One of the things I get asked the most is how to start a blog. This is something that many, many people want to know. Our builder, the lady I lived next door to, my second cousin’s daughter – even my mom. Those who want to start a blog for their business are curious about how it can help them get ahead online. Those who want a blog for their epic fashion ensembles / insane cake baking masterpieces / cool hobby want to know how to do it for free.
It may sound like a simple enough question, but in reality, the answer is anything but. Blogging, in itself, can be as easy as updating your social channels or sending an email, but it can also be extremely time and energy consuming. Like many other things in life, it takes a lot of commitment and dedication to growing a blog from scratch.
With that said, blogging is a fantastic tool that allows you to reach your audience, express your thoughts, promote your business in a meaningful way, and best of all, engage with readers, as you spread some internet love around the world wide webs. So it is totally worth the effort.
What is a Blog, Anyway?
Ah, I am so glad you asked. If you found yourself asking yourself (or Google) this question, you’re not alone. The term dates back to the good old days of the early 2000s when blogging began to become A Thing. Early blogs were more like online journals, or, weblogs, which logged the date and entry. This term was shortened to blogs, and that name has stuck ever since.
But, while the name remains the same, blogging itself has changed a lot over the past decade. I know this because I started my first blog way back at the beginning of 2005. Then, everything was done in HTML, WordPress was still new and shiny and most people were doing it for fun more than anything else. Back in those days, very few people had blogs. Those who did were considered somewhat geeky and formed a close-knit community that was fuelled by comments and link parties. Yes, I know those things still exist. It was just a lot smaller at first.
A blog by today’s standards is basically a website that is updated on a fairly regular basis, by one or more contributors. Think of it as a kind of citizen journalism. Corporate blogs focus on company news as well as product information and topics that are relevant to the company’s industry, while personal blogs focus on the author’s choice of topics. Fashion, food and lifestyle blogs provide content within their respective niches.
Starting a Blog
Now that you have a better idea of what a blog is, how do you go about starting one?
There are a few ways that you can get started. These will depend on your budget, the type of blog you want to start and your own preferences.
1. Free Blogs
If you are going for a free blog, Blogger and WordPress are your best options. Both have free, hosted options that are great for personal blogs. With these, your blog address will look something like ‘yourblogname.blogspot.com or yourblogname.wordpress.com’. From there, you can:
– Customise your blog using a range of free features included with each free blog platform
– Start creating basic pages, such as an about you page and/or contact page
– Start posting to your blog
2. Self-Hosted Blogs
If, on the other hand, you want a professional blog with its own domain, you will need to purchase one along with a hosting plan. Personally, here in South Africa, I use Elitehost.co.za. I have been with them since 2006 and while I am not affiliated with them in any way or being paid to mention them, I will always recommend them to my clients and friends. Once you have gotten a domain and sorted out hosting, you can:
– Install a content management or blogging platform such as WordPress (great platform for bloggers)
– Choose a nice theme for your blog or get one made for you by a designer or developer
– Use the range of widgets and featured offered by your blog platform
– Create pages and customise your blog
– Start posting to your blog
Making the first step towards becoming a blogger may seem hard at first. You will likely have your share of challenges as you learn the ropes. You may accidentally break your blog (well, I did, anyway). You may find that you don’t enjoy writing online as much as you thought you did. You may worry about finding something to say, or finding your voice. You may feel like no-one reads your posts. All of that get easier in time.
In the next instalment of this blogging tips series, I will give you some tips on starting and growing a business blog. Stay tuned for more posts coming your way soon.