So you want to know how to blog!
When I started my blogging career a few years ago, I was clueless. I didn’t realize how little I knew about “how to blog”. But it didn’t stop me from jumping right in with both feet! Just like most things in life, I wish I’d known then what I know now (good grief, I sound like my grandmother). I hope by writing these posts on blogging that I can save you from some of the mistakes that many beginning bloggers make.
Don’t rush! It takes time to learn how to blog!
I wished I had slowed down a little in the beginning. But I was so excited I jumped in without a clear focus and a plan. For that reason, I am still undoing mistakes I made in my first 6 months of blogging. The problem is that it takes time to do those corrections and because I am so busy working on things in the present, it is taking a while. Before you start your blog, you have to have a plan. You need to ask yourself some questions and take the time to think the answers through. It’s time to search your “blogging” soul! By doing so, you will develop an clear idea of the goal that you want to reach. Once you know where you are going, you can draw a “map” that will get you there without a lot of delays and u-turns.
Why do you want to blog?
You are now faced with your first big decision and it’s an important one. You need to decide on your intent for your blog. The first question to ask yourself is “Why do I want to blog?” Is your purpose just to let friends and family know what you and the family are up to? Is your intent to educate or enlighten people about a particular cause or subject? Is it to give yourself a job, to make money blogging? The reason you need to decide these things now is there is a distinct difference in the way you set up a personal diary-type blog and a business/revenue-generating blog.
If your answer is to keep in touch with family and friends and let them know what is going on in your life, blogging is a great way to accomplish that. If you are not going to be blogging with the intent to make money then have fun with it, enjoy the ride! Doing it as a hobby can be done for free. You don’t need to think up a domain name (www.xyz.com) and register it. You don’t need to pay for a hosting plan. If you just want to blog about family or a hobby, without any intent of ever doing it for an income generating living, you can sign up for a free blog on Google’s Blogger platform. Here is the link to Blogger. There is nothing wrong with the Blogger platform for the hobbyist blogger who never intends to make an income from their blog. It is easy to use and well supported. But if you intend to some day turn your blog into a money making venture, stay away from Blogger. Blogger will limit your blog monetization and will have considerable control over your content. Eventually you will have to change to another blogging platform if you want to grow and earn a decent income. If not done correctly, the transition to the new platform will be a blogging disaster and usually results in hiring a professional to do the transfer. If you start with the right platform in the beginning you will save yourself heartache and additional expense.
If your answer is to make money and to give yourself a job, I will tell you honestly that you can make a living blogging but it takes time and a lot of work. By all means, don’t quit your day job because it will be a year or two of blogging hard and steady before you see any meaningful financial reward. Blogging is something that you start doing on a part time basis until you have built your blog business to the point it will support you. If your goal is to have a money making blog, you will have to expend both time and money before you get anything back from it…..for months. That is why there are a lot of people who start to blog with the intention of making money but they give up, discouraged, after a few months. There are no overnight successes in the blog world. It takes a commitment of time and money and if you can’t make that commitment, your are not going to succeed. It doesn’t take a lot of time in the beginning or a lot of money, but it will take some. You will have to pay to register a domain name and for a hosting plan. We will discuss more on this in the next lesson.
The reason I asked you to consider your intent was that right from the start you have decisions to make. Those decisions have a big effect on things like naming your blog, who you use for hosting, and what you will blog about. Let’s think about what you will blog about first. If you are stuck in a job you hate, you know what a draining affect that can have on you both mentally and physically. So when you choose your blogging genre, don’t choose something that you aren’t passionate about to be your blogs subject matter. If you don’t like to cook or never have, don’t start a cooking/recipe blog because they seem to get a lot of traffic. Don’t blog about techy things if you don’t know a pixel from a hard drive. Pick something that you love and you know a lot about. A successful blog will become an all consuming part of your life and if you don’t love what your blogging about, you will be miserable doing it. It will never reflect the passion that you need to keep people coming back. Blogging is all about building a following, a group of people who will come back to read the blog and tell there friends about it! People will follow you if you can transmit your love of the subject to them effectively.
Once you have decided on what you are going to blog about, the next step is to think of a name for the blog. This is a very important decision because with this you begin ” branding” your blog. “Branding” is creating a trademark or distinctive name identifying a product, service, or organization, and an image surrounding that name. And you want to start branding your blog right from the beginning so there is a continuity to the blog. Don’t try to come up with some obscure name that only an insider would get the relevance of. Don’t spend hours thinking up some name that is so cool and artsy that isn’t doesn’t even relate to the subject matter. You want something that is easy to spell and remember. Why? A lot of surfing the internet is happenstance. You come across a blog or website; you like it; you don’t think to “Bookmark” it. Three days later you want to look at it again and you’ve cleaned your computer cache so your surfing history is gone. If the name is easy to remember – short and relates to your subject matter- you’ll remember enough of it to search it in Google. You want return customers so make it easy for them to find you. If the name is short, it can easily convert to “domain name”. Deciding on a domain name will be your next step.When I decided on the name “The Wilderness Wife” this is the thought process I used. I live in very remote northern Maine, just on the fringe of Baxter State Park. If you ever saw the Discovery Channel show “American Loggers”, I live where that was filmed, in the middle of wilderness logging country. I wanted my blog to be a lifestyle blog where I could blog about a variety of my interests – cooking, arts and crafts, gardening, my pets, and life here in Maine. I chose the name “The Wilderness Wife” because my blog is about my interests and my remote lifestyle, and apparently it has been easy to remember as it appears in my search query analytics every month.
You will need very basic equipment!
So you have decided on a topic to blog about and a name that relates to it that is easy to remember. You’ve officially started and you can call yourself a blogger. As for beginning equipment, you most likely have everything you need – a computer with an Internet connection and some form of digital camera. Blogging is a very visual medium and needs lots of good pictures to make your blog more palatable to the reader. Long pages of nothing but text can be boring to the average reader. If you are blogging about recipes, visitors are going to want to see the finished product. Some subjects require step by step tutorials like this one I did about canning green beans from my garden – Dilly Beans Tutorial. At the time I only had my Canon point and shoot camera to take photos and it did the job. Now I have a Canon DSLR but it took a couple of years of blogging for me to justify upgrading to a better camera. Start with the tools you already have; work hard to learn how to use them the best you can; and invest in better equipment when you can afford something better. When I started, I had a little flip-phone for my cell, but as time went on and I got more involved with social media, I upgraded to an Iphone. Don’t wait until you can afford all the top of the line equipment you might need, or you may never get started blogging. Start with what you have and add new or better equipment when it becomes necessary and you can afford it.
So here is what you need to do for this lesson – decide on a genre/topic for your blog, decide on a simple but memorable name for the blog, and practice getting really good at taking pictures with the camera you have now.
In the next how to blog lesson, we’ll discuss your domain name, hosting companies and blogging platforms. This will be an important lesson so don’t miss it! Be sure to sign for the mailing list in the sidebar so you’ll be notified when the next how to blog lesson is available. The next Lesson is How to Blog Basics – 2.