers will lose interest.
One thing you will want to do is vary the content a bit. Maybe one day you’ll have a very text-heavy entry, but then the next post will have a lot of photos or graphics. The next post after that might be a video with a few sentences. See? It isn’t hard to shake it up a bit if you plan ahead.
Don’t forget to check up on your blog every so often to make sure all the links are still intact. Sometimes a great blog or article you’ve linked to has gone offline or the URL has changed, and you don’t want your readers to be frustrated. Check out my post about broken links for a great tool to stay on top of that.
Now, you may be a genius with a DSLR and Photoshop, or you may be the person who sticks their thumb over the lens of your iPhone. But no matter what, you can still come up with great visuals for your blog.
If you’re the genius with the camera type, I have nothing to teach you here. If you’re not so great with the camera or Adobe, or you just don’t have the time to focus on creating original photos or graphics, you have some choices.
One thing you can do is to do a Google Image Search for the type of art you want, like “sharks chasing fish”, for example. Before you do the GIS, click on the Search Tools button on the right side of the menu and you’ll see a new drop-down menu appear. On it, you’ll see “Usage Rights”. Click on that and you’ll see a number of options. You will want to choose “Labeled for Reuse” if you are running a commercial blog, since that’s the least restrictive. If you’re writing a personal blog or blogging for a non-profit organization, you can choose “Labeled for Noncommercial Reuse”.
There is a similar filter available on Flickr. But whatever you do, do not simply use art or photos from others. It’s stealing, plain and simple. You’re better than that.
So now that you’ve written your blog, how do you get traffic to your site? These days, your best bet is to reach out on social media. Create a Facebook account for your blog and always remember to put up a link there with a teaser whenever you update your blog. Go on Twitter and look at trending hashtags. Send out your own relevant tweet with that hashtag and a link to your blog. Become part of the conversation on social media, and you can count on getting some traffic to your blog. Whether those one-time visitors become regulars is up to you and the quality of your content.