how to start a blog

How to Start a Blog (and Make it Successful) Part 2

Start a blog the right way. In this post, we'll cover what platform to use, decide whether to use a template or not, and learn how to create community and promote your posts. #blog #blogging *There are referral links present in this post.

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:

Blogger:

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.

Wordpress.com:

Pros - Free + no maintenance.

Cons - Not allowed to sell ads unless you receive 25,000 page views a month. No plugins, limited theme support.

Wordpress.org:

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.

Squarespace:

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.

Create community

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.

Follow Brittany Houchins 's board b l o g g i n g on Pinterest.

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:

Be Authentic

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! 

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Blogging Basics from The Kardia

How to Start a Blog (and Make it Successful) - Part 1

Start a blog the right way. In this post, we'll cover how to create a focus, determine a name, create a vision board, and purchase a domain. #blog #blogging *There are referral links present in this post.

I've gotten multiple emails over the last few weeks from people asking for tips on how to start a blog and I'm really excited for them! Starting a blog is one of the best decisions I made, and I'd like to share a few tips to help others begin this journey of their own. I've made this into a two part series because there is so much to cover! I could definitely write more than two posts on this, but I want this to be a starting point for new bloggers as well as a refresher for those of you who already have a blog but are looking for ways to improve it. :)

To start off, why start a blog? Good question! I listed 7 reasons why I started my blog here in my very first post! Like the cake I made? ;) Start off by making your own list of why you want to blog. Is it a creative outlet? A place to document your life? Somewhere for you to write stories? This list is something you'll look back to when you're in a blogging rut, so it's handy to have.

Next, narrow down your focus

What do you want to blog about? Fashion? Food? Decor? There are a lot of different niches and categories but many bloggers categorize themselves as a "lifestyle" blogger, including myself. But I also have an overall theme. My posts are all centered around encouraging others to chase their dreams and inspiring them to live an intentional life. I provide tips to help make their lives easier, but I throw in some personal posts as well.

So even though I'm a lifestyle blogger, you can see that I blog with intention. And I believe that blogging with intention is what will set you apart from other bloggers.

[Tweet "Blogging with intention is what will set you apart from other bloggers. via @britthouchins"]

Your next step is to narrow down what you'd like to blog about. Begin by listing topics you like, such as decorating or cooking; don't worry if you find yourself listing a lot of topics, we'll narrow it down :) Next, try to group topics together into main categories. Then think over each category: Do I have enough knowledge to write multiple posts on this? Does it fit my current lifestyle? I had a lot of categories when I first started out, but now I have them condensed down to five. Over time you'll discover what you like and don't like to blog about and your blog will grow as you grow.

Create a blog vision board on Pinterest

Now before you jump in and pick your blog name, I recommend creating a blog "brand" vision board on Pinterest. I'm using the word "brand" because essentially, your blog will be a brand. Cohesive brand elements are what makes great blogs stand out from the rest.

Pin photos that convey the look/feel of what you would like your blog to have. For example, my blog brand board (which is a secret board, so I can't show you guys :( sorry!) is full of beautiful handwritten script fonts, simple and clean lines, my favorite inspirational quotes, and bright airy photos.

You should also pin blog layouts and templates for inspiration. Take a look and see what they have in common. Are they all minimalistic? Do they have bold lines and colors? Determining the style of your blog is the first step to creating the blog of your dreams.

Brainstorm and choose a blog name

Now is the fun (and sometimes really hard) part! Choosing a blog name is serious business, because it's something that you will be known for. Make a list of 5-10 blog names that are relevant to your topics and you can see yourself using multiple years from now. Coming up with 5-10 names may sound like a lot, but it's a good idea to have backup ideas just in case the name is already taken on social media sites or the domain is already bought.

Write a blog mission statement

Like I said earlier, you can’t blog about everything if you want your blog to be successful. You need a focus; a purpose; a mission. Having a blog mission statement enables you to have a constant reminder of what your purpose is.

Don't skip this step! Many bloggers, including myself, don't usually do this until after their blog is established. But if you do it before you even start, you are way ahead of the game! Use this post I wrote solely dedicated on how to write a mission statement for your blog for guidance.

Purchase a domain

Once you've decided on a name, the next step is to purchase your domain name. Purchasing your domain name adds a professional appearance to your blog as it takes away the .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com in your domain.

There are multiple ways you can get your domain. The most popular option is to purchase directly from a domain registrar, like GoDaddy.com or Registrar.com, for anywhere around $5-$20 a year. Even if you decide to not spend money on anything else for blogging, I highly recommend buying your domain.

This is where we'll stop for today. Starting a blog doesn't happen overnight; it takes a lot of time and effort. These first few steps set the foundation of your blog, and they are incredibly important, so don't try to jump and skip ahead.

In Part 2, I'll help you decide what blogging platform to use, choose a theme/design, and provide tips on promoting your posts! So be sure to check in next Monday!

Do you want to start a blog? If you have any more questions, be sure to let me know! 

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Elevate your blog by following these blogging basics from The Kardia.

Why Your Blog Needs a Mission Statement

Blogging Tip: Why your blog needs a mission statement One of the biggest lessons I've learned in the short amount of time I've been blogging has been the importance of focus. I've learned that you need to focus on the task at hand, because time is valuable. I've learned that you must plan and think ahead if you want to stay ahead. And I've learned that you can't blog about everything if you want your blog to be successful. You need a focus; a purpose; a mission.

[Tweet "Your mission statement is what sets you apart from other blogs. via @britthouchins"]

I wrote about my goals for the blog this year, and when I took a step back and looked at the big picture, I realized that the only way I'm going to accomplish all of them is if everything I do is driven by a sole purpose.

I want that purpose to be evident to you, my readers. I want to be able to steer the direction of my blog instead of letting it steer me. Having a blog mission statement enables me to have a constant reminder of what my purpose is.

You should have one too! Writing a mission statement isn't hard at all! In fact, it's a lot of fun! :) Here are a few tips to get you started:

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement is a short one to three sentences that declares the purpose of a business/organization and defines the reason for its existence. The mission statement sets the tone of the company and outlines concrete goals. So ideally, these few sentences should sum up everything, from your brand and blog to your goals and purpose. It should be both descriptive and concise, yet resonate with your readers. Overall, the statement should be one that inspires community and ongoing commitment.

Why do I need a mission statement for my blog?

Whether you've been blogging for years, a month, a day, or are still in the dreaming process, having a mission statement will be a huge help in moving your blog forward. Not only will it help you stay focused, but it will be a constant reminder on why you blog (when those doubts set in), and what your intentions are for your space on the internet. For example, when opportunities arise, you can check to see if they line up with your mission statement before agreeing or declining. And as your brand and business grow, don't be afraid to make changes to your mission statement! In fact, it's encouraged :)

How do I write one?

Your mission statement is what sets you apart from other blogs. Ideally, it should show the practical ways in which you will accomplish your overall vision. Here are a few suggestions to help you write your own:

  • Answer these questions:
    • Why do you blog?
    • Who is your ideal audience?
    • What do you provide/want to provide your audience? Resources? Advice? Tips? Support?
    • Where do you want your blog to be in five years?
    • How are you going to get there?
    • If you could share with your readers only one thing, what would it be?
    • How will you practically accomplish your vision day-to-day?
    • What does your blog offer that’s different from everyone else?

Don't skip that last question, as it's the most defining thing for your blog and mission statement. A successful blog is unique and offers value to it's readers by not being a copy of someone else.

  • Once you've answered those questions, look for any repeating patterns in your wording. What sticks out? Use those words as a starting point for drafting your mission statement.
  • Revise and Refine
    • Write your mission statement over the span of a few days. You can write up a draft, then come back to it with a fresh mind. Make adjustments and refine it until you like it!

And while we're at it, here's the mission statement for The Kardia (please don't copy. Everyone's mission statement is different and unique).

To inspire and encourage young women to utilize the unique talents the Lord has given them to make their mark on the world. As a community of dream seekers, The Kardia aspires to support these women in their creative endeavors, personal relationships, business ventures, and all areas of life.

Do you have a blog mission statement? Let me know in the comments!

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