UPDATE: For a complete guide for learning WordPress (from Zero to Hero), please check out our newly released tutorial on Teachable: https://coderevolution.teachable.com/p/basic-wordpress-tutorial-from-zero-to-hero.
How to Start a Blog
For a beginner looking to start a blog I feel one needs to take a very practical, almost simple approach.
Yes, there are many advanced options, templates, and techniques but chances are a new blogger will become intimidated when looking to attain those things. A new blogger should look to take the time to enjoy the steps in between the beginning and their goals.
The following is a philosophical approach to getting a personal blog off the ground and hopefully keeping it there. We are living in a day where anyone and everyone can have a blog so it is important to keep things simple to separate yourself from the rest of the pack if a successful blog is what your goal is.
How to Choose a Blog Host:
One of the first forks in the road a newcomer can come to is selecting a host for their blog. There are so man out there such as WordPress.com, Blogger, Google+, Tumblr, Live Journal, SquareSpace, Hubpages, Weebly, Drupal, Blog.com, and Squidoo – just to name a few. Which one is right for you?
Well, this is where researching comes in handy. Some hosts exude a more professional and personalized feel (WordPress.com, SquareSpace, Google+) while others appear more childish and less convincing (Live Journal, Squidoo, Blogger).
Any blog you start for free will have the host’s extension attached (ex: beensaidbefore.wordpress.com). Some bloggers say that purchasing your domain name before you start can increase readers’ confidence as well as establish a professional appearance. The problem with this advice is that most people interested in the idea of their own blog don’t want to spend that money, no matter how small the cost, on their own URL. It’s comparable to someone wanting to learn guitar going out to buy an instrument in the thousands of dollars. It’ll take a few entries or months before the newcomer decides whether or not they are looking to invest in their possible future as a full-time blogger or to keep their account free and produce content when they are free.
In a future article I will give a detailed analysis about which is the best hosting provider, based on service quality and cost. Keep tuned for the upcoming article about this!
This is simple; get out there and research where you want your words. As you can see above, there are many options that are just waiting for your content consistency.
Importance of Consistency:
The importance of consistency can not be stressed enough. Great content posted once a week is not enough. We live in a fast paced society where close to everything is now or never. If you’re now and stay now you stay in the feeding chain. If you’re never you get lost in the abyss of galaxies of blogs that are spread across the internet.
Consistency is rule number one for blogging success. You can pay for their own URL and purchase a great template from WordPress but still fall short if your content is released inconsistently. And, by content I am not only referring to the posts that go up. It is also about updating the appearance of the blog in addition to creating content separately from the blog in social media outlets to bring more traffic to your entries. All around consistency boosts your appeal as well as your trustworthiness.
The idea of being consistent can seem like a tough hurdle to jump. How frequently do I update? How many times a day? What if I miss a day? Do I really need to update daily? This is where motivation and discipline comes into play. Those are skills one must learn on his/her own. Even those days where updating seems pointless and painful, it is important to dive in head-first and get it done. No one can read your content if it’s not there. And, no one will read it if they can’t count on it being there.
A problem that can affect a new blogger’s consistency is the defeating thought that no one is tuning in to the blog. Yes, this can be disheartening and often causes people to quit before they even get a chance to gain a readership. I adhere to the adage that if you talk about something long enough people will have a choice but to start listening. If you produce consistent content in your given niche then your readers will begin understanding your voice. Plus, you’ll be viewed as trustworthy in your chosen topic.
An easy way to stay on track is to create a plan on how often you do want to update. Whether it be every day or every other day, make sure you stay with it. Most blogs offer an option to press a post at a later time. For those days you’re feeling extra wordy make sure you load one up to post the next day so you can use that day “off” to write a couple more. Throw your topic of choice out to the wolves and let them tear it to pieces if you must.
Confidence in Your Niche Choice:
Maybe your niche is writing about the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be a new blogger. The internet has plenty of room for you to say what it is you need and want to say. Once you found your niche you may worry there are already hundreds of other blogs covering that topic. This is where you apply being able to flex your confidence in your niche. Make sure you pick something you know you can write about on a daily basis or are interested in researching regularly if you don’t know much about what you’re writing.
The same pro of the internet having space for your blog is also a con when it comes to the number of blogs out there saying what you want to say. There are probably more blogs than one can count that cover “How A Beginner Blogs” but none of them have your voice. If you are confident in blogging about your niche then, once again, readers will begin noticing what you have to say.
Regardless of what anyone says the fact is that everything has already been said before. This isn’t as disheartening as it sounds. If anything it is inspirational. The chance to get out there and say something about what others have already said with confidence and your own tone is empowering.
What do you know best? What are you interested in? What don’t you like? Who would you like to read about in your community but can’t find anything about? Do you love owning a pet? Do you hate owning a pet? Does your child say funny things? Ask yourself some questions. Maybe even combine some answers.
Finding Your Voice:
It seems that new bloggers want to say what they need to say but are afraid to say it exactly the way they want to. This could be for fear of retaliation or rejection. What any blogger, or writer for that matter, must understand is that a unique voice will cross some people. It is bound to happen and that is the beauty of it.
In addition to that they compare their voice to that of the blogs they may read and think they’ll never achieve those heights. The fear of inadequacy sinks its teeth in. Another scenario a new blogger must understand is that his/her voice will not sound like that of his/her’s favorite writer, blogger, or poet. That doesn’t mean it isn’t as powerful or well done. It is more than that. It means the newcomer is on the right path to developing his/her own voice.
Think about it. There are many fantastic singers out there. More than I’m sure anyone has ever heard of, but the ones with that unique voice are the ones who get noticed. Whether it be heard nationally or to a small audience is not the point. What is important is that they took a talent they already have and made it their own by not sounding like anyone they’ve heard before. This is true for writers and bloggers.
Developing your voice is simpler than one may think. Just like anything in life it takes practice and fine tuning. Finding your own voice means you’ll have to read what you have written aloud. Really hear yourself in your piece. When you read it make sure it is the cadence and attitude you want others to hear it in.
This topic is very subjective. But, what is true for all blogs is that media is what catches the eye of potential readers. I mentioned how our society is fast paced. That means it is now used to colors, images, and anything else more than words to draw attention.
Think of it as decorating a cake. The cake is the blog entry: the words, topic, and tone. The pictures are the roses, footballs, candles and whatever else. When you receive a plain cake for your birthday you surely appreciate it but it rings in as bland and thoughtless. But, place a cake with decorations and words and candles on it before you and you see the effort someone made to plan this out for you. Throw in the time it took to actually decorate the cake and you could swear the cake probably tastes better.
The point is to not deliver some bland piece to the public if you are trying to gain a successful following on your blog. Use some media. Grab the attention of your fellow sensory-overloaded peers. But, before you go use a photo do make sure you are ALLOWED to.
When using photos-or any other sort of media- there are a few options you have to cover yourself from copyright infringement. The first is to make sure they are either from a Creative Commons or Public Domain source. Creative Commons licensing means, in a loose sense, that any material may be used for non-commercial use. Public Domain licensing means one can use it freely.
The other way to gain media is to contact the copyright directly and wait for written approval to use their material for your blog. In both scenarios it is great etiquette to provide credit where credit is due.
There are great sites such as BlogHer or CreativeCommons.org to look through for material relevant to your entries.
If blogging is the direction you choose to go you must keep in mind that this is a project that requires discipline and dedication. While there are many variables that contribute to the success of your blog the best way to get there is to not overload yourself with expectations of what your blog should and shouldn’t be. Set a schedule that is obtainable to your lifestyle. Choose a topic that you can turn around quickly and may possibly be able to write a few in a row so you have some back-ups.
Also, there are a lot of articles out there that offer advice on how things should be done and the way they should not be done. The easiest way for a beginner to sort through the sea of advice is to just settle into who he/she is comfortable doing and finding that voice that makes the blogger stand out from the rest. Forget those advanced techniques and templates until you gain a foothold into the blogging world. As long as you stay consistent and produce content that hasn’t been heard from your voice yet all should be well.