Tuesday, March 27, 2012
How To Start A Blog
Thinking of starting a blog? Great! Now all you have to do is choose a blogging platform, a topic, a name for your blog, register a domain name, design the look of your blog and post regularly. Don't worry though, you can do it, you just have to take things one at a time.
What I hear from most bloggers -- okay, ALL of the other bloggers I've read or talked to about this -- is that Wordpress is, hands down, the best platform/content management system to use, whether Wordpress.com or Wordpress.org. That said, my blog is currently hosted on Blogger.com and I'm very happy with my choice. I've had good integration with search engines, which isn't surprising since Google owns Blogger. And Blogger is not only free to use but free of ads; you can choose to monetize your site and, if you do, you keep 100% of the proceeds. That said, many folks have had good experiences with Wordpress.com, which is also free, although you do have to pay if you'd like the site advertisement-free and if you'd like to use your own domain name.
To complicate matters, Wordpress.org and Wordpress.com are two different sites, each offering their own version of the same content management system (CMS). You can download the Wordpress CMS from Wordpress.org for free, but you have to host it on your own hosting site and install it yourself, or get someone to do it for you. If that seems daunting, you might be better off going with Wordpress.com, which is like Blogger in that you can easily and quickly get your website up and running. Also, for a reasonable fee, Wordpress.com will help you move your blog to your own hosting site, if you decide to do that in the future.
Another blogging platform is Tumbler. Like Wordpress.com and Blogger.com, Tumbler does not require a newbie to invest any money up-front. I don't currently have a Tumbler blog, but I've been meaning to start one just to see what it's all about. I've heard that it's a cross between Twitter and a traditional blog, so folks can make shorter blog posts more frequently. Also, it makes it easy to share photographs, audio files, and so on. (Update: I've created a tumblr blog, and had fun doing it!)
Other blogging platforms are MovableType, SquareSpace (not free), Posterous Spaces (free), Joomla! (free, but you need a hosting site). I'm sure there are many more blogging platforms out there, but these are the ones I've come across most often.
For anyone interested in reading a more in-depth article about the different blogging platforms, take a look at, Five Best Blogging Platforms, by Lifehacker.
Choose A Topic
If you already know what you're going to blog about, great! If not, keep in mind that you'll want to choose something that you will be interested enough in to blog about for, possibly, years to come. If you are thinking about becoming a professional blogger, the situation becomes more complex and I'll leave that for another blog post.
Choose A Name
The agony! Nothing about starting a blog is harder than choosing a name. I don't know why it's so hard, but it has always taken me ages to decide on a blog name. (You may be wondering what could be so agonizing about using my name as the title of my blog; okay, this blog was the exception!).
A good blog name is short, unique and witty. Keep in mind that you'll likely want to create a Twitter account using your blog name, or parts of it, and a Twitter user name can be no more than 15 characters long.
Register Your Domain Name
After you've chosen a name, quick! Register it. Although I don't use it for this blog, I've had a hosting account at 1and1.com since 2000 and I couldn't be happier. Also, and more to the point since we're talking about domain names, 1and1 sells .com and .net domain names for $10.00 a year. (And, no, I'm not part of 1and1's affiliate program, so I won't benefit if any of you sign up.)
If you're looking for a hosting site, I've already mentioned 1and1, but I've also heard good things about BlueHost and WebHostingHub. Additionally, Wordpress.org has a page of recommended hosts: WordPress Web Hosting.
Web Design and The Absence of Ugliness
When you first start a blog you might not want to spend money to hire a designer. It may sound odd, but one thing I keep in mind when I design something is that I don't want it to look ugly. To me that means I strive for simplicity. That may sound underwhelming, but it has served me well in the past. Ultimately, though, I think the best advice is to do what works for you, what expresses your unique personality.
You don't have to post every day, or even every week, but if you want to build up an audience you do have to post regularly. Even if you only post once a month, make sure that you post at the same time each month.
As I write this I'm reminded I stopped blogging for a few months due to the illness and eventual passing of my father. So, like all advice, take this with a grain of salt. A blog shouldn't be a ball and chain. Some bloggers are up-front about not having a blogging schedule. They blog whenever they are inspired to do so, and that seems to work out well for them. Perhaps the important thing is to be up-front with your readers about your schedule, even the absence of one.
Above all: Write!
Being a blogger is another way of being an author, a writer. Most folks have heard about the 10,000 hour rule, that to be successful in any field takes about 10,000 hours of practice. Well, blogging is excellent practice! The more you write, the better you'll be at it.
Some folks I've talked to don't want to put up anything on their blogs because they're worried that future agents or editors will come by, see their flawed early efforts, and judge them unworthy of attention. Of course this could happen but, personally, I think that most folks would be forgiving of the occasional typo or grammatical gaffe.
At least, one can hope!
Now I have to practice what I preach and work on part 4 of my Starburst Writing Method series.
Thanks for reading!