Revised October 25, 2020
You know you need a blog but you’re not even sure how to start. Should you go with a free platform or buy a domain and hosting? I recommend getting your own domain name, hosting, and using WordPress. There are a lot of questions. Here are some answers.
In my view, there are two aspects of blogging: the writing and the technical.
What if I have nothing to say?
We know that one of the keys to being social is content. Too many people, including myself, think there’s nothing more to be said. Here’s an excerpt from that post.
Have you ever thought to yourself that everything meaningful has already been said? Maybe it has. I’m sure there is another blogging series or posts that are better than this one. But this is my creation and the words come out in my voice.
Believe me, you, too, have ideas. You have your own style. You have a voice. You can add value to the world. Are you worried you’ll just state the obvious? Maybe the obvious isn’t that obvious.
“Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them. Maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else.” Derek Sivers
You just have to do it. This is what all of my friends tell me. I tend to write in binges, much like everything else in my life.
Carol Stephen recommends using a timer:
“Yes, you can write in small increments. Yes, it will help your startup. Back when I started to exercise, I gave myself an out whenever I went to the gym. If I didn’t feel better after 15 minutes, I allowed myself to leave. During many years of exercising, I’ve only left twice. So set that timer for 15 minutes and get going! You can do it!”
Tips for Amping Up Your Writing
Get a blogging buddy
Carol Stephen is mine and she writes about it here. Some people need gym buddies, I need a blogging buddy. We brainstorm, she asks me about my drafts (in a very nice way but I know she’s like – why haven’t you clicked publish yet?), and otherwise toss around crazy ideas.
Catch Your Ideas
I write my ideas in notes on my iPhone. I can add to it later and copy and paste elsewhere. You may want a paper and pen. Whatever works for you is what works. Period. If the technology hinders the writing, it’s not helpful.
Compose In Plain Text
Formatting uses a different part of the brain. Formatting is about space and art and writing is different. If you focus on formatting you will write differently. Some people call this distraction-free writing. Every computer has a plain text editor — even your phone does. I prefer to use Google Docs to compose for clients. I also use Hemingway to check for readability. For myself, I write directly in my WordPress editor.
Proofreading is Your Best Friend
Proofread by reading your post backward and out loud. Spell check doesn’t catch grammar issues, double words, or something that doesn’t make sense. Trust your ears. Often, I read it to my husband. If I’m writing something technical, I may have him read it to make sure I’m communicating with “the regular Joe.”
Many of my friends recommend building up a backlog of posts so they can be more evenly or regularly published. Clearly, I don’t do that. But you may want to follow their advice.
What Is A Blog Post?
A blog post is an article on your blog. Blog is short for web log. Think of a ship captain writing a log. This is a log for your website.
A blog post is not an essay or thesis paper. Google may like 2,000 word posts, but will your audience? Will writing 300 to 500 words be easier for you? I find 750 words to be my sweet spot.
A good blog post educates. Inform and ask for a response. Solve a problem. Use humor (what not to do).
Just start. Make some short, some long. Do what feels good for you. You’ll get a sense of who your audience is and what the length tolerance target should be.
Find at least one photo for each post because it looks better. It should be 1200 x 628 pixels but don’t get overwhelmed. I usually take my own photos and use Canva for the graphics.
Easy. But I have also used photos from a Creative Commons Flickr search. Don’t steal images. You could really get yourself in some serious legal trouble. Training yourself to look for shots that might be good for blog posts also sparks ideas. Win-Win.
What Do You Need to Blog?
You’ll need a computer and an internet connection for sure. You can’t always choose your provider but Consumer Advocate analyzed the best by region in the US. They chose AT&T for my current area and I love the Fiber connection. It’s also significantly cheaper in Texas as opposed to California.
Some blog platforms allow you to write or edit mobile phone or tablet (like Medium) but that can be really frustrating. You can get a Chromebook for a very good price (not an affiliate link) on Amazon.
My SEO friends Pam Aungst and Oscar Gonzalez say your blog should be on your own website (domain name). If you don’t have a website, you can buy a domain and hosting for reasonable prices. I am using NameCheap for domain names and Pressable for hosting (affiliate link).
However, people don’t always have the budget for a website and hosting. Don’t let that stop you.
Think of a Name
It might be you “Bridget Willard” or your Persona “You, too, Can Be a Guru.” Think of a tagline, graphics, and/or photos that will represent your new brand.
All of this can be changed, but in order to get a username, blog name, and/or domain name. Create a list of choices because the first or second choices may be taken already.
Find a Blogging Platform
I started with wordpress.com. I had my blog there from 2011 until April of 2015. It’s free and easy. Create a username, blog name, choose a theme, and publish. There are other blogging services but I’m not a fan of them all.
Start an Editorial Calendar
Most content marketing experts suggest having some kind of idea of what you will post and how often. Google Sheets is just fine. I also block out time for writing on Fridays.. Co-schedule is another popular option, too. I’m not a fan.
Grab a pice of paper. Write down some ideas. Choose a publishing day (Tuesday, for example). Plot them on a paper calendar. The holidays may inspire your posts. For example, if you are a home economics major you may have an idea for “Valentine decorations.” That would be perfect the first week of February and a “Valentine Breakfast” menu for the second. Holidays can give you a lot of idea fodder. It’s okay to exploit that. I mean, that’s half of Pinterest’s pins.
Learn Basic HTML
You may want to take a class or go through the tutorial at w3schools.com. This will help you overcome the fear of the tiny bit of code required for blogging (links, images, etc.).
Just do it!
No one can do it for you. Well, you can hire people. But you know what I mean.
Purchase and download my content planner to help get your blog and social coordinated.