One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is ‘how did you start blogging?’. This question can entail anything from the logistics – in terms of what platform did I choose and why – to the ever-elusive and impossible to answer, ‘how did you start to get noticed?’. To save my lil’ fingers the time of repeating the same responses, I’ve decided to pull together a few posts on Blogging Basics, from how to get started to how to nail your Instagram game. Up this week – ‘The Very Basics’!
- DECIDE ON A NAME: If you plan on blogging for a while, choose your name wisely. It will likely stick with you throughout your blogging career (unless you have a re-brand, that is), and the last thing you want is to be marketing a professional platform with a wholly unprofessional name. Anything with numbers stuck on the end is, in my opinion, a no-no, and try and stay away from anything referencing celebrities or fads that are likely to go out of fashion. My name came from the nickname I was given in primary school; I have an older brother who was referred to as ‘Plum’, and being the younger sister, I by default became ‘Little Plum’ (probably didn’t help that I was about 2ft tall either). Because the name has sentimental meaning to me I never get sick of seeing it (and trust me, your blog name becomes your identity). Choose something simple and personal, and if all else fails, just go with your name.
- CHOOSE YOUR PLATFORM: The main blogging platforms are Blogger and WordPress. They each have their advantages and disadvantages, so do your research and see which is best for you. I use Blogger because I had experience working with it before and felt I knew how to manipulate the platform and features even on a basic level, but WordPress has much greater SEO* capabilities so I’m considering migrating in the near future (*Search Engine Optimisation – there are lots of posts about this and why it is so important, but I recommend everything written by Charlotte Lewis from Lurchhoundloves).
- SELECT A DESIGN: Once you’ve decided on which platform is best for you, you need to put together or source a layout. When I started blogging I just customised the free ‘Simple’ layout available on Blogger, using Google and help from other bloggers to small pieces of code and design tech. This is free, and can teach you some really valuable nuggets of knowledge when it comes to understanding the very basics of how your blog works. Alternatively, you can buy a layout and install it yourself/have it installed for you. Etsy is a great source for this – just search “responsive* Blogger template” or “responsive* WordPress template” to find the best (responsive means the layout will adapt to mobile viewing when viewed on a mobile device like a phone or tablet, which is essential for SEO rankings). Pipdig layouts are also extremely popular with bloggers, and I recently jumped on the bandwagon and bought one for myself. You’ll most likely need to design a header for the top of your blog as well – the dimensions I’ve used for my header are 850px x 150px (or thereabouts). You can make your header on Photoshop, or you can pay a small fee to have someone design one for you (if you’re stuck, just give me a shout and I can pull something together myself or point you in the right direction!).
- UPLOAD, UPLOAD, UPLOAD: Now you have your blog set up, try and upload a small bulk of content (I’m talking 3 or 4 posts, don’t worry!). By having more than one post live on your blog it makes the site look more reputable, and also gives readers more of a reason to stick around and explore your other content. Don’t worry, your posts won’t go ignored just because they aren’t top of the page – be sure to push them all separately on social media with individual page links, and they’ll still garner coverage. Take some time to put together quality content and give your homepage enough to be looked at.
- GET YOUR SOCIALS IN CHECK: Social media is invaluable when it comes to blogging. Do not underestimate its importance – it’s definitely the biggest driving force behind TLP. Make sure you’ve signed up to the big boys (Instagram and Twitter), and consider setting up your own Facebook page and Pinterest (although realistically these are less important). Follow all of your fave bloggers and sources of inspo, but more importantly follow other bloggers who are now starting up; here you will find a wealth of support and make the friends that will follow you throughout your blogging journey. You’ll probably end up going to events with them and working alongside them in the future, so it’s worth making the most of these friendships as soon as possible! Love and support are essential.
- SCHEDULE, SCHEDULE, SCHEDULE: This is something that I still forget to do and is certainly an ongoing task for the entirety of your blogging career. It’s definitely worth mentioning however, as it can make a world of difference to not only your organisation and time, but how you use social media as a platform. Sign up to Sprout Social or Hootsuire and schedule your social posts for the following week, including images and links to blog posts/other social platforms. I like to hit what I believe are the peak times for my audience at 7-8am (everybody is up for work), 12:30-1:30pm (everybody is eating lunch) and 8-10pm (everybody is faffing around on their phones in the evening). Always use pictures where you can (in a sea of social media posts they attract the eye and so encourage more interaction) and try to include the main hashtags (#fbloggers for fashion, #bbloggers for beauty and #lbloggers for lifestyle).