How To Start A Blog: Ten Tips To Get You Started
The words ‘how to start a blog’ are searched for almost 10,000 times a month in the UK alone so safe to say, it’s something a lot of people are interested in.
The advice below is based on what I’ve learned over the years and things I’d do differently if I were starting a blog now. The tips relate mainly to those who want to know how to start a blog in the ‘lifestyle’ genre but with a few tweaks, it’s relevant to those who want to start a blog about cars or sheep or light fittings.
I’ve been writing online for almost seven years (with varying degrees of success) and it has opened the door to great brand collaborations, paid writing gigs, TV work and paid consulting with companies on their social media strategy. You can find out more on this on my 'About' page. Blogging is fun but hard work and used as a vehicle, can open the door to a new and exciting career.
Ten Tips on How to Start a Blog:
1. Get your own domain/host. Having a blogname.wordpress.com or blogname.tumblr.com or blogname.blogspot.com looks amateur.
Why does this matter?
Google doesn’t like it (and all blogs are slaves to Google) and brands – who you need to finance your new blogging career – are unlikely to work with you if you don’t have your own domain. Wordpress is the most common platform and very SEO friendly. You don’t have full control, ownership or branding options unless you pay for a host and a domain. Personally, I prefer the slick look and backend of Squarespace which is what this website is built on.
2. Don’t focus too much on social media. While numbers matter, particularly to brands, your social media accounts are ‘rented media’ meaning, in reality, Facebook owns your Facebook followers, Instagram owns your Instagram followers and so on.
That’s why your own domain and host are essential – that’s ‘owned media’’ which no one can take away from you. Remember Vine? Well, Twitter owned that and when Twitter decided to close Vine, lots of people with millions of followers suddenly had no platform and no audience. Any blogger worth their salt also has their own website along with their YouTube, Instagram and Facebook account so if the ‘rented media’ ever closes, they still have their ‘owned media’ platform in their website.
Forbes recently wrote about the rise and rise of the 'micro influencer' where brands will prefer to work with those with smaller yet more engaged audiences.
3. Build an email list. If you’re serious about building a career as a blogger, you probably have an end goal in mind and building a relationship with your audience is key and easily done through good old fashioned email. As you slowly progress as a blogger, keep your audience up to date with your journey and when you eventually launch your book/fashion line/consulting service; you have a ready made customer base in your email list.
4. Think beyond your blog. Your blog is your CV – use it to demonstrate your other skills. Have an end goal in mind (fashion line/book/consulting). If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you aren’t using your blog simply an as online diary, you want it to eventually lead somewhere. Have that goal in mind and continually work toward it. You are coming to the game later than others, but there’s still plenty of opportunity, especially in the UK. Parent Blogging is massive in the US but we haven’t reached critical mass in the UK yet, so there’s still an excellent chance you can make this your full time career. If you want to be taken seriously, take your blog seriously. Think of it as a job, always be professional and do everything in your power to make everything you produce as visually pleasing as possible.
When I worked in corporate PR, before we created a new piece of marketing material we ordered in all our competitors’ marketing materials and critiqued them. We noted what they did well, what was awful and how they could improve. We used that list to create our marketing material. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, look at what other bloggers are doing, have done or said they’re going to do and try and make it better or add your unique spin.
5. Be patient. Very few blogs have become successful overnight, it just seems that way! The bloggers with millions of followers and fans were the early adopters, the ones who started blogging before blogging was a thing and they’ve organically grown slowly and surely over the years. If you are just starting now, don’t expect their level of success straight away. Zoella has been on YouTube since 2009 and has worked long and hard for her success. Are you willing to put in the same amount of work and dedication?
6. Are you blogging for fun or to start a career? If it’s to start a career (as a writer, stylist, designer, editor etc) you need to think of your blog as a business and be prepared to spend some money on it. That might mean paying for your domain and host if you aren’t good at design and learning or paying someone (on Fiverr or Upwork) to create your blog for you.
If you want a small fast forward in terms of an audience, spend some money on launching your blog. Despite Apple being the biggest brand in the world, do they just release an iPhone and hope people will buy it? No, they spend millions launching the product, creating buzz and hype and everyone is talking about the latest iPhone before it’s even out. If Apple needs to launch something as ubiquitous as an iPhone, you should think about spending some cash to launch your blog. Consider Facebook Ads (you can spend as little as £5 a day for as many days as you can afford) or guest posting on blogs bigger than yours to get your name – and backlinks – out there.
7. Don’t do it for the freebies. Once your blog is up and running and you’ve got something of a social media following, brands will start offering you products for review but it’s not worth your time (or sanity) to set up a blog purely for a free outfit or child’s toy. Once you’ve factored in the costs associated with setting up a blog and the time involved in using the product, writing an honest review taking 100 pictures in the hope of finding a single usable one, the payoff is not worth it. If you want an item to review, go out and buy it, tag the brand (to get on their radar) and review it that way. Once your audience and influence have had a chance to grow, the brands will come a ‘knocking.
8. Spend money on things that count. Are you a photographer? Do you have the time and money to learn? If you don’t know your way around a camera, don’t waste time and money on a fancy DSLR, your smartphone takes good enough pictures and video for those just starting out. Until brands start paying you for collaborations, keep costs down by using the equipment you already have.
9. Market your blog posts. Don’t just write a post and hope people will come and find it. They won’t. This isn’t a case of – if you build it, they will come. There are hundreds of millions of blogs out there and it’s hard to be heard amongst all the noise. If you have social media accounts, use them to let your followers know about your posts but don’t just do it once. Schedule your Facebook posts and Tweets to let your followers know (using different ‘copy’ to lure them to your blog) about old posts, especially ones that have garnered you lots of views. Spend 20% of your time writing articles and 80% of your time marketing them.
10. Learn about the business of blogging. If you’re serious about building a career from your blog, you need to continually learn about blogging and movements in the industry. Learn everything you can about SEO (search engine optimisation), use the free tools from Google (Analytics, Search Console and Webmaster Tools) and follow leaders in the industry like Blog Tyrant, Neil Patel and Brian Dean.
Keep up to date with Google News – did you know that from January 2017 they are directing more traffic to sites that have AMP (accelerated mobile pages) and are mobile/tablet friendly? Is your website mobile friendly?
quick tip for those who want to start a parenting blog:
Decide how much you want to share. Read up on sharenting and its perils. If you’re setting up a parenting blog, you need to decide early on if, when and how much your children are going to feature. No one can decide this for you but I advise keeping anything private, private and not revealing their real name and school. We all love the first day of school photo but if their name – Jo Bloggs – is up on your blog and public Instagram account and you're sharing pictures of them on their first day of school with their new school jumper/blazer and accompanying logo on your blog, what’s to prevent someone finding your picture and turning up to school and saying: ‘I’m here to collect Jo Bloggs, his mum (your name is probably on your blog/social accounts) Joanna Bloggs sent me.’ In the madness that is the school pick up, they could be accidentally handed over. I know of someone this happened to; the child wasn’t handed over but police were called, CCTV was looked at etc so it’s always best to err on the side of caution.
Read this brilliant post from Ramsay at Blog Tyrant on how stay-at-home parents can make money blogging.
It takes a certain type of individual with a specific mindset to be self-employed and an entrepreneur and if you’re serious about being a full time blogger this is what you’ll become. You may need an accountant (always keep your taxes up to date) a decent place to work (the kitchen table will do if you don’t have a spare room or office yet) and the grit to keep going when it feels like it’s only your mum and your friend that are actually reading your blog. That mindset is what separates you from 90% of the other bloggers out there, so many people start a blog, realise success takes a long time – years in most cases – and so they quit. Carrying on (even if that means rebranding/renaming your blog) is what will take you from amateur to amazing.
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