A few of you have asked questions about how to start a blog, what to name it, and what to write about, so I thought I’d take a two-day post to share some of the things I’ve learned (at times, the hard or long way!) since first putting
pen to paper (keyboard to screen?) six years ago.
I feel like there are two types of potential bloggers – those who want to start a blog just for them, and friends and family, as a way of record keeping and sharing family happenings. And there are those who have skills/expertise/stories to share with the world and want to reach a broader audience. No matter which of these categories you fall into (or maybe it’s both!) hopefully some of the notes below help get you on your way!
1. Pick your topic(s) – and the name will follow.
I’m not particularly great at any one thing. I like to cook, decorate, photograph, DIY, put together outfits, design logos, etc…but not enough to have a blog centered around any ONE topic and only that. I’d burn out, I’d run out of content, and I’m no expert – just someone who likes to dabble in a little bit of everything. For ME, it made sense that my blog became more of a “lifestyle” blog. Just as the term suggests, it’s a blog about our lives – the home we live in (decorating), the adventures we travel on (trips and anniversary adventures), the work we do (all things graphic and web design), and the projects we tackle (finishing the basement, anyone?).
My blog began as “Everything Yellow” – a name I picked in about four seconds because I loved everything yellow. I know – I’m bowling you over with my creativity. Ha! When I switched to WordPress from Typepad, I used it as an opportunity to update the name. You can read more about the Q’s and A’s of that switch here. At this point, I knew it was becoming about living our lives, joyfully, enthusiastically and completely out loud – many of the things I associate with my favorite color. The name kept floating to the top of my list, and the URL was available. Boom. Done.
To that point – pick a name brief enough that people can remember it to type it into their browser, and one that isn’t taken already by another blogger. Keep it short and sweet. Some of my favorite well-known blogs are “Centsational Girl“, “Young House Love“, and “Eat Drink Pretty“. Several of my friends’ have done creative things with their names/towns in their personal blogs using alliteration. (i.e. “Hanging out in Huxville”, “Daniels Ditties”, “Living Life Langston”, and “Journey with Julia”) – and yes, to protect their privacy, I’ve changed the names, in case you’re trying to look them up – I err on the side of caution when it comes to personal blogs. 🙂
Think first about what you’ll be blogging about, and the name might just present itself. Are you focusing primarily on living with a child with special needs, or as a military wife? Are you anxious to share your skill set with the world as a woodworker, or a pastry chef? Or are you just telling the funny stories that go along with parenting three crazy kiddos and the day in/day out life of your family? Try writing down what it’s about – the main topics, even schedule out a week’s worth of typical posts you might write…and a list of name ideas is sure to follow.
2. A following of readers is great, so is a little pay. But don’t let it be the reason you blog.
I started blogging before I even entirely understood what it was. It was the month after we got married, and I figured it was a great way to post our wedding pictures, with a little commentary, for friends and family, and eventually re-cap our honeymoon adventures. That was it. That was the extent of my whole plan.
Fast forward six years and it’s still crazy to me that anyone besides my closest friends and family members want to read anything I have to say. But thankfully, after several years, I’ve found my stride in what I like to talk about and I’ve made a commitment to do it regularly. It’s all still ultimately for me. I love that people follow and participate with questions and links of their own. But if it all went away tomorrow, I’d still be blogging, because I love keeping a record of our life and reading back through this journal of our life together.
In my mind, blogging for any other reason than this is a recipe for disaster. I’ve seen blogs that are just there to regurgitate others’ ideas and sell ad space in the process – there’s no life or personality, and the whole site is clearly fake. It’s a turn-off. I’m not saying don’t monetize your blog – I plan to dip into that very arena yet this year – but don’t make the sole plan behind starting a blog to make money. For one, you’ll be very disappointed, because it takes a LONG time to achieve the readership numbers that will even interest potential advertisers, and two, any potential readers will see right through your fiscal motivation, be turned off, and move on.
3. Pick a platform – and spend a little time getting your geek on.
I began blogging with Typepad, a paid monthly service that allowed me a variety of customized templates. It was great to start with, but I’ve since become a bigger advocate of WordPress and Blogger – both of which offer many templates/services, but for FREE. Both WordPress and Blogger also have a large community of users who are very active in sharing tips/tricks for improving the look and functionality of your blog. Do a quick search on Pinterest for either and you’ll be bombarded with information and tutorials to get you on your way. I personally use WordPress, and my web designer hubby is a huge advocate of it, but I think you can be equally happy with either platform.
Start by simply creating an account with one or the other and put up a post. Then play around with one thing at a time, whether that’s creating an archive of your past posts, filling in an “about me” tab, or a number of other things. Try not to be overwhelmed – these things don’t get created in a day!
4. Read other blogs. And speak up.
There is no better research than to seek out and subscribe to other blogs. Take note of the topics, the photos, and the voices of the writers. Don’t copy – but be inspired. See what they’re doing that resonates with you as a reader, and try the same with your own spin in your own way. Support others in the blogging community by leaving comments that add to the conversation. Plus, commenting is a great way to generate interest in your own name/site and find new followers!
5. Building an audience takes some work.
If you’re expecting to start writing and people magically find you, well, let’s just say that’s a bit overly optimistic. Once you have a few posts, share a link to your blog with Facebook friends, post it on LinkedIn if you feel it’s appropriate, or via your Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram accounts. Add your blog’s URL address to your email signature. As people who already know you follow, people they know may follow as well. You can create a Facebook fan page for your blog to further cultivate a following – it’s a great place to post sneak peeks of upcoming posts to generate interest, or to foster more casual conversation between you and the people who take the time to read your posts. I get a lot of post ideas from the comments and questions people leave on the LIY facebook page!
Make it easy for people to share your content. Most blog platforms have a built-in functionality to add “pin it”, “facebook this”, “tweet this”, and other buttons to the footer of each of your blog posts. Make it as simple as possible for people to post about something of yours they read and spread the word about your site.
Other ways to find readers include pinning some of your content (make sure it’s yours, originally, and don’t OVERDO the pinning) on Pinterest, comment on other blogs with a link to a post of yours on the same topic, and get your blog registered on BlogLovin so others can discover it.
Here’s a fun thing to try: Enter the following URL in your browser, but insert your blog address in place of where it says “lifeinyellow.com”:
…You can see the most recent items other people are pinning from your site!
Stay tuned! More to come tomorrow 🙂