Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Blogging 101: The Basics

How to start a blog

I can't claim to know all there is about blogging - I learn something new every day! But over the past few years, I've learned a lot about what it takes to drive traffic to your blog and keep readers (and yourself) interested. Read on for my top tips on Blogging 101: The Basics.

Choose A Blogging Platform
This could easily be a post all on its own. There are a tons of blogging platforms out there, so I would suggest you do a little research (aka Google), before committing to one. I chose Google's platform Blogger, since it's super easy to use and I secretly feel like being on Google's platform will help boost my SEO on Google (which is probably totally untrue, but who knows)! A lot of bloggers are on Wordpress, which allows for more variation in your blog but may take a bit longer to master. There are also sites like Squarespace, which I've used in the past but found to be a bit limiting and have a slow loading time. Again, I would spend some time reading about the different options and then pick one that feels right for you. 

Get A Nice Blog Layout
Investing even $50 can get you a super professional blog layout from sites such as Pipdig, and can make all the difference when starting out.

Choose A Killer Blog Name
Your blog is only as good as its name. Okay that's only kind of true, but it has a nice ring to it. Seriously, though, this is an important one. It should be catchy, easy to remember, and describe your blog. You should also make sure that the URL is available, as well as all social media handles for that name (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter). If so, you're in good shape! Make accounts on all platforms with your new blog name to make sure no one snatches them up.

Buy Your Domain Name
This brings us to your URL - it's best to buy your own domain name rather than "yourblog.wordpress.com," etc. I still need to do this, so do as I say and not as I do!

Take Quality Pictures
High-quality, clear images really make your blog stand out from the rest. You'd be surprised at how many blogs post consistently blurry images and wonder why they have no readers - we just can't make out what your pictures are showing! Simple tips such as tapping your camera screen to focus, and finding nice natural light can make a huge difference. See my post on taking amazing blog photos with your phone camera for more photography tips.

Post Consistent, High-Quality Posts
Aside from the images, the writing in your posts should be grammatically correct and spell-checked, so be sure to double check and re-read your writing! Your posts should also follow basic SEO guidelines to get them to show up in Google searches. See easy SEO tips for bloggers here. 

This is probably more time-consuming than the actual blog writing itself, and I'll post a more in-depth article about blog promotion shortly, but for now here are some basics. 

After you've published each post, edit the URL with a site such as bitly.com. This not only shortens your URL (handy for Twitter since only 140 characters are allowed in each post), but it allows you to track your URL. You can come back and look at analytics of how many people clicked on this link, and where they clicked it (did the most people find you from Twitter, or Pinterest? What date/time did the most people click on it?). Use this new URL to promote it on all of your social media accounts. See my tips for promoting on Twitter and Instagram

When promoting, be sure to tag any related brands in your post. They might like your blog and share it with their own followers, which expands your audience by a lot! Also, be sure to make good use of hashtags on Twitter or Instagram. See the above Instagram post for more info on hashtags.

Schedule your posts in the future. It's great to promote your post once when it's published, but give it more exposure by using sites such as Hootsuite to schedule posts repeatedly. That way, Hootsuite will be promoting for you while you're at work, sleeping, at the gym, etc.!

Share the Love
Connect with other bloggers, read their blogs, and leave a comment on each of them. I would set aside at least 30-60 minutes to do this each week. Leave a thoughtful comment, along with a link back to your blog so they can discover you as well!

Above all, be sure to have FUN, because if you're not then what's the point? Hope you found these tips helpful, and be sure to leave any of your own tips in the comments! See my full Blogging Tips section to learn more about growing your blog and social media accounts!

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