starting a blog

Let me start by saying that I absolutely love blogging. I have had several over the years, going back to the dawn of the internet. Some were personal, others were in conjunction to businesses that I have run over the years. In all cases, the blogs that I have kept have always been labours of love and huge sources of enjoyment for me.

There are several things that you need to consider when you are planning to launch your blog. One of the very first things that you will have to consider is which platform to use. The most popular of which are: Squarespace, WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger.

Selecting your platform is a big decision (almost as important as selecting your niche) and it is one that you will pretty much have to live with, once you’ve made up your mind. Switching platforms later on is a gigantic headache that you may even have to pay to fix, as the process is not for those without at least a little technical savvy, especially once you are dealing with a significant amount of content.

She Zine is run on the WordPress and I love it. With the exception of one short lived project and the blogs that have run on Shopify in conjunction with a store, all of my blogs have been run on WordPress.  It is an open-source blogging platform, meaning that is is creating by a community of developers and anyone is able to contribute to it to make it better, safer, and more efficient.

The same goes for WordPress plugins. They are created by independent contributors and for this reason, I would recommend that you select your plugins based on how many instals it has and its overall rating.

Blogger was great because it is a Google product and, therefore, it seamlessly integrated with all Google apps and extensions, however, I found the inner its workings to be kind of clunky, so ultimately it wasn’t the solution for me.

Typepad is a pay-to-use platform that is infamous for it’s superior customer service. I have never personally used Typepad, but I do know of several big time blogs that have operated from that platform, at least at some point, including ‘A Beautiful Mess‘. That’s no small beans!

Then there’s Squarespace, which is another pay-to-use platform that prides itself on it’s superior design capabilities, outstanding customer service, and an extremely user-friendly backend. Squarespace rates are comparable to those of Typepad, so you will have to weigh the bells and whistles of each to determine which one would work best for you.

Once you have decided on a platform, you are ready to dig into the fun stuff!

You will want to decide on the perfect theme to be home to your brand new blog. There are about a billion options for choosing a theme. There will usually be free options within whichever platform that you are working with, like WordPress. Then there is an entire universe of paid themes that you can get from any number of places.. like Etsy, themeforest, My Theme Shop  and many, many more.

Prices will range wildly, depending on where you are buying the theme and whatever features are included. When you are just starting out, I would encourage that you not break the bank over your new theme. Try to get something that is highly customizable (able to change fonts, colours), responsive (optimized for all devices), and clean looking. Finally, you should try to remember that less is more. Consider the theme to be the cake and your content to be icing.

Whether you select a free or paid theme, you are usually good to go right out of the box. If you are unsure about your ability to set things up on your own, you will usually have the option to pay a small fee for installation or a certain amount of time worth of support (typically 6 months or so).

Of course, if you really want to go all in, there is the option to design your own one-of-a-kind theme, which will guarantee you the uniqueness and individuality that all bloggers crave. It will, however, mean that you have to pick up some code. There are many sources for you to  gain this knowledge, either free or for a small fee.

Personally, I prefer to enrol in a packaged course vs mining for videos on YouTube. Try out sites like Udemy or Lynda dot com for all your learning needs.  Udemy charges per course (averaging around $20ish/course), while Lynda is a subscription service (plans range from $19.99 – $29.99).

I always chose to go with paid, pre-made themes that are highly customizable. After many years online, I have naturally picked up some code and so I now have the ability to make adjustments and instal ‘blog elements’, which are available as part of packages on sites like Etsy or Creative Market. Blog elements are the bits and pieces that contribute to a theme. These could include menus, icons, and etc.

I have learned many things, in the addition to bits of code, since I got my start in the early ’00s. Probably the most important lesson in blogging is consistency. When I first began my blogging adventure, I would typically start with a full head of steam and then things would gradually taper off or I would begin posting on inconsistent days.

Readers  love consistency and if they can’t rely on it, you will find that they will start dropping off pretty quick.

Part of being consistent is planning. What is your posting schedule.. or in other words.. how many times do you want to post per week? I would recommend that you try not to overwhelm yourself right out of the gate. At the same time, you don’t want also don’t want to post too infrequently, otherwise, any potential readers may lose interest and never return. I would recommend posting 2-3 times a week.

What about length? What’s too short? What’s too long? And many words is just right? There are many schools of thought on this, but I would recommend from my experience that you try to write in excess of 600 words, but no more than 1,600 words. If your blog is very “image heavy”, 1,000 words is appropriate.

Once you start attracting readers, track which posts are gaining the most attention. You should be able to establish what is working and what isn’t pretty quickly.

Probably the most important tip of all, and perhaps the one that you should be thinking about before all else, is your niche. If things with your blog go to plan, then hopefully you will be committing to this niche for months or even years into the future.  You are going to want to be sure that you have selected something that will keep you interested and motivated as long as possible.

Remember, you are supposed to blog because you enjoy it, not because it is a chore.

I would spend a good deal of time brainstorming about your niche. Try spending 20 mins jotting down all of the things that interest you. Try to be as specific as possible. Once your list is complete, try to see if there is an overwhelming theme. For instance, if your list looks like this: roses, daisies, petunias, violets, etc.. then your theme would be flowers!

BOOM! You’ve got your niche!

Once you’ve got things underway, give yourself time to fall into the routine of blogging. Within the first couple weeks, it is very likely that you might miss a Tuesday post, or maybe even skip a whole week. If you are certain that keeping a blog is really something that you want to do, then don’t be discouraged by these minor slip ups. I’ve brought more than one languishing blog back to life and gained a sizeable readership on more than one occasion. It’s worth the effort to give your project a chance if it truly is a labour of love.

There are plenty of great blog planning templates on Etsy. Shop around and find the one that best suits your needs.

Once you are underway and have established consistency in your posting schedule, you will want to encourage your readers to stay on your site as long as possible. It is helpful for you embed links within your site that link to other content. For instance, if you reference a recent post in the post that you are writing, link to that previous post so that the reader can venture and take a look, as I did earlier in this post with my platform reviews.

You are likely visiting this post because you have at least some general interest in starting a blog and so my platform reviews are likely extremely relevant to you. Did you take a look?

So where are we now?
Decide on a platform? Check.
Select a theme? Check.
Pick a niche? Check.
That brings us to publishing your first blog post! FINALLY!!
And don’t worry, the first post can be hard, but eventually, you will find your voice and the writing will become easier over time.

Like I mentioned earlier, I would recommend that you utilize a tracker or a blog planner or something to map out your posts. Try to plan about two weeks in advance so you will have time to brainstorm. Consider planning a post series or two that you can publish once a week or once a month.

You could start regular lists, like a ‘Top 5’ or ‘Top 10’ or whatever. A Q&A Monday. Or any other kind of regular feature. A series can honestly be anything!!

When you finally start writing, the first step in creating a compelling post is a great post title that should contain relevant keywords, as you will want your post to be search engine friendly so readers will be able to easily find your content.

Once you’ve got your title, I usually select a photograph that will serve as inspiration on my topic when once I finally gotten to the body of my post.

You will want to optimize your image, just as you have with your headline, so that it is keyword rich and search engine friendly. You can do this by adjusting the image title and tags to reflect what your post is about.

Depending on the type of your post, I would suggest opening by outlining the problem that you intend to solve for your readers. This is your “hook” that will sell the value of your post and give your readers a valid reason to stay on your blog.

You should follow this with short paragraphs that are easy to process and will get your readers all the way to the real “meat” of your content. This is where you enter the offer to solve the problem, which you outlined in your hook. Speak to your experience on the topic and promise a solution.

The largest part of your content will be where you describe, in detail, your solution. You can provide a numbered list or discuss a step-by-step strategy. As long as you fulfill the promise that you made earlier in the content, which was a solution to the problem.

While you are writing, review your content to ensure that it is “scannable”. Studies have shown that most blog readers will only skim or scan articles or posts they are reading and so if you want your readers to stay on your page, it must be scannable.

This is why you you want to limit your paragraphs to a few sentences, use headlines, include bold statements and large quotes, and/or add bullets to separate text.

And now there you have it! Your first completed post!

Of course, this isn’t the only kind of post structure or post type.

You could write a resource article, a case study, serialized article, product review, round-ups and etc. The sky is the limit!!

So don’t just sit there! Sit down and start tapping those keys!

We are always looking for new blogs in the blogosphere that tickles our interest to feature on our site. If you have a blog, whether it be new or more established, share it in the comments so we can click on over and check it out!

Can’t wait to hear from you!

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