Blogging for Beginners: Advice for Getting Started
I've heard from many of you recently on starting a blog. Where do I begin? What's a domain? How do I decide on a name? Today, I'm excited to share some tips and tricks with you that I think are beneficial in starting this crazy journey that is blogging. Quick disclaimer, though: I am not an expert. I am learning every single day, and some days I think back on things I did and wonder what in the world I was thinking. But that's why I love blogging: there's no single correct way to go about this, and it's meant to be a self-teaching experience. And, if you stick with it, it ends up being more rewarding than you could have imagined.
People often ask me why I started blogging back in August. There are a handful of reasons. One, my husband and I were moving to San Francisco, and I wanted an outlet to be able to share my experiences with friends and family back home. Two, I felt like I had a lot to say on an array of topics, and no one reads super-long Facebook posts. Three, I felt that it would force me outside my comfort zone in a variety of arenas, from fashion, to beauty, to experiences. Four, I love writing. And finally, I wanted to be able to share others' incredible stories in a journalistic approach, because I think we can all use a healthy dose of inspiration on the regular (hello, HerStory).
But honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. I read other blogs and researched information on host sites and things of that nature, but until you just do it, you're not really going to know what you're doing. So, I am extremely excited to share some intel on various questions I've received recently, and I hope you find this beneficial if you're thinking about starting a blog, or interesting if you love to follow blogs.
Q: What's a domain and how do I get one of those?
A: A domain is your website's name. So, my domain is herstoryblog.com. People oftentimes confuse this with a URL. A URL is a specific page on a website. I purchased my domain name through my host website, Wix (more on that coming soon). There are various ways to purchase domains, but I think this is the best way to do it, especially if you know you want to keep your website going through a host site (versus building the website yourself). I can't remember how much I paid off the top of my head (that's something I should know...), but it was pretty reasonable for the year. Some other popular host sites are WordPress and Squarespace. I know Squarespace allows you to pay month-to-month, and I'm sure Wix does, as well, but don't quote me on that.
Q: Okay, back up. Host site?
A: Host sites are beneficial for those of us who do not know how to actually build a website from the ground up. They allow you to choose a template, colors, customize, add different features, advertisements, etc. You can go the free route, but that doesn't allow you to customize your domain name and will most likely mean you'll have advertisements for your host site embedded on your blog. For example, when I first started and was building my blog, I didn't purchase the domain just yet, so my website was www.beccaculotta.wix.com. Not very user-friendly, and that doesn't really allow you to build a brand.
Q: How do I decide what I want to call my blog?
A: That is solely up to you. Here are some considerations: Is it unique? Does it fit what you want to write about? Is it memorable? You want your readers to feel like there is a connection between your blog name and your content. Some people use their name for their website because they want it to be a personalized brand (one of my favorite bloggers, Lauren Sims of laurenkaysims.com does this). For me, my blog is all about sharing what makes me, me. What shapes my story? The other piece of it is sharing others' stories: women who are doing incredible things with the resources they have and the passions they pursue. I wanted it to be a play on history; thus, HerStory was built. My domain name is herstoryblog.com because herstory.com redirected to another website (sometimes companies and organizations purchase other domains so when people search those domains, they get that traffic). I felt very passionately about my blog name, so I just added blog to the end of it for the domain name.
Q: Should I have more than one post published before I promote my blog?
A: There's not really a correct answer to that. When I first promoted my blog, I only had one published post. Some people publish five or so before promoting it. The upside to that strategy is you have more content for people to read when they first visit your blog, so you're more likely to attract readers from the get go. To be honest, if I could do it again, I probably would have published five posts before promoting, for what it's worth.
Q: Do you have an organizer that you use to plan your posts?
A: I have what we call a content (or editorial) calendar. My public relations background really helps me here. I created a content calendar that has plans for when to post, the time, social media posts to promote my post, and the category under which it falls. In this spreadsheet, I also have a sheet for brands and bloggers I want to reach out to and a sheet to track my social analytics. If you're interested in seeing this content calendar, drop me a comment or shoot me an email and I'd be happy to share it with you.
Q: What's more important: quality or quantity?
A: In my opinion, quality. No question about it. I aim to post three times a week (that probably happens 50 percent of the time), but if I know I cannot produce three quality posts (content, photos, intention), and I can only produce one or two posts, I am okay with that. I would rather give y'all fewer posts that are more informative and interesting rather than more poorly-constructed posts. However, consistency is king. Your readers want to know you're devoted to your blog, and if you want to build a community, you need to produce quality content to keep them coming back for more.
Q: Should I create a new Instagram account specifically for my blog?
A: Again, this is a personal preference. I built upon my personal Instagram account because I felt that I could authentically combine the two. If you don't feel that you can, it may be best to create a separate Instagram account.
Q: Should I post the same thing across all of my social media platforms?
A: No, no, no. This must be the PR/digital pro in me, but each platform is made for a different audience and voice. I share links to my posts on all of my profiles, but the context I provide is different. Facebook is about having a conversation. Twitter is about sharing updates. Instagram is all about solid photos (and you know as an Instagram user how fast people scroll through their feed. Try to be short and to the point. It can be tough, but the shorter, the better).
Q: What do you do to seek out partnerships for collaborations and/or giveaways?
A: This is something you can take control of, but sometimes the partnerships come to you. For example, I did a May Designs giveaway back in October, and I purchased the $50 gift card myself, but May Designs gave me the discount code to give to the winner (worth $29). My outreach landed me that collaboration. However, a few jewelry companies and boutiques have reached out to me, and they mostly find me via Instagram. I have my blog email address in my profile on Instagram so companies who stumble upon my profile and like what I post can reach out and seek a partnership. Also, in my content calendar spreadsheet, I have a running list of local and national boutiques, shops and companies I'm interested in working with, and I reach out when the time is right.
Q: I have a full-time job. How do I make time for blogging?
A: Plain and simple, you just do. And if you don't have time some weeks, that's okay. I am a morning person, and the last thing I want to do most nights is stare a computer longer than I already have (plus I have a dog, husband and books to tend to). I love waking up early and working on my blog, and I especially love spending weekend mornings writing at coffee shops. You just find time amidst the crazy for your passions. It works out, but you have to make sure blogging doesn't add to your stress; it should alleviate it.
What I wish I would have known or pieces of advice from some of my blogger friends:
"You can't just decide on a voice and an aesthetic off the bat — you need to let yourself experiment with your content and your style until you can really define what makes your blog unique." — Amanda of Advice from a 20 Something
"Know that there will be times when life gets in the way of creating content - but that's okay! Be patient, refocus and come back with a fresh perspective when the time is right. Don't force yourself to write simply because you have to; write because you're passionate about your content and you want the world to hear your voice." — Jordan of Darling Truly
"If I could go back and tell myself one piece of advice it would be to think beyond the blog. When I first started Set Forth in Style two years ago, it was purely for fun. However, I did not once think how I could use this platform to tie in with my future goals. Even if you are just doing it as a hobby, ask yourself what can blogging help you achieve." — Jill of Set Forth in Style
"Know how much time it takes to create well thought out content, compared to just putting content out there for the sake of it. It's a commitment! Also, get a real camera, if you can, as opposed to only using your phone. I purchased the Olympus OM-D E-M10." — Hillary of Style by Grassano
"I wish I would have known success doesn't happen over night. I beat myself up for so long about 'not being big enough.' But, being big takes time. A lot of time. And A LOT of patience." — Mattie of Fit is Chic
"I wish I would have known more of the technical knowledge behind setting up a website. I made the mistake of purchasing my domain name from the first website I saw, before I decided on using WordPress as my host site. This presented me with quite a few challenges as I started designing and creating content. I remember wishing I would have done a bit more research before I just dove in." — Mandi of Cohen Places
What did I miss? Any burning questions out there? Feel free to drop me a comment below or send me an email. I'll do my best to answer whatever questions you have, and if I don't know the answer, I'll try to find you a resource that does. Happy blogging, friends!
Feature image via Death to the Stock Photo