How to start a blog

Professional blogger Niamh Shields, founder and editor of Eat Like A Girl, will be hosting a talk for Maven on how to turn your blog into a career on December 6. Here, she divulges some of her top tips on starting a blog.

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Just start

Blogging has been around for a while now and there are many of us. It is a very competitive field, however, it is not unusual for a new blogger with their own style and great content to shoot out from the masses and be noticed. But no one will notice while the blog is just an idea in your head, right? It took me almost 3 years to start, I provided so many barriers to it (name / design / anything), I really wanted to do it but I was lacking in confidence. After a year (in 2005) I started on flickr posting food photos etc., and this, in turn, led to the blog in 2007. When I did start it was on an impulse, in the end. A burst fired by frustration and desire. I haven’t looked back since. 

Write the blog you want to read

Simple and effective. 

Don’t copy

Be original. Why would anyone read your blog if it is a copy of something that exists already?  Your blog should be as unique as you are, embrace it. 

A blogger is more than a writer

Writing is very important, you also need to learn to ruthlessly self edit. You need to spend time on photography (or for some, illustration), you need to understand how your website works, how best to host it and how to enhance it. You need to embrace social media. 

What is your niche?

This can change over the first while as you discover how you like to do things, but your name should describe it, if possible, and it should be catchy. A catchy name will get you far (once you have the content to match it). Make sure the name is available as a URL and as a handle across all social media channels. If it is being used already, it doesn’t matter how much you love it, move on. Own your name on all spaces. 

Name it and Host it

It is ok to start on wordpress.com but always with your own URL which you can pay to stick on there. Blog.wordpress.com, blog.blogspot.com etc are how most start but then when they want to change it, which inevitably they do, there is a lot of work to do. It just looks better too.  Invest as much as you can in hosting, especially as your audience grows. Google cares a lot about site speed and has built this into their algorithm. 

Look good, feel good

Given the option of two free magazines at the tube, or similar, you won’t pick up the one that looks thrown together and unprofessional, unless you already know you love the content. The same goes for blogging. Invest time in making it look better, or commission someone who can. 

Start small but continually grow and improve

Use the best camera you can afford, teach yourself about photography, composition and how to use your camera. Learn about light and how to style food, knowing that you will improve as you go (so don’t expect miracles at first). Learn to edit your photographs. Simple things like adjusting the light and a sensitive crop will make an OK photo great. Invest in the tools to do this (I have a monthly subscription to Photoshop and Lightroom). Your style will develop visually as it will for your writing. Give this time, but give it your all as you go.  I am still learning.

Blog as frequently as you have great content

Fill the internet with gorgeousness and joy, moments of inspiration that will draw readers old and new back to your blog as often as you can. Try and make it once a week, at least. Moments of inspiration? I know, it sounds trite, but think about the sites you love and why. They make you want to cook, to travel, to go to the cinema, to go to a restaurant, whatever it is, they inspire you to do something. There are times where you will flag, blogging can be tiring and inspiring. If you have nothing to say on a particular day, don’t force it.  

Learn about google & SEO (a bit)

I say a bit as this has always been my weakest thing, but I know how important it is and that my failure to attend to it has held me back at times. You need to know the very basics and everything new as it comes out. You need to know what nofollow and dofollow links are, you need to know what a responsive mobile website is and you need to have one, and you need a Google Webmaster Tools account hooked up to your site to keep an eye on things. You need to start keeping up to date with google algorithm changes. I know, you want to blog because you love to cook and write but you do need to know the geeky stuff too.  

 

To read the full article, click here. To join Niamh for Turn your blog into a career, click here.

MAVEN