Thinking of starting a blog? Here are some things to think about….
I’ve been blogging for over four years now and although I’m not an expert on the subject (it’s an ongoing learning process), I get asked a lot of questions from people wanting to start a blog of their own so I thought I would share my tips on things to consider before starting up as a blogger.
Choosing a blog name – First up, and most importantly in my opinion, is deciding what your blog name should be. This is something that I made a big mistake with and I really wish I had spent longer than five seconds choosing my first one as I ended up HATING it. It is possible to change at a later date, I did it about 18 months ago, but it can complicate things with redirects and broken links, it’s basically a lot of work to switch over and would have been so much simpler to keep the same name.
Things to consider are whether you really want ‘mum / mummy’ in it. When I started blogging I was a new mum and that was the only thing I wrote about but over time it became less what I was writing about and going into the future will become less and less relevant, hence why I wanted something that didn’t give people the impression that I would only be writing about nappies and tantrums. Another thing to think about is whether it will work if you have any more children. Cherry was a few months old when I started blogging and having another baby definitely wasn’t on my to do list but roll on 18 months and I was pregnant again with a blog name that only made reference to one child.
The length of it is another thing to consider, especially when it comes to social media. How will you shorten it into a Twitter handle? It might also be worth checking that the name is free across all the social media platforms as it can make things a bit complicated otherwise.
Starting a blog: What platform should I choose?
I set my blog up on one of the free platforms to start with as I didn’t want to be paying out any money at the time and given that I’d never had a hobby for longer than a week I wasn’t sure this would be any different. I chose WordPress but the other option is Blogger, people are split into two camps when it comes to choosing between the two and although I opted for WordPress I do think there are advantages to choosing Blogger, the main one being that it’s owned by Google. I’m not sure if that makes any difference but it makes sense that they would send traffic to their own sites.
The downside to these platforms is that you will end up with a URL that ends with either .wordpress.com or .blogger.com. This can be changed by buying a vanity URL, which means your blog will still be hosted on either WordPress or Blogger but you can hide those words from your web address. WordPress doesn’t allow you to earn money through your blog so if you are eventually wanting to monetize it then it’s probably better to look at other options.
Deciding whether to self-host your website…
I switched my blog to self-hosted after about a year as I knew by then that blogging wasn’t something I would be giving up anytime soon and wanted to take things to the next level, plus I didn’t like the idea that someone else effectively owned my blog. It sounds a bit scary and overwhelming but it isn’t that hard at all. The first thing you need to do is find a webhost, there are lots of these and if you speak to people then you will hear negative stories about all of them but I’m with Tsohost and haven’t had any problems. I switched hosts a few months ago and I’m now paying £4.99 a month to host a few websites which is half what I was paying before.
I use WordPress.org for all my websites, it’s the self-hosted version of their hosting platform and you need to install the software on your blog which is simple to do but a lot of hosts will do it for you.
There are a few other options out there, one of which is Squarespace. They host your website and allow you to build and customise it, their themes are gorgeous and I did look at switching once but I’m a bit too used to WordPress and all their plugins.
NOTE – When buying a domain name your details, including your address, will be added to the WHO.IS directory. This is public so anyone can look you up and find it. If you don’t want this to happen then you need to opt out but if you are planning to earn money through your blog then you will need to give some form of address whether it be your office address or a PO BOX.
My blog design has changed A LOT over the years. It used to look terrible!! If you aren’t able to design a logo or header then the simplest thing to do is just find a font you like and write your blog name with it, that’s what I’ve done. After a while if you start earning some money from your blog you could look at paying someone to design you a header.
Something which I’ve really struggled with is finding themes, I found all the free ones wouldn’t do what I wanted so I ended up buying lots of premium ones which weren’t right either. I am now using two themes that I’m really happy with and I found them both on themeforest under the magazine category. I’ve bought a few from there and have been really happy with them after installing, they haven’t resulted in me having to go in and edit any CSS either which is a bonus. Overtime you will have a list of things you want from your blog theme and it makes it easier to choose one that will be right for you.
Plugins – These are one of the things I love about self-hosted WordPress, no matter what you need to do there is usually a plugin for it. Google Analytics, social media icons, Instagram, Pin It buttons, the list goes on. Just be careful not to go overboard and use too many as it can slow down the loading speed of your site.
The technical side…
If you want your blog to rank in Google then you need to think about the technical side of things such as how to optimise your blog posts. For years I didn’t bother with this as I found it so boring but now I’m trying to make an effort as depending on what you want to achieve from your blog it can be important. Obviously if you are just blogging because you want to write then carry on but if you want to improve your stats or take things further at some point then reading up on SEO is necessary. I have been using Google Adwords for the last few months, you can type in the topic you are writing about and it will tell you how many people search for it in Google each month. It’s just a helpful indication of whether you will get much Google traffic for that post or not. You can find out how to use it here.
Deciding what to write about – Whatever you choose to put on your blog could effectively be found forever even if you delete it so it’s a good idea to think carefully about what it is you want to say. I cringe when I read back through my first year of blog posts and in fact I have been through and deleted some of them. Some things to think about are whether you want to express strong opinions or not. For instance, if you wrote about a controversial topic that you have a very strong opinion on then you run the risk of people disagreeing with you and never coming back to your blog but on the flip side if you don’t ever voice any opinions then you might come across as trying to keep everyone happy and it will be hard for people to really get to know the real you.
I have chosen to blog about a couple of topics that could stop people from reading but as I feel so strongly about them I’m happy to take the risk. Firstly breastfeeding and secondly is our decision to home educate. Both of these are topics that divide opinion and some people might be instantly put off but they were / are a big part of my life so I couldn’t not write about them. Plus just because they were right for us doesn’t mean I think they are right for everyone so as long as I make people aware of that I hope they wouldn’t be too put off to return!
At the end of the day it’s impossible to please all the people all of the time and it is your space on the internet to do with as you please but I think it’s good to be aware of how you will be portrayed by people reading. For me, I try to come across on my blog in the same way I do in real life. My overuse of exclamation marks makes it look like I’m a bit over-excited but in real life I do talk quite fast, laugh a lot and my voice is reasonably high-pitched so I feel like it represents me quite well.
When it comes to blogging about your children I think it’s a good idea to sit down with your partner and make sure you are on the same page. Mr C isn’t comfortable with me using photos of the kids faces and doesn’t want me to write about their personalities either, I have to say to start with I didn’t agree but I am used to it now and respect his opinion. It was really only the last year or two that we came to this decision, before that when they were babies it wasn’t so much of an issue.
Also decide whether you want to use their real names or not, we did to start with but after changing my blog name I stopped and had to go back through and edit all my posts, making the decision at the start would have been much easier!
I hope this has been helpful to anyone thinking about starting a blog. They are the things that I wish I had known when I started.