by Liberty Stembridge, Money Columnist
Published in Money on 6th September, 2018
Almost everyone has considered starting a blog at some point, whether it be as a serious business venture or more as a playful side hobby, dreamt up while daydreaming during work. Chances are, if you've looked into starting a blog at all, you've come across some of the many articles written that are titled something along the lines of "Don't Bother Starting A Blog." Usually these nay-sayers will talk about all the reasons that it's hard to break into the blogging world, and why so many blogs fail, and they're not entirely wrong. It is tough to become popular in the blogging world these days, and many new blogs do fail, but that doesn't mean that you should be prevented from starting your own blog. However, it's not as simple as just writing a post, you need to actually set up and start your blog, which takes a bit of insider know-how.
Starting a blog is no easy task, so you need to be sure that you are actually prepared to start and commit to blogging. The real reason that so many blogs fail is not because there isn't an audience for them, but because the owner gives up after not achieving blogging success straight away.
What will you be blogging about? Are you passionate about it?
If you're going to be blogging about a specific topic, even if it's just a personal diary, are you sure that you are passionate enough to want to write about this topic, over and over again. It may seem easy to just blog about your family holidays, or what makeup you currently like, or the new car you got, but in reality, unless you're super passionate about the topic. Is there a topic that you've dedicated your life to, or could easily dedicate your life to? That's what you should be blogging about. Your readers will instantly be able to tell if you aren't passionate about what you're writing about, and this will turn them off your blog.
Do you understand the blogging environment?
Anyone can and should start a blog, but do you understand the environment in which you'll be working? There are so many blogs covering so many different topics out there today, that if you want to grow your blog or have it become a source of income, you'll need to understand where there are gaps that you can fill, and what kind of perspective you will thrive in. Find bloggers that you admire and would like to emulate and see what they are doing. What platforms are they using, how is there writing style, do they collaborate with brands or other bloggers? These clues can key you in on how the blogging environment functions, and what you can do to thrive in it.
Do you have something to say?
Passion is all very well and good, but do you actually have something to say and contribute to the world? If you don't, you're going to find it very difficult to come up with unique ideas and create meaningful content. Think about what you want to write about and consider whether you have a new point of view, additional comments or even just a humorous perspective. Take a film blog as an example: if you were to create a film blog, echoing and copying all the opinions of other film critics would be completely uninteresting to anyone, and probably uninteresting to yourself, no matter how passionate you are about films. In order to grow your blog and be able to create a variety of unique posts that are interesting for you to write and for the audience to read, you'll need to have something new to say.
Do you actually like writing?
It's surprising the number of people that start blogs, only to discover that they don't actually like writing. Sometimes it takes starting the blog itself to discover this, but before you invest your time and money into a blog you never actually update, consider whether you actually enjoy writing. Do you do it as a hobby? Is it your job? If you're not sure, start writing in a journal every night, and you'll soon figure it out.
Why are you starting a blog? Is it for money, for personal reasons, to educate or to share a passion? Finding the why behind your blog is important for numerous reasons. For a start, it will help to motivate you when things get slow. Having a reminder of why the hell you started this blog in the first place can prevent plateaus and slacking off. More importantly however, it can be a huge aid when trying to brand your blog. Having a clear mission statement behind your blog, driving it's existence will make creating a theme for your blog a lot easier. If the why behind your blog is to promote a cause, you have a clear theme to brand your blog upon. Even if the why behind your blog is simply to make money, this can still help to create a coherent theme.
Narrow It Down.
So, you think you should start a blog, and you know why you want to start a blog, now you really need to hone in on precisely what your blog will be focusing on. Of course, you could have a blog that's a mish-mash of many different topics, but you're unlikely to get anywhere and you'll probably just end up with a mess of a blog to look through. Decide what the theme of your blog is. The theme itself can be broad, but just make sure that you do have a theme. Popular blog themes include: cooking (particularly different types of cooking such as vegan, paleo, sugar-free etc) art, photography, parenting and travel.
Creating a blog is a little trickier than you might imagine, but once you've got the basics down, you should have no problem at all.
The first step is to choose where you want your blog to be hosted. There are a variety of different places on the web you can choose to do this, it's totally up to you which one to pick. You could use an all-in-one hosting service such as squarespace or bluehost, that hosts your blog and gives you a domain name, or you could go for a more modular set up and buy your domain separately. Your domain name is simply the address that leads to your site so for example: myblog.com. For your readers to see your blog, it most likely needs to be hosted by a platform such as wordpress, blogger etc.
Popular Blogging Options:
Wordpress: wordpress is a free content managing site where you can create your own blog or website easily for free. If you want to add a domain name, you can buy one and add it in, or buy one through wordpress itself. If you're really not fussy however, wordpress will give you a free domain (but it will end with .wordpress.com) You can also choose from a variety of free or paid themes, or just get your own and install it. The most basic version of wordpress gives you a free domain and a selection of themes to use, but if you're serious about blogging and you want to use wordpress, you'll want to pay extra to get an original domain name and access to a much wider range of premium themes, as well as the option to install your own theme.
Squarespace: this is an all-in-one hosting service. You can sign up with squarespace and get a domain name, a selection of awesome templates and they'll host it all for you, for a fee. It's easily customizable and quick to set up and get going. It also makes it very simple for your readers to comment on your blog, and for you to reply.
Bluehost: one of the largest hosting providers available, bluehost can either host your website for you, or host your website through wordpress for you. They operate similarly to squarespace and for a relatively cheap fee, they make the whole process pretty simple.
Tumblr: tumblr may not seem like an option for anyone who's looking to get serious about blogging, but it can actually be a great way to cheaply start a blog. It's a popular micro-blogging platform that makes it really simple to create and customize your blog. As soon as you sign up with tumblr, they create a blog for you with a domain attached (however, it will have .tumblr.com attached to the end) and from there onwards you have free reign to customize your blog however you see fit. It's easy to find free or cheap tumblr blog themes online and install them. Plus, you get the added benefit of having access to tumblrs huge user-base.
Depending on how seriously you are taking your blog, (which if you're reading this, you're probably taking it at least a little bit seriously) you may or may not want to invest some time in branding your blog.
It doesn't have to be difficult, a logo, a header, some pictures and an about page may be all you need to set up a coherent look and feel for your blog. This also means that anyone looking to sponsor your blog is much more likely too when you have a well-designed, professional looking blog and a clear brand message.
Let's say you are writing a blog about nutrition, you want people to come to your blog and immediately feel intrigued but get the feel that you are a professional. Your branding will make or break this. A cluttered blog with no coherent branding will make the reader feel like you don't really care, or tat you're not a true professional. A simple, clear branding message that communicates your style and purpose well however, will immediately invite your readers in for more. Good design is very effective.
Once you've got your blog set up and your branding sorted out, next step is to create the content itself. The key to a good blog and a dedicated readership is consistency, so you'll want to have plenty of content to put out and a good schedule. Draft up some post ideas on one big document and set out a plan for when you want to write what, and when it should be released. If you can, try to create a backlog of posts that you can upload or schedule to be uploaded, for if you ever find yourself completely out of time, on holiday or any other scenario in which you can't post. Then, start writing.
Consistency Is key
Consistency is one of the key elements of a writing blog post, it'll provide a narrative, a tone and a sense of trustworthiness. If your audience can keep coming back to your blog and keep finding something new and interesting to read or look at, with a similar and familiar style, they're going to stay. People love reliability. So make it a priority not only to post consistently, but to keep your writing style consistent too. Decide upon the style of writing you like best, whether it be personal or informative or humorous or down-to-earth, and try to write all of your posts in that same kind of style. You'll find that your entire blog has a much more cohesive feel to it if you do.
While it's true that you can absolutely have a blog without having a load of pictures on it, you may definitely want to consider including photo's in your blog posts. Good photography draws a reader towards a post, adds depth and keeps the general look of your blog much more interesting. You don't need to be a professional photographer or even own a camera, sites like unsplash.com provide a huge array of professionally-taken, free and open-source pictures for you to use.
If you want to gain any sort of audience and especially if you want to earn money through blogging, you'll need to market your blog right. You don't need to spend loads of money to start building a readership however, a few simple tactics will help you out enormously.
Start off by setting up a few social media accounts to interact with your audience and promote your blog in a more genuine way. Less is more here, and most bloggers like to start of with no more than three (normally Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, but it's totally up to you). Use your social media to share what interests you, talk about your life and interact with other people. Blogging is all about networking, so comment on other people's posts both on their blogs and on their social media, and you'll start building up a following in no time.
Post links to your blog elsewhere.
This is slightly tricky, but when done right, can really help you to gain some exposure. Finding communities online that are interested in the kind of topics you cover in your blog, and that you think you could genuinely contribute to with your posts is key. Online forums such as Reddit are a great place to start, you can find communities related to your blog and post a link to a particularly relevant or interesting blog post that you've written. This way, your blog gets exposure from the right people., while also contributing to a community of like-minded people.
Search engine optimization is a term that often gets thrown around in order to sound fancy, but it's actually a pretty simple concept. SEO merely means getting your blog to appear higher up in the google search engine rankings. Ideally you want people to search for a certain phrase or the name of your blog, and a link to a post you've written or to the blog itself to appear. This takes time though, and there are a lot of different ways to go about doing it, too many to go through here. The best way to get started with SEO though, is to create and put out quality content, and then get the word out so other people can start reading it.
If you're thinking of starting a blog - just do it! If you're not ready or willing to invest in a blog right now, that's fine, there are loads of free options out there. Even if it's just a fun side-hobby, there's really no downsides.