Many writers and “normal” folk want to blog, but don’t know where to start. These tips for new bloggers range from choosing a web host to troubleshooting blog blips and crashes.
“Great blog content comes from craft, care, and attention. Not talent.” ~ Sonia Simone.
If you’re worried that you’re not a talented blogger, you can rest easy. But you still have to take care of your blog if you want to be a good blogger. And making money is a whole ‘nother ballgame, which I’ll discuss below.
In How I Became a Blogger, I share what made me want to blog and how my journey unfolded. One of the first things I learned is that I needed to be on WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. Why? Because “As a blogger, you want some control over the layout and design of your site so you can jump on opportunities to do low-level changes.” ~ Steve Pavlina. Below, I explain what he means…
How to Start Your Blog
Steve Pavlina is one of the most successful personal development bloggers on the internet; he started his journey towards personal growth when he was sitting in jail many years ago. Now, he attracts more than two million visitors to his website every month and earns hundreds of thousands of dollars blogging. Plus, he inspires people to live consciously and courageously. If you want to blog, you should check him – and his books – out. He wrote Personal Development for Smart People: The Conscious Pursuit of Personal Growth.
Pavlina rises to the top of these tips, including the very first one…
Avoid a free or hosted service (Blogspot or WordPress.com)
Blogger, WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org), and Tumblr are examples of hosted blogging platforms – which means they’re free. But, free isn’t necessarily better! About free platforms, Pavlina says: “You don’t get enough control. If you don’t have your own URL, you’re tying yourself to a service you don’t own and building up someone else’s asset. You want to build page rank and links for your own URL, not someone else’s.
If you want to blog, don’t use a completely free service. Instead, go with WordPress.org and buy your own domain name through an accredited domain name registrar. This gives you your own URL, which is one of the first steps to building a unique blog and focus. For instance, my domain name is http://theadventurouswriter.com/ and all my blogs posts contain that name – or “brand” – in the URL. I’ve tried Blogger, WordPress.com, and WordPress.org; my favorite is WordPress.org. It requires hiring your own web host, but allows you to run ads (WordPress.com and Blogger are free services, and allow no or minimal advertising).
Find the right web host provider
A free software service like WordPress.com or Blogger hosts your files for you. WordPress.org, on the other hand, stores all your blog files in a separate space – which you have control over. If you go with WordPress.org, you’ll need to hire a hosting service such as Host Gator, BlueHost, Yahoo Hosting, etc. – there are dozens to choose from! If you want to blog but don’t know where to start, search for “the best web hosting plan.”
If you’re starting a new blog – or if your blog doesn’t have lots of script, podcasts, high resolution photos, etc – then you’d probably be fine with shared hosting (many blogs share one server, making it less expensive for everyone). When I first started blogging, I paid $5 a month for shared hosting on Host Gator, and it was worth every penny. But, after my blogs started receiving more than 50,000 page views a day, I realized I needed more server space. I recently moved to my own host on Host Gator (a VPS or Virtual Private Server), which is more expensive but gives me more control.
For more tips on choosing a web host, read What’s the Best Web Host Provider for Your Blog? How to Choose.
Find the right theme: fast, clean, and SEO friendly…and free?
The theme is your blog’s design, or how it looks. You need to love your theme because if you want to blog, you’ll be looking at it almost every day! It should load quickly, run smoothly, and be simple and well laid-out. You can choose from hundreds of free themes for WordPress.org; three of my seven themes were free and I bought four from Solostream. If you buy a theme from a professional programmer or designer, he or she may be available for tweaks. And, many theme creators have a forum or even a comments section on their blogs to help with problems. Free themes can also be excellent, but most require some tweaking to make it more “yours.”
If you want to blog, you need to know that some search engine optimization (SEO) experts say some themes are coded to optimize SEO. I’ve never bought a theme with that in mind; regardless, many of my blog posts are on Google’s front page of search results (which indicates strong SEO). So, I’m not convinced a SEO optimized theme matters. I think other factors are more important.
Create a simple, clean, and uncluttered blog
Keep your text basic and a decent size (Verdana, for example, or Arial, 11 or 12 point). Avoid a black or dark blue screen with white text – but make sure there is some contrast between text and background (black text on a white background is simple and effective). Keep your background plain to minimize distractions – for example, avoid a hot pink backdrop with scrolling photos!
If you want to blog, here’s a good tip: don’t install dozens of pictures, videos, or links, as it could slow the time it takes to load your blog. If you want to provide pictures, video files, audio files, or .pdf files, offer them as links that the reader can choose to open.
Expect your blog to break – but don’t fear or fret!
Sometimes ugly code appears in the header or footer of your blog (scary but usually harmless). Sometimes links or plugins don’t work. Sometimes your blog is completely inaccessible (such as the dreaded “Page Not Found – 404 Error”). Sometimes the comments section doesn’t work, the plugins don’t play well together, the theme is all messed up. These things happen to all bloggers!
If you purchased a theme, then your theme creator may help you smooth the snags that occur within the theme itself. If it’s not a theme problem, contact your web host provider (Host Gator, for instance, has a quick and effective chat line, or you can call and talk to a techie almost immediately). If it’s a plugin problem, contact the plugin creator or go to the WordPress.org forum. And, don’t forget about Google: I’ve solved dozens of blog problems simply by searching Google.
If you want to blog, remember that every bad thing that happens is an opportunity for you to learn more about your blog. For more tips, read How to Get Help With Blog Problems, Blips, and Crashes.
What do you think – do you want to blog, but don’t know where to start? Comments welcome below…
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