Blogging & Social Media
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So You Want To Start A Blog . . .

Every few weeks I get an email asking me how to start a blog so I thought I’d write a post about it.

More and more people are turning to blogging these days, and for many different reasons. Perhaps you have a business you want to promote, perhaps you want to keep in touch with friends and family from afar, perhaps you think it’s a get rich quick scheme (in which case, I’ve got news for ya — but that’s another post) or perhaps you see how much fun the rest of us are having and you want a piece of the action!

Whatever your reason, you are not alone. (As of May 2009, a new blog was being created every 1.5 seconds. I can only imagine what the statistic is today.)

Funny thing, when I started my blog, it was just an impulsive decision. So many of us “old school bloggers” started out that way. We had no strategy, no vision, no plans. Most people didn’t even know what a blog was, and most of us wrote anonymously back then.

So much has changed . . .

Now it seems like starting a blog comes with so much pressure. Will I do it right? Can I post regularly? How to do get a design? What platform do I use? Will I do it wrong? Will I blow up my computer? How do I find followers? How do I get noticed by companies? Will an ax murderer start stalking my family?

See? PRESSURE.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s just not that big of a deal.

7 Simple Steps to Starting a Blog

1) Decide the purpose. What are you writing about?

Are you sharing stories with friends and family? Are you writing about the best deals on groceries in your area? Are you writing about organic, fair trade coffee?

That’s your first step: figuring out your purpose and establishing your message.

If you have plans to make it to the big time, you probably want to try to find an untapped niche. Think of an interesting topic and then create a new twist on it. And naturally, you want to choose to a topic you are passionate about. Trust me, blogging will get stale awfully fast if you aren’t passionate about your subject matter.

2) Choose a name for your blog and purchase a unique URL.

When I chose Musings of a Housewife, I spent all of 5 minutes contemplating what would turn out to be my “brand” online. Again, it’s not like I ever expected anyone to actually READ it. It worked out okay, but when I named other sites (Eat Local Philly and All Things Chic, for example) I put more thought and research into it.

You will want a unique URL so before naming your blog, check to be sure you can get the URL you want (the name of your blog and your URL most certainly should match!!! I am Musings of a Housewife, and my url is jolynneshane.com.) You can check to see if a URL is available on many sites. I use 1and1.com. Keep it simple and memorable.

Do a few quick google searches and make sure no one else is using your name, or something close to it. This can prevent a lot of heartache down the line if someone has a trademark on it, or if there is someone with a similar name that feels like you are trying to capitalize on their success. (And whatever you do, do not intentionally choose a name that resembles a popular blog — NOT a good strategy.)

3) Choose a platform.

My advice is to start off with the freeย WordPress.com blog. It’s super simple; you can literally have your blog set up in five minutes. It is also free. (Although I recommend paying the $12-17/year for the Premium version so you can get a unique URL.) With WordPress.com, you can easily upgrade to a self hosted WordPress site if your blog takes off and you decide to stick with it, and you won’t have to learn a new interface if that time comes.

4) Choose a theme.

There are many free themes available — on any blogging platform. Twenty Ten for WordPress.com is quite robust for a free theme. Yes, you will probably want to get a custom design down the line, but for now, choose a pleasing theme that represents you and start creating content. You may discover that as you get a few posts under your belt, your goals and direction change a bit (or a lot.) Or you might decide it’s a lot of work and let it wane. Or you may be the next big blogger . . . in which case, you can afford to get a professional design!

The key with design is to start off slowly and keep it simple. The sure sign of an amateur is a busy design with colorful fonts and blinking badges.

5) Start creating content, and write regularly.

This may be the hardest part — writing that first post.

Like I said, back when I started blogging, there was no pressure. I just started writing, and I never really expected anyone to actually read it. I had no schedule, I wrote when I felt like it. Some days I posted four times, some days none. Over time, I found my rhythm.

Now if I have four posts in my head on Monday, I write them while I’m “in the zone”, but I schedule them to post throughout the week, or just wait until I have a day that I need a post. I have an editorial calendar with post ideas and giveaways and other sponsored post commitments I’ve made to brands. That will all come in time — if you are consistent, and if you want it to. But at first, just get used to writing for the web and for your specific audience.

Know who you are writing for, and then be yourself, write like you talk, and use lots of paragraph breaks!! Think magazine, not novel.

6) Spread the word!

Once you get comfortable writing for the web, start sharing your blog with friends and family. Put the link on Facebook and then find other blogs that interest you and start leaving thoughtful comments. (Do NOT leave your blog’s URL in the comment section, though. That’s considered tacky. Just fill it in in the form above the comment box, and then your name will link to your blog in your comment.)

When commenting, use whatever name you want to be known as — your blog name or your real name or, as I usually do, a combination of both. Before you know it, you will have visitors checking out your blog. Be sure to respond to blog comments and as new people find you, visit them back. What goes around comes around, and that’s especially true in the blogosphere.

7) A few more things you may want to consider:

  • Write an About page and throw your photo on there. People like to see who they’re talking to. I don’t care if you think you’re too skinny, too fat, too pimply, too young or too old. Get a friend to take a flattering photo of you, and put it on your blog.
  • If you want readers or brands to contact you, be sure to have your email address visible. I have a link to a Contact page in my top navigational menu.
  • Provide a way for people to subscribe to your blog via email or feed reader.
  • Invite your readers to connect with you on your social networks — Facebook and Twitter and where ever else you hang out. You can download free social networking buttons and link them on your sidebar.

There is so much more advice I could throw out there, but I’ve probably already overwhelmed you!ย And as always, I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

One more thing… if you DO start a blog as a result of this post, please let me know — I’d love to be your first visitor.

(Stay tuned for a post about How to Make Money With Your Blog.)

Join the Conversation

51 thoughts on “So You Want To Start A Blog . . .

  1. Great Post! I already have a blog, as you know because you designed it:) I’m not a beginning blogger, but I learned a few things.

    I’m curious how difficult it is to switch from a blogger platform to WordPress. I know there are things I would love included on my blog that don’t seem possible with blogger. I’m not ready to pay monthly for my blog, but maybe if I gain more followers it will feel worth it to me.

  2. Blinkies, no paragraphs, and crazy hard-to-read fonts have kept me from returning to lots of blogs. That and grammar/punctuation, sigh…

  3. I agree, if a blog takes forever to load, has way too many buttons and ads, AND requires CAPTCHA in comments, forget it

  4. The one feature I dislike the most is blogs with the music players…with the ability to mute it buried 2 or more page scrolls down.

  5. Thank you so much for your blog tips. I started my blog just a few short months ago and find your advice very helpful. I agree with many of the comments above and am taking all of this in. Any other wisdom you have to impart of me as a newbie… bring it on, sista!

  6. Thanks for the great tips! Patience is especially key.

    It would be fun if you linked us to your very first blog post. It’s always fun to go back. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Great post. Simple and to the point, with good information. I am on my slow climb up (I think I’ve got 9 posts published?) . I’m mostly enjoying writing, and someday my kids might want to read it. Or not.

    I guess it’s for me, mostly. Right now (three lonely subscribers :)) it’s just fun to write, and have a pretend, one-sided conversation with an imaginary grown-up!

    I started with a free wordpress.com site, and did pay for my own domain. I guess I did one thing right! :))

    thanks again, Jo-Lynne!

    BTW, I totally copied you and have been putting my name and website name (not url) in my “Name” box.

  8. Great tips! I am so happy that bloggers like you are willing to share their knowledge with others. It creates such a great community ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Hmm…tucking this away for a possibility in the near future. Very helpful. I always kick the idea around. At this point, I sort of feel overwhelmed…kind of like if I were to just begin scrapbooking right now. The sheer volume of ideas, supplies, equipment, digital or paper yadda, yadda, yadda is enough to make me want to crawl in a hole and keep my photos in a box. When I started 13 or so years ago, it was simple…albums, paper, stickers. Put them on the page and you’re done. Same with blogging. Seems like I should have started this years ago and it’s just to complicated and overwhelming now. This post is very reassuring, though. Seems doable. Hmm…

  10. Sometimes I want to start a “real” blog but then I realize that I don’t even have time to post to the two I have now. What in the world would I do with another! And why do I even have two? Thanks for some good tips.

  11. I’m an old-school blogger as well…back when we had blogrolls and did memes and ALWAYS commented on a person’s blog if they commented on yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Also – Thanks for linking to my ebook. I’m giving away 100 copies per day and I’m reaching the max every day. I’m so happy to help moms as they pursue their blogging dreams.

  12. I just downloaded mine today, Stephanie. And, I’ve read it start to finish. In between handing out snacks and changing diapers. Thanks, AGAIN! :))

  13. Wow, this is just fantabulous for those of us who are trying to navigate our way through blogland. I believe that knowledge is best shared. Thank you so much for sharing yours.

  14. Jo-Lynne, I loved your post, as always! Thanks for the tips! I’m still struggling with creating a design that reflects both me and the name of my blog, while still being clean and uncluttered. Maybe one day I will get there.

  15. Thank you so much for the tips! I am a total nOOb at blogging but have been following them for years. I just started mine and would love it if you would check it out or had anymore tips.

    1. Elizabeth, it looks great! I love the header. Maybe try using more paragraphs and some subtitles to divide up the info since it’s pretty deep stuff, but I think you’re off to a great start! ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh, and pictures are nice too, but may be hard to work into your content, given the subject matter. Your about page is nice – maybe put your photo on the sidebar too. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Thank you! Those are all really good ideas. All the CSS code stuff is confusing, but I’m slowly figuring it out. I’ll get back to work! If you insert link to someone else’s blog in a post, does it notify them?

        1. It does if they are on WordPress and have trackbacks enabled. Also, some people set up Google alerts to email them if people mention them or their blog.

          It takes time to figure out the CSS and all that but you’ll get there! ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Jo Lynne, thanks for spelling it all out in such a succinct way! I’m a brand new blogger and really appreciate your insights… and your blog!

    Cheers,

    Alison

  17. Good advice, thank you! I have started a blog but it is still in the beginning stages. I am having a little trouble with the layout/background/design portion of it though. I had the header looking pretty good before and now I can’t remember how I did it!! Blogging definitely takes a lot of time and effort but it is nice to get helpful tips from someone like yourself! ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Thanks for the info I need tons of help been only blogging for a few months! I am loving it. I will be following and hopefully not asking too many questions

  19. Great info. I am in the process of starting y blog, still in the designing phase. You have a lot of great information on here and I am taking it all in. Keep up the good work and I am going to continue to visit.

    Thanks a bunch

  20. Are there any books that you would recommend to help me switch from Blogger to WordPress? I think I have been blogging long enough that I kind of know the direction I am going with it. I am going to need to change the name, and I think I would like to do a blog to print to save all my previous content. I am working on names and something that will ‘brand’ me. I know what I want and I totally agree that simple is best. I need to change some things on my blog and I am looking to learn.

    1. Hi Pattyann, no, I’m sorry. I don’t know of any. I think the digital world changes so fast, it is hard to write a book on something like that. I would think that googling it would be your best bet. I, personally, do not do migrations. I hire them out. But I have friends that have done it. There are tutorials on WordPress.

      Good luck!!

  21. Thanks so much for the good advice. You have helped me to achieve a goal and fulfill a New Year’s Resolution – starting my blog on January 1, 2012. I included a link to this post in the blog:)

  22. Great information! I just came across your page from a pinterest pin and appreciate the tips. I’ve recently started a blog updating my family, friends and other parents about the special medical challenges that my daughter is facing. It is a work in progress and I have yet to tell anyone about it but for now it is therapeutic for me. Thanks for the good info…I will be working on my blog tonight!

  23. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m eager to start blogging but wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. I’ll take this as a guide and…well, I’ll see what happens lol.

  24. Thanks – I think I want to start a blog though I’m not sure just why – maybe because I think other people think about the same stuff….IDK yet.

  25. I’m starting a blog simply because I want to write about things that interest me on a personal level, but I worry that reason is not good enough to create a blog that contributes something to the world. Shouldn’t I have some grand mission statement or something? I love what you said about it not being that big a deal. That’s exactly what I need to hear to just get over myself and those pesky “shoulds” and do it already!!!

  26. Although it looks like you posted this 2 years ago, I am just reading it. I started researching the idea of creating a blog about 6 months ago. The more I read, the more scared I got. Then I found your article and decided to just give it a try. I’m not starting it to make money so what do I have to lose?! Thank you for all this great information. I do not know all the proper etiquette of blogging yet. I did mention you at the beginning of my post and I HOPE that is ok. Please just let me know if I did something wrong and I will gladly fix it. THANK YOU!

  27. I just started a blog and this post was so helpful! I love the minimal look but struggle with balancing keeping all of the needed information front and center + keeping it pretty.

  28. I recently started a blog, and this article has been helpful & informative. I know that it takes time, patience & lots of writing, but I constantly feel that I will never get to the level that I would like to be at (consulting, product reviews, eventually a social media manger).

  29. As someone who first got into “blogging” back when It was more of webpage that I had to HTML coded each “post”, and then got out of it once life allegedly got “crazy”. But now find myself well over a decade later feeling like a NOB as I build basic blogs & social media sites for others. So thank you for all your detailed information. oh and your yummy recipes.

  30. Your advice is extremely practical and maintains a very encouraging tone! I needed both during my recent research into how to begin a blog. I appreciated this page! Today my blog went live. In one of my many notes- to-self, I scrawled, “link site to Jo-Lynne Shane!” Here it is! Will you be one of my first readers?

    Thanks!
    Marybeth

  31. I just came across this while going through your blog (which by the way I am really enjoying reading), and wish I would have found this before stumbling upon anothers that I followed.

    I just started my blog for my own pleasure (but if it turns into more that will be okay too), but I’ve spent quite a bit with this little start up from following the others recommendations. Oh well, it done now and I will set back and enjoy talking to my imaginary friends until hopefully I get some real ones. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thank you for your great posts! Love them!

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