If you just know the English version of this blog it’s hard to figure out I’ve been blogging since 2008. Yes: that means SEVEN years.
I started when I got *unexpectedly* pregnant with my girl Viola, who is now 6, and subsequently lost my job (ouch!). Not only I had plenty of time to start a blog because I found myself suddenly unemployed, but also I didn’t recognize myself in the picture-perfect stereotypes of maternity, therefore I also had lots to tell. In short, my blog became a hit from the very beginning, and the Italian version is still one of the post popular family-lifestyle blogs in Italy. I’d tell you more about my books and magazine collaborations but I hate showing off so if you want to know a bit more, here’s the About page
Let’s get to the point: I always get asked a lot of questions about blogging. Many people want to start a blog and need a few tips to have an easier and smoother start, so I thought I could write a series of posts about blogging in order to answer some of them. This is the very first one, which I published on the It version of the blog a few weeks ago, and it’s all about starting a blog. I hope it’s going to be useful to you!
1. Choose a topic.
In order to start a blog it is very important to figure out exactly WHAT would you like to write about. Food? Very well: it’ll be a food blog. Fashion? A fashion blog. Politics, sports, nature? Every topic has its own niche. Yes, even this whatever-comes-to-my-mind blog: it’s called a Lifestyle blog (tip: it you don’t know what your blog is about, it’s probably a lifestyle blog :)).
The niche can be wider – i.e. food, lifestyle, travel – or smaller – cross stitching, cyclism, cocktail making? – therefore you’ll reach a wider or smaller audience, which can be more or less uniform in terms of demographics, depending on your topic.
Be aware that, whatever you decide to write about, it is almost certain that someone else already did it before you. Don’t be put off: before doesn’t necessarily means better. It just means you have to know your niche before you start writing. It has its own voices, its own rules and its own style. As you probably noticed, sometimes you can tell which topic a blog’s about even just looking at the template and graphics chosen. To sum it up: you want to choose a topic. First, because it helps you figure out which content you want to feature. Second because every niche has its own little aesthetic rules, for example if you write about travel or food you’d want a template that features bigger photos rather than other kind of topics. Third because it identifies your blog for those who want to read it and also to brands who may want to collaborate with you in the future.
As said, unless you want to start a blog about the Norway Monkey’s toilet routine, there will surely be someone else who is already writing something similar to what you want to write. Before you start your blog, do a little research setting your benchmarks and competitors. Well, maybe ‘competitors’ is a bit too much: if you succed in creating a blog that is truly ‘yours’, with your own voice, it will be one of a kind. So: find blogs you like, follow them either on their blogs and on their social media and try to understand WHY it is that you like them so much, what makes them special, what are their strenght and weaknesses. What do they write about? How often? Do they post photos? What template style do they use? How and how often do they post on social media accounts? Take inspirations from the best practice, then adapt those to your own voice and style (no copycats, please!).
Would you apply for an accountancy job without knowing any maths? I don’t think so. Blogging is surely easier and more spontaneous than many other things but you need to know the basics, especially if you want to turn it into a job. Study! Search online posts like this one, read something about SEO and basic CSS, study a few infographics about social networks, keep up to date about what’s happening in the blogosphere. And, last but not least, brush up on your grammar*.
* I know there may be more than a few mistakes in this post.. forgive me, I’m still so-Italian and I’m slowly trying to improve…
4. Choose a name.
And I suggest it to be short and memorable, but above all avoid words you could regret. If you clearly know that your blog will be only and forever a hunters blog feel free to call it Horse and Hound, otherwise do a favour to yourself and be less specific. For instance, I started as a mummyblog but had I called this blog MUMMY-something or BABY-something damn would I regret it. You don’t know what your blogs will become in three or five years, so choose a name that is both personal and general. Some examples? Cupcakes and Cachemire, A Beautiful Mess, A Cup of Jo.
5. Choose the right platform.
The main and most used blogging platforms are two: Blogger e WordPress. Let the others alone. If you know absolutely nothing about blogging, tools and widget, the easy-peasy Blogger will do the job. Otherwise, invest some time understanding the more advanced and more rewarding and surely more flexible WordPress, which is also the platform you will want to upgrade to should you want to let your blog grow.
6. Buy a domain name.
At the very beginning, you don’t need any other money investment apart from a domain name. You don’t even need hosting space. Avoid all the whatacoolblognameihave.blogspot.com and opt directly for a .com or .co.uk or whatever your blog language domain is. I suggest you register it either on Google or Gandi, and choose the auto-renewal unless you want to see it stolen under your nose (if it’s a good one!).
7. Be beautiful. If you can’t, be minimal.
Please do abandon any desire to prove your graphic ability unless you have a really, really, really good taste. Choose a minimal, white, clean template between the many template you can buy for a few dollars (check Themeforest) and whatever happens DON’T be tempted to sticker it up with the many ‘Awards’ and ‘Badges’ your fellow newborn bloggers will give you. No ‘Extrasweet blog awards’, no ‘Fitmums blog club’, no glittery patch claiming you love cats. No kittens whatsoever.
8. Know your readers.
Install Google Analytics: the most popular and one of the most reliable stats service online. And for the basics it’s free. If you want to stay an amateur blogger it’ll be nice to know who reads you and from where, if you want to become a pro it is just an essential tool to understand the demographics of your readers, the content they appreciate the most, the general stats and the time spent reading your pages.
9. Don’t do it for the money (at least, not at the beginning).
Nor for the freebies, the trips, the events. It may seem that a blogger always gets free products and services but they’re far from being FREE since there are a couple of things to be considered. The first thing is that if a brand is interested in you it means you have a good audience. Audience, I mean readers and followers, doesn’t grow on trees and a good readership doesn’t happen overnight. Behind every blogger contacted by a brand there are usually years of unpaid work, building a readership by publishing great content for the sake of great content. Second: there’s a lot of work behind a review post (just to name a few things: attend the event, do some liveblogging, spend a day there, take the pics, edit the pics, write a post, publish everything, tag everything, relaunch it on all social media, etc.). If you write to an agency or a company telling something like ‘Hi, I just started a blog, can you send me something for free’ it’s just unprofessional. Of course you can contact a brand but before that please make sure that it is relevant for your audience and that you have decent stats. Also: don’t accept EVERYTHING. Be picky, only publish what you really like and brands you believe in. Your readers will appreciate.
10. Have fun!
If you decide to start a blog, it will be amazing. Make sure you LOVE doing it, you do it with PASSION and ENTHUSIASM, but above all… have fun! That’s the only secret to truly succeed:)
I hope these tips have been useful. Should you have any question, shout out! 😀