There is no better time to start a blog then right now. Sure, the blog-o-sphere has become a very crowded space, but there are just as many people starting blogs as there are people reading and enjoying blogs. I have personally had many over the past 10+ years with subject matter and themes that have evolved over time along with my personal interests and lifestyle. I’ve had blogs about my struggles with mental health issues and others that were in conjunction with some of my entrepreneurial efforts. 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 start your own blog. One of the very first things that you will have to consider is your niche.
You might have a passion for food, but do you really have the capacity to blog about food 3 times a week for the indefinite future? It’s a commitment and may have you questioning whether you really love food as much as you thought.
The way that I have selected a great niche to blog about usually starts like this: I take 15 mins to write a list of all of my interests. Try to be as specific as possible here. Write down anything and everything that enters your mind. Don’t be thinking about what you want to see yourself blogging about. Just write down all of the interests that pop into your head.
Have you got your list??? Great. Now go back over your list and draw a circle around all of the topics that you could see yourself blogging about. Hopefully, you will start to see a theme developing here. Maybe you’ve discovered that food truly is what grabs your interest. Go with it!! However, maybe you’ve discovered that you are more interested in fashion? This is when you want to discover where your interests lay. Not months down the road when you have dozens of posts under your belt and your aching to switch your niche.
Now that you have an idea of what you would like to blog about, you are ready to hit the computer. But hold your horses lady, because it’s not quite time to hit publish on your next great post. Before we get to that point, you will need to decide 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 of my short lived projects that had a blog 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 it is created 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, as brand new and untested plugins can slow down your site and perhaps even damage it.
If you are thinking of going with WordPress, you will have to choose whether to you want to pay via wordpress.com or if you want to go with wordpress.org.
WordPress.org is for “do it yourself” site owners, so you may want to familiarize yourself with some of the many support forums if you are going to take this path. You will have to get your own hosting with this option and hosting is not free. With this option, you will also have to purchase a domain for your site.
WordPress.com is good to go out of the box and it’s free. However, with this option, you are less able to utilize WordPress’s extensive plugin library and you are unable to upload your own themes. Finally, your dot com will look something like mywebsite.wordpress.com, unless you buy your own domain, which you would already be doing with the wordpress.org option.
If you want my opinion on which is better, I would go with .org. There may be a steeper learning curve, but I think you will find that it’s worth it in the long run.
Blogger is great because it is a Google product and, therefore, it seamlessly integrates with all Google apps and extensions, however, I found the inner 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 that is a good representation of your brand. There are about a billion options for choosing a theme, so try not to get overwhelmed. There will usually be free options within whichever platform 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 for 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 choose to go with paid, pre-made themes that are highly customizable, that way I still have options to make it my own. After many years online, I have naturally picked up some coding knowledge and so I now have the ability to make small 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.
Your Mood Board
I would definitely recommend creating a mood board prior to deciding on a theme, especially if you are going the paid route and absolutely if you are opting to go with a developer. Mood boards are super fun to create. You can easily put one together on Pinterest (you can make it shareable or private), or on a bulletin board, or even in a notebook or journal.
Firstly, you are going to want to select a colour palette that speaks to you and your brand. Maybe it could be something that you change seasonally? Or maybe your colour palette will become representational of your brand and will appear across your blog and branding materials. I suggest selecting up to 5 so you have options to work with.
Next, you are going to want to select your fonts. You may be limited to how many fonts you can select, depending on your theme. You may not be able to change them at all, even if it is a paid theme, so check to see how many options you have before deciding on fonts. I usually choose up to 3 that I will be using on the blog and on my branding materials.
Finally, you will have to decide on your imagery. This exercise is a little more abstract. When you are in the planning phase, you don’t know exactly what your images are going to look like, but you can decide on the look or feel that you will be trying to accomplish. Pick images that inspire you and use that to guide your photography once you actually start blogging.
Your Posting Schedule
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 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? How many words is just right? There are many schools of thought on this, but I would recommend from 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 traction. By tracking your stats, you should be able to establish what is working and what isn’t pretty quickly.
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. 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 the referenced post so that the reader can venture over and take a look. If the content relates to each other, your reader will most likely be very happy to continue reading.
So where are we now?
Pick a niche? Check.
Decide on a platform? Check.
Select a theme? Check.
Create a mood board? 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 blog planner or an agenda to map out your posts. Try to plan at least two weeks in advance so you will have time to brainstorm and plan out each post. 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 and very enticing so readers will be able to easily find your content and want to click on it.
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. I get a good deal of my images from free resources online, like Pexels, but I would highly recommend that you try to include your own unique images. It sets you apart from every other blog on the internet and lends personality to your brand.
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 and actually renaming the file prior to uploading it onto your site. Trust me, it makes a difference.
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 blog-o-sphere that tickles our interest to feature here on She Zine, so 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! And while you are here, why don’t you check out some of the blogs that we have already featured, which can be found in the ‘Profiles’ section under the ‘Working Women’ tab.
Can’t wait to hear from you!