the blogged. series | starting a successful & professional blog

I am certainly not claiming to be an expert when it comes to starting and running a professional blog, but I have seen a lot of success in my blog over the past five months since I launched it and I have had a few people reach out to ask what my tips were for getting started so I’ll be sharing on that today in the first post of my new series, BLOGGED., where I will share simple ways to start a blog, grow a blog & enhance your blog little by little. I'll feature topics all about the blogging process, the writing process, collaborations & more.

All the tips I share are based on my personal experience and opinion and by no means are they “the right way” or “the only way” to do it. A big part of running a successful blog is trial and error. See what works for you. If something flops, try something different. If something succeeds, by all means do it again! It takes a few months [some would probably argue even a few years!] to get into a positive groove and as long as you’re enjoying the journey, you’ll be a success.

First - Find your Niche | What are you going to write about? What will your main focus be? Make a list of some ideas and why you feel you would enjoy writing about them. Do you love to cook and bake? Maybe you’ll start a food blog. Are you into fashion and current trends? A style blog. Where in the blogging world do you want to make an impact? On what topics do you have a lot of experience or knowledge? Start there.

Second - Create a Tagline | Once you’ve narrowed down your niche, determine how you will summarize it in an eloquent way. A tagline is often a simple phrase that summarizes your specialty. Mine is “Marriage, Motherhood & Making Your House a Home.” A tagline should tell your readers in a single sentence or phrase what your blog is all about. I primarily blog about motherhood, but I also knew I wanted to include topics related to my life with my husband Dustin and our marriage in general. Finally, I feature many handmade businesses, offer recipes and write about décor & room styling and this is all encompassed in “Making Your House a Home.” My tagline allows just the right amount of variety for writing but also isn’t so broad that people are uncertain what they’ll find on my blog.

Third - Choose a title | While many people choose a title first, I feel finding your niche & creating a tagline is helpful before choosing a title. Remember to choose a title that is versatile and that can grow with you. If you are married and want to start a blog (but hope to have children in the future), don’t title it “He Married Me,” but rather something like, “Our Happily Ever After,” because the latter allows for your title to grow with you. Even if you have children a year after starting your blog, the title will still apply. Take time to think about your title because I believe it is the #1 way to make an impact with your blog. It should tell a reader what you blog about (in general) but remain clear, concise and sophisticated. My title - A Blessed Nest - tells people that I write about my home, my family and my faith. It is catchy with a ring to it but still short and professional. I would suggest 1-3 words for a title. Save your full description for your tagline // Next week I’ll share on how to choose a title in greater detail

Fourth - Choose a Platform | Many people use Blogger or Wordpress. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. I personally have Blogger so I can’t say a whole lot about Wordpress. A blog hosted on Blogger itself (when you see .blogspot.com in a URL) is free. If you choose to buy your own domain (see below), you often have an annual rate but it is still relatively inexpensive. A blog hosted on Wordpress costs about $15/year plus the cost of a domain.

Five - Choose or Create a Clean Layout [Template] | Depending on how much experience you have with HTML, you can either create your own layout (by modifying the blog's existing HTML) or purchase one. Etsy offers a wide variety of templates for both Blogger and Wordpress. They often range from $20-$100 depending on all that is included. You basically purchase the HTML as a direct download file and then input it into the layout HTML in your blog. When I started, I had absolutely no HTML experience and spent many hours teaching myself. (Many, many hours). It was a lot of trial and error. Things like adding an instagram feed on your sidebar, creating a Pin It button when you hover over images, adding pages, etc. -- those all take practice but once you learn, you’ll love seeing how much you can do with your blog // I spent 2-3 weeks completing these steps and getting my blog ready, teaching myself all those things and getting them set into place before my actual launch on January 23, 2014. 
Choosing a Template

The KEY to your template is that it is CLEAN and PROFESSIONAL. If you are hoping to collaborate with shops or companies, advertise and review products, etc., keep in mind that companies typically look for blogs with a significant amount of white space. This allows you to direct readers to what you want them to see -- maybe a title, draw attention to each post, or your photography, etc. When a blog is cluttered, it gives off a disorganized feel. Companies certainly don’t want their product represented on a disorganized platform. The more easy it is to navigate and the less clutter, the better.

Also be sure that the layout is set up with the column on the right hand side and your posts on the left. Make sure it is DYNAMIC, meaning that it will present well on all devices, including a laptop & mobile phone. Many layouts for purchase come with social media icons, the ability to add a tagline below your title, a place for a photo, etc. If you decide to buy one (which I highly recommend because it saves you so much time), browse through a bunch and “FAVORITE” them on Etsy. Go back a few days later and eliminate a few. Choose the cleanest and most professional of what you have remaining. A sleek, simple design goes a long way with readers!

Keep in mind the 3 CT's:
Catchy Title | Concise Tagline | Clean Template

Six - Buy your Domain | This is another key in having a professional blog. Owning your own domain, especially if you hope to grow your blog to the level of having paid sponsors, is the way to go. As you build your blog, you build your brand. Your URL is an important part of branding.

[I purchased my domain through GoDaddy.com but there are many host sites available. By owning my own domain, I don’t have to include “.blogspot.com” in my URL. It is simply www.a-blessed-nest.com. I bought my domain right away to secure it and I pay only $4.99 each year. You will also have to install your domain once you purchase it. There are tutorials on both blogger and wordpress on how to do this. Again, this was a learning curve for me and took some practice, another reason I did this before my actual launch!]

Seven - Set Goals & Make Plans | Who do you want to impact? What kind of a community do you hope to create? How do you want to share about your blog? Many bloggers utilize Facebook, Twitter & Insagram [Social Media] to promote their blog posts. Whether you decide to set up accounts specific to your blog brand or not, make a plan as to how you want to let people know (1) that you have a blog and (2) what it’s all about and (3) what your posts are about and that you're posting! Having a few goals in mind helps as your blog starts to grow.

[I have such a passion for writing - and I have since I was a little girl - and my passion is what drove me to start my blog. In the beginning, I also wanted to document my life as a new mom! I have a love for people, a heart for handmade, a desire to share my faith with others, and a joy for spreading my personal knowledge and expertise with those in similar life stages as my own. I also have a hope to create community among women in general, and especially those who are married and who are mothers. I let those goals drive my writing, but I also have a lot of fun. If you focus too much on growing your blog, you will lose the joy that comes with writing. Having goals motivates me but I don’t hold to them so highly that blogging becomes “work,” even though it takes a lot of work to succeed...more on that later!]

Eight - Start Blogging | Once you’ve decided on your niche, a tagline, a title, and set up your actual blog through Blogger or Wordpress, installed a template (or used one they offer that you like), and possibly purchased & installed your own domain, start writing! This is why you started in the first place, isn’t it? Below I have a few final tips on starting the blogging process.

The Blog + Content Itself

First - Start with an ABOUT ME page | Every blog should have this because it allows a reader to get to know the writer behind the blog. To connect with a blogger, you have to know a little bit about who they are.

[In my ABOUT ME page (“meet me”), I share photos of myself and my family, basic information, what the blog is about and why I chose the title I did, then I share some other facts about myself. I also started a series called “Meet Me Mondays,” where one Monday each month I share on a topic related to myself or my life in greater detail. When I find a blog that draws me in but there is no place to read about the blogger, I often quit reading. Don’t be afraid to write about yourself - that is what readers enjoy!]

Second - Set up your sidebar | Start by adding your name, a photo on the right hand side column and include your tagline beneath it. Also add social media icons here. Be sure to include a button for email so your readers can contact you directly. Having your photo and tagline allows readers who happen upon your page to get a quick glimpse at who you are and to understand within seconds what you are writing about. A catchy title, concise tagline & clean template (the 3 CT's) determine if a reader stays on your page or X's out. You can also share a little bit about yourself under your photo in addition to your tagline, the way I have done.

Third - Write | Whether you choose to write specific posts from the beginning related to your topic, or an introductory post the way I did, remember why you started and always write with sincerity. You can choose to post once a day, every few days, or just a few times a week when you’re getting started. Find what works for you. As you grow your blog and blog audience, it will become more important to post on a regular basis, but for the first few weeks as you find your way, do what works. Don’t feel pressured to write X amount of posts per week. I have weeks where I have 5-6 posts and then weeks where I only have 3 or 4. In all honesty? When I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. And when I do? I do. If a few days pass and I don’t have a new post, I don’t worry about it. Because a forced or insincere post is worse than no post at all. And as you start to blog more often, you will find it easiest to schedule posts out ahead of time so that you don't have to write a new post every night yet still have posts going live on a regular basis // I’ll be sharing about scheduling posts in a few weeks!

Finally - Enjoy it | Possibly the most important part of starting a successful blog is to enjoy what you are doing. Don’t let blogging become a chore. Blogging isn’t life. It is a part of life, but certainly not the most important part. I put time into my blog at the end of each day but only after my husband and daughter are asleep. I refuse to let it take time away from my family, because they are more important than any blog.

I write to create community, to inspire others, to share about all that I am experiencing and hopefully offer encouragement or advice for those in similar situations. I write to express who I am, what I love, what I believe and what I know. I don’t write for popularity, money, or to be well known. Those are all perks of a professional & successful blog, but they should not be your motivators. If you don’t enjoy every step of the way, you’ll burn out. If you solely focus on blog growth, you'll burn out. And if you are starting to feel burnt out, take a step back and take a break for a few days or even a few weeks. In the beginning you will be full of ideas, plans and very excited. That “high” you are on will not always last and you eventually will have to adapt a method to sustain your joy and excitement for it. If you’re losing joy or passion, reset yourself for some time and then approach your blog again. Start fresh.

When I launched my blog back in January, I told myself and my husband (yes, I asked for his opinion & support when I started) that the moment I stop enjoying it is the moment I stop. Let that be your motto and enjoy every step of the journey! Happy 4th of July eve!

1 comment:

  1. This was really insightful! Thank you so much for sharing!


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