Tuesday, January 28, 2020

How to Start a Blog

It is the New Year, and there are people who want to start something new and different.  Writing is usually one of those hobbies that people want to start doing, but, for the most part, they are clueless on how to start or where to start.  10 years ago, I was in that same place most people are in when the itch to start writing kicks in.  I loved writing, but I was not sure if I had the skills to be a writer.  In the past, I was that person who had tons of spelling and grammar mistakes, and I did not care when I started my blogs. One of my problems was that I was always an impatient writer. This lead to being a careless writer. Another problem was I never did any research.  I wanted the paper to be done and done quickly.  If I did any research, I copied the text word for word without putting my spin into what I was reading and still meaning the same thing.
Photos from Pixabay
Side Note:  I want to take this moment to talk about the art of writing in general.  I find writing a lost art and a lost skill. We, as humans, may not like to write with pen and paper anymore, but in order to write an effective paper, both in pen and paper or digitally, you need to know how to write basic sentences.  Social media has made us lazy and I must admit at the time it includes me. We depend on the computer to correct our mistakes and this includes, spell checkers, grammar checkers, instead of watching what we say, and how we write it.
You should know the difference, for example, between words that sound the same but have two totally different meanings.  You should know where to insert a comma, and the difference between a noun, a pronoun, an adjective, and a preposition, and how to use it.  In social media, you SHOULD ALWAYS punctate a sentence with a period (.), an exclamation point (!), or a question mark (?), no matter what Twitter says.  A person should not try to figure out what you are trying to say to them in a Facebook post or Tweet.  Learn how to spell.  I am saying this because it does not matter if you want to be viewed as a professional writer to your friends on social media, or when you write for a blog or a business, the rules do not change.  Blogs may be more relaxed, but that’s about it.  Okay, rant over. Back to my story.
When I first started writing the papers that my teachers wanted, I did it on a typewriter or wrote it as older people would call, “long-hand”.  By the time I graduated from high school, the home computer started becoming a thing in the household.  Now we have smartphones, tablets, and all sorts of devices that make starting a blog easy and fun to start.  The key to writing is to have content that interesting, informative, and relatable.
Are blogs still a thing?
I was asked on Quora.com if starting a blog in 2020 was a silly idea, and it is not.  In fact in an age where Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, and Snapchat are the marketing norm, writing a blog is still relevant today, as it was over 10 years ago when I first started.  Another fact is that some bloggers use their blogs as an addition to the vlogs that they put out.  Blogs today are more of a marketing tool to sell their products than to give out information about their products. For instance, If you have a brand to promote with products to sell on your website, you need content that promotes the very thing you want to sell.
For example, if you are a crafter and you sell paintings your life in the Columbus, Ohio area, You would create an e-commerce website with portraits of downtown, the Eastside, and Southside of the city.  You decide to create a portrait of a family enjoying the Ohio State Fair.  Once you have the concept of the painting, who the family is and represent, and what they are doing.  Next, you create a story about this family and why they are important on your blog website.  Perhaps, you may not want to do that, but write a post on how to bring life to your portraits or how to bring light and shadows to portraits for intermediates or the beginnings on how to paint for beginners. 
Tip: Whatever you decide to do on your blog, make it interesting, informative, and relatable to your website or brand.
So how do you start a blog?
I was looking to see how you start a blog in 2020.  Yes, I know how, but you have to remember that I started writing my blog 10 years ago, and well times have changed slightly. A person I found called Blog starter suggested you start a blog in these 6 simple steps:
1.    Pick a blog name.  to me, pick a name that is easy for a reader to remember and is not already taken.  For instance, I wanted to name my business and blog, P Lynn Designs.  Lynn is my legalized or government middle name. Of course, the “P” stands for Patricia.  The problem with it is there was already a blog with that spelling, and I did not want people and companies I deal with to get confused with that spelling.  I chose to use P. Lynne Designs because I always wanted to change the spelling of my middle name since the 10th grade (my parents had a fit about it), and a period (.) to further distance my blog and business from the other P Lynn Designs. Little did I know how much the website servers hate it.  Etsy still calls my shop, Plynne Designs.
2.   Get your blog online. Yes, it is important to find a self-hosting site.  I use SiteGround, and I could not have been any happy with the site.  Right now, all three blogs are still on Blogger, which is not a self-hosted site.  It is owned by Google, which means Google has a say so to the things you can and cannot do on your blog.  WordPress is the type of blog that most bloggers use.  Yes, there are sites like Wix, and it is a good blogging website, but you want something that can stand the test of time. I am very confident in Siteground. 
Also, register your blog with a domain name.  I use GoDaddy, but any hosting site that allows you to create a website or blog will allow you to create and register a domain name.  Godaddy is cheaper for the first year.  Renewals, however, are $17.00, at least that is what I paid yesterday.
Photo by Becca Clark for Pixabay
3.   Customize your blog.  Once you have created a blog name, registered the blog and domain name, you will want to pick a theme.  You can use the default theme, which is usually named after the year it was created (Twenty Nineteen is the theme that is currently activated on my new My Ambiance Life site), but if I were you, I would pick a theme that resonated with your blog.  Twenty Nineteen is not that theme, so I will have to change it.  Also, choose a theme that has a “parent-child relationship (main and sub-main pages).  We could get into plug-ins later, but there are thousands of plug-ins to suit the style you want to go into for your blog.  One tip:  do not fall in love with too many plug-ins.  The reason is a server is a great big computer, and if you fill your blog with too many plug-ins, it will take longer for the blog to load.  If your blog takes to long, you could push away some readers who only want to get to your post, read it, make a comment, and move on.
4.  Write and publish your first post.  Once you have customized your blog, it is time to write your first post.  It is important that reach your audience and provide the answers that they seek, even if your post is for mere entertainment.  Here is what I do in order to write a post from start to publish:
With that being said, when I first write a blog post, I plan it out. This takes about 15–20 minutes. Next, anything that I am not familiar with, even if I am well versed in the topic, I research the parts I am not familiar with. after the research, I write a rough draft, which takes about an hour or two. Then I proofread and edit the post. this takes about 30 minutes. Lastly, I will add photos, affiliate links, and other things that may draw a reader’s attention.
I tell readers that the way to start a blog post is to start with a concept.  Choose a topic.  I always use motorcycles as a starting point but this time I am not.  Let’s take Disney as a subject.  I know, there are Disney movies, property, theme parks, food in the theme parks, and shows.  Yes, you have to be able to break this Whenever you write a blog, it does not matter if it is 500 words or 5000 words, always plan out your topic and do your research, especially on a topic you are not familiar with. So, I would have to say that depending on what I have to do that day, it will take me about 24 hours from concept to publishing the post. This is an estimated time. Some posts may take a little longer, while others may be shorter than 24-hours. Once you have written and edited your post you want to
5.  Promote your blog.  After all, if you do not tell anyone that you have written a new blog post, how are you going to get clicks throughs and traffic.  I will admit that I have a hard time doing, and I have a degree in marketing.  Silly, huh?
There are many ways to promote your post.  Currently, I am in at least 5 groups whose sole purpose is to allow you to promote your blog posts and 3 groups that allow you to promote my YouTube channel.  I am also on 3 Twitter groups that allow blog post promotion, and I use Tailwind to promote my posts through Pinterest and Instagram.  About YouTube, while you are uploading your video to your channel, fill out your description of what the video is about.  You can place a call to action link in the description area.  This is where you can place a link to your blog and everything that links your social media to both the blog and video channel.
There are also websites that allow the promotion of blogs as well.  One such website I am on is Bloglovin.  The way Bloglovin works is you submit your blog to the site.  There is a code you put on your blog that allows Bloglovin to grab your post every time you post it on your blog.  That is all there is.  For those in fear of coding, it is super simple to plug it into the backend of your blog site or ask any teen to do it for you.  They would love to be paid a couple of dollars for the chance to sharpen their skills.  There is always a catch and, in this case, follow other bloggers and like their posts.
One word about marketing.  It is getting harder and harder to promote because of states like California, who a few weeks ago passed a law that if a person does not want to receive any communication from a third-party company, you, as the company they are communicating with have to honor that request, and you need to display it on your blog or website.  This is something that requires some more discussion on the matter, and since I live in the State of Ohio, the only way it affects me is if I am doing business with a customer who lives in California.  What you need to do is be strategic about marketing, and research what is allowed in your state or country because if you are not careful, marketing can cost you additional thousands of dollars over what you have estimated the cost to be in your yearly budget.

6.   Make money blogging.
This is a tricky subject as well.  I cannot tell you the full details on how, except what I am trying to do, which is through affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, and products. 

Tip: Find what works for you and your blog.  Do not try everything, because everything may not work for you and your type of business. 

This ties into promoting your blog:  Promote companies that are in line with your business and brand.  If you are a crafter, find craft companies that you use on s regular basis.  I love my Cricut Electronic Cutting Machine.  I have been using one since 2005 when the first one started selling.  I am now using the Cricut Maker exclusively, which not only cuts paper, but Balsa Wood, Acetate, and fabric to name a few materials.  I have every single type of blade this machine can use, and I have invested money for this machine.  I also have the older Cricut Explore (1st edition), but it is on standby, in case something goes wrong with the maker.  It almost did 5 weeks ago when Microsoft updated the operating system, and I found out the computer kicked out my Bluetooth for all Cricut machines because, hey, it was not made by Microsoft (the little turds), so, I couldn't work neither machine.   “This is the very reason why I do not like automatic updates, Microsoft, stop this nonsense.”
Yes, I sometimes promote the heck out of Cricut machines, including the EasyPress, which I need time to learn. But if you want to earn some money, you need to put in the work to allow your blog to earn that extra cash.  By the way, Cricut does not pay me to say these nice things about their products by giving them to me, I buy them with my own money.  There is that aspect too, which I will dive into through the year.
Well, another long blog post is done and ready to publish.  Remember these 6 principles to having a profitable blog, and I just touched the surface on this subject.  There is plenty of content to cover with blogging for beginners.  Blogging is not for everyone, and there is a 7th principle that I have not touched on, and that is what if you have to quit.  I have done that on a couple of blogs that I no longer write, and I will touch on that topic later.
Until then, be well, and do not give up.

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