Whenever I start to write a post like this I find myself grappling with the same internal monologue: who am I to tell anybody anything? After all, I’m just a small-time blogger with a modest readership – who would want to read a list of blogging tips from me?
But then I remember something I heard recently – that often the best person to learn from is someone just a rung or two up from you on the ladder. I can resonate with this – when I started blogging three years ago, all the information out there felt way beyond my needs. Plus, I live in a remote part of the country where blogging was something that at the time, didn’t have much – if any – kind of profile. But I grappled around in the dark for a while and finally found my way.
There’s really no mystery to getting to grips with blogging, though, so if it’s something that appeals to you, here’s some of the most basic information to get you started. It’s also a good reminder for myself as I prepare to talk about blogging at the John O’ Groats Book Festival (happening this year on the 5th to the 7th of April). If you’re in the area and would like to find out more, do come!
STEP ONE – THINK OF A BLOG NAME
One of the first things to think about when setting up a new blog is your blog name. This should be something that gives a flavour of the content you’ll be sharing, while being completely unique to you and what you’ll be saying when you write. When I was thinking about a blog name I spent a lot of time deliberating on possibilities (while out walking my dog in wellies after the school run 😉 ), and finally had a moment of inspiration. The ‘wellies’ and ‘school run’ elements seemed to fit with my experience of being a Mum, travelling and generally enjoying the outdoors. Plus, as my kids are still in school for several years yet the shelf life for the title (always worth considering for the longer term) wasn’t too shabby either. I had a blog name and Wellies on the School Run had finally arrived!
Tip Time: My only point to note here would be to avoid using the same (or similar names) to other bloggers already out there. It really won’t do you any favours in the long run – the blogging community is actually quite small (and it will make life difficult with regards to domain names and social media too). Do your research, and if the name you really like is already taken – forget it. Move on and find another one – you’re a creative, original person after all!
STEP TWO: FIND AN ONLINE HOME
Once you’ve secured the perfect name and found yourself brimming with ideas, you’ll need to find a home for them. There are various blogging platforms on the Internet – the one I use, WordPress, probably being the best known of them all. As a newbie, I headed straight in their direction for a simple, no-fuss option to get me started (I am the complete opposite of a technically-minded person). Bearing this last point in mind, I won’t linger too long on this step, except to say that if I can set up a blog and manage it by myself (with a little help from WordPress Happiness Engineers), really, anybody can.
You can find out about WordPress plans and pricing here (*from free to a little bit pricey – please note other blogging platforms are available 😉 ). If you want to get fancy and talk about self-hosting and so on, though, this isn’t the right blog for you. So in a not-at-all awkward segue, let’s get on to the fun bit – writing things. Hurrah! 🙂
STEP THREE: GET WRITING
Once you’ve got your blog set up and looking pretty, you’ll probably want to write some material for pages like ‘about’ and ‘contact’ – have a look around mine if you’d like to get ideas. After that, you’ll probably want to write and publish an actual blog post (and I’m guessing if you’ve got this far you already have some ideas about the kinds of things you’d like to write). If not, don’t be deterred – there are lots of ways to get writing inspiration. Listening to an interesting podcast discussion or having a topical conversation with a friend often sparks ideas off for me. Many people find writing consistently about a ‘niche’ topic effective – for example, travel. You might want to write summaries of your travel adventures (see here for ideas), or do a more focused post on say, ‘five of the best places to visit in Scotland’ (see here for blog posts along similar lines). If books are your thing, you could write about the books you’ve been reading or write posts like ‘ten of the best books for hopeless romantics’ (see something similar in this post). Anything goes really – some bloggers just like to write about what they’ve been getting up to day to day.
Personally, I find myself drawn to posts that offer something that might help me in some way – for example, to find books I might like to read, or help with holiday travel plans, or to offer some sort of lifestyle inspiration. My own most popular post to date has been this one on surviving life with a new puppy – who knew puppies were such a draw? 😉 . Tapping into a common experience that other people can relate to, whether it be a new puppy, or a health issue, seems to be something that always remains relevant. Write from the heart – you can’t do any more than that.
In terms of how often and when to post – that’s very much up to you as an individual. In the early days, I found that posting a couple of times a week worked well when trying to gain a readership and get established with my blog. These days I usually limit myself to once a week – there are other things I need to do and the last thing I want is my blog becoming a chore (or a bore for anyone reading). Blog posts can take a while to put together (I’m looking at you, travel blogs 😉 ) and although it’s nice to post on a reasonably regular basis, you have to find the frequency that’s optimum for you.
Tip Time: My main tip here would be to be original. Yes, find other blogs that inspire you but don’t try to emulate them – find your own writing voice amongst the crowd. It’s a bit of a cliché but be authentic. And do try to spell check/proof read before you post (I find reading a draft out loud can help). At the same time, don’t let worries about the apostrophe police put you off sharing your writing. Just try to relax and enjoy getting your voice out in the world.
STEP FOUR: GET SNAPPING
You definitely don’t have to be a master photographer to start blogging, but at the same time blogs are highly visual. A few nice pictures here and there can really help accentuate your writing (and also break up the long posts a little bit 😉 ). I am by no means a photographer (most of the pictures you see here are taken on an iPhone), but I do find it useful to have a bit of understanding of composition, and be able to brighten up photos using editing software (I don’t use filters but I do like bright, colourful photos taken in natural daylight). You might also see bloggers posting ‘flatlay’ pictures (basically pictures of objects on a flat surface photographed from above). Like this….
Again, don’t let worries about taking photos put you off blogging – they’re definitely not essential. But you might have fun experimenting with photo-taking – it’s another useful skill and an extra string to your creative blogging bow!
Tip Time: I like to use my own photos for blogging but you can also download free stock images from places like Unsplash and Canva to enhance your blog posts (the latter is very useful, I find, for Pinterest graphics). The source of your pictures should always be credited – never use general photos you find online without asking permission from the copyright owner first.
STEP FIVE: GET SOCIAL
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with social media myself, but there’s no getting away from the fact that sharing your posts to social media really helps get your blog noticed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if I didn’t share my posts to Facebook, they might only get read by me and my very loyal Mum (hi, Mum!) Most blogs can be set up to share to your social media channels (you’ll need to set up blog accounts for the ones you wish to be on, to do so). My blog can be configured to do this automatically when I publish a post (although in most cases I prefer to do this manually and add a short personal message at the top 🙂 ) .
It’s also nice to read and comment on other bloggers’ posts and build a sense of community. Like any form of writing, blogging is a solitary pursuit and it’s good to connect with other people doing the same thing. I’ve seen commenting on posts listed as a way to improve engagement on your blog, improve statistics etc., but to be honest I don’t think that’s the right outlook. You should read and comment because 1) you’re nice, and 2) it’s something you’re interested in – simple! (and by the way, commenting ‘Great post! Come check out my blog!’ is never, ever good 😉 ).
Tip Time: Try to find other bloggers in your area you can connect with in real life – it’s really helpful. Even in my remote corner of the world I’ve discovered bloggers like Andrea and Susan who are doing the same thing. A chat and a coffee is always nicer than an electronic message. And sign up to blogging events and conferences, if there are any happening in your area (did I happen to mention the John O’ Groats Book Festival which is taking place next month…? 😉 )
That’s it for my whistle stop tour of the very basics of blogging. Next time I’d like to answer some questions people often put to me when I tell them I write a blog. If you have one for me, please add it below in the comments, email or message me.
In the meantime, what are you waiting for? Anyone inspired to start a blog today? 🙂