Last week I posted the first part of a two part series on how to start a blog, and this week is the second post! If you haven't done so already, I encourage you to do these steps in order, beginning with the first part.
Now that you've narrowed down your focus, chosen a name, and bought a domain, it's time to make some bigger decisions.
Decide what platform to use
The three most popular and user-friendly platforms are Blogger, Wordpress, and Squarespace. I'm not going to go too in depth about each of them, but here's a quick rundown on the pros and cons of each:
Pros - Free and reliable. Many blogs are run on Blogger and there are many designs and templates you can purchase if you wish.
Cons - Ownership. Google owns and runs Blogger and has the right to shut your blog down at any time.
Pros - Free + no maintenance.
Cons - Not allowed to sell ads unless you receive 25,000 page views a month. No plugins, limited theme support.
Pros - Customizable. Wordpress is the standard for websites and it can be customizable to anything you wish.
Cons - Expensive. To own a wordpress.org site, you must pay to have it hosted on a server from a provider, such as Bluehost.
Pros - Appearance. Squarespace offers visually pleasing, mobile responsive template designs.
Cons - Limited template designs offered by Squarespace. Customization can be done through blog designers.
Theme or custom blog design?
Your next step is to choose whether you want to use a theme or have a blog designer custom design your site. For my blog, I purchased a theme and then went and changed the CSS code to make it look the way I wanted. Some of you may not feel comfortable doing that, so a theme with customizable options is a great way to get the look you want if you're on a budget. I recommend checking out Creative Market's blog themes. They have a lot of affordable, beautiful templates.
One of the main reasons I love blogging is the community and people I meet. It's amazing to read other's perspectives on life and get inspired by them. Here are a few ways to begin creating a genuine community of readers and friends:
Follow other blogs
Now, don't just follow blogs in the hopes that they'll follow you back. Genuinely follow blogs that you love to read. Click around and discover new blogs. Comment on posts and make conversation. You'd be surprised at how interconnected the blogging world is.
Join blogging communities
Blogging communities provide some of the best support and friendships. Many blogging communities have a facebook page where you can post questions, share your posts, and meet other bloggers whose interests are similar to you. I highly recommend The Peony Project if you're looking for a group of bloggers who are great at supporting one another!
Participate in Twitter chats
Twitter chats are a fun way to meet others and discuss different topics. I always leave a Twitter chat feeling refreshed, energized, and inspired. Some great Twitter chats to participate in are #FireworkPeople, #OhSimpleChat, and #ElleChat.
Include your post in linkups
As a new blogger, this is a great way to expose your blog to others. I love participating in linkups because they create such neat, niche communities in the blogging world. Many linkups occur on a weekly or monthly basis, so you can usually plan a post ahead of time. Find a linkup in your niche or join in on a fun one! Some of my favorites are the Guys Behind the Blog, Currently, Week's End, Marriage and Relationship Goals, and the Creative Closet. If you're looking for a linkup that encourages you to live life to the fullest, consider joining the Flourish linkup, hosted by yours truly :) I know, shameless plug, but I had to ;)
I have discovered one big tip when it comes to linkups though: Don't go overboard. I know it may seem like a great idea to link up the same post to three different linkups, but in reality, it lowers the reputation of both you and your post. Instead of just seeking comments, seek connections. Click on multiple links, not just the minimum required for the linkup. Discover new blogs you genuinely like and comment!
[Tweet "Instead of just seeking comments, seek connections. via @britthouchins"]
Promote your posts
Ah, promoting your blog posts :) If only there were a secret formula to getting the optimal amount of traffic from social media promotion. Still, promoting blog posts isn't difficult at all, nor does it have to be time consuming! Here are a few basic ways you can promote your blog posts.
Pin to Pinterest
I can't express how important Pinterest is when it comes to blogging. It's what drives the most visits to my website. Even if you're just starting out, make sure your blog post images are pinnable! Clear, bright photos with minimal text are golden. Pin your posts to relevant boards: if it's a dessert recipe, pin it to your dessert board. Likewise, if it's a post on blogging, pin it to your blogging board.
The size of your image matters too. The optimal Pinterest image is around 735 x 1100 pixels. When you click on a pin, it will expand to a width of 735 pixels and the height will adjust depending on the size of the image. Keep in mind that images on a website need to be a minimum of 100 x 200 pixels for you to be able to pin them.
Share on Twitter
Twitter is a must for bloggers! Think of it as a mini feed of ideas, questions, and insights. It's also a great networking tool, so don't be afraid to follow and interact with the bloggers you admire. Interacting is a great way to make connections and get your name out there without being too in-your-face.
I recommend using Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your posts throughout the day (and week). Promote your blog post once or twice the day it's posted and schedule another post a few days later as well as one later in the month. I also recommend promoting some of your favorite posts by other bloggers. It's a great way to connect and build relationships!
Another thing I find useful is that whenever you have some time during the day, check Twitter, respond to others, and post something! This shows that you are engaged with others and don't just solely promote links.
Post to Facebook and Google+
In all honesty, I'm not the best at doing this (but I'm working on it!) Posting your blog posts to Facebook and Google+ are a great way to reach your readers who don't follow you on a blog reader or Twitter. Share some lifestyle posts to these accounts as well, like photos from your vacation or pictures of your dog, just like you would on your personal account.
Now, let me tell you one more thing. You could follow all of these tips, be the master of social media, and have a gorgeous website — but none of those things matter if you don't follow this one rule:
Don't be a copy of someone else. What makes you special and different from all the other blogs is that there's no one like you! So share life photos on Instagram, post your random thoughts on Twitter, don't be afraid to admit that you make mistakes. After all, blogging is supposed to fun :)
Thinking of starting a blog? If you have any more questions, be sure to let me know!