So you want to start a blog …

09Jan16
Skip this post if you’re a seasoned blogger. But if you’re thinking of starting a blog — like my wise and witty friend Don — here are a few pointers.

“How do I start a blog?” “What should I name it?” “How can I get more subscribers?”

I always feel sheepish when someone asks such questions. I’m a self-taught blogger, you see, so I’m not an expert — and I’ve made lots of dumb mistakes.

But the other day it occurred to me: Maybe I can at least help others avoid the same mistakes?

I won’t cover the technical side of setting up a new blog (because if you choose WordPress, you can do it in three steps). But I’m happy to offer some things to consider before you even click “Get started.”

Before you start blogging

Create a blogplan. What is your purpose? Who is your audience? What results do you want?

Yes, I know you just want to make your Big Blog Debut. But trust me — these questions are worth asking, because they’ll help shape your content for years to come. Here’s a handy Blogplan form to help you get started.

Choose your blog’s name. I really, really wish I’d given this step more thought. (HeideBlog. Seriously? I’m sure you can do much better.)

Start by looking at your blogplan. (I *told* you it would be useful!) What are your main topics? Jot down a few keywords.

Now … who’s your audience? Do you want your title to sound factual, clever, quirky, or edgy? Keep this tone in mind as you brainstorm names.

Sometimes a great name will come to you right away. But if you get stuck, check out Cheri Lucas Rowlands’ wonderful post on choosing a blog name.

Vet your blog’s name. Do a quick Google search for any identical or similar domains. (Because you won’t be able to use the name if someone else has already registered it … and you don’t want to be confused with something similar but undesirable.)

Also, give your URL that critical all-lower-case read. “My Pen is My Sword” may sound like a fine idea inside your head, but the URL mypenismysword, is, well … enough said.

Set up your blog. Again, I won’t cover the technical aspects — but this fine tutorial can answer your questions about widgets and wedgies.

Before you post a single word, consider privacy. Readers respond to authenticity, and this online community can be wonderfully supportive. But still … be careful of oversharing. You can’t control the flow of information once your post is live, nor can you predict who might see your post down the road.

This is especially true if you’re mentioning someone else. People have very different privacy barometers, so what seems innocuous to you may feel like a horrible breach of trust to someone else.

I err on the safe side by using only friends’ first names, unless I’m promoting their work. In some cases I’ve even changed a name or two, to protect the innocent — and in other cases I’ve decided not to publish the post at all. But that’s just me. Use your best judgment.

Before you post a single word, write your first three posts. The first post is easy, because that’s the one in which you’ll introduce yourself. But what will you say after that? Writing the second and third posts can help you get a sense of your voice, and where you want to take things.

Post them a few days apart … and your blog is officially up and running!

Taking the next steps

Although starting a blog is fun and fairly simple, a lot of bloggers quit at this point. Some get discouraged by the lack of traffic — because every single blog starts out with a low visitor count — while others find that their well quickly runs dry.

Don’t give up! Take a course at Blogging U. Challenge yourself to post something just once a month, if that’s all you can muster. But don’t stop. You’ll soon find that the rewards are well worth it.

Well, those are my hard-earned lessons in starting a blog. Still got specific questions? Please leave me a comment. Otherwise, I’ll leave you for now with these excellent suggestions from the kind folks at The Daily Post.

How can I encourage my readers to comment on my posts? Seeing your post out there in the world feels great. Not receiving a single comment in response to it? Less so. If you’ve ever felt frustrated about the lack of activity in your comments section, check out Michelle’s tips on making your blog a welcoming space for discussion and interaction.

How can I make sure my blog doesn’t get me into trouble in real life? Many bloggers share extremely personal stories on their sites, whether they discuss relationships, family, past trauma, health issues, or other sensitive matters. Elizabeth’s post on keeping your blog from complicating your real life is essential reading for anyone who wonders about the limits of sharing.

How do I get my blog’s main topics to appear on my site’s navigation? Letting readers find the posts they’re after is crucial, which is why so many of you want to add your main categories to your site’s primary menu — this comes up time and again in our Community Pool. The solution? Category Pages! Krista’s how-to covers all you need to know about them.

What’s the best way to tag my posts? Adding tags to your posts takes seconds, but it ensures that people can find you in the WordPress.com Reader. To maximize your reach — and your time in the spotlight — head over to this post on tagging strategy.

How can I experiment with my layout without annoying my readers? Whether you’re a brand-new blogger or a veteran, you know that your blog’s appearance is always a work in progress. But it doesn’t mean you have to confuse your visitors with constant changes — heed Andrea’s advice and start a test blog, and you’ll be able to implement only those changes you’re sure about.

Where can I find cool blogs to read and follow? From Discover to tag searches, the WordPress.com Reader is your one-stop destination for finding great blogs and specific posts on topics that interest you. Cheri’s Reader pro tips will help you zoom in on stuff you’re likely to enjoy and keep your past favorites within easy reach.



64 Responses to “So you want to start a blog …”

  1. Some good stuff here, even for seasoned bloggers. You underestimate yourself. 😉

  2. you have some excellent ideas–and excellent words of caution. New and seasoned bloggers alike . I wish I had read this before I started. I should have thought out my whole email/identity thing a bit better–oh well, live and learn

    • 4 hmunro

      Thank you, Anthony! I’m relieved to hear I’m not the only one who didn’t quite think through the whole identity thing. 🙂 But as you say, “live and learn,” right?
      PS: I love the concept behind your blog. Cheers from your newest subscriber!

  3. Wow, I too wish I read this before starting out. Great advice, even for a seasoned blogger. Thanks for sharing H. 🙂

  4. Don’t think that your blog name isn’t strong, to me I like reading things from people that aren’t scared to own their thoughts. I like the name HBLOG just like mine is blogcricket. It doesn’t really describe a niche, but my blog is about a variety of subjects. I just started but I can’t wait until I have a variety of DIY content. Keep up the good work. bloggrandpa..

    • 8 hmunro

      Thank you for your encouraging words, Mr. bloggrandpa. You’re right that it would be tough to come up with a *good* name for my blog, because it’s truly random. And anyway, there’s no sense bemoaning my past decisions too much because they’re in the past, right?

      But I do very much look forward to reading YOUR future posts! And right back at ya on keeping up the good work. 🙂

  5. Thanks so much for the information. I’ve wanted to start a blog but just needed to give myself a boost of confidence and a kick in the pants! You ideas I’m sure I will be revisiting time and again. Thanks for the words of wisdom!

    • 10 hmunro

      I’m so glad you found this information useful, William! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your kind comment, and I look forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers!

  6. 11 Sandra

    Thanks for all these links. Are very interesting and help a lot.

  7. as soon as i finished reading your post .. i clicked on follow!!! i am a fan

  8. Hi H, thank you for your post! As a new, inexperienced blogger, it is an exciting but daunting activity! Do you recommend posting more than once a month to get your blog off the ground? Thank you! 🙂

    • 19 hmunro

      I’m so glad you found my post helpful, Athina! You’re right that blogging can be daunting, especially at first. But the most important thing is to KEEP AT IT. As Confucius wrote, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” That said, to build a following it’s important to post regularly. Some seasoned bloggers post every day, while others post two or three times a week. But not all of us can manage that (myself included!) which is why I suggested a bare minimum of once a month. The important thing is to build a habit, and to create continuity in your writing. The more readers get to know you and your voice, the more loyal they’ll become. But that’s just my opinion, for what it’s worth. 🙂

      Anyway … thank you do much for stopping by, and especially for taking the time to comment.

    • 20 hmunro

      PS: I just visited your blog. You’re off to a *wonderful* start! Please, please keep at it. Your newest subscriber wants to read more. 🙂

  9. YOUR BLOG IS REALY IMPORTANT FOR MY

  10. What a great post.
    I started my blog on a rainy Tuesday afternoon with no real idea of what I was doing. I guess it took me about a year or so of trial and error to find a voice that I was comfortable with.
    All your advice to would be bloggers is perfect (I wish someone had told me that when I started) but I would just add this to those thinking of creating a blog. If you have something you want to say, then just say it. Don’t worry about the number of ‘hits’ your blog gets or the number of followers you get … If the things you have to say interests you and you speak with passion, everything else will follow.

    • 25 hmunro

      Amen to your superb advice, Des! I found it very upsetting when I started that no one seemed to be reading or following … and then when I attracted a bunch of followers, I was dismayed that most of them didn’t seem to be reading or commenting! But I’ve come to embrace the same philosophy you have: Follow your bliss and write with passion. Even if nothing else follows, at least you’ve done something that brings you joy.

      PS: Friendship is the greatest gift my blog has yielded. Merci infiniment for yours.

  11. Reblogged this on Storyhaunts and commented:
    Great tips for starting a blog.

  12. awesome page!

  13. Hello,
    Thank you for posting on this topic. I’m just starting to write my blog and your tips were really helpful as it’s a bit of a minefield at first!

    • 32 hmunro

      You’re so welcome — I’m glad you found the tips helpful! Best wishes to you on your blog, and for a very happy year ahead.

  14. So I have started a blog and I have no idea how to get people to read it. Help!

    • 34 hmunro

      Congratulations on your new blog! The most important bit of advice I can offer is to blog only for your own enjoyment and to not worry too much about how many readers you’re attracting or how many “likes” you’re getting.

      In my case, it took a year or two to attract loyal readers — and another six to build an audience “organically.” But in the meantime you can help the process along by sharing links on social media (Twitter is especially blog-friendly, and you can start a page on Facebook specifically for your blog). You might also try telling friends and family about your new blog. Though maybe not colleagues … at least in my case, I don’t promote it widely at work because I prefer to keep a stricter boundary between my work life and my private life. But that’s just me. Anyway … I hope some of these ideas will be useful to you. Thanks for stopping by!

  15. 36 abinizzienest

    Cool! This helped me a lot with my blog. Thank you also for adding lots of links to help me. WORDPRESS ROCKS!

    • 37 hmunro

      Yay! It made my day to know you found this helpful — and thank you so much for your kind words. Best wishes to you on your blogging adventure!

  16. Amen to your superb advice, Des

  17. Reblogged this on thelibradiva.com and commented:
    Thanks for the wonderful information, @hblog. I am definitely a beginner blogger, so this helps me out a lot. 🙂

    • 40 hmunro

      I’m delighted to be able to help, even in some small way. Happy blogging, Libra Diva! 🙂

  18. This is so helpful and useful. Thanks

    • 42 hmunro

      I’m delighted to have helped in some small way. Thanks for stopping by, and happy blogging!

  19. Thanks a lot for that much needed information. I am a beginner at writing blogs,and this should help me in every way. I run a blog called phone360blog.wordpress.com which is technology based. I want my work to be appreciated. I know, it takes time, so I will not look for all these now,will just focus on writing them.

    • 44 hmunro

      I’m so glad you found this helpful! Thank you for your kind comment and best wishes for much success on your new blog. Cheers!

  20. Thank you first time blogger here and will definitely take these pointers.

    • 46 hmunro

      I’m so happy some of these ideas may be useful, Liz — and so terribly sorry it took me four days to respond because I was traveling. But una enorme bienvenida de todas maneras, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  21. Oh! Wow I wish I read this before I started. Well better late than never. And And thankyou for this awesome post!!!

    • 50 hmunro

      I’m so glad it was helpful — and thank you so much for taking the time to comment. Happy blogging to you!

  22. 51 hmunro

    Hi there! I just visited your blog at reminisenceee.wordpress but found nothing except a blank page titled “me.” If this is your main blog, you may wish to check your settings to make sure you’re not accidentally posting in private mode! I also recommend becoming active with the WordPress Community Pool — it’s a wonderful resource where you’ll not only get to “meet” other new bloggers, but will also have a chance to interact with and learn from WordPress editors. The URL is https://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/community-pool/

    Hope this helps!

  23. thanks, that was helpful

  24. thanks! that was very helpful. it’s the first time I started a blog, it is not ready yet but sure this will help a lot (sorry for my english….I speak spanish)

    • 54 hmunro

      I’m very glad it was helpful! Puede ser un poco abrumador comenzar un blog, pero con cada entrada que ponga en su blog verá que se hace más fácil. ¡Le deseo mucho éxito!

  25. Thanks! Very useful staff

  26. Thanks so much for this ….
    I have three days of employment left having taken a huge leap of faith!
    Im keen to get blogging, partly to focus my thoughts and to give me some kind of ‘railing’ to hold onto while I find my feet.
    Your tips have been very helpful 🙂

    • 58 hmunro

      My goodness … three days of employment left! This does sound like a huge leap of faith — and the beginning of a grand adventure. I wish you all the best and will be keen to follow along. Cheers to you!

  27. Thank you, so much! I’ve recently just started blogging and this has really helped me to give me some pointers 🙂

    • 60 hmunro

      I’m so delighted to have helped, even in some small way! Best wishes to you on your blogging venture.

  28. Thank you so much. Reading this calm me down alot. lol I feel like I have much to say. Thanks for the “caution”

    • 62 hmunro

      You’re very welcome! I hope that with the cautions you’ll also find some encouragement. 😉 Happy blogging!

  29. 63 matharuamrita

    Reading your blog gave me more courage and self confident to move into the blogging space. Hope to start my own blog soon 🙂 😉

    • 64 hmunro

      You’ve made my day — so glad you’ve found my blog encouraging! I do hope you’ll start your own blog soon, too. All my best to you!


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