I often get asked how someone goes about starting a blog of their own. While I am always happy to answer questions via e-mail and Facebook, I figured this would make a decent blog series.
Though I’m not blog ruler of the universe, I have been blogging since 2001 although thankfully this teenage high school blog is long gone from the internet. I also manage our corporate blog and do a lot of online marketing stuff at work, so the people that pay me don’t think I’m a total idiot!
So you want to blog!
Blogging is awesome for a lot of reasons. You have a firm diary of your progress to look back on, you meet a lot of cool people through the equestrian blogging network and sometimes you think about things you hadn’t previously considered! When you decide that you want to start blogging, I encourage the next question you ask to be why you want to blog.
Maybe you just want a training diary to use as a tool, which is a perfectly good reason for having a blog. If you want to blog with the goal of making money, decisions about blog title and blogging platform (more on those things later) are more important, so have the money talk with yourself first. Also think about how public you want to be on your blog. Are you going to air every dirty secret or be very safe?
Choosing a “pen name” is important to think about too, even before you start typing your first post. I use my real name because I have accepted that if people want to find out who I am… they will. You can be more discreet, but realize that no matter what you put out online it can pretty easily be traced back to you in real life.
But… how do I make the blog?
After you’ve thought about the type of blog you want to have and the type of blogger you want to be, the first big decision you have to make is which blogging platform to use. Don’t freak out about this too much, because the first two options below are very easy to go back and forth from… don’t fret!
Blogger (otherwise known as Blogspot)
Blogger is probably the most prevalent blogging platform, but also my least favorite. It’s good if you wish to remain as anonymous as possible, and it also has some user friendly tools that are good for beginners. I used the program very briefly, and felt like I had very little design choices. Also Blogger doesn’t utilize categories with its posts (just tags) so it can be harder to organize your published posts into groups. One plus of Blogger is that it is very easy to comment on other Blogspot blogs and retain a link back to your site. This is something that non-Blogger blogs have trouble with! There is also a built in rss feed reader which can make catching up on your favorite blogs easy. Blogger does have a premium upgrade, but I unfortunately don’t have any first hand experience with it. Bottom line: Good for beginners and the most popular blogging platform, but not very flexible.
WordPress.com is a program that I know a lot better than Blogger, so I can go into more detail. There is both a free and a paid version, the main difference being the paid version gives you a domain name (www.yourblog.com), more space with no ads and some more design editing features. For all versions, WordPress easily allows anyone to comment (strangers with no blog even!) and has a decent amount of free templates to choose from. They also allow posts to be optimized with categories and tags, which helps your readers find content more easily. Wordpress is also setup well for SEO from the get go, which means that you’re better set up to get good search results on Google. One drawback to WordPress is that it can be difficult to comment on some Blogger blogs, since some only allow other Blogspot people to comment. Bottom line: A more powerful version of Blogger that has a pretty easy and cheap way to scale to a domain name and fancier features.
What… didn’t I already talk about WordPress? I did, but this amazing software made it very confusing by having the same name for two different platforms. Wordpress.org is actually a very powerful freeware software for blogging (and much more). This is the option you see used on my blog, and while the software is free there is a cost involved for domain & web hosting. Also, if you aren’t pretty comfortable with MySQL, HTML and CSS WordPress.org may be very overwhelming to you! If you want to be a serious blogger though, I think this is the way to go. There are a lot of options to hire someone to set the blog up for you if you’re not tech savvy. KL Smith Creative wrote a great blog post showing some pros and cons for WordPress.org (otherwise known as self hosted WordPress). Bottom Line: This is diving into the deep end, but it’s the most powerful and customize-able blogging platform out there. Blogging industry leaders almost all use self hosted WordPress.
Uh, I’m confused. Please tell me what to do with this platform thing…
If I were a beginner and I wanted to dip my toe into blog land, I’d sign up for a free account on WordPress.com to get me started!
Next week we’ll talk blog name, editorial calendars and more! Please leave questions in the comment about today’s post or anything you’d like to see answered in the future. I will do my best to find out or ask people smarter than me for help!