So far this year the email count of people asking for tips and advice on starting a blog has been at an all time high. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to respond individually to everyone unfortunately, so hopefully a blog post on my top tips will suffice?
WordPress or Blogger? Both have their pros and cons, but I chose Blogger as it seemed to be in a format that I understood better and I (read: boyfriend) wasn’t too shabby when it comes to html, so I found the layout fairly easy to tweak. The only thing is they both have limits on how far you can tweak before you need to move to wordpress.org – I’m still pushing that limit as far as I can as I don’t ever want to switch, but more on that later. Basically just have a play with both of them and decide what one seems most straight forward on the back end.
Lifestyle, beauty, style – What’s your thing? This will switch up a lot in the first few months whilst you’re finding your feet, but it’s good to give your blog a focus so anyone who subscribes knows what they’re getting. This will affect the name you choose too and can dictate your layout to a certain extent. When I started I’d just moved over from tumblr, and I loved Mariannan’s blog and wanted to start something like hers that had a lot of lifestyle. But for a long time, due to the fact that my photography wasn’t amazing, I didn’t have much money to do things and I didn’t live in an beautiful, all white apartment, my blog steered away from that and focused more on beauty. It’s almost come back full circle in the past year and now hosts lifestyle, beauty and style posts, but 75% of the time the content is beauty. I read somewhere that 25% of your content can be what ever you want, but for consistency it’s best to have one main focus for the majority of the time.
Finding your niche: In January 2013 I decided that I wanted to pour my heart and soul into my little website and make something awesome. I focused a lot more on putting my personality into my writing and quickly realised that I liked most of my posts to be in what I call “story mode”. Ever since I was really small I loved writing stories, which is why I naturally ramble (I even see the shock on people’s faces when they meet me IRL and realise I’m a story teller). So even the beauty and style posts mainly sit in lifestyle format. I also love taking lots of photos and like them to be really bright (read: white) and pretty. Every blogger has a different way of taking photographs and writing, and it took me a long time to realise that it’s the ones that have a unique combination that are most successful. So have a think, what’s your thing? If you’re not great at writing, but you’re great on illustrator and photoshop you can focus on beautiful photo tutorials or if you don’t want to venture into youtube but love filming you could make video GIF tutorials – I’ could be shooting myself in the foot here but there’s a big gap in the market for bloggers that do this.
Choosing a name: Don’t panic over this, most bloggers I know hate their blog names. Little fact: I actually still like mine. It followed me from tumblr, is completely random and means I’m able to switch the focus of my blog should I choose to as it’s so unspecific. But pick something that you like, whether it’s something that has a ring to it or something that sums up your blog. You can always change it after a couple of days if you change your mind. But once people start following you it’s best to keep it consistent. Oh and check no one else already has the blog name before you slap it all over your header and url!
Branding: After choosing your name it’s time to put it onto a header and get your blog layout up and running. This is the bit which will either suck you in or have you running for the hills. When I started H.O I was a marketing/graphics assistant, guess which camp I sit in? From the start I was determined that my header font should match all sidebar and button font as well as everything on my YT channel and email signature – nothing like bringing work home with you? Although you’ll probably change your background and layout a few times, it’s good to keep the branding there for your readers – it sounds weird but consistency really is key. It’s also a good idea to keep your blog name, twitter, Instagram, youtube and other social media handles as similar as you can so that readers can find you easily.
Blog design: When you’re starting out less is most definitely more, even once you start making small changes to the html it’s best to keep it simple and not be too hard on yourself. You don’t need to have fancy buttons or drop down menus to direct people to your other social media platforms – although it is important to have these – you can simply use text links in your side bar. No one expects your blog to look like a professional, dynamic website in the first place. But if that’s something you do want Blogger has lots of themes for more swish looking blogs in the Dynamic section – they’re my favourite and I actually wish I’d started off with one of those templates. I chose the template that is literally called “Simple” and worked from there by changing the HTML.
What the hell is HTML? Don’t ask me for the techie answer to this, that’s the OH’s remit, but HTML is basically the code you use to make changes to your website/blog/tumblr. Each blogging platform you use will have more complex html – for me Tumblr is a breeze, but most parts of Blogger html still baffle me. It’s important to remember that very few people actually know how to make the changes they have. They’ve just googled it. So if there’s something you want to change, try searching something like this “removing the photo boarder in the blogger Simple template” – one that I personally have googled in the past! If making changes yourself really has you heading for the hills, there are lots of Etsy sellers who will talk you through installing any of the lovely layouts you purchase from them. If you do make an changes it’s SO important to copy your code out and into a word document first, just incase you make any mistakes, you can then copy your code in again and it’s like it never happened.
Content: So everything’s all set up, now you need to put something out there. If someone comes across your site they’ll be far more inclined to check back if they can see that a) there’s a fair bit of good content and b) it’s being updated regularly. Back in 2011 I used to post twice a week, on specific days, I couldn’t have posted every day as I didn’t really have enough to write about and that’s okay. No one will expect you to start churning out blog posts every day from the start, but if you keep it consistent and tell people when to check back, you’ll gain regular readers. If you have a job then it’s best to prepare a few posts at the weekend and schedule them. If you’re at school then it’s a good idea to take advantage of your school holidays and build up a bigger pool of posts to schedule out incase you have lots of homework in the evenings/weekends. Take your time with your first posts and make sure you’re proud of them – people will be able to tell if a post has had love poured into it rather than being put together in a rush.
Now how do I get people to read my blog? We’ve all been there somewhere at some point with 0 followers. Drawing in new readers is really difficult and you do need to be fairly careful about how you do it – otherwise you could have the opposite effect. I personally am a massive advocate of letting your blog grow organically. I’ve never targeted people and asked them to follow me, nor advertised anywhere and I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved through growing my little space by word of mouth. My tips would be to get involved in the blogging community, make friends, enjoy meeting new people and forget about the numbers. Sods law, once you do things will take off. But there really is the opportunity to meet so many like minded people when you start blogging. Follow all your favourites and then some new bloggers you don’t really know. Get involved in conversations, be friendly and helpful and keep the tone positive. Yes, having more followers than you could count is cool, but I’ve made friends through blogging who are so much more valuable than any number.
TLDR: Keep consistent and keep at it. Lot’s of people give up because there isn’t a noticeable amount of growth early on. But it’s a good idea to keep in mind that readers will want to see that you’re in it for the long haul and that you’re not going to post great content for a month and then suddenly stop. Once you’ve been around a while things will pick up. Just keep at it and most of all, love what you do and what you create.