On Friday last week I put out a call for questions about anything related to blogging on my afternoon post and Facebook page in hopes of putting together a Q&A-style post to address the questions you have have about starting a blog, marketing a blog, etc.
The questions poured in and I quickly realized that a one-time post wouldn’t be sufficient or would be entirely too long that you’d likely pass out from information overload about a quarter of the way through. Plus, I want to give each topic and question the attention it deserves and not skimp out because I’m worried about the overwhelming length of a post.
All of your questions inspired me to start a mini series on the blog: Blog Talk Tuesdays!
Each Tuesday for the next few weeks, I will dedicate one post a day to a topic related to blogging. I’ve divided your questions into several different categories and will tackle them that way. I’m a stickler for organization and flow and this seems like the best way to handle your questions.
Plus, having the posts categorized by topic will hopefully allow you to read the posts with topics that interest you and scan or browse over those that don’t apply to you.
Maybe I should create a blog post composed solely of Sadie pictures to publish in conjunction with the Blog Talk Tuesday posts for those of you with no interest in blogging?
Now that the introduction of Blog Talk Tuesdays is done, let’s get crack-a-lackin’ with the first topic!
Oh! Before we delve into it, please know that I am not a blogging expert by any means. I’ve been blogging for just shy of two years, so my answers to your questions are based on my own experiences, research and trial and error.
I will eventually post all of these posts on my Blogging page as a resource so you may find them easily in the future.
Blogging Basics: How to Start a Blog, Blog Focus, Self Hosting and More
- How did you start your blog?
I started by blog through WordPress.com, a website that allows you to set up a free site using pre-fabricated templates. I selected a template that they already had available, made my own banner in Microsoft Paint (anyone out there remember the peanut butter cookie banner?) and started posting!
Of course I was overwhelmed and confused about the set up a bunch of times, but I turned to the valuable resource that is Google and read many different tutorials and eventually figured everything out myself. Trust me, if I can do it, you can do it. I am horrible with computers.
- Did you design your own blog?
Yes and no. But mostly no. I worked with The Blog Fairy on the design of my blog. We emailed back and forth many times and I gave her ideas and color schemes and overall guidance, but she was absolutely the brains behind the blog design that you see today. I highly recommend her services!
Another great resource for any blog-related questions, design and assistance is my friend and computer genius Tim Parkin, who may by reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- In your opinion, what is the best blogging platform?
WordPress, without a doubt. This may sound harsh, but for the most part I don’t even try to comment on Blogger blogs anymore because I am blocked from commenting 99.9 percent of the time. But there are ways for those who use Blogger to change this. As Brittany explains, “If you use Blogger, you should allow Anyone to comment instead of Only Allowing Registered Users. I often times don’t comment on blogger blogs if I can’t just use the name/url option, which is turned off when you choose to Allow Only Registered Users.”
Also, the vast majority of bloggers I know who began blogging on Blogger have switched to WordPress. Michelle actually put together an amazing post detailing exactly HOW to transfer your blog from Blogger to WordPress which you may see here.
I also want to add that while I created my blog through WordPress, I write all of my blog posts through Windows Live Writer, a free downloadable program for PCs that syncs up with your blog when you hit “publish.” It is an AMAZING program and cut my blogging time in half thanks to the ease of uploading and cropping photos, automatic linking and other fantastic features. Highly recommended!
- Do you think it’s important to own your own domain?
Yes. Longtime PBF readers will remember when my web address was peanutbutterfingers.wordpress.com. Talk about a mouthful! It took me a LONG time to buy and set up my own domain (pbfingers.com) and I wish I would’ve done it sooner.
Domain names are so cheap (under $15!) and are easy to set up on your blog (click here for step-by-step directions for WordPress users). Having your own domain name not only conveys a sense of professionalism (do you know any companies with “.wordpress.com” in their web address?), but it also makes it much easier for people to remember you and find you online.
- How did you decide what to blog about?
When I decided that I wanted to start a blog, I always kept in mind my number one tip for bloggers: Create a blog you would want to read.
I knew I loved reading healthy living blogs every day, so I figured that genre was a good fit for me. I also wanted my blog to be a little different and I knew I couldn’t limit myself to talking solely about food and fitness because I’d pass out from boredom and quickly lose the fervor I have for blogging if I could only write about what I ate or what workout I completed every day.
When I expanded my blog to include musings about my life, I knew I’d always have something to say.
Plus, Sadie loves the spotlight.
- Do you feel like it’s better to have a focus to your blog? Do you not include certain things on your blog because they don’t necessarily fit into the main focus of your blog?
While blogs are great in that they give you freedom to write about whatever you want, I think a focus is extremely important. Sure, I blog about my life, random thoughts, The Bachelorette, my dog, my wedding and travels, but my blog has consistency through food and fitness.
Every day readers know they can expect to see my breakfast, lunch and dinner and typically they’ll also see a recap of my workout in the morning. I think that this continuity is imperative because a blog full of random thoughts and musings can be hard to follow and overwhelming. Of course there are exceptions to this, as I can think of a small handful of blogs that were created on the principle of being totally random, but they attack randomness with humor and diligence that somehow gives their blog a sense of focus and organization.
- Do you think it’s necessary to post all the time to have a successful blog?
No. I think you can post once a week and still have a successful blog. If you do this, make sure that when you post, you’re posting on the same day, around the same time each week. To me, the most important aspect of posting is having a schedule. Your readers want to know when you’ll be posting so they know when to come back!
- How did you tell your friends, family and coworkers about your blog?
I didn’t right away! For a couple of weeks, Ryan was the only one who knew about my blog. I then told my family and then a small handful of my friends, explaining that I wanted to create a blog as an outlet to write about food and fitness since my desk job had me writing about pharmaceuticals and their side effects all day. It took me a couple of months until I felt okay with sharing my blog with all of my friends.
As for telling my coworkers, I wanted to keep my blog separate from work since it follows so much of my personal life and never actually told any of my coworkers. The coworkers who knew about my blog at first discovered it on their own. Eventually the vast majority of my coworkers knew about my blog. In fact, when I quit my job and explained to my boss that I was going to be pursuing freelance work, he said “And your blog, too, right?” Apparently everyone knew!
- What does it mean to be self-hosted? What is the benefit of self-hosting?
With a self hosted blog, you have a lot more freedom and flexibility and you have complete control over your site. You have the ability to install more plugins, have dynamic advertisements and can customize your site to your heart’s content. I personally switched to self-hosting for the advertising opportunities, which I’ll cover in more detail when I post about making money through blogging in this series.
And that was the first installment of Blog Talk Tuesdays! Phew! I hope this post was beneficial for some of you out there.
Also, please know that it’s totally normal to feel overwhelmed and nervous about starting a blog. I can assure you that every single blogger has been there. I’ve done so much reading and research about blogging and still sometimes feel like I know nothing… but I continue learn something new every single day. Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint.
If you’d like to read more blogging tips, please check out my Blogging Tips for Beginners post.