So you want to start up a blog.
First off, make sure you really, really do–it’s the kind of project that should have been sitting in the back of your mind, being mulled over and fermented by brain juice, for a couple of months at this point. Know that it–the running of your blog, not just posting itself but networking, commenting, photo taking and editing, and, depending on the genre of your blog, book reading or recipe developing–will start to take up a lot of your time in the future if you choose to plow ahead with the idea. It’s a hobby (sometimes career!) that you have to put a lot into, but when you do…you get so much out of it. I’m definitely not arguing that you should hesitate to start a blog for fear of a workload–it’s one of my favorite and most inspiring activities, most times–but make sure you really have the determination/dedication/focus before you sign yourself up for the fancy free blogging platform!
Still determined? Find yourself a network of bloggers you admire, absorb their styles–what they talk about, how they talk about it, and what draws you to their blog again and again–and get ready to get started! (Oh, and depending on your blog genre, you’ll probably need to equip yourself with a good digital camera and computer at this point. High-speed internet. BFF.)
A couple of other things you need to consider…
Platform: The first thing you have to take into consideration when starting up a blog is your blogging platform. When it comes down to it, there’s a lot of different routes you can take, but the two most popular platforms are WordPress and Blogger (I blog with WordPress and would recommend this over any other platform, hands-down–explanation in a sec). There’s also some more obscure ones, like TypePad, and I think LiveJournal might be a thing..? For the most part, I think you’ll have the most luck sticking with either of the two big dogs, though this isn’t to say that a blog created on a different platform will always be less successful (just look at A Beautiful Mess!).
WordPress (why I likey very muchy): I really can’t praise this platform enough. I’d worked with Blogger in the past, but it’s not an experience I’d care to repeat–nearly all the generic site themes in Blogger look really unprofessional, and just generally unpolished. The myriad of fun fonts and widgets and buttons and such is fun for a flingy, frivolous, personal blog if your ambitions aren’t that anyone else will start to read it (this was what my Blogger blog was like and it worked okay. Just my friends readin’ my ramblin’s.) But Blogger had a host of technical bugs, too–things that included deleting a bunch of my friend’s posts on a slew of occasions, and auto-correcting and formatting things weirdly.
Then, after I’d decided I wanted to make a more “serious” blog (story later on), I joined WordPress. And my world was rocked.
First off, let’s look at some screenshots of my WordPress blogging in action–
(click image to view full-size!)
If you run a WordPress blog, you’re probably pretty familiar with this sight. (Unless you blog using Windows Live Writer–topic for another post!) This is what the main posting interface looks like. You type up your post in the box (obviously), and you can choose to either save it as a draft, publish it, or schedule it by editing the “publish immediately” option. There’s also a checklist of categories that you create that show up in your category cloud–
and a space where you can enter “tags” for your posts.
Tags are like categories except they rock the arrglleflarrging world. Tags are the main force of nature responsible for others coming across your blog, and–if you’re lucky!–“liking” what they see, and maybe even perhaps givin’ you a comment or follow or the like. Tags are how search engines index your blog, to some extent, and also how the WordPress head honchos find your blog to get you maybe-possibly-eventually featured on Freshly Pressed, or some smaller honor. There’s also a box next to your WordPress reader where you can search for tags to find other blogs (yes, you get a blog reader out of the deal too!) (I’ve searched for things like “physical therapy”, when I wanted to connect with some other poor souls experiencing the same things as me, or “teenager” because I wanted to find some other scraggly adolescents in the blogosphere).
Another awesome thing that you can do is switch to “text” editing mode–
Aww yeah I know you’re jealous of my PicMonkey skills. Especially that glorious little orange circling job…
I’m not sure if Blogger has an equivalent. “Text” mode allows you to delve deep into the belly of the html coding of your WordPress post (which isn’t as scary as it sounds, promise) and edit stuff at your leisure. I’ve
circled attempted to circle an example of coding, in orange–the <strong> around that text means that it’s going to show up bold in visual mode, which it does indeed. You can also apply <del></del> around text for the strikethrough effect, etc. Once you get more advanced at coding you can work those grab buttons you get for joining linkups by simply pasting the code into your text editor where you want the image to show up, and even try your hand at coding a grab button of your own!
Those are pretty much the bare essentials of posting in WordPress. As your blog grows and you manage it, you’ll develop a feel for all the stuff in the sidebar, too–fiddling around with your background, site title, tagline, etc. WordPress has some pretty good startup tutorials on its site, anyway (wordpress.com–not to be confused with the formidable wordpress.org!)
So, that’s the first reason why I adore this platform so much–it allows you to do so much! Not only with your posts, but your site in general as well–you start off with a free (genericblogname).wordpress.com site, but you can easily purchase upgrades to take your blog to, say, thegirlintheorange.com, or increase the storage space allotted (for pictures and the like) on your free blog. The support staff that I’ve encountered have all been very friendly and helpful. I think it’s the perfect catalyst to start a blog ready to take the world by storm.
But, naturally, a blog ready to take the world by storm needs an audience, right? (Right, you answer, gazing in rapt fascination at your screen as TGITO unveils all.) That’s another thing that’s so great about WP–the sense of community. Within days of setting up my site, I had gained 14 followers–which isn’t, truth be told, all that many, but it was much more than I expected would ever possibly put up with me! I was thrilled. And then–andthenandthenandthenandthenandthen!–people started liking my stuff, and new people started visiting my site, and my stats meter kept going up and up and up, and I was…I was just overjoyed. Even though it’s just a blog–a hobby–the community feel of WP makes you feel at home, and like each new follower that shows up on your dash is a new friend you’ve made. I know it takes an immense amount of effort and time from your day that you willingly invest in keeping up with me here on TGITO, and I really appreciate that.
Look, another memion! 😀 Sap time over now.
Name & Design: There are a great many great posts floating around about how to choose a blog name that’s intriguing and unique and sums your site up perfectly, so I won’t go into too much detail about that here. Consult your search engine of choice. My 2 cents on the matter: when in doubt, weave in a pun. And make it something descriptive and original–as Julie Fagan testifies, a blog called ilovefood.wordpress.com probably won’t bring you in many hits.
As for your site’s design–the great thing about this medium is that it’s really versatile, and fluid, so if you try out a theme or a background for a few weeks and aren’t lovin’ it, it’s really easy to just switch back, or move onto something new entirely. You can even change your url if you feel you fudged that up (but your followers may find this confusing). When I first started up TGITO, I–I can’t explain it, but I was terrified to mess with the design at all, because I already knew I had something I kind of vaguely liked and I didn’t want to plummet my blog into the depths of ugly-background heck. (I might have already done this, but, truth be told, I’m quite pleased with the way the site looks right now and that’s all that really matters, right? 😉 Mah blog, mah rulez.) Another great feature of WordPress is that (for a fee) you can upgrade to a Custom Design, in which you can “unlock” more unique themes and even delve into your blog’s CSS coding and fiddle with stuff–fonts, design color palettes, etc.
In my opinion–not that, with my current site design, I can really talk–lots of white space on a blog is good; clutter up your sidebar (with interesting things) as much as you like but leave a lot of room to breathe in the design. Probably don’t make your background a shocking neon orange, either–people are more likely to visit your blog if it’s easy on the eyes. 😉
Your first few posts: Don’t stress too much. As a professional ball of perfectionism, let me offer you the advice that the only way you’re going to be happy with your blog, and the only way it’s going to capture people’s attention, is if you genuinely let your personal voice shine through. Don’t feel you have to mimic other bloggers you admire, although you can certainly play around with their styles a bit if it helps you determine your own trademark voice (I definitely do this a lot!). Post when you have something to say, or a smile to share. People love transparency and vulnerability in bloggers, but of course share things you’re proud of and little windows into your everyday life (and, of course, play it safe by watching out for full names or addresses in your pictures, especially if ye be but a lowly vulnerable teenager). Don’t post because you feel like you “have to”. Blogging should be insanely fun, first and foremost–when it starts feeling like a dreadful chore, I take a break from the computer for a few weeks! 🙂 As I’m sure everyone reading this can testify, y’all are incredibly forgiving–if I start up a post with “Ugh, sorry for the bloggus hiatus” as I do so often, you don’t get mad! (Oh, I said the sap time was over. Galdangit…) Contrary to what it feels like, the people reading your blog aren’t terrible machines of judgement and critique, and they’re certainly not hanging on your every word and impatiently updating their readers, waiting for you to post. Have fun, and breathe. It’s one of the most rewarding hobbies I’ve encountered, but you need to let it reward you. It’s a low-stress thing. (Yeah, look who’s talking…do as I say, not as I do!)
Incidentally, I’m lacking a good solid way to wrap this post up, as it’s already too long. You guys won’t get mad, right? 😉