I’m sure many of us have been to a lake or the ocean to go swimming, but how do you get into the water? Some people have different approaches. Some jump right into the water, ready for anything. Others may ask what the water temperature is, if there is seaweed, if they should wear swim shoes, if it’s too wavy, etc. What I’m trying to say is, some people can jump right into blogging without much planning and they just go with the flow.
However, if you’re anything like me, you can’t just start on a whim. You need to plan to make sure everything is right before you get started. But what is there to plan and decide? When I first started blogging, I didn’t know what I should do to get ready. I didn’t really have a guide. Well, today I want to give you a basic checklist for getting started on your new blog (I love checklists). Nothing on the list is mandatory – only recommended!
The Getting Started Checklist
1. Choose a blogging platform.
a. Have money to burn. Self hosting can be somewhat expensive
b. Believe blogging will be a priority for you and are ready to make that investment
Ashley@Nose Graze wrote a nice post about choosing between Blogger and WordPress if you want more input (HERE).
2. Choose a name.
I recommend not rushing this! I’ve seen quite a few bloggers, including myself, regret their original names and then have to go through the hassle of getting everything changed. I would start out first by keeping a list of ideas or words that you like. Your blog name does not have to relate directly to what your blogging about. It can be completely random. I highly recommend choosing a unique name! My old blog name was Hopeless Romantics and it was too common of a phrase for searching. You want to be able to Google your name and have your blog show up at the top of the list. I actually gained inspiration for my blog name by staring at book titles on my shelf and seeing These Broken Stars. I also used http://namethingy.com/ and http://wordoid.com/ to help me come up with ideas. Maybe you want to flip through a thesaurus to find similar words to what you are blogging about.
3. Write an about me and contact page
Your about me page doesn’t have to be super long, but it helps add personality to your blog. How you write it and what you write about yourself is completely up to you. If you don’t feel comfortable writing about your real name or where you live, then just talk about what you like to do and why you like what you are blogging about. Again, you don’t HAVE TO write an about page, but most blogs have one. For your contact page, I would recommend having a contact form that people can fill out if they want to email you about something. If you don’t want emails, then this is a great place to say that and link to other social sites where they can message you.
4. Choose a Blog Design
This is the hardest step for many people. Learning how to edit HTML/CSS and creating a design can be hard. If you know how to do all of that, great. However, if you don’t, all is not lost. Hiring a designer can be expensive, but there are a crazy number of premade blog designs that you can buy for a very cheap price (usually around $10-30 for Blogger templates). All you have to do is go to www.etsy.com and search for: Blogger template. Searching now gave me 2,914 results! I’d say the chances that you could find a great theme to fit your blog are pretty high.
Whether or not you care about your blog design, IT DOES MATTER! Other people, your potential readers, are very likely to care about what your blog looks like. An attractive looking blog will also pull in more readers. Your blog design is your first impression to your readers and you should want it to be a good one. A premade template is a quick and easy solution to this – for a really cheap price =)
5. Set up your social and email accounts
You might be thinking “Oh, I already have a Twitter, Facebook, and Email account. I’ll just use those.” Unless you’re absolutely sure that you want the people you know in real life to know about your blog, don’t do that! Most bloggers that I know keep their blogging life separate from their personal life. That might be more common in the book blogging community than other blogging groups, but the choice is up to you. Having separate accounts is recommended anyways though, because then you can brand those social accounts with your blog. It could help your followers find you, for example, if you Twitter handle is your blog name (or part of it). Your blog is also very likely to generate a lot of emails from comments, social accounts, member accounts (NetGalley), and blogging friends.
6. Must have gadgets to get started: social icons, follow by email option, and search bar.
It really annoys me when Bloggers don’t have those three gadgets/widgets that I stated above. They are, what I would consider, the three most important gadgets for you to have and should be near or at the top of your sidebar. If you need social icons, I have some here you can easily use: http://www.thesepaperhearts.com/2013/11/blog-design-tips-and-tricks-social-icons/ Blogger already has gadgets for a follow by email option and search bar that are easy to add. Also, don’t go overboard with the sidebar gadgets. Too many will slow down your blog load time!
Don’t Plan Too Much!
I believe there is such a thing as planning too much. If you do too much planning, the planning could just burn you out before you even get started. The fun of blogging is getting to actually write posts and interact with other bloggers. If you did the checklist basics above, I think you’re ready to schedule your first post. It’s not as scary as it seems. The book blogging community especially is almost always very welcoming and kind.
Once you’ve hit publish on your first post, don’t just sit on your hands! Go out to other blogs and comment, comment, comment. It’s a key way to get the word out about your blog. Then maybe join memes and brainstorm new post ideas. The possibilities are endless once you get started. Plan for your trip to the lake(or ocean) and then jump in (unless there are sharks)!