Starting Your Own Blog – A Checklist

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.

The vast majority of Bloggers I know use either WordPress or Blogger. I do use WordPress now, but I started on Blogger. If you are new to blogging and unsure if you’ll be in for the long run, choose Blogger. Blogger has many options and is completely free. I discourage using a WordPress free blog. You’ll end up being very limited. WordPress free blogs don’t allow you to customize your theme with CSS and they don’t allow Javascript. You could go with WordPress self hosted for your blog, but I would only recommend that if you:
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.

now what

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)!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

17 thoughts on “Starting Your Own Blog – A Checklist

  1. I totally agree with your tips! When I first started blogging, I personally did not like Blogger because it was so confusing so I just used the free WordPress blog. You’re right, it’s very limited and it sucks that I can’t really change the font color, etc. but it doesn’t matter anymore because I got used to it, and it’s easier for me to do bloggy stuff compared to Blogger. I also think choosing a blog name is very important and that one should actually spend time thinking about it because that is like the first impression of your blog I guess. I think it should be catchy and easy to remember. Great tips! :)

    1. I’m glad you’ve settled into a free wordpress blog nicely. I think WordPress free blogs could be good if you find a template that you love and don’t want to change and are ok without the javascript. Your blog name is definitely a first impression. It’s often the first thing people see when they visit your blog =)

  2. Haha, I definitely started my blog on a whim and then ended up changing EVERYTHING including name and host once I actually settled in. I’m really glad you include that last bit though, since I feel like us more experienced bloggers sometimes overwhelm potential newbies with all the things we wish we had done immediately ;-)
    Anya recently posted…The Bloodbound Giveaway!My Profile

  3. The new design is cute :D I jumped right in, but these tips would have been so helpful in the beginning. I hope people who are thinking about blogging get to read this post. Finding the right platform and a name you know you’re going to like for a long time are definitely important. I also have a back-up account on WordPress and I’m not sure I would be blogging if I started on there. It’s a bit overwhelming if you compare it with the easy interface of Blogspot. Great tip on using Etsy for a design!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Review 291. Cat Winters – The cure for dreaming.My Profile

    1. Awe thanks Mel! I had an itch to change up the design a bit =) Having a platform and name you’re happy with are definitely some of the most important decisions a blogger has to make since they are somewhat difficult to change later.

  4. LOL I was one of those people who just jumped in and didn’t plan. I’ve been blogging for years but had never book blogged before; it was a bit of a change but I ended up figuring it out. When I first started I posted my reviews and kept thinking “Why is no one commenting? Where is everyone?” and it took me a while to realize I had to do some dirty work first and actually go out and find other blogs! But once that started, it was a lot of fun.

    Ha, I also didn’t put a ton of thought into my name. A part of me sometimes thinks it’s too generic or boring, but I’m 1) too lazy to come up with something new and then transfer everything, and 2) I still like it and think it fits me. There are a lot of “______ Bookish” blog names out there, but I’m okay with that. Someday I might come up with a brilliant blog name that I adore, but for now I’m happy. :P

    I tried Blogger about but much prefer WordPress since I’ve been using it for years and I’m familiar with it. It’s just easy for me, and I like all of the customization options. :P Blogger gives me a bit of a headache.

    Great post! :D
    Sydney recently posted…GIF Reactions to Books!My Profile

    1. When I first started posting reviews I thought the magical internet would send readers to me haha. I was like “my gosh, why is no one visiting my blog?” *hits self* Silly of me but I think a lot of bloggers fall into that trap. I like your name! Plus you got a domain name for it and that’s a great bonus =)

  5. Love the tips!

    Yes i am among those who changed the name of the blog…after 4 years of having it like that i changed it XD .
    I have a customize layout, made by you, and it really changes a lot the perspective of the blog…all in place, much prettier and easy for the readers and also for me!
    I would love one day to change to wordpress.org but i’m hoping thesepaperhearts will do that service XD not only layout but also, where to host, how to host…XD

    kisses*

  6. Definitely started mine a whim and I’m getting into the swing of things… this is some great advice for people looking to get started! :-) Your blog on a whole is adorable.
    Jessica recently posted…FallenMy Profile

  7. Loved your post! I hope a post like this was available for me to read before I started blogging a year ago.
    I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a blogger, but it was fun learning from them.I never planned anything, I was not at all organized and just went by instinct most of the time.
    The biggest mistake I made was choosing the name for my blog.When I came up with it, I was really happy about it, but then started to realize that the name was too common, as there was a famous bookstore and a few blogs with the same one.
    But I am planning to change my name, address and design by the end of this year.I am sure it’s going to be a tricky process, but I hope it will be worth it.

    P.S-I am a new reader, by the way.
    Mishma @ As the page turns recently posted…20 things you probably didn’t know about meMy Profile