Last month, Ruth Feiertag left a friendly comment on one of my posts asking for blogging advice. Not only did I have far more to say to her than would fit into a comment, I thought her question would be an excellent jumping off point for a new series on this site.
Today I’m going to be talking about starting a blog, from figuring out which blogging platform to use to choosing the topic(s) you want to talk about.
I don’t know how many other posts will be in this series yet, but in the future I would like to also cover:
- Social Media and networking in general
- How to come up with new blogging ideas
- How to handle writing slumps
- When and how to promote posts, both old and new alike
- Why it’s so important to include photos in posts.
- Where to find free stock photos that are either in the public domain or can be used if you attribute them to the original photographer.
Some of these topics will be combined into one post. Others will probably need their own post to explore in greater depth. If Ruth or anyone else can think of other topics to cover in this series, please speak up. I’m quite open to suggestion.
In the meantime, let’s talk about starting or revamping a blog. As always, there are no affiliate links, and I’m not being compensated in any other way for mentioning the sites I will in a moment. I’m strictly speaking about them from the perspective of a user/visitor.
Pick a Hosting Site
The most common hosting sites I see on the sites in my RSS feed these days are WordPress, Tumblr, and Medium. While I’ve opted to pay for my own domain name, all three of these sites can be used for free and don’t require any knowledge of HTML or other programming languages in order to use them. In general, I’d recommend using the free versions of things like these and figuring out if you like them before you think about upgrading.
Tumblr seems to be particularly popular among people who write about niches that have a high rate of audience feedback and participation. It is a highly customizable site, and it has reblogging features that work well Every Tumblr page will have a different feel, of course, but in general I’ve noticed that the culture there tends to favour gifs, pictures, running jokes, pop culture references, and much shorter pieces of text.
Medium is a newer blogging platform that reminds me of what newspapers used to be like. From what I’ve observed, it often attracts serious subject matter and audiences. It’s not uncommon to find 1000+ word posts there, and some of them are much longer than that.
WordPress is what I use, and it seems to be one of the most popular options for bloggers in general these days. I love how easy it is to customize the look of a WordPress site. They also have free Plugins you can download that will help you do everything from screen out spam comments to set up a mailing list to create a contact form if you want to give your readers an easy way to email you.
Again, these are all generalizations. I encourage you to do your own research before deciding which platform works best for your your needs.
Choose Topic(s) of Interest
It’s been my experience that blogs have a much easier time finding and keeping audiences if you limit the number of topics you talk about. My topics are as follows: writing, fitness, mindfulness, and anything related to the sci-fi/fantasy or horror genres.
I’ll occasionally step away from that list to tell stories from my personal life, but my readers know that at least 90% of the things I write about will somehow be related to one of the categories listed above.
What you put on your list is a highly personal decision. I’ve seen several bloggers pick one area of interest and dig deeply into it. This option seems to work best for very broad topics like history or art that can be approached from many different perspectives. Three to five areas of interest seem to be most common, though.
Find a Posting Schedule that Works for You
As a longtime blogger, writing posts on a strict schedule works best for me. I’ve had new posts coming out on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays on this site for years, and I love the predictability of that even if the days themselves might shift over time.
I follow people who post once a day, once a week, or whenever the mood hits them. While I do prefer structured posting schedules as a reader, I know that not everyone is able to commit to writing that often or that regularly. The important thing is that you find something that works for you over the long term and that you communicate any major changes to those patterns with your readers, if possible.
I don’t worry if a site that normally posts on Wednesdays skips a week or two (especially during busy times of the year), but I do get a little concerned when there has been six months of silence from someone who used to post daily.
Are they okay? Have they been abducted by werewolves? Will they ever blog on that site again, or is this a temporary hiatus? It sure is helpful when people share information like this with their readers if they know they’re going to be taking a long break or will soon be posting much more or less than they usually do.