Starting a blog is simple, growing your audience, marketing and building a brand is a little more in depth. I decided to start this blog series because I get a lot of blog questions and I thought it would be great to answer everything in one place. I'll be doing around 5 posts in this series and it will be easy for you to refer back to as all of my blog tips can be accessed through the 'blog tips' section on the home page (desktop only).
Blogging has greatly expanded in the past couple of years, your blog can be your hobby, your side job, your career or basically anything you want it to be. There are many different reasons that people start a blog, maybe you want to share information, perhaps you just want to put your thoughts down and maybe you are blogging for business purposes. The great thing is that blogging allows you to create unique content, express yourself or your business organically and there is space for anyone and everyone.
Series #1 How to start a blog
YOUR DOMAIN NAME
The first blog decision you will have to make is the name of your blog, for example 'A Seat With Shay', where you will host your blog, for me 'Wix' and whether or not you will buy your own domain name. Let's start with the name of your blog, a big decision because the aim is to stick to one catchy name for years to come. It's important to look at what your blog is about and the purpose of your blog when choosing a name. An idea would be to look at keywords surrounding your blog theme whether it be 'Ways to make money' 'Motherhood' or 'Fashion', start jotting some ideas down and see if anything sticks.
You will want a name that is easy to say and doesn't look like anything else when written down, for example a website called IT Scrap, naturally wanted the domain name 'Itscrap.com' which obviously reads as 'It's Crap', big no. You will also want something memorable.
When I first started my London Lifestyle Blog 2 years ago, I focused more on mental health and mindfulness. I felt like it was an open letter to humans going through the same thing as me and dearhumanswithlove.com was born. It made sense at the time and whether it was actually a decent name or not, a lot of people liked it. It included suiting words and was relevant to the blog.
After planning a rebrand for February 2018 I knew I had to think of a new name. My blog had outgrown mental health and mindfulness, it was still very important and a huge factor on the blog but it had became more than that, I wanted it to be a true reflection of me. A Seat With Shay fit well and I decided to take the personal approach and include my name in the title. I chose GoDaddy to purchase my domain name from as they are super affordable with my first domain name costing around 0.99p and I've had a great business journey with them so far.
GoDaddy and my website provider Wix have simple steps to link the two together. To keep my website live and connect my domain name, I pay £8.50 a month for the Wix premium combo deal which is definitely worth it. It allows me to have more space, a wide range of in house apps and features and to connect my domain name.
If you want to start off free, Wix provide you with a website name that will look something like aseatwithshay.wixsite.com, which is ok for a hobby or a beginner but if you want to make your mark professionally as a blogger, your own domain name is advised.
DESIGN, LAYOUT AND WEB PROVIDER
Ok, there are many different approaches to take when it comes to design and layout. You can find a free template from you web provider, create your own layout on your web provider, buy a template online or design your own website from scratch. I personally chose to design my own using the tools provided in Wix site editor, no coding experience needed.
I have used WordPress, Blogger and SquareSpace in the past but I felt most comfortable with the navigation Wix provided. Wix has a wide range of templates, colours and designs for you to play around with, so much so your blog can start looking really crazy really quickly, but I enjoy the freedom. Feel free to check out the other web providers as I am using what is comfortable for me and the other options may suit your style better.
In terms of design, I have no ideas what I'm doing. I'm not a web designer, I did a tiny unit in University in which I basically just made everything pictures of what I wanted instead of actually designing it, still passed though. Using Wix allows me to design my website however I want. I am able to make adjustments easily, move things around regularly which I do because I like to switch it up and I am able to create the vision I see in my head. The other providers I mentioned aren't as free with design and layout, which can be a major plus to having your blog have a more professional look.
The downside to the freedom is that I'm an amateur and although I have the freedom to make things look how I want it to, it doesn't necessarily mean it looks good. If you are original reader, from 2016 you will know my blog looked nothing like this at first and I'll try and find some screen grabs to show you some of the terrible little changes that Wix has kindly allowed me to glow through before I somewhat found my feet.
My overall advice would be to keep it simple by sticking to a colour palette, I play around with 2 main colours and black and white only, 3 fonts and one Lightroom preset for all of my photography. You will also want a clear navigation and to make everything user friendly. Have your contact information, social media and about me page updated, you never know who might want to get in touch.
FIND YOUR TONE & NICHE
Niche? Some of you are probably thinking 'what's a niche?', It's your unique selling point, combined with your tone it is what will keep your readers coming back. I don't heavily have a niche, A Seat With Shay is a lifestyle blog and within that category we chat about relationships, womanhood, fashion and blog stuff, so a little bit of everything. I have chosen my voice to be my unique selling point, I want people to return because they can relate to the honesty and personality shown in my posts.
Examples of a niche are a Gardening Blog, Winter Sports Blog, Handbags Blog or a Luxury cooking blog. Having a niche can be beneficial because it's a lot easier for your audience and brands to know exactly what kind of posts to expect from you.
It will also mean that brands suited to your niche will be more inclined to wanting to work with you. For example if a new handbag company wanted someone to promote their new handbags, they may choose me 'a lifestyle blog who also covers fashion' but they'll probably be more interested in working with the 'Handbag blog lady'. Again, this has it's pros and cons because covering a range of topics means I have worked with a variety of brands including fashion, dating and skin care. If your tone fits the brand, they will still want to work with you and your readers will still know what type of post to expect.
As a blogger it is important that your blog and voice represent who you are authentically. The bloggers I resonate with the most and are the ones who I feel like I really know from reading their posts. Hannah Gale, really made me up my content game, after reading her posts I couldn't tell if I was on her blog or reading a message from my best friend I knew her so well. I wanted to write as open and authentically as she did.
Coming from my Magazine Journalism background meant that I didn't really know how to use my voice to begin with. After 3 years of being taught to be less chatty and impersonal I had forgotten how to just write like Shay. My blog posts began to sound like articles and became boring if you ask me.
Once I found my voice I made it clear what kind of person I was by showcasing this the best I can through words. I try to show some sarcasm, not to swear too often or using the little star thingy's If I feel like it's necessary to do so, I learnt to talk about the things that annoy me or that I don't like and to go over the top about the things I love like Prosecco and Beyonce. That is who I am and as a reader I cannot stand reading impartial thoughts all the time, I need some personality and some soul in a blog post to really connect with the blogger.
Now that is MY tone and that is the way I have chosen to portray myself online. You will need to decide how you want to be heard online. If you are blogging for business, a more professional approach may be suiting or may be you are a very straight to the point person, the point is to just be you and like the real world, someone out their will enjoy what you have to say, because it's you.
So when I first started this blog all of my family would read it through my Facebook posts and I felt great. They left comments and some of them were more distant family members which meant yes my blog was getting out there (a bit). 2 years in and I am scheduling tweets, trying to get the hang of Pinterest and wishing Instagram let accounts with less than '10k' use the swipe up feature because the key is to promote, promote, promote.
If you really want to expand your readership, you'll need to promote as much as you can to find new readers. Some bloggers get annoyed when bloggers are continuously promoting themselves and wanting more followers. I just think to myself, of course I want more followers, more followers means more readers and more readers means that more people can hear my message, read my posts and be a part of my little blogging gang, of course that is what I want.
Twitter has helped me push my blog the most. I have new followers everyday and the blogging community is huge on Twitter. There are # such as #bloggerstribe and #blogginggals that will RT your blog posts if the # is included. There are also blogging Retweet accounts such as @FemaleBloggerRT and @BB_Bloggers (Black British Bloggers) that will do the same. These are a huge help because they try to RT almost everything and once they do your blog post is promoted to all of their followers and I get new readers almost every time I push a blog post out.
The key on Twitter is to interact with your followers, make blogging friends and join in to Blogger chats. I also promote each blog post on Instagram Stories, Snapchat (usually a few days later), sometimes on my Instagram feed for the ones with fitting images and Facebook on both my personal page and blog page.
Never feel awkward putting yourself out there or promoting your content because if you don't, how are people going to find it.
There are a lot more topics we still need to cover in the blogging world, in this series I am going to be covering sponsored posts, getting paid, the filters, apps and photography tricks I use and I am going to be chatting to a few bloggers about what their tips as bloggers, so stay tuned if you want to start a blog or gain some blogger knowledge.
I hope you guys have enjoyed the start to the blog series. Any thoughts, comments or questions about starting a blog? Leave me a comment below.