Do you regularly have experiences, both good and bad, that are worth sharing with others? Do you always find something worth talking about online? Are you just bursting with writing talent but have no outlet for release?
If you answered yes to most or all those questions, maybe it’s time you set up a blog.
What exactly is a blog?
A blog is a regularly updated website or web page, typically run by an individual or small group, which is written in an informal or conversational style.
A blog entry can be anything from a funny story, a sharing of information or even a rant. You can say a blog is a kind of personal journal, but a personal journal that is open for all the world to read.
“But I’m not tech-savvy,” you might say. You’ll be surprised, how easy (and quick) it is to set up a blog online.
Why People Blog
Before you even start blogging find out why is it that you want to share your experiences, opinions, and latest developments online. Is it because you want people to know what’s going on? Do you want to share certain information with some people? Or maybe you just feel the need to rant.
Rounding up all given explanations, people usually blog for the following reasons:
- To Develop Writing Skills – Even the best writers can find themselves in a rut. Sometimes even writing skills honed over so many years will deteriorate when not used for a relatively short time. Blogging gives writers a chance not just to write, but also to do this on a regular basis. In the end, it’s not just the writing skill itself that is developed but also the discipline to practice that skill.
- To Share Experiences – As we go about our daily lives we will have our fair share of happy, wonderful, sad, or even terrible experiences. Sometimes we find these experiences can be worth sharing with others because they can serve as lessons or warning. In some cases, they may also be worth sharing because these are just too funny to keep to ourselves. It’s a fact that even the best writers will get bored or run out of material writing about their experiences. The good news is that others also have stories or experiences that are worth telling. There is no impediment to you sharing the experiences of others.
- To Inspire Others – Just about anyone can write online, but not just anyone can inspire. If you had an experience that you think others should know about, share it. If someone gave you some good advice that must also be shared with others, write about it, and so on. One of the most satisfying things a writer can experience is finding out others are taking inspiration in their writing. This is one particularly good thing to remember next time you want to write for your blog just for the sake of writing.
- To Attract People – Blogging is a good way to get an audience. This is particularly the case for blogs of product or business websites. They want the right people to notice what they are offering. By “right people” we mean those who are likely to buy their products or avail of their services. The same principle also goes for non-product or non-service websites. In their case they want to attract readers who appreciate a good story. These are people who are likely to come back to read more and are also likely to tell others about a good reading experience.
- To Make Money – Believe it or not some people actually earn money from their blogs! There are two ways to earn; either a prominent website will approach you with an offer to write a blog on their site, or advertisers will propose to put up ads on your site. However, don’t expect to make money right away. Usually, it’s the more affluent and influential people or writers whom advertisers and websites approach for contracts. This is not to say you will never have your chance, with a large enough following you can attract advertisers. Whether it’s just one of those reasons, some of them, or even all of them, determining why you want to blog is important because it sets the direction your writing will take and fills you with more purpose. You might think ‘Pfffft! Where does that direction and purpose come in?’ When it comes the time to maintain your blog, that’s when.
Setting Up Your Blog
Are you ready to begin blogging?
There are two steps in setting up a blog; first is picking and registering a domain name and the second is choosing a web host. In all the process from start to finish, it should take around 20 minutes.
1. Picking a Domain Name
What exactly is a domain name? It’s the name for which your blog will be known and for which a search should yield. If you type that domain name, it should be your blog that will appear in the browser.
Pick a domain name that is unique and yet descriptive so your audience will immediately know what your blog is about. You should also choose wisely because there is no going back from establishing a domain name. The Internet sees about 10,000 domain registrations a day, so you should not expect your first choices to be available immediately. In fact, it is advisable to prepare a list of probable names.
Picking a domain extension is a must, just in case your readers misspell your domain and type something else they will still be redirected to your blog. To make domain extensions, blog owners just usually attach either a “.com”, “.net” or “.org” to the end of the domain name.
2. Choosing a web hosting company
It’s needless to say you need a web host in order to start a blog. The web host is the company that digitally stores all of the text, images and other various files needed for your blog and delivers them to anyone who types in your domain name on the Internet.
Web hosts are limited by things like space, bandwidth, the number of available domains and subdomains, among other things, so you better choose wisely. Choosing a bad host will result in slow page loading times, even downtime.
Best web hosting for 2016
A good web host for absolute blogging newbies is SiteGround, a website that costs a bit more than other web hosts (£2.75 per month) but makes up for this regarding quality and service.
If you want to use SiteGround all you have to do is visit their website. They have a number of promos, choose to avail of them or not.
You can check out our review of SiteGround here.
Cheaper web hosting
GoDaddy is the world’s largest domain name registrar and web hosting provider. It would cost you as low as £0.99 per month!
Setting up with SiteGround
1Choose a Plan – SiteGround will offer you several plans. Of course, it’s usually advisable to pick one that fits your budget for now. However, there is also a basic plan for newbie bloggers.
2Register Your Domain Name – Type in your domain name in the left box and click “next” to see if it is available. If not, pick another domain name. Remember that list we told you to make? This is where it becomes handy. Registering a domain name can take a while if you find out all those puns and witticisms you thought of are already taken.
3Input Billing Details – Once a domain name is already available you will be taken to the registration page where you have to input all your billing details.
Wait for a few minutes for your account to be set up.
WordPress is free and open source tool that features an easy-to-use plug-in architecture and template system. In other words, it’s perfect for blogging newbies.
Login to your account via the SiteGround homepage and install WordPress. Go to "My Accounts" tab and click "Go to cPanel". Look under the “Autoinstallers” heading and click the “WordPress” button.
You should be automatically logged-in to Softaculous and taken to the WordPress install page. Click on the “Install Now” button to get started.
Select your domain and click on “Choose Domain”. Under "Site Settings" section, write down your Blog Name (choose something "eye friendly, it would appear on Google") and Site Description. Input your email, username, and password. All of these can be changed later except the username (you can change it with a plugin). As soon as you are satisfied with your choices, agree to the terms and then click “Install”.
Your installation is almost ready
WordPress installation should take only a few minutes and you should get an email notification once it finishes.
Working With WordPress
The first thing you have to do is login to your site. Go to “http://www.yoursite.com/wp-admin” (replace “yoursite.com” with your domain name).
After logging in you should be taken to the WordPress administrator area. Here you can make any changes you want to your blog.
If you want to change the title of your blog go to the bottom of the left menu and click “Settings”. It should take you to a screen where you can change your title.
The “Site Title” is for the main title while the “Tagline” is for the subdomain. After you are satisfied with your changes click the “Save Changes” button. Clicking that button should take you to your site.
Writing and Publishing Your First Post
Are you pumped to start writing? Let’s begin with your first post. In WordPress go to the left menu and click on “Posts”. You might be surprised to find there is already a post there with the title “Hello world!” This something WordPress puts on all blogs just to give users a taste of what to expect. You can study it or get rid of it by clicking on the “Trash” button just under the post.
Start a new post by clicking the “Add New” link; this should take you to the post creator screen. The box on top is for the title of your post and the one below it is for the post itself.
Images are always a good idea because it enhances the post and also gives your readers something to look at. Images also give your readers an idea of what your blog is about. Just make sure that the image is related to the blog and not just some space filler.
If you want to add an image click on the “Add Media” button and click “Select Files” to upload any image stored on your computer.
You can also choose the size of the image and how it is aligned to the page. As soon as you are satisfied with your choices to click “Insert into post” to add the image.
Are you sure this is the post you want the world to see? Go over it one more time to spot any grammar mistakes. Maybe you will also remember ideas worth adding. After you are ready post click the “Publish” button on the right side of the screen to publish it.
Even after you have clicked “Publish” your blog may still show a “Coming Soon” page. When you are ready to remove that page, all you have to do is login to your blog and click the link near the top.
So there, you just published your first blog. Wasn’t that easy?
Levelling Up Your Blog
Sooner or later you may come to a point where you think the design of your blog is too plain and you want to add more elements for more impact. This is where the advantage of WordPress comes in; it’s so easy to use you can practically teach yourself how to do it.
The Basics of Blog Design
It’s true that when it comes to designing your blog your imagination is the limit. However, before you go overboard, you should also know about useful tips to follow, especially considering not all of us have the same appreciation of aesthetics.
Follow Vertical Lines – As a general rule it's good practice to keep things lined up. In the case of web pages where we generally scroll down, that means vertical lines or columns.
It will look more orderly when paragraphs and images all fit into their columns precisely. Our eyes and brain are designed to pick out patterns, so when something sticks out, we notice it immediately. Like that image that is out of line, or that paragraph that sticks out.
If there are too many of these little things out of line the reader can become distracted and before you know it they have a bad opinion of how that page is arranged.
If you are still not sure how to go about implementing vertical lines choose a common width for all the images and another common width for paragraphs even as images and paragraphs mix.
Observe “White Space” – The space between the elements and sections of a blog page, or any page for that matter, is what’s called white space. There should always be white space between elements for two reasons; to make the page feel less claustrophobic and overwhelming, and to make sections easier to read.
You can control the space between the elements or sections of your blog by adding margins or padding.
Set Fonts – You will have a lot of fonts available at your disposal when you design your blog, and you might be tempted to use many. However, the disadvantage is that if you use too many fonts in one area it tends to create confusion in the blog. Not to mention it might give your readers a headache as their eyes jump from one font to another.
Choose fonts not because they are nice or fun to look at, but because they are easy to read. The ideal is to have one type of font for post titles, another type of font for sidebar titles, and another different type of the text of the blog.
Colour Your Blog – It has long been established that colours have a psychological effect on persons, they can make something attractive or even dull.
When it comes to blogs, it is best to go for colours that attract attention to the areas we want readers to look at. The presence of too many colours at once will also confuse the eye and the mind.
What’s one way to go about colours? Go for an overall colour scheme and then pepper the page with other colours that best compliment it. However, you should also not be afraid to use contrasting colours as they provide impact. The best advice when it comes to colours is to make sure they don’t distract the readers from the main content of your blog.
Make Information Accessible – Sometimes readers may want to ask the blogger, a question or want to contact them for any reason. As a blogger you should make it easy for your readers to reach you. Why? You want to portray yourself as a human being, someone they can relate to and reach easily, not a god who is always beyond reach.
This accessibility should also apply to the other items on the blog, things like RSS feed, featured posts, archives, external links, and the search box.
Other Tips To Make Your Blog Better
Provide a Short Description – You are likely to attract more readers if they immediately know your blog is about, so for this purpose, it is advisable to provide a short description below your blog’s banner about what the site is about and who owns it.
Use A Profile Photo – One of the things that create a connection for readers is the knowledge that the writer is a real person. Nothing quite says a real person like a photo of you on the blog.
Be sure to choose a good photo of you. This is not to say you should choose an image that has been photoshopped to make you look like a movie star. Select your photos for your blog, in the same way, you would pick a photo for a job interview or for a social profile, you want to present the best image of yourself as possible with none of the fakeries.
Make Sure Your Pages Load Quickly – One of the unfortunate side effects of the Internet is shorter attention spans. With the many things to see on the Internet, you can’t expect something to hold the attention of readers for long, especially if that something is a blog that takes too long to load.
What contributes to long loading times? Images that are not optimised for your blog, unnecessary lines of code, CSS and Java files, plugins, among others.
Even putting up too many images in one page can contribute to a significant slowdown. There are things you can do to optimise page loading like Gzip compression, optimised caching, and cleaning up the code. You may not be able to do this yourself but there are other web experts who can easily help you.
Have The Right Plugins – Yes, we talked about plugins contributing to the slowing down of your blog, but having the right ones will also make a difference when it comes to the different aspects of your blog.
Here are some of the most top-rated free ones:
- Wordfence – A free but basic security plugin that adds an extra layer of protection by locking out people who try to hack their way into your website.
- Anti-spam – Another free plugin that keeps spam away. This does so without using Captcha, asking questions, or annoying your genuinely human readers who honestly just want to leave a comment.
- WP Optimize – This free plugin keeps your blog running smoothly by optimising your database tables, getting rid of old post revisions, and cleaning unapproved comments and other things in the Trash folder.
- WordPress SEO – The right keywords can get your blog noticed by search engines easily, but sometimes you need more than that to get noticed. WordPress SEO can guide you in making good wording choices to get the maximum leverage from keywords.
- Google Analytics Dashboard – How much traffic is your site getting? From where does most of it come from? What content were they most interested in? How many of them are returning viewers? Google Analytics keeps track of these things and more.
Writing Your Blog
So you have the blog up and running, you have the tools to help you keep track of everything that needs to be watched, and you know how to publish your articles and images.
Now what should you write about? As long as it is within the ambit of your blog description anything should be fine. Perhaps it would be easier to talk about what you should not be writing about.
Off-Topic Articles – Your blog should already have a theme. Don’t disrupt that theme by writing about something totally different. For example, you are blogging about movies and TV shows, yet one day you just found it inspiring to write about your pets.
Your Personal Secrets – A blog is one thing, a diary is another. Readers can tolerate a rant every now and then, but there is no need for you to lay your entire soul bare. You will not only be exposing yourself to ridicule, your readers may also feel uncomfortable knowing too much.
Workplace Matters – There is no disputing the workplace is a source of a lot of conflicts, drama and juicy gossip. Better leave all of those there, taking that into your blog will only invite readers at first, but trouble will quickly follow.
Family Matters – It’s okay to talk about what happened at the family reunion, but no more than that. We all have family members who are far from perfect or who have done really stupid things, but there is no need to broadcast this.
Sensitive Information – Sure you are free to talk about many things, but be sure not to give away too much information as the wrong people may be listening. Don’t give away any information that can put your financial or personal safety at risk.
Promoting Your Blog
A lot of good blogs out there fail because they are not getting enough exposure. How do you make sure this doesn’t happen to your blog? Promote it well.
You might have reservations about promoting a site that is relatively new and with few readers or viewers, but think about it this way; how else are you going to get more of those readers or viewers?
So how do you promote your blog? The good news is the most effective methods are actually free.
Social Media – If you already have a Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media account, make sure to link them to your blog. Since you are already in a social network try to connect with people who have similar interest as you or your blog, it won’t hurt for them to notice that link.
Other Blogs – Comment on the blogs of others and leave a link back to your own blog. That way you will be leaving it somewhere people who have the same interest as you can see it.
There is a caveat here; be sure those comments are useful, substantial or constructive. Leaving nasty comments or comments designed to tear that blog down while propping up your own will likely invite hostile parties to your blog. Those nasty comments are likely to be deleted by the blog owner anyway.
Another way you can use other blogs to your advantage is to write a response to a post in another blog. If you decide to do this make sure to link to the blog you are responding to, this will create a “trackback” and that blog you linked to will also post a link to your blog.
Guest Posts – This is a tit-for-tat thing popular among blogging newbies. Contact other blog owners and offer to write a post on their site, in return you can also ask them to write for yours. You can also swap links, so more people can find out about your respective blogs.
Take note that not all bloggers will be open to this idea, and despite its advantages it’s best not to press them to agree.
Online Forums – There are online forums for almost anything these days. Find out which ones are most popular for the topic of your blog, or the one with a lot of people most likely to be interested in your blog.
Many forums actually allow you to post a link to your site in the signature that goes at the bottom of every post you write but others may also require you to make a few posts first.
Maintaining Your Blog
Congratulations! You now have a blog. However, don’t delude yourself into thinking it will all be roses from here because the real work is just beginning; you have to maintain that blog.
There are two things to remember here; content and consistency. Content refers to the new material you have for readers whenever they visit, consistency refers to how regularly or frequently you put out that new material.
Maintain your blog by making sure your readers keep coming back for more, and nothing keeps readers coming back for more like fresh content. There is another advantage to this, search engine bots are designed to look for fresh content, so the more you update your materials the more you will be visible to the search bots.
All that new content will also not matter if you have no consistency. Set a regular update schedule and stick to it so your readers know when to expect something new. For example, updating regularly three times a week.
Being inconsistent can hurt your traffic. Your readers will be disappointed to find out you have nothing new to offer, if you disappoint them more than once chances are they will stop visiting your blog. They might even tell others there is nothing in your blog worth coming back to.
Earlier in this article we mentioned determining our reasons for blogging in order to get direction and purpose. This is where they come in. In maintaining your website you might find it challenging, and sometimes even a chore, to write or come up with new material to put up.
There is no shame in this; even the best writers can fail to come up with material now and then. What do they do? They go back to the basics and ask themselves why they write. Direction and purpose.
Other Blogging Tips
What Goes Online, Stays Online – What happens in Vegas…well, you know the rest. However, it’s the exact opposite when it comes to blogging; what goes online stays online, most likely forever.
This means you have to be careful about what you post, and we aren’t just talking about those typos and grammatical errors even elementary pupils can spot, this is about your opinions, you rants, and your feelings.
Is it really worth blogging about a really bad fight with your BFF? What if a few days from now you patch things up? Sure, the friendship is back on track, but that post will always be there to remind you of that one rough patch. It will even be more awkward if you said some pretty mean things about him or her in that blog.
The same caution can be applied to blogs about people who may have offended you, establishments you did not like, or other unpleasant experiences. Remember that blogging is like saying something you can’t take back. A good piece of advice here is to not post something unless it’s really worth posting.
Don’t Be Too Stiff in Your Writing – By this we mean don’t write too formally. Make your content more conversational with the following tips:
- Use The Words “You” And “I”- Try counting how many times these words come up during a normal conversation and you’ll lose track. Using them often will make your readers feel you are talking with them on a personal level.
- Break Up Those Paragraphs – In elementary, we were all taught that a paragraph is made up of many sentences. However, this is no longer applicable when it comes to online reading. Huge groups of sentences make up text blocks that are not just off-putting; they can also make it hard for your reader to spot those important points you want to get across.
- Use Italics – Use italicised words whenever you ask a question or answer one. This will make your blog seem more like a conversation and also break up the monotony of the text appearance. On the other hand, it should be mentioned that capitalising certain statements and sentences will have the opposite effect and make the readers think you are shouting at them. We aren’t saying never use them; you can capitalise acronyms, important ideas, and even the punch line of a joke. The key here is to use capitalization sparingly and appropriately.
- Don’t be too formal – Pretend you are talking to someone, that’s always good advice when it comes to writing a blog. It’s a blog after all, not a paper to be perused by the scientific community, or an essay for your composition teacher.
- Content Affects Search Parameters – You might know how search engines work; they search for keywords in your article and the most relevant search comes out on top. This will probably lead you to stuff the page with so many keywords sandwiched between what can only be called fluff words and statements. What you may not know is that Google search bots are programmed to look for detailed content, and not just how many times a word appeared in a page or where it appeared in that page. What’s the bottom line here? Write for your readers and not for the search engine.
- Your Readers Matter – You might be tempted to see visitors to your blog as mere hits; only the numbers matter and not what they think about your blog. You may not care about what they think about your blog at all. However, these readers are people with feelings and opinions, and the more these feelings and opinions are stirred, affected or moulded by your articles the more they are likely to come back and read more of your material. What’s better is that they may also recommend your blog to others, who will also recommend them to others, and so on. What’s another good reason to mind what your readers think? Feedback. We already mentioned that while writers and inspire readers, readers can also inspire writers with positive or constructive feedback. Even negative feedback can have positive results.
Blogging Will Have Ups and Downs
Setting up a blog is an easy matter. What happens after that usually involves a lot of work. Whatever your purpose is in deciding to make part of your mind and heart open to the public, whether you want to improve your skills, brighten the day of others, or to make money, make sure you are committed before you even start.