Have you always wanted to start a blog, but don’t know where to start? Here are seven questions you should answer before publishing your first post!
- Why do you want to start a blog?
Maybe you want to practice your writing or keep a daily log chronicling the events of your life. Maybe you’re a professional who wants to expand your customer base or connect with others in your field. Or maybe you think a blog will help you keep in touch with far-flung family members.
It’s important to know what you want out of your blog so you can have a clear idea from the start what the content of your blog will be. Which leads us to our second (and most important) question…
- What will you blog about?
Many blogs feature content on an array of topics – think the Huffington Post. However, the fledgling blogger should consider choosing a general theme. A theme will help you build a reader base of people who are interested in the things you blog about. A blog with no theme confuses possible readers – think about it: a reader who’s drawn in by your post about delicious crock-pot recipes might be turned off of your blog if your next post is about how cute your cat looks dressed as a bumble bee.
If you’re planning on writing a web journal, or blogging specifically to stay in touch with friends and family, you, lucky person, don’t have to think very hard about your theme. Your theme is you.
You can blog about something you’re already an expert in, OR you can blog about something you don’t know much about, but want to chronicle your experiences with. People who blog about things they already know tend to be professionals who want to use their blog to grow their client base, or who want to share their knowledge with others. A good example of this is Holly Lisle’s writing blog – she posts free writing workshops in the hopes that people will like them and choose to buy her other workshops and books.
There is one cardinal rule for your content: write about topics you like, and not what you think others will like. Fill a need. If you lament the fact that there’s not a blog dedicated to Indo-Chinese crock pot recipes, well, why not start one yourself?
- How often will you post?
Once a day or once a month? It’s up to you to plan your blog around your schedule. A good rule of thumb is to post 1-3 times a week – more often and people will start skipping over your posts (not good!); less often and people will forget about your blog altogether (even worse!).
Try to write content that is timeless so that older posts will continue draw people in. For example, a post about building fictional characters is more timeless than a post about Kim Kardashian’s butt – In a year, no one is going to care about how big her posterior is, and that post will no longer draw in new readers. Writers will always be searching for articles about fictional character building, meaning that post could still be attracting new (and possibly loyal) readers to your site five years from now.
- Who’s your target audience?
Are they your family? Are they professionals? How old are they? What are their interests? Are they male, female, or both?
It’s good to know the answers to these questions, so you can tailor your content, graphics, and language to your prospective readers.
- What will you name your blog?
Your blog name should be catchy, easy to spell, and as short as possible. It should also convey your blog’s theme. No one will visit your heavy metal blog if you name it kittensnthings.
If your main purpose in blogging is to promote your personal brand – if you’re a writer or performer, say – then your best bet is to use your name.
It’s also important to check to make sure your blog URL won’t accidentally spell something unintended. We have to take some wisdom from the (real life) pen salesman who thought buying the domain penisland.net was an awesome idea.
- Where will you host your blog?
The first thing to decide is, do you want to pay money for your own domain name, or have a free blog hosted on a website like WordPress.com or Blogspot?
I recommend that new bloggers begin with a free blog, so they can decide if they even like blogging before shelling out possibly hundreds of dollars for a domain they might end up not using. Because of this, I’m going to focus mainly on free blogs. I will say that buying your own domain does give you more control over your blog’s layout and URL. If you already have a built-in audience for your blog (Like if you’re a successful writer or performer, for example), it might be worthwhile for you to spring for a domain name.
I use wordpress.com, and I highly recommend it. Other popular blog hosting sites are blogspot.com and livejournal.com. The best part of starting out free is you have the option of upgrading later after your site has taken off – and you don’t have to worry about transferring your content or installing the WordPress software into your domain, like you would otherwise.
- What blogs will be in your network?
It’s important to have a list of blogs that you like that cover topics similar to yours. Comment on their posts. When you start posting yourself, give credit to blog posts that inspired you and link to blogs that support what you’re trying to say. If you really, really like a post by another blogger, you might even consider ‘reblogging’ it (posting it to your site saying where you got it) – with their permission, of course!
Not only is this good blogging etiquette, but they might one day link back to your blog, or turn their readers onto your site. WordPress has special software that notifies a blogger when another WordPress blogger has linked to one of their posts (It’s still a good idea to leave a comment saying you did so, though, with a link back to the relevant post.)
So, there you have it – there are my seven questions you need to answer before starting a blog. Have a question you’d like to add? Tell me in the comments!