1. Choosing a Platform – Blogger vs. WordPress
Before you actually get into the fun stuff of writing blog posts and taking photos, you need to make a few decisions, the first one, in my opinion, being choosing between Blogger and self-hosted WordPress. There are obviously other options, but to me, these two are the best and most frequently used ones.
I would always suggest going for a Blogspot on blogger when you are just starting out. It’s easy to set up and has everything you need for a great blog from the get-go. Most importantly because blogger hosts it for you, you don’t have to pay any setup costs or hosting which is great if you don’t want to spend any money to start your blog. You can also still get the look of a self-hosted site even with blogger buy buying (usually for a pretty low price) your domain name and then integrating it into your site so instead of it saying, for example, blufashion.blogspot.com it would say blufashion.com which to me always looks more professional. Here is a great tutorial to help help you set up your domain name with blogger. I always buy my domain names from Godaddy, but there are loads of different places to purchase from. Follow this easy step for step guide to starting your blogger blog now.
The second option is a self-hosted WordPress site which is what I have at the moment. This takes a little bit of knowledge of coding and design, but you do have a lot more freedom to do exactly what you want with your page. Obviously being self-hosted you will need to pay for your site every month as well as buying the domain name. I host my site with SiteGround. I wouldn’t suggest WordPress for any beginners as it takes a lot more work and effort for almost the same result as a blogger blog. This is a great article on how to set up your WordPress site quickly and easily.
2. Blog Name & Social Media – Name = Brand
After choosing your platform and you are ready to sign up and start your blog you have to choose a name. Now obviously by this time, you should know what type of blog you want to start. A food blog, fashion blog, beauty blog or an all in one lifestyle blog. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you have a clear idea of the content you want and how it will relate to your name. If you want your blog to be relevant for a long time try to choose a name that doesn’t bind itself to a certain time or period. I started Superficialgirls as a gossip site, but I was lucky enough to have chosen a name that could fit in with a whole lot of different things as well. Remember though that if you want your blog to grow your name will be very important for your brand and you need to pick something you feel good about and will stick with. I had to embrace my name even though I have gotten a bit of negativity for it.
Once you have decided on your name its time to go register all your social media accounts. It doesn’t matter if you think you might not use Twitter or Instagram or whatever else right now, go register for it anyway. You might not always feel like that, and by then someone might have taken your username which can be very frustrating and annoying. The top site I suggest registering for is Twitter, Facebook page, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest and then anything that is specific to your type of site (Chicisimo or lookbook for fashion blogs, Tastespotting for food blogs, etc.)
Having the same name with all your platforms makes your brand presence better and will make it easier for people to find and follow you.
3. Layout & Design – Keep it clean
The design of your site is always a fun part for me. You get to put your own personal touch on your blog and its fun to see it come together. If you are starting out with blogger, they have loads of pre-made layouts you can choose from. My favorite was always the minimal designs where you can rather make your posts pop. You can also buy cute ready-made layouts and package deals on site like Etsy where you can get your header, social media icons and lots more. Buying your header and icons is a great option for someone that doesn’t know a lot about design, but it might also be fun to figure it out on Photoshop or Gimp if you have the time. I always do everything myself, and there are so many good tutorials online that will show you everything step-by-step.
If you choose WordPress, you will have to either look for a free layout to upload or buy one. I bought the Canvas theme from Woothemes which is fully customizable, and I love it!
I love sites that are clean looking with lots of focus on the content. Big clear pictures are a must (all the same size) and have always had your contact page and social links where people can easily see them. Keep your ads to a minimum and have ones that relate to what you are blogging about. Stay away from flashing images and pop-ups!
4. Content & Photos
Once your design is finished its time to start blogging! There are many routes you can go, text-heavy or picture heavy, tutorials or lists it’s just endless! I obviously love lots of pretty photos, and they are my own almost 100% of the time. If you are going to focus on photos, always have them clear, and if you can invest in a good DSLR camera, it will make a world of difference. Pinterest is a great source of traffic these days, and the better your photos are the more opportunity you will have to get pinned.
If you are using other people’s photos on your posts, remember to link to the original source (not google images, Pinterest or Tumblr) That person more than likely spent a lot of time and effort on their photos and its unfair to take credit away from them.
If you focus more on content that is great as well, photos might draw someone in, but the content is great for ranking on search engines. I always find it better to be professional when writing. You can be personal or not, but to me swearing or any bad language is a big no-no.
Hope you all enjoyed this little how-to guide and I will be back with part two soon! If you have any specific questions about starting a blog, please let me know in the comments, and I will get back to you (this is a pretty basic guide, so I haven’t gone into the depth that much!)