How to Start (or Improve) a Blog

How to Start a Blog

Learning how to start a blog can seen intimidating, and it comes with a lot of questions. After five years using Blogger and then switching over to WordPress last year, I’ve gotten a lot of questions here and there about design, hosting, organization, etc. I’ve been slowly adding to this page for ages, treating it like a giant sticky note or bulletin board, and I’ve finally cleaned it up and gotten it ready to share with the world!

Here are some of my favorite resources I’ve pulled together since I started blogging way back in oh-nine. ;)

Note that some of these are affiliate links to resources that I use and support, and those are marked with an asterisk.

Blog Setup

Blogs About Blogging (and Business)

  • Aeolidia – This is a beautifully-designed blog by blog designers, and they have tons of great blog and biz tips!
  • AltSummit – The famous creative conference in Salt Lake City has a resource-packed blog with tips from people who’ve been doing it longer than we have.
  • Braid Creative – The two consultants behind Braid share tips, advice, and they have a few e-courses, like Shape up Your Content, available as well.
  • Breanna Rose – Breanna shares glimpses into her design process and stories and advice from the freelance life, as well as an e-course.
  • iBlog Magazine – I actually subscribe to their physical magazine, but the website has great resources and interviews with heavy-hitting bloggers, too.
  • Leah Kalamakis – Leah is a designer and web developer who provides clear infographics and actionable guides to reaching your readers.
  • Pugly Pixel – Lots and lots of free resources – think graphics, frames, pictures layouts, etc. – and tutorials for coding, too!
  • Zooey Rooney – Zooey is a web developer who speaks plain old English and shares advice and resources for developer-friendly design.

Design, Domain, and Hosting

  • Blog Milk – They have WordPress and Blogger themes, but it’s particularly my favorite site for Blogger.
  • Genesis Framework* – This is my WordPress blog framework. If you’re using Blogger, Squarespace, or any other platform you can disregard.
  • StudioPress* – StudioPress is a beautiful source of premium WordPress themes. WordPress is a lot harder to customize as far as digging into the code and whatnot, so it’s best to get a theme that you love straight “out of the box.”
  • Foodie Pro* – My blog “design” is Shay Bocks’ Foodie Pro theme from StudioPress. I’ve done some customization (see next section), and even though it’s technically a food blog design, I’ve found it perfect for categorizing my tutorials just like recipes.
  • BlueHost* – If you’re going to use WordPress.org (which I use), you have to host your own site. I have my domain and hosting through BlueHost. They include a free domain with new hosting accounts. I originally had my domain through GoDaddy, but I transferred to BlueHost because I felt like I was getting better customer service there.
  • Google Webfonts – The Google library of web-ready fonts is extensive, so you can find and combine just about any style of font you could possibly want.

Coding

I have learned pretty much all of my HTML and CSS skills from Professor Google, and as a result of lots and lots of late-night searching and learning, there are a couple sources that are SO much less frustrating than others:

  • Code it Pretty – This one’s really nice because it’s written expressly for bloggers looking to make tweaks, so you don’t have to muddle through a lot of jargon.
  • Codecademy – Their great free online courses walk you through actual projects from start to finish, like building a webpage using HTML and CSS.
  • W3Schools – This is my go-to when I need to figure out how to tweak something in HTML or CSS. I love their “Try-It Editor” to test out changes.
  • XOMISSE – This blog and web designer shares a wealth of coding tutorials for bloggers of all levels.

Social Media & Promotion

  • Ahalogy – This is how I schedule a lot of my pins on Pinterest. Since you have to be accepted to the platform, the content is somewhat vetted, so I don’t have to worry about proper sourcing, etc.
  • Buffer – You can use Buffer to schedule posts for peak traffic times on multiple social media platforms, and it will also suggest content to share.
  • Hootsuite – You can use this to schedule posts in a variety of social media platforms, but I use it primarily for Twitter.
  • MailChimp – I use this for my VIP Club newsletter, and it’s free for lists of up to 2,000 subscribers.

Monetization

Monetization is a top blogger question, yet it still feels like a taboo topic. I think that’s silly. It’s important to be able to support yourself through the hard work you’re doing, and some people are even able to support their families through their blog income. I’m not there by any means, but I do work with a handful of programs to bring in a bit of revenue for my brand. It helps to cover expenses like web hosting and design and equipment and upgrades.

The most important thing to keep in mind when monetizing is staying ethical and being someone your readers can trust. Be sure that any paid partnerships or affiliate networks you work it are carried out in a very transparent way. This post has a great set of links to FTC guidelines for bloggers disclosing paid work.

Blog Photography

Photography is, at least in my opinion, pretty much the most important thing that can make or break a blog. Whether you’re writing about food, sharing DIY projects, or keeping an online fashion journal, great pictures are the best way to draw readers in and keep them coming back. I feel like I constantly have room for improvement, and there are just so many great resources out there to continually learn and grow!

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