Blogging 101: Tips for Starting Your Blog ~ Diane's Vintage Zest!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blogging 101: Tips for Starting Your Blog


*Update*  Check out the latest Blogging 101 posts here:







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So you decided to start a blog!  Now, what do you do?

Let me mention that this is not a complete step-by-step guide for every detail you will need to do, but this post has a bunch of tips that I wish I would have known before starting my own blog.  Let's get to it!


Jump to:  Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, Step 4, Step 5, Step 6, Step 7


Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!



1.  What are you going to blog about?

This seems like a no-brainer, but taking a minute to figure it out will help to decide a lot of things (like Step 4) in the future.  Make sure it is something that you love or are passionate about.  When you really enjoy what you are writing about, it will just flow and you will have tons of ideas.  On the flip side, I have seen blogs that seem like they are trying to very hard to copy what they think a blog should be and then it reads "forced."  You don't want to feel burned out because you are writing about something you don't actually like.

Now, there is no right or wrong answer here, but answer this: are you going to write about one niche topic or a collection of different things?  Keep in mind that some readers like blogs that are only one topic (think food bloggers, sewing bloggers, home decor bloggers, etc.).  If you are like me and love to write about almost everything, you might want to think whether or not there is a thread to tie your topics together.  If it makes sense, then write about all of them and call yourself a lifestyle blogger!  ;)

However, I know of people who have two blogs: crafting & fitness, technology & family, lifestyle & eating around L.A., etc. because the audiences are vastly different.  Remember though, maintaining two blogs is more difficult than one.  I know from experience!



Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!
My second blog: The Episodic Eater!



2. Decide on a blogging platform

I have seen many pros and cons for starting off with free vs. self-hosted.  There are many free blogging websites, such as Blogger, Wordpress.com, Squarespace, TumblrTypepad, and more.  For self-hosted, you can use Wordpress.org to design, post, etc. and then pay yearly to a hosting site.

Think of the free websites as renting in an apartment building.  You can't make major design changes such as knocking down walls, so you are limited to customization.  You have to follow certain rules and there is the small chance of you being kicked out (aka, they can take down your blog for not following their Terms of Service).  Also, you cannot run a full-on business out of your apartment.  With free blogging websites, you can make some money through ads, sponsored posts, etc., but larger blogs & businesses typically usually do not run through free websites.  Self-hosted is like owning your own home.  You pay more, but you can customize, run a business more efficiently, and you own that space.  No one can kick you out!  However, you also have to keep up with maintenance and it typically takes more work.

Once you choose, you are not locked in.  You can decide to move to self-hosted later, but it involves some work and sometimes money.  Moving from self-hosted to free is not usually done because it basically requires downsizing of design elements, etc. but it can be done.  Therefore, it makes sense to make the best decision at the start!


Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!
I customize everything (including my iPhone wallpaper) but I would rather go with free right now...  :)


Here are the main points to consider:

Go with free if:
  • If you are unsure if you really want to blog in the future.
  • You just want a creative outlet without any hassle.
  • You don't want to spend any money!
  • You want to start writing ASAP and not worry about coding, etc.
  • You don't mind having a template that is not 100% customizable.
  • Making money isn't at the top of your list of priorities.
  • Your content is acceptable for the terms of service.
  • You don't mind the work (and possibly money) involved to moving to self-hosted, if you decide to do it at a later date.
  • You don't mind a clunkier web address or paying money for your own domain name (Unsure what a domain name is?  I explain in Step 3!)

Go with self-hosted if: 
  • You know you want to blog for the foreseeable future.
  • You want a fully customizable website.
  • You have experience with website set-up, are willing to learn, or don't mind paying someone to install plug-ins, etc.
  • You don't want to deal with the work of moving from a free site to a self-hosted later on.
  • Making money is very important for you.  Caveat: making money through blogging is not super easy, so be prepared to work for it!
  • Your content is questionable.
  • You don't mind paying for the yearly self-hosting and domain name fees.


Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!
I bought my domain name and made some fancy schmancy business cards!



3. Decide on buying a Domain Name

If you are self-hosting, skip to the next step because you already have to do this.  No decision for you!

Starting on a free website means that you will get a clunkier web address.  Vintage Zest started out at http://vintagezest.blogspot.com, and if you click on the link to the left, you see that it redirects to vintagezest.com now.  How?  I am still hosted through Blogger, but I bought my own Domain Name through Name.com, which is similar to Go Daddy, register.com, and more.  It is much cheaper than self-hosting and you don't have the longer address.

Still confused?  Going along with my apartment/home analogy, your web address functions like your mailing address where people can find you.  A home (self-hosted website) mailing address is two easy lines:

123 Main Street
Anytown, USA


An apartment (free website) address looks like:

123 Main Street
Apartment #100
Anytown, USA


Some people don't like that extra clunkiness that designates it as an apartment (free website).  Buying a domain is like a P.O. Box.  It shortens up the address, and it disguises the fact that you live in an apartment building (are hosted on a free blog).

P.O. Box 123
Anytown, USA

Got it?  For the most part, people like having the short name because it feels like a "real" website and not a blog.  However, one of the most successful bloggers that I know of, Jen from IHeart Organizing, works on a Blogger-hosted blog and does not feel the need to buy her own domain name.  Go her!  As I said, for self-hosted blogs, you have to buy a domain name no matter what so I hope you skipped reading all that!



Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!



4. Decide on a name


This seems like it should be Step #2, right?  I'll explain why in a bit.

First of all, when it comes to your name, you probably want it to reflect you or the topics that you will be talking about.  Also, I have read that shorter names are usually best.  However, there are plenty of people who have long blog names that are happy with their decision.  Time to brainstorm!

I suggest that your website name matches your website address.  Meaning, if my blog name is Vintage Zest, but the address is www.randomwordsstrungtogether.com, you might have a hard time remembering where to point your browser.  Keep it simple!

Therefore, while you are brainstorming names, check for the matching website address.  Do a quick search by typing in your desired website address and if it is available, awesome!  If not, try again.  :(


Once, you do find an available website address, I suggest you do a couple of things:

  1. Above, I said check on the website name.  Why?  Quick story: In grad school, I started a student organization to work with medical clinics and gave it a great name.  Or so I thought.  I found out that another organization existed out there, which paid drug addicts to take long-term birth control.  Yikes!  Not what I wanted people to find when Google-ing our name.
  2. If you are going with a free website, check for similar website addresses.  In other words, if I wanted to start blogging on vintagezest.wordpress.com, I would check that vintagezest.com was not taken.  You might want to buy your own domain name later and if it's taken, you're out of luck.  If you are an over-planner like me, I would check vintagezest.blogspot.com, vintagezest.tumblr.com, etc. as well just in case any of those are active bloggers.  It's possible that one of those bloggers would buy the domain before you, and then you can't have it if you decide to buy it later on!


Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!



5. Find a template or design


Most people will suggest that you start with your posts at this point.  However, I like to see the layout of everything.  For me, I wish I would have designed it first because after I chose a template I really liked, it changed my post width and all of my pictures looked small.  Choosing your template will also help you figure out how your post will look once it is published.

Once again, you can choose to find a free template, pay for one, or design it yourself (if you have the skills).  There are plenty of free templates out there that look incredible, and you can still customize it to your liking.  Both of my websites are customized from free templates.  However, if you want something completely different, you might want to pay a designer or DIY your design.

I won't get too much into design specifics, because each person has their preference.  However, remember that content is king!  If half of your blog width is taken up by the sidebar widgets or plug-ins, it will definitely look messy.  Widgets/plug-ins are like the accessories to your blog post, so make sure to pick only the ones that will enhance your website.

Make sure it is user friendly, reflects your style, and is something you really like!



Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!



6. Outline Your First Posts (& write them!)


I didn't do this, but I wish I had.  The first day I posted, I did a pretty good job.  The first week of posts weren't bad, but by the second week, I thought to myself, "Now, what do I blog about?"

It is a good idea to make your first post an introduction.  Tell your readers a bit about yourself, your interests, why you started blogging, and what you hope to blog about in the future.  Luckily, I did that without thinking.  Whew!

For the rest of your posts, this is something you will constantly be doing.  Jot down possible blog topics and have a few written before you launch your blog.  (By the way, I will have a future Blogging 101 topic on how I write my posts, if you need help!)  Remember, it is a good idea to blog at least once or twice a week, but don't feel pressured to do it more often than you want.  Then, it starts to feel like a job instead of a creative outlet.

It is also a good idea to have a few in the bank in case you go on vacation, or just want to step away from the computer for a week or two.  Blog breaks are definitely okay, but not for too long or too often. Therefore, write a couple of posts before hitting Publish on your first one, because when the ball starts rolling on your crazy blog journey, it doesn't stop!


Tips for Starting Your Blog on Diane's Vintage Zest!



7. Create Your Blog Pages


What is the difference between a blog page and a blog post?  A blog post is the item you write for the day, such as a recipe, sewing project, or DIY tutorial.  It appears in your blog feed with a date attached.  As you write new posts, old ones get pushed further down your feed.  A blog page is static and does not appear in your blog feed with a date.  For example, my About Me page is static because I want people to see it even though I wrote it years ago.

What initial pages should you consider?  Here is a list:
  • About  (Not sure what to write in your About post?  Check out this post!)
  • Contact
  • FAQ
  • Disclaimer (I have this rolled into my FAQ page)
  • Project pages:  For example, I have one set up for each of my interests.  Recipes, Sewing, CraftsHome DecorOrganization, etc. which you can see at the top of the page on my toolbar.  (Want a project gallery like mine?  That will be in a future Coding post!)

Choose pages that reflect your interests, and think about the information that you want to show your readers.  Other pages to consider are: Advertisement policy, Link Parties, Buttons, Features/Press, and Archives.


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I hope that you found some helpful tips to start your blog!

Here are some of the topics that I will be covering in later Blogging 101 posts: Writing an About Me page, Social Media Tips, How to Write a Post, Formatting Posts, Editing Pictures for Posts, Coding shortcuts, Promoting Posts, Growing Your Blog, making Blogging Business Cards, and Photo Taking Tips for Bloggers.

Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss a single post!


Happy blogging!




18 comments:

  1. This is helpful and full of great information for new bloggers! I just wanted to point out that wordpress.org doesn't charge for their platform or for themes, plugins, etc.. If you're self-hosted, you would pay your website host, but putting a wordpress blog on that hosting doesn't cost anything :P

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  2. Ah yes, I'll clarify that in the verbiage for newbies. Thanks!

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  3. I just started blogging a few weeks ago so this information is very helpful. Thanks!

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  4. Great tips. Thanks so much for sharing with Adorned From Above's Link Party.

    Debi and Charly

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  5. Great tips! Starting a blog is overwhelming and I have gotten discouraged a few times. I am sure that is part of the process. Thanks for posting!

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  6. Great! Stay tuned for MANY more tips and make sure to subscribe so you don't miss one! :)

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  7. Thanks! I hope you find some of these tips helpful for you. There is much more coming up in the next several posts, so I hope you stay tuned and keep yourself from getting discouraged! :)

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  8. Thanks! I didn't know practically any of this when I started blogging, so I hope I can help a newbie out there. I have more tips coming up that even us non-newbies can take advantage of later. Thanks again for the kind words! :)

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  9. This is such a thorough and comprehensive post to help new bloggers, Diane. Great job! I didn't know any of this either and was just flying by the seat of my pants, lol. With your permission, I'd like to include a link to this post in a Resource page I'm currently putting together. Have a great day!

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  10. I'm really enjoying this series, Diane! :)

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  11. Sure! Let me know where it is being featured, and I'll link to it as well. :)

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  12. Thanks so much!!! I think you will like the rest of the series if you are already enjoying it. :)

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  13. Hi! I really appreciated tips 5, 6 & 7. 5 because I am now going to change my page design, which is always fun! 6 because that's what I did (and still do)when starting my blog, and it works really well for me. I try to write in my 'rough copy' notebook posts for at least one week so that I know where I'm headed! And 7 because these are the things that I'm still needing to add to my blog, and I will be looking at your post for the 'about me' page asap! Thanks for this great list, it is very helpful, encouraging and motivational! Looking forward to reading the rest!

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  14. These are such good tips!

    Thanks again for joining the Link Up this week!

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  15. Great! I think you find the "About Me" post useful, and there is so much more coming up. I hope to have you stick around! :)

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  16. Your blog is so lovely and these are great easy to follow tips for beginners. Stopping by from Inspire Me Monday.

    I hope you will link up with my two linkies going on right now, Small Victories Sunday and Throwback Thursday.

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  17. Oh, thanks so much! Totally made my day. :)

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I love to hear your comments! And putting in your two cents is always free. :)

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