New year, new blog, and today we’re going back to the basics.
Whether you’re a new blogger, a dabbler, or a seasoned pro, it is never to late too learn (or revisit) the three most important steps everyone should know about starting a blog.
STEP ONE OF CREATING ANY BLOG: Find Your Brand
A lot of How to Start a Blog Guides available list ‘designing your brand’ somewhere towards the end of their tutorial.
But I disagree with that.
Unless you just tumbled off the cliff and into the blogging pond like I did, then I am sure you have read a few such guides.
- If Luck favored you, the How to guides you have come across have been generous enough to toss out a sentence or two about this mysterious “branding” concept.
- If Luck didn’t, well, I bet you skipped right on over this crucial step because you didn’t understand the concept, and went straight onto creating your first post.
I started my first blog by signing up for a Google account, opening blogger, and faking it
until I made it. Heed my advice and don’t be like me. You do not want to have to spend half a year undoing and redoing everything you spent three years working on.
Because in the same way one cannot effectively drive a car without turning it on, you cannot effectively run a blog without creating a brand.
This is the single most important advice I can give you about blogging, and it is a concept I struggled with for years.
What Is Branding?
In a world of marketing, branding is everything to a blog.
Visually, it is the font you use, the colors you pick, and template you choose. Structurally, it is the host you pick, the name you choose, and the words you select. Emotionally, it is the atmosphere you project, and the way your audience feels when they visit your site. It is the posts you write, and the things you don’t say.
A brand is the very essence of a blog.
The first thing you need to do is decide the heart of your blog:
- What is your blog’s focus? Books? Movies? Sports? What age level? What genres? Award winners or no? What kind of sports?
- What type of posts are you going to write? Blogging tips? Book reviews? Life experiences?
- Who is your audience/who do you think your audience will be? Teenagers? Parents? Readers who enjoy ____?
- Are you selling something? Or just providing information/advice?
Don’t limit yourself to just a tiny window or you’ll have problems growing later. But also, don’t think you can blog about everything at once. You will only end up with a chaotic blog that struggles to find itself and retain followers.
Once you know what you will be blogging about, it is time to come up with a name:
- Pick something unique.
What if I chose Carrie Reviews Books as my blog name? Take a moment to Google that, and tell me what you find. My blog would get lost in a sea of sites with posts about the book Carrie by Stephen King.
- Pick something you can grow into.
Carrie Reviews YA Books is certainly a possible name for a blog. But what happens if I no longer want to solely review young adult books? Or review books at all?
- Pick something easy to spell and remember.
I guarantee you that if you name your blog Carrie’s Pop Tart Box of Bkish Goodness And Quality R$eviews Of Awesomesauce people are going to take one look at the results when they try to search for your blog and think you’re a druggie decide that it is not the blog they are looking for. That is assuming, of course, they can even remember that ridiculous name to search for it in the first place.
- Pick something short.
Feel free to go against this suggestion, but keep in mind that you are going to have to keep typing Carrie @ OMFG Why In Hell Did I Name My Blog This Ridiculously Outlandish Name and <a href=http://OMFGWhyInHellDidINameMyBlogThisRidiculouslyOutlandishName.com> Carrie @ OMFG Why In Hell Did I Name My Blog This Ridiculously Outlandish Name</a> until your hand falls off. Even copy and paste only goes so far.
Because you will type your name, blogs name, and url so much that you will have the keys locations memorized on your keyboard.
- Be consistent every place that connects to your blog. *Most Important*
When I first started blogging my url, blog’s name, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr all had different usernames. The first thing I did upon changing my blog’s name and revamping my brand was to bring consistency to my social media. Now everything I use for my blog are all Rattled Dreams related. (Instagram – @rattleddreams / Twitter – @rattleddreams)
Do not rush this step no matter how excited you are to get into blogging. Your blogs’ name the second most important thing you will decide when it comes to your brand. Together, your blog’s focus and name will become the basis for everything else for the rest of your blog’s life.
How to Come Up with A Good Name:
- List words/phrases related to your focus. Write everything you can think of down related to that topic/focus. Write down some words related to you as well. Sometimes that can help inspire you later.
- Cross off all the super common words and the ones that will lead searches to unrelated topics. You do not want to drive your potential audience to other websites. People will judge you based upon the name you pick, so avoid words that might suggest a different focus.
- Is it copyrighted? If it is, don’t use it. Carrie’s Hunger Games: A Book Free-For-All could potentially get me into legal trouble because I used the title of a popular book in my blog’s title. If a new hardware store popped up with a name of Lower Than Lowes don’t you think Lowes might have a few choice things to say about it?
- Start stringing them together. Don’t just fall for the first combination you make, give it time and see what all you can come up with.
- Google (or Bing or Yahoo) is your friend. Search all your potential names. Are they taken? Do they come up with similar results? Ideally, you’ll want your blog’s name to come up on the first page so watch out for a lot of fierce competition.
- Repeat the process on social media. Are the names taken? Can you use a variation of your blog’s name if it exceeds the number of characters they give you for a username?
Ignore every rule and piece of advice you have come across if you found the perfect name and someone’s guide tells you not to pick it. This is your blog, and while you may be blogging for others, if you are not happy with your blog then you can bet your audience will sense this.
Work on The Visual:
Now that you have a focus and a name, you are almost ready to start setting up your blog. But first, you must figure out your theme.
Take the time you need to decide:
- What your colors will be: Pick a few colors that complement each other and work with them. Use variations if you must, but no blog should have a color scheme of 20 unique colors.
- Decide what fonts you wish to use: Remember if a person does not have the same fancy font downloaded on their computer and you have not fixed the CSS of your blog to have a fallback one, then people will not be able to read what you write.
- Does your blog have a theme? How could you incorporate it into your design? Caffeinated Book Reviewer (http://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/) has a theme of, you guessed it, coffee and books. Her header and social media images reflect this. Some of her word choices in her reviews refer to her theme. This is all part of her blog’s brand.
- Are you using a default theme? Or do you have some money to buy a premade or custom one? Do you have the HMTL/CSS knowledge to make your own?
STEP TWO OF CREATING ANY BLOG: The Technical Details
Now that you have all your foundation work decided, you are read to dip your toes into the pond.
Bloggers have a few choices when it comes to what platforms they can blog on and each have their own pluses and negatives. Personally, I started my blog on Blogger because it was free and because it was all I knew about at the time. Now I am on WordPress because I am ready for something more.
- Are you using a free site, like Blogger or the free version of WordPress?
- Are you buying your own domain? http://www.rattleddreams.com vs. http://carriesblog.suchandsuch.com
- If you are not using a free site, where are you going to host your site?
Do your research, most especially if you are spending any money on your blog. Look around, check out the host’s websites, ask some bloggers who they use and if they are happy with the service they receive. Make this decision carefully.
So much of your blogging and branding will fall back on this choice. Blogger doesn’t have anywhere near the number of widgets that WordPress offers, that could affect the design you have planned. A blog with an unreliable host that’s keeps going down will not draw in visitors.
Time to Set Up:
- Start your blog and design it the way you want.
- Have all your about, polices, etc. pages ready to go.
- Create social media accounts specifically for your blog.
- Make sure to work out all the technical details you can before you start promoting. If your header image has spelling mistakes or doesn’t load at all, people will notice it right it away. That will be their first impression of you and your blog.
STEP THREE OF CREATING ANY BLOG: Write
Before you even schedule your introduction post, I highly recommend creating a plan.
- Set both long-term and short-term goals for yourself. Create some fun rewards to keep yourself motivated.
- How many posts are you going to publish in a week? All reviews? Or are you alternating them with something else?
- Create and schedule a buffer of posts that will last you a while before your intro even goes live. Start as you mean to go on. A buffer gives you room to fall back in case life gets in the way, and it will.
Be professional and treat your blog like a business, even if you aren’t selling anything.
RELATED: Organize Your Blog With An Editorial Calendar
Now I ask you:
Do you feel more prepared to take on the blogosphere? Is there anything else you wish you knew when it comes to creating a blog?
Veteran bloggers, what is one piece of advice you would give someone just starting out? Or what was one lesson you learned the hard way that you wish you understood sooner?