So, maybe you have that blog idea (or maybe not) and you’re ready to start a blog. Now what? As promised, I am embarking on the task to write about how to know when you’re ready to start a blog/how to know what you ought to blog about/how to name your blog/etc. So, here goes, in seven steps (because all good processes take seven steps):
1. Read blogs. Maybe it seems obvious, and you’re probably already reading blogs, or else you wouldn’t be reading this sentence! (At this moment, I feel kinda like an author who names the first chapter of her book “Read Books.”) But there’s a little bit more to be intentional about in reading blogs if you yourself are planning to start a blog.
Take note of what kind of blogs you gravitate towards. Bookmark your favorites. There’s a good chance that if you always find yourself reading blogs that focus on travel photography, that you may want to start a blog about travel photography. That’s not always true, of course. I may enjoy reading all those blogs by moms with gardens who live out in the middle of nowhere and wear dresses every day (I really do believe that’s a genre in the blogging world.), but (a) I’m not a mom, (b) I don’t have a garden, (c) Well, okay, I do kinda live in the middle of nowhere, but (d) I only own one or two dresses, none of which look good with tennis shoes. Even if you don’t think you could write a blog on the subjects you tend to read about, bookmarking the ones you really enjoy will help you in future steps.
2. Write test blog posts. This is possibly the MOST important pre-blog step, and notice it is pre-blog. I strongly suggest that before you ever choose a domain name for a blog or post your first post that you write a few test blog posts. Type them up in a Word document so that they are as ready as if you were about to publish them on to a blog.
What should they be about? Anything! Don’t limit yourself. You could possibly look back at some blogs you liked for inspiration, or some topic in the news, or something you recently read or heard that you really liked. Just write about something that you believe you would really blog about. The number of test blog posts isn’t set in stone. I believe five might be a good number, but how many ever you choose to write, you’ll want to have enough material to help you out for step #3.
3. Analyze that. Finding out what kind of blogs you like, bookmarking them, and then writing some of your own test posts allow you to have a body of resources to refer back to when you start considering what kind of subject, format, and style you’d like to have for your blog.
After bookmarking blogs for a week or so and then writing your determined number of test posts, look back at the blogs. What kind of similarities do they have? You might ask some of these questions:
What are these posts about (subject matter)?
Do they have a similar genre?
Are posts one short paragraph, or the size of a novella?
Is the format fairly simple, or more complex?
Are there lots of pictures, or is there more of a focus on the text?
Do the posts tend to be more light-hearted, or more philosophical?
Is it fiction, or non-fiction?
What’s the purpose? To entertain, teach, criticize, tell jokes?
Once you see similarities of this nature in the posts you enjoy reading and writing, you may be able to tell what kind of blog you’d like to write. This is a question of subject matter, style, and genre.
As you may be able to tell from the title of this post, this is a continuation from an earlier post. As promised, I am embarking on the task to write advice on how to know when you’re ready to start a blog/how to know what you ought to blog about/how to name your blog/etc. Although the first post was only published yesterday, I must admit that I have in some small ways put off writing part 2 (in other words, I came up with 100 ideas for posts that would enable me to avoid writing the rest of this entry) because this is such a daunting task, no? But make sure you’ve read part 1, and here we go . . .
4. Narrow it down. Step 3 was to analyze the kind of blogs you enjoy reading and the kind of test posts you write (for the blog that doesn’t exist quite yet). Now, step 4 is the big dog. You have to take what you’ve learned about yourself and narrow it down to a concept for a blog, which I believe consists of two things: subject matter and style, or personality. I can’t overemphasize the connection between subject matter and style/personality at this point.
Subject matter is the meat of the message. What’s the actual topic of the blog going to be? Sports? Teaching? Learning a language? Your collection of fanfiction pieces? Your daily experiences working at an aquarium?
Style, or what I like to call personality, is the way you approach your subject matter. One way to find out what kind of personality you’d like to have for your blog is to ask, “What’s the purpose of my blog?” and “What do I hope my readers feel about my subject?” Are you hoping they’ll laugh about your daily attempts to feed a tank full of sword fish? Or would you rather they were wiping tears from their eyes after reading your alternate ending to The Notebook? It’s more than okay if your blog elicits different reactions at different times, but it will still be very helpful for you to kinda choose a niche so that readers know what to expect. (This also helps with choosing a blog name.)
So this is the moment of truth! This is when you just gotta do it! You gotta narrow down your subject matter and style. You have to make a choice of what your blog is gonna be like! You can do it.
(As a brief intermission of inspirational quoting, I’d like to remind you of something you’ve probably heard at some point in your life in the context of choosing a career or a spouse: choose the one you can’t live without. Do the work you can’t not do. Marry the person you can’t not be with for the rest of your life. I know those are kinda major life decisions, so how can I even draw a comparison? But I truly believe that a good blog does become part of your life, helps you make sense of things, follows your life. Of course, divorcing a blog is not as big of a deal, so don’t take this analogy in the opposite direction and convince yourself that you can never make a blogging commitment. The point is, blog about what you can’t NOT blog about.)
5. Pick a name. Take a deep breath. All the hard work is behind you. The good news is that your blog name depends very much on your subject and style, so the decisions you’ve already made will make this smooth sailing.
Simplicity is key. Try to keep the blog name easy to remember and related to what the blog is actually about. You can get fun and creative or go with something straightforward. The possibilities are endless.
Just one of many great examples is Themiddlestsister.com. This blog is a web-comic written and illustrated by the blogger and based on her memories of growing up with sisters. She’s one of five siblings, thus, the “middlest.”
6. Land somewhere. I probably don’t have to tell you that there are zillions of options when it comes to blogging websites! So how do you know where to land?
- WordPress – My blogging experience is largely limited to WordPress. But that leads me to option #1. There’s a reason I chose WordPress, and if you’re reading most of the Best Blogging Platforms lists, then you’ll see that it’s always on or near the very top. You don’t have to be an Internet genius to set up camp here because of all the great templates and easy-to-use features, but you can still personalize and customize if you wish. If you want your own domain name (i.e. minus the wordpress.com part in the address), you can have it for just over $15 a year.
- Blogger – Okay, it’s owned by Google, it’s user-friendly for the most part, and even though one drawback is the small number of templates available, you can link your blog with AdSense and make money when readers click on ads you’ve approved.
- Others and Microblogs – MovableType, Xanga, Twitter, Weebly, Blogsome
So, this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but I tried to include some of the most reputable platforms that offer free blogging accounts. As always, do your research and see which formats seem to fit you (This might be another time to go back and look at all those blogs you bookmarked earlier.). For example, Weebly is much more complex, which the techies might enjoy, but if you were looking for somewhere to type up and publish quickly and without much behind-the-scenes work, then WordPress would probably be more up your alley.
7. Blog. Oh, finally. Step 7 is here. Our journey is complete. Well, sorta. See, step 7 is an ongoing step. This is the part where you simply do your thing – blog. You have your subject and style, your blog name, your blogging community, everything. So start blogging!
Very early in my blogging days, I read some advice that has stuck with me and helped me figure out this blogging thing. First of all, blog about what you enjoy and love (If necessary, go back and read our step 4 for more on this topic.). If you discover that you really don’t want to keep blogging about your four pet hippopotamuses, don’t feel bad about changing the direction of your blog, somehow expanding what it addresses, or starting from scratch with the blog idea. If you don’t enjoy blogging, people probably won’t enjoy reading your blog either.
Secondly, be consistent. It may take some practice at first to be consistent with your blogging. It is, in a sense, a new commitment. How often you blog does depend a lot on the nature of the blog (For example, a news blog might be updated multiple times a day.). Being consistent is important for many reasons. It keeps you writing, and it helps your readers know what to expect. Some bloggers plan out that they will blog every Monday and Wednesday. Your schedule doesn’t have to be that concrete, but if you’re blogging at least 2-3 times per week, then you’ll avoid the most horrific situation of readers stopping by, only to see the old post they’ve seen the last four times they visited.
In closing, blogging is a product, but it’s also a process. I can guarantee that you’ll grow and change and so will your blog. That’s actually one of the beauties of blogs, that they reflect us and help us see our lives in a different way. I wish you the best in your blogging endeavors. My dear readers, blog on!