Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about blogging. I’ve avoided writing about this topic because I feel like doing so gives people the impression that I’m some kind of expert at this when, in reality, I’m just an expert at not knowing WTF I’m doing. On my journey as a blogger, I’ve made lots of mistakes and I’m nowhere near the blogger I aspire to be, but through those mistakes and crippling self-doubt, I have picked up some tips and tricks and can tell you what I do know.
So, you want to start a blog. But first, I have some questions for you. Why do you want to blog? And, I wouldn’t ask if it weren’t important. Most of the time, people want to blog because they feel the undying urge to share - whether that be information, a service they offer, or stories about themselves and their lives.
My next question is, what do you want to get out of your blog? Fame? Rubies, emeralds, and riches? If that’s the case, you may find yourself talking to a therapist over your newfound insecurities and disappointments. There are definitely ways to make money from your blog, which I’ll touch on in the future, but if you want my advice, keep your expectations low and blog because you enjoy it and couldn’t not write even if you tried.
If you’ve got a fun, entertaining personality and people are often drawn to you, I’d seriously suggest vlogging instead. I am sans balls, otherwise I’d be vlogging.
Okay, so you’ve reflected on it while on a spiritual journey in a sweat lodge in Tahiti or something, and decided you’re gonna do this whole blogging thing. There are some things you need to figure out before you start creating your blog.
1. WTF are you gonna talk about, and how much do you have to say on your subject?
My very first blog was about being a gamer who was married to a gamer. At first, I was cranking out material like crazy and joined a group of women who wrote similar content. This led me to two realizations: 1) I wasn’t as big of a geeky gamer girl bad ass as I thought I was, and 2) I was running out of things to say, and quick.
I recommend blogging about something you know a lot about, are passionate about, and to not back yourself into a corner with a limiting theme and blog name. Say you name your blog The Coffee Bish, and later, you decide you have a lot more to say about foot fetishes than coffee. People who visit your blog looking for posts about coffee, and are instead blasted in the face with a post like “How to Give the Perfect Foot Job,” are going to be confused and put off. This brings me to my next point.
2. What are you going to call your blog, and how private/anonymous do you want to be?
Your blog’s name should relate to what your blog is about. Sounds simple, but I’ve run across a lot of random names or titles. In my opinion, this hurts you because if someone is searching for blogs about moms who kayak, and you’ve named yourself Beauty and her Beasts but you blog a ton about kayaking, your blog might be harder for someone to discover.
You want your name to be simple, catchy, searchable, and stand apart from the crowd. Super easy, right?
What do I mean by searchable? Back to my kayaking example. You want your name to be relevant to what a person Googling a blog like yours would type into their search bar, so think of key words that are synonymous with your topic.
Now that you’ve come up with the perfect name, go to GoDaddy to see if it’s already registered, see that it is, go scream into a pillow, and start all over. Welcome to your first hurdle.
How anonymous do you want to be? I know a lot of bloggers/accounts that choose to be anonymous for a variety of reasons, so they take up a “pen name.” Sometimes I wish I’d done this. Deciding this now can help while filling out all the basic info on your blog and social media accounts.
3. Why would someone want to visit your blog?
Do you even care that much if they do? If you just want a personal outlet you can sometimes share with friends and family, awesome, you can skip 99% of this post. If you want your blog to turn into something sorta big eventually, you need to give yourself a little reality check. There are likely going to be a shit ton of blogs out there already for what you want to cover. I’m not telling you this to discourage you, I want you to start thinking about what you can do to set yourself apart.
Now, you’re gonna do a little research, and it’s going to be a punch in the vagina, but also your source of inspiration. You need to search and browse other blogs that are similar to yours.
Now that your self-esteem has been Jack the Rippered by browsing through some crazy aw
esome, beautifully designed blogs, give yourself an encouraging smack on the ass. You can do this. You can be that. Eventually. All of those blogs you adore? They looked like a complete dumpster fire at first, unless the people behind them hired a web designer, or paid for a fancy template right out of the gate. Usually, a blog has been through many, many, many tweaks and face lifts, and the author has spent many a late night figuring out how to get their site to look exactly the way they want.
Back to what I was saying…
How are you, or can you be different? Do you have more information? Better information? Do you have a unique writing style? Use whatever you can to your advantage.
4. Start writing!
Once you figure out what you want to write about, dive in. Buy a notebook, download a notepad-like app on your phone for when you get random ideas at 2 AM or while you’re out and about. Strike while the iron’s hot. Or something.
What you don’t want to do is start a blog, hype up all your friends and family, and have a one-sentence post that says, “Welcome to my blog, guys! More to come!” LAAAAAAAME!
5. Pace yourself
Once you have a solid amount of content, like 2-4 interesting posts, decide on how often you’ll post, and make sure it’s doable. Don’t over-do yourself or you’ll experience burn-out quick. Most bloggers post 1-2 times a week, some only monthly. Some *coughlikemecoughcough* embarrassingly sporadically. This is something I continually struggle with, so don’t feel bad if you hit a road block.
6. Figure out what blogging platform you want to use
Right now, the top two platforms people use are WordPress and Blogger, and there are pros and cons to both of them.
WordPress is the way most professional bloggers and big sites go. It’s like the Cadillac of blogging platforms, and comes with the price tag to match.
You can start a blog for free on WordPress, but the free option is extremely limiting. You pick out one of their free templates, and then you’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve got. You can make minor customizations, and even switch to other free templates as often as you want, but have to pay for an upgraded level of WordPress if you want to mess with HTML, and there’s an 85% chance you’ll need to at some point.
You also can’t use a custom domain name unless you pay for an upgraded WP package. Which totally blows if you’ve gotten a little ahead of yourself and nabbed one already. This is why I’ve brought up platforms before going into domain names. With the free version of WP, you can pick your own blog title, but it will have “wordpress.com” tagged onto the end which shouts, “I’m an amateur!” to everyone who sees your URL. Are you an amateur? Yeah, probably, but no one needs to know that. Again, if your blog is just for you to vent, this doesn’t matter. If you’re trying to look legit, this sucks all of the bags of dicks.
Blogger is the platform I currently use while envying friends with their fancy, upgraded WordPress sites. But, I’m extremely pleased with Blogger and am in no hurry to switch. Also, no one can tell that I’m using Blogger, because I’ve de-Bloggerfied my blog, and I can show you how I’ve done that. For all anyone knows, I could have a fancy upgraded WP site. That’s because Blogger allows you to use a domain you’ve purchased on their platform without being huge jackasses about it and making you pay more to use something you’ve already had to spend money on. If you don’t want to buy your own domain name, or can’t afford to, you can still create a blog on Blogger for free, it’ll just have “blogspot.com” at the end.
You can also customize your blog to your heart’s content by looking up tutorials, using the template design tool, etc.
7. Snag your brand
You’ll quickly begin to feel like your blog is your baby. You came up with the perfect name for it, found it a home, put a lot of time into making that home pretty, and nurtured it with content. You want to let everyone know that this thing belongs to you.
For a very reasonable amount, you can buy your own domain name through places like GoDaddy. If it’s available, you have options to pay x amount for x years.
While you can start a blog for free, the moment you decide this thing has potential for bigger and better things, I’d swoop up your own domain name. I’d also snag an e-mail account for your blog, as well as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even a YouTube account all with your blog name, if you can. Even if you don’t think you’ll use them now, it’s nice to know you’ve claimed them for the future. All of my social media accounts are Mommy Cusses, except for effing Twitter where it’s mommy_cusses because mommycusses was taken *shakes fist at whoever the other mommycusses is*
Now, don’t be a douche and creep in on someone else’s territory. If you want to be Ramblin’ Mama, and see that one exists already (which, she does, I know because we’re friends and she’s fabulous) pick another gotdamn name.
8. Building your brand
You’ve followed all the steps and are the proud new owner of your very own blog. Congratulations! You’re publishing posts, but when you check out your stats, you cringe to see that no one is reading! Why are you even blogging? Obviously, everyone hates you and you should just delete your blog, accounts, and give up.
Making yourself known takes a lot of time and effort unless you’re famous or something. After I started my blog, I discovered “funny parent” accounts on Twitter, thought, “I can do that!” and began writing funny, relatable tweets. I sucked at first, everyone does, but within 6 months, I had 1,000 followers which is a big Twitter milestone. I also met some awesome fellow “funny parents” who I’m still friends with today. I didn’t set out to “network”, I despise that word. Friendships happened organically for me, and I totally lucked out. Having said that, if you don’t meet people naturally, don’t be afraid to reach out to others. This is coming from an introvert with anxiety powers. Put yourself out there.
My relationships with others has been a HUGE factor in what “success” I’ve had. Having friends in the same blogging category helped immensely when I decided to branch out and grow my other social media accounts, because I had people I knew would share my content.
My social media following is what brings the most traffic to my blog, and, personally, the content I’ve created on social media such as my tweets and memes, have brought me more opportunities than my blog has by far. So, while having a blog is an excellent tool and outlet to have, there are several accounts with huge followings that don’t have a blog.
Social media can be tough to navigate, learn some tips that don't totally suck on my post for How to Twitter.
Social media can be tough to navigate, learn some tips that don't totally suck on my post for How to Twitter.
9. Enjoy the ride!
Starting a blog, creating social media accounts, and then watching them grow is an amazing experience that can bring the most awesome people and opportunities into your life. Enjoy all of this as it happens. Through my blog and online presence, I’ve made incredible friends, had my content featured on big time websites, been asked if my content could be featured on TV shows, been asked if I wanted to appear on a TV show, been approached by book agents, become a contributor to kick ass websites, and have had a humor essay published in a New York Times Best Selling Anthology, I Just Want to Pee Alone by Jenn Mann, called But Did You Die?
All of this took time, dedication, and a ton of second-guessing myself, feeling like a damned idiot, and wanting to give up.
Now that you know what to do, what are you waiting for? You’ve got a fucking blog to make!
In the future, I’ll be writing more helpful blogging how-to’s, and adding the links to the end of this post, so be sure to check in from time to time!