THIS IS THE CLASS PRIOR TO BLOGGING 101
THINKING ABOUT BLOGGING?
Maybe you are thinking about making it one of your New Year’s resolutions? Fabulous idea! Go for it! While it’s still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some of my blogging journey with you and some helpful tips I’ve picked up along the way. Before I started blogging, I had NO idea what to do, how to start, or even how to go about it. And that’s why I am posting this. For others out there like me. And particularly for those who are thinking they might like to blog for Jesus or for a great cause.
My first task was to think about these questions: Why? Who? How? What? When? Where?
1. WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
The very first questions to ask are: Why blog anyway? What am I passionate about? Could I find anyone who would listen? Hmmm… Mom’s out. That reduced it down immediately to a possible zero… not looking good. So why blog? I decided to make a list. I read somewhere that someone thought it was a good idea to help clarify your thoughts and it seemed reasonable, so I got out my pen… keyboard and started thinking.
To bring glory to God.
That went without saying. And to tell others about Him. It’s all about Papa God.
In the end, I decided that even if I was an alpine flower, blooming away high up in the snow and rugged mountains of blogging land – with no one trekking by, or stopping to admire and give glory to God – HE would see it. He would know it was there. I could bloom for Him.
But – on the other hand – what if one other person saw it – and as a result, somehow grew closer to Him? What if it helped one other person reach out for Jesus? It might be one other person who, otherwise, may not have known about Him. Or inspired one other person to sponsor a child; or know about the great work of organisations that help introduce people to Jesus? Or helped one other person with creative ideas for their sponsored child or for homeschool or Sunday school? It would make it all worth it. And they definitely would not have seen my two-cents worth. Mother Teresa was once quoted as saying something like, ‘What we do is just one drop in the ocean, but if we do not do it, that drop is missing forever.’ So if you are that one person (and you are, if you are reading this), this blog is for you.
2. FIND YOUR NICHE
What was my niche? Sponsors are always looking for creative ideas. I saw a niche. It had been niggling at me for months. I had been an enthusiastic contributor to the sponsor forum for a couple of years. They are a wonderful group of caring people from all over the world and incredibly passionate about the precious children entrusted to their long distance care. I had learnt so much from sharing ideas with them. Within the forum, I had also started collecting a list of helpful websites for other sponsors called Cool Links. I also did a lot of research on my own, so I had a pretty good idea of some of the great stuff that is out there and available for our kids. Plus I loved designing things for my kids and had made much of it available for other sponsors. I was more than happy to share the creative gift that Papa God had given to me for all of our kids.
When Compassion revamped their forum in 2012, they totally wiped everything from their database. :o Everyone started again from scratch. At first, we all wandered around in a state of dazed shock. But on further reflection, maybe it was an excellent opportunity for all of us to stop and evaluate what we were doing. Maybe it was time to think about talking to a wider audience. Maybe it was time for us all to broaden our horizons a little. And I needed a challenge!
Okay, the why seemed to be sorted out. I was one step closer.
I still had no idea how to get there.
- Do you need a challenge?
- Are you thinking about starting a blog?
- Now that you are pretty sure you would like to give blogging a go (and you know you are if you are still reading this…?!) I will discuss the how, when and start with the who…
3. CHOOSE YOUR BLOGGING HOST
The next step is to choose who you want to blog with. There are many different places out there to choose from, but the safe consensus from my research seemed to bring it down to a choice of two.
I encountered people from both sides of the fence who were passionate about their choice. Originally I thought I would open a blog with both and see which one worked better for me. And I might still do that sometime. But for now, I haven’t got past WordPress. Here’s why…
I’m still trying to figure it out!!!! :)))
No, not really… but here are some of the things I read in my research. I can pretty much vouch for WordPress, but maybe you can tell me if the information about Google is accurate.
WP offer a bigger cache 3GB (that’s like a back room storage area for photos, images, etc). Google 1GB. I needed cache.
Both Google and WP offer ‘free’ blogs. Pay zilch – nada, WP promised. (True).
The Google blogs I had looked at all seemed to be fussy (although I am sure there are plenty that are not). Advertisements clogging up the page – sometimes it seemed hard to separate content from ads. Scrolling backgrounds. Jiggling sidebars. Click on me. Click on me. Is it just me, or does anyone else find that distracting when you are trying to read something? The WP demo blogs seemed to offer a cleaner look.
One thing that did bother me with Google is that they seemed to want to own my photos and content and promised to do what they liked with it. I read a story of someone who had posted a great pic somewhere on a social networking site, only for a friend to discover that same pic posted somewhere on a huge billboard overseas – without her knowledge or consent! I wasn’t sure if any of my content would be too helpful to the Big G, but WP said nah, take it with you. They would only use it to promote my blog, if at all. Another plus for WP.
WordPress automatically comes with Intense Debate, which enables you to respond to comments. I had read a Google blogger talking about it and it sounded as though they had to download it separately…? Maybe you can tell me for sure.
I recently read a notice put up by a Google blogger who apologised to her readers that she had to change over to a different type of blog, as she was getting a higher number of visitors than her type of blog allowed…?
I’m not sure about Google, but WP offer a free spam filter, which is excellent (and please note you will need it. Spam will be your best follower…)
WP promise fewer adverts. But then again, I’ve heard you can make some $ from Google ads…?
There was some hint of a suggestion that Google may rank their own blogs higher in searches.
According to the stats, WP seemed to have the edge on blog numbers. Maybe all those other people out there were onto something…
Score: WP- 6; G – 2… or something like that.
So that’s why I decided to press the WP button first.
WORDPRESS.ORG OR WORDPRESS.COM
Then I found out there were two WordPresses to choose from. WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Talk about confusing. But after doing a bit more research, it turned out to be quite simple really.
WP.org is for those who know what they’re doing! People who want to run their own web sites, do their own hosting, who were up to all those scary security tricks out there. Help! Mommmmmy! That definitely counted me out! That’s why I chose WP.com! And they promised to help take care of the scary guys too. Bonus. (And they do).
4. HOW MUCH?
How much do you want to pay? Other bloggers seemed to agree… it’s a choice of pay now (and do it right, from the very beginning) or pay later. Especially if you wanted to run a business from it. There are sometimes a few glitches with ‘free’ blogs, they noted. And they were right! You are more limited in your options, like fonts, layout, colours. And in my case, with the theme I’ve chosen, the categories index only displays on the home page. Also how photos are displayed and arranged on my home page. That’s been one of my biggest challenges. Learning how your blog theme ‘thinks’. You learn to live with it or pay for the upgrade. I chose ‘pay later’. I’ll let you know how it works out. So far, apart from a few minor headaches, it’s been okay. Plus the friendly WP team are always on hand to offer a helping hand.
5. ANOTHER WHAT… WHAT THEME?
Choose what theme you want for your blog. I agonised over this, scrolling back and forward through the available free themes. Trying to visualise how it would look. Making up a mental short list. How would that one work? Would I get tired of it in a month? You can change blog themes, but I have since found out they are all designed by different companies, so might not all work out with what you want them to do. Some bloggers open a dummy mirror account (set to private) which they use to test new ideas before springing them onto their unsuspecting public and giving themselves a shock in the process.
Of course, the theme I really wanted, happened to be one of the premium themes. It was sooo beautiful. Soft, gorgeous trendy colours. Typical. Rolls Royce taste on a Mini Minor budget. :) The budget was out of the question, so I reluctantly turned my eyes back to the free themes and continued to ask, which demo free theme do I enjoy going back to?
And that’s another thing. I had a little trouble finding the official Google themes at first to even have a look at them. They just wanted to me sign up (though eventually I did manage to find some).
Something else to consider: your readers may be viewing your site on their computer screen, mobile phone, iPad or… You will need to think about how it may display on different size screens (that’s called responsive design) including whether or not it is mobile compatible. This theme will give you an idea of what I mean. You will see how the screen rearranges itself depending on the size.
6. A COUPLE OF OTHER THINGS…
Okay, first up. Blog names. What do you want to call your blog?
Think of a couple of name options, just in case your first option is not available. Go catchy or as few numbers or letters as possible. Go for something people will remember. And stay from anything that might be easily misspelt, Like Estefany. Yeah, yeah, I know. I totally busted that one! I could have chosen Umuhoza…
Who is your target audience? And how do you find them?
What will they be putting into a search engine in order to find you? I read somewhere that searches come up higher in rankings if the name of your site is one of the keywords. Even if ‘Sponsor letter writing ideas’ seems a boring name for a blog, it’s likely to have greater hits. You will need to think about that, otherwise you might be sitting up there in snow blogging land.
Do you want to blog for your favourite charity / organisation?
If you think you might like to blog for a cause, search out similar bloggers. There are some very creative names out there. Bounce off some of their inspiration.
Free blogs = longer name
If you choose a totally free blog, you get to add the Google blogger (blogspot.com) or WordPress (wordpress.com) tag onto the end of the name you choose for your blog. Something else to think about when choosing your name. If you want to remove the end tag (and have your own domain), you can, but you have to pay for it.
You can get rid of the adverts in WordPress, but again, you have to pay for it. Not sure how adverts work in Blogger.
7. YOUR USER NAME = YOUR BLOGGING SIGNATURE
You will also need to choose a user name that you will be blogging under. This can be your own name or something else, and will show up as your blogging signature when you write posts or when you ‘like’ someone else’s post. For example, a blog may be set up to have more than one person writing to it. Your user name is so that people will know that you wrote (or liked) a particular post. By the time I got to here, I was clean out of inspiration, so decided to use the same name as my blog. As I’m the only one writing posts here, other than the occasional guest blogger, that works just fine for me and also helps people recognise my blogging signature throughout blogging land.
8. SET UP A SEPARATE EMAIL ACCOUNT FOR YOUR BLOG?
Before you sign up, you may like to consider setting up a separate email account to receive all your blog stuff, so your normal inbox doesn’t get swamped with things like pingback requests and spam while you work out what to do with them!
9. DO YOU NEED CLOUD STORAGE?
You may also want to set up some free cloud storage if you will be offering high resolution images or documents for your readers to download. Think of it like an extra storeroom out the back, so that it doesn’t gobble up your blog cache. You put a smaller ‘sample’ image on your blog, then direct your readers to your cloud storage to collect it.
Once that is all sorted out, it’s bit like going for a swim. You can only sit there gazing at the water for so long. Get going. It’s time to DIVE IN!
GO FOR THAT SWIM!
Start that blog.
A FINAL NOTE
Here is my offer for you. For anyone starting a WordPress.com blog, leave a comment below to let me know and I will follow you. So you already have your own very first follower!
You learn (extremely rapidly!) as you go. Learning to blog is a little bit like learning to play the violin in public. But before you know it, you’ll be playing a… maybe a little squeaky at first!… rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with me in no time! :)
Read part two of my blogging adventure: So I pushed the button… now what?!
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Do you need a challenge? Are you thinking about starting a blog? What are you passionate about? What do you really love? Maybe you are already blogging? Is this pretty much the same sort of process that you went through? Who did you choose to blog with? What other things did you consider?
Collect your FREE BONUS GIFTS when you sign up to follow me. What will they be? Click here to find out. If you like my work, please tell others and ‘like’ this page. Your kind comments make my day! You can also follow Paper Gifts for Estefany on…