When I first started my blog in December 2012, I had no idea what it would become for me. I also had no idea what I was doing.
Although I had dabbled in a number of blogs during my late teens and early 20’s, things were a lot different back then. We didn’t have phones that could take photos, it wasn’t as quick and easy to upload videos, we were on dial up and everything took years to load.
I didn’t have any goals when I started, apart from I wanted people to read my blog and enjoy it. I only started researching into how to better it after skinnedcartree was around 10 months old. That’s when I got the bug for this blogging stuff. Realising that I really wanted it to be a long term thing to me and I wanted to become good at it.
I’ve mentioned many times that I do read a lot of information about how to improve my blogging. There’s a lot to sort through so I really enjoy creating these guides where others can find the information all together in one place.
I thought it would be a great idea to share with you what I think are the 10 most important things to consider when starting your blog. As always, these are tips tailored to lifestyle, fashion, beauty and food blogs and how to make them great – I do understand some other niches, or blogs that are made with the intent to make money may need different techniques.
I’m not saying these are the 10 things that you MUST follow if you’re to create a new blog, but it’s based on the ‘knowing what I know now’ theory.
If I was to start my blog again, knowing what I know now, I would follow these 10 steps..
Top 10 Tips for Starting a Blog
When somebody views your blog for the first time, you probably have about 5 seconds to impress them before they decide whether to click off or stick around, so first impressions are vital. Never judge a book by it’s cover, they say. Fuck that shit man, everyone judges. If your blog isn’t attractive, it will give the impression that you don’t really know what you are doing and people will assume that your content is pants. So do spend a bit of time deciding on your layout.
Everyone has different preferences and ideals as to what a blog should look like – I think it’s evident amongst the #fblblogger niches that white and pastels are FOR THE WIN. You need to have a think about whether you want to follow this trend or not. Have a look at a few blogs and note down what you like about it as a reader. Also look at when you don’t like and how you could make it better.
Things to thing about:
Background colour – I’m a fan of light or white backgrounds. I really hate a busy backgrounds or dark backgrounds with white/bright text.
Text colour – It needs to be easy to read your blog – If you want to use black text, I would suggest giving a dark grey a go as it is easier on zee eyes.
Navigation – Is it easy to navigate the pages and previous posts of your blog? If it’s effort to find stuff, most people will just walk away.
Images – Is there an picture of yourself somewhere near the top of of your blog? People favour blogs to online magazines for one main reason – it’s a lot more personal. I want to see who is writing what I’m reading as it makes you easier for me to relate to and want to connect to you.
Subscribing – Is there a way for me to follow you? I see a few new blogs with no blogloving or GFC installed on their blogs. Remember bookmarks? I do, from long long ago. It’s something I don’t do anymore and neither do others. Once you’ve got my attention, I want to be able to follow you somehow.
Position of text – I centred my text for a long time but I’m jut not a fan of it anymore. I think justify just looks much better and is easy to read. This is a personal preference of course but I would keep text either left aligned or justify it.
A lot of new bloggers will have one of the default blogger layouts, but you can easily pick from thousands of layouts that you can download and upload to your site in a matter of seconds. Google ‘free blogger layouts’ if you’re on blogger. You can also do the same with wordpress themes!
I’m dyslexic. Weeehh. The only positive thing to ever have come out of this is that I got 25% extra time on my university exams. Apart from that, life was always a little tough for me, especially in English lessons and spelling tests. Before I knew dyslexia was a thing, I thought I was just an idiot.
There is nothing more embarrassing than re-reading your post when it has been live for a few hours or days and spot a mistake sticking out like a big ol’ sore thumb – or even worse – somebody else finding it for you! Even though we do make mistakes, we have to try to avoid them.
Spell check is a great tool to use, but I find my mistakes are not picked up by spell checker as they are usually a different word to what I mean. For example, I might type thing rather than think. Or sleep instead of slip.
I sometimes get a housemate to re-read posts for me before I hit publish, if not I make sure I have at least 2 hours away from the text and come back with a fresh mind.
It’s the same with grammar and sentence structure. Sometimes sentences just don’t sound right and you don’t know what to do to fix it!
Look at each sentence separately and ensure that they are simple and easy to read. People tend to scan though blog posts, so you need to make it as quick and easy as possible for them. I do sometimes read my blog posts aloud to make sure it flows as easily as possible.
I’m not praying there are no mistakes in this post, I’d look a proper nob head 🙁
3. Writing Style
Some people are fantastic at developing a writing style and a personality with their content, some people are not. Remember to be yourself. I mostly type how I would speak in real life and try to let my personality shine though. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard, but it is something I am working on.
The main two things I see and don’t like are:
Trying to be too professional. Remember, it’s a blog, not a magazine or website. It’s okay to be natural and a little silly – even if you are doing sponsored posts! PR’s much prefer bloggers with unique qualities and a personality. When I guest posted for Problogger, one of the things I was complimented on was my unique writing style and I honestly think if I was more formal, I probably would not have been picked.
Trying to be too funny. I LOVE TO LOL. But the LOL needs to be natural. Again, this is something I struggle with because naturally I’m a massive dick and often take jokes too far in real life. So, my jokes are natural but sometimes I go a bit overboard. Again, something I need to work in both in real life and on the linezzzzzz.
(That’s kind of another tip – know your flaws and work on them!)
I did this wrong for such a long long long time. On many levels!
Firstly, I took outfit photos with my iPhone in front of a wiggly mirror. When I figured out you could hardly even see my reflection in my dim room, I switched to a much better way of doing it.
It wasn’t my iPhone that was the problem, it was the way that I was using it. I downloaded a self timer app, would prop my phone up and take photos in the bright bathroom. Although the photos were’t great, and bathroom photos are not ideal, the background was clear and you could at least see me. It’s all about starting somewhere and raising your game over time, just don’t start somewhere as shit as I did.
We’ve all heard about about how you don’t need to get a DSLR. Phone cameras are fantastic nowadays – focus on images in natural light with a clear background. Whether they are of you or of a product. I know some great bloggers that take photos with their phones or point and shoot cameras.
Although it’s nice to have a DSLR and can make you feel ‘bloggy‘, it’s not a necessity. If after a few months, you want to buy one as you’re enjoying blogging and know you’ll use it often, then buy one. There’s nothing worse than forking out a lot of money on something that will just sit there gathering dust.
Try to make the images the same width as your text. If my photos are small or not great quality, I get around this by editing 2 or 3 photos together on picmonkey.
Three things to remember: Clear, bright and wide.
5. Social Media
I didn’t use social media that much when I first started blogging, it’s a great tool to getting your blog out there and gives people who enjoy reading your blog an easy way to follow and interact with you. There are loads of social media websites and I think it’s much better start with one to focus your efforts on than it is to try and keep up with several as you’ll just burn out.
You don’t want to get into the position where you are spending more time on social media than producing content. It can often become more of a distraction!
I would say Twitter is a great place to start, then consider setting up a Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest account after you’re settled into twitter. While it’s important to get your links out across multiple platforms, if you give yourself too many things to do at once you’ll get overwhelmed and just want to give up.
I’m terrible and looking after my Facebook and Google+ accounts, I have my posts set to auto-post when a new one is published and will try to get photos up from time to time, but I’m not very consistent at all.
The reason most blogs are not very successful are nothing to do with them being rubbish or low quality content, simply the blogger gives themselves too much to do and gets overwhelmed.
Then they give up as their blog is not growing as quickly as they had hoped. It takes time and it’s fine to take it steady – you need work/life balance – or in a bloggers case – work/life/blog balance.
Do not buy followers! Although it may be tempting to make your numbers look higher, it’s usually obvious as your followers may be high but your engagement low. There is no value in have 1000 followers on twitter when they are mainly fake accounts that won’t engage or retweet your posts. If you enjoy wasting money, buy a nice dress instead =)
Don’t forget to use hashtags!
6. Your Schedule
The opinion of this differs greatly amongst bloggers – you have those bloggers that believe you should just write when inspired and post it right away, or those bloggers that think you should stick to a strict schedule, and those a bit on the fence. Some say you shouldn’t post daily as your followers will get overwhelmed or that you can’t write a high quality post every day.
I’m a bit on the fence with this, but leaning towards having a schedule.
You need to ask yourself whether this is purely a hobby, or if it’s something you want to get serious about. You don’t need to decide right away, I basically posted when I wanted before settling into a schedule. I posted daily at first, then alternate days for a few months, then every 3 days, then went back up to 2 days and the to daily posting again.
Although it’s great to have a schedule that your readers can relay on and some people love structure, if you give yourself the goal of daily posting but are struggling to get ideas or find it hard to make time to publish something of quality, then re-think your schedule. If you are posting something that you would be embarrassed for your boss in real life to read – then don’t post it.
Although I am currently posting daily, if it gets too much or I feel I’m unable to do so, I will cut down and so should you. I hope to at least get to a year of daily posting before that happens, though!
The same goes the other way, which is why I started posting daily – if you find you’re struggling to fit everything in and have a queue of posts that might result in your posting a particular blog posts in a few weeks which it is then redundant, then up your schedule.
Are you writing something you are passionate about or are you writing what you think you should be writing about because everyone else is?
Is your niche too restrictive?
Some bloggers get a bit scared that if they usually post about beauty, their readers might not be interested in a post about a fun day out they had, or those buns they made t’other day.
I personally enjoy variety in blogs!
I made the shift from posting purely outfits and style posts to calling my blog a lifestyle blog as I found it ensured I could post about other things I liked rather than just dresses. Also, I have about 120 dresses now and am trying to stop myself from buying more! I can’t fit another wardrobe in my room.
8. Post Stucture
Do your posts have a clear structure to them? You need an intro, the main content and an ending. Your ending should encourage engagement, so ask for peoples opinions or ask them to subscribe to your blog, your social media account or news letter list. I always try to end a post with a question asking my readers to share their thoughts.
Use clear headers, bullet points and images to break up big blocks of texts as people who read blogs are most likely to just skim over the text.
9. About Page
This is a mistake I made, I didn’t set up an ‘about me’ page right from the start. If you visit a blog and really enjoy what you read and see, it’s natural to want to know more about the person on the other side of the screen. It bugs the shit out of me if I can’t find which city/area or even country a blogger is from and how old they are. Other things I like to know, because I’m nosey, is their occupation/what they study and a few funky facts. My About Page is my most visited page.
Oh, and it also helps your bounce rate. DOUBLE WIN.
You also need to be contactable – it’s very easy to set up a ‘contact me’ form using Google Drive or even set up a separate e-mail for your blog. This enables readers and PR’s to contact you. Although I wasn’t really contacted in the first few months, you never know when somebody might want to drop you a line!
10. Don’t Accept Shit to Review
When I first started getting approached by PRs for product reviews, it was often wholesale sites from China that was really poor quality stuff. I was a bit of a yes blogger and just said yes to everything. The only thing I got was a bunch of shit necklaces that broke and looked too tacky to wear in real life.
There are a few companies that still contact me know, but I know it’s just rubbish so I don’t accept their offers.
Without naming and shaming – if you check out the website before you accept and can get dress for less than $10 and jewellery for less than $3, it’s probably one of those cheap websites I’m talking about. I cheapened my blog by reviewing crap because I got too caught up in the excitement of my blog being ‘good enough’ to get things for free.
I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed to admit I was an idiot and shouldn’t have done it.
You usually know whether it’s right or not for you to review. Go with your gut!
So there you have it, the 10 things I think are most important when starting a blog.
What things would you do differently if you started your blog again?
Other posts that might interest you: